The 101 – The Olympic Peninsula

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray. 

Highway 101. Maybe one of the most iconic highways in the USA that runs from Los Angeles in California all the way to Olympia in Washington State, some 2500 km up north.

It’s a very popular road for road trippers from all over the world who want to discover the Pacific Coast. The most popular part might be between Los Angeles and San Francisco but Oregon and Washington have some gems to offer as well.

When you start your journey from North to South then Olympia will be your starting point. From here you make a loop around the mystic Olympic National Park which is surely worth a visit.

Travel tip : If you are on a road trip through the USA and you are planning to visit 4 or more National Parks during your trip, then I would recommend you to buy an annual park pass as this would be more beneficial. Make sure the park you are visiting are National Parks as some regional parks are not included in the pass.

Continue your trip and you will pass along beautiful Lake Ozette, a great place to stretch your legs for a bit.

A little later you will arrive in Forks, the town that got popular because of the ‘twilight’ series. It’s a little town like any other in the area but if you are on your way to Forks you should definitely turn right before you enter the town and drive to La Push, an Indian reservation with pristine beaches.

Make a stop at First Beach and Second Beach and follow the trail through the mystic forest until you reach the beach and get rewarded with stunning views.

Lake Quinalt demands another stop before you make your way further south direction Oregon State.

You will also pass through (or overnight) in Aberdeen, birthplace and hometown of Kurt Cobain.

Speechless in Seattle

Seattle is a city for people who enjoy music, coffee, books, beer and rainy days. Although most of the times I visited this beautiful city I lucked out with the weather and had some sunny days.

Looking for a hostel ? Then the Green Tortoise might be a good idea. This hostel is centrally located right across from the Pike Place Market. Visit this market to excite your appetite and witness how some jolly fishermen throw fish at each other. Stroll around here for some souvenirs and grab a coffee at the very first Starbucks right across the street. Don’t want to wait in line for an hour, well don’t worry, there are plenty other Starbucks or other coffee places scattered all over town.

The Space Needle is definitely one of the landmarks of this city. When you are there, make sure you visit the Experience Music Project Museum (EMP) where you learn a lot about several music legends and you get the chance to try out some instruments yourself in a music studio. Pretty cool experience !

A must during your visit in Seattle is an Underground Tour. This tour will take you, well … , underground and shows you the original streets of Seattle and its haunted history.

Don’t forget to try some clam chowder while you are out there. Pike Place Chowder is a great place to fill your belly with this good tasty stuff but expect there might be a waiting line.

Loving Lisbon

If you are looking for  your next European Citytrip destination than I might have an answer to your questioning.

Lisbon.

Lisbon has a lot to offer for every kind of traveller among us.

I visited Lisbon with one my closest friends on this trip. I have known her for almost half of my life now and must say I am a fortunate man to have her around. At least I am not the only one around who is clumsy and says embarrassing things.

In the early morning of our first day my friend already discovered she brought the wrong pair of shoes resulting in a huge blister on her foot before we even got to the airport… Luckily she brought some bandaids that stick… for like a full five minutes.

Once we arrived in Lisbon we took the subway to our hotel. Hotel Fenix Music, which is centrally located next to the subway station (Marqués de Pombal). This trendy hotel has a bunch of cool features like a rooftop bar (open until 1 AM) and swimming pool with great panoramic views over the city. You have also free internet throughout the entire hotel and free breakfast included.

We dropped our bags at the hotel and went for lunch.

Afterwards we strolled down Avenida Liberdad and sought coolness under the trees along the boulevard. We ended up at the Praça do Comércio, a big square at the banks of the Tagus.

From there you can proceed your stroll along the water to Cais do Sodré. Here you can take a train to Cascais, a little beach place where you can take a refreshing plunge, catch a tan on the lifeguarded beach or stroll some more along the picturesque path from Cascais to the Estoril train station where you can jump on the train back to Lisbon.

On your way back, make sure you stop at Belém. Here you can visit the ‘Torre de Belém‘ (tower) and the ‘Padrão dos Descobrimentos‘ (statue). From here many world explorers started their journey to find new land.

Getting hungry from all these history tales ? Than you have to try the famous ‘Pasteis de Belém

From Cais do Sodré you can also take a ferry across the Tagus and go check out the statue of Christo Rei. A roundtrip with the ferry costs you 2,90 euro. Once you reached the other side you can jump on bus 101 that rides every half an hour up the hill. Roundtrip for the bus ticket is another 1,90 euro and can be paid on the bus. From the hill you have a great view over Lisboa, the Tagus and the Ponte 25 de Abril, a gigantic suspension bridge over the Tagus that looks a lot like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Not high enough for you ? Well then you can take the elevator up to the statue for 4 euro.

