Austria: exploring the mountains in summer time

Change of plans once again. In my last report I told you that I would travel to Germany after my Italy trip but I have another stopover in Austria. I wanted to skip this part of Europe since I thought that it was more a destination for winter sports. But my friend Sandra told me that I was wrong and invited me to join her on a bicycle tour.

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Biking the Kitzbühler Alpen

As a real Dutchman I’m love with my bicycle and therefore I cannot reject such an invitation. Sandra is cheering because she knows that I have never cycled in the mountains before (what we call a ‘mountain’ in Holland is probably smaller than a hill). We meet in the early morning at a small hotel in Kirchberg. Sandra shows me the map: she has prepared a 15 kilometer tour to Aschau and further to Spertental. After 10 kilometers my legs start to hurt. These mountains are something entirely different than the flatland-biking I’m used to. Sandra and I pause on a friendly green meadow and I cool my feet in a nearby creek. I reload some energy by eating two sandwiches before we move on. Two hours later I’m finished so we decide to take a seat in a cosy cafe. While we enjoy our cold beer, Sandra explains that we are more than 1.200 meters above sea level. The view is stunning. I’m grateful for her invitation and this trip.

Blog Holland Holiday Austria Vienna

Vienna

Now I’m in Austria, I also want to explore a bit of Vienna. Sandra has told me so much about Schönbrunn Palace that I need to see it with my own eyes. I have to admit that this building is in a different league than the cute little residences of our Dutch royal family. The Baroque Habsburg palace has more than 1.400 rooms, amazing gardens, a maze and a labyrinth and a marble summerhouse situated on top of a hill. Besides, there is Schönbrunn Zoo, the oldest zoo in the world.

In the evening I make my way to the Vienna State Opera. Certainly, all performances are sold out (and far above my budget). I only wanted to catch a glance of the building because it has a stunning architecture and is probably the most celebrated opera house of all time. While I walk around the building to take some fotos I’m surrounding by elegant people in black and grey clothes. I think they could use some orange ties here to make the opera more fun.

Blog Holland Holiday Austria Opera

Plan my visit to your country

After my second stopover I’m finally travelling to Germany. Then I will head north to explore Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and the UK. Can you recommend some great attractions and activities in these countries? Please tell me about them.

Italy: exploring ancient culture

Spain was amazing but unfortunately I have a busy holiday schedule on my trip. There are so many things I still want to see before I return to Holland. Thus, I’m heading further south towards Italy. When you only have a few days to spend in a country, it’s always hard to make a choice. But for Italy this turned out extremely difficult. After all, Italy is home to the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. Finally I made a decision. Here it is.

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Crossing foreign canals in Venice

I have always been curious about the so-called City of Water. Could the canals of Venice really be more beautiful than the canal districts of Amsterdam or Utrecht? I needed proof and that’s why I made a short stop in Venice. While looking around from my seat in a small romantic gondola, I have to admit that Venice is quite charming. The view is stunning, especially in the evening when the beautiful buildings along the Grand canal shine their lights on the water. However, I prefer the rustic sphere of Dutch canals.

Blog Holland Italy Pisa

Philosophizing about the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Maybe it’s because of my nationality but I like crazy buildings. This made the Leaning Tower of Pisa a must-see attraction for me. I was lucky to have a very good guide who could tell some interesting stories about this tower. Apparently the tower was built as part of a church in the 12th century. Although intended to stand vertically, the tower began leaning to the southeast due to a poorly laid foundation. The architect was clever enough to vanish from the history books. Neither he nor his offspring would probably have gotten another job.

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Dreaming in Rome

After I had so much fun at the amphitheater in France, I also wanted to see the big original in Rome. I must say that I was deeply impressed. The Colosseum was capable of holding 50,000 spectators, which is nearly as much as the capacity of football stadium Amsterdam ArenA. I spend some time lying in the sun and dreaming about gladiator and lion fights.

Blog Holland Holiday Italy Positano

Relaxing in Positano

Finally I received a great tip from one of my Twitter followers: the Amalfi Coast. Since I was in the mood for relaxing I decided to stay a while at the beautiful beaches of Positano Village for eating gelati and sunbathing. For one day I was lazy, ,simply enjoying the beautiful landscape at the coast and the crystal clear water of the sea. I also planned a visit to ancient Pompeii which is only two hours away from Positano. The ancient city, which was hit by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD is really magnificient. What fascinated me most is that many of the buildings have been left in tact and most structures show a strong resemblance with modern architecture such as schools, bars and homes.

Plan my visit to your country

I had a nice time in Italy. Next station is Germany. Furthermore I will travel to Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and the UK. Can you recommend any great places in these countries I should definitely visit? Please share your secret tip with me!

