My 2018 blogging goals — the best year yet!

My 2018 blogging goals — the best year yet!

I’ve been thinking about my blogging goals for 2018 for a while lately. After the holiday break, Sean and I sat down and went over all my random notes that were all over the place to finally put everything in one place so I can easily see what I want to accomplish and the tasks I need to do to reach my goals. That, in itself, is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.

Blogging has been a part of my life for over 3 years now, but even though I go to conferences and network, I don’t feel like my “all” has been put into it. 2018 is the year that changes. I want A Wanderlust For Life to be a bigger part of my life and I want it to help me get myself out there more. Even this post is being created to get my butt in gear! It is my entry to win a place at The Bloggers’ Retreat which I really think would help me moving forward.

With all of that said, here are my blogging goals for 2018:

 

Consistency

This is so big for me. I used to be so consistent and then things change, life changes. Sometimes it’s an energy thing, sometimes it’s a self-confidence thing, sometimes it’s a motivation thing. Basically, I need to get into a routine of posting something no matter what!

 

Work station

 

Part of this is that I want to find my voice and write more posts that are just me talking about what I love–not always travel posts suggesting where to go. More about experiences. Actually, this is going to be a bigger part of A Wanderlust For Life moving forward too. I’ll be covering awesome experiences that you’ll love to do! It will still be about day trips and weekend trips around Europe, but I think some of the best parts of traveling are the amazing things you get to do.

Having more of these other types of posts should help me stay consistent since I don’t have to constantly travel (though I want to!) to keep creating content. When all is said and done, I believe people follow a blog for the person behind it. That’s why I want to showcase more of myself!

 

Cover more amazing places in the Netherlands

My adopted home has such cool areas that just aren’t part of the beaten path by many tourists. Amsterdam is such a great city. I mean, I even bought a house here! But it is now a very international city. Last year we had the most nationalities of any other city in the world! There are many other culturally significant places in the Netherlands to visit with the cutest canal houses and delicious cheese. I feel like it’s time for them to get a little love too. Besides, they will be cheaper 😉

 

Leiden Boats

 

Taking A Wanderlust For Life offline

I love my blog. I love A Wanderlust For Life, but I want others to be able to get the most out of it as well. So, we will have some offline meetups! They will start in Amsterdam, but you never know where they will end up! Join the Facebook group to stay up to date on the events we hold.

It’s not just for bloggers–but for travelers. The meetups will be able to talk favorite travel spots, gear, and to get advice from other travelers who have been to where you want to go.

 

More videos

The future is video! At least that is what everyone says. But, if I’m honest here, which I always aim to be, I actually like being in videos. They are a bit of a pain to plan out and edit, but I love having that final product. It’s such a fun way to bring our readers with us and it’s also so nice for friends and family back home to really see what we are doing.

If you love videos, please let us know in the comments! Also, here’s our YouTube channel that you can subscribe and see how we present ourselves to the world. It’s always a bit scary, but so rewarding.

 

Bellagio day trip video

 

Pitch more

I am so bad at this! It’s really true that you have to understand your own value before anyone else will. This year I had my first paid campaign which was a company I totally stand behind. Of course, that will always be the goal. Any company I work with will be one I feel good about with a product or service I would use anyway.

 

Victorinox

 

While that campaign came to me, I am working on putting myself out there more with solid pitches that create value for brands and for myself. Part of this is staying on the radar of local PR firms, getting invited to local PR events, so that I have a relationship and feel more comfortable reaching out.

I also feel better about working with a brand I’ve reached out to because that means I’ve researched them and WANT to work with them.

 

Educate me

Blogger friends are some of the best! Luckily, some of my amazing friends are also quite successful with their blogs and are more than happy to share their learnings. So, I’m spending the first month of the year asking lots of questions from a few of my favorite people/bloggers.

With that in mind, I will always continue learning! Working for a big company in my full-time work has some major perks aside from helping pay the mortgage, we get access to great online courses. I will be taking advantage of those and upping my photography and videography.

 

WTM friends

 

I love to network and catch up with blog friends, so I’ll be going to a few blogging conferences this year and I would love to be able to go to The Bloggers’ Retreat for a bunch of reasons. First of all, I truly admire Monica of The Travel Hack. Her transparency and support through The Blogger Course has been nothing short of amazing. And Claire and Laura of Twins that Travel have worked their butts off to go full-time blogging and Instagramming. I got to see them at Traverse last year and you can quickly tell that they don’t take anything for granted. These are the kind of people I want to learn from–the kind that knows you have to work for success but know how to get it done.

Also, it’s a part of England I haven’t seen yet. So that’s a big bonus!!

 


 

Now that I’ve totally put myself out there and will have to answer to these goals at the end of the year, do you have goals you want to share? I can feel it–2018 is going to be so much better than 2017!

2017 – My year in review

2017 – My year in review

My 2017 year in review is very much a reflection of how I felt about the year, the blog, and general life. It was a strange year for sure. My focus was all over the place…which, I guess, really means that I didn’t have much focus.

The first 3 months of the year was a whirlwind due to us spending every possible moment looking for a house to buy in Amsterdam. Funny story, I found a house and set up the first round of paperwork while Sean was away on a business trip. Talk about some major trust!

Sean and Jessica in their new house

 

He was back in town for just enough time to sign some papers and see the house for the first time and work a few days in the office before we were off again!

 

Anniversary trip — The good and the bad

We have a tradition that one of us plans a secret anniversary trip every other year. 2017 was my year and I took us to Lisbon, Portugal! I don’t usually write too much about our anniversary trips so we don’t do too much blog work while there. But we had a great food tour, saw an amazing sunset, and even took a day trip to Sintra. We also had some not-so-fun times with Sean eating something that really didn’t agree with him in Sintra and was out of commission for an entire day. Then I hurt something in my leg and couldn’t walk without collapsing in agonizing pain.

Luckily, each incident only lasted a day each, but I really feel that we need to go back and have a bit of a do-over involving lots of food. : )

Visions of Lisbon

 

Springtime

April was pretty cool. Lots of pre-move house shopping. We started figuring out what we wanted and even ordering some things to be delivered in our first week at the house. What a crazy time!

Then we jetted off to the U.K. to go to Cardiff in Wales. Why? BECAUSE DOCTOR WHO!  We are not-so-secret Whovians and the Doctor Who Experience closed this past summer and we had to experience it before it went away for good. It was the perfect time to go because we even got a tour of the filming set. Fan-girl Jessica was in full force! I made a HUGE post with a ton of photos about the Doctor Who Experience and even a video of the Experience, but mostly the set tour!

 

Jessica at BBC

 

Right after our visit to Cardiff, we were back in London for the Traverse conference. I really appreciate these conferences because I learn so much, I get to network, and best of all, get to see my other blogger friends! There are a lot of us–I don’t think that is a surprise. But we aren’t often in the same place at the same time. The great thing is that it doesn’t change how friendship works! Online chatting is necessary, Skyping every once in a while is a plus, and drinks, when we are finally together, are the best.

