10 Questions for (7): Esme Vos of Mapplr

Happy to present Esme. Actually we have never met, but we “know” of each other over 6 years. Esme was the first whom I asked to be questioned last month, but before I could get my act (questions) together she traveled and traveled..a real Globetrotter!

Esme Vos

1) Who Are you?
I am the founder of Muniwireless.com, the portal for news and information about citywide wireless broadband.

I am also the founder of Mapplr.com, a blog dedicated to selecting the best boutique hotels, cool restaurants and cafes around the world.

I live in Amsterdam and San Francisco, but travel frequently as well to other cities.

I am originally from the Philippines.

2) What do you like about what you do?
– Independence and not working in a traditional office
– Meeting interesting people who are at the forefront of technology and media

3) What don’t you like about what you do?
– At times, the isolation can be overwhelming and the travel can be very tiring.

4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it.

I made Mapplr into a blog because I wanted to create a site where people can find hotels, restaurants and cafes that have been carefully selected by an editor who values quality, design, style, service.

I also wanted to provide lists of good hotels, restaurants and cafés in cities around the world, not just the US or Europe, because I travel a lot and I know the problems travelers have: where do I find good food in a city I’ve never visited? where’s a good boutique hotel that does charge an outrageous amount of money? how can I avoid staying in a chain hotel? where can I find a café that serves good espresso and has free Wi-Fi?

I am not convinced that user generated content sites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor work very well in pointing out to you the best places to eat or sleep. Yelp is very popular in SF for restaurant reviews, but it’s flawed. Many restaurant owners complain that Yelp puts pressure on them to advertise on the site by burying negative comments only if they advertise. It compromises the reliability and independence of Yelp. In addition, how can you trust the restaurant reviews on Yelp? Recently, I saw that Subway, a sandwich chain that serves horrible food, got better marks than Local, a fabulous restaurant-wine bar in my neighborhood. The people posting restaurant reviews often have no taste and focus only on portion size (this is America after all, land of the Super Sized Sandwich).

I rely on a trusted network of friends who have good taste in places I don’t visit regularly. They tell me what’s good in their city.

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
– Paris: style, design, history, architecture all rolled into one cosmopolitan area with lots of incredibly good food
– Cusco, Peru: the physical beauty of the area, a city high up in the Andes very close to Inca Ruins; I use it as a starting point for treks to Macchu Picchu
– San Francisco: a city in one of the most beautiful natural surroundings — you can have an urban lifestyle, great Asian food, yet indulge in outdoor sports such as hiking, cycling, running.

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
– Verne Dreaming (Gent): Shanghai 1930s red bordello style B&B with giant golden Buddha in the room, very kitschy in a stylish way
– Can Marti (Ibiza): agriturismo that is totally eco — they rely on solar power, collect water and purify it, and they have an organic farm too but they do not sacrifice style and comfort
– Chambre Avec Vue (Saigon in the Provence, France) – stylish B&B run by an artist set in a tiny village in the Provence; artistic installations in the garden, quiet location away from all the tourists

7) Your top 3 most memorable food experiences to date and why?
– Ceviche in Lima: the real thing, with real aji peppers (very spicy) and fresh seafood; beats any ceviche I’ve eaten outside Peru
– Ramen noodle soups in Japan: the broth is rich, vegetables are fresh, noodles very savoury for under 8 EUR per bowl
– Boudin noir at Afaria, a restaurant in Paris: never thought boudin noir could taste like this

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?
My worst travel experiences are not related to a particular destination, rather, it’s the manner of travel and transit. By far the worst experiences are with US airlines which now charge you for sandwiches even in business class (United) and even drinks and blankets. The airplanes are ancient. US airports are also a disaster. They are decrepit and sad, and the security personnel are always screaming and yelling at passengers.

What we used to call “Third World” airlines, for example, LAN (Chile) and TACA (El Salvador), have new planes and very good flight attendants. Their airports – San Salvador and Lima – are also brand new and civilized. Airports in Asia such as Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong are modern and distinctly un-Third World. So are the Asian airlines.

