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Vuurtoreneiland, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Lighthouse island- middle of nowhere near Amsterdam

There aren’t many places around Amsterdam that make me feel like I’m at the end of the world. Holland is well designed, everything has its place and sometimes nature seems to be literally engineered. That and the fast pace of the booming city can be tiring which has brought us to a perfect afternoon escape on…

Vuurtoreneiland – Lighthouse island

As you might realize by its name it’s a tiny, tiny island with not much more than a lighthouse. It’s close enough to Amsterdam to reach it by boat in less than an hour but it’s also far enough to forget that there even is a city nearby.

The secret of its beauty is simple… there is just not much there. In such a densely populated country with almost all the areas carefully planned it’s an achievement to find gems like this.

Except for omnipresent sheep, there is just one house, fort leftovers and a stunning glass house that serves as a restaurant. That brings us to the essence of our journey there.

Why go there?

Vuurtoreneiland offers a unique dinning experience. It all starts with a boat journey that shows you Amsterdam and the surroundings from a completely different perspective. First, we got to see a bit of the modern parts of the city spread along Zeeburg and IJburg and then a bit more the rural parts. Already at departure we got a basket with some snacks for the way and some aperitif. Honestly, it’s not much so joining the experience on a completely empty stomach might be a bad idea.


After arriving on the island we had some time to walk around, sit by the water or go straight to the restaurant. Luckily the boat carries maybe around 30 people so it really doesn’t feel crowded in any of the spots.

Since we managed to visit the island in the summer season we could eat in a beautiful modern, glass building. From every side we had a view on the surrounding water or the lighthouse. It was just beyond beautiful especially during sunset. Since the kitchen is open and in the middle of the restaurant we could not only see how all the meals are prepared there but also estimate when was the right moment for a walk in between the courses.

In final end it’s a dining experience and so the main highlight is the food. It’s all freshly prepared on the spot. It’s cut, smoked, cooked and fried using the best local produce with lots of greens and love. We especially enjoyed the smoked turbot and sautéed chanterelle. But don’t get your hopes up on those since the menu changes all the time and you never know what you’re going to get until you’re there. The only thing you can be sure of is that with every dish there will be a delicious glass of wine 🙂


How to get there?

You can only get there with one company that organizes dinners, lunches etc. For summer season you really need to book immediately when they open a certain date (especially during weekend) which is 2 months in advance. For winter arrangements it’s less crazy but then you eat in the underground bunker. It's not a cheap entertainment but its uniqueness is well worth the price.


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De Haar Castle, The Netherlands

Castle De Haar- A day trip from Amsterdam

Many consider de Haar Castle the most spectacular castle in The Netherlands. I can’t judge it since I haven’t seen them all… just yet. Nevertheless it is the biggest one in the country and it’s definitely stunning and worth a day trip from Amsterdam.

The first mention of the castle dates back to 1391 but since then almost its entirety has been destroyed on various occasions. The present look is the effect of a 15 year restoration project by Pierre Cuypers, the same man that has built the Central Station and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It sounds like a very long time but then again, a house with 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms can’t be created overnight. His vision and talent extended also on the surrounding gardens, chapel and even the nearby village Haarzuilens.

What is there to see?

You can see a great part of the interior of the castle including some of the rooms, bedrooms, office areas and even the old kitchen. Outside there is a giant park to visit with a Rose Garden, Chapel and a long canal in the end of which there is a quite a stunning view on the castle.

The park is a great place for a picnic or a nice afternoon with a book. There is even a small café to buy coffee and snacks.

The Castle also organizes various exhibitions all year round for example about celebrities visiting the baron and baroness. It’s a well-known tradition of the Van Zuylen family to stay at the castle for the month of September and throw parties. Even though since the year 2000 they are not the owners of the property they still kept that right. In the past the events were attended by for example Roger Moore, Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurens.

How much does it cost?

Admission to The Castle costs 16 euro. If you want to visit the Park it’s an additional 5 euro.

How to get to De Haar Castle?

I have to admit the best way to get there is by car… However with a bit of patience and time at hand, it’s possible to reach it with public transport within 1.30 hr. First you would need to take a train from Central Station in Amsterdam to Utrecht and then bus number 9 that goes to Haarzuilens, so the nearby village. From there it’s just a short walk to the castle.

