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

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A Romantic Evening at Casa di David, Amsterdam

I’m writing this post while soaring on an airplane towards Italy. I’m turning 30 this weekend and wanted to celebrate three centuries of life surrounded by friends and the Italian countryside. Although I grew up in the US, my family is very Italian, and so my birthdays were always accompanied with big family dinners and a spaghetti and meatball feast, typically followed by Italian pastries (supplied by my Grampy), gifts, and many well wishes. I know good Italian food. I have so many wonderful Italian chefs in my family, and I have also ventured over to Italy on many occasions to take in the scenery, the culture, and above all, the cuisine! When in Amsterdam, it’s hard to come by a decent Italian meal. There are many restaurants offering Pizza (and don’t get me wrong, some of these joints are fantastic!) but there are very few locals that are comparable to the real Italy. img_7271Casa di David is on my list as a  ‘definitely yes!’ when it comes to Italian dining in Amsterdam. A few weeks ago, the boy and I were lucky enough to snag a front-of-the-house table on a dark and dreary summer evening. And so we stayed dry inside, sipping wine and twirling fresh pasta around our forks in the candlelight. 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

Vintage Kiloshop in de Pijp, Amsterdam

The past 10 days have been a total whirlwind. Friday the 12th was my (amazing, cool, super sweet) friend Kira’s birthday. It was a hot night, and so we ate popsicles and danced outside until it was dark, and then danced some more inside until the sun came back a few hours later. I love summertime in Amsterdam, and how many lucky hours of sunlight we get here! I had a super early 6am flight Saturday, and made it home from the birthday-dance party just in time to catch a 4am cab to the airport. I would rather dance all night than sleep for only 4 hours. The feeling of waking up with only a half-night’s sleep makes me sick to my stomach. Thankfully, I was able to recovered from my all-nighter with a solid nap on the plane, followed by a second bus-doze. After 6 hours of nap-traveling (while others drank beers and did fun awake things), the entire Sid Lee Amsterdam team arrived at St Tropez in France. I’ve been to the south of France for holiday before (read here, here, and here), and truly believe it’s one of the most beautiful vacation destinations in Europe. The Sid Lee crew spent the entire weekend, all of Monday, and half of Tuesday out of the office, soaking up the sun, eating seafood, and relaxing on the beach. I have ample St Tropez photos to come (perhaps the first double-post of this summer!?) but let’s stick to the ‘busy’ storyline for one more minute. Upon our return, work was insane. Although we only had 3.5 days in the office, there were 5 days worth of work to be done. By the time Friday arrived, I felt physically and mentally exhausted, and fell into bed early after a lavish Chinese dinner (I can never resist a good Nam Kee session) Then this past weekend I went camping in Belgium (probably no blog post on this as I illegally camped in a national park – ha!) and now Monday has come and gone and I’m taking a moment to pause, thinking . . . *wow* where has June gone?!

Anyways, that’s what I’ve been up to the past few days, hence being light on the blogging. But now, let’s get to the meat of this post! A few weeks ago, I noticed an adorable new vintage shop on my street, and so I took it upon myself to investigate. IMG_6390Kiloshop Amsterdam is a new(ish) ‘vintage by the kilo’ shop in de Pijp that not only sells vintage clothing, but also has a beautiful indoor hang-space where you can sip coffee and eat croissants in a bath of natural sunlight.  Continue reading

Supper Club: The Seafood Bar, Amsterdam

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. IMG_5812Hands down, The Seafood Bar has THE BEST raw seafood platter in town. Continue reading

Sir Hummus, Amsterdam

I’m super sleepy, but before I retire for the night I need to tell you two things. 1) I’ve re-named Pressed Words (like how I drop that in here all casually?!) As mentioned a few weeks back, I really want to get back into the swing of blogging. To kick-start this resolution, I purchased a domain name and re-branded the space. I’ve been blogging since 2012, and it’s been a crazy ride (life, blogging, everything) with so many ups and downs I could never have predicted. But in these kooky past few years, two constants remain. I love Amsterdam with all of my heart. This city is a huge source of happiness in my life, and right now, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. The second constant is my thirst for travel and adventure. Sure, I may call de Pijp home, but every corner of the globe I uncover becomes a permanent fixture in my heart, and writing about my travel adventures here, in this living, breathing storybook, is incredibly gratifying. So welcome to Amsterdam and Beyond, my space for life, love, food, friends, fuck-ups, laughter, learning, and everything in between. I’m going to continue making small tweaks to the site over the next few weeks, but expect things to get better, more epic, more personal, and more fun :) And please, comments and critiques are SO welcome!

