Here I am!

Good evening, to anyone reading.

I’ve been MIA for a consecutive three years or so, popping by to say hello. I have toyed with the idea of creating a new blog but I have memories on her that (believe it or not) I do peruse sometimes when I’m feeling a little low. It is a part of my life so far and to create a new would feel like almost cheating on my journey so far.

Anyway, here is a little catch up on my travels since you last heard from me.

We visited Valencia in June 2016 after a very tough start to the year. It was a four day break were Tom and I were able to escape life for a minute. I feel sometimes when life (be it family, university, work, friends, life’s obstacles) is starting to feel suffocating, it is sometimes best to take a few days away. We were fortunate to spend that time in stunning Valencia, but even if you get in your car, on a train or put on your trainers and explore a new place, your mind is preoccupied with your adventure, and less with what is hurting your mind. This is exactly what Valencia was for us, and Valencia, we can never repay you for the light you shone on us during a very difficult time. Thank you.

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Llotja de la Seda

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Evenings on the beach.

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Hotel Neptuno, view.

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Old Town.

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Beach babes.

Our next voyage was Lake Como, Italy in August 2016. I’ve briefly outlined the week in my previous post Let me update ya.. as Tom not only surprised me with the trip of a lifetime, but with the promise of a lifetime to be by my side as my husband and to share his surname with me. This holiday was my 25th birthday present and as mentioned in that blog post, I had no idea where we were going until I got to the departure lounge and the only flight on the board that corresponded with our take-off was to Milan *cue the tears of joy*.

Once we reached Milan, we were met by a wonderful man who drove us out of the airport to our next destination. I was under the impression we were staying in Milan until we turned a corner and I saw with my own eyes, what you see in magazines. Lake Como.

We travelled everywhere by boat, ate fresh pasta and pizza everyday and met the most amazing people from Como. It was the trip of a lifetime, one that I’ll never forget.

I am still pretty speechless at the lengths Tom went to for my birthday that year. He never ceases to amaze me, and this was no exception. Followed by my dream proposal, I honestly do not know what I did to deserve such a wonderful man who everyday treats me like a princess. Italy stole my heart that week, and we both intend on visiting and exploring more of the country.

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The view from our balcony.

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Waiting for our boat home, in Como.

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My view circa 10 seconds before Tom asked me to marry him. *Swoon*

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This needs no caption.

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A typical day travelling in Como.

We then celebrated Tom’s birthday in our home away from home, Amsterdam in November 2016. Amsterdam needs no introduction, no selling point or description. Amsterdam is beautiful, relaxing and everything we need from a city break.

I wasn’t feeling too well during this trip, however we didn’t let that stop us. We explored museums, ate our weight-worth in Dutch cuisine and as always had a wonderful time. It is our fourth trip to Amsterdam, and it certainly will not be our last.

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Dignity Amsterdam – Our favourite brunch spot

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Huddled in the pouring rain with hot chocolate.

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Banksy & Warhol Exhibition: laugh now

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The very handsome birthday boy!

The final stop on this whistle-stop journey of our travels since I last posted was a trip to Bruges with Tom, his mum and sister in May 2017. This was a Christmas present from Tom to us ladies, which none of us were in cahoots with. On Christmas evening we all received a present each. I opened a map of Bruges, his mum opened a tour-guide book of Bruges and his sister opened the DVD of In Bruges, the movie. It was left to us to figure out the rest.

Bruges is a really beautiful city. The canals are stunning, the shops are quaint and the food is fantastic! We were there for two days and despite it being enough to get the feel of Brugge, I definitely want to return.

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Bruges.

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Family shot!

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Best Gin in Europe, that I’ve tasted so far.

 

So that is basically where I’m at, there are more travel posts to come and plenty of career-based posts too. As I always say, I want to try and write more as I find it so cathartic and just good for my soul.

Hopefully speak soon,

Emma x

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10 tips for a Parisian weekend.

I recently embarked on a weekend in Paris with my other half. Our fourth anniversary was looming and being Valentines day as well, we felt it only right that we kept with the tradition of arranging a mini-break to celebrate being in love with each other.

