Browsing Category

Travel

Greece, Travel

One Year Living in Greece

August 24, 2020

This week marks one year of living in Greece. The year has not gone as expected for so many reasons! I am sure many of us are feeling that way about 2020, though. This year has tested my patience, made me question my decisions, brought new opportunities and new friends.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

What happened in Naxos

The plan all along was to live on the island of Naxos. Island life is what appealed to me about Greece. Life on a Greek island is slow, and the beach is always nearby.

However, finding an apartment on an island that is slowly bringing more and more tourists every year made it hard to find an apartment. Many apartments have been converted to Airbnbs, and landlords want you leave during the summer months.

There is no central real estate listing in Greece, and on the island, they tend not to use internet listings. This meant endless asking around and looking for these bright yellow stickers that had for rent listing on them, in Greek!

After some weeks of bouncing around hotels and Airbnbs, I found a studio apartment. The rent was a great price, and the location was perfect. It was in the center of town and about a 10 minute walk to the beach. I thought all was well.

Then after about two weeks, my landlady complained about my air conditioning usage. I wasn’t quite sure why since I was paying for electricity. I found out later that it was because her and her husband’s bedroom was right above the unit, and they slept with their windows open. Long story short, I moved out. Back to a hotel I went!

Resident Permit Issues

All during this time, I was trying to get an appointment with the Alien’s (Immigration) office, which is on another island. The phone would ring, and ring and sometimes no one would answer. Then if they did answer, they didn’t speak English.

Friends who speak Greek called, and either couldn’t get someone to pick up, or they wouldn’t help them either. It was a nightmare.

Between never getting anyone on the phone at the office and my lack of long term accommodation, I decided that Athens might be a better option even if that meant not living near the beach and my friends. I returned to Athens in late October with a plan to go to Spain for about a month to think.

My one extra suitcase went into storage in Athens, and in November, I headed to a co-living space in Spain.

One Month turns into Two

Once I got to Spain, I had a great time and really didn’t want to stop traveling. After the co-living space, I spent another ten days in Valencia. Although some of that time was not supposed to be spent there, a train strike in France change my plans to take a train all the way from Valencia to Amsterdam.

Eventually, I made it to Amsterdam for Christmas. I had secured a pet sitting job in exchange for a place to stay, and Amsterdam is very expensive, so I was glad to have this option. Plus, the two kitties I watch were adorable and were 19 years old!

I spent Christmas Day wandering the Van Gogh museum and eating at Christmas markets. All the while reveling in the fact that I was traveling again and really not wanting to face up to the things I need to do back in Greece. So I went to Germany for New Years’. One of my friends from the co-living space invited me to stay with her for a while, and I got to see a small part of Germany, a new country for me.

Back to Greece

Knowing me, I could have kept running around Europe forever. My desire for a Greece resident permit brought me back to reality, and I returned to Athens in early January.

The apartment hunt began again. This time there was much more online, but good luck getting someone to write you back, and I couldn’t call since I knew almost no one in Athens to help me translate. I ended up taking the second place I saw as it was in my desired neighborhood.

Hindsight is 2020, though, and now I wish I had looked longer and found a place that was cheaper and had a balcony. This all revealed itself in March when the world changed forever again.

I contacted a lawyer right away to get the resident permit sorted, but due to his fees, I delayed so I could save up some money. That was probably a mistake, but again I had no idea what was coming.

Lockdown in Greece

Blaring emergency notices came out from my American and Greek phones one evening announcing that we would be going into lockdown starting March 23 at 6 AM due to COVID-19. We had already had one emergency alert a week before telling us to be cautious, and much was closed already.

I had been dating someone, so he quickly came over to bring me food and give me a hug. He was one of the few people I knew in Athens, so I felt overwhelmed with the thought of being alone for an unknown amount of time. Not only that, but now my resident permit was going to be delayed because the office was closed.

There were many days of thinking I had made the wrong decision to be here and whether or not I should return to the US. Ultimately I decided to stay. The guy I was seeing broke it off in the middle of all this, leaving me even more alone. I took many walks around my neighborhood to cope.

Freedom!

In late May, Greece lifted our strict restrictions on going out, and while there wasn’t much open, I could go for further walks. In June, restaurants could let people sit outside, and I started to make friends.

