Stephanie Cruz, Blogger, The Strawberry Brunette
Stephanie Cruz has been publishing The Strawberry Brunette, a travel, fashion and lifestyle blog, since 2012. She is half Norwegian and half Filipino, based in Oslo, Norway.
When was the first time you went abroad and where did you go?
The first country I visited outside of Norway was the Philippines when I was very little; I cannot remember my exact age. My family used to go to the Philippines every year, sometimes twice a year. My first impression of the Philippines was that it was sizzling hot.I think all in all I have been to the Philippines around thirty-five times!
I used to spend most of my time with my relatives. We would go to a place called Subic almost every time we were in the Philippines. Subic is a popular holiday destination with beautiful white-sand beaches, a large zoo with diverse exotic animals, and many other fun activities. When I was around 16-years-old we went back to Subic, and this time we discovered a stunning beach that we have never been to before. Ocean Adventure, an amusement park with aquariums, dolphins, sea lions and whales, was conveniently located nearby. Dolphins have always fascinated me, and one of my biggest childhood dreams was to see, swim and play with them. This dream came true when I went to Ocean Adventure, because there you are actually presented with an exciting opportunity to swim or dive with the dolphins
How much do you travel these days?
Nowadays I travel as often as I can. In August, I am going to Malta, Italy and Greece; and in October, I will be visiting Santorini and Vienna. All these trips are for both business and pleasure. So far I have been to nineteen countries and three continents (Europe, Africa and Asia). Latvia is the most unusual country that I have been to; it’s absolutely beautiful and I would love to explore more of it!
What is the most beautiful country that you have visited?
Philippines is the most beautiful country that I have been to. First and foremost, because of the people and the legendary Filipino hospitality: everywhere you go, everybody welcomes you with open arms! And I am totally in love with all the idyllic beaches: all that white sand and crystal clear waters teaming with rich marine life!
Boracay and El Nido, Palawan, are a couple of places in the Philippines that stand out for their beauty, although I haven’t yet been to the latter. The Philippines archipelago consists of over 7,000 islands, so I haven’t been able to explore many of them, but each and every island stands out in its own way.
In addition, Filipino food is absolutely delicious! A meal of fried rice with salted fish is very popular, but I like my rice plain, with salted fish or dried squid on the side; it has a weird smell, but it tastes so good! There are so many dishes to choose from, but my all time favourite is chicken adobo: chicken braised in garlic, vinegar, oil, and soy sauce.
Are there any particular places that are at the top of your ‘To Visit’ list?
There are many countries that I would love to visit at some point or another in the future! One place in particular that I would absolutely love to go to is the Maldives, because I am longing to visit a place where I can simply relax, forget about the outside world, and stay away from all things social media… I have mostly been travelling to big cities and popular beaches, both of which are swarming with people, so I just want to try something completely different. I also wouldn’t mind being stranded in some African savannah while being surrounded by elephants, lions, zebras and giraffes. And I would love to go to Mars, because I am fascinated by all the things to do with our universe… However I would only do it, if my return to Earth was guaranteed!
What do you always bring with you on your travels?
I love travelling light, especially in Europe, because it makes moving around practically hassle-free. However, it is a skill acquired over time! Except for the staples that are necessary for travel, I always bring with me a necklace with a strawberry pendant, a deeply meaningful memento for me. My father passed away from cancer a few years back, and the strawberry has always symbolised my ever-lasting love for him: a strawberry was the last thing he ate before he died. I never leave Norway without my strawberry necklace!
What are you favourite hotels?
Because of my blog, I have had a chance to stay in many beautiful hotels. Here are my top three hotels:
I love how this hotel had everything under one roof. I actually didn’t go to see the city right away since there was so much to explore at Atlantis! In addition, this hotel has an incredible buffet restaurant, Saffron, where you can find everything from the freshest seafood to the most decadent dessert.
Elegant decor, delicious food, and fantastic spa, are just some of the things that amazed me. The staff was really lovely and friendly; there wasn’t a single person there who gave me anything other than positive vibes. The service was excellent, and I was certainly made to feel that this was my home away from home.
I loved my room at the Guesthouse, especially the window seat with sweeping views of Vienna. In addition, having an a la carte menu for breakfast in the morning was a welcome change from standard hotel buffets. At Boracay Regency Beach Resort and Spa, we had a stunning suite with access to the pool right outside our balcony. I could basically just go and take a dip whenever I wanted, even in the middle of the night.
Have you done anything crazy recently during your travels?
I recently went to Corfu with my best friend and some childhood friends, and I spent most of my time having fun pranking people! I remember making a couple of guys in the club kiss each other, because I promised that I would kiss my best friend again if they did (apparently they had seen us kissing earlier) and surprisingly they did! Afterwards, I danced at the pole at the bar, a very crazy thing for me to do!