Lifestyle & Culture

Where we went in 2018: Dispatches’ expat travel highlights include the best of Spain, Portugal and 8 other destinations

Most of the people who contribute to Dispatches from across Europe are expat travel junkies. Beth Hoke, Lily Cichanowicz, Kirby MacLaine and certainly Jackie Harding, who went a LOT of cool places during 2018.

We have a new travel post every week. And we’ve expanded from conventional travel posts into the world of digital nomads with Beth’s review of Ikea’s UPPTÄCKA backpack with wheels, which was our No. 10 best-read post overall. Not just of travel posts. Of ALL posts for 2018.

When we looked back on where we’ve been collectively this year, we’ve visited an amazing variety of the famous, obscure and always exciting places across Europe.

Here are our picks for the best of our travel sections.

– Terry Boyd

Feel like getting Italian? A long weekend in Sicily is a quick trip away via Eindhoven Airport

Jackie Harding’s recent weekender to Sicily produced some of her best photographs of 2018 … and that’s saying something!

From her post:

We were told by a local of Calamosche about a small beach reached by a 1 kilometre-long walk through the unspoiled rocky headland. The air was filled with the humming of happy bees as they flew from one wild thyme bush to the next and, as you begin to wonder if you have taken a wrong turn, there ahead of you lay the small beach of Calamosche. It was worth the walk!

– Jackie Harding

• Maastricht is an ancient city with a youthful vibe and cosmopolitan complexity

This is part of our Quick Trip series for busy expats who tend to zip in and out of cities on business, or over a weekend. Maastricht is the loveliest, livelyist town in Europe you’ve never visited. And the most sophisticated. Do you we have your attention? If you live in the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg or Belgium, you’re close. Soooo close.

From our post:

Since 2002, we’ve done a lot of general hanging out in Maastricht and we rate it one of our favorite cities. It’s one of the cities where we’ve never had a bad time, and we feel like there’s so much more to discover.

What really makes this city interesting is that it has a very young vibe due to Maastricht University as the defining institution. This city is always crowded, fun and vibrant. And you never know what to expect next from the fabulously talented quarter of students playing Brahms in front of de Bijenkorf to the Scottish band in full kilts and regalia marching down a side street, followed by a bunch of aristocratic types in haute couture.

You experience it all in Maastricht.

– Terry Boyd


• Düsseldorf has it all, from fashion-forward Königsallee to supercars

This is part of our Quick Trip series. We had pretty low expectations because we lived in Germany for four years and found a lot the cities to be kind of non-descript. In fact. Plus, everything used to close at 4 p.m. on Saturdays, which made it tough when you have kids. So we’d put off the short drive to Düsseldorf for two years. Big mistake.

From our post:

Remember how we were talking about unapologetic displays of wealth? Well, this a city where you will see more 100,000 euro-plus exotic cars per block than any other in this region. (Munich has more, but that’s a post for another day.) In fact, we ran into two 16-year-old Dutch kids who’d come down on the train from Rotterdam for that reason. When we first pulled into the Altstadt area, we spotted Nathan Starmans and Oscar Galjaard staking out a corner across from the Hermès, shooting each exotic that came down Königsallee. They rank Düsseldorf up there with Monaco, London, Vegas and LA, some of the other cities they’ve traveled to expressly to photograph supercars they post on Instagram and Pinterest

– Terry Boyd

The setting and collection make the Kröller-Müller the world’s greatest unknown museum

We’d never heard of it. Then we went. This is a museum you’ll be talking about for years … and revisiting with friends. It’s not just the collection, with some of Van Gogh’s best. It’s the building and the grounds, all surrounded by hundreds of acres of unspoiled fields, forests and sand dunes.

From our post:

The most amazing thing about the KM is there are virtually no crowds compared to the museums in Amsterdam. Standing in the momentarily empty Van Gogh gallery, then moving on to the Redon exhibition and wandering leisurely from work to work, it struck me that I’d never had that unimaginable luxury of intimate viewing at any major museum.



– Terry Boyd


• Kirby McLaine: How to make the most of a 4-day Paris Museum Pass

We don’t do enough of this … actual helpful tips for expat travelers. But Aussie Kirby MacLaine knows Paris! (See her website here.)

From her post:

City passes can feel like a tourist trap, but if you want maximum museum for minimum cost, they’re often a good investment. We had a 5-day window between arriving in Paris and going to London for a conference, so we thought the Paris Museum Pass would be a good chance to get a chunk of the key sights out of the way and save a bit of cash on museum entry in the long run.

