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Denmark: Happiest Country in The World

If you haven’t had the chance to visit Denmark yet then this post might just make you want to book a plane ticket! Thanks to Cilla for this fabulous tribute to her country. Follow her blog here!

So I’ll start this post with telling you a bit more about myself before quickly sketching out reasons to visit my home country Denmark. When I was very young, my family and I moved to California. We lived there for 3 years before moving back to Denmark. I’d say my cultural understanding of other countries is pretty good. My father is married to a Brazilian woman. I’ve had an exchange student from Latvia living with me. I’m curious and openminded. I’m especially interested in the innovation part how do we do something even better or getting a better value? What can we learn from other cultures or countries?

Why visit Denmark you might ask? We’re lucky of we get one month of really good weather during the summer. The living-expenses are high. Getting a cheap hotel in Copenhagen is almost impossible. When visiting the countryside, you’re pretty much left alone withoutanything to do. Danes? All pale and wearing black. Taxes are insanely High.

Well besides all that. Denmark has a lot to offer. The Danes are well known, as being polite, happy and helpful. Oh yes, the happiness. Danes has been voted the most happy people in the world over and over again. You can hardly hit a bar without making new friends – might be short-term, but I ensure you, they’ll help making one hell of a night out.

The old architecture in the different cities, especially Copenhagen is just stunning. Copenhagen has for example being voted the most livable city in the world several times. There’s a lot of culture in Denmark. There are actually still living viking villages, fortresses, castles and art museums.

While travelling with a younger audience, I’d highly recommend Legoland – everybody is familiar with Lego right? Did you know it was founded in Denmark? I’m going be honest with you guys. I’ve visited Legoland even without my kids as well. I’ve been there with grownup members of my family, just to ride rollercoasters, dig out my inner child and have fun.

Tivoli is another great and historical place to visit. During the different seasons, specially Christmas it is almost even more magical than Disneyland. I know you are wondering – and the answer is yes, I’ve been there without my kids as well. Tivoli is also used for concerts, events and restaurants.

Okay, I think I made my point. I could go on about fun outdoor Activities, biking all over the entire country, danish design and stuff like that – but here’s what matters. Here’s what all of us want to know. NEED to know. Food.

Oh yes, the New Nordic Cuisine. Seriously – it is remarkable. I promise you, you will fall in love with the danish food. I’m not talking about chain restaurants here – yeah, you can find a McDonald’s here as well. No, I’m talking about those restaurants, which in using local products, everything is freshly produced and authentic. Noma, a restaurant in Copenhagen, was even voted the worlds best.

Let’s talk about fashion then. Scandinavian pieces has been dominating the catwalk the past through years. Danes know style, period. You can find everything, from fancy-clothing stores to exclusive second-hand shops with unique items. I even find myself, sitting on a bench in the middle of Copenhagen, just getting inspiredby the thousands of fashionistas passing by.

The scandinavian style is here to stay. Both in fashion, but also in interior. The raw materials. The black/white/grey-colors. The boom in green plants. The minimialistic, but yet cozy way. The luxury danish design chairs. Go check for yourself. Brands like Nordal and House Doctor are gorgeous with affordable prices. I’ve seen tons of interior pictures on Instagram and Pinterest from allover the world inspired by the scandinavian style. Look it up and be inspired too.

Allthough it’s cold – I wouldn’t want to live any other place. It’s safe for my kids here, free medical-care, they are secured a good education. And I simply love the danish way of sarcasm used everywhere. I love Denmark and I’m sure you will too. Feel free to reach out, in case of comments, questions and so on. I’d also love to hear from “foreigners” moving to Denmark.

Behind the author; Living in Soenderborg, Denmark – which is pretty close to the German border. Approximately 300 km away from the Capital city. New blogger mamma. 29 years old. Coffee-loving, shopping, beauty and dog-enthusiast. Owner of Cillaes.dk

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Travel

Manchester, UK: More Than Just Oasis

The North of England is experiencing a boom in trendy restaurants and funky art galleries. Take a journey with Kate to one of the coolest cities in the UK…

My other half recently moved to Manchester to start a new job which had given me a great excuse to explore a new city as often as he and his flat mates will put up with me staying over. This city has so much to offer in terms of art, culture and most importantly fantastic food!

