Amsterdam for Christmas

I feel alive when I allow myself to do things last-minute. The plan was to spend a quiet Christmas in London eating delicious food and watching movies. I don’t think I was 100% happy with that plan. Not this year. Which meant that we would end up in Amsterdam for Christmas.

Flights and hotel booked on the mobile apps. A vague idea about what to do after a couple of Google searches. No real planning involved. Everything done within 10 days of flying.

It was not our first time in Amsterdam but we had not stayed in the city last time. We thought it would be a slow one as shops and attractions might be closed on some days during our stay. We were wrong. Amsterdam didn’t stop for Christmas. Public transport worked really well and most things were open throughout the festive period. This was a very pleasant surprise.

Christmas Eve Eve

On the day we left London we woke up at 4am to get the 8am flight from Luton. Thankfully the airport is just an easy train ride away from home. Carrying just two backpacks made our journey easier than usual.

On arrival we got a train ticket to Amsterdam Centraal and once we got there we looked for a place to eat and warm up. 9 degrees Celsius in Amsterdam feels a lot colder than the same temperature in London. A couple of delicious pancakes after we were ready to go explore the city.

The first stop was the museum of prostitution. It gave us a good insight of the prostitution business in Amsterdam and the prostitutes’ life. It is worth the 10 Euros ticket.

Back at the train station we bought a 3 day travel pass and then headed to the hotel for the check in. Super tired as the day had started early we decided to go chill in the hot tubs on the hotel roof top. It was freezing outside but the water was really hot and felt amazing to get all wrinkly in there.

Showered and ready to head out we Googled places to eat. Budget ones as Amsterdam is not a cheap city. We ended up at Café-restaurant Kerkwijk. It was very busy but we decided to wait at the bar for a table. There was no menu available (we were told the menu) so we had no clue about the prices. The food was delicious, the service super friendly but the bill at 60 Euros did not really match my Google search!

Even though we were dead from all the travelling and waking up at 4am we had energy left for a stroll along the red light district.

Christmas Eve

After a night of over 8 hours’ sleep we were ready for a full day in Amsterdam.

Breakfast was at The Breakfast Club down the street from our hotel. Eggs benedict fueled our visit to Foam, the photography museum. There we found two of the exhibitions to be really good and worth the entry fee. Their apple crumble and coffee were really good too!

In the afternoon we strolled along the canals, bought a night cruise ticket and headed back to the hotel to rest for a little while.

We had sushi as an afternoon snack in our room before making our way to board the cruise. Over an hour watching the houses by the canals, pretty bridges and light installations along the way. It was a great way to spend our Christmas Eve.

It was freezing outside and we were not able to find a good place to eat in the city center so decided to try the hotel restaurant. Turned out to be the perfect choice as the food was delicious.

Christmas Day

Most attractions seemed to be open on this day so we had no trouble finding something to do. Also the public transports were working as in any other day. We were super pleased with this.

Our attraction of choice for this day was the Artis, the Amsterdam Zoo. It did not disappoint. With plenty of different animals to see and most of them in good enclosures or free roaming amongst the public we really enjoyed our visit. It did take longer than we expected and our feet were hurting by the time we left.

Still we decided to walk around the canals to take pictures with just a brief stop for pancakes. It was super cold outside so after a few hours we gave in and headed back to the hotel to rest and for me to start writing this post.

Dinner was at the hotel again.

Boxing Day

Our final day in Amsterdam. Sad times. Breakfast was at the usual spot.

We visited Vondelpark and were not impressed. Guess it is difficult to impress someone that lives in London when it comes to city parks.

The final meal in Amsterdam was at the same place we ate pancakes at when we arrived. After that we ran around in between train platforms until we found the right one to the airport. Luton welcomed us with heavy rain and no train service. Thankful for Uber (even though the ride was more expensive than usual).

Amsterdam Final Thoughts

Amsterdam is a very welcoming city and is super easy to get around (at least when you have Google maps on your phone). Surprisingly it did not stop for Christmas making it the ideal Christmas European city getaway.

If you missed my Instagram stories while I was away…

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Christmas

So this is not only my Sunday post but my Christmas Eve post too! Thought I would go along with the seasonal theme and write a little bit about Christmas.

