Tuesday Travel

unnamed (1)

Amsterdam. The final stop of our European adventure and the place that may have just stolen my heart. Known as the Venice of the North, Amsterdam is a city inhabited by more bikes than people. Can you believe that? K and I toured the city on bikes our final day and it was unreal how many bikers we had to compete with. What did I love most about the city? The air. It was just delightful. I think it’s due to the fact that the majority of the city is below sea level. It fondly reminded me of my island air. There is so much to see and do and eat in Amsterdam and I fear that K and I didn’t even scratch the surface. But, our favorite spots are below.

Stay

unnamed (5)

We went back and forth on where to stay in Amsterdam. A house boat, a hotel, a city flat. In the end, we decided on this sweet canal house in the historic Jordaan neighborhood, which we found through airbnb. And what a terrific experience we had. I know several people have had varying degrees of success with this service but we lucked out. My one word of advice would be to read the reviews and all of them.

There were three hotels that K and I fell in-love with during our research and thus we decided to check them out by indulging in afternoon cocktails. The Conservatorium Hotel has a beautiful bar area and is a close walk to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum and thus the perfect spot for a post-art cocktail. The gin and tonics are served in red wine goblets and are delicious and a little dangerous. The Hoxton, which opened this past July, is certainly the place we will stay on our next visit. The bar scene, decor and location make it a dream place to stay. Sadly, we didn’t make it to The Dylan, but their outdoor terrace looks insane for drinks.

Eat

unnamed (3)

The food in Amsterdam is one of the reasons why I loved our time there so much. Great cafes, little bakeries, a restaurant in a greenhouse… the dining possibilities are endless. Our favorites include:

Kantijil – I enjoyed my first Indonesian meal from Kantijil. A little tip. They have a take-out spot behind the main restaurant and thus we decided to grab food to go to enjoy our first dinner at home in the canal house.

Winkel – The best apple pie!

SLA – If I could have brought a cafe home it would have been SLA. Meaning lettuce, this “green” cafe offers delicious salads, juices and soups.

Pancakes! – What waffles are to Belgium, pancakes are to Amsterdam. And Pancakes! is the place we were told not to miss. I tried the traditional bacon and apple {pictured above}. So good!

La Perla – Hands-down, the best margarita pizza I’ve ever had. Period.

De Bakkerswinkel – Great lunch spot. I recommend the toast with pea pesto and old cheese. Perfection!

Pluk – A sweet little juice bar in the Nine Streets area of Amsterdam.

De Kas – I had the most beautiful meal of my life here. And the setting, equally as beautiful. An Amsterdam must!

BUFFET van Odette – A charming cafe offering breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Foodhallen – Amsterdam’s version of Chelsea Market. The coolest part? They have a bike garage so naturally we had to ride our bikes here.

STACH – Gourmet food store, cafe and home to a brownie dipped in chocolate. It was so good, we went twice!

Vinnies – There is an old Dutch expression that “loves goes through the stomach” and Vinnies shows this through and through. We had our last breakfast at this neighborhood cafe and the eggs were sinfully good.

Do + See

unnamed (7)

There are 75 museums in Amsterdam. K and I made it to three. But, I think we picked the not-to-be-missed ones. A visit to the newly restored Rijksmuseum is a must. Close by is the Van Gogh Museum. As luck would have it, on our walk from the Rijksmuseum to the Van Gogh Museum we stumbled upon a kiosk selling museum tickets. So, we purchased our tickets and followed the blue path over to Van Gogh. Thank goodness we did as the line to get in was insane. Speaking of line, the Anne Frank House is not to be missed but I recommend going around 6 pm. We only had to wait about 40 minutes.

You must, must, MUST ride bikes in Amsterdam. We were a bit intimidated by the sheer volume of bikers and thus decided to take our bikes to Vondelpark. I highly recommend.

Many asked and I am happy to report that we didn’t tour the Red Light District or a local coffee shop. Since I’m no longer in college, thought it was best!

