Part 3: Bordeaux, France

There are some cities that are perfect in the rain. When I am in Greece for my 31st birthday am I thinking this? Absolutely not. However, in a romantic, land-locked city such as Paris or Bordeaux, there’s something about a grey, drizzly day that makes the atmosphere even more dreamy – if that’s even possible! You have to walk closer to your lover to huddle under a shared umbrella, and the dull, grey skies makes the city’s hues splendidly vivid. You can’t spend too much time outside, so you don’t feel guilty for sleeping in, and spend your days hunkered down inside some of the most charming old stone buildings sipping a cold beer (or perhaps something a bit stronger!) by candlelight. Yes, I am an optimist and a romantic, but I love a good gloomy day every once in a while! And while our friend trip to Bordeaux wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of romance, we had been treated a glorious days of sun, and so on our last day in town, when it rained, I didn’t bat an eye but merely grabbed my rain coat and umbrella, and headed out for an adventure! We had spent a day in the city and a day exploring the seaside, and so on our final day in Bordeaux, we had to do the wine thing!In addition to being a stunning world heritage site, Saint Emilion is also one of the most notable wine regions in Bordeaux. With a history that dates back to the Romans, Saint Emilion is a charming stone village surrounded by thousands of acres of vibrant green vineyards. Continue reading

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Part 2: Bordeaux, France

As much as I love exploring a new city or spending a drizzly day hidden in a dreamy wine cellar, our visit to the Dune of Pilat was by far my favorite adventure in Bordeaux. There’s just something about eating oysters by the dozen at the sea, with sandy toes and wind swept hair that feels right (says the Maine girl in me!) Add some awesome friends and a glass of crisp white wine, and you have the makings for an idyllic French adventure.On day two in Bordeaux, we were blessed with some beautiful weather. No-jacket, bare-legs kinda weather, which was quite the departure from our previous day in Bordeaux, when we roamed around bundled up like bunnies (do bunnies bundle? I don’t know, but it sounded cute :) To take advantage of the balmy weather, we popped on our flip flops and headed to the seaside for the day. Continue reading

Part 1: Bordeaux, France

I haven’t done this in a while, but there are too many photos from our wonderful time in Bordeaux, so I will be splitting this up into *gasp* a three part post! I’m not sure where to start, as the entire trip was dreamy (pardon my French) as fuck, but perhaps I’ll begin with our time in the city, and then get into a few of our French field trips a bit later.As you may know, King’s Day is a big to-do in Holland. To celebrate the monarchy, the Dutch dance, drink, sell second hand wares in the parks and along the roads, eat greasy street food, dress up (mainly in orange), and participate in a slew of other debaucherous activities (read an old King’s Day post here). The entire city shuts down, the trams don’t run, the streets and canals are packed with party goers, and music blasts from large speakers in the main squares for almost 24 hours straight. It’s definitely one of my favorite days of the year, and this year was especially jubilant as Amie, Jess, and Andrew flew all the way over from the US to get celebrate with us! As the trip to Europe is not a casual jaunt, we also tacked a little French getaway onto their European visit (I bet you were wondering where I was going with King’s Day in the Bordeaux post!) Continue reading

Musings on 31 Years of Life

Last year I turned 30 in a big Italian villa surrounded by friends. It was the send off my 20’s deserved, and a warm welcome to a new decade of life. This past Sunday, I greeted yet another birthday and turned 31 on a Greek island in the sun. A change of pace and scenery, but magical and memorable none the less.  So far, I have really loved being 30. To some, entering another decade might seem like an indication of old age, but for me, 30 has been one of the best years yet, as I continue to become more confident, more knowledgable, and make even better relationships with the people that I love. That’s not to say I have perfected any of these things – but as time goes on and I continue living in my own skin, I’ve gotten to know myself much better, and that counts for a lot in terms of how I approach new situations and present myself to the world.

