Travel journal: USA road trip (part 2)

The problem with waiting too long to write about your trip is all the details you lose. So yeah, here’s part two of our epic road trip through the USA. Missed the first one? You can check the USA road trip (part 1) via the link. Which ended at the marvelous lower antelope canyon.

On the road again: cowboys, ghosts & aliens
Since we were well on our way to visit all the natural highlights in the west of the USA we might check off another one: Monument Valley. This area full of red rock formations became famous because of all the cameos in western movies. There’s a loop where you can drive around and see all the formations from the comfort of your car. Honestly, it’s impressive and I liked the idea to have seen it with my own eyes but I wasn’t wowed. Partly because of the annoying selfie culture that’s hanging around. The area of monument valley - Navajo country - is one of my favorites. I love the rugged nature, the cultural heritage and the warm nature of people. Our plan was to find a motel somewhere on the road between monument valley and Roswell. The further the better. Because of some navigational problems (No worries Kim, I won’t let them know you fucked this one up) we ended up in Aztec. Honestly, we couldn’t have stranded better. This little cowboy town is known for its historic main street and has some alien stories (we would found out about this only in Roswell). Of course we had our Mexican food and frozen margaritas at the local bar where we met a very sweet waitress. She asked us to send us a postcard from the Netherlands, and since Kim is the nicer one of us she did! We stayed at one of the better stays in Aztec: the Step Back Inn. This beautiful historic hotel is well preserved by a pioneers family in the Victorian style. Honestly, I didn’t sleep at all because there were about 13 ghosts looking at me while I was sleeping but that didn’t make our stay any less of a succes. Next morning we had a fantastic breakfast at the local diner before we had to drive the six hours to Roswell. This drive was boring. So so so boring. I cannot imagine being an alien and crashing here. You might die of boredom. Okay okay Moniek, we get your point. There was not a lot to see on this drive. The last 2 hours were just a straight line through flat farm land. Seriously, if you would have said we were back in the Netherlands I might have believed you. Finally, we were beginning to see cheesy road signs with aliens. Getting closer! So before we dive into the world of Roswell I feel the need to explain why I wanted to go to Roswell in the first place. If you’ve ever seen the tv show Roswell.. well there’s your answer (Oh lord, that trailer is giving me all the flashbacks!). I’m still fangirling over Max and Liz and all the others. If you haven’t seen the teenage angst tv series Roswell, here’s a summary. 3 pretty aliens, 2 naive teenage girls, 1 manhunt (or should I say alienhunt?). Anyway, there are a lot of possibilities to stay in the city, so we picked the cheapest one. We finally had the chance to take it slow after some very long days of driving and exploring. So we did the following days. We spend hours in Wallmart and enjoyed the bizarre crowds and all the fine things this shop has to offer. (it was packed with Halloween stuff, so yeah we enjoyed ourselves like little kids) We visited the Roswell UFO museum and the countless antique and thrift shops. Being there with Kim you can only imagine the stuff we bought and searched for: horseshoes, post-mortem photography, a brother for Hendrik-Jan, stones and rocks, vintage postcards and alien patches.

