Showing posts with label Amsterdam. Show all posts

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly | The Truth About Travel

Obviously, I love to travel. Each and every time we arrive in a new city or country, I have that moment of awe and excitement. I get the traveller butterflies! I look around and take in the scenery, connect with images that I have seen in my guide books and Pinterest, and settle in for a new adventure. However, I have to be honest.....there are some parts of travel that are unexpected and not so pretty. While I am able to arrange a post full of all the beautiful moments on our travels, I never really share any of the bad bits (cause who wants to read about that anyway...give me the pretties!!). 

But today, I though I would share some of our not so beautiful moments in a few of the places we have been.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly if you will.


I think it's a safe bet to say that many people either love or dislike Paris, but I feel like I fell somewhere in between. Had I been running on all cylinders, I think I could have enjoyed the 4 days in Paris a little more. And I feel like I for sure need a second round!

Top 5 Destinations from 2014 + Top 5 for 2015

2014 was an incredible travel year for us which makes it difficult to narrow down our top destinations for the year! I swear we leave every new destination claiming it to be our favorite. But after discussing what our favorite trips were, we came up with a shortlist. 

Top Travels in 2014

5. Tie: Amsterdam and Paris

After a short trip to Amsterdam with my Dad, we have decided that this city is one that we could definitely return to and actually need to return to. We loved the architecture and the city but we missed out on a lot of the museums. And not to mention, we would love to go back just for the food! 

Amsterdam Posts:

And Paris. We visited Paris while I was sick with a tummy bug and we missed out on a lot. There was sooo much to do in Paris but we still got a good feel for the city and wouldn't mind returning for some food and shopping!

Paris Posts (coming soon)
Thoughts on Paris | Notre Dame | The Louvre
Our Wonderful Apartment | Cedric's CV Night Tour | Montmarte/Sacre Couer

4. Santorini

Santorini is on many a bucket list. And for good reason. The sunsets from the island's cliff side cannot be beat! Plus the beaches, the food, the's all amazing. We so enjoyed our time cruising the island on the ATV and eating the glorious Greek food. And after seeing our first sunset, I was sure I had died and had passed on into some sort of travel heaven. I had permanent chills!

Santorini Posts:

3. Chamonix

As avid snowsports enthusiasts, skiing and boarding the Alps was high on our bucket list while living in England. Our first taste came at Chamonix in France. It was absolutely incredible. We will now be forever spoiled by the Alps, especially now that we have booked 2 more Alps getaways this winter!! But Chamonix will always be our first love when it comes to the Alps.

Chamonix Posts:

2. Germany

We finally got to visit Germany in December. We immediately felt comfortable in this country and I think that it has to do with the similarities to the conveniences of the US. But add in some amazing castles and Christmas Markets and its a perfect country to getaway to. Luckily, we have another trip planned back to our new favorite country in a few days!

Germany Posts (more coming soon)

1. Prague

Germany may be our favorite country but Prague is by far our favorite city and for many many reasons including; the people, the food, the beer, the history, the architecture, the prices, the hotels, everything!! We were so sad when we had to leave Prague after a 3 night stay. We had a perfect trip to Prague and hopefully will get to return before we leave England. 

Prague Posts:

*Honorable Mention: not a destination, but flying first class from the US to the UK was a dream. I got lucky and was able to score a seat and it was just incredible. Oh to lead that lifestyle!

Top 5 for 2015

Ok, here is where reality hits. We will be moving this year and we don't have much time left for adventures in Europe. This hurts my heart just a little bit. Ok, a lot bit. The thought of not being able to hop on a plane to visit a new country every month just sucks. And the crazy person in me wants to spend every last penny we have and travel every weekend until we have to leave. But its just not possible. I have a serious itinerary planned for our remaining months but I'm also trying to be realistic and not go overboard......oh the struggles!

