Buying a house in Amsterdam as an expat

Buying a house in Amsterdam as an expat

Finally! Here’s our story about buying a house in Amsterdam.

In 2016 we made a New Year’s resolution to make buying a house a top priority. We’re stubborn and wanted to make travel a priority as well with the #take12trips challenge.

So, while we didn’t buy a house in 2016, we did save and save and save some more…even while traveling! But 2017 was when we finally bit the bullet. Our landlord wanted to move back into her house, so we kind of had a soft deadline to get out. Ideally, it would be the 1st of May but she was really looking to get back in by June.

Keep reading for Amsterdam house-buying tips for expats!

The Amsterdam housing market

Canal Houses in Amsterdam

The housing market in Amsterdam is crazy. Pure insanity! I think it’s safe to say, that whether you’re a local or an expat, the process will be mostly similar since we’re all in the same market. We were told that it would likely take at least SIX MONTHS to find a place and get a bid accepted. 

It took about two.

Not gonna lie…luck was on our side, but we were also making appointments at every house we were even a little bit interested in. The first place we started looking was in our neighborhood (Westerpark) but came to realize really quick that the price per square meter was obscene.

We knew how much of a mortgage could get and how much we wanted to spend. These numbers were different because I don’t want to spend all our money on a mortgage. We want to save, travel, to work on the house, etc. We don’t want to feel strapped for cash.

Spending so much on so little space felt wrong. Like, really wrong. I felt it in my gut that it wasn’t right and we couldn’t justify it. I feel like I would have regretted it.

Could we have managed in a smaller space? Sure! We wouldn’t have been happy though. This is our HOME. We want it to be the way we want it. If you’re going to spend so much money, you should feel good about it, right?

 

Looking elsewhere – like Amsterdam Noord

Amsterdam Noord - buying a house in Amsterdam

Essentially we got priced out of our neighborhood and expanded our search. Thank goodness we did our footwork ahead of time and knew which neighborhoods we were okay with based on space, price, and distance from the center.

Noord began to look like a great option. This is the north part of Amsterdam that is across the IJ (the body of water behind Amsterdam Central Station). It’s really up-and-coming with some AH-mazing restaurants, lots of waterside hangouts, a soon-to-open metro, and cheaper houses.

Yep. I said houses, not apartments! Of course, there are plenty of apartments too, but we were looking at places that gave us good value.

We went to appointments for apartments and what you’d probably call row houses. During the visits that were open houses, we were packed in a small space with at least 20 people, it was a nightmare. Sometimes it was nicer, when we made one-on-one appointments, we really got to ask questions and think out loud without thinking the person next to us would hear our idea and snatch it out from under us.

 

Bidding wars

Old neighborhood in Amsterdam

More people are moving to Amsterdam and more people are being brought over by companies who pay them a lot of money. In case I need to point this out, we aren’t those people. We make normal salaries just as the other residents of Amsterdam do. The people that move here for work and only plan to stay for a couple years see a great opportunity to buy a house and make a profit in a couple years. This along with people buying up properties for short-term rentals makes the market a really hard place even for two people working normal full-time jobs who just want their own house.

This adventure took us to 7 houses and we bid on 4 of them. The bidding game is scary. We found houses, fell in love with them and we had to keep telling ourselves that they weren’t ours yet…if they ever would be. After the first bid was rejected I was heartbroken and frustrated. Everyone told us how difficult it would be, but I knew we had to push through if we ever wanted to do this. Prices would only go up.

The game had to be played! So, we overbid by 5-15% on some homes. Didn’t get any of those. We stopped trying to fall in love and started being practical.

Would it work? Was it worth the price? Then bid on it.

That’s how we handled it.

 

I bought a house in Amsterdam without my husband

Buying a house in Amsterdam as an expat

Hear me out. We were basically scrambling to find something worth buying that we were comfortable paying for. Sean had to fly to the United States for work for a week and a half. Bad timing doesn’t even begin to explain how I felt. We couldn’t stop looking. The market moved too fast for that.

I went to two viewings without him. One of which I was accompanied by my friends that lived right down the street (what a treat!) and my agent. The second I went to by myself (intimidating!). I bid on both. Sean had to email his consent to the agent that I could sign on his behalf if needed.

I talked to Sean about every detail, sent him pictures and even videos. I wanted him to feel comfortable. Luckily, I’ve picked out many of the places we’ve lived in and he’s been very happy with them. So, he trusts me. The great thing about the Netherlands is even after you go to the notary to formally say yes to the house, you still have 3 days to back out. So, really, I couldn’t screw up too bad.

The house we ultimately bought was one Sean found online while he was gone. So, he initiated the whole thing! We make an awesome team. But there’s still something about visiting a home, making a bid, and negotiating when you partner isn’t even with you. I think I would just say that it was incredibly nerve-wracking. My biggest fear was he wouldn’t like it. After all that work, what if he hated it in person?

He didn’t! It was a good buy and we even got to UNDER-bid. Unheard of right now and I think we got a bargain.

 

It’s our house!

Signing all the papers for our house in Amsterdam Noord

We are homeowners! WHAT?!

We went to the notary for the final time to sign the official papers for the mortgage and the deed. It was scary and exciting and so many things at once. I couldn’t even believe it was happening. This is our first major purchase together and we did it in Amsterdam–the place that makes us happiest.

We have more to do with the house and I’ll keep you all in the loop on the exciting stuff since it’s all part of our expat life. Next house post will be photos of the house as it looks now! You won’t want to miss it — we’ll even take suggestions on a few things we’re still working out.

If you want to keep up with our posts, follow along on Bloglovin or just like us on Facebook but don’t forget to turn on notifications!

