Holidays Abroad

Happy Valentine’s Day! Sending love, hugs and chocolate kisses from Amsterdam.
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Living abroad is exciting and very fulfilling. But what they don’t tell you in the pamphlet is that it can also be lonely, especially during holidays. It can be very challenging trying to celebrate one of your favourite traditional festivities when it is not as popular abroad. Thanksgiving and Halloween are great examples of this. Though slowly picking up in popularity, they are still not big social holidays in The Netherlands. Don’t get me started on finding cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie! Even though we did find a Halloween party for expats, we were the only ones dressed up in costume while on public transit – maybe they thought we were crazy? Then again, it is Amsterdam!
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On the flip side, you also get to participate in new holidays, such as Kings Day or Sinterklass. It’s not every day you see “Santa” arriving by boat and then riding past you on a white horse, or over one million people all dressed up in orange. So if abroad, try to immerse yourself in the local cultural traditions as well as maintaining your own.
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Not to worry, I have been able to find some heart shaped desserts in Amsterdam at Leef, though St.Patrick’s Day decor seems nonexistent!? Has anyone seen this anywhere? Most stores are prepping for Easter now!
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Want to know more about my thoughts of living abroad? Check out my feature online in Expats of Amsterdam here: http://expatsofamsterdam.nl/country/canada/dutch-blood-veins-also-made-feel-home/. So grateful to be part of this! Also, a big thank you to kvdvphotography.com for the Valentines photoshoot, and the white vintage sweater found at Treasure Hunters Amsterdam!

Cheers,
Melissa

Travel & Beauty

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Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE makeup. I really don’t go very far without it (especially if we are taking lots of photos and videos). But when you travel with just a backpack, you don’t always have much room for cosmetics (especially when you plan on bringing back souvenirs). So over the year I have learnt to pack light and minimal when it comes to beauty. I have also discovered, and absolutely love, all-in-one makeup travel kits such as the Gigi Hadid Jetsetter Palette from Maybelline and the Douglas Collection Mini Star Palette. Makeup travel kits work great because they are small, but last, and have all your beauty essentials. This along with a powder compact is really all you need on a trip. Another reason I love these is that they often have eye shadow shades that I would not normally try, and you still get concealer/ contour options! What is in your travel makeup bag?
sunday marketI also have just started a collection of lipsticks from visited countries, so that I have a shade to remind me of each trip! What do you collect?
20180206_095044_edited_editedAny other travel questions? Let me know! And stay tuned for more monthly tips and tricks!

Cheers,
Melissa

Switzerland: Zurich, Rhine Falls & Schaffhausen

Zurich is a picturesque place which you can visit within a couple days, making it a perfect weekend getaway location. Filled with museums, shopping options and churches, you will have plenty to do. Along with filling your day with activities, you can also fill your stomach with cheese and chocolate. Though, be warned that though flights may be on the cheaper side, dining and drinking in Zurich is quite expensive (I’m talking 30 dollars for 2 glasses of wine here). But if you don’t mind forking out some money, go for it and don’t let it deter you.

I suggest you start your Zurich visit at the Salt & Pepper Shakers (nick name of the towers at Grossmunster Church). Though quite simplistic inside, you can pay 5 Swiss Francs to climb to the top for a panoramic view of the city. Another popular church is Fraumunster, which has a free courtyard filled with frescos that I recommend checking out, as it was originally a former abbey for women founded back in 853. Zurich also offers lots of museums and galleries, or you can just enjoy walking up the hilly cobblestone paths of Altstadt (Old town). Feel like a workout? Climb up the mountain to check out the University and then enjoy a tea and a view at bQm Culture Café & Bar. You know I love free tours, and I thoroughly enjoyed http://www.freewalk.ch/zurich/. They were friendly, informative, and brought us into places I may not have discovered on my own (such as an old Swiss bank now a building for boutique store owners).

