FROM CARTE BLANCHE TO PICTURE PERFECT

Could anyone possibly get tired of Italy? I myself am convinced that this is the most gorgeous place for elegant weddings or any type of event for so many reasons: the stunning sights, the fabulous venues, the delicious Italian food and the welcoming attitude of the Italian people. I want to share with you this amazing event bureau for whom I made a video to promote their business.

DUETTO EVENTI

Duetto Eventi is set in a region called Veneto with famous cities like Venice and Verona and also the beautiful Garda Lake.

Three of Shakespeare’s plays are set in Verona. But for me the most important one is Romeo & Juliette. You can find the statue of Giulietta at the Casa Di Giulietta in Verona. All who write down their love vows to their partner and stick them on the wall will – according to the popular belief – stay together with their partner for the rest of their lives and will be very happy. Even touching the right breast of the bronze statue of Juliette in the small courtyard will bring luck to all who are trying to find their true love.

Venice. The City of Romance they call it. Almost everyone I know wants to visit the city in Italy for a number of good reasons. It’s a perfect spot for events or maybe tying the knot!

“YOU MAY HAVE THE UNIVERSE, IF I MAY HAVE ITALY” – G. VERDI

Whether it comes to tying the knot, renewing your vows, business meetings, incentives, parties, retreats or any other private or professional happening, Duetto Eventi is your number one to make all of this happen.

Watch the teaser below:

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HOW TO: REMEMBER THIS SUMMER AND ALL OF YOUR VACATION MEMORIES

It’s that time of the year again; another fantastic summer is slowly drawing to a close.

I know. It’s terrible. We all want to go back! Lying on the beach in Spain, surfing the waves in Malibu, drinking cocktails in Ibiza, and strolling through the streets of sunny Paris, hiking up mountains or hooking up with an Italian summer love in Rome. It’s incredible what happens in people’s lives during these three months of summer.

So many places to go, so many memories to keep. But how can we hang on to summer a little while longer?

For me, travelling is much more interesting if I have a cool way to collect all of my memories afterwards. As a photographer I have a collection of beautiful travel images and often I gather little postcards or artwork of the places I’ve been. I wanted to find an original way to integrate them in my apartment and in my daily life.

So I started to surf on the internet, looking for some inspiration on how to make it happen. Well, I found this amazing DIY WORLD CORKBOARD MAP. I love doing things myself, mostly because it’s the perfect way to free your mind and be creative, also because it’s cheap! And what would be more appropriate than a world map to pin all my photos and cards on?

So, I decided to accept the DIY challenge and made a world map out of cork. I’m not going to deny it. It’s a lot of work. And yes, I may have cut my fingers a few times. But don’t worry, no serious injuries. It was a lot of fun and the result looks great. What do you think?

Corkboard wold map

I really wanted to share this. Because if you love to travel like I do, you really want to hang on to those memories and this is a beautiful way to do so.

You can find the DIY world map instructions on different sites. This is the one I used: DIY World map by TheSorryGirls

Try it out yourself and feel free to show me some photos of the outcome. Or maybe you found another way to reminisce over your vacation memories?

Seville, the city & culture!

A southern Spanish city to lose yourself in and surrender to its magic.

But to do so you must embrace the heart of the city and it’s culture. So when in Seville, do as the people of Seville do: promenade along the river, grab yourself some tapas and a cerveza (a glass of beer), spend the day outside and see where the city takes you. Living in Belgium I have to deal with a lot of cloudy and rainy days. So spending all day outside in the Spanish sun? I need nothing more to be honest.

I, for one, love strolling around the old city centre and observe the way of life. Walking around until my legs can’t carry me any further! Let yourself be amazed by all the authentic architecture the city has to offer. Standing under the Giralda or strolling in the stunningly gardens of the beautiful Alcazar Palace. Take a walk up to the Barrio Santa Cruz, which is the old Jewish quarter.

