Happy Friday everyone! It was pretty emotional to sort through and edit these photos today. We’ve been back from Europe for a few weeks now, but my heart still has not gotten over this epic and memorable trip. My husband Chris and I have been fantasizing about taking a trip like these for many years, but really up until a few months ago weren’t sure if we can make it work. We booked a trip to Maui just days before we left for Europe, thinking at the time that it would be the only time we could get away this year. Thankfully though, we were able to make it work and ended up taking the two trips back to back. In other words, from the end of August through the end of September, we were home for all of 4 days.
Thankfully, despite traveling halfway around the world and through 11 time zones within the course of 30 days, I really never felt worn down or tired. Of course, the second we landed back in the US and I made my way to Baltimore for Expo East, I came down with a cold. BUT, thankfully Chris and I were both able to keep it together throughout our trip and had the most amazing time.
Before I jump into all of these amazing photos, I did want to mention one thing about how I handled food and my health on this trip. As many of you know, I don’t eat gluten or dairy. Although multiple tests have shown me that I have only a very mild sensitivity to gluten and a more moderate sensitivity to dairy, I stay away from both because I feel much better when I do and eliminating both has helped tremendously with my struggles with acne and hormonal issues. Having said that, before our trip I decided I wasn’t going to be perfect. What does that mean? It means that because I don’t have any serious condition and because my skin and health were both relatively good at the time AND because the quality of food in Europe is much different than it is in the US, I decided to give myself a bit of freedom in Europe to have some gluten and dairy, where I saw fit. This doesn’t mean I ate pizzas all day everyday or that I stopped taking my supplements, but I decided ahead of time that it would be less stressful to be a little lax with my diet than it would be to try and eat 100% clean while I was away. I wrote a little more about this in my post about how to stay healthy while traveling. In regard to the gym, I did not work out on this trip. However, we did walk A LOT, at least 3+ hours a day plus biked in Amsterdam and went on the most epic hike in the entire world in Salzburg, which you will read more about below.
But enough about that, let’s talk about Europe! Before Chris and I met, we coincidently both had lived in Paris and Amsterdam. Although we’d both not only lived in those cities but been back at least a time or two more, we always thought it would be fun to return to both places, with each other. Going back to Paris and Amsterdam was a lot of fun, not just because we got to do it together and show each other our old stomping grounds, but also because it allowed us to enjoy the cities as something other than tourists. We chose Salzburg because Austria was a country neither of us had been to and I’d heard great things about it from a friend of mine who had been.
After flying from San Diego to New York and spending 24 hours in the city with our families (we are both from NY/NJ originally), we left for Paris.
Our hotel room was lovely and looked out over Place de Mexico. I actually uploaded my Maui post looking out this window on our first night.
We then decided to be super nostalgic and visit the apartments where each lived many years prior. Chris lived quite close to the Eiffel Tower, but we traveled to the 17th (Villiers metro stop) to visit the apartment I lived in with my mom and brother when I was 12.
We spent some time in my old neighborhood and walked down Rue De Levis, an open market street with every type of food you could imagine.
After heading back to the hotel for some down time, Chris dragged me to a craft beer joint he found called Hoppy Corner (I got a cider) and we found a local Brasserie to eat at. I would tell you guys which one it was if I could remember, but I don’t! All I know is that I got a plate with a bunch of Italian meats and it was DELISH!
The next day we did a ton more walking…
Through Invalids, with a little rest on the grass….
Past the most gorgeous bridge in all of Paris, Pont Alexandre III….
Then through Place De La Concorde.
Our destination? Angelina on Rue de Rivoli for the best hot chocolate or “chocolat chaud” that I’ve ever tasted.
Although Angelina was somewhere I went to often when I lived in Paris, Chris had never been so it was awesome to introduce him to the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. It also happened to be scorching hot that day, so we got the cold version of this delicious liquid chocolate as well. Both were fantastic. And yes, full of dairy. But it was worth it.
Having been to the the Louvre many, many times, we decided not to go in this time, but we were so close after going to Angelina, so we sat outside for a while by the fountain and people watched.
After that, we made our way over to Notre Dame. We wanted to go to the top, but just missed the last entrance. (We went back another day).
We made a stop at one of my favorite stores in Paris. Nope, nothing a clothing store or a chocolate shop, but a store that sells paper, pens and books. Hopefully I’m not the only dork who loves little notebooks (I still write all of my to-do lists by hand) and the options at Gibert Jeune in Paris are to die for. I picked up a few colorful notebooks that I can’t wait to use.