 

House-buying tips for expats in Amsterdam

Toast to a new home in Amsterdam

  1. Get a makelaar (an estate agent). Angloinfo Amsterdam has an extensive list. But with all things, ask around and get recommendations! There are a couple ways to use them.
    1. With a full package, they can help you find apartments and meet you (or take you) to viewings that they arrange. If you want to make a bid, they do the area research to see what houses have been sold for and the average price per meter. They also check out the history of the house, create the bid, negotiate, and finally set up the final steps. These steps include an appointment at the notary, a translator, inspection if you want one, and the valuation of the home. They go to the notary with you and generally just keep you in the loop with everything.
    2. Or you can use them just to bid and you do the house-hunting and such. In general, I would make sure which ever way you go that they house and the paperwork history is all checked out! There are variations of these two, so don’t hesitate to ask questions of the ones you are interested in.
  2. Get a mortgage advisor. They will handle all the bank paperwork for you. If they are good, they are easily able to explain the different mortgage options and let you decide which works best for you. You may not even have to step foot in a bank! Now that’s stress reduction. Again, get advice
  3. Research your neighborhoods. But understand there are gems even in undesirable places. I would have never looked in the center because it’s too busy, loud, and touristy. But there are quiet places that people just don’t find and are made even affordable!
  4. Be realistic in your expectations. It’s Amsterdam, there are just certain things you are likely not going to be able to find…or afford. Example: You won’t find a 3 bedroom detached house with a swimming pool in the center of the city. Oh, and get used to the idea of stairs unless you’re really lucky or live in a proper apartment building.
  5. It’s likely you won’t win your first bid. It will suck. But it gets a little easier each time because you know it’s possible and you learn more about what you like and what you don’t.
  6. Be aware of costs that aren’t immediately in the mortgage, like the ground lease and the homeowners association costs.

Please remember that I’m just a regular person explaining what we went through and the advice I would give a friend. I’m not an expert and do not have expert advice. There’s plenty of people in Amsterdam willing to take your money to help you through this process. I hope you find this to be a good jumping off point and that you start asking your network for their experience as well.

Until next time, wishing you love and travels.  

 

Waterland: Postcard Perfect

Waterland: Postcard Perfect

Guys…I just. I just can’t with this place. I grew up on a mountain in Virginia and never, ever saw myself living in a city. Though my heart belongs to the city of Amsterdam, I will always feel most relaxed, most comfortable, and happiest when surrounded by greenery and water. Waterland is the perfect area in Holland for a quick escape for someone like me! Even with an area full of great day-trips, this is one that really slows my pulse.

When given the chance to take a boat ride through Broek in Waterland (still in North Holland!) I was so excited. This small town is a ridiculously close 30 min by bike from Amsterdam and you will walk through (or boat through) while asking yourself so many questions.

 

Broek in Waterland

 

You’ll wonder how it’s possible to live in a place as beautiful as this. Or how does it stay so unspoiled? Maybe you’ll even ask what I did…”Can I have a weekend house here?

We live in a time where everything wants your attention. Think of the device you’re on now…how many alerts have you gotten in the last 5 minutes? Broek in Waterland is that place where all worries, and responsibilities somehow melt away.

I don’t get it. I don’t need to. It makes me happy.

 

Broek in Waterland

 

Getting to Broek in Waterland

Even if you’re not keen on grabbing a bike to make the trek. Worry not. Just grab a bus from Amsterdam Centraal Station–head to the back of the station and go up the stairs. Buses 312, 314, 315, 316 all get you there in about 25 minutes. These aren’t Amsterdam city buses, so an anonymous OV chipkaart (travel card) is best since your blue paper GVB passes will not work on these buses, whereas the reloadable OV cards will.

To get around, you could definitely explore on foot…or you can rent a boat and feel a little bit more Dutch. We got our boat from Broeker Bootverhuur. They have quiet boats and super quiet boats. What I mean is, there are quiet motor boats and there are arm-powered boats (canoes!).

I’m going to stop rambling now because really, I don’t need to say anything else when these photos can speak for me! Of course, the sky was a little bit moody, so I give you some moody photos.

Have you ever seen a place so pretty? If you have, definitely share the name in the comments!

 

Waterland_canals

Waterland house on water

 

Waterland day trip horses

 

Broek in Waterland

 

Cow in Waterland

 

Picnic in Waterland

 

Broek in Waterland

 

Boat in Broek in Waterland

 

Wishing you love and travels!

Exploring Edam: A quick trip from Amsterdam

Exploring Edam: A quick trip from Amsterdam

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Day trips are fabulous because you can be somewhere awesome, like Amsterdam and be so close to many other experiences. Spending time in one place, only to be able to discover some other really amazing but totally different places, is so much fun. I feel stimulated, excited, and eager to see something new when all the “must-do” things have been done.

The Netherlands now has a super special place in my heart. It’s home. It’s more comfortable than I could have ever imagined. Even with a country so small, there are so many different experiences to be had. Amsterdam has its own amazing and wonderful culture. The Hague has a completely different vibe. And the absolute charm of Geithoorn is something to be experienced with its postcard perfect scenery.

 

Beautiful Edam has the best views

 

My expat journey included finding places that make my heart happy. When I discovered the small town of Edam, I couldn’t stop smiling. It was so cute, I just wanted to pick it all up and take it with me. Yes, I realize how irrational that sounds. It’s an old fortress town that has been able to keep its quaint and adorable feeling throughout the times. It’s the perfect place to hop on a bus from Amsterdam with your day bag, water, snacks and of course a camera. Maybe an umbrella too. You never know!

Yes, it was a gloomy day, but in person, it’s still a wonderful and happy place to be. I don’t overly edit my photos, so it’s as real as possible for you to experience. I promise that we do have sunny days in Holland too! 

 

How to get to Edam from Amsterdam

 

Bridges in Edam - only a quick trip from Amsterdam

 

Edam is only about a ½ hour bus ride (depending which bus you take) from the Amsterdam’s Centraal Station and costs under 5 euros each way. So it’s a super fast and quick day trip from Amsterdam. I definitely suggest that you grab an anonymous OV chipkaart (a transportation card) that you refill as you go. You can find where to buy them here, or just go to the tourist office in front of the Centraal Station. Then you can easily refill the cards at any station with the big yellow machines.

The buses you take will be behind Centraal Station and up the stairs. Just follow the signs. Amsterdam is pretty great with signage! Just one of the many things I love. Check the 9292 website for which bus is best for your time. Don’t worry, that’s the English link 😉

If you want to spend the night in a super unique room in Edam like I did, check out L’Auberge Damhotel Edam which is right in the middle of the old town. Not a hotel you’ll soon forget!

