In late April, two friends set off to Amsterdam and Paris for a four-day adventure, armed with the Soothing Scents inhaler range (QueaseEASE, Expecting, Focus and Still) to see how they’d hold up across 1,200 miles of trains, planes, canal tours and bicycle rides.
Oh, and we did some tourist stuff in between.
8 am, flight to Amsterdam
It’s a fairly quick and easy flight to Amsterdam from Heathrow, which is where we start our journey. I’m prone to car and train sickness, whereas Jess, my old friend and traveling partner, struggles on planes and boats. Between the two of us, we feel pretty confident that we can test the full range of QueaseEASE’s anti-nausea abilities. Jess likes that you can twist the inhaler open and inhale the oils rather than take a pill, which, quite frankly, is the last thing one feels like doing when one is nauseated. It also works instantly, a good three seconds after inhaling, which is a joy for travel. The smell of peppermint essential oil reminds Jess of the peppermint tea her mother gave her when she had stomach trouble as a kid, so the extra Pavlovian effect seems to do a good job of keeping her stomach settled. No airbags needed here.
11 am, check into our hotel
We’re staying at the Volkshotel, a swanky art hotel on Wibautstraat, which is a short metro stop away from the city center. Each room is designed in a slightly different but consistently art deco way, with sunken beds and uneven room angles (this makes us feel as if we’ve had too much to drink, even though it’s 11 am by the time we get there). Downstairs is full of young and interesting creative types working away at the long desks in the hotel’s enormous lobby, which even has its own bar and lounging space. It’s definitely on our recommendation list.
1 pm, lunch at Benji’s
Lunch is at Benji’s down the road. The cafe refers to itself as an ‘urban jungle’, and it has all the ingredients of a chic, trendy, good-food lunch spot you’ll often find run by Australian expats: Lots (lots!) of greenery, acai bowls, matcha lattes, even more creative types. We order two Eggstraordinary bowls (eggs, quinoa, sauteed spinach, avocado — which are excellent) and try to figure why Dutch people are so gosh darn tall.
3 pm, city center, Anne Frank House
We make our way to Dam Square, the center of the town and a gathering area for many a local and tourist alike. The square is flanked by the extraordinary Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk (new church) and a 1956 World War II monument, which forms the center of the square. Also, there are tulips everywhere – we’re both amazed at how they manage to keep them safe and fresh despite the thousands of people who visit every day.
We pass through briefly, then make our way through the red light district (which, at this time of day, is a series of erotic storefronts and a plethora of what the Dutch call “coffee shops”) and head over to the Anne Frank house to learn more about the history behind the diary and get to see where Anne Frank and her family hid during the Nazi occupation. It’s stark, sobering, and entirely worthwhile.
8 pm, dinner at Cafe Restaurant Amsterdam
After a brief nap, we head to Cafe Restaurant Amsterdam, a generic-sounding name for a restaurant that is anything but. The food here is brilliant and interesting: we dine on snow crab and artichokes that arrive in their original form (you have to suck on the leaves dipped in mustard sauce, which is far tastier than one expects). We also tried bitterballen, a Dutch delicacy made from pulled veal, beef broth, butter, and flour. They resemble falafel and don’t sound too appealing, but they’re absolutely moreish!
11 pm, drinks at a secret bar
A friend tipped us off about this one. Behind the gourmet burger joint The Butcher, which you’ll find in the famous Albert Cuypstraat market, is a dimly-lit speakeasy bar that serves excellent cocktails to match the decadent atmosphere. Just a heads up that you’ll need to book ahead and get hold of the password to actually get inside. Secret AND elusive.
11 am, canal barge trip
I’m so grateful for my QueaseEASE right now. They don’t market this all too much, but both our heads are feeling somewhat fragile this morning, and the inhaler is really helping both my headache and my stomach, which is enough to wolf down a quick crepe for breakfast by the canals. After that, we take an hour-long trip through the canals by barge. Jess doesn’t expect much motion sickness given how gentle the trip is, but we keep sniffing our inhalers just in case. I find myself doing this often — it’s a weirdly comforting ritual, like smoking, but good for you. I do this with the Expecting inhaler, even though I’m not pregnant. It’s just my favorite combination of scents (lavender, ginger, peppermint, lime and lemon, in case you were curious), and something I’m slowly starting to associate with Amsterdam.
2 pm, bike ride to the Eye museum
It feels almost mandatory to get around by bike in this city, so we rent a pair of bikes for €10 a day and make our way across the town towards Amsterdam’s renowned film museum, the Eye. A note: biking in Amsterdam is DIFFICULT. Many of the bicycles are the old Dutch type with high seats, narrow handlebars, and no brakes (i.e. you need to peddle back in order to stop, and you really have to time your stopping position, or else you end up doing that awkward backpedalling with your hands to get the pedals in the right position to kick off again). There’s clearly a very sophisticated road system that everyone understands except the tourists, and the locals ride quickly and effortlessly, weaving past you in what feels like highly-organized pandamonium. I feel a little woozy and a little silly, but we finally get to the museum with our lives and limbs intact.
In all honesty, we leave the museum rather underwhelmed. There wasn’t much on display, and what was was a little too art house for us. That being said, the atmosphere and the architecture are enjoyable — it feels more like an indoor park than a museum. We stay for 30 minutes.