Once you’ve worked up an appetite you can satisfy your taste buds with the traditional fondue or raclette at places such as Swiss Chuchi (which offers a choice of gluten free bread by the way), or check out the oldest continuously open vegetarian restaurant in the world (according to Guinness World Records) at Hiltl. I recommend the Tatar, it’s worth the price tag. Be sure to try some champagne truffles, meant for New Years but such a delightful treat. Also order the Flambe with Firewater at Zueghauskeller (your instagram will thank you for it), or go for upscale cocktails with friendly service at Nachtflug (stone walls of over 700 years, combined with a modern interior).

Excursions outside of Zurich can be pricey (starting at 60 dollars a person, up to the high hundreds); but another option is to take the train 1 hour out of the city to Rhine Falls. You can spend hours there walking around the falls, or visiting Laufen Castle (which also offers a platform at the bottom of the falls to get a closer view of the water). In the summer they offer boat rides, but in the winter you can enjoy some delicious mulled wine in a winter wonderland. Rhine falls formed in the last ice age and is the largest waterfall in Switzerland with quite a spectacular view (weather permitting). More information can be found here: http://www.rheinfall.ch/en/yourvisit.

One stop away from Rhine falls is Schaffhausen. It is worth the trip! A cute medieval town that you can walk through within hours, that offers a lot of authenticity. In the winter, and on a weekend, not much is open. However you can check out sites such as Kloster Allerheiligen (former monastery), Munot (which is free and surrounded by vineyards, with a great view of the city), lots of unique water fountains, and more.

Due to weather not all of our plans were followed. However, here are some more suggestions on other activities to do in Zurich: The Urania Observatory: Old Crow (for some whiskey options), Gerold Cuchi Umbrellas, and Uetliberg the Top of Zurich. Did I miss anything? Want to learn more? Let me know!

Have you been to Zurich? What did you think? Any suggestions on where I should travel next? Be sure to leave a comment below!

Cheers,
Melissa

Travel Tip Time

sunday market (1)One Tuesday a month I’m going to start sharing a new travel tip with you from my own personal experiences, to make your travels that much easier. One thing I’ve learnt this past year is to #KISS when travelling. You know, Keep It Simple Silly! I prefer not to have checked luggage and therefore become restricted in my carry on options. So at home, I keep a large box of samples, hotel & Dentist freebies, etc, that I have picked up along the way and I use those (especially when staying in Air B & B’s). If you have specific products that you like, invest in small reusable bottles at the Dollar Store. To stay organized and save on time through security, I pre-package my liquids in my own transparent zipped bag. This may seem like a pain to invest in now, but will save you time later on! That gives you more time to relax and explore!

Any other travel questions? Let me know! And stay tuned for more tips!IMG_9195_edited Amsterdam Lights Full 1Cheers,
Melissa

Well Hello There 2018!

hello 2018!A lot can change in a year. Last New Year’s we were toasting rum filled drinks on a sandy beach in Cuba, not knowing what life would have in store only a few months later. This has been the year of travel and change. Not only travelling to 10 countries in 12 months (Cuba, Trinidad & Tobago, The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, The UK, France, Belgium, back to Canada twice, and Italy) but uplifting our lives to start a new in Amsterdam as well. Living abroad has brought on new challenges, but also new adventures. It has its uncertainties along with its pleasant surprises. It’s been a year of facing fears, adapting, exploring and reflecting. I have now been on stage (and screen) in another country, bought a bike, had that bike stolen, joined a gym that does not speak English, taught my first acting workshop, lived through culture shock, made new friendships (and strengthened old ones), ate uncertain foods (and my fair share of cheese), and seen more old school windmills than I ever have before.
20161227_174244I have no idea what 2018 holds, I have my goals and plans, but really anything can change. Which also means that anything is possible. Thank you all for your continual love and support, stay tuned, and bring on 2018!

