This week, I am introducing you to Amanda a fellow expat here in the Netherlands who blogs over at Poppies and Ice Cream. Amanda is fluent in Spanish and has offered to help me improve my language skills. This is one of the many, many reasons I love having a blog, you get to meet so many interesting people.
Here it goes.
Tell the readers a bit about you.
I am a Mexican-Swiss-British (by accident) girl. Sounds complicated, but, it’s not so much. I was born in the UK (because my parents were studying there), my mom is Mexican, my father is Swiss and my lovely husband is Dutch. I am a biologist / veterinarian who loves baking, reading, traveling, discovering new places, jumping around like crazy and red dresses.
Where are you at this moment?
I currently live in The Netherlands.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Mexico, where I lived in different cities.
What is your favorite destination and why?
After thinking long and hard (there are just so many places I love), I think the answer is Barcelona. The first time I went there I was just “passing by”, on my way back to Geneva, Switzerland, where I studied at the time, after having spent the summer working at a Physiology lab in Santiago de Compostela. I went to Barcelona to visit a friend, whom I had met in Venice at the youth-hostel where we stayed, and also, because back when low-cost airlines were just starting, cheap flights were only available from “La ciudad condal”. As soon as I set foot in the
city I knew I would be back. To live. And I did. First I stayed a year, as an Erasmus student, and then I went back for 4 years to study my second degree. The city is full of life, and magic I would say. It is lively, young and international. It has everything you could wish for: mountains, check. The beach, check. Lots of parks, check. Cultural activities at every moment, check. Lovely medieval streets where to get lost, places full of history in unexpected places*, delicious food, friendly people, buildings that could belong in fairy tales**, perfect weather, beautiful avenues….
*For example, the Biblioteca Nacional de Catalunya lays in the building which used to be the very same Hospital, dating from the 15th century, where Santiago Ramón y Cajal worked and made his fascinating discoveries on the ways neurons work.
** Doesn’t the houses in Park Guell look out of Hansel and Gretel? And what about Casa Batllo or Casa Milla? Green dragon backs, towers that seem made of soft ice-cream….
What is your least favorite destination and why?
I have yet to find a place that I haven’t loved. I guess we always try to make the most out of any trip and even if I find myself in a seemingly abandoned train station in the middle of nowhere, I can always read a book, go to the supermarket to search for the local treats, or go to a movie theater or a square and just sit and people-watch.
What is your favorite vacation memory?
It must have been the time I met my husband on an airplane. He was sitting right next to me and we did not stop talking for the duration of the flight. (You can read all about it on Poppies and Ice Cream:
What is your profession and do you ever travel for business?
I am a veterinarian, though I do not currently work in my field. I used to work for a big hotel-reservations website, but I spent my time reading guest reviews and learning all about which hotels had mice, lizards or squirrels and which were located near good restaurants, among other crazy stories. I did not really get to travel for work though.
How do you pack and do you have any items that you have to take with you?
I normally pack in the last-minute rush; sometimes early in the morning of the day I am traveling. I try to bring items that can be used more than once and combined in different ways (jeans, one or two thick sweaters, a scarf, t-shirts in colors that go with everything else). It is important to bring a good jacket, a rain-coat depending on your destination and comfortable shoes that will not make your feet hurt after lots and lots of walking. If it’ll be warm lots of dresses and a denim jacket do the trick. I bring an extra plastic bag or two as well as Ziplocs. Snacks, tissue and some first-aid supplies* are always good to have with you.
** anti-inflammatories, Pepto-Bismol tablets, band-aids, disinfectant…
Do you have any trips planned for the future?
Yes, we are headed to Northern California (San Francisco and the surrounding area) later this year. I am so excited.
How do you plan your trips?
I think of a place (I pretty much want to go everywhere, so that is not normally a problem), I figure out the cheapest way to get there (bus, low-cost airline, train) and try to find out if there are any offers for our destination of choice (for instance every now and then airlines release discounted tickets for short periods of time). Right now there are many websites that let you compare rates among companies, I use these to check prices and then book directly with the company involved. Road trips are also lots of fun, Google maps is a great tool to find the places where you would like to stop between A and B and to calculate reasonable distances to travel every day of a journey. Once we sort all of that out, we find a place to stay. We like clean places that are well communicated (even if we have to take public transportation, that´s ok, it adds to the travel experience). I have stayed in youth hostels before, but nowadays in Europe the rates start at circa 25 EUR per night, and since I travel with my husband, with that price we can already stay at a nice, simple hotel, with lots of added comfort and privacy. Staying at apartments is also great because you get to cook your own meals and spare some pennies that you can spend otherwise. After that it is just a matter of studying the place, figuring out if there are specific sights / museum exhibits / restaurants or bars / places that we would like to visit, and otherwise, once there, we just get a map (often free at Tourist Offices) and proceed to get lost in the city and let it surprise us.
What is your dream vacation?
Oh this one is hard. I really would like to see South East Asia: Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia… Costa Rica is also pending on my list. But if you just bring me to France or Italy I will be happy as well. I still have to go to Chiapas, Tulum and Palenque in Mexico. I like to see the places, know the people and experience the local culture, so pretty much any destination will suit me.
What kind of traveler are you?
I tend to prefer city trips, and I love flying, airports are among my favorite places on earth. Traveling by train is also exciting though, I would like to take the Trans-Siberian train from Russia to China, through all the countries in between once.(Kaitlin here, this is my ultimate travel dream too!) I normally travel with my husband, or with my family. I have also traveled with my 2 best friends, during college. I don’t normally take group tours, I kind of hate being told what to do and given a limited schedule. I prefer discovering things by myself, and stumbling upon places by surprise, which is why we like to walk and walk and walk. Beach vacations and camping are also fun, but I think those are a lot more fun as children or if you are traveling with kids. These days, we kind of get bored if we are just laying in the sun not doing anything. For our honeymoon we combined 3 days of beach- chilling in the Mexican Pacific coast (which were more than enough) with a road trip that took us to other cities (Colima, Guadalajara, Tequila, Tlaquepaque, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, Tenacatita).
Thanks so much Amanda, I had so much fun reading about your adventures. If you have any comments, leave them below. Nothing would make our day brighter! And, if you want to participate in the For Love of Travel Series, send me some love at firstname.lastname@example.org
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