Amsterdam…We Meet Again!

The first time I visited Amsterdam, I fell in love with the city. I was only there for a long layover, but it was enough for me to know I wanted return as soon as I could. You can read about my first Amsterdam trip here.  Two years later, I did. This time for a week and I can honestly say, it’s still one of my favorite cities. Amsterdam is charming. From its canals to its industrial architecture, it feels like a city that fuses nature and tradition with innovation (if that makes any sense at all).

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Like anyone visiting Amsterdam, the first stop was the coffee shops. I had a pumpkin spice latté with not one, not two, but three cakes. The cakes were delish. It didn’t hit me initially, but as I was walking back to my friend’s apartment, it had done the deed. We had plans to take a weekend trip to Berlin, but because of our coffee shop pit stop, we ended up missing our Mega Bus (or Flix bus as they call it in Europe) by 20-minutes. I was convinced the bus left at 11:52pm when in fact it was 11:25pm. That was the absolute worst feeling ever. The feeling of defeat and paranoia is a recipe for disaster. I won’t bore you with all of the details of how this night ended.

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The next morning, feeling more like myself (a little), we rushed back to the bus station, only to discover, it would cost us twice as much to get to Berlin. Whatever it took, as we had a hotel reservation and a friend meeting us there. We hopped on the bus and embarked on a 9-hour ride to Germany. Sherma and I caught up on sleep, talked and played games to pass the time. Every so often we would jump out at rest stops in random spots in Germany to smell the German air. We even ate German Burger King.

Of course, people stared at us, especially as I complained about having to pay 0.60euros to use the bathroom. When we finally got to Germany, our taxi driver started out being a mean grump but he ended up being a nice old man, who had a contagious German laugh. We settled into our hotel and roamed the streets, coming across a beer garden where we cheered to a good time and positive vibes in Germany.

Ky Tips:

  • Mega Bus (Flix Bus): Yes, you can take a bus to Berlin from Amsterdam and you can actually travel to a lot of places using Flix Bus. These buses are a fraction of the cost that it would take you to fly but as you can imagine, you need time.  Most people hate coach buses. I actually love them. One of the things I did notice while coming to and from Berlin on these buses is that everyone wants their own row. For the most part no one sat next to us, but we were one of the first ones on the bus and claimed our territory before anyone had the chance to. 
  • Public Restrooms in Europe: Paying to use the public bathrooms is a thing in Europe and it really makes you appreciate the luxury of walking into a restaurant or even Target and not having to pay to use their restrooms in America.

 

Europe Anniversary!

March 26th 2015 marks a year since I toured Europe with my close friends. It was one of the most defining moments in my life. For me, life began when I realized there’s a whole world out there that needed to be discovered. My road to finally gaining the courage to travel across the Atlantic wasn’t an easy one. I always believed traveling around the world was a privilege reserved for the rich or famous-definitely not for someone like me. In November 2013, I was like many recent graduates, feeling lost, confused and defeated. I was making very little progress at work and my daily routine was beginning to feel monotonous. All my friends around me were putting down payments on homes and cars and I could barely figure out what I would eat for lunch. My spirit was broken, as it seemed like everyone was progressing so seamlessly into adulthood and I felt so empty. I prayed for the day when I would find my passion and start living for me. One day, while at Barnes and Nobles, I stumbled across a book in the travel section. The Rough Guide to First-Time Europe. I sat down on the floor and read the book cover to cover. My spine tingled as I read about the vineyards of Italy and the vibrant culture of Spain. I yearned to ride on the double decker buses in London and dance the night away in Paris. It hit me; I didn’t want a house or a new car (well eventually I would), what I wanted at that very moment was to see the world.

The best part about traveling is figuring out where you want to go. Pulling out a map, which almost feels like the whole world is at your fingertips. It’s exciting to pinpoint which countries are within close proximity of each other and how to maximize your trip. My friends and I decided to go with London, Paris, Venice, Rome, Vatican City, Barcelona and Amsterdam. We were going to maximize our options some more while in Spain by taking a flight to Ibiza or a ferry to Morocco (which a lot of people don’t know is an option) but decided to figure it out once we got there. I found a multi-city flight that took us to three out of seven cities on our itinerary (NY to London, Barcelona to Amsterdam and Amsterdam back to NYC for $800) and we took trains in between the rest of the countries for as little as 13 Euros. Since I was traveling with three others, everything was split four ways, from our hotel rooms to our taxis. This reduced costs for the overall trip immensely.

London was such a treat. From Heathrow, we took the tube to Lambeth North, which dropped us off across the street from our hotel. We went on the London Eye, followed the audacious sounds of the Big Ben until we were engulfed in his presence and antagonized the Changing Guards outside of St. James Palace. Speaking of palaces, Buckingham Palace was glorious. It’s adorned with gold and highly secure. The London Club scene is so fun. What I liked about London was that it was a European version of New York City. I didn’t feel like I was in another country at all (except when crossing the street).