Shop

unnamed (6)

K and I had a blast walking around our neighborhood and the historic Nine Streets to do a little shopping. And let me tell you, that shopping in Amsterdam is some of the best. Our favorite shops include:

Restored – A shop filled with gifts for you and your loved ones. I fell in-love with a wallet here that I didn’t buy but may just need to call to have them send it to me.

Six and Sons – A wonderfully curated selection of clothing and accessories for women, men and the home. I picked up a pair of Danish sunglasses here that I just love.

Hutspot – Amsterdam is all about this pop-up stores and this is certainly one not to be missed. A barber shop and cafe make a great addition to this pop-up featuring new and interesting brands, designers, artists and entrepreneurs. A must in Amsterdam!

Sukha – This shop takes merchandising to a whole new level. The hanging tent bed above it just one of the many displays that will make this a shop you will never want to leave. A must in Amsterdam!

Pieters Zoon – Although this is primarily a leather goods store, K and I found a wonderful throw and picture frames that journeyed home with us. And the shop owner was just the sweetest thing!

Advertisements

How To

unnamed (1)

I made it back from D.C. safe and sound and what a weekend it was. Hope you had a great one too. Today, I wanted to share a new column How To. In these, I hope to share some helpful advice on how to handle situations that can sometimes be tricky. First up… How to be a House Guest. Since I stayed with two dear friends during my recent weekend escape, I am fresh with ideas of how to navigate this situation.

  1. Communicate. Make sure your host knows when you are arriving and your plans for arriving to their home.
  2. Be Gracious. Pack a little gift for my host{s}. Nothing lavish but personal.
  3. Space. Realize that you are in someone else’s home so be mindful of your bags and where you leave your things.
  4. Go With the Flow. This is very important. Of course your friends want to show you a great time, but sometimes life happens and plans {dinner, shopping, etc.} fall through. Always remember why you are staying with your friends to begin with.
  5. Offer to Help. Clean up after dinner. Strip your bed. Tidy up the bathroom. All those little things. You would want someone to do in your home. 
  6. Send Thanks. Always, always send a thank you note.

Away

washington-dc-skyline-michael-tompsett

Happy Friday, sweet readers! As you read this, I’m on a plane en route to a very special place. Washington DC. For a girl who use to visit this political epicenter once a month for work, it’s hard to believe I haven’t been back in nearly 3 years. Can’t wait to see all that is new in the city. As always, feel free to come along with me on this adventure on Instagram following #awaywithmay. I hope you enjoy this first weekend of Fall. I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Found

9d6f23eda3d2e4bc606ed6266cf9696b

Have I mentioned I love music? I love having it on at home but since K and I haven’t been home much as of late, we didn’t really notice until recently that we didn’t have a proper sound system. With city life, comes limited space so we knew whatever system we chose would have to not only be functional but have great design. With a little patience and some due diligence, we found what I think is the perfect addition to Melrose Place. The Marshall Stanmore Speaker. Isn’t she just perfect? I am happy to share her as this week’s found item.

*Unfortunately the lighting in our apartment wasn’t working with my photography skills this morning so I borrowed this image from Urban Outfitters. 

In the Kitchen

unnamed (1)

57 weeks ago I posted the above photo on Instagram of one of my favorite soup, promising to share the recipe soon. Since today is the first day of fall, I thought today would be the perfect day. I’ve been making this soup for nearly 15 years now as it is super easy and super delicious. Plus, it has a pretty high wow factor.

French Fish Chowder

*slightly modified from New York Times recipe

  • 1 lb. cod fillets
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion {1 medium onion}
  • 1 cup chopped celery {usually about 3 stalks}
  • 1 cup diced red pepper {1 red pepper}
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. turmeric {an Indian spice with cancer fighting power}
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups of broth {fish, vegetable or chicken}
  • 1/2 cup orzo

Directions

  1. Cut fish into 1-inch cubes.
  2. Heat oil in large saucepan {I use my dutch over} and add onions, celery, red pepper and garlic and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  3. Add turmeric, wine, tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, pepper flakes, broth, and season a little with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the orzo, stir well and simmer for about 8 minutes.
  5. Add in the fish and return soup to a boil. Remember to remove the bay leaf.