 

Day trip from Amsterdam to Edam

 

Interesting things to do in Edam

Edam is a pretty small place and walking around the town center is very easy. It’s the perfect place to just wander and weave through the small streets and waterways. Edam is a very Instagrammable place…if you’re into that sort of thing 🙂 And plenty of shops are in the town center with lots of goodies to eat, drink, or take home as souvenirs. Between taking photos, taking in the atmosphere, and window-shopping (or real shopping), it’s a great day out!

 

A great view of Edam - just outside Amsterdam

 

Walking around might sound boring for those of us who want to go-go-go and do-do-do, but every once in awhile, I think we all need to stop and smell the roses-or tulips-a bit. Take in the scenery. Find a spot to just imagine what life is like for those who live there now…and what it would have been like in the past. What do you think your role would have been back then in a town known for cheese? I’m thinking quality control.

 

Typical Edam street

 

Visit the cheese market! Is it touristy? Yep. But it’s also history. To see the old-fashioned outfits, and hurried pace of a cheese market from the past, be sure to visit on a Wednesday in the height of summer at 10:30 am. All the specifics are on the tourism site (in English) so you can confirm everything is still the same!

 

So many adorable streets in Edam

 

Side note: Blogs are awesome for inspiration and tips, but personally, I always check the local tourism site just to confirm everything. I highly suggest doing this too!

And of course, it just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t recommend getting on a boat. Seeing the town from a different perspective is always a bit more interesting in my opinion. The tourist office runs a boat and for 6 euro a person, it’s a pretty great deal!

Related: Day trips from Amsterdam

 

Kayak in Edam

 

Did I mention that you should eat cheese? No? Well, DUH! You’re in Edam. Of COURSE, you should eat cheese. Many places give you samples and you should try them all! I found flavors I didn’t even know I liked because I had the chance to give ‘em a try.

 

Edam_Cheese

 

Recommended souvenir from Edam: It might be cheesy, but honestly, grab some cheese! Be sure to ask if you will be able to take it back to your home country.

Since I went to Edam on my own, I’m already planning a trip back with Sean! I loved it that much. And to go that extra mile, we are going to bike there. It will be about an hour, but we biking regularly, I don’t think it will be too bad. Still, good vibes and wishing us luck is always appreciated. Hoping for no flat tires!

 

Fun times in Edam - So close to Amsterdam!

 

If you want live updates on when and where we travel, the best places are Twitter and Instastories. See you on social 😉

What do you think…what is a cool day trip you can do from where you are? We are all a local somewhere! Share your tips for your town or city so we can all discover corners of this amazing world.

Wishing you love and travels!

 

It's so green in Edam

 

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Day trip from Amsterdam to the beach

Day trip from Amsterdam to the beach

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The words “Amsterdam” and “beach” may not be two words you think of together. But the beach is a quick day trip from Amsterdam! This area is known for being cloudy and rainy. Believe it or not though, that isn’t always the case. Some days are actually sunny and hot! Those of us who live here cherish these days. So, throw on your swimsuit and hat, don’t forget the sunscreen and let’s head to the beach!

 

Zandvoort - Amsterdam Beach

 

Sunshine makes us all a bit happier it seems. Stress melts away as the warmth of the sun’s rays hit any skin it can get to. When in Amsterdam, the immediate thing we think of is that we need to get on a boat. Floating along the canals in a small boat is one fabulous way to enjoy a long summer day. If you’re in an already-been-there-done-that kind of mood, then getting outside the city and exploring something new is definitely the way to go!

And while I am head-over-heels in love with the canals, the canalhouses, and the houseboats, I can’t think of a better thing to do on a sunny day than spend it at the beach. Can you?

 

How to get to the beach from Amsterdam

Train from Amsterdam to Zandvoort

 

From Amsterdam Centraal Station, it’s about a 30 minute train ride that drops you so close to the beach that you can hear it.

I just need to say that it took me far too long to discover this beachy town called Zandvoort. It’s so exciting to have a beach so close! In the US, I lived about a 6 hour drive from the closest beach, and now, living in Amsterdam, I have one 30 minutes away. Seriously, how crazy is that?!

Zandvoort is common knowledge for the locals. But even being a popular spot on a summery day, it’s not crowded as I’m used to in Virginia. There’s space for everyone!

 

Day trip to Zandvoort from Amsterdam

 

Putting my toes in the cool water while they sunk into the sand was pure bliss. I’ve always been a bit of a water baby. I can’t remember there ever being a time when I didn’t know how to swim or want to be near or in the water. Laying on my beach towel on the sand with the sound of the waves crashing and the feel of the mist as the wind blows is all part of the magic of the beach. It’s the perfect place to unwind.

 

For a more adventurous afternoon…

Dunes in Zandvoort

 

If you’re not feeling like lounging all day by the beach (I’m sure there, then rent a bike and explore the nearby dunes in the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park. I got my bike from Behind the Beach and it even fit me! I’m Miss Shorty…so I’m always impressed when a bike isn’t too tall for me in Holland. Isn’t the cute little basket on the front so handy? I tossed my Pacsafe backpack in it because it was making my back too hot. Oh the real life problems!

 

Biking the dunes in Zandvoort

 

Cycling through this landscape made me feel like I was a world away from the “big city” of Amsterdam. It was an escape to a quiet place with some pretty amazing scenery. I love the canals and the houses of Amsterdam, but sometimes it’s nice to just be out in nature, you know?

I can’t even believe that we saw a BUFFALO. Yes. That’s right. It was hanging out by the watering hole and we just admired its size and stature…and total coolness to stand there munching on grass while we took photos. That’s a cool buffalo right there.

 

Buffalo in Zandvoort

 

Of course, you can always *start* your day with a nice bike ride and end it at the beach. That’s completely acceptable. I promise you, there are enough hours in a day to explore AND be a beach bum.

 

That’s a full day outside of Amsterdam!

By the time you ride around, sit in the sun, get splashing around, dry off, sun some more, and eat a few things, you’ll be ready to rest up for your next day full of adventure. There are a bunch of day trips so close to my favorite place (Amsterdam, if you haven’t been paying attention!), if you’re looking to have a varied Dutch experience.

 

Amsterdam Beach - Zandvoort


Enjoy Amsterdam, enjoy Holland, and enjoy all the Netherlands has to offer! Where is your favorite place to base yourself for day trips? We’re going to start writing more about these kinds of places around Europe and would love to hear your thoughts.

Wishing you love and travels!


