4 days in Amsterdam - canal

4 days in Amsterdam!

4 days in Amsterdam


So this is a non-scoliosis related post (sorry!) But I have just got back from 4 days in Amsterdam with a friend and thought I’d write a post about what we got up to. It was our first time in Amsterdam and I have to say, I really enjoyed it!

Amsterdam is a very pretty city with endless canals, and is fairly relaxed in parts. That being said, other parts (i.e the Red Light District) are plain crazy and have to be seen to be believed! This post shows what we did in 4 days, which may help if you are planning a trip to Amsterdam in the future. πŸ™‚

Here are a few things we got up to in our 4 days in Amsterdam…


Day 1

Free Walking Tour – Sandemans

4 days in Amsterdam - Dam Square
Dam Square

I find a great way to get your bearings in a new city is to do a free walking tour. I have been on the Sandemans free walking tour several times in other cities and have always really enjoyed it. The Amsterdam free tour starts in Dam Square every day (at various start times) and takes around 2-3 hours. We booked online in advance (recommended) and chose a start time of 12pm. It was a fantastic tour and gave us a great overview of the city and main tourist attractions.

Raw Herring: Frens Haringhandel

4 days in Amsterdam - raw herring

After the walking tour we wandered around a bit and were a bit peckish so decided to try the local speciality – raw herring! Served with gherkins and onions, it tastes a lot nicer than it sounds trust me… We came across the Frens Haringhandel stand which served Herring and other kinds of fish just outside the flower market. I have to say, it was truly delicious and you should definitely try this when in Amsterdam.

Flower Market

4 days in Amsterdam - Flower Market

The huge flower market in Amsterdam is famous, so we thought we’d check it out while we were in the area. Not really that much to say about it but worth a visit if you have an interest in plants!

Evening Canal Tour

4 days in Amsterdam - Canal Tour

With over 160 canals in Amsterdam, a canal tour is a must! There are many boat tours to choose from, however we chose an evening cruise (Blue Boat tours) and pre-booked online as it was cheaper. Overall, it was good value as it lasted a couple of hours and included a free drink. It was very relaxing and I would recommend doing a canal tour at night as all the bridges are lit up and it looks so pretty!

Leidseplein (Leiden Square)

As we were in the area, having got our canal cruise from here, we decided to have a drink afterwards and went to the Hard Rock Cafe bar. There are loads of restaurants and bars round here (and a casino). It seems like a popular area for a night out.


Day 2

Hire a Bike!

When you arrive in Amsterdam, one of the first things you notice is the number of bikes!

It is said that there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam and I can believe it. Amsterdam is a very bike friendly city and cycling is the main way that the locals get around. There are cycle lanes EVERYWHERE. Bikes tend to have right of way and they even have their own traffic lights. For these reasons it is fairly safe to ride around the city on a bike, you just have to watch out for other cyclists and pedestrians. Also, as a pedestrian you need to be on the constant lookout for bikes when crossing the road etc!

So on day two we decided to hire a bike from our hotel (14 Euro for 24 hours) and explore the city like a local. You can also do a bike tour and there are many available (including Sandemans).

Vondelpark

4 days in Amsterdam - Vondelpark
Vondelpark – The Fish

We cycled from our hotel (which was about 40 mins out of the city center) through Rembrant park and onto Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest and most popular park. We spent some time here cycling round the park and I really enjoyed it. There were so many bikes though!!! The picture above shows the Picasso Fish sculpture at Vondelpark.

I Amsterdam Sign

4 days in Amsterdam - I amsterdam sign

As Vondelpark is close to the Museum quarter, we cycled there to check out the famous I Amsterdam sign. We chained our bikes up and took a few pictures while we were there. It was crazy busy with people climbing all over the sign! I reckon you’d need to visit very early to get a decent picture with only you on it.

Red Light District

4 days in Amsterdam - Red Light District

No visit to Amsterdam is complete without a wander through the Red Light District. After enjoying the Sandemans free walking tour so much on day 1, we decided to book onto their Red Light District tour. This is a two hour tour of the Red Light District, starting at 7pm on Dam Square. Of course, you can just wander around the area yourself if you didn’t fancy paying for a tour. I found the Sandemans tour really interesting though, especially hearing about the history of the area and stories about the prostitutes that work there.

All in all, I found the Red Light District fascinating (if a little disturbing in places!)

Dutch Beer

4 days in Amsterdam -Dutch Beer

After a drink near to the Red Light District area, we headed to a Dutch beer bar called Arendsnest, which does hundreds of different Dutch beers. I’m not a big beer drinker, in fact I don’t like beer at all! However, we asked the bar man for a recommendation for a sweet beer and the one he recommended was amazing. The first beer I have ever legitimately enjoyed. Β πŸ™‚


Day 3

Pancakes!

