Weekend Wrap Up

Hi there. I’m feeling under the weather today, so I’m sorry if this post lacks my normal enthusiam. “Under the weather” couldn’t be more appropriate right now. Our weather in Amsterdam has been AMAZING the past two weeks. Actually amazing. And I’m certainly not feeling amazing so I suppose I am, indeed, under it. But let’s talk weekend, shall we? I had a friend visiting from the U.S. and it was good to talk about how everyone is doing at home and share how things are going over here.

On Friday when she arrived, we took a nice long walk around Museumplein, over to Leidesplein and up & around to Rembrandtplein. Lots o’ pleins (which really just means square in Dutch). All this walking just means we earned our dinner at Bazar, one of my faves, and then we rolled home.

On Saturday, it was another gorgeous day, so we hopped on a Canal Bus Tour (my third time, but who’s counting?). As much as I love the architecture of my city, it was also the perfect day to stare up at this:

But also see our crazy juxtaposition of these:

Het IJ.

We, of course, also stopped in the Lindengrachtmarkt for lunch, so I could say hi to my favorite Hot Meat men.

After a long day in the warm sun, we thought there is no better way to end it than with this:

Enjoying my roof with a friend.

And after considerable chatting up there, it continued down here:

Evening stroll

Sunday rolled around and we took another walk. This time through Vondelpark and around the Pijp, stopping for lunch at another favorite haunt, De Duvel.

Sometimes, quiet weekends are just what you need. And, sometimes, they are even just what I need.

xxx

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An Expatriate Guide: Travel

When I first moved to Europe, having only made three trips here previously, I was full of wonder and excitement. I was READY TO TRAVEL. And why not? It’s okay. I’d even say it’s expected. I’ve always considered myself to be adventurous. But, I was also a wee bit naive (like my Why aren’t those eggs in refrigerators? moment). And that’s okay too. There was, and still is, so much to learn, discover and explore.

Since our move seven months ago, I have racked up visits to 10 countries. Not too shabby. That is absolutely, without a doubt, hands down (or up, waving wildly) the biggest perk about being an American living in Europe. The possibilities for travel are endless. After planning that many trips in a short amount of time, I’ve learned some stuff. Here are my top three revelations:

  1. Living “like a local” is unique and cheap. We realized early on that we want to have a local experience while also looking for deals. Whether it’s risking our life in a tin can taking advantage of the discount airlines, finding a reliable hotel bargain, or shopping for meals rather than eating out, there are plenty of ways to save cash. Saving cash = more money for more trips. For housing, we started using rental sites like Housetrip and Airbnb to book our accommodations and finding that we very much prefer it to hotels. It’s never quite the Four Seasons, but that’s not a priority for us. We want to be OUT of the room as much as possible. If that’s your jam, go you. For us, staying in a home, we can make our own coffee and meals to save a bit of cash (bonus: you get to poke around local grocery stores which I love). Every property has pictures, so you know exactly what you are getting. And, I don’t know, there’s something nice about coming back to a home rather than a hotel room. So you can have this for dinner without a shred of guilt:For meals, same thing. While it’s always lovely to dine in Michelin-star restaurants, why not try the street food from the cart in the square? We have had some of our most memorable meals that way. In a good way! It also scores you points with the locals when they see you are willing to give them a chance. So go ahead, try the snails! (Whether you survive or not is your problem.)
  2. Try off season travel. I stress try. This has good and bad qualities. When it comes to traveling during the winter, it’s just not my fave. I don’t prefer to sight-see when everything is dead.Because you know what I always say? Ooh, I need to come back when the weather is nicer. I don’t like being completely bundled a la Randy from A Christmas Story when walking around a new city. Does this mean I won’t travel when the weather is less than perfect? Of course not. A cold trip is still better than no trip. Depending on where you go, this could work to your advantage. Sometimes this means that hotels and airlines have reduced rates, or maybe you get attention from local restaurant and shops owners and end up getting some great personal advice about what to do and see (it’s happened to me and was great). Then again, hotels might be closed up altogether or restaurants are annoyed to have to wait on you, the only patron in the restaurant, when there is a soccer match on tv (it’s happened to me and was depressing). You might as well try.
  3. Be open to unexpected destinations. While it’s natural gravitate toward famous cities (such as Barcelona Paris) or famous natural wonders (like the Cliffs of Moher or the Sahara Desert), I’m convinced that every place on earth has its charm and deserves a chance. This is what is so great about being an expat, everything is new and exciting. Even little towns around the Netherlands like Haarlem, Delft or Zandvoort are lovely. It’s important to be open to places you may never have paid attention to before expat life. Like in my case, Moscow. Moscow wasn’t high on my list of places to visit. But since Jaro had some meetings there, I jumped on the free hotel room and spent my days wandering around. Why not? There is beauty everywhere and living over here affords you so many opportunities to see it. And sometimes it’s in places where you least expect it. Like Moscow’s metro stations:

