Koningsdag

The most anticipated celebration of the year, Koningsdag, came to Amsterdam this weekend! King’s Day (in English) is the celebration of the royalty’s birthday. The first Queen’s Day celebrations started in 1885 to celebrate the birth of Queen Wilhemina, but a king entered the game last year and now we get to celebrate him! So, happy birthday Willem Alexander! First king’s day in 122 years! Throughout the day we talked about whether anything like this happened at home, and quite frankly, not at all. I realize that this time around I am living in the middle of a city, so it’s a whole different situation than what could occur near home in Dallas. The streets were flooded in orange, in honor of the Dutch Royal Family, the House of Oranje-Nassau. Basically it’s a huge pride celebration and it’s something that isn’t even equivalent to the fourth of July.

Haarlemmerstraat King's Day Festivities!

Haarlemmerstraat King’s Day Festivities!

The main components for King’s Day are orange everything, music, selling stuff in the streets, and beer. King’s Night is almost as big as the actual day. On Friday we went to Kingston Crown and Hannekes Boom, a Jamaican-themed evening at one of our favorite treehouse hangouts. We missed the BBQ because the line was so long to get in, but it was well worth it to wait (despite the lightning looming over us, we prayed that it would pass and there would be no rain the next day!) There was a big free concert with plenty of reggae music and some Dutch rap as well. I was super stoked to hear it, just as a change-up from the usual electronic music that the Dutch love to play. Nat and I went to grab a beer and when we rejoined our friends at the front of the stage, we realized they were handing out cake in celebration. So festive! But of course, the crowd was way too hip to be wearing anything orange.

Kingston Crown, Hannekes Boom.

Kingston Crown, Hannekes Boom.

Natalie eating the beloved cake!

Natalie eating the beloved cake!

Despite a late night we all rallied the next morning for a King’s Day brunch in French Lea’s flat. We had to have some substance in us for what the rest of the day held! We ate french toast and eggs and cheese, even orange juice (fitting) and champagne. We headed into the city around noon, when everything was in full swing. Our neighborhood was a bit quiet but everything picked up in our beloved Haarlemmerplein. The main square there was full of people laying out their goods to sell. A lot is just crap, but they also sell coffee and orange cookies and such. The main haarlemmerdijk/straat was packed with people, and they flooded out to all of the little side streets too. We popped over to the Jordaan for more celebrations, included a few street parties. The best part of being in the city early in the afternoon was the street party we found on Singel. People were super crazy and the DJ was playing some good disco. Dam Square had a big carnival, but I’m sure it would have been insanely packed and partying if the square was empty.

Our gang of girls before entering the Jordaan! You can see a bit of the celebrations behind us.

Our gang of girls before entering the Jordaan! You can see a bit of the celebrations behind us.

Surprisingly the canals weren't as packed as we expected! I think we were a bit early.

Surprisingly the canals weren’t as packed as we expected! I think we were a bit early.

King's Day selfies were definitely in order!

King’s Day selfies were definitely in order! I think this captures how happy I was.

We had to get back to our neighborhood in time for King’s Day at Strand West. Strand West is a very unanticipated beach (that I think usually has a bar) literally right behind our containers. We had seen them setting up for the festival for a few days and we had NO idea how huge it was. People were pouring into our container complex when we came back, it was unlike anything we’ve seen around where we live. Strand West was hosting a big electronic festival, and it was the highlight of the day. 4 stages, a mini Coachella of electronic music and the most gorgeous concentration of young Dutch people I’ve ever seen. It was definitely where the hip Dutch young people came to see and be seen, the best party in the city. And it was RIGHT in our backyard. We danced all day and into the evening, but the festivities ended at 8pm.

Main stage at Strand West. The rain came today, not yesterday thank god!

Main stage at Strand West. The rain came today, not yesterday thank god!

Strand West.

Strand West.

I rode my bike through a bit of the city on my way to the gym today, expected mass destruction and trash everywhere. But alas, the street cleaners had already covered Haarlemmerplein and signs of the parties could barely be seen. Not sure if this makes me happy or sad. The Dutch are resuming their normal lives now, and the one day a year they lose it is now over. I think I would have been overwhelmed by the amount of trash, so maybe seeing my clean city again was a good thing.