In the narrow streets you can often find small inside gardens where you can relax and escape the warm temperatures. If you had enough city for a while, take the bike and escape the to the Parque Maria Luisa. It’s an amazing place, a bit of nature in the city. Absolutely try to see the beautiful Plaza de Espana.

Sevilla

Sevilla

One of the things that are important to me as well is the experience of the culture and to try to capture a few special moments with my camera. Luckily I was in Seville during one of the main cultural events in Seville: Semana Santa (the holy week which takes place around Easter).

The Semana Santa is religious event, but for most of the week, there’s a lot of frivolity. I am not religious at all. So for me it was amazing to see how a city could change overnight in to this holy place and how everyone goes along in this tradition, young and old. It’s amazing how everybody gets dressed up putting on his or her Sunday suits for the procession. Throughout the week, the processions leave churches all over the city from early afternoon onwards, strolling through the city and back to their resting place many hours later.

 

Seville, where to eat?

I enjoy cooking a lot but maybe not as much as I love going out to dinner and discovering everything a city can offer on a culinary basis.

The Spanish cuisine is very typical. When you think about Spanish food you think of tapas, right? I tried out several places in Seville during my two-week stay and ended up with a few places where I went several times just because I simply adored the food they served and I loved the typical Spanish look and feel of the restaurant or bar.

In my opinion the best way to find good restaurants in a city is to try out as many restaurants as possible, and that is how I found my 3 favourite restaurants in Seville that blew my mind away in terms of taste, service, ambiance and creativity.

 

LA AZOTEA

 Out of all the restaurants this is for me the treasure of Seville. I won’t be the only one saying this but I was so happy to discover this small restaurant in the Calle Jesús de Gran Poder. The staff and service are amazing and I got the chance to meet owner Juan. It’s a small and cosy restaurant but very popular. If you want to eat here you’d better get there in time or you will have to wait in line. Not only popular with tourists, but also a go-to restaurant for locals.I went there on my own a few times so I sat at the bar where I could really take it all in. Everything is done with an eye for detail and with great care. It was lovely to observe the running of the restaurant while enjoying a few of the best meals I have ever had with a superb glass of wine.

 La Azotea, which means terraced roof, is the original and first restaurant in Seville, but they have expanded into two other restaurants in other parts of town. They even have a wine bar. I took my breakfast, for example, every morning in the restaurant in the ‘barrio Santa Cruz’ cause it was closer to my apartment. In the evening I enjoyed walking through Seville on my way to the restaurant in the Calle Jesus de Gran Poder.The dishes either come in tapas, media ración (half-portion), and ración (full portion), and everything, including the wine, is incredibly low-priced for its quality. I took tapas all the time cause I was so greedy and I wanted to taste as much as I could. The menu changes a lot because it depends on what looks good and fresh at the market that day. So definitely look at the ‘specials of the day’. They also have incredible fresh fish that they put on the menu with different creative takes each time. I absolutely loved all their fresh blue fin tuna dishes.

Here are some of my favourite dishes with of course the photos to make you drool.

Address: Calle Jesús de Gran Poder, 31

 

ESLAVA

Packed with locals, the Eslava tapas bar in the ‘San Lorenzo’ neighbourhood is another restaurant I can strongly recommend. This is a good place to go for lunch. You can sit inside at the bar or outside in the hot sun at high tables. It’s always very busy but it’s worth the wait. Don’t worry! If you do have to wait to get a table you can already order an ice-cold cerveza to endure the wait 😉 It’s a tapas bar so everything comes in small portions but believe me that is what you want. Pick 4 or 5 different dishes and I can assure you: it is plenty!! Unique about these tapas is that they aren’t made in the traditional Spanish way. They make Spanish tapas with all the same products but in a modern, different and innovative way.

My recommendations:

  • Costillitas a la miel y romero (pork ribs with honey glaze)
  • Pimiento relleno de merluz
  • Cigarro para Becquer
  • Solomillo al Cabrales
  • Carrillada

On the menu you can also find award-winning tapas! Try those as well! Come to think of it, whatever you pick on the menu, everything will be heavenly and tasty!

