3 Days in Amsterdam: Canals, Cuypmarket & Cannabis

blog

Waaaaaaay back in June, Steve and I spent a week in London, I hopped a train to Paris for two days, and now, months later, I realized I never wrote a recap of our 3-day weekend in Amsterdam. Since it’s been so long, I don’t recall the exact timeline, so I’m just recapping places to stay, things to do, and where to eat — plus, obviously, a little cannabis info. It is Amsterdam, after all.

A quick 2-hour Eurostar ride put us in Brussels (where we had time for a brief layover dinner) and another 2-hour Thalys train had us to Amsterdam Centraal, one of the most architecturally stunning stations I’ve seen.

WHERE TO STAY

Those who had been to Amsterdam recommended two areas: The Jordaan and De Pijp. The former is more residential and centrally located, while the latter is a little farther from most attractions, and we found an awesome Airbnb (on Rombout Hogerbeetsstraat, which I loved saying).

img_4940

Everything in the main part of Amsterdam is very walkable, and there’s reliable public transportation and trains. Everyone speaks English, so you can stay in most places and be able to get easy access to the major sights.

WHAT TO DO/SEE

First thing: Get tickets to the Anne Frank House as far in advance as you can! We had one month’s notice and still couldn’t book them.

We skipped biking, Amsterdam’s most famous activity, because our Airbnb hosts told us that if you’re not super confident on a bike, you’re basically just an asshole in the way. No thanks. We’re big walkers and planned to see miles of the city that way.

westerpark

If you’re a runner, Amsterdam is amazing. It’s so scenic and there are great parks. One morning, we ran through Westerpark, near where we stayed. Another day, we ventured a little farther to Erasmuspark. Both were beautiful with plenty of room to log a few miles without too many loops.

img_5036

ok

We did venture into the Red Light District during the day. (Our hosts advised against it at dark; it’s perfectly safe but full of drunken tourists.) It’s home to Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest building and parish, which is absolutely stunning — and directly across from women posing half naked in windows. (You can’t take pics. Sorry, kids.) Right by the church is also one of several public urinals in the city. (Really.)

Albert Cuypmarket in De Pijp is an open-air market of over 100 shops spanning several blocks. Wander Albert Cuypstraat and Ferdinand Bolstraat, the main streets, and check out all of the vendors. (There are plenty of places to grab your t-shirts and keychains, too.)

bloom

Bloemenmarkt flower market is basically all of the world’s tulip bulbs in one place. Row after row of beautiful flowers and bulbs line a canal. I considered bringing some home to my mom, who loves tulips, but I worried about getting them through customs.

koninklijk-paleis

We walked by Koninklijk PaleisLeidseplein, and Dam Square and checked out the i.amsterdam sign behind Koninklijk Paleis. (It’s impossible to get a cool pic like you see on websites; it’s crawling with people.)

i-amsterdam

img_5060

Vondelpark was one of our very favorite places. We walked this one rather than run and it was turn after turn of gorgeous greens, beautiful rose gardens, and amazing architecture. Even in the slight mist, it was really a sight to see.

img_5065

We bought tickets to the Van Gogh Museum and had about 45 minutes before our entrance time. We popped into the local Albert Heijn and grabbed cheese, bread, olives wine and beer and had an amazing picnic on Museumplein, the gorgeous green space outside of the museum. The museum itself was pretty cool, but not as exciting as we’d thought. (I’d also just seen Starry Night in Paris, where it was on loan to the d’Orsay.

hempstory

Hempstory is a cute boutique full of all of the legal hemp products you can take back to the States, like soaps and candles. We stocked up on a few souvenirs for family here.

alley

We wandered through Haarlemmerbuurt, a cute neighborhood of shops and cafes, most of which line Haarlemmerdijk. As always, though, don’t skip the side streets in Europe. There are so many hidden walkways with amazing  boutiques and restaurants.

There’s also a cool area called The Nine Streets made up of (you guessed it) nine streets of great shopping. It was late on a Sunday when we were there, so most places were closed, but it was fun to do a little window shopping.