So here is my Top 5 list for 2015:

1. Austria
I am a massive Sound of Music fan and I have wanted to visit the "hills" before we ever knew we would be moving to England. So this WILL be happening! Hopefully, we will get to take a little sidetrip to Hallstatt as well as it looks to be incredibly gorgeous. 

2. Poland
Ever since I read Number the Stars and learned of the Holocaust in school, I have had such a desire to visit Auschwitz and pay my respects to those who were brutally murdered there. I know there are several other sites and if it is possible, I would like to visit those as well. But Poland has been on my list for awhile because of this reason. 

3. Croatia
We are hoping to fit in a beach trip this summer to the waters of Croatia and we are trying to talk some family members (ahem, Dad) into coming with us! Since we visited beaches in Greece and Spain last year, this will be our beach 'fix' trip for 2015!

 4. Italy
After visiting Rome last year, we know we need to get back to Italy. I'm hoping to put together a trip including Cinque Terre, Venice and Florence. Any tips are appreciated on this little adventure!

5. Budapest
From what we hear, Budapest rivals our most favorite Prague. So this little trip is almost completely planned. It looks fantastic!

Of course there are a million honorable mentions. And I am hoping to fit some of those in. But with the nature of Van's job, we never really know exactly when we are moving so this is about all I can plan for at this moment. Oh and in addition to these Top 5, we are headed back to Germany next week and Switzerland in February!!

So there you have favorites from last year and my penciled in travels for 2015!

What travels are you looking forward to this year?

Treasure Tromp

Top 5 in A'dam

Today I am wrapping up my Amsterdam posts with my top 5 must do while in Amsterdam. Amsterdam has been one of my favorite cities so far while living in England (which is only 9 months) and I would love to return again at some point. I just loved the energy. I am not fond of the hustle and bustle of big cities and Amsterdam was able to offer the attractions that a traveler would want to see but also a sort of calmness as well. Maybe it's the water.....

#5 See the Red Light District

It's a little cliche to go to Amsterdam and see the Red Light District but I think it is a necessary part to a trip to Amsterdam. You know you are curious to see just what the district includes. Go during the day if you are opposed to seeing the working girls. But do go, even if it is just to say you have been! What I found was that it wasn't all bad. There were great little shops and restaurants all throughout the district. It wasn't all about sex and drugs, but that was a part of it. But it wasn't like a bunch of hooligan people are out running around. It was definitely not as bad as I expected. And what is crazier is the fact that there are some beautiful buildings throughout the district. If you have a sense of humour and can be open minded for just a few short blocks, then you can handle the Red Light District.

#4 Take a tour

While in Amsterdam, you must take some sort of tour. We chose to take a WWII/Holocaust Tour through the city and it was the most informative tour I have ever been on. It was a 3 hour walk through the city, learning about important places and people in Amsterdam under Nazi reign. It was a sobering and heartbreaking tour but one that I will be forever glad that we braved the cold rainy weather to experience. You can read more about the tour here if you would like. But if you choose to take another tour, take a canal or bike tour through the town. Amsterdam is a great city to take a tour through. Especially if the tour is through some other form of transportation besides your feet! We chose the canal tour and it offered a wonderful view of the city. Like I said, any tour in Amsterdam should be great and the city has plenty to offer. Do your research ( I love Tripadvisor reviews) and make a choice! Let someone guide you through all that Amsterdam has to offer!

#3 Eat at Cafe Bern

When you walk into Cafe Bern you notice three things; it's tiny, it's completely full, and it smells like old cheese. Kind of contradictory right? This place is AMAZING. The menu, which is in Dutch but the food is actually Swiss, offers only about 7-10 menu items. I don't think I would be making assumptions if I said that I think the menu has probably never changed. And it's for good reason. Having tasted the fondue, house salad, tomato soup, entrecote, house wine and bread, I can say that I have tasted most of their classic dishes. And they. are. DELICIOUS. We visited this restaurant twice, to make sure that the food was consistent. It was. Both times, we did not make reservations and sat at the bar, which was perfectly fine. And both times, we were served by a sweet waitress named Sabine. I literally dream about this place. You must try it. However, after looking their website, their main location will be closed until next summer for renovation. They do have a temporary location and I'm sure it will be just as lovely.