City bound: Roswell - Austin - New Orleans
We slowly drove out of the rugged landscapes and entered modern civilization. Not only civilization, but also the authorities. We might have been stopped by the police because we were speeding. And we might have gotten a fine from our friendly police friend Carlos. Back to the road. Our GPS marked Austin. This hipster city in Texas is one of the cities many people told us to visit. I understand why. It’s packed with lovely coffee bars, small shops with local goods and rooftop bars. It was nice to finally be able to eat something tasty (I’m sorry, but the American cuisine isn’t all that if you know what I mean) and enjoy city life. Hello great filter coffee, avocado smash and interior design. We shopped, walked around and got tattoos. Whaaat!?! Yes, we did. Kim and I both got a horseshoe but of course in very different styles. This was time spend very well, since it was pouring rain outside. And staying in our room wasn’t so shabby either, because we were staying at the fabulous Driskill hotel. This icon is the oldest operating hotel in Austin and gives you instant Romanesque vibes. Run by Hyatt, so impeccable service of course. This relaxing stay gave us also the opportunity to really plan our next move: our trip to New Orleans. This city has been on my want-to-go-list for a long long time. So we wanted to make the most of it. We decided to wake up early AF to be able to visit Oak Alley Plantation before we drove to the city. In exchange for this awful morning we spoiled ourselves with breakfast in bed. Yes, thank god for roomservice! Oh my, waffles in the shape of Texas packed with berries and all things good in life. And coffee! So with a kickstart like that we were well on our way before other people were even thinking of coming out of their warm and comfy beds. To be able to have the time to visit the beautiful Oak Alley PIantation we had to be there around 3 in the afternoon. The drive from Austin would be a little over 7 hours so we had to be really quick and smart about it. It made our gasstops something out of a F1 race. We also played a lot of Beyoncé (or to be specific The Carters ‘Apeshit’) since we were driving through her hometown Houston. (Where Queen B was performing that night, omg omg #starstruck #beyhive) …. Sorry ‘bout that. This drive was insane! Once you drive into Louisiana state it just gets more beautiful by the minute. Insert green and swamps and rivers and bridges. Such a joy to slowly enter the world of bayous and the Mississippi river. Around 3 we arrived at the parking lot of the Oak Alley Plantation. Does it look familiar? Well, this place starred in several movies. We took a tour and wandered around with sweat on our foreheads. Dang, that New Orleans humidity! I don’t want to say too much about the tours in the house and grounds because it was such an overwhelming experience to be there. Really something you should see/hear and experience for yourself. But let me just say how wonderful they preserved the grounds and the building to be able to learn and feel how things must have been during the ugliest chapters of the American history. Just for scale remember that this is just one plantation that had an on average enslaved community of 120. In the direct area along the river there were 300 more plantations. (you do the math)

With our thoughts filled with stories we drove the last hour to the city of Mardi Gras, swamps, black magic, jazz, gumbo, chowder and po-boy. N’awlins baby! I remember I loved the city before we even stepped out of our car in front of our hotel: Ace Hotel New Orleans. Good vibes only, will always recommend, might even live here. We had 3.5 days to explore and we made the most of it. We wandered around the French Quarter, listened to typical New Orleans live music, watched and bought art, walked around the infamous cemeteries, had our palms read, got some tarot cards, ate the best foods and drank the best cocktails (still dreaming of those blush cowboy cocktails, gawd). And to finish this most perfect city visit we canoed our way through the bayou in the Fontainebleau State Park across lake Pontchartrain. I spotted an alligator! But this was not the scariest wildlife that night. Because we were canoeing during and just after sunset we attracted a lot of mosquitos. And with a lot I mean all of them. Literally all mosquitos in whole Louisiana. We were seriously covered in bites, I counted over 80 bites on just the left side of my body. The itch was just unbearable. It gets me scratching even now. So if you’re ready for an adventure bring a bucket of Deet into the bayou.

New York, New York
Early morning we dropped our beloved car (there might have been some crying) and we flew from New Orleans to New York. The last chapter of this out-of-this-world-trip. We wouldn’t be Kim and Mo if New York wasn’t all about hats, pizza, walking, jewelry, yellow cabs, MoMa, Michelin star lunches at the Modern, designer bags and some more shopping. New Yorks also housed our worst stay of the trip. The Hudson Hotel in New York looked all glitz & glam online but the real world showed a faded glory reality. Rating 0 out of 5. Thank the lord that the New York way of life is outdoors. We not only walked the streets of Manhattan but also the super cool streets of Brooklyn. It wasn’t my first time in the big apple (my 3rd time actually), but it was the first for many things: seeing the Biggie mural, hitting the superduper cool Nolita area, drinks at the house of wax bar and spending some big bucks on designer items.

Road trip facts
And then suddenly, it was time to go. Three weeks of crazy across America. Some facts:

- 2800 miles / 4506 kilometer
- 9 cities
- 1 ghost
- 1 speeding ticket (well worth it though)
- 9 orders of guac (and countless frozen margaritas)
- 2 tats (1 for me and 1 for Kim)
- 18 diners
- 137 mosquito bites

Honestly this was one of my favorite trips i’ve ever done. For sure coming back to explore many of the national parks. But for now I’m just looking back with the biggest of smiles. Well Kim, where are we going next?

Travel journal: USA road trip (part 1)

Oh. My. Gawd!