WHERE TO EAT

I had to look back at my credit card statement to jog my memory on some names, but here’s the rundown of our culinary adventures in Amsterdam:

Harar Coffee: We quickly learned that many of the small neighborhood cafes in Jordaan only took cash (euros) and we were mostly credit-card based, but the woman at Harar Coffee gave us a free cup when we didn’t realize they didn’t accept cards. We promised to come back the next day to pay, she graciously agreed, and then was closed. Please pay the cute shop a visit if you’re in the city!

foodhallen

Foodhallen: An awesome indoor food market that also has artisans selling wares on the weekends. I had AMAZING jamon tapas from Jabugo Bar Iberico and a delicious fruit tart from Petit GâteauSteve enjoyed a few beers and the bahn mi from Việt View, which he remembered when I asked him right now — it was that good. If you’re there on the weekend, check to see if Koi d’Azur has a table set up. I bought an amazing stamped initial necklace and actually just ordered another necklace.

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-8-55-59-pm

At one point, we needed a break and Steve wanted to catch some of the Euros. We grabbed seats at Regular & Jack and were entertained by both the game and the patrons who were in full Euro gear. Per the norm, Steve has a massive beer and I had a pretty decent red wine for a sports bar.

Cafe Sonneveld was less than impressive. The food was mediocre and the service was really, really slow. We left after a little and wandered into The Huyschkaemer, another canalside cafe, I don’t recall what we had, but this location is fantastic and the restaurant is really cute and cozy.

We had a great flight of beers at Brouwerij De Prael, one of Amsterdam’s breweries. (I can’t drink beer, but did sample these. There was a slightly floral one that was so good.) There’s a great shop downstairs where you can sample and buy things like beer liqueurs.
La Perla pizza sits on two sides of Tweede Tuindwarsstraat, a street full of restaurants and bars in the Jordaan. I don’t remember Steve’s pizza, but I know that I had the Prosciutto san Daniele because I always order the prosciutto.

I picked up a delicious 80% dark chocolate bar at Vanroselen Fine Chocolate (which smelled better than you can imagine) and found the best stroopwaffel place in Amsterdam, Lanskroon. While most are smaller in size, Lanskroon’s stoops are HUGE and so amazing slightly warmed.

We had one of our favorite meals at Morgan & Mees, a hotel close to our rental that also has a restaurant. There’s a stunning courtyard at the entrance where sipped drinks and watched people go by while the sun set over the canal.

And remember, Albert Heijn is an awesome grocer with many stores throughout the city. As mentioned above, it’s great for grabbing picnic essentials and other items you need, food or otherwise.

CANNABIS CENTRAAL

Yep, it’s very legal in Amsterdam. Basically, coffee shops (not cafes) are where you go to buy weed. There are more than 200 in the city and you’ll know if you’re at one by the green and white license sticker in the window. Everyone is super knowledgable and cool about it. There’s even Cannabis College, where you can vape, have THC tested, take classes, and more.

coffee-shop

General tips/observations

  • Everyone is really tall and really blonde. Sometimes it felt like Steve was on the short side — and he’s 6’3″.
  • An ideal way to figure out where you’re going is to count canals … but it’s very easy to lose count, as well.
  • Most bathrooms in places like Burger Kings (hey, when you gotta go) are pay to use. It’s just some pocket change — but have some on hand.
  • Amsterdam is pretty compact and easy to hit a lot of main areas in a weekend. More time is needed to get to neighborhoods on the outskirts and the ‘burbs.

Would I go back?

Absolutely. I feel like we only scratched the surface on Amsterdam. I love cities on water, and Amsterdam is so water-centric. I still want to go to the Noord area, go on a boat, run through more of Vondelpark, and venture outside of the city to see the windmills and tulips.

Baltimore gains new wedding/event venue at Quarry Lake

a-citronlogo

Charles Levine announced today that in conjunction with the November opening of Citron at Quarry Lake at Greenspring, he will also open The Cove at Citron, a special event venue that will be available for corporate and social events beginning in January 2017.

Located next to Citron and overlooking Quarry Lake, The Cove at Citron will offer patrons stunning lakefront views, one-of-a-kind menus created by Levine himself, and a wide range of options for corporate and social events. The spacious interior will accommodate up to 150 for a seated event and 200 for a cocktail reception, and the private deck will seat up to 100 or accommodate up to 200 for a cocktail reception. Experienced staff will be available to assist in planning corporate, social or fundraising events at the venue.

