Monday, July 30, 2012

Weekend Wanderings: De Pijp

When the sun shines... life in Amsterdam suddenly turns upside down.
Moods brighten, streets and bike paths are crammed,
lines for a scoop of ice cream exceed a ten-minute wait.
Oh, and good luck finding an available seat on any terrace in the city,
since they're all jam-packed with patrons trying to soak up sunbeams while it lasts.

I've spent the past few Saturday afternoons with good friends, sipping lattes,
sharing a slice of our favorite cheesecake, indulging in a few sweet macarons 
and doing a bit of afternoon shopping the famous Albert Cuyp Market under clear, blue skies. 

{My ultimate favorite cheesecake at De Vredespijp}
{Orange blossom candles bring a bit of Florida to my home over seas}

{Bright blooms}

{Lattes + Macarons}

{Market stands filled with color}

Do you have a favorite place to shop, relax and eat in your city?
I love that Amsterdam is condensed and easy to cycle around
making it possible to visit a few different neighborhoods all in one day...
But somehow I always end up back in De Pijp.

Hope you had a fun weekend!

PS.  I've finally joined the Instagram craze (@lilywanderlust)
you can view my photos + follow me here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Around Town: Poptasi Pastry

My return to Amsterdam this spring coincided with the happy discovery that
a genuine macaron bakery had opened... to say I was excited is an understatement.
There's just something special about eating a delicate, flavorful macaron,
it's no wonder these miniature pastries are back in the spotlight lately!

After devouring handfuls of these round, delicious sweets
it's about time they got their own spot on this blog.

Just thinking of the salted caramel macaron {my favorite!} 
from Poptasi Pastery makes my mouth water.
As do the pistachio, chai tea, chili chocolate, vanilla bean, pineapple and speculaas flavors...
I might be borderline obsessed with these treats lately, but can you blame me?
There is a reason this bakery's slogan reads, 'Dangerously Delicious Macarons'!

This funky, little bakery is down the street from the Albert Cuyp Market
where I happen to do most of our grocery shopping.
Sometimes, I find the temptation to pop in for a little treat hard too hard to resist.
And when I drop by, it's never a surprise
that I have to stop myself from buying one of each flavor.
The baker always kindly assures me that most customers have this problem too.

I try to indulge slowly, savoring the flavors with small bites,
but soon enough my little box is empty and I find myself thinking,
"Why did I only choose four!?"
After that, I remind myself
that I don't want to have to purchase new pants as well.

I'm waiting for my chance to nab a spot in one of their (consistently sold out!) baking workshops
as it seems that creating these flavorful, bite-size cookies is quite a lengthy process.
Am I ever really going to buy a few kilos of almond flour and make them at home?
Probably not.
But I can easily come up with a good reason to cycle past, peak in their window,
 and pick up a few more macarons just to say I've tasted each one...
All in the name of research, I swear! 

Poptasi Pastry
Gerard Doustraat 103
Open Tuesday-Saturday 10.00-17.00

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Odds+ Ends Summertime

Until this weekend, it has rained daily without fail for the few last weeks.
Although stormy weather in excess becomes unbearable quite quickly,
it also means finally catching up on that never ending to-do list
(hello, organized closet and finally editing some videos from our South Africa trip!) 
and adding indoor activities like yoga, trips to the cinema and museum visits into the mix.

While working on a few rainy day projects, I realized it's been a while
since the last odds + ends post so, here you go... Happy Sunday!

1. Little birds singing good-morning songs
{Sweet tunes to accompany my morning coffee}

2. Evening bike rides + sunsets
{Everything is better when Mama comes to town!}

3. Even after countless visits, this was Mama's first tour at the Rijksmuseum
{Avoid early mornings, the afternoon is the best time to go!}

4. Fulfilling my never-ending craving for spicy Mexican food at Tomatillo
{My pick: veggie fajita burrito + pineapple salsa. Always.}

5. Despite the downpours, we managed to have a few bursts of summer now and then
{Funny how just a touch of sun literally brightens up the day!}

A new hot yoga studio just opened and I treated myself to ten unlimited days of heat + yoga.
Seems to be this is the only place I can finally feel warm during the recent
drenched, chilly days we've been having.
Sometimes it's an effort to make it to class but yoga is my favorite way to recover from the 14 hour work days that have been popping into my schedule lately.

This morning, is bright and blue-skied,
a reminder that pleasant days can exist here Amsterdam,
Now, I'm off to relish in the sun before it sets once again.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tales from Amsterdam's Infamous Beer Bike

It probably won't surprise you when I mention
 that it can be tough making new friends while living abroad.
This aspect of life generally takes a long time to develop,
no matter where you are in the world.
Fortunately, I've really lucked out here in Amsterdam
and collected a solid amount of fantastic people to spend time with.

That said, there are lots of reasons why I'm glad to call Ellen my friend...
Of course, the predictable answers come to mind- like sharing laughs and a massive amount common interests, or our off color humour and propensity for travel adventures.
But she's also the type gal who'd rent the beer bike for her birthday
 and simply put, that's my kind of friend!


Gathered together were a bunch of rowdy Americans + one equally wild Dutchman
and we cycled in-synch for a few hours on what's basically a gigantic beer keg on wheels.
 {no worries, we had a sober driver of course!}
Given the outrageous circumstances our group was also quite a sight to see
and it's safe to say we gave passers by a pretty fun show.
After that night, I'm curious to find out how many random 'Amsterdam vacation' photo albums we're now archived in forever... Kind of a weird concept to think about, isn't it??

