Welcome to Sidestreet Travel
I am a solo traveller who focuses on slow and immersive travel. You will find travel recommendations and stories from my experiences. Juxtaposed against these are interviews with local entrepreneurs who share their travel stories and tips in their locales.
I Miss Post: For the Love of Postcards
Postcards. A timeless souvenir, with so little you can do so much. You can find them worldwide, a tangible memory of a trip, a memento to remind your friends and loved ones that you’re thinking of them. They come in all shapes and sizes (fun fact 4″x6″ is the standard size), paper memories of the cities you’ve visited, the art exhibit you loved, a favourite landmark, you can even collect used postcards from flea markets or antique shops. There is something beautiful and voyeuristic about reading a semi-private message that someone sent. But, it also illustrates how powerful these objects can be in your life or the person who receives them.
According to the Smithsonian Institute Archives, “Postcards, as we are familiar with them today, have taken a considerable amount of time to develop. First restricted by size, color, and other regulations, postcard production blossomed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Postcards were popular because they were a quick and easy way for individuals to communicate with each other.” What I didn’t know was there is a word for the study and collection of postcards, deltiology.
However, pre-pandemic, the focus on digital and instant communication has pushed postcards and ‘snail mail’ to the sidelines. Yet, the past year-plus has grounded and isolated us all. Travel plans halted, tourism up-ended, and the future is still uncertain. The desire to travel is deep-seated for many who thrive on the exhilaration, perspective gained, and memories created from travel. Postcards act as a conduit for us to relive an experience and to communicate. The pandemic has shifted how we spend our time and the things we value. It’s been an opportunity to look inward and to discover opportunities to grow while rediscovering the ‘slow life.’
This slowing down presents an opportunity to reconnect with analog processes such as letter writing. I think the form, function, and design of postcards create an emotional connection to these objects. As we begin to see shifts in our global situation, I think people will be excited to embrace the kiosks and kitschy tourist shops (at home and abroad). And with it, the ritual of writing postcards to loved ones while sipping a cappuccino.
With this, I introduce I Miss Post. An online postcard writing/mail service created by a dear friend, Emily. Emily is a world traveller who grew up between France and Canada. She retains the elegance of the French culture, style, and way of life while layering it with her adopted culture’s west coast vibes.
Her business started from the love postcards purely as a personal love and evolved to its present form as it became clear that people were yearning for the good ol’ snail mail, something to send and receive. Her business allows you to choose a postcard and include a message that she handwrites herself. A local artist designs the postcards in Vancouver, and they can travel the world while we live vicariously through them. Below you will find our conversation about her business, love of post, and travel. I hope you enjoy it.
Your Personal History with Postcards
Tell me about the beginning of your postcard journey.
I grew up between Europe and North America, and I moved cities countless times. My 80’s childhood was when landlines still existed, and the internet did not. Calling overseas at that time was expensive. The best way to stay in touch with friends was, therefore, through the mail. This is where the love for finding the right postcard for a loved one began. Postcards were the perfect choice, as they had a wonderful visual component and a non-overwhelming amount of space for writing a message.
Tell me about the first time you bought a postcard. Where was it? How much did it cost? Why did you choose that one?
I don’t recall my first purchased postcard. However, it would have been bought in Cannes, France. It was most likely very cheesy with an 80’s overuse of neon graphics and bad photo layering.
Do you collect postcards for yourself or always send them to friends and family?
While travelling, one of the first things I search for is postcards. Most of these are then sent from my travel destination to friends and family, and a few are kept for my personal postcard collection for a later occasion. Which, over the years, has grown to be a collection of postcard treasures. I’ve always either had an old cigar box, small suitcase or drawer full of postcards that I’ve collected on my travels which I then post later.
Photo Credit: I Miss Post
Do you have a favourite style of a postcard?
I love every cheesy travel postcard with bad typography and scenic photographs or art postcards purchased from art gallery/museum gift shops. I enjoy the postcard visual front as a starting point to the back written message portion.