It took to a few more months to get all the offices opening and working in Greece and much of their processes online. Just last Friday, I learned I have an appointment for my resident permit interview. Ironically, one day after my visa expires!

What I have Learned

One of the biggest things is to learn to have more patience or at least to tell myself to be patient. With the delays of the resident permit, I have learned that I just need to let things work themselves out since they are beyond my control anyway. This is still hard for me.

Greece operates on its own timeline, and I knew that, but now I know it usually works out in the end.

Good things can come from bad experiences. During lockdown, I started doing weekly vlogs on my very small YouTube channel. These were a big hit, and while my channel is still very small, it has grown into something I really enjoy. I am teaching myself about filming, editing and YouTube.

Some flowers along all my walks

Despite what you might think, I have always been an introvert. Coming out of lockdown turned me into a person who wanted to go out all the time. I am just starting to return to my introvert ways, which might be good since cases of COVID-19 are increasing here daily.

Being away from my family has been hard, but we talk a lot which we always have. My mom has learned to text better, and even send photos to me!

In one way, I am grateful to the virus. My best friend had been terminally ill for several years when I left. I had hoped that when I left, she had a few more years left. However, I was wrong, and she passed away in July.

This was my biggest fear of going away and that I wouldn’t be there to say goodbye. COVID-19 made it impossible to go home, and ultimately her family decided to only have immediate family at the funeral, and to broadcast it live on Facebook. So I was able to attend all the way from Greece. It wasn’t the same, but I was grateful for this small comfort. Her family also allowed me to write her obituary as my final gift to her.

The last year of living in Greece was nothing like I expected and I think that is the biggest lesson of all. Expect the unexpected, and when the unexpected comes, go with the flow.

What is Happening to the Blog

A few people have asked me about the blog since I haven’t written anything in so long. With travel being suspended in most of the world, it didn’t seem right to keep writing about travel, and then I stopped traveling.

For now, I will only be traveling in Greece and plan on sharing those experiences here again soon. The blog is not going away, but there will be fewer posts than in a normal year. My traffic had tanked, and while I thought this was the year I was going to make a profit on the blog, I hope that I can rollover the small successes from this year into 2021! I hope you will join me over on my YouTube channel as well.

Wishing you all health and happiness. Stay safe

Travel

Armchair Travel with Live Webcams Around the World

April 13, 2020

With all of us stuck at home, I wanted to provide a way for you to travel virtually. When I am researching places, I often look at webcams of the area to get an idea of what it looks like. Many locations have multiple webcams as well. I have asked travel bloggers to share with us so we can do some armchair travel with live webcams around the world.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Keep in mind the webcams may go down from time to time for maintenance or lack of internet. They usually come back up quickly. Also, not all of them are live 24 hours a day because they don’t have adequate lighting at night.

Europe

Naxos, Greece Webcams

My favorite Greek island, Naxos, has several webcams around the main tourist areas. Naxos is one of the larger Cycladic Islands and has many beautiful beaches. The port is a lively area during the day and at night.  I have even called my family while standing in front of one, so they could go see me in real-time there, which I can’t wait to do again.

You can watch the ferries come and go. Some ferries are even running during the lockdown because the islands still get supplies this way. Check out the beach cam to see the waves and the sun.

Naxos beach webcam

Webcams of the Basque Surfing Spots from Ethno Travels

Did you know that the Basque Country is the birthplace of surf in Europe? It was introduced in Biarritz by two Californian guys, Dick Zanuck and Peter Viertel, in 1956.

Nowadays, from Anglet to Hendaye at the Spanish border, the Basque Country has several famous surf spots, giving us some of the greatest webcam views! You can find them on Quicksilver’s website here.

Basque Country Webcams

From North to South, you will find:
1. Anglet, with the view of Biarritz lighthouse.

2. Biarritz la grande plage. You will see the other side of the lighthouse. On the right, you can see a small part of l’Hôtel du Palais. This magnificent building, now one of the rare palace hotels in France, was built by Napoleon III as a summer residence for his wife, Eugenie de Montijo! When Napoleon arrived, Biarritz was only a tiny fisherman harbor. Thanks to his influence, most of the European Princes and Emperors of Europe built a summer residence here.