Address: Calle Eslava, 3

BODEGA DOS de MAYO

Not to be missed if you are in Seville and want authentic tapas in a typical Spanish ‘bodega’. Dos de Mayo is my favourite place for traditional Spanish food. The thing that sets this place apart from the rest is the atmosphere: the bartenders are loud, orders are screamed over the bar, dishes are called out to be picked up. It is a whole other experience than the usual restaurants! Let’s get one thing clear: there are no waiters; the bartenders call your name when your food is ready to be picked up. Just make sure you give a clear name and try to speak in your best Spanish. They will appreciate it. The food is simple but so flavourful. The best time to go is for lunch, because there is no better time! The tapas are not expensive at all. Each tapa may cost you 2 to 3 euro each, which let’s face it, isn’t much. The place gets crowded quickly, though; you might have to wait for some time at the bar to get a table.

 My recommendations:

  • Paella
  • Bacalao con salsa de tomate (cod in a tomato sauce).
  • Carrillada ibérica (stewed pig’s cheek)
  • Ensalada de pulpo

Address: Plaza de la Gavidia, 6

Seville, what to do?

Take a cooking class in Seville!

Seville, Spain has always been one of my favorite top destinations to go on a city trip. To me this Spanish city has something special. I have visited Barcelona and Valencia as well, but Seville just conquered my heart a little bit more. So not surprisingly when I chose Seville for a two-week trip to practice my Spanish and take some Spanish lessons.

If you haven’t noticed in my blog posts below I have a tremendous love of food. Yes, I am that person who takes pictures of every dish I get in front of me. I just couldn’t resist, I wanted to learn more about the Andalusian cuisine during my stay.

What better way to do that through a cooking class?

After some research I found this cooking class by Travel & Cuisine. A one-day cooking lesson in traditional or modern Spanish cuisine, beginning with a visit to the market where you will discover the products that will be used later in the kitchen, and followed by a nice tasting lunch or dinner.

As my mum was with me for a few days in Seville, it was fun to take the class just the two of us. Amelia Gomez, the chef from Travel&Cuisine picked us up at the apartment where we were staying. From there we walked to the Triana Market. In my opinion it’s the best market in Seville. Everything is so fresh here and you will find all the traditional Andalusian products: Payoyo cheese, Jamon Iberico, Fresh Seafood and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Amelia explained so much interesting things about the Spanish food it blew my mind. I expected to learn how to cook Spanish food but it was so great to also learn about tradition, culture and the stories behind the ingredients we would use later that day.

Fun fact: Amelia told me this great story about the origin of the word ‘tapas’. But I won’t give that away. I mean, you should just go to Seville and take the cooking course shouldn’t you?

Typical for the Spanish cuisine are fresh seafood, tortilla, chorizo (spicy pork sausage), salmorejo  (a cold tomato-based soup), olives, Payoyo cheese from Cadiz, and jamón ibérico. Those were the dishes we made and the products we used.

We started out by tasting delicious jamón ibérico at the market, freshly cut from the ham leg. The flavor of the ham was incredible. After our shopping we arrived at the ‘cuisine’ near the Plaza de Magdalena to spend our time cooking.

We learned to make a traditional salmorejo but Amelia also taught us to make a modern version with beetroot and avocado called SALMOREJO de REMOLACHA. We made the famous tortilla with chorizo and of course seafood paella. At the end we had a strawberry chocolate dessert.

The biggest surprise for me was this simple but delicious dish with beans, a poached egg and jamon iberico, which was called HABAS CON JAMON. A simple recipe and a perfect appetizer to serve to your guests.

Amelia was the perfect woman for the job. She has so many interesting stories to tell and she explains everything very well. I love the way she takes an interest in the quality of the products. I really feel like I learned to make these Spanish dishes with the best products available.

I definitely recommend spending one day in Seville like this. Visiting the market, cooking and eating Spanish dishes. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the day, could you?

