Explore Amsterdam

I’m currently sitting on the train heading to Cologne, Germany. It has been quite a stressful morning but I am now sitting comfortably listening to music and reflecting on the past few days. Amsterdam is wild! I absolutely loved it there. Not only is it very different to any city that I’ve visited before (the Red Light District is something else), it is also stunningly beautiful. When most people think of Amsterdam, the first thing that comes to mind is usually the Red Light District and marijuana – but I assure you, there is much more to this city! See for yourself ūüôā

  1. Moco MuseumExcellent museum with current exhibitions by street art legend Banksy and pop art master Roy Lichtenstein. It’s in a great location, just in the middle of Museumplein which is right near the famous ‘I amsterdam‘ letters and the Van Gogh Museum.¬†

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2. Van Gogh MuseumAs an art lover, I did not hesitate to visit the Van Gogh Museum. It really was incredible. It houses the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings; including The Potato Eaters (1885)¬†and Almond Blossoms (1890). They are open daily from 9am – 5pm (Fridays until 10pm) and 1 adult ticket costs¬†‚ā¨17. I suggest purchasing your ticket in advance so you don’t have to wait in line. Click on the link to book your ticket online¬†https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/plan-your-visit/tickets-and-webstore.

3. Day trip to Zaanse SchansConsidered by many to be ‚Äúone of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands‚ÄĚ – I would have to agree! There is plenty to do here; marvel at the windmills, check out one of the several museums and shops or rent a bike and tour around at your leisure. Make sure to treat yourself in the Chocolate Factory; you won’t be able to resist once the smell of cacoa hits you! It’s very easy to get to and well worth the trip – the train from Amsterdam Centraal Station only takes 17 minutes.

4. Anne Frank HouseI had so many emotions during my visit to the Anne Frank House, the annex where Anne and 7 others hid during the Second World War. It was hard to imagine 8 people living in such a small environment and in constant fear that they could be discovered at any moment…I’ve read her diary several times; trying to imagine what it would have been like to be in her shoes. Actually being present in that environment was very humbling. Although heartbreaking, it was inspiring to see how such a young girl could be so brave during such a horrible time in history. For anyone visiting Amsterdam, I highly recommend visiting the Anne Frank House (online booking is essential¬†http://www.annefrank.org/en/Museum/Practical-information/Online-ticket-sales/).

“We’re all searching for happiness; we’re all leading lives that are different and yet the same.” – Anne Frank, 6 July 1944

5. MarketsDecember is one of the best times of the year to visit Amsterdam. It can be cold (being Canadian, the cold doesn’t bother me as much) but it’s well worth it. The city is truly magical during winter – the lights, the smells, the atmosphere in general…everyone seems to be in the Christmas spirit. In addition to the Christmas markets, make sure to check out the Albert Cuyp street market and the indoor market De Hallen.

6. Vintage ShoppingI’m not a big shopper but I love a good bargain! Vintage shopping is one of my favourite activities, especially in other countries. I spotted some colourful granny sweaters in the window and I just had to go in. I didn’t end up buying anything because my suitcase is heavy enough but if that wasn’t the case, I would have been in trouble! Kiloshop is located at¬†Waterlooplein 189, 1011 PG Amsterdam.

7. Morning strollsOne of my favourite things to do in a new city is to take a long walk in the early morning. It’s usually quiet and very peaceful; you can get a good sense of the city without a lot of people around. I was heading to the Van Gogh Museum and decided to take the long way, grab a coffee and take in my surroundings. It’s important to take a moment to “stop and smell the roses” now and again.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

8. Delicious foodPancakes! I usually don’t like pancakes (I know, I’m crazy) but these are more like crepes and boy, are they delicious. I had one with nutella (see below) and another one with ham and cheese when I was in Zaanse Schans. They are massive but very thin so you can eat a whole one to yourself. If you want something a little lighter and fluffier, try Poffertjes – they are basically a mini version, usually topped with powdered sugar and butter. If you’re visiting in December like I am, head to one of several Christmas markets – there you will find an array of delicious and inexpensive bites. Also try: stroopwafels (or ‘syrup waffle’) which is a type of cookie, haring (traditional Dutch food) and rookworst (sausage).

IMG_0775

IMG_0776

Until next time, Amsterdam!

