AMSTERDAM(NNNN)

October 11, 2016


When we booked our weekend trip to Amsterdam a month ago, I can't say I had the highest expectations. For some reason, the capital of legalized weed and prostitution just didn't scream "charming abroad adventure" to me. Nevertheless, it seemed like the move for all those who spend a semester in Europe so I ventured onto EasyJet.com, clicked "book nonrefundable ticket" and there was no turning back.  My doubts about Amsterdam were quickly forgotten once we arrived to the City Center from the airport. The city actually did scream "charming abroad adventure" everywhere I looked. The cute crooked homes, lines of canals and beautiful people riding bikes with toddlers and puppies would have anyone hooked.


We spent the weekend exploring. And while I am glad to have crossed some of the shadier spots off the list, we were especially excited when we found the "classy" area of town. It was here that we tried Pluk, an amazing breakfast spot, gorged ourselves on gelato and stopped for coffee whenever the opportunity presented itself.

  


Amsterdam was also the site of our first hostel experience. We stayed at the Clink Noord which was a trendy(-ish) hostel in a calm area, a short ferry ride from City Center. Overall I can say it was not a scarring experience. We (Abby, Hannah and myself) did however, have a roommate for 2/3 nights, who we named Cleo (never got his actual name). He was quiet and kept to himself but this did not ease Hannah's fear that he, sleeping on the top bunk of one out of the two bunkbeds, "could be a jumper" and make the leap onto her top bunk opposite the room. We slept with our purses under our pillows as a precaution.

Our humble abode.
One perk of the hostel was how close it was situated to a nearby restaurant, THT, that we went to two nights in a row: once for drinks, and again the next night for dinner. It quickly became our favorite spot. When the waiter served my drink (vodka soda with lime) he asked "who's the skinny bitch?" After he saw our horror-stricken faces, he quickly explained that "The Skinny Bitch" was simply the restaurant's tongue in cheek name for the cocktail. Regardless, I wasn't too personally offended as I am confident in the fact that 1) I'm not particularly skinny and 2) I'm not particularly bitchy. Well usually. At least the drink was good!!!
THT was a hidden gem of Amsterdam 

Other highlights:

Climbing to The Lookout, home of Europe's highest swing with a beautiful view of Amsterdam



Stopping to take pictures at every canal we crossed (prob like 15-20 canals to be honest but I'll just share the best)


Admiring cute plants at the Floating Flower Market and encountering internal dilemmas like deciding which of these two were more adorable??? (Close call but had to go with the dog)

  

Hanging over the canal before we toured Anne Frank's house


(Not pictured: me losing a shoe on a bike tour in the Red Light District during the peak of rush hour and Abby crashing head on with a very annoyed Dutch cyclist)


Loved being crazy tourists + exploring all that A'dam had to offer with my peeps!!



ALL'S WELL IN CLERKENWELL

October 1, 2016

As I mentioned in my first post, I am enamored with Clerkenwell, the neighborhood of London where I am living for the semester. I was apprehensive when I first found out I'd be living in a more residential location, east of most of London's most popular spots, however I have come to realize that I am actually in an ideal area. Clerkenwell is quiet and safe, yet has a young and artsy vibe with pubs, bars and lots of great food options. Even better is that our flat is a 2 minute walk to the nearest Tube station, making virtually anywhere in London accessible within 15-20 minutes.



Just outside the door of my flat is the Clerkenwell & Social, an adorable cocktail bar with picnic tables and string lights outside. I haven't had one yet, but they also specialize in gourmet thin crust pizzas. No matter what night it is, this place is always poppin'. It is such a fun social environment to have so close by. Abby and I tried it for the first time last week and made a resolution to make it our regular place. They have the coolest neon sign inside that says "Be yourself, Everyone else is already taken." Good vibes all around.

    

A couple of other local faves are Marby & Elm, a modern stationery and letterpress shop that is right up my alley as a lover of all things paper and personalized; Workshop Coffee, a craft coffeehouse with unbelievable breakfast food and coffee from the heavens; and Pho (a local Vietnamese chain we went to where Abby and Hannah dared me to eat a chili pepper and I succumbed to the peer pressure... my tongue still burns when I think about it). There are many more local places that I can't wait to try. Still attempting to push myself out of my Starbucks habit to experience more authentic London places.

As for the flat itself, I am in a building exclusively for University students that is a short walk from classes.  I am living in a flat with two close friends from Wake, Abby and Hannah, along with two randomly placed guys, Vob from New Jersey and Lorenzo from Rome. (A week ago I would've said they were great, but they're currently on my list for leaving the stove on two nights in a row.) My room itself is getting homier by the day. As a major sucker for decorations, I have been keeping my bulletin board fresh with mementos, postcards and some cute cards I found at a local pop-up shop for up and coming stationery designers. 

One of the first things I did to add a touch of home was order some prints with pictures of family and friends (and my dogs). They took a while to arrive, but they finally came this week and I hung them up with my twinkle lights. The design may be slightly crooked but I like to think it adds a touch of character. I was also way too lazy to take them all down and start from scratch. Ain't nobody got time for that.




One of my favorite parts about my room is my little mini cactus. Everyone has judged me for it but I literally don't care because it is like my pet. Even when I am away at school in North Carolina, I always struggle with missing my dogs and for whatever reason, this little friend has helped to fill that void a little here in England. He is like a pet that you don't need to walk, feed or give water. Downside is he is not nearly as good at cuddling as Darcy and Coco. 

With the first week of classes finished, I also had to complete my favorite back-to-school task of personalizing my notebooks! Thank God for Sharpies and stickers.

   
 My home away from home in Cozy Clerky has my heart forever!!