photo via apartment therapy
photo via apartment therapy
I’m not going to try to sell myself as a cool, hip globetrotter. You may or may not know that I spent a semester abroad my junior year and managed to visit 8 countries in ~5 months, and I’ve been to like 40 states in America (including Alaska and Hawaii, so THERE) thanks to my parents’ shared passion for domestic travel and national parks.
In my 22 years of traveling, I like to think I’ve picked up a few (almost) no fail tips and tricks for making every journey a success–whether you’re with your family or your drinking buddies.
1. For the love of God, don’t get on a tour bus.
Ok, ok, that was a little dramatic. I’ve done my fair share of bus tours on family trips, and they definitely come with pros and cons. If you’re in a foreign country (where you don’t speak the language) for a limited amount of time, a tour bus could be a good option. You won’t have to spend time trying to understand the local public transit system, and if it’s a “hop on, hop off” kind of deal, it’s basically a free shuttle around the city. But OH MY GOD do not take one in New York. I don’t understand why anyone would come to NYC, look at all the traffic, and decide to hop on a freaking bus. Take the subway, rent a bike, or take a city bus.
2. Go where the Anthropologie is.
This is a rule of thumb I have for finding cute shopping neighborhoods in large cities. And it doesn’t have to be Anthropologie (if you’re in Amsterdam, try Dille & Kamille), but looking up boutique-y stores like this will usually land you in a trendy, non-commercialized shopping district. Just make sure it’s not far from the city center, because then you’ll probably end up at a mall. Not the worst thing, but you know.
3. STAY! TOGETHER!!
This is especially important if you’re abroad and can only iMessage/WhatsApp over WiFi! Organize your schedule ahead of time so everyone gets to see what they want without getting separated. And if you must split up, agree on a very specific meeting place. Not “outside of the Louvre” but “in front of the rightmost table at the outdoor cafe on the right side of the third pyramid at the Louvre.” Got it?
4. Back it up.
My phone is constantly out of storage. Literally twice a week, I’ll try to take a picture and my phone won’t let me. To avoid this problem when traveling, be thorough and back up your whole phone to your iCloud/laptop/hard drive/whatever before a big trip, and then delete the photos form your actual phone so it has room for all your selfies!
One of my favorite cities in Europe is Barcelona–city-wide afternoon siestas, late-night dancing and cheap sangria? Three of my favorite things in a beautiful city on the beach. When I was deciding where to study abroad, Barca was the only other place I seriously considered besides Amsterdam–and though you probably know I couldn’t be happier with my choice, I definitely wish I had more than 48 hours in this zesty Spanish city.
Among other things, Spain is famous for tapas and paella. On the first afternoon, I was exhausted from dealing with a delayed flight, so my friend and I stumbled to a bustling restaurant that seemed pretty reasonable. We ordered a variety of small plates, like papas bravas and pan con tomate, and some tasty sangria. This meal would be less than memorable if I hadn’t been so damn hungry.
Spain was one of the places I went in Europe that had a Dunkin Donuts–happy selfies commenced along with an iced latte and sugar-loaded donut. There was one in the train station by Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, which we only admired from the outside. One of my only regrets from my adventures abroad is not shelling out the 20 euros for admission into the cathedral.
The weather was incredible when I was there, and we spent a lot of time wandering around the historic district. We went to La Boqueria, a large, incredibly crowded food market, famous for quality Iberico and fresh fruit. We strolled along La Rambla and settled on a place to get paella–definitely got ripped off trying to find authentic food in such a touristy area, but we were dying to sit down and have something cold to drink (more sangria). The supermarket we went to later to get snacks was selling paella for 2 euros a serving. Go figure.
After a much needed siesta, I forced my travel buddy to rally so we could hit the clubs. The nightlife in Barcelona is right on the beach, and is unlike anything I’ve experienced. The club scene in New York is a game all it’s own, but in Barca, it was come one, come all. Everyone’s there for dancing and good times–and tequila shots.
