Last food post, we promise! (Maybe)

Monday night Cam and I ventured out on our own in search of more tapas. We headed for one of our favorite areas: the street leading to La Giralda and the cathedral.

20130703-151557.jpg Because why would you want to look at anything else while you eat?

We chose one of the many tapas bars lining the street and got to work.

This time our meal included aguacate relleno (stuffed avocado), tortilla (Spanish omelet), a plate of manchego cheese and jamon serrano, some grilled mushrooms and Portuguese spinach. Yet another fantastic dinner in Sevilla.

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After dinner we took a stroll past the cathedral and on to Cerveceria Internacional. This Mecca of beer was somewhere we visited often during our semester here. It was great to be back.

We tried four different beers:

20130703-152136.jpg Aventinus Weizen Eisbock, Germany, 12 % , incredibly dark and heavy, really deep fruit flavors, strong plum flavor.

20130703-152318.jpgLa Trappe Quadruple, The Netherlands, 10% , Cameron’s favorite, strong banana flavor, it’s strange to say but it’s almost better if you let it warm up a bit because then it’s not as fizzy and the banana flavor shows through even more.

20130703-152609.jpgLa Fruta Prohibida, Belgium, 9 %, very fruity, orange flavor. Came highly recommended to us by our friend JD.

20130703-152754.jpgSt. bernardus Abt 12, Belgium, 10.5%, Kelly’s favorite. It was recommended by the bartender. It had the most amazing smell, almost chocolatey. Thick and rich and so delicious.

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My favorite meal of this visit to Sevilla was Tuesday’s lunch. Simple seafood paella, a ración of cola de torro (ox tail) and patatas bravas. Again we ate next to the cathedral (you just can’t beat that view) and we even had some unexpected lunch companions!

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The food adventures continue..

Monday afternoon John and Maria were set to head to Lagos, Portugal. We considered going with them but in the end we decided we just didn’t have enough time and there was still much of Sevilla that we wanted to revisit.

But before the pair set off, we all decided to grab lunch at Phoenix, a pub in Plaza de Cuba, right near the popular Calle Betis. During our semester in Spain, Phoenix was a place our group frequented for drinks, especially cider, because they always had several brands on tap. However, we’d never eaten at Phoenix before so this lunch was something new.

We’d heard from Lexi, a recent summer study abroad student, that the nachos at Phoenix were excellent so we had to give them a try. We’d also been craving a true Spanish burger and Phoenix had just what we were looking for.

See, over here they don’t do burgers like we do back home. The veggies and sauce toppings are pretty much the same, but the Spaniards like to add a thick slice of ham and – my favorite- a fried egg on top of their burgers. We totally fell in love with this way of doing burgers (how could you not?) and we’d been craving one since we left two years ago.

Phoenix Pub’s version was phenomenal.

20130703-145851.jpgIt may not look like much but the taste will blow you away.

20130703-154100.jpgLa montaña de nachos was a great recommendation although not as good as Chimy’s.

The walk back to the hotel was perfect as well. Some of my favorite views of Sevilla are from Calle Betis, looking out across the river. Enjoy.

20130703-150246.jpg Puente de Triana.

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20130703-150354.jpg Torre de Oro.

Holy TAPAS!

If it seems like all we’ve been doing in Sevilla is eating tapas and drinking A LOT, it’s only because well, all we’ve been doing in Sevilla is eating tapas and drinking. A LOT.

Sunday night our wonderful amigo Fran picked up Cam and myself, and John and Maria and drove us out to Dos Hermanas, a suburb area just outside of Sevilla.

Our first stop was a posh, all-white couches, lounge bar with hookah and fancy cocktails. We shared some “double apple hookah” and John ordered the largest piña colada I’ve ever seen.

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After a round of hookah and drinks the American’s appetites were ravenous. Our Spanish companions scoffed at the prospect of eating SO early (it was almost 10) but we had to get something in our stomachs…besides hookah and alcohol that is.

Fran showed us to a small tapas bar with a patio three times the size of the bar itself. We pulled some tables together and got ready for the onslaught of tapas to come. Fran and his beautiful girlfriend, Miriam, ordered us a myriad of traditional fare, all of which was the perfect size for sampling.

