Mont Rebei.

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After spending some time (and too much money) exploring Spain’s cities we decided to get back to nature. We sat down and formulated a rough plan for the next couple of weeks to include more national parks, hikes and of course waterfalls. First stop we were headed to The Pyrenees. But like all van life “plans” this changed quickly after we stayed with our friend in La Fuliola (en route) and he said we absolutely must go to Mont Rebei.

Mont Rebei (Congost de Mont – Rebei) is situated approximately 3.5 hours drive west of Barcelona. I’ll save my words and let the photographs do the talking but in short the scenery is absolutely stunning! I lost track of how many times I excitedly said “wow” throughout the hike.

One of my favourite parts of the hike was walking along the scarily narrow path that was etched into the side of the mountain with no guard rail or safety barrier (sorry Mum). From here you had breath taking views of the canyon and turquoise water hundreds of meters below. You could even spot carp swimming below due to the great water clarity!

Thank goodness we got the recommendation for Mont Rebei otherwise we would have driven straight by and completely missed this gem. Make sure you don’t do the same!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION:

  • Parking is 5 euros for the day (it’s strictly regulated so there’s no opportunity to free camp over night). There’s an information office situated near the car park – the staff kindly helped us out with free maps and easy to follow directions for the route we wanted to take.
  • The main route winds around (and up and over) the mountains and follows the river below taking you past two main suspension brides. To walk to the second bridge takes roughly 1.5 hours each way. Although I’d recommend leaving yourself plenty more time to allow for photographs, picnic/water stops and swimming. We spent roughly 4 hours in total (1.5 hours walking each way and a 30 minute swim on the way there and back at the pontoon located at the first bridge). You can continue the hike further past the second suspension bridge however for us time didn’t permit and therefore we’re unsure of what lies beyond.
  • You can also hire kayaks and explore the area on water if that’s more your thing.
  • There’s no services so make sure you take sunscreen, food and plenty of water with you.

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DIY coffee scrub.

D48B18B3-0F47-412A-B7B2-AECD6D3F7741.jpgAfter several months on the road a hot shower has now become a luxury not an everyday event. Although we live in a van, Blake and I still live up to our “clean freak” personas for the most part and try to clean off everyday. When travelling on the coastline it’s incredibly easy  as we spend our days swimming in the ocean and have the ability to rinse off with a cold beach shower. Locations further inland are a little bit more tricky however we generally try to seek out fresh water lakes and if that fails, we’ve always got the faithful water bottle over the head trick or scented baby wipes on hand. Safe to say we look forward to hot showers and jump right in at any chance we get!

Nothing beats the feeling of a long hot steamy shower to leave you feeling fresh. Wanting to give our skin a little extra love I created this simple DIY coffee scrub using ingredients we already had in the van so when we do get the opportunity to have a hot shower we can make it extra special. It’s a great natural exfoliant which helps to remove impurities and get rid of any nasty pollutants or dead skin cells.

Good for the environment and good for you. It leaves your skin feeling vibrant and smelling delicious! I highly recommend giving it a go.

Ingredients: 

  • fresh coffee grinds (we use a small coffee percolator to brew our daily caffeine dose each morning. I collect the used coffee grinds over 3 days).
  • sugar, 3 tablespoons (when we have espressos out at cafes they generally serve with a side sachet of sugar. I don’t add sugar to my coffee and being a budget traveller I instead pocket it and save it for later use). 
  • olive oil, 2 table spoons.
  • coconut oil, 1 handful (this can be substituted with coconut body wash if you don’t have coconut oil on hand or don’t like the feel of coconut oil on your skin). 

Method: 

  1. Combine all ingredients together in an air tight jar or container.
  2. Lather scrub on to wet skin (face, neck and body) when in the shower, massage gently and then rinse well.
  3. Use weekly.

Enjoy x

Chasing waterfalls in Spain.

Processed with VSCO with c6 presetAnyone who knows me is well aware that when given the choice I’d pick a nature escape over city exploring any day. There’s something about being surrounded by nature – breathing in the fresh crisp air, smelling the perfumes of the native flora or a salty sea breeze and taking time out to slow down and be more present. It makes me incredibly calm and happy. Although fond of all kinds of natural environments I must say waterfalls are my absolute favourite!

And as it turns out Spain has no shortage of waterfalls or beautiful national parks. Here’s some of my favourites (in no particular order) that we were lucky enough to visit whilst travelling Europe.

RUIDERA NATIONAL PARK.

Description: The National Park consists of 16 fresh water lakes with the majority connecting via cascading waterfalls.