#2 Anne Frank House

Anne Frank House is an absolute must while in Amsterdam. So book your tickets in advance online so that you do not have to wait in the hours long line. To visit Anne Frank House is to step back in time. Most people have read her diary as school age children and it is a humble experience to be able to visit the place where the diary was written. She was such a bright, funny and witty little girl. Her legacy and story will live on for many years to come.

#1 Hang with the locals

The Dutch are seriously cool people. There was not one restaurant, tour, or any place that we did not have a conversation with some local residents. They were all very friendly and wanted to get to know us better. Luckily, everyone in Amsterdam spoke pretty much perfect English so there was never a problem with a language barrier. They even could understand my very Southern Dad :) I really found that the people made Amsterdam what is is. A lovely city.

What are your "must-dos" in Amsterdam? I know I missed plenty :)


Travel Tuesday

Amsterdam | View from the Canal

Ok, so we loved, loved, loved Amsterdam. I think what I loved most was the relaxed atmosphere. Everyone we met was so social and welcoming. And I was just super impressed with all of the food we ate while we were there. I think that Amsterdam has it all as far as a travel destination goes (well, except for a real beach). It has a rich history, a lively atmosphere if you want to party, and also a calmer side! So I'm wrapping up our Amsterdam posts with some beautiful views from the canals.

My Dad, Van and I took a nice little afternoon canal boat tour through the canals in Amsterdam. The boat had a recorded guide playing over the loud speaker but honestly, we didn't really pay much attention to it. Having braved the weather and listened to the horrors of Nazi Amsterdam, we were ready to just relax and enjoy the scenery. I'll tell you, I could cruise the canals all day. I don't think I could ever tire of the Amsterdam architecture. I love wonky buildings!

So sit back and enjoy the cruise, just as we did.....with no recording :)

Travel Tuesday

Amsterdam WWII Holcaust Tour

I am headed to the States today to say goodbye to my sweet grandfather and to help my grandmother, so I may be absent from the blog for a little while. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to go home on a moments notice and do not take this blessing lightly. If you don't already, follow along on my Instagram if you are longing for some pics from home. But for today, I am sharing a glimpse into our WWII tour through Amsterdam.

Ever since I learned about the Holocaust in school, I have always wanted to learn more. I always seemed to connect to the suffering and was always amazed by the resiliency of the Jewish people. I also have always been baffled to think that the world took so long to come to their rescue. How could people sit by and let this happen??

When searching for things to do in Amsterdam, I knew first of all that I wanted to go to Anne Frank House. While searching on Tripadvisor, I also came across a highly rated WWII/Holocaust walking tour through Amsterdam. If you have read Anne Frank's diary or have studied history, you know that Germany took over and occupied the Netherlands with little effort. And eventually, over 104,000 Jews were deported from The Netherlands and murdered. So, I booked our tour, which was to be about 3 hours long, and hoped for good weather. Not only did this tour offer some history in the city, but we would be able to walk around and see parts of the city that we would not normally seek out.

Well, the good weather did not come. But we met Ben, our guide, at 10:15 on a Sunday morning to begin our tour. It was cold, windy and raining but we decided to go on with the tour. We started at Anne Frank's House and Ben gave us some background info on the family.

Anne Frank House
Anne Frank Memorial

We crossed the bridge (above and below) to reach the Jewish Quarter. Unfortunately, I do not have many pictures due to the rain, but the area is just like any other nice area of Amsterdam. Lively, quaint shops and gorgeous buildings. During WWII, Jews in Amsterdam were set to live in this quarter and were completely shut off from the rest of the city. It was easy to do this because of the canal system. Ben handed us a booklet while standing on the street. The booklet listed each Jewish family that was deported from each flat on the street. It was a really profound moment. To be standing a on the street where the victims stood and know that they were just normal people like you and me, it was heart wrenching. I really appreciated that Ben honors the fallen by giving you their names, ages and dates of death and has done the research.