Now, the second thing I want to tell you is slightly more scrumptious. And it’s BIG news. Ready?? A NEW HUMMUS RESTAURANT HAS OPENED ON MY STREET. Yes, I really did just shout that. Behold the chickpea and tahini glory:IMG_5788How often does a hummus restaurant open in Amsterdam? Um, like never. What are the chances of one opening up on my street? Pretty slim to none, I would say. However, de Pijp continues to be one of the coolest places in the entire world, so in addition to amazing Italian eateries, Javanese restaurants, and sushi spots, I now have a local hummus hang out. Welcome to Sir Hummus. Not only is their website adorable, but their restaurant is super cute too. Continue reading

Villandry, London

One of the many reasons I love London is because they freakin’ rock the brunch scene. In my opinion, a good brunch menu should have a handful of healthy options (think hearty salad, fresh fruit, homemade muesli, yogurt), the absolute breakfast basics (croissants, jam, fresh bread, porridge), a selection of morning cocktails (especially mimosas), some classics for the mainstream (eggs benny, buttermilk pancakes), and a few ‘wow’ entrees that go above and beyond your average breakfast expectations. Bakers and Roasters and Little Collins tick all the boxes here in Amsterdam, but otherwise, an exceptional breakfast spot is hard to come by in the ‘dam. However, in London, almost every brunch establishment knocks it out of the park – inventive mimosas, flaky croissants, and all.

On my last Sunday in London, Roshni and I popped out to meet up with Emily. The three of us lived together in Leeds, and haven’t all been in the same room since 2010! And what’s the best way to reconnect? Over brunch of course! We set off for Villandry on an ironically wet morning.
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Bloemendaal aan Zee

You live in Amsterdam. It’s summertime, the weather is beautiful, and you want to sip wine on the beach. But there are no beaches in the city, or at least the kind you’re used to . . . where the sand is soft and silky white, and the horizon line is endless. Luckily, you have a smart friend. She suggests a ride to the beach (because she’s awesome and has a car). . . . and even though it’s Wednesday night, you say ‘why not!’ By 6.30pm you’re at the ocean, with almost four full hours of sunshine left to go. Welcome to my hump day at Bloemendaal!DSCF0304Bloemendaal aan Zee is a 20 minute car ride from Amsterdam. Continue reading

Dinner at Marathonweg

I really, really dislike flying. When I was younger I was prone to anxiety. Thankfully, as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten better at taking a deep breath and finding balance in life. These days, the only time I get that I’m-crushed-I-can’t-breathe-I’m-going-to-die feeling is when I’m on a plane. Usually I squeeze B’s hand so tight, pumped up on drugs and adrenaline. But lately, I’ve been flying more and more for work. At least once a month. This means I can’t take my happy-flight pills because I have meetings. And I can’t squeeze B’s hand because I’m flying solo. So I’m dealing with it, but not in the best way. Every time I get in a plane I have to come to terms with death, which really sucks. I hate not being in control, and the thought of being tossed around in a helpless box way up in the sky with no power over my destiny is a panic-stricken thought. I hate that my mind goes there, I hate turbulence, I hate being scared. But I’m can’t help it, so I’m doing the next best thing – dealing with it. And the best method I’ve found to deal with this fear is via distraction. I read magazines, I snuggle deep into my coat hood, and I write blog posts. So the good part about flying is that I have some spare time where I can catch up with you. Because there’s no wifi or phone reception, I’m not expected to send work e-mails or take business calls. And so it really is a retreat from the real world. A death box sky retreat.

Anyways, now that you know a bit more about me and my biggest fear (which is very ironic for someone who is addicted to traveling!) let’s move on to the point of the post. Last weekend B’s friend Marshall was in town. B and Marshall went to university together. They’re lad friends who get up to mischief and reminisce about the good old days – before Marshall was a financial hotshot in London and B was a pot-smoking strategist in Amsterdam (I kid). Despite living a 45 minute plane ride away, Marshall has never been to visit us – and it’s been more than three years! But he made up for it by kindly taking us out to dinner, to congratulate us on our engagement, and I think also secretly get B drunk enough to rave with him until 5am. Boys will always be boys.

