May 14, 2015

Montenegro : Bay of Kotor

Just like that, we took a bus from Dubrovnik  to Montenegro, another country. Montenegro means black mountain. The bay of Kotor is one of the first bays into Adriatic sea that opens up as you enter Montenegro  from the west. Montenegro is a really small country and the beauty of these ultra small Eastern European territories ( cities or countries) is how quaint and contained the town and sea are. Coming from India, this is miniature for me. But hey, I am no judge of size.  I loved the bay of Kotor and Montegran towns I visited. 

How to reach : Rent a car from dubrovnik and drive down. Or get a guided tour or day tour from nearby cities. All big cities offer the day trip as I came to know.

Visa: Eastern Europe has different visa restrictions. Taiwan passport cannot enter for example. But with an Indian passport and my EU residence card ( or Schengen tourist visa) it is a valid entry.
Please check the visa restrictions.

Currency: Euro
It is cheaper than most of central Europe and some Eastern European cities.  Good idea to shop!

Food: totally try the seafood from Adriatic. It is fresh and local grill style is my favorite. Make sure the restaurant is not ultra touristy and they can make you fresh fish. There are also some vegetarian options.

May 9, 2015

5 Things to do in Bordeaux - Get active!

I am totally on a walk and move it spree. I am exploring ways o get active and see the city. No more days of"just" lazing in cafes and soaking sun on the beaches, there will be more walking!

1. Walking tour - Whether you have 1 day or 2 days in Bordeaux, you should definitely do the walking tour. This is offered by the tourism board of Bordeaux and the guide speaks in French, English and German. (Good for me, whatever I miss in English, I catch up in German! Graaa)
The guide walks you through the Monument aux Girondins. It is a fabulous monument to start to the walking tour as one can wholly appreciate the monument with the stories around it.
Monument aux Girondins at Place de Quinconces

The rest of the walking tour takes you through the Golden Triangle, which is bound by 3 alleys and boulevards in the inner city and shows the city architecture as planned out by Tourny. The tour takes 2 hours and ends at Palais de la Bourse.

2. City seeing bus tour - If you can't do the walking tour, I would recommend the bus tour. Contrary to the younger generation who think these bus tours are for seniors and families with kids, I like these because for all these reasons

  • You can sit on the top, enjoy the open air and sunshine (in spring- summer)
  • You can hear the commentary in a language of your choice without struggling with guide books as a part of "soak-in-culture"or get your spot ahead in a guided tour
  • The bus stops at signals and main places a few seconds longer for you to take photos, why not take them from the top angle!
Typical architecture of Slate roofs, ochre outer walls with French windows
3. Tram ride to Chatrons - I stayed in the Chatrons area. It is a little away from the central area but totally walkable (about 2-3 kilometers). But I recommend the tram ride to this quarter. The district is popular because of the Irish, English settlers and has a good selection of Irish pubs. A nice long walk along the promenade from the centre with definitely earn you those beers!

4. Walk through the Inner city - There is no way to get lost because the district is very small! Now that you know, you can start from the Grand Theatre side and walk along the Alley de Tourny. The shopping goes from expensive to less expensive brands as you walk away. Great idea to deviate into the alleys and explore the squares they lead to. Every square has interesting cafes, pubs and restaurants. Just follow the sign to the river and you are back on the riverfront to get your directions back!

5. Walk the Riverfront - No more to say. That's my voted best activity for the evenings after a coffee. Although the April winds were slightly cooler, I had no qualms and thoroughly enjoyed the wide esplanade walk.  you can see the lovely city entrances from there, the doors/ tower doors.

May 8, 2015

Photo Essay : Tulip Fields of Holland

Holland undergoes a magical transformation in Spring! The Netherlands, known for being the low lying land which is covered by water and continues to be pushed lower, is usually windy and grey. Spring beats washes out the greys and blacks with its vibrant colours.

Tulip fileds in Lisse

Spring in the Netherlands is a beautiful time to visit
Amsterdam, the cultural heart and vibrant soul of Holland can just turn into a dull limbo state in winter. But the first rays of sunshine can transform the entire Holland into a surreal colour-land, that the average Janes like me see only in fancy movies.
Tulip season starts in early April and runs through the end of May

A few winters in northern Europe made me realise the value of sunshine and whole heartedly appreciate the warmth that Spring brings with it.
Rows of tulips in Various Colours

Keukenhof Lisse are the most beautiful Tulip fields in Holland
Practical Information:

Buses run to Keukenhof from Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leiden and Schiphol. Any hotel can guide you to the bus. Look up:

Apr 16, 2015

Spring time in Europe

Spring is a beautiful season. It is not yet warm enough to shed those sweaters and definitely not as cold and depressing as Winter. That's a fine balance between extremes in Europe.

In Holland, spring season is so prominent that all those colours I had only imagined in the tropics came to life. Cherry blossoms for example. This being mid April the cherry blossoms are out in full spring colours, ripe and lovely for the eyes. I had been to the Japanese cherry blossom park in Amsterdamse Bos this evening and enjoyed the pretty colours.

Visit : Cherry blossom park in Amsterdamse Bos
Burgermeester A Colijnweg,  Amstelveen

Tulips are the next and biggest thing in Holland. I even associated Holland with tulips before I moved here. April - May is the tulip season in Europe and Holland has the biggest tulip fields and gardens.

Drive along the fields for free viewing of multi colored tulip fields . Or go to Kuekenhof for a day filled with themed Tulip cultivation

Look for Lisse if you are driving
Visit: Kuekenhof
Stationsweg 161 a,  Lisse

Apr 9, 2015

Bloemendaal beach for a day out

As the spring arrives bidding good bye to winter, I am heaving a sigh of relief. And smiling! That's how we welcome warmer and more colorful days ahead.
Last weekend the weather was a good 15 degrees and we drove down to Bloemendaal beach from Amsterdam. As I had only been to Zandvoort beach in the Netherlands,  I expected a similar touristic and crowded beach. But what I didn't know was it is a different ambiance on the beach depending on where you enter from.  The place we parked and entered from had 1 cafe and an empty stretch of 500 meters with an industry in the far north. That was so not my idea of a beach.
Turns our I was on thr wrong end. As I walked south, the people increased.  Atlhough it was sunny it was still cold and not a good weather sun bathe in bikinis or get in the water. So I wouldn't get those bikinis out until July.  There was a line kite surfer enjoying his surf and fight the wind, which by the way was my attraction on the beach.
The cafe we went to was very relaxed,  had lots of couches to sit and bathe in the sun (in full clothing ), and get a mint tea and fries. You still need that warm food in the 10 degrees weather. The cafe played great music and as the evening approached they also prepared for a party. I was pleasantly surprised as a first timer but there seemed to be people who had well planned for the open parties in the cafe and cafes next door. Seemed like a crazy weekend party in beach was going to happen after we left for the night!
Drive: 30 minutes to reach bloemendaal beach from Amsterdam.
Public transport: take a train to Haarlem and bus to Bloemendaal.
Food: lots of cafes on the beach for Dutch food and drink