So, what do you think? Are there other expats out there that share this joy in discovering a new place and general love of travel? I feel like I could write a book about my ramblings on this subject (maybe I should!) or at least continue to expand upon it in future posts. To be continued…

xxx

Weekend Wrap Up

Hey friends. So last week, I was really jazzed about doing this weekly post. Until I really didn’t do much this weekend and don’t have anything to write about… Awkward silence.

Okay, that’s not true. I did do stuff. I do things when my husband travels for work and I don’t tag along. When you live in a foreign country and are not planning on ever currently working, there is no excuse. There is always something new and cool to check out. I will write a separate post about my thoughts on traveling while being an expat wife this week actually. Stay tuned!

So Thursday (my weekends can start when I want them to). Thursday started my weekend. I saw the forecast, saw a bright, sunny sun, and 15 degree temps, so I headed to a popular warm weather destination here is the Netherlands – Scheveningen. This coastal town, just a skip from Den Haag, is our very own version of the Jersey Shore. No, I don’t mean Snooki or MTV, I mean a huge boardwalk filled with tons of sidewalk cafes and lots of activities for the kiddies. Tons of people were strolling around (on a Thursday, suspiciously), and enjoying the sunshine. Like this scene in picture #1:

Scheveningen's beachside cafes

And this is just the very end of the boardwalk. It stretched quite a ways in the other direction (aka: In the direction of the sun. aka: Horrible front-lit photos.) Notice how huge the beach is also? Can’t wait to party here in the summer!

On Friday night, I had some girlfriends over for dinner and cooked the delicious feast seen in picture #2:

Dinner with friends

You can’t tell because I didn’t spend the time to take a decent picture, but it’s stuffed chicken & baked goat cheese salad with bacon-wrapped scallops and a gigantic plate of cheese. Yum!

Saturday was a bit of a bust for me. I’ll admit it. I just wasn’t feeling like going out and the inevitable consequences I would have to deal with on Sunday. So what did I do instead? Maybe picture #3 is a hint:

The Blue Mosque

No, I didn’t escape town for the day, I booked a new trip! That’s right – Jaro & I are going to Istanbul, Turkey! After experiencing the incredible culture of Morocco that I wrote about at length here, here & here, I’m so curious about and excited to visit another Muslim country. Jaro has been there and swears I’ll love it, which makes me that much more pumped. We’re going at the end of April, which I hear is a great time to go. Yay!

Sunday I woke up at 8am. Feeling refreshed, excited and, guess what, not hungover! So I hopped on my bike and pedaled off to Vondelpark and the city was the quietest I have EVER seen it. Pure bliss. It was a bit soggy outside, but I managed to snap this beautiful shot for picture #4:

Spring has sprung in Amsterdam!

