Slow living in the Ardennes

This summer, after our big trip to NYC, which you can read about here , we decided to switch things up and go on a holiday in our own country for a change to unwind and relax to the fullest. So, I booked a tiny house in the Ardennes, the most foresty area in Belgium, without a wifi connection. It was delightful! We slowed down, we read (lots), we  cooked, we hung around, we went for walks, we watched dvd’s, we did all the things that disappear too easily from daily life because a to do-list gets in the way.

The place we spent these 5 days at, was perfect for it. I booked with two very friendly people called Chantal and Salva, who have converted this trailer into a proper tiny house for two. They paid attention to every small detail and almost everything is made out of wood. Cozy for sure, comfortable , yes, that too! The trailer is located in a small village called Trou de Bra, which is part of Lierneux. Not too far away you can find Spa, Trois Ponts and Coo. Although close to the renters, we were surrounded by nature. The garden that they created is perfectly suitable to enjoy these surroundings too: there’s a hammock, a barbecue, picknick table, etc. There was also a cute wood stove in the house which we didn’t use (30°C was plenty, thanks) but who knows, we might go back in winter to do it all again. In case you’re interested, the place is called Coeur de Roulotte and you can find more info about booking here.

Despite the small digital detox (I did log in once or twice when visiting the cities), I did take lots of photos because it’s what I love doing. An impression of our stay is what follows. Hope you enjoy! :-)

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New York, New York

It’s been two weeks since we’ve been back from the Big Apple, but I still reminisce about the good food, the incredible weather (it was HOT) and the hugeness of it all. About time I’d let you all know what I loved and didn’t love about the big city life. Let’s start off by saying I won’t be moving to Manhattan anytime soon: not enough green, too many people and too many tall buildings. I need some space. What I did love was the shopping, the food, the city life and the older more historical buildings. Let’s round up, shall we?

Where we stayed – 

We purposefully didn’t stay in the hustle and bustle of crowded Manhattan, but took our lodgings to an AirBnB in New Jersey. Great location because 1. We got the beautiful skyline of NYC as our daily view, 2. Not as crowded, more of a residential neighbourhood feel and yet 3. Only 15 minutes by shuttle bus from the city centre! We were happy to just come home and relax, prepare our own meals and unwind from the busy city.

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What we ate – 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in New York it’s to not wait to get food until you’re starving, because you can expect lines at restaurants! If you get hangry, like me, it is in your boyfriend’s best interest to make sure you have your food stops locked in. Here’s some of our best food discoveries

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  • Shake Shack – fast, easy, but such tasty burgers. Also the best strawberry milkshake I’ve had in a while.
  • Dylan’s Candy Bar – it’s everything I’ve ever dreamed Charlie’s Chocolate Factory would look like. If you’re looking for candy that’s American or just really weird flavours, this is the place
  • Dough Donuts – We’ve tried a lot of donuts in our lifetime but these ones were just ‘wow’. The melt-in-your-mouth yet so flavourful kind. New York knows how to do donuts, that’s for sure. Another good one is the Doughnuttery, in Chelsea Market, which by the way is foodie heaven! These tiny donuts come in all kinds of funny flavours and let me tell you, the ‘Purple Pig’ flavour is finger-licking good!
  • Ample Hills Creamery – A decent place for regular ice-cream with a wide variety of flavours.
  • Taiyaki Ice Cream  – A really fun ice cream place that makes fresh cones that look like fish (they’re still a bit warm when you eat them so you can tell they are really freshly baked – very instagram worthy and with very quick and friendly service.
  • Grimaldi’s Pizza – We had our best slice of New York pizza at Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn, where you can share a large pizza and choose to have two sides with varying toppings, a nifty idea. Go on time to make sure you don’t have to wait in line.
  • Fika – If you’re craving a coffee break in an airconditioned, quiet space, this is your place.

