Monday, September 8, 2014

Around Town: Amsterdam Favorites Map

Amsterdam's unique atmosphere is evident in the renewal of old spaces with bold, new ideas. Along with important cultural and historical sites, there's an ever growing list of quirky spots to discover around the city.

Whether you prefer cozy corners, rough, industrial spaces or prefer to nestle in the grass under a tree, there are so many different ways to take in the sounds and scenic views of Amsterdam. I'm on a constant quest to find great places and discover a different perspective of the city.

After a few years of sharing my personal discoveries of Amsterdam through my blog, I'm often questioned for suggestions on what to see, eat and enjoy around the city. So, I recently teamed up with KLM to create an Amsterdam map with some of my favorite spots. This list includes great ways to engage with Amsterdam's rich history, along with excellent locations to sip a local brew, discover new tastes or catch up with friends to watch the world go by.

Late summer is a perfect time to enjoy all that Amsterdam has to offer and the flat city is easy to explore by bike, foot or boat. Feel free to share your favorite things to do, I'm always looking for new spots to discover a different view of Amsterdam.

Check out my map below and get exploring!

This map was made in collaboration with KLM who provide flights to the city.  
Come and explore Amsterdam!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Around Town: Sunday in the Nine Streets

I recently spent a warm Sunday afternoon wandering around Amsterdam's charming Nine Streets district with my friend Jen, her husband and their cheerful, chubby baby. Luckily, the trio snuck in a few days in Amsterdam during their recent trip to Germany and France and we got to enjoy a bit of Dutch summer together. We were first introduced though our blogs a few years ago when Jen and Justin were on an expat adventure living in Amsterdam (and Italy). Funny enough, we all share similar roots from the same area in Florida!

Clustered within a scenic strip of Amsterdam's canal district, the Nine Streets are filled with posh shops, quaint cafes and unique boutiques. We strolled along with baby Ezra, peeking into shop windows and taking lots of pictures along the way. Luckily, sunshine followed us all afternoon and we stopped for a break one of my favorite terraces for a round of biertjes, kaastengels and watching the world go by.

They're currently living in Brooklyn but we missed a chance to hang out during my quick trip to NYC last month, so this was a fantastic alternative. Actually, the timing couldn't have been more perfect, since I've recently returned to Amsterdam myself and am enjoying a few relaxing weeks to settle in before my masters program starts this autumn.

As our walk continued, we approached the Prinsengracht around the same time my Dutchman and friends were boating in the canal! Standing canal side, my Dutchman hopped out to sneak a kiss and said "Hello" to my Florida pals and before taking off for more fishing. That sweet moment reminded me just what a tiny world Amsterdam is.

As the four of us made our way back along the Prinsengrahct, we added a stop at Ijscupje (my favorite ice cream here) to our agenda. Ice cream is always a good idea, especially on a warm, summer day! I chose a scoop of bokkenpootjes (a Dutch chocolate-almond cookie) with a scoop of tangy blood orange on top. We enjoyed our cones canal side while baby Ezra giggled happily while his chubby cheeks were completely covered in ice cream.

Sunny Sundays are the best, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a few more before the seasons switch. Here are a few other photos from our day...

P.S. You can browse more of Jen & Justin's travels on her blog and check out Freshly Picked, Jen's lovely flower styling company, full of dreamy bouquets.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer in Vondelpark

Vondelpark is summertime and this year, Amsterdam's treasured park celebrated its 150th anniversary!

In the few weeks since my return to Amsterdam, I've probably already cycled through Vondelpark at least a dozen times. I've laid in the grass with my book, enjoyed a few picnics, watched the world go by from the Blauwe Theehuis, attempted some pathetic forms of exercise, and successfully finished my share of wine and snacks from a picnic blanket.

Vondelpark is synonymous with Amsterdam and this historic park simply comes alive when the days get longer during summer and trees are exploding with all shades of green. People are everywhere- rollerblading, cycling, or wandering carefree (until someone dings a bike bell at them). Kids can do their thing at variety of playgrounds and those, like me, who enjoy a drink on a sunny terrance have a few options too. Everyone else settles down for a picnic, BBQ or leisurely rest in the sun...which fortunately doesn't even set until at least 10pm during the summer months!

