Our first, and last stop of our 2018 Eurotrip was Amsterdam—a city we discussed wanting to visit on our first date, almost two years ago. We came for the bike culture, stroopwafels and Banksy museum; but we stayed for the Dutch beer, bitterballen, and Friday night skate in Vondelpark. We were pleasantly surprised with how walkable it was—of all the spots we visited on our trip, we spent the most time here and it truly felt like we “got” the city. Amsterdam? More like AmsterDAYUM. This city was fiiiine and we enjoyed every minute of our stay.

Where we stayed:

  • On our first visit (which was the majority of our time there), we stayed in an apartment in Jordaan: a charming, quaint, convenient neighborhood filled with tree-lined canals, shops and cafes.
  • The second time, we stayed at a bed and breakfast in “rural” Amsterdam-Zuidoost: a borough about an hour metro ride away from the city center.

What/where we ate:

  • Bitterballen (essentially fried gravy balls), stroopwaffels, pancakes/crepes
  • Foodhallen: Only we would kick off our limited amount of meals in Amsterdam with Vietnamese bun cha (hers) and Spanish tapas (his). Foodhallen offers a variety of cuisines, and because we dropped by for an early lunch, we didn’t even have to wait in line.
  • Cafe De Klos: From our first bite of their ribs, we knew this was a place we’d be dreaming about coming back to. A contender for best meal of the trip (definitely the best meal in Amsterdam), the delicious ribs (regular & smoked) came with a salad, some tasty sauces, and perfectly doughy-in-the-middle, crispy-on-the-outside warm baguette slices.
  • Moeders: If you’re interested in traditional Dutch cuisine, look no further! We came here on an evening we had already eaten (so much to eat, so little time), so we just split a meal, but if we had a longer visit, we would have come back for more.
  • Winkel 43: Their acclaimed Dutch apple pie did not disappoint.

Where/what we drank:

  • De Zotte: Recommended from a friend, this was an adorable bar with a great beer selection.
  • Proeflokaal Arendsnest: Another recommendation, this bar serves only Dutch beer. With 52+ on tap and incredibly knowledgeable/helpful bartenders, you can’t go wrong.
  • Cafe ‘t Spui-tje: We stumbled upon this Frank Sinatra-themed bar by accident, but it’s cozy interior and Rat Pack memorabilia made this a unique and memorable spot.
  • Jenever: Although we’re beer people through and through, we had to try this notorious Dutch liquor. The few we tried were pretty sweet and not too potent, making for a delicious deviation from our hoppy drink of choice.

What we did:

  • Canal cruise: This hour-long guided tour around the city’s canals was Morgan’s favorite activity of our trip. Not only was it a nice break from walking, but it also gave us the chance to learn some historical facts about the city.
  • Friday skate at Vondelpark: Initially thinking this was a popular activity of locals (LOL at remembering all the locals we asked about this who gave us strange, confused looks), we stumbled upon this seemingly Filas-sponsored experiential marketing activation at Vondelpark (which takes place each Friday evening). Brand reps lent us skates and sent us off on our 20 kilometer* journey.  *Spoiler alert: we didn’t quite make it that far, due to the combo of getting off to a late start and a metal ankle. 
  • Moco Museum: Morgan is a fan of Banksy, and Mandy likes Roy Lichtenstein, so visiting this museum (set up in an old house), was a no-brainer.
  • Waterlooplein flea market: In our quest for unique souvenirs, we wanted to check out one of Amsterdam’s flea markets. While we didn’t end up buying anything here, it was a fun way to see some unique vendors.
  • Cheese museum: We viewed this as more of a sampling ground of free cheeses and less of a museum, but nevertheless, we left here smiling (and moderately gassy).

What we wish we did and/or what we wouldn’t do again:

  • Anne Frank House: Based on feedback from others who have visited the Anne Frank House, we decided to not get tickets to visit. We heard it was always packed, and you didn’t get enough time to truly take in the experience, so although on pretty much every list of “must dos in Amsterdam,” we opted out.
  • Skylounge: We DID visit the bar on the top of the DoubleTree Hotel, and while it offered a nice panoramic view of the city, it was incredibly touristy and ultimately just not the kind of vibe we were interested in.
  • We didn’t rent a bike. We know, we know… But even though everyone and their mother rides one, it’s a hilly city and kind of intimidating as you have to be pretty aggressive with cars and tourists on foot. Still, riding a bike was something we were hoping to do here, but the weather and our own reservations prevented us from doing so this time around.