Paris has always been on the bucket list, so we booked up and travelled by Eurostar to the city of love, in February 2016.

I wanted to write a blog post on Paris, but wasn’t sure how to approach it. Instead of a story-like account of our adventures, I felt a guide to a Parisian weekend would be a little different, and useful if you are thinking of visiting.
Obviously, February is still winter in this part of Europe so you’d need to bare that in mind when you book.

So lets begin, my top 10 tips for a Parisian weekend.

1. Avoid developing “Paris Syndrome
If you are someone who travels frequently, or have experienced a few of the globes major cities – you may have heard of this. Many people claim to suffer from this when they visit the big apple, and no doubt when they visit London (no, I’m not blinded by the love of my local city). It refers to the deflated feeling you get when you have mentally built up the experience of a city, and it doesn’t match your expectations.
I do feel that we suffered from this during our visit to Paris, but at no fault of the city or the locals. Our weekend was drizzly with on and off rain. It meant that as we were not familiar with our surroundings, making it difficult for us to explore properly. This may seem feeble to others, but for us personally, it did affect our experience.
My recommendation to avoid Paris Syndrome is to book when the weather is likely to be more reliable (June-September). When the sun is shining and the floor is dry, exploring the city will be easier. You won’t feel constantly cold, lacking in vitamin D and lost. We would like to return during the summer months in the next couple of years to complete our adventure, and see everything.

2. Use Le Metro
Le Metro (or the metro) is similar to the tube in London, the subway in New York. It is a number of train lines running across the city. If you are travelling via Eurostar, your train may arrive in Paris Gare Du Nord – which is also a stop on Le Metro.
When we arrived, we used Le Metro from Paris Gare Du Nord to travel to our hotel and it was incredibly easy. We also used this method of transport to work our way around the city – despite being avid Über enthusiasts. If this idea intimidates you at all, you can download the Visit Paris by Metro app which is a great app for travelling around the city, it is available for iOS, Android and Amazon. Alternatively, you can simply use Google maps. Google maps accommodates Le Metro when advising a route.
If you can, try and buy your Le Metro tickets in bulk. They are for purchase on the Eurostar (on the train where you buy your coffee and snacks from) or at the stations. One ticket is valid for use within one hour and then you simply use the next. You pop it into the slot and the doors will open. It’s very simple.

3. Pick Pockets
There are 7.2 billion-ish people on this planet, and some unfortunately do not have good moral values. Rather than earning and grafting to have nice things, they’d rather just take yours. These types of people are walking all over the globe, including Paris.
Similar to any city (and I’m sure this is not the first time you are hearing this) please keep your belongings safe and near you. If you have a safe, lock passports, currency, electrical away and just take with you what you need.
We found in particular, around the Eiffel Tower it was rife for quite persistent, overly assertive street sellers. At one point, a man approached my boyfriend and started tying string around his fingers to make a bracelet, my boyfriend had to say “no, thank you” about five or six times before prising his hand away from the street seller. Despite them being polite once they cannot physically sell you something, it still can be quite distressing when you’re a tourist in an unfamiliar place.
Be assertive, say no and keep your hand in your pockets. Ladies, take a small handbag you can keep under your coat with only the essentials.
We also experienced people trying to make us sign up to petitions which meant we had to give them money. If you are not interested then explain you only carry a card and walk away. It may depend when you go and you may not experience this, but just be vigilant with your things, and definitely purchace travel insurance incase anything does go walks.

4. Breakfast
On a much lighter note (not calorie wise), breakfast or petit de’jeuner is a culture in itself in Paris. I highly recommend you embrace every croissant, coffee, OJ and baguette that encounters your person. I left a few reviews on Yelp! of places we went (and am still reviewing) if you wanted to have a look. I also try to bookmark where I go, so I can remember for future reference. In particular, we had a fantastic breakfast in Commerce Café which you can read about on my Yelp! page.

