Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Afternoon in Haarlem

After blowing all our money on previous night's margarita and dance festivities, Libby and I ventured over to Haarlem. I use the term 'ventured' lightly, due to the condensed space of the Netherlands, nothing is really that far away. Somehow Libby scored some free train tickets so we we're able to spend the money saved more wisely...on tacos and margaritas, of course! Haarlem was nice. It was just very Dutch and pretty quiet on a grey Sunday afternoon. We roamed around looking for historical/touristic things to see on our (free) walking tour. Then we visited the Frans Hals Museum (free with our museum cards!) which gave a lot of insight about life in the city during the Dutch Golden Age. So, it was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. And yes, eventually we spend some money on fries with curry ketchup.

Hmm, these buildings look very... Dutch!

The Grotekerk in Haarlem + Dutch Guy who supposedly invented the printing press before Gutenberg.

Just imagine how nice this will look in a few more weeks when spring has fully sprung!

Rainbow Bike Gang!

Margaritas + Cactus Tacos at Los Pilones

My California friend and fellow au pair, Libby, recently paid a visit to Amsterdam for her birthday weekend. The two of us together usually involves food, drinks, adventures and a fair amount of Arrested Development. Since it was her birthday this time around, we needed to increase our normal festivities, so we opted for a mutual favorite: Mexican food! 

Back home, I grew up on homemade Mexican food and can hardly remember a week that didn't include a few tacos. Over here, my Dutch host family was shocked at my guacamole making skills, a nice compliment until I noticed the disgusting stuff available at the grocery store...made with mayonaise!? Yuck.

Needless to say, both Libby and I were long overdue for crispy corn tortillas and an overload of chipotle. I'd been wainting to check out Los Pilones after hearing about authenticity of their dishes so, off we went. The spot is run by Mexican expats and the food did not disappoint! Plus, anyplace with a mural of Frida gets a high approval rating in my book. More on my Frida obsession later, let's focus on the food...

For once, I didn't even need to bust out my tiny travel baggie of red pepper flakes! Los Pilones has further fueled my daily cravings for Mexican food, funny to think the meals I grew up on are considered so exotic (i.e. pricey) over here.
The beginning of our food fiesta...

Mmm... Avacado + Cactus tacos.

Happy Birthday Libbz!

Art history 101: Just to confirm for those of you who may be confused (aka Libby)... In real life Rembrant, Diego, Frida and Van Gogh did not hang out at Chichen Itza and booze it up together.

When you visit, go early because it gets packed on a Saturday night. May I also suggest not polishing off a celebratory birthday bottle of wine before downing a pitcher of birthday margaritas.... Unless you want to end up in a random, wild and crazy dance party like we did. One of us (the birthday girl) may have climbed into a random bakfiets by the end of the night. I guess that's a particularly special 'Only in Amsterdam' moment.
Los Pilones
Kerkstraat 63
(reservations recommended)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Eating + drinking my way through Brussels

Now that I've released all my dislike for Brussels, I can move on to the more enjoyable topic of sweet treats and beer. You might want to grab a snack before reading this post, otherwise the sweets might be too much to handle.
 Johanna and I are friends from college, she's a fellow expat who hails from Germany but has lived in a handful of international cities, currently Brussels. 

Together, we enjoyed a much needed relaxing morning before venturing out for a few tastes of the city. In exchange, I introduced Johanna to a delicious Friesian treat, suikerbrood. Yes, there was an extreme carb overload this weekend. And no, Belgian fries aren't better than Dutch ones!

Macaroons from Wittamer, who apparently supplies the chocolates to the Royal Court in Belgium. The chocolate didn't impress but the macaroons...yum! Mango, lavender, mocha, chocolate-lemon, raspberry.... We paired these little treasures with our first tea party of the day.

After tea party #1, we ventured on through some cute cobblestone streets and then stumbled upon another cute tea shop. I clearly don't need an excuse to have a tea party and when Johanna saw the marshmallows she got pretty excited... So, it was time for tea party #2.

After reading this article about quiche, I decided that L'Arcadi was a spot I needed to check out.
The inside reminded me of a Parisian cafe 
so, I suppose there are some nice French aspects or Brussels...

The quiche was perfect! Mine had Roquoccoli, paired with a kriek beer of course!

Moving on to waffles... 
I had mine with strawberries, bananas and chocolate. 
Gluttenious? Definitely. 
The waffle itself is so sweet that the chocolate kind of makes it too intense. 
But, when in Rome Brussels...

Saving the best for last...CANDY BEER! 

This is the only beer I've deemed tolerable for consumption. 
We tried cherry, coconut, mango and banana...
And soon after, I wasn't sure what was affecting me more, 
the alcohol or the sugar.
 It was delicious and quite a treat for a non-beer drinking like myself. 
Living in Europe makes beer more appealing but I'm not quite sold...yet.
Since Belgium is epicenter of fruity beers we checked out the Delirium Cafe
It's super touristy but a fun atmosphere. 
Plus, they serve coconut beer in coconut shells. Win!

