September 18, 2014

A New Adventure…

9 Day Danube River Cruise on the MS Sound of Music with Gate 1 Travel

So excited to be heading back to Europe this week for another fun adventure! Earlier this week I hopped back on a plane for a ten and a half hour flight to Budapest, Hungary. Yes, Budapest!! I am spending a few days in Budapest with my fearless travel buddy, Stephanie from Plain Chicken. This weekend we embark on a 9-day cruise along the Danube River with Gate 1 Travel.

I’ve been keeping a Pinterest board of some of the fun things we get to see and do on the cruise here:
Danube River Cruise Pinterest Board.

We will be taking tours of Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, and more. And at the end of the cruise, we will be spending a few days in Munich for Oktoberfest!!

I have never been to ANY of these places before, and I’ve never even been on a CRUISE before, so if you have any advice for me, I’d love to hear it!!

 

We just arrived in Budapest yesterday for the beginning of our adventure. Be sure to follow along with us over the next couple of weeks on Instagram and Twitter!! Here’s where you can find me:

Amanda Green Bottoms @kevinandamanda on Instagram

Amanda Green Bottoms @kevinandamanda on Twitter

 

Thanks so much for looking! Keep in touch!! :)


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September 15, 2014

Amsterdam

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

After a wonderful week in Sweden, Stephanie and I thought it would be fun to add a few extra days to our trip to run around Amsterdam. Neither of us had ever been before, and it was right on the way since our flight had a layover there. We were so excited to check it out and explore this historic city.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com Photo via Stephanie

Amsterdam is a city of canals lined with beautiful Dutch architecture.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com Photo via Stephanie

We loved exploring the quiet, neighborhood streets filled with shops, homes, bakeries, and restaurants.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

I could not get over the architecture! Amsterdam is famous for its historic canal houses with unique gabled facades.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

Loved all the red shutters!

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

The city of Amsterdam grew around a dam in the Amstel river, which is where Amsterdam gets its name. The land where Amsterdam thrives today was originally just marsh and swamplands, but was made inhabitable by draining the swamps and building an intricate system of canals.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

Today there are 165 canals and over 1,200 bridges in Amsterdam!

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

These are called the “Dancing Houses” on the Amstel river. The soil was so swampy that homes along the canals had to be built on stilts. Over the years they have settled and sunk into the mud, so now many of the canal houses in Amsterdam are tilted and leaning forward!

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

Although another reason many of the houses in Amsterdam lean forward is because staircases in the skinny canal homes are too narrow to move furniture or goods. The houses were built with a pulley system on the outside, and a slight tilt forward to prevent anything from damaging the building’s facade on the way up or down.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

These are the famous dancing houses at Damrak. Damrak is right across from the main Amsterdam train station, so this is your first view of Amsterdam if you arrive by train. This is also where many of the canal cruises embark.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

Buildings in Amsterdam are reputably narrow because they used to be taxed on how wide they were, inspiring people to build long, narrow houses to avoid high taxes.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

Amsterdam is also famous for its houseboats! There are over 2,500 houseboats that line the canals of Amsterdam. We saw everything from small, simple structures to custom-built, multi-story floating homes. We were surprised to see even brick and concrete homes floating on the canals!

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

Most of the houseboats are residential, but there are also fully equipped houseboat hotels, vacation rentals, and even a Houseboat Museum if you just want to see what it’s like on one!

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com Photo via Stephanie

We saw boats of all kinds in Amsterdam. How fun is this floating car boat?? :) It looks like a car is just cruising along the canal, lol!

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

For our weekend in Amsterdam, we got an I Amsterdam City Card which gave us free entrance to most museums, unlimited public transportation, and also a free canal cruise.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

A canal cruise along the picturesque Amsterdam Canals is by far one of the most popular attractions in Amsterdam, and a great introduction to the city.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

On the canal cruise we learned what the XXX symbol we’d been seeing everywhere in Amsterdam meant. The three white X’s displayed on a black stripe and a red background is Amsterdam’s coat of arms. The X’s are commonly known as St. Andrew’s Crosses. St. Andrew, a fisherman, was an apostle of Jesus and was said to have been martyred by crucifixion on an X-shaped cross. The unorthodox shape was supposedly at his own request, as he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been. In the 1500s, when the city was a fishing village, this coat of arms was established as the symbol for the city and and it flew as a flag on all ships registered in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com Photo via Stephanie

One popular theory is that the X’s stand for the three chief perils that the city of Amsterdam once faced: floods, fire, and the Black Plague.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

There are bikes everywhere in Amsterdam!! Almost as many bikes as people!

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

Amsterdam is a very bike-friendly city. They had their own lanes and traffic lights. Bikes seemed to have the right-of-way in Amsterdam. We definitely saw more bikes than cars!

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

Getting around Amsterdam was a breeze. It was so nice being able to hop on and off the streetcars in Amsterdam with our I Amsterdam City Card. Public transportation in Amsterdam was very easy to use and figure out, especially with the Google Maps app. With the app, you just type in where you want to go, and it tells you exactly what bus or streetcar to get on, where the bus stop is, how many stops you’ll make, and when to get off. The GPS will show you your route and where you are so you can make sure you’re going in the right direction.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

We always felt very safe in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

A view of Amsterdam’s Zuiderkerk (South Church) from the Staalstraat Bridge.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

This unique bridge has become a famous “Love Lock” bridge in Amsterdam. Whether or not you bring a lock, this view and this bridge are definitely worth seeing.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

Nearby is the 800-year-old Oude Kerk. Founded circa 2013, The “Old Church” is Amsterdam’s oldest building and oldest church.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

If you are looking for a place to stay in Amsterdam, we recommend the Mercure Arthur Frommer. It’s in a quiet neighborhood with a great central location in the Amsterdam canal ring. You’re close to public transportation and within walking distance to the city’s most famous museums and attractions.