5 pm, the Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum quickly restores our faith in Amsterdam’s museum offerings. We go during the High Society exhibition, showcasing four centuries of art by masters like Velazquez, Manet, and Munch (in addition to Rembrandt, which is a permanent fixture and enough of a reason to go). The interiors are decadent and enormous and you don’t feel hurried, so we stay there for hours, getting lost. If anything, make sure you get a visit in.
6 am, train to Paris
We’re up red-eye style for the train to Paris. This is where I get nervous: I don’t do well in cars or vehicles where there’s a rolling landscape in my peripheral vision. I brought along a QueaseEASE QuickTab, which is the 72-hour version of the inhaler that nurses use in hospitals — I suppose I think my nausea deserves more dramatic attention than Jess’s. Again, my favorite thing about this is that I don’t need to anticipate my nausea (my pregnant friend loves her inhaler for this exact reason, because even if you’re as A-type as she is, you just can’t schedule your morning sickness). So whenever I feel uneasy, this goes straight under my nose and karate kicks any upchuck urges almost immediately.
I’m thankful for this on our 3-hour ride. I even get to read my book!
10 am, coffee at Merci
After checking into our Airbnb in the Marais district, we meet up with an old friend at Merci, a small bookstore and cafe located next to its larger boutique store cousin. Merci is an institution, as is the red mini car just outside its doors. A quick cafe creme and a few ‘bisous’ and then we’re out and about in the city of love. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover.
1 pm, walk Île Saint-Louis, lunch at Café de Flore
…And by ground, we mean it quite literally. Paris is a city to be walked, and it is the way most Parisians get around. We start in the Marais, a historic district that managed to escape most of the Haussmann redesign work during the mid 19th-century, so the buildings retain an old world feel — cobble streets included. It’s the place to going shopping, sit in literary-themed cafes and buy falafel and baba ganoush (as it’s also home to the old Jewish quarter). From the Marais, we walk along Hôtel de Ville (the city hall) and over the river Seine towards Île Saint-Louis, the small and perfectly picturesque island between the right and left bank. It’s the stuff Paris clichés are made of, and one of the most evocative scenes you’ll see. A walk along the left side of the Seine leads us to Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which is home to old iconic cafes frequented by Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Picasso. We stop by one of these cafes, Café de Flore, for a croissant and classic French onion soup. Because tourism.
3 pm, Shakespeare & Company bookstore
In keeping with 1930s interwar romantic theme, we visit Shakespeare & Company, one of the most famous bookstores in Europe. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they host talks with literary industry folk (many of whom are esteemed international authors), but for now we browse the books and take some time to unwind and read poetry in the upstairs reading room. Jess takes a whiff of the Still inhaler (which contains bergamot and ylang-ylang oils to chill you out) to up the full zen experience.
7:30 pm, drinks at the Hoxton hotel, then dinner at Le Chateaubriand
After a lifetime of walking (which included a stop at Luxembourg Gardens), we head to the Hoxton for a drink. For the uninitiated, the Hoxton is the swanky Parisian cousin to its London namesake, and produces equally great drinks and ambiance. This Hoxton is by Sentier in the 2nd arrondissement, aka the old garment district, and just a quick hop, skip and jump over from Etienne Marcel, a chic shopping and apéro neighborhood.
After the Hoxton, we make our way over to Le Chateaubriand to sample the culinary expertise of chef Iñaki Aizpitarte. Le Chateaubriand is an institution for a reason — the food is unspeakably good and reasonably priced for a fine dining experience. We saunter home, bellies full.
9 am, breakfast in Belleville
I have three favorite breakfast spots in Paris: Cafe Mericourt, Ob La Di, and La Fontaine. The third is the least adventurous when it comes to food, but the ambiance could not feel more French. And by that, I mean authentic French, not tourist-pleasing, Edith Piaf-playing French. We grab a croissant and a cafe and Jess grabs a whiff of QueaseEASE to soothe a mild stomach ache from all the good food the night before. It calms her stomach right away.
11 am, Montmartre & Pigalle
We hop the line two directly to Anvers, and make the climb towards Sacre Cœur in the Montmartre area. We deliberately left Montmartre to Monday, when the weekend crowds diminish and the neighborhood is quieter. There is so much to do here once you get away from the hyper-touristy Rue de Steinkerque and Place du Tertre (and the many hawkers): visit the Musée de Montmartre, the hôtel Particulière, the Musée de la Vie Romantique (yes, the romantic life museum), the Montmartre cemetery, or just take in the many staircases and cobbled walkways that feel more like you’re wondering a small French village than the northern part of Paris.
3 pm, Eiffel Tower
Yes, we have to be cliché. Yes, no travel blog to Paris is complete without SOME mention of the grand old lady. We don’t stay long, but long enough to marvel at just how magnificent it all is up close.
5 pm, back to London
And we’re back on the Eurostar, exhausted and well-fed. We successfully navigated a flight, two train rides, and the Amsterdam canals without being sick, which between the two of us is a glorious achievement. Kudos to the Still and Focus inhalers for keeping us relaxed and alert at the exact times we needed to be, and to QueaseEASE for keeping us nausea-free. We’ll be back soon enough!
— Kelly Doune is a writer and traveler living in London.