A Morning in Riomaggiore, Italy

Before I start detailing the beauty of Riomaggiore, I wanted to wish y’all a HAPPY THANKSGIVING! It’s probably not the best day to publish a blog post, as I assume you’re all busy cooking turkey and sharing a big dinner table with family and friends. Alas, Thanksgiving is not observed here in Holland, and I live thousands of miles away from my family. So instead of eating mashed potatoes and gravy, I am enjoying me time, computer time, healthy time, and thankful reflection time. I don’t want to veer off topic too much (Riomaggiore is a must!) but I do want to document my thanks. I am so, so thankful, for a lot of things. And by things I mean people.

Last February I was having a particularly shitty night. A girlfriend dragged me out to the bar downstairs (yes I live above a bar), and forced me to have fun (as friends do). It was there I did something I’ve never done before. I picked up a girl in the bar. Her name was Kira and she had moved to Amsterdam only two days before. That night, Kira had wandered into Flamingo alone, intent on making new friends, assuaged by a stiff drink. She overheard my conversation, asked if I was American (yes indeed) and proclaimed a jovial hello. I knew immediately that Kira was my kind of person – fun, positive, and bursting with energy. After sharing what turned into an epic night out, we made plans to grab dinner the following week, and what I know will be a lifelong friendship was born.

Kira was my American gateway drug. She soon introduced me to Laura, who had also just moved to Amsterdam. Coincidentally, the three of us all live in de Pijp, and thus was the dawn of the Friendship Triangle. Kira also introduced me to her American friend Michael. Unique, hilarious, and incredibly genuine, Michael is the kind of guy you feel lucky to be around. He is always welcoming in new house guests, whether it’s old friends from back home or a new happy face from the train station. And so via Michael I’ve literally made dozens of new friends – people who are intriguing and kind, from all over the globe.

I really don’t know what this year would have been like if I’d never bumped into that girl in the bar. But I think that’s when you know life is right – when you simply can’t imagine it any other way.

Now that you’ve suffered through my verbal cheese, I’d love to share with you some delectable Italian eye candy. Feast on this . . . IMG_1431Riomaggiore is the first village you will come across when traveling from La Spazia through Cinque Terre. Riomaggiore is known throughout the region for producing an amazingly sweet and delicious white wine called Sciacchetrà. They also have a welcome tendency to make homemade Trofie al Pesto with chestnut flour, creating a rich and creamy twist to Conque Terre’s most beloved dish. But perhaps even more notable than the culinary delights hailing from the region are the historic rainbow houses, speckled throughout the landscape. In Riomaggiore, lush, steep ridges climb up and away from the sea, showcasing an array of coloured façades and Cinque Terre’s telltale bright green shutters. Continue reading

Hiking to Monterosso al Mare, Italy

Happy Wednesday! I have another Italy installment for you, which is rather timely, as I just spent the evening cooking a massive Italian feast for friends. I really miss Italy. The sunshine, the wine, the pastel-colored villages, and above all, the rich and flavorful cuisine. Luckily, I own a pasta machine, and can *try* to re-create some of Italy’s finest fare in my own kitchen. Tonight I whipped up an Italian storm, rolling out fresh linguini, homemade pesto, warm prosciutto with herbs, and a light caprese salad. I’m currently feeling pasta-drunk – that post-carb haze that smothers your eyes and soul after a fantastic meal with good company, fresh pasta, and copious amounts of wine. But enough about tonight – let’s chat Cinque Terre! IMG_1126There are five stunning villages in Cinque Terre, and as Amie and I explored Vernazza on our first day in Italy, day number two involved a breathtaking hike in the sunshine to the most northern village, Monterosso al Mare.  Continue reading