Best for: Relaxing or picnicking by the lake, swimming and jumping off the rocky cliff edges into the lake.

Tips: Laguna San Pedro is our favourite spot for swimming and relaxing.

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PICOS DE EUROPA NATIONAL PARK. 

Description: A nature lovers paradise! A place so grand it’s hard to describe in words without feeling like you’ve sold it short. The mountain range extends for 20 km and is filled with beautiful sights with impressive alpine karst, glistening glacial rivers and waterfalls that appear out of nowhere. You can swim in many parts of the glacial rivers but be warned, the water is freezing cold and even a quick dip will require plenty of sunshine to defrost afterwards.

Best for: Hiking, scenic drives and camping whilst being surrounded by nature.

Tips: See the blog post on Picos de Europa (https://foreignerfaz.com/2018/08/24/picos-de-europa/) for more details on where to camp and hike.

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RONDA.

Description: Architectural beauty mixed with Mother Nature. A place like no other and the best of both worlds. The Puente Nuevo stone bridge dates back to the 1700’s and is set 120 meters above a deep gorge and waterfall that divide the city.

Best for: Architecture and history lovers and swimming and exploring fresh water rock pools.

Tips: Make the effort to hike down to the bottom of the waterfall where there are many different rock pools for swimming in. We didn’t see another soul at the rock pools despite the hoards of tourists in the town above. In my opinion this was the best view of The Puente Nuevo bridge. I loved having the ability to gawk up and appreciate man kinds efforts of The Puente Nuevo Bridge which was a striking contrast to the natural environment I was surrounded in.

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 MARO BEACH WATERFALL, NERJA. 

Description: Several rivers join together at the cliff edges to produce a 20 meter waterfall into the ocean. A truly spectacular sight.

Best for: Beach lovers and adventure seekers.

Tips: Best experienced from seeing the waterfall below in the ocean. Don’t waste your time in line to rent a kayak! My sister has provided more details about our experience on her blog (https://www.adventuresfirst.com.au/overseas/previous/2).  If you’re a competent swimmer it’s an easy 250 meters (around the rocks on the right hand side) from the shore to the waterfall. Don’t forget to bring goggles or a snorkel as there are plenty of fish to see.

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(Image not my own as we unfortunately forgot to take our Go Pro)

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Picos de Europa.

Processed with VSCO with c6 presetDo yourself a favour and add it it your list of places you must visit. And make sure you put it near the top! You can thank me later.

THINGS TO DO: 

  • Hiking. There are plenty of different hiking trails to suit all types of abilities. Best to look online for more information on specific hiking trails and their difficulty level and distances. We decided to do the most popular hike called “The Cares Route” and I highly recommend doing the same. We drove to the town of Poncebos and started the track from there. The first half hour of the hike is all uphill. Afterwards the trail is mostly flat and winds along the cliff as you follow the path of the gorge below. I wouldn’t say it is particularly difficult however it is long! It’s recommended to leave yourself 5 – 6 hours for the return journey. The hike took us around 3 hours to the town of Cain, including stopping for 30 minutes for a picnic lunch and to take photographs along the way. There are no services throughout the track so be sure to pack plenty of food and water. In the town of Cain there are a couple of restaurants, bars and supermarkets if you want to stop to recuperate before the return journey but be warned they are all rather touristy and over priced as per usual. The return trip (taken on the same track) took a little over 2.5 hours. If you’re not the fittest person don’t worry as you can take it as slow as you like and there are plenty of lovely spots to stop and have a breather along the way. Rest assured it is well worth the effort! The place is incredible and there’s always plenty to look at whether it be mountain goats passing you by, herds of sheep, waterfalls or the hydroelectricity canal. Just make sure you don’t trip while you’re busy looking around as there are no guar rails throughout (if you’re scared of heights this trail ain’t for you!). No photographs or describing words really do the Picos de Europa justice but I’ll leave these below regardless. Processed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with e4 preset
  • We wanted to make the most of being in the national park so we decided we’d do another hike before we left. We opted for the “Covadonga Lakes” trail which is a circular route around two lakes, Enol and Ercina. From the campground we were staying at it was about a 35 minute drive out to the town of Covadonga. Unfortunately as it was Summer and peak season, we were forced to park our car and pay for a bus ticket (Eur 9 per person, return. Buses run every 15 minutes) which takes you up to the top of the mountain. Retrospectively I’m glad we did take the bus as the roads are really narrow and super windy, herds of cows also use the roads (but appear not to have the same road rules as the Spanish) and on the day we visited the mountain was covered in fog making it impossible to see anything further than 3 meters away. We did this hike with our newest van life friends (“The Isaacs”, two adventurous and hilarious Aussies who we met at the campsite) and luckily despite the poor visibility and being caught at the top of the mountain in torrential rain we still had an absolute ball. On a sunny day I’d imagine it would be beautiful to take your time and have a picnic lunch. There’s lush greenery everywhere and more cows than tourists! However if you only have time for one hike than The Cares Route wins by far. Processed with VSCO with e4 presetProcessed with VSCO with e4 preset

