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Sister Weekend in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Let’s start this blog post with something different, a walk down memory lane…. During my college years I spent 6 months studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain. Following the semester, I set out on a European trip to see a few more cities before heading back home to Texas for the summer. From Sevilla I headed to London, where I met up with college friends for a fun few days of seeing one of my favorite cities.

And then is where I made the mistake – I said bye to my friends and headed to Amsterdam for a solo trip, just me and 100lbs of luggage.

morgan reid_amsterdam

Morgan in Amsterdam, 2009

 

An initially cheap Ryan Air flight turned out to be the opposite of cheap when I paid for my 2 suitcases (6 months worth of stuff!). I arrived in Amsterdam with my bags, but I was so broke I literally couldn’t pay for my 13 euro hostel. My first day in Amsterdam was spent wandering the streets looking for an ATM or store that would give cash-back. Once I finally got into my hostel room, it was filthy and covered with scary signs. Even worse, I had to share my hostel room 9 German men, who didn’t speak a lick of English and were all high as kites if you catch my drift.

All alone in a frightening hostel, starving and with zero euros to my name, I kept myself busy counting down the hours until I could leave for the airport. I HATED Amsterdam.

Which leads me to today’s blog post. When my jetsetting sister invited me on a quick weekend work trip to Amsterdam, all expenses paid, I only momentarily thought back to my PURE HATRED for the city for a few moments before joining the trip. I was excited to give the city a second chance under better circumstances – more than 13 euro in my wallet and with my sister.

We left DC Friday night and landed in Amsterdam Saturday morning. A quick nap later, we hit the road for a quick day of museum viewing, food tasting, and canal wandering. Tickets for the Anne Frank House had sold out for the day, so we headed over to the amazing Van Gogh Museum. No photos were allowed in the museum – so just imagine the two of us oohing and aahhing at some of his most famous work.

After we finished at the museum we walked across to the Rijksmuseum.
Weekend Amsterdam Trip | reidmore

The museum is also home to the famous  IAmsterdam sign, which was literally crawling with people.
Sister Amsterdam weekend trip | Reidmore

Everyone going nuts for a photo with the giant sign.I am amsterdam sign crowds | Reidmore

We moved on from the crowds to find all the beautiful canals. Everything in the city was so photogenic.Amsterdam sister trip | Reidmore

I loved all the bikes lining the canal sidewalks.Amsterdam bikes | ReidmoreAmsterdam sister trip | Reidmore

We wandered through the winding streets and eventually found our way to the main shopping area. shopping in Amsterdam | Reidmore

And food! We were starving at this point so we headed to the first shop we could find. We both scarfed down a nutella-covered waffle and a coffee. Hit the spot.

With some food in our stomachs, Devan asked if we could go find the flower market. Unfortunately the flower market was in winter-mode. Not a ton of fresh flowers, just lots and lots of seeds and bulbs to prepare shoppers for next spring. Even without a lot of fresh blooms, the stores were still beautiful.

tulips in amsterdam flower market | reidmore

I loved the flower market stores, filled with such color.amsterdam flower market | reidmore

If only I had more space to plant the flowers (and more of a green thumb honestly,) I would have brought back some bulbs home with me.

tulip bulbs in amsterdam flower market trip | reidmore

floating flower shop amsterdam canal | reidmore

Vincent was here!

After browsing through the flower market, we stopped into one of the many cheese shops. Apparently the Netherlands are known for gouda cheese, so we did some cheese tasting and picked up a small wheel of gold willig to take home.amsterdam cheese shops | reidmore

Across from the cheese shop we saw a sign that Devan had been looking for all day – “made to order stroopwaffles.” We were full from all our taste testing, but this was the main event of our Amsterdam food tour. We split a hot and fresh stroopwaffle, which was more maple tasting than the caramel flavor we’ve had before. So delicious.fresh stroopwafle amsterdam flower market | reidmore

