Roadtrippin’ in the Balkans with NOVA Rent a CarKollecting Koordinates - car rental in Montenegro 1

We celebrated our honeymoon on a few Greek islands and with a road trip through Croatia. Finding a reliable car rental company in the Balkans was not an easy feat. We have no problems with big names in North America but we came across many, many negative reviews of the same companies in Europe. After scouring the net, we decided to go with a well-established local company for our Croatia road trip: NOVA Rent a Car. Fast-forward two years- we’re back with the same car rental in Montenegro!

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Our best travel companion in the Balkans – NOVA Rent a Car

car rental in Montenegro and Croatia

Read more: The magical Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Car rental in Croatia

We booked online 6 months before our trip and immediately received an email confirming the details including the total price. Wary about our first time driving in Europe, I emailed back with a few questions. Rino, the manager, quickly responded and eased our concerns.

The amount quoted in the email was exactly what we paid in cash upon picking up our vehicle at Zagreb Airport (ZAG). The NOVA staff showed us to our automatic Opel Corsa, which was very clean and in mint condition, and we were soon on our way.

From ZAG, we made our way to Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Zadar, and Split over the next 5 days. We crossed the border to Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina before ending our journey in Dubrovnik. On our last day, we said goodbye to our car at Dubrovnik Airport (DBV) before hopping on our flight to Crete. No questions asked, no additional fees charged, and no time wasted!

Read more: Don’t forget – Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Car rental in Montenegro

Pleased with our initial experience, we were excited to be on the road with NOVA again. We arrived at the same office in DBV, went through the same painless procedures, and embarked on our Montenegro journey with our best travel companion. Just like the good old times.

This time around we were given a brand spanking new BMW 116d. My chauffeur husband was very happy with its power, steering, and traction. The comfy bucket seats gave him serious Initial D feels as he drove along many winding roads and tight hairpins. We were surprised at how fuel efficient this little diesel-run beast is compared to our bimmer back home- we saved so much on gas!

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Crossing the Croatia/Montenegro border was just as simple as the Croatia/Bosnia border with the Green Card NOVA left in the glove compartment. Our red friend took us north to Zabljak and Durmitor National Park, as far east as Biogradska Gora National Park, south to Skadar Lake, west to Lovćen and Kotor, and finally back across the border to DBV.

Note: There are NO border crossing fees! Stay away from rental companies who tell you otherwise. All you need is the green cross-border document and your passports.

Other Tips and Info

  • THERE ARE NO HIDDEN FEES! The cost breakdown is clearly displayed on their booking portal and you’ll never be surprised by random charges
  • You pay when you collect the vehicle
  • The price includes basic insurance needed should there be an accident (Legal Liability, Third Party, and Public Liability), as well as Theft Protection and Damage Waiver (ranges from €500-€1300 depending on the vehicle class)
  • There are no cancellation fees!
  • For more information and rates about NOVA Rent a Car, check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

Read more: 9 Must-Do’s in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Kollecting Koordinates - car rental in Montenegro 1Kollecting Koordinates - car rental in Montenegro 1Disclaimer: NOVA Rent a Car provided us with a vehicle for our Montenegro road trip. However, all opinions and experiences are honest and our own. We wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Overnight layovers in London – Sleep easy at YOTELAIRKollecting Koordinates - overnight layover in London 1

This was our third time with an overnight layover in London; making it our third sleep at YOTELAIR. We usually avoid lengthy layovers like a plague but we don’t mind them in London thanks to this innovative airport hotel! With two locations, one inside Terminal 4 at Heathrow and another inside the South terminal at Gatwick, YOTELAIR has become our new best friend in London.

Read more: Walking guide – How to see London in 24 hrs

Overnight layover in London at YOTELAIR

Just imagine rolling out of bed, pressing the UP button on the elevator, and scanning your boarding pass for security clearance for an early morning flight within minutes. Or getting off the plane after an exhausting flight, and being able to hop into a comfy bed right away.

Similar to the capsule hotels in Japan, YOTELAIR is where innovation meets comfort. The space is smartly designed so that you’ll find everything you need in a cabin that’s no larger than 110sqft. Every inch of space is used for something, like luggage storage underneath beds.

Our Premium Cabin came with complimentary WiFi, a foldout desk, flat screen TV, and en-suite bathroom with monsoon shower. With a touch of a button, the convertible SmartBed glides to any position to work, lounge, or sleep.