 

Traverse London 2017

 

Back in Amsterdam, we picked up our house keys the next day. It was just the craziest spring!

 

Signing all the papers for our house in Amsterdam Noord

 

Summer chill

That summer was nice, though. I had my birthday, my first press trip with Amsterdam Marketing, my first paid campaign, and went back to London–just because. I’d almost go as far as saying that summer was pretty chill which was a nice change of pace.

 

Buying a house in Amsterdam as an expat

 

Insanity of autumn

Then fall came and everything went crazy. We had a big change for us, plus we were traveling a lot. I’ll never complain about having the ability to travel, but it was just tiring while also being amazing.

 

 

Ireland was everything I could have imagined and more. Such a beautiful place with wonderfully nice people. TBEX (another blogger conference) was hosted in Killarney, Ireland. Not long after we arrived, we were already trying to figure out how to get back! I’m terrified of renting a car where they drive on the other side of the road, but that area might just have me risking it. OR getting a proper tour. That would work too.

 

A Wanderlust For Life and etramping

 

Again, it was amazing to see friends. I love them all, but to see Agness again was definitely a highlight. She runs etramping.com with her best Cez and she used to live in Amsterdam. She has to be one of the sweetest people I know and I was over-the-moon when I got to see her again and FINALLY meet Cez. Really? It took 3 years to finally meet? : )

 

The Ups and Downs of our Italy trip

Straight from chilly and somewhat rainy Ireland, we flew right into the beautiful sunshine of Northern Italy. A close friend was getting married the next weekend, but that meant we had a full week in Italy and no real plans. We ended up just hanging out in Como (the town at the foot of Lake Como) for 5 days. It was the most relaxed I had been in a very long time.

 

lake como

 

Since we hadn’t really planned our length of stay, we had to move apartments…which was the best thing ever. The one we moved into for the end of our stay was perfect in so many ways. It was huge, had a massive bathroom with a washing machine. Great kitchen, with a big living room with tons of light overlooking the small streets below. Just below us were great shops like a wine bar, pastry shop, and gelateria. I wanted to keep that apartment for ourselves. Forever.

We had to leave Como eventually and get to the Piedmonte region for the wedding. This ended up being quite the adventure. We took a train to the airport where we had a car waiting for us to rent. Problem was that our credit cards were being declined because we were sent new ones and hadn’t received them yet and I changed our address so they accidentally canceled our cards. Embarrassingly I got an email from the woman running that amazing apartment in Como saying my card was rejected and if I had a different one. So, I got mine fixed right away and it worked.

When we were standing at the car rental counter, I had to call the card company again and they kept saying it was fixed. But it wasn’t. After calling twice and it not working, we were going to use my card…except that I don’t carry around my American Driver’s License so I wasn’t legally allowed to rent the car. Seriously.

So, there we were, standing at the airport with luggage and no car thinking we’d just grab a flight. When, in a group text, I saw one of my other friends who were there for the wedding just got their rental car. She and her husband were kind enough to give us a ride for an hour and a half to our apartment. That’s 4 of us, plus all our luggage in a tiny European car. Phew! Basically, we bummed rides for a few days, but it was worth it to be there for that wedding. Friendship and celebrations are important!

 

Italian Wedding

 

Back to London, then directly to Iceland

My passport has stamps from London and Amsterdam almost exclusively, it’s kind of weird. But there are so many reasons to go to the capital of England. This time, in November, I was there for the World Travel Market. I had some great meetings lined up, had my focus, and was very happy with all I got done. Not to mention, hanging out with my friends is always fun.

 

WTM friends

 

It was a pretty normal trip until I flew to Iceland. Waking up on that Thursday, my throat felt a bit weird. But considering how much talking I had done in the last 3 days, it wasn’t too surprising. The next few days were full of exploring and being outside on glaciers and stuff. I couldn’t be held down! There were even 2 days of conferences after all of that with Trablin. I loved being there, having those experiences, learning a ton, and meeting some nice people.  Sadly, I was just plain sick the whole time. Having just boarded the plane at 8 am Amsterdam time, I made an appointment to go to the doctor. And I’ve been on-and-off sick since then.

 

Jessica on a glacier

 

Funny thing about blogging, Tweeting, Insta-story-ing while traveling sick is that you get back and people are like “What do you mean you’ve been sick? You didn’t look sick in your stories/that picture/etc,” It’s easy and yet tiring to do quick pictures and 10-second videos and get on with the day, then go to bed at 8 pm and sleep for 12 hours. It’s just so exhausting!

 

The final month

Oh, December. We have such a love-/hate relationship. It gets me ready for the new year–ready for renewal and inspiration. Ready for motivation. But also, I’m usually sick. 

We got to go to a Christmas market in Frankfurt. I was so excited that I would actually make it to Germany for a market this year! I was also sick the whole friggin’ time. At least I made a short video of it because I know how much people love to see the markets in all their festive dressings. Who am I to disappoint?

 

Frankfurt Christmas Market

 

Finally, it was our first Christmas in our new house! We didn’t do too much decorating because we just didn’t have a lot of time. But my grandmother made and sent Christmas stockings which were perfect! On Christmas day, I made a blueberry croissant breakfast dish, then we watched Christmas movies all day. So relaxing!

 

A look back and a glimpse ahead

2017 was a complex year. With so much going on personally and trying to find my place in the blogging world while working a “regular” job, it was overwhelming. I’m not really sure how I much I enjoyed versus how much I felt I just need to get through. With this year behind me, I’m happy to look forward and find better ways to take care of myself and do what I need to do to be the best me I can be.

It’s time to take charge of my life.

To hustle.

To grow.

To flourish is various aspects of my life.

I’m excited because I have surrounded myself with people who believe in me. That means absolutely everything.

 

Jess and TARDIS

How did your year go? Do you see 2018 as being a great year ahead?

 

Packing for Iceland: Lessons learned

Packing for Iceland: Lessons learned

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Packing for Iceland isn’t a hard as I thought it would be. We all have preconceived notions about Iceland, from weather to food. But did you know that the lowest average temperature in the winter is about -2 C/ 28 F. Not sure where you live, but in Virginia, where I’m from, that’s just regular winter for us too! So, how do you pack for Iceland in the fall and winter? Layers!

The biggest difference for me was that in Virginia, you ran from inside to your car to warm it up. Run back in the house for 5 minutes, then run back to the car. Drive to a restaurant, then run inside. In Iceland, you will probably be outside for longer. There might be rain and wind. So, how’d it go for me?

Related: Find good food in Reykjavik, Iceland

What to wear in Iceland

 

How I packed for Iceland in November

Yeah, I’m not going out and buying a whole new wardrobe for a trip. So, I tried to stick with what I had. In case you do need a few things, I’ll leave affiliate links here for you. (No extra charges!)

 

On the bottom half

My base layers included either proper thermals (UK/DE)- but only a lightweight version-or yoga pants. I have been known to add tights on under that as well. Then, I wore jeans on top of the base layer. Those are just what I normally wear and I didn’t know what else to put on and I didn’t have anything else either.