The next morning, we took a hungover stroll to Park Guell, another Gaudi site that was a little gentler on our wallets–and in walking distance of our Air Bnb. It was super hot that day, and an uphill walk to the park, so we stopped for some slushy drinks.
So, when should I go back?
I could literally talk about Amsterdam forever…and since it’s part of the eat-a-city series, I’m going to! When I originally thought of this series, my idea was more “city in a grocery bag.” But since a lot of the places I’ve travelled to were very short visits, I decided to do more of a food diary…though A’dam is kind of an exception considering I lived, grocery shopped and cooked there.
This blog post is a love letter of sorts to Albert Heijn, the most perfect grocery store in all the world. One of the best parts of living in Amsterdam was the incredibly cheap groceries–they were cheap by American suburban standards, and prices were drastically lower compared to Gristedes/Morton Williams/Fine Fare/every subpar supermarket in NYC. I’m talking loaves of bread for 65 cents, Dutch cheese for a dollar, and insanely delicious salads for $4…granted, the groceries were priced in euros, but the conversion rate was very close to 1:1 when I was there.
One of my favorite products at AH was the guacamole kits they had in their produce section–it cost just under $3 for two avocados, a lime, a tomato, a chili pepper, garlic, and shallots, a.k.a. everything you need to make your own guac. For perspective, I paid $2.29 for a single avocado at the Tribeca Whole Foods yesterday.
Two very typical Dutch treats that I came to love were stroopwafels and hagelslag. Stroopwafels are wafer-thin waffle cookies sandwiched with a sticky, caramel-like syrup. You could buy a package of 12 for around $1 at the store, but lots of street vendors sell homemade ones the size of your face, hot off the griddle. Hagelslag are like quality chocolate sprinkles–sprinkled on buttered bread is a standard breakfast item in this beautiful country.
One of my favorite things to eat in Amsterdam was a veggie burger from a little restaurant called Burgerlijk. Wandering around in a hungry daze, I stumbled upon this gem when my friends were visiting over their spring break. I can be particular about veggie burgers…and I’m not sure what this one was made of, but it was incredible. Like, I think about it way too much. The whole thing is super customizable–lots of different cheeses, toppings, and sauces, and their fries are also incredible. I took my meat-eating parents here when they came to visit, and they were impressed with the regular beef burgers.
I also went to another incredible restaurant when my folks were in town (read: free dinner) called De Vergulden Eenhorn. It’s on the outskirts of the city in a restored farmhouse–honestly as “me” as it gets–and they have just a handful of items on their menu, all of which are exceptional. I always think it’s better for a restaurant to have four entrees that they do really well, rather than ten that are just ok. We went twice because it was so damn good, and I had cauliflower soup, barley risotto, and sea bass. The restaurant makes their own bread, aioli, and hummus, which were also delicious.
What are your favorite Amsterdam eats?
It’s no secret that I love to travel, and nostalgia from my European adventures last year inspired me to create a new series, “eat-a-city.” One of my favorite things about going to new cities was trying the local cuisine, as well as perusing supermarket shelves for groceries that seemed familiar or interesting. I’ve decided to write posts about my favorite eats in each city, starting with Paris.
My time in Paris as a 21-year-old was a major carb-fest. Baguettes and crepes were eaten at least once daily, supplemented with French cheese and Nutella. On our day trip to Versailles, we brought along bread, cheese and chocolate to have a picnic lunch, and I are Kinder Buenos for breakfast everyday. Kinder Buenos are now my favorite candy bar–it’s like a Nutella-filled chocolate bar, and I honestly don’t understand why they’re so hard to find in America.
Finding affordable restaurants in Paris was also quite difficult for some reason, and I recall having an omelet and French fries for dinner on two occasions. My favorite meal in Paris was, funnily enough, at an Italian place called Sapori di Parma, a hybrid market/deli/trattoria (I discovered this place thanks to a quick Google search for cheap eats near the Eiffel Tower). My friends and I were a bit hesitant about eating Italian food in France, but this place was totally a diamond in the rough. We asked if we could just get one item instead of the three-course menu put in front of us, and the waiter, who spoke a charming mix of French, Italian and English, happily obliged, offering us any pasta dish and a glass of wine for ten euros. I had homemade, half-moon shaped gnocchi in a gorgonzola sauce and a glass of white wine.