Next we headed to Dam Square. My solo trip to Amsterdam years ago had coincided with the World Cup, and I remember Dam Square being filled with so many orange-wearing soccer fans. Crazy the things you can still remember from 8+ years ago.

amsterdam vacation | reidmore blog

Devan had one final item on her Amsterdam bucket list – a peek at the infamous red-light district, which seemed to be more popular as a tourist attraction than with locals. After a quick walk past one of the windows, Devan scurried away. She was so creeped out! So we settled for happy hour in the red-light neighborhood, pints of Heineken of course.
sister weekend in amsterdam holland | Reidmore blog

While our weekend in Amsterdam was short, I must admit my mind has been changed. I am grateful I was able to give this charming and historic city a second chance & spend the weekend with my sister. Thanks for the invite, Dev!

FEATURED HOME LIFE

HAPPY 2017: the best is yet to come, we’re engaged!

This holiday season while in the Outer Banks with family, Sam surprised me with the best Christmas gift yet, a very sweet and well-planned proposal! We are very excited and are looking forward to spending 2017 as an engaged couple.

And of course as the crazy-planner that I am, I can’t wait to dive head first into wedding planning.

Cheers to a very happy New Year!

Outer Banks Corolla engagement reidmore dc blog reidmore blog dc

reidmore

ASIA BEACH FEATURED TRAVEL

Summer in December – Exploring Singapore

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Singapore, a country I knew little about. Thanks to some quick Googling, I quickly learned that the country is practically on the equator, meaning year round summer heat and humidity. I knew there was more to learn, so after a very long flight, I joined a free walking tour to learn about the history and modernization of Singapore.

singapore free walking tour

When visiting new-to-me cities, especially in a land so foreign, I’ve found that getting your bearings on day 1 is extremely beneficial throughout the rest of the trip. The SneakPeak Singapore walking tour was no different. Darren, our tour guide, explained the long history of Singapore, British colonization, and the modernization of this tropical city. I admit that it can be a bit awkward to join a group walking tour as a solo traveler at first, but soon I was talking up fellow travelers from Spain, Australia, and Canada.singapore river views | Reidmore

Due to the colonization, some of the historic buildings looked more like Charleston or New Orleans than any other Asian city. Then you turned the corner and walk into dozens of modern skyscrapers. The city was a real mix of old and new.
singapore china town walking tour | reidmorea

After my Seoul, South Korea trip just a few weeks before, I was expecting to find that nobody spoke English and all food and culture would be strictly from Singapore. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Seoul and Singapore are complete opposites. While Koreans protect their cultural identity – including food, pop culture, language, etc., Singapore invites in international influences. The whole city was a melting pot. Singapore free chinatown walking tour | Reidmore

We walked through Chinatown, which featured Buddhist temples, skyscrapers, and historic row homes.Chinatown Singapore walking tour | reidmore

A few hours of walking city streets in 100°+ heat will really wipe you out. I was excited when our guide led us to a local Hawker Center, an open air food court, and invited us to take a snack break. The group ordered made-to-order sugar cane juice  (yellow drink below) to rehydrate, fried plantains, and a vegetable and peanut wrap.

This was the extent of my Singapore food sampling during the trip. Most of the food I ate was asian of sorts, or something I could find back home – like pizza and pasta. So visiting a Hawker Center, where the locals eat their daily meals, was a nice.

 

The walking tour finally came to an end 4.5 hours later…  by which point I was hungry, thirsty, sore, and drenched with sweat. I vastly underestimated the heat in Singapore. Just stepping outside of a building, I was hit by a thick and humid heat wave that wiped me out. The whole trip was hard to handle due to the intense heat, it was unlike anything I’ve every experienced. It was scary to realize that December was their coolest month of the year. I think that night of the walking tour I drank a giant bottle of water and passed out at 5pm.

Later in the trip I went to see the city at night and had dinner at Chijmes, a charming historic complex of white buildings. All lit up at night, the white buildings and church looked beautiful. Throughout the walking tour and my time exploring, I fell in love with the historic buildings and beautiful city. Next door to Chijmes was Raffles Hotel (right), the historic hotel that invented the Singapore Sling, decked out in Christmas decorations.

