Big City, Loads of Noises

Sirens again. Honking again. Screaming imbeciles again. That’s what I hear.

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It’s been three weeks since I’ve been back in NYC after spending 5 months away. Although I studied abroad and spent nearly the same amount of time away in Paris during my Junior year of college, this past experience feels so different.

Back then, when I had been a foreign country studying another language and truly living on my own for the first time, I was shocked. I was unprepared and didn’t really know what I had. This time while in London, my outlook was different. I loved nearly every minute of it. There were some lows, don’t get me wrong, but I truly saw another part of life and happiness. Even though I was spending my savings and putting myself through an endless test – joy ran through my veins. I was constantly going out to events, networking mixers, emailing companies and trying to do and learn as much as I could. Every day was a new challenge. I walked the city and discovered new restaurants and bakeries of course.

Now being back in NYC, I feel odd. I enjoy seeing old friends and family members I hadn’t seen in awhile but I do feel like I’m in a haze. I don’t want to lose all of the amazing things I learned and did while in London. I loved what I accomplished. I’d hate to let it go by being back “home” and falling back to the normal I wanted so badly to escape. Well, I guess not escape – I wanted to learn and feel a level of happiness I wasn’t quite getting. I found it in London and I don’t want to let go. In my heart though, I know I can’t lose it, unless I choose to.

I think that what I learned the most about London was not to be afraid of taking chances, putting my effort into something and asking for real results, doing me without too much hesitation, etc. It really informed my way of thinking and interacting with people. I already knew I gave too many s**ts about what people think and London helped me shake that a bit.

When I look around me, I see so many tall buildings. It’s pretty in a NYC way but the romanticism I felt in London isn’t here with me right now. Maybe I still need to get used to everything? But I don’t want to. I want to do what I want to and feel the same level of joy. I know I can still continue to push forward with the dreams that I was living in London. I also plan on going back. If there is something I know I haven’t lost, it’s my will. I don’t like to give up and I know the things that I’m after now are very possible! One step at a time. Nothing worth having is supposed to be THAT easy. It’s what they say, ain’t it?

Mallorca Spain

It’s been a couple of months but I went to Mallorca this summer as part of my European getaway. I’m currently daydreaming of my time there as I’m coming off a week back in America.

Shell shocked and immediately plotting my way back, I decided to reminisce on that summer sun in Spain.

I stayed at the HM Bangulera and despite the friendly staff and delicious complimentary breakfast, I caution you not to stay there. After my fun trip, I arrived home to find that some unsavory bug creatures followed me back. Could it have been the airport? Yes. But I have a feeling it was the hotel. Onwards and upwards though.

So Mallorca was hot, like so hot my skin itched. I had been there for maybe a few hours, walking through city center, and that sun was intense.

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Feeling like melted chocolate

But it was great! Although I have much love for England, the weather is not perfect even during the summer.

I walked for about three hours throughout the city of Palma, getting a lay of the land. I saw the Palma Cathedral, some original gothic architecture then made my way to the port for a seafood dinner.

My favorite part about the dinner was the sangria. I had a seafood paella but it didn’t quite hit the spot. It was nice but not the dinner of my dreams.

The next day, I made my way to the beach.

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Playa de Palma was pretty amazing. The sun was high, giving off its radiant heat and the beach itself was beautiful. Touristy but beautiful. It had been a bit of time since my trip to Malta so seeing the crystal blue waters and feeling the sand between my toes was nice.

It was a shock to see some nudes on the beach. Both adults and children were walking without tops or bottoms – I wasn’t prepared but there also weren’t a ton people. I could deal.

Even while on the beach on my own, I was able to find a nice spot to bathe in the sea. Had I gotten to the beach earlier, I could have went on one of those snorkling or boating excursions. These activities do sell out for the day pretty quickly so I recommend booking in advance or getting there really early.

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After a bit, I started feeling sun stroke. I was so tired and I wanted to sleep. I could have tried to do that on the beach but I was alone so I figured that wouldn’t be smart (I didn’t want anything stolen). I made my way to the bus back to Palma where I grabbed a bit of KFC for lunch.

The last couple of days there, I went to the Haagen Das store, had gelato, did a bit of window shopping and walked the streets of Palma.

