European Destinations, Italy

A Luxury Guide To Florence

May 13, 2016

The view of Florence from the famous bridge Ponte Vecchio [Copyright Vinita Marwaha]

The view of Florence from the famous bridge Ponte Vecchio [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

A long weekend in Florence conjures images of stunning Renaissance architecture, romantic walks by the River Arno and delicious Tuscan dishes. After recently spending time in Florence it’s certainly all this and more. Having travelled around Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia for the past 9 months I had been craving amazing Italian pasta, it being my favourite food. I wondered how many amazing meals of gnocchi with burrata mozzarella I could fit into four days in Florence..

When travelling we try to #LiveLikeALocal as much as possible, usually staying in guesthouses or B&Bs with friendly hosts that have been an integral part of our travel experience. Florence was no exception. We stayed at the stunning Palazzo Belfiore, in the Oltrano quarter of Florence. A neighbourhood as full of local Florentines as tourists. The location couldn’t be better and we loved being on a quiet street closed to traffic, only a 3 minute walk from the celebrated Ponte Vecchio bridge and 2 minutes from the majestic de’ Medici Palazzo Pitti. Upon arriving at Palazzo Belfiore we were welcomed warmly by the wonderful Federico. He, along with his sister Francesca, transformed seven apartments set in a 15th century noble house and opened them up for the world to visit. We entered the gorgeous Leone X apartment to find a lovely gesture of fine Tuscan Rosé wine and a delicious custom-blended tea, created especially for Palazzo Belfiore by a local tea and chocolate artisan Oro Nero (it even contains chocolate!).

The bedroom in the stunning Leone X apartment at Palazzo Belfiore [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

The bedroom in the stunning Leone X apartment at Palazzo Belfiore [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

Federico can even arrange a cooking class for you in your apartment, artisan workshops or programs for children. Our apartment certainly felt like home with thoughtful touches including a homemade recipe to make the Florentine classic “Pappa al pomodoro” along with the ingredients,  a fantastic salon hairdryer and hair straightener!

The spacious bedroom of our Leone X apartment at Palazzo Belfiore [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

The spacious bedroom of our Leone X apartment at Palazzo Belfiore [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

Each room is scented by a fresh oil home fragrance called AquaFlor Parfum that we had to go and get for ourselves!

The AquaFlor shop on Borgo Santa Croce, 6, Florence! [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

The AquaFlor shop on Borgo Santa Croce, 6, Florence! [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

Unique AquaFlor Parfum

Unique AquaFlor Parfum

 

A Gift of Oro Nero Chocolates!

A Gift of Oro Nero Chocolates in the Leone X Apartment!

We loved our stay in at Palazzo Belfiore and it’s a perfect way to feel like a local immersed in the Oltrano quarter of Florence! It’s truly #YourHomeAwayFromHome!

Steps away from Palazzo Belfiore is the Ponte Vecchio bridge leading to the famous Duomo, which we explored during a fantastic walking tour around the city! The Medici tour is fantastic and we loved learning about the Vasari Corridor. An enclosed elevated passageway was built and used by the Medici family in Florence to connect their two homes (or palaces!) as they felt insecure in public. It runs from Palazzo Vecchio, across the River Arno and on top of the ancient bridge, Ponte Vecchio, to Palazzo Pitti.

Part of the Vasari Corridor, an enclosed elevated passageway built and used by the Medici family in Florence to connect their two homes (or palaces!

Part of the Vasari Corridor, an enclosed elevated passageway built and used by the Medici family in Florence to connect their two homes (or palaces!)

 

Giotto's Campanile part of the complex of buildings that make up Florence Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo in Florence, Italy. [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

Giotto’s Campanile part of the complex of buildings that make up Florence Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo in Florence, Italy. [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

Apart from relaxing in our gorgeous apartment and walking around the streets of Florence, we spent the rest of our time enjoying traditional Tuscan dishes.

To celebrate a special occasion (we were celebrating our anniversary!) or just to enjoy a taste of quintessential Tuscan food, look no further than Hotel Brunelleschi. A spacious 4-star hotel nestled in a courtyard in the centre of Florence, giving rooms a magnificent view of Florence’s famous cathedral, Brunelleschi’s Duomo.

