Nine Armchair Travel Books To Indulge Your Inner Wanderlust Without Leaving Your Sofa

Unfortunately, this current pandemic has brought future travel plans to an abrupt halt. And, it goes without saying that cruise ships are most definitely off the bucket list for now. But, what is the option when you still have itchy feet and an insatiable form of wanderlust? Our solution to this problem is to dive into the world of armchair travel. We have rounded up our pick of travel books that are guaranteed to transport you to another world right from the comfort of your living room chair – no travel insurance or face masks needed. 

Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places 

Published by National Geographic, this beautiful book that allows you to travel vicariously around the world, transported by incredible photography tour of the world’s most magnificent locations. Put your feet up and discover the joys of armchair travel as you escape into vivid images and get lost in enlightening stories that will transport you to another world. And, when the travel world gets back to normal, you will have more than enough ideas and inspirations to feed your wanderlust for real.

Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time – Mark Adams

This adventure travel story carries us along the journey retracing the footsteps of explorer Haram Bingham’s expedition through the Andes Mountains when he discovered Machu Picchu. The author recreates the trip with an Australian trekking guide as his companion. The result is a book filled with humorous anecdotes, misadventures, and stories of cultural quirkiness mixed with tourist idiocy. 

The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones – Anthony Bourdain

Bourdain was the expert at turning travel into a delectable feast. With stories arranged by taste: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami – this book is an adventurous journey of Michelin rated venues and off-the-beaten-path jewels. A fantastic armchair travel book from a man who was passionate about the pleasures of life and food and loved to share them. 

The Pilgrimage – Paulo Coehlo

Follow Coehlo along his pilgrimage to Santiago, written as a parable to finding one’s own path; this book is part travel-log and part guide to self-discovery. The Pilgrimage is a reminder that life is brilliant and that we are capable of more than we think we are. 

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World – Eric Weiner

Discover with a surprise which places are the happiest on Earth as Weiner sets out on a discovery tour of joy around the world. A part travel memoir, part comedy, and part twisted self-help guide this book is a unique mix of well-researched stories and humor. Learn something about both the world and about happiness right from the comfort of your living room. 

Travel as a Political Act – How To Leave Your Baggage Behind – Rick Steves

Rick Steves, in his unique way, shares how travel has given him new perspectives on the political and social challenges of our time. Taking us off the beaten track and away from the tourist traps, he opens up the everyday world of each of the places in his book. In these uncertain times, this book will certainly give you food for thought until we can travel easily again!

The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs – Elaine Sciolino

This unusual travel book written by the NYTimes Paris bureau chief is written from her perspective as an American journalist living long-term in Paris. Through her pointed observations, she shares the history and culture of her neighborhood in the heart of Paris. This book is a must for any Francophile, history buff, or food-lover wanting to escape for a few hours into the heart of the French capital.  

La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World – Dianne Hales

An excellent travel novel can not only transport you to another world, but also teach you more about the culture, traditions, and people. Hales’ La Passione does precisely this by taking you by the hand and leading you on an adventure through Italy. Along the way, she shows us how Italians have been one of the biggest influences on our world in terms of culture, art, and beauty. This book is filled with fun facts, racy and scandalous stories, and many laugh-out-loud tales, and is a must-read on your armchair travel list. 

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders – Joshua Foer

Atlas Obscura is the perfect book for reminding us that the world is a weird and wonderful place full of obscure, bizarre, and unusual things. Take a trip via this book to some of the most extraordinary places, objects, and monuments that you didn’t know you wanted to find, but that you definitely need to know about. Atlas Obscura is, oddly, the perfect travel book/blog for these times of restricted travel; filled with sites that fit that odd category of good to know they exist somewhere, but don’t feel the need to see them in person. 

We wish you safe armchair travel adventures and hope you will find many inspiring stories on the list we have put together.

Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.

― Anna Quindlen

Avoid Flight Shame And Embrace Train Bragging On Your Next Holiday

If you have been feeling flight shame about your last holiday, we have found seven fantastic train journeys that will give you full train bragging rights, as well as a new way to explore the world. 

The Alpen Express 

Make your next skiing holiday eco-friendly by taking the Alpen Express to the Austrian Alps. Departing from London or Amsterdam direct to the snow, this fantastic train journey offers spectacular views along the way. With luxury private cabins and spacious guest lounges, this train is more comfortable than any plane. Not to mention the fabulous bar carriage open late into the evening so you can join your friends for a drink along the way. 

The Rocky Mountaineer

The Rocky Mountaineer train offers three unique rail routes from Vancouver through the Rocky Mountains. Travel in luxury while feasting your eyes on the changing vista out the window. You will be passing dramatic canyons, massive waterfalls, pristine lakes and stunning mountains as you meander gently across the land. The service includes breakfast and lunch, spacious seating and hosts who will share stories and history of the Rocky Mountains. This train ride also offers plenty of Instagram-able photos opportunities through the large glass-dome windows providing unobstructed views. #trainbragging

Venice Simplon Orient Express

If you are looking for the ultimate in luxury train travel, you cannot go past the Orient Express. This classic train journey now travels from London to Paris or Venice. Travel in style in the original sleeping cars of the 1920s and 30s Orient Express. This iconic train also offers three dining cars and an elegant bar car where you can enjoy champagne while listening to the resident pianist playing on a baby grand piano. A trip on the Orient Express is not just travelling: it is a grand voyage into another world of luxury.