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Where we shopped –

  • Sephora – As a beauty and skincare lover this was one of my personal highlights of the trip and I spoiled myself with some goodies for my birthday. You can find ANYTHING here. The one on 45th East Street is the biggest. Heaven is a place on earth.
  • Glossier Showroom – Another beauty favourite was the Glossier Showroom in Chinatown. I love the aesthetics of the place and brand and the fact that it’s so well hidden in a penthouse makes it all feel very luxurious. The products are high quality and remain very affordable!

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  • Barnes & Noble – If you like books, notebooks or other book-related stuff, this is the place to be.
  • Paper Source – This place is a stationery lover’s dream. It’s where I bough my new 2019 journal, but wanted to buy everything.
  • Brooklyn Flea Market – We went to the this flea market in Dumbo, Brooklyn, where the shade of the bridge lured us in. It’s a great place for original souvenirs, nice jewellery, furniture (which ached because we couldn’t take any home), clothes and nice smelling soaps.

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  • Chelsea Market – As said, it’s a foodie heaven, BUT it’s also a place where local designers show off their work and you can buy some of their stuff.

What we saw – 

  • High Line – An old railway between the meatpacking warehouses that is now a 3km long park, such innovative urban planning. Loooooved this bit of green!
  • 9/11 Memorial – A testimony to the tragedy of 9/11 and a beautiful place to hang and ponder life
  • Grand Central Station – Not amazing (and not as big as I’d always imagined) but still worth a visit because it is beautiful!
  • New York Public Library – One of my favourite places we visited. This library is everything. Marble staircases, elegantly lit reading rooms, grand hallways, ooh yes. Wonderful just wandering around here.

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  • Times Square – Overwhelming but worth a visit. We thought they had like an event going on or something, but nope, just the regular amount of people on a night in New York.
  • Top of the Rock – We were a bit unlucky with the weather because it was so overcast and misty, but still, views up here are amazing with Central Park on one side and the Empire State on the other. If you can, take some food and drinks and watch the sun set on the rooftop!

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  • MoMA – Bit of a whirlwind visit here, because we entered only an hour before closing time. We didn’t love the museum, but the museum garden was really nice.
  • Museum of Natural History – Very similar to the one in Brussels or Tervuren if you’re form Belgium. Good to know is that they let you pay the amount you want to get in (they have an indication price though).

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What we did – 

  • Central Park  – We rented bikes and helmets for the whole day and decided to tour Central Park so we could cover the whole area. On our way we visited the Natural History Museum, saw the Guggenheim Museum, spotted the different ponds and discovered there is only one-way lanes to bike the park. The park is HUGE, which also makes it less cozy, but we were glad to get out and about in the green.

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  • Coney Island – We took the time to take the metro down to Coney Island, which we loved. There’s a beach and and old 50s amusement park/ fair, which made for a nice day of relaxing, enjoying the sun and watching people go by. Take a picture in one of the photobooths as a souvenir.

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  • Washington – We took a really early train (still snoozing when I think about it) to Washington D.C. and saw all the sights! Best parts were the Library of Congress (gorgeous interior and tiling), the Smithsonian garden, and the US Botanic Garden. So different from NYC too, with lots of white buildings, open spaces and green.

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  • Staten Island ferry – This ferry service goes to and from Staten Island all day and in doing so, goes by the Statue of Liberty. And did I mention it is free? So basically, it’s a free tour past the statue (which is smaller than I imagined?)! You get on the boat in Manhattan, get off in Staten Island and get right back on. It takes about an hour there and back.
  • New York Mets – We decided to see a baseball game at Citifield Arena. If you can, try to get weekend tickets because the crowd was kind of sparse when we were there on a weekday.
  • Brooklyn Bridge – We spent some time in Dumbo, which we loved. We really took our time wandering around this area. Afterwards, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (super crowded) to get the full experience. Impressive though.

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That’s it folks! If you have any tips for us for next time, let me know!

Marrakech

Two weeks ago my mum and I took a little mother-daughter trip to Marrakech, Morocco. It reminded me a little bit of Lisbon (the colours), Peru (the landscapes) and Egypt (the lifestyle). I took lots of photos on our 6 day adventure, so I thought I’d share the best bits (as per usual) with you guys.

