Cherry Blossoms in Vondelpark

As expected, spring in Holland is synonymous with expansive, colorful tulip fields but it’s actually the earlier blooming cherry blossoms that mark the arrival of spring here in Amsterdam. This batch of cherry blossoms first caught my eye during an afternoon walk through Vondelpark. It seems they arrived a bit earlier in the year than expected but that’s just fine with me!

Amsterdam Vondelpark Spring Cherry Blossoms 2019 © Lily Heaton-7.jpg

After a long, cold winter, spring attempted to arrive early this year—can you believe that we enjoyed a few bursts of warm, sunny days as early as February (!?) only to follow with long stretches of grey, bleak skies and chilly winds. Fortunately, this combination must have been exactly enough sunshine to wake up the sleeping cherry blossoms. Towards the end of March, an explosion of sakura popped up around the city and soon enough, a few of Amsterdam’s parks were taken over with fluffy pink blooms!

Amsterdam Vondelpark Spring Cherry Blossoms 2019 © Lily Heaton-11.jpg
Amsterdam+Vondelpark+Spring+Cherry+Blossoms+2019+%C2%A9+Lily+Heaton-24.jpg
Amsterdam Vondelpark Spring Cherry Blossoms 2019 © Lily Heaton-1.jpg
Amsterdam-Vondelpark-Spring-Cherry-Blossoms-2019 © Lily Heaton.jpg
Amsterdam Vondelpark Spring Cherry Blossoms 2019 © Lily Heaton-8.jpg
Amsterdam-Vondelpark-Spring-Cherry-Blossoms-2019 © Lily Heaton-22.jpg

Want more? Join the conversation via this post on instagram.



Exploring Marrakech—A feast for the senses

It's a cold, dreary Saturday here in Amsterdam, I'm peeking out the window to grey skies and the sound of fat raindrops hitting my window. It's hard to believe that just a month ago, I was hopping in a taxi at 4am with adventure on my mind and making my way to warm, sunny Morocco.

My destination was Marrakech, where I joined eleven other curious, creative freelance women from the Netherlands, France and South Africa. We met up for six days of exploring, eating, sharing and learning in the sunshine! 

Needless to say, since returning, I've often caught myself daydreaming of the colorful, flavorful moments we experienced—from visiting the gorgeous Jardin Marjorelle, to cooking traditional Moroccan tagine at our riad, exploring the chaotic medina. No trip to Morocco is complete without an awkward camel ride at sunset, right? We did that too! Our retreat was action packed so, I've got plenty of colorful photos and adventure stories share. Let's start by exploring the vibrant city of Marrakech...

The rooftop view during our lunch at Nomad

The rooftop view during our lunch at Nomad

With chilly November in mind, I set out on this journey for inspiration because, let's be honest, winter drains my spirit and escaping for sunshine helps these darker months pass by. As someone who loves to travel and has organized countless of excursions abroad, I was apprehensive to let someone else take the reigns. However, with my over-packed work schedule lately, it turned out to be a blessing. All I had to do was pack and show up, ready to embrace new experiences. In the end, I got out of my comfort zone and everything worked out perfectly thanks to House of Notoire

This was my first visit to the North African country and the best way I can describe Marrakech is a feast for the senses. My expectations we far exceeded—detailed, geometric wood carvings, curvy archways, and colorful, tiled patterns were everywhere we looked. Spicy, earthy scents filled the air as we explored the twisting pathways of the medina with our local guide. 

The medina is the medieval, walled city center of Marrakech and it's a wild beast of its own. Upon first sight, you immediately feel the crazy, at times overwhelming energy— walking the tight alleyways of this clay-walled labyrinth is a feast for the senses. It's bustling with locals, feral, aggressive catcallers, persuasive merchants, bicycles, wagons, children running chasing footballs, and scooters stretching past. I gotta say, the worst parts of this trip were the disgusting creeps on the street and the pandemonium of the Jamaa el Fna market square. I could have done without either but it's a small price to pay for the incredible time we had everywhere else.  

Our riad, Zam Zam, was a short wander through the media and offered a secluded oasis in the midst of the chaotic, dusty city. During the first evening, we laughed and conversed in the courtyard while the smell of smokey incense and sweet oranges filled the air. Some of my favorite memories of the retreat came from the little moments, chatting about our dreams and challenges and soaking up the sun on the rooftop while setting new goals for 2018.

Aside from the obvious opportunity to explore Marrakech (my first time!), my next intention was to engage with other young, female entrepreneurs. I was excited to get to know the other cool, creative ladies and hear their stories. If you've followed this blog for a while, then you know that expat life has never been an easy path for me. After eight years in Amsterdam, I'm finally feeling settled but I’ve paid the price to watch a lot of great friends come and go due to the transient, expat flow of Amsterdam. At times, I’ve experienced an aching void when it comes to connecting with lady friends, cool chicks are hard to find! Needless to say, the wild energy of our group clicked from the start. Plus, the meisjes were graciously patient with my Dutch which, was really flowing on this trip! We quickly bonded and it was evident after just a few short days that strong sisterhood was budding. We were so goofy and comfortable around one another that it made it easy to be open and especially vulnerable during our boss lady workshops. I left Marrakech with recharged energy, inspired mind, and a full heart knowing that there are eleven, fabulous new ladies friends and countless inside jokes that still bring us to tears (Issa honey thing, okrrrrr!)

Curious for more? Check out my photography blog series for The Creative Women Collective: The Flavors of Morocco, Best Back Drop, The Power of Self Reflection and The Connective Power of Travel.

In the mean time, check out the lovely ladies behind House of Notoire, Creative Women Collective, Girls that Grub and Celmatique or take a peek at #honeysinmarrakech on Instagram. 

 

Antwerp City Scenes

Antwerp is a busy metropolis with a cozy feel. With a condensed city center, Antwerp is easy to explore by foot, from extravagant squares to little church courtyards. You'll begin with maze of wide boulevards, condensed down to cobblestone streets filled with tram lines, busy boulevards and dozens of bicycles dashing by.

This chaotic scene slows down once you turn off the main road and step into the small city center. You'll find twisting, quiet streets that are perfect to wander, set to the dramatic backdrop of buildings from the flourishing golden-age.

Amsterdam's Sidewalk Gardens

As a sun-loving Florida gal, it’s no surprise that summertime in Amsterdam holds a special place in my heart. Let's be honest, Dutch summers aren't very reliable for warmth + sunshine (so.much.rain!).  However, this is our little chuck of time to do a sun dance, cross our fingers and hope for the best.  When everything falls into place, tree branches pop with all shades of green, magically transforming the grey and brown bricks of our city into pallets of color and texture when doused in sunlight.  

In every neighborhood, the sidewalks blossom with summer gardens. Here are a few that I caught my eye while wandering the Jordaan on a Saturday...

lilywanderlust-amsterdam-summer-gardens-11.jpg

Windowsills and sidewalks overflow with hollyhocks, roses, lavender, giant sun flowers and Amsterdam's streets bloom with colorful sidewalk gardens, creating a palette of rainbow colors along the canals. 

Summer is the time to be outside and that's exactly where you'll find me! I've been soaking up the (rare) sunshine while people watching on a terrace with a zatte and kaasstengles, roaming the canals for curious scenes and savoring special little moments like reading in the park, sipping bubbles in the garden, watching the bees nibble on pollen. 

Everything and everyone has bloomed to their maximum capacity and that energy radiates throughout the whole city. It's a magical time of year! 

Visit this post on Instagram and join the conversation.