Easter Getaway in the Netherlands.

As per usual, a vivid cabin fever kept haunting me over the last few weeks so I decided it was time for a trip again. I felt an urge to find places, beaches and oceans that swallow me whole and heal my wanderlust in a way that nothing else can.

Easter seemed the perfect opportunity for a getaway. I decided to go the Netherlands. Just a few hours drive from my hometown and bustling with friendly people and places adorned with beautiful coastlines, it seemed the perfect fit for my trip. My journey took me to Egmond an Zee, Alkmaar and also Bergen aan Zee. Here are my top things to see or do in these places:

1. Egmond aan Zee

Take a walk along the beach and stop for a bite to eat or a chocomel at the beach pavilion De Tropen. If you’re looking for a place to stay, go check out Hotel Zuiderduin or Hotel Golfzang (don’t miss out on having dinner at their restaurant Chica’s).

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Restaurant Chica’s in Egmond aan Zee

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Dutch Chocomel at De Tropen

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2. Alkmaar

Only a 15 minute drive from Egmond aan Zee, Alkmaar feels like a smaller version of Amsterdam with its Grachten and very unique Dutch atmosphere. If you’re looking for a place to shop, go check out Sissy Boy. Whenever you feel like taking a break, sit outside at Anne & Max and have one of their famous coffees!

Sissy Boy in Alkmaar

Sissy Boy in Alkmaar

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Beautiful grachten in Alkmaar

3. Bergen aan Zee

I didn’t get a chance to see much of Bergen aan Zee but what definitely stuck with me is the Strandpaviljoen Noord, a place to sit and have coffee and food by the beach. The interior is just the BEST and it’s hella cozy in there! And there Dutch fries are pure deliciousness!

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Strandpaviljoen Noord in Bergen aan Zee

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Hiraeth or an urge to go back to Wales.

Hiraeth, what a weirdly sounding word. It evokes a strong feeling inside my soul because it describes how I feel about Wales every second of every day. It describes a very certain kind of homesickness tinged with grief or sadness. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia or wistfulness for the Wales of the past.

I have to admit, I’ve been pretty nostalgic about my life in Cardiff, Wales lately. Those of you that read my blog regularly probably know that I love to rave about the fabulous treats and meals I encounter while traveling. And that’s one of the things I miss most about the place that I once called home.

I miss steaming hot piles of egg on toast, greasy yet utterly satisfying hangover breakfasts, delicious burgers with juicy patties, the unique taste of a Guinness after work or just the regular coffee at my favourite hangout downtown. Don’t know what I mean? If you’re ever in Cardiff, visit these places and you’ll never want to leave:

1. Looking for a place to study?

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I only discovered this gem at the very end of my career as a student but it is safe to say that they have the best coffee in town. Authentic Italian coffee with the softest and thickest foam you’ve been dreaming of. Torre Coffee, 3 Castle Street

2. For the mandatory after work beers.

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For this particular category I couldn’t just pick one place. The Pen & Wig is a more typical British pub with authentic cuisine and great beers. On Fridays its grounds are bursting with students and employees from Cardiff Uni, enjoying the edge of the weekend. Pen & Wig, 1 Park Grove

The Urban Tap House is a more artsy place that sells craft beers from local breweries. And, they make totes amazeballs burgers and fries! The interior is super laid back and the crowd is hip and happy. Urban Tap House, 25 Westgate Street

3. The perfect hangover hangout

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Definitely one of my favourite finds. Hidden away on Crwys Road, away from the busy downtown area, Stag Coffee is the best place for a hangover breakfast, the oh-so-famous and healthy matcha latte or a milkshake in summer. Stag Coffee, 83 Crwys Road

4. Teatime in a British fashion.

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Not such a hidden away gem but one of the spots I think of most. Barker Tea House has the best scones in the entire city. Topped with clotted cream and sweet and delicious jam they are the most amazing treats for a Sunday afternoon. Make sure to book a table in advance if you visit over the weekend! Barker Tea House, 8-12 High Street Arcade