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Our surprise travel anniversary tradition

Our surprise travel anniversary tradition

I love love. I love the love I have with my husband. We can be one of those couples that make you go “Ohhh, stop it!” and I feel beyond lucky to have a life partner that is my match.

Any Ever After fans out there? “But she’s your match, Henry!” That’s us. Yay, us!

Ok, ok. Enough about that. Though, I’d really like to emphasize that you should be with someone who makes you happy (if you want to be in a relationship). You deserve it!

 

Sean and Jessica in Italy 2016

 

Looking Back

We’ve been together a long time. As of March 2017, it’s been 12.5 years since we’ve started dating and 7 years that we’ve been married.

In the United States we would always go out for a delicious dinner for both dating and wedding anniversaries because it’s just nice to have something to celebrate!

Now that we live in Amsterdam we travel somewhere each year for our wedding anniversary and usually eat out at a nice place somewhere, too. The first year we were still figuring out finances and a bunch of other unpleasant things but we still took a quick trip to Paris. We had no agenda, no timelines, no pressures. It was important to us that we be able to stroll along at our own pace and enjoy the city with all its romantic sides and quirkiness.  

 

Notre Dame

 

The new tradition

The next year Sean really wanted to surprise me for our anniversary. Since traveling within Europe is relatively cheap and quick, I let go of the planning responsibilities and let him have at it! For someone who wants to plan for everything–or at least needs to know everything–that was hard.

When you have been together for so long, it can be difficult to surprise the other person. We know how each other thinks and, to a certain extent, can anticipate what the other is going to do for anniversaries and birthdays. It is nice to have something that makes our anniversary a complete surprise and feel a bit more special.

 

Ischia, Italy

 

So, this is the new tradition…and I’m REALLY excited about it:

We take turns, every other year, to secretly plan our anniversary trip. Together we talk about a budget to keep in mind since circumstances are constantly changing and we want to ensure a stress-trip. Because Amsterdam doesn’t give us a lot of time with the sunshine, we each figure it will be somewhere warm. We need more sun in our lives! You never know though…it *is* a surprise 😉

You might be bummed to find out that we don’t wait until we are at the airport for the other person to find out. As cool as that sounds, it freaks me out. I want to look into the place a bit myself to see what I might want to do. I want to know what to pack. And of course, we both want to be excited and have a little bit of that anticipation before going on a trip rather than nervousness.

One month before we fly away, we’ll let the other know where exactly we’ll be going. Hopefully it’s in a fun and interesting way. Giving little hints is fun too!

 

Our last couple trips

The first year we did this, it was Sean’s idea and I was soooo nervous! I didn’t like not knowing what was going on. But I trusted that he knew what we would be able to enjoy together.

It was certainly worth the wait! He took me to the Amalfi Coast!

Amalfi Coast, Italy

 

We got warmer weather, amazing food, unbelievable scenery and had the best time. The food itself was incredible and something I’ll never forget. We even joined in on a wine and cheese tasting in a hidden cellar. It’s was all pretty much perfect!

Luckily it was warm and we visited the famous island of Capri, and then stayed on the island of Ischia which is where all the Italians (and apparently, Germans) go! We can’t wait to go back again. Pompeii was incredible too…how would I be able to pick a trip as awesome as this one?!

Then it was my turn. To find the right place, the food had to be good and ideally we haven’t been before. I was so excited, but nervous to plan this anniversary surprise. There was only one problem…there was AT LEAST a half dozen places I really really wanted to take him.

 

Secret anniversary trip to Lisbon

 

I thought about Croatia, Greece, Portugal, the Canary Islands, Malta, and I wanted to go back to Barcelona and Italy. These are all amazing places but I could only pick one! The excitement turned into overwhelm, but ultimately, I chose a spot. Lisbon was the perfect place for us to explore and eat. I even had a colleague who taught me a tiniest bit of Portuguese!

This year, since we were going to Lisbon, Portugal, I set up the dining room table with a photo of Lisbon on my computer and bought some Pasteis de nata to let him in on the surprise. He was so happy! I love that one moment when you get to see the reaction. That is something you just don’t get when you plan a getaway together.

 

View from castle in Lisbon

 

He loved it and I’m so glad. I think it’s so amazing to make your spouse happy! Now it’s my turn to wait again. Where do you think he’ll pick? It always feels like the date is not far away, so I love guessing as soon as we are back from the previous anniversary.

That’s SO bad, right?! Hehehe Oh well. That’s just me 😉

 


Surprise anniversary travel

 

This new tradition is super exciting and gives some mystery into our relationship. Not to mention, it involves travel around Europe which you simply can’t go wrong with! I also love that I know at that time every year, we’ll be off to somewhere awesome. I fully believe that you should always have something to look forward to, something to work towards.

What fun traditions do you have in your life? We’d love to hear them. Let’s inspire each other!

Wishing you love and travels!

 

Sintra, Portugal

 

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Traversing the Amsterdam countryside by bike

Traversing the Amsterdam countryside by bike

I live in Amsterdam. I love Amsterdam. It’s such an amazing city with the canals as the perfect backdrop of a sunny day.

BUT…and this is a big BUT…it’s not all that there is to see in the area. While there are day trips to other cities like Delft, Utrecht, and The Hague, you really don’t have to go far for a new adventure.

Recently I’ve gotten into a new mindset. I don’t want to just travel. I want new experiences. New flavors. New sights. And a new perspective.

 

Nieuwendam - Amsterdam countryside bike tour

 

Biking tours around Amsterdam was never really on the list since, you know, I bike around pretty often. But I was offered the chance to go on a countryside tour from Amsterdam by bike with We Bike Amsterdam. Ummm, YES! Let’s get out of the city!

I think you should always take advantage of what you have right around you. We usually miss it because, you know, it’s there, it will always be there. So why do I need to bother going now? If you think like that, you will likely miss out.

 


I’ve never biked from Amsterdam to anywhere else. I haven’t really even biked that far before. I was a little nervous (would I have the stamina?) but super excited because I finally get to see the countryside that is oh-so-beautiful.

While I want to write about the experience so you know what to expect (that’s usually kind of the point on a blog), I really just want to tell you to book it. Don’t ask questions. Just go! That’s how much I loved this tour around the Amsterdam countryside.

