Touching the Surface of Amsterdam

A perk of having friends who live in different cities, is that it gives you the perfect excuse to have a weekend break away! Amsterdam has quickly become a very popular and need I say – an insta famous city. Posing by it’s many bridges or cycling around the city whilst hoping not to get hit by a tram, it’s an easy choice for any 20 something to go visit. Although proceeded by it’s reputation of the red light district and coffee shops, there is so much more to discover. With art, history and culture at it’s core, this picturesque city is a gem in the European crown.

Paying for only a £50 flight from London to Amsterdam, I travelled with another friend who conveniently lived nearby the airport, meaning that waking up at 5am ready for our 7am flight wasn’t so bad after all. By 9am we were in a new city reuniting with one of our oldest friends in a running, jumping and high pitched squealing hug. Meeting at Amsterdam Centraal Station, I took the city in whilst being nearly ironically knocked down by an ambulance. We began the morning by having breakfast at my friend’s home which was located by The 9 Streets, before taking a stroll around the city. I’ve heard it said before, but I can now confirm that Amsterdam really is a great city to just simply enjoy walking around. If you like to potter around little European cities, it’s a must visit!

I wanted to do something true to the city and by true no, I did not mean the coffee shops! Unfortunately with little time, we decided not to tour Anne Frank’s house but paid tribute with a moment of reflection whilst passing it by. My best friend a.k.a. tour guide for the weekend, showed us the highlights of the city. Passing through Rembrandt Square we headed towards Rembrandt Museum to enjoy a bit of art. But with many museums to choose from, Van Gogh being the most famous, we opted for the Banksy Museum which scratched the cultural itch without the hefty price tag.

Later that afternoon we enjoyed the novelty of drinking some Dutch beer inside a windmill called Brouwerij ‘t IJ, followed by having a spot of some of the best pizza in Amsterdam in La Perla restaurant. Afterwards we took one last quick walk passing through the Red Light District. To be honest, this left me with mixed emotions. With burger bars and regular city life buzzing away just the next road along, it seemed so alien to me that the two could coexist.

We returned back to my friend’s apartment and somehow all still had so much to talk about; I suppose that is the magic of true friendship! But soon enough the combination of chatting with my oldest friends for hours and walking thousands of steps across the city, meant that I was out like a light as soon as my head hit the pillow.

On Day 2 of our trip we decided to conquer the rest of the Amsterdam streets by bike. Although I had not cycled for 10 years and felt very nervous, it was how they say – just like riding a bike! Nonetheless, I was unable to master the classic backpedal, so I chose to rent a standard bike for the day instead. Word to the wise: I would suggest that if you haven’t visited the city before to stick to cycling around a local park for a stress free experience. There are a lot of cyclists, mixed with trams, pedestrians and buses which can be very intimidating and scary if you’re not careful!

We began with a cycle around Vondelpark and then followed my friend as she took us on a tour of the city, stopping at various other parks along the way. We also enjoyed a coffee and cake (just a regular coffee shop to clarify haha, not the Dutch kind) for a break at Blond Amsterdam Café. That evening we caught a train outside of Amsterdam to Leiden to attend a Eurovision party, which was a very European celebration! After a few hours and a couple of drinks it was time to head home. However it seemed somewhere along the line of the Netherlands winning the competition, we underestimated the distance back to the station and had to sprint at Usain Bolt speed in order to make our train. Although we each felt like throwing up as a result of the run for our lives, we had a great night!

During my short visit to Amsterdam, I learned that the city has something for everyone, even though I only really touched the surface. Whether it’s window shopping and browsing Amsterdam’s pretty jewellery shops, admiring it’s traditional pottery, or enjoying a Stroopwaffel – this little city as a whole lot of personality!

Have you been to Amsterdam? Let me know in the comments! Which cities should I add to my list?

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Travel Vlog | Wine Tasting in California!

