Thursday, January 02, 2014

Welcome 2014! Goodbye 2013 and a Travel Recap

This has almost become a tradition that beginning of the new year I make a travel recap of where I was, what I did and what I have blogged the year before. You can find my previous travel recap for the year 2012 here: Welcome 2013! Goodbye 2012 and a Travel Recap

2013 in a nutshell is another successful year of travelling and it’s a year that I have done many solo trips as well. I breathe TRAVEL. It is a lifestyle to me. It is a passion that has taken a life of its own, and now has totally become an obsession. I badly need to win the lottery to do this full time.

I am also becoming a food and hotspot enthusiast, and slowly conquering gourmet markets and restaurants with a view and a lovely ambiance, one at a time.

Where was I in the world in 2013? Which hotspots have I unearthed in the Netherlands? 

Because I blog a place or an activity based on the pictures I took, this summary is based primarily on the pictures I took in 2013, which means majority of what really happened in my life last year is not blogged. Not surprising really because all of us at some point want some privacy. Moreover, there is only so much we can do to share and blog. Although I try to blog everyday, life is about living and not blogging. Which also means that if I went to a place or did something but did not take a picture, I am not blogging it. Just making my life simple really. No picture = No blogging =)

Now fasten your seatbelts because this is going to be a looooong circumnavigating the world travel and food summary ride. I cannot help it, but I have indeed done so much and been to so many places in 2013. I am myself overwhelmed?! And thankful of course. I could not post this yesterday because it took me a loooooong time to finish.

January 2013

While Dutchman was away on a business trip, I went on an extended luxurious weekend getaway in Luxembourg Ville, managed to shop a little bit and visited a town north of the little country called Vianden. My first solo trip for 2013.

Another weekend was spent in Rotterdam, the Netherlands where I went on board the Grace Kelly yacht and sailed on the Nieuwe Maas River appreciating the modern Rotterdam skyline. The next day I had a long relaxing lunch of Fruits de Mer at Hotel New York. One of my best eats!

Towards the end of the month Dutchman and I went on a skiing (snowboarding for the Dutchman) holiday trip to the French Alps in Saint Francois Longchamp. We also visited Valmorel a neighbouring ski village where we stayed the previous year.

February 2013

The first week of the month was still spent in the France Alps. The most beautiful thing I can remember of this wintersport holiday was our lunch on top of the Col de La Madeleine, 2,000 metres above sea level. The most breathtaking, relaxing and peaceful view for me in 2013.

February was a very cold month in Europe so I mostly stayed in the country, although Bru and I went to Brugge, Belgium for a quick city trip where we enjoyed all things Belgian: Mussels, Beer, Chocolates, Waffles.

March 2013

I managed to escape cold March and flew to temperate climate Southern Europe, to Portugal and enjoyed the beautiful City of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. My memorable meal was at the Gourmet Restaurant of The Yeatman that has amazing panoramic views of the city. I also did a side trip and visited the beautiful Douro Valley where Port wine is cultivated.

For the rest of the month, I went around the Netherlands. I checked out the bookshop inside a church at Selexys Dominicanen in Maastricht, did some hiking with the Dutchman in the Mollebos forest of Driebergen-Rijssenberg, had lunch in the PSV football stadium in Eindhoven, went out eating in Naarden and visited Wijchen and Zaltbommel as well.

April 2013

In April I had the chance to do one of my long awaited road trips! The Alsace Region in France. This holiday was based in Colmar where I had a starred dinner at Rendez-vous de Chasse and had the smoothest gewurztraminer wine I have ever tasted.

Visiting the Alsace Wine Route Villages was quite tricky because I only have a few days and I cannot obviously visit every single one of them, although I would love to! Ribeauville, Riquewihr, Kaysersberg, Eguisheim, Turckheim and St. Hippolyte were the few of the lovely villages I managed to see. They are all charming and fairytale-like.

During this holiday, I also did side trips to Strasbourg where I had my taste of La Choucroute in one of the oldest building in the city. I also went to Basel, Switzerland which is just a stone's throw away from the Alsace Region. I have never been, so why not check it out? And so I did =)

Along the way, I stopped over for lunch and dinner and some sightseeing as well in two delightful German cities, Beethoven's home city Bonn and poetic Heidelberg.

Back at home in the Netherlands I had a lovely starred lunch date with the Dutchman at Het Koetshuis in Bennekom and a walk nearby as well at Landgoed Hoekelum in Ede. Before the end of the month I had another catch up and lunch date with Herr Philippe at Cafe Bax in Amsterdam West.

May 2013

May is a super busy travel month! Firstly, a road trip to Bavaria, Germany, to historical yet trendy Munich. Then I went to Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau. I have been wanting to see this stunning fairytale-like castle for as long as I can remember. This area of Bavaria is one of the most scenic I have seen.