Note: Standard cabins are also available for solo travelers.

YOTELAIR is not only convenient for those with an overnight layover in London, but also travelers with connection times of awkward lengths. Booking is available by the hour, with a minimum stay of 4 hours.

Read more: Viewing London from 800ft above the ground

Having stayed at both locations, we prefer Gatwick just a tad more simply because of the gentlemen at the Mission Control (YOTEL talk for reception desk). This is where you can order complimentary hot drinks and bottled water 24/7. What’s impressive is that we found their service to be on par with hotels that are 4-star or higher- perhaps even better than some!

Other Tips and Info

  • Rates start at £49.00+ for a minimum stay of 4 hours, and £95.00+ for stays longer than 12 hours.
  • Bottled water, espresso coffee, tea and hot chocolate are free all day!
  • Food can be ordered at Mission Control- staff will bring your meal to your cabin when it’s ready.
  • For more information and current promos, check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

Disclaimer: We were invited guests at YOTELAIR Gatwick. However, all opinions and experiences are honest and our own. We wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Kollecting Koordinates - overnight layover in London 2

 

The best home base to explore Northern Montenegro: Hotel SOA

Ever since we visited Croatia we’ve been itching for more Balkan countries. Jaw-dropping national parks, canyons, and lakes were waiting to be checked off our Montenegro list. We were wondering where to stay in Montenegro on our road trip- where to make our home base to explore the northern region of perhaps the most picturesque country we’ve ever been. The answer was simple- Hotel SOA in Zabljak! We’re big fans of boutique hotels and family-run properties for their intimacy, and this one was no exception.

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Read more: 9 Must-Do’s in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Where to stay in Montenegro – Hotel SOA in Zabljak

Location, Space, and Staff

In the heart of Durmitor National Park lies Zabljak, a small town that turns into a ski resort in the winter. Hotel SOA is conveniently situated in the center of Zabljak, only steps away from the famous Black Lake, restaurants, and local markets. It’s minutes to the entrance to Durmitor National Park, 30 minutes away from the Tara Bridge, 1.5hr from the Piva Canyon, and 1.5hr from Biogradska Gora National Park.

Note: If you’re ending (or starting) your Montenegro journey in Kotor like we did, it’s just under 3 hours on a very scenic drive.

The property was originally planned as a family home but the owners turned it into an 18-unit hotel, inviting guests from all over the world to explore their beautiful country. Some are double suites, others are apartments large enough to accommodate groups of up to 5 guests. A contemporary approach is used in the hotel design along with elements of Mount Durmitor’s traditional architecture.

Because it is a small boutique hotel, you’ll come to know everyone who works there. Matija, the owner, works day shifts at the reception and always has a huge smile on his face. We did have an unpleasant encounter with the other front desk staff but that was quickly resolved by Matija. Count on the dining room manager, Novica, to ensure your culinary experience is nothing short of the best. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet the family’s big friendly dog!

We were pleased with our clean and spacious Junior Suite, which came with a separate sitting area along with a modern bathroom. If you did a quick search for hotels in Montenegro you’ll find that these traits aren’t easy to come by!

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Amenities, Facilities, and Dining

Guests can enjoy the wellness center (all to themselves!) for up to 1hr every day. The wellness center includes a Turkish bath and sauna, available for private use by reservation.

Tip: Reserve your time slot as soon as you check in! The hotel was so busy that we didn’t get a chance to use the wellness center.

All units have a mini bar, satellite TV, and complimentary WiFi. There’s a restaurant (undoubtedly the best you’ll find in the area) on the first floor, where guests can enjoy meals with a view of the majestic Durmitor massif.

Our favourite part of the stay is the complimentary breakfast buffet! The breakfast spread at Hotel SOA is no joke- its vast selection left us stuffed every morning. All the ingredients are fresh, featuring local dairy products and cured meats.

Tip: Don’t miss the homemade yogurt and pear pie!

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Other tips and info

  • Rates range from 75CAD+ for single rooms, to 140CAD+ for junior suites, to 220CAD+ for luxury apartments.
  • Tap water is safe to drink.
  • Parking is plentiful and free.
  • The hotel restaurant is the only non-smoking restaurant in the area.
  • For more information and current promotions, check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

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Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Hotel SOA. However, all opinions and experiences are honest and our own, and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Where to stay in Montenegro 12

 

Viewing London from 800ft above the groundKollecting Koordinates - Best view of London 11

With fewer than 24 hours to spare, we were on the hunt for the best view of London. We saw a few of London’s famous sites from the ground level the last time we were there. This time we kicked it up a notch and saw London from the 72nd floor!

