Monthly Archives: January 2016

Instant January

31st January 2016

As my recent the year in Instax went down quite well,  I thought I’d share some pics from this month and a bit of the last December, as London and Lisbon are very photogenic.

tea was here (2)tea was here (1)

Some quick snaps from Food and Presentfest last December, my favourite presents included a Aurora Borealis projector lamp, The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel and these magical deo-balls from Japan (don’t ask).

tea was here (3)As the weather was great most of the weekends I put on my bra, combed my hair and actually went out and visited some old and new places in London, more coming up on that in a new Awesome Things I’ve Seen and Done in London That You Should Do Too.

tea was here (4) tea was here (5) I visited my 35th country and crushed hard on Lisbon, but the city didn’t seem to like me much in return. You can read about all that here

tea was here (7)tea was here (6) tea was here (8) On the second day I went to Belem, climbed some towers and ate. A lot. You’ll read more about that sometime this week.

tea was here (9)

How was your start to 2016?

Oi from Lisbon

24th January 2016

lisbon headerLast weekend I went to Lisbon. I admit there’s a bit of history between me and the city, you could say an unrequited love. Much like a youthful love, I opened my heart to this country and all I wanted was to be loved in return.

But unfortunately, life is not a Nicholas Sparks movie (nooo!) and emotions aren’t always returned, so it was more like the teen crushes you had on those way cooler guys all over again – we’re talking one way street. Maybe I was too eager and need to play hard-to-get with future cities/people/food.

lisbon tipsDespite a lost taxi driver adventure, I received a warm welcome from my friend who flew in from Amsterdam earlier and had a few welcome pizza slices waiting for me.  The apartment was super quirky, great location and Grandma themed – sadly there wasn’t a real Grandma to chat to and cook with (new business idea!?).

lisbon tipThe first full day started with a quick breakfast on the go so we could make the early city tour. I’ve mentioned it a few times, but the Sandeman free-but-tip-based tours are a cheap way to find out more about the city and its history that isn’t on Wiki, and, if you are travelling solo it can a good way to meet people.

lisbon tipsThe tour trundled through some nice spots around the city and ended at the main square where the next tour would start.  So we grabbed a quick bite.

lisbon tipsWe chowed down on Bolinos de Bacalhau (Portuguese Cod Cakes). I think they missed out the word ‘cheese’ in the description, as there was definitely more cheese than fish on these! So, despite not being a huge fan of seafood, I did give it a try as I’ll devour anything drowned in the yellow stuff.

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lisbon tipsThe narrow streets of Alfama. Don’t fall for the ‘explore with a local’ shtick, the magic here is getting lost without google maps, plus you’ll save yourself €12, so more pastries for you!

lisbon tipsLisbon sure as hell knows hip street art.

lisbon tipA shot of Ginjinha, made by a old lady who sells it from her living-room window (I hope my mom won’t read this, but it seemed legit). Ginjinha is a traditional liqueur made of a cherry-like berry called (you guessed it correctly, ginja) that are fermented into a brandy and some added herbs. It was the highlight of the tour, and I’m hoping to do a local franchise here in London.

lisbon tipsTiled houses EVERYWHERE. It was one of my favourite things in the city and I couldn’t get enough. I won’t bore you with the 293 photos I made of them.

lisbon tipsDinner at Pistola y Corazon Taqueria, yes it’s Mexican and yes, we figured all we needed was anything with tequila and nachos. I can go on and on about how tasty the food was, but the place comes with bottomless nachos – need I say more?

The Bertrand Bookstore, selling small bits of tree with ink on since the 1700s. I snapped this at the world’s oldest book store just so I could tell you I had been to the oldest book store in the world.

lisbon tipsI know there are worse Air BnB horror stories. I’ve been using Air BnB for a few years now, and Wimdu before that and never had anything bad happen. But then this happened the second (ok 3 seconds) after the light was turned off and I had put my head on the pillow. First we heard what best can be described as raindrops (which was weird as it was first floor and the actual drops and then it actually leaked for about 30 minutes. In the end it turned out someone was having a bath and wanted to share the bath experience with us. I won’t go too much into it, but the communication was … weird.

Beyond The Capital: What To Do in Eindhoven + Brabant, Netherlands

12th January 2016

Do you ever gaze at those £9.99 offers on budget travel websites and wonder what the hell one can do in places like Shannon, Dinard, Brindisi or Eindhoven? Most likely you’ll fly and escape to another more popular city as fast as the train/car/bus can carry you…

As part of my quest to give the cities and areas near the cheap regional airports some love, I am kicking off with Brabant, a province in the south of Netherlands – home to Eindhoven, Den Bosch and Efteling. Low budget airlines from everywhere from Denmark to Poland fly for pretty cheap to Eindhoven. It might not be the most obvious region in the country, but if you want a break away from the madness of Amsterdam or Rotterdam then Brabant might be just the weekend trip for you.