Along the way I stopped over in Wurzburg for a lovely starred lunch at Steinberg Castle. The views from here were just stunning. The vineyards, the river and  the old city of Wurzburg.

During this Bavarian holiday, I also managed to go to Salzburg, Austria where I visited the Mirabell Gardens that brought me back to my childhood 'Sound of Music' days. I also enjoyed being serenaded during a Mozart classical concert dinner.

A few weeks later, I embarked on another trip, this time to the north of Europe. Tallinn, Estonia was a beautiful medieval city that went above my expectations. A lovely and cosy old city! My memorable eat in Tallinn was the Russian dinner at Tchaikovsky, it was divine.

Then I crossed over the Baltic Sea to Helsinki, Finland where I visited so many gourmet markets and seen most of the highlights of Helsinki. I also sailed to a military fortress island Soumenlinna and had a relaxing time hiking, communing with nature and appreciating the place.

On my last two days, I went to the second oldest city, charming Porvoo in the south.

On the Dutch front back home, I had a stroll and pancake date with the Dutchman in Beesd and a lovely lunch date with Blondine at the Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam. I also went for a quick visit to Groningen in the north of the country.

June 2013

The start of the summer was kicked off with a lunch date with Blondine at the Hilton Sky Lounge in Amsterdam that has amazing panoramic views of the city. A week later we pampered ourselves again and had a luxurious Royal Afternoon Tea at the Amstel Hotel.

For our yearly summer holiday, Dutchman and I spent two weeks at Samos Island, Greece and our holiday base is Votsalakia/Kampos. We had an aborted Transavia landing which became the talk of the town. I thought the plane was going to crash!

During the holiday, we rented a vespa and went around the island visiting beaches and towns in: Marathokampos, Karlovasi, Kokkari/Vathy and Pythagorion. We love the Greek Isles!

Because Samos is located just off Turkey, I also managed to book a trip to visit the ancient Greek city, Ephesus Archaelogical Ruins in Selcuk, as well as Kusadasi.

July 2013

The first week of July was still spent at Samos Island, Greece.

When I was back in the Netherlands, I quickly set up a dinner date with Bru in a refurbished ferry boat turned restaurant at Pont 13 in Amsterdam West where we enjoyed a fresh seafood meal, and another lunch date with Blondine at the posh Harbour Club Amsterdam.

I also visited Utrecht Centrum, did some errands and managed to enjoy my home city as well. Then Dutchman and I went up to Friesland in the north to visit some friends.

Before the month was over I flew to Dubai, UAE where I checked out the traditional souks, crossed Dubai Creek in an Abra boat, met up with an old colleague in Dubai Mall, saw Burj Khalifa and had a ritzy Afternoon Sky Tea at the 7-star luxury hotel, Burj Al Arab.

After which I flew to Singapore and stayed with my sister and Myrrh. We did many things, went to Ku De Ta and enjoyed the Singapore skyline. Checked out the Gardens by the Bay. Feasted on Asian food at popular hawker stalls, i.e. Lau Pa Sat, Makansuntra Gluttons Bay, etcetera, and we even had a traditional afternoon Chinese tea =)

August 2013

After a few days in Singapore, I flew to Cebu, Philippines together with my sister and Myrrh where our parents adopted us for the rest of our stay in the country. My dad turned 70 years old and the family held a party which I almost missed. Then I went around town sampling Cebuano street food with my siblings.

The family then went to Hong Kong SAR for a week where we stayed in busy intoxicating Kowloon. We went on trips to Hong Kong Island (The Peak, Central, Stanley, Aberdeen) and the New Territories (Lantau Island).

We also did a day trip to Macau SAR where we visited the gambling mecca and the old Portuguese city.

After the Hong Kong and Macau high, we came back to Cebu, Philippines and resumed spending time and eating with family and friends. I also had several one-to-one dates with my smart-aleck nephew =)

Then the family flew again for another holiday, heading to Singapore. I almost did not make the flight because I was horribly sick. When we arrived in Singapore, the family brought me to a doctor and got me treated. We found out it was food poisoning.

With medication in hand, my parents and I went onwards to our road trip in Malaysia. We loved laid back and historical Malacca, were awed at the stunning Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, I climbed the Batu Caves and we enjoyed our steamboat dinner and carpet-like tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands. It was my first time as well to drive on the other side of the road! Easy peasy =)

After the Malaysian road trip, we went back again to Singapore and stayed a few days here with my sister and Myrrh. As usual, we managed to eat a lot! I however went out with my dad for an afternoon of Peranakan shophouses sightseeing.

