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.

 

Advertisements

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.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

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.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

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!

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

dsc_3264

 

A “Dam” Good 21st Birthday

Currently sitting in my favorite Bagels and Beans drinking a birthday iced coffee, because the weather today somehow changed and it’s sunny and beautiful and warm. I even saw some tulips blooming today while biking. What a perfect day!

The weekend was pretty perfect as well. Natalie and I did a birthday day trip to Rotterdam, I celebrated on Saturday night with all my girls, and had a birthday brunch with Natalie today. Shout out to Nat for being such a wonderful friend and birthday coordinator, she made it the most special birthday.

Rotterdam is about an hour and half away from Amsterdam by train; we always get mixed reviews of the city because it’s pretty different from Amsterdam. The buildings are bigger and very modern (see photography) and it feels like a much bigger city. However, because it’s in South Holland, it was still beautiful. There’s a small historic neighborhood that does have canals, so there’s a little bit of Amsterdam charm. Just because it’s different doesn’t make it bad!  Our first stop was a conceptual cafe called Lokaal Espresso (see cafe bucket list page). We then managed to see the famous cube houses on Blaak, the Erasmus bridge, Witte de With Contemporary Art Museum, Het Nieuwe Instituut (The New Institute for architecture and design), Delfshaven, and a shopping area.

Some great Rotterdam street art

Some great Rotterdam street art

The cube houses were really neat and close to the water. I learned that my friend from Leiden has friends that actually live in the second one from the right in my picture. The Erasmus bridge was huge and we didn’t get too close but Nat thought it was important because she’s on an Erasmus program, and the bridge is named after Erasmus of Rotterdam. We stumbled upon the Witte de With museum which was free for us of course and had a really creepy exhibit called “The Crime was Almost Perfect,” all about the modern crime genre. We had planned to see the architecture museum because that’s what Rotterdam is known for, but it was somewhat underwhelming because a few exhibits were closed. We strolled through the wallpaper exhibit and that was pretty cool. They had the Warhol cows. Delfshaven is the historic district which we got somewhat lost on the way to but luckily Rotterdam isn’t that large. No shops were open but it was still a beautiful little area. After Delfshaven we headed home for a big curry dinner with all of our good girl friends, so yummy.

Cube houses on Blaak

Cube houses on Blaak

Classic study abroad bridge picture...

Classic study abroad bridge picture…

Neat street signs neat the Witte de WIth

Neat street signs neat the Witte de WIth

Witte de With exhibit, weird but enlightening

Witte de With exhibit, weird but enlightening

Delfshaven, a little bit of Amsterdam in Rotterdam

Delfshaven, a little bit of Amsterdam in Rotterdam

I spent time relaxing on Saturday before a big night out. Nat came over with champagne and gifts, so sweet. I had the rest of the girls over for some pre-drinks and we got ready to go to Chupitos, a famous shooter bar in Leidseplein (and of course the perfect place to celebrate a 21st birthday) that involves a lot of alcohol on fire and such. We met another friend while out and had a really great time at Chupitos then the Cooldown Cafe, a very dutch mini club/bar near Chupitos. Overall a great pre-brithday night and climax of my birthday weekend!

Gifts from Nat!

Gifts from Nat!

It's all legal (in America now, anyway!)

It’s all legal (in America now, anyway!)

Nat and I got up and went to a long and lazy brunch today in celebration of the real day. We found Bakers and Roasters as one of the best places for brunch in Amsterdam; brunch is my favorite meal and I wanted good brunch, not just pancakes! It’s actually an expat New Zealander establishment but yummy. I had the Huevos Rancheros (so NOT Dutch but so yummy) and Nat had the B&R churizo sweet potato hash with fried eggs. I wanted some of their amazing dessert but was way too full. Luckily my roommate bought me 3 adorable cupcakes from The Mad Bakers down Haarlemmerdijk.

Bakers and Roasters, de Pijp

Bakers and Roasters, de Pijp

Bakers and Roasters, de Pijp

Bakers and Roasters, de Pijp

Happy birthday to me! A perfect Dutch weekend and a birthday to remember.

My sleek backpack birthday present from the family on my Dutch black bike

My sleek backpack birthday present from the family on my Dutch black bike

Anna in Amsterdam

Having my sister around made me realize many things but mainly this: to see all the necessities of Amsterdam, you must be here for at least five days. Luckily she’s a good sport (except when it comes to rain) and an amazing researcher, so I didn’t have to do that much planning aside from choosing which of my favorite places I wanted to show her. I think we saw all of them… I could write a novel about what we did this week but for the sake of my time and yours, I’ll keep it to highlights. Only having one class during her time here helped tremendously and I was able to see some places and museums that I hadn’t gotten around to. Anna was here from February 7 to 13, and left in the early morning. The weather was horrible but what can you do. We did see the sun a few times, so at least she got to see a  few rare sightings while here. We split the days into areas of Amsterdam. It turned out perfectly.

Sisters in Amsterdam!

Sisters in Amsterdam!

Day 1: Bumming around my neighborhood/Haarlemmerplein/Kalverstraat
Day 2: Southwest/West Amsterdam (museumplein, albert cuypt/de pijp, burgers, a new coffee place, shopping)
Day 3: Jordaan/Nine streets (Pancakes!, Anne Frank Museum), more shopping (browsing, rather)
Day 4: North Amsterdam (the EYE), then Bombay Bicycle Club concert at Melkweg in Leidseplein
Day 5: South Amsterdam (FOAM, Utrechtstraat), then Anna went back alone to Museumplein for the Rijks and Van Gogh
Day 6: East Amsterdam (Jewish Historical Museum, Rembrandthuis), then went west again for poffertjes…

Museums were a huge part of her trip because Anna loves them. Me, not so much, but I hadn’t seen a few so I was happy to fit them in. The Stedelijk museum (modern) hadn’t changed but was still enjoyable. My favorite is the Null style of art that uses some neutral-colored plastics and white feathers. I was really happy to see the EYE film institute because the building stares at me every time I’m near central station from across the water. We didn’t know which exhibit was going on but it turned out to be what nightmares are made of. The Quay Brothers are American identical twins that do stop-motion animation. Basically Tim Burton if he did things with a 1920s style. The exhibit had other objects/films to enrich the experience, mostly surgical instruments or mummified hands… I highly suggest looking at their website. Seeing the mini sets, however, was super cute.

