Rome, Italy con la mia Famiglia

Ciao friends and happy new year!! I hope you’re all starting 2018 off right, with great family, friends, food and perhaps even a dose of travel?? I am nearing the end of my Italy saga, which is exciting because I have a few fun posts to share from the fall and winter. I would really love to get caught up on blogging in the coming weeks – I had such a blast in Austria over New Year’s, and I would love to get back into sharing content with you while it’s fresh in my memory and heart :) That said, I also have a hugely busy January kicking off, with travel to NYC and the Dominican Republic, followed by my annual company conference and party here in Amsterdam, so by the end of January I know I’ll be beat and so ready for some hibernation! I am looking forward to hanging at home on dark nights, drinking red wine and doing puzzles – maybe even binging on some Netflix. I also can’t wait to make a big winter fruit salad with fresh produce from the Albert Cuyp Market, and maybe even some hearty slow cooker meals, but those dreams will have to wait a few weeks until I have some down time in Amsterdam.

I am starting to compile a few New Years resolutions, and I will definitely share them here with you once I’ve given it some thought, but overall I would love this year to be about me. Ha – that sounds very self centered, and truly I don’t mean it that way ;) I make a living producing travel content, and I spend a lot of my personal time on social media and blogging. And while I LOVE being a creator vs a consumer, I also want to take violin lessons, and make it to yoga more often, and just do things that wont really have an impact on my professional or social media life, but will make me a better, happier me. I downloaded Moment on my phone, and it was really an eye opener to see how often I was spending staring at my iPhone screen. Granted, 75% of that time is typically for work related purposes, but I hate that I browse social media while I’m standing in line for my coffee, or as a ‘too lazy to get out of bed’ activity in the morning. There are a lot of things I love about social media (and to be honest, I could never quit completely because of my job) but I am often torn between sharing moments I love and that mean something to me vs wanting my feed to look professional and uniform and creatively cohesive. Right now my blog and social media ‘career’ has really taken a back seat to my job (which is really a fusion of travel and advertising, so I am totally okay with this!) so I am happy to keep my content ‘for me’ for now – but there is this niggling voice that’s poking me to get back into marketing myself and my blog, making posts that are less personal but are of more value for readers, but then there’s also a part of me that wants to delete everything and be much more private, and just keep my special moments personal and to myself . . . anyways, I am totally rambling here. But I really want to put some thought into what I’d like to achieve in 2018 :) because as you know I am a type-A personality and can’t do it if I don’t have a list!

Anyways, what was the purpose of this post? Ohh yes, Rome! Rome was one of the few major cities in Europe I hadn’t managed to visit after almost eight years of living in The Netherlands. From Holland, it’s inexpensive and easy to hop on a plane and explore elsewhere in Europe, even if it’s just for the weekend. And while there are some major European cities I’ve been to numerous times, I’ve never managed to catch a weekend in Rome. 

And so when my family agreed to visit Italy, it was unanimous that we had to make a stop in Italy’s sunny capital :) Continue reading

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Amalfi, Italy

I hope you’re not getting sick of beautiful Italian seaside photos yet, because I have one final Amalfi installment for you! Having spent some time exploring Positano and Capri, my cousin, mom, godmother and I decided it was time to visit the coast’s namesake town and cruise over to Amalfi for an afternoon.We woke up bright and early in Positano, and slowly made our way down to the harbor for breakfast and to catch the ferry. Continue reading

Capri, Italy

On day two of our Italian adventure, we went to Capri. Some people love Capri. In fact, many of my friends who have visited the Amalfi Coast recommended that we make the island of Capri our basecamp for the trip. While I found Capri incredibly beautiful, I also found it slightly more stressful than Positano, as the island was swarming with tourists. Massive cruise ships sailed in and out of the port, docking so thousands of visitors could climb ashore. To be fair, we were also four of the thousands :) but as Capri was an island, it felt slightly more cramped than in Positano, without a lot of free space to escape the rush. In Positano, our little square was quiet, but in Capri, it was hard to take a photo without hundreds of other people walking through the backdrop. That said, Capri had an extra dose of harbor-side magic that we did not find in Positano. While Positano is flanked by tall cliffs and colorful houses, Capri is more flat, even boasting of a small sand beach at the waterfront. The colors of Capri match that of Positano, with pasted rainbow houses and boats lining the shorefront and climbing up the hills.To get to Capri, we took the ferry from the harbor in Positano. There are many different ferry and tour options, and all run pretty regularly. If you know in advance that you would like to travel by boat to Capri or Amalfi, book your ticket ahead so you are sure to get a spot. For our day trips to Capri and Amalfi, we booked our tickets the night before, so securing a seat on the boat was not a problem. However, a lot of the smaller luxury boats and sails were already booked up, so if you’re looking for something a bit more intimate, I’d suggest reserving a few days in advance. Continue reading

Positano, Italy

Two years ago, I got let go from my job at Sid Lee. The company’s Amsterdam branch was in the process of going bankrupt, and within six months of my departure, the agency had permanently closed. On one hand, I felt relieved, because I was ready for a big change (I kid you not, after receiving the news I laughed and smiled the whole bike ride home!) But on the other hand, I felt incredibly anxious, because I had never not had a job. I got a large settlement from the company as I was on a permanent contract, so I had no financial worries in the time I was unemployed – the only nagging stress was my visa situation. By law, I had three months to find a new job in Amsterdam, and if this didn’t happen, I would be asked to leave the country. To be honest, I did consider moving back to the US. I was speaking to a few ad shops in LA, and was particularly excited by the prospect of living (somewhat) closer to home and in a bright sunny beach-side state. With less than a month to go in my visa grace period, I got a job at Booking.com (I will tell you about the drama behind this move another time!) And so I spent my last unemployed month relaxing and enjoying some down time before I came back in the new year and started my new job.What does all of this have to do with Positano, Italy? In the period of my unemployment, I made a list of dreams and the things I wanted to achieve while sans job (you know I love my lists!) At the very tipity-top of my list was a road trip through Italy. I wanted to go to Tuscany, Rome, Lake Como, Cinqe Terra, and the Amalfi Coast. I floated the idea past a few friends, and Amie and I wound up heading to Cinque Terra in October during my down time (we also hit up Berlin this trip which was incredibly fun!) While our Italian escape was amazing, it was slightly watered down compared to the grandiose road trip I had envisioned. So I started talking to my mom about a big fat Italian trip – a dream vacation we shared due to our mutual love of sunshine and the sea. As we plotted out potential ideas, it evolved into a family affair, with my god-mother, Sandra, and my cousin Julie also keen to join! And so for two years we tossed around ideas and dates, and finally got around to booking tickets for the Italian trip of a lifetime in the spring of 2017. Continue reading

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

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

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 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