Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Travel Link-Up: Second Chances


This month's travel link-up topic is all about unexpected places. For me, the greatest surprise has been revisiting a destination I'd previously disliked - and the 360-degree change in opinion that followed. Has this ever happened to you?

Here's my story ...


My earliest memory of Amsterdam was wandering the streets on a cold, grey, and windswept afternoon, crying as I went from pharmacist to pharmacist, trying to get antibiotics for a painful infection I developed 24 hours into my arrival. John's dad and his partner, Nicole, (who split their time between Amsterdam and Leicester) had left for the weekend, letting us stay in their apartment. Finally, I managed to get the number of an emergency doctor who prescribed the said antibiotics and I spent the rest of our visit curled up on the couch in the apartment, watching boats drift past on the canal as John stood idly by, not knowing what to do.

I detested it. The situation, the place, everything. And so, for the longest time, I associated Amsterdam with this short-lived illness I had. The mere mention of the city made me shudder.

But for some reason, when John suggested that we jet off to Amsterdam a few years after that dreaded visit, I acquiesced.


It was Easter, and there wasn't a cloud in sight. The sun shone brightly; people swung their legs over the edge of the canal and read books in their oversized windows with the doors flung open and a mug of coffee by their sides. The tulips were in full bloom and created a parade of colors on every street we passed. We ate dinner at incredibly cool restaurants in the Jordaan and shopped independent designers in a converted warehouse.

This visit couldn't have been more different than the last. I realized how silly I'd been to avoid returning to Amsterdam because of a simple case of bad luck. My revelation was both
unexpected and welcomed: this Amsterdam had been there all along. It was just waiting for a second chance.


I don't know what you're like when you travel, but I'm quick to make a snap judgment. For all that gushing I did over Bordeaux? We did not get off to a great start. After spending an idyllic few days at Les Sources de Caudalie, I arrived to a city centre where shops and restaurants had arbitrary opening times, sidewalks were more often than not lined with precious little nuggets of dog shit, and the popular "water mirror" installation seemed to be out of commission. Aimless wandering around the so-called "antiques district" proved fruitless as we combed street after deserted street with no stores in sight.

I grumbled. I swore. I huffed. I complained so vociferously, that my poor, long-suffering husband had to take me away to the beach (like one would promise a trip to the toy store for a small child) in search of sun, sand, and sea.


Then we went back to Bordeaux. We relaxed in our beautiful Airbnb apartment and I carefully researched the streets which comprised the antique district, instead of guessing at where it actually was. When a store we wanted to visit had closed for "lunch hours", we sat down for a glass of wine instead. I dodged the dog shit and even cooed at a little one who'd been let off his leash for the afternoon. We wrapped our arms around each other at the water mirror for a few minutes and before long, the pool began to fill and do its thing. We realized that the squares were where all the locals hung out, so we drank beers outside with everyone else and talked until the sky was pitch black and we were shivering.

And then I fell in love. Bordeaux frustrated me and drove me crazy but it was beautiful and unique and, in the end, it got under my skin. I loved it so unexpectedly, so ardently, that it surprised me (and then I wanted to move there, but that's another story for another post).

So, what have these second-chances taught me? To keep an open mind - sure, but also to be patient. What has travelling with John taught me? That there are always options. And that a change of scenery is always a good idea.

This month's travel link-up is hosted by Emma, Angie, Jessi, and Carolann. Head over to their blogs to read more stories about unexpected places!
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32 comments

  1. I love your take on the theme! I went to Amsterdam for a 21st birthday about 12 years ago, we stayed in a youth hostel, it poured with rain and it was freezing cold. We only went to super cheap restaurants. Needless to say I wasn't impressed! However, I really want to go back and see why everyone loves it so much!

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    1. Thank you, Angie! Glad to hear that I'm not the only one re: Amsterdam. For years, I hated the thought of going back ... our last trip changed my mind about everything. I'd love to visit again this year and need to make it happen! I think the sun really helps too. :)

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  2. There's nothing like disappointing travel experiences to make me get all grumpy too - particularly when I'm expecting to love somewhere. Sometimes it takes a little time to get under the skin of a place and discover something special about it. So glad you found it eventually in Bordeaux and that you finally had a great experience in Amsterdam.

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    1. You're right, Clare - I think I'm just a little too impatient in my approach sometimes, or I panic if I don't "love" a place immediately. I've definitely learned to keep more of an open mind when travelling - you of all people would know how to do this best, given your traumatic experiences!

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  3. I couldn't agree more about second chances. For all my gushing and never-going-home-ness I HATED London at first. I immediately looked up real estate and jobs in Bordeaux after our last trip too :)

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    1. Ha! I love that we had similar experiences in Bordeaux, Cass! It's such a special place. I also love your London admission. Mine? Paris. It took me a while, but I was too chicken to say anything to anyone because who doesn't "LOVE" Paris? I wouldn't say it's my favorite city in the world now, but I'm definitely appreciating it more every time I visit.