IMG_1773A Friend had recommended Marathonweg, saying ‘Ohh! They have really good sides!’ I’m a sucker for sides (and condiments!) so Marathonweg made it on the to-try list. After an online poke at the menu, we decided it was just the place to take an out-of-town guest – good wine, good food, and good atmosphere, for good company.

Upon arrival we were taken into a back room and seated at a large booth. At first I thought I might be the one with two dates. But after a while, it became clear B and Marshall were the lovers. They cuddled in the booth, split a meal, and went out together afterwards – so I guess I was the third wheel!!

IMG_1753Although the food (which I will get to momentarily) at Marathonweg was good, the atmosphere was even better. The room was illuminated by candlelight, the space was roomy and comfortable, and there were a lot of natural accents – wooden beams, tall plants, and fresh flowers. Just my kinda place.IMG_1772As I said, Marshall and B slid in on the same side of the booth. Two dates for me?IMG_1745Nope. Clearly these two are the ones on the date!IMG_1746IMG_1747Water was brought to the table in a cute Marathonweg branded carafe. IMG_1751And wine was brought to the table as well.IMG_1755Followed by a platter of fresh bread, with homemade butter, homemade aioli, and a tea pot filled with olive oil.IMG_1759We all got starters – I think B had a salad, Marshall had a meat platter . . .  and I had sardines! Served straight from the can with a few lemon wedges. Smeared on some fresh bread with a drizzle of olive oil, this was a fantastic starter. I often wonder why I don’t try to make such simple and delicious meals myself at home!
IMG_1760And then came our dinner.  B and Marshall ordered the steak for two – it was gargantuan piece of meat – the free range kind that is fed delicacies and massaged every day, before being brought to a humane death and aged gently for 30 days. I don’t know if I buy into the cow crap. ‘Ohh, this cow comes from this valley, and lives by this river and eats this diet.’ Sure, the cow’s heritage plays a small role in the taste, but it’s really about what you do with the meat that matters. How it’s cooked, stored, aged. Anyways, point of the story is that this cow was fan-frickin’-tastic. I don’t know what they did with it in the kitchen, but I must learn how to replicate this at home!
IMG_1766I had the much smaller pork belly from a Limburg abbey, served with pulled pork and potatoes.IMG_1770The whole meal was complimented with fries, green beans, and eggplant. Ahh, the delicious sides :)IMG_1768IMG_1756We cleared our plates and then moved on to coffee, and more wine. Between the three of us we had two bottles, so the cab ride home was giddy to say the least. The boys, fueled on the biggest steak known to man, then went out and danced until 5am. I had a slightly different evening and was in bed, sound asleep by midnight. I’m such a snooze sometimes!

If you’re interested in a meal at Marathonweg (which is currently one of my top five Amsterdam picks) you can find them here: Marathonweg 1-3-5 1076 SW Amsterdam. I recommend calling and making a reservation ahead of time: 020 370 3731.

PS. I have a contributor article on The Blog Wander this week, you can read and check it out here. It’s quite insightful if you’ve ever wondered how I met B, and what it’s like living abroad, being away from family.

xo Ali

Paris in a Onesie

Let’s talk about something exciting . . . something like Paris.

ParisI’ve been to Paris for work a few times, but never for play. I’m now getting extremely stoked because in a few weeks I’ll be traveling Paris with B for a long, fun weekend! As I’m a super-nuts-o-planner, I’ve spent the evening mapping out the must-dos, researching restaurants, and pinning some lovely Parisian spots – all while wearing my onesie, as you do. Usually I share my travel recommendations following the trip, but this time around, I wanted to share my plans ahead of time, incase you wanted to chime in with any recommendations as well!Screen Shot 2014-02-22 at 8.58.52 PMSo first things first – let’s talk location. We’ll be staying right by the Eiffel Tower. ^ ^ This is the view from our flat. The most important thing was to be in the center of it all . . . . to be able to look out the window and think ‘ah, this is Paris!’ I don’t plan on spending much time at the flat, but I’m excited to see the Eiffel Tower twinkle from my bed. I found this place on AirBnb. I’ll be traveling a lot in the next few months with Radisson Blu (as I mentioned here), so I thought it would be cool to switch it up a bit and stay in an apartment this time around. I love the luxuries of hotels – the deep tubs, fuzzy bathrobes, and well tucked sheets. But staying in a French dude’s flat for a weekend is also cool, because you get to pretend to be a local :)