5. The Stereotypical Parisian
I hate stereotypes, but if you your trip to Paris is looming and you tell people where you’re headed, many will wish you luck with the rude locals. They’re stereotyped to be cold, rude and very unapproachable.
I would like to set the record straight. Like the minority of European, American, Canadian, African, Wherever-an’s – some are rude and obnoxious. Many may rudely grimace at your poor attempt of the French language. The majority however are friendly, understanding and appreciative of your French attempts. Many will just begin to converse with you in English and you will carry on with your day. We met some really lovely Parisian people whilst we were there and many served us with impeccable manners and approachability.
Please don’t believe stereotypes – otherwise I’d have to live up to being a dippy girl from Essex with blonde hair, fake boobs and no common sense, when in actual fact I’m a hard working young woman, training to be a nurse with common sense and real boobs. Don’t judge by stereotype.
Although, I will advise you to start your conversation with Bonjour (Hello), ending with Au Reviour (Goodbye) and using your S’il vous plaît (Please) and Merci (Thank you). Just like you’d appreciate someone trying to speak your language, they appreciate it too.

6. Drink more, it is financially better for you!
There is no shortage of beautiful wine in Paris, however like many things it is a little more expensive than what you may be used to. We found that by the end of our stay, it works out a lot cheaper to buy a bottle rather than a glass. It makes so much more financial sense and also means you have a constant supply, if you want it!

7. Lack of Coffee Shops
Now, this tip may just be applicable to our trip. No matter how hard we looked, to try and find a coffee shop was not easy. I have always been under the impression that coffee shops are everywhere in Paris but we found them to be scarce. Again, maybe our expectations were too high, maybe we were looking in all of the wrong places – but two avid coffee drinkers felt that the amount of coffee shops were lacking! We kept mainly to the Eiffel Tower side of The Seine so perhaps this was why. But on our last day, we jumped on Le Metro to the Champs-Élysées and still found coffee shops few and far between. If you have any advice on our caffeine slump, please do comment so we are better informed for our next visit!

8. It needs no introduction: Food
Now if you know me on a personal level, you know that one of my favourite parts about travelling is trying the different cuisine. I think it tells a lot about where you are and the people who live there.
Parisian food is second to none, which I genuinely believe is why we didn’t mind paying the prices as it was high quality. If I was charged 18€ for a burger and fries from Burger King, I’d be disgusted. But for the hand cut fries, fresh salad and rare steak meat inside my burger, I could swallow my pride and cough up the mullar.
Try everything, even the things that make you feel uncertain. The food is delicious!
Although, my advice is to pace yourself. The level of consumption was far too great for my body, so I spent a few hours over the weekend in the room laying down feeling sick/with a stomach ache.

9. Yelp!
Utilise the websites and apps that offer reviews, and review the places you visit. Be it Trip Advisor or Yelp!, or any other type of review website please get involved. By doing this you are far less likely to waste your time in an area with rude staff, crap food and smelly toilets. We found some absolute gems on Yelp! and Trip Advisor, and have tried to leave reviews for places to help other people have a fab time. Again, if you’d like to see some reviews for some of the places we visited just visit my Yelp! page.

10. Architecture
There is no way that I could write up a blog post about my trip to Paris without mentioning the stunning architecture. You obviously have the staple architectural visits: Eiffel Tower, Arc D’Triomphe, but the city offers stunning buildings that you may just past as you peruse the area. One aspect of the city that I really loved was the structure of the houses and shops: the colours, the width and the romantic windows. Please don’t experience Paris without really taking in the architecture, it is stunning.
Whilst on the subject, I’d like to recommend lunch at the Eiffel Tower. The staff are charming and the food is beautiful! You will need to book in advance and on the day we went, they closed one of the lifts so there was some unorganised chaos getting to the restaurant but it really is worth it. It also gives you access to the entire floor to see the views and visit the shops. I couldn’t recommend it enough!

So, here are my top 10 tips! Get booking and enjoy the city of love, you will love it!

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Poole, Dorset: childhood holidays.

So the end of August approaches, this can mean only one thing if your in my family – Poole!

Ever since I was a baby we’ve done a yearly trip to Poole, Dorset.

Poole is beautiful, it’s very quaint, relaxed & has (in my opinion) the best British beach. Sandbanks. In my opinion it gives some beaches abroad a run for their money. Although the food and drink can be quite pricey, it is completely worth it. We spent many a day relaxing on the beach.