Sisters in the Stedelijk

Sisters in the Stedelijk

The EYE film institute from outside

The EYE film institute from outside

Quay brothers art, reminded me of "A Bug's Life"

Quay brothers art, reminded me of “A Bug’s Life”

I also enjoyed FOAM, the photography museum, since I hadn’t been either. The had a William Klein exhibit but I was having major problems with my contact lenses and couldn’t really see anything (typical) but from what I could gather, it was cool. I also suggest the Rembrandt House Museum because it’s huge and has paint-making and etching demonstrations. Rembrandt has a huge collection of worldly objects that I believe he had to sell because he was completely broke. Those artists… It’s close to the Jewish Historical Museum which has basic information on the religion and also the presence of Jews in Amsterdam/the Netherlands. Super informative and also interesting.

William Klein art

William Klein art

Food, obviously, was another huge part of Anna’s trip because she loves good food. Despite me telling her multiple times that the Dutch aren’t known for having good food, we found a few really great restaurants with tasty traditional Dutch dishes! We had both sweet and savory pancakes while she was here, so that took care of two meals. After a little research we found Wilde Zijnen in Javaplein, a more contemporary Dutch restaurant that was full of hip dutchies despite being in little Morocco. I had saurkraut soup and a rib eye while Anna had some type of fish roll and the wild boar stew. Definitely going back when a nice dinner is in store.

Wilde Zwijnen

Wilde Zwijnen

We also enjoyed a traditional Dutch meal at a very cozy restaurant, more in the city center called Haesje Claes. Anna got her seafood fix with some salmon with lobster sauce, I had saurkraut stamppot with ham, sausage, and a meatball, and we shared cheese croquettes (typical Dutch appetizer). While dessert there was tempting, we opted for cocktails at one of my favorites, Vesper Bar. A perfect and tasty evening.

Anna at Haesje Claes.

Anna at Haesje Claes.

Dinner at Haesje Claes.

Dinner at Haesje Claes.

My drink from Vesper this time.

My drink from Vesper this time.

Snacks were also plentiful, no one should be mistaken there. We enjoyed the classic fries with garlic sauce (that basically tastes like ranch dressing), Dutch apple pie, and plenty of cappuccinos. We passed a bakery and I told Anna that I had never had a French macaron before, so we did some research and found the best macaron place in Amsterdam, located in De Pijp. We got 8 different ones, almost too pretty to eat.

Apple pie in the EYE restaurant!

Apple pie in the EYE restaurant!

The macaron place, Poptasi in de Pijp

The macaron place, Poptasi in de Pijp

I’ll end this post with a few more pictures from our time together. It was so nice having family here and I hope she enjoyed herself. My love for the city as well as my sister was replenished, and now I can’t wait to see the city from a new perspective in the coming weeks!

No explanation for this one...

No explanation for this one…

Bombay Bicycle at Melkweg

Bombay Bicycle at Melkweg

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy

Just a shorter update before classes start this week. I’ll have a nice long entry after my sister visits, can’t wait until Friday! I was so ready to announce that Amsterdam’s winter officially didn’t come this year, but now it has changed its mind again! My days fluctuate between sunshine and gloominess, but either way I try not to let the weather dictate my mood or activities. I’m still crossing places off of my cafe bucket list and getting ready for classes to start Monday. Just living the life of a Dutchie, and loving every day.

This past week has been slow but I’ve mustered up the energy and money for a few adventures. We went to ikea, always an adventure and one filled with fifty cent hotdogs after buying sheets for visitors. We met new neighbors (yay!) and then crashed the ISN introduction party for the newbies of this semester. Of course, being there reminded me how much I disliked it the first time around as it felt like high school. Yesterday, when the sun came out, Nat, Devon and I took advantage by strolling down to a favorite cafe called Two for Joy (see cafe tab for pictures!). It is so comfortable there and such a great place to talk. The name is based off of the nursery rhyme, I like this version the best:

One for sorrow, two for joy,
three for a girl, four for a boy,
five for silver, six for gold
seven for a secret, never to be told,
eight for a wish, nine for a kiss,
ten for a time of joyous bliss.

After we got home, Natalie and I walked along the dock right next to where we live. I’m unsure how I went all of last semester without exploring it, but it’s a beautiful place. People dock their ships there and most likely live there as well. The sky was clear and we could look straight out to see Amsterdam North. I can see many picnics taking place on that pier. I’m thankful I can uncover such beautiful places every day, and so close to home even. What a perfect friday afternoon.

Danglin out on the dock with Nat

Danglin out on the dock with Nat

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

lil on pier
Devon alerted us that today, February 1, was the last day to ice skate in Museumplein. Somehow this activity got away from me last semester when the outdoor rinks around town opened (or I avoided them based on my dad’s skating accident back in the day), but since today was my last chance I just had to go for it. The Dutch people know how to do it yet again and supplied old wooden chairs for people to push around on the ice for balance if they couldn’t skate. I had never seen that! Fortunately none of us needed them. Devon is Canadian and worked in a hockey shop so she was a total pro while Calum had never skated before. I was somewhere in the middle and got into my groove pretty quickly. There was a pop-up cafe connected to where skates could be rented, and also where we enjoyed coffee and hot chocolate during a break. It felt like winter today, so maybe it’ll stick around for a little longer. I really don’t mind it, at least during these days when I’m not on my bike for 10 miles.

Being a dweeb in front of the I Amsterdam sign, what else is there to do.

Being a dweeb in front of the I Amsterdam sign, what else is there to do.

Posing with Devon.

Posing with Devon.

...and Calum, holding on for dear life.

…and Calum, holding on for dear life.

Although last week I hated the time spent alone in my apartment, I love now the time that I’ve had just living and being. There’s no pressure to sightsee or completely fill my days with activities. This is the time I knew I’d want here, just living as a local and seeing a city from a view that most kids my age don’t get to see. Even though we didn’t go out of the country on these two weeks off, I still enjoyed myself and am well-rested for classes. Looking forward to a great week. Tot ziens!

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!

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

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!

Praha in the Winter

Prepare yourself for a long one. I returned from Prague last night with my luggage full of gifts and my heart full with love–not even ashamed that I just used that expression. Over the weekend I rekindled my love for my four best friends here (Nat, Jas, Ivanna, Kaitlyn), saw a stunning city with a beautiful history, and yet again realized how blessed I am to be having experiences such as these.
IMG_4559

I went to Prague basically only knowing that it is “one of the best cities in Europe” and everyone loves it. I also knew that it wasn’t bombed out during WWII, so its beauty was preserved. I left Prague knowing it as a city of so much more. Despite leaving Amsterdam in the midst of a “code red” storm that was supposedly destroying Germany and Denmark (our neighbors…) we made it to Prague without much delay. We took a cab to the Old Prague Hostel from the airport and that’s when I realized that there would be a language barrier (similar to our time in Munich) unlike what we are used to in Amsterdam. We still made it with much help from Ivanna (fluent in Ukrainian) that claimed Czech was very similar to her language, score! For those looking at visiting Prague, the Old Prague Hostel is such a steal. It’s located right near Old Prague Square, which is the home of the huge Christmas market, astronomical clock, a few churches, and restaurants and some nightlife. We paid a little over 10 euro a night for a hostel that was scoured clean every morning, free breakfast and wifi, free towels and other goodies, and most importantly free sandwiches that we took with us every day for lunch and snacks. The employees were incredibly helpful and the nicest people. We stayed in a room that fit 8 (four bunks) and had the room to ourselves the first night, then had 2 then 1 roommate by the end of our stay. Super easy.

