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Bloghouse in the fairytale village of Besalu

Having the opportunity to visit the stunning village of Besalu to attend the first ever Bloghouse was the chance of a lifetime. One I would jump at again.

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Besalu Town Costa Brava Spain

Besalu Town Costa Brava, Besalú

Besalu Village

In September this year I was invited to join a handful of the most influential bloggers in the travel blogging industry. For two intense days we knuckled down in the fairytale village of Besalu in Costa Brava.

From one of the most photographed bridges in Spain, to its narrow alleyways, Besalu is one of those cute towns that you could spend hours exploring.

It is a place where you can wander between the little cafes and everyone will greet you with a smile.

Besalu Village Alleyways

The reason I had been invited to Besalu and the Bloghouse, was to provide us with a chance to focus on identifying our blogs strengths, weaknesses and overall path for our adventure travel blog. It was an opportunity that new bloggers dream of.

And we had it all laid on for us. We were hosted by the wonderful team at Charming Villas who provided us with one of the nicest houses mansions I have ever stayed in. Scratch that, Casa Marcial was the nicest place I have ever stayed in!

A pool, about a gazillion rooms and foundations from the 17th Century. This photo was taken from the backyard…

Charming Villa Bloghouse backyard Besalu

We had as much booze as we could drink. Which to be fair was a ridiculous amount. A personal chef showing us how to cook Paella, and enough food the rest of the time to feed an army.

We spent our days learning the intricate details of fine tuning our content, creating better videos and the overall art of travel blogging.

While this may sound very mundane to most of you, it is all helping to transform Four Jandals.  If you take a look back at our journey from when we first started posting articles a year ago (please don’t look they are horrendously written), to where we are now, there is a HUGE difference.

It is these sorts of opportunities that experienced travel bloggers provide to us, that make me love the decision to throw away a very successful career and pursue our dreams and passions full time.

And ultimately provide better stories and adventures for you to read.

Besalú Bridge Costa Brava

But it wasn’t just the Bloghouse that was so amazing.

It was the wonderful village and people of Besalu who opened their doors for us that cemented it as a place I will return to.

From the scrumptious cakes across the stunning Besalu bridge at Ribera Bistro, to the extravagant dinner at Pont Vell restaurant, the locals welcomed us in with open arms.

It is these sorts of small towns and villages that make me fall in love with travelling over and over.

Besalú Town Costa Brava Spain

So if you ever have the chance to visit Spain, then make sure you schedule in a few days around Costa Brava. And ensure you head towards the French border to explore the incredible village of Besalu.

You won’t regret it.

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. remy @ cool travel blogs

    October 11, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    Wow it looks truly stunning like something lifted straight off the pages of history. I would love to explore this place. More research needed I think!

    • Cole Burmester

      October 11, 2012 at 4:49 PM

      Thanks Remy. It is a beautiful part of the world.

  2. Laurence

    October 11, 2012 at 6:15 PM

    Someone has discovered lightroom 😉

    • Cole Burmester

      October 12, 2012 at 9:28 AM

      I can’t decide if I like the effects or not though. Especially when you have two different types of photos such as the village shots, then the deep blues from the sky in the church shot.

  3. Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey

    October 11, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    Jealous of your time in Besalu and the inspiration (and paella) it provided!

  4. EurotripTips

    October 11, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    I loved Besalu. I was just there in February for a blog trip with Charming Villas, and this was one of my favorite things to do in Catalonia.

    • Cole Burmester

      October 12, 2012 at 9:29 AM

      Wonder if we stayed at the same place? They definitely know how to run a blog trip. Will need to be involved next time 😉

  5. Michael

    October 12, 2012 at 12:22 AM

    It was really awesome having you at the blog house. And I agree, Besalu was a beautiful town. The location was perfect.

    • Cole Burmester

      October 12, 2012 at 9:29 AM

      Cheers Michael! It was a great experience. Can’t wait to hear where the next one will be… haha

  6. Cailin

    October 12, 2012 at 1:22 AM

    Love the pictures Cole! I honestly wish we had more time in that house or we could of stayed for ever! So much meat and cheese! Mmmm! and the wine! 😉
    Glad you could be a part of it and felt like you learned from us!
    See you soon!