The Caledonian Sleeper

The Caledonian Sleeper is one of the most civilised ways to travel between London and the Scottish highlands. Relax onboard in sumptuous private cabins or head to the Club car to dine with friends before reclining in the large guest lounges. With no airport queues or concerns about excess baggage, this is the way to travel.

Palace on Wheels 

A journey on the Palace on Wheels is an exploration of the wonder of India. Travelling over eight days this train completes a circuit from New Delhi across Jaipur, Jodhpur, Agra and Bhrartpur, before arriving back in New Delhi. With all the luxury of a royal palace, this journey promises you will experience India like a King!

Rovos Railway to Victoria Falls

This luxury railway journey to the magnificent Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe is a bespoke train safari into another world. Travel in style through the Hwange National Park spotting diverse wild animals out the windows. This three-day journey through the heart of Africa allows you to combine magnificent scenery with the glamour and excitement of the golden age of leisure travel. 

The Ghan

Travel through the heart of Australia on the famous Ghan Train. This journey starts on one coast in Darwin, travelling through the middle of the country to arrive on the southern coast in Adelaide. This three-day journey is a unique way to experience Australia. Witness the changing landscape of this rugged, beautiful and spectacular country as you journey through the red centre of the Australian outback. And, have plenty of fantastic photos for your train bragging posts.

By taking the train, we can experience more of the beauty of this world at a slower pace and a closer range. We really need to thank the flight shamers for reminding us of the joy of taking a train. For it is a whole new world of travel we may otherwise have missed. We are ready to jump aboard the Train Bragging trend. 

It’s not getting from A to B. It’s not the beginning or the destination that counts. It’s the ride in between…

David Baldacci

11 Massive Chinese Shopping Festivals Your Brand Could Be Missing Out On

Despite the current trade war, the buying power of the Chinese market continues to grow exponentially. If you are selling internationally, you will want to be positioning your brand for the Chinese market and, in particular, you need to know about these 11 massive Chinese shopping festivals. The following 11 Chinese shopping festivals generate more sales than either Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Christmas. So, if you are serious about this market, these shopping festivals are not to be missed. 

Singles Day – November 11

The biggest shopping festival of the year in China, by far, is Singles Day. November 11 was originally Bachelor Day due to the single ones in the 11.11 date. These single men celebrated the day by buying gifts for their love interest in the hope that next year they would no longer be single. That was until Jack Ma, of Alibaba fame, decided to turn this day into China’s biggest online shopping day. Now it is more famous for the massive online sales it generates every year. Last year, on Alibaba alone, there were more than USD$30 Billion in sales. In fact, it took only 1 minute and 25 seconds to reach USD 1 Billion in sales. This shopping day is bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined and is one that you need to take very seriously. 

Double 12 Festival December 12

Just over one month after the madness of Singles Day, the Double 12 Shopping festival starts. This shopping festival is the chance for retailers to off-load products that didn’t sell during Singles Day. The shopping festival lasts for four days form the 8th – 12th December with many brands offering major discounts and free shipping promotions in the last major shopping date of the year. 

Chinese New Year

Christmas and New Year are not traditionally big shopping days. The next big shopping festival is the Chinese Lunar New Year. Next year this falls on January 25 and is the perfect time to connect with your customers by wishing them a Happy New Year with a fantastic promotion. 2020 according to the Chinese zodiac, will be the year of the Rat, so expect to see lots of rat / cute mice in promotions and advertising. Find a way to weave the theme of money, wealth and luck into the festival to make your brand stand out. 

March 8th Women’s Day 

Chinese retailers and brands are always keen to make the most of any opportunity to create a shopping festival. In this way, Women’s Day on March 8 has turned into a major online selling festival. It is promoted as a day for Women to celebrate by shopping and a perfect chance for men to thank the women in their lives by spending up large on beautiful gifts for their wives, mothers, and even daughters. Many Chinese women get a half-day vacation on this day and now spend shopping or enjoying a day at the spa with friends. You will see many of the major online retailers have jumped on board with their own variation of the day, VIP have ‘Food Beauty Day’, Tmall and Alibaba call it ‘Queen Day’, while JD promotes it as ‘Butterfly day’. 

Tomb Sweeping Day 

Tomb Sweeping day is the day when many Chinese gather with their families to commemorate their ancestors. Next year this festival falls on Saturday April 4th and is in the middle of a long weekend holiday. As so many Chinese travel to family over this short break, many brands have built this festival into another Chinese shopping festival with travel packages, and sales on sports and travel-related products.   