Both The Cove and Citron are currently under construction on the north side of Quarry Lake. Upon opening in November, Citron will feature a dining room, bar, outside patio and waterfront deck seating overlooking the lake. The Cove is currently accepting bookings for private events starting sometime in January. Citron will offer a seasonally changing and approachable contemporary American menu with a subtle French twist.

citron1

Those interested in learning more about The Cove at Citron and employment opportunities at Citron can visit www.citronbaltimore.com.

Review: Stitch Fix #17 (WITH VOTING!)

SF17

If you recall, my last Stitch Fix was just a total bust. I was ready to give up and emailed them, exasperated. They offered to waive my styling fee to give ’em another shot, so here I am. Ready for #17?

HAILEY 23 Kerrigan Dress, $78

97E19D59-FB24-4213-8EFA-BE75B6447FF5

Steve: “You could get this at Old Navy, right?”

Yes, he’s kind of right. I love the top, but the bottom is a little heavy and maybe a little matronly.

 

BRIXON IVY Cristen Shirt Dress, $68

27C8B8D6-98E7-463A-905C-0B8381E30A80

I was so excited when I took this out because I love the pattern and shirt dresses are fun, right? The fit feels a little off, though, and I’m not sure how I feel about this much mint color.

Steve: “So they stopped sending prison stripes and are just sending flowers now? This looks like a Victoria’s Secret kitchen apron.”

SKIES ARE BLUE Pagan Back Strap Chambray Top, $48

B00D60B1-686B-4681-AD77-538F3C35E6C4

BF8FFD6B-A9DF-448E-873F-B862FA46DAEC

Sorry, not ironing these before posting, so wrinkles it is! I LOVE the chambray, but the metal holes in the bottom are a little odd. I like the t-back design. Would you pay $48 for this?

Steve: “This looks like it was made out of a pillowcase.”

 

MARKET & SPRUCE Benni Crossfront Knit Top, $48

732BF5C8-756B-4409-B199-0F58CC79879C

I love grey! I love the feel of this top! But again … $48? Seems a little steep for a plain grey top …

Steve: [Grabs the front] “You could put a baby kangaroo in here!”

 

SKIES ARE BLUE Klide Woven Back Knit Top, $48

EE1BF05D-A010-46A6-A737-823E14DBE6CE

99A1F4CD-CECC-41D6-9198-672F713D09E3

Steve: “This is the clothing version of a mullet — business in the front, party in the back.”

I can’t even talk about this. I dislike it even more after trying it on. The green is too bright, the sides are weirdly high, the pattern is not my style — negative.

 

I don’t know, guys. I’m torn on a few pieces. I was feeling really optimistic when I opened this one, but now — a little less so. Help!

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end …

OU cover

July 21 will be my last day at OrderUp. After a very, very tough deliberation process, I decided that this is the time for me to embrace a new opportunity. (I’ll talk more about that in another post; I want to give OrderUp my full love here.)

OU1

Me and Dana, my partner in crime

My first company party. What a horrible, horrible day after.

My first company party. What a horrible, horrible day after

The day that Justin Forsett popped by the office

The day that Justin Forsett popped by the office

Almost two years ago, the two founders of OU took a chance hiring me to run the company’s PR and comm. I had a proven track record but was new to the startup world — and wow, did I get a crash course. The first month, I was terrified that I was going to be fired any day because the pace was so quick. I worried that I couldn’t keep up.

One of the most fun nights -- the night before the acquisition was announced

One of the most fun nights — the night before the acquisition was announced

When you sell your company, you get a unicorn

When you sell your company, you get a unicorn

I dug deeper. I put everything into promoting the company. I worked evenings, weekends, traveled to new markets, and chose to “embrace the crazy,” as Heather Whaling advocates.

In Chicago w/some of my gals

In Chicago w/some of my gals

Bye Michael

Bye Michael

We hired a ton of people; my favorite headline is still: OrderUp hires everybody. This team is truly remarkable. They’re some of the funniest, kindest, smartest people I’ve ever worked with. I laugh every single day. (I also eat and drink with them a lot, which is an added perk.)

