TIPS FOR EXPLORING AMSTERDAM!

When travelling to Amsterdam there’s a few easy things you can do to save yourself time and money. Some of these things I unfortunately learnt the hard way, so take a look at these tips and don’t make the same mistakes I did…

-Book a hotel outside of the city center. There are lots of lovely hotels that are only a short walk or tram ride from the center that will cost you a fraction of the price!

-Get planning and book trips before you arrive. Things like the Van Gough Museum and Anne Franks House can have long queues on the day, so buy your tickets online and skip the line.

-If you’re planning on packing as much sightseeing into your break away as possible, get an I Amsterdam card. It gives you access to museums, attractions, canal cruises and some packages even include local transport too. You can order them online or collect them from the airport on arrival.

-Do not get taxis from outside the airport to your hotel. They run on meters but the meters go up very quickly and journeys get very expensive (our 20 minute journey cost us 90 euros!!) Instead use Uber to call a taxi, their prices are much much lower.

-Amsterdam city center is beautiful, but to experience Amsterdam properly you need to get out of the center and head on to the back roads. If you don’t want to walk everywhere then rent a bike or use the trams.

-The tap water in Amsterdam is some of the cleanest water in Europe, so don’t be scared to drink it! Take a reusable bottle, refill from the tap and save yourself some money! The airport departure lounge has a water bottle refill station too, so you won’t need to buy any expensive bottles there either.

-If you’re thinking of visiting Amsterdam only for a few days, plan your trip on weekdays. The prices of tours and hotels are a lot cheaper if you avoid weekends.

-Take plenty of cash with you because a lot of the restaurants and shops will not accept card payments. There are plenty of ATMs all around the city center where you can withdraw money if you need to.

-Amsterdam is a big place with lots of canals and back streets to find your way around, so be prepared and download Google Maps Offline. The app lets you navigate without the internet, so you’ll save your data and won’t get lost (hopefully!)

-There are lots of reports of pick-pocketing in Amsterdam, so make sure you take a bumbag with you or a backpack that fastens fully. Most hotels will offer safety deposit boxes where you can store your passports and valuables so you don’t need to worry about them.

Check out the BEST vegan food in Amsterdam🍔 , and see what we got up to!🚲

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MEXICO’S RAINBOW CITY! (CAMPECHE & CELESTÚN)

On another mini break away we decided to visit Celestún and Campeche, 2 places we hadn’t heard much about.. but they turned out to be BEAUTIFUL and I’m so glad we visited.

First we travelled to Celestún, a fishing village about a 4 hour drive from Playa Del Carmen. When we first drove into Celestún, honestly… I was so disappointed because all of the buildings looked dirty, deserted and really run down and the main square had very few shops, a pharmacy and a handful of sea food restaurants. But the more of the town I saw, I realized that this was REAL Mexico, not the commercial touristy parts I’ve been used to, this is the part of Mexico where the locals don’t speak English, where they aren’t materialistic and community means so much. Lonely Planet describes Celestún as ‘a sleepy sun-scorched fishing village that moves at a turtle’s pace…’ and that is very true. We stayed at a hotel called Posada Maria Isabel, which was one of the few beachfront hotels in the area, only a short walk from the main square. They had onsite parking, coffee facilities and a cabana area on the beach too.

Our first full day in Celestún was spent on the gorgeous stretch of beach in front of our hotel which we had all to ourself! The sand was covered with little white shells that jingled as the clear sea water washed over them, pelicans flew over our heads and traditional Mexican music was playing in the distance. As far as beach days go, this one was perfect!!! After a day of swimming and sunnning it up, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset. We sat on the beach, alongside the local stray dogs and watched as the sky turned orange and red and the sun finally set. Because food options were really limited in Celestún, we decided to drive into Merida for dinner which took about 90 minutes. The drive was definitely worth it though, because dinner at Nümen restaurant was AMAZING, I’d maybe even say it was some of the best vegan food I’ve ever tried!

Day 2 we went off the beaten track and headed into Celestúns Biosphere Reserve. We drove our hire car over the bumpy dirt roads (probably not our cleverest idea) wildlife spotting and stopping at places that looked interesting a long the way. We found a pretty little beach with abandoned church ruins that we climbed inside of, saw lots of iguanas and vultures and ended up at a gorgeous pink lake full of bright pink flamingos. The lake was covered with different shades of baby pink, fuscia and coral, caused by the pink microorganisms that live in the salty water. It was a magical hidden place, like a scene from another planet that I really recommend a visit too if you can get there!

After the Biosphere Reserve we headed to our second destination of the trip, Campeche- known as Mexicos Rainbow City. It was evening as we arrived, so we took a quick tour of the promenade before finding a nice spot to watch the sunset again. The sunset here was just as beautiful as the night before, but what made it so special was the amount of people, both locals and travelers, who came out to watch it. Hundreds of people from all nationalities gathered on the board walk, quietly watching. We then headed into the walled city center, home to narrow cobbled streets, pastel buildings and the most beautiful cathedral I’ve ever seen. 59th street is the main street that runs through the center, it has a really European feel with restaurants on the pathways either side of the road and tables and chairs set up for el fresco dining in the middle. We stopped off at a lovely little place that did vegan pizza called Patronis’ Bar and as we were eating, a mariachi band came and played which was a special little touch.

