A Quick Guide to SantoriniKollecting Koordinates - Santorini

How can you miss Santorini when you’re in Greece?

Long have I dreamed about visiting this picture-perfect island in the Cyclades. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to walk along the caldera to see the whitewashed houses, to swim in the crystal clear blue waters of the Agean Sea, and to catch one of the world’s most beautiful sunsets. My wishes finally came true when we spent three nights here on our honeymoon last year. Here’s a quick guide to visiting this timeless destination- Santorini!

Kollecting Koordinates

1. Travel in low/shoulder seasons

Do NOT go during the summer months. If you hate crowds like us you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. Heck, we were there in early September and it was still extremely busy. We used the public bus to get around Fira-Imerovigli-Oia and passengers were packed like sardines every time. Unless you get on at the very first stop, chances are you’re gonna be standing in the aisle holding on for your dear life.

We went in early September and it was still very, very hot. Swimming in the ocean was heavenly but there was no shortage of sweat on land. Go either in early/mid June or mid/late September not only to avoid the crowds, but also for a more comfortable temperature.

2. Stay in Imerovigli

Because of its elevation and central location on the caldera, Imerovigli has my vote for having the best view in Santorini. Yes, we’d say it’s even better than the famous town of Oia.

Kollecting Koordinates

Our three nights at Vallais Villa was, without a doubt, one of our most memorable hotel stays. It was like waking up to paradise every morning! With a view of the Skaros Rock and caldera, a breakfast spread that is equally beautiful as delicious, and an outdoor Jacuzzi on our private balcony, this place is hard to fault.

 

3. Indulge in delicious food

Maybe it’s the lack of rice and noodles, maybe it’s the amazing seafood. Whatever it is, I LOVE Greek Food. Tzatziki, gyros, baked feta, hummus, calamari, moussaka, fresh octopus, … the list goes on! If you’re on a budget you can survive on gyros and souvlakis. Our go-to’s for cheap eats are Pitogyros in Oia and Lucky’s in Fira.

Our favourite is a little place that serves tapas and meze (Traditional Greek cuisine). We dined here multiple times and loved every dish we tried. Their portions are very generous and prices fairer than most restaurants in Oia. And of course, don’t forget to stop by Taverna Katina in Amoudi Bay for some fresh catch of the day!

Kollecting Koordinates

4. Get lost in the towns

This is an obvious one, but an absolute must! You can hike from Fira to Oia, or you can bus between towns to save time. Make sure your camera is fully charged because you’ll be greeted with a postcard moment every corner you turn.

Kollecting Koordinates

There are also many, many cats on the island… like this little guy who was very friendly! Most of them are pets of restaurant and shop owners but many are feral.

 

5. Go on a sunset cruise

We signed up with Santorini Sailing for an afternoon of sailing and swimming in the Agean Sea, visited the hot springs, and stopped by the Red and White Beaches. Oh and did I mention we were served unlimited drinks and food? Hell yeah!

Kollecting Koordinates

6. Catch the world famous sunset

There are a couple of places to watch the sun dip into the horizon and they all offer different perspectives of this beauty. We had a pretty good view from our balcony in Imerovigli with a long stretch of the caldera in the foreground, and we also had an unobstructed view from our boat. Another place is Santo Winery in Pyrgos. What better way to to enjoy the sunset than pairing it with some wine?

Then there’s Oia Castle, the obvious choice. You’ll have to camp out for a good spot but there’s a reason why everyone gathers here for the sun to go down. It was truly magical. 

Kollecting Koordinates

What took my breath away, though, is seeing the town light up against the multicoloured sky. I mean, just look at this! We couldn’t have asked for anything more romantic.

Kollecting Koordinates

Like it? Pin it!

Kollecting Koordinates - Santorini

9 Must-Do’s in Dubrovnik, CroatiaKollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

Coined the Pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik has easily topped the list as one of our favourite cities. The walls in the Old City are in such pristine condition that it’s hard to believe this place is real. After a long week of driving down Croatia from Zagreb through BiH, we were ready for some down time in King’s Landing. If you’re thinking of stopping by Dubrovnik on a cruise, don’t. This beautiful city deserves more than just a few hours’ stop!

Kollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

 

1. get lost in the Old City

Explore each corner, each alley, and each gate within the stone walls. Stop by Onofrio’s Fountains to refill your water bottle when you get thirsty. It’s clean- you can drink it right from the tap! Did I mention it’s also leg day everyday in Dubrovnik? Seriously, it was like we were constantly using the StairMaster. (which was great, because we didn’t need to work out!)

2. stay outside the city walls

It may be tempting to to stay in the centre of the action, but you’re actually much better off finding accommodation outside the gates. Not only are there more options, but you’ll also wake up with a beautiful view of the Old City from your bedroom window. We stayed at an Airbnb just a 5min walk from the Ploce Gate, Konzum (supermarket), and Banje Beach.

Kollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

Waking up to this every morning was such a blessing; we didn’t want to leave!

3. go on a Game of Thrones tour

GoT has brought in millions of dollars to Croatia’s tourism revenue. If you’re a not a fan of this HBO series, this half day of nerdgasm may not be for you. But if you’re a fan like us, don’t miss out! Having been one of the extras in GoT, our guide was extremely knowledgeable and kept the whole tour upbeat and fun. It was awesome seeing where all the different scenes were filmed!

4. walk the City Walls

This is a must do. The entrance fee is 100kn, but you get a discount if you keep your ticket stub from Fort Lovrijenac (we were there on our GoT tour). The view of the orange rooftops against the deep blue sea will take your breath away! Try to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon, otherwise you’ll be roasted. Make sure you stay hydrated and load up on sunscreen because there’s no shade up there. Allow at least 1-2hrs to complete the whole circuit; wear comfortable shoes!

Beautiful sights, yes, but I thought I was going to pass out from the heat and humidity! Prepare yourself if you’re doing this in the summer.

5. wine tasting at D’vino Wine Bar

For a great night out, check out D’vino Wine Bar. It’s a cozy little bar right in the heart of the Old City. They offer an impressive selection of wines, both domestic and imported, at a surprisingly affordable price! The place is quite small and it can get really busy. It’d be wise to make reservations in advance. We each ordered a wine tasting flight – one red and one white with 3 wines each – and shared a cheese platter. The couple who sat next to our table ordered 4 flights each! I gotta say, their charcuterie board looked pretty damn amazing.

Kollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

6. take the cable car

For 120kn (70kn one way), you can go on a 5min ride that will take you to the top of Mount Srdj for an extraordinary view of the coast. You can also hike up and down the plateau if you’re up for the challenge! There’s a lovely restaurant and cafe at the top where you can enjoy a drink or two.

Kollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

7. sunset dinner at Restaurant Panorama

Don’t just ride the cable car for the view- stay for dinner! We chose to splurge a little on our last night in Dubrovnik. To ensure we’d be seated at the best table in the house, I made reservations weeks in advance. The open-air concept offers a magnificent sight as the sun sets over the Adriatic Sea as you enjoy your meal. The prices are quite fair, too- it’s actually not any more expensive than the restaurants within the walls. If you’re looking for a romantic night out in Dubrovnik, this is it!

Kollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

8. Island of Lokrum

To escape from the crowds and blistering sun, take a short 15min ferry ride over to the Island of Lokrum. We didn’t have enough time for this but our GoT guide said it’s worth your while. The paths are shaded with clear signs showing you the different points of interests. Bring a swimsuit to swim in the sea- you might even see some peacocks! This is also where the iron throne replica is if you’re a fan.

9. Fort Lovrijenac

Just a few minutes from Pile Gate on foot, this is the ‘Red Keep’ from Game of Thrones- tons of scenes were filmed here. Hike up the lush green landscape to get a good view of the Old City. There isn’t that too much to see within the fort, but the view from the top is phenomenal! Make sure you experience this both in the day and at night.

It’s truly amazing how well-preserved this Medieval Town is. Have you been? What do you like most about Dubrovnik?

 

Like it? Pin it!

Kollecting Koordinates - Dubrovnik

Don’t forget – MostarKollecting Koordinates - Mostar

We’ve never visited Eastern Europe before- Bosnia & Herzegovina was our first. I’ve fallen in love with it ever since- there’s something about the scenery, atmosphere, and architecture in Eastern Europe that tugs at my heart strings.

After swimming at Kravice Falls, we continued our drive to Mostar. Or Mo-crap (Мостар)- we’d giggle every time we passed by a sign. In all seriousness, the drive leading to Mostar was actually quite depressing. There was such a drastic change in scenery driving from Croatia to Bosnia & Herzegovina- you could still see the shell and bullet damage on building walls and roofs from the Bosnian War of 1992-1995.