Now on to the second most important thing, food.smukkekagerI’ve been snooping through Timeout, as when I was in Lisbon they gave the absolute best restaurant recommendations. Here are a few food stops I’m contemplating:

1) Pierre Hermé – This stop is non-negotiable. Last time I was in Paris, I stocked up at Ladurée, so this time around I’m going for Hermé. If you’re going to go to Paris, you need to eat macaroons. I’m not just making this up. It’s the law.

2) Angelina – This is another stop I will definitely be making. Rumor has it Angelina has the thickest, most divine hot chocolate in all of Paris. You know I’m a sweets woman, so you know I will be at Angelina!

3) Pizza Chic – This is on the maybe list for lunch. Usually I only need to eat twice a day, especially if one of the meals is hot chocolate and macaroons. But B is a three times a day guy, and I know he’ll be starving by 1pm. So I’ve picked out a few lunch places, and Pizza Chic was top-recommended on Timeout.

4) L’As Du Fallafel – This is another lunch spot I picked out with B in mind, but hell, based on the reviews I may have to try it as well! Supposedly L’As du Fallafel has the best falafel in all of Paris. Going to have to test this theory . . .

5) Le Dauphin – I stumbled across this restaurant a while ago via another blogger, and have been wanting to give it a try. Vibrant and sexy, Le Dauphin is sister restaurant to Le Chateaubriand, which is *supposedly* the one of the best restaurants in the world. Le Dauphin is much more pocket-friendly, and is €23 for Starter+Main or €27 for Starter+Main+Dessert. Downside? It’s quite a hike from our flat.

6) Restaurant Astier – Right next door to Le Dauphin – also a bit of a trek from our flat. BUT Timeout gives it rave reviews, and Astier’s special menu is €45 and comes with a starter, a main, an unlimited cheese platter (!!!!) and desert. I know it’s a ways out, but I just keep thinking, unlimited cheese, unlimited cheese! (photo below).

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7) Brasserie Mollard – Mollard is the third option for dinner on Saturday. They’re a bit closer to our accommodation and the interior is rockin’. They have all of the Parisian classics, and you can get the set menu – a first course, main course, and dessert for €33,70.

8) Au Pied de cochon – I’ve already told B we’re going to Au Pied de cochon for dinner on Friday night. They’re open 24/7, so even though our train doesn’t get in until 9.30pm, we can still have a late, stylish dinner. Hey, we’re only in Paris for two nights! You can get courses for €34.50. Au Pied de cochon are known for their delicious pork, but I’m more of a tartar lady myself. Decisions, decisions!

9) Moisan – One of the most popular bakeries in Paris. Always a line, the tarts are supposedly outstanding. Link here.

Next on the list are things to see – outdoor attractions, parks to walk by, monuments to photograph, bridges, etc.Louvre_at_night_centered1) Parks – On my list are Monceau Park, Tuileries Garden, Luxembourg Gardens, and Parc De Bagatelle. This is a hard one, because loving a park is so subjective. Some people like trees, some people like quiet, and some people like people watching! From what I can see Monceau Park seems to be the most beautiful, and a trip to Luxembourg Gardens is the thing to do. I’ve saved all my park-picks on a map, and I’ll probably make it to whichever just so happens to be nearby at the time.luxembourg-gardens-paris2) Monuments – This list is obvious, but yell at me if I’ve missed anything important! I’m going to make a point of visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Place des Vosges, and the Arc de Triomphe. mostly-paris-6103) Love Lock Bridge – You can’t go to Paris with your partner without locking your love on the bridge. I mean, if you’re in love, and you’re in Paris, this is just the ultimate cliche-cherry on the incredibly delicious cliche-sunday.

Second to last on the list is history. Paris has such a rich and romantic culture, from the Mona Lisa to the Renaissance architecture. On the list I have . . url-11) Orsay Museum – I did some research, as I wasn’t sure if I would have enough time to go to both the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre. When asked, most people chose the Musée d’Orsay. I was still a bit torn, but then saw that the special exhibit at the Musée d’Orsay is Gustave Doré (1832–1883): Master of Imagination. Sold.

