Norway – the best of

A week ago, we came back from the cold north that is Norway and were blown away by the astonishing landscapes and dreamy, wintery views. We will definitely be going back in summertime someday to see the great contrast. Because I’m all about spreading the joy, I thought I’d share my favourite bits and pieces, including photos, of our trip. We stayed in Oslo for four days and took the Oslo-Bergen railway to, you guessed it, Bergen, where we spent another 3 days before heading home.

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Things you shouldn’t miss

  • Oslo Operahus. It’s undeniably one of the city’s architectural masterpieces. Impressive in winter, with the frozen harbour, I can only imagine the grandiosity it must radiate in summer, when the roof is the best place to catch some of that sparse soleil.
  • Korketrekkeren. This translates to the English equivalent of “The Corkscrew”. It used to be a winter sport practice course, but is now open to everyone for… sledding! And it’s one of the most fun things I’ve done in the snow for sure. You simply take Metro line 1 up till  Frognerseterveien, where you rent a sledge and helmet and off you go! And what’s even better is that you can take the metro back up at Midstuen and go again. Easy peasy.
  • Norsk Folkemuseum.  Although a bit chilly and slippery in winter, the peace and quiet of the outdoor museum and the colourful old houses make up for it. If you plan to go, try going on the weekends, when they have lots of activities going on, even in winter. We did some banana and chocolate grilling on the campfire.
  • Det Kongelige Slottet. The royal palace is located on a bit of a hill and offers a fantastic view over the main shopping streets and a beautiful park.

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Things you can skip

  • Vikingskipmuseet. Although the viking ships are impressive, you’ve pretty much seen everything the museum has to offer on their website. 100 NOK felt a little bit much for the size of the museum. A tourist trap, if you ask me.
  • Nasjonalmuseet. The museum itself is relatively big and provided me with an okay indoor visit, but you won’t be missing out much if you skip it.

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Places to eat

  • Gryn. A concept restaurant that specialises in porridge with typically Norwegian ingredients like brunost (brown cheese) as well as waffles (savoury and sweet). Great place for a quick lunch!
  • Munchies. With two places in Oslo, they are the best burger places. Quick, easy, delicious. Try the sweet potato fries.
  • Rent Mel. Although expensive, this pizza place next to a hotel, had a-ma-zing pizza’s. The best.
  • Taco Republica. This place has delicious taco options. You can mix and match to your liking. Make sure to book a table, though.
  • Retrolykke Kaffebar. The best place to try waffles with jelly and cream. The entire interior reminds of the 50s and 60s. I love the mismatched cutlery, cups and plates.
  • Liebling. A good place for lunch or coffee. Cozy and homey with plenty of space. Great pie. They also have a variety of colourful lattes.

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To shop

  • Norway Design. The best place for design. Also a stationary lover’s dream.
  • Ting. Cute little gadgets that you don’t need but desperately want anyways.
  • Glasmagasinet. Basically, you could’ve just left me here to live and I would’ve been perfectly happy. It’s like a dream for any design lover. They also have a fabulous Kicks department which is perfect for any make-up or skincare lover.

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Oslo – Bergen railway

A highlight of our trip was definitely the Oslo-Bergen railway. We had booked tickets 2 months in advance, which was the perfect time because that’s when you get the “minipris”, which is cheap tickets. You get to choose your seats and there is no hassle of checking in, just hop on. Bring plenty of snacks and reading or listening material because you are settling in for a 6 hour train ride. Things never get boring because after every tunnel, a new and magical scenery appears. Sit back, relax and enjoy (it’s easy).

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Bergen

Things you shouldn’t miss

  • Bryggen. The row of old Hanse houses is one colourful sight to say the least. If you’re lucky the sun will come out and the harbour view will be one to never forget. (Or very lucky, because apparently there’s 320 days of rain in Bergen!)
  • Fjord tour. You can simply not leave Bergen without exploring the fjords a bit more. Even in winter, there’s tours running. Although I’m pretty sure the Norway in a Nutshell tour is better (but our budget didn’t allow for it), we did the Mostraumen fjord tour. Nonetheless spectacular! We booked ours through Fjord Tours.
  • Fløibanen. Take up the funicular (with a 26 degree slope!) to Fløyen and you will be rewarded with an amazing view over the city and the harbour as well as the surrounding mountains. It’s when you realise why Bergen is called Bergen! If possible, go for a hike or a ski. We got stuck knee-deep in the snow, but had an enjoyable walk nonetheless. And the hot chocolate afterwards with that view is just the best.
  • Audhild Viken. An all-year-round Christmas shop. I didn’t know it was a thing, but I am so glad that it is! You’ll come out cheery, singing “Jingle Bells” in no time.