I really did not love my long weekend in Paris–of course, it was incredible to see the iconic landmarks I’d been dreaming of my whole life, but stepping away from warm, welcoming Amsterdam to a city that detests foreigners wasn’t especially pleasant. I recently told my mom that I’ll only go back to Paris when I have enough money to splurge on a nice hotel and can eat at Michelin-starred restaurants.
Have a must-eat spot in Paris? Let me know here!
If you follow @nycismyboyfriend on Instagram, you might have noticed that I frequently repost photos from other users. I want to be able to post quality content on a frequent, regular basis, so it’s often easier to use someone else’s photo of a mimosa on Sunday morning than it is to shower, get dressed and actually go to brunch (nobody goes to brunch every week, FYI). Plus, I’m kind of busy and don’t always have time to run around taking scenic photos of NYC.
As I’ve been perusing Insta for great photos to have on hand for my posts, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of really amazing (and funny) accounts out there. Here are some of my all-time favorites.
If you have a serious case of wanderlust, follow @LucyLaucht.
Her photos are seriously stunning, and I always have to stop myself from re-posting every image she shares.
If you love food, follow @Food52.
Their dreamy, minimalistic approach to food photos makes for beautiful photos guaranteed to make your mouth water. Food52 also reposts a lot, so it’s a great way to find other accounts to follow.
If you love bright colors, follow @ABeautifulMess.
ABM is also an amazing site that has tons of craft ideas and recipes, but their Insta feed is an always-welcome pop of color.
If you love NYC, follow @AlyssaInTheCity.
This Refinery29 writer posts great photos of everything from rosé to retro cars, and (of course) beautiful images of New York.
If you need a laugh, follow @GirlWithNoJob.
There are tons of accounts that share memes and funny text posts (@FuckJerry is also great), but this one is always on point.
In my last year of college, I took intro to journalism. Yep, INTRO to Journalism just a few months before I graduated. (Sidebar: The class was mostly seniors, so I guess it’s common to save specific concentration courses for the final semesters…once all the rigorous liberal arts curriculum has been completed.) I loved this course, and it reminded why I chose my Communications/Journalism major–why after years of people telling me what a great writer I am, I put two and two together and decided to pursue something I was actually good at. A big reason why I enjoyed this class so much was the very down-to-earth professor I had. She was a Fordham alum, who started teaching after working in news radio for a while, but was still young enough to be fun and approachable.
Since the class was mostly seniors, our final session was reserved for an advice session from our professor. She gave a lot of useful advice, but one thing really stuck out to me: the pace of our lives. Until now, everyone’s lives moved at the same pace. All of my friends and I started high school at the same time. We started getting jobs and babysitting at the same time. We took driver’s ed and got our licenses at the same time. We graduated in four years, bound for college straightaway. Even though we ventured far away from one another, we all graduated on time and many of us even studied abroad the same semester. In essence, the timing of our lives lined up perfectly.
But now, my professor said, there’s no longer a set path–things are going to start happening at a different pace for everyone. People will get married a year after graduation, or ten years after, or never. Other people will start having babies, or buying cars and houses, or move to Prague to teach English. The point is that just because someone else does one or all of these things before you, it doesn’t mean that you’re behind, or that you’re missing something or living your life wrong.
This realization was super significant for me. I always feel frantic when my friends start new relationships or get new jobs because I feel like I skipped a step, like I missed a class and now I won’t do as well on the final exam. It’s hard to sign into Facebook and see photos from someone’s bridal shower, or posts of someone else’s fancy new apartment, or hear about yet another person’s promotion at work. Just because it’s not happening to you, doesn’t mean that you’re falling behind in life (at least according to Professor J.). I’m a big believer in following my gut, and I’m also a big believer in putting my happiness first. Everything else will come when the time’s right.