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!

 

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.

 

 

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!

 

3 year Amsterversary

3 year Amsterversary

Sept 5, 2017

Time flies when you’re having fun!

Oh, who am I kidding? Time just flies–whether working, playing, or just sitting in a chair. Life is flying by.

How is it that I’ve been in Amsterdam for 3 years now? It feels like it’s been that long and yet it feels like it’s been so much longer. How is that even possible?

First Trip Home as an Expat

 

Change, it happens

When I got off the plane, I remember being excited to see Sean again after 2.5 weeks and oh-so-nervous about what would even happen. Would this work at all? What did we do?!

Here’s a quick recap (but you can find more information in this post): We packed up what was left after getting rid of 95% of our things and moved to the Netherlands. We had a plan, yes. But even the one thing we thought we knew didn’t pan out. We thought Sean has some temporary work lined up but the company never delivered on that. We spent months job hunting, then apartment hunting, and then it happened! Sean got a job and was able to sponsor me thanks to his Italian citizenship.

 

TravelShoot_Amsterdam_canalside_lookingback

 

Since that incredibly emotional and scary first 3 months, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve flourished. From not understanding how anything works or even knowing one word of Dutch, to buying our first home and at least being able to order food in a restaurant, it’s been an insane ride. But, possibly the biggest change is that we travel as much as possible.

 

Traveling More

Traveling is one reason I love living in Europe. It’s also a huge reason we moved. I love going to London and Paris every year.  From Amsterdam, two hours in the air can get us to so many amazing cities! While we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, I’m in love with Italy, I know that I need to spend more time in parts of France that aren’t Paris and that I must discover more of Portugal and Spain.

 

Amalfi Coast, Italy

 

There is so much to see that it’s overwhelming, but I know I will see and truly experience more of it because I’m here and all those lovely places are just a quick plane ride away.

Not only do I experience the world by traveling, but I have friends from all over the world too! They inspire me, teach me, and bring more diversity into my life than I ever had before. I feel more educated and more tolerant just by knowing people from different countries, religions, and cultures.

 

Friends as expats

 

Does changing the scene change me?

Beneath it all, I will always be the same person with the same insecurities, issues, and worries as I ever had. I still have the same desires, dreams, favorite shows, and love to eat as I ever did.  The biggest difference is what I have available to me here and feeling incredibly independent.

My dreams are just a bit bigger than they were because I’ve seen more of the world and I see more opportunity in it. I meet people who are more like me which is empowering. I see what those around me accomplish and that inspires me.

I feel safe and secure. Finding a house was a pain in the butt–not gonna lie. But having a house–a home–is one of the best feelings ever. Being in Amsterdam makes me feel safe. While I don’t have the amazing community network I had in my last town, I still feel incredibly at home.

 

Rooftop tour in Stockholm

 

More things excite me. There’s so much to do in Amsterdam that it can feel overwhelming! Just look at the iamsterdam.com page to get a peek at what’s going on. Those are just the events they post, and don’t include the concerts, movie premieres, marches, private boat trips, picnics, and house parties.

My love: travel. Living in Amsterdam is perfect for travel. Our airport is a great hub that can take you anywhere. It’s a huge place, but I’ve been so many times that I don’t get lost anymore. I’m surprised I haven’t made some security friends yet! I should work on that.

Who would have ever thought I’d bike to work almost every day? Surely, not me. But I do! I love the exercise, the views, the challenge, and the way it clears my mind. It takes some mighty focus to cycle during rush hour!

Biking the dunes in Zandvoort

 

Living in Amsterdam has enhanced my personality. It’s taken things that have been there but made them more prominent. Things were fine before we moved, but now they are amazing.

Does that mean everything is perfect all the time? Heck, no. Some days straight up suck because of the weather, terrorism in Europe, trying to figure out Dutch mail, or even just figuring out who will deliver soil for our garden. Everyday is a new challenge in some way. It can be overwhelming, but it can also be incredibly rewarding.

 

3 years in, now what?

We have a great circle of friends that we can depend on and who can depend on us. We have a home that is all ours. We travel frequently. We’re all set, right?

My happy place in Stockholm

 

After living in the same town for 7 years and working at the same university, things (again) were fine but got incredibly stagnant. That’s exactly what we don’t want here. Our friends and our home are the staples, and everything else is unpredictable. What next year will look like, I’m not sure. I feel more in control than ever and yet you can never really know what life will look like.

The world is full of so many possibilities. It makes me excited. It gives me hope. It is inspiring.

Where are you hoping to be in 3 years?

Wishing you love and travels.

Relaxing day trip to Windsor

Relaxing day trip to Windsor

Every time I go back to London, I really enjoy it more and more. There are so many different neighborhoods with completely different vibes. Just go from Canary Warf to Camden Town and you will think you are in completely different cities!

London Little Venice

 

But, what’s really exciting, fun, and interesting, is getting out of the city completely and discovering what the Queen already knows–Windsor is a pretty cool place to hang out. She may not be roaming the streets like the rest of us, but that’s okay, it’s still a great experience.

