Acting Updates

I’ve been posting so much about travel and (wedding) life lately that I thought it might be a nice idea to update you on what is happening in the acting world for me!
In Makeup
Since returning to Amsterdam as a married woman, I have had some great opportunities come my way! I was recently in an international phone commercial that is airing in India right now (watch it HERE) and an anti-wrinkle cream infomercial (I guess I’m at that age now haha)! Both times on set, I didn’t feel as excluded as I often do with the language barrier, as both productions were a cast and crew of internationals from all over. That was a welcomed change. It can get a bit lonely on set when you don’t speak the common language.
One Plus Phone Commercial
I am also part of the crew of a wonderful show presented by the InPlayers called ‘An Enemy of the People’, which will be playing late November! You can get your tickets HERE, with more Details below (show poster created by Quin Mero):
An Enemy of the People
Though it can be difficult to find acting gigs for native English speakers in Amsterdam (compared to Toronto), things are slowly starting to pick up. I’m also attempting to make my own work and create my own opportunities with lots of passion projects on the way. I can’t say too much now but stay tuned for more announcements soon!
OnePlus
Are you acting abroad? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,
Melissa

Top 7 Things to Do in Berlin

Berlin is an exciting city with something for every kind of traveler, not just for the history buffs, but the art lovers, gardeners, foodies and more. After spending a long weekend exploring the bustling city, I have decided to list my top 7 suggestions of things to do while in this German city. So let us begin!
The Berlin Wall
1) Topography of Terror Documentation Center: There is a reason why over 1.3 million people visited this free museum last year. This indoor and outdoor exhibit is located on a site which was formerly the headquarters for the SS during the Nazi regime. It is also where a part of the Berlin Wall was located from 1961 to 1989, this remaining piece is now the longest existing segment of the outer wall. This museum has a lot of reading; it makes a Ph.D. dissertation look like a postcard. If you want to read it all, be prepared to spend an afternoon. I recommend it. Learn about the history not just of Germany, but Europe, and really the world. Learn from past mistakes. Learn to prevent this from ever happening again. Take a moment to also respect the lives that were lost.
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
2) Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp: Since we are on the topic of WW2, I suggest taking a walking tour with New Europe Tours to visit Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. This tour is about 5 plus hours (including travel time), and only 16 Euros plus a transit pass. Granted there is more than enough to do within Berlin, take a moment and leave the city to experience something else. If you don’t have 5 hours, they also offer PWYC tours that stay inside the downtown core of Berlin and last only a couple of hours.
View of Berlin
3) Get a View: See Berlin from above or at least get the aerial shot for Instagram. Now you do have many options. You can do what everyone else does and go to the Fernsehturm Television Tower’s observation deck and be surprised with the unnecessarily long lineup and a pricey ticket. Want a better view surrounded by buildings instead of on the outskirts? I suggest you skip the line and head over to Kollhoff-Tower in the Potsdamer Platz. There is also a café up top if you want to rest and fuel up with a beverage. For something different, go up in the tethered hot air balloon at WELT Balloon Berlin Service LLC.
Opera House
4 ) Bebelplatz: This stop is free; it is a square after all. I suggest it not just to check out the gorgeous pink Opera House, which looks amazing at sunset, but for the whole area. There you will also see buildings of Humboldt University, and St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, the first Catholic Church built in Prussia after the Reformation. This location is also where the infamous Nazi book burning took place on the evening of May 10th 1933. Today you can see a memorial on the ground in the middle of the square by Micha Ullman.
Sanssouci in Potsdam
5) Potsdam: If you follow my Instagram account you will have seen my gorgeous photos of this loveable town. Why did I enjoy it so much? I felt like I was in Versailles! No really! There is an endless supply of castles (which you can enter for a small fee) and gardens galore. I suggest taking the train (less than an hour away) and checking out this area for an all day trip. Stroll through the properties and you will find surprises like The Chinese House (it’s covered in gold), and more. Before heading back to Berlin you will find ample food options to stop for dinner (I had the best pumpkin soup ever). I highly recommend adding Potsdam to your itinerary!
The Holocaust Memorial
6) Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, or also known as The Holocaust Memorial: This memorial was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. Building began in April 2003, but it was not completed until December 2004. Sixty years after the end of WW2, it was inaugurated in May 2005 and opened to the public. It is a large site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs. They are assembled in a grid pattern on a hilly concrete field. All the slabs vary in height and are slightly askew so that none is the same as another. At this location, there is also a museum which holds the names of the approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims. This art was never fully explained, but I believe when you walk through this maze of stone, you are meant to feel alone, afraid, lost, isolated and claustrophobic, as the victims would have felt. This memorial cost around 25 million to complete.
Bunker Tour
7) Bunker Tours: Do not leave the city until you have completed a Bunker Tour. It was not only educational but a cool experience. Literally! It was so refreshing to cool down on a hot summer day. Tours are offered throughout the day, in different languages. You cannot purchase a ticket ahead of time, but if you go in a bit before the tour to buy a ticket, you should be fine. Some are offered underground, but we opted for the Flak Tower in Humboldthain Park in Gesundbrunnen. Only a part of it remains as it was destroyed after the war to de-militarize it. You don’t realize it at first but as you walk up the mountain to get to the entrance, it is actually the Flak Tower itself that is buried in rubble and has become a large hill! Here you are shown three of the seven floors of one of the biggest bunkers in the city, but they offer other bunker tours as well!
Inside Zur Gerichtslaube
Bonus: One last thing I would recommend in Berlin is to eat up! You all know by now I am not only a vegetarian, but am gluten free, and to throw in a wrench I’m on a wedding diet! Ahh! This makes travel a bit difficult for suppressing my hunger. Luckily we found options in Berlin (not just options but delicious meals!). At Zur Gerichtslaube they have authentic German food, and are located in a tiny historic building from 1270 which was originally a Medieval Town Hall! If you love pink décor then visit Wilde Matilde Bar. Honestly, even if you just want Shawarma or other foods, the options were all great in Berlin.
Checkpoint Charlie
Berlin is very spread out, so prepare to walk lots! Berlin offers a lot of museums (even a dedicated one for currywurst), and provides so much to entertain yourself for free (such as checking out the Brandenburg Gate or walking past the recreated Checkpoint Charlie which is super touristy by the way)! If in doubt just walk around and explore, sometimes this is how the best discoveries are made, such as an adorable flea market we randomly found!
Flea Market in Berlin
Want to know more? Have you been to Berlin? Let me know in the comments below and stay tuned for my next travel adventure! Thanks so much to KVDV Photography for the lovely photos.