    • Cole Burmester

      October 12, 2012 at 9:30 AM

      Can’t wait to catch up with you guys all again soon! Thanks for inviting me along 🙂

  7. Ayngelina

    October 12, 2012 at 1:47 AM

    Besalu looks like such a wonderful place to do the blog house, I am definitely impressed.

    • Cole Burmester

      October 12, 2012 at 9:31 AM

      Would have been great to meet you there Ayngelina! Hopefully another time soon.

  8. Victoria

    October 12, 2012 at 1:54 AM

    Hey Cole, fairytale is the perfect word for Besalu. It was a delight to be there with you. Your photos are gorgeous. Hope to see you, and meet Adela soon.

    • Cole Burmester

      October 12, 2012 at 9:31 AM

      Thanks Victoria! Definitely looking forward to catching up again, wherever that may be 😉

  9. Dalene

    October 12, 2012 at 6:15 PM

    What a great experience with a stunning backdrop! Nice work on the pictures!

    • Cole Burmester

      October 13, 2012 at 9:17 AM

      Hopefully you guys will be able to make the next one. Just pity we won’t be allowed to come along 🙁

  10. The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen)

    October 13, 2012 at 4:19 AM

    This place looks lovely, Cole! I’d love to visit Costa Brava, and glad you guys are coming along so well with your site. Though you do tempt me to go back to some of your older posts … 😉

    • Cole Burmester

      October 13, 2012 at 9:20 AM

      Don’t do it Ellen! You may be so repulsed you will never come back haha.

  11. Mike@logcabinsinwales

    October 13, 2012 at 7:41 AM

    Besalu really is a fairytale village. You were fortunate to be in this beautiful place ans had a chance to attend to that event. How did you become part of this?

    • Cole Burmester

      October 13, 2012 at 9:21 AM

      We heard about it on a blogging forum and through word of mouth. If you want any tips for your own site then feel free to ask and we can help out 🙂

  12. Raymond @ Man On The Lam

    October 13, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    I am SO bummed I missed out on this — the location in itself is amazing, but couple it with all you learned and I am doubly jealous.

    • Cole Burmester

      October 14, 2012 at 11:22 AM

      Make sure you apply for the next one. Should be one before TBEX Toronto, and hopefully before then too.

  13. Flora

    October 13, 2012 at 6:15 PM

    Great post Cole – I love your edits to the photos too! Maybe if we bug them hard enough, team Bloghouse will let us come to the next installment..!

    • Cole Burmester

      October 14, 2012 at 11:24 AM

      Either way, let’s have a reunion somewhere! We can do our own awesome thing 😉

  14. Sherry Ott

    October 15, 2012 at 4:39 AM

    I have a thing for small towns/villages! And Besalu is magical! Glad you had a great time!

    • Cole Burmester

      October 15, 2012 at 8:51 AM

      Thanks Sherry for helping organise it all 😉 Hopefully we get to see you in person next time!

  15. Mary @ Green Global Travel

    October 15, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    Congrats on your amazing experience in the Bloghouse! Besalu looks lovely. Sorry we missed it.

    • Cole Burmester

      October 15, 2012 at 8:46 PM

      Besalu is a fantastic little village. So many places we need to explore in Spain still.

  16. Sam

    October 17, 2012 at 9:57 PM

    Sounds like it would be a great experience. Is this something they do every year?

    • Cole Burmester

      October 18, 2012 at 1:40 PM

      They are planning a couple. There will be one before the Toronto TBEX event I believe!

  17. Liz

    October 18, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    Cole! It was great meeting you at TBU and TBEX, the blog house in Besalu and all our chats were amazing! i hope we run into each other again soon!

    • Cole Burmester

      October 18, 2012 at 1:40 PM

      We definitely will cross paths again! Was super fun hanging out, and can’t wait for a reunion haha.

  18. Shamis @ Gawaya Travel Blog

    October 20, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    What a place to have a travel blogging event. It looks so beautiful. Spain sure is one of those places that has amazing places like this.

  19. Stephen Schreck

    October 27, 2012 at 4:14 AM

    That might be the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

  20. Katie@holidayblog

    October 27, 2012 at 6:07 AM

    Cole, Been dreaming to visit Besalu. Your picture looks like as if it could only be found in disney movie. You are lucky to have visited Besalu.

