Monday Travel Memory: Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Over two years ago now (which I cannot believe), I choked out a tearful goodbye to life as I knew it in the United States. With one way tickets in our sweaty hands, my husband and I boarded a flight to our new home. Amsterdam. Stepping on that plane was a turning point. I’m forever changed because of it.

I reflect on our time in Amsterdam often. How in love with it I became (and still am). Yet the way that I think about it is completely different from the other cities and countries I merely visited and took vacations. When traveling, I was always looking for the extraordinary. The fabulous. The unexpected. The downright thrilling. For those reasons and so many more, I continue to travel.

But for Amsterdam I have a different sentiment. Why? Initially it was all those things. Extraordinary. Fabulous. Unexpected. And yes, downright thrilling. But as I settled in and became more comfortable, what I truly appreciated was the ordinary. It was everyday life. So wonderful and pleasant and… normal.

That’s what makes this memory different from all the others. It wasn’t the grandiose whirlwind of museum-browsing, guided tour-shuffling or extravagant dining that I remember so fondly. It was the falafel from the shop down the street that we would eat messily as we walked the half block home because we just couldn’t wait. It was the cheap wine we would drink as we sat in our window, legs dangling. It was going on dates by riding those rickety, old cruisers. Sometimes rather that ride my own, I would sit on Jaro’s rack, one arm casually draped around his waist, watching the cobblestone whiz by under my feet. It was the predictable weekend market where we would get the same lunch every single Saturday. From the same two dudes that ran the booth.

It was all the things we had to explore, learn and discover that only could have been done by actually living there. Like any seasoned traveler would tell you- Ask the café server what they order. Ask the store clerk where they go for nightlife. Always ask a local. In my own way, I became one. 

The way I came to appreciate Amsterdam has changed my view of the world. For the better, I would think. My gratitude for the way other people live their ordinary lives is something I have taken with me and carry in my heart. I may have left Amsterdam, but Amsterdam hasn’t left me. It never will.

(These are some photos from our final days there.)

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

xxx

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Monday Travel Memory: Cinque Terre

Hey kids. It’s been awhile. A solid three month absence. Sometimes it’s good to take some distance from stuff, even stuff we love, to come back with better focus and energy. Right? It’s been nice to have some space and not spend so much time at the computer. Sounds like a legit excuse. Maybe nobody even noticed. 

And maybe you did. I know I miss writing on here and sharing bits of our sometimes interesting life. So why the long held breath? This had a little something to do with it:

This is Flinck.

This is Flinck.

Yes, we adopted a tiny puppy from the shelter where I volunteer (Oregon Humane Society). His name is Flinck, in honor of the street we lived on in Amsterdam (Govert Flinckstraat). And, not that I’m biased, he’s the best. 

But back to the topic at hand. As August hit, I realized that I have not been swimming or have even donned a swimsuit this summer. That’s just not right. To me, that’s the quintessential summer experience that I have not had this year. Too many house projects and other commitments have consumed our time. Bummer. Summer bummer.

This had led to some serious reminiscing. About this time last year, we took our summer vacation to Italy. Twelve months and some crazy life changes later, I’m still enchanted. And amazed at just how much Italy has to offer. Oh, Italy. What can I possibly say about you that hasn’t been said before? From your bustling streets in Roma, to the rolling hills of Tuscany, to your seaside luxury in Sorrento, to your decayed elegance in Venice, you truly have it all. And you have more. And on top of all that, you have this glorious little region known as the Cinque Terre.

I know I shared this trip with you before, but it’s fun to look at the pictures with fresh eyes and see the beauty anew. Sometimes I sit here and pinch myself because I cannot believe we were there. While far from a luxurious resort getaway (you lay out on rocks to sunbathe after all), it was the perfect break from reality for my husband and me.

When we arrived, I was instantly smitten with the colorful structures nestled into the rocky cliffs rising from the Ligurian Sea. It was magical. As we walked the narrow “streets” (they can hardly be called streets as barely a moped could squeeze through), you could smell the salty sea and catch whiffs of a grandmother’s sauce on the stove.

