Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Interior Inspiration: 5 Budget-Friendly Tips For Decorating A Rental

Recently, sweet Isabel of The Sunny Side of This asked me this question on Twitter:

"Girl, I need a how-to on how to decorate! We live in a rented apartment and we resist investing - any tips?"

I'm so glad you asked, Isabel! It's actually something I've been worrying about a little everytime I write an interiors post on this blog. I don't want to alienate anyone who's living in a rented flat or house. In fact, I often get comments like, "I'd love to do this, but ..." or "I can't wait to have my own place so I can do this, but ..."

To be honest? I never, ever decorated any of our past rentals. I didn't even unpack some of the boxes in our previous rented flat! I've always loved beautiful interior design and decor. Always. But John and I were unlucky: our landlords sold at the end of every lease, and we always ended up getting kicked out after a year. So I just didn't bother.

But if you're in a long-term rental or something that will last for more than a year (we never were), then you should make that space your own (without sacrificing your deposit at the end of your lease!). And here are some handy tips on how to do it on a budget:

Removeable Wallpaper

Yes, this is a thing. It peels straight off (I tried samples on my own walls, which you might want to do first since every wall is different!) without leaving any damage to the paint. It's perfect for a statement wall, or even to line a bookshelf that the landlord left behind. And there are so many beautiful options out there, especially on Etsy. My favorite patterns are by Wallflora: think beautiful, watercolor ferns in lush greens for a bedroom or subdued, blue-hued florals for a kitchen wall.

Print-able Wall Art

Not ready to invest in your own Hockney yet (I mean, who is? Oh right, that guy who sped into the Affordable Art Fair in a Lamborghini - I kid you not)? There's always printable wall art, like this cacti photography from Taiprints, also available from Etsy. It's currently priced at £9.36 and you'll get the download instantly when you pay. Then you've just got to print and frame it, which will be considerably cheaper than buying original art or even a framed print.

And on that note ...

Budget frames

I wrote a post on this a little while ago and, although it's pretty UK-specific, there are other similar options you might be able to explore in your home country. In the US, I know exactly where to go, but it took me a little longer to find these options in the UK.

And on that note ...

3M Command Strips and Hooks

These are your friends. I used these babies to stick EVERYTHING to our walls in our previous rentals (including a heavy, framed poster-sized print). We used them in three different flats and they didn't take any paint off (again, every wall is different, so please test before you commit!).

And if you really can't hang anything on the walls? Prop them up on tables or countertops. Stick stuff on the floor, like so:


I know. Right now, you're like "Whaaaat?" But trust me on this: a stool or two is fantastic to have in your rented place because - guess what - it's multi-functional.

Not only is it a great prop (put a stack of magazines on it and a little vase or object on top and - voila - you've just styled a lovely little corner), but it's also excellent for:

  • dumping your clothes on in the bathroom when you're hopping in the shower (also doubles up as an iPad stand when you're in the bath - don't forget about that);
  • using as a lift when you can't quite reach that box of Lucky Charms in the kitchen;
  • using as a bedside table/nightstand (I know, mindblown, right?)
I could go on and own. So buy a couple stools. They're cheap and if you don't like them in one place, YOU CAN, YOU KNOW, LIKE, PICK IT UP AND MOVE IT.

So, those are just five, simple ideas that will make the world of difference to your rented flat/apartment. I hope that was helpful, Isabel! And if you ever have any questions about styling or decorating, feel free to email me at the address in the "Contact" tab above and I'll gladly answer it here!


Monday, June 27, 2016

All-Day Brunch @ Petit Pois Bistro, Hoxton Square

Stung by the reality of the morning after the night before (I'm talking Brexit, y'all), John and I headed to Petit Pois Bistro in Hoxton Square to drown our sorrows in mimosas, coffee and the promise of a delicious brunch.

I said "promise" of a delicious brunch because, well, brunch in London has kind of let me down lately. I've been to several highly-hyped restaurants recently that have looked amazing on Instagram, but in reality, the coffee was burnt, the potato rostis under seasoned, the service less-than-friendly ... you get my drift. Disappointment after disappointment.