    • Cole Burmester

      October 31, 2012 at 9:47 AM

      To be honest I had never heard of Besalu before we visited. So glad we had the chance to go though as it is definitely like a Disney movie with its Castle walls etc.

  21. Steve @ Explor Eearth

    October 30, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    I wish I could have been part of those lucky bloggers who got to visit Besalu. Next time, I’ll try to be part of such event and put a great review like the one you did.

    • Cole Burmester

      October 31, 2012 at 10:46 AM

      There will be lots more of these types of events Steve so keep an eye out for the #Bloghouse hashtag 😉

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Adventure Travel

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

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Trekking through the valleys of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Middle Earth Travel feels more like the set of a Star Wars movie than a historical region once carved out and lived in by humans. Churches, homes and pigeon houses are scattered throughout the valleys, all waiting to be explored. The best part is, Middle Earth Travel know all the hidden secrets.

Standing at the top of Cappadocia

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

On the 26th of July (which just so happens to be my birthday!) Middle Earth Travel took us on their private and guided Top of Cappadocia day trek. From Pasabag, along the top of Cappadocia and down through the Gulludere Rose Valley to Goreme, we trekked 15kms in one day! (We recommend getting your bearings with this map)

Upon arrival to the Middle Earth Offices, we were warmly greeted by our new friend Atil whom we had met a few days earlier while mountain biking through the Kizilcukur Red Valley. We were then introduced to our guide and given a briefing regarding the day. Normally, the Top of Cappadocia tour would start from Çavuşin, however, since we had already explored Çavuşin Castle, they adapted our tour to compensate ensuring we would explore new terrain!

With charged cameras, plenty of water and our running shoes on, we were driven to our starting point of Pasabag. We wandered through the fairy chimneys, coming across camels and markets – then the true hike began.

Pasabag in Cappadocia

The police station in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

It was a slow and gentle incline. With no trees to provide shade, I quickly realised why our tour guide had chosen to wear fully covered clothing! As the sweat quickly set in (a waterfall in Moss’s case) we snapped away with our cameras and enjoyed the entertaining shapes of Imagine Valley and the amazing view. We also passed a lot of rock piles, which according to our guide mean ‘father’ and are built to help lead the way.

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Middle Earth Travel, Cappadocia

Making our way to the top of Cappadocia

Father leading the way (rock pile)

Father leading the way (rock pile)

The higher we trekked, the more breath taking the views became! As we walked along the summit of Bozdag mountain (the Top of Cappadocia) we could see EVERTHING – Pasabag, Çavuşin Castle, Kizilcukur Red Valley, Gulludere Rose Valley and Goreme. We were on the Father of Valleys! After a quick nod of agreement to the guide, we pushed ourselves the extra distance and made our way to the flag, as this HAD to be the highest point and was definitely worth a photo and a selfie or two!

View from the top of Cappadocia

View from the top of Cappadocia

Flag at top of Cappadocia

From the flag we looked down upon Aktepe Hill which is known as a popular destination for watching the sun set and could spot Kizilvadi Restaurant, our destination for lunch! Kizilvadi Restaurant is an attraction of its own. With its own historic winery and Grape church, plus some Middle Earth Travel treks even stay there for the night! After having a massive feed of soup, salad and pasta plus a surprise birthday cake, we made our way down into Gulludere Rose Valley.

Kizilvadi Restaurant

Kizilvadi Restaurant

The scenery is amazing, with strong colours visible in perfect layers on the chimneys, you would wonder what an artist was thinking, had it been a painting. Also, hidden to the side of the track we walked across a little bridge and not expecting anything to be there we were wowed by the massive church carved. It was absolutely huge and hard to believe that its most recent use has been as a pigeon house!

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Church in Gulludere Rose Valley

Hard to believe this Church is carved inside a fairy chimney!