I’ve been on the best trip of my life. And that says something. Together with my friend and partner in crime Kim we drove from San Francisco to New Orleans. Then flew to New York for a couple of days before heading back home. Wowsa! The trippiest of trips. Amazing cities, gorgeous nature, historic sites, famous landmarks, shabby motels and A-list stays. We’ve seen and done it all on this trip. Interested? Fasten your seatbelts and continue reading!

Our route

Our route


You can’t really make such a big trip within a short 3 weeks happen without a little (or lot) pre-work. Luckily Kim and I are both the nerdiest sheet freaks with a hint of OCD. Yes, we’re talking Google Docs gasms. As soon as we booked our plane tickets (AMS -> SFO and JFK -> AMS by KLM) we started to roughly plan our trip day by day. How many days in what city? What are must do’s and must visits? What about tours? When we knew when we had to start driving from San Francisco and head out of New Orleans we could book our car and our flight from New Orleans to New York (MSY to JFK by Delta). We picked a car slightly bigger and more comfortable than the cheapest options. This car would be our home for many many maaaany hours so it better be comfy AF right? Hertz provided good options for pick-up and drop-off and didn’t have weird pricey one-way fees. The hotel we booked in SF was a three minute walk from our pick-up spot. These little preps saved us a ton of wasted time on public transport. We also booked all excursions we really really really wanted to do in advance so it matched our tight schedule the best. We did so with the Alcatraz tour, the Lower Antelope Canyon tour, our canoe sunset paddle in New Orleans and the cemetery tour in New Orleans. For as sleeping we booked most cities and touristy spots such as Maswik Lodge at the Grand Canyon, Ace Hotel in New Orleans, the Hudson hotel in New York. All other spots in between we arranged on the spot. Most of the time these were cheap motels but that didn’t mean they weren’t good! We had many places that were super clean, super spacious and super cheap. (and there were loads of places to choose from!)

San Franciso & surroundings

We had only two nights in San Francisco so we had to be picky in what we wanted to do. We decided to not over plan our trip. It’s not necessary to see every highlight, eat at all the best restaurants, visit every museum there is. It’s still a holiday and not an Instagrammable-tick-off-this-box-so-we-can-share-how-amazing-our-lives-are kind of trip. It’s going to be cool anyway, so let’s get rid off the perception of what we should do and focus on what we want to do. Now since that was out of our way we could easily relax and pick one highlight a day and for the rest let luck decide. The highlights for fog city consisted of: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Victorian houses, old trams and all the food. It’s a gorgeous city to walk through, there are plenty of cutesie neighborhoods where you stand still every five houses to take photos of the crazy architecture. In my opinion: skip the painted ladies and just walk around the city to see even more spectaculair buildings. Absolute favorite was the audio tour at Alcatraz Island, this is one of the finer excursions I’ve ever done. Not only is the interior design (yes, kinda weird in a prison but well..) beautiful, also the stories by inmates and wards gave the tour around the cell blocks more depth. And the food. The food. Gosh, boy can they cook and bake in San Francisco. The sourdough! Oh man. And really everywhere else we stepped in for a bite was top notch.

From Yosemite to the Grand Canyon

We started driving out of San Francisco into one of the finest national parks of the United States of America: Yosemite. Mt feet remember this beautiful piece of land. I’ve walked right through it during the John Muir Trail in ‘17. These pine trees give me life. It felt special to be here again, this time by car. So many memories, it truly felt like closure of the JMT. Due to forest fires we had to take another longer route what gave us the opportunity to see even more Yosemite. Finally we arrived at Mono Lake. A place that was high on Kim’s list to visit. Honestly, I still don’t get it but according to her this natural phenomenon is amazeballs and a must-see. Don’t ask me, I only saw some rocks in a puddle… Anyway, it was starting to get dark and we drove as long as we could on the 395. I love this route, it takes you through all these cowboy-esque villages. We called it a day in Lone Pine and treated ourselves with burgers. We didn’t even hit the saloon that night. The first week we hit the sack sooo early, a combination of jetlag and long drives. But therefore we were at the diner at 6 for a cup a Joe, pancakes and morning preps. What we did is download all the maps we needed in the Google Maps app, take a lot of screenshots and remembered all route numbers so we knew where to go in all possible situations. Our next destination: The Grand Canyon. The trip to Grand Canyon Village was a lot easier than we thought. First off: crossing Death Valley. Yes, this wasn’t the fastest road. Or the coolest one temperature wise, but why be fast if you can drive through epic places and enjoy the show? Even around 10 AM it was already boiling hot. Two minutes out of our cars and our heads were as red as tomatoes. But still, the drive was very relaxing and fun even without air-con at some parts. At one point we listened to Rihanna’s “Bitch better have my money” and it felt like we were in a movie clip. Waiting to get rid of a body that was hiding in the trunk. Ha, we will never tell! These roads, these views, these long roads of nothing. So cool! We continued driving and entered urban playground. Lucky for us, it wasn’t so busy around Las Vegas (A city I was happy to skip. Been there, seen it) and the roads were almost empty. We arrived late afternoon and quickly went out to see Grand Canyon at sunset. I remember the first moment I saw the canyon so vividly, because my brain needed a second or two to comprehend the scale of the canyon. Unbelievable! Gorgeous. I didn’t expect to be blown away by it as much as I did. Just after sunset we sat down at a terrace and enjoyed the natural show with some bites and cocktails. It was such a relaxing moment to take it all in without the need to capture it all with phones and camera’s. Only when all the stars were showing off their beauty we went out for some night photography.

