Amsterdam Cafe Bucket List Page!

Just announcing that I got fancy and made a page of my blog specifically for my cafe adventures, as to not clog up my regular posts with a bunch of pictures of coffee (although who could complain about that?) You can find it next to the “About Me” page.

Since I don’t want to waste my 30th blog post on that dumb little announcement, here’s a picture of what’s been carrying me around Amsterdam lately. Couldn’t do it without you guys!

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On Being Conceptual

The conformed Dutchie is back and in full swing. I am happy to announce that I’ve survived a week of suffering from brutal jet lag, cold rain, and feeling like maybe coming back to wet and empty Amsterdam was a mistake. You truly forget how great home is once you leave; fortunately, I got out of my funk and have fallen in love with Amsterdam once again. Friends from last semester will be returning this week, everyone is getting ready for classes, and I’ve started planning out my trips and activities for this semester. Finally, purpose once again.

Before I start I’ll explain the title of this blog. This has been a week of contemplation, regrouping, and attempting to define what I want my semester to be. Natalie and I have spent hours in cafes (see the coffee bucket list, below) jokingly being “conceptual” (because that’s what the Dutch are all about, with their concept stores and artsy cafes) but in all seriousness also doing serious thinking and finding more meaning behind our experiences here. So meta, but that’s what happens with rainy days, hours of free time, and a great cappuccino.

Since I’m feeling comfortable with my city and I’m not a newcomer this time around, I’ve deemed this to be the semester of new beginnings on a more personal level as opposed to a situational level, although those two things are not mutually exclusive. As you can tell, the format of the blog has changed to something more practical and easy to navigate and see, at least I think so. I rearranged my room to no longer feel like a student room but a real place of peace, now with more room for my many-a-guest that will be visiting this semester. I–typical Lily–persuaded secretaries and registrars from multiple departments to get me into the exact classes I wanted. I’m feeling insanely organized, balanced, and ready to kick major butt this semester. This applies in a literal way, as well, since I just joined the school gym. Nothing wrong with having some time to gawk at fit Dutch people while getting healthier myself, right?

Although it took a few days, I finally persuaded myself to leave the apartment and get back into my hobby of exploring. What a privileged hobby to have… and I’m happy to take advantage of that. Nat and I already got poffertjes, thought I should share incase anyone was concerned that I was deficient in them after a month. And let me tell you, even in the spitting rain, it’s feeling great to bike again. I decided to start a grand Amsterdam Cafe Bucket List which gives me an excuse to do my absolute favorite activity more often, which is bumming around and acting cool in minimalistic-yet-rustic-Dutch-design cafes. I visited a few of the best coffee places in Amsterdam last semester but didn’t report on them; looks like I’ll be going back!

Cafe Bucket List stop #1: Six & Sons, Haarlemmerdijk
I found this cafe while walking around my neighborhood but was drawn to it more so by reading about it on one of my Amsterdam go-to websites, http://themakersamsterdam.com. The Makers project was started by one of my first Amsterdam contacts, and I’ve been thrilled to watch it grow as it launched pretty much right when I got here in August.

Nat and I saw the founder of Six & Sons while drinking our cappuccinos and thought of him as a celebrity because of what we saw on The Makers site. Anyway, Six & Sons is half cafe, half retail store. Everything is on sale, including the cafe furniture. The Makers site describes it as “raw and manly,” but it is also somehow quaint, not trying too hard, and clean. That’s actually exactly how I’d describe the typical Dutch man. The cappuccinos were absolutely delicious, their homemade hummingbird pie was to die for, but the baby sitting next to us was the real icing on the cake (or pie, rather). Our experience here made Nat and I contemplate the option of having a Dutch baby blog, but figured we couldn’t just ask to take pictures of people’s’ children and post it online. This baby was ridiculous in its neutral and minimal knitwear.

The menu, on the perfectly doodled-on and also for-sale table

The menu, on the perfectly doodled-on and also for-sale table

Hummingbird Pie

Hummingbird Pie

I didn’t take a picture of the actual cappuccino because unfortuantely, all cappuccinos look the same unless it has the fancy design. These ones didn’t.