After that, we hung out at a cafe for hours. Literally. I think we were there for maybe 2 hours. The waiter insisted he take a picture of us. Hence the awkwardness of this photo. Ha! It was so nice to just sit, relax and do some more people watching.
That night we got dinner with my Mom and brother, who were coincidently also in town. My mom was traveling through Europe on her own (we overlapped a couple times during our trip) and my brother, who is currently living in Amsterdam, had to take a last minute trip to Paris to deal with something with his French visa. Anyway, we all got dinner at Le Comilacon. I didn’t bring my fancy camera, but did manage to snap a pick of my delicious Duck entree.
The next day we walked from our hotel to the Arc De Triomphe and down Victor Hugo to find my old school, which I learned is no longer a school. Still was impressed with my ability to recognize the building almost 20 years later!
After that, we headed back to my old neighborhood and ate at Dome de Villiers. I got salmon tartare with avocado and Chris got sausage with some sort of delicious cheese sauce, which I tried but stayed away from as much as I could. 🙂 The food at this place was good, but pretty overpriced. Likely why we never ate here when I lived around the corner. Still, we were hungry and it did the trick.
After lunch, we jumped in the metro and headed to Sacre-Coeur. We hung out on the grass for a while, looking out over the city and walked through what might be one of the prettiest sights in Paris… in my opinion. The tourists can be a little exhausting, but it’s hard to avoid missing an opportunity to gaze in awe at this place.
After that, we decided to go back to Notre Dame. climb to the top and soak in some more gorgeous views of Paris.
A couple days before, we’d walked passed this organic juice shop in Le Marais called Good Organic Only, but it was late and it was closed. Thankfully, we walked past it again and I grabbed a much needed green juice.
Of course, there are few things to follow up an organic juice with than gelato, right? Haha. Couldn’t pass up on gelato from Amerino, especially since they had multiple dairy-free options AND organic options! I got raspberry and dairy-free chocolate.
Our last night we ate at L’Ami Jean, which is probably my favorite restaurant in Paris. Again, I didn’t lug around my heavy camera, but I snapped a photo of our delicious Octopus entree. All of the food was spectacular, as always and if you follow me on Snapchat, you probably saw the EPIC rice pudding we got for dessert. If you’re headed to Paris, L’Ami Jean is an absolute must, just make sure to make reservations in advance!
After 5 days in Paris and a gorgeous sunset to see us off… we woke up at the crack of dawn and flew to Munich, where we got a train to Salzburg, Austria.
In Salzburg we stayed at the Sheraton, which was walking distance to pretty much everything. We immediately took a walk to the Salzach River and did a little exploring.
The city was really unlike any city that I’d been to before. It was small, full of small tunnels that connected one town square to the next, with a steep cliff to one side of the city with Hohensalzburg (more pics of that below) sitting atop. Needless to say, the landscape led to some really gorgeous and unique architecture.
Salzburg was also the birthplace and home of Mozart, so there were Mozart-themed shops, chocolates and of course statues throughout the city.
We grabbed a late lunch/early dinner at K + K, which was surprisingly delicious. The restaurant was in a bit of a touristy location, but the food was really quite good and not expensive. I got a delicious fish salad and Chris got sausage and beer because… Austria. The menu was also very clear as to what dishes had gluten, dairy, etc. which was nice.
After our meal, we wandered back to the hotel, but not before stopping to take in the gorgeous views of Salzburg at dusk.
The next day we did some more exploring and walked into several gorgeous churches before heading to Hohensalzburg…
No big deal, just a house carved into the side of a rock.
You can take a cable car to the top of Hohensalzburg, but we decided to walk up. Tickets include a trip one way, so being the health freaks that we are, we decided to take the cable car down and walk up. It actually wasn’t that difficult at all, so I’m glad we did. It was nice to experience what was clearly the only way up to the castle back before technology got involved.
The castle and views from the top were incredible. We stayed for a drink at the restaurant and enjoyed looking out over the city. We didn’t get any food, but there did seem to be quite a number of options.
One fact we didn’t know at the time was that the next day, we would hike up the giant mountain you see to the right of me in this shot. Had we known at the time that this was the mountain we set out to climb, I may have thought differently at the time. Either way, keep reading to learn more about the scariest and most insane hike of our lives…
But first, before we embarked on the hike of the century, we went to Das Augustiner Bräu, a huge brewery and beer garden in Salzburg. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos inside, but if you follow me on Snapchat I showed you guys some behind the scenes. The beer garden was INSANE. Other than the beer, which I admit I had a few sips of, the food options were incredible. After finding a seat in the enormous garden, you venture upstairs to what must have been 10+ different food vendors. From salads to pretzels, sausages and pastries, the options were endless. We made several trips to get food and ate every last bite.