Mostar came under siege twice in those years. Thousands of people were killed, and more lost their homes. The Old Bridge (Stari Most) connecting the two banks of Neretva River was destroyed in 1993. Today, there are stones all over the the town reminding its people and visitors of its sad history. Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

Another thing that made me very upset was the number of stray dogs in this country. On the drive to Mostar we saw an adult dog (mom?) limping in the bushes along the side of the road while two little pups followed at her heels. Leaving Mostar, we actually witnessed one getting hit by a car on the road! It was slowly making its way across the road when the car behind us hit it. I could hear its yelp from inside the car. AS said the driver pulled over but I wasn’t sure if he did or not… It was heartbreaking. We have a 4yr-old maltipoo who is pretty much our child. It’s extremely painful seeing other dogs get hurt.

DSC00463

We checked in at our hotel and made our way towards the stony old town. After paying a small entrance fee for the mosque we climbed up 89 steps. The stairwell is extremely narrow and only one person can go up/down at time (or 2 really skinny, small people); not a good time if you’re claustrophobic. Once we reached the top of the minaret, we were rewarded with this gorgeous view of Stari Most sitting over Neretva River.

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

If you aren’t able to make the climb, the view from the courtyard is equally beautiful. This bridge was once the widest man-arch in the world that stood for more than 400 years! The Stari Most we see today is a reconstruction.

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

You can jump/dive off Stari Most into Neretva River if you’re brave enough! Red Bull hosted its Cliff Diving World series here a few weeks before our arrival.

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

We grabbed dinner at a nearby restaurant and called it a night before heading back to our hotel. It was a long day- we began our drive at 5am. I’m forever grateful for AS driving us from Zadar, to Split, to Kravice Falls, and finally to Mostar, all in one day.

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

Its sad history aside, Mostar is actually very romantic. We saw very few people when we were there (late August) and the town had a lovely charm to it with its cobblestone streets and walls. Because Mostar is fairly small, you only really need one day- but do stay the night. Just make sure you start your drive early the next day if you’re planning on crossing the Croatian/Bosnian border on the way to Dubrovnik. We left our hotel at around 9 or 10am, and we had to wait close to 2 hours at the border in the blistering sun! 

One last GoPro shot of Stari Most and Neretva River from on top of the minaret!

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

tips

  • stay the night; we stayed at Villa Eden for around 70€ a night. The hotel is brand spankin’ new and the breakfast is delicious with a huge variety. It even has a pool for you to cool off (much needed in the summer)
  • The entrance fee is around 8 marks (Aug 2015 price) for both the Koskin-Mehmed Pasha’s Mosque and courtyard; you can also visit one of the two for half the price.
  • Be careful when you’re driving! Watch out for the strays 🙁
  • Wear comfortable shoes with good grip- the uneven stone paved pathways can be quite slippery.
  • Come in the spring or fall. The summer months can be too hot and humid. The humidity level was so high last August that it was slightly hard to breathe.

Like it? Pin it!

Kollecting Koordinates - Mostar

 

Chasing waterfalls at Kravice FallsKravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

I’m a sucker for waterfalls. When I saw Kravice Falls in pictures I knew I had to go, but that was of course, easier said than done. Planning this road trip down Croatia was no easy feat. Well, it was, until I added Bosnia & Herzegovina to our itinerary.

Driving in Croatia - Kollecting Koordinates

Driving in Croatia was a piece of cake because 1) I wasn’t the driver (hehe) and 2) we bought a data sim and relied on good ol’ Google maps to take us everywhere. We lost data once we crossed the border, which was fine because Google maps are useless in Bosnia anyway. So we’ll just follow the signs, right?

Wrong. There aren’t many signs to Kravice Falls.

I had printed out a map in advance but that was useless because it didn”t show the smaller roads. Half an hour into the drive we were on a winding road on a hill that seemed to be a residential area in the middle of nowhere; it didn’t look like a place for waterfalls.

We were lost.

There were no street names to refer to and no other cars in sight. Panic mode was on full blast when we came to a few crossings where we had to decide which paths to take. There was a lot of ‘which way?!’, ‘this map is a piece of s***’, ‘WTF is going on’, ‘omg where the f*** are we going’, ‘why aren’t there f***ing street names or signs’, ‘*where the f*** are we?!’.

