Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii really blew my mind. I’ve been a lot of places, and I’ve seen a lot of things, but this was the first time I’ve ever walked along a path that was built so long ago – the area was first settled around 800 BC by wealthy Greeks attracted to the sunshine and scenery in the Bay of Naples. The city of Pompeii was first mentioned in written history in 300 BC, about 400 years before its destruction and 300 years before Christ would even walk the earth. If you’re not familiar with the very true tale, at the time of its demise, Pompeii was a thriving community in the Roman Colony. Continue reading

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Anne at Theater Amsterdam

If you live in Amsterdam, it’s impossible to miss the ‘Anne’ posters plastered all over town. In fact, at one point I think I even saw an entire bus branded with the big yellow ‘Anne’ letters, calling attention to one of Amsterdam’s most historic and harrowing tales. If you’re not familiar with The Diary of Anne Frank, I’ll assume you’ve been living under a rock. As an American, reading Anne’s diary was part of my elementary school education. And as a current Amsterdam-dweller, understanding Anne’s intimate portrayal of World War II reminds us all that life in the Netherlands hasn’t always been peachy, and that this open and accepting Dutch mentality was hard-earned.

Last week, I was invited to Theater Amsterdam, not only to see their interpretation of Anne’s saga, but to also enjoy a lovely three-course dinner at Boven de Planken, the theater’s bespoke restaurant.

IMG_4817It sits on the second floor of the theater, surrounded by large glass windows overlooking the IJ. Continue reading

Prague

Wow. Has it really been 15 days since my last blog post?! November is flying by, figuratively and literally. I’ve been on more planes this month than I can count on both hands – in the past two weeks alone I’ve been to Prague, Denmark, and Milan. My busy travel schedule means lots of client dinners, late nights in transit, and extra work on top of day time meetings, so I haven’t had much blogging down-time. I also haven’t had a lot of alone time, sleep time, eat healthy time, clean my house time, or binge on Netflix time. Tonight my only plan is to put on pajamas and read in bed until I fall asleep. But before I retire into a puddle of laziness, let me tell you about Prague.

IMG_4506Two weeks ago, a colleague and I hopped on a plane to Prague for the European Planning Conference. The conference was super informative, but also very full-on, and didn’t leave for much time for city-exploration. Continue reading

Hungover Istanbul & Day 4

Hello blog friends. Tonight’s blog post is brought to you from the city of Prague, where I am currently flopped on a massive hotel bed that is framed by a large, plush backboard and two beautiful hand-carved side tables, one of which is holding a cold, proper sized beer (you can thank the beer for the run on sentence). I’m here for a strategic conference which I find a bit wanky, but I’ve learned a lot and there’s free booze, and now I’m having some down time to chat with you :) All in all it’s been a whirlwind weekend, what with Halloween and Museum night in Amsterdam. Throw a stomach bug and a city trip to Prague into the mix, and yeah, laying here doing nothing for 45 minutes feels GOOD. I love traveling, seeing the world, working hard, and living fully. But sometimes a gal just needs 45 pillows and some alone time with her laptop. And I really want to share the rest of Istanbul with you, before I move on to Paris, and then Prague. Yes, it’s been a very busy travel month, and I’m looking forward to home-time this weekend :) But before that, let’s chat Istanbul!IMG_4128The reason this post is called Hungover Istanbul & Day 4, is because after our crazy night out, Amie and I were d-e-a-d. Like, went to breakfast and walked past the hotel concierge totally blushing because some definitely inappropriate things happened the night before, dead. We laughed hysterically over breakfast, because who the heck knows what happened the night before (ok we totally do but I’m not telling you). Continue reading

Paris Part 3

I’m just going to go ahead now and apologize for the sheer amount of photographs in this post. I wish I could be a cool, curated blogger. You know, the kind of blogger who teases a glimpse into their charmed life, while still remaining aloof and mysterious. I suck at being this blogger for two reasons:

A) I feel guilty deleting photos. I’m bad at throwing things away – discarding memories or moments in time.

B) I’m not a superb photographer. Some people can take a photo that says 1,000 words. We’ll, my photos say about 30, and therefore I need quite a few to stitch together a cohesive blog post.

And on this occasion, I think the topic is also to blame for the volume of photographs. I mean, it’s Paris! Ah, Paris :) Can you forgive me?

As there are lots of photos to share, I wont waste any more time on words. I’ll pick up where I left off last time. . . .The day was beautiful. We’d spent the morning antique shopping and thrifting, and then explored Le Marais, where we had an epic falafel for lunch.

Following this massive middle eastern feast, we were both groaning and stuffed. So we decided the best plan of action was to keep moving. We headed for the Notre Dame Cathedral, intent on checking out the cathedral’s stunning facade.

IMG_1206I’ve seen some lovely cathedrals in the past year (Lisbon here, Cologne here) but what stood out to me about the Notre-Dame was the detail. It reminded me of a pristine white wedding cake, with immaculate attention to detail. It wasn’t the highest cathedral I’ve ever seen, and it wasn’t the most grand. But every brick, nook, and slightly curved stone looked incredibly intentional. And despite the size, the cathedral still looked fragile, like it was cut out of sugar cubes or fine grains of sand.