When I went on the glacier, I wore snow pants (UK/DE) because the weather is unpredictable and the extra cold, wind, rain protection gave me some piece of mind. I bought them in the Netherlands and they were (of course) too long, but rolling them up worked just fine and they kept me warm and happy!

 

On the top half

Again with the layers. Normally, it would be a tank top first and foremost. Even in Amsterdam, I always wear a tank top under everything in the winter. Then a long-sleeved shirt which ranged from regular cotton to a nice sweater. Some days I’d add an open sweater or button up sweater on top for a little extra on the arms. Finally, my wind- and rainproof jacket topped it all off.

 

Other accessories

I did something I thought was pretty interesting when it came to gloves. Maybe some of you already thought of this too. But I got some thin gloves (UK/DE) that allowed me to touch my phone. Then I got heavier gloves to go on top while I spent more time outside. It allowed me to never have bare hands in the cold.

Just a regular hat (UK/DE) that is insulated and covers your ears is just fine. I’ve been told mine looked a bit like a mullet. But I was warm and happy! I saw a lot of people wearing bands around their head that only covered their ears. While I prefer to keep my whole head covered to retain body heat, that’s a personal preference.

Boots and socks. Water-resistant boots (UK/DE) are a big help in keeping happy feet. I paired them with some great warm socks (UK/DE) I didn’t have any issues. My boots were not water-resistant when I bought them, but I have a spray that I use on all my shoes that help with that. Living in Amsterdam means you will get caught in an unexpected rainstorm, so just best for all shoes to not soak in water.

 

Dressing for winter in Iceland

 

How did my clothing choice work out for me?

For the most part, I was fine. I wasn’t freezing except on my face if the wind was too bad and my hands when I took my gloves off. But those are very much “duh” situations. Even still, I learned some lessons the hard way.

 

Upgrades needed on the bottom part

For someone who isn’t used to the cold, I wish I had another pair of thermal pants. The yoga pants helped, but of course they left a lot to be desired! Since I was wearing tights with the thermal pants, I feel that I have to suggest one grade higher when picking out pants.

I keep reading “NO JEANS” on websites, but they weren’t too bad. Like I said, they are what I had and I’m not a luxury traveler or one with enough money to feel comfortable dropping a few hundred dollars, euros, pounds on new clothes for a week. Ideally, yes, hiking pants are probably a better idea and would like to have them before I go back to Iceland.

Yay for the snowpants!! Perfect when you need a little extra warmth. I went for a cheapish version, but that was still about 90 euros. They were fine. No complaints here.

 

Upgrades needed on the top part

Yeah…I really needed some help here. Again, the proper thermal top worked nicely, but I felt like a grade up would have been much more comfortable. Also, there is a good reason the Icelanders wear wool sweaters. They are beautiful, comfy and warm! The bonus is that you don’t look like a big ball of layers. Instead of having 3-4 shirts on, a good base layer, wool sweater, and a weather-proof jacket is the best bet.

 

Accessories

Gloves and hat worked out swimmingly! I felt really happy with how that all turned out. Even my boots turned out to work out really well. The only thing I would change here would be to get wool socks. Seriously, wool is the best fabric for this type of climate.

 

Glacier in Iceland

 

My suggestions: What to wear in Iceland in November

As I mentioned before, I don’t like buying new clothes for travel, but in this case, I highly recommended buying 5 things if you don’t already have them.

This is assuming you have a hat that covers your ears and some good gloves. If you don’t have those, then add them to the list!

Thermal layers — a must to stay warm. I’ve learned that they are much better than just throwing on leggings or tights. Check prices on Amazon in the US or UK & Germany

Waterproof and windproof jacket — What’s the point of a jacket if you get chilled from the wind and water seeming through? There is no point to that jacket, so get a good one that will last you awhile. Check prices on Amazon in the US or UK & Germany

Snow Pants — Not needed if you are just hanging around Reykjavik, but if you’re going and running around Iceland in/on glaciers, late nights watching for the Northern Lights, just throw on this extra layer. Check prices on Amazon in the US or UK & Germany

Water-resistant pants — This is where I agree with the “no jeans” rule. At least, now I agree with that rule because jeans just soak up the moisture! Grab some water-resistant pants. 

Wool socks — Happy feet make a happy human. These are a great thing to ask for as a gift to just always have for when you need them. Check prices on Amazon in the US or UK & Germany

 

Snowy Iceland

 

Are you ready to pack for Iceland?

 

Winter is winter. At least for me, this wasn’t a huge change from what I was used to during winter time in Virginia. The main thing to preparing to be outside for a bit longer depending on your activities. Layering and staying warm will make a big difference in how you feel about your trip. Nobody likes being cold and wet, so don’t let it happen to you!

What do you think? Can you handle Iceland in the fall and winter? I think you can! I had a friend from Brazil, someone who has never seen snow, nor is she used to the cold and was just fine.

There are so many beautiful scenes and exciting adventures to see and do and explore all around Iceland! I can’t wait to go back because there are so many things still on my bucket list to do there. What is the one thing you want to do in Iceland?

If you haven’t been yet, I hope you get to discover the island, the food, and the people for yourself.

Wishing you love and travels!

Jessica on a glacier

Where to find good food in Reykjavik, Iceland

Where to find good food in Reykjavik, Iceland

I wasn’t sure about what eating in Iceland would be like…I was actually pretty worried. Being a picky eater, but adamant about trying new foods, I knew that I had to make an effort to find some good places and try some real Icelandic food. Just so you don’t have to go searching too hard, I’m including all the places where you can find some good food in Reykjavik–the city where I spent most of my time on this trip to Iceland. All of these spots, I would definitely go again.

 

Asking friends for their recommendations for good food in Reykjavik

 

The first thing I did was ask my friends for their suggestions about where to eat in Reykjavik. Luckily, I know plenty of people who have visited in the last couple years who had some great suggestions, but my favorite was the recommendation from Danika and Chris of No Destinations who recommended The Fish Company.  

 

The Fish Company in Reykjavik

 

We all know that Iceland can be a bit pricey–even coming from Amsterdam, I had to budget properly to eat out in Reykjavik. At first, I was a bit surprised at how much the “Around Iceland” tasting menu cost (about 88 euro per person at the time) at The Fish Company. But when you think a burger and fries can be about 20 euro, it ends up feeling like a bargain. Honestly, that meal was definitely worth the cost. If you are one to appreciate good food and appreciate how much you sometimes have to spend to get a good meal, then it’s a great place to have a really nice dinner.

Then Skye from Skye Class recommended the hot dog stand, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. This is a great budget lunch for only 450 kroner (about 3.65 euro). It’s just one of those places you need to go when in Reykjavik. Just don’t be expecting a gourmet meal! It’s a lamb hot dog with a bunch of stuff on top (and on the bottom). Might not be pretty to look at, but it’s darn tasty!

