Summer in Vondelpark

Vondelpark is the place to be in summertime and this year, Amsterdam's treasured park celebrated its 150th anniversary!

In the few weeks since my return to Amsterdam, I've probably already cycled through Vondelpark at least a dozen times. I've laid in the grass with my book, enjoyed a few picnics, watched the world go by from the Blauwe Theehuis, attempted some pathetic forms of exercise, and successfully finished my share of wine and snacks from a picnic blanket.

Vondelpark is synonymous with Amsterdam and this historic park simply comes alive when the days get longer during summer and trees are exploding with all shades of green. People are everywhere- rollerblading, cycling, or wandering carefree (until someone dings a bike bell at them). Kids can do their thing at variety of playgrounds and those, like me, who enjoy a drink on a sunny terrance have a few options too. Everyone else settles down for a picnic, BBQ or leisurely rest in the sun...which fortunately doesn't even set until at least 10pm during the summer months!

During my au-pair days we gathered in Vondelpark religiously, following the motto "Sun's out, let's picnic!" 

Every Amsterdammer surely has their favorite spot but I might keep mine a secret for now.

If you've ever enjoyed time in Vondelpark you may have seen the bright green parakeets who live there. On my first sighting, I couldn't believe my eyes to see such a tropical bird living wild here in the city. And did you know there are more than 70 types of roses in the rose garden?

Heading to Vondelpark this summer? You may want to check out the open air theatre offering an agenda full of free performances!

Summer Snapshots: Boating in Amsterdam

We're experiencing some very crazy winds here in Amsterdam, blowing up to 70 miles an hour and tress collapsing all around the centre. You know things are really getting stirred up when even Vondelpark is closed! Since the fire department has advised everyone to stay inside, I'm snuggled up with a cup of tea, sitting by the window watching as golden leaves get whipped off the branches and flipping through the hundreds of pictures just waiting to be edited. Mornings like this make autumn even more cosy and now is the perfect time to reflect on sunnier times this summer.

After finally going through a few more rounds of pictures from the dozens of boat rides we took this past summer it seemed time to share them, better late than never... My, how time flies!

Oh, nostalgia. Reflecting is also a reminder of how quickly time passes, especially the fun parts! Living the 'expat life' your paths constantly cross as chapters open and close so quickly. It's crazy to thinkRachel and Christian are already on their way to wed in Mexico when seems like just yesterday we were all floating the canals with a glass of wine and the occasional kazoo in hand!

I've said it once and I'll say it again, there are so many great ways to explore Amsterdam, by foot, by bike and most distinctively, by boat! 

From cruising the historic canals to floating down theAmstel Riverthrough the countryside or heading to the IJmeer or taking the adventure out to Amsterdam's Nieuwemeer ...

At this point, I'm not sure if I've seen more of the city by bicycle or from the water! Either way, exploring by boat is truly a unique way to view Amsterdam and there are so many hilarious memories that go along with enjoying life on the water.

Goodbye summer sun, hello golden autumn. Now I'm off to filter through the next hundred photos snapped during our more recent (and windier) autumn boat rides. Tot ziens !

Weekend Wanderings: Berry Picking in the Utrechtse Heuvelrug

Now that autumn is on the horizon, we're rounding out towards the end of berry season. This may surprise you but last week, I spent an evening '

urban foraging

' with a pal here in Amsterdam and picked nearly a kilo of fresh blackberries! Most of them have now been devoured, plopped on top of ice cream or Greek yogurt, whipped into smoothies or frozen for later use. I'm thinking of making

these muffins

with the extra blackberries, so many delicious possibilities!

We headed to the nearby province of Utrecht for a Saturday adventure. The trip began with a visit to Huis Doorn, the estate of the German Keizer Willem II where he lived and eventually died, in exile, after WWI. We were especially curious to check out the historic property after our recent visit to

Berlin

.

After a (very long, very detailed) tour of the estate, my brain was begining to melt from two hours of listening to Dutch. We both needed some fresh air headed to the 

Utrechtse Heuvelrug

, a ridge of hills and forests spanning 6,000 hectors...and just happens to have a lot of blackberries too!

We wandered up and down the hills (yes, actual hills!) in and out of oak and pine trees with out anyone else in sight. I love the quiet serenity of being in the woods, its a nice break from dodging tourists on my bike in Amsterdam's buzzing city center (ha!). My soul needs to be near a city, isolation is not for me, but maybe my spirit would be keen on country life if my sweet chicken

Tallulah

could join me here in Holland! September has only just arrived and thankfully, the change in season (and much cooler weather) hasn't banished green leaves quite yet.

Drizzly weather enhanced the forest's rustic smell.

Don't you love the smell of rain? It's soothing, fresh and earthy.

Blackberries are my favorite berries of all and such a tasty snack. It's a lot more fun to pick them for free versus shelling out cash for over prices berries at the grocery store! Continuing with our recent berry picking trend, we plucked a lot of 

bramen a

long the way! My Dutchman was really getting into the flow of seeking out big, juicy berries, despite the prickly brambles. Eventually, we sought out a perfect sunny spot that seemed virtually untouched by other foragers and made away with almost another kilo of fresh, yummy berries. 