It was an awesome feeling to celebrate something so loved by the Dutch after living here for eight months now. We get to see little nationalistic things every day, but this was full-blown Dutch pride. This is one of the few days of the year when the general public can fly the Dutch flag, isn’t that interesting? I feel even more like a part of this country now, my second home. I might have to rock a little orange on King’s Day back in the U.S. next year, though I am wearing orange every day anyway (my hair, if you didn’t catch that)! I hope the rest of my Dutchies had a great Koningsdag, I know I’ll remember this day for a long, long time.

 

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Sonal’s Visit: Highlights

Two posts in two days, what is this! I’d rather get my thoughts down before school picks up a bit more. My next post will most likely be after King’s Day (next weekend) or after Lyon (going there with Nat at the start of May). Like I mentioned in my Barcelona post, Sonal flew back to Amsterdam with me and we spent a few days exploring. Luckily she’ll be returning with her parents in May so we skipped out on the touristy things. Since it’s getting difficult to show my visitors the same things over and over again, we went to some places I’ve been wanting to see, but still visited some old favorites. I should first make it clear that Sonal likes a few key things: plants/nature, high tea, libraries, and high tea at libraries that have gardens attached to them. I used this as a guide. We also went to Hartje Oost, but you can look in the Amsterdam Cafe Bucket List for that.

Singel 404: It’s no joke that I love this place, but I just need to share the sandwich I had with Sonal. She got salmon and cream cheese on white bread. I got grilled chicken with goats cheese, an herb spread, and peppers. Just look at the sandwich. There are no more words that can be said.

Singel 404, perfect view from the front table.

Singel 404, perfect view from the front table.

No regrets.

No regrets.

De Bakkerswinkel: I knew of this shop as a bakery and lunch spot, but I was pleased to find out it serves an adorable high tea. For 15 euro you get a pot of tea (of your choice), a slice of chocolate cake, a slice of cheesecake, 2 almond bars, 2 pieces of fudge, and a scone with clotted cream. Let me add that they advertise this for ONE PERSON. If you want to split, you buy and extra scone. This was more than enough tea time food, so we brought most of it home. I liked the scone a lot, and the cheesecake was divine. We went with earl grey tea. They give you a strawberry smoothie to start. I want to go back here with my English Rose, Nattie.

High tea!

High tea!

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Pretty Sonal just having some tea!

Tassenmuseum (Museum of Bags and Purses): I kept seeing this pop up on various Amsterdam websites, so I decided to take Sonal. There were so many bags and accessories to see, and also a temporary Barbie exhibit. Who doesn’t love Barbie? The Barbie exhibit even had a Barbie handbag exhibit. In the regular handbag showcase, I saw a bag and shoes made out of toad skin. They also had a few handbags from previous kings and queens of the Netherlands. It was a cute afternoon.

The toad purse and shoes.

The toad purse and shoes.

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Barbie style!

Begijnhof: This is a hidden garden (known as an inner court) around Spui that’s partially open to the public. Historically, it was the housing area for single women in Amsterdam that weren’t nuns but were still due to a priest and took vows of obedience. I believe mainly single women still live there today, but I can’t find anything for sure about that. The way the sun was hitting the garden when we were there was really incredible.

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Secret garden, beautiful.

Hortus Botanicus: The botanical garden of Amsterdam is one of the oldest in all of Europe. It started as a medicine garden and has grown to have a few greenhouses. There was a redwood, palms, a butterfly greenhouse, and even a coffee plant. We were wandering around and saw a family of ducklings hiding in some lily pads. I love that the zoo and the botanical gardens are in the middle of the city. So easy to access, and a great little escape.

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Ducklings made our day.

Openbar Bibliotheek Amsterdam: If you know anything about me, you know that I really dislike libraries. However, I’ll make an exception for this one. Anna had read that the Amsterdam public library was one of the best in the world and now I believe it. There are seven floors, and the library is right along the water. From the top floor, you can see all of the city while enjoying a lunch from the in-house La Place (a Dutch Eatzies is the best way to describe it). I will definitely spend more time here before I leave. The downside? No free wifi, but this could also be a blessing.

