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

Road Trip to Antwerp, Belgium

Road trip, road trip, ‘bout to go on that road trip!! >> This sentence was totally inspired by our latest Booking.com commercial, which features Rebel Wilson and Keegan-Michael Key – it is way too catchy for my mental health (you can check it out here – I can’t stop singing!!) In timely fashion, the beau and I also decided to embark on our own long weekend road trip down to Belgium . . . cue Booking.com road trip theme song!! IMG_5735 copyAs mentioned in my last post, our first stop was in Lisse where we roamed the stunning tulip fields, but as with all great road trips, there were of course multiple stops along the way :) After frolicking through fields of flowers for a few hours, we decided to hit the beach for lunch. The day was HOT, and the heat wave had us excited to sip Raddlers and dip our toes in the sea. We didn’t route out our beach trip out ahead of time, but instead just drove west, and somehow landed at the beautiful Noordwijk aan Zee. We hit up the first seaside restaurant we came across (which was De Koele Costa), kicked off our shoes, and ordered some frosty beverages and a feast to share. Continue reading

A Night at The Duke Hotel, Den Bosch

As I used up almost all of my paid leave visiting the States this summer, I’m trying to squeeze in mini-holidays over the weekends so I can still explore Europe and travel with friends. Last weekend, The Duke Hotel kindly invited me for an overnight in Den Bosch. And so on Friday night after work, I packed my overnight bag, grabbed the boyfriend (I still feel weird saying that!) and hopped on a train down to den Bosch to enjoy a short city break in Holland. Den Bosch the Duke Hotel - 13 of 102The formal name for den Bosch is ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which translates into The Duke’s Forest in English. The name is often abbreviated to Den Bosch, which simply means The Forest. And so we took a train down to The Forest, where we saw many birds, dragons, and beautiful buildings (but oddly not a whole lot of forest!) Continue reading

Sid Lee does St. Tropez, Part 1

While I love blogging, my day job is also pretty cool. I work at a global advertising agency called Sid Lee (some office photos here), where we make ads for clients like Facebook, Red Bull, and Absolut. Advertising is very much a work hard play hard industry, and the brands you work with often contribute to the overall culture of the agency. There are countless late nights and busy weekends, but on the flip side, at Sid Lee, there are also expensed dinners, cool colleagues, agency parties, and many, many Absolut cocktails. Recently, to say ‘thanks’ for a long year of hard work, the Sid Lee Amsterdam team was treated to a long weekend in paradise. IMG_7551I briefly mentioned our travel regime in my previous post – our airplane left Schiphol at 6am – which meant we had to meet in the airport lobby bright and early at 4.15am. Of course I pulled an all-nighter (I was THAT person at the airport) and stumbled through security and found my seat on the plane in a tipsy, blurry haze. After a few hours of dozing on the plane, and then on a bus, we arrived in St. Tropez.  Continue reading

An Evening at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Amsterdam

Rarely do I accept blogger-freebies. I blog because I love exploring the world and trying new things, and of course taking photos and sharing my adventures along the way. If content goes on my blog, it’s because it’s right for me and it’s right for you. Bottom line – you’ve gotta be really, really special to be featured on Pressed Words.

That said, when the Radisson Blu asked me to join their European blogger program, I said ‘yes’ for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as a member of their program I would get to travel around Europe and eat a lot of really good food. So the experience and the resulting content was right for Pressed Words (and my belly). Secondly, I really like the Radisson Blue mantra. They’re ‘yes’ people – they pride themselves on always being positive and solution oriented, and I too hold these values in high regard. So the brand also seemed like a good fit. And lastly, as an ambassador of the Radisson Blu, I would get to meet other kick ass travel bloggers from around Europe. I’ve been crap at networking in the blogging-world, and to be frank, I also thought it would be cool to meet some new people outside of the advertising-sphere (aka my daily grind). Plus, just look at how pretty the lobby is!

IMG_0657As part of the program, I was invited to discover my local Radisson Blu. I lucked out, as the Radisson Blu Hotel in Amsterdam is one of the best. In 2011 it was voted hotel of the year. They have good food, a great atmosphere, and of course, the most positive staff I have ever come across (and that’s saying a lot, especially in Holland!) Anyways, I don’t want to bore on about how great the hotel is. So let me tell you a little bit about my Radisson Blu adventure. 
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I arrived on Friday night around 6pm. The hotel manager was in the lobby to greet me and hand over my room key. I stayed in a business class room which was lovely. There was a live plant in the room, which might sound trivial among the long list of things I could compliment, but that small burst of life and color really brought a happy pop to my evening. I was also gifted a miniature Dutch canal house filled with licorice, and this card –  IMG_0687Hello adorable Dutch stationary, where can I find you, sans Radisson Blu logo?! Anyways, after a quick selfie, a brush of my hair, and a self-guided tour of the room, I headed back downstairs for dinner and drinks.