The stunning view of Florence's Duomo from Hotel Brunelleschi [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

The stunning view of Florence’s Duomo from Hotel Brunelleschi [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

Hotel Brunelleschi, immortalised in Dan Brown’s books ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and the recent ‘Inferno’, allows you the opportunity to stay in a Byzantine Pagliazza Tower from the 6th century and a medieval church. The interior however is anything but medieval. The hotel was fully refurbished in 2013 and combines luxurious features and stunning vistas to provide a memorable experience.

A beautiful 360 panorama of Florence from your room [Hotel Brunelleschi]

A beautiful 360 panorama of Florence from your room. It looks absolutely stunning! [Hotel Brunelleschi]

Exclusive Dr.Vranjes toiletries are provided at Hotel Brunelleschi

Exclusive Maison Vranjes toiletries are provided at Hotel Brunelleschi

The courtyard of Hotel Brunelleschi, Florence

The courtyard of Hotel Brunelleschi containing the outside terrace of the Osteria della Pagliazza restaurant

The Pagliazza Tower of Hotel Brunelleschi originated in the 6th century and was previously a prison. It even contains a private museum in the basement featuring Roman baths and artifacts. The museum is open to hotel guests, accompanied with a hotel member of staff.  The breakfast room of the hotel retains the original features of the building of St.Michael’s Church, including the baptism font. Culture, history and luxury for guests under one roof.

Roman baths and the basement of a Roman house in Pagliazza Tower of Hotel Brunelleschi

Roman baths and the basement of a Roman house in Pagliazza Tower of Hotel Brunelleschi

 

The Santa Elisabetta Restaurant in Hotel Brunelleschi

The Santa Elisabetta Restaurant in Hotel Brunelleschi

 

A stunning chandelier adorning the Breakfast Stemma Room

A stunning chandelier adorning the Breakfast Stemma Room [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

We were excited to try the traditional meets contemporary Tuscan menu at Osteria della Pagliazza, which featured a welcome drink of Prosecco ‘Valdo’ Doc Extra dry, a selection of cold cuts of meat, home made pasta, Tuscan soups, a bottle Santa Cristina, I.G.T, Farm Antinori wine and mineral water for 49 Euros. The hotel also has the Restaurant Santa Elisabetta resaturant, the ‘gourmet temple of Florentine gastronomy’, the Tower Lounge bar and a stunning Breakfast Stemma Room for guests. The Santa Elisabetta restaurant is the perfect spot for that special proposal or a romantic dinner.

 

A delicious selection of tuscan cold Meats and Cheeses [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

A Delicious Selection of Tuscan Cold Meats and Cheeses [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

The picturesque terrace of Osteria Della Pagliazza

The Picturesque Terrace of Osteria Della Pagliazza

 

Amazing Ravioli Fiilled with Eggplants, Salted Butter and Dried Tomato Sauce

Amazing Ravioli Fiilled with Eggplants, Salted Butter and Dried Tomato Sauce

 

An amazing anniversary lunch at Hotel Brunelleschi

An amazing Tuscan lunch at Hotel Brunelleschi

 

Our Secondi Piatti of Scottona’ Grilled Beef and Grilled Vegetables

Our Secondi Piatti of Scottona’ Grilled Beef and Grilled Vegetables

 

For Dessert, a Tasting of Three Flavors of Gelato Prepared Daily

For Dessert, a Tasting of Three Flavors of Gelato Prepared Daily

 

A wonderful end to our Tuscan meal (the teabag is made out of silk!)

A Wonderful End to our Tuscan Meal (the teabag is made out of silk!)

Our meal was incredible and Hotel Brunelleschi’s Tuscan menu is perfect to experience the best food that Tuscany has to offer with a luxurious touch.

Have you visited Florence? Let us know in the comments below!

Palazzo Belfiore, Via dei Velluti, 8, Firenze, Italy
+39 055 264415. Email: info@residencebelfiore.it

Hotel Brunelleschi, Piazza Sant’Elisabetta, 3, 50122 Firenze, Italy
+39 055 27370. Email: info@hotelbrunelleschi.it

All opinions expressed are my own.

Asia, European Destinations, Travel Tips

The Top 5 Foods I Discovered Whilst Travelling RTW

March 28, 2016
Dumplings and Nyonga cuisine in George Town, Malaysia

Over the last 8 months I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to travel around Europe and Southeast Asia. It’s been an incredible experience, but one of the best parts about travelling to the stunning mountains of Albania and fast-paced modern Bangkok was the amazing food that we discovered around every corner. Here’re my top 5 dishes from Spain, to Thailand.