Cheers,
Melissa

Amsterdam Vs Toronto

AMS vs TOIt has been a year this weekend since we packed up and ventured to a new way of life in Amsterdam. It has been exciting, challenging and liberating. To celebrate our one year anniversary here, I have created a list of 20 differences that I have experienced between Toronto and Amsterdam.

  1. Cityscape: There are very few “skyscrapers” in Amsterdam. Downtown most of the buildings have the same look and feel, yet they are different with various colours or characteristic details. I do find the old look to be quite charming. If you want more of a modern look check out Rotterdam nearby!Amsterdam Buildings
  2. Alcohol: Wayyyy cheaper and more accessible here in Amsterdam. Who needs the LCBO when you can walk into your neighbourhood grocery store and purchase 3 decent bottles of wine for 10 euros! That is around $15 CAD! What?!
  3. Communication: Here the official language is Dutch; however, most residents will speak to you in English if needed (especially in touristy areas). Signage and transit announcements are usually in Dutch, which has led to a few funny stories of trains being cancelled and being stranded in the train yard. Fun…
  4. Food: Traditional Dutch dishes are amazing for your mouth, but not so much for your waist. Deep fried, sugary, savoury, cheesy and yummy are all the food groups you can look forward to here!Say Cheese
  5. Way of Life: Amsterdam tends to have more of a work life balance. This is probably since most stores are not open past 6 pm and have limited hours on the weekends. Not so great for the shoppers that are used to typical North American hours – such as the 24/7 Walmarts. On that note you will not find many big department stores in the Amsterdam core as it is majority boutique shops. Great for local businesses, not so great for one stop shopping.Toronto at Night
  6. Weather: Everyone lied to us. It does get cold and it does snow in winter – luckily not as much as Toronto, still enough to cause panic when it snows. Another important fact to know is the significant difference in sunlight hours: 2066 for Toronto and 1662 for Amsterdam. It seems like it is always dreary and cloudy, and I have yet to see anyone skating to work. However this week has been amazingly sunny, so today I am not complaining at all!Toronto Snow
  7. Nature: Amsterdam offers large parks with green space for its residents, and has an abundance of beautiful canals. Toronto also has many park options, especially along the beaches/ island. Pretty even playing field here. There is also less wildlife in the suburban neighbourhoods of Amsterdam (I haven’t seen a squirrel in ages), but a lot more varieties of birds and ducks.Vondel Park Amsterdam
  8. Cleanliness: Though Amsterdam tried to implement a recycling program, I do find that Toronto is much cleaner and more progressive in protecting our environment. In Amsterdam (or Europe rather) you will also find more cats and pigeons inside restaurants. On top of that, places often allow you to bring in your dog!
  9. Bathrooms: Unfortunately there is a theme across Europe that lots of public restrooms are not free. Even in restaurants. It can range from 50 cents to a Euro just to relieve yourself of all the alcohol…I mean water… that you’ve been drinking. Although at night men’s urinals do pop up in the streets for easy usage, but I wouldn’t use one of those. One would expect that paying for the usage of a water closet would ensure a nice and sanitized environment, this is not the case and most can be smelled from meters away. No location signs required!
  10. Extra charges: They don’t just charge you for bathrooms here. Restaurants often put items on your dinner table that are typically free in Toronto. When you go to pay for your dinner, expect that water, bread, condiments and more will be added to your tab!