Each morning, we would wake up in our tiny room, head out for coffee and fresh fruit, then spend the days alternating between sunbathing on rocks and exploring the twisty streets in each of the five towns. Below are some more pictures that I didn’t include in my original write up. Those initial pictures captured little moments that I felt (at the time) best depicted our experience. Looking back, I realize I didn’t share much of the actual towns or the panoramas that created the wonderful backdrop to all those fried fish cones we devoured. Here you go:

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza

The trail that connects the towns

the trail that connects the towns

Montorosso

Montorosso

Montorosso

Montorosso’s beach scene

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Kiss!

Kiss! along the trail

sunset from Manarola

sunset from Manarola

Manarola at dusk

Manarola at dusk

happy tree in Corniglia

a happy tree in Corniglia

pretty door in Corniglia

a pretty door in Corniglia

Corniglia

Corniglia

Corniglia

Vernazza

a "street" in Vernazza

a “street” in Vernazza

Negroni & Aperol Spritz for happy hour

Negroni & Aperol Spritz for happy hour

5am quiet

5am quiet in Vernazza

Vernazza at night

Vernazza at night

Our trip to the Cinque Terre was one of my favorite vacations. Ever. These pictures make me want to be back there immediately. August, while brimming with tourists, is still a great time to go. Now if only I could find my bathing suit…

xxx

Monday Travel Memory: Swiss Forgiveness

A few months ago, Jaro and I took a impromptu two week road trip through Europe. I wrote about Switzerland. Specifically, how I pretty much hated it. It’s funny to look back on those thoughts in retrospect. I mean, what a drama queen. Yes, it was shockingly expensive. Yes, I thought I was going to die when I went paragliding in Interlaken. But now, I realize how little those things mattered in the grand scheme of things. Okay, well maybe fearing for my life does sort of matter… but as much as I complained, I trusted. I lived. Why couldn’t I just let it go? Not be that annoying American tourist (cringe) complaining about money all the time? Just forgive and enjoy?

Now that we have our desktop up and running, I scrolled through the pictures from that portion of the trip and am blown away by the stunning beauty everywhere we turned in that country. And how lucky I am to have lived close enough to go.

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Lakeside in Montreux, Switzerland

Lakeside in Montreux, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Gruyere, Switzerland

J+J in Gruyere, Switzerland

Gruyere, Switzerland

Gruyere, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

Outside Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Outside Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Lungern, Switzerland

Lungern, Switzerland

Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne, Switzerland

Countryside, Switzerland

Countryside, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Me enjoying Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Matterhorn, Switzerland

Matterhorn, Switzerland

I truly only have wonderful memories about our time in Switzerland. I don’t remember the expense. I don’t remember if the food was mediocre. I don’t remember other negatives. I only look back on it warmly. With nostalgia. Sometimes you (okay, I) need time to realize things aren’t as bad as they seem. I strongly, highly, totally 100% recommend visitors to Europe to include Switzerland. Don’t have the attitude I did. Just enjoy it. Switzerland, I forgive you for your (very few) flaws. I hope you forgive me.

xxx

Monday Travel Memory: Just All Of It

Fiji

Me in Fiji

Barcelona

Me in Barcelona

Istanbul, Turkey

Me in Istanbul

Kiev, Ukraine

Me in Kiev, Ukraine

Sahara Desert, Morocco

Me in the Sahara Desert

 San Gimignano, Italy

Me in San Gimignano

Sorry for the radio silence the past few days (weeks? I don’t even know what day it is).

I wish I could combine, in some way sum up, all the travel I have ever done in my life for this travel reflection. To keep this from getting out of control, I cut it down to these six similar images. It’s funny, all these pictures are all quiet moments I had while traveling over the past couple years. (Thanks for the shots, Jaro.) What’s funny about them is I can’t believe those are all of me. I mean, it looks like me. It’s my bod. I do not really remember being there. But all of it seems like a distant dream, a lifetime ago, something that may never really have actually happened but just been fabricated by my overactive imagination, when really it has only been a few months. Why?