The Best View of London: The View from the Shard

At 800ft above the ground, The Shard is Western Europe’s tallest building. It’s the only place where you’ll be able to enjoy 360-degree panoramic views of London, all at once. These views stretch for a whopping 40 miles! The View from the Shard is London’s twist on ‘Where’s Waldo’, where visitors find and spot London’s most iconic sites including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Tower of London, London Eye, and Buckingham Palace.

There are two bars, allowing you to enjoy London’s stunning skyline over a drink or two. A glass of Champagne Lanson is included in your entrance fee when you purchase the Champagne Experience. Whether you’re visiting from abroad or a local looking for a fancy night out, there’s no better place to see the best view of London. The Shard even offers a private proposal service!

Our visit to The Shard was graced with clear skies and amazing visibility for great photo ops. It felt like the platform was swaying at times but it was probably my mind playing tricks on me since I’m terrified of heights. Anything for the ‘gram, though, right?

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changing elevators at level 33

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bar on the open-air skydeck

free audio & visual guides available in different languages on level 69

Tips on getting the best view of London

  • Use a polarizing filter to help suppress glare and reflections.
  • Take advantage of the free audio and visual guides; you can find these on the 69th floor.
  • It can get chilly on the open-air sky deck. Layer up if you’re not visiting in the summer time.
  • The ‘Day & Night Experience’ dual entry lets visitors experience London’s skyline both during the day and at night.
  • Book in advance to save money!
  • Don’t miss the washroom on the 68th floor- toilet views don’t get any better than this!

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Other tips and info

  • Tickets are £15.95+ per adult and £9.95+ for children if booked in advance, or £20.95+ per adult and £14.95+ for children if booked on the day
  • The nearest tube station is London Bridge
  • Summer hours of operations are from 10AM – 10PM all week. Winter hours are from 10AM-7PM (Sunday to Wednesday), and 10AM-10PM (Thursday to Saturday).
  • For more information and upcoming special events, check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

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Disclaimer: AS and I received complimentary media passes for our visit. However, all opinions and experiences are honest and our own, and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves!

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Kollecting Koordinates - Best view of London

20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido in Palawan

Hurricane Hagupit swept across the Philippines days before our flight to El Nido in 2014. We shrugged off the sunk costs and tried our luck again in 2016. When we arrived at Mactan-Cebu Airport to check in for our flight, we were told our flight was canceled. Dammit, what does it freaking take to visit this place?! We eventually made it there the following day and realized it was all worth it! Here are 20 photos to inspire you to visit El Nido in Palawan, Philippines.

READ MORE: 8 Reasons to convince you to visit Cebu in the Philippines

20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Island hopping is a must!

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Town proper from the sea

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Marvel at the countless islands and rock formations

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

The ocean has never been so inviting!

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Have breakfast with views overlooking the Corong Corong Bay

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Indulge in views like this from the Taraw Peak

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

And this

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Sun tan on this soft white sand beach

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

…as long as you bring sunscreen!

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Go island hopping on your own private banca and avoid crowds

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Explore this natural aquarium

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Enjoy sunsets while swinging in a hammock on your balcony

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Dive into crystal clear turquoise waters

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

The snorkeling conditions here are pristine!

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Live among trees in a cottage with an infinity pool

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Motorbike to the famous twin beaches of Nacpan and Calitang

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

The Twin Beaches of El Nido: Nacpan and Calitang

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Go kayaking in the Big and Small Lagoons

Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Get your hair fried and skin burnt…. worth it!

Still not convinced? Check out our Youtube video:

Stay tuned for our guide to visiting El Nido comfortably and efficiently without breaking your bank!

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Kollecting Koordinates - 20 Photos to inspire you to visit El Nido

Embracing the Wild Life with 8 things to do on Bowen Island + GIVEAWAY

This post is sponsored by Sakroots to promote the launch of the new Wild Life print by Niki Pilkington.