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A peaceful weekend in Heusden

Mostly we choose a destination because there is something interesting to see or do in there. Scrolling through B&Bs on I decided to change that approach. What if we chose an accommodation to be our prime destination? Sounds like not a bad idea for a country of unstable weather. And aren’t cute hotels located in beautiful places anyway?

That’s how we got to discover Heusden in the southern part of Holland. After a little bit of research it turned out it was a fortified town which already promised at least some history. Underwhelming pictures on google could just mean two things: either this tiny city was not a tourist attraction or there was not that much to take pictures of… Either way, enchanted by the potentially stunning B&B we decided to give it a chance.

Heusdens Logement is situated in an impressive XIX century house just a short walk away from the main square. It offers only 3 rooms so it’s really homie and cozy. The only thing that it would have in common with a hotel would be… impeccable style. The whole house is beautifully furnished with unique antiques, all of which were gathered by the owners. Every little detail is thought through, there are flowers on the table, paintings on the walls and even the doorbell is unique... good that JD knew which part of it we had to pull on.


The house ticked something off my bucket list- sleeping in a typical Dutch house. Nothing compares to waking up with those magnificent, massive windows with a great view on the street. Or at least that’s what I thought before I got the chance to relax in a bath looking out through equally grand windows in a bathroom as big as half of our apartment…

As you can imagine the B&B was a 10 out of 10 experience. But how about the town itself?

It reminded us a bit of Naarden, close by Amsterdam. The walls that used to protect and surrounded the city are now overgrown by vegetation and inviting for a stroll with views on the town. The center itself is small but big enough to provide restaurants, cafes and shops for the weekend. Just next to the harbor there are also three windmills. Although they were built in the 70's, they don’t look modern at all. No one who loves Holland for its windmills will be disappointed. Except maybe for a small detail… they no longer work. Every now and then the blades turn just to please the eye.

Heusden is not really famous for anything, nor has it got any of “the biggest” or “the best” so we don’t mention any local attractions. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. We loved it for the atmosphere of enjoyment. It seemed to us everyone had time there, time to relax, sip some beer on a terrace, talk. We enjoyed strolling through those lovely streets and most of all we loved the peace. The importance of the last one is often underappreciated. We really liked not having a whole list of things to see for once and we would really recommend it to any busy bee out there.

How to get to Heusden?

It’s easy to get there with public transport. First you have to go from Amsterdam Central Station by train to Den Bosch. Later on you have to take a bus nr 135 that will take you straight to Heusden. All in all it takes a bit under 2 hours to get there.

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Diving and snorkeling on Bonaire

There are very little places offering superb diving and snorkeling opportunities and even less spots that are as well maintained as Bonaire. For those who are beginners there are diving sites with easy entrance from a beach, for more adventurous and experienced divers there are plenty of difficult entries, boat dive spots and even a wreck to discover. In total 86 diving locations for all the tastes. Depending on luck you can spot various species of fish, turtles, cuttlefish, seahorses, moray eels and soooo much more.

Some think diving is superior to snorkeling but to be honest I think it’s just as good, just completely different. It offers more color, more light more visibility. But… it doesn’t make you a part of the marine environment like diving does. As a snorkeler you are always the observer, never the participant, never just another “big fish”. Still… you have a chance to spot pretty much the same variety snorkeling as diving. All depends on luck and chosen location purely… so…

Where are our favorite spots for diving and snorkeling?


Suitable both for snorkeling and diving…. if the weather is good. With a strong current, entrance to the water can be challenging as you have to slide from a rock and fire coral starts immediately.

Karpata offers the biggest variety of sea fans that come in all the sizes and colors out there. Except for those there is an incredible selection of all types of coral and a superb variety of residents from cuttlefish and pufferfish to eels.

Salt Pier

It’s one of the easiest and most rewarding sites on the island. Entrance is just a simple walk through sand with a great possibility of spotting turtles already at the very beginning. Later on it just gets better. Salt Pier is famous for its pillars encrusted with sponges and corals, surrounded by schools of fish. All that creates an extraordinary scenery. It’s suitable both for snorkel and diving. Make sure there is no boat picking up salt, otherwise it’s not allowed to enter the water there.