 

Good food in Reykjavik -- the Icelandic hot dog

 

Comfort food

 

Shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Iceland is a bit cold part of the year. November had it hovering around freezing, which as long as you are dressed properly for Iceland, should phase you too much. Though, it does make going in and out of warm places a bit annoying.

Well, after meandering through shopping streets and residential areas around Reykjavik by foot, I was ready for some hot chocolate. Two places stood out on Google for the best hot chocolate and they happened to be very close to one another. I popped into Mokka Kaffi and my first thought was that it was smaller than I assumed. Didn’t matter to me, though. I was by myself!

Since you order at the counter it was the perfect amount of time to order, then grab a seat and take off all the wintery layers before your big cup of hot cocoa is ready. Yes, I got whipped cream because I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t!

 

Warm up with hot cocoa in Reykjavik

 

It was chocolatey and creamy and basically Heavenly. Served at the perfect temperature so there is not waiting was just a bonus. The staff was nice and I would love to go in there to just work or hang out with friends. The space had such a cozy feel!

The other cafe I heard about for hot chocolate was C is for Cookie. This time I went with a friend which makes everything better (for me, I’m not a fan of traveling solo). I got a hot chocolate with whipped cream along with an apple pie.

 

Apple pie at C is for Cookie

 

Again, the staff was great and I liked the vibe here but it felt more like a cafe than a place you could hang out for a while. The hot chocolate was good, don’t get me wrong, it just wasn’t as good as Mokka Kaffi. It was less creamy and smooth and soothing. I would recommend that you give both a try though…especially because the apple pie at C is for Cookie is amazing! With a bit of a crumbly top, kind of pie-like but also a little cakey, it was like all the best features of apple pies you’ve ever had. I was all like nomnomnom and inhaled it.

 

A little something extra in a restaurant


It’s a shame that Iceland is mostly known for fire and ice…and geothermal lagoons. I mean, yeah, that part is beautiful, but what about the seafood?! I’ve already pointed out The Fish Company, but Kopar is by the harbor which gives a little extra with a great view of the water, boats, and whatever the sky decides to show off that day. Tip: Get a table upstairs. It’s amazing!

 

Seafood soup with a view at Kopar

 

Kopar combines new and traditional dishes but all showcases Iceland cuisine in a cozy restaurant. If you are able, I would highly recommend the tasting menu. I mentioned this before, but it deserves reiterating, these are typically a good value and you get a great feel for the chef, the ingredients, and the cuisine.

Apotek is in an old pharmacy turned into a restaurant with an interior that I fell in love with. Being called “Apotek” is a nod to the old pharmacy, but you’ll also see some other quirky features that keep that theme going. Here you’ll find Icelandic cuisine, but also other European dishes, and for some reason, an Argentinean grill. They will also make you a potion for whatever ails you served by their mixologists.

 

Apotek dessert in Reykjavik

 

The little extra here is an amazing pastry chef that whips up desserts that will remind you of the best pastries you’ve ever seen in Paris! They aren’t just pretty to look at. Of course, not! Why would I tell you about something that doesn’t taste delicious? Hahaha! The flavors and textures are just perfect.

 

Icelandic food?

The food in Iceland has a bad rep. What’s the first thing you think of? The fermented shark that every tourist seems to hate? It’s not all like that. Even though I was so worried about the food considering how long I was there, it’s just not as foreign as many of us seem to think. The main elements are lamb, dairy products, and fish. Not weird, right?

There are so many more restaurants for us to try and report back to you on! We are both ready to pack back up and fly back just to eat.

What is the weirdest (to you) food you’ve ever had? And if you’ve been to Reykjavik, what was your favorite thing you ate?

 

Dingle Cookery School: Learning how the Irish cook

Dingle Cookery School: Learning how the Irish cook

This was a complimentary experience, so big thanks to TBEX and Dingle Cookery School!
This post contains affiliate links.

 

Recipes passed down for generations are usually the best you can get. They are filled with pure flavor, a dash of love, and a sprinkle of time put in–that’s an heirloom dish. Dingle Cookery School teaches the great recipes of the Irish, and many from the local area.

 

 

Find hotels on the Dingle Peninsula 

 

Our first cooking school

 

Surprisingly, this was the first time we have ever attended a cooking school. I feel way behind in the food world! Sean and I love food tours, so naturally, we would love to learn about the culture and the food while being hands-on. After all, we are putting more focus on experiences to share with you. Seemed like the perfect fit and I can see more in our future! So finding a cooking school in Dingle, Ireland is a great place to start.

 

Dingle produce for a cooking school

 

A few things to set the stage: Sean knows his way around a kitchen so I wasn’t too worried about him being able to follow directions. I was a bit worried about myself, though. I can cook…but not that well. I was hoping that between him and the instructors that I would at least create something edible!

 

Introduction into local Irish food

We were warmly welcomed to the Dingle Cookery School with tea or coffee with scones. It was one of those things where you just get that feeling that this is going to be good. Then after biting into the scones…it was going to be really good.

 

Scones at the Dingle Cookery School

 

First part feels like school, because, well, it’s a cookery school. So, duh.

You all sit in chairs that face forward while watching Muireann demonstrate how to make Irish brown bread. It was her colleague’s family recipe that has been in the family for generations. *cue the stomach growling*

Next up, she made dessert. It was a beautiful and drool-inducing apple cake that was traditional for the area. The cool thing was that all her ingredients were already pre-measured and pre-cut, so the demo didn’t take too long. Once that cake went into the oven, then the real fun started.

 

A hands-on cooking experience in Dingle

Armed with a recipe, mis-en-place, and two people to help the group, we got started making the Brown Irish Bread. They are super organized, this was super easy. Mix dry ingredients, then add wet until you get the right consistency. Don’t overmix! Then scoop into a pan then sprinkle with oats. Done and done.  

 

Dingle Cookery School Brown Irish bread

 

Next was cooking the main dish–freshly caught Hake (white fish) with fresh veggies from the garden. The salad and the beet purée were already done for us, but the real test was getting the fish seasoned and cooked just right.

Sean was making fun of me because I don’t like to touch raw meat and fish. Trying to flip a fish without touching it is awkward and doesn’t always work. In the end, I did end up touching the fish to flip it and it was just perfect! Just slightly browned and firm but not dry. NAILED It!

 

Dingle Cookery School fish - fresh Hake

 

While I had my own personal tutor, the other teachers were helping the others to make sure their pans aren’t too hot with the oil and that the fish is done nicely. Everyone seemed to appreciate the friendliness of the teachers and how their dishes came out. After lots of great food smells lofting about…

Viola!

A beautiful and tasty plate of food.

 

Final presentation of our dish

 

Enjoying your freshly made Irish creation

Once all the fish is done and you plate it as they instruct, it’s a one-of-a-kind piece of art! But don’t spend too much time taking photos of it because you’ll want to eat it while the fish is a perfect temperature.

Joining with the rest of the cooking group, it’s the perfect time to talk about your experience and see who cooked better! Though it’s not like it is a competition…but really, we all know it is 🙂

 

Kerry Apple Cake

That’s it! Grab a tea to sip with your dessert and relax. That was a successful cooking experience! Hopefully, you had a great group of people with you because that added to the ambiance of the whole thing.