Call us biased but we’re proud to say we live in the most beautiful province in Canada, where Mother Nature has graced us with the most comfy climate and stunning scenery! This year, we’ve set a goal to embrace the wild life in British Columbia by exploring as many islands as we can. We started with a weekend getaway on a small island just 20 minutes from Vancouver by ferry: Bowen Island.

8 Things to do on Bowen Island

1. Enjoy the scenic ferry ride

Hop on the Queen of Capilano run by BC Ferries! Sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenic ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Snug Cove. Crossing time is only 20 minutes and passengers don’t need tickets for the return ferry.

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do on Bowen Island

2. Go kayaking

The kayak season runs from April to mid October. You can check out an abundance of wildlife while you paddle from beach to beach. Keep your eyes peeled for orcas, dolphins, seals, and bald eagles. We didn’t get a chance to do this as the sea was too choppy; the conditions were so bad that other ferry routes were canceled! We’ll be back again in the summer to explore the gulf by kayak.

3. Chill out at Snug Cove

Take a stroll along the picturesque marina with buildings from the early 1900’s. Snug Cove was once a summer resort where Vancouverites spent holiday time, and housed the largest dance hall in BC.

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do on Bowen Island

4. Visit Artisan Square

Artisan Square is a quaint cultural hub where you can find a collection of shops, restaurants, and galleries. It’s a 20-minute uphill walk from Snug Cove- or you can catch a 5-minute ride with one of the friendly locals by hitchhiking. Don’t miss organic chocolatey treats at Cocoa West Chocolatier!

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5. Feast your heart out

With a population of just over 3,500, we were surprised to find the wide variety and high quality of dining options on Bowen Island. Sample Spanish tapas over vino at Barcelona, pig out on wood-fired pizzas at Tuscany, or indulge in French bistro fare at Artisan Square (legit French pastries baked onsite!). You can also find hearty pub food or sip on award-winning coffee. Eating clean is easy peasy on Bowen where many bistros use organic and garden-fresh ingredients.

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6. Zip around on a scooter

Scooter season runs from mi-April to mid-October. Weather permitting, this is by far the best way to explore the island!  Bowen Island is so small that it only takes 30 minutes to get from one end of the island to the other. Why not do it in style in a retro Yamaha Vino?

7. Attend a yoga retreat

Practicing in this geodesic dome at Nectar Yoga B&B is one of the best things to do on Bowen Island. Yoga enthusiasts from all over the world travel here to attend events and workshops immersed in nature. Namaste doesn’t get any better than this!

Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB

8. Go hiking

With over 10 walks and hikes to choose from, Bowen Island offers trails for every kind of hiker. Stroll with ease around Killarney Lake or challenge yourself by summiting Mount Gardner, where you will be rewarded with views of Howe Sound and the Coast Mountains.

Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do on Bowen Island

SAKROOTS GIVEAWAY – WIN AN ITEM FROM THE NEW WILD LIFE COLLECTION

I’ve partnered up with Sakroots to promote the launch of the ‘Wild Life’ print by illustrator Niki Pilkington. The winner will receive any Wild Life item of their choice.

The contest will go live on my Instagram on Monday, April 17 at 7PM PST. To enter:

  1. Follow @sakroots and @kollectingkoordinates on Instagram
  2. Post a photo showing how you live your wild life
  3. Tag and mention @sakroots and @kollectingkoordinates in your photo
  4. Use the hashtags #SRWildLife #sakroots in the caption

A winner will be selected by Sakroots and announced after 24 hours. This giveaway is open to everyone with a US-mailing address. Terms and conditions can be found here.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Sakroots. Special thanks to BC Ferries for providing us with complimentary fares to Bowen Island.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Things to do on Bowen Island

Feel, breathe, heal, and release – Nectar Yoga B&B on Bowen Island (GIVEAWAY)Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

AS and I just returned from a weekend of zen on Bowen Island, which is just a short 20-minute ride from Vancouver via BC Ferries. We’ve been wanting to attend a yoga retreat for the longest time but never had the opportunity… until we found Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island, that is!

We love our experience here so much that we want to keep it a secret. But alas, sharing is caring. Keep reading for your chance to win a yoga package giveaway!

Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

“Nature and namaste” is perhaps the best way to describe this place. Tired of the materialistic, corporate life, Andrea and her partner set off on a spiritual adventure around the world. Through their travels they found themselves. They envisioned a new life and turned their dream into reality upon returning home. Thus, Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island was born!