A Weekend in Costa Del Sol

Dear 2010’s

A Weekend in Costa Del Sol

One thing in my 20’s that I have been trying to take advantage of is how easy it is to fly around Europe from London (at least this was the case pre-Brexit). In just two to three hours with a ticket costing you under 100 (sometimes even 50 pounds) you can find yourself in a much sunnier climate. During Easter 2019, I took a trip to Picasso’s home town for a long weekend in Costa Del Sol. Spain is such a beautiful country to explore and is very accessible to travel around particularly by train; ideal if you fancy doing a tour around the country.

My trip to the Andalusian region of Malaga was short but sweet. Touching down at the airport, I took an easy train ride to Fuengirola to my newest Airbnb home for the weekend.  Tip: The train platform is located right outside the terminal so there is no need to worry about the train being an inconvenience. It is also certainly cheaper than a taxi ride! We initially had planned to stay in Malaga but as it was Holy Week or Semana Santa as it is locally known, this meant that the peaceful weekend getaway I was hoping for, may not have gone to plan. The loud musical Easter processions run all night in the city, so I was advised to stay in Funegirola – a smaller beachside town instead. Easter processions still run in this town just as they do across country so you can still experience this Spanish tradition. However, by 11pm the town reverts back to it’s typical Spanish lifestyle of wine and tapas bars taking the centre stage again.

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Fuengirola

Fuengirola is certainly quieter than Malaga but by no means should it be overlooked.
My Airbnb was a centrally located, light and a very spacious 2 bedroom apartment, kitted out so chicly in Ikea furniture. The host was kind and even bought some board games for us in case we decided to stay indoors, as rain was forecast for the weekend (of course the British weather travelled with us to sunny Spain!) Nonetheless the rain mostly held out despite the clouds, and we spent the first two days pottering around the town. We walked leisurely walking alongside the beach, occasionally stopping to have a Cruzcampo in the bars that were interwined throughout Fuengirola. There is also a small lovely beach, but our April visit unfortunately meant that it was far too cold to do a spot of swimming or sunbathing. One of my favourite finds in Fuengirola was La Galleria, a food market with stalls to enjoy a bite to eat and a relaxed place to grab a drink. One thing to note is that smoking is permitted inside, something that of course has been banned in the UK for a while so it was a bit odd to get used to again!

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Fuengirola

During my long weekend I also spent one day each in Malaga and Marbella. Both are easily accessible by train and/or bus, with public transport even running during Holy Week. On Good Friday we explored some of what Malaga had to offer by beginning with a walk in Parque de Malaga. Here we admired the ornate baroque and renaissance statues,  surrounded by many colourful and somewhat tropical plants! But with only a few hours to see some of Malaga’s highlights we had to be selective with our time. So we took a walk to Castillo de Gibralfaro for some great views of the city, followed by walking down to the Roman Theatre to see the ruins. The sun finally came out in the afternoon so we sat by La Malagueta beach, which is located on the city’s waterfront. Being so centrally located, I can imagine this beach would be heaving in the Summer months. Tip: For any Summer visits to the city I’ve also read that Torremolinos (approx 20 mins away) is a nice day trip out, as are the beaches, La Misericordia and Los Almos; Los Almos even has beachside concerts in the Summer!

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Malaga

We correctly anticipated that the city would be busy given it was Good Friday in Spain- a Catholic country. Upon first impression, the processions were slightly intimidating. Large crowds march in traditional dress of long robes and tall pointed hats covering their faces, as they carry religious statues throughout the towns, accompanied by a band playing instrumental music. However, after a while you soon become accustomed to it and the processions really are a unique and cultural experience.

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Old Town, Marbella

On our last full day in Spain we travelled by bus from Fuengirola to Marbella. We mainly walked around the Old Town but if you are in Marbella there is a lot to do! Popular for partying in the Golden Mile, you can also go shopping in Puetro Banus, do water sports at Naguelas Beach or walk along the Paseo Maritimo.

