The Netherlands is currently enjoying a burst of warm weather. Im sure this will be short lived, so I have been doing my best to get outside as much as possible. Today, my dad, stepmom and I took the loveliest bike ride through an old village along the Amstel river. The village we visited is called Ouderkerk, and it has homes that date back to the 17th century. It might be one of my favourite spots in Holland. It is echt gezellig – a common Dutch term, which is not easily translated, but can mean something like cozy, beautiful and charming. From there, we continued along the Amstel until we stumbled upon a pumpkin farm! The woman who owned it was giving out samples of fresh pumpkin soup, so we had to stop. Not only was the soup amazing, but we took home some little pumpkins so we could experiment with our own recipes. Today was perfect. Family, food and adventure.
When you get caught up in routine it can be so easy to neglect the little beauties around you. I have been biking to work for a month now, and everyday I pass incredible scenery that I don’t take even one second to appreciate. Here I am, in such a beautiful country for only one more month, and I’m letting it all fly by me. So, for the past week I have been leaving early for work so I could ride along slowly and appreciate all of the wonderful nature that surrounds me. Its been very relaxing and calming. I get to work feeling refreshed and lighter inside. There is something really magical about the sun bouncing off of the canals. When it is sunny in Amsterdam, it is truly a miraculous sight. The canals sparkle, the flowers seem brighter, and the cobblestones reflect dark red and brown tones that you can’t see on a cloudy day. With one month left here, I need to soak up every second. Even if you have been living in a city for your whole life, it is still important to take it slowly and appreciate the beauty it has to offer. I promise it will be the perfect way to start your morning. Nothing puts you in a better mood than realizing how lucky you are.
De Parade is a travelling theatre that tours through some of the bigger cities across the Netherlands during the summer. Amsterdam is the last stop on the tour. From August 8th until the 24th you can hop over to Martin Luther King Park and check out the shows! There are bands, dancers, actors and of course fantastic food and drinks. Each event costs money, so make sure you look into the performances ahead of time to find out which ones you would like to see. I am a sucker for carnival rides, and the event has this amazing swinging carousel that I knew I just had to go on. Basically, its a rickety old carousel with just a small chain holding you in. As it spins, there are three guys that catch your swing and throw you around to make you spin out of control. It was super dangerous, and tons of fun. I went on with one of my friends and we got an amazing polaroid to take home after. The atmosphere at De Parade is amazing. Since its located inside of a park there are huge trees all around the venue filled with lamps. You grab a cold beer and sit at the tables that are scattered under the lit up trees, and it is truly a perfect evening. This should be on your must-see list if you are visiting Amsterdam during August!
Italy is such an infectious place. Between the food, the wine and the assortment of beautiful people to watch, you are constantly bombarded with an overload of the senses. I have to say, I felt extremely lucky to travel through Italy with Italians. I think it is really difficult to get out of the tourist traps if you are not with Italian speakers. I came across very few people who spoke english, and I have heard from other peoples experiences that sometimes you can get really screwed over as a tourist in Italy. Luckily, I had the complete opposite experience. I met wonderful people and felt warm and welcomed as a result of my Italian travel buddies. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Sicily. Just prior to my trip I had been warned that it was dirty, the people were scammers, and the traffic was terrible. Rather than let this get me down, I thought that I would go in with an open mind and hope for the best. Sicily turned out to be unreal, and I couldn’t have been happier 🙂 We used Syracuse as our base, and then travelled to a few cities that were close by. I would highly recommend using Syracuse as a base for anyone who is thinking about travelling Sicily in the future. It is close to many beautiful towns, and is developed enough to have a city vibe, without the grime and crime of Catania. Also, the Duomo is one of the nicest churches I have seen. It is not done in the Baroque style like many of the churches in the area. Rather, it is mostly stone and wood, and has a very traditional somber feeling. It is breathtaking. I left this trip 5 pounds heavier, and it was totally worth every bite 😉 Local favourites like Arancini, canoli, and pasta alla norma are a must try! Also, eat as much seafood as possible. It is so cheap, and fantastic quality. I think I ate octopus at least once a day. Overall, put Sicily on your travel list if it isn’t already. It is simply amazing.
