Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Greek Isles: Sailing on Gaios Strait and Arriving in Gaios Harbour, Paxos Island

Dutchman and I took a boat trip to Parga in mainland Greece and Paxos Island, located south of Corfu Island.

Arriving in Paxi—which is how the locals call it, was quite dramatic. In order to get to the island’s natural port, all boats must pass through the strait of Gaios which resembles like a small fjord skirted by 2 islets, Panayia (Virgin Mary Island) and St. Nicholas.

This is one of the things I love about the Greek Islands; you can easily take a boat excursion, either privately with your own yacht or a rental, book a boat tour with a travel agency or you can opt the local way by taking the public ferry. Whichever you choose, everything is relatively easy to work out and the sailing schedules are frequent as well during the summer season.

As we sluggishly entered and sailed on Gaios straight, the harbour and town of Gaios gradually loomed into view. Beautiful. You know, it is such a great feeling to arrive by boat on a pretty little traditional island such as Paxos. It’s like—being away from the cares of the modern world and coming into an oasis of relaxation, contentment and peace. Discovery as well, as I could not wait to explore the town’s small streets, check out the traditional shops and eat at one of the island’s waiting tavernas.

So when we docked, the first thing Dutchman and I did was to walk back up the harbour. Whilst entering the strait of Gaois, my eyes quickly saw this lovely taverna tucked on the corner of the port. I knew right away that this taverna is the perfect place for our late lunch. Moreover, we were starving! So with that, there is no time to waste.

Until my next post =)

The strait serves as a natural port of Gaios, Paxos.

Here is Gaios, Paxos on the map of Greece:

Paxos is one of the islands in the Ionian Group of Islands. To zoom in and out the map, click on the + and - signs on the lower right hand.

The fishing town of Gaios, Paxos. Even through tourism and the hotel-restaurant industry has picked in in the island, fishing is still a means of livelihood here for some of the locals.

Just what the doctor ordered for this holiday: Sit back, have a drink in your hand, watch the view and relax on a cafe terrace.

A number of boats dock here throughout the day during late spring - summer - early autumn.

Cannot wait to get off this boat!

As you can see there are so many tavernas and cafe terraces on the harbour.

This is St. Nicholas Island in front of Gaios harbour.

Travel Period: June 2014
Destination: Gaios, Paxos Island (Ionian Islands), Greece

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Private Elegant Dinner Affair at Verbijsterend on Herengracht, Amsterdam

In January of this year Dutchman and I attended a private dinner affair at a fascinating French cooking studio cum private restaurant called Verbijsterend on Herengracht, one of the beautiful main canals that form the historical grachtengordel (canal belt) in the centre of Amsterdam.

We were received in the cooking studio with a glass of bubbly and some hors d’oeuvres, afterwhich, we were led upstairs to the beautiful period style room for the seated dinner. This is officially a 4-course meal dinner but I see this more like a 6-course meal, well including the little appetisers that jump started the evening and the coffee and sweets that later closed it.

Different kinds of wines were opened in between each dish. I am sorry but I cannot really pick a favourite. Because we were not driving, I indulged and had a few glasses to lift up my spirits, but not too much though that will make me woozy and wobbly in my knees. You see, I need strong knees to walk to the train station.

The cooking style was French and the food was really good. Everyone enjoyed the dinner and the drinks. The wait staff were very attentive to our needs but we aren’t a demanding lot anyway. I mean the Dutch are by nature not that customer service spoiled. Many in fact do not know it exists *smirk* haha. The only complaint we had was that we were too full at the end of the evening.

The cherry on top of the icing for me was the elegant period style room. High ceilings and the long windows facing the canal. It’s stunning. It made the dinner more delightful and grand.

The evening was quite a success! Thankfully.

This is the kitchen and the cooking studio where cooking workshops are held.

The hors d’oeuvres, and one of those 2 apart special plates is for the Dutchman because he does not eat fish.

Blinis with smoked salmon and caviar. Very nice.

This is another vegetarian hors d’oeuvres that the Dutchman had. Looks like a toast topped with grilled courgette, cheese and olives.

Toast topped with tuna and silver onions. I quite like this.

A crunchy thin butter cookie with tomato and basil.

Watermelon and avocado in some cheese herb sauce.

The dinner is on the way in the elegant period style room. 

Steak tartare with remoulade sauce, a calf crockette and a crunchy pancetta and topped with frisee lettuce. This was very delicious.

Of course, being a seafood lover, this is my favourite dish of the evening. Baked seabass on a bed of wild spinach and shellfish in saffron sauce and crowned with crushed tomatoes in herbs. 

This is not my plate though. This is the vegetarian dish of my seatmate, some phyllo pastry filled with cheese, some warm figs and green asparagus and berry sauce.

Magret de Canard with warm figs, green asparagus, cavolo nero (kale) and baked mini rosti in pimento sauce.

By this time, my stomach is full but I just have to try this. This was very good though but I did not finish it.

Madeleines and Turkish delights to go with our coffee.

Travel Period: January 2015
Destination: Amsterdam Centrum (Amsterdam – North Holland), The Netherlands

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Park Transwijk in Utrecht, Netherlands

The Netherlands is one of the very green countries that I know of in the world, with well manicured streets and lawns, and very well maintained infrastructure. The major cities such as Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht have a lush atmosphere brimming with verdant trees on the sidewalks and many grassy parks. So despite the horrible weather we have here (like today), there are as well pay offs in living in the Netherlands.

We visit Park Transwijk every now and then. I actually used to run here on my own. Unfortunately, I never got to take pictures every time I am in this park. So one weekend in April, we decided to go for a little walk and I brought the camera with me.

The park is located a little bit south from Utrecht Centre. It a low key park. There is an animal farm, a children's playground, a lake and a Japanese restaurant in the park. Dutchman and I have agreed that we will have dinner at this restaurant one evening. It has been a few years though since we have made the promise. I guess dinner has to happen this year?

The most important event that this park holds is the yearly Liberation Day (Bevrijdingdsag) on the 5th of May. Local organisers stage a big musical concert here where famous singers, DJ's and celebrities are flown in the park in a helicopter. The event is attended by thousands of people, mostly teenagers.

Goats and sheep at the animal farm (across the Japanese restaurant).

This is the area where the stage is set up for the annual Liberation Day musical concert.

The white ducks. There are swans here as well.

This statue reminds me of the park in Oslo, Norway called, Vigeland Park.

Visit Period: April 2015
Destination: Transwijk (Utrecht South - Utrecht), The Netherlads

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