3. Biarritz la Côte des Basques. This is the place that was surfed for the first time in 1956! On the right, you can watch the Virgin’s Rock and Villa Belza, built as a Casino for Russians escaping the Revolution and now a residence for celebrities.

4. Saint Jean de Luz Sainte Barbe et grande plage will offer you some of the best views of the little town where King Louis XIV was married. You will see the seafront with its small houses, the Pyrenees mountains, the town of Ciboure where Maurice Ravel was born, Socoa Fortress, the dikes, and Sainte Barbe hill.

5. Parlementia Bidart center, Guéthary, is the favorite spot of the 1998 World Champion football player Bixente Lizarazu, who was born here.

6. Hendaye plage & Deux Jumeaux. The two rocks on the right are strangely called “deux jumeaux,” “two twins” in English. They are the departure point of one of the most scenic road here: the cliff road from Hendaye to Saint Jean de Luz.

Abbey Road from Where You’re Between

Throughout the 1960s, The Beatles regularly turned fairly mundane places into world-famous landmarks.

Two of the most famous examples are in the band’s home city of Liverpool. A garden called Strawberry Fields and a suburban street called Penny Lane were both used for song titles. The songs became two of their biggest hits, and both places still draw an army of tourists to this day.

In 1969, the Beatles needed a title for what would be their next album. They toyed with the idea of calling it, Everest. They even considered flying to the Himalayas for a photoshoot in front of the world’s tallest mountain.

Abbey Road webcam

Ultimately they decided to name the album after the street outside their recording studio. The album’s iconic cover shows all four Beatles walking across the zebra crossing on Abbey Road, in St John’s Wood in northwest London.

Just yards away from the front steps of EMI Studios in London – where The Beatles recorded almost all of their music – Abbey Road’s zebra crossing has been a mecca for the band’s fans ever since. For decades fans from all over the world have flocked to the world’s most famous zebra crossing.

A webcam faces the zebra crossing from outside Abbey Road Studios. The camera regularly captures Beatles’ fans posing as they attempt to recreate the album’s famous cover, often to the annoyance of waiting drivers.

Prague Old Town from Travel Geekery

This webcam of the Old Town Square in Prague streams from the Hotel U Prince. You can see the Old Town Tower with the Astronomical clock. If you look close enough, you’ll notice some movement of the clock on the hour. Normally, it’s a time when the whole area under the clock gets crowded with eager tourists. Nowadays, it’s eerily quiet.

Prague Old Town webcam

The majestic church on the right side is the Church of Mother of God before Týn, or “Týn Church” for short. It’s hiding behind some architectural gems of houses. The one that looks like a small tower itself is the Stone Bell House, and you can find the Prague City Gallery inside.

Other than the occasional pedestrians strolling through, you can see pigeons reclaiming their territory on the roofs and the beautiful play of light and shadows.

St. Petersburg, Russia from Travel Cultura

Let’s have a look at Palace Square — the main square of St Petersburg, Russia.

The webcam is installed at the top of one of the buildings surrounding the square. Due to this location, we can enjoy one of the most beautiful views of the city. Thus, we see the building of the Hermitage Museum. It’s also known as Winter Palace, former residence of Russian Emperors.

St. Petersburg webcam

The museum is a must-see place in St Petersburg. I suppose that most tourists coming to the city visit the Hermitage.

Another camera shows the yard of the Hermitage Museum. What for?

The Hermitage is an extremely popular museum in St Petersburg. During the peak tourist season, lines on the entrance can be very long. And usually, the Hermitage Museum uses this webcam to show how long the lines are. Thus, we can check if it’s reasonable to go to the Hermitage Museum right now, or it’s better to postpone the visit.

Bansko, Bulgaria from A Social Nomad

The webcams in Bansko, Bulgaria, will show you to ski areas and the ski conditions, while its winter season, but also what the weather is like in the summer, which is an amazing time to visit Bansko! 

Bansko Webcams

Bansko is Bulgaria’s largest ski resort, but it’s also an incredible town to explore the mountains of Bulgaria during all seasons. You’ll find great hiking, fabulous mountain biking, amazing fresh food, and amazing local life.  Here you’ll find the most amazing tomatoes, incredible cheese, and fresh river trout.  In the mountains, which you can access easily from Bansko, you can experience crowd-free hiking, hot springs, and great fresh air and a superb mountain experience.