And then JO ate pie

And then JO ate pie

At the Pratt Library Black & White gala

At the Pratt Library Black & White gala

After two years, I’ve learned a lot about what I want in my career and a working environment. It’s hard to imagine an office without a casual dress code, co-workers lounging in a hammock, beer in the fridge, and music playing. I know that I need autonomy and the ability to run with my ideas. It’s so important to me to be a part of building something, and I’m so grateful for the experience.

Celebrating my birthday with the team in Chicago!

Celebrating my birthday with the team in Chicago!

Birthday shenanigans

Birthday shenanigans

Awesome opp to have CJ on a Light City U panel

Awesome opp to have CJ on a Light City U panel

I learned how to keep really big secrets, about being a woman in tech, the importance of knowing and playing up your strengths, that I’m too old to throw down that hard, how to convince an athlete to take part in a pie-eating contest, that I should really be a life coach, and — as a wise man once told me — people invest in the team.

On the river in Chi-town

On the river in Chi-town

Pedal tour of Fells drinking spots

Pedal tour of Fells drinking spots

I’ve had one of the best teams.

StitchFix #16 (or the one where they didn’t listen to anything I asked)

STITCHFIX

Another day, another StitchFix (technically, it’s two words — Stitch Fix — but pretty sure everyone under the sun spells it as one word). After the last one and sending back the shirt because it had a hole, I was feeling pessimistic but decided to give SF another chance. (Maybe I’m a masochist?)

I asked for: 1-2 dresses for summer weddings, short-sleeve or sleeveless tops, mostly solid colors (no red, orange, or yellow), and all V- or U-neck (crew neck is not flattering on me). Here’s what I received:

PIXLEY Pestova Knot Back Top ($44)

StitchFix review

Well. This is a pattern — and a very busy one, at that. It’s an odd fit, too; the sides expose bra and it’s a little short in the front.

Steve: “Why do they keep sending you shirts that look like you’re going to Woodstock?”

PAPERMOON Neptune Racerback Top ($38)

StitchFix review

Another pattern. I do like this one, and the back is a cute racerback with a solid blue section. (I didn’t show it because I had massive cupping marks.) I guess it’s kind of U-neck, but I don’t love the cut or the pattern.

Steve: “This might be the only thing I’ve ever liked.” WHAT!?

41 HAWTHORN Arlinda Textured Dress ($68)

StitchFix review

You can’t really tell, but this is black with a dark purple pattern. I’m okay with a pattern on the dress, but this is very dark for summer weddings. It’s cute, but not sure if it’s cute enough.

Steve: “PURPLE RAIN, PURPLE RAAAAAAAAAIN!” (I’m laughing because he was singing.)

LE LIS ZULA DRESS ($64)

StitchFix review

My eyes are dizzy just looking at this. #1 – Pattern. #2 – Heavy, not summery. #3 – Not really nice enough for a wedding. #4 – Crew neck!

Steve: “Why do they also keep sending you stuff that looks like you’re a zebra or in prison? I don’t get it.”

DOE & RAE Aliza Knit Textured Dress ($68)

StitchFix review

THIS DRESS IS SO HEAVY AND SHORT WITH A CREW NECK AND NOT AT ALL SUMMERY WTF

I think Steve mumbled something along the lines of LL Bean making this.

Guys. This sucks. I’ve loved SF SO MUCH, but these last two Fixes make it hard to not pull the plug. What say you?

2 (more!) days in Paris: The college roommate edition

paris cover

Steve and I only had one full day in Paris last fall, so when we learned we were going back to London, I booked a train to Paris for two days. I planned to take in the sights and sounds solo, but by good fortune, my college roommate, Natalie, who is currently traveling the world, was in Western Europe at the same time. She and her traveling friend, Katy, were able to arrange their schedules to join me for two days in Paris!

(Just want to know my thoughts on certain places? Look for the BOLD words. Just want general tips/observations? Skip to the end.)

Day 1: Crazy travel, my Airbnb, Montmartre, sunset at the Eiffel Tower

In the US, you show up 5 minutes before Amtrak leaves, hop on the train, and you’re set. Eurostar used to be like that, but what I took as a suggestion to arrive 30 min before your train is actually a requirement now. Oops.

After missing Train #1, I paid to get on the next train, went right through security, and stopped dead in my tracks. I’d forgotten my passport in the hotel safe. SERIOUSLY!? At this point, looking back, I’m glad that I was meeting Natalie because otherwise, I likely would’ve thrown in the towel. Instead, I hopped on the Tube back to the hotel, back on the Tube, and paid AGAIN to change my ticket.