I promise that this is the last time I will gush on about how cool the hotel is, but yes, it is cool. The hotel was built-in and around a series of old historic buildings – 18th-century merchant houses, a 19th-century vicarage, and Amsterdam’s oldest paper factory. Instead of knocking down houses or destroying lovely pieces of history, the Radisson Blu is built around and above beautiful facades. IMG_0550So when you enter the lobby, the first thing you will notice is a high, glass ceiling. And the second thing you will notice is the house that lives below the high, glass ceiling. However, the house is missing a wall and you’re more than welcome to peep right in. In fact, the hotel used to be a church, and this house used to be the vicar’s home. Ironically, it is now one of Amsterdam’s most beautiful bars, with the vicar’s chimney, fireplace, and wood-beam ceilings still intact!IMG_0667IMG_0522IMG_0533The doors that are hung on the brick chimney used to be the doors to the church. The hotel manager found them in the vaults in the hotel basement a few years ago, and had them cleaned and restored. They are now a beautiful centerpiece to the hotel’s bar.RadissonBlue2 IMG_0514I learned all of this over cocktails. Myself, another Amsterdam blogger (Ashley, her awesome blog is here), and the coordinator of the blogger program (Alessandra, up visiting from Paris) took turns firing endless questions at the hotel manager. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever had to do for a guest? How did you get into the hotel business? What’s your least favorite part about working at the Radisson Blu?RadissonBlue1As the drinks flowed, the conversation became more merry, and soon it was time for the hotel manager to depart. It was also clear we needed some food. So we enjoyed our first taster in the bar – a delicious amuse bouche of both beef and fish.IMG_0571After our taster, we were invited into the hotel restaurant, de Palmboom (the Palm Tree) for dinner.IMG_0658It was still quite early for dinnertime on a Friday, so the staff was attentive and all ours! This also meant I did not have to be shy about taking photos :)IMG_0567The hotel atmosphere was lovely. Fresh flowers and melting candles adorned every table, the floors were hard wood and the lighting was just right for a Friday night. IMG_0588The only thing missing was the wine and food, which was soon flowing endlessly.IMG_0596We started off with Maas-Rijn-IJssel carpaccio. Essentially, there is a plain in Holland surrounded by three intersecting rivers – the Maas, the Rijn, and the IJssel. Happy, well fed live on said plain, hence the name of the beef. The cows double as milk cows, and live long, free-range lives. So the beef is homegrown in Holland and tastes amazing. Most of the ingredients at de Palmboom are seasonal and native to Holland, and if they are imported, they are always best in class. This made for a delicious meal.

RadissonBlue3With each course we were served a glass of wine or a spritzer, by the end of the night I had my, erm, drunk face on! IMG_0600IMG_0617The second course was oxtail, served in a light broth. To be honest, this was not my favorite course (a bit too salty for my taste), but the presentation was simple and lovely, and both of the other ladies slurped it up within seconds!output_FBJERtIMG_0615The main course was my favorite – it was a light and fragrant catfish. I chowed half way into the dish before reminding myself that I was eating catfish! It tasted light and flaky – like a sole or a very tender haddock. Catfish is now up on my favorite list – I have a habit of LOVING ugly fish – monkfish, catfish . . . the list goes on!IMG_0621IMG_0640For dessert we had tea, a small platter of chocolate and cookies, and a whopping plate of french toast, rum raisins, and raisin ice cream.IMG_0631B would have loved this dish, as raisins are his absolute favorite! I thought it was great, but I’m more of a chocolate lady. I prefer overly sweet, although I have to say this dish was a great balance to round out the meal.

Following our dinner, Ashley and Alessandra hit the hotel bar. I kindly excused myself, and went upstairs to enjoy the room. I took a lovely rain shower and enjoyed scrubbing for bed whilst standing on a warm, heated floor. Plopping down into my fluffy king size bed was the best. I had Invited B to join me, but that night was his office work party and he wanted to crawl drunkenly home all by his lonesome. Fine with me! I’m all for being a bed hog ;)

I have to say, I’ve never stayed in a hotel in my own city before, but it is something I would do again, especially at the Radisson Blu. It was nice to escape my daily routine, and be pampered a bit as well! If you live in Amsterdam, the Radisson Blu bar is a great, hidden gem. The atmosphere is one of a kind and the cocktails are delicious as well (I will however save THAT story for next time). I can see myself going back there with B for a romantic nibble and sip, or a quiet after dinner drink. It’s a great spot to surprise friends with – you would never expect this kind of historic spot to be hidden in the Radisson Blu!

If you’re from out of town, I would definitely recommend a night at the Radisson Blu. No, they did not tell me to say this. But I think they have a good thing going on. They are smack in the city center, but off of the direct tourist path. So you wont get lost but you also wont get woken up by drunks walking home in the middle of the night. The hotel has a very historic Dutch feel, which is what you want when you come to Amsterdam – a chance to experience the city’s beautiful history and architecture, with a modern dose of charm. And lastly, the folks at the Radisson Blu are cool people. The vibe there is classy, and the staff went above and beyond in helping out. Everyone gets the VIP treatment, which is a rare gem in Amsterdam!

Anyways, that’s enough rambling – you can find the hotel link here. And if you have any questions, please do ask. I have so much Radisson Blu knowledge now, I’m probably over-eager to share!

Radisson Blu part two to come :)

xo Ali