 

Canal lock -Amsterdam countryside bike tour

 

The basics

Meeting up was super easy. The shop where you grab your bike from is right by Central Station. It’s easy to find and there’s a bike waiting for you!

Since I love my bike (it’s purple), I brought mine with me. SUCH an Amsterdammer ;), I know. 

After a quick introduction of the guide and an adjustment of seat heights for those who need it, we learned our itinerary. Let’s just say that it involves biking around impossibly adorable areas and eating appeltaart (like an apple pie/cake combo).

And with that, we were off! We headed behind Central Station to grab a ferry and go north. The ferry itself is pretty awesome. The views are incredible! And it’s free…just in case you want to take it again on your own.

 

Cycling through the Dutch countryside

 

Cycling in the countryside

Once on the other side of the IJ (that body of water the ferry is in) you hop on your bikes and won’t see another stop sign or stoplight until you get back to Central Station.

FREEEEEDDOOOOMMMMM

I had a smile on my face the whole time. It was a perfect sunny day in the Netherlands and was thrilled to be taking advantage of it and the natural, and not so natural, scenery.

This bike tour was so chill. The guide would stop every once in a while to point something out. You could stop and ask questions. You can bike together with the guide or another tour-goer and learn about them.

 

Nieuwendam - Amsterdam countryside bike tour

 

Small, but at the time, terrifying, note: I took my camera out to take the first photo and DROPPED IT! Turns out only the filter broke and just a small crack on the casing, so it still works. But, with glass everywhere and wanting to enjoy the trip, I just took photos with my Galaxy S7. Apologies if the quality isn’t a high as normal!

 

The Dutch are masters of water and you get to see some pretty cool examples of that throughout the trips. From locks, to dikes, to irrigation canals, the Dutch control water like nobody else. Be prepared to be wowed!

Of course, the animals love the water too and you might see a few cute sheep along the way like we did. How cute are these babies?! They were flaunting it for the cameras. EVERYONE stopped to take pictures. Even the locals.

 

Amsterdam countryside bike tour

 

These views though. It felt amazing to be cycling alongside the water. I’m usually a woods kind of girl, but I love bodies of water too. Something so peaceful, so calming about them.

At some point, after freeing my mind of all thoughts and just pedaling away, it was time to make a left and head to a cute restaurant called het Schoolhuis for a traditional Dutch treat…the appeltaart! I hesitate to call it apple pie. It’s more like a cross between a pie and a cake. However you want to describe it, it’s delicious. Just be sure to get it with cream on the side. It’s extra delicious that way!

 

Appeltaart -Amsterdam countryside bike tour

 

After the pie/cake/taart and coffee/tea/hot chocolate, it was time to saddle back up and start a roundabout journey back to Amsterdam. The difference in scenery was nice. We weren’t along the water anymore, but among the villages and fields. We were even lucky enough to be on the cycling tour during Open Tower Day. We took advantage of that and went up the Ransdorper Toren (tower) that was never quite finished, but had a great view! You could see for miles since this country is super flat. It was such a nice surprise to be able to do that and it’s a shame they only hold Open Tower Day once a year.

 

Above the Dutch countryside

 

Before getting back into Amsterdam “proper” we stopped to take a few photos with a windmill. It even has a name! “De Admiraal”. It’s a must to have a selfie in front of a windmill if you are visiting, right?

 

Windmill group photo from the Amsterdam countryside tour

 

After so many cute villages, meeting some animals along the way, getting a snack, and making friends, it was time to cross the water and get back to the “big” city of Amsterdam. Totally kidding about the “big” part. It feels like a village in itself!

Cycling on the country paths and feeling that sense of freedom is just incredible. While I feel so fortunate to be able to do that anytime, I hope you take advantage of the opportunity if you’re visiting my favorite place 🙂 I am fairly certain it would be a highlight of your trip!

 

So many great spots on the countryside bike tour from Amsterdam

 

Huge thanks to We Bike Amsterdam for the invitation and being confident that a local would still get a kick out of a bike tour 😉

When you do come to Amsterdam, do check out the city guide I made for you, and while I know you have a couple things on your must-do list that every visitor “should” do, make a random turn down a street when you’re walking and find something new and interesting.

 

Funny group photo from the Amsterdam countryside tour

 

This was a complimentary tour thanks to We Bike Amsterdam, which I thoroughly enjoyed. All opinions are my own and I am so grateful for the opportunity to experience this tour so I can share it with you!

Portuguese flavors on a Lisbon food tour

Portuguese flavors on a Lisbon food tour

Culture is about the mix of food, location, and people. Once you start traveling, you start to realize that. We quickly learned in Stockholm and Barcelona how important food is to a culture. Simply being in the location doesn’t give you too much insight into the people and the culture, but once you start eating and talking, it all comes together.

This is the essence of the Taste of Lisboa food tour that took us around the Campo de Ourique neighborhood. Our guide, Filipa, wasn’t just a hired guide who was told what to say. She spent a lot of time in this neighborhood when growing up. The history, the food, the meanings are all part of her own history.

 

Canned fish at the market in Lisbon

 

The Campo de Ourique neighborhood

Getting to the meeting point might seem like quite the trek because it’s not really on the tourist route (that’s a bonus point in our book). But it’s really not that far from wherever you are. The famous tram 28 takes you right there. If that’s too full for you, the buses 774 and 701 take you there too. Uber is super cheap in Lisbon if that’s more your style. Though, I highly suggest grabbing a transit card while in Lisbon. Just hopping around without a worry is always nice.

No matter who your guide is, you’ll be introduced to a neighborhood that is incredibly local and just the place you want to be chowing down. This tour doesn’t include the touristy places you can find on your own in the downtown areas, instead it gives you a hyper local flavor.

 

Starting off the food tour on a sweet note

All of us on the tour were American, so what we ate at the first stop for our mid-morning snack was a bit of a surprise. What better snack could you have other than the World’s Best Chocolate Cake? Yeah. That surprised me too! But me and chocolate? Let’s just say, I wasn’t complaining.

