25 Jul 2014

Eurotrip // Delft, The Netherlands

Hello hello! I'm about to embark on the solo portion of my trip by travelling to Paris today! I will be on my own in the city of love for five whole, glorious, macaron filled days. Today I've got the last of my Netherland adventures to share: my day trip to Delft! I just want to say that I loved the whole of Holland. It has endeared itself to me forever. There are nothing but nice people, beautiful canals and delicious cheeses (despite the waffles, the same cannot be said of Belgium...) I feel very lucky to have had such a fantastic time adventuring and exploring with my trusty tour guide. Alright, let's get down to business: Delft! 
Delft is super easy to get to and is absolutely beautiful. 
Sophie and I spent a few lovely hours in some rainy weather wandering around the city and enjoying it's culinary delights. It's definitely worth a train ride out, even in the rain. Sophie and I arrived in the evening so we missed out on the tourist shopping experience (I'm sure my wallet is pleased), which I think is one of the primary pulls (however, hot tip, for those so inclined Delft is the home of delftware and that ish was everywhere. So if you are in the market to buy some of that, Delft is your spot.) There are tons of little cafes, shops and places to sit and people watch. It's a beautiful little city and we had fun exploring it. 

We visited the Oude Kerk (old church) just before it closed and got to take in the beautiful stained glass, domed ceiling and beautiful carvings. It was originally built in 1246 giving the "oude" some serious credibility. Sadly we didn't have time for Nieuwe Kerk (new church) which was built in the much more modern 1396. Nieuwe Kerk looms impressively over the town square and was nothing if not imposing and added an air of medievalness to our rainy evening. 
Despite the description of canals and cobble stoned streets, it's a very different place than Amsterdam or Leiden. The whole city has a very medieval feel to it, a kind of quiet magic. My hunch is that on beautiful summer days it's swamped with tourists, but Sophie tells me that it's really a student town (reportedly a veritable hot bed of engineers). Apparently the boys from Delft favour the girls from Leiden. If you're looking for a Dutch romance plot line in your life: you're welcome! 

After a bit of exploring and audible stomach rumbles, Sophie and I stumbled across De Sjees and their glorious heated patio. We made ourselves comfortable and ordered a few beers, Sophie chose Kriek and I went with an Orval, which is brewed at an abbey and is absoltuely delicious. The sampling of both was, unbeknownst to me, to be my foray into Belgian beers (it is now beknownst to me and I have thoroughly enjoyed several belgian brews and accompanying belgian hangovers). Our server looked exactly like Rosamund Pike and was so nice and sweet, endearing herself to us forever. The patio was not only heated but was equipped with soft, fleece throws to prevent the chill from seeping in. Sophie and I pretty much thought this was the greatest and had a marvellous time. 

Pro traveling tip: When you go out to eat in The Netherlands, there are meals and then there are Snacks. Snacks are what we would probably call appetizers or small plates. So, if you ever find yourself at a restaurant and your server asks you if you want snacks, do not furrow your brow, just smile and say yes because at the very least it means you are getting krokets and fries with mayo. What is not good about this scenario? Snacks for everyone!

Basically: you should go to Delft (and just visit the Netherlands in general.) The End. 

Thanks for following along! Check out more European adventures here.

24 Jul 2014

Eurotrip // Amsterdam, The Netherlands

A big hello from Belgium! My sister and I are headed to Bruges today for a day trip (apparently Belgian waffles originated in Bruges, therefore I feel morally obligated to sample them and report back with the results.) I'm very excited to share my photos from Amsterdam today! I hope you all like photos because there's a fair amount... Alright, let's get into it. 
On Sunday Sophie and I went for a day trip, which was perfectly reasonable since it's only 45 minutes outside of Den Haag. It was so wonderful travelling everywhere with Sophie, we never once got stuck in a garish tourist trap, she knew exactly how to get out them and quickly (something I deeply appreciate about her). After we arrived we met up with her lovely friend Dawn and immediately got down to enjoying some deep fried cheese, naturally. Then we were off exploring by foot. 

We did not go to the red light district or go to a coffee shop. Call me crazy but I was too enamoured with the endless twists and turns of streets ending in canals to want to go look at half naked ladies or get high (I did see the Brussels red light district when our train was arriving in the city and it made me feel sick, so I think I made a wise choice in skipping out on Amsterdam's). Instead we walked around the city for hours and hours. It was breathtaking. There's a certain feeling that I get in old cities, like London or Glasgow and now Amsterdam, where I want to sit down in the middle of the road and let all the history soak into me. It's as if the ground vibrates with all the thousands of years of feet and hooves and wheels that have traversed the streets. I think the feeling might be something akin to reverence. Amsterdam is old and beautiful and full of a magic that you can only find in very old, cobble stoned cities. If I was a writer I would love to sit for hours on a patio, sipping tiny coffees, imagining all the lives of people had in that city. I would write it all down in a book and then it would sell lots and lots of copies because people love magic and even though they claim they don't have imaginations, they really do and they love to be used. Amsterdam simply lends itself to the imagination. 