Worst café experience: Starbucks, which serves muddy water with coffee grinds mixed in

9) Can you offer the readers 3 travel/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?
I am currently in San Francisco so here are my tips:
– avoid Fisherman’s Wharf which has bad food, lots of tourists; go instead to the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. It has artisanal cheese shops, good restaurants (Boulette’s Larder is my favorite) and good vegetarian Japanese food (Delica)
– take a stroll or a run in the Presidio which is beautiful, filled with trees, very quiet, and ends at Golden Gate Bridge
– hang out in the Mission / Valencia St. area near Dolores Park for good coffee and a younger crowd

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?
Favorite places in SF? Ozumo, Olea, Okina Sushi, Lahore Karahi, South Food and Wine Bar, Mitchell’s Ice cream, Bi-Rite creamery ice cream, Blue Bottle Coffee
Favorite places in Amsterdam? Quattro Gatti, Terang Boelan (Indonesian takeaway in the Jordaan), Pompadour (chocolates and pastries)

Favorite adventure destination? trekking to Macchu Picchu for several days and spending time in Cusco, Peru

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, Esme. I take it you don’t want to link to your other blogs here. and: For a connoisseur like you it is about time to check out The Hague properly:-)

10 Questions For (6): Miss Expatria

Happy to introduce Miss Expatria to you.

Who is Miss Expatria?
Who is Miss Expatria?

1) Who Are you?
Why, I’m Miss Expatria, the Internet’s leading enabler of travel addiction! But my real name is Christine, and I grew up on the Jersey Shore. I spent a couple years of my childhood traveling around the U.S. with two national touring companies of Annie, and was a union card-carrying actor and singer until my early twenties.

I moved to New York at 17, and graduated from NYU. Various jobs followed: Running an experimental school project in the South Bronx; being the leather and suede expert for a Famous American Designer; and working at an ad agency, where I kept track of the money and logistics necessary to mail half a billion credit card offers a year. (Yes, that was me. Sorry!)

In late 1999, I took a trip to Rome and decided I had to live there. I came home, convinced my bosses to let me do my job virtually, and moved to Rome in 2002. In 2004 I met Paris-born, Jersey-raised Bartolomew (“Cal” on my blog), where he lives in Montpellier, France; now I kind of live here, too. We are both freelance writers.

I say I  kind of live here because I spend a significant portion of each year living my œrea life in Rome; I hope to return there permanently, soon, with Bart. Or maybe we’ll move somewhere else. Who knows?

Rome is Home

I’m obsessed with travel, being near the sea, fabulous hotels, delicious food, wine, writing and language in any combination, and preferably all at once.

2) What do you like about what you do?

I like getting enough sleep. I like not having to commute, sit through meetings or witness stunning acts of injustice in the name of office policy. I like that I am solely responsible for what I produce.

But my favorite thing is being paid for doing what I love. I’ve had a lot of fascinating jobs in my life, but I was meant to write.

3) What don’t you like about what you do?

I don’t like the inconsistent income. I’m much better at budgeting and long-term planning when I know the money situation well in advance. Another thing I don’t like – although I hope one day this will change – is that taking an “unplugged” vacation is not an option. Lastly, writer’s block is very real and very, very annoying.

Writer’s block

4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it.

From a business perspective, I can show Miss Expatria to prospective clients who want me to write about Europe. But on a personal level, writing as Miss Expatria gives me the chance to explore what it means for me to live the way I do, and what it is in others that makes them want to pack a bag and go – whether i’s for a week or a lifetime. I’m obsessed with discovering the root of that desire.

Technically, I have a lot of work to do on my blog – I’ve linked my Miss Expatria to my Tumblr, my Tumblr to my Twitter, and my Twitter to my Facebook and everything to my Flickr account – but I have to get a domain name, monetize it, seek sponsorship. I’m such an Internet dilettante!

My ultimate career goal, of which the Miss Expatria blog is an integral part, is to make a living writing about travel from my own perspective in a way that inspires others to follow their dreams to the arrivals gate at their favorite destination.

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

Venice. It’s like a city from my childhood dreams. If New York is my first love and Rome is my soul mate, Venice is the crush tha’s way out of my league. I’s almost too perfect for me.

Barcelona. Once I leave Las Ramblas, the city comes alive for me. I feel devastatingly hip and fabulous every moment I’m in Barcelona. I love the architecture, the people, the food, the wine, the vibe, and being in a major city that has a beach at the end of the street.