 

Other experiences with the Dingle Cookery School

 

Aside from the dish we made, there are many others you can try. They do so many different things that I can’t even list them all here. But from a traditional cooking class to catching your own fish and cooking that, to learning butchery, there is something for everyone.

I’m hoping to go back to do more classes and learn secret (not-so-secret) family recipes. We got to keep the recipes to take home in hopes of re-creating the delicious dishes. I look forward to making them at home…especially the bread. Sean scarfed that up fast! There’s a place in Amsterdam that does a version of Irish soda bread called Greenwoods but there’s NOTHING like homemade bread!

 

Jess at the Dingle Cookery School

Have you done a cooking class before? If so, what kind of food was it?

 

Visions of Lisbon

Visions of Lisbon

On our anniversary trip to Lisbon, Portugal I made a promise to Sean that I would not do blog work on the trip..though I did manage to get a food tour in there and how could I not write about that?!

 

Mussels on the Lisbon Food Tour | Taste of Lisboa

 

The thing is, many people fall in love with Lisbon and just can’t stop talking about it, so at the very least, I wanted to share some photos of Lisbon with you so that you can get at least a little bit of a peek of what the city is like in the spring.

Basically, start planning those flights to Lisbon!

I love Europe because there are a ton of beautiful places with their own personalities. Lisbon is certainly no exception. If you want to go someplace with history, good food, great day trips, and beaches, this is a winner!

 

Lisbon elevator

Carmo Convent

 

The Santa Justa elevator is an art piece. It’s a beautiful structure in and of itself but also gives great views. If you find your way to Carmo Convent and then walk around it to the right and go alongside it, you get to a set of stairs that leads to a restaurant and that metal walkway you see above. Just at that level, the views are amazing and you don’t have to pay a thing!

 

Visions of Lisbon

 

If you go down the stairs by the restaurant instead of up the stairs, you’ll get to a lovely area with a cool view of the elevator (the first photo) and the photo below. You’ll find a cafe and some chairs just to sit and watch the world go by in that same area.

 

View of Lisbon

 

One of the visual things about Portugal that I love is how much love they put into their tiles. It’s a beautiful thing. Portuguese tiles make everything better. If I could tile my house in them, I totally would!

 

Portuguese tiles

 

The food in Lisbon is ah-mazing. Really. One of the best places to experience this is at the Time Out Market. When they built the market, they invited the best of the best here. You get it all in one place! While genius, it’s also very crowded, so try to visit during off-peak times.

 

Time out market

 

Even just walking down the street is a treat. I always like to think about what it would be like to live on one of these streets. What would be your morning routine if you lived in Lisbon?

 

Streets of Lisbon

Streets of Lisbon 2

Looking up in Lisbon

Alleys of Lisbon

Lisbon

Looking up in Lisbon

 

Those castle views! Wow! I mean. I was seriously in awe over this place. São Jorge Castle is the spot for some of the best Lisbon-watching. There was a stone seat right where I took this picture and I just wanted to plop down and not move.

 

Jessica picture taking

Over Lisbon

Lisbon through the window

Sitting on a castle in Lisbon

 

So, what do you think? Is Lisbon somewhere you want to visit? It is just so pretty!! If you do want to hop a plane or train, book your accommodation here from my affiliate link to support A Wanderlust For Life. I’ll love you for it and you don’t pay a cent more!

As always, wishing you love and travels!

How to get finances set up in the Netherlands as an expat

How to get finances set up in the Netherlands as an expat

This is a sponsored post and contains affiliate links

The Expat life is one of excitement and unknowns. Legally moving to the Netherlands is really only a small part of the experience. You then need to find housing that doesn’t charge expat prices, get your BSN, health insurance, getting the bank account set up, a cell phone plan, set up utilities in your name, etc.

This post is all about finances and getting them all up and running quickly and as easily as possible.

 

Opening a bank account in the Netherlands

 

Typically, opening up a bank account in the Netherlands can be a big catch 22. With some major banks, you need a work contract, a BSN (social security number equivalent), an address, and your left arm (ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration). On top of all of that, you even need to take time to make an appointment and go to a branch that will see you. Many times the information you need is in Dutch although most do have an English version of the app.

I first heard about bunq about two years ago. I didn’t give it much thought because who can really compete with the big banks? I did really like their idea and how their debit card looks. That’s so important, right? 🙂 I went along my merry way and yet, kept hearing about them.

bunq netherlands international bank card

When re-discovering bunq, I wasn’t really sure what to expect as an online-only bank. There are online-only banks in the United States, but it’s not a thing in the Netherlands. I am fortunate enough to try it out for myself so I can see how it would be a great benefit for you, as an expat. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.

I’m not sure what you expect from a bank because I don’t consciously think about it, do you? Probably not. It’s when things go really well when it’s noticeable.

After lots of research, going through the signup process, and transferring money, requesting money, and requesting a debit card, I am very excited to share with you a new way to bank. They call it the Bank of the Free.

 

All about bunq

What makes it so interesting?

It’s online-only: no branches means no bank meetings to set up your account! YAY!!

My concern was that this would mean service would be lacking, but in reality, it’s been better! Chatting via app is kind of the norm now and super fast. Even getting the account open was super easy with quick responses to any questions I had. When I message my other bank, it takes days to get a reply *woomp woomp woomp*

 

bunq sign up steps

Easy to open the account: bunq is a real bank so there are certain requirements that you just can’t get around. You’ll need an address in the Netherlands (or in the EU), and submit your BSN within 90 days of opening the account. But really, a BSN should be the first thing you get anyway. Then you’ll need to prove your identity to open the account. A passport or residency card is perfect! Then a quick video call with bunq to verify you are you is all it takes to open the account. Please note: US citizens will also need to submit a proof of residency and a proof of their appointment with the municipality for the BSN to be able to open a bank account if they do not have a Dutch BSN already.

This is all done in the app…no visit to a bank branch necessary.

Side note: if you are already in the Netherlands with a Dutch bank account, you can also prove your identity by transferring a small sum (like .01 cent from your other account).

identity for bunq

 

Open it before you move: If you already have an address in the Netherlands (or in the EU) because you’re a super person and ahead of the game, then you can even open the account before you arrive. This is nice so that you can have one less thing to think about when you’re in a new place. Just remember to send in your BSN, ASAP.

 

It’s in English: Yes, you should be able to speak a bit of Dutch after a while, but bank speak is a whole different story. Everything with bunq can be in English–no translations necessary! It also comes in other languages in case you’re one of those multi-lingual people (German, Italian, Spanish). The language of the app depends on the setup of your phone…easy peasy.

 

Two versions are available: The free version and the premium version

Free version: This one is great to get started with direct deposit, direct debit and general transfers (between friends and works for Amazon.de too!). What’s the catch? There is no debit card. Otherwise, it’s a great deal and you can move money easily from the United States to the Netherlands. I always use Transferwise to move money around.