Cafe Bucket List stop #2: De Koffie Salon, Utrechtsestraat
Utrechsestraat is a popular shopping street in Amsterdam (full of concept stores, of course) but luckily lacks the typical touristy shops. It is lined with cafes and restaurants, but I had read that De Koffie Salon was one of the better ones to try on various websites. While I was a bit underwhelmed with the quality of the cappuccino I had, the atmosphere made up for it. De Koffie Salon is in a canal house and has multiple seating levels. They have beautiful machinery and pastries, and felt more upscale but still casual. I liked De Koffie Salon because while there were still a few individual tables, it has 2 huge communal tables.

As Nat and I sat in the back of the upper seating area by a window, eating a fruit tart (and realizing I made the right choice to join the gym if this will be a regular activity for me), we talked about how the greatness of Amsterdam cafes is in the diversity of the customers. You see families taking breaks with their kids. You see two older men that could be discussing business or just taking time for themselves. You see a team of obviously creative types making big decisions about a project. And everyone is just minding their own business and being respectful. True community.

De Koffie Salon

De Koffie Salon

And now, a quiet Sunday to be spent planning more outings and errands while simultaneously watching Friday Night Lights. It’s my guilty pleasure and has been surprisingly healing during my week of adjustment. I even make Natalie watch a few with me to see what Texas is like and she finds them enjoyable, so I guess we Texans aren’t too ridiculous for the Europeans. Be on the lookout for more stories, coffee adventures, and photos of the semester. It’ll be a good one!

Amsterdam Winter Visit Guide

Some of my favorite places as well!

LAZERASS

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So you’re in Amsterdam for the weekend and Winter is in full-swing. What do you do? You’re keen to avoid tourist central and the oh-so-well-known museum, clubs, coffee shops, and prostitutes. Well, that’s great because so do I and after a year of living in this glorious and ever-surprising city I have some recommendations on how to make the best use of your weekend in Amsterdam.

First and foremost – I will not advise on places to stay. That’s your own baby. But I do highly highly highly recommend you take a look at what’s available on AirB&B. So many people here have their flats/rooms up for short-term rent – Pick an area you like, pick a budget, move in.

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The biggest appeal of this city to a majority of people is how chilled it is. Sure it has great attractions, parties and people work but all in all…

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Across the World in 2 Days

As much as I want to say I’ve become a great and experienced traveller, that just isn’t the case. I have had my experience, but I don’t think I’m any better at it! I’m back in Amsterdam after 2 days of travelling (basically straight from Hawaii). I figured I’d do a blog entry on my time spent there for a little switcheroo of scenery and not complain about rain for once. I’m not sure that I’m totally conscious right now and I keep forgetting what day it is (Friday, right?) but I can write about Hawaii by just prentending that I’m still there.

My dad and I went to Hawaii primarily for his friend’s wedding, but also for me to see the Big Island that he and my mom have both fallen in love with in the past year. Although going to Hawaii a week before my trip back to Amsterdam meant that I was done with Dallas after only three weeks, I really couldn’t complain. We spent 4 days on the Big Island (in Kailua-Kona and Hilo) and our last day in Honolulu, on Oahu.  We got to the Big Island on a thursday night and had full days Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Our first full day in Kailua was spent in a helicopter viewing of the entire island, exploring the snorkeling sites around the hotel, eating a fish burrito at Kohala Burger, and relaxing. The helicopter ride with Sunshine Helicopters was really incredible; I’d never been in a helicopter and this was a perfect first time. We saw all of the geography of the island, from lava flow and burning forests to beautiful valleys and thousand-feet waterfalls. The Big Island, although the biggest by far, is the least inhabited. It was easy to forget we were still technically in the United States, but I quickly remembered upon returning to the resort. A lot of the places we saw were only accessible by air which made the ride 100% worth it. Below are a collection of some of my favorite shots.

Shots from the helicopter

Shots from the helicopter

After the helicopter ride and lunch, we rented our gear for the weekend. Mom wanted a special postcard from Parker Ranch, so we drove to the north of the island to retrieve it (you’re welcome, Mom!). The north of the island is dedicated to farming, the west  (where we stayed) is mainly desert with beaches, and the east is lush forest with rockier shores. I liked driving up north for a change climate (it was cooler and had more hills than our western side). We snorkeled at a site near the hotel where I immediately saw a sea turtle in the water. You can see them on the shore in the afternoon, but I was excited to see one of this size in the water. I have a thing for sea turtles (Sra. Wheeler, you know this already!) so any vacation with them is a good vacation. We rested up that night for a huge next day.