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Old Town, Marbella

Overall I really enjoyed my weekend in Spain – even if the sun didn’t come out to play as much as I hoped! If sipping wine and eating tapas or some espeto (grilled sardine) at a local chiringuito (beachfront bar) isn’t enough to sway, this Andalusian region also has some incredible hikes. I didn’t have enough time to dedicate to this but the views from Caminito del Rey look breathtaking and would be a good activity to keep you busy for 3 hours or so!

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Dear 2010’s

A New York Minute | Day 38 – 44

California Travel Diaries | A Weekend in San Diego

A New York Minute | Day 38 – 44

Five jam packed weeks had passed since we first arrived in New York. Throughout those five weeks my boyfriend and I had a trip of a lifetime driving around California, wine tasting until our hearts were content, taking wonderful hikes and exploring many, many beaches. We had seen a lot and were running low on energy. In hindsight, we should have planned our week in New York at the start of our California trip, when we were fresh faced and full of energy. When we returned to the city at the end of our trip, it was mid-July and the humidity was a challenge within itself. Nonetheless, boy did I fall in love with New York! It was a change of pace in comparison to California, but the city has an unwavering energy, incredible views and mouthwatering pizza which was better than anything I could have imagined.

Wednesday 18th July – Day 38
After our one night stay in Manhattan Beach we packed our belongings for one of the last times into our suitcases. We were quite excited to return our car back to the rental company as it meant our last week would (hopefully) be relatively stress free, as we could rely on New York’s subway system and walk everywhere. Charlie from Marriage Story definitely had a point about being able to walk around New York vs sitting in LA traffic!

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The view from our apartment

We had a really pleasant flight with Delta Airlines from LAX to JFK – flying domestically is so easy in the States! As soon as we arrived on the East Coast we ordered an Uber to our new accommodation in Astoria. We had learned from the mistake we had made when we first arrived in New York back in June, where we decided to stupidly walk from New York’s Jamaica stop at 11PM for 40 minutes to our somewhat dodgy Airbnb. This time around, we took an easy Uber ride and lugged our (now much heavier) suitcases up 5 flights of stairs to our new temporary home. Although we built up a sweat, it was worth it for the view of New York from our apartment. After a day of travelling, we kicked off our shoes and began our New York stay setting the precedent of what was to come with some pizza.

Thursday 19th July – Day 39
It was a hot day in New York but that didn’t stop us from exploring. It had been a couple of weeks since we were able to do some laundry and the idea of dragging our cases to a local laundromat was unappealing. I was running out of stuff to wear, so used this as the perfect excuse to take a seat on the Subway to Prince Street to do some light shopping. Afterwards we decided to have our first meal of the day as it was already lunch time. Nonetheless, with only a few precious days left of our trip, my boyfriend and I were determined to try the best pizza joints in town. On that list was Rubirosa, where I enjoyed one of the best meals I have ever had. During the meal I noticed how every single customer shared the exact same testament. Every first bite was followed by satisfactory lips being smacked and expressions of pure delight. After the best pizza of my life, we continued some shopping at Century 21 picking up some gifts for family members along the way.

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Walking around New York is fascinating, down every road there is something happening and each street has its own vibe. One of the most humbling experiences was paying tribute to those lost in 9/11 at the Memorial.

That day, a steam pipe burst in the Flat Iron district which was then deemed unsafe to visit for a few days until it was resolved. So we grabbed a pint at O’Hara before catching the subway home and picked up some basic groceries to get us by the next few days.

Friday 20th July – Day 40
This was one of my favorite days in New York as we ventured around Manhattan. Imagining my lifestyle on this elegant side of the pond, we strolled around 5th Avenue choosing which house would be ours when we make the big bucks. This being one of the most expensive streets to live on in the world, it would require a few wins of the lottery too! For lunch we went to the bar Jeffery and enjoyed the Happy Hour deal of a sandwich and a pint. Here you can easily catch the Roosevelt Island Tramway if you want to explore Roosevelt Island. Instead we had a wander around Central Park on a glorious Summer’s day and watched the world go by; local teams playing a game of Baseball, many a picnic being shared, runners getting their miles in, it was a different side to the city.