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Oreo showing us how downward dog is properly done

The space, location, and its surroundings

Tucked away in the woods on Bowen Island, Nectar Yoga B&B is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city life. It’s hard to believe this eco-friendly sanctuary is only half an hour away from downtown Vancouver. Easily accessible, yet remote enough to disconnect.

There are three units on this 1.2 acre lot, complete with a Finnish sauna and geodesic yoga dome. The entire space, including the main house, can be rented out for large group retreats. House pups Oreo and Rascal (cuties!) can be seen roaming around when the sun’s out. You might even spot a deer or two!

Guests can explore a beautiful lake, a nature reserve, two parks, and dozens of hiking trails in their down time. To get around on the island, just walk onto the main road and stick your thumb out! Hitchhiking is the norm here.

Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

inside the beautiful geodesic yoga dome

Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

Our cottage – The Nectar Loft

The Nectar Loft is the perfect marriage between cabin life and loft living. Using natural wood and aqua tones, the Scandinavian design makes guests feel right at home. The cottage comes with a fully equipped kitchen and small fireplace. Its living room boasts three large windows overlooking the garden, letting in tons of light.

All soaps, shampoo, and cleaning products are locally made and natural, in order to reduce environmental impact. If you don’t feel like going out, the cottage is stocked with books, movies, and board games. At the end of your day, let the comfy queen-sized bed lull you to sleep in the cozy loft.

Food and dining

Homemade breakfast is served daily in our cottage. Using only local and organic ingredients, Andrea ensures her guests are fully charged with yummy vegetarian meals every morning. Vegan options are also available upon request.

You can cook your own meals or dine out for lunch and dinner. Enjoy wood-fired pizzas at Tuscany, French bistro fare at Artisan Eats, or tapas at Barcelona- Bowen Island’s newest addition.

Feel, breathe, heal, and release

Daily yoga and meditation session take place in the geodesic dome. Andrea’s a fantastic instructor; her classes are challenging yet rejuvenating. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say this was the highlight of our stay ! We left feeling recharged, more aware, and inspired.

Andrea does an excellent job in guiding us through each pose and flow, beyond not only the physical aspects but also the spiritual mind. We especially loved the talks post-practice where she delves into yoga and meditation on a deeper level.

For more information on Nectar Yoga B&B, please visit their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and InstagramFollow along for upcoming workshops, events, and retreats!

Giveaway Time! Win a 2-Night Yoga Retreat

I’ve partnered up with Andrea to give one lucky follower (+ guest) a Nectar Yoga B&B weekday retreat! Enter for your chance to win a Yoga Package for 2 guests in the new Garden Suite

How to enter – you can enter as many times as you like!

The 2-night stay is valid from Monday – Thursday between October 15th – November 30th, 2017. Contest closes on April 21st at 9pm PST; the winner will be announced on Sunday, April 23rd. Good luck!


Disclaimer: AS and I were invited guests at Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island. However, these honest opinions are our own and we would never recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! Special thanks to BC Ferries for providing us with complimentary fares to the island.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Nectar Yoga BnB on Bowen Island

Fly away to Neverland! The most whimsical afternoon tea in VancouverKollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

“All you need is faith and trust, and a little bit of pixie dust!”… Except you don’t need pixie dust to find this particular Neverland! Inspired by Parisian salons from the 18th century, Neverland Tea Salon is the brainchild of owners Teri and Renee. Treat yo’self and don’t miss this themed tea house when you’re in Vancouver.

Living up to its name, Neverland is the most whimsical tea house in town. We had high expectations after hearing about our friends’ experiences and surely enough, it didn’t disappoint! Even Peter Pan himself would approve.

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Neverland Tea Salon – high tea in Vancouver

AMBIANCE & SPACE

Much like Sir J. M. Barrie’s Neverland, the decor here is as nonsensical as it gets- in a good way, of course.

There’s something spellbinding about this tea house, from the vintage furniture to the quirky chandeliers, to the teacups hanging from the ceiling. Perhaps the magic is cast by pretty scribbles on the walls; quotes from the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up. You’ll notice that no two chairs or teacups are alike. Nothing matches and yet somehow, everything works!

Whether you’re riding solo or with your crew, there are tables for parties of all sizes. I can’t think of a venue more fun in Vancouver to celebrate a special occasion. I wish I had known about Neverland Tea Salon when I had my bridal shower!

