“I miss travelling. We don’t travel as much as before anymore,” I complained to the husband while suffering cabin fever.
“Are you kidding? Most Dutch go on one long vacation a year, usually camping in France or Spain. We’re going to three Southeast Asian countries,” he answered looking at me like I am some kind of spoiled millennial.
If you put things in perspective in a way my husband does, I do sound like a spoiled millennial. But I did travel a lot more before, going on weekend trips once a month and business trips several times a year. That was two years ago. I don’t know when but at some point travel got too tiring.
Packing for another trip while your luggage from the last one is still lying in the corner of your living room still unpacked is not fun.
It somehow diminished the experience. After all, I’m not the kind of traveller who jumps from one city to the other, takes photos of one landmark to the next or gets crazy with must-see and to-do lists. I am slow traveller. So slow that I can just spend the whole morning eating breakfast, drinking wine and looking at a river flow under a bridge.
2016 had been a great year in terms of travel. Robin and I were together in all of the trips we took this year. It bonded us again, like it did nine years ago when we went to Palawan for a 3-week assignment. We discovered new places, re-visited old favourites and got reminded of how we were before we fell in love.
So here’s a recap of my 2016 in travel, a year I’d looked back with some tears but mostly smiles.
We initially wanted to stay at Inntel Hotel in Rotterdam to watch the fireworks at the Erasmus Bridge and toast our 8th year anniversary. But in the end, we decided against it because the room that we got was more than €200/night with no view of the Maas River. Besides we’re not really party goers. So why not go somewhere more peaceful instead, where we won’t be bothered by the noise of New Year’s Eve. So we booked an old favourite for a weekend getaway in Gelderland and drove to Putten on Thursday afternoon, on the last day of 2015.
Postillion Hotel Amersfoort Veluwemeer
We’ve stayed at Postillion Hotel four years ago. I remember being crazy about the location and the food. This time was a little different. I booked a much cheaper room (at €60/night), which looked dated and had no bath. The food was also less impressive, the wine disappointing and the cocktail that the barman tried to mix for me, disgusting. But the wellness area is as relaxing as before. We enjoyed the Turkish steam bath and sauna all to ourselves for 1.5 hours for only €15 extra. Not bad for the first day of 2016.
The hotel was full of guests and dogs, all escaping the New Year’s Eve fireworks and parties. Robin and I dressed up a bit but we felt out of place in the restaurant during dinner. It would have looked liked a regular weekend except that the hotel was decked in holiday ornaments.
We dined-in both evenings. The more affordable season’s menu costing €27 was more delicious that the more expensive options on the regular menu. The same was true for the wines. Our palate were more entertained by the Salento than the Rioja, by the duck (above) than by the wild boar and fried chicken.
During dinner, we finished a bottle of Rioja while still having a bottle of champagne waiting for us in the room. Of course the improper order of drinking did not discourage us to finish the champage. Which resulted to…you guess it. Drunkness and a very bad hangover the next day. I was already asleep by 9:000PM and missed the all important countdown on TV.
After a late breakfast the next day, I went back to bed to nurse my hangover while Robin watched TV (I think he miss having one) and later on inspected the hotel’s terrain while I was dozing off. I managed to haul myself out of bed at noon. It was the first cold day of the winter season and a thick mist enveloped the whole of Gelderland that morning. The mist gave a mystical feel to the surroundings, particularly the yacht haven and the lake. I took the chance to practice my photography “skills”. These photographs were taken around the hotel’s property.
After the short photography session, we drove to the Hanseatic city of Harderwijk. Vischpoort, the 14th-century gate was a few meters away from a very large parking complex outside the Dolfinarium so we conveniently parked there. Since it was January 1, parking was free and there’s hardly anyone going about the city square.
Everything was closed. The small city square was so quiet except for a group of kids playing hide and seek. Their shrieks and laughters bounce off the old walls, filling the square with a childish glee. It felt like Christmas morning rather than the first day of the year.
A two-hour walk around the town made us hungry and the only place open was a kebab eatery. So our first lunch of 2016 was these cholesterol-laden Turkish meals.
We tried looking for Landgoed Schovenhorst, the old forest we visited in 2012 but it was difficult to drive in thick mist. So at 3:30PM we drove back to the hotel. We’ve scheduled a sauna session at 4:30PM so we had at least 30 minutes to watch TV and look at the photos we took that day. And of course there’s nothing more fulfilling after a sauna session than a huge meal of duck and wild pate. This time however, with only a glass of wine.
We started Saturday morning with a cold and rainy 10km run at Strandboulevard, a long bicycle path the starts from our hotel and goes all the way to Harderwijk. Unfortunately it was still very dark so we could not enjoy the scenery provided by the beach. But it was an exhilarating run nonetheless, the first long distance run we’ve had since a month ago when I decided to have a break from running. Followed by a warm shower and a full brunch, it was a nice way to begin the day.
However the day intended to be rainy and dark and our plan of exploring the forests was quickly abolished. At check out, we got a tip from the receptionist to visit Kunsthal Kade in Amersfoort. It wasn’t open until 12 noon so we killed time drinking coffee at the very hip Kunsthal Kade cafe.
It cost €10 per persoon and to be honest, we weren’t very impressed with the current expostion called Land Art. But there was this sand box installation where you are allowed to play, take photos and share it on social media. Of course, I couldn’t resist. If you follow me on Instagram, you’d find my video spinning it the sand box. Just thinking about it is making my stomach crunch at this moment. I’ll spare you the torture.
We left the museum after an hour. There weren’t many options on a rainy day but indoor activities so we agreed to watch James Bond’s Spectre afterwards. We still had three hours to kill so we decided to walk around the old city starting from Koppelpoort towards the city centre. The rain was starting to get heavy and I was starting to get crancky. We stop for a glass of rose and some calorie-laden bitter garniture. By the time we left the cafe at 2:30PM, the rain has let up and Amersfoort looked a little lovier in its wet glory. I won’t mind living here.
While walking back to Pathe cinema, we passed by the De Drie Ringen beer brewery and stopped to have another drink. The pub has cozy and warm interior unlike the usual dark pubs that typifies breweries. There was a local gathering going on. There was also erwtensoep (typical Dutch pea soup for winter). Too bad we weren’t invited.
Spectre was another entertaining and over-the-top James Bond movie. My husband had a certain swag when we left the cinema. With popcorns and cola, it was the perfect way to end a weekend trip. By 7:30PM we were home enjoying a plate of adobo flakes for dinner.
Sometimes where you choose to stay while travelling is a destination in itself. While I do not mind booking myself in a standard hotel or a camper in the middle of a Dutch farm, indulging in hotels where the view is breathtaking and the wine overflows, makes my travels a little more memorable. Through the years, I have stayed in many unforgettable accommodations, some cost me a fortune, others not even €10 a day. What they have in common are their amazing locations and top of the class service – two of the most important factors I am looking for in a hotel. I am sharing five of my favourites here:
I guess each of us has that one place where we run away to when our spirit is at their lowest; a sort of refuge where we know we would be healed.
My travel schedule had been crazy and I don’t mean that in an exciting way. My body has not been able to recover from my weekend trip in Paris so when I flew to Stockholm, my stress level shoot up. This usually manifests in mouth sores. It’s difficult to eat or talk and at the end of the day, it makes me very tired and irritated. But life goes on and that means running after ships and deadlines almost everyday. So if we’re friends and I am not answering your messages or calls, I am probably too tired, too sick or too busy to do so. Or I can’t talk.