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Me in Central Park

Late afternoon we had a drink at the Empire Hotel Rooftop Bar which turns out to be the bar where Gossip Girl was filmed! You get a fab view of the city from here and I wish I visited more rooftop bars during my visit to NYC. Sadly this was the last hot day of the weekend and I had a pounding headache so we didn’t do much that evening.

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The view from the Empire Hotel

Saturday 21st July – Day 41
Waking up refreshed but to a more cloudy and overcast New York, it was evident a rainstorm was brewing. Until then we took advantage of the weather and had a day out in central New York. By our subway stop in Astoria there was the Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company, where we bought a wrap and panini for brunch and caught the next train to Times Square. I am a huge theatre fan and have always wanted to see Chicago on stage. Cuba Gooding was doing a stint in London but we thought it would be a great show to watch on Broadway. Before the show began we went to Faces & Names and spoke to the bargirls who gave us some great recommendations for the next few days! I love how friendly people can be to tourists, it’s so useful particularly when you only have a few days to explore a city.

I really enjoyed the show but I think I put too much pressure on the casting and expected Catherine Zeta Jones and Renée Zellweger to come out! I’ve seen that Erika Jayne is now playing Roxie Hart and I would love to see that if I had the chance.

When we left the theatre, the weather was turning so we had a drink at Valhalla then chose to go back nearer to Astoria. We kept up with the pizza diet at Milkflower and certainly weren’t disappointed. Soon after, the rain had started pouring so we had a cocktail at Sweet Afton before running home for refuge.

Sunday 22nd July – Day 42
On Sunday we explored Chelsea and began the day with our new found favourite, Breakfast Bagel & Coffee Company. We travelled to see The Statue of Liberty, took a wander around Chelsea Market where nearby I found some amazing fitting Free People denim shorts (which I grabbed learning from my Palm Springs regrets!) There is so much to do and see in this area and would recommend it to anyone! This was also the perfect timing as it was set to be thunderstorming later on that day. That afternoon, we had a shmooze around Ganservoot Market and a drink at a Dutch Bar called Trinken. When the rain came pouring down we spent the evening having drinks and playing games in a Barcade followed by a Chinese takeout. Initially this was meant to be our last night in New York before we flew back home, however due to issues with our flight we stayed one extra day. This was somewhat lucky as I don’t think I could have flown after all this alcohol, but it was also somewhat unlucky as our limited budget led us to a risky choice to stay in a not so chic area of Brooklyn.

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Brooklyn

Monday 23rd July – Day 43
The next morning we left our loft apartment with the incredible view, trudged our suitcases down the 5 or 6 flights of stairs and got an uber to the subway station. Paying homage to our new found favourite café we had one last breakfast wrap and braced ourselves for the subway journey. As good as New York transport is, it is not made for suitcases filled with 6 weeks’ worth of belongings. I recall thinking that hoisting our suitcases on this journey was more challenging than hiking in Yosemite! We arrived in our Airbnb to an area of Brooklyn that we clearly hadn’t researched and was one of the most rough areas to stay in. Although the apartment was decorated nicely, I’m pretty sure the host didn’t clean or change the bed sheets over from the previous guest. We were grateful we were only staying there for one night. As soon as we dropped off our bags we went into more central Brooklyn checking out DUMBO and Manhattan Bridge as we walked along the Hudson River. For dinner we ate at the famous Grimaldi’s; at least the New York city food never let us down.

Pizza

Pizza at Grimaldi’s

Tuesday 24th July – Day 44
For our last 24 hours in New York we planned to do a half day of exploring. However, this was by far the hottest and most humid day so far in New York. As soon as we stepped outside the sweat began to pour down our faces. With only a few hours left before we were to leave America we soldiered on. First we took shelter in Bagelsmith at Williamsburg for a famous bagel. We walked around a few vintage clothing stores around Bushwick. Soon enough the humidity was too unpleasant so we hit up another bar, this time Sea Wolf, before getting the subway back into more central New York to finish off with one last pizza slice at Joe’s Pizza – a staple in the pizza list before it was time to bid goodbye to our New York adventure.

