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

7Dec/141

“Your money is no good here”

My mum was visiting me in De Baarsjes. We went grocery shopping (Levi and I are doing rehearsal Christmas dinner today) and our last stop was the Turkish corner market. I walked around, gathering things and putting them on the counter, to be paid in one go when I was ready. My mum got a bunch of spring onions and put them in a separate place on the counter.

I said: "Mum, don't be ridiculous, just put it with mine!" And she said: "No no, you don't have to pay for me, I'll get it myself." Incredulous, I looked at Yusuf, the proprietor, who had been following this exchange with interest. I walked back to the counter, put her onions with my fruit and veg and moved her away from the counter. She struggled, making to move to pay for her onions herself. I looked at Yusuf and said: "Yusuf! Say something!"

And Yusuf, my trusty friend, friendly but firmly told my mother: "I'm sorry madam, but your money is not valid here."

9Aug/134

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.

4May/136

Favourite places in West

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:

Cafe Zurich
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!).

Coffee and the menu at Bar Spek, Baarsjes, Amsterdam
Bar Spek
This is a new place 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.

Cook
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.

Cafe Cook in De Baarsjes, Amsterdam WestCook'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!

Bar Baarsch
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.

For info, go to their websites:
Café Zurich
Cook
Bar Spek
Bar Baarsch

24Nov/121

The dark side of Amsterdam

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.

Break-in
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.

Stabbing
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.

Hoer!
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.

27Jul/113

Life is like a bunch of cherries

sweet black cherries from the turkish corner storeThe tv is on, but the sound is off, because there are commercials on. I am eating some delicious black cherries that I bought from our neighbourhood Turkish store. They are juicy and sweet and they taste as good as cherries do in your dreams.

I love our Turkish corner store. It is one of the best things about our neighbourhood in West. His fruit and veg are fresh and cheaper than at the supermarket.

Through the open window Spanish guitar music softly drifts up to our apartment on the fourth floor. It's a mystery to me where it might possibly come from. It's beautiful. As I pop another cherry in my mouth life suddenly feels very good.

25Mar/112

“Pimp my ride” Amsterdam West-style

Flower car in Amsterdam WestI spotted this car in Amsterdam West. Completely bedecked in flower stickers. Ahhhhwww!

2Aug/100

A cool morning latte at Espressofabriek

Espressofabriek at Westergasfabriek AmsterdamIt's a Monday morning and I am in the Espressofabriek, on the Westergasfabriek terrain in West. The sky is overcast and it's a cool day. The space, with the big open door to the terrace, is also cool, as is the welcome. The guy behind the counter wears a funny BA Baracus t-shirt, but he's not smiling.

Did a shipment just come in? There are boxes on the counter and the space behind the counter is a mess. My latte is made without much enthusiasm or flair, but it comes with beautiful latte art (you know, figures in the foam) and a small glass of water.

The latte is small and, at E2,40, a little on the expensive side. But how nice it is. Smooth, strong, full. The milk is creamy, the foam soft and lovely. It makes me want to break my one-coffee-a-day-principle almost immediately after I finish. Oh darn, I forgot to take a picture, now I simply must get another coffee.

Single shot latte macchiato at Espressofabriek AmsterdamTerrace in the sun at Westergas
At some point in the afternoon BA Baracus man is replaced with a nice girl. She makes my second coffee (a single shot latte macchiato, E2,60) for me and eventhough she spills a little water over my croissant when she sets the tray down, she is hospitable and really sweet and more than makes up for t-shirt guy's morning coolness. Thanks to her, I spend the rest of my afternoon outside in the sun.

The coffee is made on a gorgeous lever action Mirage. The beans used for the coffee are Ethiopian Gaya Amaro organic espresso and Kenia Espresso Arabica. They can be bought for use at home and if you are not in possession of a grinder, Espressofabriek will grind them for you.

There are sweet snacks, like prepackaged cinnamon rolls and Donny Craves organic oatmeal and raisin cookies, but nothing in the way of actual food, like sandwiches.

Espressofabriek at the Westergas is open from 9.30am until 6pm from Monday through Friday and from 10am until 6pm on weekend days. There is also a branch on the other side of town, in IJburg. Free wifi is available for guests, the password is 'espresso'. 

Espressofabriek
Gosschalklaan 7
1014 DC Amsterdam

www.espressofabriek.nl