Little Bonaire

A heavenly spot great for snorkeling and diving. Easy entrance, beautiful reef and a great chance of spotting turtles since its where their nesting locations are.

Pink Beach

Jandirk’s favourite diving site. It’s certainly not worth a swim for a snorkel session since the reef starts far offshore and a bit deep. We discovered life when we practically lost hope and wanted to turn around and go diving somewhere else. Pink Beach was destroyed a couple of years ago in the tsunami and the reef is just recovering which offers an incredible sight that can’t be found anywhere else on the island. It’s a quite wild part of the underwater world with lots of fish and varieties of crustaceans.

18th Palm

Very easy entrance from a beach and 100% chance of spotting massive tarpons makes this our favorite relaxing dive.

Alice in Wonderland

Diving only spot offering a true underwater garden experience with a variety of reef and even a double reef formation.


It’s only possible to snorkel here with a Mangrove Center organized canoe tour but’s well worth the additional hassle and cost. After all that’s where so much of the marine life is born so you see plenty of small and big fish in great numbers as much as colorful coral attached to the roots of the trees.

Spots we haven’t visited but we wish we could

Some spots on Bonaire are possible to visit only with ideal weather conditions. Those are hard to achieve since it’s pretty windy very often there. So although we wanted to try to visit the White Hole of the other side of the island, we couldn’t. Currents there make it difficult to reach it even by boat. Nevertheless we will keep trying to get there when we are again on Bonaire. Proximity to the mangroves guarantees a lot of bigger marine life, sharks, eagle rays and every greater variety of turtles.

Another location with a great fame are diving spots around the Washington Slaagbai National Park in the North. They are really remote and so less popular among divers with great variety of marine life. We simply didn’t have enough time to visit those as well…. But if you do, don’t forget to let us know how it was!

Where to rent the equipment?

There are plenty of schools and resorts offering equipment rentals and organized dives but we always stick with only one. WannaDive is cheap, reliable and very leaned back. They rent all the gear or just parts, as you wish. They also organize boat dives to Little Bonaire and great night dives.

The fee

Water surrounding the island is a marine park up to 60 meters deep and so there is a fee involved for all the water activities. For diver it’s 25 USD for a year pass (nope, there is no such thing as a two week pass). On the bright side if you pay the fee, the entrance to the Washington Slaagbai National Park is free.

It’s possible to pay the fee in all dive shops, the tourist office in Kralendijk or at the STINAPA office.

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Goto Lake view point, Bonaire

12 spots you don’t want to miss on Bonaire

Bonaire is an unusual, tropical part of the Netherlands it's famous for its superb diving, wind sports and breathtaking views. There is so much to see and explore and yet the island is small enough to see the highlights in just a few days. The best way to do so is by car since public transport is practically non-existent. For more adventurous people there is also a possibility of renting a scooter and for pure masochists– bikes. Choose wisely, Bonaire is one of those places where it’s always hot and sunny…

And off we go 🙂

  1. The heart of the island- Kralendijk

A place where everyone’s journey starts. It’s where so many of the restaurants, cafes and night life is located. The city center is very small and concentrated around the waterfront. It’s worth looking at the local, colorful architecture and stop by for an ice-cream at Luciano (truly divine). Except for that I wouldn’t recommend spending too much time there, why let the nature wait, right?


  1. Salt Pans

The most (in) famous sight of the island. Driving by, it’s impossible to miss the pink basins or the white mountains of salt. Don’t forget to look around, you might spot flamingos!

Looking at this beauty makes it easy to forget that it used to be a place where the slaves used to work. Back in the day, it was a very labor intense job done in a scorching heat….

  1. Slave’s huts

Driving further south, you will come across white and then orange huts. They seem like the most charming, tiny houses with the best view on the sea…. In reality those were built for the slaves, so that they could rest after many hours of hard work. Incredibly those were constructed almost at the end of the slavery period around 1850. I don’t even dare to think in what conditions the workers slept before those appeared on the horizon.