20130703-144136.jpg Quiche with a pickled vegetable medley on the side. (Sorry it’s so dark.)

20130703-144249.jpg Two pork dishes- solomillo al whiskey and solomillo al mostaza: pork in a whiskey sauce and pork in a mustard sauce.

20130703-144432.jpg Tres montaditos variados.

20130703-144547.jpg “Brochetas” – kabobs, one with chicken stuffed with salmon and one with seared duck. So amazing.

20130703-144645.jpg Tuna steak.

20130703-144807.jpg Our host for the evening, Fran, and his girlfriend Miriam.

Our meal was, of course, washed down with plenty of wine and beer. After dinner Fran took us to a neighborhood ice cream shop where I had some walnut ice cream (my fave) and Cam stuck to the basics with a plain vanilla cone.

We thought we’d already seen all Sevilla had to offer and that our time here would just be spent reminiscing and reliving our experience two years prior. Thanks to Fran we were able to discover a part of Sevilla we never would have otherwise. Dos Hermanas was a cute little neighboring town and a great experience!

THIS ONE’S FOR OUR SPAINERS

For those of you who don’t know, Cameron and I met while studying abroad in Sevilla nearly 2 1/2 years ago.

While there, we didn’t just fall in love with each other. We fell in love with this city, it’s culture and most importantly, the amazing people we studied with.

It was easily the best time of our lives, and we still see Sevilla as our “home” albeit a second home.

Upon first arriving in Sevilla, I cried.

I stepped out of the train station and caught my first glimpse of the city in two years…and cried again.

We passed by our favorite cafe, where we went to school and walked down familiar streets and there were more tears. The whole time.
(I really am my mother’s daughter.)

I regained composure quickly though. Tears turned into laughter and just an overall giddiness that I haven’t been able to shake yet. I’m sure you’ve felt that before: when you’re so happy and excited about something you’re almost nervous in a way, your stomach is in knots but you’ve got a huge stupid grin that you cannot wipe off your face.

It’s surreal being back. Every memory, all the wonderful emotions we felt living here, all came back so easily. As did our Spanish, thankfully!

On our walk from the train station to our hotel we saw Donna Wright (Tech study abroad coordinator) leading a group of students on orientation (n00bs). We waved her down and she let us into the center. Talk about a surreal experience. The center is where we had our classes and spent most of free time (when we weren’t at the Rio). At the center we were introduced to Austin Wheeler, a new coordinator for the program, or at least new to us (he’s actually been with the program for a long time, he just wasn’t here when we studied). We were also reunited with fellow Spainer Kelsie Aziz, or Kaziz for short. It’s amazing to be back here but it’s even more special to share it with someone who was here with us 2 years ago and lived through all that we did. So much reminiscing followed.

Kelsie’s younger sister Lexi just finished up a summer session so the four of us went to dinner at a tapas bar and then set out to enjoy the wonderful nightlife of Sevilla.

A few things have changed since our time; apparently Calle Betis and Alfalfa are no longer the “cool” spots to go out at night, instead the recent groups gathered near the mushrooms, which had yet to be completed when we were here. The following changes might make some of you very sad, so proceed with caution:

1. The bocadillo lady is no more. Her little bocadillo shop that brought happiness to so many of us in the form of a simple sandwich was bought out by La Pintarra (the bodega where we’d often get coffee). Which brings us to change number 2.

2. La Pintarra, which to some was known as the place to get tostada con marmalada, or coffee, to others as the wine bar with 70 cent wine and to Dilyn as the place to get jamon Serrano sandwiches, has now expanded to include more dining area. Happy for La Pintarra, sad for the bocadillo lady. Also the wine is no longer 70 cents, it’s now 1 euro.

3. Cafe Dharte where Joe worked and where we all had multiple tostadas and coffee per day, the place which quickly became known as “juandi’s bar” is NO LONGER OWNED BY JUANDI’S PARENTS. Devastating. But it will still always be “Juandi’s Bar” in my heart.