Portugal: an unexpected invitation to Lisbon

After exploring Spain, my initial plan was to continue my journey to Italy. But my friend Paulo invited me on my Facebook page to visit Lisbon, so I decided to have a stopover in Portugal. It was surely worth the effort! Portugal has a breath-taking landscape and some great cultural artifacts. Here are my favourite places.

Blog Holland Holiday Portugal Boca Do Inferno

Into the mouth of hell

Paulo picked me up in the early morning with his car. I’m not quite awake but Paulo says that he has to show me something really great. We drive to Cascais, a place at the west coast close to Lisbon. Paulo parked the car close to a path that led up some very high rocks “We walk from here”, he says. The hard walk  to the top of the rocks wakes me up and when we reached it I was sweating for two. But I quickly forget that when I get aware of the view. I look down the cliffy seashore to the roaring waves that crash against the rocks. Paulo tells me, that they call this place Boca do Inferno, which means ‘The Mouth of Hell’.  I’m fascinated by this place. While we continue our walk we find a beautiful cafe inside a little rocky cave. We enjoy the view from here, together with a hot cup of coffee.

Blog Holland Holiday Portugal Bairro Alto

Bairro Alto

Later this day, Paulo takes me back to Lisbon. He wants to show me Bairro Alto, the cultural and bohemian heart of the city. I quickly realize that Bairro Alto is a mecca for shopping chicks and night owls. It has numerous sleek bars, shops for all types of fashion, cosmetics, purses amd whatever a woman can buy. The facades a sprayed with a multitude of graffitis that express the different music subcultures of Lisbon. Suddenly my morning fatigue is forgotten and I only want to get into the clubs tonight.

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Wine from Porto

The next morning I leave Paulo’s house with a rest of hangover and Lisbon music in my head. But I absolutely want to see Porto before I travel further because it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Well, and because I want to try the famous port wine. Therefore my first station are the port wine caves in Vila Nova de Gaia . During a guided tour I learn everything about port wine and the guide pours more than one generous glass. I have to get out of here! For the rest of the day I stay away from spirits and just walk through the historical city centre. The streets are a continuous up and down but it fits the old, rusty charms of the buildings. You can see that the original design of the city has been conserved very carefully.

Plan your visit to my country

Though my trip was unexpected, I had a nice time in Portugal. Now I will definitely head to Italy. Furthermore I will travel to Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and the UK. Can you recommend any great places in these countries I should definitely visit? Please share your secret tip with me!

Spain: dive into the southern culture

After exploring France I’m in the mood for even more sunshine so I grabbed a train to Spain. But before I ended up lazy on the beach with a bucket of juicy Sangria, I wanted to discover some Spanish culture. Here are my favourite sights.

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Say ‘Hi’ to Gaudi in Barcelona

I couldn’t wait to get to Madrid. But my friend Lucila  asked me to make a stop in Barcelona before heading to the capital. She told me about the great architecture of Antoni Gaudi and wanted to show it to me. We spent some hours walking and around and admiring his various works. Honestly, most of them were kind of strange. But his style is so daring and unique that you should have a look at it, when you are close to Barcelona.

Blog Holland Spain Madrid Museo del Prado

Art flash in Madrid

Of  course, Van Gogh and Rembrandt are my favourites, But I’m also a big fan of Salvador Dali en Pablo Picasso. That’s why I wanted to go to the Reina Sofia since they have the greatest public collection of both artists. While admiring Dali’s The Persistence of Memory I met another art lover who gave me the tip o visit Museo del Prado where I could view the paintings of other Spanish artists. His recommendation turned out to be great! The museum offered great art from the 14th to the 19th century. By the way, both museums have free entry during most days of the week.

In the evening I need a cool down. I found a cosy tavern at the edge of the city where I ordered a cold beer. While I rested my tired feet I noticed two gypsy guys starting to play some sweet flamenco music on their guitars. That’s how I imagine a perfect day on holiday.

Blog Holland Holiday Spain Granada Alhambra

Cool down in Granada

In the hills of Granada is the Alhambra Moorish fortress, which protected the inhabitants of the city from invasion by Christian crusaders for hundreds of years. Even though Alhambra is more than a thousand years old, the fortress is stunningly beautiful. I could have spent hours walking around the walls and through the colourful gardens, but suddenly, my stomach screams for food.

Back in the city centre I decide to fight my hunger with a Spanish tradition. Nearly every bar serves tapas and in some places you get them even for free with each drink you order. So guess what? I tried the many different wines until my belly was filled to the top. It was delicious.