One place that I’d really enjoyed visiting even before I started going to Manchester more often was Oklahoma. No not the musical or the city in the United States but a funky shop just off the main Manchester shopping streets that will fill you with whimsical joy and help you to buy a gift for that person that is really difficult to buy for. If anyone is struggling buying me a Christmas present, I’ll take the cactus Christmas tree decorations!

Shopping isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but do you know what is? Pizza. That’s what. Manchester has possibly the greatest Italian restaurant in the UK that specializes in classic Neapolitan pizzas made from fresh ingredients and served in a convivial and relaxed setting. I’m talking about the one and only Rudy’s. The currently have two locations in Manchester and have just opened one up in Liverpool that I am so eager to try!

After the inevitable food baby you might want to go and pontificate over some art. Manchester has plenty of that for your delectation. My personal favorite is the Manchester Art Gallery which has a fabulous permanent exhibition as well as lots of temporary ones. If you follow me on Instagram then you will know I’m also a big fan of the architecture of the main lobby.

Feeling hungry again? Look no further than Mackie Mayor. Permanent food markets seem to be all the rage and the moment but that’s fine with me as I can never really choose where to eat for dinner so they allow me to sample bits and bobs from lots of different culinary establishments. I tried the delicious cod bao from Baohaus and the boy had a steak sandwich. Mackie Mayor used to be a meat market and is continuing he glorious tradition by welcoming several different vendors to sell their gastronomic delights in this stunning industrial building.

No doubt I will have more to tell you about Manchester wise in the near future but these are my current obsessions. If you try any of them I hope you enjoy!

Travel

San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles: Instagram Hotspots

When Honey approached me with this blog post I jumped at the chance to publish it! I’ve been wanting to go to California for a while now and this awesome article has made my wanderlust even worse…

Instagram. Even if you aren’t a blogger or an influencer, sometimes you still want that perfectly lit, frame-able, centrepiece worthy image to stick on your social media, your office desktop, or as a large print for your gallery wall.

So, here you are in Los Angeles. You could be a local, an import, or a visitor, who now has a myriad of local attractions and walls to choose from. Where do you go? Sure, you could follow as much of the walls and wings scattered all over LA – and I think you should – but you could also add a little bit of mystery and excitement to your photos with a location that makes people say:

“Where WAS that?!”

Or, “So pretty! I forgot about that place – let’s go!”

Try Somewhere New

Most people these days know a little bit more about San Fernando Valley than they used to. As the red-headed stepchild of Los Angeles, it usually got a bum rap for being a worthless area of the county with nothing to do in.

There are a lot of misconceptions about this area known simply as “The Valley” even though there’s a minimum of 3 other Valleys within an hour’s driving distance from the LA city centre. The main one I’d like to address here is the misconception that The Valley is not worth visiting.

These days, one of the reasons to visit a spot is its Instagram worthiness. Many places are worth visiting for the experience, but points are added if you can take a great photo there, whether it’s the food, the walls, or the scenery.

Lake Balboa Park

A large park in the Valley that boasts plenty of activities ranging from archery, golf, Japanese gardens, and a lake you can ride a swan paddle boat in, just to name a few.

Because of those, there are plenty of areas and activities in this park that can provide you with some great Instagram content. This single location can provide you with all sorts of different scenery in a day’s worth of shooting.

The Village at Topanga Canyon

A relatively new open plaza in the San Fernando Valley, The Village opened about 3 years ago giving this corner of the valley new retail life.

Built much in the spirit of other open plazas like the Grove and Americana, this place is designed for strolling and shopping, as well as sitting for hours enjoying your coffee, your dog playing in the various textures of dirt, grass, cement, and floor fountains, reading a book, or people watching.