While the Bansko webcams are a great way to see what’s happening on the mountain, what you’ll miss is the friendliness of the local welcome and the amazing taste of the local food.  So, when you can, come to visit, because you’ll always be welcome.

Stonehenge from Live in 10 Countries

If you’ve ever wanted to get a perfect view of Stonehenge, free from tourists, poor weather, barriers, or crowds, English Heritage’s fabulous skyscape webcam is the way to go. No entry fee either!

Stonehenge Webcam
Don’t get me wrong, visiting the real thing is a great experience too – especially during the unmissable solstice celebrations, but sitting back in the comfort of your home and clicking a link is hard to beat!

Set in the heart of the stone circle, the camera shows you star alignments and astronomical information, perfect for anyone interested in the monument’s history and possible meaning to the people who built it. And you can cycle back though previous hours on the cam’s timeline to see the movement of the sun and the shifting views of the stones.

The Eiffel Tower from World in Paris

If you are missing the French capital and its main sights, you should know that there are many ways of visiting Paris without leaving home.

For example, you can watch the Eiffel Tower through its live webcam and see how it still lights up every evening from sunset to 1 am (2 am during the three months of summer). This webcam is facing the Eiffel Tower, so you get an amazing view of the Iron Lady, especially at night when it shines.

Eiffel Tower webcam

The Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic sights in Paris, and one of the most popular spots for taking pictures. Therefore, this live webcam is very popular amongst professional photographers who tend to head to Trocadéro at sunrise to take pictures with fewer crowds. In order not to be disappointed, they can check live if the weather is good – not cloudy – from home before deciding to go or not to go.

Madiera from SolarPoweredBlonde 

Madeira really is a place where the weather changes from one second to the next. One minute you can be in boiling sun, the next minute you are engulfed in thick fog and clouds and cold! Therefore, the webcams on the island are crucial to planning your day. This is also because the weather can vary so much around the island.

Madeira webcams

One of the most useful webcams on the island is the webcam at Pico do Arieiro. This is the most incredible hike at the highest peak which is best done at sunrise. However, if you go at sunset then use this webcam to decide whether it is too foggy or whether it will be a good day to hike. On a foggy day you won’t see anything on the webcam and even more so in real life! On a good day, you will see rolling hills and incredible views, with clouds below. As you watch the sunrise here you are literally above the clouds and the sun will pop up over the clouds and you will never forget this moment!

North America

Hawaii from This Hawaii Life

Looking to get away for a brief moment and seeing what it’s like? How about a tropical getaway – Waikiki beach, to be exact, and this webcam shows you how beautiful it is on the beach day and night for you to just indulge in and enjoy like you were there. The webcam is taken from above at the Hilton Hawaiian village, looking down on Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head in the background. It’s an iconic view of the beach, coastline, and view of the beach all the way to beautiful Diamond Head. When you are looking to pretend to get away and enjoy the nice sandy beach and people watching on Waikiki beach, take a moment and check out this magnificent view.

When you get a chance to visit Oahu and Honolulu, check out this post on the top things you can do in Honolulu and the surrounding area for images and inspiration to planning a visit to the islands.

San Diego from Coleman Concierge

San Diego Beaches are the epitome of California dreaming. Blue water, soft sand, and the perfect hybrid of hippy and Hispanic. I long for a beaches and brew tour of America’s Finest City, but for now, I’ll have to dream through the lens of a beach webcam.

All of these cameras remind me of when we lived on Pacific Beach. Surfing at Law Street, biking the boardwalk at Mission Beach, paddling on Mission Bay, or taking in the cool hippy vibe of Ocean Beach. If we felt like taking our bikes just a little further, we would visit the sea lions in La Jolla. If we ever took our car out, it was to watch surfing at Imperial Beach or the luxury yacht traffic cruise San Diego Harbor.

San Diego webcam

San Diego beaches always make me smile. They’re so alive with activity from surfing to smashball on the sand. You never knew what a trip to the beach would uncover. It was always a surprise and usually beautiful.