Because I am now a homeowner.

Every single one of my thoughts is focused on this darn house. Every waking moment, I’m consumed by ideas for how to address the storage problem in our bedroom; deciding the right shade of paint color in our living room; getting those last few moving boxes out of our dining room. And don’t get me started on the renovation we want to start immediately on the bathroom.

Is this what happens? Instead of sitting on the floor daydreaming about trips to foreign lands, imagining myself sprawled on a deserted beach, dwarfed in a towering forest or lost in a crowded city, I’m distracted by the dust bunny in the corner and scramble over to catch it. Or find myself wondering how that little scratch got into the hardwoods and what I can do to fix it. Or sit there and go back to my paint color debate… It’s taking over 100% of my brain space. Is this what having a baby is like?

If so, I don’t think I’m ready.

Don’t worry – I’m not adding a pregnancy announcement to this post or likely any one soon. The house is enough for now. Still. I can’t believe how energy-zapping it is. How tired I am. How drained. And alarmed that my priorities have shifted so much. Not that it’s a bad thing. I’m proud we own a house. Right now, it’s just taking over my every waking thought a little time-consuming.

One saving grace: After 5 months of being apart, of living in other people’s spaces or the hollow hole of corporate housing, we are now reunited with our trinkets, big and small, from all of our travels. I finally dusted off that old globe from the Russian flea market and lovingly draped the blanket haggled from a Moroccan souk over a chair. I see these things and all the others, and smile. I’m pretty lucky to have visited a lot of incredible places.

Home may be here in Portland, but it is also all over the world.

Here’s to quiet moments, wherever they are. Here’s to being (finally) settled. And yet, here’s to re-igniting the little fire inside that beckons – but there’s so much more. 

xxx

P.S. One time I wrote about my favorite souvenirs.

Monday Travel Memory: Kauai

It’s spring break here in Portland and traffic was noticeably lighter this morning. Where is everyone? Oh, I know – HAWAII. I’d give anything to be on a warm beach right now. Anything except our house, that is. Alas, since we are moving into our house this coming weekend (oh my god, can you believe it?!) a proper spring break was not in the cards this year.

Jaro and I have been to Kauai together twice and are furiously itching to get back there again soon, especially now that it’s one short flight away. I won’t go into all the reasons why it is special (at least not in this post), suffice to say it’s one of our favorite places in the world for many, many reasons.

I took the photo below on our first visit back in 2008, when we hiked along the Kalalau Trail and soaked up the views of the incredible NaPali Coast. The sheer beauty of the island is truly awe-inspiring and this is one of the few instances in my life where I simply don’t have the words to describe it. Nothing seems to do it justice.NaPali Coast, KauaiIsn’t it… right?! Where are the words! Dumbstruck. It will have to hold me over until we figure out our life get settled enough to focus on a vacation.

To everyone on spring break – enjoy!! 

 

xxx

 

Monday Travel Memory: The Sea

Hey all! It’s a sunny Monday and we are officially within the two week mark until we move into our house. After a great weekend, I can’t be anything but excited as we enter this final stretch getting into our home. We’ve been literally displaced for four and a half months now and emotionally displaced for eight and a half. I am so ready to feel settled. Beyond ready. Let’s be real.

For this Monday travel memory, I have a confession to make: I am totally awe-struck by the ocean. Anybody else? My entire life, I have felt this compelling urge drawing me to it. For awhile, I was even considering being a marine biologist and I’m pretty sure it’s because I thought I could play in the water everyday with dolphins or something.

Maybe it’s due to my upbringing in the Midwest; I was far, far away from any coastline and it always felt like this magical, imaginary place that I was lucky enough to see once a year when we would take family trips down to Florida. It was special.