Tapas in Barcelona

Tapas in Barcelona

Seafood Paella in Barcelona, Spain

Seafood Paella in Barcelona, Spain

1. Paella and unique tapas in Barcelona, Spain

After visiting the historic Quimet&Quimet in Barcelona I decided to recreate the delicious  signature dish of smoked salmon on a toasted baguette with Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey, balsamic vinegar & truffle-infused olive oil. Served with olives and salad with fresh bufala mozzarella from Italy! Not only did we find the best tapas venue in our 3 weeks in Barcelona, we also had a succulent seafood paella in the Sarria neighbourhood.

Dumplings and Nyonga cuisine in George Town, Malaysia

Dumplings and Nyonga cuisine in George Town, Malaysia

Nyonga Cuisine in George Town, Malaysia

Nyonga Cuisine in George Town, Malaysia

2. Nyonya cuisine and Dumplings in Malaysia

Amazing Nyonya cuisine, an original form of fusion that dates back centuries to the cosmopolitan ports of Malacca and Penang where marriage between Chinese and Malays created a unique way of cooking. We also stumbled upon the most amazing dumplings in George Town, a must-visit if in Malaysia.

 

Balinese cuisine

Balinese cuisine

3.  Homemade Balinese food in Sideman, Bali, Indonesia

One of my favourite places on this trip was Bali, specifically Sideman. A small sleepy town near the east coast that’s yet to be overrun with tourists, still imbuing a sense of serene calm and tranquility. Surrounded by deep green rice paddies terraces and overlooked by the Mount Agung volcano, the view from the infinity pool was heaven. A gorgeous place for a luxury stay and still affordable among the five star hotels. The homemade Balinese cuisine served here tasted as luxurious as the surroundings.

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Bosnian Coffee

Bosnian Coffee

4. Traditional Dessert & Coffee in Bosnia

We were recommended by our walking tour guide to try a Bosnian dessert called Tufahija. A delicious stuffed apple with hazelnuts and honey with cream on top! Followed by a cup of traditional Bosnian coffee!

Pad Thai in Bangkok

Pad Thai in Bangkok

5. Thailand – From North to South

We spent the last 3 months of our time in Asia in Thailand! A stunning country with a variety of dishes from Khao Soi (a rich yellow curry noodle soup with vegetables and chicken, pork or beef) in the North to spicier dishes in the South. My favourites were the delicious, people-pleasing, Pad Thai with Chicken and Mango with Sticky Rice. I ate them almost daily!

What were your favourite dishes from around the world? Let us know in the comments below!

Asia, Thailand

That One Time We Moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand

January 28, 2016
A stunning bridge over moat near the North Gate of Chiang Mai, Thailand

A stunning bridge over the moat near the North Gate of Chiang Mai, Thailand

In early December, after travelling around the world for almost 6 months, we decided to find a base and a new ‘home’ of sorts. We do feel very fortunate to have had this experience and it’s been eye-opening.

We had been moving from place to place every 2 or 3 days and realised that as wonderful an experience as it had been to travel and see Southeast Asia over the last 3 months, we both needed to settle in one place for a while. We’re both working on projects (check out Rocket Women!) that needed more of our attention. I’d also unfortunately been quite ill and bed-ridden for a few weeks in Indonesia whilst on the Gili Islands, due to a nasty parasite. So our hunt for a new temporary home began.

Chiang Mai is in the north of Thailand, making it cooler than other parts of Southeast Asia in the winter months. Usually it’s around 30 degree Celsius during the day and 14 degrees Celsius at night (apart from a recent cold snap in Asia).

It also has a thriving digital nomad community with excellent internet connectivity (100 Mbps download & upload speed at CAMP), great co-working places (have a look at CAMP at Maya mall), amazing (and cheap) Thai food, excellent modern healthcare (after getting ill on a tiny island without a hospital or a permanent doctor, I now care about this a great deal!) and is an easy place to find a temporary apartment. We ended up renting one for 3 months, between the Old Town and the ‘trendy’ university area of Nimman, an easy walk to both.