May 20 ‘Wo Ai Ni’ Day

‘Wo Ai Ni’ in Chinese means ‘I love you’ and is also the same pronunciation as the date 5.20 (May 20). This special day became a modern internet Valentine’s Day. While the day is still extremely popular with lovers, this shopping festival has more recently morphed into an expanded eCommerce shopping festival based on the love of family as well. Brands target not only lover’s gifts, but also mothers with irresistible promotions on baby and mother products. 

Children’s Day June 1st

Children’s day is yet another massive opportunity for brands to join a growing online shopping festival. Online promotions for Children’s day begin at the end of May and last through until the first week of June. Toys, clothes, food, holidays, and child-focused business make this shopping festival one of their biggest each year. Savvy marketers will know that more and more children want to choose how to spend their gift money, and so create special advertising promotions directed at children and teens with online credit to spend. 

618 Shopping Festival- June 18

When Alibaba turned Bachelor’s day into Singles Day and the biggest shopping festival of the year, rival eCommerce platform JD decided to make a festival of their own. Their invention was 618 Day. This colossal shopping day is now second only to Singles Day in online sales with close to $30 Billion in sales in 2019. That’s a big day of mid-year shopping madness that only looks set to grow! Despite being a completely made up festival, 618 is now a sales day that most brands are now taking very seriously.

Qi Xi 

This traditional Chinese Valentine’s day celebrates the story of two star-crossed lovers and falls on August 25 in 2020. The story behind the celebration is somewhat of a romantic tragedy, but this hasn’t stopped retailers from making it into another essential shopping day for gifts of love. Many international brands are now taking note of this special shopping day. This year Prada launched unique heart-shaped bags for the day, and Michael Kors launched an exclusive capsule collection to coincide with this date. Handbags, jewelry, roses, and chocolates remain the big favourites on this shopping festival day. 

Mid-Autumn Festival 

Mid-Autumn festival is a thousand-year-old harvest celebration of the moon. Families usually spend time together eating mooncakes and sharing gifts to show appreciation of each other. Many Chinese also take this opportunity to travel. This shopping festival has become a time of travel package promotions, and sales of luxury travel accessories, as well as traditional gifts for family and friends. 

October 1st National Day – Golden Week

October 1 is Chinese National Day, which falls within a week-long holiday called Golden Week. This week is now a golden week of sales and promotions by all of the big brands. Many offer lucky draws, promotion codes, and upgrade packages to their customers. October 1 and Golden Week are truly a golden time for retailers with over USD$202 Billion in sales for the week, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce.

Participation in shopping festivals is an essential part of selling into the Chinese market. With a sale almost every month, it is a highly competitive market to sell in, but the potential for brand expansion remains high. Choose only the Chinese shopping festivals that fit your brand and position yourself in front of new and eager customers with money to spend. Happy Shopping Festival! 

High-End Luxury in the World’s First Vegan Hotel Suite

One of the main drivers behind the creation of the ILNI brand was the desire to offer a luxury vegan handbag. We are excited to see other high-end brands bringing luxury vegan options to the market. In particular, we were excited to see the world’s first vegan hotel suite open this year at the Hilton London Bankside.  

This week we wanted to dive into the luxurious details of the products used in this fantastic new vegan hotel suite design.

The entire suite was designed by Bompas & Parr who are experts at creating multi-sensory experience design. Their brief was to design a 5-star hotel suite that used completely vegan materials. What they designed was a gorgeous suite that is elegant, beautiful and kind to our planet. 

The first challenge in this creation was to find alternatives to the usual leather, wool and feathers. The alternatives needed to be of a high-end standard that was fitting for a discerning guest wanting an authentic vegan hotel experience without any compromise in quality. 

The designers sourced materials from top designers and artisans using vegan-friendly products to furnish the entire suite using only plant-based materials. This result is a perfect example of how luxury and kindness can combine to create a high-end ethical alternative. 

Every detail in this suite has been thought of and a high-end vegan alternative found. It begins upon arrival with guests being greeted at a unique check-in desk upholstered in Piñatex leather alternative produced by Ananas Anam, from the cellulose fibres found in waste pineapple leaves. Guests are then given a room keycard made from the same material. 

Entering the suite, should you not know the concept was vegan, you may not even notice, as the room is furnished in a luxury style you would expect to find in any 5-star hotel. The best part is that this room has been designed with an added touch of kindness in the details.

The furnishings are made with Sebastian Cox Mushroom Mycelium that looks and feels like suede. Each piece is grown in a laboratory of biofacture in south east London and are entirely natural, lightweight, incredibly strong and completely compostable.

The wooden flooring is covered with 100% renewable and sustainable bamboo produced by Moso Bamboo. The carpets throughout the suite are made from woven cotton instead of the usual wool. 

The sofa, chairs and many other surfaces have been covered with the sustainable pineapple leaves leather alternative, Piñatex. Which has also been used for cushion covers and the fabulous headboard on the queen sized bed. 