5. The hippest hipster place for juicy burgers.

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Bagels and Burgers. I’ve only been able to go once but the burgers are such a treat! They have vegan burgers, you can choose from a variety of one-of-a-kind toppings and the buns and patties are just pure deliciousness! The Bagel and Burger Kitchen, 98 Salisbury Road

2015 Bucket List Review!

This is it, the year 2015 is more or less wrapped up. For me, this time of the year is always dedicated to re-living everything that has happened over the course of the last months. If you are one of those awesome fellas that regularly read my blog (YAY, big shout out to you guys!), you might remember my bucket list for 2015. It’s an excerpt from my infinite bucket list that I am hoping to check off in decades from now.

A bucket list really is like a to do list for me. As I have uttered several times, I simply like checking things off lists just to be excited for the next step on that list. But what I’ve learned this year is that bucket lists are a tad different. They really mostly fuel my excitement and are less straightforward than a regular to do list. I’ve learned how much I like veering off the beaten path and finding myself in situations I hadn’t planned out for myself.

So here is what I had planned and what actually happened:

Athens, Greece

Yep, that definitely happened! I still look back to this trip regularly. Not only because I relish thinking back to the incredible Greek architecture or the vast amounts of mouth-watering dishes we consumed but also because it made me learn a life-lesson right at the start of the new year: getting robbed and still managing to enjoy your trip.

Filopappou Hill Athens

Filopappou Hill Athens

Exploring Wales

I can also cross this off my list! And as a matter of fact, I could cross it off several times because I was lucky to explore Wales more than once. Every day whenever I wander through the streets that I currently call home or used to call home, I am determined to explore and look behind each hidden corner. But not only did I meander my immediate surroundings, I took three road trips around Wales!

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Driving around North Wales

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Skrinkle Haven Wales

Scotland

Well, I was not able to visit Scotland this year. I was all too consumed with running around Wales or sitting at my desk in Cardiff, head fuming with thoughts about assignments or my dissertation. But Scotland, I’ll be back someday!

Alberta, Canada

Hell, yeah! Words cannot even begin to describe how much this trip impacted me. Being a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding, road tripping through the most incredible landscapes I have ever seen, summitting my first mountain and just loving everyday life in rural Alberta. A trip to remember and a heart lost to Canada!

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Southeast Asia

A trip of a lifetime. My first backpacking trip and also my first time in Southeast Asia. This trip made me learn a lot about myself and about travelling. And even though we’ve been back for almost three months now, I am still basking in Bali bliss with my head in the clouds and radiant sun streams still leaving warm marks on my skin.

Sunrise hike on Mount Batur

Sunrise hike on Mount Batur

Jimbaran Beach Bali

Jimbaran Beach Bali

Breakfast at Crate Cafe

Breakfast at Crate Cafe

Black Forest, Prague and Barcelona

These three destinations still remain uncovered. With a year as eventful as this one and with as many accomplishments and changes happening, I am at peace with not having discovered these destinations. Instead, I focused on going back to my hometown more, admiring it with the eyes of a first-time visitor and building up an immense amount of gratefulness about having grown up here.

Well, were did I veer off the beaten path then? Being caught up in one-of-a-lifetime-experiences often doesn’t come planned. Just as my most recent trip to Japan did. Sitting at home, caught up with job applications with no immediate bucket list destinations ahead, I had never expected for such an opportunity to happen that quickly. A very dear friend and her family suddenly swooped me out of my rut and invited me to a road trip through Japan. Who would I be to say no that?! Against my I-am-an-adult-now better judgement I left my job applications instantaneously and went to rove around Japan.

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Himeji Castle in Japan

It made me realize that this truly is what I love about traveling. Expect the unexpected and just go with the flow. Those are the times when you discover who you’ve always been, what drives and motivates you and how you find your utter bliss.

 

German Christmas Markets

‘Tis that time of the year again. The smell of gingerbread and gluhwein lingers in the air, the sound of christmas carols follows you around everywhere you go and people are rushing around carrying bags bursting with gifts for their loved ones.