Despite these tragic changes, for the most part Sevilla feels largely the same. It still our amazing, beautiful little city. Except it’s way too hot at the end of June to spend a day drinking by the rio, sadly.

We’re about to meet up with Fran and John Lillegraven (more SPAINERS)! We’ll update with more pictures and tales of Sevilla later, but here’s what we’ve got so far:

20130629-213502.jpg The completed mushrooms (not the proper name).

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20130629-213612.jpgThe famed “circle bridge” all lit up at night.

20130629-213716.jpgI don’t ever want to see anything else on a man hole cover again.

20130629-213658.jpg The Aziz sisters, Juandi, The Nomadic Duo (hehe) and Austin.

20130629-213910.jpgTHE MOST BEAUTIFUL SIGHT YOU EVER DID SEE.

20130629-213942.jpgThe BEST place for cheap montaditos. Thought of Brant, JD, Stumbles and Nick the entire time we ate.

20130629-214040.jpgThe montadito bar also has great paella! Who knew!

So we miss all our Spainers dearly. It truly isn’t the same without you guys. Thank you all for being amazing friends and making it so special to come back here. Special thanks to the Aziz sisters, Austin and Juandi for making our first night back such a memorable one.

We love Sevilla and this won’t be our last Sevilla post.

For now,

Kelly and Cameron

Barcelona Beach Day

After Paris it was back to Barcelona and we’d officially come full-circle. We started our journey in Barcelona on May 21st and now it’s almost over, close to six weeks later.

But it’s not over yet! Sevilla still awaits us after Barcelona.

We were totally drained from our backpacking adventures and having already been to Barcelona twice before, we decided our third visit should consist solely of relaxing on the beach. It was perfect.

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We met up with Cam’s good friend Mason who is studying in Barcelona and just enjoyed the beach and the sun. A little too much sun maybe, as we both got sunburnt. After our relaxing day, Mason showed us a popular Barcelona bar called L’Ovela Negra (black sheep) where we watched the Spain vs. Italy game and participated in the subsequent celebration after Spain won. It was a fantastic one-day stay in Barcelona and the perfect way to prepare for our impending return home, to Sevilla.

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From here on out our posts won’t be about discovering anything new but instead we’ll be reliving the glory of our study abroad days in Sevilla. We’re so excited to share the experience of returning to a city we love and cherish so much.

Thank you all for accompanying us on our crazy backpacking journey, but the fun isn’t over yet. In fact, in our minds the best is yet to come!

Our second missed-train

We had made our reservations for our train back to Barcelona the moment we first arrived in Paris, three days before we’d be leaving for our next destination. So we had known all along when we needed to leave and how we should plan our time accordingly.

But did we do that?

Of course not.

The day we’re set to leave at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, we decide to sleep in until 12. We hadn’t yet seen the Notre Dame and this was something I HAD to see. My own parents went to Paris on their honeymoon and as my mom tells it, when she first glimpsed Notre Dame she sat down on a bench and cried. (It runs in the family, I totally cry at the sight of beautiful things, too.)

So we set out with just an hour before our train leaves to go see Notre Dame and then continue on to the train station. The metro system in Paris is confusing and we had to make several changes and there isn’t a stop particularly close to Notre Dame so we had to walk a ways to get there. Before we even got off the metro we were both doubting whether we actually had time to see it. We didn’t heed our own warnings however and just kept on toward the cathedral.

Well, we saw it. And it was pretty dang beautiful.

We also missed our train. And that was a pretty dang big mess.

But hey, it happens. That’s life and that’s traveling. We got to take another night train, which is something we love so much (see: The Night(mare) Train). We still made it to Barcelona and the train even had Cruzcampo. Something we’ve been deprived of for two years. So all-in-all missing our train was not the worst thing that could’ve happened. We won’t be doing it again anytime soon though.

That’s all for now. Here are some pictures of the Notre Dame (it was kind of a dreary day).

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Paris Part Dieu

Our second full day in Paris was actually spent in Versailles.

We successfully woke up early (we haven’t been able to wake up before 9 for the last 6 weeks) with the hope that we could make it out to Versailles before the line to the palace got too ridiculously long. Turns out if you want to wait in a “short” line for Versailles you should probably just go the night before and camp out there.