After all of that, I was on my way to Paris! I easily found my Airbnb just 5 minutes from the train station and met Sandra and her husband and daughter. (It was my fist time staying with others!) They were all lovely and not at all intrusive; I just came and went as I pleased. (They were also kind enough to let me come early to drop my bag and held it for me the next day so I didn’t have to lug it around Paris.)

Natalie and I had been messaging and sent each other THE EXACT SAME PLACE to meet in Montmartre (eerie), La Cave Gourmande, which didn’t feel too touristy. It was SO crazy to walk around the corner to see one of my closest friends running toward me; we hugged and I said, “I cannot believe that we’re seeing each other — IN PARIS.” It was all a little surreal.

IMG_4735

Katy and Natalie told me all of the tales of their amazing travels while we had some red wine and a light lunch. We popped into a few shops and I took them to see Sacre Coeur, the beautiful chapel overlooking the city that Steve and I visited in the fall. We walked through the church and wandered the streets, in awe of the gorgeous old homes and shops.

IMG_4755

IMG_4757

As we passed Montmartre Cemetery, I asked, “Sooo, how do you guys feel about cemeteries?” Cemeteries in Europe are totally different; they’re really pieces of sculptural art combined with parks. (Remember San Miniato in Florence?) Luckily, they were totally into it. We checked out the map and saw that Degas was buried there, so we set out to find it. After a lot of walking/getting a little lost, we found it.

IMG_4765

IMG_4767

We found a metro station and took it south so that we could go to the Eiffel Tower. There was a lot of security because of the Euros (soccer), but we got through quickly and hiked the 669 steps to the second platform for an unreal view of the city. We bought wine and settled in for the sunset, which didn’t happen until almost 10pm.

IMG_4802

Since Natalie and Katy were staying in the 17th, we went back to Montmarte for dinner. It was almost 11pm, so options were more limited, but we settled on Cafe Marcel. I indulged on a dinner of only red wine, bread, and cheese after walking more than 14 miles … and IT. WAS. AMAZING.

Day 2: The D’Orsay, Luxembourg Garden, Notre Dame, Marché des Enfants Rouges

I struggled to wake up on my second day in Paris; my loft was SO HOT and the bed was not the most comfortable, so I only got a few hours of sleep. I grabbed a croissant at a local boulangerie and  met up with Natalie and Katy at the D’Orsay Museum after a bit of a detour due to a flooded metro station. We enjoyed it, but were sad that several areas we wanted to see were closed for renovations.

IMG_4818

IMG_4819

I can’t recall where we had lunch; it was a small cafe on an adorable street in St. Germain des Pres. I knew that we were close to Luxembourg Gardens and it was a gorgeous day; I really wanted Katy and Natalie to see it. The park was packed and kids were out with the push boats; it was really idyllic.

IMG_4828

IMG_4837IMG_4835

The one thing that I really wanted to do was see inside Notre Dame; Steve and I were only able to walk past it last year. We waited in a pretty quick line to check out the (free!) 800+-year-old church. The French-Gothic architecture is absolutely amazing and Katy gave me a quick religion lesson so I’d better understand the purpose of the different areas. Between my love of art history and architecture, I was in complete awe the whole time. The line for the towers was pretty long and I had to be back at my Airbnb by 5pm to get my bag and catch the train back to London, so we skipped it — but next time!

IMG_4868

IMG_4856

We walked through le Marais neighborhood; now see why my friend Emily always stays there. It had such a cool, young vibe and so many great shops and restaurants. (I’ll definitely be staying there next time.) We checked out Marché des Enfants Rouges, Paris’ oldest covered market, which was mostly closed at 4pm but looked like a great place to grab lunch.

I said my goodbyes and was on the 6pm train, back in time to have dinner with Steve in London!

General tips/observations

  • Plan for security! After recent terrorist attacks, the UK and EU have really ramped up security.
  • Take a chance on a shared Airbnb. It was easy, I was barely there, and it cost so little.
  • As always: Walk. The metro is great, but walking allows you to see so much more.
  • Remember your passport😉

Would I go back?