 

PLACES TO STAY: 

  • Camping Naranjo de Bulnes. We absolutely adored this camp ground and it made it into my “Top 8 van life destinations (so far) (https://foreignerfaz.com/2018/08/09/top-8-van-life-destinations/). It’s located a short 10 minute drive from Poncebos which makes it a great place to stay if you intend on doing The Cares Route hike (as described above). However even if you aren’t intending on doing the hike it’s still a wonderful place to camp and simply enjoy the beauty of the national park. We were lucky enough to turn up without a reservation and still managed to score an incredible site that backed on to a glacial river. Despite it being summer the river was still cold enough to chill our warm beers and act as our “ice bath” post hike! Swimming is only for the brave. Or are we mad? The campground is mostly grass, very spacious and filled with plenty of trees. There’s wifi, amenities, water, washing machines and an onsite restaurant/bar. (Eur 21 per night for 2 people and a van, without power). Processed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 preset

TRANSPORT: 

  • You absolutely need a car for this trip. The national park itself is rather large and if you intend on doing more than one hike you may need to drive a fair distance as many of the hikes have different starting points. Be sure to do your own research before going. You also need at least a base level of fitness and sturdy knees to complete even the easiest of hikes. If you’re unable to hike there are a number of driving routes which offer spectacular views from the roadside.

San Sebastian.

Processed with VSCO with c7 presetHola and welcome to Spain! Less than one hour drive south from Biarritz and we found ourselves in a new country and fabulous beach city. San Sebastian was our first destination in Spain on our European van life adventure and it certainly did not disappoint. It lies on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and has plenty to offer with several beaches, a long strip of beach promenade, mountains, an old town, rich Basque culture and plenty of bars and restaurants to explore! We spent four days here and had more than enough to keep ourselves occupied. Here’s a peek into what we did.

THINGS TO DO:

  • Walk the beach promenade passing Ondaretta and La Concha beaches. Take your pick (which is more likely dictated by wherever you can squeeze in!) of places to swim and sunbake along the way. Processed with VSCO with e1 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with e2 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 preset
  • Bar hop around the old town and taste all of the speciality pintxos on offer. There’s no shortage of bars and restaurants so take your pick. Stop in at the Plaza de la Constitución which sits in the heart of the old town. It was once used as a bullring and the balconies of the fringing apartments were rented to spectators. Today it is filled with locals and tourists eating and drinking at the many restaurants and bars.Processed with VSCO with e2 presetProcessed with VSCO with e2 preset7ECCA001-8CC4-4EDF-B0F3-8F3C51E91800.jpg
  • Mount Igueldo. Getting to the top of this mountain is made incredibly easy by the funicular. A return trip costs approximately E 3 per person, runs frequently and takes less than 15 minutes each way. The top has several vantage points that look down over San Sebastian and Mount Urgull. We grabbed an over priced rose (for a whole E 2.50) from the bar/restaurant area and sat down to soak up the view. Afterwards we hit the amusement park to ride the roller coaster (E 2.50 per person). We definitely laughed more than we screamed and decided that one ride would be enough for the day!Processed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c3 preset
  • Mount Urgull. This mountain is situated at the other end of San Sebastian in reference to Mount Igueldo and can be recognised by the large Jesus statue atop. There’s many different walking paths that you can take to get to the top of the mountain. We started near the aquarium, at the far end of the fishing port and walked around the headland to the car park on the right hand side to start our climb. It was a beautiful windy path around the back of the mountain with views out to sea. Once you are at the top you are rewarded with spectacular views over San Sebastian. There are also several restaurants and bars at the top if you want to be rewarded with food or alcohol instead. We realised once we were at the top that there is actually a much quicker route (with mostly stairs) to the top which starts from just behind the church in the old town. Personally I’d recommend doing both routes (a different route for the way up and down) as they both had something different to offer. Processed with VSCO with c8 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 presetProcessed with VSCO with e2 preset
  • Explore the fishing port. This tiny little fishing port is filled with a line of restaurants offering fresh seafood. I didn’t personally get to try any but I stared and hovered at peoples plates longingly like a seagull as I walked past. I’m still regretting not pinching a prawn off someones plate. There’s always next time…Processed with VSCO with e2 preset
  • San Telmo Museum. The museum is situated in the old town and with an entry fee of just E 6 per person I was incredibly keen to visit the museum to learn more about Basque history and culture. The museum is three floors and showcases both permanent and temporary exhibitions. The building itself is quite impressive but unfortunately despite my enthusiasm at the end of the English audio tour I left without a complete understanding and still plenty of questions about the origins and history of the Basque people. Maybe the goblet size gin and tonics from the night before impeded my ability to retain new information so don’t let this deter you from going. Fortunately Google provided all of the answers at a later stage. Thank goodness for the internet huh!

