Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Welcome 2013! Goodbye 2012 and a Travel Recap

HAPPY NEW YEAR! WELCOME 2013!

So where to this 2013? Well, I am not really the type of person who makes bucket lists or 1,000 things I need to do before I hit 50 list (yes, the new 40 haha). I cannot believe I am 42.5 years old? I feel 10 years younger! Anyway, my bucket list is the whole wide world and the things I want to do are all the things that I can do. No limits, no boundaries, no borders. Let’s just make things happen =)

And this is saying that there will be many travels in store for 2013. However, I need to plan them around my 30-days vacation from work and the Dutch public holidays which are unfortunately the lowest in Europe.

This month January is going to be a busy one for me already with an upcoming 2 weekend trips and a week-long skiing holiday at the end of the month and into February. Who knows what the next months have in store for me? We shall see.

Anyhow, I was not sure if I want to make a 2012 travel recap because I thought it’s going to be too cheesy, but after some long contemplation over wine, salami and cheese, I’ve decided to go ahead and join the cheesy pack.

JANUARY 2012:


Dutchman and I opened 2012 with our yearly wintersport holiday in the French Alps. The ski area we went to is called Le Grand Domaine with access to the following villages: Valmorel, Le Crey, Saint Francois Longchamp. We stayed at Le Crey but spent most of our time in Valmorel.

We met many lovely and amazing people during this trip! And I almost had a heart attack during our torch hike when Dutchman impulsively joined a sleigh-ride-in-the-dark and hit his head. Not to forget, a new record of almost 4 hours installing the snow chains under the cold and pouring snow, and Dutchman and I screaming at each other, lol.

Le Crey, Savoie, Rhone-Alpes, France
Valmorel, Savoie, Rhone-Alpes, France
Saint Francois Longchamp, Savoie, Rhone-Alpes, France
***


A day of beer and chocolates in Brussels, Belgium finishing off with a nice dinner at a restaurant in the Galeries Royales Saint Hubert.

Here, my understanding that chocolate making is not really a science but an art is solidified, and that you can better go to a brewery and learn about beer than going to the Belgian Beer Museum on the grand market place.

Chocolate making in Brussels
***

FEBRUARY 2012:


February was a very cold BBBBRRRR month in the Netherlands. We had weeks of below zero temperatures. The lowest was -22C. Because weather was horrible in the Netherlands and throughout Europe, I decided to stay close to home instead of flying somewhere else for a weekend getaway. I visited the UNESCO world heritage site, Kinderdijk and checked out as well the frozen canals in Amsterdam.

I never had the chance to blog Kinderdijk yet (see picture above).... hopefully soon!


The canals in Amsterdam were frozen!

It was my first time to walk on a frozen canal with hundreds of people on it as well, and it was also my first time to take a small veerdienst (boat service for cars) to cross over to Kinderdijk.

Amsterdam Skates
Frozen Keizersgracht, Amsterdam
Veerdienst (Kinderdijk)
***

MARCH 2012:


Dutchman and I did Berlin for a long weekend getaway. This is a trip that has been postponed for the longest time I can remember and was I so glad this finally went through. We came, we saw, we ate, we walked, we conquered and we did many things in the city!

The Holocaust Museum was very moving. We missed the visit to the cupola of the Berlin parliament house due to new rules but there is always another time.

Berlin, Germany
***


We also visited the lovely imperial city of Potsdam, where the Royals and Kaisers once lived. Potsdam is hands down a very beautiful, elegant and cosy city.

Here we had one of the best steak tartare for brunch. I want to come back!

Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany
***

APRIL 2012:


During the Lent season, I went on a solo long weekend trip to Copenhagen, Denmark and was also able to visit the self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood, Freetown Christiania.

Here I discovered the delicious Danish smorrebrod. I really enjoyed people watching at the busy and picturesque Nyhavn. However, I missed the opening of Tivoli for just a week and I did not get to reserve a table at Noma, but I met interesting people that made me ponder about my life .

Copenhagen, Denmark
Freetown Christiania, Denmark (but officially not)
***

MAY 2012:


Cuba! The land of vintage cars, salsa, mojitos, daiquiris and the legendary Che. Blondine and I did an around-Cuba trip, starting from Havana down to the south in Santiago de Cuba the birthplace of salsa, to the cayos, then to the east in the tobacco and coffee plantations of Pinar del Rio and back in Havana.

We have seen and done so much! We were scammed twice. We were followed by men everywhere, pestered and harassed. We ran over a dog. We survived flooding, getting lost and driving in the dark. We were stopped by a police officer and argued our way with minimal Spanish into not getting a ticket, and with success, haha! We went hiking in the forest, boating, caving, horse-back riding, climbed towers and drank our way through the country with mojitos and other Cuban cocktails.

I still have to post the rest of my eastern part of Cuba and a few Havana stories.