Travel Tips from our First International Trip (Together)

We survived our first major trip together! Our Eurotrip consisted of 4 countries and 5 cities in 11 days. We’ll be sharing more in the days and weeks to come, but we wanted to kick off our series of travel posts with a few lessons learned. All things considered, we were pleasantly surprised that the list of eff-ups/general annoyances with each other wasn’t longer. And bonus! Now that we know we travel well together, we can plan more trips!  Without further ado, here’s a few of our tips and findings:

Don’t be morons: exchange currency anywhere besides the airport. We know, this is probably the number one travel tip you read anywhere you’d go to look up travel tips, but we realized that Denmark favored Krone to Euro in the 11th hour, and we weren’t left with much of a choice. When we questioned how much the guy at the currency exchange booth was taking as a fee, we were met with a very dry “I mean, you’re in an airport. What did you expect?” You’re right sir, this was our bad.

Have enough money for wherever you are going. This one is a pretty basic need/was a definite oversight on our part, but largely because of the currency faux pas listed above, about half of our meals in Copenhagen were purchased from 7-Eleven. On the bright side, we’re pretty set on bringing French dogs (sausages stuck into baguettes) back to the states.

Try to not save packing/planning until the last possible minute. Mandy is usually good about this, but for this trip, things got more last-minute than she was comfortable with. In an Uber on the way to O’Hare, she realized she forgot her hairbrush, and then the next day in Amsterdam, her trusty hair straightener bit it. Not wanting to get a hair tool with a European plug, her mane powered through the trip on Morgan’s comb and some attempted styling, but this potentially could have been avoided with a lower-voltage tool made for travel.

Sleep when you can, and power through when you can’t. A screaming toddler on a red-eye is neither something you can plan for nor really do much about. Unfortunately, this was our reality on our initial trip across the pond into Amsterdam. Once we got to our Airbnb, Morgan was adamant about enjoying the afternoon/evening without a nap, and even though it was hard, it was definitely for the best.

Live like the locals. And stay with the locals. We went all in on Airbnb with this trip and we were so glad we did. Each place we stayed and its respective host(s) gave us special insights we wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise. We also attempted to try all of the regional cuisine we could. We enjoyed most things we tried, and even if it wasn’t our favorite, we were always glad we gave it a shot.

And lastly, if traveling as a pair, complement each others’ strengths and/or weaknesses. We do a pretty good job of this in everyday life, but traveling can surely bring out anxieties or stresses that wouldn’t be as prevalent in everyday life. Keeping these instances at bay and trying to go high if your partner is going low (or vice versa) seems to work very well for us. It’s not always easy, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind when exploring new things and places together.

Schlemiel! Schlimazel! (A Weekend in Milwaukee)

Another weekend getaway adventure from last fall was a quick trip to Milwaukee, which was actually Mandy’s first time visiting Wisconsin. It was a 36 hours of bacon, beer, and ‘us’ time spent with a slightly slower paced backdrop than we are used to.

Where we ate:

  • Comet Cafe: This brunch spot was recommended by a local friend, and it did not disappoint. Morgan ordered bacon pancakes (which is his current favorite bacon dish to date!), while Mandy tried out the “Benedictator” — eggs benny amplified with bacon and jalapeño hollandaise. Throw in a few brunch cocktails (which we did) and game over.
  • Harbor House: One thing we knew we wanted to do when we planned this weekend away was a nice dinner, and after scouring the internet, it was an easy decision that Harbor House was the place. Sitting right on the lake, this restaurant offers delicious steak, seafood, and not to mention stunning views. It was the perfect setting for the romantic dinner we had in mind.
  • Cafe Benelux: While it ended up being a last-minute decision to dine here, this is one of the most highly rated brunch spots in the city. While our food was very good (hers: a BLT with egg and avo & his: a skillet with eggs, breakfast meats, potatoes and gravy), the bloody marys were the standout here.