IMG_4451

At the Prague Beer Museum as the tasting began!

That first night we spent some time walking around Old Prague (knowing we’d have a big day the next day) and stumbled upon the Prague Beer Museum which had 30 beers on tap. We got 3 trays of 5 beers as tasters, trying 15 beers in total. They were (mostly) all fantastic, but my favorite was Svijany Weizen which had a banana aftertaste. Drinking in Prague (as well as eating) is incredibly cheap, maybe just compared in Amsterdam, but overall it was a great weekend for trying new things. While in the beer museum, we spotted flurries starting to fall outside. First time seeing snow this year, and it made the rest of the trip pretty magical.

We woke up early on Friday to catch a free Prague walking tour. We missed the tour recommended by the hostel but ended up with Keith, an American from Santa Barbara that fell in love with a Czech woman 8 years ago and moved there (we heard this story twice, went on another tour with him the next day too). He ended up being a great guide and made our weekend even more enjoyable. Let me point out now that Prague was so cold  (about 30 degrees F) but with a bad windchill, and this is pretty obvious in my pictures. Along the tour we saw the Astronomical Clock and its hourly  “performance” of little wooden saints and puppets, the Saint Tyn church, the last standing building in the world where Mozart actually played, Saint James church, the Jewish Quarter, and the Prague Castle from across the water. We learned a ton on the tour but this is what I gathered in general. 1) The Czech have a thing for mummifying body parts of people that have done wrong and displaying them in public (a thief’s hand in the Saint James church, Saint John’s tongue in the Prague Castle), 2) I think Prague is the city in Europe with the most variety of architecture styles such as Cubism, Art Deco, Gothic style, etc. spanning tons of centuries, and 3) Prague is just beautiful in general. My two favorite things on this first tour was seeing that there is a museum in the Jewish Quarter that holds artwork that Czech children made at concentration camps (reminded me of my Girl Scout gold award project) and learning that the Americans going the moon were actually listening to the Czech composer Dvorak as they landed, and the Czech take a ton of pride in this.

Nat and me outside of the hostel on Friday morning

Nat and me outside of the hostel on Friday morning

IMG_4461

Astronomical Clock.

IMG_4464

Saint Tyn Church.

IMG_4470

Saint Nicholas Church.

IMG_4482

Kafka Statue near the Jewish Quarter.

That evening we ate at a traditional Czech restaurant that was just incredible. U Dvou Sester,  Czech Kitchen. I went for “Cmunda po kaplicku,” a folded Czech potato pancake filled with Prague ham and sauerkraut. The other girls had beef goulash, fried cheese (Dutch classic), and braised beef with a cream and cranberry sauce. We had cabbage salad, marinated brie, and homemade sausage to start with mulled wine. We called this our official feast meal and were ready to splurge, but we only spent about 11 euro each for all of the food and drinks we got. Incredible. After dinner we went to U Sudu, a wine bar that ended up being a bar underground with a network of smokey tunnels and seats throughout them.  I actually started feeling really claustrophobic but that passed when I realized how unique and cool it was. We thought it might have been built during the war, but learned it was from the 1600s and that Prague has an entire ancient underground city, and that this was common. There, we met a group of German guys there for the weekend that were all environmental engineers (shout out to Anna!), and we went to an “electro-swing” club with them afterwards, across the street. We danced the night away to a blend of Christmas music and oldies then three of us stumbled home late (from being tired, of course…), but we didn’t forget to grab a kobasa and sauerkraut sandwich on the way back. The other two showed up later.

Dinner at the Czech Kitchen.

Dinner at the Czech Kitchen.

Saturday we met up with Keith once again for his Prague Castle tour. While the first time with him it was us five and 2 older Australians, this time we had the pleasure of being with maybe 10 more American exchange students… and they were annoying. I don’t think we gave off vibes quite like them. On this tour we crossed over the Charles Bridge (super famous with a ton of creepy saint statues), saw where the Czech Republic is actually run from and some great views of the city, and I ran into MARGARET. I was staring up at the incredible cathedral in the castle and heard a loud “LILY!” followed by a huge hug. I love her so much and was so surprised. I ran into her AGAIN in Old Prague Square the next day, insanity considering there were so many tourists out and about during the weekend. Anyway, Keith left us at the castle and we made our way down ourselves, stopping at a little crepe restaurant for a snack before heading back across the bridge and back to rest for a bit. We grabbed dinner in the Christmas market (more sausage, potato dishes, fried cheese, cheap stuff!) and went to Popocafepetl afterwards. This was another bar tucked underground, much smaller than the scary labyrinth from the night before, but pretty gezellig.

IMG_4518

Before crossing the Charles Bridge.

IMG_4537

Pistachio, Honey, and Marscapone crepe

IMG_4527

View from the Prague Castle.

Food at the Christmas Market.

Food at the Christmas Market.

On Sunday we decided to get up early and cross the Charles Bridge again, but try to catch it with less tourists. We were successful at this, and saw more of beautiful Prague than we could have the day before. On the same side as the Prague Castle, we were able to see the David Cerny baby statues and the John Lennon Wall. David Cerny is a controversial Czech artist that I think I’m in love with. These huge creepy babies and other statues are scattered around the city, but we caught a few in a smaller park near the Lennon Wall. The wall was fantastic to see. I knew it was super touristy, but considering my foot tattoo is a representative of Lennon’s song “Watching the Wheels,” I had to go, and sign it as well. We all left our marks. As we headed back to Old Prague Square, we ended up running into a Ukrainian protest which Ivanna and Kaitlyn joined and followed throughout the city as Nat, Jas, and I went exploring other areas. We met up later to say bye to Jasmin (left a night early) and rest up before our last night. That night we went to a well-known Czech bar/club, Chapeau Rouge, that was kind of voodoo themed and definitely represented Prague. I’ve had my fair share of trying weird things (I am a college student and now a traveller afterall) but Absinthe is quite possibly the worst thing I’ve tried. It is a huge thing in Prague and we decided to go for it. I can only describe it as  spicy Jagermeister literally on fire that continues to burn you for a while afterwards. But alas, we did it. We enjoyed our final night together but knew we’d have to get up and check out the next day.
IMG_4547

IMG_4556

Cerny baby.

