Filing U.S. taxes from abroad

Filing U.S. taxes from abroad

I was given access to the Taxes For Expats service in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own and not influenced by the company. I am not a tax professional. Everything I write is of my personal experience and research as of this writing. Do your own research!

This post contains affiliate links, which gives me a small commission at no extra cost for you.


The process of filing taxes usually sucks. Sorry to be so blunt, but come on, it’s so complicated and time-consuming. On top of that, taxes for expats, especially for American citizens, are double the work! Filing U.S. taxes from abroad is hard.

Yep. Here we go…talking about what we don’t want to think about. I wouldn’t make a good expat life blogger if I didn’t talk about the crappy parts of living abroad too. I can talk about how much I love living in Amsterdam but I will also tell you about the anxieties that I’ve experienced.

Did you know that Americans abroad have to file taxes unless they live in a country that forbids it? We lived in Virginia (the only state I ever lived in until I moved to Amsterdam!) and in that Commonwealth, they never let you leave. So we have to file state taxes every year–forever! I’m not even sure how it’s possible that they don’t let you leave, but that’s the way it is.

Euros pixabay

 

How to file taxes abroad

We used TurboTax for a couple years because our situation was fairly straight-forward, but they nickel and dime you which is just annoying. You never really know if you did everything right! It always made me very nervous and was terrified of an audit.

Taxes For Expats got in touch and wanted to see if I wanted to give them a try. We jumped at the chance because, why wouldn’t you when you know it’s a professional taking care of it? As you know, we bought a house in 2017, and that one thing makes things a little bit more complicated. We really wanted someone who knew what they were doing to handle the taxes for peace of mind.

 

What we liked about Taxes for Expats

The questionnaire is probably as simple as it can be, considering, you know, it’s taxes. I suggest to log in as soon as you get an account and see which documents you will need to fill out the form. That will make the whole process easier and much faster than it took us! Lesson learned for next time.

The biggest reason I like this service is knowing our taxes are done right. We had the name of the person helping us and their work gets double-checked. And even then, there’s audit protection included in the price!

The interface is really friendly-looking and easy to use. If you don’t understand something, there’s usually a little pop-up to help out.

Pricing is pretty clear and they have flat fees. Don’t forget to scroll down! The main fee you see is for federal forms. As I mentioned before, we also need to file a state tax return which is listed as an option on the bottom of that page. As of this writing, these states typically make you file: California, New Mexico, South Carolina, Virginia. Obviously, do your own research on this!

 

us taxes - pixabay

 

What we didn’t like about Taxes for Expats

I loved having someone else do our taxes. Hello, free time! But, the reminder emails to submit the information before our Dutch taxes were even due were a bit much. I appreciated the due diligence, but once I emailed our rep back and let them know when we expected to have the Dutch papers, he paused the reminders until then.

There’s a little bit of math to do on your own if you are filing jointly. I guess that’s to be expected and it wasn’t too bad. Part of me hoped we would just scan everything in and some machine would read it and figure out what numbers to put where. I don’t think taxes will ever be quite that simple in the U.S.

The price is a bit higher than I expected, or maybe I’m just cheap? Of course, it is higher than if you do it yourself on Turbotax. I see it as you paying for professionals to know it’s done right…and filling out the paperwork you know you don’t want to do. Also, the investment is in line with what I see in Amsterdam to do similar work. Just the cost of being an expat!

 

Final thoughts

If you’re looking for someone to do your United States taxes, I would recommend Taxes For Expats. They are professional and very responsive. I’m such a control freak that I ask a lot of questions, mainly around timing, and they always get back to me quickly.

As with anything like this, have your papers ready. Know your numbers and just go for it! They also can check a return you do yourself if you just want to hone your skills as your own personal tax person 🙂

I’d love to know if you do your own taxes or if you pay someone to do them for you. Are you ever worried you fill it out wrong? That fear is why we have someone do our taxes, so just do what’s best for you!

Wishing you love and travels!

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Taxes for expats

Take a bike tour of Krakow

Take a bike tour of Krakow

Thank you to Cruising Krakow for this complimentary bike tour!
As always, all opinions are my own.