We also visited a beautiful place called Lulworth Cove. It is a tiny village with beautiful tiny cottages & shops. The actual cove is full of grass, dunes and rock which over the years has eroded and created the most stunning cove in the country. It was beautiful spending time there with my boyfriend, being in his arms taking in the views..

Our next pit stop on this particular day was at a beautiful scenic landmark called Corfe Castle. Wow. It’s a very historic land mark & although it is in ruins, it blows you away.

I really enjoy Poole. It is the one week of the year where it is family time. My mum, my dad, my dog, my boyfriend and I. I feel like a little girl again!

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Majorca

Summer returned! Our second summer as a couple & our third holiday abroad together.

The only problem was, prior to the holiday nothing could be mentioned. Tom’s cousin was turning 21 and she wanted to celebrate in Spain. As her birthday is in February, the weather wouldn’t be great so they decided to book for June! When they were in the process of booking Tom didn’t have many hours at work, and freshly graduating I was out of work, trying to concentrate on internships. Money was tight to say the least!

However, Christmas 2012 passed, Tom had been promoted at work and I had a paid job! So we decided to book a few days with the family in Alcudia and a week just us in sunny  Palma, Majorca!

The holiday was unreal – the weather was hitting the 40’s, we were in a constant sea of sangria, food & fun. And spending each night for the first few days of our holiday going out for family meals.

Our week alone was perfect. Tom really is my best friend and we spent every day laughing, joking & kissing in the sea.

Kindle out, feet in the pool with sangria in hand! Laying on the sand, on and off swimming sessions in the sea, with a brief liquid lunch at the cocktail bar on the beach!

Evenings were perfect. We’d sit by the pool till 10pm, take a walk down the beach and watch the sunset. May sound corny to some, but believe me laying on a beach watching the sunset whilst kissing the island – life is pretty damn good!

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Centre Parcs

After ordering a pizza and having a good catch up one evening, we decided to book a spring break to Center Parcs.

The day arrived and we were so excited! Tom and James were the designated drivers and we embarked off in our couples to the beautiful retreat of Elveden Forest, Center Parcs!

I won’t blog a day by day account of our antics, but all I can say is – what an amazing holiday! We even surprised James with a belated surprise birthday party. Dean and Tom took him out to pick us up some dinner and us girls got started on Gok Wan-ning the place. Banners, confetti, inflatables – even a rolling iPad sign on the table that said “Happy Birthday James” – our villa looked fabulous! And thank god it did, after the mission impossible task of getting a birthday cake and party nik naks from the car, into the villa without James knowing!

But what a night! And what a holiday, we had such a laugh. Swimming, crazy golf, table tennis – you name it we did it! We even made friends with security! When our neighbours forgot their manners and rather than asking us to turn the bass on our music down, decided it was a better idea to try and get us into trouble and inform security. Unlucky for them, security found us quite endearing and just told us to turn the music down. It was whilst listening to some 90s cheese, Nicole heard a knock and we all panicked, turned the lights off, and ran away. Dean escaped into the toilet, us girls and James all tumbled in the corner on to the sofa – leaving my poor boyfriend to answer the door, to whom we thought was an axe murderer!! Luckily it was just security – but the whole scenario had us in fits of laughter for the rest of the holiday!

We dined like kings, got drunk in our villa – sat and chatted like a bunch of old codgers. But everything we did was an experience, and everything we did made the holiday great. Yes, even the cycling which I was pants at!

 

I’d recommend Centre Parcs to anyone that wants to try it. It is an activity holiday, but you only have to join in as much as you want to. I’m not very athletic and I loved every second!

Prague: Valentines and anniversary celebrations.

 

So it started, at silly o’clock we left the house for Gatwick on 13th February 2013, to begin our big Czech adventure!

When we arrived in Prague around lunchtime, we were lucky to have a transfer take us to the hotel. We were given a 30 minute unexpected ride to really take in Prague. We arrived with a light dusting of snow which looked magical! It’s a beautiful city – and if its the sort of thing that takes your breath away. Give it a whirl.

