Monday, May 31, 2010

Zaanse Schans Video

Remember my spring trip to Zaanse Schans where I visited loads of windmills and learned how clogs were made? 
Well, rainy days over the weekend kept me away from the park and bike rides. 
So, I decided to finally start learning how to use all the fancy programs on my MacBook Pro. 

Here's my first video creation!
 Click here to check out the Zaanse Schans Windmill Adventure story. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lily-Margaret's Top 10 Sweet Spots in Amsterdam

By the time this post is published, I'll be enjoying the woods and beaches of Belgium. I wanted to share with you a recent guest post I wrote for my friend Libby's Blog 5371 Miles Away. We met during our first week after moving to Holland and have been inseparable ever since. You'll probably recognize her from many of my posts. Anyway, go check out her blog to read my section on the Top Ten Sweet Spots in Amsterdam!

I discovered this place years and years ago when I first fell in love with Amsterdam. Then, I cultured an addiction to their fantastically rich and creamy ice cream flavors when I studied at Leiden University two years ago. Now that I’ve living in Amsterdam, Australian homemade is one place that I always take my friends to. I can turn any situation into an excuse to eat their ice cream, hot cocoa, coffee, and chocolates. Their thick, fluffy waffles are a crowd pleaser. I was once in line for ages only to see the last waffle of the day go home with the woman right in front of me. Trust me that was a low moment. You can’t miss this place and most likely you’ll be able to smell their sweet concoctions from a block away. Try come of their sorbets since summer is coming. There are three conveniently located shops and no matter what flavor you pick, it's always a satisfying treat.
*Update* Unfortunately, the Amsterdam locations have been moved but it's possible to find this tasty spot in other areas of the country. 

B&B Lunch Room
Located off one of the busiest (touristy) streets in Amsterdam, this tiny café is always packed. That’s because they have fantastic muffins (plus soup, sandwiches, tea…). So far, my favorites are the banana, cheesecake, chocolate cherry and blueberry flavors. And at 2.50 euros, these hefty sized muffins are a cheep way to grab a sweet snack on the go. Try picking up a few flavors and sharing them with friends while walking down Amsterdam's famous canals. Address: Leidsestraat 44 @ the Keizersgracht intersection.

Bagels & Beans is a chain of coffee cafes located all around the Netherlands. It by far surpasses Starbucks in my book. The menu includes a variety of sweet or savory bagels, brownies, smoothies and of course tea and coffee. Try the Tuscan themed bagel or a chai tea that always hits the spot. Check their website for various locations.

De Boelhoed is an organic, vegan and vegetarian centered café with delicious dishes. But it’s their desserts that won my heart. First, I tried their banana cream pie, which has got to be one of the best banana sweets I’ve ever tried. On subsequent visits I’ve sampled their equally stellar chocolate cream pie and dense, chocolate brownie. It’s located in the Jordaan, which is an adorable area to walk around. That is, if you’re able to move after gorging on these desserts. Address: Prinsengracht 62.

I’ll always have fond memories of this café because it’s where I hunted for a spot to catch the first sunrays of spring. The winter in Amsterdam was absolutely horrid so, the shiny Sunday of the year everyone fought for a spot outside…under a blanket…next to a space heater. Sure, it was freezing but missing the sun for months is more traumatic. This café is right on the edge of the Nieuwmarkt, which opens up to sites like the red light district, IAmsterdam sign and Chinatown. Since you’ll probably be in this general area during your Amsterdam visit, why not stop for a cup of verse muntthee (fresh mint tea). At first, a visitor might mistake it for a mojito but it’s just boiling water with long pieces of fresh mint. This soothing drink goes perfect with the tiny cookie that’s usually served on the side. If you want something richer than tea, try a hot chocolate ‘met slagroom’ (with whipped cream). That’s sure to hit the spot on a chilly day. Address: Nieuwmarkt 13