I like to finish the soup with about a tablespoon of cream and a dash of curry powder. I serve with grilled french bread rubbed with olive oil and garlic. I think the soup tastes better with a little time to rest so I tend to make the base ahead of time and just bring to a boil a few minutes before serving and then add the fish.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Tuesday Travel

unnamed (3)

The second stop of our European adventure was Bruges, Belgium. A short hour and fifteen minute train ride from Brussels, Bruges is the most well-preserved medieval town in Europe and has a small town charm similar to my little island. Although the weather was a bit cold and rainy, K and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our time in this picturesque town. Here are just a few of the highlights from our time In Bruges. Note: skip the movie.

Stay

unnamed (3)

We stayed at the delightful Hotel Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce, tucked down a little alley minutes from the central Markt. This was our view. Picture perfect, don’t you agree?!. And even better, the service. Belgian waffles at a moment’s notice. Amazing! I had originally wanted to stay at Number 11 B&B but they were sold out. How happy are we that this worked out!

Eat

unnamed (4)

We arrived in Bruges to a torrential downpour so naturally a pub was in-order. We had pinned De Garre on our Pinterest board, which by the way is a great way to capture all your travel ideas, and were happy to discover that it was a short distance from our hotel tucked down an alley {are you sensing a theme}, which in a rain storm was a good thing indeed. Truth be told, we walked by it the first time. But thank goodness we found it as De Garre was exactly what we hoped it would be. A place where you instantly feel like a local. We tried the house brew, Garre and enjoyed a grilled cheese sandwich and some bar snacks. A must-do in Bruges.

Luckily, the sun broke through so after a beer {or two} we decided to explore by foot. We found Dumon, the chocolate hotspot of Bruges according to many. After selecting a few goodies to bring home as gifts, we decided to indulge our sweet tooth a little more at Oyya, an ice bar known for their ice cream, frozen yogurt and waffles. The after eight was my clear choice and K had a Belgian waffle with Nutella ice cream. The closest in terms of deliciousness to our beloved Juice Bar.

The best meal during our time in Bruges was at the Brouwerij De Halve Maan, a brewery established in 1564. They have a wonderful patio and with the sun shining, we enjoyed traditional cheese croquettes and a blond brew. I had hoped to spend an afternoon at a tea house, but sadly the one I had read about Merveilleux was closed.

Do + See

unnamed (5)

Bruges is filled with history and charm and there is oh so much to see. My top recommendation would be to take a canal tour. I believe there are five different companies and we simply chose the one closest to our hotel. The tour lasted a little over an hour and for a water girl like me, I was in heaven. My favorite part? Seeing the yellow lab with his head in the sun. Just take a look.

My second recommendation would be to climb the 366 steps to the top of the Belfort Tower for a 360 degree view of this magical town. The higher up you get, the narrower the staircase so be prepared. Coming down I must have looked in distress, as a woman asked “are you ok?” I was just being cautious and moving slow!

My favorite church of the trip {there we many} was the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The chapel, built in the 12th century, is pictured above. The Basilica is said to house a vial of Christ’s blood. You really must visit. Church of Our Lady is also top of many visitor’s list as it houses a Madonna & Child sculpture by Michelangelo from 1504. Cool fact: this statue has been recovered twice. Once from the french revolutionaries in 1794 and once from Nazi Germans in 1944. The church also has the second tallest brick tower in the world.

A short distance from the brewery is Minnewater, what many refer to as the Lake of Love and you will see many a visitor snapping a selfie here. Fortunately, we found a kind man to take our photo, which may just be a contender for this year’s holiday card.

And last but certainly not least, you must take an evening stroll through Bruges. The lighting is… you just have to trust me on this one. Bruges, a place certainly beyond belief.

unnamed (1)

Fall Bucket List

unnamed (1)

In preparation for Wednesday’s Autumnal Equinox, I wanted to put pen to paper for this year’s Fall Bucket List.

