Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Postcards from Glossa, Skopelos

Just a few pictures of Glossa, the second largest town on the island of Skopelos in the Sporades.

Glossa Town in Skopelos

We visited Skopelos Island twice but it was on our second visit that we checked out the town of Glossa in the northern part of the island.

Many boats and ferries ply the Skiathos Port to Loutraki-Glossa route (and onwards to Skopelos town) on a daily basis between May and October. I will tell more about our visit another time when I have sorted out my pictures. For now, just posting a few ones!

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Friday, June 16, 2017

A Day at Vromolimnos Beach in Skiathos, Greece

For a small island as Skiathos, it has unbelievably over 60 beaches!

Dutched Pinay Vromolimnos Beach, Skiathos, Greece
Vromolimnos Beach, Skiathos, Greece

But many of the beaches on the island are unorganised beaches and some are even called virgin beaches because they are very difficult to reach. We tried locating a beach we were eyeing in the north but decided to give up when we realised there is no road to get there. One will have to hike.

We have not visited all the 60+ beaches, but Dutchman and I have for sure our own favourites. We tend to fall for smaller, cosy and organised beaches that have a cool taverna and a smattering of sunbeds with parasols. Throw in some cool music and we are happy beach campers. On top of our favourite list is Vromolimnos Beach located in the southern part of the island on the corner of Kanapitsa cape.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Skiathos, Greece: Dinner on the Harbour at the ‘Fish Market – Old Port Taverna’

Dinners in the Greek Islands are what I always look forward to during the summer island holiday because for sure it is going to be alfresco.

Dinner at the Fish Market - Old Port in Skiathos Island, Greece

I am very fond of eating outdoors especially during the warm holiday season when everyone seems to be living outside their homes. In the Netherlands, people would flock to the city and village squares for a drink and locals would be dining on their balconies or gardens. I don’t take the sun for granted these days, I revel when she shines and I work steadfastly my agenda around her. This is the product of 15 years living in gloomy and wet Netherlands where any outdoor activities and social plans are mostly controlled by the darn unpredictable Dutch weather.

For me, there’s just an overwhelming sense of excitement and living the life when you are sitting outdoors clinking chilled glasses and forking your lunch or dinner on a terrace with stunning views of the horizon or at a busy harbour during a holiday or even on the beach with the relaxing sounds of waves turning in the background. But I look forward to these dinners (also lunches) during our yearly summer holiday in the Greek Islands.

Fish Market Taverna - Old Port in Skiathos Island, Greece

A nice dinner setting on the harbour of Skiathos.

This year we have chosen Skiathos Island, part of the Sporades group of islands in the Thessaly region. It is the busiest and most developed island for tourism among Sporades islands.

Naturally, I researched in advanced restaurants to dine in. But for the first night, I wanted to keep things easy for us since we were still checking out our bearings. So we settled on having dinner on the harbour, at the Old Port at the taverna called Fish Market – Old Port.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Postcards from Skopelos Island (Old Town)

For this summer holiday, we have visited neighbouring island Skopelos twice.

Dutched Pinay in Skopelos Island

The first time was on an organised boat trip from Skiathos with Agios Nikolaos boat tours to its 2 nearby sister islands, Skopelos and Alonissos. We have only visited the capital towns of each island, Skopelos Old Town and Patitiri.

The second time we visited Skopelos, we did it independently taking the scooter with us on board on the ferry to Loutraki nearby Glossa, the 2nd largest settlement in Skopelos. It was a day to visit some of the highlights of the island and its beaches which I will for sure post an entry about in the near future.

Skopelos Island - Old Town Port

For this post, these pictures were taken on our first trip to the island, during the organised boat trip. These are just a few pictures of the bazillion pictures we took of Skopelos!

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Friday, June 09, 2017

First Day on Skiathos Island, Greece

Hello there – Kalimera!

Skiathos Old Port
Skiathos Old Port Cafes

Moi here lounging at the Gold Fish, one of the many cafes on Skiathos Old Port... having a chilled Greek frappe here to welcome our summer holiday on Skiathos island.

Dutchman and I have been on Skiathos Island for a week already. It’s both our first time on this lovely Sporades island. Our original plan was to go to Karpathos in the Dodecanese Islands but we saw this Skiathos deal that we could not just pass up, so instead, we booked Skiathos =)

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Monday, June 05, 2017

Sunset View Skiathos Town from Agios Nikolaos Church & Clock Tower

Kalispera from the Greek Islands!

Skiathos Old Port
Skiathos Old Town Panorama

I am in Skiathos Island right now which is part of the Sporades group of islands in the north-west of Greece in the Aegean Sea in the Thessaly region. It is a small island so we have been visiting the neighbouring sister islands as well.

This sunset view of Skiathos old town is taken on top of the Agios Nikolaos Church and Clock Tower. Skiathos is a very charming place!