Premium version: At 7.99 a month, it gives you up to 3 debit cards: one Maestro card which is what we use in the Netherlands and two Mastercard debit cards which are perfect for traveling and using online. Also, you can open up to 25 accounts (even shared ones!) if you like to separate your money to various purposes. I like the idea of having a house account and travel account. *Note: It is very normal to pay for banking in the Netherlands, though the fee does vary.

bunq bank card mastercard

My experience using bunq:

Now, for how it all worked for me…because I know you want to know how it really works!

To set up my account with bunq, I downloaded the app, put in my personal details, set up security for the account, entered my tax information (you will need to enter your United States Social Security Number), then verified my identity with my bank account of my other Dutch bank. Funny thing though, my account is first under Sean’s name. So, I just had to send a photo of my debit card. Super easy.

tax information for bunq

I was very confused as to why I had to give my Social Security Number, so I submitted a message with my question, and it was super easy and fast to get an answer back.

As soon as I answered the question about my account under my husband’s name, my account was live within an hour. So exciting!! Then I just used Transferwise to move money from the United States. The money was moved within the day. I don’t know how normal that is, but I love how easy it is to move money from the States.

I’ve been very thorough in testing this bank account! It’s all for you, my friends. I’ve even requested payment from a friend who was kind enough to send me 5 euro 🙂 All I had to do was enter her phone number from my contacts. Then she found it extremely easy to send the money. This totally beats my other bank when I had to download a second app to request money. Seriously?

I’m not saying one bank is the best thing ever since there are pros and cons to everything and different banks fit different people’s needs. But I must say, I really like bunq because of the ease of use, and what they stand for.

Now it’s up to you! What are the features you like in a bank? Would you use an online-only bank? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

Wishing you love and travels!


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set up finances in the netherlands

Our new home in Amsterdam: Sneak peek

Our new home in Amsterdam: Sneak peek

Buying a home in Amsterdam was one of the easiest decisions we made and we are so happy to have a home that is our own! I’ve already written about the process and what we went through to buy a house in Amsterdam, so please read that if you want some practical info.

This is all about making our house a home and how far along we are in “finishing” the house.

 

The basic, empty house

When we walked into the house we had just gotten the keys for, it was so empty that it echoed.

It was so intimidating since the only furniture we owned was two IKEA desks. No couch, chairs, tables, TV, washing machine, bed, lights….NOTHING.

It had so much potential, but where to start? It’s a renovated house, so there was nothing that had to be done to move in. There’s a modern kitchen, a regular sized oven with a 5-burner stove, dishwasher, and microwave. I was in Heaven! But I am not a creative mind and cannot visualize how it could transform in the future.

 

kitchen in the new house

 

Overwhelmed, scared, and a little bit of “what did we just do?” came over me. How would we will this place? What fits the vibe of it? Oh, wait…we need to figure out what that vibe is. How do we do that? I was an excited mess.

 

Starting with the big pieces

To be able to properly focus, we had to prioritize. Our number 1’s were a couch, TV, bed, and washing machine. So we ordered those a month before and had them delivered the week we got the keys. Yeah, and internet. That was turned on immediately! Sean was happy to take care of making sure that was good to go.

 

Couch

 

Then it made sense to find office chairs since we had desks but nothing to sit in. Have you tried to use a desk with no chair? Not fun. Even that was a pain. I loved the chair I bought, but it was broken. They set another one. It was broken too. Seriously? I sent it back and bought one from another company which is okay…but not as comfy. But who wants a broken comfy chair?

 

Dining Room

 

Serious question here: who uses their dining room? Eating on the go, on the couch, or at desks seems to be the norm. But we’re adults now, right? We need a table! We searched and searched for a dining room table and I finally find one that we both liked and it even was on sale! SCORE. Of course, then the search was on for chairs.

 

Hanging heart

 

See how the list just keeps growing?

 

The must-haves

Moving into a fully furnished place when you arrive in a new country is a life-saver. As soon as you realize you have to buy EVERYTHING when you buy a house, then it’s a bit daunting. Once the big pieces were taken care of, we had to move on to the rest of the stuff we needed in order to function properly.

 

Kitchen details

 

IKEA, Loods 5, Blokker, HEMA, and Amazon were our friends. From silverware to pans, to glasses, utensils, towels, etc., we needed it all. The shopping list was so long. That first video up above, that was only the first trip to IKEA, on the first day. There were many more trips to big stores and online shopping evenings. We saved money for this specific purpose, but I was getting so tired of looking for all the things.

 

Kitchen cart top

 

When putting things together (thanks, IKEA) and mounting pieces to the wall, we realized we needed a drill. Ok…another trip to the home store! I’m surprised staff members aren’t my BFF’s at this point.

Kitchen cart

 

I *think* we are finally in a good place with the necessary items. Should I have an iron and ironing board? Goodness…how do I bring those home on a bike? *facepalm*

 

Personal touches

I think it’s the little touches make a house, a home. We collect art pieces from around Europe and those are what is hanging on our walls. There are still many pieces to be hung, but we’re off to a nice start. More places to go and art pieces to buy!

 

Mail center

 

I think this wall makes things that much more cozy! Don’t you? It’s very “us”.

For some reason, I’m slightly obsessed with pillows, vases, and candle holders. Budgeting for the basics and the big stuff doesn’t leave too much time for small details. These things will grow as we find those pieces that “speak” to us!

 

TV stand

 

The bed

I like to sleep. I may actually have a problem. I get excited to crawl in bed under some cozy covers and fall into a deep sleep. Sean is the complete opposite. He would rather get stuff done than sleep. “Wasted time!” he says. Nope…cozy time.

It is the thing that you use every night (unless traveling!) and it needs to be good. We’ve been getting by with a duvet that was too small, tiny pillows, and a spring mattress that was on the floor in the last apartment we rented.

 

bed in the new house

 

But now…now…we have a storage bed (yay space!), a memory foam mattress, a nice big duvet with fluffy pillows to complement our memory foam pillows, and good quality sheets. Now I just want to JUMP into bed even more. When I was younger, I used to have a dog who would hop on the bed, and run around in circles until the comforter made a nest-type shape. Is it wrong that I kind of feel that way now about our bed?

 

Finishing our new home

Is our house in Amsterdam done? Not by a long shot! Is it home? Oh yeah.

 

Desk in office

 

 

To truly “finish” the house, we need to:

finish the attic

Take out the spa tub and exchange it for a roomy spa shower. (Yes, people think I’m crazy. But, it’s my house!)

Finally get some light fixtures

Complete the back garden

Complete the front garden

Get subway tiles for the backsplash in the kitchen

Get brick tiles for the living room wall

Other bits and bobs

 

I’m sure I’ll think of more after this gets posted, but those are the “major” things.

I am so incredibly happy to finally be a homeowner. It’s such an “adult” thing to do It is a weird thing though, owning a house in Amsterdam makes everyone want to stay at your house! Sorry, peeps. I like my privacy! I’ll get some hotel recommendations for ya 😉

 

Sean and Jessica in their new house

We want to know…how have you made your house or apartment a home? What is your favorite thing you’ve put in your home?