Cuba (general)
Camaguey, Camaguey, Cuba
Cayo Coco, Ciego de Avila, Cuba
Bayamo, Granma, Cuba
Central Havana and Vedado, Cuba
Old Havana, Cuba
Vinales, Pinar del Rio, Cuba
Sancti Spiritus, Sancti Spiritus, Cuba
Topes de Collantes, Sancti Spiritus, Cuba
Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus, Cuba
Santiago de Cuba, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
***

JUNE - JULY 2012:


Our summer holiday in Lesvos Island in Greece. Well, it looks like this is Dutchman’s new favourite Greek Island.

We woke up in the mornings to the sound of goat bells and a cat purring from our balcony door, we ate breakfasts from our balcony terrace, lounged at the pool and beach, afternoon naps on the beach, people watched from the cafe terraces, nightcaps as well, and we visited charming fishing and mountain villages with our scooter... well, we basically had a very relaxing, slow and lovely holiday.

And oh, here I ate grilled octopus almost every day! I am not done with all my stories yet but these are the ones I have posted already:

Anaxos, Lesvos Island, North Aegean Islands, Greece
Eresos-Andissa, Lesvos Island, North Aegean Islands, Greece
Kalloni, Lesvos Island, North Aegean Islands, Greece
Mithymna (Molyvos), Lesvos Island, North Aegean Islands, Greece
Mytilene, Lesvos Island, North Aegean Islands, Greece
Petra, Lesvos Island, North Aegean Islands, Greece
***

JULY 2012:


With Blondine in Ghent! A lovely Belgian city with beautiful canals, culinaire and people watching opportunities =)

Here we learned that many restaurants close their kitchen for lunch at 14:30 and open again at 18:00 for dinner. And never come during a holiday, the stores are closed and the crowd was unbearable.

I am saddened that Blondine and I will not be travelling together in 2013, but she needs to get well first; this is the priority. Come 2014, we will kick off our travels together...on to South Africa!

Ghent, East Flanders, Belgium
***

AUGUST 2012:


Hot Paris in the summer with Bru. A needed girly city trip for an all-girls long weekend getaway. This time I discovered a new area of Paris.

An unforgettable lovely and slow lunch at Cafe Le Marly and discovering Le Marais.

Paris, France
***

SEPTEMBER 2012:


Another relaxing weekend getaway with the Dutchman in Leuven, Belgium. A day before this we were staying in the south of the Netherlands in a hotel that was once a convent and had breakfast inside a chapel.

In Leuven, we stayed at a renovated farm house in the outskirts of the city right across the Arenberg Castle that is now the Catholic Leuven University. Dutchman had the worse steak tartare here ever, he did not eat it and is still traumatised by the experience that he refuses to eat anything of a similar nature. Poor Dutchman.

Leuven, Flemish Brabant, Belgium
***


In September, my niece from the Philippines visited me in the Netherlands. Aside from showing her Utrecht and Amsterdam, we went to the iconic Dutch villages: Marken, Volendam and Zaanse Schans. My Volendam story is yet to be posted!

Zaanse Schans, North Holland, Netherlands
Waterland (Marken), North Holland, Netherlands
A taste of Dutch countryside and Dutch pancakes at Theehuis Rhijnauwen
***

OCTOBER - NOVEMBER 2012:


Now we are flying across the continent to Asia. We are combining two trips here: Seoul, South Korea for a 5-day city trip and Cebu, Philippines to visit my hometown and my family. In Seoul, we ate our way through the city and along the way we realised that Gangnam is not just a song but an affluent district in Seoul.

Let me thank Google Maps for being our guide and of course, the free internet everywhere in Seoul! I loved our stay at the traditional Hanok House. We however missed the trip to the North Korean border because of our schedule; we had to cancel our booking. Total disappointment.

I am not done with my Seoul stories but these are the installments:

Jongno-gu (Seoul old city centre), Seoul, South Korea
Jung-gu (Central Seoul), Seoul, South Korea
Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Yongsan, Seoul, South Korea
***


Cebu was all about family for me, but relaxation, indulging in Filipino food and experiencing new adventures were of course in the agenda as well. My highlight was seeing the magnificent whale sharks in Oslob! That was WOW, such friendly beasts. Cebu, be ready because I will be back next year! =)

Not done with my Cebu stories as well but these are the installments:

Mactan Island, Cebu, Philippines
Cebu (City), Visayas, Philippines
Cebu Province, Visayas, Philippines
***


An old school girlfriend from the Philippines who is now living in Hawaii, USA visited me this year as well. We did many places in Utrecht visiting the city, a castle and a pancake house in the middle of the forest, and of course, Amsterdam.

Amsterdam (Centrum), Netherlands
***

DECEMBER 2012:


Going to Brussels with Dutch mother-in-law for the Christmas markets and the controversial electronic Christmas Tree. My original plan was to go to Monschau, Germany (knew about the place a while back) but I gave Dutch mother a choice between the two and she chose Brussels. Thus, Brussels it is!

View from our restaurant to the controversial Brussels' Christmas Tree on the grand market square
Brussels Christmas Market 2012
***

So thats it! I did not include the rest of my local-within the Netherlands travels because this blog entry, like 2012 and the Maya calendar, has to end, haha.

Happy 2013!  Happy and Safe Travels!

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

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