It was a lovely time and it wasn’t too expensive – recommend going but don’t stay at the HM Bangulera.

Windy Walks and Cliffs in Cornwall

I didn’t imagine myself in Cornwall ever – never ever. I guess that’s strange since I went to Manchester and many people would say they’d never see themselves there. But boy, I’m so glad I went to Cornwall, in October even!
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First off, Cornwall is beautiful. There are plenty of walking paths near the coast, beaches, mini hikes, rural animals and farms, and more. It’s so quaint (but sometimes too quaint with shops closing at 9 PM and refusing to serve you food since their kitchens are closed) and the atmosphere is relaxed beyond belief.
I went there on a quick getaway with a friend. We stayed in the cutest little Chalet (hidden behind a slightly scary and narrow road) that had everything you could ask for (maps of the area, TV, wifi, mini kitchen, homemade cake and honey, etc). It was warm, peaceful and picturesque.
As soon as we got in, we made our way to one of the only open eateries near us – a fish & chips spot in Hayle. I ordered cod with some cheesy chips (fries) and my friend had the fish cake and traditional chips. Both were absolutely delicious. The portions were huge, the food was fresh (since we were so close to the sea) and the meal was cheap. Great first intro to Cornwall.
Next up, windy hikes in Porthleven and Porthcurno.
We stopped in Porthleven where we each picked up a breakfast pastry and warm drink. Again, delicious. We then walked along the harbor where we eventually started skipping, climbing and throwing rocks. I wasn’t ready immediately, I had my Michael Kors handbag in one hand and a pastry in the other but I had to roll up my sleeves and get one with nature. I wanted to enjoy all that fresh air and just sit.
After a bit of that, we were off to Porthcurno where we hiked along the coastal path. We saw “wild ponies”, sheep, castle sites, sea side views and even trekked along a small fishing village. It was a very windy day however,making it difficult to hike as there was great potential for the wind to pick you up and throw you off the cliff! We survived but there were a few close encounters.
The next few days, we took it easy, eating the Cornish delicacy called the pasty from Philps and just going on casual strolls and car rides around Cornwall.
We then took a trip down to Tintagel to see some Dark Ages ruins as well as King Arthur’s castle. It was really nice and the views were again, freaking awesome. We also had an amazing seafood meal at the Seafood Cafe in St Ives but nearly killed ourselves eating. Although the portions weren’t huge, I felt like I was going to explode after sharing a starter, then eating my meal with a glass of wine and some dessert.
I loved Cornwall! Especially the last day where we walked all over Hayle beach and got another Cornish pasty for the road. Fun times!
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Manchester Madness

Manchester is a city that when spoken about amongst Londoners, has them scoffing at the thought of any tourist actually wanting to check it out.

At least, that was what I encountered when I went there a few weeks ago but I didn’t let the negative words or laughs at my attempt to explore the UK stop me. I hopped on a Virgin train into the vibrant city that was once the shining gem in the UK crown.

Manchester is a beautiful city that is typically undermined by the rain and grey mist of clouds that hover over. There’s a large amount to do: restaurants, shopping centers, theater, nightlife and more.

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The photo above is a shot of Deansgate. It’s a popular street home to a lot of pubs and a few clubs. You can basically walk this long endless road and run into a variety of options to party your night away. I ended up at one club (the name of which is escaping me but is in fact on Deansgate) that required me to pay an entry fee that went into the double digits. I decided to fork over the cash as I wanted to have a good night and I was promised all the drinks I could swallow before 10 PM (I powered through four large glasses of champagne in an hour). The music was ok and the venue was a nice space but it was literally empty for the entire time I was there. I stayed from like 9 PM until 11:30 PM. I guess I could have stayed longer but when you’re at a club by yourself for more than 2 hours and no one is there to really talk to, things get old quick. I did text a few friends at home in the states but again, it gets old.

I probably chose wrong in regards to club but it was generally a good deal since I had a lot of drinks and there were free snacks. I do know that you can have a good time in Manchester though for way less money than is required in London. Just make sure you choose better than me!

Manchester food. I was starved my first day and ended up at Byron which I thought was a local burger joint but later realized it was a chain restaurant all over the UK.

