Monday, September 29, 2014

Cafe with a View in the middle of Amsterdam: Blue 360

There is a café in the middle of busy Amsterdam Centrum that will give you rooftop views of the city. Right in the smack of good old Amsterdam on Kalverstraat.

I have been here before many moons ago, although the cafe may have a different name back then. It was precisely 13 years ago when I came here with the Dutch mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. I was visiting the Netherlands (this was a year before a moved to the country) and they treated me to a girly shopping day outing in Amsterdam. I did not remember much of the lunch except that the café was on top of a shopping centre, has views of the city and the younger sister-in-law slightly reprimanded a tourist who didn’t queue up and tried to steal our table.

The Dutch are very straightforward people and will correct mistakes of others openly. The secret is to not take these things personally because the Dutch tend to see things practically. They also like working with a system in place.

Anyway, Bru and I had a late spring catch up. Bru went shopping and I accompanied her. Here at Blu 360 we had an afternoon break of rose wine, pickled olives and nachos with guacamole.

Blue 360 Amsterdam is located on top of the Kalvertoren shopping centre which is on a triangle area with entrances on the following streets: Kalverstraat, Singel and Heiligeweg. If you are not familiar with the city I’d use the Kalverstraat entrance because this is the easiest to find. Kalverstraat is the busiest and most famous shopping street of Amsterdam (near Dam Square).

Once you are at the Kalvertoren, take the lift all the way to the top. If its busy, you might have to wait to be seated.

All pictures were taken by an iPhone.

 Bru reminds me of Jackie Sharp in the House of Cards series.

Quite a busy mid-day at Blue 360. It was a good mix of tourists and locals.

She wanted to take revenge by taking a picture of me =)


Finally, the nachos and guacamole arrived.

Amsterdam Centrum rooftop views.

The upper floor of Blue 360 is reserved for special gatherings. I guess they open this area when it gets very, very busy at the main cafe level.

The view to the floating Flower Market nearby.

Typical Dutch buildings have red wooden window shutters like these.

The Munt Toren located at the end of Kalverstraat.

Visit Period: May 2014
Destination: Amsterdam Centrum (Amsterdam – North Holland), The Netherlands

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dreamlike Lake Bled in Slovenia

There is really no best time to visit Lake Bled because each season offers a different scenery of the lake. Although I think that the best hours to visit would be when the sun is positioned at the other side of the lake (by the entrance to the lake from the highway), then you can clearly see the lagoon and the little island.

Simply breahtaking is it not?

I was in Bled early in the afternoon and when I stood there at the foot of the lake I saw a sheer silhouette of the breathtaking place. There is something about the smoky and voluminous white sheath covering the whole lake. The scenery is stunning. It looked a bit surreal though, as if the whole set was staged theatrically. Perhaps enchanting is the right word to describe?

As I only have a pocket camera (an old Sony Cybershot), I was worried about how my pictures will turn out. Luckily they came out just fine. My pictures were dreamlike =)

Lake Bled is located in the Julian Alps, in the northern part of Slovenia near the Austrian border. What makes this lake special is its picturesque setting. It is a closed lake with a small island called Lake Bled Island in the middle. Visitors can rent a boat and visit the island. Moreover, the lake is surrounded by mountains and thick forests that alters its colours throughout the change of seasons. And the magnificent backdrop behind all this? The snow-capped Julian Alps. The cherry on top of the icing is the medieval Bled Castle sitting on a rugged rock cliff overlooking the lagoon.

Now tell me who would not fall in love with a picturesque setting like this?

The only rebuff part of Lake Bled is the super hyped up image travel and tour agencies have rallied up in order to promote this place. Of course they want to earn their buck but expectations need to be set in place as well.

Here is my route to Lake Bled from Ljubljana. I have a rental car and its just 41 minutes from the capital.

You can move the map with your mouse, as well as zoom it in and out by clicking on the + and - signs on the lower right hand side.

It was March when I was there and traces of snow are still left on the pathways.

The silhouette of Lake Bled Island in the middle of the lake behind a smoky backdrop.

The Bled Castle on top of a rock cliff. The castle can be reached on foot (not advisable for the unfit as you have to climb the steps, I did this though) and by vehicle via a small road.

Around the lake is a recreational park with hotel resorts, restaurants, cafes and many outdoor sporting facilities.

Ducks and swans make the lagoon their home.

One of the outdoor cafe restaurants at the castle side of the lake.

Lake Bled is a popular destination for weddings as well. During summer it gets super busy in and around the lake.

So what do you think of Lake Bled?

Next, I will show you Bled Castle, the views from up there to the lake and my lunch.

Travel Period: March 2014
Destination: Bled (), Slovenia

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ljubljana, Slovenia is Magical

I guess that is the word that best describes how I felt when I first set foot at the old centrum of Ljubljana on Preseren Square near the The Triple Bridge: MAGICAL

Preseren Square

This is the Preseren Square.

Triple Bridge

The Triple Bridge.

The old city is nestled at the foot of the Ljubljana Castle, it is quite compact and the core areas are concentrated along the Ljubljanica River that flows through the centre of town. The river embankments are an important aspect in the lifestyle department of the city. Outdoor restaurants and cafes adorn the river edges and locals love to gather here. There is a light-hearted alfresco living room ambiance, especially in the evenings when it gets really busy and lively here.

Baroque and Art Nouveau buildings decorate the old centre as well which makes the city fascinating. The Central Market is also located along the river which brings energy to the atmosphere during the day. When you combine the historical architecture and the water setting, it spells magical old town. I really had a crush on Ljubljana!

The closest city that reminds me of Ljubljana is Prague in the Czech Republic. Unlike Prague though, Ljubljana is not pillaged with tourists. It is still wholesome tourist-wise, there are no large groups going around with a tour group leader waving a bright-coloured flag. You really feel the local daily life in Ljubljana.

The city is definitely a hidden gem in Europe. Well, not totally hidden really, but hidden in the sense that mass tourism hasn’t arrived here yet. Not yet.

More information here: Ljubljana (tourism website) and my pictures of Ljubljana in the evening: Ljubljana at Night

Here are my pictures during the day. Enjoy =)

A busy day on the shopping streets of Ljubljana.

Lots of Baroque style buildings in the city.

The Triple Bridge (Tromostovje)

The Triple Bridge (Tromostovje).

Plecnik's market halls

Plecnik's market halls (part of Ljubljana's Central Market).

Ljubljana cafes

Outdoor cafe terraces on the Ljubljanica River embankments.

The Dragon Bridge (Zmajski Most)

The Dragon Bridge (Zmajski Most).

The Dragon Bridge is one of the famous bridges on the Ljubljanica River.

Cooperative Business Bank building Ljubljana

The Cooperative Business Bank building was built in 1921 by architect Ivan Vurnik in Art Nouveau style.

The architect's wife painted the facade's building.

You can see the Ljubljana Castle in the background.

Umbrellas as street lamps and not sure what the ocassion was all about but these worn shoes and slippers were hanging above a particular street.

foot bridge

One of the foot bridges, this one connects to the Central Market.

I wonder if they are still together.

The Triple Bridge and the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation

The Triple Bridge and the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation.

Ljubljanica River

The Ljubljanica River flowing through the city centre.

Beautiful building.

The Galerija Emporium is an upscale department store.

Outdoor cafes on the embankments.

It's always a good idea to have a cup of espresso. 

Ljubljana cafes

Ljubljana is lovely isn't she?

Travel Period: March 2014
Destination: Ljubljana, Slovenia

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Destination: Ljubljana, Slovenia

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