On the east side of the city center, down the street from the anthropology museum is the Dappermarkt, my favorite market in Amsterdam. It’s always packed, always fresh and always has great prices. It’s a daily run world market that happens to be where I stumbled upon my cure for homesickness. I discovered a merchant selling sweet popcorn and I was quickly as it reminded me of the kettle corn from my local farmers market in Florida. The popcorn vender also sells a traditional, famous Dutch treat: the stroppwaffel. I’ve recently overcome a battle with stroopwafel addictions and now limit myself to a special freshly made bite of happiness when I show friends around. I was really hooked on this cookie made of two thin waffles with hot caramel syrup squished in the middle. For a euro, this has got to be the best sweet treat purchase in the city. And for a savory snack, get some fresh roasted corn. Just remember to visit on an empty stomach because this market is filled with other delicious, savory treats as well. Address: Dapperstraat 279
Latei is a small, two story café located just off the Nieuwmarkt on the edge of Chinatown. Inside you’ll find the walls covered with antiques and knickknacks, all of which are for sale. A must have at Latei is their enormous, homemade appletaart. If you can eat the whole slice on your own, I’d be really impressed! If apple isn’t your taste, try their brownies or lemon cheesecake. For something savory, check this place out on weekends when they have a tasty and affordable Indian menu. Address: Zeedijk 143
The chocolates at Puccini Bomboni are the kind you pause and savor. With flavors ranging from thee, apricot and lemon grass these little treats bring a big flavor sensation. My favorites include honey, pepper and ginger but I haven’t finished sampling them all just yet. I recommend taking a few friends along so you can steal a bite of theirs too! Address: Singel 184

Tart van M’n Tante is probably one of the most discussed cake shops in town. This cake shop is decorated in perfect kitschy cute style (Barbie doll cake, anyone?). It’s always packed but try to get a seat and enjoy the eccentric decorations and a yummy slice of cake or pie. My favorites include, pecan pie, carrot cake, mango cheesecake and some cake with a chocolate-hazelnut center. There’s always a variety so be prepared to make a difficult decision that will definitely end in deliciousness. Address: Ferdinand Bolstraat 10

Hidden inside an antique shop (look for the window filled with art deco lamps) is De Vredespijp café. I first referred to their citrus-berry cheesecake as the ultimate piegasm. And by ultimate I mean a wave of happiness rushed over my body on the first bite. My mouth was watering for more as I raced my friend to finish off the slice. They say you never forget your first piegasm and that phase is aptly put for the cheesecake at De Vredespijp. Honorably mentions are extended to the apple crumble (fresh cinnamon + currants+ almond slivers, yes please!) and their decadent hot chocolate, which is even more heavenly with a shot of hazelnut to make a sensational nutella-esque drink. After my first visit here I probably went into some kind of sugar coma and promptly needed to nap. So when you go, share the experience with friends and heed my warning to take that 2nd impulsively ordered slice in a to-go bag. 
Address: Eerste van der Helststraat 11a

So, there you have it. My Top 10 favorite places to satisfy your sweet tooth in Amsterdam. Here's the map so you can set out on your own dessert adventure in Amsterdam, just click the blue link.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Sunny Bike Ride to Durgerdam

I recently found out about Durgerdam, a cute village of just 430 people located just under 10 kilometers east of Amsterdam's city center.
Last weekend with the company of friends, we set off to enjoy a lovely, sunny weather and explore Durgerdam by bike. 
It was such a lovely day, probably the best it's been all year! Summer keeps trying to creep back into Amsterdam, if it were't for these unruly clouds...
Weather aside, biking to Durgerdam was honestly one of the most fun things I've done here! Come to think of it, showing friends around the city, picnics and a bike trip are three necessary components to make a great weekend.


Naturally, I needed to get her hooked on stroopwaffels so, we picked a few up at the market as well as some other yummy treats for a picnic. There's never a sunny day that I can't resist a picnic! On our way, we also passed the Brouwerij 't Ij. Their free beer tours were a recommendation from Adam and Amy. I also spotted a swimming pool on the eastern side of the city, which has now been added to my always growing 'to-do' list.

Here's some more pictures from our bike ride to Durgerdam...

Amy and I catching a view from one of the bridges

At the end of the path...time for a picnic!