AS doesn’t have the best sense of direction but thankfully, I inherited my mom’s awesome spidey senses. I answered each of one of our outbursts with ‘I don’t know but let’s go this way’ and ‘I don’t know but I think it’s that way’. A few  ‘ I don’t know’s later, we miraculously emerged on a small road next to a highway. 5 minutes after driving down this flat road, we saw a sign that read ‘Kravica’. A few minutes later, we were at the parking lot. I don’t know how we managed to navigate there in the end, but we were ecstatic!

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

It was a hot, humid day and Mother Nature graced me with her monthly gift to make things even more unbearable. Luckily, I had popped a Midol before we began the drive. While my cramps weren’t monstrous like they usually are, the flow was matching the waterfalls theme. Excuse me for the TMI. Because of this, I couldn’t go into the water with AS.

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

AS had a blast swimming and exploring all the hidden passages. I chilled in the shade and watched our belongings, along with all the other moms who were waiting for their kids.

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

Freaking gorgeous! Plitvice Lakes were unreal, but Kravica was magical in a different way. AS said this was, by far, his favourite destination on our Balkans trip. It was ridiculously frustrating to get to, but was it worth it? Hell yea! 

Kravice Falls - Kollecting Koordinates

tips

  • If you plan on driving, make sure you get an International Driving Permit (if you’re not European) before leaving your country. The officers at the Croatian/Bosnian border asked for ours; good thing we had one.
  • If you don’t plan on driving, you can hire a car to take you down to Kravice Falls from Mostar. The rate ranges from 50-70€.
  • Bring some snacks and lots of water with you to save money. Even if you don’t, there are 2-3 food stands on site if you get hungry or thirsty.
  • Bring a change of clothes, flip flops/sandals, and a towel with you. The restroom is surprisingly clean!
  • The entrance fee is around 2€ (price as of Aug 2015)- you can also pay in Kuna or Mark if you have the currency on hand.
  • Hang onto the rail (or grab someone’s arm) on the way down; some parts on the path down can be quite slippery!

 

Like it? Pin it!

Kollecting Koordinates - Kravice Falls

 

Why Split isn’t for meKollecting Koordinates - Split

Last week I wrote about unexpectedly falling in love with Zadar. This week I’m writing about the exact opposite experience. All the blogs and articles I’ve read spoke very highly of Split. We went into Split with high expectations; however, this other Croatian town along the Adriatic coast just isn’t for me.

Cathedral of Saint Domnius

1. first impression matters

We arrived early in the morning after a 1hr30min drive from Zadar. As we pulled into a parking spot, a cyclist rode by screaming at us with flailing arms before shaking his head and leaving. We couldn’t hear what he was saying from inside the car but judging from his actions, we thought we had done something wrong. This dude was clearly pissed. Panicking, we got out of the car to check. Did we hit something? No. Did we park too close to the other cars or the curb? No, there was plenty of space. Did we violate a parking regulation? No, not according to the sign. So WTF, bro? Please calm your titties, ideally until they’re supple.

Split, Croatia

2. the people

The cyclist wasn’t the only person we were unimpressed with. We had an early lunch at Konoba Korta, a cute little restaurant tucked away in a hidden alley right inside Diocletian’s Palace. The food was great but the service was lacking. I have a thing with people working in service-oriented jobs- it’s your goddamn job to serve and make customers happy (or at least try, as long as they’re not rude), that’s why you get paid for what you do. This goes for all professions that deal with people first-hand; why be a dick ? Anyway, our server was very cold. It wasn’t until after we finished our meal that he warmed up to us. I’m fairly certain it was for tips or for a good review because he handed us a business card and asked us to leave a comment on Tripadvisor. Everyone else we passed by (people working in the market, bakeries, shops) gave off the same unfriendly vibe. We only came across one person who was nice. ONE. Shout out to the friendly old lady working at the ghetto-looking bakery in the market.

Split, Croatia

3. the pastries

This pastry addict was not impressed with the pastries in Split. I was so stoked when I saw the number of bakeries and selection of pastries here. AS, being the good husband that he is, bought a BUNCH for me so we could munch on them throughout the day. We needed fuel for the long drive ahead to Mostar. But what a big disappointment that was… They were soggy and the flavours tasted artificial; we ended up throwing some of it out because it was so meh.