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

READ MORE: Where to stay in Vancouver

FOOD – NEVERLAND GRANDE HIGH TEA

We each ordered the Neverland Grande High Tea: 5 savoury and 5 sweet courses. All their delicious finger sandwiches and pastries are made in-house. I gotta say, the quality of afternoon tea at Neverland Tea Salon is definitely one of the best in Vancouver.

The savoury sandwiches are tasty with a novel twist, like the egg salad combo with Thai red curry and mango chutney. AS really enjoyed the truffled croissant-wich; it was flavourful and flaky without being greasy. I loved their scones with house-made strawberry jam… so much so I ate AS’s share too.

There was so much food we had to pack a few pieces to go. Can’t eat too much in one sitting? Try the Demi-Tea option. Vegetarian and gluten-/dairy-free menus are also available if you have dietary restrictions. 

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

TEA SELECTION

The Neverland Grande High Tea menu comes with never-ending pots of teas. The teas are bottomless, which means you can try as many as you like from over 60 teas! You can also purchase packs of loose leaf tea to enjoy at home.

We sampled 4 different teas: Almond Joy, Pixie Dust, Peter’s Promise, and our personal favourite- Take Me to Neverland. Each had a distinct flavour without being overwhelming. The teas are steeped at the main counter so let your server know about your preferences in advance.

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

Neverland Tea Salon

LOCATION

Situated in Kitsilano, Neverland Tea Salon is easily accessible by public transit (buses 009, 014, B-99). Those with a car can find plenty of metered parking on the streets. If you don’t mind walking a few blocks there’s free parking on West 10th.

Address: 3066 West Broadway, Vancouver

HOURS OF OPERATION

Monday-Friday: 11AM-6PM, Saturday: 9AM-7PM, Sunday: 9AM-6PM

Reservations are highly recommended, especially if you want to be seated in the comfy pink couches! To see their full menus and for more information, visit their official website, Facebook, and Instagram pages.

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

Disclaimer: We received complimentary tasting at Neverland Tea Salon. However, these honest opinions are our own and we would never recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves! 

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Kollecting Koordinates - Neverland Tea Salon

 

Recipe: Homemade 32-layer Uji matcha mille crêpeKollecting Koordinates - mille crepe recipe

Why spend money on Lady M when you can make your own mille crepe at home? 20 layers? Pft, check out this 32-layer homemade matcha mille crepe recipe. It’s SUPER easy, but also super time consuming.

This recipe makes a 6″ cake with 32 layers. Put your own spin on it; use this base recipe to make any flavour you fancy (i.e. chocolate, earl grey, matcha, original + fruit, etc).

Kollecting Koordinates - mille crepe recipe

Mille crepe recipe

Ingredients

BATTER

  • 45g unsalted butter
  • 350g milk (almond or soy milk also works)
  • 3 eggs
  • 110g flour (I used 50g cake flour and 60g bread flour because I don’t have AP flour)
  • 50g sugar
  • pinch of salt

For this matcha mille crepe recipe I added 3 heaping spoons of Uji matcha we brought back from Kyoto.

FILLING

  • 400ml whipping cream
  • As much/little icing sugar depending on your sweetness preference
  • Matcha powder to taste (substitute for cocoa powder, vanilla, or whatever flavour you like)

Read more: How to see Kyoto in 2 days

Kollecting Koordinates - mille crepe recipe

Uji matcha from Kyoto Japan

Prep work

BATTER

  1. Melt butter on the stove top in a small saucepan over medium heat, remove from heat once it turns slightly brown
  2. Heat milk in microwave on high for 1-2min
  3. Whisk eggs, flour, sugar, salt, and matcha powder in a big bowl
  4. Add butter and milk to mixture, whisk until smooth
  5. Chill batter in the fridge for at least 2 hours

Note: Chilling lets the gluten relax which improves the flavor and texture of your crepes. I’ve made batter before without letting it chill and the texture was slightly rubbery… so be patient and allow the gluten work its magic!