Okay… time to tell you about the hike.
Realizing that we were spending our entire vacation in cities, we thought it would be a good idea to spend at least one day in nature. Plus, gorgeous hills and mountains a la Sound of Music is what comes to mind when you think of Austria, so nothing seemed more appropriate than a hike. I did some research (but not that much) and found a review of hiking Untersberg, that huge mountain from the photos above, which was only a 20 minute bus ride from the city center.
The review described the hike as “world class”. It said it was 2.5 – 3 hours and that you could take a cable car back down to the bottom. So yeah, a 3 hour hike seemed long, but not when you had a cable car waiting for you at the top. Plus, there was a restaurant and bar at the top too, so how bad could it be? It seemed mosts tourists just took the cable car up and back down, but we decided to be adventurous and hike up. We’d both been on many a hike and couldn’t really imagine running into any issues. We read that we could refill our water bottles halfway up and everything.
We never quite adjusted to the time change in Europe, so we weren’t getting out of our hotel until around noon every day. First mistake. After accidentally taking the wrong bus to the trail head, we didn’t end up starting our hike until 2:30pm. I know, who starts a hike at 2:30pm. But again, we were going to take the cable car back down, so starting late didn’t really phase us. We were so confident in our “hiking abilities” that Chris actually wore sandals. Pretty hardcore sandals, but still. We quickly realized we were ill-prepared when people started passing us with hiking poles and hardcore hiking boots.
An hour into the hike, we were completely exhausted. It was pretty hot out and the trail was steeper than anything either of us had ever experienced. Not only that, but it was so steep that maybe HALF the trail were steps like these. So basically, for hours, we were climbing steps and were gaining altitude very, very quickly. Given that it was so difficult, I kept telling Chris that it was fine for us to take our time. People were passing us left and right, but we were struggling and thought, why not just do this at our own pace? Second mistake.
After that first hour I decided to check to see when the last cable car was. 5:30pm. Oops. Ie, if we made PERFECT time, we’d only have a half hour at the top. If we did the hike in 3 hours, we’d have zero time at the top and would have to immediately board the cable car back down. Of course at the time, my fear was not that we’d have to climb back down the mountain, but that we wouldn’t have enough time to take photographs and have a drink at the restaurant at the top.
After an hour and a half, Chris wanted to turn back. But at this point we were out of water and there would be no place to fill up going down. Either we kept going and found water halfway, or we climbed down for an hour and half with NO water. We decided to keep going.
The views were no doubt spectacular, but at this point we were basically rushing up the mountain and I can’t exactly say we were enjoying ourselves.
We finally made it to the place to fill up our water bottle and stupidly, with only 1 hour to make it the rest of the way up the mountain, we kept going. This is where the trail went from bad to INSANE.
See that little dot in the middle of the photo? That’s Chris, just to give you a sense of scale At this point in the trail we literally had to climb the face of the mountain, which was extremely steep, rocky terrain.
Miniature Chris again, as I tried to speed up in order to make and somehow convince them to hold the cable car. Yes, we were really, really stupid Americans.
For the last hour of the trail, this was what we were faced with. There were cables running along the side of the rock which if you didn’t hold onto, you could easily fall to imminent death. It was extremely intense and unlike anything of us had ever experienced a hike to be.
At this point, we were pretty certain we weren’t going to make the cable car, but we held out hope that somehow we would be able to get down without climbing. Surely the staff had to take the car down, right? Would they just let us be stranded overnight at the top of the mountain? Whatever insane stories we continued to tell ourselves, somehow it motivated us to keep going and not just turn back.
At this point I was probably a good 10 minutes ahead of Chris. I could hear the sound of people drinking and enjoying themselves at the cafe above. I thought, well, there are so many people still here, surely they are going down in the cable car. We will make it. It will be okay. Keep in mind this is already hour 3 of the hike. Unlike the 2.5 – 3 hour estimate we were given, we had already reached 3 hours and likely had at least another 30 minutes to go before reaching the summit.