It’s been a fantastic 3 months, interspersed with a 2 week trip to Cambodia. Coming to Chiang Mai was just what we needed and we’ll be sad to say goodbye before we go to the UK in February. We’ve been working on our projects each day and eating Mango with Sticky Rice to our heart’s delight. We ended up renting a studio apartment that’s almost as large as my old apartment in Germany. The difference is this one is less than a tenth of the cost per month, at just under £130 per month, including utilities (internet, water, electricity). We used this fantastic list of apartments to find one when we arrived and found an available apartment within a day.

By the moat surrounding Old Town, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

By the moat surrounding Old Town, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Chiang Mai is a great place to be from October to mid-February. The rainy season is prior to October and from February the smog season starts, mainly caused by the burning of land. A lot of expats in Chiang Mai leave around this time to go to the gorgeous islands in the south of Thailand for example or elsewhere before returning in the autumn.

Overall, if you’re looking for a place in Southeast Asia to be based from for a few months, then Chiang Mai might just be it!

The newly opened Maya Mall Shopping Centre in Nimman, Chiang Mai. It contains the CAMP co-working space which has been our temporary office in Chiang Mai.

The newly opened Maya Mall Shopping Centre in Nimman, Chiang Mai. It contains the CAMP co-working space which has been our temporary office in Chiang Mai.

Asia, Burma

Burma: A Country Changing Before Our Eyes

December 1, 2015
A colonial building in Yangon with the North Wing missing after a WWII bomb. Surprisingly the building isn't abandoned, with some of it used for a small claims court.

After stopping off in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to apply for our Myanmar/Burma visas we went onwards to Yangon, Burma. Arriving two days after the elections had taken place we weren’t really sure what to expect. From the news and the events of past elections there was a chance that there would be unrest on the streets. What we saw when we arrived was the opposite. Landing in Yangon the airport modern. clean and immigration took less than 3 minutes. We didn’t bring crisp US dollars as per the usual long-term advice and didn’t have to. The airport was full of ATMs with the transport concierge then personally leading visitors to a taxi on the street with a fixed honest price. The airport ATMs do however charge fee of ~$20 for each transaction, so having some money when arriving would be handy. ATMs in the city on the other hand charge a much more reasonable~$2. From November 2015 it will actually be easier to pay with the local Burmese kyat rather than with crisp US dollar bills. We didn’t take US dollars or Euros with us and had no issues using ATMs in Yangon or paying with credit card in the city. Depending on how long you’re visiting for and where you’re travelling to, it may be helpful to carry a small amount of US currency with you in case.

Driving from the airport to our B&B we saw a modern city, even at night. The golden Shwedagon Pagoda marking the centre of the city, malls lining the roads with international store including Mango and new models of cars.

The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Burma (Myanmar)

The Shwedagon Pagoda at night in Yangon, Burma (Myanmar)

We spent almost a week in Yangon, the former capital of Burma. What we saw was a city changing before our eyes and certainly a country on the precipice of change.  A country full of hopeful people, hopeful children, teenagers, millenials and parents. Yangon has a history unlike any other, with the highest number beautiful colonial buildings, however much in need of TLC, than any other city in the world. Some of these are being restored, however many unfortunately aren’t and are being replaced by modern towerblocks. Bagan to the north is another must-see, with not one but over 2000 temples, some as large as Cambodia’s Ankor Wat. The time to visit Burma (Myanmar) is now, with the country changing each day, the Burma of today will certainly be different to the Burma in the next decade.

A colonial building in Yangon with the North Wing missing after a WWII bomb. Surprisingly the building isn't abandoned, with some of it used for a small claims court.

A colonial building in Yangon with the North Wing missing after a WWII bomb. Surprisingly the building isn’t abandoned, with some of it used for a small claims court.

 

The beautiful bar at the Strand Hotel. Host to guests including Orson Wells, Mick Jagger (and 2 supermodels).

The beautiful bar at the Strand Hotel. Host to guests including Orson Wells, Mick Jagger (and 2 supermodels).

 

Cocktail at the Strand Bar with expats, visitors and UN workers.

Cocktail at the Strand Bar with expats, visitors and UN workers.