But Petit Pois Bistro doesn't need the hype - it already has an impressive CV. The restaurant is the latest from Alastair Burgess and Chris Smith (whose background in Michelin-starred restaurants and street food is noteworthy), owners of Happiness Forgets (what a great name, right?), a popular bar situated just downstairs.

A mimosa in, with 5 minutes of sunshine beating down on us outside, I'll admit I was still skeptical. I scanned the "Day Time" menu and was heartened to see breakfast and brunch options being served between 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The concept of all-day brunch or breakfast is still a bit unfamiliar to Brits, but in the US, we're all about that scrambled eggs or stuffed French toast for breakfast, lunch or - yes - even dinner.

I finally settled on the Eggs Benedict, while John opted for the Scrambled Eggs on Toast with Gravadlax - a favorite of ours. I chose Eggs Benedict because I always judge a restaurants by its poached eggs and, well, Petit Pois did not disappoint.

Beautifully poached, the bright orange yolk oozed onto two delicate slices of toasted (or were they fried?) brioche. That, paired with a sliver of ham and watercress, made the perfect forkful. The watercress was a game changer: eggs benedict (or eggs royale, for that matter) can often taste heavy and rich. Petit Pois' version was a little lighter and more enjoyable to taste: the hollandaise had a hint of heat, which kept each bite from tasting too same-y.

John's scrambled eggs and gravadlax was anything but basic:

Not only was it beautiful, but the eggs were also the perfect consistency: not too runny yet not overcooked. A gorgeous plate.

Just when I thought I couldn't praise the food quite enough, the coffees arrived - two flat whites that were damn good and served with a laid-back, friendly approach that made us want to settle in and stay a while.

We weren't the only ones: despite its nascent position in the square, the tables around us quickly began to fill and, before we left, I spotted Minute Steak Frites (with a fried egg) being served to a table outside while another couple began to dig into a heaping pot of Moules Frites.

In addition to this, the decor of Petit Pois - both inside and out - makes the most of the small space. John and I marvelled at how much thought and detail goes in to creating a beautiful space for eating (and just how much it matters). Exposed brick and marble tables allowed the main attraction (the food) to truly shine on simple, earthenware crockery. But as I explained above, the quality of the food easily spoke for itself.

If there was one takeaway (no pun intended) from our experience at Petit Pois, it was that we far too often stand in lines for and reserve tables at mediocre establishments - often without realizing it. Or we try to convince ourselves that the wait was really worth it. Sampling the all-day brunch menu at Petit Pois reminded me that, actually, good food - I mean, really good food, borne out of an authentic passion and love for cooking and cuisine - exists.

It does.

Our brunch at Petit Pois Bistro was complimentary (thank you!), but I'd easily go back for seconds. And thirds. And fourths. It's open now at 9 Hoxton Square for all-day brunch and dinner.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Highlights From Taste of London

So, last Saturday, I decided that it would be perfectly sensible to meet Udita at Taste of London for a quick whizz around the food stalls before attending an interior design workshop at Heal's. WRONG. You really need the following optimum conditions to enjoy "the world's greatest restaurant festival":
  • time
  • waterproof shoes (apparently, as my Tory Burch espadrilles were absolutely ruined by the mud)
  • patience (the lines were so long)
  • a bottle of water (since the only beverages available seemed to be - in this order - gin, champagne, beer, and coffee)
But, still. We had a great time and sampled some delicious food. Had I not been rushing to my next destination, I would have happily stood in line for Golden Grahams soft serve at Duck & Waffle, the barbecued pork things that everyone else was chomping on at Roka, and other seemingly tasty things that looked good from a distance. 

So, here were the highlights:

These incredible "sari cakes" from, well, Sari Cakes. I marvelled at the intricate designs and colorful, henna-like patterns.

Lamb meatballs and grilled octopus from Sea Containers. Perfectly scrumptious when washed down with shot-sized sample of Doom Bar. Also: jamon from Jose Pizarro. Perfectly scrumptious when washed down with shot-sized sample of Doom Bar.