EAT/DRINK:

  • Pintxos – quintessential Basque food, they are what we call “tapas”. Small bite sized finger foods served atop bars and restaurants (in some cases you can also order off a menu). They are usually bread based and topped with seafood, cured meats or cheeses. Personally I think pintxos are over rated and I’m rather concerned about the lack of food health and safety regulations. Haha. Being the hygienic freak that I am I couldn’t quite get over how long the pintxos sat on the bar benches without refrigeration and out in the open air for people to cough and splutter over. This being said I consumed my fair share and left without food poisoning.
  • Alcohol. Here it appears any time of the day on any day of the week is ok to sit back and have an alcoholic beverage. Plus with a glass of rose averaging E 1 it’d almost be rude not to, right!? The gin and tonics that are served in ridiculously large goblet glasses are also not to be missed.
  • Atari. Again this is one of those places where everything on the menu is a winner. The bar can get incredibly busy at popular times so you may need to hustle your way to the front of the bar to order drinks and ask for a plate. Once you have a plate you can go and pick your pintxos and place them on your plate (sometimes easier said than done when the bar is jam packed with people and you really want the pintxos located at the other end of the bar! Don’t be shy, squirm your way through with confidence.). Once you’ve filled your plate you show the bar staff so they can calculate your bill. If it’s not so busy and you’re able to grab a seat you can order off the menu. Seafood fans you absolutely can not go past the place de pulpo “octopus” (it’s enough to share between two). For meat lovers the beef cheek and mash will not disappoint. Potato braves (roasted potatoes with accompanying sauces) are ALWAYS a good idea.Processed with VSCO with e4 preset
  • And of course a stop at McDonalds for the pure novelty of being able to buy a beer with your Big Mac meal! Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

TRANSPORT:

  • We parked our van in a camper van car park which was about 20 minutes away from Ondaretta beach and much further away from the old town. Consequently we did A LOT of walking (as per usual). I’d recommend staying near the old town as most of the attractions are in that area and easily accessible by walking. There are also electronic bikes throughout the city that you can rent which would make it easy to cover longer distances if time is limited. There are several depot stations dotted across the city so you don’t have to return the bikes to the same place as where you started.

Top van life destinations.

Processed with VSCO with e3 presetOne of the best things about travelling in a van is having the ability to pull up anywhere (well almost) and stay for the night. There is a great sense of freedom in having no check in or check out times to abide by or no fixed itinerary. If a destination doesn’t live up to expectations (although I try to avoid setting expectations for this exact reason) you simply drive to find a better one. Although some nights are spent in less than ideal spots, most are not.

There has been countless occasions where we have stayed somewhere incredible and I’ve excitedly exclaimed “this is my favourite place so far!” only to find that the next night it has been easily beaten. It’s almost addictive going on the hunt to find superior places to park our van and call home for however long it may be. For us the idyllic spot is generally surrounded by nature, with a view of some sort of body of water whether it be a lake, river or the ocean and it’s an added bonus if it’s quiet. Surprisingly to tick the category of quiet doesn’t necessarily mean to camp alone and in fact many of our best nights of sleep have been when our location is shared with like minded van lifers. Oh, flat ground is also a must!

Here are my favourite van life destinations from our wonderful journey on the road, in no particular order. Which is your favourite? I would love to hear!

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Ribadeo, Spain (free camping).

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St Emillion, France (free camping).

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Playa de Tagle, Spain (free camping).

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Picos de Europa, Spain (campsite). 

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Manduka, Spain (free camping). 

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Ferrel, Portugal (free camping).

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Zahara, Spain (free camping). 

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Ericeira, Portugal (free camping).