 

Yangon docks at sunset

Yangon docks at sunset

 

A 100-year-old original floor tile from a Colonial building manufactured in...Manchester, UK

A 100-year-old original floor tile from a Colonial building manufactured in…Manchester, UK

 

 

Asia, Thailand

A Photo Tour of Loy Krathong: Celebrating The Festival Of Lights In Thailand

November 29, 2015
Not Stars But Thousands Of Lanterns Took To The Sky

After 6 months of travelling through Eastern Europe and South East Asia we arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand just in time for the annual Loy Krathong festival, or lantern festival. Loy Krathong is a Buddhist festival celebrated in Thailand to honor Buddha. In Northern Thailand, where Chiang Mai is located, this festival coincides with the Lanna festival of Yee Peng.  The festival involves the beautiful Sky Lantern release followed by floating handmade krathongs (or floating lotus made of banana leaves and flowers) in the river. With Chiang Mai being the former capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, it holds a spectacular annual Yee Peng Festival and cultural celebration, falling on the full moon night of the 12th lunar month when the tides are highest.

Traditional Thai Costumes During Yee Peng and Loy Krathong

Traditional Thai Costumes During Yee Peng and Loy Krathong

 

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Thousands Of Lanterns High In The Sky Like Stars

Thousands Of Lanterns High In The Sky Like Stars

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Miss Chiang Mai

Miss Chiang Mai

A Float During The Festival Parade

A Float During The Festival Parade

A Beautiful Float By A Chiang Mai Old Town Gate

A Beautiful Float By A Chiang Mai Old Town Gate

Travel Tips

7 Things I’ve Learnt After Travelling RTW For 4 Months

October 24, 2015
Experiencing traditional Bosnian tea in a quaint teahouse in Sarajevo

Experiencing traditional Bosnian tea in a quaint teahouse in Sarajevo

After being on the road for 4 months I’ve learned a lot about what makes you a good traveller. Having travelled through 30 countries and counting, over the last couple of decades now, here’s my take on what you should know before you leave.

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Climbing a steep hill in Sarajevo in 40 degree C heat

1. Home Is Where Your Bag Is

Four months ago we packed up our belongings into storage and sold most of our larger possessions. In the time since then my concept of home has changed considerably. No longer do I commute through a city and put a key in my front door to arrive home. Home is now where my bag is (and husband in my case..). Whether that’s in a Bosnian hostel, in a traditional Albanian farmhouse, in a house in the hills of Barcelona, on a boat (where I’m writing this from!), in the rice paddies of Ubud, Bali, or on a night train to Belgrade. Although I sometimes do miss getting home and being able to relax on the couch in front of the TV,  I wouldn’t trade this experience for home comforts and slippers just yet!

A beautiful silk skirt I bought in Indonesia for only $5!

A beautiful silk skirt I bought in Indonesia for only $5!

2.  You Don’t Need As Much As You Think

My life now consists of 10kg in a backpack, carry-on only (hand-luggage for the Europeans). That’s it. After our first stop in Barcelona I ended up donating at least 4 items of older well-worn clothing from this realising I just didn’t need them. Using a one-in-one out philosophy when it comes to packing, I’ve replaced them with a pair of light-weight Mango shorts and a H&M dress for 7 Euros that I wear at least every other day. You just don’t need the 25 pairs of shoes lying in your closet (truthfully of which you probably only wear less than 5 on a regular basis), a wardrobe bursting full of shirts, dresses, skirts, blouses and boxes of jewellery. Buying unique items of clothing along the way also make fantastic souvenirs along with being functional. An example is the beautiful long silk skirt that I bought in Indonesia for $5 that’s perfect for the climate and culture in Asia. I also simplified my travel makeup the day I left, from 3 separate bags to 1 plus a small pouch of 3 travel brushes. Moving from Europe to Asia I’m finding that I hardly wear a lot of makeup, focusing on items such as serum, BB Cream and concealer with SPF. In the heat wearing a lot of makeup isn’t practical and it also lets you start your day a lot quicker!

Wading through the ocean is sometimes the only way on and off a boat!

Wading through the ocean is sometimes the only way on and off a boat!

3.  Cultural Open Mindedness

I’ve learnt the importance of being open minded and respectful of other cultures. Be respectful of other people, their traditions, religions and styles of dress when travelling. Sometimes there isn’t going to be a laundromat, or even a dock for the boat that you’re on. You’re going to jump of the boat and walk through the shallow ocean to shore or let someone kindly wash your clothes by hand. Be open minded. Try new food, you might love it! Learn about local history and traditions. We were lucky enough to attend a traditional Albanian wedding with fantastic food that included an entire roasted pig that was brought out to the guests.