The Old Town (Medina)

We spent a full day exploring everything within the old city walls, the Medina. There is so many things to see! We booked a guide for a day so we could get our bearings of this city (that is totally a maze, by the way!) and we walked A LOT. Our first stop was the Djema-el Fna, which is the main square and basically where most of the action happens. There’s snake charmers, henna tattoo artists, little restaurants (at night), a plant market and lots of fruit stalls. Trying some freshly squeezed orange juice here is a must!

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We also went passed the Koutoubia Mosque, which is the highlight of the city. It can be seen from far away and heard too, when prayer begins. Even though we  couldn’t go in as a non-muslim, we very much enjoyed the looks of this architectural stunner from outside.

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We also paid the Saadian tombs and the Bahia Palace a visit, both of which are stunning. The tiling is just wow. I could walk around there all day just people-watching or reading underneath the trees.

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Other than that, the souqs were really interesting – we saw the leather processing, bargained (hard-core) prices and learned a lot about the different spices and medicinal remedies. We also got ourselves some of the famous argan oil.

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Jardin Majorelle + YSL Museum

We spent another half a day exploring the Majorelle garden and YSL Museum. One tip: if you plan on visiting the YSL museum anyways, get a ticket there! The line at the gardens is waaaaaay longer and by getting your ticket at the museum, you can skip the queue. Anyways, we made our way through the garden which was a-ma-zing, but a little but overcrowded to be enjoyed fully. I really enjoyed the bright colours of the yellow and blue that are so typical for this garden, as well as the cacti. The garden’s café is a nice relaxing place too if you want to stay a bit longer.

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The YSL museum is kind of disappointing, unless you are really really into fashion. It’s a nice museum though, with some cool features. The movie about YSL is interesting too.

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The Atlas Mountains

One main goal of the trip was to get out of the city too and explore a bit of the surrounding nature. So we booked a day trip with Marrakech Inspiring Tours (with our guide Abdul) and we would definitely recommend. Although the drive is pretty long, the tour never got boring and we made plenty of stops to enjoy and photograph the surroundings, which was nice.

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Aït Ben Haddou

One of the highlights of said day trip was the Aït Ben Haddou, a UNESCO heritage site that seems to be yet undiscovered by the masses, one of the things I loved about it so much. In the middle of the desert, these castle-like structures arise and behind it is an entire village (still inhabited). Interesting to see to say the least.

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Hammam

I absolutely wanted to try hammam while we were in Marrakech. It’s a bit of a strange experience to have someone wash and scrub down your entire body, but the massage afterwards was really nice and we came out rejuvenated. We booked our hamma experience through Les Bains de Marrakech.

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Le Jardin Secret

We spent our last day hanging around in the souqs and enjoying the serenity of this place called le Jardin Secret. This recently opened garden is a true oasis with lots of green and water. Different from the Jardin Majorelle though, because the plants are less exotic and more English-French garden-like, if that makes sense. The roof-top terrace is the perfect hangout spot to enjoy the garden.

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The Riad experience

It can be nice to get away from the hustle and bustle that is Marrakech city life, so when you are looking for a place, the riads are a perfect hideaway.  Really, there are tiny pieces of paradise in an overcrowded city. It’s like an oasis of piece and quiet. Best breakfast ever.

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That’s it, folks. Curious to see where I go next…? :-)

Until then,

Silke

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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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! :)

 

Rotterdam – a shopping guide

Between Christmas and New Years, my boyfriend and I took a little getaway to Rotterdam. We took things slow and explored some of the great architectural constructions like the Markthal, saw some art at the Kunsthal and wandered the city’s streets. There were definitely too many nice looking shops and cozy cafés, but we managed to squeeze in quite a few! I’m giving you an overview below so you can enjoy some of the best ones. The shopping must go on!

PLEK – concept store

Where? 