While I had the most amazing time with Natalie and Katy, Paris didn’t enchant me as much as it did the first time. It felt a little dirtier, a little grittier. That said, walking through Le Marais made me realize how much I haven’t seen (and how much I want to spend time in that neighborhood), so I definitely plan to go back to take in more of what Paris has to offer.

4 (more!) days in London: Southwark, Notting Hill, Chelsea, Shoreditch

4 days

When Steve heard on the day we returned from Turks & Caicos that he’d be going back to London for a week for work, I WAS SO EXCITED. I loved London in the fall and was so excited to see it in the spring. While I was in the city, I’d be working remotely, so I chose three different neighborhoods to spend time in while working: Notting Hill, Chelsea, and Shoreditch.

I was also really excited because Steve and I didn’t have a day together in London last year,  so to fly there together and have all day Sunday (and dinner some evenings) was a big plus.

(Just want to know my thoughts on certain places? Look for the BOLD words. Just want general tips/observations? Skip to the end.)

Day 1: Spitalfields Market, St. Dunstan-in-the-East, St. Katharine Docks, Butler’s Wharf, Bermondsey St in Southwark

After an easy flight and quick ride on the Heathrow Express (which I highly recommend) and then using the HailO app (no sponsorship — it was just awesome!), we were at the Grange Tower Bridge, just north of the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge, both of which I visited last fall. It was a great location, much closer to things that stayed open in the evening, unlike our previous hotel. We set off to get lunch at Spitalfields Market, which was bustling. We perused the stalls and I picked up a cute dress. We grabbed chicken naan wraps at Scarlet Grill, which were so messy but so good.

london

After lunch, we walked a good distance to St. Dunstan-in-the-East, a church from 1100 that had been destroyed during the London fire and the blitz of WWII. The old structure is now a small park and was so gorgeous. Then we walked to St. Katharine Docks (which I was excited about since they spell Katharine like my Katharine!) The marina is a gorgeous mix of old and new with lots of shops and restaurants. It’s so cool to know that places like this have been around for 1000+ years.

london2

We crossed the Tower Bridge to Butler’s Wharf, one of many wharfs along the River Thames. It’s also converted to mixed use space and made for a gorgeous walk. (The area is also called Shad Thames, if you’re researching.) From there, we went to Bermondsey Street in Southwark (not pronounced SOUTH-WARK — it’s SOWTHERK.) Southwark is a cool up-and-coming neighborhood, home to Borough Market, the Tate, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

I wanted to go to Jose on Bermondsey, but they were closed, so we walked the street, checked out the shops, and ended up at Woolpack for a drink before dinner. EVERYONE was having the Sunday roast and hanging out on the back patio, which was soaked in sun — abnormal for London. (Steve had a really good IPA here, Beavertown Brewery Neck Oil, which was light and kind of floral.) We decided on Garrison Public House for dinner, where I had an amazing beetroot gnocchi with watercress, cashews, and Brie sauce, and Steve had the fish and chips. (I stole his mushy peas — YUM.) (Also, it’s listed as pretty expensive, but it wasn’t at all.)

Jet lag was kicking in hard core, so we walked back over the bridge and passed out by like 11pm.

Day 2: Southwark Park, Notting Hill, Kensington Palace, Commercial Street Tavern, and Hawksmoor

Seen on my run

Seen on my run

I vowed that if I took up space with running stuff when packing, I was going to go. I set off early over the Tower Bridge, along Butler’s Wharf to Southwark Park. I got a little lost looping through and ended up doing 5 awesome sightseeing miles.

I hopped on the Tube and went to Notting Hill to Granger & Co, which Casey recommended. I had wifi, an outlet, and an excellent acai bowl and avocado toast. Oh, and tea! Of course. Perfect to knock out a few hours of work.

During lunch, I walked along Portobello Road to check out the market, which was less impressive than I thought. I guess it was a Monday, so it wasn’t as lively, but it was kind of standard vendors.

I set up office #2 at Continental Pantry, which had a very cool vibe and good food. (I loved my prosciutto and fig sandwich and chocolate croissant.) The cafe had colorful couches, quirky lighting, and was quiet for the afternoon. After work, I went to Kensington Palace, which was closing the last time I went. I was so sad that the newest section about Diana and more recent royals was closed, but I still loved seeing the palace and thinking that I was SO CLOSE to the royal family. (British police, I don’t mean that in a creepy way.)