As you may or may not know, I like lists – I list out groceries, Netflix series I want to watch, things I need to do around the house, words I’ve recently learned, and a gazillion action items for work. I list out dreams and places I want to travel, and even goals (short term and long term – I know, it’s a sickening habit!) Now that I have seen another 365 days roll by, I took a quick look at my lists from the end of 2016 and 217 to see what I could tick off, and also reminisce on what I have accomplished and learned while 30. Continue reading

SXSW in Austin, Texas

I am so excited to tell you about Austin, because it’s the last post I have to share before I can FINALLY get into telling you about my travels from this summer (Maine, Bordeaux, Positano, Rome, Amalfi!) As giddy as I am to get into the really good stuff, Austin was also pretty rad. Attending SXSW was my first real visit to Texas (unless layovers count) and I was actually pretty taken aback by how liberal, eclectic, and outdoorsy the city was. As a New England gal who has predominantly stuck to US coastal travel, I always assumed Texas was full of conservative cowboys. Thanks American media for fueling the stereotype. And while I did see a cowboy or two in the Lone Star State, I found Austin to be a diverse and liberal gem. There are ample food trucks, live music venues (yeah honky tonk!) and fried chicken joints (where they fry pickles, too!) There’s great beer, coffee, art, and BBQ, and if you want to play bingo with chicken shit, well you can pursue that dream in Austin too. There are saloon-looking shops and big hand painted signs around the city advertising guns and gold. You can cycle or run along Lady Bird Lake, or find a cool creek to take a dip in. Austin definitely has some of that old western charm, with a fun, electric flare and divine homespun food. Continue reading

A Quick Summer Stop in Chicago

As you know (or may not know!) I work at Booking.com. I love my job because it means I get to eat, sleep, and breathe travel, which just so happens to be my all-time favorite thing to do. Specifically, I manage communications for the US, which involves strategically and creatively overseeing all of the ads we put into the market. Sometimes I travel to LA or other exotic locations for big, cinematic television shoots, and in other instances I sit at my desk in Amsterdam, sip coffee, and sense check content articles or Facebook posts before they go live. Part of my job also entails of identifying who our key consumers are and what they will react to. If I haven’t lost you yet, this means my job also requires attending and analyzing focus groups. Basically, I’m the creepy person who sits on the other side of the tinted glass window, making comments and taking notes. Focus group participants can’t see or hear me, but I listen in and try to get a read on what they think about Booking.com, our ads, or travel in general. It might sound snoozy, but I find this part of the job ultra-intriguing! Sometimes we put our heart and soul into a piece of creative work, and it gets shredded to bits by consumers in a focus group – yes, this really happens! There are also usually mini-kitchenettes attached to each observation room, so in addition to gaining valuable insights about our brand, I also have access to unlimited snacks and takeout options. What more could a gal ask for?! Where am I going with this? A few months ago, some focus groups we were conducting landed me in Chicago. It’s worth noting here that I also went to Atlanta and NYC on the same trip, but holy-hell Chicago blew me out of the water, and is the only city that gets a full, dedicated blog post ;) Maybe it was seasonal and due to the perfect, balmy weather, but damn, Chicago was pretty!

While traveling alone can be a bummer for some, I absolutely adore it. I have the drive to wake up early and explore, or head out after office-hours solo to discover something new. I think moving to Europe and living alone for a few years had a big impact on how I function – I am much more independent than I was five years ago. I really value Ali-time, and the ability to choose what I do next, or where I want to go without anyone else weighing in. I spend a lot of my holiday days traveling with family, friends, and Kai, but sometimes it’s nice to wander around a new city alone with a book, taking in the sights and stopping to read on whatever grassy green knoll takes my fancy! Continue reading

A Work Trip to Santiago, Chile

While some people catch the South America travel bug, for me, it’s always been about Europe. I love history, architecture, and romance. Living in Amsterdam has given me the opportunity to travel to some of the most beautiful places on the content, and I’ve been very content spending free time exploring my own back yard while I have the opportunity. That said, I am not opposed to heading south of the border, especially if it’s cold, dreary December weather at home!These photos are a bit outdated, but as visiting Santiago was such a fun adventure, I wanted to chronicle a few photos from the trip on the blog :) I actually didn’t know I was going to Chile until about 4-days before the trip. We were producing two different TV campaigns at the same time, and one was scheduled to shoot in LA and the other was booked for Chile. My boss had earmarked going to Chile, and so I was expecting to oversee the shoot in California. However, due to a few last-minute changes, it was decided that my boss would travel to the LA shoot. So, 4-days before we kicked off production, I found out I was headed to South America, and had to scramble to get vaccines and visas and all of that fun stuff for my work trip to Chile! Continue reading