When it is time to sleep, guests can choose from a range of organic plant-based pillow options. The usual feather stuffing has been replaced with a choice of fillings; organic buckwheat, millet seeds or bamboo fibres.

In the bathroom is a beautiful range of all vegan-friendly Prija ginseng products including Shampoo with Eruca Sativa, Hand Cream with Macadamia Oil and a tonifying Body Cream with Centella Asiatica Extract and Avocado oil. These exotic products are all provided in easily recycled packaging. 

The suite’s desk comes stocked with stationary notepads, pens and pencils from vegan-friendly brands that contain no traces of animal products in the paper or ink. 

The mini bar is stocked with locally-sourced vegan treats such as Moju cold-pressed juices, Graze protein power, fruit, nut snacks, Ombar Chocolates and Deliciously Ella energy balls in many different flavours. 

But the luxury details don’t stop there. The culinary team at Hilton have also redesigned the in-room menu to offer a huge range of vegan breakfast options such as grilled Portobello mushroom, avocado, Quorn and quinoa. Lunch and dinner options include cucumber salad, cauliflower steak and five-bean dhal. 

This suite is the first of its kind and showcases high-end luxury vegan options so perfectly. Lily Carver, a designer at Bompas & Parr notes that passionate consumers are already driving a growing demand for vegan products, accessories and furniture. She predicts we will see more vegan options being applied to architectural design, travel and business in the future as consumers seek products that reduce our carbon footprints and offer cruelty-free materials and processes. 

We applaud the Hilton for expanding into luxury vegan products and services, and for finding ethical and kind alternatives without compromising on quality. 

Kindness inspires kindness

Nine Unique Ways to Achieve Your New Year Resolutions in Style

We are right in the midst of that time of year when our New Year’s resolutions start to crash and burn. We all know how it feels when the resolutions we so boldly committed to two weeks ago start to lose their appeal. This year, we decided there must be a better way to achieve our resolutions. We wanted a way to get excited about making changes and setting new intentions for the year ahead. We decided that the key to achieving results is to add something we love, in this case travelling, to our resolutions. This could be the winning combination we have all been looking for. With this in mind, we set out to find the best resolution achieving retreats, adventures and courses from around the world. Here are our picks for the coolest and most unique ways to achieve your resolutions this year.

Resolution: I want to get fit

Solution: Luxury Guided Cycling Tour of the Adriatic Coast

Get on your bike and visit three countries in one fitness-building holiday with this fabulous guided ride from Venice to Porec. You will cycle your way along the golden beaches of the Adriatic Coast, through Italy, Slovenia and Croatia staying in luxury accommodation with porters to transport your luggage each day of the six-day tour. Perfect for ticking off that resolution to improve your fitness while exploring one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

Resolution: I want to lose weight

Solution:  Golden Door Luxury Weight Loss Retreat

Spend a weight-losing week at this purpose built 5-star Californian weight-loss retreat situated in 600 acres of native hills and citrus groves. Each day includes time with a personal trainer, a tailor-made menu of fresh organic food, in-room massages and unlimited pamper sessions.  At this luxurious personal weight-loss retreat guests stay in lavish private rooms that open to a private Japanese garden.  With a state-of-the-art gym, gorgeous swimming pools, Watsu water therapy pool and 25 miles of private trails there is plenty to do and no excuse not to work up a sweat as you focus on checking that weight loss goal off your to-do list this year.

Resolution: I want to be more adventurous

Solution: Get Lost Experience

A Get Lost Experience is the ultimate in an adventure holiday. A private transfer will take you to an unknown destination where you will be briefed and outfitted with the kit and equipment you need for the journey. Each day you will plot your way to check-points towards the final destination. Under the distant watch of the support team, you will learn how to find yourself using your inner adventurer as you chart your way home from an unknown destination. This ‘holiday’ is guaranteed to give you an adventure you will remember and will ensure you have plenty of stories to tell about how you achieved your resolution of being more adventurous this year.

Resolution: I want to learn a new language

Solution: Learn French in a French Chateau

Learn French in the beautiful chateau of St Pierre de Serjac in Beziers, Southern France. Staying in elegant private rooms, guests get to enjoy the luxury of a French Chateau and immerse themselves in the French language with on-site French lessons. Lessons are in the mornings with small groups of up to eight students. In the afternoon guests are free to choose an activity to enjoy from cycling, playing tennis, swimming, playing golf, horse riding or relaxing in the spa. What better way to learn a new language than by soaking it up on a luxuriously exotic French estate?

Resolution: I want to write a book

Solution: Himalayan Writing Retreat

As the saying goes ‘if the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain’. Let the Himalayan Mountains inspire your writing this year. Based in Satkhol Village high in the Indian Himalayas, this custom-built writers retreat offers views of the most spectacular Mountains in the world. Experienced mentors will work with you to nourish your writing and help you move past any challenges you struggle with. Spend a week in this remote and focused retreat, and you will come back with a lifetime of inspiration to fuel your book writing resolutions into reality. 