Attending a traditional Albanian wedding

Attending a traditional Albanian wedding

4. Meet Locals And See The Country Through Their Eyes

The best way to experience a country is like a local. It’s an experience that we strive for. Little nooks and rituals that you may have overlooked suddenly take on a new meaning. That plain wall with 7 windows in Sarajevo is really the shrine of 7 brothers where every local comes and prays at each window for good luck. History also changes depending on your perspective. This was paramount to us in Bosnia, and hearing about their perspective on the siege of Sarajevo was something we wouldn’t have heard had we not talked to locals, each with a powerful story. Our favourite local host was Oskar in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, who took time to take us to experience fantastic local restaurants every night and even the movies (The Martian on opening night!) from an Indonesian perspective, complete with food service from your movie seat!

5. Learning A Global Language

Smiling and purposeful hand gestures can get you far. Fact. However learning some words of the the local language is an asset. Having a pocket phrasebook was a godsend in Spain, especially as we tried to go to local restaurants off the beaten track. It helps you integrate into a country especially if you’ll be there a while. Alternatively downloading the country’s language through the Google Translate app helps if you take a photo of text and automatically translate it. The low-tech way of a notebook and pen to write down your question when buying train tickets can be effective too! If all else fails smile and be patient!

6.  Adapting Your Travel Style

As someone who used to travel with 23kg of luggage plus carry on and stay in hotels, my life being condensed to 10kg and hostels is a big change. But it’s a change I’ve learned to embrace. Your travel style is individual and it may be luxury resorts, but over the last few months I’ve learnt to try new types of accommodation and made some good friends along the way, enriching my travel experience and learning from their stories.

After climbing a hill to the top of the fort in Ulcinj, Montenegro

After climbing a hill to the top of the fort in Ulcinj, Montenegro

7. Versatility (or Bring Good Shoes)

With a backpack, there’s a good change you’ll be on your feet a lot. The importance of having good walking shoes can’t be emphasised enough. Make sure the few clothes and shoes that you’ve packed are versatile! Versatility is key! The shirt and skirt you can dress up for a night out with black ballet flats or dress down during the day to walk around on the cobblestoned streets of Europe or dusty roads of Asia with walking sandals. Leave your cute LBD at home, or for that matter anything sentimental or irreplaceable. Definitely don’t bring any expensive jewellery or that pretty heirloom bracelet. I’ve brought 3 pairs of shoes including light trainers (sneakers) that are good enough to hike up the hills of Montenegro with my backpack. My black ballet flats are essential (already 5 years old!) along with a good pair of walking sandals from Clarks. Bringing or buying a cheap pair of flip flops is handy for the beach and double as shower shoes. For the boys, Kevin bought 2 pairs of shoes, lace up smarti-sh shoes that double as sturdy trainers (sneakers) and walking sandals. Girls, don’t bring that pretty statement necklace just in case you’ll need it! When you’re walking up a steep hill from the bus station to your hostel in the blazing 2pm Adratic summer sun, you’ll wish you hadn’t. I replaced my old safari shorts, an old summer dress and 2 tops in the first week of my trip for lighter, comfier and importantly more versatile clothing. Inevitably along your trip you’ll want to buy that gorgeous top but the one-in-one out rule is good for buying clothing whilst travelling. Especially when working within the 10kg carry on limit for most airlines in Europe and 8kg in Asia (plus laptop/purse)!

With ~4 months still to go I’m hoping that the first few months have helped me acclimatise to a different style of travel with less needs and fewer belongings, allowing me to experience a whole new part of the world.

Denmark

Living Like a Local: Denmark

August 6, 2015
Beautiful day in Nyhavn, Copenhagen!

Denmark. The land of historic Vikings, modern bicycles and beautiful vistas. It’s the closest country in Scandanavia to central Europe, with it’s largest land mass attached to Germany. Copenhagen, it’s capital, is a city on trend and proudly green, with 55% of it’s inhabitants commuting on 2 wheels. When we had the chance to stay in Copenhagen for almost a month we had to say yes! Now at the end of our stay, here’re the 5 quintessential things we learnt through living like a Dane.