Cheers,
Melissa

All roads lead to Rome

This adventurous road trip consisted of stops in Terni, San Gemini, Cortona, Arezzo, Perugia, Chianti, Lucca, Pisa, and ended with a few days in Rome. Despite the miserable weather (I’m talking hail storms, lots of rain, heavy fog and unexpected cold temperatures); it was a beautiful countryside to drive through. It was much hillier than expected, and still had a full supply of radiant fall shades on the trees, with lots of castles scattered throughout. Cortona was a short stop, but it was lovely to wake up and take in the top of the mountain view (while enjoying a breakfast buffet). Tonino’s in Cortona for dinner was a delightful experience. It may have been the best meal in all of Italy so far, and they were very accommodating for Vegetarians! San Gemini was a charming medieval town, which I could see as a great tourist spot to visit in the summer. Pisa of course had the leaning tower, surrounded by many other essential historic buildings to visit such as the Cathedral, Baptistery and a couple Museums. We also happened to witness a perfect sunset with clear skies, which added a nice touch to the quick stop.

The last part of the trip included a weekend in Rome. Luckily we were there on the 1st Sunday of the month, meaning that a long list of popular tourist attractions were all free! Though that does mean you will be spending lots of time in line ups. Our activities included The Vatican (beautiful, and the line actually moved much quicker than anticipated), The Coliseum (Yes, I did have to say “Are you not entertained?! while there), Castle Sant’ Angelo, Trevi Fountain (coins were definitely tossed into this magnificent fountain), The Pantheon, The Roman Forum and more.

As per my usual, we did participate in a free walking tour by http://www.newromefreetour.com/, and I must say it was not only educational, but our guide was quite humorous as well. A fun part, VIP access into an ancient church and the chocolate wall waterfall at Venchi.
IMG_8682I wish I could tell you that I ate the best pasta I’ve ever had, however nothing has topped the Spaghetti Parmigiano from Mangiare Rotterdam. (It was prepared in a cheese wheel after all). Check them out here: https://mangiarerotterdam.com/. If you can prove me wrong with any pasta suggestions let me know for when I return to Italy. There is still so much more to explore there.

Cheers,
Melissa

Dinant, Belgium

Just had a short visit to the to the Belgium town of Dinant, right on the River Meuse. This very old town is known for its landmark, the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame de Dinant. Right behind it, at the very top of the mountain, is the Citadel of Dinant. You can take a cable car to the top; however, “we” chose to walk it. All 408 steps of it, to walk off the calories from our beer of course. It is worth the climb though, as there is a small interactive exhibit to experience and a breathtaking view.20171111_152107Dinant is also known for Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone from the early 1840’s, its Trappist Leffe beer, delicious chocolate of course, mussel’s for dinner and the couque de dinant. This sweet treat is made of just flour and honey and is not intended to be bitten into. Instead, you break off pieces and suck on it. Or maybe dip it in some tea. Yum!IMG_4445This cute little town was very picturesque, with a few surprises along the way, such as the Rocher Bayard rock and the hidden ruins de creve-coeur. The ruins were a bit of a hike, and maybe not the safest thing to do in the rain, but well worth it. To get there you also walk through a tiny medieval town, and it’s only about a 30 minute commute from downtown. Some other tourist activities included beer tasting at Maison Leffe and exploring the caves at Grotte La Merveilleuse.IMG_4870-EditDo note that as this is a small town, and if you go in low tourist season, most outdoor water activities are closed. There is not much of a nightlife, as things shut down very early, and it is also very difficult to find places for an early breakfast, so feel free to sleep in. A free but fun activity to do is to walk along the river. Check out the colours and architecture of the locals homes, take pictures of the scenery, and breathe in the fresh air, while sampling some fresh Belgium chocolate of course!
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Where should we go next? Any suggestions?
Cheers,
Melissa

How to Act

And that’s a wrap on my first play in Amsterdam! Thank you to the amazing cast and crew for making this an unforgettable experience. The thing that was reiterated to me once again about theatre is that no matter what country you are in, theatre translates the same everywhere. It is months of rehearsals, becoming a close knit family, the usual preshow nerves and producing a magical experience for both the actors and audience alike.

Photo credit to Arjen Veldt Photography.

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The show was continuously sold out with wait lists filling up each night. Be sure to stay in the loop for what In Players will be showing next at http://inplayers.org/… And if you are looking to learn the basics of acting yourself, come join me in Amsterdam! I will be teaching an acting workshop on November 18th! Come learn ‘How to Act’!

Let's Celebrate National Sunglasses Day! (4)

Cheers,
Melissa

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