A bumpy ride on this leg-and-booze-powered machine basically guarantees
that you'll end up in a sticky, beer covered mess within the first 10 minutes.
I was more focused on enjoying my biertjes while peddling my thighs numb
and left the photo snapping responsibility up to a few of my lovely blogger friends.
So ladies, hurry up and post your pictures, I can't wait to see them!

{photo via Jana}

By the end of it all, we managed to stumble safely off the massive bierfiets and catch a glimpse of the budding sunset over het ij before heading in the the city center
to keep Ellen's birthday celebrations going.
What a night! And just in case you're still wondering... great fun was had by all!

Update: Good news, you can read Ellen's view of her birthday shenanigans right here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

An Evening of Gypsy Jazz

After enjoying the sunshine at an expat 4th of July picnic, a few Dutch friends led me on a wild goose chase out of the city into a magical, forest fully of gypsy jazz. We rode our bikes far into the woods and ended up somewhere hidden along the shores of the Nieuwmeer where we found a bohemian oasis nestled deep in the forest at Le Petit Samois Festival.

After trekking past the city boundaries we ended up in a rustic, artist's community where we met up with friends and spent the evening under the stars. Better yet, the entire night, aptly named Petit Samois, was full of gypsy jazz tunes like one of my favorites, Minor Swing. I couldn't help but imagine we were living in the film Chocolat.


We had a fantastic time discovering this unique little festival. Hopefully we can venture back next year! A 45+ minute bike ride home in the rain was a slightly disappointing end to such a lovely evening but hey, you can't win 'em all, right? Carpe Diem!

Now go ahead and try not to tap your toes to Django's jazzy tunes...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Celebrating Independence Day in Amsterdam

...Better late than never, right?
Of the many parallel joys+frustrations that come with living the expat life,
the feeling of missing out on important cultural traditions can be tough.
For me it's celebrating one of my favorite holidays, 4th of July!
 Like most Americans, I have fond memories of warm summer breezes, childhood trips to Lake Michigan to watch fireworks with family and friends, lighting sparklers,
relaxing around bonfires, and a swarm of red, white and blue everywhere.

This year, I celebrated on the actual holiday with a few American gals and some delicious cocktails last Wednesday. Then it dawned on me this year marks my third year celebrating our Independence Day here in Amsterdam! Although happy hour was great fun, it just didn't feel like The Fourth. Don't get me wrong, in the past I've had a blast relaxing in the park (2010) or grilling veggieburgers with friends (2011) but this year heading to a more traditional fair sounded really appealing...

Saturday afternoon I loaded my bike with picnic necessities, picked up my friend LaTasha and headed over to Vondelpark for the annual picnic with Democrats Abroad.

Just as predicted, we found ourselves in a lively group of American expats and enjoyed munching on a delicious picnic spread while sharing our expat stories together.
Plus, we had an impromptu watermelon seed spitting contest,
Which is also something silly I used to do with mama while growing up, such great fun!
 Celebrating this holiday really feels like summer has officially arrived!


Sure, we missed out on late night fireworks but instead managed to register for our overseas voting ballots which in the long run is clearly more important.

I'm curious how my fellow expats celebrated- A picnic party? Drinks with friends? Nothing at all?
Either way, I hope you all had a lovely holiday, no matter where in the world you are!

PS. Don't forget, you can easily register for a voting ballot right here.
Go on, what are you waiting for??

Friday, July 6, 2012

Visiting Friesland: De Oldehove

Did you know Italy isn't the only country with a leaning tower?

Actually, the Dutchies say that De Oldehove Tower in Leeuwarden leans over slightly more that it's Italian counterpart...


When the construction on this intended church bell tower began in the 16th century, the whole thing started to sink. Apparently, the builders thought this little problem was easily fixed...but it wasn't.

Now, this crooked tower leans almost two-meters off center
and it's one of the main historic highlights of Leeuwarden.
I wonder what the masons from way-back-when think of their work today?

For only three-bucks we hiked up the ancient stone stairway to the top
and enjoyed a great view of the city...


I caught this last view during our Leeuwarden canal tour,
from this angle you can really see how crooked it is, ha!
Want more? Read more about the tower right here.

De Oldehove
Oldehoofsterkerkhof, Leeuwarden
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 13:00-17:00
Adults €3, Children €1.50

Monday, July 2, 2012

Travel Tips: The Quick Layover

This weekend, my friend Erica visited Amsterdam for a quick layover
while heading back to The States. We only had about 5 hours to do a bunch of fun things
(mission accomplished!)
Here's a little insight to help maximize fun with a short period of time...


Before your plane lands, think of the most important sights to see and start at the top.
 Erica was craving rijsttafel, so that easily decided our lunch plans.
 I love museums but wasting a precious hour-or-so in line isn't the best idea,
 consider booking tickets ahead if that's a top interest.

Have a look around, it's easy to find nice cafes,
markets, shops, etc in nearby neighborhoods.
We stayed primarily in De Pijp which has a great mix of everything!

Give yourself plenty of time to make your way back to the flight or train connection. 
This way you can simply relax and enjoy the day!

Don't forget that traveling isn't always about seeing and doing everything. Sometimes the best part of any day is enjoying a fun atmosphere, catching up with an old friend
and making new memories!

Amsterdam has a great collection of parks and sun filled terraces.
Pack a picnic, read in the park, window shop, sample a few bites at the market,
or just wander the city snapping photos, there's so much to do without breaking the bank. Remember, riding your bike around the city is free!

We're just two Cool American ladies enjoying one short afternoon!
{photos via Erica}

Do you have any other tips for traveling through a city on a time crunch?
Let me know!