Alicante Left Me Sunburnt

I’ve been hooked on the new Jason Mraz album “Love is a Four Letter Word” for the past couple of weeks now. There is one song, Everything Is Sound, that has the lyric: You don’t need a vacation when there is nothing to escape from. For better or for worse, that’s how it felt when it came to my so-called vacation to Alicante, Spain. While I was longing for sand and sun more than a Chipotle burrito (and that’s pretty serious), I was not necessarily eager to escape from the stresses of work and the city simply because they rarely exist. However, at times like this, I constantly remind myself I am living the dream right now, life will never be this easy and I need to enjoy it while I can. So that is what led me here:

Hello Alicante!

I got a great deal on a flight thanks to the opening of Iberia Express. I spent Friday relaxing on the beach by myself, reading Spanish Cosmo and snacking on finds from a local market. That afternoon, I made my way up to an old castle that overlooked the city and had stunning views.

Like this.

That night, I was joined by Anna and her friend Chelsea who is visiting from the United States. We checked out some tapas bars in El Barrio and rested up for the next day. We resided at one of the best hostels I have ever experienced. It was in a great location and had an amazing rooftop terrace with excellent views of the city and castle. We never cooked in the large kitchen but I did make friends with an old German man who let me try his delicious dinners both nights since my reading time on the terrace happened to coincide perfectly with his dinnertime (funny how those things work out).

I could live on this rooftop.

Saturday we went a little further out of the city center to a beach called San Juan that was longer and a bit nicer. We all left burnt and very sandy, but relaxed nevertheless. That night we had pizza on the terrace before going to a couple tapas bars. I cashed in early because I had to leave for my flight at five in the morning! One of the “perks” of cheap flights is that they usually leave at awful times but c’est la vie.

Although it was only two days, it was perfect because I am not sure I could have handled another day in the sun. Unfortunately my body is no longer accustomed to a year round tan like it used to be living in Miami.

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Doing Damage in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of those cities I always knew I wanted to go to but without real reason. With time ticking away, I only have a few more weekends to squeeze in all the trips I want to do and made this one a priority. When a group of my friends mentioned they wanted to organize a visit, I made sure to jump on that ship quickly and before I knew it, we had flights and hostels booked for (yet another) long weekend in April. We spent four nights there and, while I could have spent more, it definitely wore this girl out.

Typical Amsterdam

I heard Indonesian food was a must-eat in Amsterdam (if someone could let me know why, I’d appreciate it). Indo-restaurant Kantjil & de Tijger was our first stop after our hostel for a late dinner. It could have been our ravenous hunger from the long trip, but the typical meal of rijsttaffel was amazing. You basically get a few bowls of rice and a bunch of little plates with different types of meat and veggies with delicious sauce ladled on top. We literally scraped every last plate clean.

Our fraternity-house-like hostel, The Bulldog, was conveniently situated in the midst of the Red Light District. I really did not know what to expect from this part of town, as everyone I talked to before the trip would try to change the subject as quickly as possible. Now I know why and will proceed to do the same… It’s definitely just something you need to see.

We were also around the corner from Dam Square

The next morning, we hopped on a  SANDEMANs NEW Europe tour. If you have never been on one of these, they are definitely worth checking out. It is basically a free tour led by really cool people working for your tips. They offer them in cities all over (including here in Madrid!) Plugs aside, we got lucky with our guide, a Dutch-Canadian girl who ended up becoming our best friend. After the three-hour walking tour all around the city, she hooked us up with a two-hour canal tour which she also came on (I think she was happy for the company). We were able to eat, drink, and blast music while navigating all the canals. We proceeded to go to a bar with her after too, leading her to declare this that it was the longest tour she ever gave. We decided to relieve her of her duties after that.

On the boat with our tour guide, Lee

The next day we began at the Anne Frank Museum, which was really great, especially since I am in the middle of reading the Diary of Anne Frank. After a quick stop through the Noordermarkt, a food and flea market, we had a delicious lunch in a hole-in-the-wall cafe where I got a slice of appeltaart!

All it needed was a scoop of ice cream

Next, we went to the Rijksmuseum and saw some masterpieces although the main building is under construction until next year. We ended up right in front of the infamous sign.

Should say "I amsterdam"

A favorite street food of Amsterdam is one of my favorite anytime foods: french fries. They serve them piping hot in paper cones and offer an array of sauces. Their specialty? Mayo. I was skeptical at first but it’s not the same white stuff we can find jarred stateside.

French fry heaven.

The next day we headed to The Hague, the capital of South Holland and a city that has a lot of political significance for the Netherlands. We had a leisurely lunch in a plaza, walked around the city, and saw the Peace Palace, the home of the International Court of Justice.

Peace Palace garden

Before heading back the hostel, we stopped for more waffles and pancakes at the fair in Dam Square. I could eat these all day every day.

Words cannot describe

The next 24 hours requires some back story. About two months ago when we first booked this trip, we were not quite sure why it was nearly impossible to find hostels. Turns out Monday was the biggest holiday of Amsterdam- Queensday, commemorating the birthday of the Queens mother (since the Queens birthday is on a cold day in January). It begins Sunday night, appropriately called Queensnight. We spent that night with a mixture of young kids from all over the world in the crowded streets of the city until the party continued the next day.

It all led to this...

And this.

Everyone wears orange all day, drinks, rides on boats, and sells an array of things in the street. It was such a cool and different celebration to witness. We walked around until we had to catch our airplane back (absolutely exhausted) to Madrid that night.

From a bike ride to the windmills and brewery tours, to more daytrips and city exploring, I could spend weeks in Amsterdam. I’m glad I got a glimpse of the city this past weekend though. It was definitely a relief being able to speak English to everyone and the Dutch people were remarkably kind.

Next weekend I will finally get some sun in the Spanish beach town of Alicante! Until then, I have Cinco de Mayo to celebrate and La Carrera de La Mujer to run on Sunday. It’s our equivalent of Race for the Cure and there are 22,000 women participating. Can’t wait!