I Miss Post – Origin Story
Was this longstanding love of postcards an impetus to start I Miss Post? Yes, definitely. Having quit my job in 2016, I went travelling to reconnect with old friends. Upon our reunions after, at times over a decade of not having seen each other, a common thread arose. They all mentioned how much they had loved receiving postcards from me over the years and that they still had them all. In these conversations, I realized how much joy it had brought to them. However, most had mentioned they could never find the time and postcards to reciprocate this action. And so the seed was planted for creating a postcard writing service business as well as promoting artists. Because secretly everyone loves the idea of postcards, but as social media swept in, we lost the motivation to buy them, write them, and track down a local post office.
How did you land on the graphics for this first release of postcards?
Writing postcards now feels like a lost art in our technology-heavy instant-communication day and age. Therefore, I was thinking back to what components of life we may miss, and so began the “I miss …” postcard collection.
How did you find your graphic designer?
I have been fortunate in life to have been surrounded by extremely talented friends, and Ženija from “Say it with Sarcasm” was an ideal match for this project as her illustration talent was perfectly aligned with my vision for this first postcard collection.
In terms of business, how has the concept been received? Do you think people are finding solace in the act of sending mail, particularly during this unprecedented time?
It has been received with much positivity. Many people have commented how much they have enjoyed being able to have this personalized service while at the same time being able to keep up with their busy lives. For the customers who are purchasing the blank pack of eight postcards, I have heard the following; that the pandemic has allowed them, for a time, to slow down and therefore, they are going back to something that they haven’t done in years or decades: writing and sending postcards themselves.
What do you think resonates most with people when writing cards or mailing something?
Postcards are like a slow, meaningful text message. An easy way to break it down is with this question; Have you ever printed out a text sent to you and placed it on your fridge? Most likely not. Because it doesn’t feel as authentic as a postcard, postcards are a way to tell someone you’re genuinely thinking about them. It’s a tangible token of acknowledgement. There is something magical about knowing the piece of paper you hold in your hands has travelled a long distance and passed through the hands of many people to deliver to you the thoughts of another person that is thinking of you.
What role do you think postcards can play in our current global situation, specifically mental well-being, communication, and closeness?
Postcards, especially during these difficult times of solitude, create four essential components for well-being: mindfulness, time, love and joy.
- Mindfulness as you take the time to pause and be in the present moment with care and reflection on the other person.
- Time because the sender has taken time out of their busy lives to find the postcard, write the message, find your address, and send the postcard. All of which feel more limited in this current day and age.
- Love as in “I care for you,” specifically for you with a personalized message that someone is thinking of you and sending you their love.
- Joy because small gestures can make a significant impact on someone, and postcards are intrinsically delightful.
What Does Travel Mean to You?
What is your most memorable trip?
Any first time arriving in a new city or country that feeling of aw, gratitude and exhilaration for being alive.
What inspires you to travel?
Being of dual nationality from two different continents and cultures, travel is integral to my being. For it expands my mind and soul to wider perspectives and new horizons.
If you could go anywhere right now, where would you go?
The south of France.
How has travel shaped or changed your life?
It has provided me with some of my most memorable life moments.
When it comes to travel, how do you plan a trip?
First, I decide if it’s going to be a solo trip or one with company. From there, I make a wish list of what I’d like to do or see while on this trip.
How do you immerse yourself in local culture?
Trying to travel with friends from that region is my #1 way to get a first-hand immersive experience. If that’s not possible, renting a flat in a fun neighbourhood where I can ask the locals what they recommend to see and do.
What are your travel essentials?
Ideally, a small carry-on suitcase which fits all my essentials. Clothing can be layered easily to adapt to all sorts of temperatures, great walking shoes, cloth tote bags, and my favourite writing postcard pens!
Are you a planner or a wanderer?
Both. In advance, I like to do my research and plan out site visits, i.e. art galleries, museums, monuments, parks etc. Once there, I allow for spontaneity and wander the streets and ask locals for recommendations. I could walk for kilometres with no true plan and be at my happiest discovering the infinite small details of a place.
How many postcards do you send when you’re travelling?
