When most people think of Amsterdam they immediately think of the legalized drugs and the Red Light District. I went because I heard it was a beautiful city with amazing architecture and entertaining people. While traveling in Peru in March I met Dutch guy that threw out the offer of something like, “If you are ever in the Netherlands, let me show you around.” I took him up on that offer and was able to crash on his couch in Haarlem which is a city a short distance outside of Amsterdam.

Going through a city with a local is much different than site seeing and exploring on your own and just following the recommendations of the hostel. I was able to spend the days exploring the city on my own and the evenings being taken out to cool restaurants and bars!

Monet was inspired by this bridge and church to paint The Haarlem Lock in 1664,

This bar was purposely meant to feel very old. ‘t’Dokterje

There are many flavors of home brewed liquors to try at Wynard Fockink

Since I was staying in Haarlem I decided to spend a day exploring the city to see what was around. It was a lot more local and less touristy and according to my friend, what I should expect from a typical Dutch city.

Cathedral of Saint Bavo


And of course, some random street art around Amsterdam.

This is why I travel

My good friend and amazing photographer and writer Brittany McLaren has started a blog called Sunshine and Rosé. She has various sections including amazing places to eat, travel, stay and one called in inspire. 

I was lucky enough to be featured in the inspire section talking about how I travel the world and what I have learned. Take a minute to check it out!!!

A hidden little gem in Belgium…Bruges

Bruges is a quaint little city in the Northern part of Belgium with a population of just under 120,000 people. It is an incredibly cute place that tourists often take day trips to from Brussels as it is only a one hour train ride each way. However, I had friends that went and told me that I should spend a few days in this city. After just one hour in the city I extended my stay to make this a three day adventure! The architecture and winding streets were just begging me to stay and explore. Not to mention, there was a lot of different beer that needed to be tasted.

There are over 4,000 different Belgian Beers and some are even brewed by monks at monasteries! I went to the Bruges Beer Museum, The De Halve Maan Brewery and also participated in a beer tasting class. I learned a lot throughout these few days including the strength of a Belgium beer and how easy it can creep up on you.

 During the tasting we tried Duvel, Orval, Westmalle Trippel and Chimay Blue. I learned a little about each to share.

Duvel – The actual word means devil and it came to fruition because when it was being developed, everyone would say they had a devil of a hangover. It is considered a light beer with 8.5% alcohol and a champagne finish.

Orval – This is Trappist beer meaning that it is brewed in a monastery and must use the same water source as the monastery and all the profits go to charity. So when you drink a Trappist beer you are actually helping society. This beer is 6.2% alcohol and has a bitter start with a dry finish.

Westmalle Tripel – This is also a Trappist beer from the 1700’s. The same monastery makes a beer that is apparently the best in the world but you have to make a reservation to get it and you must have a Belgium license plate to drive on and you are only allowed two cases/year. Not only that, the fermentation process completes in the bottle after 5 years! The tripel has 9.5% alcohol and is a sweet start with a bitter alcohol finish.

Chimay Blue – This is a dark Trappist malt and barley beer. It is 9.0% alcohol and has a sweet start with a licorice finish.

 There are many other beers from Belgium to try and not all get exported to the US. Heading to Bruges was a great way to get a little taste of all there is to offer.

The city of chocolate and beer and mussels…Brussels!

Brussels is the capital of Belgium. When I think of Belgium I think of chocolate and beer and waffles. I was not let down when I arrived and although I did not indulge in all the delicacies, I went into to the stores for the scents and smells.

Every type of chocolate is available

The waffle is super sweet and add on the cream and nutella, I was on a sugar high for about a week.

Moules and frites are everywhere on the streets and something you must try!

I gave in and had some pho for lunch one day. DELICIOUS!

Manneken Pis is famous in Brussels for no particular reason.

Even if I didn’t sample much of the local food, I took the time to sample some of the local beers and headed to the Brewers’ House to see how beer was made in the 1800’s and how it is made now.

Of course, going through a city is not complete for me until I find some graffiti.

Bonjour Paris

Sometimes part of the fun of traveling is the journey in between places. I took the bus from London to Paris and we crossed the English Channel by ferry. It was an absolutely beautiful day and the perfect opportunity for a mini photo shoot and a nice break from sitting on the bus for 9 hours.

 Each time I go to Paris, I have a different experience and a different reason for being there. This time was to visit a friend I met in Italy and enjoy the delicious Parisian food!

 I did take the time to check out Rodin Museum and relax in the gardens and learn a little more about Rodin himself.

   I did walk around here and there and visit Montmarte and sit on the steps in front of Sacre-Coeur and people watch.

A different way to see London

I have been to London a few times and also met quite a few people while traveling that now live in London. Since I was in northern England I thought I would swing through and visit friends that I haven’t seen in a while. I met up with friends that I met in Ecuador, Italy, Switzerland and Serbia. I was taken to The Breakfast Club for dinner which has a private bar through a fridge that requires a password followed by a mini street tour of Shoreditch. I went to the oldest wine bar in London and one of the oldest pubs in London. Overall, it was a wonderful few days of hanging out in London with friends!


Liverpool madness

Some of my travel family (a group of people I met last year) live around the Liverpool/Manchester area Haydock. I decided that it was time to feel like I was at home and stay with them for a weekend. I was spoiled rotten with home cooked meals and my own guest room to sleep in. When you are a backpacker, the little things really start to make all the difference. Having your own room where no one is snoring or getting up in the middle of the night to use the toilet or drunkenly stumbling home and being obnoxious, really changes the quality of sleep.

We spent time just hanging out and drinking wine and eating delicious food. But on Saturday, they took me to Liverpool for a day trip to explore the city. We went to The Cavern Club and the surrounding bars which all have live music. The Cavern Club is the birthplace of the Beatles and I was pulled up on stage to sing Imagine. For any of you that know me, you know I do not sing and you do not want to hear it. But, I got to say I stood on the stage where John Lennon sang.



I love my travel family!!!