• AMSTERDAM TRAVEL GUIDE

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    The Royal Palace

    As I mentioned in my last post about the amazing found we found in the city, I recently spent the weekend in Amsterdam. Today I’m talking through all my thoughts about my visit, where we stayed and things we did.  I went with 12 of my friends and it was such a great 48 hours. When researching the city, I read that the canals soothe rather than imprison the city, that “they provide its order, its calm”. And I agree. I admit that I found it hard to get orintated and I never felt like I gained a general sense of where things were in relation to each other because of how the city is set-up. But I didn’t mind, I never felt lost because the water was always there. The canals are lined with beautiful and intriguing builds and you never know what cute street you’re going to see when you turn a corner.

    However, I do have to be honest, and say that the serene image painted by the canals is slightly smudged by the bikes. Bikes run this city. They appear everywhere in full force. I do think this is kind of amazing and it is definitely something to be applauded. But being a pedestrian who isn’t used to the sure quantity of people peddling everywhere, you need to be on your guard at all times. And you also need to watch out for cars coming from the opposite direction that you’re used to, and trams. Don’t forget about the trams.

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    Bikes and canals everywhere!

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    Our hostel boat (right).

    INTERSAIL HOSTEL BOAT

    Like I said, I was in Amsterdam with 12 friends and honestly I wasn’t very involved in the planning process. I definitely wasn’t very involved in choosing to stay on a hostel boat. I get sea sick, and honestly I was a bit nervous about it. We were warned the rooms were small. And wow were they small. But I actually ended up really enjoying my stay. Thankfully my friends were okay with me taking a top bunk, the thought of the bottom bunk still makes my chest tight with claustrophobia, and we did have to take it in turns to get ready because there wasn’t room for all us to do it at the same time, but other than that, it was a lot of fun. The guy who runs the place was amazing, super friendly and helpful. The location was great, it was only about a 10 minute walk from the central station on one side and the city on the other side. It was definitely an experience.

    THE FLOWER MARKET and REGULIERSDWARSSTRAAT

    I was a little disappointed by the flower market, though we weren’t there during tulip season so maybe that had something to do with it. I felt like it was just a street of touristy shops. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like a good tourist shop but I was just expecting more flowers. None the less, there were some pretty things to look at and a cheese shop that was amazing.

    We had dinner one street over from the flower market, on Reguliersdwarsstraat, and it is such a cute spot at night. The restaurant we went to wasn’t my favourite (though that was mainly because of bad ordering) but after the meal we found a bar a couple of doors down and had a few drinks outside. It’s one of my favourite memories, the drinks were great and there was such a fantastic buzz to the city. I would highly recommend taking a stroll around this area at night to see what’s happening.

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    I loved this park. The weather was hot and sunny so we just sat in the shade and chilled out for a bit. Despite the fact that there were lots of people, it was really relaxing. Everyone was just out enjoying themselves and there was a great vide. They also have water fountains where you can fill up a bottle at the entrance which is great when it’s million degrees outside.

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    The view of the 7 Bridges on the canal tour.

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    View of the city on the canal tour.

    CANAL TOUR

    This was my favourite thing we did in Amsterdam. There are lots of different companies that run them, but we went with Friendship Amsterdam because we wanted to go on an open-top boat. There wasn’t a recording telling you the history of Amsterdam, the skipper just pointed out things of interest as we went along. I don’t feel like I learned a lot about the city but it was so relaxing and an amazing way to see everything. You can purchase drinks on the boat and they have cushions so you can just sit back and enjoy the sites as they go by. It lasted an hour and cost €15.

    THE 9 STREETS

    A few of my friends and I spent a couple of hours wondering around The 9 Streets area; a collection of quaint and quirky streets that straddle the canals. They are packed with designer shops and little boutiques. We didn’t buy anything but it was just nice to wonder the photogenic little streets and experience the city. We also stopped into the Litertine Cafe, where I got the most amazing mozzarella and tomato crostini that I’m still dreaming about (learn more about that here).