Middle Earth Travel Review

  • The team at Middle Earth Travel were extremely knowledgeable and certainly know Cappadocia’s hidden secrets. They have friendships with local tea garden owners which is also of benefit as it gained us entry to locked churches and hidden rooms that we would not have otherwise seen.
  • We covered a lot of ground, however we did not feel rushed. The whole day focused on showing us the region, therefore we had as much time as we needed to explore each church and to take ‘just one more photo’.
  • It wasn’t all about trekking. With a whole day and 15kms to cover, there were a few silly poses (especially in Imagine Valley), and we learnt a lot about the myths, legends and way of life in Cappadocia.
  • In conclusion I highly recommend Middle Earth Travel if you wish to go trekking or mountain biking in Cappadocia.
  • Cost: Day treks with Middle Earth Travel range from 50-90 euro, depending on the number of people taking part. This includes lunch, guide, vehicle transfers and entrance fees to historical sites, but excludes alcoholic and soft drinks.
  • Middle Earth Travel are outdoor enthusiasts and offer multi-day over night treks, mountain biking, abseiling, or custom made itineraries, in multiple regions throughout Turkey.
  • www.middleearthtravel.com

Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for the trek with Middle Earth Travel, however, as always our thoughts on our adventure travel blog our own.

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Europe

Amsterdam Food Guide

If you think of Amsterdam you don’t think of food. However if you try the food here in our Amsterdam food guide you might get lucky.

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Amsterdam Food Waffles

We are total foodies and our travelling has allowed our passion for food to grow considerably (not to mention our waist lines)!  We love trying new food when we visit foreign countries and always make a huge effort to eat the local cuisine. Check out some of the food we ate below in our cheap and delicious Amsterdam Food Guide.

Amsterdam Food Waffles

We had heard from a number of people that the Amsterdam food was nothing to rave about. To be honest food was not really our main interest in visiting but then again neither was an Amsterdam Peep show and we ended up enjoying that!

However we were pleasantly surprised. I think the people whom we had talked to had it wrong. Sure Holland doesn’t really have a local cuisine but once we got over this fact we realised there is still some damn good food to be had from the various Amsterdam Restaurants.

Amsterdam Food

The best meal we had was actually next door to the Red Light district in Chinatown. Crossing the canal to the east away from the neon lights your nostrils are attacked and your mouth begins salivating from the delicious smells wafting along the narrow cobbled streets.

As we walked into Bird Thai restaurant the enticing aroma hit us instantly leaving us drooling in anticipation. It was definitely up there with some of the best Thai food we have had. We went for the classic Green curry, fried rice and duck combo.

The Green curry was so flavoursome with the richness of the coconut milk blending perfectly with the traditional spices.  The duck was cooked to perfection and for the first few minutes of the meal all you could hear was the crunching of the crispy outside layer as we devoured the duck in minutes. Needless to say the fried rice was a taste explosion too!

Cheap and delicious Amsterdam food is easy to come by. With hangovers and munchies affecting your hunger it is no surprise that there are an abundance of Fast Food chains and takeaways in Amsterdam. In fact it was actually more the way that the fast food was served that surprised us as you could buy it out of massive vending machines at Febo!

Amsterdam Food Febo

Hidden workers stand behind the vending machines churning out burgers, fries and sausage rolls so all you has to do is insert a Euro and “hey presto” you have a hot meal in your hungry hands.

Then there were the frites stores which seemed to be on every corner. The first thing you noticed about these was the tantalising smell. There is nothing like the smell of chips straight out of the fryer and covered in salt to get you tummy rumbling. Served in a triangle cardboard carton and covered in mayo which meant that that you couldn’t reach the chips at the bottom without covering your greedy fingers in sauce. Just a tad annoying!

But there is nothing like hot chips to warm you up on a cold day.

Finally, while hot chocolates are not typically food I feel they still deserve a mention especially because the usually come paired with waffles! Ahhhh the perfect breakfast.

Amsterdam Hot Chocolate

We loved nipping into a cafe or bar like Cafe Bar Eddy in Amsterdam to warm ourselves up with a hot chocolate. It literally tasted like they had melted chocolate down and added cream. Heaven in a cup. And the choice of waffles was daunting as you could have whatever you wanted. Fruit, chocolate, syrups, cream or all of the above!

If you are heading here then don’t expect to find an array of traditional Amsterdam food. Instead treat yourself to a hot chocolate and waffle for breakfast, grab a quick bite from a vending machine and sample some of the different cuisines found near the Red Light District.