The Disney Institute. My grandparents won a fair sum in the lottery and took the whole family on a vacation to the Disney Institute, where we each did exactly and only what we wanted. My mom, cousin and I took classes at the Institute, which were fascinating. I also had an excellent massage, and an entire pool to myself one afternoon while everyone else went to the park. It was while floating in that pool that I decided to do whatever I could to make my life be more like a vacation.

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

La Casa sul Mare, Procida, Italy. A wonderful hotel on an underrated island. Each room has its own terrace with deck chairs, eating space and an amazing view. Room service breakfast is enormous, delicious and costs a euro. The bathroom was immaculate and featured a large shower with great water pressure. There was nothing about this hotel I didn’t like.

Bellevue Stratford, Philadelphia. Sadly, this hotel no longer exists. It was a grand dame of a place. Room service was served with linen and silver and domed covers that the staff removed with a flourish. And, I met the real Santa Claus in the lobby. But, that’s a story for another time.

Point Village, Negril, Jamaica. It wasn’t a particularly luxurious place, but it was very low-key for an all-inclusive resort – there were no mandatory kumbaya activities or sloppy-drunk spring breakers. I lived in a bathing suit, ate nothing but fresh fish and fruit, read about 47 books and never had to carry a purse. The rooms were simple, cleaned to within an inch of their lives – but with the sun, sea and swim-up bar awaiting me, I didn’t spend much time in the room.

La Casa sul Mare

7) Your top 3 most memorable food experiences to date and why?

New Year’s Eve 1993, The Quilted Giraffe, New York. (Old school New York foodies, holla!) In our early 20s, a dear friend and I went through most of New York Zagat’s Top 50 list on his dime. We had been to the QG several times before; but on this evening it was the last dinner service, as the space was being converted to what is now Sony Wonder. We toured the kitchen, and Mr. Wine let us eat the last of his famous caviar begga’s purses after midnight! We received a beautiful Tiffany plate commemorating the Last Supper, and Mrs. Wine treated us with respect even though it was obvious we really had no business being there. We felt like Truman Capote and Babe Paley. It was the most glamorous dinner I’ve ever attended.

August 2004, Procida, Italy. I don’t remember the name of the place. In fact, I don’t know if it even has a name, and I think we were their only customers. We had one of the most delicious meals of my entire life – giant bruschette with different toppings, and ridiculously buttery mussels over perfectly al dente linguine. We went back the next night and ordered the same meal, but with more wine, and it was awesome all over again.

May 2004, Tapas hopping in San Sebastian, Spain. We were five foodies who flew in from three countries. We pooled our money and set out to tapas-hop until we dropped. We had a lengthy succession of the tiniest, most perfect foods I’ve ever known. They were even better than the three-star Michelin dinner we had the next night. That city loves them some food, and it shows.

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?

You know, the experiences that come to mind in response to this question I wouldn’t categorize as the worst, or even particularly bad; I would say instead that they were disappointing to me personally.

Although I had an amazing time during a much-needed vacation at a five-star beachfront resort, I was confused and disappointed by what seems to have become of Marbella, Spain. As an expat, I got a kick out of eating American food and speaking in English; but I couldn’t understand the appeal for the Americans, and I certainly can’t say I experienced Marbella. I could’ve been anywhere.

I was very uncomfortable with the assumption that guests should ignore the living conditions outside our compound’s walls in Negril while embracing the tourist-friendly aspects of the culture inside. As I said above, I had a great time; but seeing unimaginable poverty after having been a tan, well-fed, well-rested guest in their country, it felt like a lie.

When I lived in New York I once went to a Korean restaurant with a large group of friends, where I paid a hefty sum to cook my own food, one piece at a time, on a small grill. I failed to see the charm.

9) Can you offer the readers 3 travel/ food / accommodations / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?

I don’t love Montpellier, but don’t let that stop you. It’s a great place to visit if you want a convenient base from which to travel around Southern France, and it’s four hours by train from Nice, Paris and Barcelona. The city’s sights are well documented, so I’ll just give you personal favorites:

1. Go to the beach! Rent a chaise longue and have people bring you frosty beverages all day; feast on fresh seafood all night. In Palavas-les-Flots is a bar that serves six oysters and a glass of chilled white wine for 5 euros for an aperitif. I highly recommend it.