It is a city that has a ton of little quirks, for example when looking up you can see small wooden beams with hooks attached that hang over the front of residences. This is not the best quality photo, however it does demonstrate the hooks on the outsides of houses, which Sophie and my trust guide book informed me are used to move furniture in and out of windows instead of up the winding staircases. My guidebook actually has a section called Watch Out For Falling Pianos that describes these exact hooks. Sophie, who actually lives in a world where hooks are involved, just kind of rolled her eyes to express something like "oh the Dutch aren't as charming as one would imagine.." She's moving apartments in a month, so I suppose she feels the squeeze of narrow stair cases more keenly than a tourist such as myself. 

We walked our way through many different neighbourhoods, mercifully hardly any touristy ones (I can't stand tourist areas! So ironic) and imagined what it would be like to live there. At one point we saw a ginger cat lounging in a big open window, Sophie panicked for the cat accidentally plunging to it's death, however I just started imagining what it would be like to have a life in Amsterdam. I mean, you guys know my feelings about ginger cats. We shared a lot of wistful sighs and dreamy looks about the what-ifs. 
After the Amsterdam-cat-attractive man-life fantasy we bought our weight in cheese, wine, and mini stroopwafels for a sunset picnic in Vondelpark. I know, I know. It was hardly any fun at all. 

In addition to stocking up on, ahem, cheese and wine, Sophie took me to the best chocolate shop, where we bought some fancy chocolates and indulged in some cassis and vanilla macarons. We also poked around in some vintage shops and looked at lots of beautiful cafes. I don't think I've seen the inside of a restaurant since I've been here. Apparently in Europe when the weather is nice, there are only terraces. Not that I'm complaining...


Thanks for reading and following along! Check out more European adventures here. See you after being IN BRUGES! Ha, yes, classic joke. 

PS Attention fellow travellers! Here are some travel resources worth checking out: Use-It Europe is a travel site/resource designed and run by young travellers. The hostels I've stayed at have all had paper copies of the maps made by them and they are ridiculously helpful: they include walking tours, helpful information on not looking like a tourist and what local customs are. Another helpful resource is Like Where a travel website that helps you plan your trips and discover new places based on what you already like back home. Check our their feature on Amsterdam! I have added these to my travel resource page. 

all photos taken by me and are a mix of DSLR and iPhone

23 Jul 2014

Places We've Been // Dakar, Senegal

While I'm traipsing around Europe I've invited some blog friends of mine to share the best places they've travelled in a series called Places We've Been. Check out all the stories here

Greetings from Belgium! While my sister and I are out and about exploring beautiful Brussels, I've got my amazing blog friend Alicia of Jaybird here to talk about her trip to Senegal. Alicia and I had a blogger coffee date back at the beginning of the year and is well worth a read because she is a fantastic human! I'm delighted she's back to tell about her travel adventures!

Dakar, Senegal
Longer ago than I care to admit! I studied abroad there in fall of 2009.

Favourite Part?
The energy and the hospitality (also known as teranga--Senegal is famous for it).

Tourists get asked...
"Do you have a husband?" - asked every taxi driver ever.

Eat a...
giant, ripe, juicy mango. There's some kind of travel warning against them, so don't say I didn't warn you, but I personally believe they're worth it.

All of the food in Senegal is amazing. My favorite two dishes were maafe, a peanut and tomato-based sauce cooked often cooked with goat, though other meats are used too, and yassa ginaar (also known as yassa poulet, as ginaar is the Wolof word for chicken and pouletis the French), which is a stewed onion and lemon dish.

Drink some...
JUICE! Try bissap (hibiscus flower juice--none of that watered-down tea junk that Starbucks markets), gingembre (a fiery ginger juice) andbuoy (juice of the baobob tree's fruit).

Go do/see/visit...
If you walk slowly down almost any residential street, someone will be sitting outside brewing ataya, a strongly sweetened black tea. Often strangers will invite you to join them, so take a knee and stay awhile.

Want something lovely to remind you of your trip? Visit the Village des Arts, which lives up to its name as a small village type area outside of the city where artists of all sorts are in residence.

I'm not quite the connoisseur so instead of arts, I turned to crafts: I picked up a large woven basket woven with colorful plastic. On the flight home, I had it wrapped in plastic at the airport and checked it as a piece of luggage.

I can't remember the name of the cafe, and it has probably changed over by now, but look for fliers and people who might know aboutslam--aka slam poetry. One of my favorite nights was when we attended a slam poetry session in French and Wolof at a brand new restaurant in Point E. I couldn't understand everything but the creative energy was intense.

