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When I decided to move to London, England, last summer, I figured I would do a bit of traveling around on my way to my new life, rather than simply going to London and starting regular life right away.
I wanted the first place I visited to be special as this was my second visit ever to Europe, and the beginning of a new chapter in life. Amsterdam quickly became my first choice to be my first stop over; I had always wanted to visit the city, and I could get a fairly inexpensive one-way flight there, so I got my flights booked and went on to explore.
I had an idea of what to expect from Amsterdam, but even then it turned out to be much more than I hoped. I love the feel of Amsterdam, with its beautiful architecture, scenic canals, fantastic museums, and a surprisingly (in a good way) laid-back nightlife.
My visit at the end up August (right in the summer holidays) ensured the weather was beautiful, and although busy, Amsterdam never felt overwhelmingly packed. I spent four nights in the city, but only dedicated two days to being right in the city, while the other two days I spent exploring other areas of the Netherlands.
My biggest disappointment was that the Dutch were not overly friendly. I attempted a couple of times to make friends with the locals, but nothing went much further than a quick chat. Most of the people I did end up having longer conversations with on nights out were Amsterdam residents who moved there from other places (Canada, Italy and the USA mainly), but in four nights out drinking a couple of beers at the bars, I didn’t get any insight into a proper Dutchman! Despite that, I enjoyed my time, and I would definitely return (although perhaps I would do so with a companion next time).
The City Centre and the Canals of Amsterdam
Amsterdam Central Railway Station in the northern part of Amsterdam, seems to be the heart of the city. From there, the city fans out in an intricate network of beautiful canals, which date back to the 17th century. The canals are perhaps Amsterdam’s most famous feature, and are truly beautiful.
Amsterdam only has a few main roads in the city centre itself, and these roads, although used by private cars, are mostly reserved for the city trams as well as a large number of bicycles (the Dutch’s preferred form of transport). The city is quite small in size and easily walkable, which is great for sight-seeing.
The main highlight within the city is DAM Square, which is home to the beautiful Royal Palace, a beautiful cathedral, and the National Monument, which provides a nice central sitting place with a gorgeous view of the square. Other beautiful buildings are scattered throughout the city, but in reality, the beauty in Amsterdam comes mainly from its average rows of homes, the scenic canals, and the bridges that cross these canals.
The city centre is also home to the infamous Red Light District, with its display windows showcasing prostitutes, live sex shows, sex stores, and even a sex museum. I got accidentally lost int he alleys of the red light district a couple of times on my way home from the bars, which felt a little awkward… sorry, I didn’t take any photos!
Anne Frank House
Located on the Western side of the city centre, is the Anne Frank House museum. The museum is the actual place in which famous teen diarist lived her last few days while hiding from the Nazis with her family during World War II.
The museum is very simple, but its simplicity evokes a level of emotions I didn’t expect. Visitors to the museum get to see how enclosed the compartments in which Anne Frank had to live while in hiding, and learn a little bit about her story, through excerpts from her diary, interviews with surviving friends, and every day items from her finals days.
Anne Frank House is nothing flashy, and might even be perceived as over-hyped, but I personally thought it was a good visit to learn a bit about a dark period in the history of Amsterdam.
One of Amsterdam’s most under-appreciated highlights would be its great art museums. Yes, these are world-famous museums, and despite being a crucial part of any visit to the city, it seems no one ever speaks of the quality of Amsterdam’s museums internationally, with the same affection as they would speak about the museums in London or Paris or Rome.
Museumplein, which is just south of the city centre, is a beautiful park surrounded by some of the city’s top museums. During my visit, I made my way over to two of the museums – The Rijks Museum and the Van Gogh Museum, and I can safely say they are some of the best museums I have ever visited!
The Rijks Museum is probably the highlight of my visit to Amsterdam. The museum, which is dedicated mainly to art front he Netherlands, only reopened early last year after a €375 million renovation which lasted over ten years! The 1880′s building, which is beautiful in itself, houses an incredible collection of Dutch art ranging from the 1200s until the present. Most impressively is its Rembrandt collection, which is well worth the entry price on its own.
The Van Gogh Museum, as the name states, is mainly dedicated to the art of Van Gogh, although some pieces from other artists of his time are also exhibited. The museum, which is housed in a simplistic modern building which accentuates the art pieces themselves, contains the biggest collection of Van Gogh pieces anywhere in the world. Van Gogh Museum is gorgeous and also well worth a visit.