The walkways are lined with a variety of decorated walls, from vertical gardens, floral backgrounds, fake swings, and light up text, there is a beautiful Instagram wall for you and your feed.

Malibu Hindu temple

Not so much an attraction, but an actual temple, this place welcomes visitors of all kinds. Details are best obtained directly from the website, as hours can vary by season and special occasions.

The temple is hidden between the hills and valleys of Mulholland drive. Easily missed if you’re not looking for it, it’s a beautiful glistening white building with statues of Hindu deities inside. You are free to take photos, walk around, or simply sit down to breathe in and meditate in their presence.

Victory Trailhead

One of many trails in the West Valley, Victory trailhead is a favourite of the locals for its easy parking, easy paths, and perfect views of the sunset.

There is a particular spot I often visit when entering from the Victory Trailhead entrance that often reminds me of The Lion King when viewed at sunset.

Note: For those that aren’t local, there are snakes and coyotes in the area. Be aware. Summer hosts a lot of rattlesnakes, so stay on the path. Be cautious of coyotes, especially if you have a pet with you. While a lot of people do hike alone, it’s best to hike with a friend.

Vasquez Rocks

A rock formation located towards Santa Clarita Valley, this is a perfect place for some creatively costumed shoots, active, and family photos.

Many families and teenagers show up here to hang out, hike, or climb the rocks. According to trivia, this place is also known as Kirk’s Rock for being heavily used in Star Trek as a variety of planets.

Venture out further and explore

San Fernando Valley may just be the beginning for you. It was for me when I first moved out this direction.

What initially felt like an empty area devoid of most active life suddenly became a treasure trove of places rarely any of my friends in LA had any idea about. Living here is how I found these places and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

When in the San Fernando Valley, those of us that don’t care to plunge into the busy areas of LA are able to drive towards the coast of Malibu, head further inland into Simi Valley or Sylmar, or cross the border into the next county of Ventura.

There are a lot of places here not covered by the usual Los Angeles itinerary that could be worth a day’s drive or a weekend visit. I encourage you to take the 101N or the PCH. Stop by the little-known places along the way and find some of your own little Instagram treasures.

Honey Reyes works in fashion and runs a personal travel blog at thatdamnhoney.com that includes posts on travel advice, Los Angeles events, and journal entries about her life – with a debatable amount of swearing.

Travel

Naivasha, Kenya: The Floating Rock of Hell’s Gate

Have you ever wanted to make a trip to the inspiration behind the opening scene in the Lion King? Karis from Don’t Dream Just Travel has been kind enough to take you on a journey with her through this incredible landscape!

If you ever find yourself in Naivasha, Kenya, one of the places you should definitely visit is Hell’s Gate National Park.

Hell’s Gate is located in Naivasha, around a 3 hour drive from Nairobi. Entrance fees for non-residents are currently set at $26, with an added fee for a car or a bicycle.

One of the great things about Hell’s Gate is that you are allowed to rent bikes at the entrance to the park and bike through. It is one of the few parks that is probably safe enough to do so, although you must stay on the road and not wander.

You can also camp overnight on one of the cliffs overlooking the park. I often made a weekend trip to Hell’s Gate to camp, hike, bike, and look at the wildlife.

It is a little known fact that Hell’s Gate inspired the Lion King (see the actual “Pride Rock” here!), and Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie was also filmed here. I actually personally know the local videographer that got to work with the team for this film and taught both of his sons in one of the schools I worked at in the Rift Valley.

Another neat feature of Hell’s Gate is that it has a beautiful canyon that you can hike down. Because it is prone to flash floods it can be quite dangerous and the entrance is monitored by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

I lived and worked in Kenya for 9 years and Hell’s Gate has always been one of my favorite places to camp and hike, however, one day things did not go to plan.

I went on a day trip with some friends and we hiked down into the canyon that had recently been filled with flood waters, so the going was tough in the mud. We had quite a few small waterfalls to climb up and down, and at one point, we had a giant, stillwater mud puddle to figure out how to get across. We couldn’t walk through because after pushing a stick in we realized it was probably waist deep, and the canyon walls on either side were absolutely vertical with no way of climbing over them.