During my au-pair days we gathered in Vondelpark religiously, following the motto "Sun's out, let's picnic!" Every Amsterdammer surely has their favorite spot but I might keep mine a secret for now.

If you've ever enjoyed time in Vondelpark you may have seen the bright green parakeets who live there. On my first sighting, I couldn't believe my eyes to see such a tropical bird living wild here in the city. And did you know there are more than 70 types of roses in the rose garden?

Heading to Vondelpark this summer? You may want to check out the open air theatre offering an agenda full of free performances!

Also check out a 4th of July picnic, a sunny day videowinter scenes and winter photos when I'd first moved to Amsterdam (and it was so cold!)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Weekend Wanderings: Florida's Best Beach

With the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Florida's 1,350 miles of sandy, sunny, palm sprinkled coastline offer innumerable beach going days. As you can imagine, upon my return to the Sunshine State blue skies called my name and I flocked to the beach as much as possible.

You may think that with so much coast, it'd be hard to pick a favorite beach spot but for me, there is only one beach. Playa Linda aka "The Best Beach" between my friends and I. Unlike other eastern shores, cars are (thankfully!) not allowed at Playa Linda as it belong to a protected marine area belonging to the Canaveral National Sea Shore. And for those of you interested, clothing is optional in some areas too.

Twenty-four miles of undeveloped coast plump with sea turtle nests during the spring and summer months.

No cars, no houses, no shops. Just beach... as it should be. 

Playa Linda is quite literally a beautiful beach...

After receiving news of my acceptance to all three of my graduate school applications in the Netherlands (!!!) I knew my Florida beach time would soon come to a long pause, so I quickly opted to soak all the sunshine (Yes. All. Of. It.) and headed to the beach almost weekly before my time ran out. This was somewhat of a challenging endeavor what, with all the bits and pieces that come with moving abroad (again!).

Before flying back to Holland together, my Dutchman and I spent one more day at Playa Linda, after a morning of paddle boarding close by. An impending storm was headed inland and once a few rain drops sprinkled down, the other visitors packed up and left one by one. Eventually, we had the entire beach all to ourselves...

...Until a park ranger drove by and told us it was closing time. We took our sweet time to head out and paused at nearly all the look out points for one last view of arguably, the very best beach.

This morning I'm looking out our kitchen window here in Amsterdam and watching the grey clouds drizzle. I can't help but think back to the salty sea breeze, sun pinched skin, warm sand between my toes back in Florida. To be fair, since returning to our canal filled city, the weather has been surprisingly warm and sunny with dreary days as the major influence to when I actually sit down at my computer.

Rainy days may lend credit for my productivity but I'm wishing you sunshine where ever you are!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Weekend Wanderings: Camping at Ginnie Springs

Florida's springs have attracted visitors dating back to the 16th century when Ponce de Leon trekked around searching for the Fountain of Youth, a fabled, magical spring in St. Augustine. While I definitely wish even one of the more than 900 fresh water springs in Florida really were full of mermaids and magical powers, the clear blue waters and surrounding greenery is enchanting enough for me. I've visited a hand full of springs across my home state and recently added Ginnie Springs to that list. From scrub and pine to manatees and mangroves, driving a few hours north or south in Florida and you'll find a completely different ecosystem!

With our camping essentials ready, my Dutchman and I packed up the car and headed north towards Ginnie Springs. This natural Florida spring along the Santa Fe River near Gainesville boasts 72-degree water year-round, making it a great spot for swimming, snorkeling, cave diving, and tubing down the river (our favorite).

Ginnie Springs is actually a group of six natural springs nestled on about 600 acres of family owned land. Once the home of Timucuan Indians, their arrow heads and pottery shards can still be found around the site today. Fun fact: Ginnie Springs is such a popular spot for divers that even Jacques Cousteau has paid a visit!