2. Reserve an entire day for taking your very own achingly winsome photos of the painted shutters and tree-lined roads of Southern France.

3. Sip a cafe in the Place de la Comedie and watch the world go by for an afternoon. It’s the Frenchest thing to do ever, except go on strike.

Achingly Winsome Photo

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?

Nope! Thanks for asking me to play!

10 Questions For (5): Karen Bryan of the Europe A La Carte Blog

Ehm Sorry for this. I just upgraded this blog to WordPress 2.1.6 and because I didn’t know exactly how to handle the interface, accidentally deleted this post and probably the comments as well. I reposted as soon as possible. The lay out may differ a bit now.

Happy to introduce Karen to you.

Karen Bryan practicing Meet the Blogger when I showed her The Hague

1) Who Are you?
I’m the founder and editor of the UK based Europe a la Carte, which focuses on authentic travel in Europe on a modest budget. I started the site in 2002 in response to the growing number of travellers putting together their own trips by booking low cost airlines and their own accommodation online.
In October 2006 I started the Europe a la Carte blog and in June 2008 I took on a team of bloggers to transform Europe a la Carte to a multi author blog.

In July 2008 I created the Euravelers travel social network so members could exchange tips and advice to revel in their travels discovering the real Europe.

But that’s only part of who I am. i work part time as a freelance social research interviewer. I met my beloved husband more than 30 years ago and we have 21 year old twin sons. I’m a Scot living in Berwick upon Tweed in the north east of England.

2) What do you like about what you do?
I love travelling in Europe, especially to places that are not so well know to tourists, so running site on this topic is so interesting for me. Of course there’s never enough time and money to see all of Europe. Running a travel site and blog may sound glamourous but the vast majority of my time is spent sitting at the computer.

I’ve made friends and contacts from all the world that I would have never been able to meet without the internet like the Happy Hotelier whom I’ve met twice, firstly at the Travel Bloggers Summit at the ITB in Berlin in March 2008 and more recently at the citizemM launch in Amsterdam in June 2008.

Two Great Bloggers: Karen (R) and me (L)

3) What don’t you like about what you do?
I’m a non techie person, fortunately one of our sons in a computing student so he’s my IT consultant. It’s very frustrating not being able to do all things techie yourself or taking ages to do a simple thing.
I’m hopeless at proof reading and never notice my own errors, even after reading a piece several times. It’s very hard to get noticed as an independent travel blog. It’s always said that if you have good, unique content you’ll succeed but that’s really isn’t enough. This was highlighted to me when I started writing for Wandalust which is part of the Creative Weblogging network of more than 130 blogs, so it has 130 links before any content is added. It’s similar story for travel blogs which are an extension of a newspaper or print magazine which already has an established readership. I also think part of the problem lies with the blog label, which I believe alienates many potential readers, sometimes I think that I should rename the blog an “interactive online travel magazine.

Europe a la Carte takes up so much of my time, that I don’t have enough time for family and friends.

4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it
I started the Europe a la Carte blog after receiving an email from a Tourism student writing her dissertation about travel business blogs. I was intrigued by the notion of a business blog as until then, I’d thought of blogs as online personal diaries. I did some reading and it was all so positive that I thought I’d start a blog on my site. Well it was the right decision as the blog now accounts for more than 80% of site traffic. Blogs are great from bringing traffic even if you’re not a Search Engine Optimisation expert.

As I want my blog to be the best resource for travelling off the beaten track in Europe I made the decision in June 2008 to transform it to a multi author blog and recruited a team of bloggers. I realized that I couldn’t write a wide enough variety and volume of content myself.  In some ways it was hard to relinquish control of the blog. But it was more than that, I thought that the blog might become impersonal and lacking in coherence having several writers. However so far it’s all gone very well and I’m not feeling put out that some of the content from the blogging team outshines my own efforts.  I’ve never really considered myself as a travel writer. Although it sounds very mundane, in some ways, I think of myself more of a collator of travel information rather than a travel writer.