Will, of course, be blogging about the island in the days and months to come.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

View from our Room: Ben Thanh Night Market in HCMC

In Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam, we booked our hotel in District 1 right beside the Ben Thanh market. We wanted to be centrally located to the important attractions and in an area that is oozing with activity day and night.

Ben Thanh Night Market in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I took this picture from our room at Avanti Hotel, zoomed in.

By day, the Ben Thanh area is busy with many local shoppers, street vendors roaming around and curious tourists eager to taste a bit the local Vietnamese market life. But by night when the market closes down, the adjacent market streets come to life!

What is sweeter for us is that from our hotel room, which has a floor to ceiling one-way tinted glass wall, we were indulged with a fantastic view of the goings-on of the night market below. This was our view every single evening. There is a feeling of being one with the market for sure. You know, that feeling that despite we were not actually down there below, we felt like we were.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Lost in French Menu Translation in Verdun: Who Wants Pig’s Feet?

The Dutchman and I have a love and hate relationship with France. We liked going to the French Alps for our winter sports holiday and to a few places in the country as well. I know for a fact for myself that there are a number of regions, cities and towns that I would love to explore in the south of France. But I am not rushing, I will get to see and experience them one at a time =)

Last week, we went on a 4-day little trip to Verdun in the Lorraine region to visit the World War I battlefields, the war memorial monuments and the cemeteries.

Lost in French menu translation case: I ordered pork but not pig's feet?

But there are certain things that we do not look forward to when visiting France. In general, French people are not very helpful at all and they will insist on speaking French even if they know damn right that you are a tourist and you do not speak the local language. They will ignore your pleas and people will just continue speaking French even if you said NO FRENCH. I mean, why? Non-parlez-vous Francais! They all fall on deaf ears.

There are of course exemptions to this notorious stereotype rule but we have been coming and going to France, for years already (the Dutchman since childhood days), that this has become a very predictable issue that we have to live with during our visits. Every single time. So our experiences and struggles are definitely not a one-off or a few times cases only.

Do we need to learn French to correct this? Hell, no. But I can learn a few words and phrases which I always do in every country I visit anyway. Just the same for French people visiting the Netherlands, I would not expect them to speak Dutch. Does that make sense at all?

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Postcards from Verdun, France

Retracing the World War I history in Verdun... and (poignant) stories to follow soon...

Dutched Pinay at Douaumont Ossuary, Verdun, France

At the Douaumont Ossuary where the Battle of Verdun happened 100 years ago.

Fort Douaumont - Battle of Verdun, France
Dutched Pinay Fort Douaumont - Battle of Verdun, France

This is at Fort Douaumont, one of the forts used during the Battle of Verdun.

Dutched Pinay in Verdun city centre

Verdun city centre on the Meuse River.

Chausee Port in Verdun, France

Porte Chausee on the La Meuse in Verdun.

Travel Period: May 2017
Destination: Verdun, Lorraine (Grand Est), France

Keep in touch and follow me on Facebook: Travel & Lifestyle Diaries by Dutched Pinay Travels
Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Netherlands: Artistic Dinner at the Restaurant of ‘The International’ Golf Club

After a whole afternoon of batting balls on the driving range with different types of clubs, a short break of warm chocomel with a splash of whisky and playing a few rounds at the practice tee course, we called it a day and went back to the clubhouse to change and prepare for the evening’s dinner.

Restaurant - The International Golf Club in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands

The day was spent very well except that it was rather cold for a mid-November day. Good thing that I brought my thick shawl with me to protect my neck and face from the chilly wind. In the Netherlands, the wind chill factor is a thing to consider when staying outdoors. A 10C temperature can feel like 5C or lower with the wind. So we are all very glad to be moving inside the clubhouse where it is warm and cosy.

I love artistic and well-thought of dinners. They do not have to be aesthetically complicated dinners or have a Michelin star, but when they are presented well, I really appreciate the extra effort. I guess being a visually-inclined person does help enhance the enjoyment journey of the food I eat. Many call it ‘mindfullness eating’. It’s not something one can develop quickly, albeit the appreciation part is easy though. It’s a habit to be developed and it starts with the basic such as being curious and understanding what ingredients were put together into the food.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Netherlands: Lunch & Golf Clinic at The International

The International Golf Club in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands

There is a saying and I don’t know where I got this, but I dropped this statement out of the blue during lunch in the office kitchen, well many years ago actually, in anticipation for the golf clinic outing the company will do the week later.

“The older the man gets, the smaller the balls they play become.”

It took the guys a few seconds to burst out into laughter. I guess they cannot get past the words, ‘balls’ and ‘play’ in one sentence. These words just got stuck; blame the naughty mind of a man. Haha! But more importantly, they did not expect that coming from me. Well yes, that was supposed to be a joke!