Smells like...
Eek, honestly, when you're in the city it smells like car exhaust and sometimes sewage. But if you go anywhere near a home or a restaurant, it probably smells like delicious food and sometimes incense that the women burn. There are incense coils you burn for bugs, which either smell like nothing or a little like Citronella, but there are also types of incense that women burn to perfume themselves and their living spaces.

the people are...
very friendly! If you've got a host family, friends-of-friends or people you meet through a personal interest or work, they will likely show you some wonderful kindness and help you explore their country with true Senegalese teranga. As I mentioned, people on the streets are shockingly welcoming, especially if you're more accustomed to the inhabitants of a city like New York or Washington, D.C.. Use your judgment, but honestly you can meet great people just by walking around and practicing your French or Wolof--learning a little of the latter goes a long way in terms of showing that you're there to learn and explore in good faith.

That said, if you're wandering around looking lost or browsing in a market, there are also many excellent sales people and hustlers. Use your judgment if anyone wants to be your "guide" or show you a special store/spot/whatever.

A note on culture: I would recommend dressing very conservatively--ideally covering all of your legs and at least a t-shirt-sized amount of your torso. Loose maxi dresses are great for keeping cool, since you can swish the skirts around as you walk.

and then give a little "I visited/lived in this place because [reasons] and it was awesome because [reasons]"

I lived in Senegal to study anthropology, French and national identity as a college student. Overall it was an incredible (and incredibly challenging) experience that, in quite the cliche fashion, changed me for the better. And as a bonus, it improved my cooking repertoire!

Despite her adventuresome past, Alicia hasn't been outside of the U.S. since 2009. She writes the blog Jaybird, where she shares encouragement, foibles and love notes from all of life's transitions. Alicia finds talking about herself in the third person to be quite awkward and would prefer to say hi on Twitter or Instagram.

22 Jul 2014

Eurotrip // The Adventures Continue

Greetings! Today is my last day in Holland! Time flies when you're having a good great time. Yesterday Sophie and I wandered around Den Haag in the impending rain and got a delicious breakfast at Crunch. Afterwards we found ourselves a nice latte at a Coffee Company and both did some blogging. It has been so much fun travelling around with a fellow blogger. We got to "talk shop" and swapped blogging advice/photoshop tutorials. Taking photos with another blogger is always fun; you never feel judged and they are always down to try multiple poses and angles, I definitely recommend it.

Fellow bloggers or not, it has been amazing to spend some time with Sophie! We've been friends for almost ten years and she is simply delightful. She's a wonderful human and I am unfailingly impressed with her courage and tenacity, not to mention her wherewithal to figure out how to be a Canadian living on Dutch soil. We have had some excellent conversations over the course of my stay. Sometimes you just need to talk to people who have known you for a long time for things to click, and also to laugh at you. Sophalicious (I know you're reading this) you are fantastic! Thank you for an amazing time in the Netherlands, it will always have a special place in my heart now. Also you are an excellent tour guide. Next time: we conquer the bikes!

After we lurked around Den Haag coffee shops, we took a quick 10 minute train ride to spend the afternoon and evening in beautiful, medieval Delft. We visited the Oude Kerk (old church) and found a cozy patio to roost in for a few hours. Delft is super beautiful! It was rainy during our time there but instead of putting a damper (ha! pun!) on our time there, I think it enhanced it's medieval air of intrigue. Yes, you should absolutely go to Delft.

I have lots of photos from Delft + our day trip to Amsterdam and will share them soon. Today is a travel day: I'm packing up all my belongings from Sophie's living room and moving them to a hostel in Brussels! A huge thank you to Sophie and Pieter, her lovely super nice boyfriend, for letting me stay with them at their place and for touring me around/buying me deep fried cheese.

My sister, Zelda, arrives in Den Haag this afternoon and then she and I will take the train to Brussels for a few days of cherry beer, mussels and museums. I've stumbled across a few helpful posts such as this mini travel guide to Brussels and this one too, to help us plan our adventures. If you've been to Brussels I am all ears for suggestions!
Here's a super flattering photo of Zelda and I from 2011 when we visited in London with our dad...

RIP those sunglasses who now reside in the bottom of lake Ontario (not really RIP though)
Sadly I think that's our most recent photo together. She goes to school in Vancouver and when she's not there she is in Germany, so our paths don't cross in person that often. Thankfully there's Skype and Instagram and other magical wonders of social media. I'm excited to spend some time together, hopefully I won't embarrass her too much (I'm 6 years older!) and her cool European attitude will rub off on me. I'm totally forcing her into taking selfies with me. She'll love it. After Brussels I head to Paris for a few days of solo travelling aka eating macarons alone in the park and quite possibly nothing else...

and after that I meet up with my dad and we'll travel to Germany and Denmark! Having friends and family who live in Europe is like, way cool. Obvious statement is obvious. I hope you are all having a fantastic day! Feel free to follow along with my European adventures on Instagram and twitter.  See you in Brussels!

PS check out earlier travel adventures here

top photos by me 
cartoons from Hyperbole & a Half