Doctor Who Experience

Doctor Who Experience

For Whovians everywhere, it’s a sad, sad time. The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff has closed after a 5-year run. Honestly, it could never run long enough for us–like the show itself.

In case you didn’t make it to Cardiff and experience the DW Experience, I’m going to walk you through it and hopefully you can get a sense of what being as close as a Companion is like. But first, here’s a vlog about my adventure.

 

The Doctor Who Experience was right on Cardiff Bay, Wales in a huge building. Walking in, the space seems a bit small, but that will change. If you felt a bit peckish, there was a cafe available. You didn’t know what adventures were ahead of you, so it was a good idea to grab a bite! The staff is very nice and super aware of how, um, passionate, us Whovians can be and were super friendly and helpful.

 

Doctor Who Experience

 

Once it was our time we went into a little room with a set number of people and got introduced to the concept and it was then that we realized that everyone is in character at this point. With the special access and a crystal around our neck, we entered a larger room with artifacts while the guide was explaining things that we didn’t pay attention to because we were just anticipating something unexpected to happen…

 

Entrance room DW Experience

 

Becoming the companion

 

An alarm goes off because there’s trouble! Next thing we knew, we were video conferencing with THE DOCTOR.

All the sudden, there we were, in our own Doctor Who episode. The wall with the crack–yes, that crack–opens and we rushed into the TARDIS (RUSH! It’s an emergency!). The 12th Doctor and his helper (the guide) gave instructions on how to land safely.

But where did you land? Skaro?! Oh crap. Try not to wake up the Daleks as you pass them and search for a time crystal. Aaaaaaand of course the crystal is in a Dalek. One of the brave souls in the group has to go get it.

I’ll give you one guess on what happens next. What does every Doctor Who episode have in common? You must RUN!!!! Don’t lose focus because we run into…

Weeping Angels!

Weeping angel

 

Seriously? Do they give anyone else nightmares? Sean loved this part because they are his favorite villain. I just wanted to get away from them!

We all find another one of these crystals and move along to the next room while being sure someone is always looking at all the angels.

Our final stop was in a junkyard where someone found the last crystal that was needed to defeat all of the villains. One lucky member of the group gets to put all the crystals in the receptacle and defeat all the evil! With our 3D glasses, we got to see them get sucked through all time and space and a roar of applause erupts. Well done, us humans. 🙂 The thank you from the Doctor was all I needed. I was happy to do my part in saving the universe.

You’re welcome, everyone.

The entire experience kept me on my toes and if it weren’t for us being an entire group, I could have actually felt like I was running around with the Doctor! What I would have given to be a companion on that show…


Jess and TARDIS

 

The Doctors’ legacy

Next up is the museum, where we were both inside, and surrounded by, Doctor Who history. Old TARDIS sets were scattered throughout to inspect the finer details you just can’t see on a T.V. screen. Circling around the consoles that I used to watch for hours on the show was surreal. I tried so hard to imagine myself with David Tennant while in his version of the TARDIS. Traveling across galaxies and through time…so exotic. So fanciful. Exciting. Dangerous. Life-changing.

 

10th Doctor TARDIS

 

As I gathered my jaw from the floor and woke myself up from fantasyland, I moved along to other costumes and characters. It’s so striking how in one glance, I knew exactly who wore which outfit. The characters on Doctor Who are so developed and that even shines through in what they wear. It’s fascinating and really makes me question my clothing choices…

 

companion clothes

 

From friends to foes, they are all here standing at attention waiting for you to snap your photo. You don’t even need to mark yourself when the Silence shows up…the proof is in the picture you take! …what creepy looking creatures.

 

Dalek

It was a great collection and so enjoyable to walk through. A little secret we learned was that the BBC Wales studio also (kind of) used it for storage. If they needed an extra Dalek in a scene…they could just ask the Doctor Who Experience! What a great relationship to have.

 

Through the gift shop

You guessed it! Our credit card was ready to visit the gift shop! It was overwhelming. I didn’t want everything, but I did want a lot. All the shirts, bags, art pieces, books, mugs, mini-TARDIS. I SO WANTED THE MINI-TARDIS.

 

Doctor Who Experience Shop

 

They had pretty much anything you could want. Housewares were covered. Behind-the-scenes books. Autographed memorabilia. Clothing, including some cosplay. It was definitely a kid-in-a-candy-store situation.

 

Doctor Who Experience Shop

 

In the end, I got a Tote-bag and a t-shirt to remember the day. I held back. It took everything I had not to go all swipey-swipey with the credit card.

 

BBC Wales set

BBC Wales sign

 

OH MY GOD! When we first got the email to say that we could add this onto our tour, there wasn’t a moment of hesitation. We had to go! There are some things in life that are legitimately once-in-a-lifetime, and this was one of them.

Now I’m also daydreaming of my Backstreet Boys cruise….OK SORRY!

Where was I? Doctor Who set. Right.

 

Jessica at BBC

 

Special badges, bag check, and a turn-style were all that separated us from the real TARDIS set. Once we were in the massive studio (a big rectangular room that you can do literally anything with to create television or films), our guide, Lauren, let us run around and snap-snap-snap all the photos we could possibly take. We were split into groups of two since the TARDIS set is not big enough for so many people and the first group went inside.

 

BBC Wales studio

TARDIS

 

That was totally fine because I got a lot of quality time with a disassembled Dalek and one of the TARDIS police boxes. There was something so strange about standing in the TARDIS police box looking at the massive TARDIS set that they film all the interior shots. BBC Wales has 4 studios and Doctor Who used the biggest one. *Shocking!* Not so much…have you seen the show?

TARDIS set exterior

Far shot of TARDIS

 

You see that police box above? That can get moved around pretty easily. It’s packable. That sounds insane, but it “flat packs”. The space it’s in can be used to build other sets for the show as needed. It’s so surprising how little space you need to make a big on-screen impact. Staff on Doctor Who do an amazing job transporting us to far off times and places with very little.

 

Inside the TARDIS

I was so excited for this that I had so much anticipation energy built up that I wanted to burst through the doors. But someone else beat me to it. Didn’t matter much because once inside I was in awe.

 

TARDIS

TARDIS BBC Wales set

 

I like to think that I don’t get too star-struck, but being in that structure where Peter Capaldi and his companions have been filming was just incredible. Balancing photos and just being there was a struggle since we only had about 10 minutes. We weren’t allowed to touch the set since there could be some continuity issues if they needed to film that exact set-up again.  Though I found that to be highly unlikely since they had finished filming the season and only had the Christmas special to go, I was a good girl and obeyed.

If you’re squealing inside like I was, here are some great TARDIS set shots:

 

TARDIS set

Doctor Who TARDIS Console

Doctor Who TARDIS Console

Doctor Who TARDIS Console

Doctor Who TARDIS Console

Doctor Who TARDIS Console

Doctor Who TARDIS Console

 

My smile was just painted on my face that this point. I wasn’t ready to leave! But eventually, I did have to go down the stairs into the belly of the TARDIS and exit through a door down there. At least there were a few more surprises to look at.