Byron Burgers was freaking awesome! The burger was so tasty and the mac and cheese, DELICIOUS! It’s a must eat if you ask me and the price isn’t terrible. The restaurant was also a nice way to hide from the rainy mist that came down the first day I arrived. Just think, had it not rained, I would have never bothered to try Byron Burgers. I think Manchester earned loads of cool points just for that fact. Thanks rain!

Later on in my trip, I went to this cute cafe for breakfast on my last day called Teacup. They had a huge selection of teas and beautiful decor. I ordered a breakfast scone with rose tea and imagine my delight when they came out with a tea timer to ensure I had the perfect cup of tea! I was a bit confused as to how it worked but super delighted by it. It made me feel as if I were at a tea party thrown by the girliest girl known to man. Overall it was a nice breakfast. A definite must try if you have a super sweet tooth. Very sugary scone.

I also tried to have some local fare which was a meat pie. Um, I should have went back to Byron. I mean it was ok (I went to a place called Pie & Ale) but wished it was better for the price I paid. I also ordered potato skins with bacon and cheese and what I got, maybe I’m just used to American skins. I would not recommend ordering.

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The city is rich with history! I went on an unofficial tour of Manchester hosted by a guy who is from the city and recently graduated from university. The tour is listed on Facebook and is free but he does ask for donations if you enjoy the tour and what he shared. The guy is Really good! He takes the whole group around Manchester shedding light on the music scene, the gay district, the history of Vimto, where Victoria and David Beckham had their first date, museums and more. It’s great and a really nice way to spend a few hours in Manchester as well as get to know the area. You literally walk everywhere. At the end of the tour I went to a show recommended by the guide in this special round theater . The show was full of inside jokes about being from Manchester and the UK as the play chronicled the life of a growing boy in Manchester and his obsession with ping pong. I was able to catch on to the inside jokes fairly quickly but I’m glad I made myself check out the show.

As for where I stayed, I was at the YHA hostel. It was clean and good for just a basic place to rest your head. Nothing to run home and tell mom about especially seeing as our room had this really weird porto toilet but again, it was fine to sleep in for the weekend.

I feel like my negative points or notes on what I didn’t like about my trip might be outshining the overall post but Manchester was really great. I learned so much about how Manchester played a part in the slave trade, the influence on the music scene and just the general bustling nature of the city. Lots to do but everyone isn’t in a rush.

If you want pop into a European city, check out Manchester. I promise Londoners are just a little full of themselves here. haha

I Got My Hair Wet! #Help Malta Diving

Malta. I was inspired to check out this sunny European city after seeing one of my favorite vloggers on YouTube head there in a past video. With expectations of fun times, sun, sand and a chance to find a real beach this summer while staying in London, I made my way down to the island.

Unsure of what to do as this was one of my many solo trips, I decided to check out one activity that seems to be HOT on the island, diving.

After a bit of research into local facilities and places within walking distance of my hostel, I came across Divewise.

Divewise is located right next to party central on St. Julians, Paceville. The facilities are clean, easy to spot and the staff are quite friendly.

As a person who has never dived before and had no idea what to expect, I was pretty nervous about going through with it. The thought of chickening out did pass through my mind but within a moment’s notice, my instructor showed up at my hostel to pick me up for my morning lesson. Nice one! A personal valet for a diving lesson? Definitely threw some more cool points Divewise’s way.

My instructor, Lee, was very friendly. He chatted with me in the car about the island, the diving course and gave me some insight on what to expect but when we arrived at the facility, things got real.

Tanks, fins, masks – my belief in my ability to swim and not drown started to wain. I wasn’t confident about everything that was about to go down but then my instructor Lee reassured me with the help of a pamphlet and a diving skills overview.

When the other two students from my intro to diving class arrived (the class was only three people including myself, making it perfect to have a one on one skills session), Lee went over the four basics we needed to know while diving. He familiarized us with all the equipment, showed us how they functioned and then had us do a mini test to make sure we were fit to dive and were paying attention.

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He then came by and checked with us our sizing information and gave us wetsuits, boots, fins and even fitted us for swimming masks.

Let me just say, wetsuits are tight! It’s more than just trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans. It’s really hard to get into them but you can do it if you try. I eventually managed to do it successfully and then Lee came by to help fit us with our diving tank backpack.