  11. Location: Toronto has many great spots to visit nearby, but it is not always very convenient via transit. Amsterdam is a prime location to travel to because it is centrally located within Europe. Just do not expect for all your transit to be cheap. There are so many more travel options here, that you are bound to be bitten by the travel bug.Toronto Transit
  12. Shopping: Clothing is quite expensive in Europe. Essentially a shirt in Canada could be 25 dollars, while the same shirt in Amsterdam is 25 Euros, converting to 39 Canadian dollars! Bananas! Although Amsterdam has some really cute boutique shops, it also has some of the same stores that you can find on Queen St. There are still some stores that I miss from Canada and get excited about visiting on my trips back.
  13. Bike Culture: Although hipsters in Toronto love their bikes, Amsterdam has them beat. Honestly, crossing the street here as a pedestrian can be really scary if you don’t look both ways (and then again). There are massive lots for bike parking everywhere; with almost as many bikes as people in this city. Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly large cities in the world, with 400 km of bike lanes and nearly 40% of all commutes are done via bike. Here most cyclists don’t wear helmets, and bike theft is a big problem. We had one of our bikes stolen within 2 weeks of purchase!Amsterdam Bikes
  14. Crime: Speaking of theft… I felt pretty safe in Toronto most of the time even with the constant reminder of crime on the news. Amsterdam has its pickpockets (especially in tourist locations), bike thefts and large amount of home burglaries. However there appears to be less violent crime here. I have never felt unsafe walking around at night in Amsterdam.
  15. Arts: Although there is a love of culture, and lots of theatre and film options for performers here, if you do not know Dutch it is very very limiting. I’ve been lucky enough to book a few roles, however, here you really have to search for them. It does limit the competition though when the role specifically requires a native English speaker!
  16. Prices: Rent, food and entertainment seem to cost more overall in Amsterdam. This could be because I am still constantly converting the Euro to Canadian dollars in my head every time I make a transaction. But it definitely is cheaper to drink (alcohol) here. Yay!Amsterdam Food
  17. Population: Toronto may have more residents but Amsterdam is BUSY, though most of this population are tourists. Also I do find that overall there is more butting in line here, and less of the Canadian way of lining up. “Sorry!” And to go on a bit of a tangent here, customer service is not always as quick or friendly in Europe like what you can get in Canada. Amsterdam Boat
  18. Living: Kitchens are much smaller in Europe. We were very lucky to land a place with an “American Size” oven, stove and fridge. Dishwashers seems to be non-existent in pre-furnished homes. And dryers? Not everyone has them. If you do, it probably takes hours to dry a single load and normally the clothes just get warm and less damp. I also don’t see very many apartments with elevators or AC, especially if you live in the downtown core. The trade-off? You live in a charming old historic Dutch apartment in the heart of Amsterdam, and have a view of a canal if you’re lucky! Many people also live in houseboats along the canals, how cool is that?Houseboat
  19. Laws: There are laws here, yet they seem more lenient on safety. There is texting and biking, drinking and boating, young kids playing with fireworks at New Years and most canals do not have a railing. In a way it’s a bit refreshing to not feel so restricted and have to own up and be responsible for yourself.
  20. Fashion: I cannot speak for all the men here, but women’s fashion is more laid back. I wouldn’t say its years ahead like the old stereotype goes, but it does have a different vibe from Toronto. Here no one really cares what you wear. Typically you see women sporting jeans, a plain top and jacket. They don’t seem to spend hours on hair and makeup and look like they just rolled out of bed and decided to change out of their PJ’s, and yet still look fabulous.