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Places to eat

  • Pingvinen. The best restaurant we went to for the entirety of the trip! Also very popular with the locals, which says a lot. They have daily specials, of which we tried the Plukkfisk and the Raspeballer. Typical Norwegian flavours assured.
  • Blom. If you’re looking for a strong, specialty coffee, Blom is the place to be. Clean, crisp, cozy.
  • Alléhjørnet Thai. Also very popular with the locals, we had some delicious pad thai at this place. Can’t go wrong.

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Where to sleep

  • Citybox Oslo. A very easy and new concept hotel. You do everything yourself: from check-in, payment to luggage storage and check-out. If you really need help or more towels, you can go to the management office, but we loved this hassle-free and easy stay. Also very close to the train station and the city centre!

 

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Next up…? I’ll leave that to be a surprise! :)

 

Bolivia – the highlights

After the blogpost I wrote on the best bits of Peru, it’s only fair I should dedicate an equal amount on my blog to the other South American country we spent some time in, Bolivia. Here’s what we enjoyed most…

Copacabana

It sounds like an exotic beach place but really, the beach isn’t that “beachy” nor “exotic”, but nevertheless Copacabana’s water formed a nice change from all the desert landscapes we had driven through. And it made for a nice sunset too. I would also highly recommend hiking up the Calvari mountain. The hike takes approximately 40 minutes and offers stunning views over the coastline and the colourful rooftops of the town. Another one you shouldn’t skip is the cathedral. When we were there, there was a celebration going on where people could have their new car blessed and decorated with flowers – absolutely beautiful!

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La Paz

This city that is not the capital definitely has that cosmopolitan, big city-life vibe to it. It’s hard to breathe here, due to the altitude, but more so because of the exhaust fumes all over (that goes for the whole of Bolivia, by the way). Nevertheless, there’s something really fun about this city: whether it is from visiting the Witches Market, a must-see, or finding the most gringo hotspot in town to sitting at the steps of the cathedral and watching the street vendors come by with the weirdest looking foods, there’s something for everyone. Also, don’t skip the Valley of the Moon, a little outside the city centre; it’s like a different world entirely.

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Salar de Uyuni

This HUGE salt plain is incredible. I knew I would be amazed by the nothing-ness of the place, but it exceeded expectations. Definitely take sunglasses when you go, because the white of the plain hurts the eyes. We couldn’t help ourselves and took some classic salt plain photos, because if you don’t, have you really actually been there? My favourite part was the Inca Huasi, cactus island. The hike around the island takes about 30-40 minutes.

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On the road

If you’re into wildlife (lama’s, vicuñas, alpacas, etc), look out for them when you’re on the road. Also, the views were always amazing. Here’s some of the best ones.

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I hope this inspires you to also visit this wonderful country. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll go back, because there’s definitely plenty more to see.

Happy travels,

Silke

 

Peru – the highlights

Last month, we spent some time travelling, and it was the best thing ever. My boyfriend and I went on a group tour to Peru and Bolivia with Koning Aap for 24 days. We came back enthused and with recharged batteries from another trip of a lifetime. Because people are curious and keep asking me what the best part was, here’s a round-up of the best bits (- warning! there’s a lot!).

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Tip! Take the Lonely Planet guide: it was our go to book for recommendations on nice area’s, markets and places to eat and it’s never disappointed us.

Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa

If you’re ever in Arequipa (2300m), this monastery is a must! This maze of little streets and houses is surprisingly cheerful. With the contrasting colours of blue and orange, this monastery almost made me want to move in. Almost.