This place is just a ridiculous people magnet. I thought the Louvre was crowded…but this was on a whole new level of crowded-ness. Like Christmas time at the air port or Saturday at a Six Flags. The line was over three hours long and was just a monstrous, winding snake of people.

We did not wait in it.

Instead we went around to the back where the gardens are and just explored those. Normally the gardens are free but when they have “fountain shows with music” it’s 8 euro to get in. We were expecting maybe like a concert or a cool fountain show with lights, but apparently all “fountain shows with music” really means is “our fountains are turned on and there are some speakers playing pre-recorded classical music, please give us 8 euro.” I was not impressed by this and would therefore suggest going on a day that the gardens actually are “free.” Perhaps Monday is best because the palace is closed so it’s not as crowded.

Getting past the annoying unexpected fees and the swarms of people, we found the gardens were truly magnificent and well worth the trip out to Versailles. The gardens are massive, so large in fact that you can rent bikes or take a small trolley around the different sections. We decided to walk it all like champs. They had some different pieces of art on display including statue works and art installments using tree trunks and branches, all of which were impressive. 20130629-201453.jpgTree trunk art; what does it all mean?

My favorite part of the gardens, besides the swirl cone I got, was the outdoor drawing room. A round, open space, enclosed within trees and concrete columns, the drawing room had a shallow pool of water with a statue of sorts in the middle of a man trying to break out of a pile of rocks. I liked the statue but I also enjoyed this part of the gardens because it was interesting to think that when the palace was still in use it’s inhabitants would come to this area and sit under the sun and draw or sketch. I wanted to bust out my own sketch pad and do just that. 20130629-201842.jpgMan trying to break free from the rocks. 20130629-201915.jpgMy swirl cone. Definitely suggest getting one if you ever go to Versailles.

Kayla, Cameron and I spent nearly 3 hours walking throughout the gardens. We also walked over to Marie Antoinette’s home she had built so she could escape the palace and have a place that was all her own. We are lunch near a big pond where you can rent little boats and fed some ducks. It was a beautiful day and a really enjoyable experience. It would’ve been nice to see the palace but the line was just too heinous. I think the Palace of Versailles is an attraction best enjoyed during the off-season. We highly recommended the gardens though! 20130629-202253.jpg20130629-202312.jpg

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20130629-202330.jpg The line.

20130629-202521.jpgThe palace.

20130629-202531.jpg Gold palace gates.

After Versailles we headed back to the apartment so Kayla could pack up then we saw her off to her plane back to Barcelona. It was a “chill” night for Cameron and I. You really come to miss the ability to just hang out in a comfy living room and watch movies, while eating a meal you cooked yourself. So we took advantage of the opportunity and hung out in our nice Parisian apartment. From Paris it was on to Barcelona and then Sevilla, but that wasn’t without a few hiccups along the way.

We’ll be sure to update more on that later.

Thanks for reading,

Kelly and Cam

Living up to the hype: Paris

So Paris totally lived up to all the hype.

What is it that you always hear about Paris? “It’s beautiful, it’s the city of love, it’s the city of lights, there’s no place like it, etc.” We found all of this to be true and more!

Unfortunately, another common theme when people discuss Paris is the high cost of everything. This held true as well; Paris is the most expensive city we’ve ever been to. So be prepared for that if you ever go! But everything is worth the cost!

Paris Night 1: MY BIRTHDAY! We arrived to Paris much later than expected. Once there we had to venture into a less touristy part of town to find the apartment we were staying at. We rented an apartment through Airbnb, something I highly recommend doing! It ended up being so much cheaper than a hostel or hotel and it was just as nice…if not nicer. We met up with Kayla, the youngest daughter of some close family friends who I’ve known my entire life, and got settled in quickly. Kayla is studying in Barcelona and had some free time to travel and our dates worked out perfectly that we were in Paris at the same time! The three of us set out to see the Sacre Ceour first as it was the closest major attraction to our apartment.

