All is well in Amsterdam

Canal view

Canal view

As I sit here this morning with my cup of coffee, admiring my canal view from my Airbnb window, I cannot help but reflect on the past couple days in this vibrant city.

My initial thoughts go to the tragic victims of yesterday’s bomb blasts in Brussels, Belgium. Innocent people lost their lives due to barbaric individuals with lack of consciousness for human life.   Amsterdam is a short couple hour train ride away. As a tourist, one cannot help but be on vigilant watch as well as harbor some fright and apprehension. However, for one thing I know security has been heightened and I am safe.  In addition, this can and has happened in the states, and can happen anywhere in the world and not just in Europe.

With that in mind, I know I must not let this stop me from enjoying my present surroundings with my two beautiful daughters. With greater awareness of my surroundings I will continue to enjoy where I am and pray for the best. If one lives life from the standpoint of fear one will live a much more restricted, sheltered life. I promised myself I would not be that person. I intend to live life big, and enjoy what has been afforded me. What makes me happy is to travel to Europe  and explore new lands, meet new people, learn new cultures, and thus enrich my life.

Out of respect to those who lost their lives, it is difficult to write about all the fun adventures I have had the past few days in Amsterdam. Yet, I know in keeping true to myself and my present surroundings I must. I will however keep this brief.

I love Amsterdam! It is a vibrant city. People everywhere, enjoying life to the fullest. The Dutch have it all in my opinion. From the outside looking in, I notice happiness. Happiness in a sense that people do not look stressed and exude a positive vibe. Like most European nations, egalitarianism is present. I have experienced nothing but warmth, friendliness, and very welcome as an outsider.

Over the past couple days I have had the pleasure of taking 5 trains, visited Delft, The Hague, Gouda, walked more than 20 miles, got locked in a restaurant bathroom, experienced a food hall and outdoor market while enjoying a fresh made Stroopwaffel!   We have nearly been run over by bicycles as they whiz by! And we learned there is a vast difference between a cafe for coffee versus a “coffeeshop” for cannabis!

My hosts at our Airbnb could not have been more accommodating. Toyah met us as we arrived and has been most gracious. She immediately made us feel at home. Our home away from home has everything we could desire. She even left us wine, beer and chocolates! She made us feel special.

I promised our new friend Ryan I would mention his impeccable service with a smile at our dinner last night at Mook pancakes. A recently opened eatery with vegan options, fresh ingredients down to the fresh squeezed juices.

Mook is an enchanting place with exceptional service and superb out of this world fluffy pancakes! Ryan’s generosity made our visit special. It was as if Ryan had invited us into his home for dinner. He plied us with food, wine, champagne, and fresh squeezed juices. If we stayed any longer my pants would have needed to expand a few inches! Well worth a visit! Thanks Ryan, you are a special guy!!

In closing, I know without a doubt I will go home a changed woman. I am in a special country, with generous, warm people. I am safe in their hands.

Safe travels, Debbie

Categories: airbnb, Amsterdam, belgium terrorists, brussels, European security, Travel | Leave a comment

Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn?

Lodging 101

You are contemplating a vacation.  You have the location selected and now you must decide where you want to stay.  Ever realize how many options there is in our world today?

The choice used to be simple.  Some folks went camping, some stayed at motels, and some at hotels.  Today lodging has amplified into a conglomerate of multiple entities all vying for your vacation dollars.

The typical mainstays in the lodging business remain today.  Those range from campgrounds, to hostels, motels, and hotels.  This option is not as complicated as some think.  Campgrounds are an easy choice if one is looking for an inexpensive close to nature experience.  I for one am not a camper as I prefer to have a room with a view and minus the weather elements that camping requires.  Motels are not so plentiful today as larger hotels have been built to accommodate corporate events and convention business.  When choosing a hotel there are many features one needs to consider besides the price.  Some choose a close proximity to city center or where the most sightseeing will take place.  Others prefer a unique experience, such as an ice hotel.  Some like luxury experiences, others just prefer a clean room with a bed.

Having been in the travel industry a long time, I have  my own list of hotel requirements that suits my needs.  When I began searching for Helsinki lodging, my main requirement was to use my American Express points.  Further, I knew that I wanted to be city center and near transportation options as I prefer to get from the airport to town on my own accord utilizing public transportation.  My search continued by checking out Tripadvisor ratings and reviews and what previous guests experiences were.  I then narrowed down my choices and went to the membership page of each hotel to see how many points it would take to stay at each of the hotels.  The hotel I was looking at was a luxury property, city center, and part of the Starwood group to which I have a membership.  I looked at how many points it takes booking through AMEX and how many booking through Starwood.  In the end, the Starwood (SPG) had a better rate than AMEX.  I moved my points from AMEX to my Starwood account and booked directly with Starwood. Helsinki done!

One of my new favorite types of lodging is Airbnb (  I have used Airbnb on a couple of occasions last year.  Airbnb is a very popular and less expensive alternative to hotels for the right person.  For one thing, one has to be an independent traveler.  By that I simply mean, one has to be willing to explore on one’s own.  In addition, there is no daily maid service, and one has to be open to living in someone else’s space.  My first experience in Copenhagen last year was a very good one.  I chose a 2-bedroom flat in a nice neighborhood approximately 20 minutes from the airport.  My biggest fear was arriving after dark and trying to find the place.  That fear was soon conquered as my host gave very implicit directions.  It was a breeze.  What I like most was my ability to get to know this little neighborhood and talk to the people who live there.  Further, I prefer to have a large space with a couple bedrooms, versus a small one-room hotel for a fraction of the cost.  And, I enjoy having my own kitchen to make coffee as I watch the world go by below.  Getting to know about the life of my host is very important to me.  Learning about other cultures and being able to experience life as a local versus as a hotel guest makes a huge difference!

This year, I decided to look again at an Airbnb flat in Reykjavik.  Having been there before, I knew approximately what area of town I wanted to be in.  I searched on for available properties and added a few to my ‘wish list.’  Contacting the host and asking questions gave me a great deal of knowledge in making my decision.  I prefer when the host is a good communicator.  And my choice in Reykjavik was soon made when my host responded quickly to my questions.  I will update you following my trip with all the details!

For my latter trip to Amsterdam, I chose similar lodging.  I chose a hotel close to the central train station in Amsterdam (again using my AMEX points) avowing me to come and go by train for my day trip down to Delft and The Hague.  I chose a 2-bedroom flat in central Amsterdam for 4 nights.  I have a wonderful host, Brett, and he has been offering to help with my travel planning or anything else I need.  His flat is on a canal and I look forward to living as a “Dutch” girl for a few nights!

Whatever type of lodging you choose, whether you are a conservative traveler and prefer to be on a tour, an independent traveler, or an adventurer, the choice is yours to make.  My choice is to be an explorer/adventurer and learn about life around the world, departing feeling enriched and fulfilled in my journey.

Safe journey,




Categories: airbnb, hotels, lodging, motels, Travel, vacation | Leave a comment

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