4 Days in Amsterdam - Pancakes

When in Amsterdam it is a must to try some pancakes. We found a really cute pancake place (called Mook Pancakes) quite near to our hotel via Tripadvisor. It was honestly AMAZING and they were the best pancakes I have ever had (I had their breakfast pancakes!)

Rijksmuseum

4 Days in Amsterdam - Rijksmuseum

After breakfast we headed to the highly recommended Rijksmuseum. We spent about 3-4 hours here in total and it was very enjoyable. A highlight for me was the Rembrant collection but the museum features a large collection of other Dutch artists.

Sex Museum

4 days in amsterdam - sex museum

Ok, so this one was a little less cultured but hey, when in Rome and all that. The Sex Museum is a bit of fun and it only costs 5 euro, so why not? Be warned though – this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and is definitely not suitable for those under 18.

China Town

4 days in amsterdam - china town

For our evening meal we decided to wander into China town and see what was about. It was quite small but there were a good choice of restaurants. Afterwards we headed to one of Amsterdam’s famous coffee shops (Abraxas) near to Dam square.

 


Day 4

More Pancakes..

4 days in Amsterdam - More Pancakes

We found another cute place for pancakes called The Happy Pig. You can take away or sit in to eat and they have a variety of sweet and savoury pancakes – yum!

Albert Cuyp Market & De Pijp

We decided to explore this area as we hadn’t been to this part of the city yet. The Pijp area is really nice and seemed less touristy – it’s near to the Heineken experience. The Albert Cuyp market is a huge street market selling all sorts including traditional Dutch food.

4 days in amsterdam - albert cuyp market

We bought some Stroop waffels from the market (called The Super Strooper… lol!) which were ah-may-zing. Afterwards we had a stroll round the park nearby (Sarphatipark) which was nice and chilled.

4 days in Amsterdam - Super Strooper
The Super Strooper…

In the afternoon we headed back to Dam Square and did some shopping, we also found the smallest house in Amsterdam and the Anne Frank House.

Smallest House in Amsterdam

 4 days in Amsterdam -Smallest House in Amsterdam

This is actually a tea room but it’s so cute! We came across it by accident really, it’s off a side street near to the Red Light District.

Anne Frank House

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go inside the Anne Frank house as the queues were ridiculous. You have to book months in advance and people queue round the block! We did however sit outside it and take a picture. Β It was interesting and also sobering just to see it from the outside.

4 days in amsterdam - Anne Frank House

The Jordaan area

In the evening we headed to the Jordaan area as we heard that there were some nice restaurants here. It was a really pretty area with lots of narrow streets and nice houses. It seemed quieter and less touristy than the Dam square area. It’s a nice area to grab a bite to eat but I would recommend booking in advance somewhere as the places get quite busy. Also, it was pretty expensive round there. Although Amsterdam in general is very expensive, so if you do go, take plenty of Euros.


So, all in all, we had a busy few days. One thing I missed is on our first night we visited Foodhallen which was a short walk from our hotel. It’s basically a large food hall/indoor market type place where you can buy all types of food and drink. Recommended!

Other places we didn’t visit due to time/money etc include the Van Gogh museum and Heineken experience. I’ve heard both are good, depending on your interests! There are also loads more museums about if you have the time.


How did my back cope with all the walking?

In all honesty, my back did hurt quite a bit. I found that towards mid afternoon after walking round for hours it really started to hurt at the bottom. My memory foam trainers were a lifesaver! I found when I didn’t wear them one night my back hurt almost immediately so for me, they really helped.

If you are interested in how I cope when travelling with scoliosis check out my post – travelling with scoliosis – my 5 top tips.

Thanks for reading πŸ™‚ any tips, advice or questions let me know in the comments below!
Louise X

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4 days in Amsterdam

3 Days in Rome

3 Days in Rome!

I’ve just got back from an amazing 3 days in Rome for my birthday and thought I’d share what I got up to πŸ™‚

We arrived late at night and so checked into the hotel and basically just went to sleep, as we were tired from a day of travelling! We had also booked onto a full day Vatican Museum and Colloseum tour the next day which started early (8am), so we needed to get some rest in preparation.

