Liebster Award Nomination

I am very proud and honoured to tell you that I have been nominated for the Liebster Award by the lovely Maggie from Mags On The Move. Thanks so much!

Admittedly, I haven’t heard of this award before but I think it’s a great idea to spread the love and the word and tell others about new blogs and current favourites that are just starting out.

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The Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions they ask you.
  • Nominate your favourite 11 bloggers with less than 500 followers.
  • Ask those bloggers 11 questions.
  • Let those bloggers know that they have been nominated so that they can continue the chain.

A little bit about me:

If you were to recommend just one place for your readers to visit, out of all the places you’ve been, where would it be?

That’s a tough one. Although I have never talked about it on my blog so far, I lived in Geneva for half a year and absolutely loved my experience there. In terms of traveling it feels to me that Switzerland is a country that is often not considered as a destination, yet it’s magnificent. It’s absolutely gorgeous but maybe not very attractive to young folks. (You should definitely check back for my post on Switzerland)!

Do you prefer to travel solo, with a significant other, or in a group (friends, family, etc) and why?

I love to travel with people who I love because it’s simply great to discover places together and share memories. It’s funny to see what everyone thought about different experiences when you talk about them later.

What do you think is the best kept travel secret? (travel websites, travel products, hotels, restaurants, etc)

Well, it’s not a secret anymore once people start spreading the word, right? I think one of the places I would have completely missed would have been Holbox in Mexico if I hadn’t read about it in the FT actually. But I think the best thing to do is to leave the beaten track and discover the “real place” wherever you go. And don’t eat at McDonald’s just because you know what you’re gonna get! 😉

If you had to spend the next year in any one location and couldn’t travel anywhere during that time, where would it be?

I am currently living in London and am always overwhelmed how many things you can do in this city. I’ve spent three years here and haven’t seen let alone discovered it all. So I think having to spend a year here without the possibility to leave wouldn’t be a punishment at all.

But if that doesn’t count I would totally go back to Mexico.

And if it should be something new I would never say no to the chance to experience a new place; what about South Africa for a starters?

How do your friends and family back home feel about your choice to travel?

Tricky to answer. I live abroad. So I guess the response I get from home is totally different to what I would get if I would travel a couple of times throughout the year.

What’s the perfect length of time to spend in a location to feel like you’ve really experienced it?

That totally depends on the place and how well you manage to merge with the people there. But I would say three to six months.

What do you always pack before setting out on the road?

I always think twice where I am going to and what the weather is going to be like most likely. Am I going to a place where the weather could go from sunny to rain and snow in one day or will the sun always be shining? According to that I pack everything from warm clothes and spare ones, in case they get wet/dirty, to sunblock.

What is your favourite travel memory, if you had to pick just one?

Discovering the South of France. Such a pretty place and loads of things to do and see. Great landscape, too, and a lot of hills to climb.

What is the worst experience you’ve ever had traveling?

I had a lunchtime flight from Tuxtla, Chiapas, to Mexico City. I arrived at the airport and said to my Mexican travel companion “There’s smoke out there right next to the airstrip”. We checked in and went to have breakfast. After that we both got seriously sick and our flight got delayed. We spent nine hours sitting at the airport watching the fire not knowing if we’ll ever make it to Mexico City that day. Most of the time we were looking for the closest toilet or a place to lie down though. Our flight got called twice during that time but all our hopes were destroyed in no time. Finally we got into Mexico City at around 10pm the same day.

How do you work or save to afford your travel habit?

Wise management of resources, I’d say. 😉

Why do you travel? (I know it’s vague, interpret however you like.)

Ha! That should be an easy question to answer if there wasn’t so much to say. For a starters it’s incredible how traveling opens your mind and changes your point of view. It’s a huge learning curve and you start to appreciate different things and learn things about yourself you could have never imagined. But most of all, it makes you more resistant and tolerant. To sum it up: It’s fantastic.

My nominations – current favourites and blogs that are worth reading and supporting.

Khnah Hoa

Nowhere to go but Everywhere

Wanderlust Overloaded

Lucy’s Miles Away

Mahitravel

An American Girl in Transit

Go where no Sophia has gone before

Enlightened Allure

Cookies and Sangria

50 Year Project

Adventuring in Austria

Now it’s turn for my questions.

