Road Trip from Amsterdam to Berlin

A visit to Berlin has been on my list for ages, actually ever since I first moved to Amsterdam back in 2009. Time flies and too many things kept getting in the way. Thankfully, not this time!

We booked a hostel, packed up the car and headed east towards Berlin without much of a plan. I tried my best to be spontaneous (his way) instead of following a general plan (my way). basically drove me crazy, but hey, I tried.  In the end it was a good thing I had my secret backup list of fun things to do since random spontaneity doesn't always work out ("wait, that museum is closed today?! ha!) Research and planning are parts of what I love about traveling aside from actually taking the trip, duh.

I wouldn't consider Berlin a beautiful city (Amsterdam, you'll always have my heart). It's historic and industrial and well, interesting! The industrial sometimes dingy vibe mixed with history weaving in and out of every corner, is almost eerie at times. Berlin, I like you, quite a lot. 

Here are of my favorite Berlin bits and pieces...

Brandenburger Tor

 & 

Berliner Dom

It's almost overwhelming to see old pictures of the destruction around Berlin. I couldn't help but imagine 'what happened on this corner?' or imagine living there in the golden 1920s before things got

crazy. 

SLEEP

We stayed at the 

Amstel House Hostel

, a simple, clean and fun choice not only because it's named after

the river we boat on

so frequently but because the backpacker vibe was great and after seven-hours in the car 1.50 beers for happy hour couldn't have been better. When staying at hostels (in a private room, please) you always end up meeting other interesting travelers, it's a great way to socialize and pick up a few last minute travel tips! 

VISIT

DDR Museum

- A museum about, you guessed it, life in Eastern Germany.

Mauerpark Flea Market

- As recommended by many friends, this flea market kept us entertained with knick knacks and vintage goodies (a post of its own coming up soon!)

Wandering through Kreuzberg - A fun, random day filled with graffitied squats, the uber-touristy

East Side Gallery

, a mural covered chunk of The Wall.  We finished off with an evening of remarkably cheep tequila and massive, delicious burritos (more on that, later!)

The Berlin Wall Memorial

- Check out what remains of the wall around Bernauer Straße. This is where to go if you want to see real bits of the wall (as opposed to the East Side Gallery, above, that has only modern murals) Plus, there's an interesting open air exhibition on the growing division of the neighborhood. This is there area especially know for people literally jumping out of windows to escape to the western side. It's almost unbelievable.

EAT

Can I just say it once more? Berlin is so cheep! 

It's far less expensive than Amsterdam, which was great when we were there and quite disappointing to leave. Two lattes and four or five (big) pastries costs around 8 euros which is the equivalent to just a latte and a muffin here in Amsterdam. Sad.

We found a great bakery in our quiet neighborhood where we gorged on inexpensive pastries and lattes each morning before taking the metro to sight see. 

Needless to say, I've been eating salads a lot upon returning since my diet was about 99% pastries while in Germany and my new jeans are now a very tight squeeze. Oops!

Following an afternoon wandering around the Kruezberg area our final stop was

Santa Maria

for happy hour. What a great choice, we had so much fun! For real. Not only because there were plenty of 1euro tequila shots (and 4euro margaritas!) but also the stellar atmosphere and delicious food. 

If you plan to visit, definitely get there early, this place was packed. Friendly staff and even better food, what's better than that? I had a veggie burrito with black beans and pumpkin. Too bad we didn't make it there for Taco Tuesday cause I'd love to go back! 

If you like chocolate do yourself a favor and stop by the 

Ritter Sport

Chocoworld Shop

. It isn't far from Check Point Charlie, and a lot more fun that that dorky tourist trap. 

I brought home a big selection of flavors like strawberry-yogurt chocolate and my favorite dark chocolate mind and...cornflakes! Some might say I went a bit overboard but hey, they were a fraction of the price. You can also make your own chocolate bar but I opted not to for fear the summer heat would destroy it. 

Can you guess which ones are true to size? Ha!