I brought home these cute cups for the next time
 I want to enjoy a delicious fruity beer at home. 
But, that might not be for a while because after our gorging weekend,
 the thought of anything beer-waffle-chocolate orientated is completely unappetizing at the moment.


At first, I wanted to title this post "Brussels...A Less Charming Version of Paris" because that's exactly how I felt when last weekend I headed south to Brussels for a weekend adventure with my college friend, Johanna who moved over to Brussels after graduation. We were supposed to see The Avett Brothers live but do to some unfortunate circumstance they canceled the show last minute. So, what else is there to do in Brussels? Eat and drink of course!

Naturally, I made a comprehensive map for the trip.

View brussels trip in a larger map

First of many stops on our chocolate tour. La Cure Gourmande has the most delicious cookies filled with anything from chocolate to raspberry to coconut. Yes, I ate all of those flavors. They also had a pretty nice nugat selection.

Even though the chocolate overload was starting, we just had to stop here for Libby! It's probably already obvious that I'm capable of coming up with any excuse to stop and try a chocolate.

Then, we stopped in the GroteMarkt to unwind from our chocolate obsession and here is where we moved on to the next delicacy of Brussels...Kriek beer. As you know, I hate beer but my love for candy overcomes my hatred for beer. And thus, I'm becoming slightly obsessed with delicious candy beer varieties. The cherry was only the beginning... This spot was also the beginning of my dislike for Brussels. Oh wait, that was when we first arrived and everything smelled like urine. Nice place to make the capital of the EU! Gross. The smug French-Belgian waiter only became grumpier when I ordered in Dutch. Here I was, excited to be somewhere that I can use my Dutch skills but apparently that's even more offensive than using English. Oh well.

I sat with Libby, hoping the sky wouldn't unload until after we had downed the cherry beers. Then, two loud, poorly dressed and inarticulate men walked up and sat right next to us. They fit almost every negative American stereotype possible. Suddenly, both Libby and I shuddered as this is the stereotype that we're constantly trying to avoid when subtly announcing our nationality to people we meet in Europe. Even better, is the fact that our previous conversation included the topic of whether or not we should speak English with an accent to avoid being singled out as Americans and thus avoid the following conversation....

Upon a strangers discovery that I'm American the conversation typically goes like this, "Oh you're not Dutch, where are you from?...The States? But you're so open minded!" And then I just get to interject a few mild comments while the other person beginnings to unleash all their American frustration to me, the closest American standing around. My response goes a little like this, "Yes, from the States. Yes, I speak Dutch...No, I don't like George Bush...Yeah, sorry about that....Sorry about that one too....Yes, I voted for Obama...Yes I agree with (insert whatever political issue is relevant to the moment)..." And then I try to interject some positive aspects of my country or culture or, depending my mood and the subject matter I just join in on the Bush bashing. But personally, I'm over it. It's quite a hard conversation to avoid no mater how much I try. GAAAAH! The perils of being an expatriate and carrying the burden of representing the world's frustration for America. Ok, end of rant and back to Brussels.

Despite their obnoxious observations, Libby managed to score a sample of mussels from one of the guys. Nice job, Libby! I made her eat it with the shells as I'd observed a French-Belgian guy doing at the table behind us.
After the cherry beers, we met up with Johanna at the hotel where she works. She wanted to show us the Mannequin Pis. It's pretty much just a tiny baby statue that pees. This is also in the category of things I wasn't impressed with in Brussels. But, I wasn't at all surprised that one of their main tourist attractions involves URINE! Bleh, this city was so dirty. Here's a much nicer chocolate version of the peeing baby.

So, if you can get over the dirt, rude French people, rude waiters, (rude everyone!) and extremely slow people then I'd recommend visiting Brussels. Or, you can be like me and make the best of it by drinking away the frustrating experience of the people and chase the beer with chocolate and/or waffles. Nice plan, right??

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Serious Sugar Overload in Brussels

Hi from Brussels! Wow, I'm gonna keep a positive perspective on this city and focus on the chocolate for now because so far, I'm not impressed with much else. (Aside from the yummy fruity beer and waffles!)


Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sweet Spring

Saw this little guy on a lovely spring walk this afternoon.

all the merry little birds are
flying in the floating in the
very spirits singing in
are winging in the blossoming

lovers go and lovers come
awandering awondering
but any two are perfectly
alone there’s nobody else alive

such a sky and such a sun
i never knew and neither did you
and everybody never breathed
quite so many kinds of yes

not a tree can count his leaves
each herself by opening
but shining who by thousands mean
only one amazing thing

secretly adoring shyly
tiny winging darting floating
merry in the blossoming
always joyful selves are singing

sweet spring is your
time is my time is our
time for springtime is lovetime
and viva sweet love
-e e cummings

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Oh Happy Day!

laying on a picnic blanket in vondelpark while listening to ee cummings spring themed poems!

