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

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

San Sebastian, Spain with the Girls!

Gosh, I am so behind on blogging. My next post will be a short and sweet restaurant review, but this San Sebastian post took AGES to get live because there were SO MANY PHOTOS to go through! I really need to stick to just 5-10 photos per post, because picking my favorites and editing through everything can be overwhelming! That said, I am happy to finally tell you all about my trip to San Sebastian with Amie, Jess, and Jess (yes, TWO Jess’s on our trip – double the Jess fun!)
IMG_0753As the girls were already planning on coming to Amsterdam at the end of April for King’s Day, we decided to tack a mini sun-holiday on to the end of their European visit. We picked a spot in Northern Spain that had ample sunshine, but during our stay the temperature hovered in the mid 60’s, which was wonderful for strolling around sans coat, but it didn’t really satisfy our desire for a beachy holiday (although there were many brave souls in minimal clothing lounging by the sea!) That said, we were more interested in pintxos, sangria, and sightseeing anyways, and fell blissfully in love with our flat that overlooked the sea! And I mean, LOOK at that view (above) from our balcony! Continue reading

10 Days in LA

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. IMG_5101Side 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 Night at Zoku, Amsterdam

I have a confession. . . . I am a nomadaholic. I get such a rush from hopping on a plane, traveling to a new destination, and exploring the unknown. Put simply, I am addicted to travel, and I have built my life around this passion – I work at Booking.com as a Brand Communications Manager, where I spend my days creating travel ads and content. I live in Amsterdam, a hub for European exploration. I write for multiple travel publications around the web, sharing city tips and helping others plan their adventures. And of course, I love spending time writing here, at Amsterdam & Beyond, my beloved travel journal :) Because of my passion and lifestyle, I can usually be found boarding a plane at least once or twice a month, whether I’m traveling for work or for leisure. I’ve flown with dozens of airliners, and have stayed at hundreds of hotels (part and parcel of the job!) But recently I stayed at a new kind of hotel, one I had not come accross in my adventures before.IMG_5798

Zoku is located in the heart of Amsterdam’s historic eastern Canal District, on the Weesperstraat (very close to the Amstel). While most hotel rooms are built for sleeping, Zoku’s loft designs shift the focus from the bed to the living space, with a four­ person table that can be used to work, dine, entertain, or just hang out. As a business traveler, this is a dream come true! No more awkward, cramped, late-night meetings around a bed! As a travel writer and marketer, I was invited to spend a night at Zoku ahead of their grand opening, along with a few friends. Continue reading

Visiting the Tulip Fields in Holland

If you follow me on Instagram or Snapchat, you might have noticed that my travel schedule has been (for lack of a better a phrase) pretty f*cking hectic lately. In April I had guests or work travel every week, with the exception of one stunning long weekend, right at the end of the month. My boyfriend, who I had been neglecting due to work obligations and guests, sweetly suggested that we enjoy the long weekend together. And so I took a red eye back from NYC, napped for a few short morning hours, and packed yet another bag. Thankfully, we had decided to forgo planes and enjoy a mini-European road trip, with an overnight in Antwerp, Belgium and some spontaneous pit stops along the way. Road trippppp! :)IMG_5592Springtime is my favorite season in Holland. In the spring, the weather is often warmer and more reliably sunny than in the summer, and!! you have the tulips. Miles and miles of endless colors paint the horizon, as Holland’s flagship crop begins to bloom. As Kai had never seen the Dutch tulips in all their vivid glory (which I’ve done before, many times! here and here) I suggested that we take our first road trip pit stop in Lisse, where the rainbow-colored tulip fields are both abundant and magnificent.

If you are also interested in visiting the tulips in Holland, here are some tips on when to visit, what to do, and how to get there (along with some photos from our adventure!) 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

The Other Portland, Oregon

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). StreetAs 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

A Weekend in Berlin, Part 2

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.IMG_2291To 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

A Weekend in Berlin, Part 1

As Germany is right next to Holland, I’ve crossed the border for many jovial long weekends away (read: here, here, and here). However, I somehow always seem to miss out on the Berlin excursions. Berlin is a quick 1.5 hour plane ride from Amsterdam, and often the fare is dirt cheap (around €50). I have friends who go for long party weekends, business trips, shopping adventures, or a simple change of scenery. And while I’ve been invited to Berlin a multitude of times, something else always seems to pop up!

When I got let go from my job a few months ago, I made a list of the places I wanted to visit in Europe before I left, just incase. There were ten places on the list, some more costly and exotic than others. I then listed them in order, starting with the top few I HAD to go to before I (hypothetically) left Europe, the others falling somewhere behind. I vowed to make it to at least two or three spots on the list before my visa was up. Guess what the top two were? Cinque Terre and Berlin :) If you’ve been following along on the blog, I’m sure you’ve read all about my Cinque Terre adventures. In fact, I was so taken by the stunning Italian countryside that I am planning a fall-2016 trip to Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, and Rome with some of the ladies in my family! And man, I can’t wait to go back :) Berlin was also ticked off of my European travel bucket list in mid-October, while Amie was visiting.IMG_1886 copyWe flew straight from Pisa to Berlin (believe it or not, a €24 plane ride), and quickly switched from a beachy-sunshine mentality to an urban-exploration mindset.  Continue reading