When I actually love on my camera a bit, it loves me back! I then had lunch with one of my high school teachers who is also an expat in Europe. It’s incredible to me to have these new connections and re-connections with people here (as in, across the pond) from my life back home. Gives me that good “it’s a small world after all” feeling. Love it.

So there you have it. My weekend wrap up. Did you all have a good weekend? Anyone else out there flying solo and making the best of it?

xxx

Penne with goat cheese cream sauce

Image

Yum!

Made this looker recently based on a recipe I had talked about here. Instead of rigatoni, I used whole wheat penne. Much healthier and you can’t really taste the difference! I just notice the texture is a little different in whole-wheat pasta, but that is not a big deal. Also, I jazzed this up with some sauteed mushrooms & green beans and some shredded roasted chicken. Roasted chicken sounds fancy, but it isn’t. Trust me. All I did was throw it (“it” being three whole chicken breasts) in a baking dish, coat with olive oil, red pepper flakes, S&P, and lemon slices. Then, you bake it for about 45 minutes at 160 Celsius. Viola. Finito. This is a good meal to make a huge batch of and then eat for lunch for the next day rest of the week!

xxx

Weekend Wrap Up

Hi there. This is the first installment (hopefully not the last) of our weekend adventuring. We do things. Go out. Eat stuff. See stuff. I thought it might be fun to have this standing post each Monday-ish to share what we were up to during the end of the week. And I’m going to attempt to do so in not enough too many four pictures.

On Friday night, we tried out a restaurant in our ‘hood – The White Elephant. It was good. Really good. We will be back.

On Saturday, we headed out to explore some of North Holland that we haven’t seen before. Leading us to picture #1:

Boring picture until you realize I'm driving manually. Then it becomes terrifying.

I have driven stick before in my life (like twice) and this was my first time behind the wheel of any vehicle (other than a bicycle) in over 6 months. Hence the terrifying aspect of this photo. Jaro displayed a patience even I didn’t know he had. Wonder who will teach our kids to drive? Anyway, I got a lot of practice and feel great about it! Can’t wait for more road trips.

After one or two stalls in the parking lot We headed out to a nearby town called Beverwijk to see its HUMUNGOUS weekend market. Seriously, I read that 80,000 people visit this market in an average weekend. Dat be HUGE! Anyway, it was a strange place, which leads us to picture #2:

Manicure, anyone?

Shops used displays such as this to lure (?) customers in for a manicure. I’m sorry, what? Okay, I’ll go ahead and get the British flag, thanks. The best part about the market other than these tips was the Asian food market. We picked up a ton of gems like Sriracha hot sauce, ginger beer, peanut snacks and rice noodles. I’d go back just for that store.

Moving on, we headed to Edam. Cute, quaint Edam. Right up there with Delft in terms of charm. Which leads us to awe-inducing picture #3:

Teeny bridge in Edam

We wandered around this town for a couple hours wondering where all the people were. It was like the entire town was sleeping. And on a Saturday. Need to re-visit in the summer.

After driving through farmland with more windmills than you can count and small towns like Alkmaar & De Rijp, we headed back to Amsterdam. A quick bite at Bazar (unusually quick, we only had an appetizer and beer) and that was enough. Goodnight.

On Sunday, we got going early (again, with me behind the wheel!) and headed south to Maastricht. This medieval town in the very tip of the Netherlands still has intact 13th century fortification walls around parts of the city. Very cool! Here we enjoyed a lunch at Bisschopsmolen, a bakery that still used a working watermill for power, followed by afternoon beers at In Den Ouden Vogelstruys, with pretty views of Sint Servaasbasiliek, which you can somewhat see in picture #4:

Sunny afternoon beers in Maastricht

We arrived back in Amsterdam late last night. BEAT. Worth it as we had a chance to discover all sorts of new parts of this incredible country we live in. We had a blast! And it was nice to just hang out together. Even though we moved out here on our own, I still don’t feel like we do that enough. I hope everyone had a weekend just as fulfilling as ours!

xxx