Amsterdam City Blog restaurants, shops, people and life in Amsterdam


De Broodzaak: scam or lazy?

On my way to Utrecht this morning, I decided to up my intake of vitamins with one of those freshly pressed orange juices at De Broodzaak.

The girl right in front of me thought the same, but upon seeing that there were no small bottles left to fill up, she changed her mind. "Hm," I thought. I know the bigger bottle is more (400mls vs 350 mls) for only slightly less (2,50 euro vs 2), but when your income is coming in in a slow trickle, euro by euro, every 50 cents counts.

I asked the guy making sandwiches if there were any smaller bottles left. "No," he said, decisively. "Can I put less in a bigger bottle then?" I asked. He looked slightly annoyed, mumbled something and disappeared in the back.

He came back with -surprise!- a whole box full of 250ml bottles. I filled one up, payed at the cash register and went to catch my train.

Now what was that? Was it just this guy being too lazy to go get a box? Or is this some weird (slightly dirty) sales ploy? Did he think I wouldn't blog about it?

Ok readers, here's your challenge: try to buy a small freshly pressed OJ at De Broodzaak when you are at Amsterdam Central Station, leave me a reply as to whether there were any small bottles, and if there weren't, if a little pressure makes them magically appear. I'm curious now!

De Broodzaak: scam or lazy?


Sanity and happiness over money

Last Saturday, the 21st of June, marked the beginning of Summer. During yoga class, a few days before, our instructor asked us to go back to the intention that we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year. Eventhough I don't usually 'do' intentions for the new year, this year mine was to have fun.

Having finished my studies, having gone on holiday and, upon returning immediately having found a job, I was elated. Convinced that this would be my year. Safe to say though, that life is what happens while you're making other plans. Fun is not exactly what the job turned out to be. Thirty lawyers coming, but most of all going, in a period of ten years is a lot for a small law firm. It should have been a heads up to me that something was amiss. But, not knowing what you do not know, how can you... well, know?

In the first three months that I was there, four people stopped working there (only two of them lawyers, the other two supporting staff, albeit the same role). Being owned and run by one person, that one person has immense influence over the atmosphere in the office. This one person is very self-centered, spoiled (does not deal well with no for an answer) and at times just plain hysterical. Screaming matches over nothing. Screaming matches because she did not get her way. Or just screaming. I'm not saying she's a bad person. Just impossible to work with. Oh excuse me, work for.

She would manage to hand you a task that would last at least an hour a few minutes before you were due off, and insist it had to be done the same day. She would do this nearly every day the first few months, until it started to dawn on me that she wasn't doing it by accident. She would also call each morning at 8.31 to check if you were actually there.

The tall one
We would have conversations like this:
Boss: "Give me the number of that man."
Employee: "Which man?"
Boss: "He was at that meeting. The tall one."
Employee: "I wasn't at that meeting, I have no idea who 'the tall one' was!"
Boss: "Well, find out."

The question of who could get blamed for anything constantly hung in the air. Everyone was always trying to cover their asses, hoping not to get screamed at. I'm not saying she screamed all the time. Just enough of the time.

Figuring maybe I just needed time to find a way to deal with the situation, that maybe I could adjust to, or get used to the way things went, I tried to stick it out. But day after day I got more stressed. I would have a knot in my stomach each evening because I knew I'd have to get up and go to work the next day. Sundays were the worst. I started to cry for very little reason in the weekends. I was sick to my stomach, got headaches, lost sleep.

And so I quit. I chose sanity and happiness over money and I quit.

Ballsy or stupid?
The question is: do we call that ballsy or stupid? I haven't found another job yet. I've been on a few interviews, but for one reason or the other, it hasn't worked out. So: hello insecurity, short time no see.

I really need a break. Is there anyone out there looking for a good writer? I am excellent in both dutch and english, written and verbal. Also good with content management (WordPress, even a little Joomla), Photoshop, newsletters (HTML, Constant Contact, MailChimp), social media, the works. I would love to hear from you.