We arrived at the Jewish Resistance Monument. On the side is a quotation from the Old Testament, from the prophet Jeremiah in Dutch and Hebrew: 'Were my eyes fountains of tears then I would weep day and night for the fallen warriors of my beloved people.'

We were brought to the edge of the canal to take a look at the inscriptions in the stone below. Across from each house was a list of each victim from the house with the house number. It was hard to imagine these families and their struggles. The hardest was to see the names of a young couple and their young children listed.

If you were strolling along the street in Amsterdam, would you even notice what is shown in the photo below? I wouldn't have. I wish I could find what was inscripted in the border, but sadly, I cannot find it. It is a monument dedicated to the 100 orphans and their caretakers who were once housed in a building here. The Nazi's arrested them all and sent them to Sobibor to be killed. This part of the tour shook me up tremendously. I didn't even have words. 


Above is Dam Square and many people gather here on a daily basis. Little did I know the significance of where we were standing. Two days after the Germans surrendered, crowds gathered in the square cheering and celebrating their freedom. German soldiers were still in the area. Some had gathered in their drinking club (top floor of the building on the left). At some point during the day, they begin to open fire on the crowds with a machine gun. The jubilant crowd rushed to hide behind lamp posts and anything they could find for cover. 22 were pronounced dead, possibly more. Can you imagine....having been freed 2 days earlier and suffering another brutal attack?

Here is a photo that Ben showed us, showing the lone child wandering out into danger.

This tour was a somber one. It was not the type of tour you take to get warm happy feelings while you are travelling. But what you learn and witness here on this tour is the truth. A truth that we must keep passing along so that this never happens again. The above photos are not inclusive. There were many more places and scenes that Ben showed to us that were all just as important. Although the weather was absolutely terrible, I would have done it all over again.

We ended the tour at the Auschwitz Memorial. The monument artist chose to lay six panes of glass down for the 6 million Jews that were killed. Each pane is cracked and reflects the sky, day and night. Each time one looks at the cracked sky it reminds them that the sky is forever wounded because of the Holocaust.

The tour was very informative and luckily we were able to visit the Anne Frank House as well. I appreciated that the tour also focused on the struggles of the non-Nazi Germans at the time as well. The tour furthered my desire to visit the concentration camps. I know the day will come and I am not in a rush. But I do wish to stand there one day and say a prayer and shed a tear for those who were so brutally killed.

Travel Tuesday


Gunters Abroad Weekly Update | Dad's Trip

We sent Dad off at Heathrow yesterday and we were sad to see him leave! We had such a fun time and made fantastic memories but I know he was ready to be back in convenient USA :) It's funny to watch a newbie in the UK or in Europe for that matter. The way things are done here seems so different at first. Anyway, here is a little photo recap from our 10 days with Dad! More details of our travels will be coming next week.....I'm telling you, it's been a busy month here at the Gunter household!

Ely Cathedral Tower Tour
Dad's first fish and chips with mushy peas
Tapas in Cambridge
Ghost Tour in Cambridge
The Eagle Pub in Cambridge 
Dad experiencing Van's driving in England 
The boys in our canal house in Amsterdam (we nicknamed Dad "AmsterDanny")
Dad's new friends at Cafe Bern in Amsterdam...he does not meet a stranger!!
Our kitty friend at a cafe in Amsterdam...funny enough, he doesn't understand "kitty"....he's Dutch!!
Canal boat tour in Amsterdam
Night out in Amsterdam

We had such an amazing time and I think we did an okay job showing our first visitor around. We didn't do too many "touristy" things and I think Dad was ok with that! He is easy to please :) Posts are on the way next week! Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!


                                                Daily Diaries with Diaries of an Essex Girl