Lake Michigan, while great (get it?), was not the same. It was not enough. And now, I live 90 minutes away from the Pacific Coast here in Oregon. We have gone out to it twice (here and here). Still, when I see signs on the highway pointing to “Ocean Beaches” I can’t help but do a double-take. Oh yeah, it’s right down the road.

As a kid, I loved playing in the sand, collecting shells, chasing crabs. As a teenager, I loved laying out under the sun, listening to TLC and N’Sync refined musical selections on my discman; my skin getting so fried to a crisp tanned that I was unrecognizable. As an adult, I do those things (now with strong SPF), but also just stare out and watch the waves. Feeling small. I know I can only speak for myself, but I tend to have a big personality (probably to make up for my petite size). Sitting and staring out at the ocean, is humbling in a way. You can’t help but feel small.

Pula, Croatia

This photo was taken one early morning on the rocky shores when we road-tripped through Croatia. I think as I age, I become more and more captivated by the sea. I can sit there in total stillness for hours. Mesmerized. So how fitting is this shot? A quiet moment of calm at the insanely gorgeous Croatian coastline near Pula. Wish I could be back there.

xxx

Monday Travel Memory: Paris

Notre Dame, Paris

It might be cliché, but I truly believe there is no place like Paris. It remains one of my favorite cities in the world. No matter what season, it still captivates. In the few times I have visited, I loved finding new angles of famous structures (like this one of a wintery Notre Dame) and exploring some of the lesser known areas to escape from tourist routes. Exactly one year ago, we were there with my parents. One of my favorite memories was tucking into a tiny, candle-lit bistro in the chic Levallois-Perret neighborhood for a beautiful and classic French meal. We were lucky enough to be celebrating my mom’s birthday there.

I will always treasure those great memories. And while it can’t be Paris every year, I’m still wishing my mom a very happy birthday today.

xxx

Monday Travel Memory: Dutch Countryside

Happy Monday, kids. Is Monday ever really happy though? It’s not a happy one for me. I’m sick. Again. Just got back from California on Saturday (can’t wait to share that trip with you!), and felt like I was log-rolling into another cold yesterday and it was confirmed this morning.

So. While watching terrible day time tv in bed, I was going through the few photos I have on this computer and came across these beauties. Jaro took them when he was on a boat ride with co-workers and you can clearly tell the higher quality of these photos with our fancy lens. I usually avoid hauling it around (it is extremely heavy), but after looking at these pics, I think I have to.

Doesn’t the Dutch countryside look so peaceful?

Dutch Countryside Dutch Countryside

Dutch Countryside Makes me miss living in Holland. If I ever move back, I want to live in that house.

xxx

 

 

Monday Travel Memory: Kiev

Kiev, UkraineHard to believe it has been over seven months since we were in Ukraine. I still love this night shot showcasing the decayed glamour on Kreshchatyk.

And now, here I am in Portland. Heading to Oakland/San Francisco tomorrow to escape the rain and I see that I’m bringing the rain with me (hopefully just for one day).

Figures.

xxx

Monday Travel Memory: California

I’m going back to Cali, Cali, Cali.

That’s right dudes! My first “trip” out west is heading down the coast to visit my bud, Marisa, in the bay area next week. She’s the darling that braved two weeks in Eastern Europe with me. Hopefully, I get to see some other wonderful friends living down there too.

The last time I was down there was back in 2010, which seems like ages ago. Marisa has been living out there for years and we awesomely (stupidly?) decided to road trip out west from Chicago to San Francisco to haul both her car and adorable dog out there. I should write about that adventure sometime…

Anyway, I love the bay. I love Muir Beach (even though it was freezing in July, what the heck), that foggy view of the Golden Gate, strolling down the waterfront in Sausalito, grabbing drinks (and late night burritos) in the Mission, and of course, ice cream from Bi-Rite. All my pictures are on my computer… which I don’t have yet… and won’t for another 40 days or so… so trust me. I’ve been there. And I love it.

More on my upcoming trip soon. Sorry I didn’t write much last week. I was having a rough one and just wasn’t up for it.

xxx