The view from the 7th floor

The view from the 7th floor

Young Label Atelier: This is where I took the girls last weekend to buy matching bracelets. Sonal got one while she was here, and I’ve had other visitors buy from this shop as well. It houses independent artists’ goods from around Amsterdam. Riverstones, the company that makes the delicate bracelets, sells their jewelry here as well as the sunday Westerpark market (where I first learned about them). Such cute things in a little simplistic shop!

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Excuse our shadows!

‘Skek: I fell in love with this bar in the Red Light District. The best part was that Sonal and I just stumbled upon it. The location is really unexpected, but inside felt so comforting and exactly like how I believe a bar should feel like. First of all, ‘Skek is run by students as part of an initiative to teach students about business; it’s part of the Kriterion project that seems to be a global movement towards enriching students. There is no boss, they do everything themselves, and they treat the space as a creative venue/living room. Bonus, they have really great beer. This initiative has a few more places around Amsterdam that I need to check out.

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***

It was so nice to have a few days to see parts of the city that I had been neglecting. Given that I only have a little over a month left here, I’m really feeling the pressure to cram more in. It’s doable though, and I will keep exploring and enjoying the little things that our city has to offer. I can’t wait to take some of these ideas and concepts of life back to the United States, or at least keep them in mind for when I come back here in the future!

 

 

Sing Me Spanish Techno

I finally made it to Spain! Barcelona in particular, and it was wild. I think what made this trip so unique was the synthesis of my Hockaday friends (Alison, Andrea and Skee again) and my Pitzer friend, Sonal, who is studying abroad in Seville. This was the first time anyone from home had met a Pitizen, so I can only imagine what my friends from home thought of us together—it had almost been a year since we saw each other last. Alison had a few friends from Paris there as well, from Hopkins. It was a unique mix but we all had a great time staying in an apartment in La Sagrada Familia, getting tapas, drinking sangria, and seeing a beautiful city.

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If Mexico and France had a baby, it would be Barcelona. That’s probably so politically incorrect, and I’ve never technically been to Mexico aside from hopping the border and peeing on the Mexico side (I blame GSES Classroom of the Earth for the encouragement) and I spent only one night in Paris a few years ago. However, from what I see of the cities and their architecture, it seems like it would make sense. The city has this tropical/Mediterranean feel, but also a rich, established vibe. It was a great change of scenery (and climate!) from Amsterdam, so unlike some of the other cities I’ve been to, I felt very out of place in a great way. I think my favorite aspect of the city was the various green spaces and parks, even if they were small. The structures and Gaudi architecture was unlike anything I had ever seen, but more on that later.

We all arrived on Friday morning. We went out exploring and to find lunch, and we happened upon a restaurant called Mussol, which means “Little Owl.” How adorable! We got our first pitcher of sangria of the trip and enjoyed little salads and meat and cheese plates. Afterwards we ventured to La Rambla, a shopping street with a great market, La Boqueria, attached. There were so many amazing sweets and fruits, lots of juices, and even some interesting meats and fish. We all got some chocolate, and Skee and I thought it would be great to get a super-sized truffle but they were five euros each and we didn’t know that initially; the woman wouldn’t let us put them back, so there’s that. At least it tasted good. We kept on exploring, saw some beautiful streets, and then went to the Arc de Triomf. We grabbed some tapas for dinner and went home early because we knew Saturday would be a big day. I don’t know what I was expecting from tapas but I was a bit underwhelmed the two times we had them. Sangria, on the other hand, was all around always good.

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Actually marzipan! Skills!

