After well over a year of living in Amsterdam West, I've just realised that I haven't written a whole lot about the places I like to go here. That needs rectification! Because there are a lot of hip, new and happening places to go in West. Here's a list of favourites:
Smack-dab on the edge of Mercatorplein. The exterior looks decidedly odd, it always makes me think of half a heart, complete with short bits of artery sticking out the top. But don't let that fool you. Inside it's lovely and homey, with a huge fireplace in the centre of the round space.
The staff is friendly, and the food is good (eventhough having dinner here is somewhat pricey). In the summer there's an enormous outside seating area. Also serves excellent lunch, with sandwiches and such for around 5 euro (affordable!).
This is a new kid on the Admiraal de Ruijterweg (right next to the bridge). There used to be another restaurant here (called 'In de Baars'), that we never got around to going to. But Bar Spek is fantastic. Levi and I have had dinner here and were welcomed in in the most friendly fashion.
The food is affordable and ok, if not overly fantastic. The pizzas are good though! Styling is fun and quirky, with a pig on the business cards ('Spek' meaning bacon) and the business ends of a few streetlanterns mounted on the wall.
This is a place a little bit off the beaten path. If you take the Vespuccistraat off the Jan Evertsenstraat, then take the first left. Cook is on the first corner, with a big outside seating area on both sides of the street. The inside has recently been enlarged. It used to be tiny, but now it's more than twice the size.
It's got a great atmosphere, with a livingroom feel. None of the furniture matches, and the overall effect is homey, relaxed, ecclectic and clean. The staff is nice, but I've only ever had drinks here, I really want to go and have dinner here sometime soon!
It's been a while since I've last been to this modern bar on the Jan Evertsenstraat. As a cafe it's incredibly busy on Fridays and Saturdays. I've had lunch and dinner here on occasion and it was good. I like that they have free wifi and games. It makes you feel welcome to feel at home.
Downside is that it can be too busy. I remember wanting to have dinner here on a Tuesday evening once, and not being able to find a place to sit.
So if you're in the neighbourhood: do drop by! There's plenty of good places to have lunch or dinner.
Things to be thankful for:
- That Spring seems to have finally arrived in Amsterdam. Gods, it's been a long, long winter. But the sun is finally out and I am planning to take a break from studying this afternoon with a cup of homemade cappuccino on the balcony.
- Talking about studying: I'm also thankful that I've made it through this week. My research project for my thesis has started (two days a week), but I'm also still doing a minor (Crossmedia) in the evenings and working thee days. Eventhough those three days sort of turned into two and a half, due to a tummy bug.
- But just the fact that I got to start my research project this week was a minor miracle in itself. My original plan fell through, right before the deadline for handing in my application form at school. I had to scramble to get another company to do the research at. But after a ton of work and effort and extension after extension on the deadline, I did manage to pull it off. I'm so grateful for the company I'm doing my thesis research at, that they were able to help me out, and so quickly too. I'm also grateful for my mentor, that he helped me out when things took a turn for the worse.
- You know what? I'm really enjoying the thesis project until now. Ok, so it was stressful when my first plan fell through, but this project is the first time I have to figure things out for myself, using all the things I've learned over the past three years. I kind of like that challenge, and really feel like I'm up for it. I'm just realising now: I've learned so much.
- Meanwhile, back at the homefront, I'm thankful that my lovely man is taking up the slack where housekeeping is concerned. And that he cooks for me! Two good reasons already why I said yes to marrying him. Is doesn't hurt that he's quite handsome too
"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die, so, let us all be thankful." - Buddha
My friend Jay came over for a visit from London with his girlfriend. She's allergic to cats and so they looked for a nice hotel somewhere, rather than staying with us in our flat. Besides, it was their anniversary weekend, so the idea of sleeping on a mattress on the floor wasn't all that romantic. They ended up in Hotel Arena in Amsterdam East.
Hotels in Amsterdam can be really expensive. Hotel Arena is a ways from the centre, but it's gorgeous! And surprisingly affordable to boot (Jay said he only paid 51 pounds per person per night, not bad eh?). We rented bicycles for Jay and his girl, so the distance from the city wasn't a problem and the weather was great.
Fun stuff in Amsterdam East
The hotel is close to Oosterpark and the Artis Zoo. But with bicycles at our disposal, it's easy to go anywhere really. So we went to the clothes market at Waterlooplein and had quiche and pie at De Laatste Kruimel (one of my favourites!) on Saturday. Jay and Sarah had a lovely dinner at Café Maxwell on Sunday. Levi pointed him in the direction of that little gem. Jay was so enthusiastic about the place, I'm dying to go there too now.
Jay told me to tip you guys this site for cheap flights to and hotels in Amsterdam. I've never heard of them before, but Jay's usually good about doing his homework.
1092 AA Amsterdam, Nederland
+31 20 - 850 24 00
A friend of mine works for this amazing project, called Panorama Streetline. I fell in love with one of their works, a panorama of the Keizersgracht in wintertime, made last year, when the canals had frozen over and people were happily skating along in the centre of this great city I live in (click on the picture for larger image).
