I wrote a list of things that I definitely wanted to do in Amsterdam. The list was pretty short, and I got a lot of it checked off today! This makes me happy.

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I started the day with a cup of coffee before heading out to the Anne Frank house. I was not allowed to take pictures inside, but I got a picture of the outside.

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The big building (with the wooden slats in front) was the warehouse her father owned, and the hiding spot was in a little house behind that. It was an incredible experience being in the hiding spot where she lived for years, seeing her diary, and remembering her story. I would definitely recommend a trip to this house if you are in Amsterdam. Plus, it is only 9 euros – a bargain compared to other museums. Next, I headed off toward the Van Gogh museum. I stopped for lunch at Bagels and Beans, which actually does not serve beans, only bagels.

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Cinnamon raisin bagel with banana, cinnamon and maple syrup. Yum! I also got a carrot-orange juice.

All filled up, I headed over to the museum, with a quick stop over the ice skating bridge for an epic photo shoot. My host, Jacky, told me about this secret spot for photos and it did not disappoint. What a view!

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Someone offered to take a picture with me in it, and this is what they did.

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They totally kicked out the iamsterdam sign in favor of this hideous beige sign. Let this be a photography lesson to us all. If someone offers to take a picture for you, make sure you check it before they have a chance to run away. Lesson learned.

Finally, I entered the Van Gogh museum, which also does not allow pictures. I was able to snap a quickie of a print that they put on the wall. The real self portrait (shown in print form below) was at the museum, and looks way better than this picture does.

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Which leads me to: how I almost got kicked out of the Van Gogh museum. When I walked in to the museum, I asked the security people if I was allowed to take photos (knowing the answer would be no). Of course they said “No, no, no, absolutely not.” Talk about buzzkill. I take this to mean that you can take photos if you can be sneaky about it.

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My tactic was as follows: whip out my iPhone, and start taking notes of my favorite pictures. Keep a close eye on the guards. I noticed the security guards were pretty mobile, walking around a lot. I kept track of them out of the corner of my eye, while “writing notes” on my phone. I decided which painting would be worth risking getting kicked out. I chose the sunflowers, which was also the most heavily guarded, of course. By heavily guarded, I meant that it was in a small room with one guard. There were a ton of people there though, so how could the guards notice if I tweaked my phone ever so slightly and snapped a quick pic? Well, they are trained well. As I went to lift my phone up, thinking the guard was talking to someone, I saw him get up out of his chair and head toward me. I VERY QUICKLY locked my phone and pretended like nothing happened. He stood by me for a second, glaring at me, and then I just slowly made my way out of the room. I then celebrated with a shot of espresso from the restaurant. I didn’t actually get a photo, but I didn’t get kicked out either, so I consider this a draw.

I finished the day with a leisurely stroll home, stopping every so often in the shops to check out the latest fashions. It was another great day in Amsterdam!

 

 

 

 

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My 20 Craziest Travel Experiences in Europe

In the past three weeks, I’ve had some crazy experiences. Travel can be crazy and hectic. Here are just a few experiences that I can’t seem to forget (and hope I never do):

  1. Stumbling into a sleeping senior citizens room and seeing him completely nude, LEGS SPREAD (click here to find out more).
  2. Getting attacked by an old man with a cane outside of a grocery store in Amsterdam (completely random, no one around me knew why he chose me, but he smacked me a few times in the knee with his cane then moved on).
  3. Falling asleep for 17 hours in Copenhagen after some extreme jet lag and a Nyquil.
  4. Coming a little too close to a guard at the Royal Palace in Copenhagen and watching him grab his gun.
  5. Booking a train ticket to anywhere after a very uncomfortable night in a house that was falling apart. (See here)
  6. Getting run into by a bike in Amsterdam.
  7. Witnessing a spur of the moment Christmas parade in Sweden.
  8. Running through Christmas markets trying all of the samples and drinking gluhwein in Copenhagen.
  9. A stranger stopping me on the street, asking if he could have a kiss on a bridge over a canal in Amsterdam. I laughed my head off but then he was still there so I had to actually tell him no.
  10. Almost being blown over by the wind at the beach in Copenhagen. Seriously, 40 mph winds. PB300003.jpg
  11. Realizing that I actually quit my job to travel the world while on a ferry crossing the Baltic Sea. Who does that?!
  12. Walking 10 miles to get to a highly rated vegan restaurant in Hamburg, but getting there and realizing it’s closed for the winter… and it’s actually just a vegan ice cream shop. I ended up having a super fancy (and expensive) vegan lunch at a very nice restaurant across the street.
  13. Strolling through an underground tunnel in Hamburg, Germany.
  14. Eating Christmas cookies while flying down the autobahn at 100 mph in a VW minivan in Germany with six strangers who became friends.
  15. Sneaking through the pay stations at the public bathrooms when I didn’t have a 50 cent coin.
  16. Buying a beer and a pretzel at the central station in Hamburg, then when I went to pay realizing I didn’t have any money… Luckily the woman trusted me to go to the ATM and come back.
  17. Getting dropped off at a McDonalds at night in the middle of nowhere, Germany, and realizing I could be stranded there if I couldn’t find my homestay host. Luckily I found them!
  18. Being abandoned in said homestay house with a random hitchhiker that the family picked up the day before. They didn’t remember his name. The crazy part is that he was the most normal person there. His name is William, and he is from New Zealand.
  19. Getting to Frankfurt with no where to sleep that night. I am actually excellent in these types of situations. I found wifi, booked a great airbnb, then enlisted a homeless man to help me buy a metro ticket to the airbnb in exchange for one euro. SUCCESS.
  20. Crying at SFO when I realized that I’m actually leaving my entire life to do what I’ve always wanted to do. That was just the beginning. 🙂
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I arrived in Amsterdam late on Saturday night. I checked in to my room and went to sleep to get rested for seven days of Amsterdam touring!