Times Square from Gourmand Trotter

Times Square in New York is one of the most crowded places in the United States and worldwide. It is usually full of people from early mornings to late at night. It is famous for its huge billboards and advertisements, as well as being a commercial intersection and entertainment center in New York City. It goes from West 42nd to West 47th Streets and has even been given the nickname “The Crossroads of the World.” More than 460,000 pedestrians walk through Times Square on a busy day, and with 50 million visitors annually, it’s very strange to watch live cams from Times Square at this moment.

Times Square Webcam

A place that is usually full of crowds is now almost deserted with little to no people. It looks like something taken from a horror movie, but this is the reality now. There are lots of live cams from various angles at Times Square, and now is a great time to travel there virtually and experience it without the crowds.

One of the best live cams to see Times Square in real-time can be found here.

New York City Skyline

This my current webcam obsession. The photographer, Joseph DiGiovanna, bought an apartment in New Jersey to set up a 30 year timelapse of the New York City skyline! The camera is permanently set up in his living room. Every sunrise and sunset, he has been going live on Instagram as well. The project is called NYC TimeScape. The live webcam stream can be found here.

New York City Skyline Webcam

During the arrival of the USS Comfort Hospital Ship, he had several views happening all at once between Instagram, Twitch, and YouTube. Twitch is where the main live stream occurs, though. He has already been filming for almost five years. I recommend going and checking out his YouTube and Instagram for complications of the live feed.

Yellowstone National Park from Explore More Clean Less

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most popular parks in the United States, full of diverse geological features and lots of wildlife. Covering over 3400 square miles, Yellowstone is found in three different states: Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming! Old Faithful is one of the most famous landmarks in the park, erupting regularly multiple times throughout the day (typically between 45 minutes- 2 hours apart).

Yellowstone Web cam

If you haven’t visited, you might not realize that Old Faithful is actually a part of a larger geyser basin with approximately 500 active geysers. You can observe Old Faithful and other nearby geysers without the acrid sulfur smell via their live-streaming web cam! When the park is open, they update the website with predicted eruption times but outside that season you just have to be patient and get lucky. Keep an eye out for buffalo and other wildlife who might wander through the geyser field! If you’re inspired to take a real trip in the future, read these tips for visiting Yellowstone before you start planning.

Asia

Shibuya Crossing from Wander-Lush

Shibuya Crossing, AKA ‘The Shibuya Scramble,’ is the world’s single busiest pedestrian crossing and a Tokyo icon. While there’s no substitute for being in the thick of the hustle and bustle, it’s almost as satisfying to watch the organized chaos from afar.

 

Eyes on Shibuya Crossing is one of the most hypnotizing and addictive live webcams anywhere in the world. The camera is perfectly positioned to capture the five pedestrian walkways that make up the crossroad outside Shibuya Station, a popular stop on the city metro line. You might recognize the view from a number of travel films set in Japan, including Lost in Translation.

The lights cycle through every two minutes, and a crowd of up to 2,500 people moves like a wave through the crossroads. Most people walk with Tokyo-like purpose; others float through the junction. You could say it’s the ultimate people-watching experience! It’s especially interesting to watch at this time because the crowds are noticeably sparse.

Japan’s Jigokudani Monkey Park from Webcam Traveler

As the publisher of a blog called Webcam Traveler, I have been researching webcams for a long time.  My all-time favorite webcam is the one I heard about first–the webcam focused on the snow monkeys (also known as the Japanese macaques) in Japan’s Jigokudani Monkey Park.

Japan webcam

They are particularly fun to watch because they like hanging out in the area’s natural hot tubs.  There they sometimes loll, but mostly groom each other, continuously.  The adult monkeys have red faces and bottoms and can be ill-tempered.  I recently took my first trip to Japan and had the exciting pleasure of visiting them on their home turf.  In fact, my husband, who did not accompany me, was able to sync his iPhone with mine and actually tune in to the webcam at the time I was visiting and see me.  That was quite the thrill.

Africa

Kruger National Park from The Travelling Chili

Kruger National Park is the largest and the most visited safari park in South Africa. A very wide diversity of wildlife can be seen while visiting the park; however, the webcams in Kruger National Park are strategically located at various waterholes and provide an excellent remote view on wildlife coming for a drink to cool down or take a bath.

