Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pie Ecstasy at Restaurant De Bolhoed

Located in the Jordaan district, De Bolhoed is a funky vegetarian-vegan restaurant with an eclectic menu and a great view of the Prinsensgracht. I stopped by just for some tea and sweets but almost could't leave once I ate this:

Yup, that's a banana cream pie with blueberries and almonds. It was airy, sweet and full of banana-blueberry goodness. I'm down for pretty much anything with bananas but this was love at first sight. Isabel and I debated ordering the rest of the pie (no joke) but then remembered that I had to bike both of us home on my bike and that would be pretty rough. Seriously, that pie is calling to me, can't wait to go back and try other things on the menu...and maybe get another slice of pie!

I couldn't find a website but here's a link for google maps: Restaurant De Bolhoed/Prinsengracht 60/ 1015 DX/Amsterdam/Ph. 020.626.1803


Random bike ride adventures over the weekend led us east, to FIFTEEN. Isabel and I had a delicious time being food nerds at Jamie Oliver's restaurant. You can learn more about the concept of Fifteen right here.

Perhaps luxury dinner wasn't exactly in my au-pair budget but this gal can't resist a delicious endeavor. And now was my chance! Let me tell you, our meal was worth it. Everything was so tasty and we had a nice time checking out Amsterdam's east side. Here's a little peek into our dining day...

Architectural appreciation

It was a super sunny, freezing day!

FYI eat here on a Saturday afternoon and you'll practically have the place to yourself. Nice.

Warning: Food Porn starts now...

Focaccia + Olives = Super Posh Pizza Snack

Potato gnocchi, chilli and fennel seed sauce, goats cheese and olive oil

Canneloni of aubergine’s, tomato and cheese in a lentil butter broth and flat leaf parsley and crispy carrots

Chocolate tart with cardamom ice cream. Did i mention I'm obsessed with cardamom ice cream! Yum. We also wanted the apple cake but didn't feel like waiting another hour for it to finish baking. So, I suppose we'll have to go back and eat more!

I'm sure it's not just my pitiful au-pair budget that makes exciting meals seem too luxurious here in Amsterdam. Going out to eat here is a far more expensive activity than back home. For such a budget conscious culture they have no middle ground when it comes to food. People either eat from a hole in the wall vending machine or blow their whole salary on a 5 course meal. Why? Hey Dutch people, where are the euro-beers and happy hour snack deals? Don't even get me started on how difficult it is to find a quality taco around here...

Exploring the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam

The other day, I conducted a slightly accidental, slightly sneaky, secret tour of the Beurs van Berlage with Isabel. She's my German, architecture student friend who likes to explore Amsterdam and do touristic things with me. I'd say we're more like pseudo-tourists because for one, we live here and and we know that the red path with a bike painted on it is not (I repeat not) for pedestrians! Basically, we just enjoy spending time riding bikes through the city and to stumble upon things that we've read about in books, blogs or something that's on my lengthy 'to-do' list. These activities typically end up being something related to architecture (via Isabel) or culture/art/food (via me). Then, depending on the topic at hand, one of us spends a lot of time educating the other person. It's a great trade off and for this particular day, I did most of the listening as Isabel has a higher familiarity with the design and architecture of the Beurs van Berlage.

We plan on booking an actual tour of the old stock exchange building but accidentally walked into a secret room (we were trying to find the toilets, really!) and up some stairs and around a few corners because every corner had something else cool behind it! The interior walls are floor to ceiling of colored bricks with lots of stained glass windows. It wasn't until we had climbed a few flights of stairs and attempted to open one too many locked doors that we realized maybe this wasn't really a public area. And that being said, we quietly snapped some photos and headed back down the stairs. After seeing a glimpse of what's inside we're both looking forward to the authentic tour. Also inside was a cafe showcasing the lovely decor for which the building is known. On the other side of the building was art exhibit called NIET NORMAAL but we decided to skip it, not really my taste but maybe some of you are interested, so just click the link.



I love these wrought iron hooks

Bricks+ Stained Glass

A very excited Isabel who found a secret architecture room.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Vondelpark Covered in Snow

After what felt like a promising break, the snow is back! Yikes! Today was beautiful. Magically sunny even though it's a -6°c but feels like -11°c kind of day. These crazy numbers seem like complete nonsense to a Florida girl like me. Some days this winter I ask myself, 'Moving to Amsterdam in winter?? What were you thinking!?' But here I am, time to make the most of this winter season (and wish for summer to get here quickly!)

Over the weekend, I enjoyed a lazy Sunday tea party at the Blauwe Theehuis and winter walk though Amsterdam's famous Vondelpark. Cold and quiet in winter, but I'm really anticipating when spring and summer wash over the park with every shade of green!