In Germany this means that the season of the Christmas markets has begun. We definitely do love this tradition. Meeting up with friends and family to stand in the freezing cold and sip some gluhwein is one of our favourite things about christmas and really gets us into the holiday spirit.

From the ones that I have visited, these are the local christmas markets that awaken your inner child waiting for Santa Clause.

1. Münster

Münster is a mid-sized city that is defined by its numerous little arcades and alleys and has some sort of medieval feel about it. The Christmas markets around the city are all a bit different from one another and really cover the whole downtown area of the city – it’s almost too hard to navigate through! What I love about Münster’s christmas markets is that they focus on selling authentic handicrafts from the region.

2. Stuttgart

Stuttgart during Christmas time has such a beautiful feel about it. I can’t even fathom what it seems to be that transforms the city into such a magical place. I’d say, go see for yourself!

3. Dortmund

This city really is my second home. Whenever I visit the Dortmund christmas market I am reminded of everything that I loved about Christmas as a child – chocolate covered fruits, strolling around the stands holding my mum’s hand and admiring all the twinkling lights. But most of all the christmas tree. Yes New York, you’ve heard correctly, Dortmund has the biggest Christmas tree in the world!

Unna or what I call home

It’s Unna, not Una. Very different from the Italian and Spanish word but just as charming as these two languages. You wonder what I am rambling about? Unna, my hometown. A small-scale city right at the Eastern border of the Ruhr Area in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany.

I am a small town girl but I’ve always been able to enjoy the perks of living in the Ruhr Area. An area that’s so dense – we have the highest amounts of people and highways in one area in all of Germany. Jump into your car – 20 minutes later you’re in Dortmund, further 20 or 25 minutes lay Bochum and Essen. And just a bit further you have the famous cities Cologne and Dusseldorf.

I absolutely enjoyed growing up in a small town. Well, as a teenager you sometimes curse it. Not many cafes or bars to visit, public transport sucks and sometimes you fell claustrophobic. Looking back, now I can appreciate the tranquillity and small town feel of the place I call home.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/333797863495114/photos/pb.333797863495114.-2207520000.1441090089./403339639874269/?type=3&theater

Source: https://www.facebook.com/333797863495114/photos/pb.333797863495114.-2207520000.1441090089./403339639874269/?type=3&theater

Now the facts. Unna was first ever mentioned as a settlement area in 1032. So you can imagine what Unna’s old part of the city centre looks like. Crooked half-timbered houses everywhere. From those ancient times, Unna still also upholds parts its former town wall which used to wrap around the whole city.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/333797863495114/photos/pb.333797863495114.-2207520000.1441090082./415169645357935/?type=3&theater

Source: https://www.facebook.com/333797863495114/photos/pb.333797863495114.-2207520000.1441090082./415169645357935/?type=3&theater

The city’s landmark is a donkey fountain which is located on the central market square. It is not a traditional landmark with a historical meaning but it has asserted itself as a symbol for the city.

As someone who grew up in Unna, there are two main highlights throughout the year. The “Un(n)a Festa Italiana” (takes place every other year) is the biggest Italian festival north of the Alps and attracts around 250,000 visitors each year. The special highlight are the illuminated archways which are imported from Bari, Italy each time.

Source: http://www.itaa.de/sinne.html

Source: http://www.itaa.de/sinne.html

The city’s flagship the “Stadtfest”, is the city’s annual celebration which takes place in September. Each year it traditionally commences with the “Altbierabend” (an evening dedicated to a special German ale). Over the course of the weekend there are numerous shows, events and concerts taking place on up to seven stages. Having moved away from home over 5 years ago, the Stadtfest is the one event which reunites everyone. All of my friends and me mark this weekend in our calendars to make sure we can come home to Unna.

If you’re in the area – make sure to stop by. The next Stadtfest is coming up quickly! This year it’ll take place between 04 to 06 September 2015. You can access the event’s Facebook page here.

As far and wide as I might go with my travels, it is comforting to know that there’s always this one place you can go back to and recharge – home.