The photographer's name is Jörg Rom, sadly he does not have a website yet (working on it!). I got Jörg's permission to share this panorama with you. I love how you get to see the Keizersgracht stretch out on the horizon, as you never would in real life, as your view is always limited to the place you are standing.
And how rare is it to see people skating on the canals! I've lived here for nearly a decade and have not witnessed such a thing before. How cool and what a lovely coincidence that Jörg was there to capture the scene for immortality.
The pictures were made only a few hundred metres from where I work, as our headquarters are in a magnificent building on the Keizersgracht. The bridge you see in the centre part of the panorama is the Leidsestraat. The gorgeous, tall turreted building on the left corner of the Leidsestraat is Metz & Co, where I once had a very disappointing afternoon, that I blogged about in January 2011.
Walem, on the Keizersgracht a few doors to the left of Metz & Co , serves magnificent 'croque monsieurs', as they call them (the dutch call them tosti). Or a club sandwich, served with crisps (my friend Kari loves their club sandwich!). On the righthand side of the Leidsestraat, there is Greenwoods, also an excellent place for lunch. Although even if you're there for lunch, I would highly recommend opting for the all-day breakfast option of Eggs Florentine. It's the real deal!
A Valentine's day special! Most of these were photographed in Amsterdam, somewhere over the last two years. I had planned to do something like this blog last year, but I kind of forgot and didn't remember my plan until well into March... But here you go: hearts, hearts galore!
My friend Kari took me to Burgerbar. She was so excited about it, it was funny. But after having been: I am excited about it too!
Wedged in between a Burger King and a MacDonalds on Reguliersbreestraat in Amsterdam there's this small, usually incredibly crowded bar. The logo used to remind me of a gun, but it is a B with a bite taken out of it, lol. Never mind the line: go in, you won't be sorry. The people taking your order often don't speak dutch, but will understand your order in either dutch or english.
Irish, black angus or kobe
You can choose between three kinds of meat: irish beef, black angus beef and kobe beef. The burgers come in two sizes, 200 or 270 grams. And there's loads of toppings. Cheddar, onions, mushrooms, blue cheese, jalapeño peppers, and more. Don't forget to order fries! I love Burger Bar's fries: seriously good, golden and crunchy.
The entire kitchen is behind the bar and you can see everything that goes on. Burgers are weighed, made and grilled right in front of your eyes. If there aren't any seats available when you come in, seating space usually opens up while you're waiting for your order. There's a sink you can wash your hands in before (or after!).
When your order's up, they call out your number in English. Dig in! The burgers are luscious. So tender, tasting so purely of meat. I loathe the kind of burgers that have all kinds of spices and stuff in them, and then you don't taste the meat at all.
I've had the kobe beef burger once. I've also had the irish one a few times. I still have the black angus one to try. Seriously good burgers. I highly recommend.
Call&Pick-up service: 020 330 5968
Two more branches at Kolksteeg (tiny) and Warmoesstraat (large).
Levi said he'd seen an item on Amsterdam Light Festival on local news channel AT5. Something about art and light. We looked it up on internet and so on the last Saturday evening of December we went for an 'Illuminade' walk. Right at the starting point, behind the Stopera (or Muziektheater, which is apparently the same building) we were met by this gorgeous lighted aurora borealis handkerchief, floating above the Amstel.
In and of itself, the netting didn't give off light. It was lit up by installations which were placed on boats on each side of the Amstel. While I was standing on the bridge, admiring it, the netting moved a little in the wind. Then the lighting changed and the installation turned green/bluish. Pure magic.
A little further along the route there was an installation that looked like an egg. From time to time, it gave of a slight mist, that would make it seem like the egg was disintegrating into lighted particles. Entrance into the egg was allowed and from inside, the view was amazing. Look up!
The entire route took us around 2 hours on foot, and ended behing Nemo, in the direction of Central Station. Highlights, besides the ones we already mentioned, were the 'light and lasting shadow' installation in the garden of the Hermitage, the 'snailtrail' in the Hortus Botanicus (mesmerizing combination of visual and sound!) and the 'projection project' on the Scheepvaartmuseum.
Sorry about the made-up names, but as it was the last weekend of the Illuminade walk, there was a long line at the starting point and we decided not to wait to get a booklet.
We've been living in Amsterdam West for nearly a year now. It's a little bit of a rough neighbourhood still, with more than a mere handful of coffeeshops in the vicinity.
One of our older neighbours told us that ten years ago, people were being shot in the street in this part of town. More and more flats are being sold, and this brings with it an inflow of young and hopefully decent people. So because we're glass half-full kind of people, we took the plunge.
But when I was visiting my friend Robbie elsewhere in Amsterdam last Friday, Levi called me a little before midnight and he said: "I just witnessed a break-in!" He'd heard a bang and had gone to look. Two youngsters were climbing through the streetside window, in plain view! The police arrived too late on the scene and the thieves got away.