  1. Run a 5K. Aggressive, I know but I’ve completed a few in the past and think the time has come to dust off the old running shoes {or buy new ones}.
  2. Bake a loaf of bread. Would you believe I’ve never done this? A colleague of mine took a bread making class during her summer vacation, which has totally inspired me. Any beginner recipe suggestions?
  3. Binge Watch. With sunsets coming earlier, I have an excuse to stay inside and watch a little tv. And after watching the Emmy’s last night, I think I have two worthy contenders: Olive Kitteridge and Transparent. What do you think?
  4. Host a Pot-Luck. An oldie but goodie from a past bucket list  that never did get checked off the list. Thinking 2015 is the year to make this happen!
  5. Plan a Weekend Getaway. One of my summer bucket list items was to explore the Catskills. Check! This fall, I’d like to explore another new town. The research has begun but if you have any ideas, do let me know.

Speaking of my summer bucket list, I am humbled to report that I didn’t accomplish as much as I’d hoped. We did take a hot air balloon ride, though which may just be one of the highlights of my summer. I guess I have Harry Potter and the Wellfleet drive-in to look forward to next summer!

Found

unnamed (1)

Hello, dear readers and happy Friday to you! For this week’s found item I wanted to share a product that might just save your life!

For the past year, I have tried to be more mindful of not only what I put in my body but on my body. I was first introduced to Follain last summer when they opened a shop up on the island. Follain {Gaelic for healthy, wholesome, and sound} is a beauty store with a conscience. Tara, owner and founder, believes “ditching your conventional antiperspirant for this clean, healthy and totally effective deodorant is the single most important switch you can make when it comes to health and safety.” And so, this week’s found item is Soapwalla Kitchen’s Citrus Deodorant Cream. And let me tell you, it works. Give it a try and let me know if you agree. And remember, small changes sometimes make the largest impact!

Celebrate

unnamed (1)

Classic family moment, no? This is me {on the right} and my sister Michelle, who is celebrating 32 years today. I find this rather daunting  as I still remember the day she was born as if it were yesterday. I’ve mentioned this before in this post, but truth be told, I was hoping this little sibling of mine would be a brother. But I have to say, how happy I am that she is my little sister. Although we have had our disagreements {oddly enough, the photo above was not one of them} I am quite proud to be her big sister.

Michelle was never one to fit any mold. She decided to live abroad her junior year of high school and ended up in Nitra, Slovakia. If it were me, I would have been home within 24 hours. But not Michelle. She is one to face any challenge and do so gracefully. After high school, she took a little time off and lived in England, where she decided to apply to the American University in Paris to finish her studies. She has inspired my love of travel and I only wish I was half as creative as she is. Really. You have to check out her Instagram account Letters From Nantucket. What an inspiration!

So here is to my little sister. Keep being you, as you are pretty awesome!

Fall Edit

unnamed (1)

Although the temperatures are near 80 degrees in Boston today { I’m not complaining}, I’m having that ‘back to school’ urge for a few new fall pieces. I use to love back-to-school shopping. My best friend Meghan and I would fly over on her father’s company plane {trust me, it’s not as glamorous as it sounds} and spend the morning and early afternoon at the Cape Cod Mall. Let’s be honest. I really would just be at the Gap deciding just how many things I could get with my modest budget of summer babysitting/bakery counter girl earnings. Those were most certainly the days!

I have a few rules to help keep my closet in-check: 1) if I haven’t worn an item within the last year, it’s time to donate and 2) for every new piece that comes in, one needs to be retired.

A few pieces I just don’t think I can live without:

  • This vest from Club Monaco. I am just so in-love with it.
  • These boots from Loeffler Randall. I am long overdue for a new go-to pair and I think these may just be the winner.
  • This cape.
  • And I am in desperate need for a new coat but haven’t found the right one just yet. Any suggestions?

Let me know what’s on your fall wish list!