Day 1: AM

Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel

3 days in Rome - Vatican Museum

St Peter’s Basicalla

3 Days in Rome - St Peters Basicalla

We spent the morning on a tour of the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basicalla. It was very tiring and and my back started to hurt around mid morning as there was A LOT of walking (I wasn’t wearing the best shoes – flat black boots as opposed to my memory foam trainers). Despite this though, it was pretty interesting, albeit a bit rushed trying to fit everything in – and VERY BUSY. I would advise booking tickets before you go to skip the queues (which are massive) and also go early as there is a lot to see. I’m not really that knowledgeable about art so we booked a tour which made it more interesting.

You are not allowed to take any pictures in the Sistine Chapel but it was very impressive! I think my favourite of the three was St Peter’s Basicalla, this was an absolutely amazing church – probably the most beautiful church I’ve ever been in.

3 Days in Rome

Day 1: PM

Colosseum

3 Days in Rome - Colloseum

No trip to Rome is complete without a trip to see the Colosseum!

After our tour of the Vatican, we headed towards the Colosseum for our afternoon tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Again, lots of walking and a lot to see. It was a bit rushed trying to get across the city and at one point we got lost and thought we had missed the tour (panic averted when we finally found the meeting point and the tour hadn’t left yet!) We also didn’t have time to eat lunch so had a pizza on the go. There are luckily lots of takeaway pizza places in Rome! I think the Colosseum was my favorite part of the trip. It’s definitely worth booking a tour online in advance as we didn’t have to queue and walked straight in. I thought the Colosseum was amazing and it was really interesting to hear about the history of it from our guide. After our tour of the Colosseum, we headed towards the Roman Forum and then up to Palatine Hill, where the views were spectacular.

Roman Forum

3 Days in Rome - Roman Forum

Palatine Hill

3 Days in Rome - Palatine Hill

Hard Rock Cafe

After all the walking (by this point I had done well over 30K steps according to my Fitbit and my back was killing me), we decided to find Hard Rock Cafe. We always try and visit a Hard Rock Cafe wherever we go (if there is one). It’s like a tradition! Anyway the cocktail and sit down was much needed! I realised by this point that we hadn’t actually sat down properly all day.

3 Days in Rome - Hard Rock Cafe

Trevi Fountain

3 Days in Rome - Trevi Fountain

On the walk back to the hotel, we decided to check out the famous Trevi fountain. It really looked beautiful at night all lit up. The only downside was, even at night it was an incredibly busy tourist attraction. There were so many people and it was difficult to get a photo without people in it. I managed it though – just! There were also lots of street sellers trying to flog selfie sticks, this gets very tiresome after a while.

3 Days in Rome - Trevi Fountain

We found a bar to have a quick drink and then headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest!

Day 2

Trastevere

3 Days in Rome - Trastevere

After a rushed day on Day 1, we decided to take things easier on Day 2 and explore the sights we hadn’t seen yet at our own pace. I think this was necessary for my back to cope with the rest of the trip! I also made sure I wore my memory foam trainers on Day 2 which helped LOADS.

To start Day 2, we decided to explore the area we were staying in (called Trastevere). I think this was my favourite area of Rome! It’s a maze of pretty narrow, cobbled streets, piazzas and cute little restaurants and bars. It’s easy to get lost in this area (and that’s exactly what we did – several times!) Some of the best restaurants in Rome can be found in this area. We ate breakfast at a cute little local Italian cafe called Dolce bar. It was full of locals enjoying their expressos and extremely happy staff singing along to the radio, great atmosphere to start a day of sightseeing.

3 Days in Rome - Coffee

Campo de’ Fiori & Piazza Navona

After exploring Trastevere, we headed across the river to explore Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza Navona and the Pantheon.

Campo de’ Fiori is a charming Piazza or square where they have a bustling market. Unfortunately the market wasn’t on when we arrived (although we did witness it later on in the trip and it was crazy!)

Piazza Navona is a very touristy square, full of street entertainers and street sellers trying to flog selfie sticks and roses (although these are EVERYWHERE!) It’s also very busy. The main square has many restaurants vying for attention and trying to get tourists in. I preferred the side streets around this area, which were very charming and full of quieter (and cheaper) bars and restaurants.

3 Days in Rome - Piazza Navona

We avoided the restaurants on the main square and ventured down the side streets for lunch. I’m glad we did because we found an amazing restaurant called Saltimbocca (which was almost empty, in contrast to the restaurants on the main piazza and cheaper too). The pizza and pasta we had was just amazing.

3 Days in Rome - Piazza Navona

Pantheon

After lunch we headed to the Pantheon to have a quick look around (as it’s free and was recommended on Trip Advisor). Again, it was another very very busy, overcrowded area. The building was impressive though and you can have a look inside for free.