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After spending some time in London, we took a Eurostar train to Paris. Paris was a dream. I literally was awestruck by its beauty. It was everything I imagined and more. The city is bustling but it retains an air of class and grace. Our hotel was right across the street from the Louvre Museum which was our first stop, followed by dinner on the Champs Elysees, a walk to L’Arc D’Triomphe and a failed attempt at getting into the hottest club in the city, Club 79. Our adventures eventually lead us to having a picnic in the park by the Eiffel Towers where we devoured Nutella Crepes and Vin (Wine). On the Love Lock Bridge, I made a wish to find love again. A few months later I met my boyfriend and we are currently in the honeymoon phase of our relationship. Paris is truly magical.

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From Paris we took an overnight train to Venice Italy. We drove through the mountains of Switzerland and made a quick stop in Milan. It was so fun being on a train for over 14-hours knowing that our final destination would be Italy. We played heads up on our iPhone and pigged out on junk food. When it was time for bed, we told ghost stories until we fell asleep. When we woke up, we were surrounded by the beautiful and vast waters of Venice. Venice was a fairytale. We immediately walked across the Grand Canal until we found our hotel. We made our way to lunch at a quaint restaurant where we had authentic Italian pasta and seafood. It was here that I tried Octopus for the first time. One of the best things you can do in Venice is get lost. Whether you do it on purpose or by accident, it’s inevitable. Don’t freight, somehow you’re going to find your way back. Our perfect Gondola ride was ruined when my friend accidentally got Nutella on the Gondolier’s hat; he cursed us out in Italian and told us to get off his boat. You had to see it to believe it.

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Rome was an historical haven. Our hotel was in the midst of the Roman Forum. Rome was literally like stepping back into time, yet it’s a modern European metropolis. What I grew to love about European culture, especially Rome, was how embracive it is of its past while progressively advancing into its present and future. The merge is almost harmonious. Our first stop was Vatican City, which is considered a country. It’s located in the midst of Rome and is majestic. The art, the columns, the fountains were all remarkable. From Vatican City we made a wish at Trevi Fountain, had authentic Roman Pizza, and explored the city until the middle of the night in search of Italian pastries. We met so many people along the way.

IMG_2823 IMG_2881 Baila Mi Cha-Cha, this tune was in my head when we landed in Barcelona. Monica (Sanaa Lathan) from Love and Basketball played ball in Spain and this song was the opening soundtrack to her new life abroad. I couldn’t shake the tune as we took walks along the beach, ate lunch on the boardwalk and partied until the wee hours of the morning in Barcelona clubs. One of the most memorable things about Barcelona was the food, from the paella to the tapas, it’s all so flavorful. Although we planned to take a day trip to Morocco or Ibiza, we became so engulfed in Barcelona’s culture that we decided against it.

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Amsterdam was one of my favorite European cities. From the cool trams to the canals and lofty buildings, it’s just one of a kind. The vibe was super relaxed and the Dutch are so friendly. Our first stop was Museumplein to witness the genius of Van Gogh’s artwork and the infamous Red Light District before dark; beautiful women in windows waiting to be sold for sex was heartbreaking but in the Netherlands this act is totally legal. Next up, The Anne Frank Museum, which singlehandedly changed my life. At the risk of sounding cliché I learned the true meaning of freedom while standing in that tiny attic that Anne and her family lived in for years to escape execution. We are so privileged, we have so many freedoms and liberties and we literally have the resources to make a difference and change the world; after leaving Anne’s attic, I knew my life would never be the same again.

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We covered all of these cities in the span of 13 days. We were constantly on the move, which was awesome. We were able to do everything on our itinerary and more with hopes of returning to each of the countries we visited one day in the near future.

My first trip to Europe changed my life and now travel has become my addiction.

24 Hours in Amsterdam

“Is this love, is this love, is this love, is this love that i’m feeling” -Bob Marley

Amsterdam was the country I looked forward to the most (shhh, don’t tell anyone). For years, this place have gotten a bad rap for being a “druggies” paradise. But did all the rumors have some truth to it? That’s what I sought to find out.

IMG_3353When we arrived into the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, we were amazed by it’s beauty. By far, this was the best airport we’ve been to all trip. The charging stations immediately captivated Taurie and I. In order to charge your phone you had to pedal a bicycle to get “juice”. We stayed in the airport for at least an hour roaming around.

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We found our hotel without a hassle because it was in the airport. Citizen M was the best hotel ever. Everything was high-tech and contemporary. I checked in using a touch-screen computer. The room was controlled by a single remote. The vibes in Amsterdam were all good!

Kydee Williams When we went downstairs to figure out how to get into the city’s center, the concierge gave us a map and told us we had to take the bus because the trains were under construction. I studied the city’s train system but not their bus system and was afraid we would get lost. Luckily, it worked out all in our favor. We caught a bus and got off at Museumplein, which was ways before we should have gotten off but allowed us to see the IAMAMSETERDAM sign and the Van Gogh Museum.