IMG_4565

Nat leaving her mark on the Lennon wall.

IMG_4563

My mark on the Lennon wall.

Chapeau Rouge.

Chapeau Rouge.

Monday was a day of relaxation, some homework, and travelling home. I was of course happy to be back in Amsterdam, but Prague was such a nice place to be. Arriving home was also the sobering moment when we all realized that real life starts again and the first semester finishes in now just nine days for me. I have plenty to do until then, but putting everything aside for a beautiful weekend was well worth it. Děkuji Praha, it was so nice to meet you.

...And I mean it.

…And I mean it.


Bijna Kerst

Almost Christmas. Once it turned December (yesterday) it really hit me that time has flown. As I say to myself every single day, thank God I have another semester here. I’m going to list a few highlights (or exciting things at least, some are bad) that made this week different from the past few. Feeling a little repetitive, but hey, this is normal life for me now!
1. I played tour guide (yet again) with Ryann, my friend from lower school (and still friend today)
2. I saw a woman laying in the street that was hit by a Vespa (ugh!)
3. I almost had a complete conversation in Dutch with an employee at a store until I caved and had to ask what her last sentence meant (another ugh!)
4. Christmas shopping is one of the most fun things to do in Amsterdam
5. My professor played us Dutch rap in our culture class and it was a lot cooler sounding than American rap
6. My first Thanksgiving not at home (and not in America) proved to be actually quite sad, and I realized the gift that is being with your family on holidays

So yes, Ryann came to visit me from Galway, Ireland from Tuesday until Friday of last week (Sra. Wheeler, she says hi!) I quite liked having a visitor during the week, as we were more low-key but still got out around the city. I let her explore on her own while I went to a lab on Thanksgiving, but I was also happy to take a break and see the Stedelijk museum, the modern art museum which I hadn’t seen yet. My Thanksgiving would have been even more depressing if she wasn’t here as my roommate was in London with some of her family. A few kids in my building tried to get a meal together but couldn’t (none of us have ovens), so Ryann and I opted for Kraft mac and cheese from the American food store (I hadn’t been there before!), added some bacon, I made an autumn salad, and we watched Louie on Netflix while we ate. Nat (not even American) was the first to tell me Happy Thanksgiving that day. I guess I’m just not very festive. It was definitely hard to see people with their families and friends on Facebook and Instagram, and it really made me miss home. It only took a few seconds for me to realize that not only do I have an incredible thing going for me here, I’ll be home before I know it and for longer.

Ryann and I on a canal, so classy!

Ryann and I on a canal, so classy!

IMG_4414

1424396_10151822396092921_1900626545_n

The Vespa incident was pretty traumatic; I didn’t see it happen, but I saw a bike, an old woman on her back, and a guilty Vespa driver walking from a few yards ahead of her. Those Vespas man, ALWAYS in the way. About 10 people on bikes stopped to help and it gave me goosebumps. I wanted to stop but realized the communication barrier would be troublesome and I didn’t even see the accident happen, so I continued on.  You never actually see the accidents (bikes hit by trams, buses hitting trams, cars hitting bikes, bikes hitting people) but they definitely have to be happening a lot. Just makes me more cautious, although I did manage to put gloves on while biking up a hill this evening…

I love being around the city during this time when there are so many lights and shoppers and things to see. I have found gifts for all of my family members from some of my favorite places, but I know I can find more. Getting them home will be difficult, but I will have to figure it out. Everyone is so happy and cozy. My friends and I are going to have a holiday party sometime next week. Luckily a few of my friends that are only here for the first semester will actually still be here when I come back in January, so goodbyes aren’t totally necessary yet. Callum’s birthday party was on Friday, and it just reminded me how close our building has become, and how nice it is to see everyone together (when I’m not experimenting and analyzing crop production per capita in China for the future…)

De Bijnkorf for the holidays

De Bijenkorf for the holidays

Happy Birthday Callum!

Happy Birthday Callum!

I’ll be headed to Prague on Thursday and it’s supposed to snow there. I’ve made a list of what I want to do and couldn’t be more excited. Puppets are big there, and so are other magical things. But I’ll leave all of that for my next entry. Stay tuned!

Saturday in Den Haag

27 days left in my first semester of being abroad. I have the countdown going not because I’m excited to be home and see family and friends, but it helps me keep track of my timing with everything I must do before I leave. 5 of those days will  be spent in Prague (oops) but I’ll manage. The city gets cozier and cozier every day. I’m still taking the city route home from Science Park so I can admire the Christmas lights throughout the city. This week, on my way home on Wednesday, I caught the middle of the Dam Square “Turn on the Lights” light festival, which is technically the “opening of the festive season” in Amsterdam. The part I saw was the performance artist troupe Plasticiens Volants, and here is a video of the show I saw. Getting my bike through the crowd was less than fun, but it was festive!

Nat and I had been wanting to take an inner-Netherlands trip this semester and finally got around to it on Saturday. We went to The Hague (den Haag), the seat of government in the Netherlands. It’s technically in South Holland. The city at first definitely has a different feeling than Amsterdam (a lot less people, more real business buildings, much less water) but we saw some beautiful parts and an absolutely incredible sunset over the parliament buildings. Different, but still the pretty Dutch landscape we’re now used to. Before I even get to the actual city I need to discuss the Dutch parents and baby that sat next to Nat and me on the train. I hadn’t been that close to one yet, but I quickly realized I want one. I don’t know how to guesstimate baby ages, but I’d guess two. She could speak in a little Dutch voice and pointed out trains, and also learned how to say “appelflap” right in front of us! I realized our vocabulary is the same level, so I could actually understand her. When the mother got up to let us out of our window seats, Nat noticed she was pregnant with another amazing little creature! We started the day off right.

Parliament buildings and Nat. Church on the left.

Parliament buildings and Nat. Church on the left.

We got lost in Chinatown upon entering The Hague but found our way pretty quickly. We first stopped at the Escher museum, Escher in het Paleis. It’s a permanent collection of his work, located in the winter palace of Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands. The building is the only public building in The Hague where the “original royal ambiance has been maintained,” according to the palace website. M.C Escher was a genius, and while his art suggests maybe some mental disorders, that isn’t the case. His work is based on mathematics, eternity, and infinity. This quote sums up Escher and our experience at his museum perfectly: “In my prints I try to show that we live in a beautiful and orderly world, not in formless chaos; I cannot resist fooling around with our established certainties. It gives me great pleasure, for example, to deliberately mix up the second and third dimensions, flat and spatial, and to make fun of gravity.” How Lacanian of him!

Some of Escher's work. Yes, little Zwarte Pieten were all over the place for kids to count.

