A Day Trip to Utrecht

If you find yourself in the Netherlands, Utrecht is a lovely town to spend a cold winter Saturday, which is exactly what I did a few weeks ago.

This old old city is the fourth largest in the country and, with a population of just over 300,000, it’s the perfect size to walk around in a day and go back home feeling like you got to know it a little bit.

Start the day with a stroll around the beautifully preserved old town and get lost in its narrow streets. Make your way to the Domplein (literally, the cathedral square) and enjoy a traditional pea soup and a sandwich while looking at the square through the huge windows of the Brasserie Domplein.
Although the cathedral itself is nothing spectacular, its gardens are definitely worth a visit.

How about a walk along the canal in the afternoon? Head back to Oudegracht, where you will also find a variety of shops and cafés to keep you entertained and caffeinated.
Too cold to be outside for too long? Warm up browsing books at Boekhandel De Slegte‘s several floors.

Before you head back home, make a pit-stop at Graaf Floris to savor one of their delicately prepared Irish coffees.

How to get there
My favorite means of transport in the Netherlands is the train. From Amsterdam Centraal, the train ride is about 30 minutes, and around 40 from Den Haag Centraal.

View of the canal from a bridge

Things you can find when you explore Utrecht's old, narrow streets

Lunch

Bikes and canals: proof that you are in the Netherlands

The gardens of the cathedral

Nothing like an Irish coffee to warm up

Where to Find Good Coffee in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (aka LPGC) has a lot of good things to offer, but coffee, unfortunately, is not one of them. In fact, coffee in this city is so bad that they invented the leche y leche. Basically, they add a generous dollop of condensed milk to the coffee to hide its taste and make it drinkable. If you don’t mind your coffee being extra sweet, a safe bet would be to order this if you’re unsure of the quality of the coffee.

Cortado leche y leche

Luckily for coffee snobs connoisseurs like myself, more and more places are now serving Italian coffee. Look for the Illy or Lavazza signs and you’ll probably be fine.

My favorite places

Cocó: go for a walk around the charming neighborhood of Triana and stop here for the best coffee in town. Try their homemade cakes and cookies or, if you feel like something savory, go for one of their many yummy sandwiches. They also serve lunch.

Plantaciones de origen: a great selection of bulk coffees and teas, definitely the best place to buy your ground coffee.

Café y más: if you decide to spend the day on the beautiful beach of Las Canteras and you are looking for some good coffee, it’s worth leaving the touristy waterfront and walking a couple of blocks inland to get your caffeine fix.

Order it like a local

You might be looking for Italian coffee, but you’ll still have to order it in Spanish.

Un café solo: an espresso.

Un café cortado or un cortado: an espresso with a little bit of milk, the closest thing might be an espresso machiatto.

Un café con leche: similar to an Italian capuccino or a French café au lait.

Un cortado leche y leche: what you want to order if you find yourself at a place that serves Canarian coffee. It’s a cortado floating on condensed milk.

Un café con leche y leche: a safe bet with more milk than the previous one.

Un americano: if espresso-like coffee is too strong for you, you can order this one; it’s basically an espresso ruined by adding hot water, but if that’s how you like it…

One last tip: if a place serves Café Sol, avoid it at all costs.

The Secret of El Hierro

Where: Valverde, El Hierro, Canary Islands

What: good, uncomplicated food in a colorful, chill environment

When Dustin and I moved to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, we were planning on staying there for two years and visiting all seven islands in the archipelago. We ended up staying only for 14 months and visiting only three islands: Gran Canaria (the one we lived in), Fuerteventura (to celebrate the first anniversary of our first wedding) and El Hierro (on our first “mini-moon” after our second wedding).

You might be thinking, “and what exactly is a mini-moon?” It’s what you do when you don’t have enough money for a proper honeymoon because you spent it all moving to another country. You also need a bunch of great friends who chip in and organize the trip for you, self-made map included. Thanks, guys, you know who you are!

El Hierro is the smallest of the Canary Islands. It has a population of about 10,000 people, impressive views, treacherous roads and volcanic activity that brought the island to the news just a few weeks after we were there.

It also has the cutest, most colorful bar-restaurant I have been to in a long time, El Secreto.

It’s like somebody dropped a color bomb in an antique shop.

I loved their mismatched furniture, their splashes of color here and there and, above all, the bar, made out of green doors:

They’re open from 8am to midnight, Monday to Friday, and 10am to midnight on the weekend, so you can get pretty much any meal you want there. Have some local cheeses or a typical dish like ropa vieja, and don’t leave without trying their delicious mousse au chocolat.

Happy travels!

Cozy Cafés in The Hague: Appeltje Eitje

Where: Zeeheldenkwartier, The Hague (clic here for a map)

What: A cozy fun café that serves Italian coffee, cake, sandwiches and such

I am not a fan of crowds. I normally tend to avoid the downtown area of larger cities and The Hague is no exception. The Centrum area of The Hague is charming, don’t get me wrong, but if I am looking for a café where I can hang out with Dustin or with friends, I’m going to head to the quieter neighborhoods.
Dustin and I were exploring the lovely Zeeheldenkwartier in The Hague a couple of weeks ago and we found this lovely spot.

They serve Italian coffee, which is a must for us, and their cakes are pretty decadent, as they should be.

Check it out if you are into mix and match decorations with a healthy dose of kitsch, a relaxed atmosphere and eclectic music.

Agua: cocktails & sandwiches

Where: Corralejo, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

What: Cocktails and sandwiches, relaxed atmosphere and chill music on the waterfront

It is that time of the year again: the days get shorter, the weather gets nastier and, like many people in Northern Europe, you might be starting to plan a short getaway to a warmer and sunnier location.

The Canary Islands are a favorite destination for a brief vacation during the winter months. If you decide to head to Fuerteventura, the largest of the seven Canary Islands, don’t miss this lovely cocktail bar in Corralejo.

You will find it at the Avenida Marítima, 7, right by the water. The views are amazing.

It is the perfect spot to savor a great cocktail and munch on some snacks before dinner, or you could just skip proper dinner altogether and enjoy one of their tasty sandwiches.

Dustin ordered gin up.

And I had a Piña Colada.

Do you know Corralejo? What other places would you recommend?