Ginnie Springs was a great location for our much needed weekend getaway. We love camping and the natural allure and solitude felt when surrounded by a canopy of trees. Fortunately, we arrived early enough on Friday to snag a campsite with the river in view, an ideal spot for my Dutchman who invested in a fishing pole to keep here in Florida precisely for out door adventures like this one. Together, we filled our days with fishing, morning walks, afternoon swims and tubing down the river. In the evening, we cooked on the grill and enjoyred late nights talking around the fire. And of course, we ate plenty of s'mores! If only the droves of drunk university students slamming whiskey and blasting terrible music could have also embrace a few moments of silence to hear the wind whistle through the trees. Oh well.

On our second night of camping, we made it back to our site after a long, relaxing day of tubing. Dusk was on it's way, so we grilled up a piece of spicy teriyaki marinated salmon for a gourmet outdoor dinner. With our meal prepped and beers in hand, we finally enjoyed a cosy moment (no obnoxious party music... yet!) He was fishing while I snapped a few pictures and settled down with my book, using our tubes as a comfy reading nook. There we were, under a canopy of trees, the sun setting, the smell of food on the grill... Camping success! ...For at least 10 minutes.

As it turns out, the tubes were randomly set on top of a fire ant mound and I only read a few pages before the sting of fire ant bites set in... all over my bum! This is what happens when pants don't replace a bikini at the end of the day. Ouch! For someone as clumsy and accident prone as myself, I'm honesty not even surprised by topical injuries. Going outside, there's a 99% chance something will sting, bite or bruise me and admittedly, half the time the culprit is myself. But to get hurt while sitting down!? Now that's a new rate of success. My Dutchman loves to tease and say, "...But you're only clumsy today!" Thanks, a lot for reminder.

If you've ever been bit by fire ants, you're already aware that they swarm in masses and that the result isn't pretty. Excessive itching aside, at least our evening feast of salmon and couscous was delicious enough to distract from my mishap. Pretty sure that I earned a few extra s'mores that evening too! 

Curious about camping at one of Florida's many natural springs? Check out dozens of locations here.

Want to see inside Ginne Springs? Take a look at this video!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Boat rides, Beers and Birthdays

The last few weeks have been filled with celebration and lots of adventures (two great distractions from blogging!) So far, twenty-eight has started out with a bang... a changing wind is blowing through and I fully intend to keep that motion going, full force.

Similar to last year, libations were had with friends and a scenic river side view.  However, last year, in Amsterdam spring took for ever to arrive and it snowed just just days before my twenty-seventh birthday. Thankfully, this year's party was soaked in Florida sunshine!

My darling friend Lurlie and I share the same birthday and since we were on the side of the globe this year, our vision of a double birthday party finally came true! Despite weeks of begging, Lurlie absolutely forbid us to have 90's theme complete with a playlist of decade inspired garb and party jamz. Instead, we opted for a lazy day along the river with friends and absolutely perfect, Florida day!

Celebrating back home with my American friends was so much fun and this hometown part was made even more special with a surprise visitor... My Dutchman!

Having gone through a challenging, emotional year, I was more than happy to say 'buh-bye!' to twenty-seven. Last year had me pretty convinced the curse of twenty-seven is a real and terrible thing, thankfully I made it through what was by far the most confusing year of my life, phew.

Welcoming a fresh, new year with sunshine, swimming, cold beers, BBQ, a boat ride along the river was the perfect way to kick off a fresh year full of positive vibes and belly laughs with friends!

We rounded out the nearing the end of our twenties at Wekiva Island and some how found energy to drag out sun soaked selves out for a few rounds of fancy beers (and my Mom's famous almond-poppyseed cake!) later that evening at our friends' awesome, local beer bar, Redlight Redlight.

Belgian beers seem to be a birthday trend during my twenties, a very welcomed tradition. Both spots are two of my favorite Florida hangouts and highly recommended if you're ever exploring our southern peninsula.

Birthdays are a funny thing, they remind you how quickly time passes yet also how lucky you are to take on another year of life's great adventures surrounded by the smiles of those you love. Celebrating with old friends (and a few new ones) was as fun as could be. I'm looking forward to what twenty-eight has in store... Luckily, there are still eleven more months to find out!

P.S. A few birthday flashbacks... I turned twenty-four in Madrid (my first expat birthday!), my favorite birthday cake(s), celebrating twenty-seven in Amsterdam, Eating macarons during last year's birthday trip to Paris and my mom's birthday visit to the Kroller Muller Museum