So, we unpacked, went shopping and enjoyed a chilled romantic stroll by the river followed by dinner and drinks. After a long flight, there is no need to be attacking the tourist lifestyle straight away – chilling with the man you love is enough to take in a beautiful city, moment by moment.

We spent the evening in Old Town Square, exploring the beautiful city, covered in snow. We then went on to have a beautiful dinner at one of the restaurants in the square which had a seating area outside, with an outdoor roof, blankets and heaters. So we snuggled up with cocktails, our beautiful meal – by the heater, under a big thick blanket in -3 degrees feeling very snug.

One of the waiters kept walking around with a small notebook, scissors and glue. Just before our main course arrived – he kept starring over at us. After a few awkward glances, we realised he was starring at me – and when we asked what he was doing he pointed in the opposite direction for me to turn around! It turned out he had been creating a portrait of my silhouette on the black paper he was carrying around- but instead of using a pencil – he was carving it out with scissors! He glued it on white paper and we kept it. He even got my eyelashes in. This is something that I will treasure forever, that will remind me of this special trip.

Our second day fell on Valentines day, which is also our anniversary. My boyfriend had arranged a surprise for me which I was none the wiser of.

We woke up, snuggled in bed for ages and opened our presents. My present was a beautiful bracelet with Swarovski crystals and a beautiful card! We then went down for our buffet breakfast! It was glorious and we ate every last morsel.

After a day of exploring and a lovely lunch – we headed back to the hotel to get scrubbed up for the night ahead. Eyelashes, boofy hair – I was ready!

Little did I know, we were off to one of the most amazing restaurants that Prague has to offer! It was on the roof of one of the most beautiful hotels over looking the city and Prague castle. During the meal, Tom asked what I was up to Saturday afternoon and placed two tickets for Swan Lake on the table. Now if you know me at all, you know that after being a dancer since the age of 3 and sadly having to give it up – it has been my dream to go to a ballet. Emotional isn’t the word.

It was the top trump of Valentines days, and what a way to celebrate our first anniversary!

When you meet someone who fits you like a glove, it just works. We’ve been through a lot together and was under so much stress during the beginning of our relationship, but it only brought us closer. I love him, he loves me – and we have both never been so happy.

The third day started as per Czech-usual, woke up to a beautiful dusting of snow, and plenty of cuddles. We made friends with another English couple over breakfast who were staying at our hotel to go to a gig in Prague. They were absolutely lovely, parents of 2 almost teens, who worked hard and played harder. The woman was quite arty & enjoyed interior design, and her hubby was clearly a talented carpenter (like my dad) but was currently working for the government. It was really interesting meeting them, hearing about their lives and travels. It is one of my favourite things about being in a different country: no matter where you are in the world, you can meet people who may live totally different lives, but you find a common interest.

Things took a rather dizzy turn however as we went up to our room, I had a terrible headache and felt a little wobbly. As we left, we were half way down the road when a migraine took hold of me. I completely lost my balance and was relying completely on Tom keeping me up. He took me back to the hotel, gave me my migraine medication and put me to bed to sleep it off. He then popped to the shop across the road to get me some big bottles of water to keep my hydrated. Drifting between sleep I heard the door open and in came my amazing man with a single red rose. Although unwell, I was blown away.
The afternoon was spent cuddled up, snuggled up and dosed up getting rid of my migraine. By late afternoon/early evening I was starting to feel like myself again. As with any migraine, it never goes in a day but I wasn’t in pain anymore. So we showered, took it nice and slowly, got ready and went for dinner at a lovely restaurant across the road and spent the evening both feeling so happy that we were back on our exploration.

We ate, enjoyed the evening and came back to our room for even more cuddles. Although as a day, we were unable to explore – the upsides were we saved money to have a bigger budget for the final two days and I spent the day in the arms of the man of my dreams.

The next day was spent making up for Migraine-gate. As usual, Tom was amazing, reassuring me that the only concern to him was that I was feeling better, and more importantly feeling up to going out. Which I was, no way was I going to have a Prague-graine two days running, missing out on valuable holiday time. So this was the day where we’d kill a million birds with one stone.

