Category Archives: The Netherlands

The Best Beaches in Europe or where to find serenity

The beach was the first place I went after 4 months of quarantine. That wide horizon, the endless sea where two shades of blue meet in the middle, far away, is the absolute definition of freedom. In normal times and even more in different times.

I’m not picky. As long as there’s a blue sea, waves, sand, seagulls and a breeze, that is my place. And my beloved Europe has so many of my places, my favourite beaches, each one for its own reasons.

I don’t make tops or charts or rankings or whatever. I make a list of some of my favourite beaches in Europe discovered and enjoyed in 11 countries.

Malta

The only place I was during one summer and went back the next one. The first place I did snorkelling and still consider it’s the best in Europe for underwater life. And the first place I started to do beach hopping: more then 3 beaches in one day.

First time I went to Ramla Bay, walked on the red soft sand and watched the waves as white lines on a cobalt blue sea, I called it my favourite beach in the world. I loved it so much I came back a year after.

Ramla Beach on Gozo island, Malta

The turquoise waters, the ideal swim from one shore to the other, the calm waters, the white sand and the schools of fish I was swimming with makes The Blue Lagoon the most exotic beach in Europe. And one of my favourite places to swim.

The Blue Lagoon, Malta

Croatia

A morning walk with medieval scent in Dubrovnik followed by a cooling swim and beach time on Banje Beach. The incredible blue of the Adriatic, where you can see your toes while swimming and the white sand many meters beneath, all framed by St John Fortress walls in Dubrovnik’s port on the right and fuchsia bougainvillea, huge aloe vera with 4 meters high flowers and palm trees on the left, made me wonder if this image truly exists.

Dubrovnik, Croatia, sea view, Banje Beach

Belgium

This place has much more to offer besides thousands o types of beer (the best in the world) and delicious chocolates. For a real cooling, head North until you meet the North Sea in Ostend. Mariakerke Beach, with orange sand and moody breeze where kids run barefoot even in winter months and where cold is not felt. And where the best mussels with fries are served in all restaurants on the long promenade.

Ostend Beach, Belgium

Italy

La bella Italia is always a good idea. You can’t go wrong anywhere you’ll head. Rapallo, Portofino, Santa Margerita Ligure, Camogli, Amalfi, Capri, Cinque Terre, Polignato a Mare in Puglia… choosing a place – that’s a hard choice. I had the best swim in Marina Picola, in Capri, with the hypnotising Med blue and tens of yachts around, the scent of pine and the tztztztz song of the cicadas.

Marina Picola, Capri, Italy

Or should I call it the fanciest, on the island where people drink champagne in the port and on all the other terraces and the restaurants with white pianos behind translucent voiles moved by the breeze gives the island a heaven feel. I was so spoilt in Capri!

For a swim with a view in Italy, I can’t possibly decide between Amalfi, Positano and Manarola, in Cinque Terre. Swim away from the shore in any of these places and admire the breathtaking views of the coast, with coloured houses, all that la grande bellezza.

Amalfi coast, Positano, Italy

France

One of my favourite countries for all the reasons in the world, France, has one of the top summer destinations in Europe. The French Riviera, like its neighbour Italian Riviera, is a must go anytime. Though I consider Saint Tropez overrated, maybe because I was there without a car, helicopter and yacht, Pampelonne Beach beach has a few things to say to beach lovers. As the absolute playground for the rich and famous from all over the world, Pampelonne Beach has been the epicentre of glam, sparkle and shine ever since the 50s. Literally, this beach is a legend that has seen many stars on two feet wandering around. C’est chic et c’est cher (chic and expensive) but it’s totally worth a swim and a beach stroll between Nikki Beach and Club 55. Sante! (Cheers)

Pampelonne Beach, St Tropez, France

From St Tropez to Cannes, passing by Cap d’Antibes, Beaulieu sur Mer, and up to Monaco there are plenty of places to enjoy some quiet time or some loud time. One I will always remember is a swim from sunset to full moon rise in Nice, by the famous Promenades des Anglais. For that and much more I will always vote for France in summer.

Netherlands

Beach lovers are of many kinds, but two categories are the main ones: those who like to just lay on the sand all day long and do nothing more exhausting then sipping a lemonade and those who, the moment they see water, their heart starts pumping harder and no matter the outside temperatures, the sea is their playground. Scheveningen, the seaside resort close to The Hague, with its long sandy beach, an esplanade, a pier, and a lighthouse, is the playground for water-sports lovers that come here in great numbers for windsurfing and kiteboarding. No matter the season, it has the beach vibe I need after some time spent inland.

The Hague beach, Scheveningen

Greece

When it comes to summer love and beach addiction, Greece is a top destination in the world. Sail there until you find its beauty, that where white houses meet the dark Mediterranean blue and where the breeze whispers legends of the Gods among bougainvillea pink flowers pouring down on white walls, where the therm instagrammable is defined and where each corner is made for a beautiful framed memory. Where my roots are coming from and where, hopefully, I can fly again for a few days until this summer ends.