Fun fact: The English garden style park was created by local philanthropists and officially opened in 1865.

The park's namesake is Dutch poet and playwright Joost van den Vondel.

In the summer, the park really comes alive with picnics, sports, outdoor concerts and of course lots of tourists too. I can't wait! 

We had a little tea party inside the 't Blauew Theehuis. The view outside included snowball fights in the park and other winter wanderers. 

Dutch of the Day: Poem = Gedicht

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cafe Latei

It's no secret that I'm all about exploring the budget friendly side of Amsterdam. While recently in the Nieuwmarkt area with friends we checked out LATEI, a small cafe off the Zeedijk. Don't let their bland website fool you, this place has a great combination of a relaxed atmosphere and yummy food ... most importantly at an affordable price! It's a cozy place, covered in random vintage trinkets and furniture, all of which are for sale.

We followed up with lemon cheese cake and a brownie...which were both devoured in about ten seconds and thus, no photos. Oops! Three hungry girls, three forks and tempting sweets sitting on the table, can you blame us? Next time I'm going back to try a massive slice of their appletaart. If it holds the same caliber of what I've previously tasted from here then I definitely won't be disappointed.

An interior view of the variety of lamps for sale from the upper level of Latei. 

I'd been looking forward to trying a dish at Latai ever since hearing that the kitchen serves Indian food on the weekends (including a vegetarian option). The portion was plentiful, but I could have used a lot more kick in the flavor department because part of what I love about Indian food includes the spice varieties. Maybe my incessant need for super spicy food is becoming an issue since I seem to have a crisis if I forget to bring my mini bottle of red pepper flakes. Yes, I am that girl, don't judge.

The vegetarian Indian dish of the week...

Friday, January 15, 2010

American Book Center, Broken Bikes & The Begijnhof

Nothing beats riding my bike around Amsterdam and going to museums. Especially on a nice warm 3°c day (ha!). The city was so quiet this morning as I biked all around without having to stop except for a very quick near death via tram incident...but we can just pretend that didn't really happen. Sometimes, I just get going on my bike and completely zone out. This isn't a good idea when dodging other bikes, tourists, cars, trams and busses. Moving from a city with only a few bikes to bike heaven in Amsterdam requires a lot of 'live and learn' type moments.

I also experienced my first bike travesty today...a flat tire! After just 17 days, my cute, yellow oma fiets was impaled by a piece of glass and 30 seconds later the tire died in front of an Asian grocery store in the Nieuwmarkt. My friend Isabel and I used this opportunity to browse spices, noodles and hot sauce varieties while I went off about Murphy's Law and idiots who throw glass into cobblestone streets and the crazy probability of my tire hitting such a tiny piece of glass granted the high volume of cobblestone cracks and the velocity of my tires plus a shard of glass...But, my daisy yellow bike is back in action now so life is good.

After a visit to The Amsterdam Historical Museum and tasting a delicious spinach and goat cheese pastry, we headed to a hidden courtyard known as The Beginhof. Of course, this took a few wrong turns and circling around the block before we actually found it. Getting lost is part of my love/hate relationship with this city. 

I love all the windy streets and the charm of weaving around alleys, not exactly knowing where you're going, when every building seems cuter than the previous one. But, I hate when there's actually an agenda to be followed or a site to be found because having a "U" shaped city that's full of twisting canals really makes navigating tiny side streets a challenge! But once you arrive to the said destination, there's almost always an exclamation of, "Ohh, duh. I know exactly where we are now!" One day I'll have it all figured out, and by then it will probably be time to leave. Oh well. 

In this particular case we were just behind the American Book Center, where I like to hide from the cold and read up on American gossip, fashion, food magazines for free (you don't even want to know how inflated the prices are!).

Back to the Begijnhof, which is a bit like a cloister type place but apparently more relaxed as far as religious oaths go. The website describes it as a place for, "eucharist reflection, prayer and silence" and tour groups aren't allowed because some single ladies still live there and probably don't want a bunch of tourists peeking in the windows. 

Actually, certain parts are sectioned off from the pubic allowing privacy for the residents. Go ahead and read up on "The Miracle of Amsterdam" if you're interested. The story basically goes a little something like this...  A dying guy is given the sacrament but he barfs up the bread which is thrown on to a fire and wont burn. (Hmm. Freaky? I think so!) At the time, some people felt this was a very important issue, so now it's a miracle. Other relics from the scene are also now part of The Begijnhof chapel. See, you can learn a lot of religious history from studying art and travel guides without ever needing to open a bible. And that being said, it's time for some photos...

