Category Archives: Travel tips

Celebrating Swedish Midsummer with good friends…and a few frogs

Hello Froggy!

Hello Froggy!

What do frogs and Swedish Midsummer have in common? We would say a lot more than you might think. But let’s make it clear from the start. We are not talking about that type of frog that turns into a handsome prince after you give him a kiss. Neither are we talking about that old traditional song called “Små grodorna” (The Little Frogs) that children used to sing while doing funny imitations of frogs around the Midsummer pole. No, it’s something else we have in mind – real frogs – in danger of extinction.

Today we are in a historic place with a long tradition of organizing spectacular Midsummer celebrations for the public. It’s called Nääs, a beautifully preserved 19th century estate that offers bed and breakfast, shops, restaurants, cafes, art galleries, horseback riding, etc. It is situated in Tollered, about 30 km east of Gothenburg.

Midsummer is when the longest day of the year is being celebrated and it’s a big event and a national holiday in Sweden. To sum it up, basically everybody is eating pickled herring, boiled fresh potatoes, strawberries and washes it down with some (or plenty of) beer and snaps. Since Midsummer involves tons of outdoor activities and dining in the open air, we are anxiously looking at the weather forecast and crossing our fingers that there will be no rain today. Unfortunately, the sky looks pretty gloomy. Still, a lot of people have arrived to have a picnic, listen to music and dance around the Midsummer pole.

Get ready for some pole dancing

There are plenty of old myths associated with Midsummer that might seem strange today. For example, on this particular night, women used to go out and pick seven different kinds of flowers and put them under the pillow. If this was done in complete silence, her future loved one would show up in her dreams. Another old myth is that one can roll around naked in the grass to avoid getting sick. This is not a widespread, contemporary tradition so don’t expect to see this happen (unless there is a lot of alcohol involved).

But let’s go back to the initial question. What do frogs and Swedish Midsummer have in common (except for that Little Frogs song)? Well, to our surprise, in the vicinity of Nääs, there are some unique man-made culverts under the road, used by frogs and toads who otherwise would be at a high risk getting killed by passing cars (or end up eye-to-eye with a curious dog like Sam). Many amphibians are endangered so this practical construction helps them to survive.

While carefully looking around to see if we can find any frogs in the nearby ditch, the rain suddenly starts pouring down. Behind us, on the lawn where the Midsummer celebration takes place, everybody is probably running for cover. The rain definitely put an end to the celebration this year, although we are pretty sure, for the frogs in the culverts, the party has just started.

Another wet Midsummer party is over.

NB. We were actually not celebrating Midsummer or looking after frogs at Nääs this year (it was last year). But hey, we never let the facts stand in the way of a good story! Right?

City guide to Marrakech

Marrakech - Sam's City Guide

We are happy to introduce Sam’s City Guide to Marrakech. This is the first in a series of luxurious e-guides produced by

We hand-pick the best hotels, recommend hip restaurants and lounge bars, guide you to excellent shopping and important sightseeing. This is what we call “Excellence at your fingertips”.

Click here to download the free e-guide (pdf)

Travel trends for 2013

Let’s take a look at 2013 from a traveler’s perspective. Where do we like to travel this year? What is hot and what is not? Skimming through tons of articles, travel blogs, hotel websites regularly, we want to share what we understand are going to be the new travel trends in 2013.

The Independent Traveler
Charters and all-inclusive packages are convenient and they will always be popular but trendy globetrotters will definitely be looking for other alternatives. Independent travelers want to explore something, not just stay at the same hotel and eat at the same restaurant as their next-door neighbor. The independent traveler is choosing destinations based on other priorities than convenience and price. They prefer going somewhere “unique” and to places that are less visited. A good idea is to visit friends and family that are living abroad. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn about places outside the beaten path. By doing that, you can also get valuable inside travel tips on the spot and minimize the risk of falling into any eventual tourist traps.

For the Independent Traveler Sam and the dunes suggests: 

Located on the Atlantic Ocean, 500 km west of Senegal, Cape Verde is the homeland of the famous singer Cesária Évora. Here the weather is fantastic and you can enjoy wonderful nature and beautiful beaches all year round.  Visit the different islands, go turtle watching, try surfing, or, if you are the adventurous type, go for a submarine tour (in a real submarine!) Cape Verde is also a good place for culture aficionados. Music lovers may want to visit the São Vicente Carnival in February or the São Vicente Baia das Gatas Festival in August.

The Curious Traveler
Being a curios traveler is the natural consequence of traveling more independently. No matter if we are traveling alone, with the family or with our best friend, the curious traveler wants to learn something new. Small museums, local food markets, wineries, are added value to any journey. A good idea is to study some history about the place you are planning to visit. Which writer was it again that used to live in Vienna during the 19th century, or why are tulips so popular in Holland? Smartphones make it easier to check these kinds of facts on the spot.

Curious travelers generally don’t follow the hotel’s standard advice on great eateries around the corner (the risk is overwhelming that you will recognize all the other restaurant patrons since they are coming from the same hotel and got exactly the same advice as you did). Instead, do your own research and see where you can find a more interesting restaurant, or why not just pick a place that looks nice from the outside and trust your own gut feeling.

City tours don’t have to be done together with hundreds of other tourists that are sitting squeezed next to each other on uncomfortable tourist boats and busses. There are many city-tour applications for smartphones available online. Download, listen and do it in your own pace instead.

For the Curious Traveler Sam and the dunes suggests:

Forget e-books for a minute and imagine that you walk into an old-fashioned bookstore. It smells of coffee and the warm atmosphere embraces you immediately. It makes you feel like you are home. You look around and after a while you pick a book that sounds interesting. Why don’t you make yourself comfortable? Yes, exactly there, in that big chair behind the shelf. A steaming hot cup of coffee is on the way. You open the book and start reading. So where in the world are you? Guess. We are talking about the City by the Bay, San Francisco, of course. The perfect place for a curious traveler. Visit the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown or why not spend a day at the Academy of Sciences Museum. If you like wine, pay a visit to some of Sonama and Napa Valley’s best wineries. There are many different wine tours available. You can check out some of them here.

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

The Healthy Traveler
Many travelers want to relax while on vacation but it doesn’t necessary have to mean that you stay on the sun bed all day long and gain unnecessary kilos around the waistline. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to end just because you are on vacation, right? Stay healthy by making sure that you pick a hotel with good gym facilities and spa, in any case, bring your sneakers – walking or jogging is a great way to explore a new place.

For the Healthy Traveler Sam and the dunes suggests:

A luxurious Yoga vacation in Mexico. Haramara Retreat offers “one of the 10 best yoga retreats in the world,” according to Yoga Journal. It is located on the Central Pacific Coast near Sayulita. Going here will definitely increase your  chances of having a relaxing holiday in a healthy and spiritual way.

Wherever you decide to go in 2013 – have a pleasant journey!

Are you ready for a yoga holiday?

Are you ready for a yoga holiday?

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