Vernazza, Italy

For the past 18 months, I’ve been dreaming of Italy. Shortly after my breakup with B, I had an irrational brainwave (probably inspired by a Pinterest board) imploring me to roam the Bel Paese (or beautiful country, in Italian). I spelled out the dream holiday previously in this post – the trip would involve exploring Tuscany, grooving my way through Rome, and splashing in the sea on the Amalfi coast. At the time of my fantasy, I did not know Cinque Terre existed. If you did not know Cinque Terre existed, you are in for a delight. IMG_0761Cinque Terre means The Five Lands in Italian, and is comprised of five stunning seaside villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Hiking trails and trains scale the lush, hills of the Italian Riviera, connecting the villages. Boats also ferry between the villages, however a major part of Cinque Terre’s charm lies in the fact that the villages aren’t quite accessible by car. Olive and lemon trees speckle the hills, terraces run along the rugged, steep landscape, overlooking the sea, and seafood is plentiful in the local cuisine. Essentially, Cinque Terre is an Italian lover’s dream, and so when Amie made her semi-annual pilgrimage to Amsterdam, we booked an inception vacation (a vacation inside Amie’s vacation) to the stunning Italian Riviera, to visit none other than Cinque Terre. Continue reading

Jordaan Food Tour, Amsterdam

A few weeks ago, Eating Amsterdam reached out and asked if I would like to join in on one of their food tours. Typically, I would not think to hop on a food tour in my own city – I’ve been forking my way around Amsterdam for the past five years, and by now I’m well acquainted with all things edible and Dutch, ranging from raw herring to my beloved stroopwafels. However, when I checked out Eating Amsterdam’s website, I noticed that they had a Jordaan Food Tour, which sparked my interest, as I’m not nearly as familiar as I’d like to be with the food scene in the Jordaan. As a de Pijp local, I thought it would be fun to discover the culinary gems of another neighborhood. IMG_0387Fast forward a few e-mails, and I’m booked into Eating Amsterdam’s 4-hour Jordaan Food Tour, featuring a guided walk through the Jordaan neighborhood and a substantial meal in the form of a dozen delicious Dutch tastings.  Continue reading

Cats, Murder, and Taylor Swift aka my 29th Birthday Party

It’s typical to make a wish on your birthday. Prosperity. Happiness. Ponies. While I didn’t quite know what I wanted for twenty-nine, I knew I wanted it to be memorable. And so, after a bit of deliberation, I decided to kill off my friends, one by one. I wanted excitement, intrigue, and above all, murder. I also wanted to be Taylor Swift for the evening. Happy somewhat-irrational birthday to me!IMG_0523The wish wasn’t entirely preposterous. My good friend Michael and I had been toying with the idea of throwing a murder mystery dinner party for quite some time. Michael is a fantastic host and owns a massive dinner table (bigger than the table I celebrated at Spaghetteria last year) and as of late, I’ve had a bit of free time on my hands and have been *dying* to pen a murder mystery. And so Michael and I joined forces to throw a deadly-awesome somewhat-bloody twenty-ninth birthday party extravaganza for moi!  Continue reading

Twenty-Eight Tidbits of Wisdom

When I was twenty-seven, everything fell apart. I’d had a lot of the future gingerly mapped out, and my life took a drastic detour. I spent the remainder of the year trying to pull myself together, breathing but not really living. I turned 28 at a table surrounded by girlfriends and glowing sparklers, and wished for the year to be one of the best. It went by in a whirl. There were dreamy trips to Istanbul and Munster, Norway and St. Tropez. There were unplanned midnight trips to the emergency room, accompanied by great friends and an onslaught of bubbles until the sun returned. There were ups and downs at work, goodbyes and new beginnings.

Twenty-eight was a coming of age year. I learned how to live on my own. Shop for one (aka thrive on predominantly hummus). Talk to strangers. Set a mouse trap. Fix my bike chain. I gained confidence and friends, new beliefs and dreams. To celebrate a new year of life (holy-cow-twenty-nine-balls approached fast!) I’ve spent some time (while sprawled out, sipping wine on a balcony in Italy) compiling twenty-eight tidbits of wisdom. Some lessons were served hard, while others were lingering and long. Here are a select few from this past year of life.

1. Not all relationships are fairytales. Enjoy them for what they are. Some are for two weeks, some are for two years, and some will feel like two eternities. Time does not define quality. Find meaning in what you do and who you’re with, and simply enjoy the ride.