I stopped to smell the roses at Bloomon - I can't resist a beautiful bouquet. It's become my Thursday/Friday ritual to buy fresh flowers to enjoy over the weekend. A weekly floral delivery service is a little too tempting to me ...

By the time we'd finished nibbling our "mains", we set off in search of dessert and instantly went all googly-eyed over the beautiful displays of pastries and cakes at Coup de Pates.

I brought home a lemon meringue tart for John, but by the time it had made its way through Regent's Park, sat through a workshop at Heal's, travelled on the sweaty Victoria line back to Walthamstow ... it had melted, to my disappointment. And he was too ill to eat it. So I ended up eating it over the sink. With a fork. In the box.

So glamorous.

Predictably, since I was with Udita (and the two of us seem to always find ourselves in bizarre/hilarious situations), some funny moments occurred, namely:
  • the patissier who mistook our enthusiasm for the reunion of the cast of The Hills (a US reality TV show) as enthusiasm for the cake we were eating;
  • the lady behind us in line who was trying to decide what to order when Udita piped up with, "The jamon Iberico is excellent!" ... only for her suggestion to be rebuked with, "I'm actually vegetarian."
  • the lady serving samples of Doom Bar who seemed to always just miss Udita (or was purposely avoiding her) until I practically shouted, "HELLO! HI! OVER HERE!"
Next year? I'll be bringing wellies (unless we have a miraculously sunny and dry June) and my A-game to Taste of London. Did you go? What did you think? Let me know!

Our tickets to Taste of London were complimentary. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Angloyankophile Featured in Layer Home!

Hi friends, just a quick one today, but I'm so, so excited to share that I've been featured in an interview with Layer - one of my favorite destinations for antique furniture and homeware. I randomly discovered Layer on Facebook a few weeks ago and instantly fell in love with the pre-loved designer and vintage furniture - especially those chairs!

As you know, John and I love hunting for antique furniture and home decor, even bringing back a few souvenirs from the antique markets of Bordeaux. I'm currently scouring the Layer site for our next collectable piece of furniture or art. I was so flattered when Faith wrote to ask about my interior design inspiration and tips, which I've shared in the interview.

If you have a chance, please take a look - I'd love to know what you think!

And if you're on the hunt for new stuff for your house/flat, take a look at these posts:

- A guide on where to shop for what

- Colorful tableware for summer (I love a colorful table!)

- 6 beautiful pieces of abstract art for your walls

- How to transform your room with a market basket

Thank you for reading, as always. xo


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Flowering Tea Rituals At Home

Last week was full of appointments and social events. By the end of it, I felt exhausted and drained. John arrived home on Saturday after a business trip, travelling between New York, Boston and San Francisco for a week so the energy in our house felt very, very low.

Halfway through Sunday afternoon, we quietly made our way into one of the guest rooms and I brewed JING's beautiful flowering teas in a JING "tea-iere" - like a cafetiere, but for tea, which is genius for people who like to drink loose leaf teas like me!

Have you ever tried a flowering tea before? They're also called "blooming" or "artisan" teas, and originate from Fujian province, China. Flowering teas are made with green tea buds and are hand tied with aromatic flowers. When you pour boiling water over them, they slowly unfurl and make a beautiful display in your cup (along with the tea-iere featured here, JING also makes these fantastic twin-walled cups that would give the same effect). Sometimes, I order these flowering teas as a treat when I'm having dim sum.

But on Sunday, I decided to pull them out at home because John and I both needed to wind down. As the tea brewed and we watched the flowers magically bloom, suspended in hot water, John and I chatted about our ongoing garden works and our travel plans for the rest of the summer. I realised that we often talk to each other while doing something else at home, like a chore or cooking. How nice is it to just sit down and chat without any distractions in sight? We're both so busy that sometimes we need to force ourselves to put down our phones and just take the time to relax.