Some of Escher’s work. Yes, little Zwarte Pieten were all over the place for kids to count.

One of my favorite sketches!

One of my favorite sketches!

We found the US embassy shortly after our stop at Escher, so naturally I took a picture. Later in the day, however, we saw people in bright ponchos in front of the embassy and while Nat thought they were a choir, I quickly realized they were protesters that show up on Saturdays– these are the people my alert emails warn me about! They looked harmless, and everyone thinks I’m Dutch anyway, so no big deal. According to my email, this group must have been “Support Human Rights,” formerly Iranian Academics, and they were raising awareness about Camp Ashraf, Iraq. Very interesting. Here’s my classic jumping picture though, pre-protest.

Typical!

Typical!

Next, I came across my mecca. Nat and I squealed when we entered Madurodam, which is an interactive miniature park that has Holland’s most famous buildings, businesses, housing, etc. in miniature form! I could not get over how adorable everything was. There’s a miniature Schiphol airport, Rijksmuseum, tulip fields, greenhouses (see pictures), mini canals for Amsterdam, mini beautiful architecture for Delft, the first modern home, everything. Maybe my imagination is just going wild but I honestly think it’s hard to see that the pictures are of fake miniature places. It’s obvious when you see the little people on little bikes around the buildings, but other than that, everything is so realistic. Another thing we realized about The Hague is that the tourists are all Dutch. Amsterdam is where international tourists go, and The Hague is where families go to learn more about Holland. Adorable, and clean, and respectful, and even more Dutch.

Look at this place!

Look at this place! That girl I’m talking to is much larger than the actual exhibit.

Miniature housing, cute!

Miniature housing, cute!

Mini Dam Square, in love!

Mini Dam Square, in love!

No they aren't real!

No they aren’t real!

The woman from the Madurodam suggested we walk to our next museum, which ended up being quite the trek but worth it as we walked through a miniature forest. I was praying that I’d see a hedgehog, didn’t happen. The biggest art museum in The Hague would have to be the Gemeentemuseum, which reminded me a lot of the DMA. We got to see a Coco Chanel exhibit (we just happened upon it, per usual), The Anatomy Lesson genre (ranging from Rembrandt to Damien Hirst), the masters of the Maurithuis museum that’s currently under renovation in the city center, modern photography, and even this really bizarre interactive basement that had a miniature museum in it (not sure what’s up with The Hague and miniature things but I’m not complaining!) We spent a good deal of time here before realizing how much art we had absorbed and how tired we were getting.

Chanel's LBD

Chanel’s LBD

The mini museum in the museum, with more of the weird Dutch animated displays (can't see them though)

The mini museum in the museum, with more of the weird Dutch animated displays (can’t see them though)

Our last stop was the Panorama Mesdag, which is the largest painting in the Netherlands. It is a 360 degree panorama by Hendrik Willem Mesdag, and it’s 120×14 meters. You climb up some stairs into a little round bungalow-type room, and are immediately blown away (or at least I was). The room is set up with the painting all around you, but you’re technically on a dome, so there’s real sand and beechwood that eventually runs into the painting from where you stand, but you can’t see where it ends and the painting begins. Not sure if my photographs will even do it justice. You can’t see where the paintings bottom is (because of the sand) or the top (because of this bungalow-structure roof) but you can tell that there are windows in the ceiling of the room, and the lighting changes based on what the day is like outside. I was very impressed, but unfortunately the information on the painting was only played in Dutch. More research is needed.

Panorama!

Panorama

Nat and I had a wonderful trip to den Haag. It was also relatively cheap, our museumcards worked at half of the places we went, and I highly suggest The Hague to my UvA friends looking for a little escape. I came home and slept like a baby. That happens frequently here. The week will be busy, I’ll have a visitor Tuesday-Friday and projects to work on, but I still take advantage of every moment here. Tot ziens! IMG_4386

“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” Coco Chanel (I’m not one for Chanel quotes, but I loved this one)

A Dutch Semi-Christmas

Sinterklaas came this past Sunday, which signifies the start of the holiday season in Amsterdam. He brought along his helpers, Zwarte Piet (still don’t know if they are supposed to be one single entity or multiple? Either way they are frightening), and plenty of cookies. I’m adding my own pictures for this post, but getting information from my favorite cultural website, http://www.awesomeamsterdam.com. My favorite fact, perhaps, is that if you’re bad, supposedly Sinteklaas (or Zwarte Piet, who is sometimes known for beating children) will put you in a bag and take you back to Spain with him. Enjoy, and try not to judge. Watch the video as well!

 
Who is Sinterklaas? Sinterklaas, also known as Sint Nicolaas, is a traditional Dutch figure based on the Catholic Saint Nicholas who was a Greek bishop in the third century. He is the patron saint of children, sailors, travelers, thieves, virgins, prostitutes and … the city of Amsterdam! Sint Nicolaas is a white-bearded man who wears red and white bishop’s garb and holds a fancy gold staff. Unlike Santa Claus, Sinterklaas is not fat and jolly, rather he is a tall dignified gentleman who decides which children were naughty or nice in the past year. Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands in mid-November on a boat from Spain. After disembarking on Dutch soil he hops on his white horse, Amerigo, and makes his appearance in streets, schools and hospitals around the country. As mentioned above, Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands each year in mid-November by steamboat from Spain. It isn’t known exactly why he lives in Spain, but theories abound. Perhaps it is because the Catholic Saint Nicolas was buried in Spain or Italy, or perhaps it is because he brings Spanish oranges as gifts. Maybe he just prefers the sunny weather there. It is said that the Sint travels to the Netherlands on a steamboat because he is the patron saint of sailors. The steamboat was also an amazing new technology when many modern Sinterklaas songs and poems were written. In the Middle Ages, Sinterklaas was a holiday for Dutch school children to honor Saint Nicolaas and over time it also became a village festival. The holiday was both an opportunity to give aid to the poor as well as a time for wild revelry, similar to Carnival.

Sinterklaas. He seemed like a nice guy!

Sinterklaas. He seemed like a nice guy!

Who is Zwarte Piet? Zwarte Piet (or Black Peter, plural Zwarte Pieten) is a helper of Sinterklaas, somewhat like Santa’s elves. These colorfully dressed helpers follow Sinterklaas and assist him with distributing candy and gifts while entertaining children with silly antics. The Zwarte Pieten carry a chimney sweep’s broom which is used to spank naughty children as well as a big sack used to ferry the worst brats back to Spain. Newcomers to the Netherlands might be shocked by the appearance of people dressed in blackface with dark curly wigs and clownish outfits. Some find it racist and offensive but the liberal Dutch mostly view it as a charming and harmless tradition. There are various explanations for the origins of these helpers. Some say they symbolize a freed slave boy who became a grateful servant to Saint Nicolaas. Others believe the Pieten are simply Moors from Spain. In newer versions of the story, the Zwarte Pieten are black because they are covered in soot from climbing down chimneys to deliver gifts. Similar to the Smurfs, there is a Piet for every function. Some specialize in entertaining children, others in climbing down chimneys and a few are skilled navigators for the boat trip from Spain.