A stylish Copenhagener cycling in the city [Flickr]

A stylish Copenhagener cycling in the city [Flickr]

1. Biking

The bike lanes in Copenhagen are wider than the pedestrian sidewalk, earning it the title of the safest city to cycle in. With over half it’s population cycling in to work and school daily, the city has been transformed over the last 4 decades into a haven for cyclists. One of the best ways to see the city like a local is by bike and they can be rented throughout the city. Also don’t expect the spandex of your usual cyclist commuter, Copenhagen natives dress stylishly whilst biking to work, dressing for their destination rather than their commute. This elegance is best embodied in Mikael Colville-Anderson’s Flickr page.

A Variety Of Traditional Danish Smørrebrød

A Variety Of Traditional Danish Smørrebrød

2. Smørrebrød

These Danish open sandwiches are a staple lunch time dish for all Danes. A Danish girl that we met said that until she went to school in Australia, she had no idea that an alternative lunch option existed! The chewy dense rye bread is topped with a variety of meats and toppings (Paleg in Danish). For a sweeter option you can try the pålægschokolade (thin strips of chocolate) on rye bread!

Sweet Smørrebrød : Rye bread topped with pålægschokolade

Sweet Smørrebrød : Rye bread topped with pålægschokolade

3. Hygge (Hoo-ga)

A state best translated as coziness. Being hyggelig (adj, pronounced hoogalee) is the ultimate goal for most Danes when decorating their houses or hosting a dinner party. A hyggelig evening could be described as a cozy autumn evening by the fire, surrounded by stunning but homely interior decor, eating your favourite food whilst surrounded by your closest friends and family. Like a warm hug. A guest thanking their host by saying that their evening was hyggelig is the highest honour. The pålægschokolade and Earl Grey tea photo in a hyggelig living room above is a good example!

A Bank HQ In Copenhagen (L) & A Pricy Water Jug Found In Many Danish Households

A Bank HQ In Copenhagen (L) & A Pricey Water Jug Found In Many Danish Households

4. Design

Denmark is famous for it’s design. Arguably it’s most well-known export is Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair, as popular now as in it’s inception in the 1950s (although also expensive at close to US$10,000!). Danish and Scandinavian (New Nordic) design is sweeping the world. Walking (or cycling!) around Copenhagen and it’s surrounding suburbs feels like you’re walking through a living functional modern art museum, with gorgeous buildings around every corner, with locals taking pride in buying these pieces for their homes.

Watching Lukas Graham Play At The Grøn Koncert in Copenhagen & Enjoying The Outdoors

Watching Lukas Graham Play At The Grøn Koncert in Copenhagen & Enjoying The Outdoors

5. Enjoying The Outdoors

With Denmark surrounded by water and Copenhagen situated on an island, camping and relaxing in a park by the sea are ways that city dwellers enjoy their weekends. Also with VAT at 25%, food is particularly expensive in Denmark. Eating out is a luxury for most households, even though the New Nordic food revolution has elevated Copenhagen’s status globally. 15 of the cities restaurants were awarded 18 Michelin stars, including the ‘world’s best restaurant’ Noma. Alternatively most young Copenhageners choose to sit out by canals, fountains and in the park with a relatively inexpensive Danish hotdog (or Smørrebrød!) and a drink. Many people also pick the abundant fruits and vegetables in Denmark, with snap peas(!) one of the most popular snacks at an outdoor music festival that we attended!

Have you been to Denmark? Let us know if you agree with our take in the comments below!

About, European Destinations

Change

July 28, 2015
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Change is inevitable.

Seasons change. People change. Fashion changes. But travel, travel changes you. Travel changes who you are at your core.

Deciding to leave behind everything we knew, our jobs, our home, our family & friends, most of our belongings, to travel wasn’t an easy decision. We knew what we’d be missing; birthdays, weddings, births, celebrations, Christmas and most importantly we wouldn’t be able to provide a shoulder for our family to lean on when they needed us. But we had an urge to travel, to explore, to learn about new cultures and see the world. To learn how to cook Pad Thai in Thailand with fresh ingredients from the market to living like a local at home in Denmark for a month.

With Kevin and I a few years either side of 30, and both due for a career change, this was the time, if any. From the moment we had met over 4 years ago, in a grocery store fortuitously whilst based in Cologne, Germany, to our wedding day in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, we had always agreed about one thing, we wanted to travel (although I admit I hadn’t initially envisioned travelling with solely a small backpack, but more on that later). This blog will follow our journey from Canada to the UK, across Europe to Southeast Asia and beyond. Join us as we travel around the world. – Vinita

Hiking to Montserrat in Spain

Hiking to Montserrat in Spain