Barcelona, Spain

Lately, I haven’t had much time to sit down and gather my thoughts. I finally have some down time so I thought I’d post about my latest trip before heading off on my last adventure of the year. Tomorrow, I leave for Amsterdam and then I continue on to Germany, Poland and Denmark before heading back to Canada just in time for Christmas. Back in October, I visited Barcelona for some rest and relaxation in the sunshine (I’ve never been so happy to see the sun)! Barcelona is such a great city to explore; there is so much to see and do and it’s easy to get from one attraction to the next either by walking or using the metro. If you’re visiting for a few days, it’s worth purchasing a T10 card that will allow you to take 10 journeys, saving you a few euros. Here are some of my favourite things about Barcelona…

  1. Sagrada FamíliaThis stunning Roman Catholic church was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Work began on the church in 1882 and it continues to this day. It is expected to be completed by 2026.

2.¬†Mercado de la BoqueriaLocated just off La Ramba, this market has every kind of food you can think of…and much more! I visited the Mercado daily; marveling at all the colourful and unique displays (I may have purchased a few items as well – who could resist all those sweet treats?)¬†ūü§§

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

3.¬†Park G√ľellThis is a public park designed by none other than¬†Antoni Gaud√≠. It is located on Carmel Hill and is filled with sculptures, buildings and a museum dedicated to¬†Gaud√≠ himself. I had seen many photos of Gaud√≠’s work but in person it is another story; I really felt like I was in a Tim Burton movie!

4.¬†Montserrat –¬†One of the most incredible things I’ve ever done. From Barcelona city, you can take the train part of the way and then a train or cable car up to the top part of the mountain. I chose the train because I’m not great with confined spaces. It was a little scary at times as there is no railing separating the train from the cliffs below but don’t worry – it’s perfectly safe! It really was a spectacular ride up – the sun was peaking through the clouds; providing a surreal view of the mountain range in the distance.

Many people make the journey to this mountain top monastery to see the Black Madonna. Religious retreats also take place here, as visitors participate in overnight hikes in order to see the sunrise from atop the mountain. Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey was one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen; the architecture is breathtaking. Currently, there are approximately 70 monks residing at the monastery. I’ve learnt that you do not have to be religious to appreciate the beauty of a place such as this; I will never forget how peaceful it made me feel.

22687565_10159479247115427_8813643313470852108_n (1)

22549656_10159466599360427_3156714671302908006_n

5.¬†Museu PicassoI am an art lover so to see a collection this extensive of Picasso’s work was really incredible. The museum houses over 4,000 works by Picasso; including The First Communion and Science and Charity.

6.¬†Palau de la M√ļsica Catalana This UNESCO World Heritage Site and concert hall was built in the early 1900’s by Llu√≠s Dom√®nech i Montaner. The exterior of the building is incredibly beautiful, especially at night. Guided tours of its interior are offered every 30 minutes daily in a variety of languages.

7.¬†Casa Vicens &¬†Casa Batll√≥Casa Vicens is¬†Gaud√≠’s first masterpiece. It was his first commissioned work; paving the way for his future architectural success. It is currently a museum and cultural space that allows visitors from far and wide to see just how talented and creative Gaud√≠ was.¬†Casa Batll√≥ was another masterpiece built by¬†Gaud√≠ in 1904. The details of his work are really something to see in person; photos could not possibly do them justice.

22491564_10159463678915427_1340945092303544819_n

Casa Vicens, Carrer de les Carolines, 20, 08012 Barcelona.

22519224_10159463635210427_4095849304003741389_n

Casa Batlló, Passeig de Gràcia, 43, 08007 Barcelona.

8. Tapas!Barcelona has some of the best food (and drinks – mojitos here are to die for) that I’ve ever had. Patatas bravas, tacos, nachos, ceviche, churros…my mouth is watering just thinking about these delicious bites. Food is very cheap and because the portions are smaller, you never feel too full after a meal. Spanish people tend to eat dinner much later than I’m used to so I was often one of few people dining at my usual dinnertime of around 6-7pm. Barcelona is well worth a visit just for the food alone ūüėČ

22539991_10159471706410427_8491319602501080912_n

22549609_10159466243690427_6252661983996203110_n

22552843_10159479256155427_7450539018735960215_n

Muchas gracias Barcelona¬†‚̧