Better late than never, right? The new year has kicked off with a bang and I’m barely able to keep up with everything 2016 has already been throwing at me. On the 28th of December, stunt performers sister, Bree, and Donavin arrived and despite jet lag they stayed up partying with us until 7am in Amsterdam at the Paradiso Balloon Party. Before I can share the early 2016 adventures, I must finish off 2015 properly with the HIGHLIGHTS.
(in no particular order)
Paradiso Balloon Party – We stuffed 18 ancient greek clad drunks into our African overland truck and headed down to Amsterdam. Paradiso is a very historic, famous venue in Amsterdam where celebrities, like Rolling Stones, Billy Idol, Guns N Roses, Robbie Williams and Lady Gaga, have performed for ages. A great party with dancing, performances, crazy costumes, confetti and joints tied to each balloon and during the night float down to eager hands.
Amsterdam Arena- Enjoying our season passes to watch Amsterdam’s football team, Ajax, in the big stadium. So fun!
Pride Parade – After nearly 7 years living in Holland, this was my first time chance to see all the pink, glittery boats filling the canals of Amsterdam. I shared this experience with my cousin, Rebecca, who came to visit for a week in the summer.
Flyboarding – My first ever flyboarding experience was in Amsterdam, also shared this with cousin Rebecca.
SAIL – An incredible event to witness all of the tall ships arriving in Amsterdam. Feel privileged to be part of this, especially since it happens only once every 5 years. History is really brought to life on this day and I was grateful to spend my second SAIL experience with good friend and fellow author Jessica.
European Road Trip!
(Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany)
Since flying is always my least favourite option, and considering my love for road trips, it was a no brainer that Mom and I would drive to attend #TBEX in Spain. We hit the road in our old, beat-up Mazda from Holland to Spain to attend our first ever #TBEX the “Travel Blog Exchange” event. #TBEX is the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, new media content creators and social media savvy travel industry professionals.
Holland – Passing through the tulip fields
Belgium – Quaint towns
France – Fields of golden mustard and vineyards. We stopped in a small village to visit Philippe, a long time family friend who now lives in an old chateau at the edge of a beautiful walnut orchard.
Spain – Continued on to the glistening coastline of Costa Brava and stayed in the gorgeous Rigat Hotel which overlooks the ocean. #TBEX was a definite highlight!
Switzerland – After enjoying #TBEX and meeting Twitter friends for the first time in person, we headed north again. Never one to take the same route back, we drove through the heart of Switzerland, mountains towering over us on both sides. We stopped to visit two great family friends Alysha (character in Book 3), and Shaeme (an old ESL student), in Zurich.
Germany – Our last and final stop was two nights in Freiburg, Germany near the Black Forest to visit our good friend, who we met via Couch Surfing in 2009. We ate fresh pretzels, walked down alleys draped in gorgeous spring flowers, climbed mountains and enjoyed views of cities and castles.
Although I’ve been to Belgium more times than I can count, I was still eager to explore Brugge, Ghent and Antwerp this year. All were special in their own ways.
Brugge – We stayed just around the corner from the main square in the fabulous and historic hotel Jan Brito. We ate Belgian waffles, took a swan infested canal tour, rode Segways down narrow, brick roads and climbed to the medieval bell tower, Belfry, overlooking The Markt square.
Ghent – A wonderful two night stay at the Carlton Hotel Gent and walking the streets and stumbling upon amazing graffiti street art and castles.
Antwerp – We helped a friend with his Segway, helicopter and speed boat tours. Of course we were able to participate in all of the above activities too!
Meeting fellow travel bloggers Martijn and Anton, Shane Dallas and Jessica Lipowski in person in Utrecht for a day. Couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous summer day. Everyone was lounging in the sun on the outdoor patios, their feet practically hanging over the canals as they sipped ice teas and ice cold beers. We took a ride down the canals in paddle boats or as they call them, canal bikes. Discovering the city on foot, we found the famous Nijnte AKA Miffy.
Refusing to cancel our trip to visit my aunt and cousin, Mom and I drove down from Holland five days after the horrific shootings. Before arriving I was unaware that we would be staying in a fantastic top floor AirBNB apartment just around the corner from the incidents.
The streets were covered in candles, flowers, photos of victims and hand written letters. When struggling to relight one of the thousands of candles at Republique Square, a complete stranger came to help me. It was an unforgettable moment to be part of. Everyone was truly ONE.
Stay tuned for PART 2 – “My Top 2015 South American Travel HIGHLIGHTS“.