Entrence to the pseudo secret garden...

Courtyard view...

Het Houten Huis. One of the oldest wooden houses in the Netherlands, c.1420. Wooden houses were banned in 1521 after a fire destroyed the city...

Biblically themed plaques...

One last view of the courtyard...

Imagine how nice it will look when spring arrives!

Amsterdam's Canals Froze!

I've waited so long for the day when the canals freeze over allowing a massive ice skating party though the city. But everyone always said, "Oh, that hardly ever happens because it has to be really, really cold!" Well, it seems that my complaints about the cold were't completely in vain.

Today, while biking along with Kelsey on our way to a movie (after stuffing our faces full of cake or pie or something else particularly sweet) I casually looked to my left and saw people playing hockey on the ice! Whaaaat?!

Naturally, as two Florida girls we needed to stop and capture this moment. Sure, ,y hands almost froze off but its worth it because this is the only occurrence that I've stumbeled upon so far this winter. Apparently, it's a record breaking winter but how am I supposed to know that? Anything under 40 degrees is record breaking for Florida!

For a moment I debated hopping down and sliding across the ice but the terrifying possibility of drowning in frozen death came to mind so, I hopped back on my bike to leave it all behind. Conclusion: Amsterdam's canals are still lovely when frozen but I'm happy enough to view them from a cosy interior with a warm cup of whiskey tea.

We saw New York, I Love You at the adorable theater De Uitkijk. With a bag of peanut M&Ms it felt quite fitting for two American girls abroad to discuss the joys and perils of being away from home.

Dutch of the Day: Frozen canal = Bevroren gracht

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Amsterdam: The Best Metro Cars Ever!?

A a Florida girl, I was constantly stuck in traffic. Here in Amsterdam, I love to zip around from A to B and everywhere in-between. Before moving here, I didn't actually know that Amsterdam had a metro system but turns out, it's an easy way to get to Central Station while avoiding the snow.

Crawling underground with loads of strangers, slipping down the stairs in the snow slush and missing a train be three seconds only to catch the next train and have an electrical failure can really put a damper on your day. But the people at GVB (Amsterdam's transport system) have thought of a new way to brighten everyones mood by decorating the metro cars. While the designs are a bit odd (cupcakes, baby animals) it's definitely fun to spot different art in each metro car.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Positive Light on Frozen Nights

Somehow, I've survived about three months of freezing cold weather. The snow was lovely but now, it's turned to slush and losing some of it's charm. Some days are harder than others (today felt 'warm' at 22°F! ahhhh). Turns out, no matter how cold it is the best winter survival tactic (aside from loads of hot chocolate) is to find the beauty in winter! So, every time I am irritated and miserable at this awful Dutch winter, I'm going to find something positive. For example, the crisp, quiet winter nights.

I especially love walking at night, the city is quiet and I can hear the snow crunching under my feet. Things become a bit dangerous when the snow gains a thin layer of ice, becoming a slippery hazard. Believe me, I've had my share of near death experiences wobbling along an icy sidewalk, completely losing balance and grabbing on to the closest thing I can...which is typically a bicycle or person smaller than me. That being said, I owe my tiny friends Libby and Kelsey apologies for consistently losing my balance on the ice and trying to bring them down with me!

Maybe these are common observations for an expert on winter experiences, but I've been a sunshine loving Florida girl for long enough to completely forgot what it's like to live through a long series of really (really!) cold days. So, to keep my optimistic outlook this winter, I've decided to collect photos of winter nights. 

Taking a walk at dusk



My window view

Dutch of the Day: Winter nights = Winternachten

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Lomography + Wekiva Springs

I've been a big fan of the Lomography community since I first nabbed a few of their cameras in college. The Holga is a 120mm camera that I love to use but unfortunately, it isn't the easiest film to find or get developed so, my Holga photos are few and far between.

I brought along my Holga during a recent visit to Wekiva Springs, a lovely state park near my hometown in Florida. It's a long time favorite spot for relaxing in nature, having a picnic and swimming or canoeing in the spring. These photos make me ache for sunshine so, I figured it's time to share.

When the weather warms up here in Holland I can't wait to explore some of the natural spots and picnic on the beach... although I doubt it will be as lush as back home.

*Photos taken with a HOLGA + multiple exposures on medium format film

Lomography + China

photos from my China trip.
I used the FISHEYE + 35mm film.

View from the Great Wall
Guilin at night
Market in Datong
Pagodas at Shaolin Temple
Li River

Shanghai & Pearl Tower

Yup, that's a real baby panda!
I met him in Chengdu and it's definitely of my all time best life moments.