IMG_4298

Zwarte Pieten on the biggest department store in Amsterdam...

Zwarte Pieten on the biggest department store in Amsterdam…

http://www.awesomeamsterdam.com/articles/86/sinterklaas-amsterdam

.

Welcoming Stew and Sinterklaas.

While I did welcome one of my best friends from home, Sarah Stewart, and the Dutch legend Sinterklaas this past weekend, this post is dedicated to my fabulous but incredibly short time with Stew. Before I get to her visit, I’ll mention another fun activity I did this week which was going to get coffee with an exchange student from Hockaday from Lithuania, Gaby, that was in my advisory and now goes to Amsterdam University College. We had talked about getting together all semester and finally did; I actually saw her twice this week, once for the coffee and again for the AUC open mic night at Science Park. I invited Nat to come with us to hear Gaby recite some orginal poetry, and we saw some of Nat’s AUC friends there too. Gezellig!

Gaby at AUC.

Gaby at AUC.

I found out that not only am I a skilled hostess, but Stew is a smart traveller. This made us a killer combination and we ran around Amsterdam like the two crazy, cultured, twenty year olds we have become. She came into Amsterdam at around noon on Saturday and had left my apartment by 5:30 Sunday evening, but we still somhow covered so many Amsterdam traditions and I learned even more about my city while being reminded of home. I told Stew that Saturday we would focus on the Amsterdam that tourists come to see (she sent me a list ahead of time of things she wanted to do, so smart!) and on Sunday, I would show her the Amsterdam I have grown to love. I had another Pitzer friend in the city also this weekend, but she was so busy with the travel tips list I sent to her that we didn’t end up meeting up. I will be giving this list to anyone that visits in the future and base my friends’ visits on it as well. Stew and I started off at the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum (second time but still awesome), and we got through them so fast by just seeing the necessities. We then travelled through Leidseplein and Kalverstraat to see Christmas lights and extremely packed streets of shoppers–the touristy we got this weekend. In between our sights, Stew and I caught up with each other and shared what it’s been like being abroad; we’ve had really similar experiences and adjusting to home will be easier with her so close.

Museumplein with Stew.

Museumplein with Stew.

From Dam Square we went to the Red Light District and I’m pretty sure Stew is now scarred. I think Amsterdam customs go straight over my head and I don’t realize some things really are bizarre. Stew had the assumption that the ladies in the Red Light District were more of strippers/showgirls than prostitutes, but this just isn’t the case. We saw customers entering rooms, and that was something I actually hadn’t seen yet. Later that night when we were with friends that have taken the prostitution class at UvA, we learned that the purple lights above windows signify transvestites and side streets have specific purposes, some are more expensive because they don’t use protection, things like that. I wish we would have seen some purple lights but I think Stew was thankful we didn’t stumble upon them. To the district again this weekend!

After we kind of lost our appetites, or Stew did at least (I’m used to this life!), we returned home to rest, eat, and get ready to go to Trouw, the biggest and best club in Amsterdam. Electronic music started in Amsterdam, so Stew had to go to the best place to hear it. We met up with friends and travelled to East Amsterdam, the part of the city with more warehouses than canals. The night was fun but given Stew had woken up at 4:45 that morning, we lasted until about 3am (turning in early by Trouw standards…) and that was enough. Sleep felt like heaven. We had to get up 4 hours later, which didn’t feel so great.

A typical view of the RLD, obviously not my picture as I don’t risk taking out my phone for a picture at all there!

Up close and personal at Trouw.

Stew went to the Anne Frank Huis on Sunday morning while I hung out in a cafe close by. We went to my second favorite pancake restaurant for a quick breakfast then wandered around Jordaan. Unfortunately the stores are closed on Sundays but she got the idea of what shopping is like here. We didn’t have much time anyway because Sinterklaas would be arriving soon! See next post for details on this special man. We did get to see him, along with plenty of Zwarte Pieten, then had to sprint across a few canals to catch a boat tour. Considering my first boat tour didn’t include any information, I was happy to hear about some history that I wasn’t aware of, for example: a street was named specifically because the breweries were on it (Brouwersstraat), we rode on the Amstel which I don’t think I had actually been on, we passed the mayor’s house, and we even saw Sinterklaas again on a bridge. Stew definitely dosed off a few times on the tour so we returned home after for quick naps before she left for the airport. I died on Sunday night; my muscles were sore from running or standing around, but it was so worth it.

I finished my work for this week early. Every day I have to remind myself that I’ll be home in less than a month. That only means the next four weeks will be busy and stressful, and there’s a trip to Prague in the middle of it. The weather is significantly colder now, doesn’t break 45 degrees, and the fog has moved in significantly. I had major bike drama earlier in the week (bought a new one, didn’t like it, traded it, broke my old one, got it fixed for seven euro, selling it) but I am officially set with a new bike with pedal breaks AND gears which makes a huge difference in my commute to class. I’m going to paint it soon as its matte black at the moment. In other exciting news, I have realized (specifically today while looking at Christmas gifts in the shops) that people really do think I’m Dutch. A shop owner was speaking to me in Dutch, I kept up until I couldn’t understand, and he told me he was surprised because I “definitely don’t look American.” I’m taking that as a compliment. I told him I try hard to hide it, and his response was “just don’t start talking.” Thanks. Time for a cup of avond (evening) tea and more internship applications. I’m trying to keep myself busy or I’ll keep getting these flashbacks of California weather! Maybe that’s a good thing or I’ll just forget what the sun looks like altogether. IMG_4286

A little bit of love arrives in Amsterdam

Block 2 of classes has started and I welcome the change in my schedule. My mondays are a bit busier (Dutch Culture and Society in the city center and then World Ecosystems in Science Park shortly after), but other than that I have one class during the evening each day of the week and usually one day a week off. Unfortunately I have practicals on friday afternoons, but I’ll take it. My first week went well and I finished classes in time for Margaret’s arrival on Thursday evening. Then I had friday and the weekend off to enjoy the city with her.