Split, Croatia

4. the crowd

Granted, it was our fault for going in late August when it was still peak season. Split was still quiet when we first arrived but by mid day it was ridiculous. Trying to get from point A to point B in Diocletian’s Palace was like trying to get to the water station from the front of Kinetic Field at EDC. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but you get the idea. Ships make a stop at Split so the town is filled with cruise passengers by noon. On that day, it was jam packed in an uncomfortable, claustrophobic way.

5. pms much

Maybe I didn’t like Split because I was a downer that day. Even though I didn’t get my usual nasty cramps, my bad mood was still very present. I was tired, grumpy, and reluctant to explore. The douchey cyclist, the heat, the bad service, the massive crowd, and the disappointing pastries simply fueled the flames. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out and continue our drive to Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Cathedral of Saint Domnius

Don’t get me wrong. Split is beautiful! I just had such high expectations after an awesome time in Zadar that I ruined my own experience in Split. I’d like to give it another chance one day but it’s not a city that I’m dying to return, similar to how I feel about Paris. Some people love it, but it’s not for me.

What about you, did you fall in love with Split? Are there places that people rave about but you found it just isn’t for you?

Like it? Pin it!

Kollecting Koordinates - Split

The Best Small Luxury Hotel in Greece

Lindos Blu has received many Tripadvisor awards for being the best luxury hotel in Greece. Based on its reviews, we chose this property to spend the last few days of our honeymoon. We were so glad we did because it definitely lived up to and surpassed its reputation!

DSC01759

Our flight from Santorini to Rhodes didn’t land until past midnight. AS was in an extreme amount of pain on this flight because of a toothache (from a poor surgery done on his wisdom teeth that took place 2 months prior!). His cheek was so swollen it was literally the size of a baseball. We were so worried and stressed out because toothaches can get pretty serious, and we didn’t know what to do in a foreign country!

DSC01707

I emailed the hotel before boarding our flight asking if they had painkillers. When we arrived at the front desk at 1am, they provided us just that. They then contacted the pharmacy early next morning and even delivered amoxicillin and chlorexidine to our room to help with the swelling. No words can explain how grateful I am for their help.

DSC01697

Lindos Blu has all the must-haves a luxury hotel should have. They left us daily treats in our room, which isn’t much from a hotel’s point of view, but it’s the little gestures like this that make guests happy. The staff here also know you by name and remember every little detail about you. They remembered our tea preferences at breakfast and took note of what activities we did, following up on them when they saw us next.

DSC01844

On top of these guys having photographic memory and being real life savers, we were upgraded to the private pool villa. Not only was this suite AMAZING, but it also made our stay in Rhodes a lot more bearable and enjoyable because we were able to hide (very comfortably) from the blistering heat!

The rest of the hotel grounds is beautiful and spotless. The one thing we looked forward to the most everyday was their breakfast buffet. Oh my, the selection is endless and everything is delicious!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1465.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I simply feel compelled to write about Lindos Blu in such a positive light because they truly differ from everywhere else we’ve stayed at. I don’t know what would’ve happened to AS’s tooth if it weren’t for them. Again, thank you to all the staff who made our stay so extraordinary. A big thanks to Margarita, Giannis, and Simon for making our honeymoon extra special!

 

Like it? Pin it!

Kollecting Koordinates - Lindos Blu

 

3 days in Paris for foodies and non-museum-goersI love you wall in Montmartre

After a few days of warmth in Rome we were back in the cold in Paris. Our flight landed late at night and after buying our tickets at CDG, we hopped on the RER B towards Chatelet-Les Halles. When we got off at our stop, for some reason we couldn’t get out since the machine didn’t take our tickets! We panicked- the station was empty and we were trapped. Good thing there was a cleaning lady on duty who swiped us through with her pass (annoyed of course). We still don’t know why we got stuck!

DSC01673

Getting Around

Take the RER B line towards central Paris from CDG. Like Rome, Paris’s vast metro network is very convenient. Once you’re in the city it’s pretty self explanatory. You can either buy single tickets, 1, 3, 5-day unlimited travel passes, or a package of 10 passes. The most up-to-date prices can be found here– you can also use it to plan your route in advance. Planning your route in advance will give you an idea of which ticket type you should purchase. We opted for the package of 10 tickets (around €12-3 at the time) because it wasn’t worth it for us to buy the multi-day passes.