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
We had a three week family holiday to California in 2001. It was pretty hard to find a destination which we’d all enjoy as our sons were 14 at the time. We spent one week in San Francisco and we all loved it. One of our sons was into to skateboarding, so he was in skateboard heaven. I was a big fan of “The Streets of San Francisco” starring Michael Douglas as a youngster and it was great to finally make it to the city, there I was riding a cable car and walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. I thought that the the variety and quality of the food in restaurants in San Francisco was amazing, great Mexican, Chinese and Vegetarian restaurants. The whole Bay area was very beautiful.

We spent our 20th wedding anniversary in Rome.  I call Rome a living museum that because wherever you turn there are amphitheatres, temples, medieval streets, squares and Renaissance palaces. Rome is one of these evocative places I’d pictured in my mind whilst reading about the Roman Empire during history lessons and seen in various films. I was totally overawed by Rome.

I have to say that I’ve only truly appreciated parts of my own country, Scotland, whilst doing research for Scottish destination guides for my site. There were areas that I thought I knew but realised that I didn’t when I spent more time there. A couple of years ago I decided that I was neglecting Scotland, partly blinded by my love of Italy. I also believed that more UK residents would take holidays on home shores due to concerns about the environment and the hassle and expense of flying abroad so it would be a good thing for the site to have more content about the UK.

The view from The Knock, Crieff, Perthshire. Scotland

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
The Masseria San Domenico in Puglia, Italy has to be the most beautiful hotel in which I’ve ever stayed. The Masseria has been restored and extended. The outdoor pool is filled with filtered sea water is large and alluring, our room was low key but beautifully furnished and there was a terrace outside. I love Lake Iseo in Lombardy in northern Italy. I’ve stayed in a few different hotels and apartments there but overall for location by the lakeside with wonderful views and value for money I’d nominate the four star Ulivi
in Paratico on the south western shore of Lake Iseo. There is a good selection of restaurants and cafes within easy walking distance.  Double rooms cost as little as 60 euro including an excellent buffet breakfast.

Hotel Ulivi pool with views of Lake Iseo

I often stay in Travelodges in the UK and if you book at least 21 days in advance you can find family rooms for as little as £19. Not all Travelodges are at service stations in the middle of nowhere, there are some in city centres.

7) Your top 3 most memorable food experiences to date and why?
We spent three nights on half board at the Wide Mouthed Frog, a seafood restaurant with rooms near Oban in the north west of Scotland. The fresh seafood was so good.

The Grange Restaurant in North Berwick, east of Edinburgh has freshly prepared dishes using local produce.  The three course lunch menu costs £9.95. Then you can have a walk along the beach and enjoy views over to the Bass Rock.

North Berwick beach with a view to the Bass Rock

When I’m in France and Spain I”ll generally have the “Menu of the Day” which costs around 15 euros for three courses and I don’t think I’ve ever had an awful meal.

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?
The Hotel Villa Maya near Pisa in Italy which I christened the Boot Camp because of all the rules, regulations and extra charges.  What upset me is that it was the most expensive overnight stay on our one week tour of Tuscany and Umbria in May 2008 and I choose it because of it’s alleged charm and atmosphere

The Lodge Hotel in Hunstanton in Norfolk, the reviews were good and the hotel looks very attractive on the exterior. It is a listed building, a former Dower House which has retained some period features. However when we entered our room it was as though we were in a different building. Our room was small, totally lacking in charm or character, with bland white furniture, a ripped sheet and patches of mould growing on the shower tiles. The breakfast was not great, no fresh fruit, warm fruit juice and rubbery fried eggs. It cost £65 a night and the £15 Travelodge room in which we stayed on our way home was far superior.

My worst experience was on the overnight ferry returning from Netherlands to Newcastle during very rough weather.  I was so sea sick and it was awful to know that I was stuck on the boat for the whole night.

9) Can you offer the readers 3 travel/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?
I’ve lived in the town of Berwick upon Tweed in the far north eastern corner of England for two years. It is rather confusing as there’s a North Berwick on the east coast of Scotland, around 45 miles north of Berwick upon Tweed.   Berwick upon Tweed lies three miles from the border with Scotland, on the estuary of the River Tweed. It’s a beautiful town with intact Elizabethan town walls and a beach at Spittal.