  1. The wild southern end

I always enjoy looking at the roughness of the sea, splashing waves and the power of nature. Here is one of the best spots to just do that. Such a short drive from Kralendijk one might feel like the southern end couldn’t be further from the inhabited world. There are many bizarre-looking sculptures at the shore made from whatever the locals could find here. And you can find quite some treasures in here, drift wood beautifully shaped by the sea, shells, stones… We felt a bit sad we couldn’t take anything with us. Bonaire is a protected area so all of its natural bits and pieces have to stay on the island. Gossip has it, that they just finished building a local prison so we definitely didn’t want to risk exploring it.

  1. Lac Cai

This magical bay is a paradise with something for everyone. Those who love wind-sports will find perfect conditions to practice next to Sorobon resort. Those who travel with kids will enjoy shallow waters without waves perfect for swimming even for little ones on the other side of the bay. Those are surrounded by stunning mangrove trees and one of few sandy beaches on the island. On Sundays around noon this place comes to life with live music, fresh caught fish and a bit of beer 🙂

  1. Mangrove center

Mangroves are extremely important for the island’s ecosystem and most of the area is off limit. The small part open for tourists can only be visited with a certified guide. Thankfully mangrove center has quite a few of those and they have plenty of interesting stories about animals and plants living in this environment. They organize nice tours with quite small groups. We would especially recommend the 2-hour kayaking tour which not only takes you through spooky natural mangrove tunnels but also allows you to admire the underwater world in the snorkeling part. Have you ever seen an upside down jelly fish or colorful sponges and coral on the roots of mangrove trees? Those views are worth absolutely every dollar of the 46 we paid for the excursion (per person).

  1. The soul of the island- Rincon

Rincon has a local vibe, it’s where the Antillean part of the population lives. Part of it looks very run down and poor. Lately the worst looking houses got a bit of a make-over with lovely floral paintings. For those only it’s worth a drive (really!) and there is still a distillery to explore too. They are famous for their local cadushy liquor made from cacti. After driving for a while on the island you will realize, they will never run out of resources to make it…

They also had a brilliant idea of creating flavored liquors representing traditions of other Dutch islands. So there are plenty of interesting flavors to choose from.

If you’re more into heavier spirits they also produce delicious rum and not so delicious whisky, tequila and vodka i.m.o 🙂

TIP! Check the opening times before heading to the distillery. It only opens on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

  1. Posada para Mira

Just like the name states it’s an oasis to watch the local landscape. Located on a mountain it offers a splendid 360 degree view. It’s also the best spot to try some of the local specialties like iguana or goat stew. It closes at 6pm so it’s not really a dinner type of place. Such a shame, sunset here would be truly magical.

  1. Goto Lake view point

We would highly recommend visiting it at sunrise to experience the beauty of this place in all its glory. You will see mountains coming to life, hear all the birds and see more and more pink dots emerging on the lake. Those are the little symbols of the island, flamingos. Being there at sunrise gives you a greater chance of spotting “pinkies” from close while driving down from the view point. The busier it gets the further on the lake they go.

  1. Washington Slagbaai National Park

This place is worth a day trip on its own. It has two car routes to choose from. Short one takes an estimated 1.5 hour and the longer one 2.5 hour. But if you want to snorkel, dive, enjoy the beaches or simply really spend time exploring, it easily becomes a day trip. The park offers the most beautiful beaches, view points of the ocean and a chance to spot a fair amount of iguanas, lizards, crabs, fish and obviously flamingos. The population of the last one is especially dense around the pond near the old port building (indicated on the map below). We were very happy to see that recently they also built open huts in some of the most spectacular spots. Those are idyllic and perfect for a picnic.

  1. Little Bonaire

No journey to Bonaire would be complete without visiting Little Bonaire. It’s a tiny, uninhibited island just off the coast facing Kralendijk. There are two water taxis which go there a few times a day. One leaves from a little port just downtown and the other one from nearby Eden resort.

The first thing we saw when reaching the island is a long, idyllic, sandy beach. It’s very peaceful and perfect to just relax and read a book. It’s a great place for snorkeling, diving and spotting turtles…. And that’s it… There is not really anything to see or do on the island. So if you don’t like the beach or underwater exploration, scrap it off your list 🙂 Remember to take all the food and necessities with you. There is literally no bar or toilet there.

