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


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.


Edelwise Festival: quirky and fun

Edelwise Festival in Rembrandtpark, AmsterdamLast Summer I was working on my thesis at a company on the other side of Rembrandtpark. Every day I would cycle to work through this lovely park with its lovely ponds, trees and fields, and gorgeous views. But one day a big chunk of the park was fenced off, what was going on back there? Turned out Edelwise was organising its first festival, right in our back yard!

Edelwise hosts monthly drinks and a party at Het Sieraad in Amsterdam's hot borough in west: De Baarsjes. Arty, quirky and fun are good words to describe their activities. At these experimental Fridays you can expect anything from singing saws to a workshop learning how to play the ukelele to of course DJs and dancing later in the evening.

Edelwise festival extras
This year's festival promises fun stuff like ping pong, karaoke, and silent disco. Also, just like last year, you can tie the knot at Edelwise! Of course there's good food, and lots of music. DJs to be expected, among others: Dotan (live), La Pegatina (live), Kraak & Smaak and the ever fabulous (and newly married!) Joost van Bellen.

Fancy getting married for a day? You can at Edelwise Festival!

More info:
Edelwise Festival
26 July 2014
Rembrandtpark, Amsterdam

See you there?!

PS Very cool: there are (limited) free tickets available for people who live near Rembrandtpark. See the website for more info on free Edelwise tickets for neighbours.

Photo credits: Peter Bezemer


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!



Tagged as: 1 Comment

Restaurantweek 2014: I ENVY me

Every year in March and September, it's restaurantweek in the Netherlands. You pay 27,50 EURO for the pleasure of dining. Some restaurants try to make off easy, by making a 'middle of the road' three course menu that will please 'most people'. After having been to about 10 restaurants for restaurantweek, I've seen it more than once. But ENVY does it differently: this chef chooses to showcase his talent and takes on the restaurantweek challenge to shine. My tastebuds are still in awe.

Pork belly lacquered with hoi sin sauce at ENVY, on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam
The food was creative, gourgeous and delicious. A feast for the eye, an adventure of textures and tastes. There were five courses (amuse bouche, hamachi with lime, pork belly lacquered with hoi sin sauce, a Bloody Mary 2.0 and a Donkey Kong dessert to finish) and I fully understand why ENVY has made it to the number 1 or 2 favourite restaurantweek menu the past years.

The ambiance is a little dark, with spots for dramatic lighting. But it fits, because it's different and ENVY does things differently. And then there's the service. We were served (among others) by a lovely girl with a very long pony tail and fiery red lips: friendly and passionate about the food she served. The young man who came to explain to us what was on our plates before each course was very knowledgable, knew all the dishes and their many elements by heart and presented the dishes to us with a talkshow host flair that we found amusing.

Margerita 2.0 at ENVY in AmsterdamTo sum it all up: it was the best restaurantweek experience to date. It was my birthday yesterday and I envy me for having had dinner here. In fact, I would like to go to ENVY on my birthday every year!

Prinsengracht 381
1016 HL Amsterdam
+31 20 344 64 07


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.


I heart Amsterdam

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!


Burgerbar, I love you

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!).

Pure taste
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.

Burger Bar
Reguliersbreestraat 9
Call&Pick-up service: 020 330 5968

Two more branches at Kolksteeg (tiny) and Warmoesstraat (large).


Amsterdam Light Festival 2012

Aurora Borealis handkerchief floating over the Amstel, Amsterdam

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.

Aurora Borealis handkerchief over the Amstel, Amsterdam Light Festival 2012In 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!

egg on the Amstel, Amsterdam Light Festival 2012inside the egg on the Amstel, Amsterdam Light Festival 2012

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.


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.

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.


Vleminckx’ fries and other happy things

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.

Bri Emery calls them happy lists on her gorgeous blog Designlovefest. And Ellen calls them Friday lists (or used to, when she was still posting them!) on her personal blog Company of Clever.

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?