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Arrifes Beach, Portugal (free camping). 

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Tallebourg, France (free camping).

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The Pyrenees, France (free camping). 

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En route to Salzburg, Austria, (free camping). 

Biarritz.

Processed with VSCO with e2 presetBiarritz has the best of both worlds with picturesque beaches, coastline and surfing spots as well as plenty of cafes, restaurants and bars. It’s easy to say Biarritz is one of my favourite places so far! Be warned this hot destination is no secret and if you visit in the summer time you’ll find out it’s plenty of other peoples (locals and tourists alike) favourite place too. Hit the beaches early to avoid crowds or otherwise get your elbows ready to secure a spot to lay your towel on the sand.

THINGS TO DO:

  • Put on your joggers and walk the coastline to take it all in. We parked our van outside of Biarritz in the neighbouring town of Anglet (worth exploring in itself and much less touristy) and then started our walk heading up and over the cliffs, past the lighthouse (which offers a great view of Biarritz) and along La Grande Plage (don’t forget to look left and admire “The Palace Hotel” a famous 5 star hotel) to arrive in the heart of it all. We continued to follow the coastline along past the port area, the rock with the Virgin Mary statue and Port Vieux beach (stopping for photographs along the way – there’s plenty) until we arrived at Cote des Basque and were rewarded with The Biarritz Beer Festival in full swing! We sat down and indulged in the food and beverages, soaking up the lively atmosphere of it all as we watched the waves of the ocean roll in right in front of us. A wonderful evening until we realised how far away our van was parked! We decided to break up the hour long return journey by stopping in at several bars. Processed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with e4 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with e4 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 preset

 

  • HIT THE BEACH! Favourites include:
  • Cote des Basque: good for surfing, swimming and people watching. My favourite pass time was watching the numerous learn to surf schools attempt to catch waves and nearly kill each other (and anyone remotely near by) in the mean time. It appears no one actually works in France because the beaches are ridiculously busy even on weekdays so there are plenty of people to dodge (or not) whilst surfing. Be warned, there are LOTS of stairs to go up and down getting to and from this beach so be prepared. This was a blessing in disguise in my eyes. If it wasn’t for climbing these stairs everyday I’m sure I would resemble a croissant already! Processed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 preset

 

  • Plage de la Petite: good for surfing, swimming, tanning and exercising along the promenade. This was also where we parked our van for two nights. Parking is free day and night and there are toilets, beach showers, available water and one of our favourite cafes (see below).

 

  • Port Vieux: good for tanning, swimming and people watching. This is your typical European beach jam packed with people like a tin of sardines, all fighting for a place to rest their towel. There’s also a small rocky cliff edge you can jump off into the water below which is some added fun. Processed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with e4 preset

 

  • The port: a nice place to sunbake away from all of the crowds. The local kids get their fun by jumping off the rock walls into the water below. If this isn’t your style you can access the water by climbing up and down the ladders. Processed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c3 presetProcessed with VSCO with e4 presetDA8D28D4-E6FC-4587-AFB7-FEB1CE978819.jpgProcessed with VSCO with c6 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 presetProcessed with VSCO with e2 preset

 

  • La Rhune day trip. Our friends live in Biarritz and we were so fortunate to have them play tour guide and also let us stay in their beautiful apartment for the weekend. If it wasn’t for them we would have completely missed this magnificent mountain, so make sure you don’t either. La Rhune is a mountain at the western end of the Pyrenees. It’s located on the border of France and Spain and from Biarritz it is an easy and beautiful drive through country (less than one hour) to the base of the mountain. At the base of the mountain you then catch the old fashioned train (E 20 per person for a return ticket) which takes you to the summit in about 30 minutes. For the fitness fanatics there are also a number of different hiking trails which can take you to the top. We opted to take the train and instead cart up the essentials for a long picnic lunch (when in France – bread (always), cheeses, cured meats, rock melon and wine of course). The views from the top are incredible with 360 degrees of both ocean coastline and mountain ranges. We took our time, walking around to explore the top of the mountain and attempting to make friends with the wild horses and mountain goats. What a beaut day!Processed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with e4 presetProcessed with VSCO with kk2 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 presetProcessed with VSCO with kk1 preset

EAT/DRINK: 