As recommend by a friend and Berlin local, we wandered past the Rosa-Luxemburg Platz up to the Schönhauser Allee which is filled with (cheep!) food choices, in search of something tasty on our last evening. 

For dinner, we chose curry at a Vietnamese spot, 

Wraps and Rolls

, before heading down the street to 

White Trash Fast Food

(WTFF) for an evening of rock 'n' roll. A few tequila shots were had in the street, because hey, you can do that kind of thing in Berlin. In fact, one of the most exciting parties seemed to be taking place right outside of the liqueur store, ha!

White Trash Fast Food was a wild spot! Housed in a massive, old Chinese restaurant (complete with all authentic, wacky, old decor), this bar enlisted a rockabilly band upstairs and a DJ spinning downstairs right next to the in-house tattoo parlor. Yup, it was a feast for the senses. The (pricey) menu was full of great sounding Americana food like artichoke dip and giant burgers which would have probably been a great cure for my latest bout of homesickness but I was stuffed from that evenings mango curry.

That's all for now. Our long weekend was pretty action packed but it still seems like we hardly hit the surface. 

I'll share another post soon with some more snapshots from around the city. If you have any Berlin suggestions definitely let me know, I'd really like to go back again one day!

Summer in Amsterdam: Eats + Sweets

It's a breezy, cool summer morning here in Amsterdam. Not that I'll ever ask for an overcast day but having spent last night watching the sunset glow over the Amstel River and subsequently and polished off a bottle, or two, of wine together with good company, I'm happy to make use of this quiet, calm morning to write. I do write daily for work but evenings have been filled with summer pastimes, away from the computer, clearly keeping me from sitting down with a big cup of iced tea and blogging.

It's been a while since a food post has popped up around here, ironically, since my handy Dutchman built us a beautiful new kitchen this spring. Home cooking is happening often but when it comes to recipe posts (or apparently, blogging of any kind)... well, I'm simply more interested in letting summer sunshine lure me out of the house. 

July has kept a very busy, buzzing pace, complete with lots of sunny days (hooray!) that quickly fill up with boat rides, picnics, afternoons in the park, evenings along the river, bike rides, beach days, concerts... you name it. Some evenings are a mad dash biking home from the office and heading straight to my Dutchman's boat or to the park to soak up warm summer nights.

It feels good to look back and see that we've spent most of the last two months doing as much as possible outside. We're finally having a real summer! Now, enough about the weather, let's get to the food part since that's probably what caught your eye in the first place, am I right?

The recent heat wave (yes, heat wave!) has naturally increased my cravings for cold, fruity smoothies in the morning and hearty, homemade salads for dinner. Okay, and plenty of store bought salads, pizzas and beers along the way because we've luckily been out on the boat a lot lately. Which means sometimes dinner turns out to be whatever random hummus and carrot sticks are left over from 8+ hours floating along the canals.

Summertime is seriously hard work but hey, no complaints here!


 For those who might be curious, I've been experimenting with adding some fish into my diet now and then. Surprisingly, it wasn't too odd of a transition, I had a craving and went for it. It's nice to be feel in tune with my body and try a few different things. Vegetarian, and at times vegan, food still makes up the majority of my diet but having a few other options has been a tasty, new experience.

But don't get any crazy ideas here. I like grilled salmon lately but am not at all, ever, interested in eating the infamous raw herring. That's a "treat" reserved solely for my Dutchman and preferably when I'm at least a few feet away to mask the scent. 

Nothing ruins warm day in Amsterdam like a big, humid whiff of herring and onions up my nose during a morning bike commute. Have you tried the herring before? Maybe you're just better at assimilating than me and I'm okay with that. 

Homemade salads have definitely topped my menu lately. Sometimes they're planned but more often than not, salads for lunch and dinner are random concoctions filled quinoa, pomegranate seeds, smoked almonds, mango bits, goat cheese and/or whatever other bits and pieces I remembered to grab at the market. I've also been making lettuce wraps with leftovers like grilled veggies and black beans or salmon and risotto.
Yum, yum and yum!