Bubbles & The Royal Ascot, UK

There are many wonderful things I could tell you about my trip to London for the Royal Ascot. I could tell you about my awesome friends Erin and Alex, who rounded up a big crew to experience one of their favorite pastimes. I could tell you about the Queen, the horses, or the amazing dinner we had at the hotel in Kensington the night before the races. And instead, the story I am going to tell you is an honest and sloppy one. Because apparently bubbles and horse racing go hand in hand, almost as tightly as gambling and big, fancy British hats. I’d never been to the races before, and so I didn’t quite know what to expect. My friend Erin, who frequents the races and makes intricate and stunning derby hats, prepped me accordingly. The Royal Ascot is the crème de la crème of horse racing. There is a strict dress code, a rich history behind the event, and even the queen herself is present! I expect a major fashion event, opulence, and spirited gambling. What I did not expect was the sheer amount of champagne consumed before, during, and after the event – to put it politely, it was a royal shit show. Continue reading

My 30th Birthday Part 2: Tuscany, Italy

Welcome to the Italian villa of my dreams. While I will probably never be a rich, aristocratic billionaire, I can certainly live like one for a weekend! To be honest, renting a huge-ass villa wasn’t necessarily my birthday plan. I wanted to celebrate with some friends in Tuscany, and as the list of attendees grew to around 25 people, it was clear that we would need a BIG place to stay.I’d envisioned a sophisticated birthday weekend, sipping wine in the sun, gobbling up homemade spaghetti dinners at a big table with all of my friends, visiting vineyards, and playing charades around a roaring, warm fireplace at night. Tuscany was my ideal backdrop for the birthday antics, and after pursuing Booking.com (hello employee discount!) I managed to find the MOST DREAMY villa ever to host the birthday crew and our antics. Let me tell you about this villa . . . .  Continue reading

My 30th Birthday Part 1: Bologna, Italy

Italy is hands down my favorite country in Europe. The landscape is so vast with hundreds of miles of rocky coastline, rolling hills and vineyards, tall mountains that broach the sea, and turquoise blue waters that lap the shores of pebbled islands. You have glorious Rome, with it’s dirty streets and brilliant pizza, Florence with endless artistic gems, Milan with elegant cathedrals and a knack for fashion. Everywhere you look there are glistening fountains, gelaterias, and elegantly-tall domed basilicas. If you escape to the countryside, you will find some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. And let’s not overlook the abundant olive and lemon trees – all hail the home of pesto! There’s Lake Como with it’s mermaid-worthy blue hues. There’s ancient villages such as Cinque Terra and Positano, carved into the cliffsides along the sea. And there are wonders of ancient architecture and engineering such as the ruins of Pompei and the Colosseum. There always seems to be a surplus of sunshine in Italy, which is perhaps why this country produces some of the sweetest tomatoes in the world. I did not truly believe tomatoes were a fruit until I tried them warm and sun-kissed off of the vine in Italy. And I guess that leads me to the food. If you don’t like pizza, pasta, warm oven-baked bread, or gelato, we can’t be friends. But you’ll still manage to find something to eat in Italy – the freshest mozzarella, seafood caught that day, tiramisu, panna cotta, and a schmorgesborg of soft cured meats, such as prosciutto (ideally wrapped around cool melon) are just a few of the country’s specialties. If your mouth is not watering and your heart is not lusting after an idyllic Italian vacation, I have failed you as a writer! For me, Italy is on par with England, France, Belgium, or Spain. It’s a country I’ve been to before but will never tire of, and try to visit at least once a year. This year, I totally lucked out. Amie and I went to Cinque Terre right around my 29th birthday, Kai and I went to Trieste in the summer, and then I spent my 30th birthday (finally getting to the point of this post!) in Italy as well. When I hit three decades, I wanted to be in my favorite country with my favorite people. And so I selected the best of the bunch from Amsterdam and the US, booked a giant villa, mapped out an itinerary, and flew into Bologna to celebrate thirty years Italian style with all of my favorites. Continue reading