Peru – the highlights

Last month, we spent some time travelling, and it was the best thing ever. My boyfriend and I went on a group tour to Peru and Bolivia with Koning Aap for 24 days. We came back enthused and with recharged batteries from another trip of a lifetime. Because people are curious and keep asking me what the best part was, here’s a round-up of the best bits (- warning! there’s a lot!).

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Tip! Take the Lonely Planet guide: it was our go to book for recommendations on nice area’s, markets and places to eat and it’s never disappointed us.

Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa

If you’re ever in Arequipa (2300m), this monastery is a must! This maze of little streets and houses is surprisingly cheerful. With the contrasting colours of blue and orange, this monastery almost made me want to move in. Almost.

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Ballestas Islands

These islands in the Pisco region just of Paracas are a must for wildlife lovers. The islands are overthrown with guano birds and it’s hard to miss them (or their poop too :) ) when visiting the islands by boat. We also spotted one Humboldt penguin, lots of fur seals and other sea birds. It’s a pretty spectacular sight to see.

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Colca Canyon

Besides the obvious highlights of the trip, this was my favourite part. This canyon is one of the deepest in the world (up to 4600 metres in depth) and is therefore mindbogglingly impressive. Highest point of the canyon is 4600 metres and breathtaking (although sometimes literally). Highlight of our days spent in the canyon was a 50 minute hike to the Cruz del Condor, a viewing platform to spot the condors. A good tip is to not necessarily hang around at the spot if you don’t see condors, because they might be a couple of metres the other way. We spotted no less than 14! Needless to say, we praised ourselves incredibly lucky!

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Huacachina

This oasis in the middle of the dessert is a peculiar sight to see. Because I’d heard the only way to properly view the oasis was from the top of the sand dunes, we didn’t hesitate to book a buggy and sand dune boarding tour. My throat was soar from screaming and I’m still not entirely sure whether it was from excitement or from terror, perhaps a bit of both. The drive was so worth it though, and I think I’ll let the photos speak for themselves here.

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Nazca lines

Nazca is a very desert-y and rocky area and there wouldn’t be much to see if it weren’t for the huge Nazca lines. These ancient drawings compose the weirdest figures but to see them from a 6 person airplane made them all the more spectacular to me. A must.

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Inca Trail and Machu Picchu

Because we wanted to have the first view of Machu Picchu the right way, we decided to walk part of the Inca Trail. We enrolled ourselves for the 2 day trek. Really, it’s only one day of walking, but the 12km took no less than 7 hours and was, well, challenging. Pathways are narrow, uneven and 80% of the time, uphill. Nonetheless, there is a lot to enjoy on the way with amazing views on the way as well as the the Wiñay Wayna and the Inti Punku (Sun Gate). Even though it’s only a day worth of hiking, you can’t help but feel ecstatic when you catch that first glimpse of the impressive Inca site that is Machu Picchu. Let’s just say there’s something magical surrounding the whole site and experience.

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Cusco

Out of all the cities or towns we visited in Peru, I think this must’ve been our favourite. There’s a relaxed atmosphere and a decent amount of nice cafés and good restaurants. Don’t forget to go up the San Blas area in the city, it’s got some nice little streets in dreamy blue and white.

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I’ll be posting a blogpost on the best bits of Bolivia soon too! :) Keep an eye out for it.

Until then,

Love,

Silke

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The Ardennes

Last weekend, I spent some quality time with my three best girlfriends in the Ardennes, the most well-known forested area in Belgium. To reminisce over the wonderful memories we made, I thought it’d be a cool idea to make a photo report. Here are some photos that made it to the family album. The pictures are a combination of three locations: Spa, Lierneux and La-Roche-en-Ardenne.

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Zeeland – a weekend getaway

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I took a tiny holiday to our neighbouring country, the Netherlands for some sea, sand and fun in Vlissingen, Zealand. To be honest, we didn’t have any expectations, but we were pleasantly surprised by the friendly people, the nice weather, the relaxed atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. Here’s some of the highlights of our trip for your interest, in case you are planning a trip yourself or if you’re just a nosey little creature like me who likes to know what other people do in their free time :-)

Vlissingen – the city centre

We spent quite some time hanging about in Vlissingen’s city centre. Browsed some of the shops, enjoyed the Dutch pedestrian and bike friendly environment, had a cocktail, looked around the harbour, you name it!

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A must-see or do or whatever is the book shop ‘t Spui ! The shop has some great books both in Dutch and English. They even have these surprise books (gift wrapped books that you buy without knowing which book you get) and some great cards to send to family and friends. Even better: the shop leads straight to a florist shop seeing as they are connected indoors by a huge reading table that you are allowed to sit at and read. Coffee, flowers and books: what else does a person need?

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Biking

We did a 40 kilometer bike tour through the dunes, Dishoek and part of Middelburg. Because the landscape is so flat in this part of the country, it’s ideal for biking. Really, it’s the best way to see this part of the Netherlands. It’s how we discovered how pretty this coast is.

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A day trip to Middelburg 

Whether you go by bike or car, the bigger city of Middelburg is only a short while away. Its historic centre is cozy, and if you’re in for some shopping, this is the place to be around here. Take a channel tour and soak up some of the glorious sun while you see the main sights around. A day well-spent!

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I don’t think the pictures need any more explaining, they speak for themselves. If you’re in for a short getaway, for a weekend or a couple of days, this hidden gem of a place is ideal!