Another must do in Lisbon is taking the yellow Tram 28. This is a very popular attraction so the waiting line to catch the next tram might be longer than some lines in Disneyland. We decided to take this tram on our last day and spent two hours waiting in line at Martim Moniz, where the tram starts its journey. Once you get on board the tram takes you through some of Lisbon’s most narrow streets and uphill all the way to the ‘Castelo de São Jorge’. I would recommend to jump off the tram here and walk back down through the streets of Alfama.

At least that’s what most people do. We skipped the stop because we were running late to catch our flight but ended up in an even less convenient location to catch the subway back to the airport. We jumped back the tram and stayed on until the Baixa-Chiado stop. There we ran to our hotel to pick up our bags and made it all just in time to our flight.

So dear traveler, not a good idea to force Tram 28 into your last day.

El Matador State Beach

This secluded piece of paradise is your perfect getaway from the crowded LA beaches although this place is getting more and more attention. And I can’t blame you for wanting to bring this place a visit.

If you can, come early to make sure you have a parking spot in the limited parking area. The parking lot opens at 8 AM and closes at sunset. There is also a parking fee ($ 8.00 USD)  to pay (and you better pay it because the cops are making several stops here during the day). You can pay with card or cash at the parking meter.

Make sure to bring some food and beverages to the beach to enjoy a full day in the sun. To get access to the beach you have to descend some stairs before you set foot in the sandy beach.

El Matador State Beach with its beautiful caves and large rocks in the water is the perfect spot for a romantic date or a great place to snap some sunset pictures.

So make sure you don’t miss this gem on your drive along Highway 101

The Land of Fire and Ice

It’s not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves – William Shakespeare

In the fall of 2013 my sister and I decided to go on a ‘sibling’ trip. This was a sort of annual thing we tried to maintain.

That year Iceland became our choice of destination. Flights were surprisingly cheap from Amsterdam to Reykjavik with Icelandair and on a rainy November morning in November we left to the land of Fire and Ice.

We arrived in the evening in Reykjavik at our apartment ‘Apartment K‘, which is centrally located and has a hip vibe.

We dropped our bags and booked a ‘Northern Lights Tour’ with ‘Super Jeep‘ that same night.

They pick you up at your hotel/apartment in a jeep on steroids and drive you to a central meeting point just outside the city.

Our tour started with a bumpy jeep climb up the hill so be careful with what you eat before the tour. We stopped on the top of the hill to take some awesome shots of Reykjavik by night. From this hill you can spot the Imagine Peace Tower, a memorial for John Lennon from his wife Yoko Ono.

On the hill the drivers evaluate where the weather conditions would be the best to see the Northern Lights. As weather conditions are very unpredictable in Iceland they can never guarantee you will see the lights but you have a pretty fair chance you’ll see one. If not, they will give you a new ticket to ride for the next day.

After driving for a while we were rewarded for our patience. Out of nothing appeared a green light in the sky that soon changed into a curtain in the wind. Definitely one of the most asthonising things I have seen in my young life.

We also got some hot chocolate afterwards to celebrate and made our way back home. I had a great experience with Extreme Iceland and Super Jeep and could recommend them to anyone. This was only our first night here and the trip was already successful !

The second day we visited the city of Reykjavik. It’s a very cozy city with a great vibe. Plenty of little shops, trendy bars and restaurants and cool architecture. Make sure you visit the Harpa (concert hall) and the Hallgrímskirkja (really cool church).

The third and final day we rented a car and drove the ‘Golden Circle‘, a popular route that includes some jaw dropping sights.

One of those is Thingvellir National Park where you can clearly spot the path of the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. A great spot to hike around.

Once we were returning to the car we saw the weather change from blue skies to grey big clouds. We checked the weather with the information desk and they warned us that a storm was coming our way and we had to be careful with driving. Once we started driving the roads quickly turned into a snow road combined with some decent gusts of wind.

We continued our way and drove along Strokkur, an active geyser that erupts every couple minutes.

A little further we arrived at Gulfoss, a majestic waterfall. Due to the winds and the cold we could only endure a couple minutes at the viewpoint before we hurried our asses inside the cafetaria to warm up and have some local lamb soup.

Once the weather cleared up a bit we made our way back direction Reykjavik. Since we were still on time and had the rental car until the end of the day we decided to drive to the Blue Lagoon. On our way the wind and rain picked up again and we arrived to find an empty blue lagoon due to the terrible weather. Although we couldn’t have the blue lagoon experience we still got a good idea of how it looks like.