Santorini, Oia, Greece

For me, Santorini is the representation of all I have ever dreamed about Greece. Not the ideal Greek island for beaches though. The Red Beach is curious but looks dangerous, with rocks ready to fall down on your head from the steep wall of rocks above. Perissa Beach on the other hand is lovely, with its black volcanic sand that gets so hot it burns your feet.

Portugal

From the sweet Porto wine and Fado music heard on narrow colourful streets in Lisbon in a hot August afternoon, to the fairytales castles up in Sintra and then down to its fabulous Algarve coast, with hidden beaches and the white houses in Albufeira, I carry Portugal in my heart forever. My favourite coast in Europe for the highest number of beaches and the most spectacular. Close to Lagos, Praia de Dona Ana is one of the most photographed but my most favourite is Praia de Camilo, with its 93 stairs down to a gorgeous beach.

Praia do Camilo, Algarve, Portugal

Close to Albufeira, one of the most picturesque beaches on Algarve coast, Praia da Marinha, with yellow sand, calm waters and with striking colourful cliff-sides and rocks raising up from the blue Atlantic waters.

The best is Praia de Benagil, a beach inside a cave accessible only by sea, with turquoise waters touching the golden sand, two entrances from the ocean and an open roof with views to the blue sky on top. This beach is spectacular and will blow your mind.

Braia de Benagil, Portugal

Portugal is the place I would go back 3 times every summer. And winter, to watch the best surfers in the world coming here to Nazare, on Praia do Norte, to ride the big waves and break the records. The biggest wave ever surfed till now happened in November 2017 in Nazare: 24,38m.

Spain

Spoiled by the sun with long summers and caressed by the waves of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, Spain was my first summer destination abroad. On Playa del Duque in Costa Adeje, Tenerife, I was stunned by the exotic beauty of the place. Then brought back to reality by the Atlantic waves, never before seen so strong, making fun of everyone entering the waters, rolling people over the beach. I got sand deep into my soul after those whirlpools and laughter to remember a lifetime.

Tenerife, Playa de las Americas

On La Barcelonetta I felt the vibes of a beach between the sea and the city and on La Malaguetta the magic of Costa del Sol (Sun Coast).

La Malagueta Beach, Malaga, Spain

I caught the last days of summer in September, right before it leaves Europe to move to further places on the beaches of Marbella and walk the Golden Mile from Puerto Banus to Marbella, 7,6km by the sea where you can lay your towel everywhere you please.

Puerto Banus, Marbella, Cost del Sol, Spain

I got stung by a Moon jellyfish and thought I just lost a finger judging by the stubbing pain. But it didn’t stop me an hour later from trying SUP for the first time in a sea full of those purple nasty creatures.

The best shades of blue and the softest sand meet the crazy parties at night and day in Mallorca. If the beauty of its beaches won’t get you drunk, for sure the alcohol cocktails drank from plastic big buckets will. Don’t try it unless in a large group.

Marbella, Arenal

Romania

Enjoy the silence in the wild, among cormorants and pelicans, in the middle of a bird’s paradise on one of Romania’s well kept secrets, Sfantu Gheorghe (St George) beach, formed where the river Danube ends its journey through 10 countries and meets the Black Sea. A beach in a delta gives a new sweet and salty and amazing perspective.

Sfantu Gheorghe, Delta, Romania

Iceland

If July and August in Europe seem too hot and some want to escape the heat and find a cold refuge in the North, the land of fire and ice, Iceland, has the place: Diamond Beach.

Diamond Beach, Iceland

A black picture perfect line of sand decorated with small icebergs and pieces of 1,000 year old ice calved off from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and washed away into the Atlantic freezing waters. It looks just as phenomenal as sparkling diamonds on black velvet. Maybe not ideal for a swim, but I guarantee it’s one of the most spectacular beaches I’ve seen.

3 awesome days in The Netherlands

Usually the first day of December finds me in a Christmas market, somewhere in Europe, where the holiday spirit is in the air, with my eyes glowing, my heart melting and my fingers warming up on a too hot cup of mulled wine. Instead, this December meet me in Scheveningen, the most popular stretch of sand in Holland, right between The Hague and the North Sea.

The Hague

The first glimpse of the sea made me whisper: How I’ve missed you!Once I got off the tram, I followed my sea lover instincts to led me to the beach, among seagull cries. It was sunny, cold and windy, all three in the same time. The hard wind blowing made the entire beach look like a small version of the desert during a sandstorm, with sand blown away at my feet from one side to the other of this lange beach. The North Sea was dark blue, with sea foam made by the strong waves moving around on the wet sand at the shore. Tens of colorful kite surfers were riding those big white waves to the shore and than back to the sea. It was a summer feel in winter and a perfect spot for one of the most beautiful beach sunsets of 2018.

Scheveningen, The Hague, The Netherlands, beautiful places

Back to the city streets, I walked those in central Hague for hours that evening, passing by The Binnenhof complex countless times, watching the skyline of the city mirroring its hundreds of colorful lights into Hofvijver’ waters. Old and new mixed together in a rare pleasant city view, the tall blue shaded buildings of glass and steel accompanied by the old brown walls built in bricks. A couple of white swans was completing the image.