Even more impressive in Singapore was the vegetation. Due to the tropical location, Singapore is full of the most beautiful plant life. In recent years the city has made an effort to make the city more green and it has paid off. The whole city was covered in palm trees, colorful flowers, and crazy plant life. It reminded me of Hawaii.Singapore Gardens trip | Reidmore blog

On my final day in Singapore I wanted to see the plant life up close, so I walked to Gardens by the Bay, the popular botanical gardens across from Marina Bay Sands where I was staying.

Gardens by the Bay Singapore views | reidmore

The Gardens are famous for the Supertree Grove, gigantic metal tree structures, climbing with plant life and connected by a pedestrian pathway.

Singapore Gardens by the Bay selfie | reidmore

I was most excited to see the beautiful plants up close. So many beautiful trees and flowers that I’d never seen before. My favorite were the tall palm trees with striped red-orange colored trunks. Throughout the modern and bustling city there was so much beautiful vegetation. It was like Miami and Hawaii mixed to create Singapore, it was really neat.

Finally the main event of my trip had arrived… I was finally able to check into Marina Bay Sands hotel, famous for the world’s largest and highest infinity pool, which overlooks Singapore. After a extremely long flight and a busy week in the heat, I had rewarded myself with a stay at the (not so cheap) hotel so I could spend a day at the famous pool. I checked in early to beat the crowds and rushed to the pool deck.

Marina Bay Sands Singapore photos | reidmore

And it was all worth it. The pool deck was beautiful, but the view of the city from my seat was the best. I ordered some lunch, grabbed a book, and started sunbathing for the afternoon.
Marina Bay sands infinity pool | Reidmore

After warming up in the sun, I was eager to jump into the pool water.  It was amazing to look over the edge and see the city I had been touring the past week below. I had that lay of the land from my walking tour on day 1, so I looked down and identified the sites below.
solo trip to marina bay sands infinity pool

And when you travel solo, sometimes you have to befriend the nice people next to you and ask them to take a picture. Because you don’t fly half way around the world to the most famous pool view and not get a picture of yourself.
Marina Bay Sands pool city view selfie | reidmore

Selifes help too.Marina Bay Sands skypark pool deck | reidmore

I could have stayed in the pool for hours. The view below and people watching were top-notch. Marina Bay Sands infinity pool | reidmore

The Marina Bay Sands hotel was not cheap, but the infinity pool is the most famous attraction in the city and one I could enjoy by myself. And yes, it was totally worth every penny. It was like sightseeing and relaxing poolside all at one. View of Singapore from Marina Bay Sands pool

After many hours of lounging and by the pool, I could feel my skin frying in the equator-strong sun. So I sadly had to pack up my beach bag and headed back down to the hotel to prepare for my journey home back to snowy weather in DC. Thank you for my rare winter-time suntan, Singapore!

 

ASIA FEATURED TRAVEL

Seoul Searching in South Korea

I consider myself a world traveler, but up until this month, Asia was still unchecked on my travel bucket list. All that changed when I headed to Seoul, South Korea for a weeklong trip for work and to see the city.

Leading up to my trip, I was nervous to be in the city alone, not able to speak the language. But mostly I was nervous about what in the world I’d be eating! How do you order something off a menu you can’t read?

So to beat my food-nerves, I prearranged a local food tour of the Gwangjang market in Dongdaemun neighborhood of Seoul. I found Janet’s Cooking Studio & Seoul Food Tour on TripAdvisor, the best decision I made on the trip. Janet, a former Northern Virginia resident herself, was beyond helpful, warm, passionate, and thoughtful as she showed me around the market that day.