On Sunday morning, I woke up and met up with a local! He showed me around the city and gave me an overview of the history of the city, and we went to a few of the main tourist attractions (Dam square, Red Light district, Central Station). Amsterdam is beautiful!

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After walking around with my backpack, I was ready to settle in to my next place. I met my host at a cafe, then we dropped my stuff off and headed to dinner at Coffee and Coconuts.

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Just my kind of place!

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We had a vegan feast! We ordered a vegetable and hummus plate, a fresh Lebanese salad, and a sweet potato masala. We could barely eat it all!

The next day, I did some touring on my own. I headed toward the museum square, and detoured toward the market.

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Passed by a promise of baskets of steamy goodness… I’ll have to go back there.

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I met all my tourist friends at the museum square.

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Then just wandered through the city.

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I stopped at Starbucks to get directions home from Googlemaps, and by the time I left, the sun had set and I got to experience Amsterdam by night.

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Amazing!

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It’s been a great time in Amsterdam so far!

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After a short, two-hour bus ride from Frankfurt, I arrived in Cologne. By the time I got here, it was dark, so I headed to my adorable Airbnb and settled in for the night.

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Super cute, ja?

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The next day, I woke up, looked out the window, and saw… rain. I’m only in Cologne for a couple of days, so I had to make the best of it. I put on my rain jacket, and headed out toward the Schokoladenmusem. Yes, the CHOCOLATE MUSEUM.

my favourite fountain...

It was so fun to see the history of chocolate. They had the machines actually making the chocolate, which was really cool to watch. My favorite part – the chocolate fountain pictured above. (Image not mine, taken from here.)  I took quite a few pictures, but it was pretty packed in there. Apparently there were a few schools that were on field trips to the museum, and kids were running around everywhere, screaming and yelling. It was nice to look through everything, but I can’t handle crowds, so I took my leave.

Since it was pouring down rain, I decided it might be nice to get a cup of coffee somewhere. I’ve been trying to go to more local coffee shops, but the only ones I found on my way here were bakeries, which usually have terrible coffee. So I found a Starbucks. Is there any possible way that I could get more touristy than a selfie with a Starbucks cup in front of the Christmas tree? I’m embarrassed.

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I plowed my way through the rain back to the Airbnb, admiring the architecture on the way. The buildings here are so cute.

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I found the biggest Christmas tree in town. It’s all wrapped up!

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It was a short but fun day. It definitely improved after coffee. 🙂

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Things went a little south in Southern Germany – the home that I was supposed to stay in for a week was WAY too eccentric for me. I’m talking about open nudity (of a 60+ year old man that I had just met) and being spoken to mostly in German (I am trying to learn but so far I only know “hello” and “I’d like to order a coffee”). So I took a train up to Frankfurt for a few days! I am excited to see more of Germany than I originally intended. I booked an Airbnb for three nights, and spent some time wandering through a very foggy Frankfurt. The first day started off a little chilly, about 1 degree celsius. I wandered through the neighborhoods toward the city center.

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I stopped in at a bakery for a cup of coffee. The young man working behind the counter asked me a few times if I wanted anything else, but I’d already eaten, so I just got the coffee. He was telling me about how they make the breads and how great they are, and then gave me a little sample of some pizza bites to try out. They were fantastic!

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Next, I strolled past the University of Frankfurt. I only saw the main building, but it was pretty impressive!

PC080054.jpgWhen I got closer to the city center, I came across the stunning opera house. The architecture in Germany just blows my mind. The detailing is incredible.

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I wandered through yet another Christmas market; this one was selling vegan food!

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Through the park and toward the river we go!

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Finally, I arrived at the river. I spotted another swan, and it spotted me, too. He actually seemed to really like me, and he started making his way toward me.

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He got real close! Just call me the animal whisperer.

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After that bought of excitement, it was off to find the tower that I could climb up for panoramic views. The tower is super tall, so it was easy to find, as I could see the top of it from almost anywhere.

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I climbed all 328 steps to get to the top. And then the fog rolled in. Yay! Perfect timing. :/

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I spent the rest of the day looking around the shops, where it was nice and warm. I also stopped in a Starbucks – the Starbucks’ in Europe have vegan options for breakfast and lunch! No wimpy salads either – I got a falafel wrap which was amazing. It is super exciting for me to know of a place that I can find anywhere and get vegan food. 🙂 All in all, a great day in Frankfurt!

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