London & Amsterdam 2019

Walking along the Thames toward the Tower Bridge

In 2018 I had a pretty uneventful Winter Holiday. It was the first year where I did not go home for the holidays (I waited too late to purchase tickets and the price was too rich for my blood), and my roommate had gone on a solo trip to the Cayman Islands. I was relaxed, spending time at home alone, but I was also a bit bored.

When my roommate and good friend returned from her beach trip with cool photos, a small tan, and very relaxed after pampering herself, she suggested that the next year we go on a trip abroad together. She had mentioned earlier that year wanting to do a multi-city trip in Europe after reading an interesting blog post about how to see 3 cities in just 10 days. So, just a few weeks later in January 2019 we began to plan a trip to Europe.

We settled on doing just 2 cities, London and Amsterdam, in the end. We utilized AirBnB for accommodations, but also looked at hotels. We also looked all over the internet for fun things to do in these cities, mainly centered on “light” sightseeing, good restaurants, and the best places to explore on foot. I also did a lot of research on what I should wear, given that out trip would be from mid to late December, I was worried about being cold while walking around in England and the Netherlands. The main things that concerned me were what shoes and what coat to bring for optimal warmth and comfort.

I ended up buying a few new items for the journey. I bought the GAP ColdControl Parka in olive green during their Black Friday sale, however it ended up being a bit too big. When I went to return the coat in-store just a week before the trip, there weren’t many other options for a similar coat that I liked, so I ended up going to an H&M that was nearby because they were also having a sale in early December. I ended up picking a green Cotton Parka instead. This coat faired well on the trip as it was warm but not too heavy, quite long, and featured a detachable fur trim on the hood. Also the green color matched well with lots of the neutral items I’d brought with me on the trip. I also purchased a pair of Eastland Charlie 1955 Moc Toe Boots in dark walnut. These boots are incredibly warm, the leather is great quality, and the dark walnut color is really pretty and easy to style. I recommend these boots as a cheaper alternative to Danner Bull Run Moc Toe Boots or the Red Wing 6-inch Classic Moc Boots.

Travel and Activities

It took us a while to travel, almost a full day. We flew to JFK and then to Heathrow because this was the cheapest option. When we arrived, we spent a night in the Kensington neighborhood on London. This area was a bit light on activity, at least where we were staying, at the Holiday Inn- Kensington Forum. We did however walk around a bit and have some pretty decent Lebanese Food at a the UK chain restaurant Comptoir Libanais at their Gloucester Road location. This location was super cute on the inside and very affordable for a good portion of food. The staff was super kind and gave great recommendations on what we should try.

We then left London and traveled via the Eurostar to Amsterdam. The experience was pretty straightforward as the Eurostar trains left from the St. Pancras International tube station. The trip was continuous and took about 4.5 to 5 hours. When we arrived at Amsterdam Centraal, we took a short train trip to our AirBnB near the Dutch National Opera and Waterlooplein metro stop. The studio apartment we stayed in was super cute, located at the back of an art gallery and featured multiple outdoor spaces.

While in Amsterdam, we walked around the canals and tried several restaurants, most notably the Indonesian restaurant we went to on our first night, Tujuh Maret, which we heard about from a random, super sweet woman we met while we roamed around; Water & Brood, which I found via a really interesting “Black Amsterdam” guide at Travel Noire; and Vegan Junk Food Bar, which is a local chain. We went to the location in the Bohemian De Pijp neighborhood.

Inside Water & Brood, sourced from Travel Noire

In Amsterdam, we also went on a boat tour of the canals (Rederij de Wester). The tour was given by a local on a covered boat (thank goodness since it was raining off and on that day), and featured mulled wine and hot chocolates, Heineken Beers, and assorted snacks including Bitterballen. It was nice getting to meet other tourists, hear fun stories and historical facts, and viewing the light festival from the canals. My friend even drove the boat a few times, including through a tunnel!

We travelled back to London again via the Eurostar, stoping first in France and then continuing to England. In London on the last leg of the trip we stayed at the Apex City of London Hotel. We were able to get a room upgrade which was awesome! First, because we were both incredible tired after our time in Amsterdam and the long train travel back to London. Second, because we both were getting a bit sick, most likely from a mix of travel, cold and rainy weather, and trying a bunch of new foods in a short period of time. Luckily, having a few days to recoup in a nice hotel was incredibly helpful. Also, shout out to Superdrug Max Strength Cold & Flu Sachets and Strepsils Lozenges, without these products I would probably not have seen any of London!

The most tourist-y thing we did in London was walking along the London Bridge as well as the Thames toward the Tower Bridge. There were some cute little shops and Christmas light displays along the river. We chatted with some lovely vendors (including the Turkish vendor selling traditional artnicea trivet ceramics and jewelry) and bought souvenirs. However, I was sad that I wasn’t able to go to the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton as it was closed on the day that we both felt our best. But, all-in-all, this was a great trip and made me feel a bit less scared to travel in smaller groups.

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