The Sacre Ceour is in Montmarte, a well-known part of Paris. This area is also home to the famous Moulin Rouge. The Sacre Ceour was a beautiful cathedral atop a large hill so the nice architectural views were accompanied with views of the city as well.

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20130628-104854.jpg It was pretty hazy but you can see the Eiffel Tower! On a clear day I’m sure the views from Sacre Ceour would be even more spectacular than when we were there. We still thought they were pretty great though!

From there we headed to the Eiffel Tower! It’s lit up at night and every hour, on the hour, it “glitters” for a solid five minutes. As such, the Eiffel Tower is definitely something you want to see both during the day and at night.

20130628-105135.jpgFirst glimpse through the trees, it truly took my breath away.

20130628-105152.jpgBottle of champagne, glittering Eiffel Tower, 23rd birthday successsss!

Day 2 in Paris we had set aside to take on the Louvre. A whole day to see one museum, you ask? Yes. It’s crowded. So crowded. Set aside the better part of a day if you want to see a decent portion.

Best advice we’ve received on this entire trip was to go into the Louvre from underneath, through the metro. That was our main form of transport anyways so that worked out. If you go in underneath there is virtually no line. Come in through the top, outside, you could wait up to two hours!

So we got in pretty easily and headed straight for the Mona Lisa. Again, so many people. I don’t do well with swarming masses. Especially when they’re all shoving each other, completely unaware of anyone but themselves, trying to catch a glimpse of a painting. My advice would be to stand on your toes at the back of the crowd and get the best view that you can and then go see the rest of the amazing art the Louvre has to offer.

20130628-105951.jpg The Mona Lisa is behind there somewhere….

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20130628-110100.jpg As if the crowd wasn’t bad enough, there’s ladies (and men too) like this who have to turn around and snap 10 photos of themselves with the Mona Lisa in the background. (Can you sense my annoyance??)

The rest of the Louvre was really nice, especially the Ancient Egypt wing. This wing includes the Code of Hammurabi and the Colossal Statue of Ramesses II. Very, very cool.

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The area outside of the Louvre and then the Champs Eleysees (the long street beginning at the Louvre and ending at the Arc de Triomphe) are both attractions as notable as the Louvre. The close proximity makes them the most obvious things to see after the Louvre, unless you want to hit up another museum immediately after. For us, 5 hours in the Louvre was enough for one day. So, we headed on down the Champs Élysées toward the Arc.

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We’ll update on the remaining days in Paris and our trip to Versailles in another post. Right now were currently running late to catch a train to Sevilla!!!

Thanks for reading,

Kelly and Cameron

Belgium: Brussels, Bruges, and the Best Beer.

When we first started this trip, Belgium was one of the places I was most excited about, and Amsterdam was the one city I wasn’t as excited about. In Belgium, I expected a clean, quaint and beautiful country with everybody drinking the greatest beer in the world (because I think Belgian style Abbey and Trappist beers are the best beers in the world because I’m a bit of a beer snob). On the other hand, I wasn’t as excited about the Netherlands and what Amsterdam would bring as Amsterdam had such a reputation about it, I had made up my mind that the city would be dirty, dark and dank, and all of the tourist/citizens would just be going there because of the coffeeshops and red light district or any of the other devilish delights that Amsterdam has to offer.

Well, as you might have guessed, my opinions were unfounded and wrong. Amsterdam was clean, relaxed, friendly, and nothing I expected it to be. I loved it. But with Brussels (that’s where we spent the vast majority of our time in Belgium), the opposite was true. While the part about the beer was mostly true (the Delirium Cafe was fantastic, and I really really wish there was one in my neighborhood selling over 2,500 beers from around the world), the rest of Brussels was, on the whole, dirty, disappointing, and so overwhelmed with immigrants that both Kelly and I couldn’t get a sense of a Belgian national identity. While it seems like a trivial or stupid bone to pick, in each of the 8 different countries that we had been to thus far, each had a specific national identify. Whether it was it’s language, look, food, countryside, coffeeshops or world war history. But when we got to our 9th country, Belgium, there really wasn’t anything specific to distance it from any other country or make it unique (except beer maybe).