One thing to note is that although stations appear to be close to each other on the map, sometimes you have to walk a good 5-10min just to connect your trains!

Where to Stay

We stayed at an Airbnb studio 5 minutes from Les Halles. It was TINY- you open the door and that’s all there is to it in the picture, with the shower and toilet in the corner behind the bookshelf! When the bed is pulled out there is no walking space but we loved it. It was cozy and felt like home (plus it was within our budget).

Accommodation in Paris comes with a hefty price tag. Decent hotels are at least $200 a pop! Again, Airbnb is your best friend in an expensive city like Paris. We really liked our neighbourhood and would definitely recommend Les Halles as a home base. It’s one of the main metro stations and surrounded by tons of restaurants. We also felt safe walking around at night.

What to Do

We only had 2 full days in Paris but it felt enough since we’re not big on museums. If you’re into that sort of thing, definitely spend more time in this city and make good use of the Paris Museum Pass.

louvre

The Louvre

For us, the Louvre was just too big and confusing to navigate. A lot of displays didn’t have English descriptions and there was too much to take in. The Mona Lisa was underwhelming- we expected a larger painting but it was tiny! The pyramids outside were pretty cool, though. We got bored just after 2 hours of staring at endless paintings, but at least AS found his favorite piece!

Montmatre – Sacré-Cœur and Le mur des je t’aime

We made a trip out to Montmatre in the morning and adored this part of the city. It was peaceful and the neighborhoods in this area had a certain charm. Before making our way to the top of Sacré-Cœur, we stopped by Le mur des je t’aime or the I Love You Wall.

DSC01482

Perched on top of a hill, this Roman Catholic Church was a workout to get to. The steep steps are worth it, because this basilica is gorgeous. Even though we came on a gloomy day, the sweeping panoramic views of the city were still breathtaking.

DSC01498

Notre-Dame Cathedral, Centre Pompidou, and Nicolas Flamel’s House

We decided to skip the metro and walk back to central Paris. We made our way towards the Eiffel Tower after lunch, passing by the River Seine, Notre-Dame Cathedral and Centre Pompidou. Amazing architecture! We didn’t want to go inside- staring in awe from the exterior was enough for us. Being a huge Harry Potter fan, I had to make a quick stop by Nicolas Flamel’s house- an actual alchemist in real life!

Eiffel Tower

We ate a nearby restaurant and witnessed the huge tower sparkle in blinking lights after our meal. The sparkles and lightshow are on for the first five minutes of each hour after dark. We were freezing our butts off but who cares! It was so pretty!

DSC01654

Where to Eat

OMNOMNOM THE FOOD. This is where Paris wow-ed us.

Patisserie Stohrer

It’s right around the block from our tiny studio. It’s also Queen Elizabeth’s bakery of choice. And rightfully so, because their tartlettes are divine. Definitely worth a visit! (or more if you’re a pastry junkie like me)

Macarons – Ladurée vs Pierre Hermé

We’ve heard a great deal about Ladurée; lo and behold, the place was packed. We joined the line at Galeries Lafayette and picked a few flavors. Our verdict? It was overrated. Sure, they’re better than the macarons in Vancouver but other than the pretty colors, Ladurée was meh. We tried some at Pierre Hermé and those were lot better in that they were less sweet and less artificial-tasting. Blregh.

DSC01282

Chez Marie Louise

This place is a real gem! It’s a cute little bistro that seats only around 30. We both ordered their 14€ lunch special: pumpkin soup and salmon. Oh my goodness- both dishes were out of this world!

Au Petit Sud Ouest

They’re famous for their duck confit. We ordered that plus the duck cassoulet, which didn’t look very appetizing but it was delicious. It’s also conveniently located by the Eiffel Tower- perfect for a romantic lightshow after dinner!

Le Restaurant

We’ve never dined at a Michelin starred restaurant before- where else to experience this than one of the greatest food capitals of the world! After hours of comparing reviews, menus, and prices, we narrowed it down to Le Restaurant for dinner. This experience was worth the splurge.

We ordered the 5-course degustation menu with wine pairings, which ended up being 9 dishes because of our servers kept bringing out new dishes courtesy of the chef. Every dish was delicious and presented beautifully. (except for the pure goat cheese dish- not my thing but AS was down) The veal and monkfish were soooooooo amazing, so was the citrus dessert. Service was also impeccable! Our waiters knew exactly when to take our dishes away and when to present us with the next course. This is still the best meal we’ve ever had to date- better than Joel Robuchon at MGM Grand in Vegas.