Horseshoe bend & Lower Antelope Canyon

The disadvantage of doing so many things in 3 weeks is that you can’t do it all. I would have loved to do a beautiful hike around or even in the canyon. But the next destination was calling our names! We drove early morning in the direction of Page. Around this area are two famous natural sites that have become even more famous through Instagram. Yes, we’re talking about the Horseshoe Bend and Lower Antelope Canyon. From the parking lot to the famous Horseshoe bend is only a 10 minute walk. But oh dear, that’s more than enough in the extreme heat of Arizona. Worth it though. These views of the Colorado river are something else. With overheating heads we continued our drive to Page where we cooled down in an airconditioned room. I felt nervous. Why? Because we would be going to the Lower Antelope Canyon in the afternoon and that was something I was really looking forward to. It might have been one of the reasons I wanted to do this trip in the first place. First we had some comfort food at the local Mexican place (a place we returned at night for fishbowl frozen Margaritas). The tour took us through the privately owned canyon in a little over an hour. What I really loved was how the guide knew and pointed out all the rock formations that looked like something or someone. The chief, the mermaid, the sea horse and the list goes on. I couldn’t believe my eyes so beautiful. I don’t think I’ve been this blown away by nature in a while.

Want to continue our road trip across Murrica? The final part of this blog, part 2 is following soon!

Sleepover: La Maison D'été

I've mentioned La Maison D'été in my last blog post. It's the hotel where we first stayed arriving in Mauritius. For two nights we had the pleasure of wining, dining, relaxing and exploring this ultra relaxing spot on the north east coast. Here's my full review. 

Banyan trees
It takes about an hour to get to the hotel from the airport. The route takes you along the highway and several small roads where one thing was made clear instantly. This is a green, luscious island. The long flight had made me tired, but the huge palms, banana leaves and incredible banyan trees kept me awake. Wow, absolutely gorgeous flora!

First impressions
First impressions matter. And La Maison D'éte knows what's up. Arriving on the driveway, immediately we were taken care off. A lovely welcome drink, a small tour around the grounds, and the fresh fruit in the room. It's exactly what you need after a trip across the globe. The room was amazing. My favorite part? Our balcony overlooking the pool and the beach. I've spend hours there just relaxing, reading my book, listening to the waves and appreciating life. 

Playing games
The high season was coming to an end and we could notice that in the amount of guests. I would love to see the place with a few more people. Since it felt like we had the place to ourselves we enjoyed everything around the hotel. Sunbathing at the pool, spotting coral in the sea, biking around the small villages in the area and a lot of eating. There's no place in Mauritius where the food isn't good. And La Maison D'été is no exception. Especially the selection of fresh fish is in high demand. Eat the restaurant, the patio or on the beach. It's all possible. After dinner you can enjoy a few cocktails at the bar or in the lounge area while you play board games. One tip from my side? Let the bar be open for just a little while longer. 

Everything in the hotel is what you expect and want from a med-high stay. Spotless clean, fresh (beach) towels, beautiful beauty products in the bathroom, complimentary cooled water, privacy, security, super friendly and involved staff. It made our stay truly carefree and relaxing. There's not a whole lot to do in the direct area, so make sure to rent a car or book a driver. The concierge can help you with getting you a taxi, giving advice on where to go or hand you the hotel bikes. Make sure you bring water shoes since the beach and sand here is quite painful to walk on due to coral and rocks. 