  • La casa Juan Pedro. If I could live here, I would. Situated at the far end of the port the seafood is as fresh as it gets. I don’t think you could go wrong with anything on the menu (actually maybe the sardines. They’re in the same category as rollmops – something fishy about both…). Top three dishes include moules and frittes (mussels and fries), prawns and the Spanish sea bream. The 1 litre sangria is a necessity! I can confirm that the second litre of sangria will provide a hangover. Processed with VSCO with e3 preset
  • Crampotte 30. The cutest little fisherman’s hut I ever did see. Good for a drink.
  • Les Halles. An absolute must! Go hungry and roll out. The market hall is open daily and sells everything you could imagine from fresh fruit and vegetables, patisserie treats and breads (of course), cures meats, seafood, cheeses, antipastos and flowers. There are a number of stalls that you can sit down at and grab a bite to eat or drink. The crepes and truffle omelettes didn’t disappoint but my favourite was the 1/2 dozen of oysters and glass of white wine (for a reasonable E 6.90) I ate for Sunday brunch. The man working continued shucking oysters right in front of me as I stood using the counter top to rest my food on and Blake stood well distanced due to his shellfish allergy! The lovely man gave me some sea snails to try for free which were surprisingly delicious. They had a chewy texture more like chicken than seafood and were marinated with herbs and chilli. Definitely recommended. Oui Oui!Processed with VSCO with e4 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 presetProcessed with VSCO with e2 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 preset
  • La Arena. The place to go for an afternoon aperol spritz and view over Port Vieux beach.Processed with VSCO with c7 preset
  • Les Baigneuses de Biarritz. Situated just behind La Arena, it offers the same view with a different menu. Good for an afternoon or late night drink.
  • Extolla Bibi. Grab a drink and Basque plate (cured meats, chillies, pate and of course an accompanying bread basket) and watch the sunset over Cote des Basque. It’s also a great place for a morning espresso and surf check.
  • Joies. A delicious Italian restaurant with an airy front courtyard. Get the large size aperol spritz or gin and tonic (goblet size!), sit outside and enjoy people watching as the neighbourhood walk by and go about their lives. Both the pizza and pasta were delicious. There’s live music some days. Processed with VSCO with c7 preset
  • Lagunak. A no frills little beach cafe/bar at Plage de la Petite. If it was any closer to the ocean the tables and chairs would be on the sand! Come early for E 1 espressos and fresh croissant or for a meal anytime after 12pm. Portion sizes are large and the prices are very reasonable.
  • Not tried and tested personally but also recommended: Cafe Miguel, Bar Jean and Le Surfing.

TRANSPORT: 

  • Like always we explored on foot and did a lot of walking! If you start at one end of the coast you can easily follow the coastline along which will take you past all of the different beaches and the fishing port (as mentioned above). There’s plenty of designated walking and cycling paths throughout the city making it easily accessible although there are also plenty of hills and staircases! There are public and free shuttle buses as well as Le Petit train to get about the area if walking is not your thing.

Belgium.

Processed with VSCO with c7 presetTHINGS TO DO: 

  • Bruges – is this a fairy tale or real life? The UNESCO world heritage city is filled with medieval architecture, canals with swans floating by, cobblestoned pathways and cathedrals. What’s not to love? I’d personally not heard much about the place prior to visiting and consequently was blown away by its beauty and charm. You could easily spend hours walking around and exploring this picturesque town. Don’t forget to divert off onto the smaller side alleyways as you never know what you might find. If you’re incredibly lazy you may find the overpriced Segway or horse drawn tours enticing. Regardless of which way you decide to explore make sure you  pop your head into Saint Salvator’s Cathedral as it’s worth a look and gaze your eyes up at the Church of our lady. At 115 meters in height it’s pretty difficult to miss as it towers over all other buildings in the city and holds the title as the second tallest brickwork tower in the world. Processed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetIMG_0857Processed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with e1 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetIMG_0859Processed with VSCO with c7 presetIMG_0868Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

 

  • Brendene – we were delighted to see this Belgian beach town after several days away from the coast. We arrived after 8 pm and found all of the campground receptions offices unstaffed, so be sure to arrive early in the day to avoid disappointment. We were able to fill up with free water but unfortunately the campgrounds outsmarted us as you required tokens to use the hot showers. We decided to hit the freezing ocean instead! There were beach showers and we were able to free camp across the road from the beach which was great. A good place for passing through although nothing in comparison to Australian beaches. We wouldn’t rush back any time soon. Processed with VSCO with e4 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 preset

 

  • Future noteworthy places to visit on our “to do” list include Ghent, Brussels and Antwerp. Stay tuned.