When was the last time you were on a bike? Living in the Netherlands, and specifically, Amsterdam, means I’m on the bike a lot. It’s such an easy mode of transportation and once you get used to the rules of the road–and how things actually work– it’s pretty easy. I’ve even really started to enjoy pedaling around cities.

We went to Krakow not really knowing what to expect, so we set up a bike tour to be able to see the city. There were many options to get a good feel of the place including a walking tour, but why walk when you can bike? I think I’ve turned straight up Amsterdammer now 🙂

I was a bit concerned about the 3-hour tour. Wouldn’t my butt seriously hurt afterward? Bike butt is a real thing, and if I’m honest, it’s been a cold winter and I have only just gotten back on my bike not too long before this trip.

 

Jessica on Krakow bike tour

 

Cruising Krakow

After investigating, reading bios and reviews, I started to get excited about taking the City Tour with Cruising Krakow. Once we arrived in the city and wandered the streets of old town, I was hooked and couldn’t wait to explore with a guide.

 

Cruising Krakow bike

 

Thanks to trusty Google Maps and good signage, we found the shop down a little courtyard alley off one of the already small streets. All the bikes were nicely lined up and ready to go. After signing the waiver that yes, we know how to ride bikes, we were assigned our trusty two-wheeled steeds. I was so thankful they had one to fit me since I’m so short. They really have a bike for everyone. Sean even got one that he was happy with…probably because it was similar to his own bike in Amsterdam.

 

Bike tour group in Krakow

 

What you will see on this Krakow bike tour

The first stop was probably the longest, but it’s a large area with a statue full of history and the guide lays the foundation for the rest of the story. It’s basically one big story. Our guide, Mike, somehow made history interesting. These tours can sometimes be a bit dry, you know with the blah blah blah that only the history buffs can get into. But his storytelling skills paired with the interesting history of the city just worked. We both really enjoyed it!

 

Bike tour of Krakow group

 

This tour takes you through the park that makes a ring around the old center, under a canopy of trees on a nicely paved surface, up and around a castle to a fire-breathing dragon, then you’ll follow the river to find the neighborhood with an identity uniquely its own called Kazimierz, and even across the river to see Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory. From main roads to parks, to cobblestones, you’ll get a little bit of it all. Ending up at the large market square with the iconic St. Mary’s Basilica means you get an incredible, comprehensive tour of Krakow.

 

Why this tour was different

Being on a bike is fun. For some it reminds them of childhood and for me, it’s part of my everyday life. It’s a great way to get around because you can still see everything around you but you’re going much faster and can cover more ground than you can on foot in the same amount of time. It’s not as tiring as I thought it might be taking 3-4 hours because the stops are well-placed to give frequent breaks.

 

Mike of Cruising Krakow

 

Mike was just phenomenal. His knowledge of the city was vast but it was really how he explained everything in a way that kept you interested. We’d go to stops, and yeah, they have historical significance, but you also realized why you should even care. Sean finished the tour and immediately said it was the best tour he’s ever been on. We’ve been on a lot of tours, you guys! I really enjoyed it too, but really hate ranking stuff like this. It was one of my favorites for sure. I have left tours thinking it was a waste of time, but Cruising Krakow made a bike tour that was the complete opposite of that.

 

Jess on a bike

 

As an extra note for you, Cruising Krakow has a variety of tours to choose from both on bikes and on Segways! I have yet to try a Segway but all my friends that went really enjoyed it. We might just have to give it a shot the next time we’re in town. They also have bike rentals which we have to take advantage of next time because we are just so used to getting around that way.

 

Let’s chat

Are you a guided tour fan? Maybe you like to take an audio tour and walk around on your own? How about a food tour? We’d like to hear from you! Let us know how you like to travel and explore a new city.

Sometimes we go full-on tourist and take the hop-on hop-off bus tour. There’s nothing wrong with that either. Other times we enjoy getting lost down small alleys along charming old buildings. You never know what you’ll discover! I have started to really enjoy staying in the center of it all so you can easily walk around. If you’re planning a trip to Krakow, book your accommodation now so you have the best selection.