Resolution: I want to be a better cook

Solution: Italian Cooking Course

This course takes you to Italy where you will enjoy a week of learning how to cook divine Italian dishes guided by top Italian chefs. The week is filled with cooking classes, tasting trips and plenty of time to eat, drink, relax and explore the beautiful Italian countryside. This cooking holiday includes six nights of luxury accommodation, classes with experienced local chefs, all food, wine and daily tours. This is a beautiful way to learn some incredible skills you can bring back home to share with your friends and family. 

Resolution: I want to learn to take better photos

Solution: Lakeside Photography Retreat

Spend a few days in this quintessentially English lakeside retreat where you will learn expert tips and tricks that will take your photography to a new level. Staying in a luxury lodge in a private 100-acre lake area next to Cotswold Water Park, guests have access to an unspoiled lakeside location as their classroom.  Each day learn expert photography techniques in hands-on lessons with plenty of time to hone your photography skills in this unreal location. Take a rowing boat to explore one of the 17 islands or wander along the edge of the lake in the misty morning to capture some of the abundant wildfowl, otters or dragonflies. Your Instagram followers will be green with envy at the photos you will be able to post.

Resolution: I want a digital detox

Solution: Remote Wellness Retreat

Based in a remote part of New Zealand, this wellness adventure is guaranteed to help you disconnect digitally and reconnect with nature. Staying in luxury eco-lodges, you will spend your mornings connecting with your body through daily yoga and meditation classes. Then connect with nature by joining guided hikes through some of the most beautiful World Heritage parks. Rejuvenate in the evening with massages and therapeutic spa treatments. A six-day retreat in this remote and beautiful part of the world will ensure you arrive back to home renewed, inspired and digitally detoxed.

Resolution: I want to make a difference

Solution: Volunteer at a wildlife sanctuary in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

This unique travel service allows you to take part in the critically important mission of a Zimbabwean wildlife sanctuary. Participants volunteer each day to feed, clean and care for sick and injured wild animals. You may even get to enjoy the thrill of releasing healed animals back into the wild. This trip is one filled with unique experiences and a once in a lifetime chance to work with an amazing team dedicated to the task of protecting some of this planet’s most vulnerable and irreplaceable wildlife.

We hope our list of resolution achieving retreats and adventures will inspire you to find unique and enjoyable ways to reach your goals this year.

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing

– A. Lincoln.

Our Top Travel Destinations for 2019

At ILNI we love to travel and are always eager to find the best places to eat, stay and explore when we visit a new city. The best part about discovering great places is the joy we get from sharing them with others. Here are the top destinations we have loved this year.

48 Hours in Lisbon

Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is a lively and picturesque city full of exciting history, traditional food and fantastic live music. We found the best places to enjoy a wonderful weekend in this stunning seaside city.

Eight Elegant Experiences for an Unforgettable Stay in London

London is one of our favourite destinations at ILNI and in this post we share our picks of the most elegant and perfectly British experiences for an unforgettable trip to this fabulous city.

Verona the City of Romance

We all know Verona as the backdrop of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. We show you why this picturesque Italian city remains a popular destination for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in the romance and beauty of this fair city of Verona.

The Hague, A Grand Dame of a City with a Heart of Gold

If The Hague were a woman, she would be one of those irresistibly classy women that you instantly admire and want to get to know better. The Hague also happens to be the home of ILNI, so while we may be a little biased, we love her and would like to introduce her to you.

Why We Love Amsterdam in Autumn

Amsterdam is a fantastic city to visit at any time of the year. In this post, we show you Amsterdam at its cosiest and share the best places to enjoy this friendly, intimate and engaging city.

Segovia One of Spain’s Best Kept Secrets

The towering 2nd Century Aqueduct is the focal point of this city, but we explore this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site to discover the strange connections this city has to Christopher Columbus and Cinderella all the while sharing the best places to dine, stay and enjoy the beauty of this Castilian city.

7 Unusually Compelling Reasons to Visit Scotland

Scotland should be on everyone must-visit list. It is a magnificent land of mystery, with stunning landscapes and fascinating history and we share our 7 compelling reasons why we think Scotland is worth a visit.

24 Hours in Hong Kong, the Pearl of the Orient

Hong Kong is a heady mix of traditional and modern Asian cultures, combined in a loud, bright and intoxicating city that goes all day and night. We love visiting this city that never stops and have gathered together our picks of the best this city has to offer in a 24-hour stopover.

A Weekend in One of the Worlds Coolest Little Cities; Wellington

Wellington is the vibrant urban capital of New Zealand and well known as one of the world’s coolest little cities to visit. The relaxed atmosphere of this compact capital city located on a picturesque harbour and surrounded by wild native bush covered hills makes Wellington a unique destination.

A Perfect Parisian Weekend

Paris is the perfect place to spend a lifetime, but for those of us not lucky enough to call this beautiful city home, we have put together our favourite picks for a perfect Parisian weekend.