A lot of people told me that they felt an inexplicable connection to Israel the second they got off the plane. I wasn’t really sure what they meant, but when I got to Tel Aviv I could finally appreciate what they were trying to say. Im not exactly sure what it is about Israel that is so alluring. Maybe its the cultural and religious connection, the immense beauty of the area, or the warm open people that you come across there, but it is definitely something that is hard to describe. I wish I had gotten a chance to explore some of Israel, but I guess you could say that my trip was a truly “local experience”. On my first day there, my friend was working the whole day and night, so I spent my time exploring alone. Normally that would make me feel a little nervous, but anytime I was lost or confused someone would help me out and even walk me to where I needed to go. I explored the Shuk Ha Caramel, and then took a tour of Jaffo. That was my last normal night. The next day Hamas began bombing. The first siren that I heard in Tel Aviv went off when I was alone at my friends apartment. At first I thought I was hearing things, but then I realized what was happening and I quickly got my shoes and ran to the stairwell to wait until the end of the alarm. You always hear two bombs. The first is the rocket, the second is the iron dome intercepting the rocket and bringing them down. I was in complete shock. I was shaking like a leaf when my friends roommate came home. The second she walked in she gave me a huge hug and I began to feel a lot better. After that, you weirdly get used to the sirens. For the remainder of the trip the sirens were going off at least twice a day.
I spent a lot of time indoors so we could have easy access to a bomb shelter, and I kind of felt trapped. Needless to say, it wasn’t the trip I had planned in my mind. Despite that, I met some wonderful people, had a life changing experience (really made me value being alive), and fell in love with Israel. On the night I left, Hamas released a statement saying they would be sending multiple rockets into Tel Aviv at 9 pm. I was visiting a friends place that night, so we ended up staying there for a while since he has a bomb shelter. I was on the porch watching to see if any rockets were being shot down, when I heard the siren. I thought that it was a siren for a different city because it seemed so quite, until I heard a huge bomb go off near the apartment. The weird thing was, I didn’t even feel scared. I went inside, sat in the bomb shelter and waited for things to cool off. Its amazing how fast you can learn to control your fear if you are constantly faced with it. I feel like I have walked away from this experience with more confidence, strength and courage. I hope the next time I get to Israel it is during more peaceful times, but I have no regrets about going. Until then, ill keep Israel in my mind and my heart. See you soon.
I have had an amazing time living in Amsterdam so far. Of course every experience has its highs and lows, but I would like to think that the high points far outweigh the bad. Sometimes Ill be biking home from the city, and Ill just take a look around at all of the beauty, and smile to myself knowing that I was blessed to have had the chance to come here. Last week, my friend Eva stopped by my room and let me know that she saw a Facebook event for a rooftop party with vintage, a DJ and cocktails. Naturally, she didn’t even need to finish explaining the details before I said yes. We went Yesterday afternoon, and met the most amazing people! It was just held on the terrace of a personal residence. The girls made their own cocktails and had a few of their friends do the DJing. Eva scored a few great items, and I ended up with some nice jewellery as well. What really sold the experience though was the hosts. Genuinely friendly, and such lovely people. After our shopping extravaganza, we went to find a nice patio to sit on. The sun was on full blast, and we ended up in the Jordaan on a boat bar. The boat sits in the canal, so you have a great view! I was so jealous of all of the people passing by on their personal boats, I wanted to jump in. After that, we walked around, got some ice cream and truffles, and just spent the day browsing little boutiques. It was the perfect way to spend a sunny day in Amsterdam. I was happy as a clam.