Amsterdam! #travel #amsterdam www.kevinandamanda.com

Loved our clean, bright room! There were even easily-accessible outlets right by the bed, on both sides.

On one of our days in Amsterdam, we took a day trip to Haarlem, which is the home of Corrie ten Boom. We got to see her house and the actual Hiding Place from her biography, The Hiding Place. I can’t wait to tell you all about it in the next post.

Thanks so much for looking!


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Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

We stayed in some of the cutest B&Bs all over Sweden! This fairytale castle by the sea is Villa Sjötorp (pronounced kinda like Where-torp). It was built in 1901 on the coast of west Sweden with a stunning view of the surrounding ocean and islands. In the afternoons they have “fika” — the Swedish custom of taking a break for coffee and a sweet – and serve seven different kinds of cookies, a tradition in Sweden for special occasions or when you have special guests over. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon just in time for fika and ate cookies and brownies on the quiet back veranda overlooking the sea.

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

This cozy, 14-room inn is filled with charm. Staying here was like stepping back in time, but with all the modern conveniences. There’s even a secret room underneath the stairs!

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

Villa Sjötorp is also a well-renowned restaurant with an incredible menu featuring locally produced ingredients. We LOVED the steak and potatoes!

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

And seriously, how cute was the old-fashioned key to our room?? If you find yourself on the west coast of Sweden, definitely plan a stay at Villa Sjötorp!

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

The next day we visited Knäck & Bräck, a charming farmshop and organic bakery specializing in Swedish flatbread.

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

They ship their unique crispbreads all over the world, from Swedish specialty stores in California, to an Ikea in Tokyo.

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

We had a delicious taste-testing of these fun moose-shaped crackers with jam, cheese, and watermelon. So good!

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

For lunch we stopped by Sivan’s Cheese. This sweet farmshop owned by a mother and daughter was another one of my favorites in Sweden!!

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

How cute is this place with a wall made out of doors!

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

Loved all the natural light in here.

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

We got there before they opened, but on afternoons and weeknights they are packed!

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

Loved how cozy this places was with benches and all the comfy pillows!

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com Photo via Stephanie

The bakery case…

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com Photo via Stephanie

These cookies looked so good!

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

We got to sample Sweden’s best cheeses with homemade jam and bread.

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com Photo via Stephanie

And chocolates for dessert!! Swoon!

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

That afternoon we were treated to another drive through the stunning Swedish countryside. We saw several rainbows along the way.

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

Our destination that evening was Bjertorp Castle… (Pronounced kinda like Bwere-torp)

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

We drove through the iron gates, down the shadowy, tree-lined drive…

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

And arrived at an ivy-covered mansion, our home for the night.

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

This view!

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

How cute was our pink and purple room?? :)

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

We even had a cozy purple seating area.

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

Bjertorp Castle is also a popular spot for meetings and conventions. I wouldn’t mind having a conference in this room!!

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

This pink dining room would make the perfect spot for lunching with girlfriends!

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com Photo via Stephanie

They even have bikes you can borrow to explore the area.

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com

We loved driving the Volvo all over Sweden. Volvo has always been a pioneer of car safety, so we always felt very safe on the road. It was Volvo who invented and patented the three point seat belt, but they gave free license to all other auto manufacturers to use it because they believed the lives it would save was more significant than profit.

There were so many little features about the Volvo that just made driving so much more convenient.

Like the automatic windshield wipers. They would automatically come on when it started raining, adjust for the intensity of the rain, and turn off when it stopped raining. So you know when it’s just sprinkling, and it’s not enough rain to keep the windshield wipers on the lowest setting (they squeak) but it’s too much rain rain to leave them off? So you just have to keeping turning them on and off manually? Yeah. The Volvo’s automatic windshield wipers do that for you! It was so nice not having to fumble with finding the windshield wipers in a new car! They’re there if you need to adjust anything, but if you don’t, they’ll take care of everything for you. We even drove through a puddle one day and water splashed on the windshield and the automatic windshield took care of it for us!

I loved how the back hatch would open and close at the push of a button. Made getting our luggage in and out super easy!!

Where to stay if you're planning a trip to Sweden! Here's a review of the cutest B&Bs! #travel #sweden #welcometosweden www.kevinandamanda.com Photo via Stephanie

The Volvo also automatically shows the speed limit on the speedometer. The car has a front-camera that captures speed limit signs on the road as you’re driving, so it always knows and shows the current speed limit. Because of this it even works in construction zones that may pop up unexpectedly. It was SO nice having this feature on unfamiliar Swedish roads!

Another one of my favorite features, which I think this is a must for any roadtrip, was the cruise control. At first, it’s just like any other cruise control, where you set your speed and and go. But here’s where it gets awesome. If traffic slows down, or someone pulls out in front you, the Volvo will automatically match the speed of the car in front of you. It’ll slow down, keep a safe distance, and match whatever speed they’re going. Automatically. No more having to break, set, and reset the cruise control. Then when traffic clears up, it automatically speeds back up to your original speed. Loved that!

And most of all, if someone pulls out in front of you, or breaks unexpectedly, the Volvo will automatically slow down or slam on the breaks, if needed. They’re always thinking about safety.

To learn more about how you can get your own free trip to Sweden, check out Volvo’s Overseas Delivery Program.

 

More Posts from Sweden

Exploring Sweden!
A Charming Weekend in Sweden
Upper House Dining Experience
A Night at Läckö Castle
Swedish Countryside
Cute Places to Stay in Sweden!

Thanks so much for looking!! Have a great weekend! :)


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