First of all I hope you are all enjoying this time and are not too stressed out with last-minute shopping trips. Thankfully this year I have done absolutely no Christmas shopping and sorted my main present by buying some flights.

Every year I get asked if I am going “home”. In the beginning we were doing it and were flying to Lisbon for Christmas every year. Until we realised that this holiday period is a little overrated and shamelessly overpriced. There is no set time (or there shouldn’t be) to be with our loved ones. We can do it any other time of the year with the added bonus of spending a lot less money on flights. We have celebrated Christmas in Portugal on the “wrong date” before and truly enjoyed it. Christmas is whenever you want it to be!

As an adult Christmas becomes a little less exciting, at least for me. So I don’t really mind spending it just with my boyfriend and enjoy watching movies and eating the amazing food he cooks during the days we get off work.

This year we are doing something a little different. I will update you on my holidays’ activities once I am back to London. Merry Christmas!

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Being Bilingual

Growing up I learned Portuguese as my native language (the usual when you are born in Portugal) but was exposed to English from a young age.

Thankfully in Portugal it is not very common to have voice-overs in Portuguese on everything showing on TV and subtitles are the norm. This means that all kids are exposed to English when they watch TV. It helps when learning the language later on as we are at least already familiar with the sound of it.

Personally I started having English lessons when I was in primary school (private ones) and I had VHS cassettes and books with the basics for kids. My mom was serious about me learning English. Even enrolled me at the British Council (private English school) where all the teachers had English as their native language. At one point I was already getting English lessons in public school but my mom was adamant I should still keep learning it “properly”. This led to some issues with my English teachers as unfortunately they were in general not the best.

Vague memories of tests marked incorrectly and small arguments during classes with the teachers come to my mind right now. It was challenging at times as I was being taught the same language in very different ways. On a more positive note I was happy I could help my friends pass the tests. I would usually finish mine quickly and could easily let them copy from me.

At one point I no longer wanted to bother with the private classes and wanted to stop going. My mum still insisted on them. I found most of my colleagues there to be a bit stuck up and I did not identify with them. Most of them were growing up in rich families and thought they were better than everyone else. That annoyed me at times and made me feel like I didn’t belong there.

Nowadays I appreciate my mum’s efforts and the financial investment.

Before I moved to London I had not spoken or written in English for years so when I got here it was back to basics. It took me a little while to get back into it.

At first it was exhausting to have to speak English all day. It would drain all my mental energy. I remember having a Portuguese co-worker on my first job and really cherished my lunch breaks as I was able to “rest” and have an effortless chat in Portuguese.

With time it got less tiring and more natural to speak in English. After a few years here I started to forget words in Portuguese and occasionally responded in English when speaking in Portuguese! Even though I practice my Portuguese every day.

I have not read anything about how our brains deal with being able to communicate in different languages but from my experience it gets a little confused at times. If I am tired or with a close friend I have the tendency to accidentally say words in Portuguese. This can also happen if you ask me something while I am in the middle of something else.

Sometimes I forget how lucky I am for being able to communicate so well in two different languages and also understand a few bits from other languages like Spanish, French and Italian.

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Last Minute

Last minute flights! Yes, I am going away for Christmas. No, I am not going to Portugal as the flights were ridiculously expensive. Then, where to?

The chosen city had the cheapest flights for the long Christmas weekend on Skyscanner so I went for it. We are travelling with an airline we have never traveled with before. Wish us luck! Thankfully it is not a long flight but delays can be a pain.

Flights were booked on Wednesday night while I was watching YouTube and chatting on WhatsApp. I had checked flight prices for the Christmas weekend before and gave up on the idea of spending Christmas away from London as I didn’t feel inspired by any of the destinations and the flights were not cheap.

I guess the post holidays’ blues made me impulsive and I just had to book one last holiday for 2017. This made me feel super excited and I cannot wait to be away again. My photography backlog is going to be insane as I am still editing my Fuerteventura pictures.

Free accommodation was on the cards as we could stay at a friend’s place just outside the city but he is not going to be around so we decided to stay somewhere central instead. This way we don’t have to worry too much about commuting to the city.

Finding accommodation was not an easy task. I short listed about 8 hotels in the morning and when I went over them after work half were sold out! Super glad my boyfriend likes the hotel I ended up booking. Now we have it all sorted and are ready to go.