One thing you NEED to see if you visit Campeche is the incredible light show at 8pm in the main square. A 30 minute long cartoon video all about the history of Campeche is projected on to the side of a building, loud music plays alongside the images, the beautiful cathedral is lit up in purple and white and the atmosphere is completely magical! It was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in a while, I loved it and learnt a lot about the history of the rainbow city. We decided to call it a night afterwards and headed back to our hotel which was only a short drive away called Hotel Ximbal, the rooms were nice and the landlady was so sweet.

On the final day of our holiday, we decided to drive back in to Campeche and explore the rainbow streets some more. The little buildings painted in yellows, greens, pinks and blues were even prettier in the sunshine, so we took lots of photos and wandered around the city. As we were walking I realized how safe and traditional Campeche feels, there’s no one there pestering you to come into their shops, no tacky tourist souvenirs and everyone seemed genuinely friendly and helpful, so different from other parts of Mexico. When it was time for the long journey home, I really didn’t want to leave. I’ve fallen in love with Campeche and I already can’t wait to visit again.

THE MAGICAL LAGOON OF 7 COLORS (BACALAR, CHETUMAL & MAHUAL)

Bacalar is a beautiful lagoon in the south of Mexico, on the border of Belieze. It’s know as the Magical Lagoon of 7 Colors because gorgeous shades of blue, indigo and turquoise stretch across it. The white sandy floor, the crystal clear water and the different water depths cause this blue kaleidoscope effect, with many cenotes inside the lagoon itself causing deep blue pools. The lagoon is picturesque, dotted with palapas, wooden swings and small boats and the laid-back main town of Bacalar has a few supermarkets, restaurants and bars, mostly decorated with bright street art. On our first visit to Bacalar we packed our weekend full of water sports and activities, so this time we were keen to relax and enjoy the beauty and nature of this magical part of Mexico.

I love Bacalar so much, I’d say it’s one of my favorite places in Mexico, so I was really exited to be spending a long weekend here again almost a year after our first visit. We drove the 3 and a half hours from Playa Del Carmen to Bacalar and checked in to our hostel, which was called LuLu La Bruj. We picked this hostel because they have a little vegan restaurant onsite that serves a vegan breakfast every morning, it’s right on the lagoon, has morning yoga classes and is animal friendly. We stayed in one of the little cabanas, which was very basic but really cute and was right in front of the beautiful lagoon. They had hammocks hanging in the trees, a beautiful decking area where yoga took place in the morning and a little common area with a book swap and games too.

It was about 5:30pm when we arrived to the hostel so we went out for some dinner at Mango Y Chile, a place we were super excited to visit again because they serve the BEST vegan chocolate milkshakes, had a wander around the main town, looked around the little shops and had an early night ready to get out and explore the next day.

On our first full day in Bacalar the weather wasn’t the best, it was grey and overcast and it was pretty windy so we decided to drive into Chetumal, the capital of Quintana Roo, as neither of us had been there before. We didn’t stay there long though as we weren’t too impressed by it. There was a nice walkway along the sea front with lots of statues and sculptures dotted along, but the town was quite empty and there wasn’t too much else to see. We took a photo by the big rainbow Chetumal sign, stopped for brunch at Carlota (which was one of the only restaurant here to serve vegan food), and headed back. On the way back to the hotel we saw a sign for Panto Ha, pointing into the jungle and decided to see what it was. A long, bumpy dirt road opened up to the most beautiful green land right on the lagoon front.

It had little palapas, chairs, steps leading into the lagoon and kayaks to rent, there was only a handful of other people there so it was really relaxing. We did some swimming and some people watching until the wind got too chilly and then headed into town for dinner, this time at La Playita, a restaurant on the lagoon with incredible vegan options. What we didn’t realize was that this weekend was the carnival, so the town square was really busy with tour buses, market stands and food stalls, and a big stage had been set up too. A little parade went through the town, music was playing, and the place had a really nice atmosphere. We stayed and watched some of the carnival show before heading back to our hostel where we laid out on the deck, under the hundreds of stars that could be seen in the pitch black sky, we even saw a shooting star too!

We didn’t have any plans for the following day, so we went for a traditional Mexican breakfast at El Manati and decided to find another place to relax by the lagoon, this time we ended up at El Alegre. For the first few hours here, we had the place to ourself, so we set up camp at the far side on a grass patch next to the lagoon. The water wasn’t too cold, so we swam, napped and read our books in peace. El Alegre was so dreamy, kayaks were going past us, there was a little jetty you could walk on to and lots of little umbrellas dotted around too. Before we knew it it was 4pm, so we went back to our cabana to get ready for another evening in Bacalar town.

On our last day we wanted to stop off at a place we’d seen called Mahual on our way home, so we had a lovely big breakfasts at La Playita and headed to the beach resort. Mahual is known for being very hippy and relaxed so we were excited for a visit, but when we got there 2 big cruise ships were docked up so it was very busy on the beach, music was blaring really loudly, the beach bars were really full and the shops were selling the same tacky things that you find in the main tourist areas of Mexico. The promenade along the beachfront was lovely though, so we walked up and down it, passing jewelry shops, juice bars and sea food restaurants, then drove round to a quieter spot of the beach, by the rainbow Mahual sign and watched as the cruise ship pulled away from the dock.

We had a lovely relaxing break away in beautiful Bacalar, if you want to get away form the hustle and bustle of the bigger resorts then I definitely recommend a visit. There’s so much you can do here, from paddle boarding, kayaking and other water sports, to boat trips across the lagoon, exploring the pirate museum at San Felipe’s fort and diving into Cenote Azul.