  1. What’s your dream destination and why?
  2. What’s the most inspiring place you have ever been to or you intent to go?
  3. Which experience about traveling do you value the most (meeting new people, learning about new cultures, learning a new language, seeing new things, etc)?
  4. What was the most awkward travel experience you have had so far?
  5. Which place do you think should be on everyone’s radar but is ever so often missed?
  6. What’s your favourite type of travel (relaxation, adventure, sports, family, couple, etc)?
  7. Is there something you always do when abroad – a habit?
  8. Is there something you really miss from home when abroad or something you even can’t travel without?
  9. If you could recommend one thing about traveling what would it be?
  10. What are the five travel-essentials you’re never going without?
  11. Do you have a song you always put one when traveling?

I am looking forward to all your answers! Thanks again so much, Maggie.

– Catherine

PS: As I just found out Emma from Live and Learn Travel Blog also nominated me. Thanks so much, Emma!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Insider: Pergola & Hill Gardens

Every week The Insider brings little known spots and activities (in London this time) to you. How to better spend a lovely and warm spring Saturday afternoon than exploring this beautiful treasure in North London? It’s mid-May and the weather has been very kind to us here – perfect for a walk in the park. Hampstead is not only known for being one of the most expensive parts of London but also one of the most beautiful. I love strolling through the streets, discovering the village and surroundings. Hampstead is especially beautiful because it maintains its village-charm and feels very rural with its massive park Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill. Probably one of the most famous recreational spaces in London and very popular on hot days are the three bathing ponds – one for men, one for women and a mixed one.

Pergola & Hill Gardens

A beautiful, hidden garden in West Heath that is little known even to Londoners. It used to be part of the Inverforth House built by Viscount Leverhulme (the then owner of Lever Brothers, now Unilever). After the gardens have been redone in the 1990s they are now open to the public. The adjacent Hill Gardens are not only popular by those who know about them but also artists value them.

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The Hill Gardens and pont

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The Hill Gardens

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Pergola and Mansion

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Good to know

  • The Pergola and Hill Gardens are open to the public from 7.30 to dusk (seasonal) and free.
  • From the tube stop (Hampstead or Golders Green – both on the Northern Line) it’s a 15 min walk or alternatively take the bus .
  • Location: N End Way, NW3
  • For more information on travel and what to do in Hampstead click here.

– Catherine

The escape: Etretat

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Back in 2009/2010 I lived in the North of France for 9 Months. I was lucky enough to be able to visit some of the most stunning places up there. Admittedly, it’s quite a challenge to dig out new places to visit over such a long period of time.

Etretat is a stunning little places that is best known for it’s stunningly beautiful cliffs. The village itself is beautiful but packed with tourists. Since it’s such a touristy place there isn’t much to do besides going for a walk, enjoying a coffee or some nice food or even spending some time at the beach.

Depending on what you like, I would probably suggest visiting more than one place while out there. I am sure there would be ways to spend a whole day in Etretat, but there are other small places close by like Honfleur (stay tuned for it) which are beyond lovely but equally, in an hour or two you’ve seen it all.

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Transport

The easiest is getting around by car. Especially if you are looking to explore more than one place on a day. I am sure there are also local buses between at least Le Havre an Etretat. Le Havre is easy to reach from Rouen/Paris by train, too. Just check out SNCF for more details.

– Catherine

The Insider: One night in London

Traveling is great – but it is even better when you know a couple of insider tips to make the most of your stay. Today I’ll start off with sharing some thoughts on a night out in London. It’s not only good to know where to go but also how to get around.

Of course your choice will depend on who you are with, budget and preferences. Here are some ideas for any occasion.

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Romantic dinner for two

You have one night in London and you want to impress your loved one with a romantic dinner/drink with a view? No problem. Most recently London opened its latest addition to the skyline: The Shard. Choose from three restaurants/bars: Aquashard (located on the 31 level), Oblix (located on the 32 level), and Hutong (located on the 33 level). Come dressed smartly and enjoy amazing views of London.

Closer to the ground but not less spectacular: The Oxo Tower. Lovely views of St. Paul’s included.

Hot, hotter, exotic: Fancy sushi combined with Latin American cuisine in the heart of the City of London? Oh, and great views inclusive? Than Sushi Samba in the Heron Tower might be the place to be for you.

Dance, baby, dance!

You are keen to dance the night away in one of the world’s most famous clubs? London’s club landscape seems like a maze to you? Put your dance shoes on and shake your body to the beats on one of the several floors at Ministry of Sound until late.