EAT/DRINK:

  • Eat like the locals with chocolates, waffles, fries and beer! The beer is nearly as cheap as water which could have potentially been dangerous if we intended on staying for a while! Ps. The Belgian chocolate was devoured before any photographs could be taken. Processed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 preset

TRANSPORT:

Bruges is best to explore by foot unless you’re incredibly lazy as mentioned above. We free parked outside the city (about 2 kilometres) and easily walked across the bridge into the heart of it all to explore for the afternoon.

The Netherlands.

Processed with VSCO with c7 presetOur fist stop was Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands where it appears anything goes! Prostitution and marijuana are legalised and no body turns an eye regardless of sexuality, fashion sense or ethnicity. Although clogs and traditional dress are worn mostly for special occasions nowadays Dutch culture remains as rich as their cheeses. The country is clean, green and beautiful from the colourful flower pots adorning windowsills to canals lined with bicycles or paddocks filled with cows.

The majority of the Dutch towered over us with their long legs and strong statures however despite their somewhat intimidating appearance everyone we came across was exceptionally happy to help, friendly and spoke English well.

Another positive was the countries proactivity in reducing their impact on the environment with electric buses, an affordable and efficient public transport system, no plastic bags at supermarkets, money back incentives when plastic bottles are returned to the store and on many occasions we observed locals taking the time to consciously sort their waste into recycling and not.

We goed our time in the Netherlands however I did have the following to rant about: paying for the use of toilets in train stations and in many cafes/restaurants despite being a customer and the prostitutes in the red light district standing in the window as they played on their mobile phones. If this was their tactic of playing “too busy/hard to get” it wasn’t working on me and I’m voting for a “no phones at work policy” commencing immediately.

THINGS TO DO: 

  • Picnic and ride in Vondelpark. The public green urban park is made up of 47 hectares with plenty of different areas including a playground, pond and open air theatre. We picked a nice sunny spot and sat back to people watch – one of my favourite activities! Processed with VSCO with e3 presetIMG_0879

 

  • Canal boat cruise in Amsterdam. There are many different companies that offer similar services however we opted for “Boat Amsterdam”. It cost 15 Euros per person and included unlimited (warm) drinks and over an hour boat cruise through the network of canals. It was a beautiful way to see the city from a different perspective. Processed with VSCO with e3 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 preset

 

  • The red light district – De Wallen. No itinerary is complete without ticking this off! The network of cobblestoned streets and alleyways are officially designated by authorities for legal and regulated prostitution. We visited during both the day and night to see what all the fuss was about. We watched on from a far and made bets on how long the sessions would last. I was bang on (pun intended) the money with my bet of 10 minutes from door opening to closing for one middle aged man. He walked out the door, head bowed and carried on down the street while the prostitute went back to looking uninterested in the window.

 

  • Hire bikes and explore the city like a local. There are many different companies and most hotels that offer bike rentals. We hired bikes from our hotel which had baskets and bike locks (both essential) and headed off for a full day of exploring. The landscape is flat so it’s very easy riding even if you’re not Lance Armstrong. Stick to the bike paths and right hand side and join in with the hundreds of other people pedalling away the day! Processed with VSCO with e5 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 preset

 

  • Zaanse Schans.  This is the place to see if you’re after windmills! The town is filled with beautiful historic windmills (some still operating) and green wooden houses. We spent the afternoon walking alongside the river and fields, happy exploring by ourselves however if you’re after more information there’s the Zaanse Schans museum and cheese and clog factories which provide tours and demonstrations (for a price). Processed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c3 presetIMG_0925Processed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with e3 presetProcessed with VSCO with c6 preset
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  • Volendam. This small, traditional sea side town is worth a visit, if you’ve got time. It’s situated about 30 minutes north east of Amsterdam and is easily accessible by public transport (we caught the bus from Amsterdam central). A couple of hours here is more than enough to explore the main street and also visit the wooden clog and cheese stores which provide informative free videos, museum tours and taste testers! Processed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with e4 presetProcessed with VSCO with e4 presetProcessed with VSCO with e4 preset

WHAT NOT TO DO: 

  • The Hague beach. Take my advice and just don’t.

EAT/DRINK: 

  • Rollmops – if you dare! The pickled herrings line the streets and supermarket isles everywhere in the Netherlands.

TRANSPORT: 

As previously mentioned the public transport system (trains, trams and buses) is affordable, efficient and easy to use. Best way to get around Amsterdam is by bike or foot – be warned wear comfortable shoes as there are kilometres and kilometres worth of sights to see and neighbourhoods to explore. Have fun.

 

 

 

LONDON.

