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!

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