    RED LIGHT DISTRICT

    I felt like I had to mention the red light district as it is one of the main things that comes to mind when thinking about Amsterdam. We didn’t spend a lot of time there but we did walk through it at night. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about, it’s a weird thing to write about. I did find it upsetting being there, but for me, that was not a reason to avoid it. I wanted to force myself to see it. I guess that’s why I’m mentioning it, I think that even if its something that you’re disturbed by, it’s not something anyone can ignore. I’m hesitant to say too much because I think sex work is extremely complicated. A lot of the discussion around it, even when people are trying to help, tends to take agency away from the girls actually doing the work. I have never talked to anyone who is a sex worker and I just don’t know enough about it. I will say walking through it, I was extremely creeped out by the men. Nobody said anything to us or did anything untoward, but the vibe wasn’t good…

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    Beautiful building facades everywhere you look.

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    Interesting building line all the canals.

    COFFEE SHOPS

    Last but not least, I had to mention the coffee shops, not to be confused with innocent cafes. Coffee shops are where you can legally buy weed, both in bud and brownie form. While I do recommend trying them out if that’s something you’re interested in, I sadly don’t have any recommendations. We went to one and I don’t know what the name of it was, and frankly I wasn’t that impressed by it anyway. Maybe I just should have done more research but I expected coffee shops to be super chill and relaxing. And while that type of place might exist, a lot of them seem to be more like bars. I will say though, if you’re someone who doesn’t normally smoke, take things very slowing and remember the brownies can take a couple of hours to kick in so don’t keep eating more just because you don’t feel it at first (that’s not something I personally experienced but I was warned about it so many times that I feel the need to pass on the message).

    So that’s it, all my thoughts on Amsterdam. What I liked and what I didn’t like after spending 2 days in the city. Overall, I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t my favourite city in the world but it did grow on me, and I feel like I would get to love it more the more time I spent there.

    Jane x

  • THE CUTEST BAG AND THE ISSUE OF ETHICS IN FASHION

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    I’ve been lusting after this little bag since I first spotted it on the Stella McCartney website a while back. I held back because it’s cheaper to buy from the Irish online store than the American one but now that I’m back in Ireland, I couldn’t resist. When I ordered it, I was so afraid that my iPhone 6 plus wouldn’t fit. I genuinely thought I would have to return it.  Thankfully, it just fits, because I love this little bag so much. And I mean it just fits, a millimetre or two more and I probably wouldn’t get it in (that’s what she said…..yeah.)

    So this bag is not cheap. It’s the most I’ve ever paid for a hand-bag. But I was tired of my bags falling apart. When I love something, I wear it to death. Literally. I’ve had so many handbags fall apart on me and it’s so annoying because then I have to go look for another one that’s just going to fall apart on me as well. This is my second Stella McCartney bag; the first one I got last July and I have used it pretty much daily. It shows basically no sign of wear. It’s not falling apart, the lining doesn’t have any holes, the stitching isn’t coming undone. Apart from the white details on it looking a little bit dirty, it’s like new. Now I’m not saying you can’t get a cheaper bag that wears well, but in my experience, it’s hard to find one that has longevity when buying from the high street. I can literally feel how well made this bag is.

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    But beyond this, I love Stella McCartney. Not just for the designs, but because they’re probably the most famous brand that is focused on improving ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry. I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called The True Cost and I would recommend it to everyone. It’s very educational about sweat shops and how people in the supply chain are treated, as well as the environmental impact the fast fashion industry has on nature and villages. To summarise, the fast fashion industry treats people like shit and is ruining the planet in many different ways. It is not sustainable. These are things everyone should know about. But the trouble is, even when you know about and want to change you’re buying habits, there aren’t many great alternatives.