September 2013

September was back in Dutch land. This was a month for me to recover from my travel spree and to visit Ibericus, the new jamon iberico shop in Amsterdam that I have been delaying to taste for months. I came back here in October and my next visit is already overdue.

I spent a lot of time in Utrecht Centrum, I had a date with the Dutchman in IKEA of all places and also with the Dutch sister in IJsselstein.

October 2013

Beginning of the month I went to visit Bru in Kampen, Netherlands in the eastern part of the country where we ate fresh raw herring (haring) and deep fried cod fish (kibbeling).

Then it was time to catch up again with Blondine in Amsterdam at the College Hotel, afterwards we had dinner at Pasta e Basta where our live entertainment were the singing wait staff. Cool! Bru and I also had dinner at the Hotel de Goudfazant, a very tasty restaurant in an industrial setting located in the north of Amsterdam.

Went out as well on another date with the Dutchman to the NASA exhibition, 'A Human Adventure' in Utrecht and to the impressive Gravity film at Pathe in Bijlmer, Amsterdam East.

Dutchman and I also had a date with EvI and MR at Las Palmas in Rotterdam, the restaurant of the Netherlands TV chef celebrity, Herman den Blijker. We all had a good meal except the Dutchman, lol. Sorry babe.

Towards the end of the month, I met up with an ex-colleague visiting Europe in Brussels, Belgium where we spent a day roaming around and eating our way through the city: Chocolates, Waffles, freshly shucked Oysters and lunch at posh Belga Queen.

Then we went to the Netherlands and she stayed with me in Utrecht. We ate the yummiest Apple Ball pastry at Graaf Floris in Utrecht Centrum. We also visited Muiden but found out the castle was closed, the preserved Dutch village with windmills - Zaanse Schans in Zaandam, had pancakes at Theehuis Rhijnauwen in  Bunnik and were able to conquer Amsterdam as well. Busy.

November 2013

I embarked again on another solo trip, my last one for the year, this time to Girona, Spain and enjoying a lovely foodie side trip to full of life Barcelona. Rented a car and did a road trip:  Figueres where I had a close encounter with Dali and his amazing out-of-this-world crazy art, medieval Besalu and seaside village Cadaques.

Then I took the train to Carcassonne, France via Narbonne where I stayed in an auberge inside the medieval walls of Carcassonne. Here I discovered cassoulet, the comfort food of the south of France.

Back at home, Blondine and I treated ourselves to a starred lunch at Aan de Poel in Amstelveen while Dutchman and I hit the forest again for a late autumn hike in Austerlitz. In between I visit again Utrecht Centrum.

December 2013

December was another month spent in Utrecht Centrum where I had a lovely lunch at Restaurant Bis along the Oudegracht. One evening, Dutchman and I also went for a stroll in the city and ending it with an impromptu dinner at Mej Jannsen in the Oudegracht.

I also managed to check out of the western part of the city during one of my runs (which I try to make a habit but always fail, well at least I tried).

A date with the Dutch sisters! They treated me out to a lovely lunch and a catch up at the Montfoort Castle Restaurant in the village of Montfoort.

Before the Christmas holiday starts, Bru and I had a starred dinner at Ron Gastrobar in Amsterdam Zuid. I have been wanting to eat here since approximately a year ago when this famous Dutch chef opened this new concept of  'affordable haute cuisine', after closing his 2-Michelin stars restaurant in Ouderkerk a/d Amstel.

Dutchman and I went to the Depeche Mode concert at Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam! We wanted to sit nearer to the stage but these were the only better seats available when we booked. The concert was sold out on its second day out for sale. Great evening. Flashback to the 1980s!

Then I went to Deventer, Netherlands with Bru for the Charles Dickens Festival. This is an annual event in honour of the great English writer and novelist. During this 2-day event you can see all the Dickensian characters in his books come to life in Deventer. A step back in time, to the Victorian Period in England.

Christmas was celebrated with the family during our annual family Christmas dinner in IJsselstein. On the second day of Christmas, Dutchman and I checked out the Amsterdam Light Festival and had a nice trendy dinner at Kitchen & Bar Van Rijn in Rembrandtplein, Amsterdam.

Closing the year, we enjoyed the chaotic, disorganised, warzone-like fireworks in Utrecht. There have been talks about setting up organised fireworks show per city (ie. Rotterdam and Amsterdam does this) but the average Dutch wants to buy and fire his or her own fireworks, so we shall see.

And oh lastly, before I forget. We also had...

2013 was a very busy travel-filled year indeed! And I am just halfway through blogging everything. I still have a mountain of stories to tell and pictures to show.

Hopefully 2014 will be a great year. To me, and to you as well =)

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

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