Wishing you love and travels!

5 Best Day Trips from London

5 Best Day Trips from London

With so much happening in England’s bustling capital of London, you’d almost forget the many cities and villages that lie beyond it that making for great day trips. However, England is so much more than the sprawling metropolis of old London town – and with such convenient and easy transport links, there are endless options for getting out of the city.

With so many options it can be hard to narrow down. To help you out, here are 5 of our favorite day trips from London, each offering a different perspective on English life:

 

Day Trip #1 // Down at the Seaside in Brighton

Time from London: 1.5 hours (car), 1 hour (train)

You may know Brighton as a quintessential English seaside destination, but it is actually so much more. For starters, it is probably the only English city to give London a run for its money in the ‘cool’ stakes, with an endless selection of hipster coffee shops, quirky bars, and alternative clothing stores.

 

Brighton Pier - day trip from London

 

The off-beat vibe is not just found in Brighton’s funky lanes, but also the vibrant and colorful Brighton Pier. The famous Pier has a retro carnivalesque vibe, with a bunch of amusement rides that are great for kids (and adult who don’t want to grow up). Once you’ve taken a spin on the rides, the perfect next stop is a delicious ice cream as you stroll the length of the Pier. To really make the most of this British seaside experience, this should be done even if the weather is nearly freezing!

Of course, if the weather is better than you might like to actually take a dip in the water. Brighton is a great swimming beach, and it is even possible to surf if that’s your thing and it’s not too crowded.

 

Day Trip #2 // Ponder the Mystery of Stonehenge (ft. Windsor Castle)

Time from London: 2 hours (car), 1.5 hours (train)

Few histories have been more heavily researched, documented and analyzed than Britain’s, yet there are still a few mysteries to enjoy. Perhaps the most famous of all is Stonehenge, the famous arrangement of stacked boulders that is believed to have been laid in the Neolithic period, about 5000 years ago. To this day, scientists are unsure of who built the structure, or why. What are your theories?

 

Stonehenge


You can ponder it yourself quite easily since Stonehenge is a simple journey from London, near the town of Salisbury. While it is the famous Stone Circle that draws the visitors, there are other things to do nearby including various temporary exhibits.

 

Another great thing about a day trip to Stonehenge is that it can easily be combined with other attractions. In particular, Windsor Castle, one of the oldest inhabited castles on the planet (and weekender for Queen Elizabeth), is a popular stopping off point.

 

Day Trip #3 // Meet the Ponies of the New Forest

Time from London: 1.75 hours (car), 2 hours (train)

If your idea of a day trip from London means being transported into the pages of an Enid Blyton book, then look no further than the gorgeous New Forest in the country’s south.

I challenge anyone not to be completely and utterly delighted by the friendly and adorable New Forest ponies that roam freely and unashamedly through the New Forest. If you’re driving, go slow, because they have right of way – and somehow, they know it.

 

Ponies in the New Forest - a day trip from London

 

While the ponies do add a ton of charm to the Forest, the quaint and picturesque villages certainly help too. Forget the endless concrete jungle of central London – on this day trip, you will be surrounded by beautiful nature and humble high streets dotted with arts and craft stores and tea shops. Bliss!

 

Day Trip #4 //  Walk in the Footsteps of Greatness at Oxford

Time from London: 1.5 hours (car), 1 hour, 10 minutes (train)

Being the home of the oldest English-speaking university in the world, Oxford has a pretty high-brow reputation. In reality, however, Oxford retains the laid-back charm of most student cities, albeit with a little more history. For example, one of Oxford college’s ‘student bars’, the Eagle and Child dates back to 1649 and was once the meeting place of a writer’s group with a few humble members such as J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

Oxford - quick trip from London

The colleges themselves can be visited, and you may even be lucky enough to catch the students when they are in full traditional garb for their exams (yes, they still dress up.) Other attractions include the Pitt River Museum with more than 20,000 fascinating objects and the Bodleian Library which is one of the oldest and most beautiful libraries in Europe.