If you're new to my blog, let's be clear on one thing: I love tacos. I love tacos (and burritos and fajitas) so much that there may have been a two week streak of having taco night, every night. Until we tragically ran out of chipotle peppers and I had to make a less spicy, taco salad instead.

One day in the park, we had a craving for something delicious and happily discovered that our favorite Tex-Mexican spot, Tomatillo, would deliver burritos to us in Vondelpark via bicycle. That's just about as awesome and delicious as a lazy Sunday can get.

Oh and speaking of Tex-Mex, another Sunday we took the boat down the river to a friends' house boat and made a giant fajita feast complete with homemade margaritas. Subsequently with the same group who ate bike-delivered-burritos in the park. Yes, this has been a busy, delicious summer, for sure!



Come to think of it, anything based with coriander, lime, garlic and chili is good in my book, it doesn't even have to be in taco form, I'm flexible. But, if you haven't tried making mango salsa before, go out and buy everything in this picture, chop it up and thank me later.


I've also been experimenting with making my own chia seed pudding (thanks, pinterest!) but when that runs out, PB&J ice cream makes my American expat dreams come true. Plus, I'm pretty sure that ice cream calories don't count on hot, summer days. 


Warm weather calls for iced coffee or iced tea, or massive amounts of both. I've been making mine with delicious local honey from the Pure Market. Honey is also a nice addition to an evening cup of cleansing ginger-lemon tea which I like to imagine balances out the excessive average amount of beer in my diet lately. 


And just for fun, let's wrap things up with booze.
We had a few rounds of very fancy margaritas on the 4th of July. Because you know, life is all about balance and when you're with another Floridian expat it's completely okay to feel kinda homesick and blow money on ridiculously over priced margaritas while pretending you're actually back home, next to the pool being American. Besides, even I don't want to only eat salads and iced tea all the time!


What are your favorite summer foods? I'd love to have some recipe suggestions (especially for fish, I'm a complete novice!) feel free to share them in the comments below. Happy eating!

Weekend Wanderings: Best Kept Secret Festival

Happy Friday, my friends! Summer crashed it's way into Amsterdam and brought on a whirlwind busy schedule that involves as much outdoors time as possible a thus, a little neglect (with the best intentions!) here on this blog of mine. There are so many stories to tell, so in an effort to catch up, prepare to be inundated with this massive collection of photos from the Best Kept Secret Festival.

This time last week three weeks ago, I piled into the car with my backpack and camping essentials heading "down south" for three days of music and camping at the first ever Best Kept Secret Festival near Tilburg. Can you believe this was my first full out camping in the rain and listening to music all day long trip?? The opportunity finally presented itself and I'm so glad not to have missed out on this wild adventure! It was exciting, exhausting, hilarious and nothing short of amazing!

Sigur Ros, live. Finally!
Sigur Ros rounded out three days of live music with a sparkling finishing touch. I've wanted to see them live for a decade and it was well worth the wait!

I'm not much of a music snob and love discovering new sounds but there were so many bands performing it was kind hard to keep track. Okay, it's also possible that too much beer may have aided in my lack of memory but hey, that's half the fun, isn't it?

A few of my favorite performances included...
Damien Rice, Cashmere Cat, Local Natives, Everything Everything, Potishead, Alt-J, Palma Violets, Agnes Obel, Temples, Allah-Las and so many more! But for me, Cashmere Cat and Sigur Ros topped it all!



Of course, since this is Holland, it rained throughout the entire festival. We kept our fingers crossed for nice weather but like they say, you can't win 'em all. There was no choice but to trudge through the mud in our wellies, beers in hand and made the best of it. Days began with swims in the pool, flowing into hours and hours of music and dancing and ended with rainy walks, blistered feet and long talks in the woods. Four large tents filled the space with constant music, two along the lake shore and two more hidden amongst the forest. Dreamy! Here are some more captured moments, enjoy!