Both the live stream cams in Kruger National Park are located at waterholes in the central part of the park, in Satara and Orpen, where lots of large herds of animals as well as the big cats are plentiful.

Kruger National Park webcam

With the open plains, the webcams can provide a great overview of the surrounding areas where animals are often waiting their turn to go for a drink safely.

Also, have a look at the still cam from the Punda Maria waterhole. This waterhole receives lots of wildlife, especially during the dry season, from July to December. This particular waterhole is known to receive large family groups of elephants with lots of babies.

Similar to a safari, try not to miss anything or any animals that might be sitting in between the foliage. You might see one of the rarer species.

So don’t miss out on the experience of a lifetime by viewing and observing animal behavior in their natural environment and creating your own National Geographic channel from the comfort of your own sofa.

Australia

Blue Mountains from Globe Blogging

Katoomba’s Scenic World is a prime Blue Mountains attraction, perched on the top of a cliff looking down on the Jamison Valley. It is home to a number of local attractions, including the Scenic Skyway, a cable car that travels across the valley at a height of 270metres. It arrives on the other side close to the world-famous Three Sisters.

It is here that a live webcam located on top of Scenic World’s main building points, on a clear day offering views across the valley and the Three Sisters basking in the sunlight on the left-hand side of the image. For travelers to the Blue Mountains, its also an excellent live check of the current weather conditions in Katoomba. I’ve used it to check whether it is snowing before I take the drive up the mountain to see.

Worldwide

Wildlife Webcams from FlipFlopGlobetrotters

Wildlife webcams are an awesome way to see more of the world from the comfort of your own home. And there are some fantastic wildlife cams to be found. It’s almost as good as going on a real safari! Used to the fast pace of tv shows and the continuous narration in documentaries, watching a wildlife cam may seem a bit boring at first. But, just like going on a real safari, the wait is part of the excitement. 

Wildlife webcams

The quality of the cams isn’t always the best, but you can see the animals pretty well, and they include sound, which really adds to the experience. Some of the cams also film during the night.

The live cams of  Explore.org show over 100 different streams, so there’s plenty of choice. My favorites are the cams that show African wildlife. How cool to see the elephants bathe at the Tau Waterhole in the Madikwe Game Reserve on the border of South Africa and Botswana. And just this morning, I saw lions and hippos in Kenya and watched gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Kongo. All the cams offer information about their exact location and some details about what you might see.

Pin It

Travel

Life in Greece at This Time

March 22, 2020
Sailing the Greek Islands

Update August 26, 2020. We came out of full lockdown on May 4 but many things were closed. Most everything is open except for indoor movie theaters and masks are mandatory inside.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Update November 2021. We went back into lockdown.

No one wants to read another article about the horrible c-word, I know! However, many of my readers only read my content here and not on social media. This includes many of my friends. So in an effort to make sure you know I am all okay, I thought this would be a much simpler option.

Greece Precautions

Greece is not in total lockdown yet. The government has been proactive in trying to stay ahead of this virus. Three weeks ago, Carnival was canceled as I was on a ferry to Naxos to celebrate it. Then last week, they asked us, in an emergency alert, to stay home as much as possible.

Two weeks ago, I had been out at a crowded bar thinking this was almost over. China had it under control and many other Asian countries did as well. By that weekend, everything had changed. Bars, restaurants, clubs and many other social establishments had been ordered to close.

When it got serious in Italy, I knew Greece was also going to get serious too. This week has brought more and more measures. All shops except for grocery stores, pharmacies, bakeries and banks are closed. You can get food to go or coffee and delivery though. Although, I think some food places have opted to close altogether.

Friday, they announced that ferries to the islands will only carry island residents and cargo. Many islands do not have a hospital and some only have small clinics so they are trying to limit the possible transition from the mainland. Anyone getting the virus there would be in greater danger due to a lack of medical resources or would have to be sent to Athens or Thessaloniki.