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Ballestas Islands

These islands in the Pisco region just of Paracas are a must for wildlife lovers. The islands are overthrown with guano birds and it’s hard to miss them (or their poop too :) ) when visiting the islands by boat. We also spotted one Humboldt penguin, lots of fur seals and other sea birds. It’s a pretty spectacular sight to see.

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Colca Canyon

Besides the obvious highlights of the trip, this was my favourite part. This canyon is one of the deepest in the world (up to 4600 metres in depth) and is therefore mindbogglingly impressive. Highest point of the canyon is 4600 metres and breathtaking (although sometimes literally). Highlight of our days spent in the canyon was a 50 minute hike to the Cruz del Condor, a viewing platform to spot the condors. A good tip is to not necessarily hang around at the spot if you don’t see condors, because they might be a couple of metres the other way. We spotted no less than 14! Needless to say, we praised ourselves incredibly lucky!

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Huacachina

This oasis in the middle of the dessert is a peculiar sight to see. Because I’d heard the only way to properly view the oasis was from the top of the sand dunes, we didn’t hesitate to book a buggy and sand dune boarding tour. My throat was soar from screaming and I’m still not entirely sure whether it was from excitement or from terror, perhaps a bit of both. The drive was so worth it though, and I think I’ll let the photos speak for themselves here.

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Nazca lines

Nazca is a very desert-y and rocky area and there wouldn’t be much to see if it weren’t for the huge Nazca lines. These ancient drawings compose the weirdest figures but to see them from a 6 person airplane made them all the more spectacular to me. A must.

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Inca Trail and Machu Picchu

Because we wanted to have the first view of Machu Picchu the right way, we decided to walk part of the Inca Trail. We enrolled ourselves for the 2 day trek. Really, it’s only one day of walking, but the 12km took no less than 7 hours and was, well, challenging. Pathways are narrow, uneven and 80% of the time, uphill. Nonetheless, there is a lot to enjoy on the way with amazing views on the way as well as the the Wiñay Wayna and the Inti Punku (Sun Gate). Even though it’s only a day worth of hiking, you can’t help but feel ecstatic when you catch that first glimpse of the impressive Inca site that is Machu Picchu. Let’s just say there’s something magical surrounding the whole site and experience.

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Cusco

Out of all the cities or towns we visited in Peru, I think this must’ve been our favourite. There’s a relaxed atmosphere and a decent amount of nice cafés and good restaurants. Don’t forget to go up the San Blas area in the city, it’s got some nice little streets in dreamy blue and white.

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I’ll be posting a blogpost on the best bits of Bolivia soon too! :) Keep an eye out for it.

Until then,

Love,

Silke

The Ardennes

Last weekend, I spent some quality time with my three best girlfriends in the Ardennes, the most well-known forested area in Belgium. To reminisce over the wonderful memories we made, I thought it’d be a cool idea to make a photo report. Here are some photos that made it to the family album. The pictures are a combination of three locations: Spa, Lierneux and La-Roche-en-Ardenne.

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Valencia – top 5 picks

A few weeks ago, I spent a couple of days in Valencia, visiting my Uruguayan host sister. Besides seeing her again after 5 years, here’s what I thought were the five main highlights and must-do’s.

            1. Enjoy the green

I had no idea, but it turns out Valencia has a lot of green spots throughout the city, which is something that I really appreciate in a city. With the mellow lifestyle and warm weather, these parks are the perfect place to enjoy an ice cream, read a book in the shade or just catch up with friends.

Jardín del Turia is now a park, but used to be the river bed of the Turia river. You can imagine it’s a huge park, twisting and turning its way through the city.

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Another good one are the Jardins del Reial, which has lots of exotic plants and trees (this goes for Valencia in general, which is quite different and enjoyable if you are from the cold cold north, namely Belgium).

             2. Take a stroll through the historic city centre 

There is just so much amazing architecture to look at. From older buildings to new ones, all of the streets look glorious. Don’t forget to climb the Miguelete tower to enjoy the view from the top too! The 209 steps are worth it. Tip: don’t wear a dress, it can get quite windy up there. Unless you want the whole of Valencia to see your bum, then by all means do like I did.