 

Another ‘must do’ in England is of course to see a castle, and there is a beautiful example in Oxford. The Oxford Castle and Prison were built in 1073 and – as its name suggests – has had a variety of uses over the years. Today it is open to the public every day, from 10 am, and has been meticulously restored.

 

Day Trip #5 //  Go Back in Time in Medieval York

Time from London: 4 hours (car), 2 hours (train)

This trip is a bit further than the others on the list, but it’s definitely do-able by train (a car is also an option, but traffic can be a nightmare). It’s also well worth it to get a taste of charming northern England, where locals pride themselves on their friendliness and the county’s stunning country views.

 

York England

 

The capital of the largest county in England, Yorkshire, York is an absolute stunning medieval city surrounded by some of the best preserved defensive walls in the country. Known as Jorvik while under Viking rule, history buffs will love York for its historical architecture. Even if history isn’t your thing, you’re still bound to be blown away by sights like the Shambles, one of the oldest and most picturesque streets in all of England, and the imposing Gothic cathedral, the York Minster.

While York’s history is perhaps its biggest draw, it is also a modern and dynamic city with a healthy student population and a spattering of cool bars, restaurants, and shops. There’s also a fantastic chocolate factory, with free tastings!

 

So there you have it, my top 5 picks for day trips from London!

Do you have any to add? Please leave a comment!

Wishing you love and travels!


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Ice skating on Amsterdam canals

Ice skating on Amsterdam canals

Magical. Rendered speechless. Freaking amazing. All things to describe ice skating on Amsterdam canals.

No matter the season, being on the Amsterdam canals is the best thing to do in the city–hands down. Go ahead…try to argue something else 😉

Ice skating in Amsterdam

Winter in Amsterdam

When winter comes around, the locals go into a bit of hibernation and the weather typically makes it unpleasant to be on the water unless you’re in a covered and heated boat. The main exception here is the Amsterdam Light Festival, but it’s totally worth it to be cruising the canals in the dead of winter, at night, to be part of that.

A visitor or a local would be able to enjoy winter in Amsterdam if you’re just willing to leave the house. Who can be us? It’s COLD! To be enticed to leave it has to be something pretty special. For this beautiful city, if it’s snowing, or the canals freeze over, you can bet people are going to go out to see it!

 

Frozen Amsterdam canals

 

Snow is pretty unusual here and if it sticks, it only stays long enough for a few photos and then it’s gone. Public transportation doesn’t handle snow very well, so it’s probably for the best.

 

Is it cold enough for the Amsterdam canals to freeze?

Amsterdammers were watching the weather for an entire week people and speculated about whether the canals would freeze. For the magic to happen, it has to be below freezing for multiple days and the water has to stay pretty still.

The city’s water agency did its best to help out Mother Nature by banning boats from going down certain parts of the canals. Then they would give the official go-ahead when it’s all safe for skating. Everybody wanting this to happen–and they knew it!

It was Ice-watch 2018!

 

Is it safe to skate on the canals?

I didn’t really know what to think about going out on the ice. It sounds cool and something that may never happen again. Seriously, you never know!

I’m a ridiculously practical person so I had many questions. Mainly, is it safe? Nobody likes the thought of falling through ice and into the freezing water. Let’s be real, here. It’s kind of a turn-off.

Once I stopped being such a chicken about it, I headed out to see what all the fuss was about. People were putting their kids on it–so it must be safe! At least that’s what I told myself.

Jess on the Amsterdam Canals

 

The first canal I passed over was the Brouwersgracht. It was nicely frozen over and basically the perfect picture of a frozen Amsterdam. That canal, it’s houseboats, and canal houses are basically what people think of when they have a picture of Amsterdam in their heads. Add one family hopping of their houseboat and onto the ice with the skates, and it’s basically a movie.

 

Brouwersgracht ice skating in Amsterdam

Houseboats in a frozen Amsterdam canal

 

Ice skating on the Amsterdam canals

Yes, the Dutch are known for ice skating, but no, they don’t usually practice on the canals. This hasn’t happened in 6 years (in Amsterdam) and it’s hard to tell if/when it will happen again.