IMG_1218A hundred steps away from the Notre-Dame is the Pont de l’Archevêché (in English, the Archbishop’s Bridge). The Pont de l’Archevêchéis crosses over the Seine, and is the narrowest road bridge in Paris.

However, what makes the Pont de l’Archevêchéis truly special is love. Hundreds of thousands of locks are chained to the bridge. Some are engraved, some scribbled upon with a sharpie marker. Others are more ornate and feature a photograph, or a bright floral design. But they all have one thing in common – they were chained to the bridge in a declaration of sweet, sweet love.

IMG_1225IMG_1228Paris is one of the most romantic cities in the world, and it makes my heart flutter fast to think that a small token of my love with B has been left behind, permanently chained to this whimsical city of love.
IMG_1222IMG_1233IMG_1239Our lock was small and discreet. We snapped it to the back side of the bridge, where it would be more visible to the boats floating by. We didn’t write anything on the lock, which felt more special, as if it were a secret between just B and I (and you of course!)

I’ve heard the bridge gets too heavy, and the locks have to be snipped off regularly so they don’t interfere with the walkway or weigh down the bridge. So as safe measure we threw our lock’s key into the Seine. Paris, you cannot get rid of us ;) IMG_1247I’ll be honest, B wasn’t really into the whole love-lock thing. He’s not one to declare his love, or do something because everyone else does it. He tolerates my blog (although in reality he’s a much more private person) and the idea of a romantic weekend in Paris was not his dream trip. BUT there was this one moment on the bridge, where B said something along the lines of ‘this is totally cool!’

OK, so maybe he wasn’t that enthusiastic. But he did admit that it wasn’t as corny as he thought, and looking back, I think he genuinely enjoyed himself on the trip as well. Win for team romance! Yar! :)
IMG_1265 IMG_1267Following our love lock adventure, we wandered through a sunny park, towards Shakespeare and Company.
IMG_1268Shakespeare and Company is a bookstore and reading library that opened in 1919. During the 1920s, it was a retreat for writers such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Ford Madox Ford. Today you can browse the shop’s books, or climb upstairs and find a quiet reading nook to enjoy your favorite book, or perhaps even pen your own!
IMG_1276There are ‘no photograph’ signs throughout the shop, so I was respectful of the writers working in silence, and did not distract them with the loud snap of my DSLR. But we did wander through the hallways, which boasted of typewriters, sleeping tourists, and avid readers. I almost bought a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, but they only had a soft cover which I don’t think would fare to well in my kitchen. IMG_1274Around 4pm the day started to get hot. As in, we need to drink iced coffee and put on our shorts hot. This was the first really warm day of the year, and I think B and I were both a bit overwhelmed – it completely unexpected, and still the first weekend in March!! We walked along the Seine for a bit, and finally decided to hit up a museum for some shade.IMG_1286 IMG_1298 IMG_1288IMG_1307IMG_1310 IMG_1348We debated going to the Louvre . . . .
IMG_1337. . . . and hum’d and ha’d and twirled about outside. IMG_1331IMG_1342But in the end we decided on the Musee d’Orsay, which was only a short walk away.
IMG_1361IMG_1364While we waited in line to buy our tickets, a security guard came over and told us we could sneak in for free. The museum was only open for another hour, and the exhibit rooms would start to close in the next 45 minutes. Thankful and renewed by a bout of shade, we made a b-line for the popular top floor featuring work from Renoir, Monet, and my personal favorite, Degas. IMG_1367You’re not supposed to photograph the art, but I did take one cheeky iPhone snap of a Monet beauty. photoIn addition to the artwork, there were some stunning views of the city scape.
IMG_1368 IMG_1372The museum is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built in 1898. A lot of the original architecture, including the large roman numeral time clocks, has been preserved.IMG_1379IMG_1387IMG_1391We were soon kicked out of the museum, as it was closing for the day. Luckily the crepe cart outside was still open, so we were able to load up on sweet Parisian delights.
IMG_1393 IMG_1397I don’t think I’ve ever seen such big Nutella jars in my entire life!!IMG_1405B got a dreamy Nutella crepe. I was just going in for a large, molten chocolate bite, when I remembered that I had given up chocolate for lent :( So I watched B eat his delicious crepe, and bought an apple from a nearby corner store for myself. Boo.