Arc de Triomf with Sonal

Arc de Triomf with Sonal

On Saturday, Sonal and I split from the pack to see the Museo Nacional d’Art De Catalunya instead of the inside of the big Sagrada Familia cathedral. I don’t think I regret this, because we ended up seeing a great photography exhibit of Joan Colom. He is a Catalan social photographer and got most of his shots from inside his jacket. His main projects were on the Easter Processions (really freaky) and The Street, photographs of barrios in Spain. He was part of an artist group called, can you believe it, El Mussol (like the first restaurant we went to). The building itself and gardens around the museum were gigantic and beautiful. The day started out as overcast, but eventually we were greeted with the sun. After the museum, we took the hot and steamy (in a bad way) metro to Parc Guell, the gardens which house various Gaudi architecture pieces. We had to trek up a huge hill to get to the park entrance, then I guess Sonal and I went the wrong way and hiked through the outskirts of the park. Luckily, some of the hills had escalators. Ridiculous, but I was thankful. We met up with a Pitzer friend also studying abroad in Seville and her friend from home. The four of us got the most amazing burgers at Kiosko, a gourmet burger bar with great prices and incredible burgers. The area where that restaurant was reminded me more of the West Village in Dallas, and I have deemed it my favorite area in Barcelona. Sonal and I spent the rest of the afternoon in Parc de la Cuitadella, a short walk from the restaurant.

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View from Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

"I didn't know I was doing social photography at that time. I just took photographs and went after pictures I found exciting. I've sometimes used the term to describe my work, but to me it just means I don't do landscapes or still lifes. I work the street. I try, through my photographs, to be a kind of notary of an age." Joan Colom

“I didn’t know I was doing social photography at that time. I just took photographs and went after pictures I found exciting. I’ve sometimes used the term to describe my work, but to me it just means I don’t do landscapes or still lifes. I work the street. I try, through my photographs, to be a kind of notary of an age.”     Joan Colom

Parc Guell

Parc Guell

Looking out from Parc Guell

Looking out from Parc Guell

Heaven.

Heaven.

Sonal and I in the beautiful park! Unreal.

Sonal and me in the beautiful park! Unreal.

That night, our last night, we had a big dinner of tapas and sangria (again, but also what else were we supposed to eat in Spain?) and headed for a bigger night out. We went to Pippermint, and bar suggested by a few different friends and known for giant pitchers of Sangria. Eight of us split 6 liters, which surprisingly ended up not being enough because more than half of the pitcher was ice! It was a rip-off but I guess just something that had to be done. Next, we trekked across the city to another bar, Dow Jones Bar, which is referencing exactly what you think. The drink prices go up and down, and sometimes the stock market crashes and drinks get pretty cheap. We were only there for a bit, because we had spent too much time crossing the city. Barcelona really isn’t all that walk-able, which took up a lot of time. I am an incredibly fast walker, however, and even if the girls got frustrated with me, I don’t have time to waste!

Sunday was a day of relaxation around the city and on the beach. We went to Barceloneta and grabbed food for a picnic lunch. Alison, Andrea, Skee, and I are extremely successful picnic-ers. We just laid on the beach all day, enjoying the sun but avoiding the freezing water. On our way home, we stopped by a few more Gaudi buildings. Sonal and I had to go back to the apartment to head to Amsterdam (yes, she came back with me!) but by the end of Sunday I was ready to be back home.

Barceloneta

Barceloneta

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More stunning Gaudi

More stunning Gaudi

This trip proved that a little more planning would have helped in terms of restaurants and transportation, but I think we did the best we could have given the fact that we were all busy in our respective cities before travelling. All in all I had a great time with friends, touched a new body of water (the Mediterranean), had some real sangria, and saw a new place that I wasn’t anticipating visiting. That amounts to a pretty great weekend.

Daisies in the Dam

I’m not even slightly ashamed of the cheese involved in the title. It works! This weekend, 3 friends from Hockaday (and just best friends in general) came to visit me. We had been anticipating this trip since January, when Andrea, Alison, Sarah (who I will refer to as Skee from now on) and I would all be reunited. And I was so happy they chose Amsterdam as the place! I’d say this round of visiting was different from visitors I’ve had in the past. We all just wanted a break from our hectic study-abroad lives, a time to just be ourselves, relax, laugh uncontrollably, and decompress. So as I sit in my bed on this Sunday, eating “drop” (licorice) and avoiding the ones with thyme in them, I’ll give the highlights of the weekend.