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Deep in the Concrete Backstreet Jungle of Xiamen, China

Adventure travel to me does not only mean engaging in active and physical types of activities. I am not very keen anyway on (adrenalin-pumping) adventure sports travel but I do love hiking and the outdoors, and taking the road less travelled, and even roughing it up a bit with nature adventure trips.

But adventure to me can also mean exploring the world of history, art, culture and the food customs of a place, and even a small backstreet alley as well in a busy concrete city such as Xiamen.

Chinese Art Wall Alley in Xiamen, China
View hotel window

Who would not be curious with this alley decorated in Chinese art?

In Xiamen, I was evicted from my 100-year old mansion hotel in Siming district (near the famous Zhongshan Lu pedestrian street) because the hotel did not have the permit to accept foreigners, and so I moved to a standard hotel nearby. Police even escorted and helped me check-in! At this new hotel, my room's window view is looking down to a small alley.

The alley is quite noteworthy because the area surrounding Zhongshan Lu is a bit old and scruffy-looking but in a Chinese positive way, while this narrow pedestrian street’s wall is pimped up professionally with a colourful template of Chinese drawings, calligraphy and relief sculptures. I have not seen anything like this here in Xiamen. It just stood out. I mean, why showcase an art like this in a somewhat hidden alley?

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Queuing Up for the Famous Oyster Omelette in Xiamen, China

This is perhaps the most famous, some even say must-eat street food in Xiamen.

Oyster Omelette in Xiamen, China

My first encounter with this oyster omelette street food phenomenon was on my first day in the city when I came back in the evening to my hotel near Zhongshan Lu pedestrian street and passing on the busy side street called Taiping Lu which is filled with an array of street food vendors doing the live cooking. On this street is where I also had my first (lunch) meal in the city.

As mere human beings, we are a curious, sensitive and social lot. Anything that stands out from the norm, we quickly react to it. We are inquisitive and we can be envious too. So seeing this street food vendor with quite a long queue piqued my interest. I learned that the oyster omelette is a local speciality, and it got stuck in my head that I want to try it too.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Xiamen University and a Helpful Chinese Stranger

The Chinese, you see, get a lot of bad rap these days, poor them. Most of the stories we read on the news reflect a very selfish, chaotic and unmannered group of people. I have witnessed a few events myself so I can understand the universal sentiment. Even the Chinese government are giving courses to its approximately 100 million travelling citizens on travel etiquette.

Read here: China teaches its 100m tourists some travel etiquette

Xiamen University

I visited Xiamen University and was able to have a quick peek into Chinese school life.

But before we even start to join in the laugh, the 2 other world economic powers and its citizens, Japan and USA were also on the same boat before these nations became highly industrialised. Surely, Europe was as well in the same league during the (barbaric) medieval period. It is how it is, a (necessary) part of the evolution of societies and man.

During this Xiamen trip though, I encountered a lot of unexpected revelations and all the negative Chinese stereotypes I know just flew out the window.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Being Greedy in Xiamen, China: Pork Belly Rice & Fried Squid for Dinner

My hotel in Xiamen was located in the district of Siming near Zhongshan Lu pedestrian street, the busiest and most touristy street in Xiamen. This means I am surrounded by many street food vendors and restaurants. I was practically salivating the moment I arrived, so I quickly treated myself to a seafood lunch.

But this entry is not about lunch, it is about dinner =)

Deep fried breaded squid in Xiamen

Just to give you an idea how massive this deep fried breaded squid is. It is the size of my face. I know I am being greedy.

Xiamen food

Can you understand my predicament? So difficult to choose from the wide array of choices. Which would you pick? Seafood is popular in Xiamen cuisine. 

As I walk the streets of Siming District, I kept telling myself – I need to try this one, and oh, that one too and that one over there as well. Goodness gracious, my taste buds were cackling like chickens in mating. I was already scheduling all the food in my head for the next 3 days which is going to be a challenge as I only have one stomach, and sadly, a stomach that easily gets full.

It is no secret that I love food. Helaas, very much. My travels are most of the times planned around the food I will be eating and their locations, working my way through the city and tasting whatever I can find from the local cuisine’s scene. Xiamen I noticed has a focus on seafood which I very much welcome as I love all sorts of fishes and crustaceans.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Lefkada, Greece: Charming Agios Nikitas Village

We spent a day here at Agios Nikitas, a charming traditional Greek village that has its own beautiful beach. It is one of the popular and must-visit villages when visiting the island of Lefkada.

Agios Nikitas Village in Lefkada Island, Greece
Agios Nikitas Village in Lefkada Island, Greece

The village is small and closed to vehicular traffic. From the main road, visitors are led into the village through a pedestrianised cobbled stone streets adorned with shops, cafes and tavernas on the sidelines. It’s a lovely and cosy oasis one can expect of a tiny unchanged Greek village transformed into a beach holiday spot.

Dutchman and I always say that the thing the Greeks really did good is the islands. They managed to keep it traditional and unchanged. Well done!

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