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
Slovenia is wild and beautiful, with tall mountains and dark caves, warming dishes and endless vineyards, ancient cobble stone cities and a welcoming buzz that sweeps up visitors wholeheartedly. While there is so much to see and do in Slovenia, Kai and I spent a few days touring around Lake Bled and the mountains, and another day exploring Trieste, an Italian seaside town almost entirely bordered by Slovenia. While visiting Lake Beld was top of my must-do list, we’d heard that spending a few days in Ljubljana was practically obligatory when visiting Slovenia, and wow, and I glad that we did!
Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, known for its sprawling green spaces, the peaceful and winding Ljubljanica River, and as home to a jewel box of colorful architecture. Continue reading
I’m embarrassed to admit that I lived for 29 years without visiting LA. I grew up on the East Coast, spoiled by the nearby New York City and content to explore the gems of Boston in my own backyard. Later, when I went to university in Vermont, if I was not frolicking in the snow on a secluded mountain, I was shopping (Underground City!) or eating (poutine!) or dancing (drinking age!) in the nearby city of Montreal. When I turned 22, I moved to Europe, and shifted my focus to exploring as many European cities as possible. Prague, Cologne, Milan, Paris, Berlin, Bruges, Istanbul, London, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Dublin . . . I am proud to say that the list goes on and on. However, up until recently, my travels were admittedly quite European-centric. I did go to San Diego, California once when I was a kid, where I was traumatized by a popsicle incident. We were spending the day at Sea World, and had just seated ourselves at the porpoise show, where a small child sitting behind proceeded to drop a large chunk of his chocolate Shamu popsicle down my back. It slid into my khaki shorts where it left a big, brown poop-like stain. I had to walk around all day in the smoldering heat, looking like I shat myself at a seal show. And that’s all I really remember about California, other than the numerous signs warming of snakes, and big, dirt-like mountains. So I never really had a desire to go back to the West Coast, even though lumping together and generalizing my distaste for three coastal states (one of which is 800 miles long), based on an unfortunate incident with a Shamu popsicle, was somewhat naïve. However, this past year on numerous occasions, my work travels brought be back to the West Coast, and one of those stops just so happened to be LA. Side note: I actually applied to jobs in LA when I stopped working at Sid Lee! I’m definitely ready to live in a warmer climate (sorry, Amsterdam), and LA is a great North American hub for advertising. Alas, LA was meant to be in my life in a different capacity at this time, and so serendipitously, I ventured there for a shoot with my new job at Booking.com. So let me tell you a little about LA . . . Continue reading
As I hail from Vacationland (aka Maine), the word Portland immediately conjures thoughts of a quaint harbor city with numerous lighthouses, delicious clam chowder, quaint cobblestone streets, sunshine, lobster, boutique shops, heaps of snow, and buckets upon buckets of oysters. I’ve shared many blog posts featuring my beloved Portland, Maine (here, here, and a beautiful summertime post here) but I’ve never ventured across the country (3,186 miles to be exact) to visit the other Portland. Apparently, over there they all have beards, eat a lot of kale, and like to bike everywhere. There are feminist bookstores, kitsch doughnut shops, lots of flannel, and microbreweries on almost every block (or so I’ve learned from the show Portlandia). So last week, when work shipped me off to Portland, Oregon for eight days, I was excited to see if all the other Portland-hype was true (and eat a lot of doughnuts). As I’ve never been to Portland (Oregon) I reached out to a few friends from the area for recommendations. Slowly, I compiled a noteworthy Portland bucket-list that included everything from eating sustainable sushi to visiting the world’s largest independent bookstore. I arrived in Portland on a Sunday afternoon, and went for a long run to get acclimated with the city. Continue reading
So let me tell you about my party experience in Berlin. Amie and I have caused midnight mayhem in many European cities. We’ve had crazy nights out in Lisbon, Istanbul, Paris, and Amsterdam, just to name a few. But we knew Berlin would be something else. In the 90’s, all of the best parties in Berlin were nomadic – thousands upon thousands had fled Berlin to escape the firm grip of communism, leaving behind empty houses and abandoned industrial buildings. When the Berlin Wall fell, Berliner’s rejoiced, and the once abandoned homes and buildings became a backdrop for the city’s triumphant party scene. Twenty years later, Berlin’s once elusive nightlife is now a permanent fixture in the city’s global persona. Iconic night clubs such as Berghain and Sisyphos draw party-goers from around the globe, while trendy cocktail bars such as Neue Odessa and Green Door serve distinguished cocktails for locals and tourists alike.To say that Amie and I were excited to experience Berlin’s nightlife would be a vast understatement. We’d intentionally enjoyed a week of rest and relaxation in Italy, recharging before an epic long weekend in Berlin. As mentioned in my last post, Amie and I kicked off our Friday evening at Txokoa, where we sipped monstrous G&Ts and enjoyed a rich dinner. Continue reading
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.
I 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 :)
I love taking photos, but in the winter, I tend to leave my camera at home. In January, the world is dark and most of the Northern Hemisphere is smothered in a blanket of black. Amsterdam is no exception, and in addition to very few hours of sunlight, we also get snow, hail, and rain . . . none of which are very conducive for a photographer who prefers shooting in natural light. However, Barcelona in the winter is a different story. Despite the Earth’s tilt, Spain still remains generally mild in the winter, and the sunshine is almost always present, despite the season. So although we ate a lot of amazing food, wandered down colorful alleys, past historic monuments, and into cozy cafes, my favorite part of Sunday was simply cradling my camera around the city with some great company.