5 Compelling Reasons to Visit Bruges

Bruges is one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Europe with a picturesque village centre from 600 years ago when the city was a thriving financial hub. Bruges buzzes with energy and visitors from around the world, fuelled by artisan chocolate, fresh roasted coffee and 100s of varieties of craft beers. We share our five most compelling reasons to visit this vibrant historic city.

Wherever you are travelling this year, we wish you safe travels and many happy experiences.

Why We Love Amsterdam in Autumn

Anytime is a great time to visit Amsterdam, but we think autumn is a particularly beautiful season to visit this vibrant Dutch city. As the weather cools the city’s tree-lined canals take on a golden glow of orange and red autumn leaves. The restaurants and cafes become warm, cosy havens that entice you inside with the sweet smells of hot chocolate milk and warm apple pies. Autumn in Amsterdam is best described with a unique Dutch word; gezellig. An astonishingly inclusive word that translates to something which is cosy, enjoyable, friendly, homely, intimate, and engaging! All of which perfectly sums up this great city in the cooler autumn months

  

Stay in Luxury

We recommend the Breitner House – Luxury Art Hotel as the place to stay when in this beautiful city. Breitner House, in the centre of Amsterdam, was built in 1882 and was the home of cultural bohemians who often hosted Dutch artists including George Breitner and Issac Israels. Now this monumental home has been turned into a luxury accommodation that perfectly reflects the romantic atmosphere of this city. The light and spacious rooms where artists once painted are now luxury suites and the emphasis of this hotel is on the artistic history of this house. The suites are adorned with artworks, traditional fireplaces, Italian chandeliers, and romantic canopy beds. Wake up in luxury and enjoy the same amazing panoramic views out over the city’s parks that have inspired artists for more than a hundred years.

 

Engage with the Masters

No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a trip to the magnificent Rijks Museum. This spectacular museum is home to an impressive collection of artworks. Highlights include two of the most famous Dutch artworks ‘The Night Watch’ by Rembrandt and ‘The Milk Maid’ by Vermeer.

For something more modern, just a short walk from the Rijks Museum is the Van Gogh Museum which features the largest collection of the post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh including one of the most easily recognizable pieces of art: ‘Sunflowers’.

 

Get Cosy with a Home Away From Home Lunch

When it is time to stop for lunch we suggest The Bakers and Roasters café. This cafe is a fine example of everything we love about the multi-cultural mix that is Amsterdam. Founded by a Brazilian and a New Zealander who met in New York, this little café was created as a home away from home to be shared with everyone. The menu incorporates tastes they missed from their homelands, including their mother’s recipes and their favourite comfort foods. We think you cannot miss out on trying the Portobello on Rewena toast or the Barbie (BBQ) Salad Plate. Complete your meal with one of their great fresh beetroot and ginger juices, which is guaranteed to replenish your vitamin levels for the day.

Meander Through The Shops

Shopping in Amsterdam is a joy. The shops of this traditional trading city were always filled with the best products from around the world and, luckily for us, this has not changed. Here are our picks of places to find something special to take home.

The Floating Flower Market

A huge variety of flowers and bulbs are on sale in this traditional market set on floating barges. This market is also one of the oldest in the city with fresh flowers arriving daily since 1862 from the large Dutch market gardens located outside of the city. Wander through the impressive display of fresh flowers and perhaps treat yourself to a bag of bulbs to take home and plant.

Sukha Amsterdam

Bringing together joyful eco-chic items from Asia and the Netherlands, this lovely shop is worth a visit. Sukha, meaning ‘joy of life’ in Sanskrit, is a fitting name for a shop that offers sustainably produced, unique handmade items all made from natural materials. For autumn we love their over-sized cardigans made ‘from the wool of happy New Zealand sheep and hand knitted by a women’s Fair-trade empowerment group in Nepal’.

De Negen Straatjes in the Jordaan (The Nine Streets)

The Negen Straatjes are nine traditional lanes in the centre of Amsterdam that have been home to cafes, shops and artisanal businesses for the last 400 years. This is the place to get to know Amsterdam personally by wandering through the lanes discovering hidden cafes, speciality boutiques, antique shops and unique clothing stores.

Chocolátl

Filled with an eclectic mix of premium chocolates from around the world. This little chocolate gallery is a treasure trove of exotic chocolate treats. We suggest you step into this little shop to warm up with a cup of their famous Madagascan Hot Chocolate.

X Bank

This boutique gallery and event space is the place to find emerging Dutch talent in art, fashion and design. Filled with desirable, innovative and unique designs from the best talent in The Netherlands, this is a great place to find that perfect gift for yourself or someone else.

Dinner with Stars

Librije’s Zusje at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel is our pick for dinner when in Amsterdam. This fabulous two Michelin star restaurant is guaranteed to impress with a menu that combines the best local products with exotic ingredients and influences. We suggest starting with the Black truffle pumpkin and artichoke with apricot cream. For the main course try the blackberries and shitake mushrooms on chickpeas. Finish your meal with the avocado sorbet of apple and cucumber yoghurt.