On average, my core list sent to loved ones is between 20-30 postcards. Though, I have been known to send over 50 in less than ten days on certain vacations.
How do you think the future of travel will change post COVID19?
This pandemic has made us appreciate and discover our own cities and countries in a different and new way. Once we can broaden our travel again, I hope people will be more grateful for cultural exchanges and being present in the current moment.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
A sea turtle
The ritual of making coffee is both meditative and exciting. It is processional, each step with a specific reason, no extras, and no shortcuts, from grinding the beans to the hypnotic circling of the water into the dripper, the smell, the bloom, and the anticipation of brewed elixir. I would conduct similar steps when I would hand brew my espresso out of the NanoPress, laborious but worthwhile.
When I moved to Roatan in September of 2019, I had developed my process for pour-over with my Chemex and fancy pour-over kettle, but as I downsized and needed to simplify without giving up my caffeine obsession. And herein lies how I came to create my travel coffee kit.
My kit contains the following, housed entirely in a shoebag.
Hario Hand Grinder
Glacier Coffee Travel Pour-Over Kettle
Nanopress Travel Espresso Maker
Coffee Sock Reusable Filter
Hario Paper Filters
Enamel Mugs from Best Made – great for camping, but also travelling
Everything Japanese Cloth from Best Made – if you spill or need something to protect from heat.
I must admit that I am an ‘eye-baller’ for how much coffee to use for pour-over. Don’t shoot me, I know there is a level of precision that I will never achieve (at least until I get a scale), but it works for me. There are travel scales I have seen that I think will be an excellent addition to the kit. The flat white, on the other hand, was much easier to manage. The Nano Press makes superb espresso, and the Nespresso is one of the best I’ve used, especially for alternative milk.
Ultimately, this kit allowed me to create all my favourite versions of coffee I love (and need) in my life, from a fresh pour-over to a flat white in the morning and mid-day. For those who love travelling and ensuring you have your morning brew, this is a great way to do it, especially if you are going to a more remote location. Of course, I still go out for coffees and use coffee shops as a great way to get local recommendations, but this is for those moments by yourself where you want to enjoy a cop of fresh brew while listening to the birds sing, while you swing in your hammock.
Honduran coffee is fantastic! If you get a chance to buy Honduran beans, I highly recommend them. Also, if you’re looking for coffee-brewing supplies, I am a big fan of Kurasu. My wishlist item is the Origami dripper.
Breda: Street art and small city charm
While visiting the Netherlands, Breda is a beautiful city to explore and relax after Amsterdam or Rotterdam’s hustle and bustle. A smaller city, comparatively, yet a cozy and dynamic feeling. There is an entrepreneurial buzz in the town that draws you in with all the start-ups, pop-ups, and small bricks and mortars dispersed throughout the city. Even more impressive is the ingenuity of small businesses during this challenging time, such as cocktail delivery to your door (socially distant and safe, of course).
There is a great selection of restaurants, bars, cafes you can order take-out or delivery from. A coffee and a stroll is still a great way to get some exercise and see the city. A large park near the train station is a lovely spot for a picnic or a chat (weather permitting). Fun fact: chickens live in the park! Repurposed industerial areas add to this historic city’s charm. Breda is a very walkable city, but also lovely to explore by bike. It has even voted for the best city centre in the Netherlands!
I should note that most of these photos and experiences were in January of this year pre-COVID.
A short history
Breda is a smaller town in the south of Holland in the province of North Brabant. The city is quaint but packs in beautiful side streets that spiral out from the city centre. The church known as Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of our Lady) sits in the center of the town as a beacon, wonderfully aged and visible from most parts of the city. Historically, the city is known for having a strategic military position and is still an important place for military training.
Cultural sidebar – Sinterklaas
In the Netherlands, they celebrate Sinterklaas on December 5th by leaving carrots in the children’s shoes for Sinterklaas’s horse and in exchange, the children are left presents. The family writes poems for one other and reads them aloud the next morning. I was lucky enough to experience this while on exchange as a student in Utrecht, and it is quickly approaching!