We tried the Flowering Jasmine and Lily and Flowering Osmanthus teas from JING. Both have a wonderfully fragrant but subtle taste - perfect for unwinding after a busy day or week. I love the idea of having a mini "tea ritual" every weekend, especially when I'm feeling low in energy or anxious about the upcoming week. Just the sound of tea being poured is sometimes enough to calm me down.

I felt so chilled out after our cups of tea, I even managed to finish two books I'd started earlier in the week, which felt like a triumph!

How do you like to unwind on the weekend? Are you a fan of flowering teas? I'd love to know!

My flowering teas and tea-iere were generously provided by JING, a company whose products and ethos I love. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Angloyankophile! You can buy your own JING tea here. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Interior Inspiration: 6 Beautiful Pieces of Abstract Art For Your Home

I recently discovered the beautiful, original art on FineArtSeen - an online art gallery - and have spent nearly all my free time browsing different artists' work and styles. Today, I'm sharing with you my top picks of abstract artwork I've been contemplating for our blank walls.

Since we bought our first house in London last year, John and I have been searching for that perfect piece of original art for our home. I want to invest in a piece of art that I love; not because it matches my sofa. A piece that makes me smile or think or yearn or remember.

We've visited Christie's and art fairs, but nothing has really "spoken" to us - yet. Art is so personal. It's one of the first things I notice when I walk into a hotel room or a friend's house. Is it a landscape? Abstract? Bright? Calm? Avant-garde? Have they chosen a typography print? A Star Wars poster? A framed quote? Is it modern? What media? Oil? Screenprint? Watercolor? I'm fascinated by the decision to choose a particular piece as much as I am about the artwork itself.

Here are my favorites so far from FineArtSeen, and I'm telling you why:

Birds XXXIV, along with XLII (above), are two beautiful watercolors by artist Maria Iciak. I love the calm, barely perceptible figures of the birds swooping and think that these two paintings would make excellent focal points for the master bedroom or living room.

The bright colors and textures of Circus 1 by German artist Daniela Schweinsberg are really exciting and fun. I love the oversized statement that Daniela's paintings make and am considering this one for our dining room.

I tend to gravitate towards blues, greys and greens when I think of art for our home. I think it's because we have so many bright white and barely-there-blue walls, and these cool-toned colors offer a lovely contrast, without being too jarring. This acrylic painting by Lorraine Tuck entitled, And some days were perfect (love that name!), is no exception to my blue/grey/green tendencies.

And how unique is this vibrant-hued, oblong acrylic painting by Valerie Erichsen Thomson? It's called Lightfall and I can think of at least a dozen different places for it in our house. Its narrowness lends itself perfectly to unexpected spots in our hallways, stairwells, and landings.

Finally, Subtle Reflections by Omar Obaid is modern and powerful - it reminds of rain-streaked glass as viewed from within in the Pacific Northwest (where I'm from) or even a window in London!

All of the pieces I've featured above are surprisingly affordable for being original artwork (trust me, I've been to art fairs billed to be "affordable" when they are anything but!) and I can't wait to pick something out with John. Click on the link in each title to find out more about pricing and the artists themselves - I love reading about their inspirations and processes!

What do you think? Would you hang any of these pieces in your home, or are you more of a photography fan, or a bit of both?

This post was sponsored by FineArtSeen, an online gallery that features beautiful, original artwork by artists from around the world. All opinions are my own. Photographs © FineArtSeen Ltd

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Workshop Coffee, Fitzrovia

A few weekends ago, we went to babysit our sweet little niece in Finsbury Park, but I wanted to grab breakfast in town beforehand. It's rare that John and I stumble anywhere farther than a 5-minute walk from our front door on the weekends, but for some reason, we were feeling particularly motivated (especially we knew that caffeine would be helpful in entertaining a 2-year-old for a whole afternoon) so I browsed citizenMag for ideas of where to go. I love the short, at-a-glance reviews in citizenMag, and was happy to read that one of my favorite coffee shops, Workshop Coffee, had a new(ish) outpost in Fitzrovia.