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  4. I'm the same. Sometimes the oddest things totally put me off somewhere, and I'll fall in love with other places despite some not great things happening there! I'm glad you gave both these places a second chance, and I'm going to take that as a lesson learned because I'm not always so generous. And I have to say, your water mirror photo is absolutely stunning!

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    1. I'm super impatient, Rachel, and I expect to "fall in love" with a place immediately! There's so much pressure, I think, to do just that sometimes. And thank you re: my water mirror photo! The funny thing is that it had been raining really hard, so when the pool was filled, you actually couldn't really see the reflection very well because the raindrops made everything fuzzy. It was only until after the water had drained away and the rain continued to make this thin film over the pool that we got that mirror effect!

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  5. What a wonderful post! I love that you were willing to be flexible and try things again :)

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    1. Thank you, Claire! It was definitely a good lesson learned.

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  6. cool! It's always good to give a place a second chance:) #travellinkup

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  7. This is such a great attitude to have about traveling! I feel the same way about where I live now in Connecticut. My husband was stationed here a few years ago and it was just miserable. Every time I visited, we felt like there was nothing good to do. My husband had kind of a bad attitude about moving back to Connecticut, but I was determined to prove him wrong. And I did!! We've been having a lot of fun finding all the fun little nooks and crannies.

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    1. Aw, I love CT! I went to college in Western MA, so I used to fly into Hartford. I'm so glad that you've grown to like it again!

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  8. I love this! I love that you've had the chance to go back to Amsterdam and discover it's beauty. I relate too to your experience in Bordeaux. Sometimes we just need a moment to find that inspiration.

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    1. Thank you, Mandy! Interesting to hear that you had a similar experience in Bordeaux. Now I can't wait to go back!

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  9. So pleased you managed to go back to these lovely cities a second time for a completely different experience! I know exactly what you mean about illness putting a downer on a trip - I had exactly the same in Chicago. Maybe I need to book in another visit?!

    Polly xx
    Follow Your Sunshine

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    1. Thank you, Polly! I know someone who just returned from Chicago with a similar experience to you ... I've only ever been in the airport, but I can't comment! Second chances are good, but unfortunately holidays are so limited, that I'm sure we tend to only return to places we really, truly like! xx

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  10. Beautiful take on the topic, Jamie! I have always dreamed of going to Amsterdam and Keukenhof for blooming tulip season. Hopefully, one day... May I point out how stunning your airbnb apartment in Bordeaux looks? I'd never want to leave! xoxo, nano

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    1. Thank you, Nano! I would LOVE to see the Keukenhof tulips ... I've been dying to go!

      That Airbnb was something else. I mean, the owners were so nice about it too and not precious at ALL about their original 18th-century floors, belongings, etc.! xoxo

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  11. It's an interesting thing, as so much is about first impressions - but as you say sometimes it really depends on how you are yourself and well done for finding the smiles in Bordeaux on the same trip, even after a shaky start!

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    1. Thank you, Anna! I can't wait to visit again - possibly this Christmas with my parents.

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  12. I definitely jump to snap decisions sometimes, but try and keep an open mind wherever possible on somewhere new. Your attitude is definitely the best one to have, and it sounds like it has led you to such great experiences as a result! I will have to take more than a few leaves out of your book :-)

    Sophie

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    1. I'm like you, Sophie - I really just ought to be more patient. But I just expect to "fall in love" with a place instantly and I've learned not to do that!

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  13. Hehe, I'm also good at grumbling on holiday when things are actually pretty ok ;)

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    1. I'm a big complainer in general - not a good look and something I'm constantly trying to work on!

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  14. I'm so glad you've had the chance to revisit and fall in love with Amsterdam & Bordeaux!

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    1. Thanks, sweets - me too! Both places I'd go back to in a heartbeat.

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  15. Such a great post! It's so usual that we feel we HAVE to love a place instantly, but you're right, sometimes it takes a while or a different experience for a place to get under our skin. Thank you for linking up!

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  16. I'm glad you were able to go back to these places and change your mind.

    I had a similar experience with Pisa (and to be fair it is limited to the Leaning Tower area but the distaste sweeps out to include the whole town.) Cold and rainy the first time I went and the tower was under restoration therefore being held up by cables. The next time I went I was recovering from food poisoning and had a fever.

    Although neither occurrence were Pisa's fault, I just don't think I'll be giving it a third chance.

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    1. I think being sick in a new city/place or while you're travelling is just the worst. I remember feeling depressed when I had food poisoning a few months ago and I was just recovering at home! It sounds like you have bad luck with Pisa, Erin! Probably no third chances there, no ... :D :D :D

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