If you know me, then of course you’ll know that there is no way I would go to Amsterdam and not go to the Heineken Experience. Granted, Heineken is by no means the best beer in the world; but it is a pretty damn good beer, and there is no better way to appreciate a clear lager than in an attraction dedicated specifically to it!
At the Heineken Experience, they make a point to state that the place is neither a museum, nor a brewery: it is a full experience. And believe it or not, the visit is actually well worth more than the three-four beers that you get included in the entry fee.
Visitors to the Heineken Experience get to hear about the history of the Heineken family and their beer, see memorabilia from different marketing stages through the beer’s history, watch multiple Heineken TV adverts that have been played internationally through the years, participate in a beer-tasting, and learn about the process of making beer at the brewery.
Along the way, visitors get one or two beers, as well as a couple other beers at the end of the tour, so it’s a perfect activity to do in the late afternoon, in preparation for a night out!
The Heineken Experience was more than just learning about beer; I thought it would be incredibly interesting to anyone who is interested in marketing and advertising as well, as it focuses heavily on the marketing of the product internationally and through the years since its invention.
Amsterdam was probably the best welcome to my new life in Europe, and exactly what I needed in terms of visiting a new and exciting place that I’d always remember as the first part of this new chapter. From culture, to beautiful architecture, to good beer, Amsterdam has a lot to offer.
During my visit to Amsterdam, I also got to travel around the Netherlands a bit on day trips, which I highly recommend. Amsterdam is so unlike anywhere else in the Netherlands, so to assume that the one city represents the entire country is a huge mistake. I will bog about my trips to the North of Holland and the South of Holland, as well as about Dutch food, in other posts coming shortly!
Happy International Women’s Day to all the ladies in my life.
I found this sculpture of a woman’s face while walking around the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain, during my recent visit this past January.
Name: Claus F. Gurumeta
DOB: 19 September 1983
Have: BA in Business Admin.
Do: (Wannabe) World Traveler.
Job: Travel Wholesaler.
Born in Mexico City, Mexico. Grew up in Toluca, Mexico (1983-1994), and Veracruz, Mexico (1994-1997) before moving to Vancouver, BC, Canada (1997-2011).
Lived in Sydney, Australia (2011- 2012), back in Vancouver, BC, Canada until Summer 2013, and currently living in London, England.
Want: to spend my life traveling and be an international travel-writer. Someday.
Passions: Travel, Beer, Chocolate, Writing… in no particular order.
The more I explore the wonderful world we live in, the more I want to see. I feel an insatiable hunger to explore every nook and cranny – starting with a few of my top travel places, visiting my favorites over again, and eventually experiencing destinations I never even knew existed.
I enjoy visiting a new place, and spending not only enough time to see the top sites, but spending a few days to get a better feel of the culture and the people. Get a deeper glimpse into what life is like at the destinations I visit. Take my time instead of simply running around to see the “top sites;” to sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee or a beer, people watch, or see the setting sun.
Through this blog, I want to share my personal experience of my travels. Having worked in the travel industry for over six years now, I have had the opportunity to take multiple trips a year. One or two big ones, mixed in with one or two small getaways. I can’t imagine a life without travel, and always yearn to get away again after a couple of months home.
Wanting a little change, I decided to take a little time off in 2011-2012 to explore the South Pacific, immerse myself in Australian culture, visit its cities & enjoy its nature, and travel around the area as much as I could. I lived in Sydney, working once more as a travel agent, after traveling for three weeks in New Zealand and two and a half months around Australia. Living in Sydney gave me a perspective about that wonderful city (and the country as a whole) that I could not have gotten by travelling alone.
I returned to Vancouver for 18 months after Australia, and I couldn’t sit still. I kept the travel bug contained by going on a few trips during that time, but deep down the yearning for a new long-term adventure couldn’t be contained, and so I decided to move to London, England, on a two-year working visa. Living in London has allowed me to take more trips within Europe than I could ever have done from Canada (Due to the low distances and prices). Once again, living in this thriving city is also introducing me to a whole way of living in a way which I could not have even touched by merely visiting.
I keep finding myself getting behind on my posts no matter how hard I try, so you’ll notice that my posts are not necessarily in chronological order; I do however date everything as per my time of travel, so you will know WHEN I was WHERE. In between these posts, I try posting pictures from my previous travels to celebrate special days, or just because I like the pictures!
All the pictures I include in my blog are my own, most taken by me (except of course some of the ones taken of me). If I use a picture taken by one of my friends during our travels together, I will always give credit.
Please feel free to browse through all my travel entries and comment on any post… I love hearing what you think!
And most importantly, enjoy reading.