3 Days in Rome - Pantheon 3 Days in Rome - Pantheon

Della Palma

After this it was a quick stop for some yummy Gelato. We went to a place called Della Palma after reading reviews on Trip Advisor. They had over 100 flavours of Gelato! I had cheesecake flavour. It was amazing..

3 Days in Rome - Gelato

Piazza del Popolo & Villa Borghese

We then headed to Piazza del Popolo (Piazza of the people) and Villa Borghese – a pretty park with stunning views of Rome. Piazza del Popolo was very busy with street sellers trying to sell, you guessed it, selfie sticks! And also roses and scarves.. very annoying. The park is gorgeous and peaceful though. It’s actually really big and you could spend a good few hours here, relaxing, having a picnic or taking a bike ride.

 

3 Days in Rome - Piazza Del Popolo

3 Days in Rome

3 Days in Rome
Views from Villa Borghese

3 Days in Rome

Spanish Steps

3 Days in Rome - Spanish Steps

As you can see from the photograph, the Spanish Steps were incredibly busy, with pushy street vendors everywhere, like all the main tourist attractions in Rome. In this respect, I think they were a bit over-rated. However, the area itself (Spagna) is very nice with lots of designer and upmarket shops.

We finished day two with a drink in a bar near the Spanish Steps (called Dilla) and then headed back to Trastevere for a meal and drinks.

Day 3

We started day 3 with a lovely Italian breakfast (and free smiles!) for just 3 euro at a nice restaurant in Trastevere called Tonnarello.

3 Days in Rome 3 Days in Rome

We sat outside in the warm sunshine to eat breakfast, which is a novelty for us Brits. Our third day was lovely and warm (about 22 degrees, not bad for early March!) so we wanted to enjoy the sunshine. By day 3, we felt like we had seen most of the main sights, so we decided to revisit the Roman Forum and Colloseum, as it was a bit rushed on the first day, as well as see a few of the remaining sights shown below.

Roman Forum

3 Days in Rome

Circus Maximus

Now an empty field, but this is where chariot races took place in ancient Rome.

3 Days in Rome

Piazza Venezia

3 Days in Rome - Piaza Venezia

Quirinale Palace

3 Days in Rome

Quattro Fontane

3 Days in Rome

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

This was a really pretty church and free to enter so definitely worth a visit.

3 Days in Rome

Castel Sant’ Angelo

After the church, we walked back to our hotel via the Colosseum to take some more pictures (and have some more gelato!) We then walked back to Trastevere along the river, passing the castle on the way.

3 Days in Rome

3 Days in Rome

For dinner, we headed back to Trastevere and stumbled across a cute little place down a side street called Pasta e Vino.

3 Days in Rome

It was basically like a little takeaway place (but you can also eat in). They make fresh, handmade pasta and sauces and you choose your combination and order at the till. This was hands down the best pasta I’ve ever had!

3 Days in Rome

We then found an amazing wine bar down the side streets of Travestere, called Essenza, and shared a bottle of Prosecco πŸ™‚

Day 4 – going home πŸ™

Today was going home day – boo! We had a late flight, so we checked out of the hotel and found a really cute place for breakfast called Mammo street food. They do amazing pancakes and bagels!

3 Days in Rome

We then wandered around for a bit in the sunshine until it was time to head back to the hotel for our airport pickup.

So, there you have it! That’s how I spent 3 days in Rome. Overall, I had a lovely time in and would definitely recommend Rome for a short break. I loved the food and all the cute restaurants and wine bars. The best parts of Rome for me were away from the main busy tourist attractions, where you get pestered quite a bit by street sellers. I preferred the quiet little side streets which were just so pretty and full of amazing bars and restaurants.

Weather in Rome in March

I think March is a great time to visit Rome because it’s nice and sunny but not too hot, in fact it was perfect weather for walking round sightseeing (around 16-22 degrees).

You do ALOT of walking though, the most steps I did in a day was over 37,000, which is the most I’ve ever done in a day!

3 Days in Rome - STEPS
3 Days in Rome – Steps in one day!

So if you do visit Rome, good walking shoes are a MUST.

My back did suffer a bit, but I noticed my back pain was worse on the days that I didn’t wear my memory foam trainers, I really can’t recommend them enough.

Check out my post here for more tips on travelling with scoliosis.

Would you like to visit Rome? Have you ever been? What sights would you recommend? Let me know in the comments below πŸ™‚

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Travelling with Scoliosis

Travelling with Scoliosis: My 5 Top Tips

This post contains affiliate links.


It’s my birthday next week and I’m off to Rome! (SO excited!)

Anyway, it got me thinking about travelling with scoliosis. I LOVE to travel and I am lucky enough to have travelled to some amazing places since I had my scoliosis surgery.