On Sunday we left the hostel quite early, despite having all tricked in sometime around 7am. Side note: I’ve never stayed in a hostel before!! I’ve travel a lot, but usually spring for a unique AirBnb or jazzy hotel justified by the fact that I really *need* a luxurious bathtub while on holiday (life is sad in a small Amsterdam apartment without a tub!) But in Barcelona we stayed at the Box Port Hostel which was my first hostel experience. It was clean, and our accommodation was fun since the 16 of us gals literally took up one whole room. It was like a massive girl’s camp weekend, or elementary school sleepover, complete with bunk beds! The only part that sucked was the one shower. When 16 women all want to bathe at once, shit can get real (or just really early, and no one wants to wake up at 8am on holiday to bathe!) So after a marathon of blow dries and back to back showers, we hit the road early in search of some hearty hangover food. Continue reading
Last week I went to Dublin for a research project. We are working with an Irish brand, and were tasked to dig into the culture, uncovering points of pride, Irish characteristics, and unique insights that could only be gathered locally. So on Wednesday morning, a colleague and I left for the airport bright and early, with a long list of hypothesis to verify and a short amount of time to do so. I had a sneaky, personal Irish bucket list as well. Thankfully, it could be accomplished in one sitting, and read something like . . . . . . . . bacon, eggs, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, beans, sausage, Irish breakfast tea, and a rainbow of puddings. Continue reading
In the US, bank holiday weekends are dispersed rather evenly throughout the year – Veteran’s Day takes place in November, Independence Day in July, Memorial Day weekend occurs in September, and Columbus Day crops up in October. While I love a well-rounded calendar year, I think the Dutch might be on to something. Instead of spreading bank holidays throughout the year, four long weekends are given between April and June, allowing the Dutchies to enjoy Holland’s most glorious sunshine months.
I tried to tempt B to go on a long Istanbul weekend with no luck. KLM, please stop sending me last-minute ticket reminders, I’m trying to save up for wedding! Instead of venturing off somewhere exotic (sad), B and I have been enjoying a series of mini stay-cations in and around Holland. Three weekends ago we rented a scooter and hit the tulip fields in Lisse, and more recently, we took advantage of our second long spring-weekend and hopped on a train down to Belgium for the day.
B and I have been to Belgium before – it’s a short train ride from Amsterdam, and the food, beer, and chocolate are considerably better! On separate occasions we have visited Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges, so this time around we knew to expect beautiful architecture and delicious food. But nothing prepared us for the stunning square that greeted us – Brussels has my vote for prettiest center in Europe! Continue reading
While B and I were in the US, we made a point of driving down to New York. B’s brother lives just north of New York City with his wife and kids, and we wanted to spend some time with them while we were in the States. After a few days of catching up and playing with the kids in their hometown, we decided to all take a field trip into the city. It was only a 45 minute drive, and contrary to my previous experiences of driving into NYC, we didn’t pass one toll, accident, or roadside hurdle!As we zoomed under the George Washington bridge, my heart started to flutter. I hold New York City in high regard. It’s home to Gossip Girl, Girls, and Sex in the City. I’ve seen Les Miserables and Lion King on Broadway in this city. I’ve watched Kings of Leon at Madison Square Garden. I’ve had some of the best drunken nights out with my girlfriends here and it’s THE place to come shopping. I made some amazing memories in New York City, and some amazing people have walked these streets. And call me American, but I love the opportunity and potential that lies on every street corner . . . in the ability here to find anything under the sun, meet the most diverse people, and walk in any direction to find an adventure. . . New York, I will live in you someday!But for now I will make due with the sporadic trip, taking photos of yellow taxis to remember their invasive color and harassive nature. Our first stop was the Chelsea Market for a quick breakfast pick-me-up. As we had the kids with us (who are five and two), we had a very child-friendly day.
We spent some time making wishes and throwing pennies into this bottomless fountain. And then we wound our way into Sarabeth’s for some cookies and coffee. Following our refill, we wrapped up and headed into the city streets. B’s sister-in-law suggested we walk along the High Line, as it offers some great views of the city and is a fun child-friendly activity. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. It’s one of the top NYC attractions and it’s completely free! The High Line is an elevated train line that was was built in the 1930’s, running through Manhattan’s industrial district. Because the tracks are now obsolete, the High Line has been converted into a long, elevated park that runs through Manhattan and offers some stunning views of the city to the public. The kids love it because it gives them a birds eye view of the city. The tracks are filled with plants and the path is surrounded by art. The entire line is well fenced in, so the littles can run free and there’s no worry of them popping over the edge! There are a lot of construction zones around the line, which the kids (especially my godson!) love to watch. It’s as if their big dig toys are positioned down below, building homes and creating foundations. One of the reasons I love New York is because every shot is so real, so gritty, so beautiful. The sharp geometric lines and the bright neon city lights make for a beautiful urban landscape. I’ve taken a billion photos from our day in the city, so I’ll leave the rest of the pictures for another day. But here are two more, and they’re some of my favorites – a skyscraper being built at the very end of the High Line. Ohh New York, someday you will be mine! :)