Skip that Pour O’Clock Friday post-work session and you’ll be able to catch the last plane to Eindhoven for a little weekend getaway.

Eindhoven
I am going to be honest with you … Eindhoven isn’t a great or beautiful city, but let’s not judge a book by its cover (especially if you can fly there for £9.99) It’s the birthplace of Philips (if you’ve ever bought a light bulb chances are it’s one of theirs) and they will not let you forget that.  

For Eindhoven I recommend hotel Glow (yes, boutique hotels have even reached the unknown lands of the south of Netherlands)

The Van Abbemuseum has nothing to do with super trouper Swedish band, but is filled to the brim with modern and contemporary art. They have Picasso, they have Chagall, and Mondrian too, but you’ll probably most keen to jump into the upside down Volkswagen Beetle for a surreal driving experience.

Love modern buildings? Well, your eyes will be glued to Evoluon. Not only is it modern, but it’s shaped like a giant UFO. I always keep my fingers crossed that it will start flashing, spinning and then fly away back to its home planet. I hope you have better luck than me.

Looking for a light at the end of the tunnel? Head to the Philips Museum and find enlightenment at the brand museum. I am not even being sarcastic here, there is just something special seeing how they managed to capture fireflies and force them into small glass bulbs (that’s how they work right?) back in 1891. It’s illuminating. Ok, ok, I’ll stop now.

Seeing too many curves at the light bulb exhibition may have you craving some edges. Well, edginess is the middle name of Strijp-S- the relatively new hip place which is now the cultural and creative hub of the city, complete with cafes, bars and restaurants – basically trendy places where you pay to put things in your mouth.

‘s Hertogenbosch or Den Bosch for short.
This place is the opposite of Eindhoven. If you like cities with a historic city centre and buildings that look like they belong in fairy tales then it’s the perfect for you. One of the must sees is the The Sint Jans Cathedral, I know you are not interested in the facts that it’s one of the largest and most impressive Gothic churches in the country. Alright, the catch is one of its statues is an angel dressed in jeans with a cell phone? Right? That’s something to talk about.

Craving for sugar? I know I always am. Well Den Bosch’s answer is the Bossche Bol, a pastry ball covered in chocolate and filled with cream, that’s the size of a tennis ball – I haven’t tried to hit it with a racquet yet though, was too busy devouring it.

Den Bosch even has boutique hotels, like The Duke Boutique Hotel, where you can stay centrally surrounded by upscale design.  

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Take the train to Antwerp in Belgium, it’s as easily good as Amsterdam for the big international brand shops. If you’ve nearly maxed our your credit cards, take a trip to the photography museum, a ride on the Ferris wheel and stuff your face with waffles and fries.

For the more historical ones among you, give Breda a chance. This is more a honourable mention as I went to college there, but if you want the best fries ever no one else but de Toren should be your destination. Or try a coffee/tea/smoothie and toasted sandwich at coffee house Inspire where they have a ton of board games.

Ok Tea, what else can I do in Brabant?

visit eftelingVisit Efteling, a fairy tales-themed amusement park about an hour from Den Bosch. The attractions are based on ancient myths and legends, fairy tales, and folklore and may look creepy compared to the airbrushed to perfection Disney offerings. My favourite things are the optical illusions in Villa Volta, snapping a shot on the big mushroom and taking a ride on the Flying Dutchman.

Step into the world of Vincent van Gogh at the van Gogh Village Nuenen. (Don’t go too far, we want you to keep your ears!) The ginger bearded dude lived here for two years painting more than quarter of all his paintings. The Vincentre is a museum about the life and work of the painter during his stay in the village. Aaaand there are also hiking trails through the village along scenes that Van Gogh immortalized on canvas, so maybe you can get inspired, quit that office job and start painting …

Or if – and I can’t believe I’m writing this – but if you were into memes circa 2011 you might recognize the Mozes Bridge that was everywhere. It led a lot of tourists to Fort De Roovere, a defensive fortress near the wonderful city of Halsteren to see it. No magic was necessary this time as architects designed the almost invisible bridge for crossing the fort. The amazing sunken bridge sits within the water and slope surrounding the fort and gives you a unique opportunity to walk through parted waters like Moses.

Have I convinced anyone to book a flight and bring me a Bossche Bol? Pleeease?

And, have any of you experienced the brilliance of Brabant?