Overall it has been a year filled with lots of ups and downs. I do not regret the decision to move and am so grateful for the opportunities that have come with moving. Who knows what will happen in this next year to come! Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Are you an expat? Have you lived or traveled abroad? What differences have you noticed in your journeys!

Thanks so much to KVDV Photography for the beautiful photos!

Cheers,
Melissa

St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland

IMG_0105 (1)Deciding where to go on St. Patrick’s Day was an easy decision, Dublin, Ireland of course! Not only is there an unlimited amount of pubs to celebrate in, they also have a parade dedicated for the festivities. Surprisingly though, most of the participating bands, floats and spectators were American; it did not have the St. Patrick’s vibe one would expect – no leprechauns!

In Dublin there are lots of free museums to check out such as: Chester Beatty Library, National Gallery of Ireland and the Natural History Museum. There are also cute parks for people watching such as St. Stephen’s Green. If deciding between which churches to check out (as they are not free here) I would consider Christ Church Cathedral before St. Patrick’s Cathedral. There will be a shorter wait time, more to see and they have a large crypt underneath. Sandeman’s offers free walking tours here as well, but my favourite tour was of Kilmainham Gaol. A former prison not only filled with so much history, it is very interesting for anyone into the Irish politics, and has a museum at the end. This tour was only 8 Euros and my top pick in Dublin. Other spots to check out are Anne’s Lane for the instagramable umbrella art installation, the Spire of Dublin (not loved by the locals), and a walk along the Liffey river for views of the cityscape and many bridges.
IMG_1239Thirsty from all that walking? You can taste local brews at the Guinness Storehouse, the Jameson Distillery and The Irish Whiskey Museum, or any of the local pubs. However I really enjoyed Vintage Cocktail Club the most. At VCC you must make reservations. When you arrive you will see a random door with no door handle and will have to ring the doorbell. It has a speakeasy feel inside, with a vintage décor. It’s cosy, small and has the best tasting cocktails. Their menu is setup based on time periods of cocktail creation and provides an insight as to what was offered throughout history, along with their own signature creations such as The Dirty Wizard.
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When checking out the big cities of surrounding countries, I also like to take the time to see the smaller towns nearby. If staying in Dublin, I highly recommend checking out Howth. Less than 30 minutes away by train, Howth is a beautiful location filled with fresh seafood restaurants, and you can follow the main road which takes you up a hike to the top of the cliffs. This is a must do for nature lovers, or those wanting a fantastic view of the marina. In fact, I enjoyed this the most of our entire trip, namely due to the massive sea swells, and all the breathtaking views from the cliff tops!

Another (touristy) stop that you must do is a trip to Cork. You can get there by an express bus from Dublin, but it takes about 3 hours. Once there stroll through town, or take another bus only 20 minutes out to Blarney Castle and grounds. Here you can eat, shop, stroll through the gardens, check out the caves or climb to the top of Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone. Legend has it that many celebs, politicians and royalty have done this over time for the gift of eloquence. I would recommend doing an overnight here, allowing for sufficient time to explore Cork as well as visit the beloved Blarney Castle.

Did I miss anything? Have any questions? Any suggestions on where to travel next? Let me know in the comments below!

Also, on a non-travel note, I booked my first modeling gig in Amsterdam! I can’t share all the confidential details unfortunately, but I must tell you that I got to walk the catwalk and it was such a fun experience!I DO MY LITTLE TURN ON THE CATWALK
Cheers,
Melissa

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

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.

1t2c group

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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