A little while after that call, I decided to head home. I was a little worried, because of the crime that had just been committed next door. But we do what we can to assuage cognitive dissonance, so I tried to convice myself I'd be safe. Around the corner from our house though, on a big street we call "De Jan Eef", the road was marked off with police tape. Lots of police vehicles, a van and a motorcycle blocked stoep, bicycle path and road.
I had to continue by foot. A crowd had gathered. I watched them watch the police go about their business, I wondered if any of them knew what was going on. Then an officer exited a building wearing one of those white crime scene coveralls. And I just knew: something really bad had happened. Levi looked it up on AT5, the local tv station, after I got home. He said there had been a stabbing.
But if you think that was the last thing Amsterdam had in store for me this night, then you are mistaken. My bicycle still in hand, I was trying to cross the street. On Friday night there are quite a few cars still passing throught the Jan Eef, so I was waiting patiently when all of a sudden one of the cars gallantly slowed down for me. Happy for this decent gesture, I crossed the street, putting my hand up in acknowledgement, when out of an open window a man's voice yelled from the top of his lungs: "HOER!" (translation)I didn't even turn around or acknowledge that. I just went home, flabbergasted.
Amsterdam sometimes you confound me. You feel so cosy and small scale most times. I get around on my bicycle and don't even need a car. I maybe forget that you are a big city after all.
And then there are nights when you remind me.
Oprah first put me up to making Friday lists, years and years ago. She wasn't literally talking about Friday lists, but she said it helped her focus on the positive when she made a list each day, of things that she was thankful for.
I love this idea of focusing on the positive. It's so easy to get stuck complaining about the things that don't go your way. It makes a huge difference if you stop to consider the things that do go your way, once in a while.
Today it's a happy list, in honour of Bri's post, which I think is lovely!
Little things that make me happy:
- Sorry to start this with something as mundane as a sitcom, but The Big Bang Theory really makes me laugh.
- Belgian fries from Vleminckx in the Voetboogstraat in the very centre of Amsterdam: the genius, brilliant, very bestest fries in the world. With Belgian mayonaise of course, the way they were meant to be eaten. Golden, crunchy, juicy, glorious.
- My very very pink Puma sneakers. A birthday present from Levi, and a joy to walk around in.
- I found the cutest short, tan leather jacket by Tommy Hilfiger at the last sample sale. For fifty euros. Hidden between loads and loads of ugly leather jackets. Too cold for winter, too warm for summer, too short, but I had to have it. Marvellous find.
- That after months of hard work I am finishing a major project at work this week! Sort of on schedule (amended schedule, haha) and sort of on budget. My very first project that I've managed and I don't feel too bad about it.
- And after a hard day's work I come home and Levi has made dinner for me. I love a man who cooks.
- Also: that I'm going on holiday Monday! Very strange to think that it's suddenly so soon that we're leaving. And I will be taking some homework with me to sunny Spain (can't be helped), but still! Spain! Sunshine! Warmth!
Tell me: what makes you guys happy?
Time for a Friday list! What were the things I most enjoyed, what am I thankful for? My highpoint of the week was hugging a cow! Let me tell you how that went...
- We went on the very first company weekend last week. We could not have wished for better weather, it was amazingly warm and sunny. The destination was top secret until the very last day and turned out to be the tiny village Elahuizen in the province of Friesland. Day one included sailing, with a perfect picnic basket and perfect weather. It was followed by a barbeque with lots of booze and dress-up fun (the theme of the weekend was "Farmer wants a wife", after the popular Dutch tv show "Boer zoekt vrouw") and a party that was to last into the wee hours of the night.
Day two was my favourite though. Some of us very hung over and most of very tired, we got to choose between fierljeppen (jumping across creeks with a pole) and hugging cows. I opted for the latter and I found it surprisingly fun. They're big beasts, to be sure (a mature bull weighed in at 700 kilos!), but the cow I bonded with was a young one and she was so pretty and soft. Afterwards I felt completely zen. The whole experience has completely changed my outlook on cows. If you ever get the chance: I highly recommend hugging a cow!
- I had the chance to have dinner at Restaurant As a little while ago. The interior is quite unusual, as it's a round building and the design of the space is centered on the bar in the middle (the axis, so to speak, which is what "As" means). Nearly separate spaces have been created around the outer perimeter, with spokewise placed walls. The staff is extremely friendly. The food was quite good. A little unusual maybe, but very hearty. And the great thing is, the kitchen works with seasonal and regional and mostly organic ingredients. (As is located near Amsterdam Station Zuid, on the Prinses Irenelaan 19)
- But having dinner in with friends is also very nice, especially if my girlfriend Di brings me presents! Back from holiday, she presented me with a lovely set of bracelets. She could not have known that my silver bracelet had broken during our holiday in Italy, but it was a happy coincidence that she gave me these.
- The schoolyear has started. I'm up for what is hopefully my last year of studies. I didn't relish the thought of losing the freedom and all the free time I was so enjoying, but hey, it's started. The minor "magazine making" is great so far and I love the team that I'm in. Go team!