IMG_2760.jpgWhen we were all ready, it was time to go into the sea to run through skills. Practicing clearing our masks of water, reinserting our breathing tubes, leveling our pressure, etc, we were doing everything possible to ensure a safe dive.

I must admit that for some reason, my brain had a hard time figuring out how to clear my mask of water but Lee made sure each us mastered it before we even attempted diving. I felt very well watched and taken care of, alleviating any fear of drowning.

When we were all set, it was time to go on a dive! We followed Lee, swimming through the sea and watching all the fish pass by. It was truly an amazing one of a kind experience. Seeing everything so close up and doing something I had never done before, it really was and is thrilling!

Again, I also felt super taken care of as during the dive, Lee kept checking with each of us to make sure we were ok. He helped us get our balance, clear our masks, and even added weight to my belt while in the water as I kept floating around and was unable to stay low to the sea floor.IMG_2735

Now there are a ton of diving shops on Malta but I must say that my experience with Divewise was excellent. They were super attentive and even offered to drop me off at my hostel once the dive was finished. If you’re looking to try your hand at diving or just try a fun water sport with great people (the staff are beyond friendly), then please go to Divewise. You won’t regret it nor will you mind getting your hair wet!

 

 

Traveling While Black

I feel like my title might be controversial but this is a topic that has popped into my head whilst I’ve been traveling about Europe and living a life that always seemed like something that could NEVER really happen.

A few days ago, I was coming back from my recent trip to Malta. My flight left late so I arrived later than planned. Not a fan. I make a mad dash to the border control because I didn’t want to wait forever and the trains in London stop running after 12, which would have forced me to take cab when I didn’t want to nor did I budget to do so.

After running for what seemed like 10 minutes, I arrive dat the border to see a massive line that was about two hours long. TWO HOURS! How in gods green earth that was the case, I don’t know. Maybe it was because I was at Heathrow? Any who, I tried to be patient, letting out a few moans, sighs and chats with myself about how ridiculous the line was to finally get to an agent.

I presented my passport and landing card and out of nowhere, I found myself questioned about my travels. I’ve been in London for about 6 weeks and while here, I’ve been to Amsterdam, Manchester and Malta (with a layover in Vienna). The woman/agent started questioning my travel. Asking me where else I was going and how long I would be in London. I explain that I’m traveling for the summer and visiting family among other things. The answer didn’t satisfy her.

She then started to ask about how much money I had, if I was still employed, requested to see my tickets for my other trips and probed into how I was related to my sister. This all seemed extra to me as I know plenty of people and friends of the non color persuasion who have traveled Europe for the summer without any problems. Have you heard of the young millennial backpacker for heavens sakes?

I produced everything she asked for and then she seemed satisfied enough to let me through. Just in time as the last tube into London city center was about to take off in 2 minutes.

Why did she question me so hard? Were my movements really that suspicious or was it that me, a young black female couldn’t possibly travel Europe for the summer without trying to do some shady immigration thing? Could I be digging? Could the woman just have been doing her job? Perhaps, but it was odd.

It was odd because when I do vacation, it is rare to see other brown people traveling and relaxing. There aren’t many of “me” around, only people who live locally and most likely happen to be lower class. I saw it in Malta, I saw it when I went to Mexico, I saw it when I went to Stockholm, I usually always see it.

Then there’s also the case of my friend hand her boyfriend. Her boyfriend just got back from spending a month traveling around Europe for work. He is also brown. Upon returning to NYC, he was detained in a “brown people line” while his white co-workers were able to breeze through. They did the same traveling but why did he get the third degree?

This is just a rant but it is sad that I can’t travel around without it looking odd. Does my last name being Obama as an explanation and would that even be enough?

Don’t Fall In! Paddle Board Yoga in Malta

For the pursuit of new experiences, pushing myself beyond my boundaries and just for the fun of it all, I decided to try SUP Yoga while on a trip to Malta (more details and stories about this trip to come).

Trying my hand at paddle boarding.