The best things to do in Berwick are the walks:

a – You can walk around the town walls and along the pier encountering very little traffic.

Berwick upon Tweed pier

b – Walk along the riverside and spot many birds such as herons, cormorants and the large colony of mute swans. Sometimes the seals come quite far up the river.

c- Walk along Spittal Beach with views of Bamburgh Castle and Holy Island to the south.

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?

Happy Hotelier I think I’ve been interrogated sufficiently.

Thanks a lot, Karen. This must be the longest post I’ve ever seen you writing. I do believe the multi author policy is rocketing your Blog!

Last edited by Happy Hotelier on Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Hague Revealed – A Local’s Perspective (10 Questions For (2): Happy Hotelier)

Gudrun of Uptake gave this example and asked Claude of Les Explorers, Erica of Travel Blissful and me to do the same for our own cities.

The Hague: Hofvijver with Mauritshuis (left) and Houses of Parliament.

1. Give 5 adjectives that you would use to describe the “feel” of The Hague and its residents:
Historic, Stylish, Green, Multicultural City by the Sea.

2. What are your favorite neighborhoods?
Defenitely the Lange Voorhout for its stately mansions. The Denneweg and Noordeinde for their antique and fashion shops, and De Passage shopping mall, over 100 years ago built after a Milanese example.

I live on an outskirt, but love the “Statenkwartier” for its stylish mid 19th beginning 20th century architecture. Uniform in building height – so you won’t get the rain from under your skirt like around high rises – though diversified.

The Beach in whatever weather type. The weather is not always good.

3. Which cuisine do you think The Hague does best? What is the runner-up?(feel free to share your favorite restaurant(s))
I would say Fish. If I say “City by the Sea” I am actually referring to Scheveningen. Scheveningen is a part of The Hague, but the residents still consider it as their own town. It has some fine fish restaurants. My two favorites there are Seinpost and Mero

Then I would say: Indonesian food. In the Hague live many people who were born in Indonesia or had worked there and hence some of the finest indonesian food can be found in The Hague. My favorite is Keraton Damai.

There is no restaurant that serves typical Dutch food. Almost any type of food has its own restaurant (The Hague area counts over 600). For a fine Dim Sum we use to frequent Mandarin Palace.

For more European food we tend to recommend the restaurants: Calla’s (named after the flower) in a hidden small street in the Center, and restaurants Spijs (translated as Food) and Restaurant Water Proef (which has multiple meanings: Water Taste, Taste (it) at the Water front or Waterproof) at Scheveningen Harbour.

4. What is the best free thing to do?
A stroll along the Boulevard (the Beach) or in the dunes. A visit to the Westbroek Park, especially when the roses are blooming, or a picnic in the Westbroek Park, weather permitting…

A Stroll along the beach

5. What is your favorite type of entertainment?
Driving along the beach by car or by bike (I hate to walk). Having dinner in one of our favorite restaurants.

6. List the best family friendly activity:
Visit Madurodam, a miniature city featuring almost all buildings of The Netherlands that are of Interest. And don’t forget to visit the Omniversum and the Panorama Mesdag. Go to the beach, weather permitting.

7. What spot would you send a couple, looking for a romantic weekend?
Stay in one of our suites in Haagsche Suites (oops, I couldn’t leave out a bit of self promotion).

8. Describe a perfect day – one that captures what your area/city is all about. In 3 sentences or less.
Go to Madurodam early in the morning before the buses arrive. Have a picnic in the Westbroek Park and stroll along the sea and fetch one of them famous Italian Ice creams.

9. Tell us about a place that you love to go, whether it is in the guidebooks or not.
Potter along the sea coast in my own motorboat, or go to Rotterdam with same for a lunch or dinner and then back. The Rotterdam Port is always amazing!

My Motorboat
My Motorboat, yep mighty fast!

In springtime don’t forget to visit

10. What question did we not ask that we should have (and answer it, of course!)?

Why I live in The Hague?