Unlike its larger, sister café in Clerkenwell, Workshop's Fitzrovia location is more akin to its Holborn sibling: an coffeebar serving its usual delicious range of roasted beans accompanied by a wonderfully curated selection of pastries and granola. Tucked away from the frantic pace of nearby Oxford Street (we managed to pop into Topshop afterward for a last-minute present for my sister-in-law), this branch of Workshop is a welcome pause from the din of modern life.

There's a small, but perfectly formed seating area in the back where you can take a copy of your favorite paper (NYTimes for me) or magazine (Kinfolk would probably fit best in the surroundings) to peruse alongside a flat white.

The decor is simple but beautiful. Since we bought our house last year, I tend to take note of even the smallest details (for example, I wanted to walk off with one of the gorgeous gold and marble tables above, but a) it was heavy and b) um, that would be stealing) and these days, I tend to spend a little too long in restaurant bathrooms taking pictures of tiles and brass sconces. Welcome to adulthood, people.

But I digress.

We went a little crazy over the pastries, especially the kouign amann (which I'd never tried before, but tasted like a syrupy, sweet croissant) and the jam donut. John dug into a delicious pot of granola and yogurt (he's the healthier one).

We sipped our soy flat whites, read the news (on our phones) and by the time we greeted our niece at the door, my caffeine and sugar levels had prepared me for a rigorous game of "Pirate Ship" (which consisted of sliding her off the ottoman in the living room into a "shark-infested" ocean of pillows and a shark backpack, much to her squealing delight and to cries of, "Again! Again!").

Although this smaller outpost of Workshop in Fitzrovia didn't serve my favorite full Workshop brunch menu (you've got to try their French toast in Clerkenwell), the quality was still there and the service just as friendly.

Have you been to Workshop Coffee? What did you think? If you don't live in London, then this is definitely one to add to the list for your next visit! It would make a great break from sightseeing and shopping ...

We were generously hosted at Workshop Coffee in Fitzrovia by citizenMag - thank you! All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Not My Tribe

I'm in my early thirties now, so I'm pretty much an adult.

(I think.)

I may regularly fail at adulting (e.g. procrastinating on my tax return while opting for popcorn and a Real Housewives marathon on the couch instead or - who am I kidding - the new Minions movie, really), but I'm an adult.

One of the many observations and lessons I've learned as an adult is that my time is becoming increasingly precious and, as a result, I'm kind of reluctant (really reluctant) to spend that time with people who ... aren't in my tribe.

When I say "tribe", I don't necessarily mean friends. Or family. Or my partner. They're all in my tribe. That's a given. I chose them, and they chose me (well, except for family - you know what they say about family. Luckily, mine are in my tribe).

What I mean by "tribe" is a collection of people (who I may or may not have met yet) who have the same core values as me. Occasionally, these people have common interests too, and that's great. But at the end of the day, we just click.

I tend to think that it's pretty easy and straightforward to be in my tribe. There's just one rule: don't be a dickhead. Then again, some people may meet me and think that I'm not in their tribe because I'm a dickhead. That's okay too. We'll go our separate ways and that'll be that.

Case in point: Rebecca and I recently attended a workshop where we sat across from a couple of #meangirls (and yes, #meangirls constitutes one word and a hashtag preceding it). They spent the evening loudly bitching about their mutual friends, giving Rebecca an icy glare [pause] fake laugh [pause] when she made a friendly, inclusive joke before one loudly proclaimed that she "could never live in America because she can't stand American accents," to which I replied in my deepest, nasal drawl possible, "EW, mah GAWD." (By the way, of course it's fine to express your dislike of American accents - it's your opinion and, to be honest, ME TOO. Sometimes. I tend to think that my Northwest accent is quite nice!)

See? Not my tribe. I also recently sat down to dinner at a friend's house that was very much akin to the "smug married couples" scene from Bridget Jones' Diary. You know the one. Anyway, it was very much a case of, "And what do you do?" (John wasn't available to be my wingman, unfortunately) before I realized, halfway through being interrupted for the umpteenth time by someone's husband who thought that the sentence I had started really wasn't worthy of completion, that, 'Hey, these people aren't my tribe. I really don't get along with them - but I'll try.'