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Fall in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is stunning in the fall. A light haze has set in above the city, complimenting the earthy hues that mast Amsterdam’s cobblestone streets. Golden sunlight slips through the trees, and sparkling shadows are cast along the canals. There’s a buzz in the air as people scurry a tad bit faster on bikes and scooters to avoid the city’s new, frigid state. 
IMG_0345I truly can’t believe it’s mitten weather again already, but this past weekend, an undeniable chill arrived in Holland. While summer is my favorite season, the cold air of fall makes my lungs feel alive again. And so while the foliage slowly dies, I’m awakened by chilly fingers and crisp oxygen in my chest. On Saturday, following a leisurely brunch with my girlfriend Sophie, I decided to take a long stroll around the city to enjoy the autumnal sunshine and capture Amsterdam’s golden glow with my camera.

Here are a few photos from my walk :)

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Exploring Münster, Germany

Last weekend the Dutch girlfriends and I planned a little escape. Fall was in the air and we were craving a change – a weekend outside of Amsterdam or a day in another city. We marked the weekend in our calendars without making a concrete plan. If the weather was sunny and gorgeous, we could head up to Texel and stroll the beach. If it rained, we could spend the day shopping and eating in Antwerp. And if it was a clear, fall day, we could trek a bit further and spend the day in Germany, drinking crisp beers and exploring a new city – which is exactly what we ended up doing!Visiting Munster Germany_9919Melissa picked us up at the crack of dawn. I’d gone out on Friday night and was *dead* after only three hours of sleep, but the adrenaline of visiting a new city for the first time is often stronger than a good cup-o-joe, and so by the time we reached Münster (our decided German destination) I was refreshed and ready to go! This post is going to be more beautiful than informative, as I did no research on Münster ahead of time and don’t have a boat load of recommendations to share. We looked at good ol’ Google Maps once or twice for navigation guidance, but left the rest up to luck! We stumbled into shops, ate at random stops, and gawked at the numerous stunning churches.  Continue reading

Tips for Hiking to Kjeragbolten, Norway

Sorry I’ve been absent this past week. I’m honestly feeling a little bit blue. I just swapped out my little summer dresses for big wooly sweaters and warm leather boots. Fall is here and I’ll be 29 in three weeks. I’m at an age where I’m supposed to have my shit together, but I’m feeling restless and like I still have a lot to figure out. And while these last few weeks of summer have been really therapeutic and restful, I still barely have the attention span to watch a whole movie. Over the past 5 years I’ve evolved into this go-go-go person, and I find the act of simply resting or slowly digesting a book oddly foreign. Even while unemployed, I have to-do lists that are a mile long. I’m yet to spend an unemployed day under the duvet, binging on Netflix. To thrive and feel happiness, I need to be challenged. I’m ready to have too much on my plate and work ungodly hours. And so this morning I finally started looking for jobs. Researching into agencies and brands I’d be interested in working with in Amsterdam, and maybe even beyond :) I feel like this past year has come with SO many changes, and it’s time for me to take the reins. With that in mind, nothing says ’empowerment’ like hiking 570 meters up and into the Norwegian Fjords. I told you about Stavanger and camping, and now I will tell you about the best part of our trip to Norway – climbing up to Kjeragbolten.Norway Camping_9669Kjeragbolten is a boulder located on Kjerag mountain in Norway. The base of the mountain is about a 2.5 hour drive from Stavanger. There are also ferries that travel regularly to and from the mountain. The boulder itself is a wedged deep in a crevasse of Kjerag, suspended above a 984-meter abyss.  Continue reading

Camping in Norway

After a quick 24-hour stop in Stavanger, Kira, Elliot, Anthony, and I picked up our trusty rental car and started the steep drive towards Kjerag, a Norwegian mountain located in the Lysefjord. Our ambition was to hike up to Kjeragbolten, a huge boulder wedged between two cliffs, dangling 3,00ft in the air – but that adventure calls for a whole separate blog post, which I will share next week :) In addition to our epic boulder hike, we were really excited to simply live out of our backpacks for a few days, soak up the stunning Norwegian landscape, and fall asleep under the stars.
Camping on a waterfallNorway is unique in that it is legal to camp freely on uninhabited land. This law is known as “every man’s right” as it grants access to uncultivated lands such as the mountains. Even private property is up for grabs, as long as it is not clearly inhabited by livestock, fenced off, or within 150 metres of a house. The general rule of thumb is leave the land as you left it – you must carry out all of your trash, and while it’s OK to start a campfire, forest fires are somewhat frowned upon ;)
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