Monday, July 21, 2014

Gambas Piri-Piri Lunch at the Living Room of Haarlem: Grand Cafe Brinkmann

The last time I visited Haarlem was in 2005. I used to work in the surrounding area, in one of the suburbs and pass by Haarlem every day. It is a beautiful piece of the Netherlands and the north Hollanders have the right to be proud of this ancient city.

Gambas Piri Piri at the Brinkmann
Website: Grand Café Brinkmann | Haarlem Tourism

Trivia: Did you know that Haarlem is much older than Amsterdam?

Before Amsterdam became the capital of the Netherlands, Haarlem was the centre of trade of the country and the second largest city after Dordrecht (another old city in the southern part of the country). It was in Haarlem when the ‘Tulip Mania’ exploded. When tulips were more (ridiculously) expensive than houses.

After 9 long years I finally visited Haarlem again last March. It was the end of the month and spring was signalling. The day was perfect, the sun shone and the skies were blue. The spirit of spring is in the air. Ah, what better way than to spend my lunch at the lively Grote Markt.

So I settled myself at the outdoor terrace of Grand Café Brinkmann. The café restaurant calls their place as the ‘living room of Haarlem’ and I will not contest. It is indeed one of the best located café restaurant terraces in the city. Right in the smack of the big market square with the Grote Kerk (Big Church) and the Grote Markt as its splendid view. It cannot get any better than this.

Because the weather was lovely I decided to order a favourite, some seafood goodness: Gambas Piri-Piri XL. Stir fried prawns with red chili peppers, spring onion and home-made spicy piri-piri sauce served with bread and fresh salad. Yes, the prawns came really extra-large!

Yup, looks indeed like the living room of Haarlem.

Need to celebrate the lovely weather with a glass of bubbly, a prosecco.

Amazing Gambas Piri-Piri XL. Those prawns were so fresh, tasty, juicy and huge!

My view on the market square: the Grote Kerk (Big Church). Arguably the best cafe terrace to people watch in Haarlem market square.

A meal is not complete without closing it off with an espresso.

The Grote Markt (market square) in Haarlem.

What can I say, this is one of the best prawns I have ever had. Happy with this lunch, thus a 4.5 stars out of 5! Seafood lovers you cannot go wrong with this.

Now that I have had my fill, more soon about Haarlem =)

Visit Period: March 2014
Destination: Haarlem (North Holland), The Netherlands

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Agia Triada Beach in Paleokastritsa (Corfu): Akron Beach Bar

The Greeks understand beaching. In the recent years we have been seeing a different kind of beach bar happening in the Greek islands. They are now hip and modern, merging in the lounge ambiance and cool trance-jazz music. We love it.

Akron Beach Bar in Agia Triada
Website: Akron Beach Bar

In Paleokastritsa we went to Agia Triada, a white cove beach nestled in one of the turquoise water bays of the peninsula. Here we discovered the cool Akron Beach Bar.

Good looking people hang out here and I suspect a number of rich Russians, many of which were very well toned young couples with little children in tow. I mean only Russian women wear high heels or wedges to the beach. We are not in St. Tropez or Cannes you know.

Anyway, we spent the rest of the afternoon here, ordered the Greek frappes, some Greek yoghurt and did a lot of people watching until the sun went down. Thanks for the background lounge music, it made the experience relaxing and fulfilling. Music can do wonders. The Dutchman on the other hand could not control himself and did a little nap in a sunbed on the beach. Beach + sun + hot = great combination to sleep outdoors.

Highly recommend this cool place! We love their stunning swimming pool as well.

Quite a busy afternoon at Akron Beach Bar.

Our table is waiting for us. Perfect location.

Ah, beautiful pool with a beautiful view.

This was the second day of our holiday so I am still a bit light here. I get dark quickly so on the third day I was very tanned already.

Greek frappes, one with vanilla ice cream (the Dutchman's of course).

Many young couples come here with small children.

We are craving for some chilled Greek yoghurt with honey and walnuts. Really good for a hot weather like this.

Agia Triada is a shingle and sand beach.

Travel Period: June-July 2014
Destination: Paleokastritsa (Corfu – Ionian Islands), Greece

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Taking the advice of the scooter man and we went to Paleokastritsa

The owner of the scooter rental company in Dassia who is an upbeat Greek man in his late 40s highly suggested that we must visit Paleokastritsa (also spelled Palaiokastritsa). He first asked us if we plan on exploring the island and when he learned we are adventurers he quickly felt at home with his recommendation, but warned us not to go down south if we do not want to see drunken English kids, haha.

There’s nothing in the south, no culture, no nature, he said. Just a beach resort town built for English kids who wants to party all night and lay on the beach all day. Kavos and Lefkimi were too far anyway so we never went there but we received the same advice from locals and long-time visitors in the island. Avoid the south.

See here the guide and map: Paleokastritsa, Corfu

On the second day of our stay in Corfu, we followed the advice of the scooter man and took the road to Paleokastritsa.

The municipality is located northwest in the island and is known for its breath taking hillside resorts with fantastic views down to the peninsula. Rocky cliffs adorn the lush hills, enclosed white sandy cove beaches and gorgeous grottos with crystal clear torquoise waters beckons the tourists year after year. I understood why the scooter man wants us to see a piece of Corfu that he is very proud of. Corfiots take pride of Paleokastritsa and many locals come here often.

But what does its name means? Historians and locals believe that Paleokastritsa once had a castle. The name actually means old castle, and the place is often referred to the old Theotokos Monastery located on top of a hill. The old castle must have stood here before.

Paleokastritsa has 6 bay beaches that are partly sand and partly shingle. These are:

(1) Agios Spyridon
(2) Agia Triada
(3) Platakia
(4) Ampelaki
(5) Alipa
(6) Agios Petros

We have only been to Agia Triada though and will write about our visit there on another post.

An abandoned little villa on the corner of the road, on the way to Paleokastritsa. Could be a great film location for Breaking Bad for example =)

Ah, we are going to the left. In Corfu there are many locals selling their own locally themed home-made products along street corners.

We arrived via the highway from the north exiting through the villages. These are the first few images we saw of Paleokastritsa peninsula.

On this hilly cliff side road are many cafes and restaurants with charming verandas offering breathtaking views.

A glimpse into one of the hanging hotel resorts.

Paleokastritsa peninsula... so green and so blue.

The bay beach at the back is Agia Triada. Dutchman and I visited this white cove beach and spent an afternoon here.

Lush greens carpets the hillside residences of Paleokastritsa.

We heard loud trance music coming from below the rocks and upon closer inspection we realised it is coming from this cliffside bar. It is almost the end of the day so it must have been calling guests for the evening party, perhaps.

The best way to visit the grottos and cove beaches of Paleokastritsa is of course with a boat.

Travel Period: June-July 2014
Destination: Paleokastritsa (Corfu – Ionian Islands), Greece

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