 

World's Best Chocolate Cake in Lisbon


This chocolate cake looks like Heaven, but it’s not the chocolate cake I eat at home. Don’t expect a spongy and moist cake with creamy frosting. This cake a bit crusty like a macaron with a ganache-like filling. Different was very good in this case. I may have finished mine and Sean’s. #noregrets

 

Onward to the food market

Food markets seem to be making a come-back. From farmer’s market style to food stall markets for prepared foods, having a variety of food in one spot is pretty much the best thing ever. We got to learn about the local fish, where a roasted suckling pig must be roasted to ensure perfection, and a quick lesson on canned fish including its importance to Portugal.

 

Mercado de Campo de Ourique


Now, if you’re a long-time follower of this blog, you know I don’t like to spoil everything about a food tour. But I will tell you that I tried something I’ve never tried before (my personal hope for every food tour). It’s something I know some people love and can’t get enough of, but that has never interested me. Fish roe.

 

Fish Roe at the market in Lisbon

 

Yep. I put it on bread and ate it. Was it fishy? No. Would I order it while I’m out? No. Is it part of the culture and glad I tried it? Abso-friggin-lutely. This is what it’s all about. Learning about people and culture. It’s not a meal made for you. It’s about them. And I love that.

 

Rose at Mercado de Campo de Ourique


This market though, the Campo de Ourique market, is beautiful and open. Super clean spaces with gorgeous foods on display. Even the canned fish was beautifully set. If you ever go here, you must find Frutos Secos. As someone who can eat nuts if they are in front of her but isn’t a die-hard fan, I got a taste of one of them and was hooked. I didn’t get back to that stall and was quite sad about it. So, if anyone is going to Lisbon and then hopping over to Amsterdam, I’ll happily take a bag of the flavored almonds.

 

Nuts at Rose at Mercado de Campo de Ourique

 

Sit-down restaurant time

While I love a good tour, I love to plop my butt in a chair and have a nice drink while trying the local fare. From pork to mussels, a fish dish, and dessert, we got to discover some of the best spots in the neighborhood of Campo de Ourique.

How many ways can you eat pork? So, so many ways! I hope you get to discover a new way at the restaurant that adores their pork. And the wine. Ohhh, I love trying the wine so much. Great pairing too! It was nice to get a few different takes on what this restaurant specializes in. It’s not just a bite–it’s a collaboration of flavors and textures that caught me by surprise.

 

Pork dishes on the Taste of Lisboa Food Tour

 

In Portugal, you must eat seafood. Must! To accomplish this, we walked to a restaurant all about mussels and craft beer. I’ve got your attention now, don’t I? Since it’s all about Portuguese food, we got the Portuguese style mussels (Moules à Bulhão Pato). Less is more here, folks. Simple ingredients make great flavors.

We even learned a cool trick. Please tell me we are not the only ones who didn’t know this. You can use a mussel as a tool to pick out the other mussels! Mind blown.

 

Mussels on the Lisbon Food Tour | Taste of Lisboa
Finally we got to the famous Vinho Verde! The wine alongside a cod dish, was *kisses tips of fingers* delicioso! The wine was great, the cod was great and so much better than any other I had in Lisbon. It shocked me. I actually got a bit greedy with the fish. But still, no regrets.

Lisbon comfort food on the Lisbon Campo de Ourique food tour


Let’s talk about comfort food
. Admittedly, most of the comfort food I’m aware of doesn’t look like that great. It doesn’t have to because it’s about comforting your belly and reviving memories and that feeling of comfort. I don’t have the memories associated with baked beans rice, but I could certainly understand how this dish could make you warm and fuzzy all over while thinking about your grandma’s food.

Vinho Verde on the Lisbon comfort food on the Lisbon Campo de Ourique food tour

 

Gimme some sugar!

Yeah…we started off with sweets, but I am perfect happy to end-cap a food tour with a little sugar. The last stop is always a little bitter sweet (hehe). We made new friends, learned new things, and ate some great and some interesting bites.

Dessert on the Lisbon comfort food on the Lisbon Campo de Ourique food tour


With a very yellow treat sprinkled with cinnamon and powered sugar alongside glass of refreshing iced tea, we chatted about our day and what our favorite things were. I thought about the people who lived in that tight-knit area and really enjoyed reflecting on the foods they eat, the places they meet up on a sunny day (which is way more often than in Amsterdam!), and just why they do what they do.

Food tours really are the best. The people, the food, the history and stories all come together to create a unique experience. As usual, I would highly suggest you take a tour like this at the beginning of your trip. Taste of Lisboa gives a great reference sheet listed all the places you went in case you want to go back. But it also has recommendations on where to go during your stay.

Lisbon Campo de Ourique food tour


Don’t forget to ask questions!
We were chatting about going to Mini Bar (which is super amazing) and Filipa told us of a new spot that the same chef just opened up. My foodie friends didn’t even know about it! We went the next day and it was delicious. Your tour guide is your local friend who know all the cool spots, so use that knowledge!

If you are traveling foodies like us, you probably have a favorite city for food tours, so let’s hear it! Share that delicious knowledge.

 

Lisbon Food Tour in the Campo de Ourique neighborhood

This was a complimentary tour thanks to Taste of Lisboa, which we thoroughly enjoyed. All opinions are my own and we are so grateful for the opportunity to experience this food tour so we can share it with you!

Exploring the rooftops of Stockholm

Exploring the rooftops of Stockholm

Did you ever think “If I could just climb up there, I’d get the perfect shot”? Well, that’s exactly what I did in Stockholm. I’m not sure what these people were thinking when they created a rooftop tour in Stockholm, but I’m glad they went through with it. Big shout-out to Takvandring for taking sightseeing to the next level!

Would you climb onto a roof for this kind of experience?


Safety first

Harnesses for a rooftop tour

 

As we prepped to go out on the roof, we got in all the safety gear. We had harnesses, carabiners and helmets. Felt like I was rappelling into a cave! Not that I’ve done that. But I totally would…I have climbed down a 7 story building before, though! 😀

Even our phones got safety gear so they wouldn’t fall off the roof. That was super thoughtful! Who doesn’t have their life on their phone? The little pouches are designed so that we could still use our phones–I mean, how else was I going to Snapchat?!

 

Rooftop tours of Stockholm

 

I’m not afraid of heights. In fact, I love getting up high to get an amazing view. But more than that, I love doing something a bit quirky–something others don’t think to do, but should really be on your list.