Let me know what your favourite getaway place is, I’d love to know!

Until more travels,
Love,
Silke

Valencia – top 5 picks

A few weeks ago, I spent a couple of days in Valencia, visiting my Uruguayan host sister. Besides seeing her again after 5 years, here’s what I thought were the five main highlights and must-do’s.

            1. Enjoy the green

I had no idea, but it turns out Valencia has a lot of green spots throughout the city, which is something that I really appreciate in a city. With the mellow lifestyle and warm weather, these parks are the perfect place to enjoy an ice cream, read a book in the shade or just catch up with friends.

Jardín del Turia is now a park, but used to be the river bed of the Turia river. You can imagine it’s a huge park, twisting and turning its way through the city.

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Another good one are the Jardins del Reial, which has lots of exotic plants and trees (this goes for Valencia in general, which is quite different and enjoyable if you are from the cold cold north, namely Belgium).

             2. Take a stroll through the historic city centre 

There is just so much amazing architecture to look at. From older buildings to new ones, all of the streets look glorious. Don’t forget to climb the Miguelete tower to enjoy the view from the top too! The 209 steps are worth it. Tip: don’t wear a dress, it can get quite windy up there. Unless you want the whole of Valencia to see your bum, then by all means do like I did.

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3. Buy some fresh produce at one of the many markets

Valencia is the place for foodies with its bustling markets spread across the city. From fresh fruit and veggies to refreshing juices, spices and different types of meats, cheese and fish, it’s all there for you to enjoy. Mercado de Colòn is a renovated old market, but it’s worth a peek. For more of a real market feel, check out Mercado Central: both the inside and outside are beautiful and you can pretty much find anything here. Since Valencia is known for its oranges, try a freshly squeezed orange juice, or buy the original spices to make your own paella.

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             4. Enjoy the climate and take things slow

Because Valencia can get quite hot in the summer, people live on a completely different daily time schedule. Wake up late, take a siesta in the afternoon, go out for dinner late and stay up till the sun sets over the beautiful city. Take things slow and easy.

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           5. Don’t skip the main attraction

Although it’s the one thing that I knew Valencia for, and it does sound like quite a tourist trap, the Océanographic and the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, are both definitely worth a visit, if not for the architecture alone. The pictures don’t lie, it’s a pretty photogenic space… Don’t just skip it!

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Hasta la próxima!

Besos

Silke

Lisbon

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I took a little trip down south to experience the colourful city that is Lisbon. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and while it’s going to be hard top pick the best parts, here’s some of our favourite parts… :)

On our first day, we went to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, an old monastery in typical Portuguese style belonging to the UNESCO world heritage. It’s located in a part of Lisbon called Belém. I honestly believe that if you’d give me a book and a nice drink, I could spend all day there; reading, watching people, enjoying the scenery.

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In Belém, we skipped the long queue at Pasteis de Belém because we figured it was a tourist trap. Instead, we spent our time roaming around the severely underrated botanical gardens, Jardim Botanico Tropical.  Really, it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves, with only a few street cats lazing around and a peacock or two (three, four,…) crossing our path. If you’re an exotic plant lover like me and you love to discover hidden nooks and crannies in parks, this is your place. We felt like we were in a different continent.

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On our second day, we went to Castelo de Sào Jorge, the main fortress built on one of the seven hills that form Lisbon. It overlooks the city and the Tagus and the views do not disappoint. It’s hard to move away from the edge and stop taking pictures of the abundance of colourful houses.

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To many of the disadvantages of visiting the city built on that many hills, there is one major plus side: there is a multitude of viewpoints spread across all neighbourhoods in the city. One of my favourites included the Miradouro Portas do Sol. Sipping cocktails while overlooking the tiny streets of Alfama makes for the ultimate summer holiday vibe.

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Our third day in Lisbon took us a little bit outside the city. We’d booked a small group tour to Sintra, Cascais and Cabo da Roca. If we’d known how little time we got in Sintra, we’d have probably preferred to spend a whole day there and just skipped Cascais. Cabo da Roca was worth a visit though. Plus we were thinking the view on Pena Palace would be a best from the Moorish Castle just across. Maybe next time?

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Cabo da Roca is the most Eastern point of Europe and that means it provides anyone daring enough to look over the edge with magnificent coastal cliff views. Again, wish we could have spent more time here instead of Cascais, which was a disappointment.

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Another cool place with a little bit of an edgy vibe is LX Factory. This market is located in an industrial area between the centre of Lisbon and Belém. All shops are located in old factories. Hipster central, pretty much. My favourite included a book store (no surprise there, right?) that was set up in an old press room. Also, do not, I repeat, do not skip the Landeau chocolate cake. I still have dreams about it sometimes. From there, it’s only a short walk along the Tagus river to the cozy harbour, Doca de Recreio de Santo Amaro.

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Other than that, we spent most of our time roaming around the city, enjoying a multitude of things that are easy to find in Lisbon: eating pasteis de nata, sipping cocktails, photographing and admiring the azulejos and not minding getting lost in the small, colourful streets of the city.

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Also, one golden advice: download the Uber app and use it in this city! It’s the cheapest, easiest way to get around. We tried the public tram system, which was more expensive and waaaay too crowded. Your burning thighs will be grateful. The hills are no joke, take walking shoes (with a non-slippery sole preferably).

Are there any other places in Portugal that we need to put on our bucket list?

Love,

Silke