Kate stood in this exact spot the VERY NEXT DAY

Kate stood in this exact spot the VERY NEXT DAY

After a quick stop at Zara (of course) and a bike ride through Hyde Park (because who can resist?), I met up with Steve to go to dinner. We stopped for drinks at Commercial Tavern, which is such a cool place. I had a massive gin & tonic (they have a whole G&T menu!) and couldn’t stop looking at the space. It was kind of like grandma’s house, if grandma was super cool and hip and fun.

Dinner was at Hawksmoor Spitalfields, which I was told is THE place to go for steak in London. I don’t eat red meat, but Steve does, and he throughly enjoyed it. I attacked another plate of pasta — ricotta dumplings with spring veggies — and loved it. We split (aka I ate 92% of) THE MOST AMAZING DESSERT, the sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream. I don’t know what the hell clotted cream is, but this dessert is SO FREAKING GOOD. I could smell the chocolate and toffee as soon as we walked in and salivated every time I saw someone order it.

Day 3: Groupon UK, Natural History Museum, Chelsea/South Kensington

On Tuesday morning, I got in another run along St. Katharine Docks to Wrapping, lucky to have another gorgeous day on the water.

Before I left, my colleague put me in touch with the Groupon UK comm team, so I stopped by the office to meet them. They have an amazing view of the Thames and it was awesome to hear what they’re working on and similarities/differences between Europe and the US.

london5

Before I went to my next coffee shop, I stopped at the Natural History Museum to see the architecture. It’s mind-blowing to see these structures and imagine how they created them. I walked through South Kensington to Chelsea and set up shop at L’etto Caffe, where they kindly let me hog the outlet. I had a gorgeous egg white omelette with spinach & tomatoes with sourdough toast.

I had to check out the shops on King Street and at Duke of York Square, but quickly realized I couldn’t afford to shop at any of them. It started raining and I had to get on a call, so I ducked into Polpo, a cute Italian place. One thing I love about Europe is that because the countries are so close, you’re getting a guy who is actually from Italy running the place. The broad bean, mint and ricotta bruschetta was so good, even though it sounds kind of weird.

Dinner that night was at Dickens Inn at St. Katharine Docks, which had reasonably good wood-fired pizza, but the service was pretty terrible. I had to be up early and it was close, so it worked.

Day 4: Shoreditch: The Book Club, Redchurch Street, BoxPark

Maybe not cocktail time ... yet

Maybe not cocktail time … yet

Day 4 was actually two days after Day 3, with a quick trip to Paris in between, which I’ll post about soon. Since the day was a little shorter because of travel to Amsterdam, I stayed in the area and hung out in Shoreditch. How could I resist a place called The Book Club?? There are no books inside, so I’m not sure where the name came from, but it was great food and a perfect work space. (I wanted to swap out the poached eggs for scrambled egg whites, which was very difficult for them to understand, but they got it.)

IMG_4906

With the little time that I had, I ventured to Redchurch Street, a great shopping area, and stopped at Labour & Wait, which I’m fairly certain is the most Instagram’d shop in London. It’s so cute and the owners were really nice. I popped into a few more places and then checked out BoxPark, an awesome former shipping container turned into shops and restaurants. The top is all food and drinks and the bottom are basically micro shops.

IMG_4915

Off to Amsterdam! (But the Paris post will come first.)

General tips/observations

  • Definitely take the Heathrow Express to/from the airport. Taking a cab is SO expensive and takes forever.
  • The sun DOES shine in London! It was sunny and in the 70s almost the whole time we were there.
  • The chip credit cards are good, but the US is still lagging. Apparently now people can just wave their cards and enter a PIN. They immediately know you’re from the US when you put in a chip card.
  • Walk as much as possible. There are so many things to see, and it’s easiest to see them by foot.
  • There were these gorgeous wood and fabric chairs in Hyde Park, by the lake. There were about 50 of them — with no security. Nothing tying them down. And no one took them. They’d be gone in a second in the US.
  • People are baffled by Trump. I’ll leave it at that.

Would I go back?

Remember how I wasn’t super excited to go to London the first time and then ended up loving it? I love it even more now. Obsessed.