Our last stop of the day was the Arc de Triomphe. I’d heard the views were stunning at sunset, so we decided to say goodbye to the sun from the top of the monument. We high-tailed it through the Tuileries Garden and up the Champs-Élysées, racing against mother nature. IMG_1408Although two sunny chairs called to us in the park, we kept up a speedy pace.IMG_1409IMG_1416IMG_1410We made it to the Arc de Triomphe with minutes to spare.IMG_1487We whirled up the long, twisting staircase . . . IMG_1471IMG_1420And made it to the top just in time.IMG_1447IMG_1428 IMG_1438IMG_1443IMG_1453Goodnight sun, see you tomorrow!IMG_1450IMG_1470 IMG_1462IMG_1457After the sun set, the air started to cool. To be honest, this was a relief, as the day had been long and hot.IMG_1502IMG_1504We did a quick scan for the nearest metro, and rode the train back to the flat in exhausted silence. I’m sure we walked at least 20 miles that day, and had we been in Amsterdam, it would have been a pizza and a movie night for sure. But it was our last evening in Paris, and we had a dinner reservation to attend. IMG_1507So after a quick shower and shoe change, we set out once more, headed towards Mollard. Mollard is an over-the-top French restaurant, dishing up all the Parisian classicsIMG_1525The decor is swanky and very not-timeless – at one point in time Mollard was considered one of the most beautiful establishments in Paris. Today it’s a blast from the past, with ornate tiled ceilings, tall pillars and long, floor-length table cloths. The waiters all wear tuxedos and bow ties, and scuttle around to ensure you barely have to lift a fork. IMG_1543IMG_1566We started with crab and asparagus salad, and foie gras. I’m a foodie, but this was my first time eating foie gras. To be honest, I wasn’t even 100% sure what it was, but I knew it was a coveted French delicacy, and when I saw it on the menu I just went for it. A google search after would churn my stomach, but in the interim, I really, really enjoyed this starter.IMG_1531 IMG_1532Our waiter didn’t speak a word of English, so our entire meal was a bit of a mystery. I went for the fish of the day, and was delightfully surprised by a light, white fish, a large pile of french lentils, some delicate greens, and a beautiful flower garnish.

IMG_1538B went for the duck, inspired by my meal from the night before.IMG_1541We ordered one bottle of wine, and then another. It was one of those sleepy-tipsy dinners, where the night feels dreamlike and surreal.

IMG_1547This dream-like state was proved true when desert arrived. I have never tasted a more delicious sweet, and am pretty sure this creme brulee was a fictitious product of my imagination!!

IMG_1550IMG_1556B ordered the puff pastry with vanilla ice cream and warm dark chocolate sauce. I hate him, and his delicious chocolate.IMG_1552By the end of our second bottle of wine, the restaurant had emptied and we were the only guests.IMG_1564We splurged on a cab home, and fell into bed, weighed down by our creme brulee bellies.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but we woke up the next day completely sunburnt!! I don’t think I could have asked for better weather, better food, or better company.

One more Paris post to come!

xo Ali

Museum Nacht in Amsterdam

Way back in elementary school, I was a little Daisy. No, not a flower, a Girl Scout. Our troop did heaps of fun things. We would make friendship bracelets, sell cookies, and go cabin camping, but my all-time favorite Girl Scout activity was our annual sleepover at the Museum of Science in Boston. We would spend the early evening wandering the halls and exploring the exhibits, and when our little legs got tired, we would unroll our sleeping bags and snuggle down for a night at the museum. I think sleeping next to a 65-million-year-old fossil is secretly every kid’s dream, right?

Fast forward 20 years and that’s why I love Museum Nacht in Amsterdam. There’s just something about wandering past a van Gogh at 3am that feels electric. Like history can come alive in the dark, or tell a different story. If you’ve seen Night at the Museum, you know what I’m talking about ;) On Museum Nacht, one ticket gets you entrance to every museum in the city from 6pm till 3am. There are parties, performances, and special events, with Amsterdam’s stunning galleries as a backdrop.

We started at the Rijks, which is actually less than a ten minute walk from our house. It’s a fantastic thought that so many famous paintings and artifacts are housed right around the corner. The Delft was my favorite, followed by the beautiful jewels and crowns. I’m fascinated by collections – stacks of vases, model ships, china, guns, cups sipped by royalty and art that defined an era. The Rijks holds a wondrous pool of Dutch history.

IMG_4913IMG_4933AliFindsDelftIMG_4955IMG_4980IMG_4983IMG_4951IMG_4985We spent two hours in the Rikjs, and only managed to get through the first floor (and two beers). Fortunately, your Museum Nacht bracelet also acts as a ticket to any one museum during regular hours, so we vowed to come back, before hopping on our bikes and heading over to the Scheepvaartmuseum, Amsterdam’s very own Maritime Museum. The sea plays such an interracial role in Dutch history, and the Scheepvaartmuseum (which I  keep referring to as the ‘sheep fart’ museum in my head) documents some of Holland’s most brilliant Maritime achievements. IMG_4990IMG_5005IMG_5098IMG_5010IMG_5050IMG_5043IMG_5024DSCF3967IMG_5057IMG_5093IMG_5063IMG_5061IMG_5072IMG_5095Our last stop of the night was the Portuguese Synagog. With no electricity, the 17th-century Sephardic synagogue was illuminated by hundreds of candles, draped from golden chandeliers hung around the room. In the center, a beautiful band hummed, hypnotizing visitors in a daze of candlelight and eerie melody. IMG_5105IMG_5103If you’re a history buff and thinking of visiting Amsterdam in the fall, it’s well worth planning a visit over the first weekend in November. Imagine seeing Rembrandt, van Gogh, candlelight synagogs, and Maritime marvels, all in a matter of hours! You can follow the Museum Nacht site here to keep up to date on events and plan your evening about town next year. Xx