Kydee WilliamsKydee Williams Kydee WilliamsLater, we took a tram to Central Station and sought to find the Red Light District. It was still light out, but walking through that district scared us. The beautiful women in the windows just ready to be sold for sexual favors was discomforting. We were on our way out of the district when Taurie asked if we could stop at the Bull Dog coffee shop because she was super tired and needed an espresso shot. I laughed so loud and exclaimed:

“Girl do you know what coffee shops stand for in Amsterdam”

“Coffee right?”

“No, Marijuana”

This time we both laughed so hard we could barely contain ourselves.

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Kydee WilliamsKydee WilliamsThe Anne Frank Museum was a must do while there. This museum single-handedly changed my life. I’m not trying to sound cliché but it shook me to my core. Just being in that small attic was overwhelming. Only 70 years ago, this young woman was forced to hide out in an attic because she was Jewish. However she didn’t let her enslavement shake her. She had dreams and high hopes that she would make it out alive. Anne was a writer, and one day hoped to become a famous journalist. She wanted the basic freedoms that we too often take for granted. It’s amazing how God works sometimes. Anne’s dreams came true but she never reaped the benefits of it in life. I am inspired by Anne Frank because I am Anne Frank. I went on this trip searching for the same freedom of living life on my terms, just like she yearned for. I too, want to be known for writing amazing books. I want to be free just like she wanted to be free, to travel the world and experience different cultures. She inspired me to keep dreaming and keep doing. I left that museum a changed woman. The world would be mine, unapologetically.

Kydee WilliamsKydee WilliamsKydee WilliamsKydee WilliamsKydee Williams Something that was extremely commendable about Amsterdam is that no matter how far they’ve come from their dark history of Nazi invasions and mass murders, it still brings that past, which made them stronger, into their present and future. I actually saw a billboard by a library that had a picture of Dutch people from the past (circa 1930’s ) and Dutch people from the present which further reinforces the importance of blending periods as inspiration for progression.

I realized that as human beings, we too should never forget where we came from on the path to bettering ourselves. I couldn’t help but be reminded by how far this city and all of the European cities I visited have come. One of the many beauties of Europe is that they preserve remnants from their past in the midst of modernizing their present which is something we all can appreciate and why millions of tourists are drawn there annually.

Kydee Williams Kydee Williams Kydee Williams The Dutch people are some of the nicest and most welcoming people I’ve encountered. They sang songs loudly as they rode their bicycles throughout the streets. The serenity that I received in Amsterdam was one that can only be experienced by visiting this city.

Kydee WilliamsKy’s Verdict: Amsterdam is one of the most amazing city’s in Europe and I just fell in love with it’s beauty. From the cool trams to the canals and lofty buildings, it’s just one of a kind. Mercedes Benz Taxi Cabs along side bike riding enthusiast is just one of the many disparities that only makes sense in Amsterdam. I just wanted to be there a little longer. Amsterdam, is not the city filled with stoners and prostitutes like some people believe it is. It has a laid back, no worries kind of vibe and the Dutch people are so friendly. On my flight to the Netherlands I sat next to a Dutch woman who was completely maternal. She took care of me the whole ride making sure I had food and drinks because she knew how exhausted I was. She made small talk and just was a pleasure to be around. I knew from that moment my experience in this country would be one of a kind. I think I discovered my nirvana.

Dealing with Anticipation…Ahhh!

I don’t know many first-time to Europe travelers who wouldn’t be anxious about their upcoming trip. I couldn’t wait. I counted down the days, and did many things to distract myself including hosting two events and becoming completely involved in my projects and work obligations in hopes that time would pass by faster. I just wanted to go already!!!! Anyway, in true Kydee fashion I did some “corny” things to prepare for my trip which I share below:

  1. Watched “Mahogany” with Diana Ross in preparation to sing Do you know where you’re going to do you like the things that life is showing you…” while in Rome
  2. Watched Sex and the City-American Girl in Paris Part I and Part II. Carrie was so miserable, but it didn’t take away from how beautiful the city of Paris is. It actually illustrated to me the importance of being in Paris with the right person or people.
  3. Watched Spice World just because the group travelled all over London and I wanted to get a feel for it too…#dontjudgeme
  4. Read an excerpt of A Belle in Brooklyn by Demetria Lucas which told a story of chance encounters while in Paris.
  5. Spent my Sunday afternoons in Barnes and Nobles reading about all the countries I would soon be visiting.
  6. Google Maps became my best friend. Did you know you could discover the make up of a country or city using this? It gave me the exact feel for where I was going.
  7. Fashion for this trip was important, like Carrie from SATC said going to Paris (or Europe for that matter) meant bringing out those once in a lifetime outfits. I literally created a fashion collage on my walls.
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I eventually started dressing like a parisienne, imitating their style and love for hats…this was about 2-wks before I finally left