FILLING

  1. Chill mixer bowl and whisks in fridge for at least 20 minutes
  2. Whisk whipping cream, sugar and matcha powder in cold bowl on high speed until stiff peaks form

Directions

  1. Remove batter from fridge and stir thoroughly (always stir before making the next crêpe)
  2. Heat a 6″ non-stick pan on low heat, brush pan with a very thin layer of oil
  3. Scoop batter with a small ladle into the pan and swirl it around to coat entire surface (it’s all in the wrist!)
  4. Loosen the sides with chopsticks and flip the crêpe after 45 seconds or so, until the top dries
  5. Cook for another 30 seconds and remove crêpe from pan
  6. Repeat until all layers are done! You should be able to make 32 layers with this recipe
  7. Assemble; spread a thin layer of cream on crêpe. Repeat
  8. Chill cake in fridge for 2+ hours. Dust with icing sugar and matcha powder before serving!

Tip: Remove pan from heat when you add and swirl the batter. This will prevent your crêpe from cooking too quickly.

Tip: Make sure you cook the crêpes on low heat, otherwise the crêpe won’t cook evenly.

Tip: Remove pan from heat when you flip. The easiest way is to loosen the edges with chopsticks, gently pick up the crêpe with your fingertips and flip, and smooth it out with a spatula.

Kollecting Koordinates - mille crepe recipe

a small ladle of batter for each crêpe

Kollecting Koordinates - mille crepe recipe

use chopsticks to lift the sides, gently pick crêpe up with finger tips and flip, even out with a spatula

Kollecting Koordinates - mille crepe recipe

suuuuuuper thin crepes!

Kollecting Koordinates - mille crepe recipe

spread a thin layer of cream in between each crêpe

Kollecting Koordinates - mille crepe recipe

dust with matcha powder and ta-da! Youre done!

Kollecting Koordinates - mille crepe recipe

cross-section of this 32-layer baby

Make sure you let the batter chill in the fridge! I made this strawberry and kiwi mille crepe without chilling and while it was good, it was on the rubbery side. Look at the difference in the texture and thickness.Kollecting Koordinates - mille crepe recipe

The finished product: super soft, melt in your mouth homemade matcha mille crepe!Kollecting Koordinates - mille crepe recipe

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Kollecting Koordinates - mille crepe recipe

24 hours in Hualien and Taroko National Park in TaiwanKollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

Oh, Taiwan. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways! Taiwan is known for its mouthwatering food and unparalleled hospitality. Visitors rush to see the iconic Taipei 101, but there’s more to Taiwan than just Taipei. The true beauty of this island country lies on the east coast, where plains are forever green and where mountains meet the sea. 24 hours in Hualien and Taroko National Park doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but it’s totally doable (without being rushed) if you plan carefully.

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

24 hours in Hualien – How do I even get there?

Chances are, you’re heading to Hualien from Taipei. Cities and counties in Taiwan are connected by the Taiwan Railways Administration, with the fastest being the Tze-Chiang Limited Express trains. Taroko Express and Puyuma Express are both reservation-only Tze-Chiang Limited Express trains that run from Taipei to Hualien. Duration and fares are the same- they’re just owned by different companies.

Tip: Buy your tickets ahead of time; you can do so up to 2 weeks in advance. The Puyuma line is very popular and sells out quickly, especially on weekends and national holidays. You can pick up your tickets at a post office or at any convenience store (7-Eleven, Family Mart, Hi-Life, OK Mart); make sure you have your passport with you.

Read more: Social responsibility at its best – Horizon Inn Taipei

How do I get around in Hualien?

If you’re only interested in checking out Taroko National Park, there are tours and hop-on hop-off buses that do just that. However, I strongly advise against them because let’s be honest- ain’t nobody got time for that! Rent a moped instead and explore the gorge on your own. You’ll be able to go at your own pace and stop whenever, wherever you want.

If you’re in a group of 2-4, aren’t comfortable with scootering around, or are pressed for time… just hire a private driver! We’re all about efficiency here so I highly recommend this option. This allowed us to customize our own itinerary and visit sites outside of Taroko.

Tip: Our driver no longer offers services but there are plenty of recommendations on Tripadvisor. The rate for an English-speaking driver is fairly standard at around $3,000NTD/day (around $100USD).

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

What can I see and do within 24 hours in Hualien?

Qixing Beach

QiXing means ‘seven stars’ in Mandarin. Once a thriving fishing village, this area is now home to Qixing Beach and the Hualien Air Force Base. If you visit at night you can even star-gaze! Visitors are able to see all seven stars of the Big Dipper (hence the name).