What? This concept store is a design lover’s dream. From clothes to homeware, this place has everything in its own style, from Scandi chic to German retro. They also have a great selection of fragrances. My favourite – the Bon Parfumeur in the scent 301 – a woody scent with sandalwood, amber and cardamom. It was love at first smell.

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STEK – de stadstuinwinkel

Where? Nieuwe Binnenweg 195B

What? It’s the urban jungle lover’s dream. You walk into the shop and immediately get that jungle vibe: there’s literally plants everywhere! If your love of plants exceeds the plants itself, like me, you  will also like the botanical greeting cards and lovely ceramic pots as decoration. The shop owner is also really helpful! Basically, I could live in this store and be perfectly happy.

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HAY

Where? Haagseveer 99

What?  Anyone that knows me, knows I absolutely love this brand. It’s a Danish design brand that distinguishes itself from others by using unique shapes and colours. Regular scissors, clothing hooks and towels become objects of marvel. Time and time again, I end up buying nothing at all because I want everything and my budget just doesn’t allow for that to happen.

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VOORLOPIG

Where? Nieuwe Binnenweg 165

What? Everything you didn’t know you needed. There’s not really anything you couldn’t live without at this store, but there’s A LOT of things that you don’t feel like you want to live without. It’s got a wide selection of greeting cards, children’s books and posters. And I mean, who doesn’t love a store that makes a Christmas tree out of books! Out of books! Right.

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Hutspot

Where? Karel Doormanstraat 317

What? Really cool and edgy clothes and accessories that are comparably very affordable. From basic items to some pieces to stand out with.  I especially liked their jewellery collection, which as on point. You can kind of get the vibe of the store by looking at their website.

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Markthal

Where? Dominee Jan Scharpstraat 298

What? Only the most amazing architectural construction in Rotterdam, with a combination of apartments and a huge glass market hall. This really is the place to be for food lovers. If you’re not already hungry by the thought of the market hall, you will definitely get some cravings when you see al the glorious food stands. A must if you’re ever in Rotterdam!

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GROOS

Where? Achterklooster 13

What? A really basic but artsy store that is enjoyable by the way it’s been set up alone. It’s kind of like a mix between a warehouse and an art or design gallery. We bought some local beer (with lime) there and socks with an unbearably cute print. It’s a great place to get a gift for the ungiftable person.

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KEET

Where? Oppert 2a

What? A gift store that doubles up as a café. The perfect place to go snoop around when the weather isn’t that great. They have a great selection of ceramics and jewellery. Again, you’ll need nothing but end up wanting everything.

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Coffeelicious

Where? Nieuwe Binnenweg 174

What? After all the shopping, it’s nice to bop in somewhere to grab a cup of coffee or tea. This place’s interior looks like Alice in Wonderland had a baby with a Scandinavian designer (not my favourite combo) but the cake here was the bomb.com and all was forgiven quickly. Try the carrot cake!

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This is only a grasp of the many, many more shops and cool places in Rotterdam and I’m pretty sure I’ll have to go back in summer one day, but I feel like these are a solid list to get your started. If you’re into one of a kind shops and laid back wandering around the city, Rotterdam is definitely the place for you.

Please be sure to let me know if you have any questions or comments! I’d love to tell you more about it.

Until the next shopping spree! :-)

Lilith

If you’re ever in Rotterdam and just like me, you are a huge fan of going out for breakfast, Lilith might just be the place for you. It’s an old bar with lots of hipster elements but a bit of a rockery vibe. I mean, the water we asked for came in a skull-shaped bottle and the music they play is mostly hard rock (in a non-disturbing kind of way!). Not to mention the food is delicious: there’s lots of options for everyone, from the bacon and eggs indulging lover (Gillian) to the vegan fruit and yoghurt bowl favourite (Me). One tip: go early! Right after we got there, the place was full and there’s a waiting line. I can understand why… :-)

When? Monday-Wednesday from 8am till 7pm, Thursdays from 8am till 9pm, Friday-Saturday from 8am till 10pm and Sundays from 8am till 9pm.

Where? Nieuwe Binnenweg 125H, Rotterdam

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