 

Let the adventure begin

Rooftop tour in Stockholm

 

There was a woman on our tour who was afraid of heights but did amazingly well! I can only imagine what was going through her mind before we stepped out onto the roof. The only thing going through my mind was “Let’s gooooooo!” as my heart started to beat just a little bit faster as we ascended the stairs.

I definitely have an adventurous side that doesn’t get out to play very often. That needs to change. But going up on a roof to catch all the sights from above while being attached by carabiners and straps seems to be right up my alley.

 

Roof top hiking

Rooftop hiking in Stockholm

 

The views were incredible. I kind of wish I was on my own so I could go at my own pace and take it all in…and stay up there forever.

 

Rooftops of Stockholm

 

The group went fairly slowly so everyone was comfortable. You had to pay attention because there was a very specific way to get your clips around the joints in the railing you’re attached to and it takes a little finesse to get it through and around the corners. But once you get used to it, it’s a flick of the wrist and you’re on the next view point!

 

Rooftop tour safety

 

On this tour, you’re walking and climbing (stairs) on a roof. So there’s never a dull moment! A guide is always at the front of the line and at the back of the line to keep you safe.

 

Bloggers on the roof

 

We learned a lot about the area and what kind of people lived where and why certain homes are built the way they are. Stockholm is a fascinating place. It’s made up of many islands and each have their own personality. That’s why it was easy to come up with 10 reasons you’ll love Stockholm. I wish we could spend a month there every summer!

 

Stockholm is stunning from above

Great views of the Stockholm rooftops

 

My mind drifts a lot when it comes to this city. Every experience we had there was great. From the summer weather, to discovering my happy place on Djurgården, to eating incredible food, it all made for a trip that makes me want to go back again and again. For now, let’s get back to the rooftop trekking experience so I can relive it with you!

 

Rooftop tour

 

This view over the city is really one-of-a-kind. You can see Södermalm, Gamla Stan, Östermalm, and you overlook the water too! The colors, the shapes, the twisting roads, even the sky, all comes together for an experience like I’ve never had before. I didn’t want to go inside and have it all end.

 

Rooftop tour of Stockholm

 

If there had been a chair I could have locked myself to, I would have done it just to stay for sunset. All good things come to an end though, but I am a happier person for having gone on this mini adventure. A big smile was fixed on a my face for the rest of that day.

 

Stockholm roofs

 

You can probably tell that I HIGHLY recommend this tour. I want to keep writing about how awesome it is just so I can keep “talking” about it and experiencing those feelings again. But I think you get the idea.

If you’re screaming “I want to do that!” Good. Because I could almost guarantee you won’t regret it (unless you really are crazy scared of heights).

 

Here’s how you do this

Stockholm roofs

 

Easy! Just not cheap since you have to book your flight to Stockholm, then book your tour on the Takvandring website. Best to do it in that order.

 

How to get there

Rooftop tour in Stockholm

 

Take the metro to the Gamla Stan stop, then take the exit towards the water. You’ll be going under a bridge. Once you walk out, you’ll be right at the water’s edge! Make a right and head to your meeting spot. You may want to download Google maps of this area just to feel secure in knowing where you’re going. I’d actually get there early and take a quick walk around this part. It’s quite small and charming. In the height of summer there was hardly anyone around. I love finding quiet spots! If you do too, then this walk is definitely for you.

 

What to wear

Rooftop tour in Stockholm

 

You’ll be wearing a harness, so I suggest clothes that fit snugly to avoid bunching in the wrong places. Wear sneakers or shoes you feel super comfy in and won’t slip off.

 

Go for it!

Photos from the rooftops

 

This was hands-down the best thing I did in Stockholm. It gave me a different perspective of the city to fall in love with–and I don’t know about you, but I found this place so easy to fall for. I truly hope you get to visit Stockholm. Of course this tour is amazing, but even if you don’t take it, find your own way to explore and find your little part of the city.

 

Pin for later

Stockholm Rooftop Tour - must do when in Stockholm, Sweden

The was a complimentary tour while we were at the TBEX conference. However, this is all my personal opinion! I always tell you what I really think.

“Wow!” travel moments to inspire

“Wow!” travel moments to inspire

One of the glorious things about traveling is that you have the opportunity to experience feelings and emotions that can only happen when faced with something completely new and different.

One of the glorious things about being a travel blogger is inspiring others to chase those feelings and emotions.

I’m not here to tell you that you should be doing everything in your power to travel. I’m here to tell you that the stories in the post are the kinds of things you can experience if you do take the time/get the chance to go somewhere completely new.

 

 

Some wonderful travel blogger friends sent me stories of moments when travel had them in awe and left them speechless. Well… for a little while at least! These are moments that change your views, fall in love, and leave you stunned in the best way possible.

Now, I give you some “wow!” travel moments:

 

Norwegian Fjords

Everywhere Bucket - Lesley

Photo: Lesley of Everywhere Bucketlist

 

My greatest travel memory has got to be hiking to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) in the Norwegian Fjords! The view was breathtaking and made me feel so small compared to the world around me. A place like that really gives perspective & I realised just how lucky I am and have been.

Ever since, appreciating those big or small travel moments is more important to me.  Whether it’s checking out 1,000 year old buildings in a cute European town, struggling through a hike, or chowing down on local fare in a particular region/country I’m visiting –I am privileged to be doing it – and that’s what drives me to continue my passion of exploring this great wide world.

From Lesley of Everywhere Bucketlist

 

Paris

Paris Photo by Alex from Life Well Wandered

Photo: Alex from Life Well Wandered

 

The first time I left American soil was when I was 18. I had just graduated high school and was preparing to head off to university when I boarded a plane to Paris with my mom for two weeks. Upon my arrival, I was overcome with happiness wandering around the streets of Paris, seeing the oldest parts of the city for the first time, and experiencing a city I’d always dreamt about. I remember that moment as a catalyst for the next years of my life, leading me to specialize in French at school and study in both London and Paris for a year-and-a-half. That first trip abroad and those feelings of wonder and pure happiness as I was a flaneuse in Paris for the first lit a fire in my soul that made me want to incorporate travel into my life.

