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
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. Fast 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
There’s really nothing I can say or do to prepare you for this blog post. It’s cheesy. It’s bacon-y. And it’s probably the most delicious one-dish-wonder you will fork into your mouth this week. Saliva glands, prepare! I proudly present to you, in partner with my hungry stomach and my fat-kid imagination, baked Macaroni n’ Cheesecake:Before I dive into the recipe, I want to tell you how this cheesy brainchild was born. I invited the girls over for a roast on Sunday, and promised them, well, a roast. However, the night before I drank just a littlleee too much, so instead of a pan roasted chicken and baby rosemary potatoes, all I could think about were carbs. And bacon. And cheese. And so I walked through the grocery store, collecting my hungover cravings. By the time I got to the checkout counter, it became apparent – we were having mac n’ cheese. But as this was Sunday dinner, I had to try and make it a little fancy, right? So I whipped out my bundt pan, buttered her up, and took your standard macaroni and cheese to a whole new, fancy-pants level! Continue reading
My last recipe post, 5 Simple Tips for Making Sashimi at Home, was logged on April 10th, 2014. That means it’s been almost a FULL YEAR since I’ve gabbed to you about a new food concoction. What’s up with that? I could blame the lack of sunlight – it’s hard to photograph recipes after work in the winter when it’s dark. I could blame life – I had a rough summer, and blogging wasn’t really my focus. I could blame work – I’ve had a lot more responsibly, which means longer office hours and less time for fun. But really, the truth is, I just haven’t felt inspired to blog. I’ve wanted to be out with friends, dancing, eating, drinking, and socializing. The thought of being at home alone, arranging plates and jotting down new recipe ideas on a weeknight just felt . . . sad.
However, I’m happy to report that the ‘old Ali’ is back in all her boring glory. I’ve been painting after work, dancing inanely to Taylor Swift for hours at a time, organizing cupboards, surfing Pinterest for recipe ideas, and eating way too much dark chocolate while wrapped up in a afghan on the living-room couch. I’ve gone into full-on winter hibernation-homemaking-hideaway mode, and it feels great :) So here is the product of my first recipe back in the saddle, and ohh god, it’s a good one. Are you ready for a whole lotta fluffy, melting, chocolaty, breakfast goodness? Please meet my new best friend(s), Rolo Pancake Kebabs: This recipe came into existence on Sunday, as I was strolling through my local (Dutch) grocery store. My thought process went something like: I’m craving pancakes. I should buy mini pancakes. I bet I could do something cute with those. Put them on cupcakes? Haha pancake cupcakes. Or what about mini pancake sandwiches? Yum! With camembert and bacon and maple syrup drizzled on top? OR WHAT IF I MAKE mini pancake kebabs!! It felt right, and soon enough, I had a pack of 50 poffertjes in my shopping cart while excitedly wandering through the grocery store, looking for the perfect pancake-kebab accompaniments.
There’s a new club in town and all of the cool kids are joining. Membership is granted based on two simple criteria. 1) You have to work at Sid Lee. 2) You must eat. As many people at Sid Lee enjoy the fine art of eating, we soon had a supreme group of folk enrolled in the Sid Lee Supper Club. And so we kicked off our new initiative with a big, family-style dinner at Restaurant Blauw. The evening was a huge (stuffed, roll-home) success, and a second edition of the Supper Club was scheduled for soon thereafter. Enter The Seafood Bar, one of my favorite dinner spots in Amsterdam. I’ve been going to The Seafood Bar a lot lately (remember this heavenly Instagram photo?!) and was excited to share one of my beloved Amsterdam restaurants with the club. Hands down, The Seafood Bar has THE BEST raw seafood platter in town. Continue reading
Last week I went to Milan for work. I spent three nights in swanky a hotel, attended an innovative conference, drank lots of wine, enjoyed some fantastic company, and gorged on spaghetti, polenta, lasagna, and risotto. Ohh, how my stomach misses Milan. I’ve been to Italy once before (a long weekend in Venice with my sisters), but to be honest, I still haven’t had my fill. My dream holiday (which I’ve been planning in my head for about a year now) involves renting a car in Northern Italy and kicking off a grand road trip. I would start in the Italian Alps, making sure to jump in Lake Como before driving down through Tuscany, stopping at quaint bed and breakfasts and drinking lots of wine along the way. The next stop would be Rome, where I would visit the Pantheon and over-indulge in dish after dish of pasta. Finally, I would drive down to Naples, do some sightseeing, return the rental car, and spend the last week of my Italian holiday sailing along the Amalfi Coast, swimming, eating seafood, and sipping limoncello in the sun. This fantasy has been churning in my head for some time, but for now, smaller, bite-sized pieces of Italian adventures will have to do.I have very few photos of Milan, despite being there for three days. I blame work, which rightly so took up most of my Milan-time. However, I committed to being a geek (woo) and lugged my huge DSLR all around Italia. So on Wednesday night, after three hours in a pub (unfortunately working) and two hours before a business meeting, I was able to sneak off, go on a walk around the beautiful Milano, and take a few sunset photographs to share.
The above photo is the Duomo di Milano, a Gothic cathedral that took nearly six centuries to complete!
I’ve blogged about Paris before (here, here, here, and here). In fact, since living in Amsterdam, I’ve been to Paris four or five times. It’s super easy to get to, the train ride down is fairly inexpensive, and I’m consistently amazed at how drastically different the culture is, despite only being three short hours away from Amsterdam. I love France. What other culture can make snails taste so damn good, and cigarette smoking look so chic? I adore strolling through Amsterdam at night, along the yellow-lit canals. The beauty of historic Amsterdam always makes me grin. But Paris surely gives Amsterdam a run for its money, in beauty and in charm.
Last weekend, Radisson Blu invited me to stay at the Dokhan’s Hotel in Trocadéro. Amie was in town visiting, so I asked if she could join as well. This was met with an enthusiastic ‘yes’, so Amie and I planned to end our lady-holiday with a weekend in the City of Light. After a long weekend in Turkey, and four nights in Amsterdam, we ended our Dutch adventures with one last crazy night out, and then got on a train bright and early the next morning, headed south for the last leg of our trip in Paris. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, I was featured on Lou’s brilliant blog. Lou is a British gal living in Paris, and her blog serves up a delicious slice of Parisian life. The photos are beautiful, her tone is personal, and her French adventures are just so darn charming. As I was headed to Paris myself last weekend, I decided to ask Lou some insider questions before the trip. And as they were so fantastic, I thought, why not share them with you here?! So as a preamble to my own Paris adventures, here are some lovely Paris tips from a lovely paris insider :)
Welcome to the blog Lou! Can you tell me about yourself, Paris, and your blog?
Hi Ali – thanks for having me on the blog. So, my name is Lou and I’m originally from the UK. I’ve been in Paris now for 5 years and my main reason for moving to Paris was to be with my boyfriend. I blog at www.lou-in-paris.com and originally started the blog over 2 years ago, for friends and family to keep track of my life on the other side of the Channel (like you right?) Over the past year I’ve made more effort to write for a wider audience and about things going on in the world that interest me, as well as the more personal stuff.