Right in the middle of the puddle, however, was a relatively large, flat rock. The first guy in the group decided to try and jump for it, took a running start, landed on the rock, and promptly went completely under the water.

The rock was not what we thought it was – it was a porous, floating, volcanic rock! It was literally floating in the middle of the water and wouldn’t sink. We had never seen anything like it!

The rest of the guys I was with decided to muscle their way across by putting their feet on one side of the canyon wall, and hands on the other, and shuffling across the puddle. They were all over six foot, and all five feet, eight inches of me (which I thought was a fair height) decided to do the same.

I got about halfway before I realized that being four inches shorter than the guys wasn’t going to work as I slipped on the rock and went straight in! Thankfully, this was before the days when we carried smartphones everywhere, so no equipment was lost – only my pride!

The only other girl in the group decided to save her dignity and charged straight through the puddle, which ended up coming up to her chest at the deepest point.

After half of our party emerged from that hike dripping and muddy. We were definitely looking forward to going home that evening and showering off the mud of Hell’s Gate, wishing that the floating rock had actually been solid so our hike wouldn’t have been so wet!

Whenever we drive by Hell’s Gate, we remember that crazy floating volcanic rock and wonder how it got there, many miles away from the closest volcano in Kenya … I think if it were alive, it’s probably still laughing at us.

Follow Karis and her adventures over on her blog and social media!
Travel

Worldwide: Festive Friday 2!

We have had some incredible feedback following our first post in the #FestiveFriday series. Today we take you to two countries that are miles apart with different traditions. The things they have in common however are the passion the two writers have for their respective countries and the festival they celebrate! 

We loved learning about Guatemala from Ale’s last blogpost, now we get to indulge in her Christmas traditions!

One of my favorite things of Christmas in Guatemala is the sense of unity and family that is created in the environment. All throughout December, Guatemalans host different types of events in order to spend quality time with people they love. A very common event is a “convivio”, which is basically a party where friends, family, or co-workers (depending on who hosted it) gather and celebrate that the year is almost over and simply spend a fun time together. Most of the time, convivios have different types of games where you can win prizes, food (of course) and/or a gift exchange.
Ale Xmas.jpgSince Guatemala is still a predominantly Catholic country, one of our traditions is having a “posada”; an event symbolising the pilgrimage of the virgin Mary and Joseph on their departure from Nazareth to Bethlehem, awaiting the birth of Jesus. This tradition consists in leading a procession through the streets and at the end, stop by some houses to receive a snack; traditionally, people should offer tamales or chuchitos, sweet bread, and punch (fruit punch is prepared differently in Guate). The procession is accompanied with candles, carols and instruments.
Some big local companies also host free events where everyone is invited. There are two big events in my city; the inauguration of the biggest Christmas tree in Guatemala, the Árbol Gallo (Gallo is the name of the beer company who is hosting the event), and a fireworks show called Luces Campero (sort of like Macy’s 4th of July show in NYC). Both of these events have some acts before the main spectacle begins, such as ballet, national artists, etc.
Apart from events, we also come together by decorating our homes. In Guatemala it is rare to buy a real pine tree; we mostly have the plastic ones sitting in the garage waiting to be decorated. However, one of the traditions is commemorating the birth of Jesus by placing a representation below the tree these are called “el nacimiento”. Nacimientos are decorated with a layer of moss, pine leaves, sawdust of all the colors you can imagine, and little clay characters to represent everyone that attended the birth of Jesus. Personally, this was one of my favourite memories when I was little, since my sister and I had the freedom to decorate it however we liked!
Kathleen thrilled us with her tales of German joke books, now she has a festive story to tell! 
Kathleen Xmas

As some of you might know, I went to Kiel in 2015 as part of my year abroad at university (and those who don’t, I don’t know how because I haven’t shut up about it since). Christmas in Kiel was one of the most magical things I’d ever experienced. There was a huge market by the central station – admittedly, a rat once ran over my foot there, but I was feeling very festive and chose to consider it as more of a Christmas rat – and I was struck by the amount of camraderie and happy feeling around all the people there. No one actually seemed to buy anything from the many little huts around the square, but the Glühwein was flowing and there was almost always some kind of local band playing a Christmas tune or two. When Kate came to visit (namedrop to the editor), we went to Lübeck and marvelled at the marzipan towers on the main square. When other friends came, we went to Hamburg to try the Christmas rides firsthand.