- Transportation: Bike, Walk, Trains, Bus, and Car
- Currency: Euro
- Languages: Dutch and English
- Accommodation: Air Bnb, and Hotels. I was fortunate enough to have a place to stay right in the city centre, but there is a fair amount of Air Bnb’s available for rent.
Things to Do:
Warning – I have a bias for going to the cinema while travelling.
Cinema Chasse: This is a lovely independent cinema, offering a range of films. The cinema is modern and new, with big comfy seats, a well-stocked concession and adult beverages, should you feel inclined. I was dying to see Parasite and found a screening while I was in Breda, so of course, I booked tickets. When we watched, I forgot about the subtitles. They were in Dutch while the spoken language was Korean. Luckily, I had a handle on the film and an interpreter filling me in on the key points. In other instances, there would have been English subtitles, so just consider this if you go to a film here.
Pathé Theatre: This theatre is focused on more commercial films. But it is an excellent option if you want to watch a blockbuster hit
Stedeliijk Museum Breda: The Stedelijk Museum is located just outside the city centre. It has a beautiful collection of older Dutch paintings, providing historical context to Breda’s past and its critical role in Dutch history. There are also contemporary exhibits on rotation. The museum is smaller, so it is feasible to do it all in one go and then take a break and have a coffee or lunch near the canal, at the Botanist or Dok19.
There street art is Breda is beautiful! You can take a self-guided tour created by Blind Walls Gallery and see the city from a different persepective.
So you want to go shopping?
What struck me is how connected the business community is in Breda. Businesses of all stripes support each other directly or indirectly, whether it is purchasing provisions from one company to use directly in another or choosing local brands and businesses over chains. Everybody also knows everybody. There is a tight-knit feeling in the city.
Algorithmic Perfumery: This is truly a novel concept shop. This is a perfume shop, but with a twist. The process is experiential. First, you take a survey to understand your smell preferences and then go into the shop to do the second part, smelling different scents to hone in on our likes. After that, their AI produces three scents (if you buy the sample pack), which you are then able to tweak at the scent desk. I loved developing my own scent by tweaking something designed for me and trying something slightly different from what I wouldn’t usually have gone for. If you’re in Breda, you must go here!
Hutspot: Is a beautifully curated shop featuring women’s and men’s clothing, jewellery, homeware, books, and gifts. With a clean, modern aesthetic, they carry homegrown Dutch brands and international brands—a great spot to pick up a gift or something nice for yourself.
De Pindakaaswinkle: I love peanut butter, and when I stumbled on this peanut putter pop-up shop, I fell in love! They offer a unique selection of natural peanut butter with different flavours. You can do a taster of little ones to see which ones you like best or jump right in for a full-size jar. They also offer cool merchandise and a recipe book! Great for presents or a cool souvenir.
Dille & Kamille: An iconic home goods store, beautifully stocked with an excellent selection of kitchen treats and accessories. You will find pretty much anything you need for your home and more. I picked up some lovely postcards for friends, but that was me restraining myself. You will see locals with the iconic tote bag in most cities.
Bunker Tattoo: Is a famous studio with locals. They have an excellent selection of artistic styles available here. It is wise to book in advance. This place is hard to get a spot.
Weekly Markets: Grote Food Market & Flea Market
Where to satiate your hunger
It should be noted that although this section is relatively small, there are lots of tasty places to eat in Breda. And, it is also possible to eat or lightly snack at many of the bars listed below. I will highlight Dok19 for light snacks and dinner and the Botanist for brunch!
Tiger Club: Asian fusion, a restaurant that highlights the popular dishes in Korean, Chinese, Thai, and Japanese cuisine. All the delicious things you may seek out in an individual restaurant live harmoniously here. I tried the dim sum, gyoza, dumplings (pictured), bao, pad thai, and fried rice. My favourite was the baos, so soft and a fun twist on a traditional dish. The dumpling platter is a great dish to share and make sure to try the unique Japanese beer offerings.