Where we drank:

  • Lakefront Brewery: Don’t let the name fool you, this brewery is really on the river, not the lake. But this place gave an awesome, hilarious tour (apparently the 4th best in America according to Trip Advisor), was generous with the samples (we left with two tokens unused), and ended with some bottling line fun and a nod to Milwaukee natives Laverne & Shirley.
  • Beer History Tour at Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery: Take a trip down beer memory lane at the former Best/Pabst/Schlitz brewery. Although it hasn’t been a functional brewery since 1996, this historical tour of the campus was probably our favorite stop during our trip. We also left with a souvenir: a 32oz PBR “fat boy” a.k.a. the stuff dreams are made of.

What else:

  • We strolled along the RiverWalk. While Milwaukee’s riverfront doesn’t have as much to do as Chicago’s, it is just as beautiful and you could run/walk/bike it without getting run over, which seems like a nice perk. It was perfect weather when we visited, and we loved spending some quiet time by the water.
  • We shopped around the Milwaukee Public Market. We spent some time here while we were waiting on our brunch table. It started out as just a place to pass some time, but we ended up enjoying window shopping and even picked up an engagement gift for our friends who “said yes” that same weekend.

Intro to Indy (Pools, Tacos, and Confederate Flag Tattoos, Oh My!)

Indianapolis, a short trip we took last summer, was technically our first getaway together (if you don’t count a Cleveland wedding, which happened before we were “official”). Mandy had never been, Morgan had lived there for a summer a while back, and since it’s only a short drive from Chicago, we decided a weekend trip was in order. What ensued….was a pretty good story.

We stayed with the nicest, most hospitable couple (Morgan’s friends), and spent most of the day Saturday hanging out by the pool that was a part of their apartment community. Many young couples live at the complex, so throughout the day, the couple we were staying with would greet and talk to many of the other local couples. One gentleman in particular stood out to us, due to a Confederate flag tattoo occupying one of his arms. We didn’t want to be too quick to judge, and after speaking to him and his girlfriend for a bit, they kind of invited themselves into our evening plans. Specifically, he offered to drive. We had all been drinking by the pool for a while and the drive to downtown Indy was a decent drive from the apartment, but all parties involved had decided to go home and get ready for the evening and then to meet up and reassess.

A few hours later, we gathered at the apartment and had enough people to warrant taking two vehicles downtown. The first group called an Uber and were out the door in a hurry, leaving us to ride with the Confederate, who had just guzzled down a Monster energy drink. He insisted he was fine to drive, so we took him up on his offer and hopped into his seemingly brand-new Lincoln SUV. The ride was enjoyable enough and as we pulled into the parking lot, we offered to pay. He instantly pulled out a wad of hundred-dollar bills (yes, HUNDOS), to which his girlfriend remarked, “too many nights at the casino!” He wouldn’t hear of us paying for parking.

We all headed to the next stop and met up with the Uber group. Bakersfield, a restaurant/bar known for their tacos and tequila, served up strong margaritas by the pitcher while we waited for our table. We talked to the Confederate at length, learning bits and pieces of his army brat past and southern roots, and although it was likely the alcohol taking hold, we became even more apt to giving him a chance. Eventually we were seated, a multitude of tacos were ordered, and the Confederate picked up the bill–not just for the half of the table our party occupied, but for everyone seated. The bill(s) of half of a long picnic table of strangers were taken care of solely thanks to this guy’s kindness (and apparent cash on hand).

Our party moved to a few other bars throughout the rest of the evening: Brothers, Tin Roof, Punch Bowl Social…admittedly, it was more of a bar crawl than an evening of immersing ourselves in the Indy culture (unless that is the Indy culture?!), but it was a fun night nonetheless. We tried many times to buy the Confederate a drink, but it only worked once. He was more than happy doling out his cash on people who were essentially strangers to him, which we were incredibly appreciative of throughout the night.

The next morning, feeling amazing after that long night of drinking, we grabbed brunch at Cafe Patachou in Broad Ripple (which was honestly phenomenal), and hit the road back to Chicago, thinking out loud that our next trip to Indy would have to be longer.

A few weekends after our trip, we happened to be in the car together when we received a call from Morgan’s friend that we stayed with. He had a quick update to share and was excited we were together to hear it. Their Confederate friend? A multiple offense bank robber. The car we drove downtown in? Stolen off a dealership lot.

Choose your own moral of the story! Trust your instincts about a person? Anyone with a Confederate flag tattoo is probably questionable? Anyone with a fresh stack of hundos is probably questionable? Enjoy what you’re given and don’t ask too many questions?

Regardless, Indy: we’ll be back.