If the sun had popped out a bit longer you can bet we'd definitely taken the chance to float in the lake while listening to the music play on and on. A few degrees warmer and no doubt the rain would have made a massive muddy dance party but no one seems interested (or warm enough) to peal back all their layers, myself included.


Tasty bites from the food trucks: Veggie gyros for lunch and mini donuts for a midnight snack!


Midsummer's Eve one night and the Super Moon on the next! Nature is simply magical.


It rained. A lot.  


Camping life. Nothing beats a few days in the open air, sleeping under the stars!


Morning view from our tent, waking up in nature makes me happy.

 Since the festival itself sold out I suppose it's not much of a secret anymore but I can't wait to go back. Goodbye, festival life, see you next year!

 Wishing you a happy and hopefully sunny weekend. Do you have any great festival memories? Feel free to share them! In the mean time, you can keep up with me on instagram (@lilywanderlust) 

A few days in Paris: Panoramas

I know, I know, it's kind of taking me a while to get through all of my Paris posts from our trip this spring but that's not for lack of trying. I average about 50 hour work weeks and soak up most of my socializing on weekends and if the weather's nice (hurry up, summer!) my motivation for spending more time behind the computer time shrinks significantly. But then again, if I weren't so busy living life I probably wouldn't have much to share on this little ole blog of mine, right??! So, here we are back to reflecting on a few days in Paris...

As part of my 27th birthday celebration, I headed to Paris this spring with one of my best friends from back home. It was her first trip to Europe and I'm happy to report that in the end, she liked Amsterdam better than Paris! I swear, it didn't take me twisting her arm for that one, ha! 

Many of you are well aware (thanks to my complaints about it feeling like autumn in May) that the weather this spring has been borderline terrible. We had snow in APRIL, come on! But, we made the best of our girls trip despite the cold, rain and grey skies. We trekked around Paris, caught up on life and made frequent stops to rest our aching feet and warm up over lattes and macarons. Nothing wrong with that but a little more warmth and sunshine would have been very much appreciated.

There's just something special about Parisian cityscapes and panoramic snapshots seemed to capture it quite nicely. Enjoy! 






Ending with our one and only blue skied, sunny day which we spent wandering around Montmartre. I'l post more about that day soon, promise! Happy Travel Tuesday, feel free to share your links below too. 

For the love of Instagram

This morning, while sipping coffee and flipping through a few of my favorite blogs, I spotted this article featuring a documentary about Instagram. As somewhat of an Instagram addict myself, I made sure to watch the flick online and found it interesting enough to share. Instagram is not only a creative inspiration but also my favorite way of sharing bits and pieces of life online (that are often featured on this blog of mine!)

Social media continues to amaze (and at times overwhelm) me daily but Instagram is definitely one of the most influential platforms that's clearly reflected throughout the experience of others. A common theme throughout the film is community and that's exactly where I fall within the realm of using social media. 

For me, Instagram is a simple, magical tool for capturing and sharing daily moments. 
Living abroad has changed the dynamics of my friendships so immensely and social media whether it's keeping up with old friends back home or connecting with new pals around the world.


"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it." 
-Roald Dahl

I've always had a passion for film photography and although it would be fantastic to find darkroom access here in Amsterdam (any suggestions, friends??). Today's technology has formed another  medium for sharing meaningful moments, unexpected adventures and small lovely bits of the day. That's exactly why I love this app as much as I do! 

Here are a few of personal favorite snaps from my account (@lilywanderlust)
You can follow along here 


Do you find yourself posting constantly or does it freak you out to have so much shared online? My Dutchman is completely uninterested in social media (that's why you'll never see him on my blog) but I'm kind of in the middle. I love photography and keeping in touch with my friends but sometimes I'd like to share a moment but only specifically with others and in that case, I'll skip uploading it because the timeless online archive kind of weirds me out and sometimes I wonder what will happen our digital bazaar in the future (eak!) but that's a discussion for another day...

So, what are your thoughts? Are you an Instagram fan too or do you have another favorite?
Is there something specific which inspires you to share online? I'd love to know!