In Kannen/Kruiken: – A cute cafe and breakfast spot, it’s a long narrowish space that’s cozy and homely. Couches and lounge chairs are interspersed through the dining tables. A long communal table at the back is bright and airy from the natural light cascading down from the sunlight. It’s a perfect spot for kids, and you can make takeaway coffee.
Fancy an Adult Beverage?
Dok19: A famous watering hole for locals has two floors and an expansive terrace by the water. The most popular spots are in front of the bar. Here you can see how small the city really is as locals bump into each other continuously. The upstairs is a cozy area to share beers with friends or have an intimate conversation while people watching from the balcony. Sit outside if you want a more lively atmosphere. It’s packed even in the cold. Dok19 is well-known for its old school hip-hop vibes, with a famed circuit of DJs regularly in residence.
De Botanist: Vibrant and verdant, this is a cocktail bar with a modern tropical vibe. The bar is a great place to sit and meet people or chat with the bartender about making you a refreshing concoction. They offer cocktails of the day, so be adventurous and try one of their creative cocktails. Good solo, for two, or a large group. They also offer breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Cafe Lievense: This is a large bar with a stunning courtyard when the weather permits. The space is suitable for groups and serves light snacks, beer, and wine. It’s a cozy bar with a relaxed vibe, popular with locals and a little more tucked away than some of the other more central bars.
Cafe De Bruine Pij: Cozy and full of character, this is a bar with an extensive collection of collateral crammed onto its walls and peanut shells littering the floor. If you love beer, it’s an excellent spot. They have a good selection of local offerings or something different. The patio is substantial and ideal for groups or solo and people watching.
1535 Wijnhuys: Is a wine bar with an excellent selection of hand-picked wines from around the world. The server’s knowledge of wines is vast, and it was great to discuss their collection and try their recommendations. It’s an intimate spot with a casual vibe, great for a few glasses of wine before or after dinner.
Yirga: Is one of my favourite cafes. It’s modern yet relaxing with an excellent menu for breakfast, lunch, or snacks. Many of the ingredients in the dishes are locally grown by the team at Yirga. They have a beautiful terrace outside, so when the weather is warm and sunny, it’s the perfect place for a coffee or a glass of wine. They also have a beautiful selection of handmade ceramics from a local ceramist, an excellent selection of independent zines, wine, and whole coffee beans to-go. It’s also on a charming side street, making them feel more hidden and off the beaten path.
Sowieso KoffieBar: A cozy cafe to read a book, the newspaper, catch up with friends or do a little work. It has a welcoming vibe that feels like you’re visiting a friend. There is also a cute small courtyard for sunny days: great coffee, snacks, and sandwiches.
Barista Cafe: This cafe has the best carrot cake I’ve ever tried. I was very impressed with the modern take on a classic cake. The flat whites are also delicious. If you need something more substantial, they have a tasty sandwich selection. I also later found out they make homemade pumpkin pies for Canadian Thanksgiving!
Festive cinema – 25 Christmas Films
As we move into the final month of 2020, it also happens to be the year’s festive end, if 2020 was a typical year. 2020 has thrown us some major curveballs, but now that it’s officialy December 1st, so it’s jingle all the way. I suppose the silver lining in all of this is that we have more time to watch holiday films. So, here are my top 25 Christmas movie recommendations. This list is not exhaustive, so please leave your favourites in the comments below! 🎄🌟 Happy Holidays!
MY FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS MOVIES
Charlie Brown’s Christmas
Mickey’s Christmas Carol
Home Alone 1 & 2
The Grinch (Original Animation)
The Grinch (Live Action)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Frosty the Snowman
A Very Murray Christmas
Office Christmas Party
The Night Before Christmas
A Christmas Carol
Pink Panther Christmas
A Nightmare Before Christmas
Jingle All the Way
The Santa Clause
BONUS MOVIES – HOLIDAY HORROR
Beach Volleyball in the Carribean
Beach volleyball became a significant part of my life while I was living on the island of Roatán in Honduras. Almost every day, I would play. We would meet at 4 pm, at the End of the World Beach Bar in the West End. The court was situated perfectly on the beach, with a lovely shallow area to swim and cool off after a game. The bar next to it was local run, offering up an incredible menu, one of the best mojitos I’ve ever had, and always a cold beer.