But even if it was a little dirty and the majority of its inhabitants were immigrants/gypsies, don’t think that Brussels isn’t a city worth visiting and without great things to see or do. I already mentioned one of the greatest “bars,” the Delirium Cafe which is basically its own street with several different bars such as the original Delirium Care, Hoppy Loft, Delirium Monastarium, and Tequila House that had over 500 tequilas from around the world. In addition, the Grand Place was beautiful and the “Mannequin Pis” (a fountain of a naked little boy peeing) that has become a symbol and source of pride for the city of Brussels was entertaining if not all that underwhelming.
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20130628-103347.jpg That’s the little boy peeing statue. See what we mean about underwhelming?

The best attraction we saw by far was on the edge of the city. The Atomium. A relic of the World Expo that was held in Brussels in 1956 (or something) that was too popular to remove, the Atomium is a 95 meter tall massive model of a collection of atoms. In each of the different balls (“atoms”) are lookout points, restaurants, and other great things all connected by lit up passage ways that you can walk through with a main large restaurant in the top atom/ball. We didn’t have the time/patience/money to go up in it, but the awe inspiring sight of it from the outside was good enough. If you’re ever in Brussels, you’ve gotta make the subway trek out to it (its not very far).

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So after two nights in Brussels, the original plan was to head over to Bruges for a night. Unfortunately, we had completely forgotten to book where we would stay in Bruges in the scramble to figure out where we would stay in Paris. So we compromised and stayed in our nice “hostel” for another night and decided to take advantage of our Eurail Passes and take the free 45 minute train over to Bruges and spend the day walking around the picturesque town. Bruges is amazing. Bruges is beautiful. Bruges was exactly what I had imagined and expected all of Belgium to be like. While the weather was not very cooperative, Bruges was the perfect place to spend the day after two in the disappointing city center of Brussels. There’s no better way to talk about Bruges than to let the pictures do the talking.

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All in all, while Belgium was the disappointing part of our trip so far (in my opinion), I’m still really glad we went and if it is ever on the way in your next tour d’Eruopa, go (to Bruges). Our next stop was our most expensive: PARIS!

-Cameron & Kelly

TMA: Too Much Amsterdam.

Oh Amsterdam. *sigh* What do we even say about this city that you all haven’t already dreamt up in your minds, or maybe experienced yourselves on your own visit to this liberal and tolerant place?

I’ll start by saying Amsterdam is a place with many faces. There’s the stereotypical Amsterdam that Hollywood has glorified with movies like Eurotrip. There’s the dark and alluring (and to be frank, somewhat sad) red light district. And past the red lights, there’s the beautiful, clean and quaint Amsterdam held within the parks, bike paths and canals. Each part of Amsterdam exists. All you’ve heard is true. Which side of Amsterdam you see depends on what you’re looking to find. We basically saw it all. Without getting into the gory details, we took at least a small part in all that Amsterdam had to offer. And it was all equally amazing.

However, like anything else, moderation is key. Don’t do Too Much Amsterdam (TMA). Lest you end up like the homeless man in the Vondelpark clutching his box wine and screaming incoherently. He was probably a nice lad back in the 60′s who came to Amsterdam to see what it had to offer…but he had TMA.

But that’s another story. We’d rather not get into all that we did, it’s more fun to let your minds wander. Here are some pictures, though! Enjoy!

20130624-214144.jpgCanals, swans and red lights.

20130624-214540.jpgA wee snack in the Vondelpark.

20130624-214630.jpgBeautiful Vondelpark.

20130624-214727.jpgThis guy again! I had enough of those crazy feet in Munich!

20130624-214838.jpgUhh..how’d this get in here?! At the “Erotic Museum” in the Red Light District. Surprisingly tasteful and informative.

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20130624-215116.jpg Canals at night.

So that was Amsterdam! It’s a truly amazing city, whether you want to party or just ride a bike all day and enjoy some wonderful city parks, it satisfies all. It’s at the top of our list with Germany (and Spain of course, but we’re a little biased).

More on Brussels, Brugge and Paris to come! Sorry for our recent hiatus, it won’t happen again. As always, thanks for reading!

-Kelly & Cameron