Have you ever been somewhere in the world and instantly felt a connection? As though a tiny piece of your heart was always living there, just waiting for you to finally come and find it. I felt that way when I travelled to Kauai. I don’t know what it is about that place, but It really resonated with my soul. I just felt an overwhelming feeling of peace. I think I could live in a shanty, but if it was in Kauai I would still be happy. I loved the food, the mountains, the water, the smell. Everyday I dream about being back in Kauai, I really fell deeply in love. I hope that I can live there, even if temporarily, at some point in my life. I know its calling my name, and I need to go back and say hello.
If you are in the Netherlands during spring the tulip fields are a must see! You can either treat yourself to some fancy gardens, aka The Keukenhof, or you can hop in a car and go explore for yourself. My family and I opted for the second option, and it did not disappoint! We found a few different fields that were open and the farmers didn’t mind you coming in to take pictures. It is really incredible to see the tulips all perfect in lineups according to their colours. It is such a magical view. Even just seeing it from the road is beautiful, but it is much better to get up close and personal. My favourite type of tulips are the parrot tulips, they have a fusion of colour on them, rather than just solid colour. I would highly recommend purchasing some parrot tulips, they are really special. The Dutch have really mastered the art of tulip planting, try to catch the growing season if you are making a trip to the Netherlands!
Sometimes you need to stop and smell the cherry blossoms. Amsterdam has a fairly large Japanese Diaspora. In 2000, the Japanese Womens Club donated 400 cherry blossom trees to the city of Amstelveen. Half of the trees were named after Japanese women, and the other half was given Dutch women’s names. A portion of these trees make up the large garden in Amsterdamse Bos. I went with my family to go visit the garden this weekend, and unfortunately we had caught the tail end of the cherry blossoms blooming. Cherry blossoms have an incredibly short season, so by the time we visited, they were already white and on the end of their life. But alas, it was nonetheless beautiful. Amsterdam hasn’t really experienced any sort of winter this year, so the blossoms came out much earlier than normal. Usually, the blossoms only begin to start coming out around this time. If you are ever in Amsterdam during March or April, I would recommend heading over to Amsterdamse Bos to enjoy the trees, it is an experience you won’t regret!
Arriving in Fes was like stepping into a dream. We were taken deep into the heart of the Medina, where our Riad was located, and were ushered into a house that looked like it came out of Arabian Nights. The Riad has blue and yellow tiles that line the floors and walls, huge wooden doorways with detailed carvings, and an open ceiling to let in the light and fresh air, It was beyond gorgeous.
We explored the city of Fes, stumbling upon some beautiful lookout points that captured the whole city and the mountains, and ate our fair share of Tagine. We spent time smoking shisha on our terrace, and taking in the smells and sounds of the city. Fes was a pretty magical part of our trip. After that, we moved on to our guided tour towards the desert. We spent so much time in the car, but that is the reality when you are travelling through half of the country. I think ideally, the tour that we took should be done in 4 days, instead of 3, but we still enjoyed ourselves. We took a camel ride through the desert and into a traditional Berber camp. We spent the night by a fire and stayed up staring at the most stars I have ever seen in my life. Then we woke up bright and early to catch the sunrise over the dunes.
Following our Sahara visit we went to go see the Todarah Gorge which is located on the other side of Morocco. We finished our trip in the city of Ouarzazate. Here we saw some ancient Berber settlements, and explored some of the movie sets where shows like Game of Thrones are filmed. Then, we finally ended up in Marrakech! Marrakech is a bristling city, that is more modern than Fes. While it had its own charms, I think I still enjoyed Fes more. We walked around the city, sat on terraces and enjoyed some Moroccon Whiskey (mint tea and spices, and huge serving of sugar) and visited the Souks to try out our haggling skills.
Overall, the trip really couldn’t have been better. I feel like I got a chance to soak in the culture, eat some tasty street food, and enjoy the different cities in Morocco. I would recommend giving Morocco a visit if you are looking for something a little bit different, but still not completely off the grid 🙂