I feel like I should give a short introduction to my former landlady at this point. Her name is Renate, she is the most spritely 67 year old I’ve ever met and she spoils me absolutely rotten. Because there aren’t any young people in my village, she has taken me under her wing. Are we best friends? I don’t know, but we exchange excellent WhatsApp chain mails and she insists on bringing over dinner in a Tupperware every Friday night so I don’t have to cook over the weekend. When I get a call from Renate asking me to go with her on a coach trip to a historic Christmas market, what’s a gal going to do? Obviously accept. So she signed me up with her (other) best friend, Barbara, for a Christmas market tour.

Kathleen Xmas 2The coach came to pick us up from our village centre and we went, via Cottbus, to our destination. I was the only person on this bus under the age of 64. I know this so precisely because Barbara is 64. The bar opened obscenely early on board the coach; the woman next to me had three half bottles of wine for under a tenner and all before midday. The journey took us about three and a half hours, but I was ready; this was going to be the best Christmas market I’d ever been to! A medieval town in Saxony, on the Elbe, totally off the beaten track for non-Germans! There was a distracting interlude in the afternoon which involved eating half a goose and going on a boat trip with the Saxon equivalent of John Bishop, but we eventually got there at quarter to four. Remember this, quarter to five.

“Right everyone, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Time to go and explore the Christmas market! Remember, everyone needs to be back on the coach by ten to six!”
Ten to six? Maybe I’d got the devilish German time telling wrong (who says three quarters eight when they mean quarter to nine??) and they meant six to ten? Oddly specific, but not unheard of in the land of punctuality. But no, she said ten to six. I didn’t really understand why we’d driven for nearly four hours and been subjected to such John Bishopry for two hours in order to stay there for an hour.

I soon understood why. The stalls all fit one of four profiles: Glühwein, baubles, gingerbread, candied nuts. They were all ever so slightly expensive for what they were. The light sleet in the air was making everything damp, but at the same time not damp enough to feel wet. Renate, Barbara and I only actually spent 20 minutes at the market – there was absolutely no Christmas feeling whatsoever. A man was telling me on the bus about how he came a few years ago and there were Czech craftsmen making ornaments for people to take home with them – where were they now?

Unfortunately, this seems all too prevalent in the New Bundesländer (former East Germany). The markets are full of aging adults, with children too old to come to the Christmas markets but not old enough to have grandchildren of their own, and who aren’t willing to shout about how much they love Christmas. That said, I was in Bautzen a few weeks ago and there were children and young people filling up the main squares of the town. But the stalls were all the same, everywhere I went. A true German Christmas experience you’re looking for? Head north. Try out the Lüneborg or Lübeck markets. Say hello to the Christmas rat in Kiel, wherever s/he may be. And bring the enthusiasm with you! Don’t expect the market to do all the Christmassing for you; drink as much Glühwein (or Apfelpunch! Great non-alcoholic alternative) as you can stomach and bully your friend into trying a Feuerzangenbowle – hot wine with a sugar lump balanced on top and set on fire!

Follow both of them on their travels via their social media:

Ale:  http://marialevasquez.wixsite.com/doslunares  http://instagram.com/doslunaresgt/

Kathleen: https://twitter.com/_mrsbruhl  

Travel

Istanbul, Turkey: Eat Like A Local

The more Native Than The Natives team like their restaurants full of locals and good food! Thanks to Nazlican from Naz Lives for this fantastic guide to Istanbul’s best local eateries.