Dutch Culture and Society is a simple course that so far has been interesting. We do weekly blog entries (so many blogs!) about Dutch news, entertainment reviews, important Dutch people, whatever we want to research independently. We also have weekly group projects pertaining to a topic we cover in class; our first project was creating a brochure for a specific region, my group got Utrecht (which I know about all too well from being stranded there!) but we did well. I like little activities like that, they are very different from my other two classes! World Food Systems is a class that focuses on political/social/economic aspects of food around the world, and like my food production class, we have different lecturers every week that specialize in a certain aspect of society and relate this to food production and consumption. Super interesting. Last class we talked about the American influence of “convenience” on the Dutch, and how the American ideal of food in the 1950s and 1960s transformed how Europeans started thinking about food. I’m curious what we’ll discuss tonight! World Eco Systems is a science-based course but without labs, which is nice. We study different landscapes and types of soils and how they affect plants and animals. I have an exam in this class, and a project that I’ll be doing with my friend from Louisiana where we have to pick a country or state and talk about what type of soil and environment it has. We are doing either Texas or Louisiana, or both. I don’t remember studying the geography of Texas, so I’m actually really excited to learn about my own state. I find myself relating my studies in the US to Europe and my studies in Europe to the US, but that’s what I’m supposed to be doing!

I was so happy when Margaret arrived in Amsterdam. I went to meet her at Central Station and we couldn’t find each other for over 20 minutes but we survived (there was no wifi or way to communicate). We spent the night catching up and resting before our big day on Friday where we went to the Van Gogh museum (finally!), got more poffertjes, and looked for Halloween costumes around the nine streets. We took the tram but spent a TON of time just walking around the city, which was exhausting but the best way to see it. We got to Van Gogh only to see the longest line ever, so I asked a worker if we got to be in a different line because we had museum cards (Marge borrowed my roommates) and we were immediately let in! VIP access is great. I was impressed with the amount of art in the museum and enjoyed seeing the special exhibit (around until January) that had Van Gogh’s tools, palettes, and famous Sunflowers painting. We also saw the newest Van Gogh painting discovered earlier this year, how exciting! Fun fact, I painted a Van Gogh style painting in middle school and it was chosen to be hung in the main office of my school, so I felt a special connection to the museum. I also want my painting back now… Hm…

Made it to the giant "I Amsterdam" sign in Museumplein, too many tourists to get a full shot though

Made it to the giant “I Amsterdam” sign in Museumplein, too many tourists to get a full shot though

Me and Van Gogh

Me and Van Gogh

I really liked the colors in this one.

I really liked the colors in this one.

We rested up for a Halloween party on friday night where Margaret got to meet the majority of my friends. She somehow lucked out on spending very little money this weekend since the museums were free, and this night out was free (no club cover as it was at an apartment). She went as a flapper and I went as Rosie the Riveter, and we thought it was funny that of course we would both go as symbolic American females (probably due to Hockaday’s subconscious influence), but the costumes were easy.

IMG_4206

Saturday was spent exploring more, of course, the best thing to do in Amsterdam. We had planned to go to Anne Frank but the line was incredibly long midday (I should have known) and our museum cards don’t let us cut that line unfortunately. Instead we went to see the Old Church and the hidden Catholic church again, saw the red light district, and went for the absolute best burgers at The Butcher on Albert Cuypstraat. Neither of us had eaten good burgers since being abroad and these ones were particularly incredible. I had a burger with bleu cheese and truffle oil (and died shortly after eating it) and Margaret had the “Big Daddy” which is a 250g burger with bacon. Good girl. Walking around with Marge led me to discover SO many shops and sights that I don’t notice when I’m biking around, especially around the nine streets (particularly Fair+Fair and The New Label Project). Unfortunately I can’t afford all new furniture or an entire new jewelry collection from the stores here, but I am collecting so much inspiration for my future home.

IMG_4248

Guess which one is the 250g burger!

Saw this fitting sign while walking through the Albert Cuypmarkt, "Margo's Flowers"

Saw this fitting sign while walking through the Albert Cuypmarkt, “Margo’s Flowers”

She had to try the fries!

She had to try the fries!

Margaret, as a neuroscience major, had a ton of work this weekend so we allotted a few hours for homework. After working we checked out a bar I had heard a lot about, Hannekes Boom (translation is Hannekes Tree), which is a little bungalow bar on the water. It is incredibly hip and owned by the same people who own my favorite bar, Bloemenbar, and we got plenty of good people watching in. Margaret has Dutch in her, and she looks very Dutch, so she was so amazed to be in a place (and city) where she actually looked so much like the people.

We made it to Anne Frank on Sunday at 8:30am (it opens at nine, and luckily we got there when we did). Within 15 minutes after we got there the line had grown by easily over 150 people. We got into the museum by 9:20. I highly suggest this museum to visitors, especially girls that kept diaries or journals. So many quotes from her diaries reminded me of things i would have written as a young teenager and it really put her experience in a different perspective for me. I was surprised with the size of their hiding place; two stories of the building were dedicated to housing 8 people. Still, the story is incredible. After the museum we went to the Westerpark market (that I’ve already blogged about) and ate good food and saw plenty of Dutch dogs and babies. By the time we got back and rested, it was time for Margaret to head to the airport. I know she had a great time and I was so happy to see her. The days are getting shorter, the weather is definitely getting colder, and that little bit of love really helped. The sun even came out for a little bit on Sunday (then it hailed, while it was sunny…) but at least it was a little brighter.

Until next time. I’ll end on this Van Gogh quote: “I know how much I still have to learn myself, but all the same I’m beginning to see light ahead of me and one way or another, by practicing on my own, by learning anything I can use from others, I’ll continue to paint with passion.” Replace “paint” with “live” and you have a description of my time here.

IMG_4193

Alle waarom heeft zijn daarom. “Everything has an underlying reason.”

So many things happen that I can’t explain while living on your own, living in Amsterdam, travelling Europe, or just trying to work out being a young adult in general. I decided to title this post with that particular Dutch proverb because I feel like no matter what happens over here, it was supposed to. Whether having (initially) just an acquaintance staying at your home or getting thrown off track while travelling, everything really does happen for a reason. Or you can choose to have resilience and accept it, therefore making it seem more natural, whatever works.

Where have I been? That’s something I’ve been asking myself also! My time was spent rotating between the Crea cafe (an adorable cafe attached to the UvA arts department), entertaining a friend from Claremont, and getting prepped for Dublin. I’ve also been spending time thinking about the fact that my friends here only for the first semester will be leaving in about a month and a half (or while I’m back in Dallas).

I loved having my girl Melanie (from Claremont McKenna but studying abroad in Copenhagen) stay with me for a few days. Melanie is an Environmental politics and economy major at CMC and I love that we’re basically in the same boat in terms of education and studying this topic abroad. EA majors in Claremont have mental crises every few weeks when we try figuring out why we put ourselves through such depressing and tough topics, but then we thoroughly enjoyed discussing carbon taxation in our free time, so maybe that’s why. She brought along her friend Danny, and the four of us spent time around Amsterdam and also went to the Amsterdam Music Festival (with Nat), and it was absolutely insane. The biggest Dutch house djs were there including Armin van Buuren, Alesso, and Hardwell. Amsterdam had their huge dance music festival last weekend and I guess over 300 different shows; that’s unheard of! Amsterdam Music Festival.