Keep in mind before setting off to Durgerdam that you will need to conquer two bridges, both of which have a hefty incline. The rest of the ride outside of the city extends on bike paths through the lush Dutch countryside. Just think of it as a workout counteracting all the picnic snacks! And don't forget to use the bridge's high points as a photo opportunity (or moment to catch your breath). There are some wonderful views of the water and surrounding city in the distance.

Sheep enjoying a pretty day in the Dutch country side.

My expat friends, Adam and Amy, came along for the ride. They're good to bring a long for bike adventures and beer knowledge, plus, their Minnesota accents are fun to impersonate. I was designated the tour guide for the weekend as I showed my new Canadian friend, Ange, around the city. She joined us for the bike trip and on our way I introduced her to 
The Dappermarkt and Oosterpark since they're conveniently on the route to Durgerdam. 

Amy and Adam also enjoying a beer on the pier...

View of Durgerdam from the (very small) pier. What a day!

Little houses in the village

Can you spot the high arch in the background? 
That's the bridge we cycled over! 

Sunshine, great friends, yummy snacks and bike adventures. Saturdays don't get much better that!

This post also corresponds with the Let's Go Ride A Bike Summer Games where everyone can kick summer biking adventures into top gear. Click here to learn more about this fun bike event!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Time Travel to Amsterdam's Vondelpark & Vliegenbos

From biking short cuts to naps in the sun and picnics with friends, Vondelpark is an intrinsic part of my daily life here in Amsterdam. I wanted to share this video clip from the 1930's of the playground in Vondelpark. There is also footage of the Vliegenbos, a small forest north of the city center. I love seeing how people generations ago enjoyed the same areas that I'm visiting today. Also, the little kid singing in Dutch is pretty cute.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lily-Margaret's Guide to Amsterdam

Summer is almost here! Are you planning a visit to Amsterdam? Then check out my Amsterdam map! For the last six months, I've been logging places I love around this amazing city. Aside from generally loving maps, creating this one has really helped me get a grasp on how to navigate Amsterdam.

This map shows just a glimpse of what Amsterdam has to offer. The color coded key depicts different parks, museums, shopping areas and of course, places to eat! The most recent update now includes day trips to surrounding cities. There are still lots of undiscovered locations that I'd love to experience, so I gladly welcome any suggestions. Just leave a comment below. Happy travels!

Just click the blue link below the map to view it larger and get more information the my favorite Amsterdam spots.

View lilymargaret's amsterdam map in a larger map

A New Look For My Oma Fiets

After five months, I still haven't given my bike a proper name...I'm not neglectful, just indecisive. But, look! She got spring make over! I special ordered the bag from Kitsch Kitchen here in Amsterdam. The seat cover is from De Fietsfabriek, the best bike store in town!

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Colorful Visit to Keukenhof Gardens

Clogs, cheese, windmills and what's that last one? Oh yeah, TULIPS!!!! I ventured out to Keukenhof Gardens to check out the overwhelming abundance of flowers. This area is a prime location for the postcard pictures of Holland with rows, and rows of tulips. Seriously, if you don't like flowers then stop reading now. Not only were there tons of flowers, there was such a variety. Here's what I mean by an overwhelming abundance of flowers, I started out with over 200 images and narrowed them down to a decent amount for this post. Oh, and how do you like the new and improved layout? It took forever to figure out, but now I've got larger photographs, yay!

Hi from the gardens!

First on the list...Daffodils!

Next up, seas of flowers...

Old people and flowers go together so nicely. I'm pretty sure Libby, Nicole and I were just a handful of people who weren't a combination of old, Japanese or German tourists.

Various shots from around the gardens. We wandered for about three hours! Aside from the aesthetics of the flowers, the air has the loveliest aroma!

The theme was 'From Russia with Love'.

Can you believe all these colors are real!? I'm not tech savvy enough to have photoshop.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spring Update!

There has been a lot going on over here in Amsterdam. I'm happily welcoming spring, picnics, bike rides and other new adventures!

Enjoying delicious Arabian food at Bazar.

Vondelpark picnic days (when the sun actually comes out!)

Spring blossoms

New bike accessories

Keukenhoff Gardens

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