The last 15 minutes of the hike, from the restaurant to the summit were undoubtedly the most difficult. Needless to say, we missed the cable car by 15 minutes. We had climbed 6,500 ft. in 3 and a half hours and were slowly but surely realizing that we had two choices. 1. We ask if we can stay at the house where the restaurant was at the top of the mountain, forgo our hotel room for the night and climb down in the morning. Granted, we had nothing but the soaked clothes we were wearing. 2. We climb down. As miserable as climbing down sounded, given how exhausted we were and how we hadn’t eaten in hours and hours, the thought of staying at the top of this mountain in a creepy house with no clean clothes and having to lose the hotel points I’d used to the hotel… somehow going back down seemed slightly better.
We started our descent at 6:00pm. We were told the hike down would only be 2 hours. Of course, that wasn’t true. It took us the same time it took us to go up, 3.5 hours. Thank goodness Chris’ phone had battery left because for the last hour and a half of the hike we were walking in COMPLETE darkness. Thankfully we made it down the hardest part of the trail, the face of the mountain before it got dark. But there were many a step that needed to be descended in the pitch dark.
If Chris’ phone had died, we would have had to just stop, and sleep on the trail until the sun rose. There would have been no way we could do it. Thankfully, we made it down to the bottom. It was 9:30pm at this point. Of course, no busses were running and we faced a new issue of how to get back to the hotel, which was about 17 miles away.
Miraculously, a taxi pulled around the corner and we jumped in. There was absolutely nothing and no one in this town, the fact that a taxi without anyone in it pulled up just as we were getting desperate was unreal. Needless to say, it was the best $20 we ever spent in our lives. We got back to the hotel being barely able to walk, showered, hopped in bed and ordered 800 things for room service.
And, that is the story of the hike. PRETTY EPIC. As insane and dangerous and stupid as it was, I am still glad we did it. It’s certainly something we will never forget. We conquered Untersberg, under the absolute worst circumstances and made it out alive.
The next afternoon, we took the train to Vienna and got on our flight to Amsterdam, my absolute favorite city in all of Europe.
Our first night in Amsterdam, we met up once again with my mom and brother for dinner at my favorite place to eat in the city – Kantjil & de Tijger. If you are looking for clean, gluten and dairy free food, Indonesian is a MUST. For $30 a person, you get the most food you’ve ever seen and SO much variety. This was my favorite restaurant in Amsterdam 8 years ago when I lived there and it is still #1. Although they have a ton of options, I’v never ordered anything than the rijsttafel, which is literally “rice table”. You get white rice, plus a few mains and a variety of sides. Mix and match them all together for seriously the best meal… ever.
After a nice, relaxing sleep at our hotel, W Amsterdam, we spent the next day biking around the city. Above are photos of the pretty eclectic inside of the hotel, plus a view from the hotel’s rooftop bar and pool.
Our hotel was right around the corner from Dam Square, so we snapped a quick photo before heading to Albert Heijn, the main grocery store in the city.
Although mostly pretty fruit-based and sugary, Albert Heijn has a huge selection of fresh, delicious juices. I was happy to see a few green juices which I don’t remember from when I lived in Amsterdam almost a decade ago, but it took all of my self control to not grab a sugar-fest juice.
Instead I opted for this green juice while no doubt still sugary, was still better than the pineapple mango concoction I really wanted.
Walked up and down the aisles and found quite a bit of dairy-free and gluten-free options…. I wasn’t watching my diet 8 years ago when I lived here, but I imagine there have been a lot more allergen-friendly products introduced since then, especially in the conventional grocery store.
We then biked to where I used to live, which looked exactly the same. A trip down memory lane for sure…
From there we headed to Waterlooplein, a flea market just down the street from where I used to live.
From there we wandered past the Opera House…
Although we didn’t eat there this time, we wandered into La Place on Kalverstraat (a big shopping street just off Dam Square). La Place actually just opened a location at Google HQ in NYC. It is a fantastic cafeteria-style eatery where you can get fresh salads, sandwiches, fish, meat, pizza, smoothies… it’s pretty much heaven. Such a great place to go for high-quality food that isn’t expensive and with options that will work for everyone. Snapped a photo of Chocomel as well, the chocolate milk that is everywhere in the Netherlands. Definitely had this a lot back in the day, its especially delicious warmed up.
A couple photos of the end of Kalverstraat, Muntplein Square.
We then stopped into Marqt for a snack. I had never heard of this place before, but they have several different locations throughout Amsterdam. About 90% of everything they carry is made in the Netherlands and it’s mostly all natural and high quality. I resisted the 3 Euro bar of raw chocolate and opted for the slightly less expensive and much larger dark chocolate instead. It was hard to choose though, everything looked delicious.