Luckily the weather was perfect that weekend. I talk about weather so frequently but it really determines what type of day you’re going to have. I met up with Melanie a few more times during the week when I wasn’t too busy studying. We went to the annual fall carnival in Dam Square and rode this giant swing thing that allows you to see Amsterdam from pretty high up. Spending just a few days with someone you only somewhat knew before can spawn such a friendship and I’m thankful Melanie reached out to me for a place to stay. Incredible!

"Around the World," our favorite ride at the carnival

“Around the World,” our favorite ride at the carnival

IMG_4039

After my exam last Wednesday evening I packed and got ready to ship out to Dublin to stay with my friend Ivanna’s twin sister (Ivanna is with me in Amsterdam and her sister studies at Trinity), and I met up with Ivanna and Kaitlyn there. That will be in my next post, but I wanted to cover my travel nightmares in this one (and not put such a damper on a post that should be about a glorious trip in Ireland!). My flight out of Eindhoven (1.5 hours away from Amsterdam) was rerouted to fly out of Maastricht due to too much fog– this entailed everyone on the flight loading onto a bus for an hour trip. Although I was obviously frustrated, I ended up getting to see the Dutch countryside for the first time. I saw the agriculture I study about and even traditional windmills. The country is flat but still beautiful. The leaves are changing but everything is still so fresh and green. I finally got to Dublin later in the afternoon than anticipated, but it ended up being alright. I met a woman on the bus from the airport to Trinity who was actually Dutch and so happy to talk to me about my time in Amsterdam and helped me navigate the city. Freaky coincidences happen every day, what a truly small world.

A Dutch sunrise, behind a dirty Dutch train window.

A Dutch sunrise, behind a dirty Dutch train window.

I’m not sure how much news about the UK hurricane is revolving around the US, but a pretty huge storm hit Europe today (not technically a hurricane but ridiculous winds). Luckily Ivanna and I flew out of Dublin before it occurred, but it became basically impossible to take a train back into Amsterdam from Utrecht because of electrical failures. A few people in Amsterdam even died because of this storm (falling trees), and that’s terrifying. Civilians were warned to stay inside and not to ride their bikes, so I guess you could say the weather was pretty serious. After 6 hours in the train station I finally made it home.  And again, as much as I wanted to complain about being stuck in the Dutch countryside, there was absolutely no reason not to smile when we finally got on a train to Central Station; you could watch sheep for miles out of the windows. The sun was starting to set under the dark storm clouds and everything was so green. Sheep and cows were grazing right beside the train and they were beautiful. No picture from the train could have done them justice.  I loved seeing the sheep while flying into Holland, but now I love seeing them from the train as well. The trees on this route were more bare and it felt more like winter than autumn, but nevertheless it was exactly what you might imagine from western European farmlands. I guess there are some upsides to unexpected changes in your schedule. That’s something I learn from studying abroad over and over again.

Washed Out (literally)

So THIS is what Amsterdam rain is all about! I really thought our apartments were going to blow right into the bay this weekend. Downpours started Friday and haven’t quit. Did I break my umbrella, try to deal with a broken umbrella, and then break it worse? Of course! Did this hinder my weekend plans? Of course not! Except I do need a new umbrella, so that might hinder my weekday plans…

I’ll dork out for a second to talk about my Friday computer practicum for Food Production– we got to use a program to model crop rotations of a certain amount of years, and see how certain crops and fertilizers changed the environment and production of nitrogen in the Netherlands and also in Spain. It was really interesting and a lot of fun. I am also now a member of Students for Sustainability Amsterdam, which is a city-wide environmental group. Although the group is mainly Dutch, the coordinator said they would be happy to have an English speaker to work on the divestment campaign. I did some work for a campaign like this at Pitzer (trying to divest from fossil fuels), so I feel like I somewhat know what I’m talking about. We’ll see how this goes, I’m meeting with them this week.

Incase you were curious, this is what my commute to campus looks like while riding through the more industrial part of Amsterdam: am_commute

Friday night was a relaxing night of drinking with friends and going to a very local bar right in the middle of Westerpark (where the market was last weekend). It’s called Pacific Park, and they play lots of oldies. The atmosphere is amazing and everyone is young and so very Dutch (typical). My partner in crime, Natalie, was off to Ukraine so I enjoyed time with other friends in my building and had a really awesome night. It ended with warm tea in the Cal(l)um apartment which was perfect. The only picture I have is this very eerie picture of the giant table and chairs that are also in the middle of the park. am_table

Saturday was homework, pizza, and rain-filled. So I’ll just leave that there.

Sunday, I ventured into the city center for retail therapy (specifically more sweaters… necessary!) and this is where I saw pure chaos. Broken umbrellas were flooding the streets, and the street cleaners were out just to take care of them. The wind was insane, but tourists were still out and about.  I would see tourists walk out of gift shops with brand new Amsterdam-themed umbrellas (rainbow, marijuana leaves, anything that was left) only for the umbrellas to immediately invert and break. So sad, but also kind of funny? I enjoyed roughing it alone in the rain and getting out of my apartment. Leah was gone for the weekend and I did some deep cleaning and organizing (finally). Although I sense another IKEA shop coming upon me (probably when the rain stops).

Once returning home, I went to my very first Canadian Thanksgiving. I didn’t know this was a thing until my Canadian friend, Devon, planned it. Either way, it was a great excuse to eat yummy mashed potatoes and salad and some steak (no turkey…) with some sweet Canadians. Unfortunately, Taylor (an actual Canadian) and I had to leave dinner early to head to the Washed Out concert at Melkweg. The wind was still insane, the rain hadn’t stopped, and buses were on weird schedules. Callum, Nathan, Taylor and I might have gotten lost in the rain a few times before finally arriving for the show. We caught the end of the opening act, Amateur Best, and then saw Washed Out. He/they were so good, really incredible. Their popular song is “Feel it All Around” which plays at the beginning of Portlandia, you’ll recognize it– song is under the picture.

am_WO1

Still smooth sailing apart from adjusting to daily hurricanes. After my Dutch exam this Thursday, visitors from Copenhagen and a music festival this weekend, and an exam on Wednesday, I’ll be off to Dublin. Two months until I’ll be back home. I honestly can’t imagine only being here for a semester. Oh the things I would miss. am_stickers

Here’s a bonus picture of my breakfast from today, just for fun. It’s orange, like this country and me. am_breakfast

Tot ziens!