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A chilled beer or cider is what you are longing for? I once read that there are around 7000 pubs in London. You might even have passed by one or two on the way to your hotel. London’s pubs usually provide you with the full British pub experience, food included. If you are on a budget and you tend to be claustrophobic this might be the go-to address for you. However, there is no music in British pubs. If you’ve had enough head towards Old Street/Hoxton Square/Shoreditch – this is the place where the cool kids hang out. Plenty of bars, music and style.

A couple of my favourites in East London:

The view…oh my god, the view!

The Londonist did a great job collecting the best rooftop bars in London.

My personal favourite is the Radio Rooftop bar at Hotel ME in Aldwych. What you’ll get is high quality entertainment, at lot to see (not only the view, which is for sure one of the best in town) – also the girls dressed up as cats/dominas or 60s-girlies – and of course the guests.

Good to know

  • Dress 
    • Make sure you check the dress code for  each location – in many cases – especially for us girls it’s always easier – we can get away with trendy jeans, but boys might at least need a shirt, might not be able to wear jeans and wear polished shoes.
  • Forced to have a good night’s sleep
    • It might seem strange to most of you from outside the UK. Here it is completely normal to hit the bar/pub around 6pm. (Admittedly, clubs open later – around 11-ish). Hence, pubs also close early. Expect to be politely asked to finish your drink briefly after Midnight. (The same is true for the Shard – even on a Saturday!). Arrive early to make the most of your night out!
  • Arrive early to avoid disappointment 
    • Also make sure you do not arrive at a restaurant too late because the kitchen might close early. I don’t want to make a general statement but often they close between 9 and 10pm.
  • Changes to public transport
    • 2015 is the year when everything is going to change and the most important lines on the London underground network will run 24 hours on the weekends. Until then you might still hop on the night bus or grab a cab to get home. You can prebook your cab on Kabee or Halo (Apps available). The night buses generally run every 30 minutes. Check at the tube station for the last trains – usually around 12pm/1am.

– Catherine

Mayan Riviera II: Rico Tulum

A couple of days ago I introduced you to the Mayan Riviera. No such post would be complete without Tulum. I have been talking about Tulum earlier. It has one of the nicest archeological sites in the country, especially because it’s located at the beach and the castle oversees everything.

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Tulum offers something for everyone. Hippy-fun – check! Intimate togetherness – check! A nice spot for a wedding- check! Culture – check! Plenty of food-choices – check! Family holiday – check! You see, the list could go on and on and on…

Where to eat?

The village is small but the main road offers plenty of choices: Vegetarian, Mexican, Argentinian, Italian gelato, etc.

Tip: I have been talking about my favourite mariscos place in Tulum earlier. Check it out here.

Where to stay?

On the beachfront there is a whole host of pretty places. Basic accommodation that literally gives you a roof above your head but nothing more starts from ~MXN400. A nice room with private shower starts from ~MXN 1000. All these hotels feature access to the beach. No worries, there is always also a public access to the beach! Cheaper options can be found in the village.

The hotel zone if you will is nicely impeded in the National Park and runs along the 109 from North to South. I would suggest that the nicer beaches are in the North.

Here are a couple of impressions from my last stay in Tulum.

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 Cute little cabins for 2-4 people. Imagine the view. I want to wake up to this view every day…and with the beach just a stone’s throw away.

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 Shared cabins providing basically nothing more than a roof above your head.

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 The way to the beach.

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 Proudly enjoying my freshly harvested coconut water in front of my room. Yummy!

How to get there?

Public transport: Buses run frequently from the central bus station ADO or the cheaper way is to pick a small white van at the Avenida Tulum that says “Playa-Tulum”. In general these vans are considered to be safe.

Car: Take the Highway 307 (1h 40min for 131km)

What to do?

Tulum will never disappoint. It offers:

  • fantastic beaches;
  • snorkeling trips to a nearby reef;
  • great food and drinks;
  • a chilled out athmosphere;
  • one of the most beautiful archeological sites in Mexico

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 I know that the clouds in some of these pictures look pretty terrifying. But it didn’t rain and the pictures were all taken at the same time of the day.

How to get around in Tulum itself?

  • Either by walking (since places of interest are widespread you need to have time for doing so)
  • Taxi (relatively inexpensive)
  • Own car
  • Bike
  • Hitchhiking (most people won’t say ‘no’ to giving you a lift)

Please leave a comment and tell me if this information was helpful, if you would add anything at all simply tell me about your experience. I am happy to give some advice offline, too.