SUP Yoga is an extremely fun workout that combines your love of water or paddle boarding with a passion for yoga. Taught by the founder Rosita, the class is about an hour long and goes through the yoga basics all while forcing you to really concentrate and use your core in order to keep yourself from flopping off the board and into the water. I admittedly don’t have a passion for yoga but have done it a few times and consider myself to be quite flexible. I also find myself to have relatively good balance or grace so if I do fall, it isn’t a sight. I thought, why not, I should be pretty good at this.

As you can see from my face in the photo above, terror was a REAL emotion.

Rosita starts you off giving a run through about the class, how to get on the board and ways to maintain balance. She is pretty thorough and makes sure you feel comfortable and assured that this is something you can do. I was somewhat convinced in my own abilities but knowing that there was a possibility that I might lose my balance and go face first into the open waters made things more intense. So much so, I opted for a life jacket just because it’s been a while since I last swam and I didn’t want to look foolish falling overboard and following it up with screams because I thought I might drown.

Even with all these thoughts running around, I got on the board. That was relatively easy. Also easy, paddling out to the spot where we were to setup and tether ourselves to a line so we wouldn’t go floating about the sea while doing our downward facing dogs. What wasn’t easy for me as a newbie was tying myself down to the line. I hadn’t realized to put my line on the back of the board where I could easily grab it and instead let it drag behind me. This proved difficult as one of my biggest fears was falling over and trying to get that line at the back of the board might have been a way to lose your balance. Lucky for me, there was an experienced girl in the class who tied me on. Following that, the instructor came by and made sure everyone was secure and that we had enough space for our boards to float about while doing yoga.

Once we were all secure, it was time for class. Rosita had us doing some deep breathing, bridges, stretches, happy baby, and more. All of these moves were items I had done before in yoga classes back in NYC but what made this more difficult was the fact that we had to really use our core to make sure our balance was engaged. One false move and it isn’t “uh oh, I slipped but let me reset.” It’s more like “oh god, I’m in the water. Let me get back on the board and reset with my wet hands and feet making things more slippery and increasing my chances to fall over again.” However I did like that we did have to concentrate so hard on our moves or rather, our balance.

As Rosita pointed out to me after the class, because we are on the water, we have to really leave all our thoughts on the dock. We can’t bring any baggage with us or let our minds wander on to stresses and worries because one, you aren’t suppose to do that in yoga and two, it’s nearly impossible to do when you’re consumed with nailing the moves and not falling over. I certainly am a firm believer of this because I do currently have something that has caused me to think a bit harder than I need to on it and that yoga class literally wiped it clean from my brain until I got on shore.

At the very end of the class, I had a chance to chat with Rosita who has been doing SUP Yoga for over 3 years in Malta (St. Julians). She’s told me that she really has been seeing the enthusiasm for the program  pick up out here because not only is it a fun workout but it really builds your core and helps out with balance. She’s trained athletes here in Malta and has also expanded the business to add on a number of new employees. All in all, people are truly digging the class and I am one of them.

I definitely had a great time learning more about SUP Yoga and also having the ability to workout while on vacation but not feel like I was working out. The class is a ton of fun and best of all, Rosita gives you a few minutes after class to just paddle on the boards for fun! This really made my Malta trip one of kind and I highly recommend if you’re looking for something affordable and fun to do.

 

St James Park + Fish & Chips Mate!

I’m coming up on my month in London. How crazy is that? How have I been here for nearly a month?

It really doesn’t feel like it but it is really has been a month. I’ve done so much and not enough (according to my personality type). A trip to Amsterdam, a short filmmaking course, weekend excursions and trips exploring the city – that just makes up a bit of what I’ve been doing.

Has all this activity caught up with me? Yes and no. The newness of everything has me pumped with a natural adrenaline that allows me to get a natural high, propelling me through every activity I’d normally be too tired for. There are moments when I just need to lay my head down and barricade myself from everyone and everything. Not because I’m antisocial, but me personally, I need a break to decompress. Gather my thoughts, you know!

Some activity I wanted to share with you includes my trip to the city yesterday. I was headed to a Meet Up that kind of fizzled (due to me not finding the group) so instead of wasting the day, I ran about the city. Hitting up the monuments I’m very familiar with but haven’t seen since nearly a month of being in the city.

Since I was already in St James Park I started there, taking photos of nature and the beauty within in the park. I tried to be artsy and capture some original shots as seen below.