 

 

Guitar from Doctor Who

 

While it is a full 360-degree set, there are multiple points they can remove temporarily for crane shots. But usually, it’s just a person with a camera in the set with the actors. Of course, it takes more than one camera-person and the actors to make a show! Some of the rest of the crew might be hiding below or right outside the doors until needed.

 

TARDIS set exterior

 

I’m such a nerd for television and movie filming. I love the behind the scenes stuff–nothing is ever what it seems! When I learn little tidbits and see it all for myself, I feel like I’m in on the secret. If you ever get the chance to visit ANY set, I highly recommend it!

As for the Doctor Who set, I have no idea if it will be open for tours again now that the Doctor Who Experience is closed. All the Whovians are still hoping it will survive somehow. Maybe somewhere else or if a different form (like the Doctor 😉 ). Fingers crossed!

 

Sean Jess TARDIS

 

What a crazy awesome day! What’s the most amazing or memorable experience you’ve had while traveling?

Wishing you love and travels!


To finish off this post, here’s the finale video the BBC put together!

 

 

London Bridge Food Tour

London Bridge Food Tour

Thank you to Secret Food Tours for this complimentary tour!

Being surrounded by many types of delicious food is a dream for some people. if you’re one of those people, then let me tell you about the London Bridge Food Tour!  Secret Food Tours have tours around the world and they will vary quite a lot per region–because the food and culture vary! I went on their Paris tour which was less traditional and more of an educational experience while the London Bridge tour was a more traditional and definitely more my speed.  I’ve learned never to assume how a tour will go since they are all unique. We’ve done food tours all over Europe, including Stockholm, Barcelona, Lisbon, and many more! They are always so different – and that’s why I try not to compare them.

 

Borough Market Ceiling On London Food Tour

 

We met at an easy-to-find spot near the Borough Market and meandered our way down in front of the Southwark Cathedral as the first historical stop. It’s 900 years old and free to enter if you like. But, the bridge was the fascinating point for me. We all have different things that tickle our fancy and knowing that where London Bridge now stands has stood the only bridge to connect the two sides of the Thames since 55 A.D. seems crazy! Can you imagine what the traffic used to be like?! It’s still pretty busy but obviously much better than it was.

I always enjoy the little tidbits that each tour guide brings to the table.  Our guide for the day was Mat, a Brit who loves his British food and is happy to poke fun at very British things. I don’t think it’s even possible to get the same exact tour twice because guide personality is such a big part of it…and so is the tour group.

 

The Borough Market

Full of energy. Fun vibe. Tasty samples. Friendly workers. Great variety.

 

Secret London Tours - Borough Market

 

Walking in, I felt like a kid in a candy store. To be fair, there was fudge. So….it’s like an adult in a candy store 🙂

There is just so much to take in. So after a quick introduction, you’re given some time to wander on your own. Be careful not to indulge too much because you may regret it later — you get plenty of food on the tour, for sure. But if you find something interesting, definitely buy it and take it with you for that evening or the next day. I bought chocolates, sausage, and cheese and they were all delicious!

 

Sausage in Borough Market London

 

The first tasty treat you get to try is something I never understood–a Bacon sandwich (or Bacon bap). Why would you put only bacon on a sandwich? I get that bacon is delicious. But a bacon bap? Why wouldn’t you throw on some egg and cheese to make it worth eating?

 

Bacon Bap on London Food Tour

 

Then I tried the Whiskey ginger bacon that’s been cooking for 4 days piled on some tasty bread. I can definitely say it was a delicious treat. Would I eat it often? Nah. But as a treat every once in awhile when I’m in London? Maybe.

 

Goats milk ice cream Borough Market

 

We moved along to another part of the market and were given more time to explore which is when I discovered goat milk ice cream! Have you ever heard of goat milk ice cream? Me neither, but it makes sense. It tasted just like “regular” ice cream and was a nice treat after the bacon. Creamy cold and chocolatey goodness.

 

Borough Market

 

Take advantage of this free time to interact with the vendors. Ask them questions and get samples! You take food tours to try new things, so try them all! OK…maybe not enough time for that, but I had such great chats with the people at the chocolate stand, cheese stand, sausage stand, and ice cream stand. Go. Eat. Chat.

What is a London food tour without fish and chips? Hmm, actually, it would be interesting, but it’s a stop you’d probably expect and have your tummy grumbling for. But we did not get this well-known dish where I expected. Nope. We didn’t go to Poppies, we went to the stall that won best fish and chips 2017! It was mighty good, too. 

 

Time to sit down

As we headed out of the market, we stopped under a covered walkway since Mother Nature decided it was time for a little rain and Mat decided it was time for another taste.

You know me…I don’t want to give EVERYTHING away here. But I will tell you, if you like meat, you’ll probably enjoy it.

 

Sausage roll in London Secret Food Tours

 

Their secret food is part of the mystery, so I will keep it a secret too. Sort of 😉 I will say that it was light, fluffy, and delicious. But I would share one if given the choice!

The next part was super exciting for me. Going into a pub under a London archway is like stepping into history. How many different kinds of establishments was this before a pub? You can ask! Because Mat has the answer. I could just listen for hours about stories full of history there.

Sitting down we were able to try two ciders, both very different from the other. some lovely cheese options accompanied the cider. This pub definitely had a great atmosphere and I’d go hang out there any night. It was also a nice break just to chat with the others and rest a bit.

 

Tower Bridge on Secret Food Tours London tour

Being a goof

 

The walk to the next spot was so enjoyable. No more rain, amazing sights and we all just kept taking photos of the iconic Tower Bridge (this is not the London Bridge!). Our group really had fun together and really made such a great tour!

 

Selfies in front of the Tower Bridge in London

Secret Food Tours London group

 

We ended up at a restaurant with a phenomenal view to enjoy arguably the best dish of the tour. Gotta end on a sweet note! I’m so happy we shared this sticky toffee pudding between two people. I mean…mostly happy because I was full. But, really, I still wanted to eat it all.

 

Sticky Toffee Pudding

 

Wrap Up

The opportunity to experience the Borough Market with a guide is really nice. I loved hearing about the history while smelling the fresh produce and being tempted by chocolates and cheeses. While you do get a good amount of time to explore on your own, I totally suggest going back after the tour (even if another day) and explore some more and talk to more vendors.

While many vendors may take cards, definitely grab some cash before you arrive just in case there are big lines at the ATMs nearby. You know you’ll want to buy something to take back with you!

 

Secret Food Tours London - London Bridge

 

For the tour, bring a water bottle and make sure it’s filled before you arrive. It’s not totally common to get a bottle of water on food tours, so just be prepared! Because it’s London, an umbrella is always a good idea too. (This paragraph contains affiliate links)

Have you been on a food tour in London? Or anywhere? What was your favorite thing about it?

Wishing you love and travels!