Every day brings a new challenge for me. Fortunately, I already work at home so that isn’t a big deal. I do have asthma, although it isn’t severe, I am being extra careful. I don’t go out every day. I have washed my hands a million times and on Friday, I wash my groceries off before putting them away. I also don’t have a washing machine so I will be hand washing many things in my future as I am not really wanting to risk the laundromat right now. These are all small things though and I will figure it out.

YouTube video

Expat Decisions

The biggest issue for me was when there were rumors on the media of the airport closing. This meant if there was an emergency at home I wouldn’t be able to fly home to my family.  My parents are in their 70s and relatively healthy but still a concern. My nieces also live with them and if my parents were ill then they would be alone.

I am sure friends and family would help but I couldn’t ask them to step in for a long period of time. Plus, I would need to be there to make decisions for my parents. All of this is theoretical obviously, but it is the thing that keeps me up at night and me yelling at my parents to stay home.

On Thursday, the US State Department asked Americans not to travel and to return home. This made me pause a bit because they said we might be stuck abroad for a long period of time.  However, this has been my plan for a while. I was not planning on returning to the US until December for Christmas. But it is scary when you realize you may not have the option because the borders are closed.

The situation the world is in right now is almost unprecedented. Only World War II seems to be similar and most of the people that lived through that are now gone leaving us without their knowledge of how to survive this. I just keep remembering that we at least have the internet and television now. We can do this. Life may never be the same and maybe that is a good thing.

Be safe everyone! Stay home!

Europe, Netherlands, Travel

Visiting Amsterdam at Christmas

January 27, 2020

I have only spent Christmas alone once before at that was in Rome. When spending Christmas alone, it is important for me to have something to do on Christmas morning.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Amsterdam at Christmas was a perfect place because almost all the museums are open on Christmas day. Plus there are tons of things to do in Amsterdam at Christmas time.

Amsterdam Christmas Markets

There are Christmas markets all over Amsterdam and most are open up until Christmas day. One I found was even open on Christmas Day. Here are some of the best Amsterdam Christmas markets to explore.

Ice Village

This Christmas market is located in the Museumplein right behind the Rijksmuseum. The market has a variety of stalls that sell handmade items such as jewelry, postcards and hand knits. There are also a variety of food stalls selling everything from BBQ to stroopwafels. Drink options included beer, mulled wine and hot chocolate.

Ice Village skating rink

The market also had a large outdoor ice skating rink. The rink was filled with kids and they even offered chairs to help you skate if you are out of practice!

The Ice Village Amsterdam was open Christmas day as well making it an ideal place to visit after visiting a museum or two beforehand. It was pretty cold that day so make sure to dress warm. There were a few open fires to gather around to keep warm though.

Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt

This mostly indoor Christmas market is located in Westergas, Amsterdam. Westergas used to be the city’s gas works and now hosts creative activities throughout the year.

Outside the market are the food stalls, a small ice rink and even a carousel. Inside, there are plenty of vendors to shop from. I saw homemade products such as jewelry, art and food. There was even a Lush stall!

Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt inside

Bingo was being played on the day I went inside. There were some food stalls inside as well with places to sit.

Some of the small buildings in the Westergas complex had shops inside them as well.

Funky Xmas Market

Also held at Westergas, the Funky Xmas Market is held the three Sundays leading up to Christmas day. This market features items from local artists and fashion designers.

Amsterdam Winter Paradise

This market as all the traditional things you would find at the other Amsterdam Christmas markets but also includes a ferris wheel! You can also go tube sliding on real snow. The festive spirit continues into the night at this market with live music.

Museums, Museums, Museums

Almost all the major museums in Amsterdam are open on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. This was the main reason I chose Amsterdam for my Christmas alone. I love museums and Amsterdam has some of the best ones in the world.

Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum cannot be missed when you arrive at the Museumplein area. It is the large castle-like structure that dominates the area.

The museum is home to over 1 million artifacts! It has a variety of objects on display including paintings, Delftware, ship models, clothing and dollhouses. It is probably one of the most eclectic museums I have ever been inside.  The only museum that I can compare it to would be the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

YouTube video

The museum is open on Christmas Day and has plenty of things to keep you busy for the entire day if you want. You can also get a good meal at the Cafe or the Rijks Restaurant.

Be sure to check out the Night Watch, which is Rembrandt’s most famous painting. Starting in 2019, it underwent a yearlong restoration in the public eye. Depending on when you go, you may still be able to check out the restoration process live.