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I picked up Andrea and Skee from central station on Friday morning, which was unfortunately grey. The past week had been absolutely beautiful, so I was very confused why winter had decided to return! After excusing the weather on behalf of Amsterdam, we went to my apartment then to get some coffee and wait for Alison. It was so nice to have a group hug and didn’t feel any different between us. We walked down the street to Cafe Walvis for lunch, a neighborhood favorite. We all got broodjes (sandwiches) and even some bitterballen to start the weekend off right. After taking some time at my apartment, we headed to Museumplein so the girls could check out the Van Gogh museum and I could sit an admire the grey outdoors. We were hanging by the I Amsterdam sign and saw Carrie, a fellow hockadaisy that none of us had seen since graduation! She’s studying in Seville, and was visiting for the weekend as well. I had forgotten my phone, a rarity, so I don’t have any of my own pictures from that day. We walked to De Pijp afterwards, and went to the Albert Cuyp market for fresh stroopwafel with chocolate covering half of it. I had heard about the yumminess which is fresh stroopwafel, and this was the perfect afternoon snack. Afterwards we went to Scandinavian Embassy, a coffee place on my bucket list, and enjoyed a few cups. We also cooked a nice dinner together that evening, explored the Red Light District, then grabbed a drink at the ever-cute Cafe het Schium on Spuistraat, where umbrellas hung from the ceiling and enjoyed a super sweet disco vibe.

The girls in Museumplein!

The girls in Museumplein!

Scandinavian Embassy, see the bucket list page for more information

Scandinavian Embassy, see the bucket list page for more information

Throughout the day we were reminiscing and laughing and enjoying ourselves. We saw a TON of Amsterdam, and I was happy to not be bogged down by schoolwork, so I could enjoy myself too. I still can’t figure out if something significant was happening in the city or if tourist season has just officially started, because the streets were PACKED on friday night. This might also be because I don’t frequent the Red Light District on Fridays or Kalverstraat on Saturdays and never see the groups, but it was so overwhelming! Oh well, I’ll just keep enjoying my little neighborhood.

Saturday was a huge day for the girls but it actually passed incredibly slow. This was so nice, as we fit in everything we could have wanted to. They trekked off to the Anne Frank Huis while I stayed behind and met them there a little later. We then went to Pancakes! for a big breakfast. While there, the sun started to peek out and the day transformed into something out of a dream! It got really warm and happy, just for us. After a canal photo shoot, we walked around the nine streets, picked up matching bracelets from Young Label Atelier and then headed to Bloemenmarkt, the flower market. I had actually never been. Alison and Andrea bought cute wooden tulips there, but the real flowers looked nice too.

2/3 girls at the flower market!

2/3 girls at the flower market!

Tulips of course!

Tulips of course!

We headed to East Amsterdam where I dragged them into Jacob Hooy & Co, a somewhat holistic store that sells tons of licorice. We all tried some and the girls tried to be nice about the taste. I still picked up a little bag, and for the most part it was yummy. To get that taste out of their mouths, I took them to Ijschuypje, the best ice cream chain in Amsterdam, and we explored Nieuwmarkt. Since it was a beautiful day, we walked all the way home, down my favorite Haarlemmerdijk, and then camped in Westerpark for a while and enjoyed the sun.

 

The girls in Westerpark, first park of the day

The girls in Westerpark, first park of the day

We decided that a picnic for dinner was the best option, and gathered yummy food from the grocery store and headed down to Vondelpark. It was also incredibly busy, probably because it was a Saturday and the weather had taken a turn for the better. We ate good food, laughed, watched birds, saw ducklings, and then trekked back. The girls had to get up early for their flight, but we still went to Bloemenbar and got Vlaamse fries afterwards. It was a long, but perfect, day.

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Dinner in Vondelpark

Perhaps the silliest part of the trip was remembering that we will all be seeing each other this coming weekend in Barcelona. That made our trip light-hearted, knowing this wasn’t goodbye for a few more months. I can’t describe how nice it was to be with such great friends and able to discuss all of our times abroad after coming from the same place. What a great weekend!

For added fun, here are the macarons Alison brought from Laduree, a famous bakery in Paris!

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