Contact Travel&Cuisineinfo@travelandcuisine.es 

 

 

BACK TO NATURE

Kayaking was for me the best way to explore The Everglades and it’s a great way to see the most untouched areas of the park. It is quiet and you are surrounded by nature. While you are kayaking trough the mangroves and the 10,000 islands of the Everglades you discover the different animals and plants. It’s back to basics and really worth it!

The Everglades are huge so if you visit them for only one day you’d better plan ahead otherwise you will drive around aimlessly. Should you stay overnight then it’s worth to take the drive up to Everglades City.

I can recommend staying the night at The Ivey House Bed & Breakfast. They specialize in beautiful kayak tours in small groups and you can also make a trip by airboat. (It is so much fun to go on an airboat too! So definitely take one of those.) At The Ivey House you can book special arrangements and you get a great lunch on your trip.

WHERE TO GO?

You can enter The Everglades by different entrances. One of them is Shark Valley. From Shark Valley to Everglades City it’s a 49-mile drive along the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41). We drove to Everglades City on the US41 where you can find all kinds of birds, alligators and beautiful nature. Really take the time to stop and observe the nature.

Cute little post office in the middle of nowhere!

Post office

Post office

You wouldn’t expect it. But right there in the middle of nowhere there is a small post office. It’s on the Tamiami Trail and I think it’s worth the stop. Take some pictures and post your postcards here. I’m not sure if a lot of people still send postcards but I still do it every time I go on a vacation.

If you take the Tamiami trail:

  • Shark Valley Visitor center = from this centre you can take different excursions. The famous tram tour leaves from this place and takes you around the everglades on a two-hour trip. It’s a nice way to explore because you get to see a lot and get a lot of explanations. Normally this train leaves every hour. Check the website.
  • If you take the car to the everglades you should take the Loop Scenic drive.
  • Also the Turner River Canoe Trail is a very nice trail where you can see a lot of alligators.

I can only give you so much tips and advice but to get the most out of your visit to Everglades National Park you just have to go and discover these 10,000 islands by yourself and become one with nature.

Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away!

Frank Sinatra was right when he was singing those words.

Why don’t we just pack up and fly away? Especially with the promotions we can find on Connections.

Connections is a 100 % pure Belgian Travel Organization, and one of the major players on the Belgian tourism market. I always book my tickets with connections. So I had to write about it on my blog.

Connections is specialized in offering you the best, cheapest airfares and vacation packages worldwide. For those who love independent, adventurous travel Connections offers their unique travel formulae.                                   – Quote Connections-

HELLO, I love independent adventurous traveling!!! For those who don’t know, I am a big fan of DIY when it comes to planning a vacation. If you are planning on seeing the world from a special point of view, meaning your own, just organize it yourself.

First step? It’s easy! Pick a destination and buy low-cost airplane tickets on Connections.

When and where to look for the cheapest tickets, is the question. Connection has so many promotions the whole year round; you can easily find low-priced tickets. It’s important to wait for the right moment. First off all, if you’re not planning on leaving last minute make sure you check for flight tickets months before you leave. I bought my ticket in January during the BIG DEALS and left for San Francisco in September.

Book&Pay

At the moment Connections is having early booking deals. The whole month of September you can buy low-priced tickets to countless destinations. You can book flights till Spring 2015. Hot destinations at the moment? New York, Miami and Bangkok. Three destinations I would definitely go to, if I find that perfect and reasonable ticket!

imagesSo don’t hesitate, go and have a look on Connections!

 

One Human Family

What can I say about Key West?

A continual welcoming and accepting attitude toward all kinds of people has created a unique cultural mix of different ethnic groups, languages, traditions, religions, foods, and freethinkers. It has resulted in a different cultural character that the community of Key West refers to as the “ONE HUMAN FAMILY” philosophy.