From Alex from Life Well Wandered

 

Tokyo

From Karen of Travelling K

Photo: Karen of Travelling K

 

After watching Lost in Translation, I desperately wanted to visit Tokyo. This was my first trip overseas and on my own. After a bumpy landing, I managed to find my way to the underground. I became lost, but the locals were very friendly and directed me onto the right trains. Arriving at my station I walked to where my hostel should be, but seriously could not find the entrance! I ended up walk round and round the building. I finally took the correct lift up. When I emerged and saw the view…. wow. It was just like Lost in Translation! All I wanted to do was sit on the window sill and stare out over the city. I had arrive, on my own, in a foreign city and it was just like in the movie.

From Karen of Travelling K

 

Vatican City

Photo from Leslie of Blue Skies and Open Roads

Photo: Leslie of Blue Skies and Open Roads

 

I have had visiting St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City on the top of my bucket list ever since I saw a video clip of it in high school.  When I finally studied abroad in Europe during college, I made sure that one of the flights I arranged was headed to Rome to finally see the Basilica with my own eyes.  On the day of, I had huge butterflies and a lot of expectation. I walked into the Basilica and even though the place was crowded with tourists like every other attraction in Europe, the inside was completely silent to me.  All I could focus on was the breathtaking natural light that came through the windows and the exquisite details that made up the interior.  I felt like my insides were going to burst as I slowly walked around trying to take in every detail of the place that I dreamed about seeing. Before I was scared that it would not live up to my high expectations, but it exceeded every one.  Conquering the number one on my bucket list fueled my fire to travel because it showed me that the world is huge and that there is a lot of it that I have not discovered yet.

From Leslie of Blue Skies and Open Roads

 

Melk Abbey

Melk Abbey

Photo: Lyn Gateley (Flickr CC BY 2.0)

 

My first trip outside of the United States was to take a river cruise through Europe with my grandparents. They were seasoned travelers and knew what to expect–from the castles to the cobblestones. Since we arrived in Vienna in the dark and with rainy weather, the first thing I remember seeing was the Melk Abbey in Austria. I had been in the White House, but that was the grandest building I had stepped foot in. This Abbey used to be a palace and the thought of people living there and creating something so big, so expensive, and so showy was fascinating. All I could do was stare.

Europe felt like a different world with different languages, cultures, money, and food. I was hooked after my first disembarkation. You know the saying “…like a kid in a candy store”? That was me! Honestly, it still is. Europe is my candy store and I love it.

From me! Jessica of A Wanderlust For Life


From life-changing moments, Mother Nature’s scenery, and the seeing the work that humans can accomplish are all part of traveling and seeing the world in a different way.

HUGE thanks to the contributors of this post! Your stories are uniquely your’s but I think all travelers relate to the sense of wonder you felt in those moments.

What’s your awe-inspiring moment while traveling? What’s your first travel “wow!” moment?

Monday Check-in (Feb 27th, ’17)

Monday Check-in (Feb 27th, ’17)

 

Hey there!

How was your Valentine’s Day…and the rest of the last two weeks that had nothing to do with candy hearts and roses?

Since I’m being totally real with you on here, mine was super stressful! You probably know by now, but we aren’t full-time travelers, we live in Amsterdam and work full time. This means life is fairly normal but hardly simple or boring. In an effort to simplify things, we have to go through some complex things right now. It will all turn out great though and will give us a sense of freedom we’ve never had before.

Why the stress? Well, once things finalize, I’ll tell you!! But with so much up in the air, I don’t want to share too early. Soon, friends. Soon. I hope.

 

Tulip fields in Lisse near Keukenhof

 

Looking back

I’ve been keep a low profile these last couple weeks. I did go to some random town to get fingerprinted as part of my process of becoming an Italian citizen that I have access to thanks to Sean being a citizen. I don’t have too much left to do and I’ve been putting it off. Now, I want to just get it done. If all goes to plan, I will be a dual-citizen with the United States and Italy. To have an E.U. passport while living in the E.U. is just helpful. I am a legal resident of the Netherlands, but if you had the option, you’d take it too, right? So much potential flexibility there.

Did you miss that we are going to LISBON in March?! I am so crazy excited. Everyone speaks so highly of it that I almost just want to move there. But let’s check it out first 😉 We are both ready to eat, drink, and be merry. So many day trips have been suggested so I can’t wait for those. Sintra seems to be a favorite! We’ll be off in mid-March, and since it’s an anniversary trip, I’ll try not to do too much blog work. Though, you can still keep up with us on Twitter or Snapchat, both are @AWlustForLife.

 

Looking ahead

This part is called “looking ahead” but I am so behind! I still haven’t booked flights or hotels for London in April and we still haven’t figured out what to do over Easter. Flights are just too expensive. So, we’ll either do a train trip somewhere relatively close, like Lille, France, or do a staycation in Amsterdam. Either way, I just want to plan it. 

I’m tell you this to hold me accountable, I will have April set by the next Monday Check-in! Hold me to it! Part of it is that I get stuck buying plane tickets. I don’t expect 20 euro tickets, but I’m kind of cheap and get very nervous when we spend money like that!

In Lisbon, the only other thing I have planned is a food tour! We ADORE food tours. I’m somewhat of a picky foodie, so they always push me a bit out of my comfort zone and I almost always love it. We’ve done them in Berlin, London, AmsterdamParis, Stockholm and Barcelona. On every single one had me eating something I’ve never had before. I even tried head cheese in Paris….

 

Paris Food Tour Montmartre | Wine

 

In case you missed it

Coming to the Netherlands in the spring? Then you must visit the Keukenhof! It’s the Garden of Europe and is stunning. Warning: If you have any kind of allergy, take a pill. You’ll need it!

Keukenhof day trip

 

I really want A Wanderlust For Life to be personal, for you and me, in addition to travel and expat advice, so this post explains why I blog. I hope it helps you understand where I’m coming from when I write.

 

Interesting reads

Since I’m all about Lisbon right now, this post is super helpful from Hand Luggage Only on where to go and what to do in this amazing city. 

I love Paris. It’s actually kind of frustrating. If we have a long weekend, I think “let’s just go to Paris”. But there are so many other places to go! It’s my own little struggle. But if you do go to Paris, here’s a nice explanation of where you may want to stay from Wandertooth.

London is epic. There’s no denying that. But if you’re looking for a little romance with your love, then there’s this great article from Roaming Required on romantic things to do in London for under £10! Score! I mean, so sweet 🙂 

Catch me on Snapchat

Snapchat-AWlustForList

Have a GREAT week!