We stayed in the Paddington area which is fairly quiet, full of posh-looking homes and has super easy access to many metro lines and regional trains. Grabbing a train to Windsor from there was simple and about 11 pounds a person roundtrip. While the ticket booths are available, there’s also usually a person alongside the booths with a portable ticket machine. You do nothing except say where you want to go and hand over your card. That person does the rest…and then it’s off we go!

 

London Front Door

 

You’ll have to stop at the Slough station and grab the direct train to Windsor from there. But it’s so quick that you probably wouldn’t even be able to finish a coffee!

Shopping at the Windsor station is an afternoon in itself, so if you have the self-control, keep walking and head into town where you’ll find some good ol’ fashion English charm.  

 

Train station in Windor - a day trip from London

 

Windsor Castle

Sometimes I’m more interested in walking around and seeing everything outside of what everyone else is there to see. I tend to go against the grain like that.

So…we didn’t go inside Windsor Castle! *Gasp*

I know. But it was a summer day and I’m not into crowds. Of course, I took some photos from the outside and walked around it. I mean, it IS cool to hang around a working palace!

 

Windsor Castle Day trip from London

 

If you want to see how current royalty lives then I highly suggest that you visit. A couple pieces of info for you if you do want to do the royal activities…

Changing of the guard is typically Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at 11 am.

Regular price to enter the Windsor Castle is 20.50 pounds and you’ll definitely want to check opening times to make sure there aren’t any surprises…it is used for official functions.

As a commoner, it’s still interesting to hang around outside the castle. I really just wanted to have a picnic lunch in the spot right outside the wall. But after the photo, I saw that you aren’t supposed to sit on the grass. Oops! I’m just SUCH an unwitting rebel.

 

Day trip to Windsor Castle

 

…and then we found this. Not even kidding, it was in a castle window. I just busted out laughing.

 

Mini Queen

Getting more local

We meandered down streets with normal houses (for the non-Royals) and popped into various clothing shops that looked interesting. Somehow, I always end up shopping when I travel. This time, we met some super nice people in these shops and chatted it up a bit. They shared that the Queen usually hangs out in Windsor on the weekends and that they like living in the small community that is Windsor and Eton.

 

Walking around Windsor England

 

I love imagining what it would be like to live in a town like that. To go to the grocery store and walk past a castle. To say good morning to your neighbors as they walk their dog and pass by the colorful flowers. Find the hairdresser that would be your regular place to not only get a haircut but the local gossip as well. Really putting myself in the locals’ shoes is fun for me. Do you ever do this?

Inevitably, we always find a spot to people watch. We visited on a beautiful day filled with the sunshine and puffy clouds, so we watched over the water which was quite full of boats.

 

Keep walking all the way to Eton

We just went to Windsor on a whim so I didn’t look into at all. Sean knew that Eton was right next to it and was super cute as well. Walking down the main street gives you a view into village life. All the shops are right there with the Union Jack hanging above the street. Once you turn a bend in the road, you see it. The imposing structure of Eton College, mostly famous for its age and that they still wear uniforms, it’s a must-visit when in the area.

 

Eton College

Eton College

Fire alarm in Eton

 

Back in the main town, it’s almost like a fairytale. Cobblestones, shop windows, Union Jacks, perfectly placed flowers, clean streets. I wonder what it was like to live there 200-300 years ago.

 

Beautiful Eton

 

Eton day trip

 

This is definitely one of those places that you don’t need an itinerary. Just walk and take it all in. If you travel back to London or another city in the same day, try to take some of the calming effect you get from Windsor and Eton with you.

 

Reflect

This might be just me, but I’m sure some of you can relate…when I travel, I want to do it all and see it all and take all the photos. I rarely stuff to take it in. Sit down, look around. Feel the sun, wind or rain. Hear the sounds that surround you. Touch the old bridge. Smile and engage with the people around you.

 

Lunch on the Thames River

 

Travel is not about just checking places off a list, it’s about the experience. Please don’t forget to experience wherever it is you go.  

I do feel like this day-trip forced me to do that a bit. With so many quiet places and beautiful scenes, it was natural to sit and take it all in. Finishing the day with an easy stroll back to the train station was nice. There are so many trains that you really don’t have to worry too much about timing your pace.

 

Looking over the River Thames Day trip from London

 

Extending your travel outside of London

London is amazing and full of things to do. I doubt anyone will be able to do and see everything there! Still, sometimes it’s nice to get a different perspective of England and take a train (or even a plane!) to great spots around the country. Windsor and Eton are just the tip of the iceberg.

 

Streets of Eton on a quick trip from London

 

As we discover more and more of England and the rest of the United Kingdom, we’ll keep sharing it all with you!

Wishing you love and travels.

 

Pin for later!

Windsor Pinterest pin


 

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. If you want a peek at our new home, it’s okay to be nosey. 

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.