At first, the group was relatively consistent and small, but people started coming to watch, sit and chat, and have a beer and then more and more people began to play. The volleyball crew was ever-evolving, but it was a wonderful mix of Italians, Argentinians, Canadians, Spanish, Honduran, American, and Swiss when I arrived. We would play from 4 pm until sunset. It was such a beautiful way to watch the sunset. We were in paradise.
The morning Sessions
Quickly, the group ballooned, and we had to start playing in shifts. Some of us would go a little earlier to play. Then COVID hit. The situation changed, and the uncertainty of transmission split the group apart. At first, I stopped playing because the situation was tense, we had a curfew and police presence was high. My villa bubble decided to create a morning session, so every day at 9 am, we would head to the beach for 2 hours of two-on-two. Not only did this keep us fit, but it also secured golden brown tans and luscious highlights in our hair. Our volley anthem became “The Living is Easy” by Guts.
Before COVID, between matches, one of the players who would later become a good friend of mine, brought mate to drink. Mate is a popular drink in the southern part of South America. In this instance, it came from Argentina, where my friend is from. It is harvested, dried, and cut then packaged for consumption. When you prepare the drink, you use a gourd with a bombilla, a metal straw with metal rings at the bottom that act as a sieve to keep the leaves out. Mate is an energizing drink; it gives you a more even-keeled boost compared with coffee. Considered the drink of friendship in Argentina; it is meant to be shared. I enjoyed the ritual of making the mate and sharing it with friends.
After a few weeks, things began to relax, and the group decided to organize a volleyball tournament. At this point, cases were low, and most of us coexisted in each other’s bubbles, the funny thing about islands. The tournament would be an epic battle. We selected captains, strategies devised, and everyone began to train seriously.
I am a competitive player, and I wanted to win. I had been nicknamed ‘Chung-Lee’ after the Street Fighter character because of the integrated martial arts movements I would use during play. Every player had a style and a nickname. Our Team was ‘The Absolute Beauts’.
An epic battled unsued, as the teams of four gave their everything to be the champions. In the end, our team won! We had such an eclectic group of people who came together of all skill levels, playing together, and making incredible memories. We had our little community that had blossomed and grew into this extraordinary family of ex-pats and locals from the island.
Volleyball in Roatán
In Roatán, volleyball is a popular sport because of the easiness of play and the tropical weather’s suitability. In Honduras, especially Roatán, Volleyball is an integral part of life and culture. We even had a professional player playing with us, who represented Honduras on the international stage. He then became a teacher, helping to bring the sport to schools and children. Volleyball presents an opportunity for youth to get involved in a sport, which creates an opportunity for fitness, socializing, and potentially leading to scholarships to university or college.
There are several projects to promote the sport amongst youth from lower-income families, for example, One Team. The project’s focus is to use “the sport of beach volleyball to convey positive values to children and young people. In free training units, they experience team spirit and learn to take responsibility for themselves and others.” They also integrate the UN Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on Goal #3- ‘Vaccinate Your Family,’ Goal #4 – ‘Help Educate the Children in Your Community,’ and Goal #5 – ‘Empower Women and Girls and Ensure Their Equal Rights,’ into the DNA of their organization.
The Banana bread crew
An exceptional event occurred that will forever be remembered as the Banana Bread Incident. One day, while playing volleyball, a passerby walked next to the court, and the ball came close to her causing her to drop her loaf of banana bread in the sand. After that, whenever people needed to pass by the court, we would stop play and yell ‘Banana Bread’ to alert everyone of the game stoppage. We later would add ‘Baby Banana’ for the toddlers that would sometimes be playing near the courts. Although we were all sad for the dropped banana bread, it ended up taking on a life of its own.
I always start my trips at a cafe, well known for it’s filter coffee or flat whites, followed up with a quick chat with the baristas on their favourite spots in the city. And getting lost in the sidestreets has always yielded the most interesting things.
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