Illuminate the Night

Finish your evening in style with a relaxing candle-lit canal cruise through Amsterdam’s most beautiful canals. Experience the magic of Amsterdam at night as your boat moves quietly through the illuminated canals and bridges of this old glorious city.

Amsterdam will win your heart at any time of the year. The history, the culture and the canals are just some of the reasons why we absolutely love this picturesque European city, especially in the most gezellig time of the year; autumn.

 

 

 

Our All-Time Favourite Autumn Recipes for Sharing

There is something innately comforting about cooking and sharing a meal with friends and family on cool autumn evenings. We have put together our favourite autumn recipes to cook and share with those you love.

Jamie Oliver’s Pumpkin and Ginger Soup is top of our list. This soup is easy to make, and the combination of pumpkin and ginger smells amazing as it cooks away on your stove. Make some easy garlic bread to go with it, just indulge in this gorgeous pumpkin goodness.

One of our go-to recipes, when we have a crowd to feed, is Vegan Shepherd’s Pie. This dish is always guaranteed to be a success. As good as, if not better than, the traditional Shepherd’s Pie, this vegan alternative is full of flavour that will satisfy everyone. Rich with hearty vegetables and topped with fluffy sweet potato this is the ultimate comfort food for a cool autumn night. Be sure to make a large amount, because this is one dish everyone wants a second helping of!

For a seasonal autumn meal that will also impress, we suggest Pappardelle with Truffle. Pappardelle is simply delicious Italian flat pasta that tastes incredible when cooked with truffle pesto, mushrooms and a little truffle oil. Easy, impressive and with a little Italian romance, this recipe is perfect for cooking on a quiet night in, with someone you love.

No autumn evening would be complete without a warm dessert and we can’t go past warm apple desserts. Here are two of our favourites that are ideal for the harvest season.

Treat your family and friends to a helping of Warm Apple Crumble with Star Anise. A traditional British dessert, this Apple crumble is made more special with some Star Anise. The combination tastes perfect and the aroma of apple and spice will ensure your kitchen smells divine.

Being that ILNI is based in Den Haag, we couldn’t resist adding one of our Dutch favourites; traditional Appeltaart (Apple Pie). Be warned, one taste of this delicious treat and you may be hooked for life. It’s a goodie!

New seasons are the best time to try something new. We hope you are inspired to try one of two of our suggestions as we predict these easy, delicious dishes will quickly become your autumn favourites too.

The Hague: A Grand Dame of A City With A Heart of Gold

If The Hague were a woman, she would be one of those irresistibly classy women that you instantly admire and want to get to know better. The type of woman that not only carries herself with a sense of class, but, also exudes an underlying intelligence and compassion. The Hague also happens to be the home of ILNI, so while we may be a little biased, we love her and would like to introduce her to you.

The Hague, or Den Haag as she is known in her native Dutch, has it all. She is fashionable, rich in culture and bursting with creativity and art. Royalty walk her streets and she is known throughout the world as the international city of Peace and Justice. Her Ornate 17th century architecture whispers of her age, but her vibrant streets and music filled bars attest to her youthful energy. To spend a weekend in this stunningly classy city is to fall in love forever with her spirit.

The Seat of Royalty

To really experience Den Haag, we suggest staying in the centre of town. The Paleis Hotel is one of our favourites. A boutique hotel only steps from the gate to the palace garden and situated in a car-free street in the centre of the city. The Paleis hotel features beautiful Louis XVI style rooms that overlook the gardens of the Noordeinde Palace.

Step outside the door and you are in the stylish Noordeinde district filled with fashion boutiques, art galleries and antique shops interspersed with delightful cafes all situated in stunningly preserved art nouveau buildings.

Next to the hotel are the gracefully landscaped gardens of the Palace Noordeinde, which are open for wandering through. The palace is a working palace and it is not uncommon to see Royal Family coming and going.

A Gothic Past

From the Palace, it is a short walk to the House of Parliament Square. Here you can wander through the grounds of the oldest parliament buildings in the world and find yourself on the Plein, literally ‘the square’ now filled with cafes and restaurants with fantastic terraces where you can relax and enjoy a drink or snack in the midst of the beautiful historical architecture of what was once a 13th century gothic castle, the Binnenhof.

The Plein in a former life was the vegetable garden for the castle and still maintains the feel of a medieval square surrounded by historical buildings. During the day it is the place for coffee and business lunches, but if you return in the evening you will find a different side as the Plein is now also one of the cities top nightlife spots to enjoy live music and clubs.

Explore the Golden Age of Art

Located just off the Plein is the Maurits House Art Museum, originally a home of a wealthy sugar and slave trader, in 1882 it became home for some of the most famous Dutch paintings of the golden age. Perhaps one of the most famous being Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

For art of another kind, a short walk away is the former Winter palace of Queen Emma, which is now a beautiful museum housing the extraordinary art of Escher and his optical illusions and impossible objects.