 

I’ve moved to Istanbul three years ago. I was born and grew up in Izmir, but I moved to a different city for university which was definitely a challenging experience. But the way I see it, moving to a different city means, living in a city with lots of different restaurants and cafes, and quite frankly, that’s what I live for!

Luckily for me though, the friends I made at uni were either from Istanbul or had been a local for longer than I had so they knew where the good stuff was. That’s how my journey of discovering the best food in Istanbul began. And I’m going to tell you all about it now!

 

In this post, you will find places that serve really great food, some typical to Turkish cuisine and some not. So, if you ever wind up in Istanbul, drop the touristy route and eat where the locals do. I promise you won’t be disappointed with your food!

 

Hopdaddy Burger

 

To start with something everybody loves, I can’t recommend Hopdaddy enough! It is in fact, possible to find good burgers all around Istanbul, but Hopdaddy is definitely one of the best! There is of course many #saltbae restaurants scattered all over the city, but they’re no secret. You should definitely try those, too, if you get the chance, but with Hopdaddy you have tons of options and the burgers are to die for! Located in Yeniköy on the northern side of the European side of the city, it should definitely one of your food stops if you’re anywhere near.

 

Bayramoğlu Döner

 

Döner kebab is usually one of the first things that come to mind about Turkish cuisine. Needless to say, it’s a huge part of our culture and cuisine and there are billions of places that serve döner all over Istanbul. But if you’re looking for the absolute best, Bayramoğlu is certainly the best one I’ve tried in Istanbul. It’s not necessarily in a convenient location, but it’s worth every minute of the commute. It might even be worth going out of your way for, if you’re passionate about your food like I am! 

 

Emirgan Sütiş

 

Emirgan Sütiş has many different locations in Istanbul, but I’m referring to a specific one: The original one, in Emirgan with an unbelievably magical view of the Bosporus. They serve all kinds of food, and I bet whatever they’re serving is pretty great but I’m going to be honest with you, I haven’t tried anything except their breakfast and a few desserts. But their breakfast, though… I mean, I could break hearts for their “kolböreği”, a typical Turkish pastry with minced meat! If you’re into discovering a typical Turkish breakfast, and better yet, a really good one, Emirgan Sütiş is where you need to be. In all honesty, I could go there for breakfast every weekend if I could. (I do at every chance I get though!) The best part about this place’s breakfast is that you get to choose what you order. Most places bring a fixed menu for breakfast, and it could be pretty disappointing if you’re a picky eater like me. But here, you will get to choose what you get, and what you don’t!

 

Bodrum Mantı 

 

I couldn’t not include a “mantı place on this list! Mantı, or Turkish dumplings as you might have heard of them, are my ultimate comfort food; and I really love a good mantı. The best ones I’ve tasted were usually homemade, but I’ve had some seriously good mantı in restaurants, too. I wish I could include a tiny, undiscovered mantıplace instead, but I have yet to find such a place here in Istanbul. However, needless to say since it’s included in my list, Bodrum Mantı is my favourite mantı place in Istanbul. The best part about the place is the selection of mantı! It’s crazy how many types they serve, if you ever visit one you’ll know what I mean. And they also offer mixed plates; you can get two different kinds in one plate! How amazing is that?! They have many locations all over Istanbul and you’re very likely to be close to one wherever you are in the city. They also serve typical Turkish tea and their special desert for free afterwards! Great, great place!

 

Mangerie Bebek

 

Last but not least, I wanted to include a café where me and my friends hang out at sometimes. It’s on the pricier side, but it’s definitely worth a visit. With no signboard visible, it’s definitely a hidden gem, located in Bebek at the very heart of Istanbul. It’s right upstairs from Nus-et,#saltbae, restaurant in Bebek and you have to climb a few flights of stairs to reach there. But once you’re upstairs, you know it’s worth it. There’s a magical view of the Bosporus and the atmosphere will dazzle you the second you walk in. They offer a selection of delicious deserts as well as proper food, if you feel like dining or having lunch there. It’s also one of my favourite places for breakfast. They make great pancakes and eggs benedict. Definitely worth a visit if you need a peaceful break from the crowds and the city!