I don’t let my scoliosis stop me from going anywhere or doing anything. In fact, it makes me more determined to see as many places as possible. I have survived many long haul flights with my back since my surgery, including a 24 hour flight to Australia, flights to Thailand, Singapore, Dubai, USA and Mexico to name a few!

My first few trips after surgery were pretty difficult and VERY uncomfortable but over the years it’s got much easier as I’ve recovered and learnt how to cope with travelling with a spinal fusion.

So, in light of my trip next week and in preparation for the holiday season, I thought I’d write a post on travelling with scoliosis and share some of my tips.

Travelling with Scoliosis


Tip # 1 – Get a decent cushion

After I had my scoliosis surgery, I invested in a travel memory foam cushion and it is honestly one of the BEST things I have ever bought. I take it with me on EVERY trip I go on and for me it’s a lifesaver. It is basically a square shaped memory foam cushion that I can put behind me when I’m on a plane for example. It rolls up too and comes with a travel bag so I can easily carry it around with me. I have used it everywhere when travelling – sun loungers, restaurant chairs, hotel rooms you name it.

Since my scoliosis surgery, I find most chairs uncomfortable, but plane and airport seating are the worst. This is mainly because my back doesn’t bend to mould to the seats so I end up sitting bolt upright with a gap between the seat and my lower back. After a few hours on a plane or waiting around at an airport this can be very uncomfortable and painful.

I had a look online and I can’t find the exact cushion I have but it’s very much like the one below, available from Amazon. For me, having a decent cushion makes travelling that much more bearable.

Don’t be afraid to take a cushion with you to public places if you feel uncomfortable – it can make a world of difference!


Tip # 2 – Get some decent trainers / walking shoes

I’ve learnt this the hard way over the years! Travelling often involves a lot of standing around, queuing, walking etc. This can take its toll on anyone’s back but when you have scoliosis, it can be extremely painful. I find having decent shoes really helps take the strain away. When I went to Australia a few years ago, I knew I would be doing a lot of walking and I knew this would be painful on my back. So I invested in some Sketchers memory foam trainers (like the ones below).

I found these really comfy and I was able to walk round for hours with minimal back pain, the memory foam helped to take the pressure off my back. I really think these helped a lot and I wouldn’t have been able to walk around as much without them. I tend not to wear heels very much nowadays when travelling, especially if I know I’m walkingΒ  or standing a lot – it’s just not worth the pain.

 


Tip #3 – Try not to carry/lift too much

This can be difficult, especially if you are travelling alone. I have a tendency to over pack but then I never need or use half of what I take and my case just ends up too heavy to carry. It’s important to pack light so that you can actually lift your case if you need to. For example, you often have to lift your case to put it through the security scanners or into the overhead compartments in the plane. If you can’t lift it, it’s too heavy!

Invest in a light weight wheelie suitcase, these offer the least amount of strain on your back. I have a case like the one below and it’s a lifesaver because it’s so light and the 4 wheels means I can just wheel it around without feeling the weight of it.

I avoid back packs in general and if I need a handbag, I find the type that cross over the front of my body to be the best for my back. Avoid one shoulder bags when travelling as these put strain on your back, especially if they are heavy.


Tip #4 – Stand up and stretch regularly

This is important for anyone and not just those of us with scoliosis. It’s important to get up and walk around when on a long journey. I try and get up several times to stretch my legs and back out. This helps with keeping the pain and stiffness at bay. I have been known to do my stretches in the toilets of the plane if I can!


Tip # 5 – Don’t forget your pain killers

If I know I have a long flight I make sure I take my painkillers before I get on the plane so they have time to kick in.

When travelling abroad, if you have strong prescription painkillers, it is best to keep a copy of your prescription with you for when you go through security. Also, it’s best to check if your painkillers are allowed in the country you are travelling to. For example, some strong prescription painkillers are banned in Dubai (e.g. tramadol). If this is the case, you will need to take a copy of your prescription and to be safe, a letter from your Doctor.

Heat can also help. On a long flight to Las Vegas, I bought some Nurofen Heat Patches from the airport pharmacy and this relieved the pressure on my back during the flight. Heat Patches like the ones below can be great for long haul flights or long car/train journeys as they provide relief for hours. However, as many contain gel, if you are planning on using one of these on the plane, it’s probably best to buy them at the airport (once you’ve gone through security).


So there you have it, these are some of my top tips for travelling with scoliosis. Do you have any tips for travelling with scoliosis that you can share? Please comment below and let me know πŸ™‚

Louise X

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Travelling with Scoliosis