Plan my visit to your country

I had a nice time in Spain. Next station is Italy. Furthermore I will travel to Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and the UK. Can you recommend any great places in these countries I should definitely visit? Please share your secret tip with me!

France: hidden secrets off the beaten track

After exploring Belgium I continue my holiday Europe trip and head south towards France. It was really hard to make a choice with so many architectural and cultural attractions. Certainly I’m expected to have a look at the Eiffel Tower or the Notre Dame Cathedral. Well, I took just a quick photo of the Eiffel Tower to prove that I really went to Paris. But as a real Dutchman I prefer to do things a little different and decided to explore the big cities off the beaten track.

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Secret places in Paris

Paris has a lot of beautiful street markets but Rue Mouffetard resembles the old, romantic Paris with cobbled streets where housewives and chefs shop for the day’s ingredients. Farmers come to the city from all over and sell their produce on different stalls. The delicious smell of roasted chicken makes me hungry. After lunch I decide to visit La Pagode, a historic movie house that is designed in the traditional Japanese style. A friendly employee shows me around and we enjoy a cup of tea in the beautiful garden. On my way back home I pass a Gallo-Roman amphitheatre in the Latin Quarter called Arènes de Lutèce. A friendly old lady told me that it once hosted gladiatorial combat, and used to seat 15,000 people. Together we stand in the centre and imagine the crowds cheering at us.

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Relaxing in Nice

After leaving the impressive but crowded capital I’m in the mood for more peaceful surroundings. Nice, with all it’s cosy villages and cafés is perfect for this. There is plenty of inexpensive public transport but I prefer walking and cycling along the cobblestone roads and coastal path. One morning I find myself in the medieval village of Èze where I admire the beautiful church and the amazing view from the hilltops. From there, a zigzag rocky path leads me down to Eze-Bord-de-Mer where I take the train back to Nice. I spend the rest of the day in Parc Phoenix, a beautiful park full of wildlife, gardens and fountains.

Blog Holland Vacation France Nice

Views of Marseille

Well, even if I wanted to stay away from popular tourist attractions, I could not resist this one. The chapel Notre Dame de la Garde is the highest point of Marseille and offers a most impressive view over the city. You go up there by bus but the walk on the green hill path definitely has its charme. The architecture of the Romanesque-Byzantine basilica from the 13th century is breath-taking. Marseille has the biggest port of France and therefore there is almost no restaurant where they don’t serve fresh fish. I’m going to enjoy a cup of the famous Bouillabaisse soup before I have to leave.

Blog Meet Mr Holland Vacation France Paris

Plan my visit to your country

I had a nice time in France. Next station is Spain. Furthermore I will travel to Italy, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and the UK. Can you recommend any great places in these countries I should definitely visit? Please share your secret tip with me!

Belgium: discovering the country of the neighbours

I have arrived at the first station of my holiday Europe trip. Although Belgium is so close to Holland – just about an hour with the Fyra train – I have to confess that I have not been there that often yet. Time to check out some must-see destinations in the neighbouring country. Here is what I have seen and done so far.

Vacation Belgium Brussels

Party in Antwerp

After one night in Antwerp I understand why the Belgians call it the ‘capital of cool’. I discovered that many squares in Antwerp house nothing else but pubs and bars just like in Amsterdam. Accidentially I found myself in Bierhuis Kulminator trying to taste all their 600 different beers. My conclusion: Belgian beer is delicious but also much stronger than the Dutch brands. To find some distraction from my hangover I’m visiting Rubens House, which hosts the greates art collection of the famous painter Peter Paul Rubens.

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Walking through Bruges

Another hit on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. What I like most about Bruges is that the city centre is completely closed off to cars so that you can easily explore it on foot, by boat along the canals or by a horse-drawn carriage. Bruges is a cosy, small city full of folkore, lace boutiques and especially chocolate shops. Have you ever tried Belgian chocolate? It’s almost as delicious as our Dutch cheese.

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Sight-seeing in Brussels

The Belgian capital is quickly gaining a reputation as one of Europe’s must-see destinations. It is the home of the European Union, NATO and hundreds of international organizations. I almost can’t decide where to start with so many great attractions. Finally I start my tour at the Grand Place, a historic square and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was buil in the 13th century and is still lined by beautiful guild houses. From Grand Place it is just a short walk to many other attractions. I was especially curious about the Manneken Pis since many friends talked very enthused about it. The cute bronze statue of a little boy relieving himself made me smile. Belgian humor…

Plan my visit to your country

I had a nice time in Belgium. Next station is France. Furthermore I will travel to Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and the UK. Can you recommend any great places in these countries I should definitely visit? Please share your secret tip with me!