A Place of Elegance

Next to the winter palace is the famous Hotel Des Indes, which has hosted royalty and celebrities for more than 130 years. The Hotel Des Indes oozes elegance and grandeur, and it is hard to miss with its stunning yellow exterior. Step inside and enjoy a four-course High tea in their beautiful lounge area beneath glittering chandeliers in the baroque style lobby.

Heading back towards the centre of the city and the shopping streets you can wander along the Lange Voorhout, a long garden that runs along 19th century buildings that are now homes to the various embassies and cultural institutions.

Shop Until You Drop

In the main shopping centre you will find all the flagship stores of the major fashion labels of the world. Gorgeous large window displays entice you in for more. Wander through the incredible Passage, the only remaining example of a 19th century covered shopping street. On the other side of the passage, you will come to the Art Deco marvel that is the Bijenkorf department store. A traditional Dutch department store that remains popular to this day.

A City With a Heart For Peace and Justice

The Hague is not all history and shopping, beating at the centre of this city is a heart for justice and compassion. A visit to the city would not be complete without visiting two important places that allow you to see the passionate heart this city has for world peace and justice.

The Hague’s heart of compassion is clearly seen in the Humanity House museum and exhibition space. Humanity House was set up to spread empathy and understanding of the plight of refugees. Experience some of what it must feel like to be in their shoes by traveling through their simulation exhibition where you will be forced from your home, and processed through a Red Cross immigration camp.

The Hague’s heart for peace and justice can be further felt from the warmth of the peace flame burning at the gates of the Peace Palace. Home to the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, this beautiful Neo-Renaissance style building is one of the most photographed in the city. The Peace flame is surrounded by the Peace Path built from 196 large and small stones from 196 countries, including a piece of the Berlin Wall and a stone from Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for many years.

Just as the stones from around the world have been left at the foot of the Peace Palace, this city will leave a lasting impression on any visitor who takes the time to get to know this grand and glamorous dame of a city called Den Haag.

Five Essential Ingredients for Learning A Language As An Adult

We always hear that children have the advantage in learning a second language and that once we hit a certain age our brains become stuck and slower to learn. However, we are not so sure that learning stops at puberty. Having known many clever multi-linguals who have managed to learn a language well past the age of pimples, we decided to ask around for advice on the key ingredients for learning a language as an adult.

According to our sources, and to personal experience, the secret of mastering a new language as an adult comes down to 5 key essentials; Intensity, Immersion, Incentive, Interaction, and Fun.

Intensity

Sorry people, a one-hour class once a week is just not going to get you speaking fluent Spanish for your next holiday. There really is no alternative to just putting in the hours. Better to do a short intensive class than to spread your learning out over years. Take a couple of weeks out of your schedule and enrol in a short intensive language class. Which brings us to the next essential…

Immersion

Sinking yourself deeply into the language is the best way to learn. By putting yourself in a position where you need to use the language to communicate, you will have no choice but to use your new skills. These real-life lessons are the key to fluency. And, what a great excuse to book that holiday in France! Surround yourself with people who will only speak that language and you will be sounding like a local in no time.

Incentive

Nothing happens without the will to change. Learning a language is the same; with a strong incentive you can pick up a new language much easier. Perhaps this is why so many international couples learn each other’s language so quickly. They have a natural incentive to learn. But, you don’t need to find an Italian lover to find the incentive to learn Italian. You can create an incentive in many ways: an incentive to communicate at work, an incentive to speak well on holiday or even an incentive to watch foreign films in their original language.

Interaction

No man is an island and no language can be learned in isolation? Languages are living things and you must use them to learn them. Many would-be learners are tempted to rely on an app or an online program to learn a language. While there is some benefit to learning vocabulary and grammatical structures this way, without practice these lessons fade in time and become of little use. And, worse, many online learners find out the hard way that they have learned the language wrong in some key way and cannot use it to communicate in real life. Bummer!

Fun

Finally, the last key ingredient is of course fun. Learning a language needs to be enjoyable. In order to stay engaged and actively learning it, is important to have a little fun with learning. Appreciating the language, laughing at your attempts to use it, learning the jokes or how to make a cool play on word; these are the things that make a language come alive. Enjoy the thrill of understanding the words in a song, or finally understanding the joke. Language learning should never be too serious and a good dose of fun adds an essential flavour to the learning journey.

Make the most of these 5 essential ingredients, get over your fears of making mistakes, and jump right into learning that language you have always wanted to.

And, if you remember one thing from this post, we hope it is that you are never too old to learn a new language. To encourage you we have translated the phrase into some of the languages spoken by the people behind ILNI;

“You are never too old to learn”

Dutch:

“Men is nooit te oud om te leren”

German:

“Du bist niemals zu alt zum Lernen”

Italian:

“Non è mai troppo tardi per imparare”

French:

“On est jemais trop vieux pour apprendre”

Indonesian:

“Kamu tak pernah terlalu tua untuk belajar”

Iranian:

“Mahi ra har vaghat az ab begiri tazas” – Literally ‘It doesn’t matter when you catch a fish it is always fresh’