You won’t find any sand here- this pebble beach is considered one of the most beautiful in Taiwan. The waves and currents are too strong for a swim but the bike trail is perfect for a beach-side cruise. We spent half an hour here and watched in awe as an F-16 figher jet took off.

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

Qingshui Cliff

20 minutes away from QiXing Beach is the QingShui Cliff, arguably one of the most stunning sights in Taiwan. Dropping vertically into the Pacific Ocean, the cliff is over 3,000 feet high and stretches more than 12 miles along the Suao-Hualien highway.

Tip: There’s an observation deck once you exit the Chongde Tunnel. Here’s your chance to snap that IG-worthy shot!

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

Shakadang trail

Also known as the ‘Mystery Valley’, this was once a narrow path used only by aboriginals- the Taroko people. When Taiwan was under Japanese rule in the 1940’s, the Japanese broadened the trail to transport equipment in order to build the Liwu Power Plant. Marvel at the marble stones and Shakadang River as you explore the past of the Taroko tribe.

Tip: This is by no means a strenuous hike; it’s more of a stroll stretching more than 4km that’ll take you 3-4hrs round-trip. You won’t miss out on much even if you turn back before you reach the end.

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

Lushui and Baiyang Trail

If you’re interested in more easy hikes check out the Lushui and Baiyang Trails. The scenery is more or less the same as Shakadang Trail.

Eternal Spring Shrine

Modeled after a famous temple from the Tang Dynasty, this shrine commemorates 225 veterans who lost their lives constructing the Central Cross-Island Highway. Visitors can’t enter the shrine; you can only view this picturesque landmark from afar.

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

Swallow’s Grotto

Weaving in and out of a mountain, this trail overlooks a deep gorge and powerful stream. Your driver will drop you off at the entrance while you make your way to the other end on foot. A safety helmet is not required but just put it on anyway. It’s free! This area is prone to falling rocks; better safe than sorry!

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

Dongdamen Night Market

This humongous night market will probably be the highlight of your 24 hours in Hualien. Come hungry! The food scene in Taiwan is like no other and I wrote about this in another post. You’ll be able to cross some dishes off that list at this night market.

Dongdamen Night Market has a section dedicated to traditional Taiwanese snacks, another featuring aboriginal cuisines, and a third with foods from mainland China. There’s even another smaller night market within Dongdamen… nightmarketception is a thing.

Tip: Listen to your Taiwanese homegirl and try these 3 stands: stinky tofu sticks, deep fried egg scallion pancake, and a variety of barbeque skewers- all pictured below because none of it is in English. If you see anything with signs in English, assume it’s a tourist trap.

Read more: The Ultimate Food Guide to Taiwan

Kollecting Koordinates - Hualien 17
Kollecting Koordinates - Hualien 18

Where should I stay in Hualien?

Echo Villa is where it’s at! You’ll see what I mean by Taiwanese hospitality once you meet the host. Situated right next to a forest, this glass house is the perfect hideaway. I wish we spent more than 24 hours in Hualien because I adored our little B&B so much. There are only 5 rooms, each tastefully decorated with a style of its own.

Homemade breakfast is served in your room every morning. Echo Villa is 20 minutes from city center but trust me, once you’re here you won’t want to leave. There’s also a short trail (20-30min walk) leading you to a hidden waterfall.

Tip: We were in the Stellar Attic and loved it. It’s almost always sold out due to its popularity. Booking opens 2 months in advance so get on it!

Kollecting Koordinates - Hualien 5
Kollecting Koordinates - Hualien 15
Kollecting Koordinates - Hualien 11

24 hours in Hualien – sample itinerary

7AM   –   train from Taipei to Hualien
9AM   –   arrive in Hualien, head to QiXing Beach (七星潭)
11AM  –   stop by the 7-ELEVEN before the Taroko National Park entrance for a quick lunch
Noon  –   QingShui Cliff (清水斷崖), Shakadang Trail (砂卡噹步道), Eternal Spring Shrine (長春祠), Swallow Grotto (燕子口)
4PM   –   check in at your B&B, wash up and rest before dinner
6PM   –   pig out at Dongdaemun Night Market (花蓮東大門觀光夜市)

Don’t miss Mukumugi Valley and Sixty Rock Mountain if you’re able to spend more than 24 hours in Hualien. They’re a bit out of the way so you’ll need an extra day or two.

Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien

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Kollecting Koordinates - 24 hours in Hualien