– Kirby McLaine

• Quick Trips: Antwerp is a must-visit destination … but just not right now

This is another city from our Quick Trip series. That said, we’ve been back repeatedly. Why? if you love Belle-Époque/Beaux-Arts fin de siècle buildings, this is your town. If you love authentic Chinese food, this is your town. If you love postcard-perfect streets and streets filled with wonderful shops, cafés and restaurants, this is your town. But right now, much of the city is under construction as multiple sections get makeovers and upgrades.

From the post:

The shopping streets are elegant, with two-story tall doors leading into quiet alcoves and courtyards. A lot of the best stores are in Beaux-Arts buildings, and the Palais op de Meir is an actual 350-year-old palace complex that now houses a brassiere, a boutique chocolatier/production facility, an events space and an interior-design store.

– Terry Boyd


• Beth Hoke: Belgrade breaking out as a destination as ‘Communisty’ Serbia fades

We kept hearing about Belgrade, so we were thrilled when Beth actually went. Along with Croatia, Serbia is starting to generate buzz as a party destination.

From her post:

As a digital nomad, I had no real expectations coming here. I’ve kind of grown out of having expectations. I know better than that now after going to Croatia with limited expectations and loving it, then going to Naples with high expectations and hating it. What I found in Belgrade is a city with a great transportation grid, shopping that’s equal to any other medium-sized European city and a thriving entertainment scene.

– Beth Hoke


• Lily Cichanowicz’s foodie guide to Lisbon’s amazing restaurant and café scene

Lisbon is amazing on many levels, but its foodie scene just keeps getting accolades and glowing reviews from the New York Times and other websites. Berlin-based Lily Cichanowicz says it’s all true ….

From her post:

Thanks to its climate and vicinity to the ocean, Lisbon naturally has access to all the ingredients necessary for culinary success. The city is known for many delicious traditional dishes, but more than this, what makes this moment in its culinary development so exciting is the passion and creativity of the chefs emerging there. 

– Lily Cichanowicz


• Willeke van Doorn: Backpacking in Australia had me doing things I never knew I could do

In 2018, she went on to a marketing job in Bonn, but Willeke was one of our first contributors. She came back briefly this spring to write about her trip to Australia.

From her post:

With so many amazing beaches, sights and World Heritage sites, Australia is the ultimate far-away destination for young adventurous travelers. Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef; sailing around the Whitsunday Islands; road tripping through Daintree Rainforest and cruising in a bright-pink ‘barbie car’ on Magnetic Island ….

Whether you love wandering around big cities, hiking in the mountains or simply relaxing on a picture-perfect beach, Australia has it all. People from all over the world make the long journey down under to enjoy all that Australia has to offer.

– Willeke van Doorn



• Dispatches Detours: Monemvasia is the fairytale island where the Greeks vacation

British expat and Eindhoven resident Jackie Harding and her husband Martin fly out of Eindhoven Airport a lot to destinations from Scotland to Sicily. Greece is a favorite destination. So they’re expat experts on where the locals vacation, eat and stay.

From her post:

I will tell you now that I highly recommend arriving at night, for the following day the utter delight that started our day was worth all the stress and curses! We opened the window shutters to be greeted with the sight of the cerulean sea shimmering in the sun, and the vast sheltering limestone cliff wall at our backs.

– Jackie Harding

• Lily Cichanowicz’s intimate guide to Bilbao’s architecture, Basque culture and cuisine

There aren’t a whole lot of places in Europe Lily hasn’t been. She’s especially drawn to the arts and culture of the Iberian peninsula.

From her post:

After years of economic stagnation starting in the 1970s, Bilbao was given a makeover with the construction of the Guggenheim Museum and a revamping of the metro system under the guidance of Sir Norman Foster. Today, Bilbao is not only an ideal destination for lovers of arts, culture, and design but also an important location for Spain’s Basque people. As such, the city offers a truly unique and eclectic mix of cosmopolitan excellence and Basque culinary flair.

Here’s how to make the most of a weekend in Bilbao.

– Lily Cichanowicz

• Third time’s the charm: Beth Hoke takes you to the Paris only the cognoscenti know

The essence of expat life is the freedom to explore. You’re not on a tour. There are no guides. We just figure it all out ourselves, like Beth did on her third trip to Paris.

From her post:

When you visit a city more than once, your relationship with it changes. During your first visit, you see the highlights and get acquainted with the pulse of the place. The second time you visit, you hit the places you didn’t have a chance to see the first time. But the third time you visit a city is the best. You’ve seen the tourist hotspots, eaten at some of the most popular restaurants, and dutifully posted the expected number of selfies on Instagram. Now you get to wander.

On my third visit to Paris with my daughter and her friend, that’s exactly what we did.

– Beth Hoke

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