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DUMBO

It had been an eventful six week long journey across California and New York, where we had only touched the surface of what America has to offer. Some may argue that this isn’t “real” America, but for us it was the taste of travel that we needed and we created memories to cherish for a lifetime. I’d highly recommend an extended travel trip that goes beyond your average holiday. You learn to budget, meet cool and interesting people, learn about yourself through some difficult times and open your eyes to more of the world, broadening your thinking. I can definitely understand how people get the travel bug particularly during their 20’s.

Thank you for following me throughout this travel series, I hope that you enjoyed it!

I would love to know where is somewhere you have always wanted to go? When will you make the time to do it? Where should I go next?

If you enjoyed this series you should check out:

Dublin | Travel Vlog!
The California Travel Diaries | SLO
Summer Recap 2019 | Love Island, Vlogging & Goodbye’s

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An Afternoon Tea at The Ritz

With a reputation for being one of the most elegant hotels in London, I was truly excited to go to the Ritz for an afternoon tea. It was every bit as ornate as you would imagine. The hotel itself is located a moments walk away from Green Park, unfortunately the Queen’s carriage was busy that day, so I very cleverly decided to walk from the tube in flats. I decided to bring a pair of low closed toe block heels to change into (H&M) once I entered this luxurious hotel and be in keeping Erin the dress code. These black H&M heels are great for both comfort and style, where you can be sure to avoid any embarrassing accidental falls! Also if I learned anything from the Royal Wedding it’s that you don’t wear open toe shoes to any posh event! For my main outfit I wore a black fitted jumpsuit with short lace cap sleeves (Missguided approx £30 circa 2015) with a black leather bag (Forever 21 approx £20 circa 2016). I had also actually gone to the hairdressers the day before to go blonder for the Summer and get a fresh trim, so luckily I didn’t have to do too much to my hair as my blow dry kept for the next day!

As you walk into the Ritz, there is a cloakroom where you can change into said appropriate shoes and give any bags or jackets you wish to check in. There is also the most luxurious ladies bathroom I’ve ever seen in a fantastic shade of pink. I don’t want to ruin it all too much for you, but this beautiful orchid will give you an idea of what theme the bathroom is! Elle Woods would have a field day is all I’m saying!

Upon arrival to your afternoon tea, one of the butlers will show you to your table where you will have a moment to admire the beautiful Palm Court, the room where you will be dining. There is a grand piano being played in the background which is great because I can see how many may be intimidated by this whole experience and a bit of music can settle any soul. The golden statues and chandeliers and the intricate ceiling artistry really does make you feel like you are visiting for a royal occasion. Seemingly, you may feel like a Royal simply from the selection of 21 teas for you to choose from. I chose a Rose Congou tea from Guangdong, China which was light and delicious.

I was very impressed by how the butlers will come and regularly fill up your teacup so you do not have to lift a finger, well, apart from choosing a sandwich. You are brought plate upon plate of sandwiches which are every bit as English as you would hope. Elegantly bite size with no crusts, these are scrumptious with a cup of tea. There are also scones with clotted cream and jam, macaroons and various other desserts; if you have a sweet tooth these are definitely for you. Although delicious a couple of the desserts were a tad too rich for me. However the scone was utterly delicious and was served still slightly warm.

Overall I really enjoyed this experience and if you are lucky enough to go and enjoy an afternoon tea yourself, dress smart, relax and enjoy yourself with a glass of Ritz Champagne in hand! It’s very easy to be overwhelmed by how formal the Ritz is, but the staff truly want to make you feel comfortable and are very friendly, with even the doormen offering to take photos of you and your party should you wish. If you put this on your Bucket List, I would recommend to save it for a special occasion because an experience like this will be truly unforgettable and deserves a worthy cause!