I still hold the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics as one of my favourite memories of Living in Vancouver. I still remember the excitement circulating in the city during the entire two weeks of the Olympics. Most dramatic was Canada’s winning the Gold medal on the hockey game over the USA. The excitement!
As Canada prepares to battle for gold again, four years later, at the Sochi Olympics, I am rooting for my country from the UK. Go Canada!
Happy Valentine’s Day 2014!
I saw this statue at The Mailbox complex (a large canal-side shopping, dining and residential development) in Birmingham, England, and it instantly captivated me. When going through my photos to find the best image from my recent travels to represent the day of love, this one (obviously) was hands-down the winner!
Out of my travels around the UK so far, Birmingham has been the city that has surprised me the most. The city is going through an immense transformation to become a modern cosmopolitan city, and has some of the coolest architecture I’ve seen in England! But more on that when I (eventually) write my post about Birmingham itself.
In the meantime, enjoy the day of love and friendship with those close to you!
The 15th of January 2014 marks the third anniversary since I got my own domain, specializing my blog into travel-only posts. And what a ride it’s been!
One year ago I set myself some goals when it came to my blog, with the most ambitious being writing three to four posts per week throughout the year. I started strong, staying true to that goal for the first half of the year (and I did accomplish writing 107 posts in 2013, so not too shabby), but then slowed down a bit, as changes came up.
Which changes, you ask? Well, the most important being my move to London, England, a move that I hope will allow me to travel much more over the next couple of years. With the move across the world, came the stress of finding a place to live, a job, and getting my bearings in a new city. On my way to moving to London, I also went traveling for about two and a half months… and we all know how lazy I get with my writing while I’m on the road!
The good news? I have now visited plenty of new places in six new countries, so I definitely have a LOT more material to write about, and a LOT of photographs to share… so keep tuned!
Thank you again to all my loyal readers and all new visitors, for continuing to follow my blog. It brings me great pleasure to see every time someone visits my blog (and extra pleasure when readers spend a while going through some of my old posts).
Here’s to another year full of travel and adventure! x
I’d like to wish everyone a fantastic 2014. A little late to be writing a New Years post… but hey, better late than never!
Last New Years I reflected on the travel I did in 2012, noting that year had been the one where I had traveled the most in my entire life… so far. It was also then that I came to realize too how important travel has become in my life; perhaps, travel is the one true passion I have.
I’m glad to say, 2013 did not disappoint in terms of travel, and it brought upon a big change: my move to the UK.
The year started a little slower, with my first trip being in April, going down to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for my brother’s wedding. As much as I love Playa del Carmen, I had been there already (and as recently as one year before), so it seemed 2013 would be less exiting travel-wise.
Thankfully, I made the decision about that time, that maybe I wanted to take on another long-term adventure; since returning to Vancouver from Australia a year prior, my feet had been itching to move on somewhere else yet again. And so, I applied for a work permit to the UK, and was now on my way to a new life.
Figuring a simple move (from work in Canada to work in England) wouldn’t satisfy my urge to travel, I decided to make a bit of a trip before coming to my new life… one thing led to another, and before I knew it I had another extended holiday spanning nearly three months, which included plenty of new cities in new countries I hadn’t visited before: the Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey, England, Wales and Scotland. I also got to visit Rome, Italy, the only European city I’ve re-visited so far, but not since I came to Europe for the first time nearly seven years ago!
A reminder of how much I’ve traveled, yet how little of the world I’ve seen so far, I bought this wall map to inspire me to dream of new adventures every day; the purple stickers mark the places I have visited so far, so I’m hoping to add more and more over the next few years. The map looks at me from the wall opposite my bed in my new flat in London, and I can stare at it for hours on end planning where to go next… oh, and all the travel dreams and plans I have!
So here is to another fantastic year full of travel and adventures, Happy (late) New Years to everyone, and thank you for reading!
Walter Elias “Walt” Disney was born December 5, 1901. An extremely talented director, animator, producer, voice actor and entertainer, Walt is most famous for his creation of Mickey Mouse, and for being the founder (and namesake) of the Walt Disney Company.
To celebrate the life of this icon, here is a picture of a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse, at the Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, USA (October 2012).
Happy Halloween, 31st October 2013!
To celebrate this All Hallows Eve, let’s take a look at some beautiful photos of one of the most beautiful cemeteries I’ve seen: The Waverley Cemetery on the sea-view Cliff Walk off of Bronte Beach, in Sydney, Australia.