Hopefully I get the chance to return to this awesome country during summer and explore more of its beauty.

Schnitzels and Strüdels in Vienna

Alright, so you got one day to see something in Vienna and I am sure you want to make the best of it. That is certainly what I was trying to do last week during my short visit in Vienna. I combined this trip with two days in Budapest.

Since Budapest is a cheap destination to fly to with Ryanair or Wizzair (from Charleroi) I managed to avoid the otherwise expensive flight from Brussels to Vienna. A little travel tip to see great places that tend to have expensive airfares.

So I took the train from Budapest to Vienna. It takes you about three hours to get there but the trains are pretty comfortable and not that expensive (Budapest-Vienna 30 euro return ticket).

My first impression of Vienna was the presence of all these historical buildings. A clear sign of how rich Austria was during the centuries and how it is still a rich country today.

Stephanplatz

Most likely you’ll start your journey here and scent the smell of horses when you walk around the Stephanzdom. Be prepared to see a lot of these ‘horse and carriage’ packages around the city.

Schönbrunn Palace (Schloss Schönbrunn)

Somewhere during your visit, you will have to take some time for the Schönbrunn Palace and its gardens. Once you arrive you will be impressed by the largeness of this palace. But that is only a humble introduction. Once you make your way around the castle you will face a huge garden filled with perfect symmetry. These gardens also include the Vienna Zoo and the Gloriette. From the Gloriette you have a great view of the city so it is worth the climb.

Donauinsel

Wanna relax and get away from the city madness and overload of tourists? Then the Donauinsel will satisfy your needs. Take the metro to ‘Prater’ and stroll around the island in the city. Seems like a lot of locals come here with their family or friends to hang out. Some of them are sunbathing in the grass or along the docks while overlooking the Danube while others are running or rollerblading along the track.

Food

Fancy a hotdog? Well, then apparently Bitzinger Wurstelstand near the Albertina is your go-to place and the waiting line doesn’t lie. No time or no budget for this? No worries,  there are plenty of other hot dog stands or food places around. But while you are there you might as well try it.

In Transit

Toronto Pearson International Airport, March 24th, 2015

In transit…

That is what I am right now between Vancouver and Brussels.

But in general, my life will probably always be in transit.

I think it all got out of hand during my childhood.

A little beach village at our Belgian Coast was the favourite spot of my mother to go for a little getaway with the family. When I think of that place I reminisce about the times we got ice cream, played pit pat, went go-carting and… that time I ran away to seek new horizons as a four year old. I guess I was ready for an adventure. My mother allowed me to go play in the sand but I had to stay within eye sight. That rule was easy to obey… for a minute. After that I set course and ran where the wind blew. Half an hour later I realised my mistake and how I threw my one rule overboard. I turned around and returned to find my sister running towards me. I smiled and she rolled her eyes. We still do this nowadays.

When I was seven, our class had to perform the play of the Parable of the Lost Son. Of all the kids my teacher chose me to play the Lost Son. I still remember how I had to walk around in church and return to my father (actor) who embraced me upon arrival. My real father still does.  

And that time I went to the playground with the family when I was eight. My parents told me the playground was my arena to play on. I crossed boundaries within minutes and retrieved my concerned mother a little later talking to a lady which I thought was the Queen of Belgium (Queen Fabiola). My mother was upset and I felt a bit guilty for leaving her. That hasn’t changed much now.  

A group of friends bring me back to the present when they throw their bags on the tables in front of me. They are waiting for their connection to Vienna. I ask myself what their story is.

What about my story ?

I am a 30 year old restless soul who is looking for adventures. Always and everywhere. I have lived abroad a couple of times in my young life and I have created this blog to share my past and future experiences with you with the inevitable clumsy edge.

Where I am now ?

I just packed up my life in Vancouver where I was traveling and working for the last six months. Not an easy task but I guess you get used to it after a couple of times. I have traveled this way for a while now. Get a foreign temporary work permit and build myself a life abroad. Even if it is for a little while. A home away from home, if you can call it that…

I check the time. 6.15 PM. I still have 30 minutes until boarding starts. I decide to slowly make my way to the gate. Once I arrive at the gate I notice there is practically no one there. I glance at the gate screen and see ‘FINAL CALL’. My heart skips a beat …  I run to the gate and luckily I can still get on board. When did that happen ? Probably between my daydreaming and future planning while I was listening to Ben Howard. But I am not the only one to arrive late.

I have a window seat (always a win if you ask me) and no one in the seat next to me (double win for an overnight flight). Always fun to see the world from outside your window.

This journey has come to a close. Jet Airways, bring me back to Belgium !

Time for a new adventure.