I feed my foodie spirit with an amazing beef stew fries at Frites Atelier and a delicious dinner in Chinatown, at Woenk Kee.

My very first day in The Netherlands ended with a fairytale: a brief history of the country projected by a show of lights and sound on the beautiful old facade of The Ridderzaal.

AmsterDamn beautiful

Happiness comes in many forms. Sometimes as a sunny day surprise  when you’ve been bracing yourself for a long forecasted rain.

After a ride among the purest Dutch landscape, with green meadows full of Holstein cattle and white fat gooses, with black huge windmills in the horizon, I finally arrived in Amsterdam in the most beautiful sunny day of December. Warm and calm as an early spring day. If you think you can imagine what a city full of bikes and bikers looks like, well, you can’t. Outside the central station there were thousands of bikes parked. Thousands in rows. A view that brings a smile on the grumpiest of faces. A strong scent of pot was Amsterdam’s welcome.

A pleasant surprise was that my hotel was right in front of one of the most iconic spots of the city: The Damrak, with some gingerbread look like buildings reflecting in the water. The second not so pleasant surprize was that the hotel was in a full process of refurbishing and it was a total mess. An extra reason to leave my super light baggage and run out.

I don’t do history or art museums or any other touristy activities that involve spending time indoors, in crowded places, based on a previous schedule. Instead I decided to leave it all on chance, skip the over photographed places like I Amsterdam sign in Museumplein, removed a few days after that weekend. With a bad connection that kept Google Maps in my pocket and a big walking mood in a sunny day, I decided to discover the city without any help. And just like that, by chance, I found, one by one, my favourite beautiful places in Amsterdam.

De Waag, this 15th-century old building sits on Nieuwmarkt square on one purpose: to charm the passers by. It worked with me. It looks like a fairytale castle with towers in the middle of the vibrant city. And at night, when it rains, with all the lights reflected on the wet pavement it’s too beautiful to forget. If you head to Bushuissluis Bridge, there’s another perfect pic of De Waag.

Amsterdam, beautiful places

After Damrak, with its narrow houses and gingerbread look, you’ll think nothing can be more wow. And then, a few steps away, another very cool Amsterdamish place can be spotted from Armbrug Bridge. In looks a bit Venetian with a touch of the north as the eyes reach further, at Sint Olofssteeg, a narrow canal bordered by straight buildings on each side.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Right across the chic Cafe de Jaen, look for a street who’s name you can’t pronounce. Too long and complicated. But it offers a great spot of Amsterdam also, with the buildings lights beautifully reflecting in the canal waters.

Miss a little bit of more Dutch mood? The Mill Diamonds, which hosts a jewelry store is a must find and The Gooyer, a must go, for the amazing beer tasting in the brewery there. Beer in a Dutch windmill, that was a first for me. I sincerely confess, I skipped Heineken Experience. No judges please. I like beer but I guess Guinness Storehouse in Dublin is just enough of beer manufacturing experience for me.

If there was still any hope, I got in love head over boots with Amsterdam once I arrived in The Nine Streets area and Prinsengracht Prince’s Canal. Turn around on those bridges for a 360 amazing view of Amsterdam canals. So damn beautiful and unforgettable.

You can’t be in Amsterdam and miss the Floating Flower Market Bloemenmarkt. It’s the place for tulips but not only. One day, when I’ll spend my springs peacefully in the garden, I will know there to come for flowers bulbs.

Too much walk and no food is not the sign of a happy city break. I followed the water, walking by the canals, until I reached Albert Cuyp street market. The place was just as alive as any market and place with good food can get. The fries from Pietersma, with their own special dip, were delicious, followed by a super stroopwafel and a nice conversation with the owner of Original Stroopwafels stall about the original recipe from Gouda. As his son promised before I had my first taste of this heavenly desert: it was a life changing experience. It’s so good you’ll have fantasies with after. And in the end I had to find some room for a small portion of poffertjes, mini pancakes with powder sugar and melted butter. It was worth the effort to eat all. And since now I was already round after all that food, I rolled over back to the centre.

Amsterdam, my beautiful places

Finally Red Light District, a place with actually a very rich history and I mean it. A history of sex industry dating back to 1300s, when women carrying red lanterns met sailors in the port, as Amsterdam was a major trading harbour back then. Now the oldest job in the world is still practiced on the little cobbled streets, inside small houses, except is has been legalised since 2000. I wandered the area curious to discover this infamous area, by far the most crowded in Amsterdam. A true carnival of vice, as called by Lonely Planet, with sex shops showing huge dildows in their windows, strip private shows, women sex workers wearing lingerie, seen in small brothel square windows. All was red and smelling like pot. It’s an experience to see it.  

Amsterdam, Red Light District, beautiful places  

I said at the beginning of this I don’t do museums. Well, this was before Amsterdam. I couldn’t resist the sex museum, I was also tempted by the prostitution museum and that of illusions. Cannabis museum is worth seeing too but I totally loved the cheese museum where I tasted about 20 types of Dutch cheese. Right next to this is the tulip museum. Yes, Amstredam has plenty of canals but also museums.

I left the city in the evening, after 2 full days, heading to Eindhoven for my flight back home. I was in love!

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