With gorgeous views of the sea, The Waverley Cemetery has been named the most-scenic resting place in the world… Not a bad place to spend the rest of eternity. You know, like, six feet under.
Yes yes, this place is too beautiful to be my main Halloween post… But think about all the dead people that inhabit this resting place. I had no issue visiting the cemetery during my Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk in January 2012, but I’m not so sure I’d be too comfortable visiting at night!
Today is the international day appreciating teachers. Let’s face it, whether or not we liked school (what, some of us genuinely did!), we all had a number of teachers who made an impact in our lives. Here is to them!
This is King Ram Khamhaeng the Great, the ruler of the Kingdom of Sukhothai (now Thailand) in the 1200s, who is credited with inventing the Thai alphabet. A knowledgeable scholar, his name is a popular household name in every Thai home.
Today, King Ram Khamhaeng continues to be a part of daily Thai life, having achieved a faux god-like status: during exam times, school children (and their mothers) will pray for hours to him, asking for the children to perform well in school, especially when it comes to grammar classes!
The 21st of September is the International Day of Peace.
What better place to showcase the need for peace than the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, a beautiful park in downtown Hiroshima, Japan. Hiroshima has raised from the ashes of destruction to be the world’s number one advocate for world peace.
Today, the Peace Memorial Park brings beauty and life to a place in which less than 70 years ago, the first Atomic Bomb fell over the city, destroying over half the buildings in the city, killing over 80,000 people instantly, and causing the death of another estimated 70,000 – 100,000 people in the following five years, due to injuries and cancers caused by radiation.
This Popular Park is Beautiful, but Also Carries a Strong Message. One of Peace.
On site at the Peace Memorial Park are the UNESCO heritage listed A-Bomb Dome, as a perpetual reminder of the destruction; the cenotaph with all the names of the known victims; the tear-inducing Children’s Peace Monument; and the Peace Memorial Museum. Most importantly, the Park is also home to the Flame of Peace, a burning flame which Hiroshima city has vowed not to put out until every atomic weapon in the world has been destroyed.
I visited Hiroshima, Japan in April 2010 and I loved it. The Peace Memorial Park is beautiful and touching, and the Museum is so overwhelming I actually (literally) had to walk out of it mid way through, about to burst into tears!
Let’s learn from our mistakes, and try every day to celebrate peace.
After my time in the Netherlands and Belgium, I landed in Istanbul 5 days ago to join a G Adventures tour around Turkey. Although my adventure in this country has just started, I can already say its been an awesome ride! Turkey is an incredible, varied country that should be on everyone’s must-travel list.
The 15 people in my group (from Canada, Australia, Colombia and USA) are all great, and the places we’ve seen already have been a mixture of ancient, modern, and downright other-worldly. Looking forward to the next two weeks I’ll spend in Turkey, and all the experiences that await!
I have to confess I knew very little about Belgium before my visit: if asked about it, I’d pretty much only be able to mention chocolate, beer, waffles… and a fountain of a little boy peeing. After spending five days in Belgium with a local, I am blown away by the beauty and the history of this small European country.
Timothy showed me around his hometown, Antwerp, over a few days. Together, we also visited Bruges, a Western medieval town which, as touristy as it may be, is a must visit spot in the country; and Brussels, Belgium’s majestic capital. From incredibly detailed building façades, statues, monuments, parks and open public squares, Belgium’s cities are really a sight to see.
And let’s not forget about the food, which extends much further than chocolate, beer and waffles; Belgian cuisine is something to write home about! Timothy was kind enough to cook me a few homemade traditional dishes: Gentze Waterzooi with chicken and meatballs, tomaat garnaal (grey shrimp and mayo salad stuffed into tomatoes), Meatloaf with Cherries, and a Dame Blanche ice-cream dessert. He also took me to restaurants where I could try more Belgian cuisine: Lapin aux Pruneaux (rabbit with prunes), and Mussels & Frites, with tons of mayonnaise.
Tim introduced me to multiple Belgian treats as well (yes, including different waffle styles and many chocolates). Of course there were also afternoons and evenings spent tasting many of Belgium’s different world-famous beers, at various spots around the three cities we visited.
With a local by my side, I was able to learn about the history, funny / interesting facts about the places we visited, and also got the opportunity to go to out-of-the-way neighbourhoods and visit local restaurant and bars. There is nothing like seeing a country through the eyes of a local, and I could not be any more grateful to Timothy for showing me around his country and helping make my stay here that much more memorable!
I will eventually write about each city visited in Belgium, and due to my love of food, I will dedicate an entire post to Belgian cuisine when I’m no longer on the road… stay posted!