Seoul Food Tour | reidmore

We went from stall to stall, as she told me about the history of Korean cuisine and food traditions. gwangjang  market food tour | reidmore

She instructed me to ask her any questions, so I asked her everything on my mind so I would be prepared for the week ahead. Do you really just use chopsticks? Why don’t you have bars in Seoul? What do you like to cook on a daily basis for yourself? What do you recommend I eat for dinner by my hotel tonight? Do people really eat dog meat?
mung bean pancakes gwangjang seoul | reidmore

She had me try everything, pushed my comfort level with odd-looking but delicious tasting foods. I loved the pork and regular mung bean pancakes, eaten with bites of pickled onions and kimchi to cut the grease in between.eating in gwangjang market food tour | Reidmore eating tour of seoul market | reidmore

One stand was filled with colorful containers of salty side dishes to be eaten with rice. Janet had me sample a full-shell baby crab, spicy octopus, garlic knots and more – food I would never have known to try on my own.

Next we stopped for dumplings – yum, blood sausage – not so much, fish stew, chewy rice cakes, and a chicken foot. I tried it all!

dumplings on seoul food tour | reidmore trying korean food in seoul | reidmore

Hands down my favorite market stop was for “bungeoppang,” a sweet fish-shaped waffle dessert, filled with red bean paste or cream. Hot off the stove, the sweet treat was almost too cute to eat.

The food tour was both helpful and delicious. Next time I’m in a brand new city with a different food scene, I will definitely be booking a food tour on the first day again.

Later that week, once the meetings had come to an end, I had chance to explore Seoul. My colleague had offered to show me around for the day. Overwhelmed with so much to see in a short span of time, we got hop on-hop off  tour bus tickets.

changing of the Deoksugung palace guard | reidmore

Our first stop was Deoksugung Palace, just in time to see the changing of the guard.Deoksugung seoul | reidmore seoul palace tours | reidmore palace guard seoul south korea | reidmore

Once you enter the main palace gates, you get to explore the large palace grounds. The historic buildings were all brightly colored with intricate designs, so beautiful. Crazy to think of how old Korea and the rest of the world is compared to America.
Deoksugung palace bell seoul | reidmore

After the palace we visited Namsangol Hanok Village, a small village of old hanok homes.Namsangol Hanok Village

You could peak inside to the open air homes and see what life was like during that time. My colleague said her grandparents who live in the rural part of South Korea still sleep on the floor and live in a similar style home. Seoul Namsangol Hanok Village | reidmore

We stopped for bibimbap for lunch, a rice bowl with beef, pickled vegetables, and a fried egg. So delicious. I’d become a chopstick pro by this point.
bibimbap in seoul | reidmore

Our final stop of the day was N Seoul Tower, the spire overlooking the city. I snapped a photo of two young girls dressed in hanbok at N Seoul Tower. Apparently it’s a big trend with teenagers to dress up and do amateur photoshoots through the various historic attractions of Seoul, so we saw a lot of these beautiful dresses all weekend.
N Seoul Tower hanbok dresses  seoul

The tower had a great view of the city below, which I was finally starting to get a feel for. I loved the thousands and thousands of love locks along the gates of the tower, colorful and overwhelming.

love locks namsan tower seoul | reidmore

We ended the day in Insadong, a shopping district home to the Ssamziegil craft mall.

insadong shopping in seoul | reidmore

After dumplings for dinner, I parted way with my new friend, thanking her for giving up her free day to show me around.

Before I left Seoul, I had one final item on my checklist… makeup shopping! Not even the youtube haul videos of Myeongdong could prepare me for the bustling streets filled with makeup and cosmetic stores. Similar to how we see multiple Starbucks across the street from each other in the US, Myeongdong had the same big major Korean beauty chains around every corner.

They lure you into their store with bribes of free samples and $1 face masks, which totally worked on me. Within a few minutes my arms were heavy with shopping bags full of gifts to take home. Facial cream, eye liner, lipsticks, face masks, hair cream, foot masks, and more.

I found delicious food, beautiful sights, and amazing shopping in Seoul. But even better were the people. Everyone I met during my trip, from Janet to my colleague, were so hospitable, thoughtful, and friendly. My first trip to Asia was a definite success and I can’t wait to go back to Seoul again one day soon.

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