Anne Frank House

Visiting the Anne Frank House while in Amsterdam is a must for most visitors. My advice is that no matter when you are visiting Amsterdam is to book your ticket to this immediately. I booked my ticket about three weeks before I arrived and the only option I had was Christmas Eve at night.

Needless to say, the visit was worth it. The museum has been kept pristine and much of that is thanks to Otto Frank, Anne’s father. He kept it as it was when he was freed from the concentration camps. Even the original bookcase that blocked the secret entrance is still in place.

It isn’t an easy place to visit and even on Christmas Eve it was crowded. However, the magnitude of hiding in a place for two years only to be discovered after the war was officially over and then to be sent to the camps is shocking. The house is a moving experience.

Van Gogh Museum

The Van Gogh Museum was my choice to visit on Christmas Day in Amsterdam. I thought it would be a popular place to visit on a regular day but it was even packed on Christmas Day.

Van Gogh's Sunflowers

It was worth seeing the Sunflowers though on Christmas morning. My advice would be to book an early morning ticket so that you might avoid some of the crowds.

I also recommend the audio guide to help you understand some of the paintings and to better understand Van Gogh’s life.

Book your Van Gogh Museum ticket here.

After leaving the Van Gogh museum, you can walk down to the Ice Village Christmas market for some poffertjes. Poffertjes are similar to an American pancake but are made with buckwheat and yeast. They are small and puffy served with butter and powdered sugar. Some stalls will let you add Nutella or chocolate.

Stedelijk Museum

If modern art is more your thing, you must visit the Stedelijk Museum.  The Stedelijk is open Christmas Day as well. It features artists such as Jackson Pollack, Marc Chagall and Andy Warhol. The Stedelijk is not on the Museumplein but is accessible by public transportation.

Light Festival

While the Amsterdam Light Festival starts well before the Christmas season, you can easily add it to your Christmas activities list while in the city. The Light Festival is an art installation that happens every year and each year is a different theme.

Light Festival installation of sinking city

Many of the installations are located in or near the canals. This makes it a great opportunity to take a canal cruise and see the lights at the same time. While these are not traditional Christmas lights, they are beautiful and you might get to see some Christmas lights in people’s houses on the canals.

Book your canal cruise here.

The art is from artists all over the world and the installations must be able to withstand the wet Dutch winter.

Food and Drink

Of course, you will want to sample all the food that Amsterdam as to offer at Christmas. I already mentioned the poffertjes and of course, stroopwafels. But to really get a taste you need to head to Foodhallen.

Pulled pork sandwich from Foodhallen

Foodhallen is a food hall with lots of options. What I liked about it was that you order food in one place and then there is community seating so you can sit anywhere. There are also several bars with beer, wine and a gin and tonic bar! There was even a small Christmas market here too.

The Netherlands is known for its tulips and windmills. Since it wasn’t tulip season, I decide to visit a microbrewery in a windmill! Ok, it is actually next to it in a former bathhouse, but it is still pretty cool. The beer was excellent as well. The windmill is the DeGooyer windmill and the brewery is the Brouwerij ‘t IJ.

Beer at Windmill brewery Amsterdam

Where to Stay in Amsterdam at Christmas

There are tons of hotel options in Amsterdam but I prefer to be near the museums and not in the city center. My recommendation is Park Centraal Amsterdam. It is right near the Museumplein and close to public transportation. Check rates here.

Public Transportation at Christmas in Amsterdam

The public transportation ran on Christmas Day. The schedule was a Sunday schedule but seemed pretty regular to me. There were times it was more crowded though. You can buy a ticket on the tram in the back of the tram. My advice is to purchase a pass for the amount of time you will be there as it saves you money and time.

Amsterdam Weather in December

Amsterdam weather in December is cold. It is December after all but don’t come to Amsterdam in December looking for a white Christmas. December in Amsterdam is the most humid month but it isn’t always cold enough to snow. When I was there it rained a few times and a few times it was a hard rain but most of the time it was a fine mist. Pack layers and an umbrella if you are traveling to Amsterdam in December.

Have you been to Amsterdam at Christmas? Share your experience in the comments.