Canals of Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a city riddled with beautiful canals, scenery and delicious food, as well as a plethora of “coffee shops” and plenty of opportunity for erotic window shopping. It is a melting pot of fascinating culture, swarming with tourists from all over the world. Parts of Amsterdam are a bit shocking to look upon to the untrained eye; it is different than any city I have ever been to. The elicit, even grotesque parts of Amsterdam are often a few steps away from some of the most beautiful parts. Whether you agree with all that Amsterdam has to offer, it is a fascinating and eye-opening place to experience firsthand.

My friends and I spent two nights in Amsterdam and our goal was simple; we wanted to get a feel for the city. We wanted to walk along the canals, visit the red light district, visit a coffee shop, and just generally experience the vibe of the city. We were able to do all of this and much more in just two days. One of the most enjoyable parts of Amsterdam was just walking around aimlessly, watching the people and seeing all the interesting shops. Every new street offered some sort of surprise that added a new perspective on the culture of Amsterdam.

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One of my specific to-do’s was to take a tour through the Heineken brewery. This was my favorite part of the trip, the brewery tour, and although you have to deal with crowds of people and a lot of waiting in line, is so interactive and engaging! They do a good job of explaining the beer brewing process (a passion of mine) while still making it fun and hands on. At the end of the tour you have an opportunity to drink at a rooftop bar at the top of the brewery and enjoy a delicious Heineken as you gaze out over Amsterdam. If there’s anything I love, it is drinking beer outside and in high places with a beautiful view. Heineken was awesome. One night we went to the Amsterdam Ice Bar, and that was incredible as well. It was exactly as advertised, a bar made of ice with drinks in ice glasses. It was pretty cold, though (I know, I’m a regular Einstein).

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Another item on my list was to visit the Anne Frank house which unfortunately we didn’t have time to take a tour (online tickets are the way to go). This picture is taken close to the Anne Frank house (it is on the left right before Westerkerk aka the giant tower). I definitely want to come back to take a tour, but it was really cool even just seeing it from the outside.

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Amsterdam means different things to different people but it will always hold a special place in my heart. I love you, Rin.

 

Until next time Amsterdam!

Magical Bruges

Bruges
As I currently sit in the Mark’t, the central square in Bruges, I feel as though I have been transported back in time to a magical age before the invent of modern technology. It is as though time has not taken its toll on the beautiful, ancient buildings; it remains an oasis in a desert of evolving technology and change. Even as I look upon the buildings in person, and also after I climbed the ever ascending, winding staircase to the top of the Belfry, I had the sense that what I was experiencing was not real, how could it be? Those who refer to Bruges as a fairy tale city are exactly right. It’s difficult to believe such a beautiful, old, quaint, yet vibrant city still exists in today’s society.
My friends and I took a weekend trip to Belgium, spending two nights in Brussels and one night in Bruges. We started in Brussels, and naturally our first stop was a waffle shop. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a waffle so quickly, at least not until I had my second one 15 minutes later (it was practically a heart attack on a plate – a waffle topped with a pile of whipped cream, strawberries and sugar). We wandered the streets and wound up in my favorite spot in Brussels, Grand Place, the central square (Yes, you caught me, I have a thing for old city squares). Over two days it would be safe to say that I was in the square 10 or more times, I could not get enough of it, it was so beautiful. Sitting outside at a restaurant on the square and drinking a liter of Blaunche de Bruges was one of the highlights of Brussels for me.
Brussels
The nightlife in Brussels was such a great time due to the fact that everyone was so nice and they genuinely wanted to talk and get to know us. We went to a bar called Delirium that has more than 2000 beers available for purchase, which is just such an overwhelming amount of beer (I wasn’t complaining). We ended up meeting people from all over the world and taught them American drinking games like thumper and cheers governor (they loved them and never wanted to stop).
The second night we went to a sports bar to watch soccer games that were a part of the Europa tournament. It was the most insane bar experience I’ve had. There were people from all different countries standing on chairs screaming for their countries (especially the Irish, classic) and drinking copious amounts of beer. Everyone was getting incredibly rowdy but the best part was that overall, people were extremely respectful of each other even though they were all passionate about their teams with several beers under their belts. It was an awesome and unforgettable experience to have.
Brussels 2
It’s hard to talk about Belgium without talking about the chocolate, waffles, fries, beer or mussels, so let me just tell you they are all insanely good! I don’t know how one small place has so many incredible, unique staples. Also, all of those are heavy, seemingly fatty foods but I don’t think I saw one overweight Belgian in my entire three days in Belgium. Pretty remarkable if you think about it!
Bruges 2
Now to my favorite part: Bruges. I had to start the post with a blurb about Bruges because I fell in love with it in just one night. It really is magical and charming, and the people we met were so unbelievably nice. After a full day of walking around and getting a feel for the city, we met up with a couple of locals, Rien and Maren. Rin (my partner in crime, and not to be confused with Rien) arranged for me to meet up with them because Maren is her sister’s friend from college. They were so incredibly friendly and nice, and they have such a romantic story of how they met. Briefly, Maren, an American, studied abroad and met Rien, a Belgian, they started dating and she eventually just moved to Bruges to be with him. Wild, right? They showed us around to some of their favorite bars and ended up inviting us back to their house for some beers and stimulating conversation. It couldn’t have been a better evening (Thanks Rin, you’re the best. And of course thank you Rien and Maren!).
If there is anything I know for certain, it’s that Bruges will be seeing me again.