As you can see from my superb skills, nature was out in full force. Loads of beautiful greens, manicured lawns, ornate flowers, etc. It really is a picturesque park good for any date or day to hang with friends, catch some rays and play some games.

Next I went to check out Buckingham Palace because, why not?

After running around the park and doing a bit of walking, I decided I needed to have my first classic British meal, Fish & Chips. I was scared to get something in the area I was because that location is notoriously touristy which means, dumb tourists will pay. I didn’t want subpar fish and chips or pay a million quid (I’m speaking the lingo not to be annoying but because it’s more beneficial) so I pulled out Google (that can be hit or miss itself).

Five minutes later, I found a spot that was noted as being 20 minutes away via walking. I figured, if I’m about to eat some battered fried fish and chips followed by dessert, I could walk for it. I set out for Golden Union. It wasn’t cheap (especially since they charge you a fee to sit down and eat but every place does that) but boy was it filling. The portions were huge! I know there are probably better spots that aren’t so pricey but I still recommend.

Barely having finished digesting my meal, I went to get some dessert in the form of gelato. On my way to find gelato though, I ran into Chipotle! I don’t know why but that made me so happy. A small taste of home. haha But yeah, I got my signature Stracciatella gelato cone. Yum at SnowFlake!

Last up on my todo list for the day, I wandered around near Oxford Circus and Trafalgar Square. There, I saw a floating Yoda and the outside of the National Portrait Gallery. I’ll go to the museum again at some point.

That’s what I was up to but stay tuned, I’ll tell you more about my life here and some fun upcoming trips.

Things so far in London

Disclaimer: I’m still a huge London stan right now. I really am loving my time here and enjoying myself. Do I miss my friends, my apartment/personal space, and general working knowledge of how NYC operates? Yeah sure. But I’m really liking the people I’ve met (interesting range of characters) as well as the city itself. However, I must give you my unbiased opinion of London so far.

Trains

This might be a long one because it encompasses price, etiquette and general poop.

They run when and where they want. One moment you’re waiting for a train scheduled to depart in 5 minutes, the next thing you know the schedule says its 10 minutes a way, followed by delayed, followed by cancelled.

I get really annoyed when this happens. Not only is my plan or schedule to get somewhere (or just home) on time thrown off, but I’m left struggling trying to piece together a new way home or wherever based on my limited (but slowly expanding knowledge of the city).

Another thing that grinds my gears, they are so expensive! You can buy a monthly pass but they are all priced depending on what zone you’re in. The city is separated by zones! Let’s just say a monthly from Zone 1 to Zone 6 (living out there) is upwards of $300 US dollars. And then, even when you think you’ve covered yourself, even if your train runs through a zone that you don’t even get off in, you still have to pay for it so watch out.

Last train gripe. Etiquette of the people on it is surprisingly terrible. People don’t say excuse me or tap you to move out of the way, they push pass you, swipe by you and even somewhat knock you over without as much as “I’m sorry.” I was really caught off guard by this because I expected a certain level of manners but I was mistaken. Shoveling myself into a rush our overground train, I soon learned. A man got so mad at me for trying to squeeze myself in. I apologized (unlike usual etiquette) and said I was trying to make it somewhere on time and he was sort of taken aback. Maybe it was my apology or my accent but I think he got it.

My Chip Though

So I prepped and got myself a travel credit card (great for avoiding those international fees) but for some reason, even though I have my chip in my card and everything, I am forced to feel like an outsider when making a purchase.

My card is accepted most places (Thank DA LORD) but I have to sign every receipt. Like every other EU person gets to tap and go or swipe and go but I get made to feel less than by signing a paper. Ok. Maybe I’m a drama queen but still. I feel awkward because no one ever has a pen behind the register and I have to dig around for one in my bag and stuff.

SUN, Where you Be?!!

I thought coming in summer would mean more exposure to sun in London. I mean, I know the city is prime for rain. I was expecting it and was fully prepared but man, I’ve been to London during the summer many of times and the weather I’m getting is meh.

Not awful but like I could use a day where the sun is out all day and we get close to 80 F (or 30 C for your brits). I want to wear my shorts and dresses! I’m still going to wear them though, I just need to be extra prepared.