And that's okay. I'll never have to see them again. I can grin and bear it for the duration of this dinner party or workshop or wedding reception or event.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that, we move through our lives in little bubbles, going from point A to point B, every day. We interact with people we have to interact with at work, at the store, at the restaurant - and then we hang out with our tribes after work. On the weekends. In our "spare time".  This is especially true of London. Aside from the odd jerk on the tube who insists on using your head as a rest for his newspaper/book (this actually happened to me), you forget how many jerks there are in the world. And how lucky we are to not have friends like them.

Whenever I meet someone who isn't in my tribe, I recognize this. It reminds me of how gosh-darn-lucky I am to have the friends I do. It makes me grateful for those little moments of interaction with strangers (like the lady who sat to my right at the said workshop above, who was funny and nice, and with whom I'm now Twitter friendz) who are in my tribe. I clock them, I smile in recognition, and I move on - happy in the knowledge that they exist.

Who's in your tribe? What's it like?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Expat Talk: Just One Week

These are Rainier cherries - and they're my favorite. I love their two-toned hue as much as I love the fact that they're cultivated in Washington state (not to be confused with Washington D.C., which is on the East Coast!) where I'm from and that they're named after Mount Rainier - that beautiful, snow-capped peak that greets me at every turn when I'm back home.


I've struggled with this word on/off for a decade or so, ever since I moved to the UK. I've decided (in this instant, as I type this) that it's okay and acceptable to have two homes. So, instead of feeling guilty or dumb or weak for not swearing allegiance to one or the other, I've decided that I have two: one in London and the other in Washington.

"You're going home?" a co-worker asked, before I switched my out-of-office on two weeks ago. "For just one week?"

"Just one week," I replied. Even I heard the doubt in my voice: would one week be enough, after having not been back for over a year and a half? Surely, it should have been two? I felt a twinge of remorse and guilt at having indulged in two vacations already this year.

The anxiety crept in: my visit would be emotional. I'd be a wreck. I wouldn't want to leave. I'd fall into a deep, familiar depression as soon as I landed in London.

But guess what?

None of those things happened. Of course, I cried a little when I said goodbye to my family at airport security. I confessed on Snapchat that waiting to leave felt like "waiting for the executioner" (dramatic, much?). I cleaned up my mascara-streaked eyes in the airport bathroom.

But it turned out that one week was just enough. One week allowed me to connect with my parents and my brother in a way I hadn't done for a long while. I cherished their company: I listened to my mom when she talked; I felt joy as I ran next to my dad at the gym; I laughed really, really hard with my brother in the conspiratorial way that only siblings can.

I saw that they were getting on just fine without me being there - and it made me endlessly happy.

And then I cleaned out my room. I took a journal back with me to England - one I had shared with my best friend in high school - but other than that, I put clothes in bags and items in boxes for Goodwill. It was alarming that there was no sign of my adult self in those bags and boxes - as if I continued to return as a ghost, occasionally haunting my room with my presence while my past self lived on in its scrapbooks and photo albums and childish key rings and framed high school awards.

Or maybe it was the other way around.

"You've done a lot in just one week!" my mom exclaimed next to me on our way to the airport. "We've managed to fit in a trip to Snoqualmie, you've shopped for everything you wanted to, eaten everything you've wanted to ..."

And I agreed. Just one week was enough to pull me out of my reverie of living in the past. Just one week allowed me to truly appreciate every moment with my family. Just one week encouraged me to look toward the future, to their visit (hopefully!) to England again this Christmas.

I did not return to London with those pangs of gut-wrenching homesickness I used to feel after longer visits - a sickness that used to hit me like a sailor being knocked side-to-side on a rocking boat. Instead, I felt even-keeled and calm.

I longed for the peace and friendliness of the Pacific Northwest, for my mother's familiar footsteps on the floorboards above my head, for the stairs whose height I'd memorized by feel. But, this time, the longing was of a gentle, nostalgic sort - not hysterical.

And I feel at peace with that.

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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