Southern Expedition

Wash_Flags
Traveling is never truly about reaching your destination or about seeing miraculous places and historical monuments. Traveling is about the journey; all of the difficult moments, set backs, and long, uncomfortable bouts of transportation are what make up the real experiences of traveling. Often people look at these experiences as the negative aspects of a trip, but I disagree. All of the difficult parts are the parts you will remember and laugh about many years after. Set backs and difficulties while traveling often present new opportunities that you otherwise wouldn’t have had if everything went according to plan. You also develop fantastic stories that you will inexhaustibly tell for the rest of your life (People love to hear the same travel story 30-40 times before it gets annoying, it’s a fact).
Rin_WashFeet
Rin and I traveled thousands of miles by car on our east coast road trip of the US. At one point I did the math and I think total we drove about 37 hours over 15 days, often on very little sleep. There were many times we would get in the car exhausted and worn out, but we were always able to wear an optimistic attitude and to build each other up when we were having an off day. It is so amazing how much control you have over your own happiness; sometimes all it takes is an optimistic outlook and a roll-with-the-punches attitude to have a wonderful time. Traveling with someone who shares this outlook is such a relief and it makes it incredibly difficult to have a bad time.
Monument
Rin and I traveled from New York to Richmond to meet up with some of my friends and family for a night before heading to my brothers wedding in Myrtle Beach. It was quite a bit of driving for just two days but it was so worth it for the time we spent in Myrtle Beach. My brother’s wedding was so beautiful, and by some miracle the weather held off so they were able to hold the ceremony outside next to the beach. It was an undeniably beautiful, magical wedding with a really fun reception (Yes, the open bar helped considerably).
After having 4 wonderful days in Myrtle Beach with friends and family (Thanks for letting us crash, Mom! You’re the best!), Rin and I headed back up the coast, stopping in Richmond for a night before heading to DC. We had two sunny, warm days in DC so we were able to walk all around the mall and visit a lot of the Smithsonian museums. Our favorite museum, however, was the Newseum. It was incredibly well done, with exhibits including a portion of the Berlin Wall, a 9/11 exhibit that featured front pages on newspapers from all around the world the day after, an interactive television news studio, and so much more. We could have spent all day in the museum, it was fascinating and well worth the 20 dollar entrance fee.
DC marked the end of the best road trip I have ever been on (It is also the first road trip I’ve ever been on). I hope it’s the first of many more to come with my new partner in crime!
Next stop: Berlin, Germany
Tschüss!