I was born here and went to college here. I’ve lived many years elsewhere in The Netherlands, but am glad to be back.
I like the sea the dunes and the city. I always say “you should live in The Hague and party in Amsterdam”. Amsterdam airport Schiphol is only 45 minutes away by public transport and by car, as are Amsterdam and Utrecht. I can go by bike to two small cities with a rich history: Leiden or Delft. Rotterdam and Gouda only take 30 minutes by public transport or by car. I could go on: Paris is only 4 hours driving away, London 5 hours through the Chunnel and Berlin 6 hours…

The Hague is a relatively small city. Its lay out is much more spacious and green than many other cities.

Its residents are a bit reserved. The positive side is that they respect your privacy. I don’t know many cities where the queen (or princes and princesses or president) of the country can go shopping themselves rather “incognito”, only with a small security detail, without hordes of voyeurs looking and gaping on: The Hague residents do notice and see them, but tend to behave as if they don’t see them. I Like that kind of behavior.

Sun Setting over The Hague (Scheveningen) Harbor

Well I see that the Uptake Blog has gone on with this meme so I will leave it to Gudrun to dare other bloggers. In addition this has been too long on my back burner. I’ll post it anyway as another WIP as a reminder to flesh it out with links and photos.

It inspired my Iceland based blogging friend Hjortur to follow up wit a post Reykjavik: Travel Tips from a Local
Spring 2009
This post inspired me to start a series “10 Questions For:” I would have titled this one 10 Questions (0) for if I had anticipated it. Now I added it as number 2…

Last edited by GJE on May 5, 2010 at 10:29 pm

10 Questions For (1): Jennifer Knoepfle of Better Living through Travel

I would like to introduce a new 10 Questions for: category as a sort of variant of “My Interview with”, because:

  1. I’m always insatiable curious who is behind a certain blog or website. Their “About” page or category is one of the first I use to hit
  2. It is an excellent tool for community building in the Travel Bloggers scene (Don’t forget to visit the newly started Nerd’s Eye View Travel Blogger Forum | A New Travel Community. It has over 70 members by now! [Ed: It has since the post date replaced by the Ning Based TBex or Travel Blog eXchange)
  3. It is an excellent way of introducing new Travel related Bloggers on the block to my readers.

The questions are more or less modeled after my first (and thus far only) interview by Paul Johnson who was among the fellow Travel Bloggers who inspired me to go on with what I did here at Happy Hotelier. If you’re interested scroll down on my About page. The questions also cover more or less the main areas of focus of Happy Hotelier.

Thus far I have sent out only a handful of invitations, and the response was overwhelming. So the start is promising.

Here is the first edition:A new Blogger on the block who concentrates on sharing hotel and dinner tips

Jennifer Knoepfle

10 Questions for: Jennifer Knoepfle of Better Living through Travel

1) Who Are you?
My name is Jennifer Knoepfle, I am 31 and I live in Los Angeles, CA. Although I was born In Houston, TX, I have lived in California since I was ten and very much consider myself a Californian, much to my Mother’s chagrin. By day (and most nights) I work in the music business as the Director of Membership for a non-profit organization called ASCAP. I’m no travel writer by profession but certainly a loyal enthusiast, considering travel to be my most dedicated hobby.

2) What do you like about what you do?
Not surprisingly, the number one thing I love about what I do is the traveling. My job requires me to travel on a monthly basis so I am able to incorporate my passion into my everyday life.

3) What don’t You like about what you do?
I am really lucky, there really isn’t anything I don’t like about my job.

4) You’re a Blogger at Better Living through Travel, please tell us all about the blog and your aims with it.
I decided to start Better Living through Travel as a way of sharing my experiences with my friends and family. As they knew I dedicated a large portion of my life to seeking out the best hotels in any given place, they would come to me for advice and suggestions. The blog was a way for me to organize all my experiences in a way that could be accessed by other people. Lo and behold, once I started the blog, I quickly discovered that there were many people out there (not just my friends) that found my suggestions useful. I hope to use the blog as a way to share experiences and hopefully help people discover a hotel that might be really special to them. In my humble opinion, the cornerstone of any great vacation is a suburb hotel.

5) What are the 3 best destinations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
1. El Calafate, Argentina:
El Calafate is home to some of the most spectacular glaciers in the world. I am so thrilled that I was able to see them in person, as they are disappearing and someday may no longer exist.