35082746_10155385460336875_901647187438469120_nTHINGS TO DO:

  • Hop-on hop-off bus tour which allows you to see all of the main tourist attractions and iconic landmarks in one day. The double storey bus has an open top floor which provides a great vantage point, particularly on a sunny day! There are a number of different bus routes with over 60 stops which allows you to tailor your experience. Busses depart very regularly (every 15 – 20 minutes) so you never have to wait long. We went with “Golden Tours”, the one day ticket cost 24 pounds per person and provided a free audio tour and map. There are a number of companies so be sure to shop around for what you are looking for. For an additional cost, many companies also offer a boat ride down the river Thames.

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  • Blackfriars train station – this central London train station is situated on a bridge over the river Thames. It offers a great view! From here we walked along the river, past the Tate Modern (the art museum has free entry and reportedly offers a spectacular view of London from the higher levels) to Borough Market. After refuelling at Borough Market we walked over London Bridge into the city, past the Monument to the Great Fire of London and later made our way to Sky Garden.

 

  • Borough Market – one of the largest and oldest food markets in London. There are wholesale and retail market stores selling everything from fresh seafoods, to bakery goods and delicious cheeses. You are sure to find something you like! If crowds of people aren’t your thing, best to visit on a weekday.

 

  •  Hampstead Heath – situated North of Regents Park and approximately 30 minutes from London, it offers a great view of the city from Parliament Hill. The large green park is very large with several swimming areas (for the brave only), ponds, woodlands and areas for recreation so be sure to check the map before setting out. It’s a great place to stretch the legs or for a picnic lunch.

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  • Hyde Park – ideal for exercise, to stretch the legs, a picnic or afternoon beverage or even to sit and simply watch the world go by. Spend as little time or as long as you please.

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  • Sky Garden – an absolute must! The Sky Garden or more commonly known to locals as the “walkie talkie” offers 360 degrees of uninterrupted views across the City of London. At the top of the three storey building is an observation deck, indoor garden and bar/restaurant. The best part, access is completely free! visitors must book online, and I recommend doing so well in advance, to avoid disappointment. Tickets are valid for 1 hour from the allocated time of entry. If you miss out on a ticket, there are a number of free visitor walk in spaces, check the website for more details.

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  • Regents Canal to Camden Lock walk. The walk is approximately 4kms, and is an easy walk as it’s all flat ground. We caught the underground to Warwick Avenue station and then walked to Little Venice. This is the junction of Regent’s Canal and Grand Union Canal. Continue to walk at the waters edge and Regent’s Canal will take you all the way to Camden Lock. The walk takes you past plenty of sights including housing commission areas, expensive mansions, Regent’s Park and London Zoo. Once we arrived at Camden Lock we stopped for lunch – there are an abundance of food stalls to satisfy all taste buds!

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EAT / DRINK:

  •  The Churchill Arms – Fullers Pub and Restaurant, Notting Hill. A pub beautifully decorated with copious amounts of hanging flower baskets (flowers and cider, some of my favourite things. Combined = heavenly.)The exterior is definitely more enjoyable than the interior, so we grabbed a drink and stood outside to soak up the sunshine.

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  •  The Ladbroke Arms, Notting Hill. A charming little pub set in a beautiful residential area. The pub itself is small, so when we visited on a sunny summers day crowds of people where outside spilling on to the streets!

 

  •  The Blackbird, Earls Court. For a traditional pie with mash, go no further! The home made steak and London pride pie with mash is 11/10. So great, I ate it two days in a row. The portion sizes are large and we’re frugal travellers so we shared one dish between two, which more than satisfied and also left room for beer/cider! The Tea & hop smoked haddock & salmon fishcakes were also delicious.

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  •  The Falcon, Clapham North. A large no frills pub, with an airy beer garden out the back. The Sausage & Mash was much more gourmet and tasty than what springs to mind when your grandparents announce “bangers and mash” for dinner. Highly recommended.

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TRANSPORT:

  • London has a brilliant public transport system and with the introduction of mobile phones and apps (Citymapper is a free app and does all the hard work for you) it’s incredibly easy for all to use. Busses, trains and the underground are all reliable and efficient methods of transport to get around. You can use your credit card to tap on and off both the underground and busses, where as the over ground train requires you to purchase a ticket in advance.

STAY:

  • Air BnB “Fabulous Notting Hill Studio”, 19 Linden Gardens, Notting Hill. Cosy, cute studio apartment with a loft area for sleeping. Perfect location (near Portobello Road Markets) and featured a fully self contained kitchen to make basic meals.

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