Medieval Torture Museum check
Sex Museum check 
Charles Bridge check
Lunch and Dinner at our favourite restaurant El Toro Negro Prague — fajitas, enchalladas, and the most moist juicy sirloin steak ever to mix with quacamole in a wrap

A day full of amazing exploring, good food and laughter. It was definitely becoming more and more of one of those holidays where you just literally are blown away by the surroundings and the company, especially the company

Our last day had sadly arrived and we were in the mood to carry on exploring! We went for a spot of lunch at another hotel and had the most beautiful Italian meal! After we took a swanky ride to explore, and have a final tour of the beautiful Praha 1!

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It literally drove us around the whole city, and the driver was the most helpful and lovely man. He gave us a big furry blanket to snuggle under and just let us enjoy the views and told us about the history of one of the most romantic cities in the whole world!
The one thing I was over the moon about, was that the car smelt beautiful. One thing I cannot stand which as I have got older has become a slight problem… is itchy, smelly blankets. Yes, nobody enjoys snuggling up in smelly blankets. But I literally cannot bare it – to the point where I feel like crying. Anyway, this car was immaculate and I felt so comfortable.

It was the perfect way to round off our trip, making sense of all of the places we had visited, finding out the history, the meaning and even discovering how the architecture in Prague is a reflection of the time and age in which it was built.

But the end of the tour meant the end of our trip. So we made our way back to the hotel, demolished some apple strudl and met the lovely driver who met us at the airport when we arrived.

To my delight and surprise, I opened the door after a very odd walk to the car. Tom and the driver were whispering and chuckling to each other; he then handed Tom a piece of paper and they both smiled..
..it turned out Tom had arranged for a single red rose to be left in the cab on the way to Prague, but the company forgot. So with alot of apologising via a piece of paper, the most beautiful red rose was placed on my seat.

Prague was the most amazing break. Away from home, basking in the freedom of just being together and enjoying a beautiful country. Going to see Swan Lake must have been the highlight – it was actually a dream come true. It really was the most amazing trip, and what a way to celebrate our first anniversary.

London: the city on my door step.

During university, one of our assignments was to make a travelogue – basically a written piece about our favourite city. It made sense to me to use our capital to create my work, as it is on the door step and its an excuse to have a mooch down London. Luckily my best friend in the whole world, Tom (now my boyfriend) felt the same so last year we spent the day, and most of the evening, down the city. We went for a long walk, had a good chat, a giggle (as always), dinner and a drink.

We decided to tear ourselves away from Christmas trees and Essex to enjoy the wonderful city, that is just a thirty minute tube ride away!

A lovely fresh winter walk. Buckingham Palace – of course we popped into see Liz for a cup of tea. Down the Mall. Across the Embankment. Tate Modern. Pub Dinner.

As you can see from my list, we had a busy afternoon/evening. It was perfection. Sharing the city with your best friend and love of your life is amazing. Every second feels perfect and everything is made a million times more romantic – which is crazy when you consider how romantic London is. Especially at night, lit up, fresh breezes brushing across your face.

It’s always something lovely to do, and nothing can beat the buzz of the city.

 

Amsterdam: Birds, beer and bong.

My boyfriend and I started our travels last year after finishing university and flew out to Amsterdam in May 2012. It was amazing. It was ridiculously romantic, full of beautiful sights and very much intoxicated!

The flight is so cheap, and so short it really is a no-brainer if you are looking to experience a new place or get away from wherever. The locals are so friendly and there is a million and one things to do. Travel is simple, trams or walk. Pretty much everything is in within walking distance obviously depending on where you are staying.

Drinks are double quantity, if your asking for a single and a mixer, it will be the English equivalent of a double. The Dutch way of serving drinks is very generous or us Brits are incredibly stingey.

There’s a million and one places to go. While we were out there, we went to a variety of bars and restaurants – all fairly priced. The Heineken Expo, Anne Frank Museum, Ice Bar, Canal Boat Ride (which you can catch after the Heineken expo, to the Heineken shop), the Sex Museum – and that was only a three day visit!

I strongly recommend Dam, it’s a beautiful city which everyone needs to experience. I cannot wait to go back…

And it isn’t all just weed & naked women in shop windows.