But seeing everyone out and about in their hockey or racing skates was incredible. It honestly felt unreal. In some spots, there were a lot of people. Some kids were getting their first taste of skating this way, some were just flying by, and other people like me didn’t have skates and just walked around taking it all in.

Going under bridges were no-go zones for the most part, though I think I saw one that people were going under. However, I also saw a video where that’s precisely where someone fell in.

 

Boat on Prinsengracht frozen in ice

 

 

My experience walking on water

I’ve ice skated before, but only on an ice rink and never on a body of water. Not only was it a gorgeous day, but the joy was felt along the canals.

After running into a friend in the middle of the chaos that was the Prinsengracht, I hurried to get on the ice so she could get a photo from above. Sadly, Sean was home and sick in bed and couldn’t join me 🙁 that’s part of the reason I took a video too!

Trying to get on the ice quickly didn’t give me much of a chance to hesitate. I found a boat (that was most junk) that people were using to get on the ice and just went for it. There was a thin layer of water on top of the ice but still looked solid. Bigger people than me were getting on there, so I felt okay about it.

I could not stop smiling. It was one of those experiences.

After getting my camera back I continued to walk on the canal towards Anne Frank’s house. It was absolutely surreal.

Kids were walking, skating, or sledding by.

A couple who came to visit just for this purpose was learning to skate.

Photographers were everywhere.

Couples were taking selfies.

Families were having fun.

Some played a bit of hockey while others worked on figure skating.

 

Standing on Prinsengracht

Family ice skating in Amsterdam

Walking a dog on a frozen canal

Prepping to ice skate

Sled on a frozen Amsterdam canal

 

This day was the best showcase of what being an Amsterdammer is all about: community


day on the ice in Amsterdam is one of my best days ever. If you want to see it after you just read all about it, I have a YouTube video posted too.

What has been your best experience ever? Let us know in the comments!

Walking on the Amsterdam canals

5 Weekend trips from Amsterdam

5 Weekend trips from Amsterdam

Why would you want to take a weekend trip from Amsterdam? So many reasons! You could live in Amsterdam like we do. Perhaps you are a local or an expat that lives in the Netherlands and it’s easy to get to Amsterdam as a starting point. Maybe you are in the city for work for an extended period of time and you want to make the most of the experience. Or maybe you are making Amsterdam your base for a longer European Adventure!

Whatever your personal reason for wanting to use Amsterdam as your jumping off point, there are an amazing amount of quick weekend trips to be had. It’s super easy to get around Europe thanks to a well-connected central train station and an easy (and cheap to get to) international airport.

 

Related: Day trips from Amsterdam

 

Weekend trip #1 // Amsterdam to London

 

How to get there: Quick flights (Check flight prices) are about 50 minutes or the international train, the Eurostar takes just over 4.5 hours. Though a new and faster line is coming. Exciting times!

Somehow, I actually don’t write much about London even though I go often. Last year I went four times! It is such an interesting and large place with so much going on. I’ve taken a couple food tours: one in SoHo and one by the London Bridge so that I could get introduced to proper British food. Every time I go, I try to make a reservation for an afternoon tea. I like Scoff & Banter Tea Rooms because of the variety and fancy-pants factor, but we did try the Alice in Wonderland one too. Sadly, I enjoyed the show part of it over the actual eating part. At least it was fun!

There are so many neighborhoods that I keep exploring and finding new ones. I’ll walk around and think “I could live here.” Then I go to another part of the city and think, “Nope, this is the perfect spot.”

 

Weekend trips from Amsterdam: London - Little Venice

 

Then, I laugh at myself because I’ll never be able to live in the center of London! Besides, I’m perfectly happy with the house we bought in Amsterdam. To be fair, I never thought that could happen either. Isn’t life a funny thing?

Anyway, back to London. If you like history there are plenty of museums and even non-museum places to enjoy. But sometimes it’s nice to just look at the city. Look at Buckingham Palace. Look at the Parliament Building. Look at the Tower Bridge. Other times it’s nice to dive into the culture on Carnaby Street, or in SoHo. Walking in the area of Little Venice is so nice and relaxing and climbing up Primrose Hill is perfect for an awesome view.