2) The Louvre – Ok, so in the end I couldn’t choose just one. I am going to have to apply my ‘when in Rome’ mentality, and get up at 8am on Sunday to go to the Louvre. I will be there at 9am when the doors open, I will make a B-line for the Mona Lisa. If it gets crowded and overwhelming, I will leave. But you can’t go to Paris without seeing the Mona Lisa. She’s almost as important culturally as Pierre Hermé.

3) Notre Dame Cathedral – The only other history-related attraction I feel like I HAVE to see in Paris is the Notre Dame Cathedral. If we have time, we’ll climb it, if not, I’m happy gazing from the ground :)

Last on my to-do in Paris list is shopping . . . url-2I have a few places picked out, but they’re not the high-street shops as you might expect. Sure, maybe some gals dream of Chanel and Louis Vitton when they envision a trip to Paris. But personally, I’m more excited for thrifting!! Thrifting and books.

1) Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen – This is the biggest flea market in Paris. Hell, it’s the biggest flea market in the world. I’ve heard people say they spent three days at the Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen and they STILL did not manage to see the whole thing. My goal is to come early on Saturday morning, even though it’s by far the furthest attraction from our flat. I’m going to buy junk. Lots and lots of junk. I’m a thrifting lady, and I’m not ashamed. Hence the next spot on the list . . .

2) Vintage stores – There are three or four vintage stores I want to check out in Paris, one of which is a pay by the kilo shop!! Kiloshop, Free’p’n Star, and Rag & Vertiges are all located in the same shopping district, conveniently close to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Love Lock bridge. So I will be dragging B into a few thrifty stores, if only to momentarily satisfy my bargin-hunting-heart.

3) Shakespeare & Company – Also located nearby is Shakespeare & Company, the most famous bookstore in Paris – a book-worm’s dream. This is the kind of place you buy a book, just to say you bought a book. And then you treasure that book and pass it down to your kids and say, hey, this book is from Shakespeare & Company in Paris. Yes, I want to be able to say that!

If I’ve missed anything, please let me know!! I want to hear your Paris favorites and top recommendations :)

Now, maybe you’re wondering why the title of this post mentions Paris and a onesie . . .

I’m not feeling very well tonight, which is fine. I’m happy snuggled in bed drinking hot cocoa, surfing the web and mindlessly absorbing the internet. Any other night this might be considered boring, but not tonight. Tonight I have something special. Tonight, I’m wearing a brand new onesie.IMG_0274My dork level has risen about 10% thanks to this new wardrobe piece. I’d had my eye on the jumpsuits at OnePiece for a while, and was totally working up the courage to spend €2oo on a pair of pajamas. The running dialogue in my head went something like this . . . You’ll have this jumpsuit for the rest of your life. You can wear it all winter. You’ll never need to buy another pair of pajams ever again. You’re alway cold. It will be totally worth it. I was very close to turning my online shopping basket into a reality. But then, at lunch time on Friday, I was walking down the Albert Cuyp Market and I came across a onesie blowout sale! Off all the things . .output_8wmCZzThis soft grey onesie was on sale for only €10! I used to avoid buying clothes from the Albert Cuyp Market. All of the shops and stalls just feel a bit synthetic. But then, just before Christmas, I found some lovely, handmade Italian leather purses. They would have been beautiful Christmas gifts, but as they were only €15 I was worried they were a bit cheap or fake. I didn’t buy them. About a month later, I saw the exact same purses for sale on the nine-streets, going for €85!! So I’m learning to go with my gut when it comes to the Albret Cuyp Market, as many retailers shop with the same vendors and then just package and price items differently. The second my hand grazed the inside of this onesie, I knew I’d found something special. It was soft and felt-like, and incredibly plush. It also had a hood and pockets – score! So not only do I look stylin’, I was able to do so on the cheap, and I’m super comfy to boot!

Anyways, that’s enough about my onesie. It’s getting late and I’m off to bed. Paris dreaming time. . .

xo Ali

*FYI – Although I take most of the photos on Pressed Words, the lovely Paris photos in this post are not mine. I’ll report back soon enough with some of my own. In the meantime, hats off to these lovely Parisian photographers!