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Let the Spring Picnic Parties Begin!

The sun was out today so, I feel that it's safe to say 'buhbye' to winter! Yaaay for spring! Today, I enjoyed a crisp, sunny bike ride through Vondelpark and then a mini picnic with Kelsey. We just happened to purchase picnic treats at possibly the only place in Amsterdam that doesn't take cash!!?? (Wtf!?) A very confused Kelsey and I decided that suikerbrood, gourmet crisps & fresh apple juice were all necessity, so I busted out the amex at the posh eco-market. That's a testament to how excited we were for out sunshine picnic party. That's also a testament to how yummy the suikerbrood was, which we tasted in the store and finally gave up on trying to avoid its delicious call to eat some more!

To our dismay, the sun ran away a few hours later but hopefully, it will shine more soon! Did I mention I started a rainbow bike gang? Although! I'm not totally sure on the protocol of creating or maintaining a bike gang but mine is definitely going to involve whistling a lot of silly tunes while ringing bells and having picnic parties!

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Celebrating Pi(e) Day in Amsterdam

Sunday was Pi(e) Day! As in, March 14 = 3/14 = 3.14159 = Pi π... Get it? How do you celebrate this mathematical coincidence? Only one way... EATING PIE! In order to get ready for Pi(e) day we first ate up a few (ok, five) varieties of pie, tarts and cakes at a friend’s house. They were left over from a party so we really had no choice but to help clean up by consuming some treats. Naturally, since we're in Holland there was appletaart, ginger meringue, lemon meringue, chocolate brownie and my favorite, strawberry tart! Yum.

Then on Sunday (March 14) after celebrating Libby's birthday with margaritas and a quick trip to Haarlem, Libby, Natalie and I chowed down on some pie. Pi(e) day is great because even if you aren't keen on math can still celebrate with pie!

Greenwoods Cafe + Tea Room Single 103 1012 VG Amsterdam +3120637071

Chocolate cake for Natalie...

Lemon Meringue for me!

This is Pumpkin Ravioli from isn't pie but we ate this too and can thus confirm a more balanced diet. Foodism is a cosy place where you can get a great chai latte and pumpkin ravioli...which was like eating little clouds of pumpkin-parmasean with a zing of balsamic citrus.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Paris Lomo Love

Wow, I've been living in Europe for five months now and still haven't made it back to Paris. To be fair, I've visited plenty and want to spend my limited free time seeing new spots. However, when initially moving over here, I envisioned taking the train to Paris all the time given it's close proximity to Amsterdam. This is probably a very American seeming ideal, ha!

 I do have two exciting trips coming up, Brussels next weekend and then a birthday trip to Madrid. Naturally, I've already started making extensive maps and lists of what I want to see and of course what I want to EAT! Yum.

Paris, I think fondly of the a lovely summer we spent together a few years ago and my cute spot with an adorable balcony that looked out onto a market square.  Paris, I'll see you one day again and run around exploring your sites, sounds and flavors (cheese, wine, cheese, wine, chocolate!). 

In the mean time, here's some of my favorite pictures from my summer in Paris a few years ago. 
I used the HOLGA + 120mm film.

And for these, I used the SUPERSAMPLER camera + 35mm film.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Searching for Sun in Amsterdam

We chased the sun all over the city on Sunday but every time we found a nice place, the sun wasn't in the right spot. Adjusting to the endless grey of winter is a difficult task for a sun loving Floridian to conquer. Eventually, we finally settled on a spot in the Nieuwmarkt to enjoy a drink on Isabel's last day in Amsterdam. Now, I'm off to ride my bike in the sun and enjoy the day!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bicycle Repair Man Saves The Day

Bicycle jokes are even more appreciated when living in a city thats full of bikes, bike shops, 
bike chains, bike baskets, broken bikes, shiny bikes, 
baby bikes, babies in bikes, bike stop lights, dogs in bikes...

Today whilst riding my bike, I saw a guy balancing a television on the back of his bike!
Granted, he was walking alongside the bike but still, pretty impressive I'd say. 

Check out this Monty Python skit,  I promise you'll probably laugh.

Friday Pie Day at Taart van Mijn Tante

It's time for another edition of Friday Pie Day

This week's episode took us to Taart van Mijn Tante, a beloved Amsterdam cafe in the central De Pijp neighborhood.

We kicked off our first Taart experience with cheesecake with a truffle cake with hazelnut & amaretto followed by a cheesecake with currents. Both were tasty but the chocolate cake was a bit too rich for 
A cake shop bursting with wild colors, funky patterns and incredibly wacky cakes to match, it's understandable why this spot is so popular. Until next time!

Spring's arrival?

Look at that you guys, the sun does exist! I never knew how much I'd miss the sunshine until I spend four months trying to survive in Amsterdam's winter. Finally, spring is on its way!