 

Paris was nice but I don’t think it’s a city we’ll revisit any time soon. Apart from the food it wasn’t really up our alley. I think we’d enjoy the countryside more. Next time!

 

Like it? Pin it!

Kollecting Koordinates - Paris

 

Amsterdam for those with layovers and the non-museum-goersCanals in Amsterdam

Amsterdam marked our first journey to Europe- it was also AS’s first time leaving this continent! We flew with KLM and it was sick. For someone that has a fear of flying I had no problems with this airline. It is way, WAY, better than Air Canada (which is garbage!), and almost comparable to EVA (my favourite!) and JAL.

 

DSC00196

Where to Stay

Or where not to stay, rather. On a budget, we stayed 2 nights at Hem Hotel Amsterdam (now West Side Inn Hotel) which was outside of the canal belt. I wish we had taken pictures of this hotel, if you could even call it that. This ‘hotel’ was filthy– there were stains everywhere with a looming cigarette stench. Our room was tiny, cold, and depressing. The bed was rock hard, walls were paper thing, and we were only given a tiny table lamp for light. Service? Non-existent. We also felt unsafe at night walking back to the hotel from the tram station. It was honestly the worst horrific hotel stay we’ve ever had. We told ourselves that we’d never again stay at a place with a rating lower than 4 again. You get what you pay for, I suppose!

I’d recommend staying in Rembrandtplein or Leidseplein where there are lots of good restaurants and bars. It’s also bumpin’ at night so there’s plenty to do. If you’re down to get rowdy and don’t mind the vibe, Red Light District is also an option but the establishments in this area tend to be on the low end. Regardless of where you stay, Tripadvisor ratings are your best friend!

DSC00118

What to Do

De Wallen – Red Light District

Ah, the infamous network of alleys with scantily-clad working girls behind glass cabins illuminated with red lights. Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam, with most of it concentrated in the Red Light District. Coming from a culture where prostitution is illegal, it was both interesting and sad to see these girls at work. Fun fact! These girls have to pay income tax just like every other profession.

We had read not to take pictures of prostitutes as you risk getting your camera tossed in the canal. Yikes! On top of the brothels, prostitutes, sex toy shops and sex museums, there’s also Condomerie that’s worth checking out: the world’s first condom specialty shop. It was closed when we stopped by but we had a few giggles from peering in their window display. Their products come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, designs, and flavours. You name it and they’ve got it!

DSC00097

The Heineken Experience

Something we really enjoyed in Amsterdam was the Heineken museum. I don’t even like beer, but the interactive tour and exhibits were pretty neat. Sure, it’s all advertising but it was educational and fun!

They taught us how to pour and drink Heinekens properly. Apparently it’s down to a science? and gave us personalized ‘Certified Pourer’ certificates afterwards (lol). The best part? All the beer tasting along the way!

Check out their toilets?

This was a culture shock. You have to pay to use public washroom in Europe? Fees ranged from 0.50 to 2 euros- but toilets are usually kept extremely clean. The see-through stalls with glass doors that frost over when you lock them were cool! But I’d imagine it’d be pretty embarrassing if you forget to lock the door… everyone can see you taking a leak! Or more!

Get lost along the canals!

The iconic “I Amsterdam” letters in Museumplein in front of Rijksmuseum are a must visit! No doubt it was crowded, but it made for a great photo opportunity and the letters were fun to climb.

DSC00340

We’re not big on museums so we skipped out on them since our stopover was so short. We we were, however, quite amazed by this dude when we were at Vondelpark. It was freezing cold in late March (it even snowed!)- how did this guy not feel the chill?!

What I liked most about this city was its renaissance architecture along the canals. It’s hard not to fall in love with this beautiful city even though it was dark and gloomy. We’d love to come back and visit one day in the spring or summer!

Stopover in Amsterdam READ MORE

What to Eat

Food in Amsterdam was surprisingly good! So good that it deserves its own post. Honorable mentions are Broodje Bert, Cafe De Klos, Greenwoods, and Van Kerkwijk. Don’t forget to try some stroopwafels and raw herring too!

Next stop, Rome!

Like it? Pin it!

Kollecting Koordinates - Amsterdam