With so many options, you might want to think about what kind of accommodation you want before you even start looking. But check out a full listing of hotels to see what fits you best.

 

Hint: Stay near a subway or train station and stay farther out to pay a little less but not be too inconvenienced.

 

Weekend trip #2 // Amsterdam to Paris

 

How to get there: Quick flight (Check flight prices) about 1 hour and 15 minutes or the Thalys train that takes 3 hours and 18 minutes.

I try to do this every year so I’m definitely partial to this one. Even though I’m not in love with Paris like many people are, I still love visiting.

Yeah, I don’t understand myself either. Then again, I love to eat real French food every once in a while and my favorite tea brand is there! There’s just something about walking around Paris. The best thing is when you discover your spots…the places you like the most for whatever reason.

 

 

One of my favorite things that I’ve done in Paris was to grab an eclair, go to the big grassy area called Esplanade des Invalides with Edna and hang out. So simple, yet so nice.

It’s always nice to get a good view of the iconic landmarks in Paris. Though I haven’t put together a post on this, Edna did! She also has a lot of article on Paris in general, so definitely check those out.

 

Weekend trip #3 // Amsterdam to Basel

 

How to get there: Quick flight (Check flight prices) about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

For a quick weekend trip, hopefully, you’d be able to just take a carry-on. In that case, there are always super cheap flights to get there. It’s also very quick and easy to get to the city by bus so you don’t waste time.

 

Weekender: Basel, Switzerland

 

If you like old town centers and bridges that give you the most incredible views, Basel will not disappoint. Even in the winter when most people don’t think to come to Europe it is such a beautiful place no matter when you are able to visit. Being able to walk around and see so many beautiful places and buildings makes it a great escape. The pace is calm and there is plenty of places to eat and drink once you are ready for a break.

If you stay in a Basel hotel, you get the Basel pass which gives you free public transit and discounts around town. Now, that’s a nice bonus and adds a bit of value to your trip.

 

Weekend trip #4 // Amsterdam to Lisbon

 

How to get there: Quick flight (Check flight prices) about 3 hours which isn’t bad for a long weekend.

There are so many flights from Amsterdam to Lisbon, but also, it’s a quick ride from the airport to the center of town.

 

Weekend trip from Amsterdam: Lisbon, Portugal

 

I don’t know about you, but everyone I know has been talking about Lisbon for the past year. It’s for a good reason! With the pretty great weather, amazing food, and the treat of Vinho Verde, it’s a great place to be.

Take a food tour to discover the flavors of Portugal, make a reservation at a delicious restaurant that is known for their seafood, and grab a drink and sit waterside to enjoy the sunshine. It’s one of those places that you can easily find touristy things to do, or just sit back and relax. 

 

Weekend trip #5 // Amsterdam to Berlin

 

How to get there: Quick flight (Check flight prices) about an hour and 25 minutes.

Oh, Berlin! Berlin is such a popular destination for so many reasons. It has a great vibe, clubbing, its own unique culture, and the food scene is definitely growing. Summer is the best time to go since festivals in parks being very popular. Food trucks, music, and green grass all come together to create a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Hardly seems fair to think about if you are currently experiencing not-so-friendly weather.

 

berlin_wall

 

For a weekend away, there are a ton of possibilities of what to get into, but I’ll leave that part up to you. What’s awesome about Berlin is that the variety makes it so that there is something for all us travelers. Indoor museums, outdoor events, historical significance, and so on. It’s easy to go back for multiple trips and always have something new to discover.

 


 

While there are many great options all over Europe, I really think these are perfect for quick trips to be able to get a nice taste of that city. Visitors to Amsterdam can use the city as a hub and still get a really great European experience while exploring more cultures, food, and iconic sights. And those who are local have easy access to great travel opportunities just by living in or around a city like Amsterdam.

I hope I have inspired you! Whether you are taking weekend trips from Amsterdam, or from where you are right now, take the opportunity to use a weekend to explore something new. 🙂

What do you think? Would you take quick trips to these places or do you have other ideas?


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Basel Switzerland - 5 Weekend trips from Amsterdam

Wishing you love and travels!

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? With 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!
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

 

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?