A turtle friend on the beach

A turtle friend on the beach

Sunset from the hotel room

Sunset from the hotel room

Saturday was our adventuring day where we started off by snorkeling with dolphins and ended the day snorkeling with manta rays. We first went out on a boat with Dolphin Discovery, and while I first assumed this would be a tacky “swim with dolphins that are trained” ride, that wasn’t the case at all. We searched and ended up finding a pod of 200-300 wild spinner dolphins that were slowing down close to shore to sleep (they are nocturnal). The boat knew to track where the dolphins were headed, stop about a mile ahead of them, and have everyone jump out as chaotically as possible to be in the water when they passed. We couldn’t touch them although many came close enough that it was possible. I had never swam with a wild mammal and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also hadn’t swam in water that deep (no idea how deep, but seeing the bottom was difficult), water that dark blue, or waves that strong. I got a workout.

Dolphin friends on their journey to shore

Dolphin friends on their journey to shore

We ate lunch as Annie’s burgers after the dolphins and stopped down at Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, and here we saw the place of refuge. If sacred Hawaiian laws were broken, the Kapu-breaker could only be forgiven if they made it to the place of refuge and partook in a ceremony of absolution. This place of refuge had many significant statues, a native who was teaching tourists about fishing, and beautiful views of the ocean. We had to leave early in order for me to find a Hawaiian dress for the wedding in Kona before swimming with the manta rays. Although I’ve scuba-dived with stingrays, snorkeling with manta rays is completely different. First, they can be up to 1300 pounds and 13 feet wide. I had no idea how huge they were. They also eat only plankton and don’t have stingers, so I was safer than before. We went out with a company called Neptune Charlie’s to see these amazing creatures, and amazing they were. This was my first night swim, which meant it was colder than usual and wetsuits were necessary. We also weren’t allowed to swim on our own because the mantas’ sheer sizes could hurt us. All snorkelers held onto a raft with lights attached that would point down into the water. Plankton are attracted to this light, manta rays are attracted to plankton, and therefore they would swim right under us. I was definitely happy that both animals I saw in the water weren’t domesticated or baited in any way. They really were wild, and the lights just helped them find their own wild food. It was a good, and super adventurous, day.

Place of refuge, probably an offensive picture but it was silly

Place of refuge, probably an offensive picture but it was silly

Sunday was the wedding in Hilo, the tropical side of the island. No pictures from cellphones were allowed at the ceremony but I snuck some of the food. The wedding was beautiful, small, and very Hawaiian (lots of flowers and Hawaiian shirts). We drove across the island to get to the wedding which was probably as exciting as the wedding itself; the island is beautiful from the air as well as up close in a car.

The amazing food, catered by Sushi Rock

The amazing food, catered by Sushi Rock

Me, trying to be Hawaiian with this flower from the flowergirl

Me, trying to be Hawaiian with this flower from the flowergirl

Monday was a relaxation day and a flight to Honolulu, and Tuesday was for some sightseeing on Waikiki beach and flying home. My favorite about Honolulu was Cheeseburger in Paradise, a Hawaiian chain that was just silly. Waikiki beach was so incredibly touristy that it was hard to like, but we had an incredible view of the water from our hotel and it was worth seeing, even just for that one night. We flew out on Tuesday afternoon, had a layover in LA, then landed in Dallas Wednesday morning. I spent maybe 5 hours at home before heading back to the airport to begin my journey to back to Amsterdam.

Last day in Honolulu

Last day in Honolulu

I flew to Frankfurt first and met the sweetest little German lady on the plane. I told her what I was doing in Amsterdam and she told me she worked at a radio station and was going to talk about me. She was going to go home and google water in the Netherlands to learn more about what I’m studying. I then flew to Oslo, Norway, and it was incredibly snowy there. After a short layover I finally flew to Amsterdam and made it back to my apartment.

Oslo airport, but still could fly! Dallas should learn from them.

Oslo airport, but still could fly! Dallas should learn from them.

Even though I’ve been here before and have done this exact same thing, it is still hard leaving home and being in a new place. I had a stressful and sad night thinking that maybe the next four months won’t be as great as I was imagining, but Zack thankfully reminded me that I can’t judge a whole semester on how I feel within the first 3 hours of being back, especially in the state I was in after 2 days of travel. I have two weeks until classes start and will use this time to get even more comfortable and travel a bit. It’ll take a little time, but I’ll keep everyone updated. Tot ziens!