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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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 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

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

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

Bikes and Beers in Ljubljana, Slovenia

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

A Pit Stop in Trieste, Italy

While planning our trip to Slovenia, Kai and I realized that flights from Amsterdam into Ljubljana were quite pricy. Like, €260 each pricy, which was a bit more than we were hoping to spend on a long weekend trip in Europe. As our ultimate destination was Lake Bled, we knew we would have to rent a car anyways, as there are no airports in the close vicinity of the lake. So when we found €80 return trip tickets to Venice, which is only a 2.5 hr drive from Ljubljana, we quickly got excited about saving some money and also spending some time in Italy! Kai and I had both been to Venice before, and so we decided to do a pit stop a bit closer to Slovenia in Trieste, Italy. We flew into Venice late on a Wednesday night, slept at a cheap and cheerful airport hotel, took advantage of the free breakfast the next morning (ohh how my heart loves a good Italian breakfast of meats, cheeses, crusty bread, and espresso!) and hit the road early enough to arrive in Trieste by lunch time.  Continue reading