I would def recommend this hotel to people who are searching for something for a boutique hotel that's personal, small with a very relaxing vibe. Thanks for having us La Maison D'été!

Sleepover: ecolodges & house stays in Iran

Every country has their own way of staying. Some are famous for their hotels, others for hidden riads and sometimes it's best you Airbnb your way through. Not in Iran. In Iran you either opt for couchsurfing or stay in ecolodges / house stays. At least, I've been told that's what the adventurous people do. So off we slept! In Iran I stayed in 5 places and 3 of those I would definitely recommend:

Nartitee Ecolodge (Taft, Yazd)
This place. Ohh this place. It's as you're staying with your new Iranian family. Nartitee can host give or take 20 people. Together you'll enjoy the lovely garden (and the tasty fruits from the trees), Tina's fabulous home cooked meals and laidback evenings with tea and cookies around the fire. Good to know: Nartitee is based in Taft which is only 20 minutes from Yazd. 

Varzaneh Traditional Guesthouse (Varzaneh)
The owner of Varzaneh Traditional Guesthouse makes it his job to make you happy. It was such a pleasant stay and I felt very welcome. We went on a desert and salt lake tour with others from the guesthouse and enjoyed dinners and lunches here. Crazy chilled out courtyard that's perfect for naps and some reading. 

Noghli Historical House (Kashan)
Kashan is famous for its historical houses. One of the prettier ones is Noghli House. Here you can enjoy the peace and quiet, drink coffees on the rooftop terrace and have homemade lunches or dinners. It's perfectly situated in the old town from where you can explore the rest of Kashan by foot. 

Where did you stay in Iran which is an absolute recommendation?

Travel journal: Iran

So.. I went to Iran. First of all: put this one on your travel bucket list. I've never felt more safe, I've never felt more welcome. Okay, now that's done. Here's my short recap, more detailled blogs about specific places will follow!

Revise your fear
Everyone has an opinion about Iran. When I told people I was planning a trip there I heard so many fearful reactions. And till this day I just don't understand why. When you are respectful of the local manners and skip the problem areas near the borders, you are good to go. Really, this country is warm and heartfelt. 

1500 kilometers
The country is huge, so there's a lot to see and explore. I only had 10 days, so I had to choose wisely. The trip became a nice mixture of city and villages, architecture and nature. The best tip I could give you is to rent a car. This saves you a lot of time and makes it easier to travel to remote spots. We rented a Peugeot 405 for 34€ a day and drove around 1500 kilometers the entire trip. Gas cost almost nothing, so don't worry about that. Driving is an adventure itself, but for the thrill seekers that have driven around the world this won't be hard. 

After two nights in Tehran we drove the long haul to Taft, nearby Yazd. There we stayed for two nights in the wonderful Nartitee Ecolodge (blog will follow). After exploring Yazd, we continued offroad and parked our car in the desert village Varzaneh, staying at Varzaneh traditional guesthouse. With sand in our shoes, hair and car we drove to the city of Esfehan for one night, which was more than enough in my opinion. Last stop: Kashan. There we combined some much needed down time with bazaar shopping, sipping coffee and cultural sights. Luckily we could drop the car off at Tehran airport so we didn't have to drive into the mayhem that is Tehran again. 

Must know
As I said, rent a car! Other handy tips: make sure you have enough cash, you can't get money in Iran only with a local card. Learn some Farsi, English is not very well spread outside the cities. Bring something from your home country that you can give when you are welcomed in someone's home. Candy, cookies, anything. Iranians have a killer sweet tooth. Coffee lover? There wasn't always coffee at the guesthouses, so bring some yourself. There's always free tea and hot water! 

The Fezzzzjunnn
For women: buy some clothing you feel comfortable in that follow the regulations. I had three outfits that were a hit. First of all my cotton black headscarf, it's breathable and heavy enough so it doesn't fall from your head all day. A long over the knee loose grey dress with black leggings. A sort of vest slash coat that locally would be called a manteau. You can button it or not, depending on the rest of your outfit. And what I also wore a lot was a long black blazer with pearl buttons. It stopped my butt from showing off and also still had some flair, so I didn't look like a complete potato sack.  

I'll soon write a blog about the ecolodges and homestaying in Iran!