If you stick to this Amsterdam food guide then your taste buds will have a great holiday too!

If you have visited before then what did you think of Amsterdam food?

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Europe

How to smoke weed in Amsterdam

Check out our guide for the first timer in Amsterdam visiting a coffeeshop.

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How to smoke weed in Amsterdam

Before getting started I just want to clarify that we are not drug users. We don’t condone using illegal drugs. And we are not telling you to go and smoke weed in Amsterdam. BUT, our goal of this travel blog is to help advise, educate and provide travel tips for ALL situations. So if you are headed to Amsterdam then we hope our guide to smoking weed in Amsterdam will help you out.

And check out this smoker friendly accommodation for your next trip.

How to smoke weed in Amsterdam Coffeeshop

When you tell people that you are visiting Amsterdam then they immediately think of one thing and one thing only. Weed. Dope. Herb. Buds. Spliff. Whacky Tobbacky. Pot. Marijuana. Cannabis. 

Call it what you will but just know that the biggest name for it is “ILLEGAL”.

Yes it is actually illegal to smoke weed in Amsterdam. But for now the Netherlands government do tolerate smoking in designated “coffeeshops”. This is slowly changing as the Government tries to moderate the tourism drug trade and in 2013 there will be new laws which we won’t go in to now as they are continuously changing.

In the meantime if you obey the rules, are not a moron and use our guide to smoking weed in Amsterdam then you are going to be fine.

Smoke weed in Amsterdam

How to smoke weed in Amsterdam

Don’t smoke weed in Amsterdam in public such as on the streets. There are over 300 designated coffee shops where you are tolerated to smoke weed. These places are regulated and everything is done in the open.

Don’t get confused and try to smoke in a koffiehuis (coffee house) which sells coffee and light meals or a café that is a casual restaurant and/or bar.

The coffeeshops are super easy to spot with marijuana leaves in the windows and Bob Marley paintings on the doors. Not to mention the smell wafting through the cold breeze. There will also be the usual tourists that have stupidly over-indulged and are glassy eyed.

We visited one of the five Bulldog coffeeshops when we were in Amsterdam and had no complaints. We even enjoyed a delicious hot chocolate while we were there!

Bulldog Coffeeshop in Amsterdam

Buying weed in Amsterdam

As long as you are over 18 then you will be allowed to buy up to 5 grams of weed in the regulated coffeeshops. Plus you have the added security knowing that your marijuana is not going to be laced with anything else if you are attempting to buy it off someone on the street. And who knows, they might be setting you up to get busted.

We were (and are) total amateurs and had no idea what to do once we actually stepped foot in the coffeeshop. But quickly sussed it out. There will generally be a “dealer bar” with full menu’s and everything for you to choose. So if you are an expert you will probably know what to order! Prices will of course vary by quantity (grams, bags, individual joints) and quality.

For a beginner ask lots of questions. Don’t be shy like we were. Ask the staff what they recommend and what effects each type has. They will know then that you are a newbie and will guide you. Just know that they are very accustomed to tourists who don’t know exactly how to go about the whole process.

What we found out is that it is actually perfectly fine for you to visit other coffeeshops and smoke weed that you have already purchased somewhere else. However, it is considered rude not to at least buy a hot chocolate or coffee if you do this. Coffeeshops do also have some of the best coffee in Amsterdam.

How to smoke weed in Amsterdam

Don’t be an idiot

Number 1 rule: Don’t smoke too much weed in Amsterdam! Even if you are a pot loving hippie from a commune you are probably going to find the marijuana really strong in Amsterdam. Just take it slow.

If you are enjoying a drink as well then again take it easy with the booze. All the coffeshops won’t sell you beer as well as cannabis.

EAT! Don’t go drinking and smoking on an empty stomach as cannabis lowers your blood sugar level and this can turn a fun day into a disaster if you haven’t eaten recently. Check out our Amsterdam Food Guide for some quick eating tips here.

A final word of warning, please watch out for the spacecake! Eating cannabis will knock you on your ass and is much stronger than when smoked.

Finally, enjoy yourselves and for goodness sake obey the rules, laws and customs while you are smoking weed in Amsterdam.

If you have an addiction to drugs then reach out and seek some help.

Check out these Weed Products for your next travel adventure.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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