While living in the Chicago area as a little kid we had a sizable raspberry and blackberry bramble in the back yard and I remember picking and munching berries all summer. The thing is, I enjoy eating the fruits of my labor while picking so, I usually end up with very purple fingers, a full belly and a half empty fruit basket.

Oops

. All in a delicious days work!

Do you also enjoy picking your own fruit? Last autumn, a few of us went

apple picking

too!

If you have any suggestions for nice spots for urban foraging or 

zelf plukken

here in please share them! 

Around Berlin: Abandoned Ice Factory in Kreuzberg

Berlin is a "beautiful" city in it's own unique way. If you're a history nerd, there's no denying Berlin's role in shaping the last century and subsequently, it's absolutely fascinating. History is literally on every single corner. I like any place where wacky and weird is celebrated and Berlin's alternative vibe seems less untouched that it's comparative counterparts like Amsterdam and Paris.

During our long-weekend in Berlin, I wanted to wander the Kreuzberg area which is known as the ultimate alternative spot of the already very alternative city. Think funky cafes, abandoned urban architecture and counterculture squats and so on. But since we did this trip 'spontaneously' the day got away from us and we ended up drinking margaritas all night instead of continuing our urban exploring. No complaints there!

First things first, we checked out the East Side Gallery and then, we stopped for a drink at Yaam, a laid back, beach inspired bar along the Spree River and just next to the outdoor gallery.

East Side Gallery

Our first stop during our wander through Kreuzberg was a graffiti covered, abandoned factory which we spotted from the metro upon our arrival to this side of town. We wandered along the river Spree, through a patch of woods which was covered in rubbish and rats and stunk of urine, giving us some insight for what was ahead. What exactly was that you ask? Well, a squatters 'village' of tents and teepees and a sign declaring the one and only community rule: "No public masturbation." Good to know. 

Needless to say, we made out way past the not so friendly, tattooed campers/squatters quite quickly as they clearly weren't welcoming or interested in giving us some background info on the building. In fact, I felt really awkward wandering through what was basically someone's 'living room' like a wide eyed tourist. Technically this was public property but we definitely didn't fit in, good thing curiosity got the best of us. 

Moving on, we headed straight into the aforementioned abandoned factory and were in awe that a building which somehow survived two world wars has been left in such disrepair. Later, we learned from a local that this was in fact an Eisfabriek (ice factory) dating back to 1914! The building was still in use well into the 1990's.

Naturally, we headed inside to explore. There were remnants of old machinery in place, absolutely saturated in graffiti, and it was fascinating peak around. Have a look for yourself...

After carefully circling in and out of the massive halls, up and down the rickety stairs (while snapping a ton of photos) we found the rooftop which was filled with a variety of hipster groups with an expected arrogance. In one corner, guys with bikini tops and animal masks were getting a party started, across from them a photo shoot was taking place, further along a few kids were having a blast propelling rocks off the roof. We settled in the fourth corner to take in a view of the river and the Berlin Tower in the distance.

Given the rooftop views, I definitely understand why someone would want to hang out here or even take over the property. It's a prime location along the river, in an alternative but up and coming area of town. I just wish they'd preserve the heritage of this old building and keep some of the city's history alive. Coming from a city like Orlando where almost nothing is more than 40 years old I can't stress enough the importance of utilizing a city's history to encompass growing in a new direction.  If you're Berlin, definitely check it out while you can, who knows when the Eisfabriek will be turned into something else with far less character. 

Still curious? Read more about the abandoned Eisfabriek here and here.

.

[Snapshots] Amsterdam's Summer Skies

It's no secret that Holland is not known for blue skies.
As a matter of fact, it rains and drizzles an average of 200 days a year here, yikes!

That's why the Dutch (and I) love to complain talk about the weather. When it's bad, it's depressing and when it's good, it's amazing! Let's just be honest, most of the time Holland (even in summertime) is some sort of monochrome, overcast or grey and that easily evokes a bought of frustrations and lack of picnic parties. There's nothing to do but just make the best of it and go for a cold boat ride with a few extra layers and a rain coat on hand, right? 

Thankfully not this summer. This summer has been exceptionally magical when it comes to weather (hoera!) and I've found myself glancing up in awe, both day and night in admiration, more often than expected. On a few occasions, I've even felt obliged to head outside, despite other important tasks at hand, to simply soak up the sun while it lasts. But, I can't help myself from wondering just where those big, grey rain clouds might be hiding... could this be too good to be true?

If you've browsed this blog or my instagram then it's no surprise that practically any bit of cloud break or tiny peak of blue from up above will entice this toothy grin of mine. According to my photo roll lately, it seems I subconsciously felt a need to pay tribute to the sun's almost mystical appearance over the last few months because a lot of sky images have piled up.

One look at these shades of blue and stellar sunsets bring back happy memories of a summer well spent... outside!


Since the summer can't last forever (Florida, I miss you) I'm glad to have these images as a reminder that yes,
the sun will shine again!
And given my handful of recent 'expat life' frustrations, that's a very good thought for me to keep in mind.