2. Gordes in Provence, France:
I spent two weeks driving around Provence last year and it was a incredibly memorable experience. The south of France has such an amazing feel, so different than the rest of the country. The people are great, the landscape is beautiful and the food is delicious.

3.Chianti, Italy:
Any place that you can start drinking wine at mid-day is okay in my book. I loved Tuscany for several reasons, but the biggest attraction for me is the Italian obsession with the preparation of great food! I’ve never eaten as well as I did in those two weeks. In fact, there are even dishes from that trip that I still crave all the time.

6) What are the 3 best accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
1. The Home Hotel – Buenos Aires, Argentina:
I just did a post about why I love this place so much. Instead of boring you with the answer twice, you can read about it here: Home is Where My Heart is

2. The Hotel Healdsburg- Healdsburg, CA:
This hotel just has a really great vibe. The rooms are ridiculously comfortable, the beds are like marshmallows and the soaking tubs are enormous. The set-up and the decor is really inviting and relaxing and all the rooms are suites, so you really get great value for the price.

3. Borgo Argenina -Chianti, Italy:
Staying at Borgo Argenina is about as close as you can get to experiencing Tuscany in the same way as the locals do. The Innkeeper is a former fashion designer from Milan who restored an old Tuscan farmhouse into a beautiful Inn. The decor is very much in tune with the region and it feels like as if you were staying in a home rather than a hotel. The owner was more than happy to give us great suggestions on places to see and restaurants to eat. She was a great guide and I am certain my trip was a success largely due to her suggestions.

7) What are your 3 most memorable food experiences to date and why?
1. The Pappa e Pomodoro at Malbhorgetta in Chianti:
Quite simply, the best tomato soup I have ever had. I must have eaten it five times on my trip. You see, when I like something, I can be rather habitual about eating it.

2. The Rib Eye Steak at La Cabrera Norte in Buenos Aires, Argentina:
Argentina is a place for steak and this is among some of the finest, maybe even the best, I’ve ever had.

3. The Lentils w/ Sausage at Pura Vida in El Calafate, Argentina:
It’s been two years and I still think about this dish all the time. I’ve tried to make it at home but have never been able to duplicate this special combination of flavors. Pura Vida is a wonderful little hole where they specialize in soups and stews. It is also one of the few places that offers a great variety of vegetarian options.

8) What are your 3 worst destination/accommodation/food experiences to date and why?
Worst Accommodation:
Ojai Retreat in Ojai, California. I had never been to Ojai before and the retreat was recommended to me. It would probably be great for some people (yoga enthusiasts or people who loved absolute seclusion) but for me, it was the seclusion that scared the crap out of me. The house is isolated at the top of a hill, very dark with hardly anyone around. Also, there were giant spiders crawling everywhere!

Worst Destination:
Cancun, Mexico is like vacationing in the worst parts of Middle America. The city has become a total tourist trap and the majority of the restaurants are chains like Tony Romas, Chilis and Pizza Hut. It was very disappointing.

Worst dining Experience:
The First Class cabin of Continental Airlines. I was on a ten hour flight to Europe and I somehow managed to get the upgrade. I know it is airline food, but I thought that the food in First Class might actually taste good. I was soooo wrong, I guess airline food is just disgusting no matter what class you are in.

9) Can you offer the readers 3 tips about the city you are currently living in?
1. Rent a hybrid from Fox rentals if you come here. You will drive A LOT.
2. Take an architectural tour when you are here. Los Angeles is home to many fantastic buildings that are worth seeing.
3. In the summer, see a concert at The Hollywood Bowl. In the winter, see a concert at The Disney Concert Hall.

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?
Nope..these were great!

Great answers Jennifer. Thanks a lot and good luck with your blog! I love what I have seen from it. Promise me not to abandon it!

Interesting you mention the Home Hotel. I mentioned it earlier and it got mentioned recently in the New Cool Hotel Rooms book of The Cool Hunter. I made a note to self to check it out whenever my travels will bring me to BA.

Finally on a personal note: You would be a great Agent at Vibe Agent 🙂 (and no I don’t get paid whatever to plug them).

Last edited by GJE on May 5, 2010 at 10:16 pm