  1. 1000 steps

Somehow this diving spot became very famous and started attracting tourists…. Maybe everyone wants to see those 1000 steps? I hate disappointing but I have to honestly say that the number refers more to a certain feeling than the exact number. If you are a diver and you get out of the water with your gear looking up to see the stairs (that you have to climb), they will seem endless…. As a tourist you will realize they are not nearly as many. Sorry I forgot to count them. Anyway it’s still a lovely spot to see:)

A walk in Delft

On paper Delft should be the Dutch number two tourist destination. It’s where Vermeer created some of his most famous paintings and it’s where the famous white and blue pottery is made.

Mentally prepared for crowds we arrive at Delft central station on Sunday morning….

  1. The Central Station

Even though we came to Delft by bus we rushed to see the train station first. It’s really the best way to start the walk. Although nowadays it’s divided into an old and new part, it’s the new part that took our breath away. On the ceiling we immediately spotted panels with a massive map of Delft. It shows how the city looked in 1877. To accompany this masterpiece the columns and walls of the station contain pieces of broken Delft Blue.

  1. Museum Prinsenhof Delft

From the station we headed straight to the Prinsenhof Museum which provided us with a lot of insight into the history of Holland and quite some curious facts about the Delftware. Who would have thought it all started just as a cheaper, more accessibly replicas of Chinese porcelain?!

The building was a witness of one of the most important moments in Dutch history. It’s where King Willem of Orange was assassinated. You can still see the bullet holes in the wall. There is no way you will miss it as the whole scene is being projected on the walls…

  1. Oude Delft

Going out from the Prinsenhof Museum we came out on Oude Delft, the oldest canal in Delft. It was created in 1100 when the city itself didn’t even exist yet. Nowadays that’s where the most monumental houses are situated. Every single one of them is unique and has its own story. We walked along that canal various times and on both ways. We loved it from every perspective. Don’t forget to walk till the very end of it. Not only are there plenty of charming, little bridges to cross on it but also on each end there is quite something to see. On one side it ends next to the Royal Dutch Army Museum and on the other side with the Old Church. Both of which are spectacular.

  1. Lunch at Kek

An absolute must! Kek is the only busy spot that we saw in Delft, there was even a long queue to get a table. The waiting time went flying in this amazing interior and it was well worth it. Already in the door we realized we were in for something special. The interior is very green, full of plants, food and coziness. Everywhere we looked there was a little designed detail we loved. Some of those pieces you can buy directly in the café, others have info next to them to make sure you find the shop that sells them.

Not only our eyes got fed but also our bellies. Kek serves dishes from all over the world accompanied by homemade smoothies or great coffee. There is something for everyone and all of it is delicious!

  1. Stroll through the center

After a great meal it’s time to burn it walking through the center. Voldersgracht is possibly the most touristic part of the old town but it’s well worth a stroll. For Vermeer lovers- that’s where the Vermeer center is located. We have to admit we were not convinced enough by its content to visit.

Just around the corner there is the heart of the city, the main square with the City Hall. For those who would like a beer or more coffee… there is plenty of lively cafes, restaurants and bars over there.

If you come during the summer and it’s not raining we would recommend stopping at the Beestenmarkt Square. It’s where all the restaurants put tables outside under some trees.

  1. The Eastern Gate

It’s the only city gate still standing in Delft. It dates back to 1400. Not only is there a beautiful street leading towards it but also the Towers themselves are magnificent. I got a bit jealous that someone can call it home since it’s partially a residence, partially an art gallery.

TIP! For the best views on the Gate head to the other side of the river, where there are some benches to enjoy the sights in peace. The exact location is indicated on the map below

How to get to Delft?

Delft is just an hour away on a train from Amsterdam. You can easily check the timetables on google.

We decided to go to Delft from The Hague which was just a 15-20 min tram ride.

Where to sleep?

We really wanted to stay somewhere special and still be able to afford a living at the end of the month. We really couldn’t find a place like that in Delft so we decided to go for a hotel in The Hague. It was one of the most incredible stays we have ever had. Hotel Indigo is a brand new pearl, situated in plain center of the city. The hotel itself is worth a visit as such. It used to be an old bank and the designers embraced the idea. It’s a very modern but cosy interior with elements of an old bank. The bar in each room is in a safe, the pub in the basement is in an old vault and it features massive doors that once guarded gold and money. The past is warmly recalled on the pictures hanging on the walls. Highly recommendable stay!

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