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

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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

Hiking in Morzine, France

Morzine is a traditional market-town nestled in the French Apls. The little village is strung with chalets that run through the center and then high up into the adjacent mountains. In the winter, Morzine is a skier’s paradise, and in the summer, it’s a desolate haven, filled with colorful flowers, restaurants that rarely fill up, and cool shady streets. The mountains are speckled with local kids playing football, and the far and few who do come to the area in the off-season to mountain bike, hike, or cave.While I have some pretty photos to share, I don’t have much to tell you about Morzine. Sometimes you go on a vacation and the destination is so foreign and exciting, you simply MUST sample all of the local cuisine, fully embrace the nightlife, shop to your heart’s content, and wander all of the major landmarks endlessly until you feel you’ve truly consumed the place. Well, going to Morzine was kind of the opposite. I tagged along with Kai and his friends, we stayed in a cute little Lincoln-Log-like condo at the base of the mountains, and just chilled. We had breakfast and lunch at home, we climbed the hills, we went swimming, we took adequate beer breaks, and we walked through the little town of Morzine.  Continue reading

A Romantic Evening at Casa di David, Amsterdam

I’m writing this post while soaring on an airplane towards Italy. I’m turning 30 this weekend and wanted to celebrate three centuries of life surrounded by friends and the Italian countryside. Although I grew up in the US, my family is very Italian, and so my birthdays were always accompanied with big family dinners and a spaghetti and meatball feast, typically followed by Italian pastries (supplied by my Grampy), gifts, and many well wishes. I know good Italian food. I have so many wonderful Italian chefs in my family, and I have also ventured over to Italy on many occasions to take in the scenery, the culture, and above all, the cuisine! When in Amsterdam, it’s hard to come by a decent Italian meal. There are many restaurants offering Pizza (and don’t get me wrong, some of these joints are fantastic!) but there are very few locals that are comparable to the real Italy. img_7271Casa di David is on my list as a  ‘definitely yes!’ when it comes to Italian dining in Amsterdam. A few weeks ago, the boy and I were lucky enough to snag a front-of-the-house table on a dark and dreary summer evening. And so we stayed dry inside, sipping wine and twirling fresh pasta around our forks in the candlelight. Continue reading

Easter in Texel, The Netherlands

Usually I spend the long Easter weekend in London (see here and here) but this year, I decided to switch it up. I’m headed over to the UK for the Royal Ascot in June, so I’ll still be seeing all of my London friends then, on a slightly belated schedule this year :) And to be honest, I’ve been traveling so much for work as of late, the thought of cramming all of my belongings into yet another suitcase, braving Schiphol, and hopping on an airplane in my downtime sounded tiring and unappealing. And so as the long Easter weekend slowly crept up, I decided to stay local. IMG_4586Luckily, my guy friend ;) was also stark on plans, and so we started toying around with the idea of taking a road trip up to Texel, an island in the north of Holland marked by endless dunes and white sandy beaches.  Continue reading

A Progressive Dinner of Awesomeness

It’s been a while since my last post, and I miss you guys! Funny enough, despite the lack of new content on here, my site traffic continues to climb. It’s like you don’t even care that I’m not here anymore! Amsterdam & Beyond is thriving without me, which is both flattering and alarming. When did my baby go and get so grown up?!

On a more serious note, it really has been a while. I don’t want to make excuses, but real life has been pretty freakin’ awesome lately, and so that’s what I’ve been doing. Living. And my neglect isn’t focused solely on Amsterdam & Beyond – it’s all social media. I used to be a Pinterest queen and an Instagram junkie, with the occasional Facebook post just for giggles. Now, I rarely spend down time on my computer. I prefer to laugh, dance, kiss, talk, drink wine, eat sweets, run, and explore. I have a backlog of photos from the past few months, but have barely made a dent in editing them. My *goal* is to blog once a week. If I can keep up that pace, I will be happy :) So let’s see if I can get any better in April!IMG_4036These photos are a few snaps from a dinner the girls and I concocted last weekend. Have you ever heard of a progressive dinner? It’s a food tour through several houses, where one course is enjoyed at each stop! We thought it would be a fun idea for a Saturday night, as a prequel to some dancing :) And so we rallied eight ladies, four bringing beverages and four offering up their homes to host and cook! Read through to the end for some tips if you’re looking to throw your own progressive dinner party :) Continue reading

Hello Happy 2016

I wasn’t going to write a ‘Happy New Year!’ blog post. In fact, I finally have the promised Berlin series all lined up and ready to publish :) But I spent some time this evening talking to my mom about resolutions, and now, here I am at midnight, clicking away in the dark, inspired to share some big dreams and stupid regrets. Home

So let’s kick this post off by saying, holy guacamole, 2015 was awesome. And not for any of the reasons I expected it to be. This year has been perception-shifting. Let’s reflect on my New Year’s post from this time last year . . .

I’m so bad at dreams. To have dreams is to put your faith and heart into something that you know might not come true. I’ve absolutely given up on dreams – on trusting what I want to future to be. – Jan 4th, 2015

Reading this quote makes me choke with sadness. It’s true, 2014 was a hard year for me. Many of my dreams turned out to be illusions. And so I went into 2015 mildly content, but without expectations, hardened, and void of hope. Continue reading

Summer in Maine, USA

As I’ve blogged about visiting Maine many, many times before (see here, here, here, and here – just to name a few!) I was less vigilant about whipping out my camera for the sole purpose of blogging this time around. I snapped a few photos here and there, but mainly to remember the moment or capture a smile – as most photographers would :) And so while I don’t have specific reviews or recommendations to post, I do have a great collection of Maine memories to share from this summer. IMG_8126From a photographic perspective, the highlight of the trip was getting to spend lots of time in Portland, Maine, which is a quick 15 minute drive from my parent’s country house. Portland is the biggest city in Maine, and (although I’m totally biased) it’s also one of the most beautiful. The small, harbor city is set on a hill and boasts of cobblestone streets, long wharfs, red brick buildings, and deep-blue ocean views. Continue reading

Cirque Éloize, Amsterdam

Last week I was invited to the press opening of iD, Jeannot Painchaud’s fabulous Cirque Éloize extravaganza. The show is a mix of circus arts and urban dance, brought to life by a talented and energetic cast. IMG_7754The show was at The Royal Theatre Carré in Amsterdam, which was actually built in 1887 to be a full-time circus building! Continue reading

Sid Lee does St. Tropez, Part 1

While I love blogging, my day job is also pretty cool. I work at a global advertising agency called Sid Lee (some office photos here), where we make ads for clients like Facebook, Red Bull, and Absolut. Advertising is very much a work hard play hard industry, and the brands you work with often contribute to the overall culture of the agency. There are countless late nights and busy weekends, but on the flip side, at Sid Lee, there are also expensed dinners, cool colleagues, agency parties, and many, many Absolut cocktails. Recently, to say ‘thanks’ for a long year of hard work, the Sid Lee Amsterdam team was treated to a long weekend in paradise. IMG_7551I briefly mentioned our travel regime in my previous post – our airplane left Schiphol at 6am – which meant we had to meet in the airport lobby bright and early at 4.15am. Of course I pulled an all-nighter (I was THAT person at the airport) and stumbled through security and found my seat on the plane in a tipsy, blurry haze. After a few hours of dozing on the plane, and then on a bus, we arrived in St. Tropez.  Continue reading