– Catherine

 

 

 

 

Flavours of Mexico: To taste is to truly know…

We all love Mexican cuisine. Most of the time what we consider to be truly Mexican is actually adapted to European tastes or Texmex.

A little bit of history

Mexican food is a mix of traditional ingredients and European (especially Spanish) influences. Thanks god the Spanish haven’t been successful in their attempt to impose their food on the Natives. As in every country you’ll every region has its own taste and specialities. The Mexican cuisine was added by UNESCO to its list of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage”.

A little “food porn” and some tips

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I am in love with tostadas con mariscos (tostadas with seafood).

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The art of eating tacos.

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My favourite restaurant in Tulum. It’s at the southern tip of the village and it’s very easy to pass by if you are not watching out for it. It’s lovely decorated, reasonably priced, has great service and awesome fun. Reading the menu is a pleasure and shows that they are not taking themselves to seriously. (Venida Tulum Manzana 40 Lote 1TulumMexiko)

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Ojo rojo.

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Seafood cocktail – in this case with shrimp: Heaven on earth.

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Or ceviche.

A hidden gem in the middle of nowhere

I have to admit, I would have never ever ever found this little treasure or even if I had seen the sign next to the road (literally) I wouldn’t have bothered to stop. An hour outside of Cancun on the road to Holbox, in the middle of nowhere there was a sign and everyone who knows about it reads “the best tacos near and far are sold here”. It was 9.30am and what a question, of course I was hungry! The food was tasty, the place was incredibly nicely decorated, the price was ridiculous. 3 tacos and a refresco (soda) for MEX$ 48! The fact that they even had veggie options made me very happy, too.

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Choice – who needs more, seriously! It doesn’t look much but it was plenty.

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Ordering food.

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Yumm!

DSC06901_1Tacos de guisados (homemade tacos).

What’s your favourite Mexican food?

– Catherine

Note: This is not a sponsored post.

Mayan Riviera I: Does Akumal really have the most beautiful beaches?

There are so many things I want to say about the Mayan Riviera. I decided to split my thoughts and come up with a series. Here is the first one on Akumal.

The first time didn’t impress me very much.

I got really excited when my friend told me about Akumal. He casually added that Akumal’s beaches are supposed to be amongst the finest in the world. This completely won me over and I wanted to see them right away. When I visited for the first time I was quite disappointed and left to a place that always guarantees nice beaches: Tulum – which is only a few kilometres down the road (post to follow suit in part II of this series – stay tuned!).

But then…

I had the feeling that I had to come back. I had the feeling that I would miss out on something if I wouldn’t. Maybe I hadn’t paid enough attention. Maybe beauty can be found somewhere? Maybe I didn’t look hard enough? Maybe I was wrong…or right?

What was different this time?

An unforgettable experience: Natar con tortugas (Swimming with turtles)

I was all in when I was asked if I wanted to swim with turtles. We went to the Akumal Dive Centre, booked a private guide for an hour who took us out into the sea and made sure we wouldn’t miss out on anything that was going on underneath us. Seeing all these turtles, rays, fish and corals in their natural habitat was a unique experience. Floundering about in the water for an hour was nothing but a pleasure. The water was warm and with a life jacket and flippers on it was not hard work at all.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures in the water but I got plenty from the beach. I was there on a Saturday and I think especially on the weekends it can be quite crowded.

What about the beaches then?

Having seen many more beaches on the Mayan Riviera I agree, the beach(es) in Akumal is/are beautiful. For sure nicer than the ones in Cancun for example. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back – if only for a couple of hours!

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Good to know

How to get there?

  • Public Transport: Take a bus from Cancun to Playa del Carmen and a bus from there to Akumal
  • Car: Take the Highway 307 (1hr 20min for 104 km)

What to do? Enjoying the beach and watersports (diving, fishing, snorkling)

How to do it? Ask for prices and tours at the Akumal Dive Centre

How much does it cost? One-hour snorkeling with a guide was roughly MXN$ 350/person

Tip: Don’t worry if you don’t speak Spanish – most of the people/staff do speak (some) English. You won’t have a problem managing to find your way through. On top of that Mexicans are really friendly and open – communicating is never a problem.

 – Catherine

Note: This post hasn’t been sponsored by the Akumal Dive Centre. Nevertheless, I had a really good experience there, the staff was really friendly and helpful and the guide was awesome. Therefore, I’d like to highly recommend it.