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3. Buy some fresh produce at one of the many markets

Valencia is the place for foodies with its bustling markets spread across the city. From fresh fruit and veggies to refreshing juices, spices and different types of meats, cheese and fish, it’s all there for you to enjoy. Mercado de Colòn is a renovated old market, but it’s worth a peek. For more of a real market feel, check out Mercado Central: both the inside and outside are beautiful and you can pretty much find anything here. Since Valencia is known for its oranges, try a freshly squeezed orange juice, or buy the original spices to make your own paella.

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             4. Enjoy the climate and take things slow

Because Valencia can get quite hot in the summer, people live on a completely different daily time schedule. Wake up late, take a siesta in the afternoon, go out for dinner late and stay up till the sun sets over the beautiful city. Take things slow and easy.

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           5. Don’t skip the main attraction

Although it’s the one thing that I knew Valencia for, and it does sound like quite a tourist trap, the Océanographic and the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, are both definitely worth a visit, if not for the architecture alone. The pictures don’t lie, it’s a pretty photogenic space… Don’t just skip it!

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Hasta la próxima!

Besos

Silke

Lisbon

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I took a little trip down south to experience the colourful city that is Lisbon. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and while it’s going to be hard top pick the best parts, here’s some of our favourite parts… :)

On our first day, we went to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, an old monastery in typical Portuguese style belonging to the UNESCO world heritage. It’s located in a part of Lisbon called Belém. I honestly believe that if you’d give me a book and a nice drink, I could spend all day there; reading, watching people, enjoying the scenery.

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In Belém, we skipped the long queue at Pasteis de Belém because we figured it was a tourist trap. Instead, we spent our time roaming around the severely underrated botanical gardens, Jardim Botanico Tropical.  Really, it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves, with only a few street cats lazing around and a peacock or two (three, four,…) crossing our path. If you’re an exotic plant lover like me and you love to discover hidden nooks and crannies in parks, this is your place. We felt like we were in a different continent.

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On our second day, we went to Castelo de Sào Jorge, the main fortress built on one of the seven hills that form Lisbon. It overlooks the city and the Tagus and the views do not disappoint. It’s hard to move away from the edge and stop taking pictures of the abundance of colourful houses.

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To many of the disadvantages of visiting the city built on that many hills, there is one major plus side: there is a multitude of viewpoints spread across all neighbourhoods in the city. One of my favourites included the Miradouro Portas do Sol. Sipping cocktails while overlooking the tiny streets of Alfama makes for the ultimate summer holiday vibe.

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Our third day in Lisbon took us a little bit outside the city. We’d booked a small group tour to Sintra, Cascais and Cabo da Roca. If we’d known how little time we got in Sintra, we’d have probably preferred to spend a whole day there and just skipped Cascais. Cabo da Roca was worth a visit though. Plus we were thinking the view on Pena Palace would be a best from the Moorish Castle just across. Maybe next time?

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Cabo da Roca is the most Eastern point of Europe and that means it provides anyone daring enough to look over the edge with magnificent coastal cliff views. Again, wish we could have spent more time here instead of Cascais, which was a disappointment.

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Another cool place with a little bit of an edgy vibe is LX Factory. This market is located in an industrial area between the centre of Lisbon and Belém. All shops are located in old factories. Hipster central, pretty much. My favourite included a book store (no surprise there, right?) that was set up in an old press room. Also, do not, I repeat, do not skip the Landeau chocolate cake. I still have dreams about it sometimes. From there, it’s only a short walk along the Tagus river to the cozy harbour, Doca de Recreio de Santo Amaro.

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Other than that, we spent most of our time roaming around the city, enjoying a multitude of things that are easy to find in Lisbon: eating pasteis de nata, sipping cocktails, photographing and admiring the azulejos and not minding getting lost in the small, colourful streets of the city.

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Also, one golden advice: download the Uber app and use it in this city! It’s the cheapest, easiest way to get around. We tried the public tram system, which was more expensive and waaaay too crowded. Your burning thighs will be grateful. The hills are no joke, take walking shoes (with a non-slippery sole preferably).

Are there any other places in Portugal that we need to put on our bucket list?

Love,

Silke