We sat by the canal and ate some chocolate. I have to admit, the vast majority of our time in Amsterdam was spent eating, sitting by canals. Because what else do you do in Amsterdam? It is the absolute best.
I forget where we at that night, but it was likely Wok to Walk, which I snapchatted about. Wok to Walk is exactly what it sounds like and just after I lived in Amsterdam 8 years ago, they actually opened a few locations in the US. Its basically Chipotle, but with stir fry. You pick rice, noodles (several of which are gluten free), meat (or no meat), plus veggie toppings. It’s quick, easy and delicious.
The next morning we went to The Pancake Bakery to get traditional Dutch pancakes. Think very large crepes, maybe slightly thicker, with any sort of topping you want. You can do savory, or sweet. The Pancake Bakery also have omelettes AND gluten-free flour, which is pretty cool. Be prepared to wait in line at this place, but it’s well worth it.
After an insanely filling breakfast, we biked over to Nemo, the science museum for an awesome view of the city. You have to climb quite a few stairs to get to the top, which was perfect after eating out weight in carbohydrates.
We then biked just next store to the coolest library, Oba and went to the top to have a drink at La Place (that same place I posted about before). Chris got a beer and I got a fruit smoothie.
After that, we ventured across the water across to just North of Amsterdam. Chris camped in the campground there when he lived in Amsterdam and I’d never been, so we thought it would be a fun adventure. We ended up finding the campground plus this eery, empty pool thing in a park.
After a good amount of biking, we were pretty hangry so we went to yet another one of my favorite places to eat in the city, Soup En Zo. This place offers, you guessed it, soup. They change the menu almost daily and I honestly have never had something I didn’t like. This is a great place to go if you’re staying away from gluten and/or dairy too.
Because as I mentioned, we spent most of our time eating, we grabbed a few snacks from Albert Heijn and spent some time relaxing by a canal. Cassis soda is definitely not healthy, but not something I can find in the US and remembered fondly from when I lived in Amsterdam. It lived up to its memory… the best way to describe it is probably blueberry soda, but a little less sweet and more mild tasting.
The next morning, we decided on fries for breakfast, because why not? Although there are a ton of places to get delicious fries in the city, Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx is mostly considered to be the best. You have to wait in line, but just like the pancakes, it’s worth it. You can choose from a wide variety of sauces, but like the true Dutch girl that I am (ever wonder why my last name has two As in a row?), I opted for mayo AND satay sauce. So, so good.
After the fries, we biked over to the Macrobiotic Kushi Institute. For those of you that don’t know, Kushi basically started the entire Organic movement in the United States and it’s where my husband Chris first studied to be a chef and fell in love with all of the ways that food can heal. This place was the reason he used to live in Amsterdam, many years ago.
From there we relaxed in Vondelpark, arguably the largest park in the city. It’s endlessly fun to just bike through and stop and relax on the grass, which is exactly what we did.
We then biked across the city to visit my brother, who had a pretty great view and an adorable white cat living with him, thanks to his roommate.
My brother took us to Roest, an amazing waterfront-bar and eatery. In the warmer months, apparently people swim in the canals, but it was a little chilly on this night. It was still lovely to sit at the tables, with our feet in the sand, overlooking the sunset on the canal.
The next morning we went back to De Mannen Van Kaas, an amazing shop just down the street from our hotel. If you are a bread and/or cheese fan, this place is pretty much heaven. They have a ton of other options as well, but Chris and I were blown away with not just the quality of the food, but also the gorgeous space. You could basically eat an entire meal of cheese samples, which Chris may or may not have done.
That night we rented a boat with my brother and a couple of his friends through Mokum Boot and spent a couple hours causing the canals at sunset. I have no idea why I didn’t know you could do this when I lived in the city, but it was definitely a highlight of the trip. We bought a ton more snacks and some wine at Marqt and it was pretty much heaven, as evidenced by these photos.
On our last morning in Amsterdam, we hung out on The Torensluis, a rather large bridge overlooking the Singel canal. It’s home to several cafes where I used to spend a ton of time back in the day. It’s a rather picturesque bridge and a great place to hang out. Plus, it’s home to the Multatuli statue, a famous Dutch writer.
For our last meal, we went back to La Place on Kalverstraat and got a ton of delicious food, most notably this amazing pork shank which was so tasty and juicy.
With heavy hearts, we left Amsterdam and Europe, heading back to New York. Chris went home and I went straight to Expo East… you can read my recap of that here!
Hopefully you enjoyed this very long recap, it was certainly the trip of our lives… at least so far!