The thing about rain..

The other day I thought to myself how good the weather's been lately: "I haven't got rained on for a while," I said to myself as I got on my bicycle. Famous last words..

Just now I left the house, got on my bike to go to Sloterdijk station, turned the corner and was taken aback by the ominous sky ahead. But I figured: "I'm on my way now, how bad can it get?"

Raining cats and dogs in AmsterdamThe thing about rain is, that if it hasn't bothered you for a while, you forget how bad it can get. The other thing about rain is, that whenever a few drops fall, you tend to think: "A few drops won't kill me." But then the sky bursts open, spewing forth lashings of rain, hailstones, thunder, lightning, cats, dogs, the works.

And here I am, still miles from my destination, soaked to my undies, with water in my sneakers. Welcome to the Dutch Spring!



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It pays to be kind

One of my first memories of Amsterdam was when I was following my first photography course in the Bethanienstraat. I was seventeen or so and didn't live in Amsterdam then, but somewhere near Utrecht. To be honest, I was a bit green, and being accosted on the street by pimps and other shady figures in the red light district (shadier then than it is now) was new to me. "No thank you," was my go to response to offers of telephone numbers, drugs and dates.

Then one evening, as I was making my way to the Bethanienstraat for my lesson, after having been shopping on the Kalverstraat, a woman asked me for directions. She was from Iceland and very, very drunk. She was so drunk, she had no clue how to get back to her hotel. I didn't know either, but went inside a shop to ask, they told me the general direction. As it was on my way, I told her I would walk her halfway. After all, if I was hopeless and lost in a foreign city, wouldn't I want someone to help me?

The lady was drunkenly rambling, about her job (she was in town for a convention of some sort), her brother (who had been in an accident and had been run over by a car), and on and on, clinging to me with her heartstoppingly alcoholic breath.

On the Dam I pointed her in the direction of Central Station. I told her to go there, her hotel was opposite the station (according to the guy in the shop I'd asked directions in). She pulled me close, hugging me to her, while she fumbled in her trousers. I can remember being surprised, thinking: "What the?" Then she pressed a crumpled 25 guilder note in my hand and disappeared in the crowd.

I didn't get a chance to tell her I didn't want her money. I didn't even get a chance to say: "Thank you!" I just stood there, flabbergasted, with the money in my hand. I framed that note (in the exact crumpled state I received it in) and didn't spend it for over a decade. It hung on the wall in my room as a reminder that it pays to be kind.


Out with the old

Shall I tell you a secret? I don't really believe in new year's resolutions. If, for instance, you want to stop smoking, then you should quit. I don't see any added value to waiting till the new year to attempt to do anything. But during yoga class last week, our instructor asked us to look back and say goodbye to the things of the past year, and mark the new beginning. Here's what popped up in my mind.

In 2013 I:

  • was horrified to find that my plan for my thesis research suddenly fell through, after which I had to scramble to arrange for a new company to do my thesis research at
  • juggled a job, a minor and thesis and developed a tic under my eye and lost the skin on my fingertips as a result of the stress
  • lost my job
  • didn't have any money

But I also:

  • made new friends
  • started taking yoga classes
  • graduated (followed by a great party)
  • went on a lovely holiday to Thailand with Levi
  • and, at the tail-end of 2013, suddenly and miraculously found a new job

It was a rollercoaster ride, 2013. But with school finally being over and done with (three years of hard, hard work: done! Yay!), a wonderful new challenge in the form of a new job and a wedding to plan at the end of Summer, this is what I look forward to in 2014: to be happy.

Hey, call it a new year's resolution.

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Life: graduation, party, holiday and a job!

Yeah, life. After all the sweat, hours and effort I put into graduating (with a glorious 8 for my thesis!), I threw a party to celebrate with my lovely friends and family. With an unworded, but heartfelt apology for having neglected them for over three years. I've never seen so many people that I love crammed into our living room, drinking wine and playing charades. Best party ever.