I took these pictures on one of my walks around the town. They represent the unique neighborhoods of Key West with unique people striving to live harmoniously and work side-by-side with one another, setting aside all social differences, regardless of ethnicity, social class, or sexual orientation. Key West is connected with the mainland by different bridges that stream down over 100 miles of small islands. Once you get to Key West you’ve become part of a tiny diverse and harmonious social universe. Give yourself the chance to get to know the local ways of Key West.

All People Are Created Equal Members of One Human Family. It’s the Official Philosophy of Key West, Florida, adopted by resolution by the City Commission in October 2000.

If you happen to be in Key West when it’s the Key West Songwriter’s Festival, you’ll have a great way to experience the local ways and people surrounded by music.

Not only did he make good movies, the man makes great wine!

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

One of the places to visit if you are going for a wine tasting weekend in Sonoma or Napa Valley. It opened in 2010 and was designed by Dean Tavoularis, the set designer of ‘The Godfather’ movie.

As a movie fan, I had to visit the winery of the Godfather legend. And DAMN the wine is great!

The location is beautiful; you can spend a whole day there if you want. There is not only wine tasting but you can visit the premises and vineyards, have a look at great movie props and art, sit by the pool and soak in the sun; the entrance fee to the pool is expensive though.

For me, it was enough to just walk around and be inspired by the movie props, the posters, the photos and all the beautiful wine bottles. Walk around the gallery of artefacts, including Don Corleone’s desk from “The Godfather”, Coppola’s Academy Awards and the car from “Tucker: A Man and His Dream” in the center of the room.

Of course I had to taste the wine. So I took the ‘Family Flight’ for 10 dollars. With this package you get to taste 4 wines. ‘Family Flight’ includes the Sofia Chardonnay, Votre Santé Pinot Noir, Diamond Collection Red Blend and Diamond Collection Petite Shirah.

Every bottle has its own story. The Sofia wines were specially made for his daughter Sofia Coppola, for example. Yes I know, the name gave that away, but the wine bottles are much more feminine than all the other Coppola wines. TIP: after drinking the whole bottle of Sofia wine, keep it to use as a water bottle.

The ‘ Votre Santé’ wine got its name because Coppola’s grandmother used to say ‘Votre Santé’ when they sat down for dinner and before drinking wine. It is French for ‘cheers’. This one got a Gold Medal in the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

The Diamond Collection is a fine collection of wines. My favourite is the Zinfandel as it is one of California’s grapes. Zinfandel is a variety of red grape, planted in over 10 percent of California vineyards.

Don’t forget to ask for the free tastings of Rosso & Bianco wines!

TIP: If you like the Francis Ford Coppola wines and you can’t buy them on your trip, you are probably wondering where to buy them in Belgium. You find a selection of Coppola wines in ROUSEU, a wine shop in Sint-Martens-Latem.

Fresh Seafood Lunch on the Overseas Highway, The Keys

Heading to the Florida Keys?

Well, you should definitely stop at ‘Keys Fisheries Market & Marina’ located in Marathon, just off Highway 1. Keys Fisheries serves the freshest Florida Keys Seafood available in South Florida. Specialties are Lobster Reuben and of course the famous Stone Crabs. Tourists as well as local people love them.

When I visited the Keys Fisheries I was craving for some appetizers. I love to taste different things in small portions. So I ordered a crab cake, Buffalo Shrimp and the Conch Fritters. Being a fan of shrimp, I enjoyed the Buffalo Shrimp the most. Also very popular are the Coconut Shrimp, less spicy than the Buffalo shrimp.

The thing that makes ‘Key Fisheries’ so special is not only the fresh seafood but also its location and style: you eat outdoors at pick nick tables on the dock, with a great view of the water.

Don’t expect full service. You order food at the counter, and drinks need to be ordered separately. All of the food is served in paper baskets and with plastic cutlery. When your food is ready they call out your name to come and pick it up. Any service is non-existent after your order. But that’s all part of the concept of Keys Fisheries.

In my opinion ‘Keys Fisheries’ is top notch in terms of seafood and a great stop on your way down to Key West.