So yeah, those are a few things about London so far. I still love you and the random things you throw at me but make those small tweaks and I’ll lust for you. jk

Adventure in Amsterdam: Only 1 Day?!

I’m planning to take quite a few European excursions while staying in the UK. The first excursion on that list was a trip to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam – home of the legal weed and endless canals!haha

Both statements are true. Canals are EVERYWHERE and so are Coffee Shops where you can purchase and smoke weed. I went inside one out of curiosity and let me just say, I’ve never seen so many flavors/knew there were so many flavors of weed. It reminded me of the back of a Jelly Belly box.

That wasn’t my first stop though. My first trip was to my hostel after a hellish flight just to get into the country (see previous blog). I was staying at the Generator – right behind Oosterpark.

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Classic closed eyes while smiling pic.

After a pleasant stroll through the park (there were ducks, little bridges, greenery, etc), I came upon my hostel building. It was large and the outside gave me the feel that it might have an old vibe to it.

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As I got closer however, I realized I was wrong. It was really modern on the inside. So modern, I couldn’t even figure out how to press the button for the elevator and instead walked the extra four flights to my room.

I originally wanted to cut down on my stay and get a bed in a shared room but due to the nature of my booking, went with what was free – a private twin room. It was great. My own space, my own bathroom, my own air! It was nice change of space after going from living on my own to staying with relatives while abroad (privacy is a beloved thing).

With literally one full day to tear through Amsterdam before my 7 AM flight, I started off by taking a two hour power nap in my room (partay animal). haha

10:30 AM – Get in my belly!

I’m starving. The last thing I ate was a bag of crisps and a bottle of fanta at around 1 AM during my awful airport experience. I needed a real meal. I pulled out my Google Maps (dude, I’d be LITERALLY lost without it) and looked for some places to sit and eat. I had croissant on the brain so was ideally looking for something in that alley but after a long and arduous eight minute search I said, forget this, let me just walk to the streets with all the shops and try my luck.

I wasn’t staying in city center, so I was clear of the tourist traps. I figured I could find something. I did, it was Maxwell Cafe.

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The space was beyond cute and they had a nice little selection on the menu at a reasonable price. The only draw back? The menu was completely in Dutch. However I did have enough brain power to figure out what some of the dishes were like Tosti’s (basically panini) or used Google to translate for me. In the end, I went with something I thought was traditional which was Garnalenkroketten – shrimp croquettes. The aioli drew me in but the whole dish was quite tasty!

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Highly recommend coming here if you’re near Oosterpark. The staff was very nice and the food was great. The only thing was after awhile, I wanted the check but it never came. I soon realized you had to go confront someone at the counter if you wanted to leave. Wish I had figured that out 15 minutes earlier.

1 PM – Weed Muffin Anyone?

Ran out to explore the neighborhood and look for a coffee shop that sold weed in edible form. Was curious on the offering as well as price. I also stopped in this cute chocolate shop called Van Veleze and got two chocolate lollipops. Tasty! Again, the staff was really nice and they had a slew of other desserts I wish my stomach could have handled. haha

3 PM- Time to get into city center and ride a bike!

It’s clear upon arrival into the city that biking is key. It’s no joke. There are actual biking paths just for bikes and tiny slivers of sidewalk for people. Biking is key and pedestrians must jump out of the way for them. With that in mind, I too had to explore Amsterdam by bike and ring my bells to make tourist hearts quiver with fear.

I rented a bike from this guy who told me that they take non EU visitor’s passports as collateral just because we look like easy targets for bike thieves. He also said we tend to get in more accidents. Nice boost in confidence guy. Any way, he shows me how to use the bike and I set off to check out the city.

During this ride I encounter the Heineken Factory, Endless Canals, A Mock Fifth Avenue, and more!

Later, I continue to stroll and find the Banksy exhibition, Ruk Museum, Van Gough Museum, etc. Everything was so perfectly manicured and maintained – the picture of perfection.

Eventually I ended my day with the items that were on my mind at the top of it – croissants – and chilled out at the hostel to check out some of the late night events happening there.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip filled with unexpected adventures and people watching. I definitely recommend you visit Amsterdam!