And then Levi and I went on holiday. I was working on my graduation all Summer, and to keep me motivated, we planned a holiday for right after I was due to finish. Three weeks of sun is what we wanted, and because that's hard to come by in Europe in November, we flew to Thailand.
Lush and peaceful Sukhothai Historical Park, Thailand
My highlights:
- exploring peaceful and green Sukhothai by bicycle. So many temples, ponds, trees, fields. Gorgeous!
- lighting and setting afloat a Loi Kraton on Chaweng Lake for good luck during the Loi Kraton festival.
excellent woodfire oven pizza in Bo Phut, Koh Samui- this pizza in Bo Phut on Koh Samui. Most times when Thai try to make western food, it's best avoided. But this, made in an Italian-owned, stylish, modern restaurant with a beach view, was the real deal. Wood fire oven. Crisp thin bottom. Fresh and delicious toppings. Actual Italian olive oil to drizzle over. I didn't write down the name of the place, but I can point you to it if you're in the neighbourhood and in need of fabulous pizza. I am telling you: it will live on in my memory for ever.
- and talking about food: sushi and gyoza on Food Avenue on the fifth floor at MBK mall in Bangkok. Yum!
- we thoroughly enjoyed our spaceous and luxurious bungalow in the lovely tropical gardens at Smile House on Koh Samui.
- and then there was riding around on the back of a scooter, with Levi touring the entire island of Samui. Seeing waterfalls, jungle, tiny villages, temples and secluded beaches. Filling up the tank for the whopping amount of 2 euro.
Fisherman beach on Koh Samui, Thailand

So then we came back, and I checked my mail and found two messages from Rob, a man I worked for a couple of years ago. Was I still looking for a job, because he just might know something for me? Why yes, yes I was. Two days later I had an appointment for an informal meeting with the owner of a law firm, who was looking for a secretary slash marketing specialist. Three interviews and an assessment later, we're now ironing out the details of the contract, so fingers are still crossed. But I may just have some good news sometime soon.

I already know what I'm going to do with my first pay: shop till I drop! Oh yeah, and have a celebratory dinner with Levi. Will keep you posted!

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Thank you Tuesday

Any day of the week is perfect for realising what you're thankful for.

- I handed in my thesis yesterday! I started the project around 5 months ago, thought up and did the research all on my own, and wrote a report about it, plus advice. Heart and soul have gone into that pile of paper. Hours and hours of work. It feels very strange to be done with working on it. Only a few more steps to go now, then I'm done with my studies!

- After handing it in, I didn't know what to do with myself, so I called some friends and we had drinks at Van Mechelen on the Sloterkade. The atmosphere is amazing, I love the interior styling. The staff is friendly, but forgetful. The food is mostly overpriced and then disappointingly portioned. But none of it really mattered, because I have friends who will come pick me up after having been AWOL for months.Thank you guys for hugs and talk and laughs.

-Levi's sister is coming for dinner. I've made onion soup for the first time in my life and it is amazing. Thank you Jamie Oliver for the recipe!

Summer in Rembrandtpark, Amsterdam- Last year's Summer was more of a prolonged Spring turning over into a very wet Autumn. But this year we had a prolonged Winter, that did finally turn into a lovely, sunny, warm Summer. So thank the weathergods for that. Lots of barbeques and picnics in the park, ice creams and long, relaxed evenings. I could do with a couple of more months like that, but I'm thankful for the Summer we've had.

- To say hello to Autumn, my yoga studio organised an event. On 21 September around 40 people did 108 sun salutations at Yagoy. Together with no one knows how many other people around the world (!) I worked up a sweat and struggled to keep up. Beforehand I had no idea how many 108 was, I only knew it sounded like a lot. In the end I got to 106, which is definitely more that I thought I would manage. Thank you Narges and crew for organising the event. It was great!