Even bought a new backpack to use on these short breaks away from home as taking the suitcase is a bit much for less than a week. Also the suitcase is not the right size for some airlines.

Again I am taking my laptop with me as I don’t plan on skipping any posts and will be sharing loads of pictures with you guys.

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Selling my Pictures

Very recently I have opened an account on Shutterstock and got myself into stock photography to possibly have an additional source of income. I have heard all the success stories of people who invest time in this and make some extra cash so I am giving it a try.

This week I sold my first picture and it made my day!

It is a little time-consuming to edit all the pictures and ensure they follow the rules of stock photography but hopefully it will be worth it.

I carried my new Canon DSLR with me everywhere around Fuerteventura to get good shots to upload. You can check some of them out on the posts I have written about this Canary Island here and here. The remaining pictures will be on my Shutterstock gallery.

 

If you want to start selling your own pictures you can sign up here, it is pretty easy to get started and they get back to you quite quickly. All the pictures you submit are reviewed manually!

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Fuerteventura North

We “moved” to Fuerteventura North on Wednesday and it did get to our hearts a little more than the South of the island. Our new home was in the popular Corralejo not far from all the action but far enough not to be noisy.

The building looked a little different from what we were expecting but the apartment is just incredible. Should be featured in an interior decor magazine.

It had everything we could possibly need and we were welcomed by the nicest host. As an added bonus we were able to check in early and check out late for free which meant we could enjoy the last day a little more by spending the morning at the beach.

We explored a few places during our days there…

Isla de Lobos

The ferry was not operating on the day so we got a water taxi to the island. It was just 15 minutes away from the port of Corralejo. It was a bumpy ride on the speed boat but quite an enjoyable one. A short walk away was an amazing beach with views to Fuerteventura.

Corralejo Sand Dunes

This was definitely one of the highlights of our time in Fuerteventura as we had never seen anything quite like this before.

El Cotillo

La Concha in El Cotillo became our go to beach as it is so beautiful and really easy to get in the water. The North of Fuerteventura is known for the surf but this beach is as flat as a lake so it is perfect for swimming.

Popcorn beach

Not far from Corralejo through a bumpy road you can find this little gem. A beach full of popcorn shaped rocks.

Other Northern beaches

Well known for the surf these can be reached through the previously mentioned bumpy road and are worth the rough drive.

Fuerteventura North is without doubt the best side of the island. We already miss it.

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Fuerteventura South

First few days in Fuerteventura were spent exploring the South of the island. There is not a lot to do around here apart from taking in the views and that is what we have been up to.

Our first base was in Costa Calma, a nice spacious apartment with sea view in a quiet area but not far from the shops or from the beach. When in the same place for a week or more we try to rent an apartment so we don’t have to spend a fortune eating out. We still eat out though, just not every day.

We recommend Asador El Toril if you are in the South of Fuerteventura and feel like eating meat. Great food and amazing service.

If you haven’t read my previous post, we got a car. Usually the best way to get around on a beach holiday. I am not one to sit around in resorts. Don’t really see the point in travelling and not explore the place properly.

So far we have visited…

Playa Costa Calma

Where we watched the sunrise as it is super close to our apartment and we woke up really early on our first day here.

La Pared

This place is really cool as you can hike a little and have the most gorgeous views. Also you can feed the tiniest and cutest squirrels that live on the rocks. Great place to watch the sunset too.

Playa Risco Step

Popular for windsurfing. A must for walking between banks of sand while watching the kites in the air. Not bad for photography either.

Playa Lagoon

Known for kite surfing. The size of the lagoon is really impressive!

Playa Pozo Negro

Quiet fishing village out of the touristy track of the island. Dark pebble beach and cute little houses by the ocean.

Morro Jable

Super touristy! Long stretch of golden sand and clear waters with large hotels in the background. Worth taking a quick look at but not a place to stay long. At least not for me.

Ajuy

Quite touristy but worth checking out for the cool caves and amazing views.

Fuerteventura South has some pretty cool beaches and landscapes but is not a place we would come back to visit a second time. It gets super windy and is very popular with the senior crowd from what we gathered so far.

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