    Firstly, you can buy from ethical companies that use sustainable practices. But these are far and few between. Even online it’s hard to find shops with a lot of variety; I’ve been trying to find companies for a while now and I still only have a limit selection. They also tend to have limited sizing and can be a bit expensive. Then there’s designer clothing. And while I’m okay with buying a few handbags from Stella McCartney, so many designer items are over-priced. You might be paying for the fact that is wasn’t made in a sweat shop but you’re also paying for the name. Not only do I not like that, I don’t have the money for it. Again, limited sizing is also an issue. I’m not saying I’ll never buy a designer clothing item but they’re never going to fill my entire wardrobe.

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    Then there’s second hand clothing shops. This is something I want to explore more but honestly, our second hand stores in Ireland are not great. In the U.S., they are big and have a lot of options. The ones in Dublin are small and cramped. It’s hard to find anything good, and it’s hard to find things that fit. Altering clothes or just making your own is something else one can do, and I do want to experiment with this, but again, right now that isn’t going to work for my whole wardrobe.

    These issues seems to be gaining more and more attention in regards to the fashion industry but change is happening very very slowly. There are tons of people talking about it online, but the Ted Talks on the issue date back years and are unfortunately still extremely relevant. It’s hard for me because clothes are my thing. I love clothes. But I also want to be a responsible and compassionate member of the human race. I think the answer is keep doing research but ultimately, don’t be too hard on yourself. Am I never going to buy anything from a fast fashion brand again? No. It’s not feasible for me. But am I going to think twice about it? Yes. Am I going to continue to look for alternatives and buy from them when I can? Yes. Doing their best with what they’ve got is all anyone can do but I really would love to see some bigger shifts in the industry starting to happen.

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    Dress – ASOS (old)
    Cardigan – ZARA (old)
    Boots – Vegan Doc Martins
    Bag – Stella McCartney

    Jane x

  • WHAT ARE JADE FACE-ROLLERS AND HOW TO USE THEM

    If you haven’t heard of jade face rollers before, it’s basically just a piece of smooth jade that you roll over your face. They’re very simple to incorporate into your route but they have a lot of benefits; I got mine over a year ago and still absolutely love it. I’ve also gifted them to multiple people after they tried mine and needed one in their lives.

    The Chinese have used the healing properties of jade and deep massaging action to transform skin and facial contours for centuries (my online research tells me it dates back to at least the 7th century). It helps your body’s filtration organs and lymph system to expel toxins meaning that if you’re experiencing sinus pain, this help alleviate the pressure and keeps everything moving. I developed allergies for the first time last autumn and my face roller helped me deal with the blocked up feeling and reduce the pain. I also find it great to use on a plane or just after traveling because my sinuses tend to get sore and stuffed up.

    The jade roller also increases blood flow, promoting cell turnover which helps with spots and keeping your skin looking young. The boost to your circulation also helps improve elasticity and decrease puffiness. I’ve definitely noticed my skin looking fuller and it has a bit more of a glow. I keep my roller on my windowsill and we normally leave our window open so it gets a bit cold (you can get the same effect putting it in the fridge) which makes it really soothing. Jade is a naturally cold stone, even when it’s at room temperature, but this extra temperature drop is even more refreshing.

    I have the medium Yu Ling roller from Cult Beauty, but I do actually want to try the double one that has a smaller roller on the other end that you can use to use on under-eyes circles. There’s quite a few different places online that sell face rollers in different price ranges, just make sure it’s real jade and not a plastic knock-off.

    HOW I USE IT: 

    I roll it over my face and up my neck after cleansing my skin and applying my face oil, which helps really work the oil into my skin and increase the benefits. I roll it in movements from the centre of my face outward, concentrating on rolling from my nose along my cheekbone towards my ear, as that’s were I get a lot of congestion. I then roll from the bridge of my nose along my eyebrow bone and up my forehead. I roll just above my jawline, again from the centre of my face outward. Finally, I roll up my neck. I do play around with all this a bit though and just do whatever feels good at the time.

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    I highly recommend a Jade face-roller to everyone, regardless of age or skin type. They’re universal, nice to use and have an amazing amount of benefits.

    Jane x