There really shouldn't be a downside to things you say thanks for, but I just have to say one more thing about the 108. It was great to do them, and I'm proud of my body and what it can do. But oh gods my muscles never hurt so much as the days after! But then I figure you appreciate things more if they come at a price. Next time I'll try and do the full 108!


Good samaritan, good karma

We were in a restaurant in Amsterdam East yesterday and as we were getting ready to leave, I checked my keys and realized they were not there. Or anywhere. Had I...? Yes, I believed I had left them in the lock of my bicycle. As we were parking our bikes, Levi berated me for not placing mine close enough to his to allow him to put his lock through both our frames. So I left him to it, and thus completely forgot to lock mine. Not just my bicycle keys, but also my housekeys were on the ring. Oh no...

I ran out of the restaurant to my bike. But I could see as I approached it, that there was no key in the lock. I started to doubt myself: had I locked my bike? But no, I was sure I hadn't. Had someone taken the keys??? But even if I had been stupid enough to forget to lock it, it was still attached to Levi's, there was no way anyone could have taken mine without a hassle.

Then it occurred to me that someone may have noticed... And might not have taken them but perhaps had hidden them? I shook my bike to see if it jangled and sure enough it did. The keys were safely tucked inside the bicycle bag. What a relief! I am so glad that there are still good people in the world.

Thank you good samaritan! May you find good karma on your path in your future.


Finding bliss in Amsterdam

Major changes have taken place in my life as of late. My contract at my job was not extended. I started my thesis research. I finished my last exam and no longer have to go to classes (yay!). And I've started taking yoga classes.

At one point, I was working, studying and doing thesis research at the same time. Needless to say that was ambitious and the stress of trying to keep three major balls in the air made the skin peel off my fingertips. So losing the job was both bad and good news. Finishing the last block of courses was inevitable and so now I get to focus on just one thing (well two, if you count looking for a job). After a couple of gruesome months, of doing too much at the same time, suddenly I found myself able to breathe again. What a relief!

I had been telling myself for ages that I needed to do more excercise. I had done Pilates by myself, and liked it very much, but couldn't find classes at times nor locations that suited me and so I abandoned the thought of excercise (for a few years).

yoga at Yagoy, Amsterdam West, image courtesy of Yagoy

A friend of mine suggested yoga. He was starting classes and invited me to try them together. I loved it, but the location was a bit of a hassle. I'm lazy at heart, so if it takes too much effort to organise going, then I'm very easily inclined not to go! Then I received a flyer (in my own mailbox! No effort involved there), for a place very close to home. Lots of classes to choose from. I had a stern talking to myself and went. And I've been going every week since.

Yoga to your liking
I love that I'm able to pick a class that suits me. I can switch days and instructors to my liking. If I'm feeling under the weather, I'll opt for relax yoga. But mostly I like to challenge myself and choose power yoga. And, having come to yoga out of a lack of something 'better' (strange choice of words maybe, but it simply wasn't my first choice. I hadn't expected it to be something for me). What surprises me is how much I enjoy going. I find that during those 75 minutes I work hard and through focusing on what I'm doing, completely let go of whatever else is going on in my head or body.

The fellow students and the instructors are so incredibly nice. Yesterday our instructor told us to be kind to ourselves. To challenge ourselves, but to be kind at the same time. She invites us to do things that I am not convinced I can do. But I do them and I am completely in awe of what my body can do. I can stand on my head!

A few weeks ago the same instructor told us to forgive ourselves. Now, I'm not into wishy washy spiritual mumbo jumbo. But this place suits me. The atmosphere suits me. And I love the people. I even love myself. Now all I have to do is forgive myself for not trying yoga sooner.

If you're stressed, try one of these:

Peter Hin yoga with Peter Hin at Centrum De Roos, Vondelpark;
or: Relax yoga at Yagoy, on the corner of Postjesweg and Hoofdweg.

And if you want to challenge yourself, try:
Power yoga at Yagoy.


Thank you Saturday

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