Autumn in Vondelpark

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While shooting content for a new project, I made my way through Vondelpark towards Amsterdam’s affluent Oud Zuid neighborhood on an autumn afternoon.

Akin to Amsterdam’s Central Park, our beloved Vondelpark is typically associated with the lush, green days of summer. However, this time of year, I was lucky to catch some of the last remaining, bold colored autumn leaves in during the quiet moment just before a rain storm arrived, forcing us back indoors.

Autumn inspires it’s own unique revival, as nature - and life - slow down in preparation for a season of hibernation, reflection and growth for the coming year. I still can’t believe we’ve already reached December and winter will surely be settling in soon enough.

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“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.” — Emily Brontë

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Visiting The Tulip fields

As winter melts away, Amsterdam wakes up from hibernation during the weeks in-between March and May. Our first reward for surviving months of cold arrives in the form of thousands of colorful blooms. Crocus pop up to mark the first sights of spring, followed by daffodils and finally, our beloved tulips! When it comes to Dutch icons, tulips have certainly earned their status, dating back to their arrival in Holland from the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century. Today, springtime in Holland doesn’t exit without glorious, tulips in every color. 

While Amsterdam hosts plenty of blooms in colorful sidewalk gardens, windowsills, parks and along the canals, nothing compares to being surrounded by a vivid sea of flowers—it's both magical and refreshing. Endless rows of tulips can be seen in the countryside just a short trip outside of the city.

The town of Lisse is home to a wide range of flower fields that create a rainbow sea of blooms visible from the quiet rural roads. Aside from the fields themselves, Lisse is known for Keukenhof Gardens, a popular tourist destination that boasts hundreds of diverse tulips and over than seven million bulbs in bloom. Luckily, it's easy to explore the Bollenstreek without the hassle of a tourist trap. Rent a bike or car to explore the many flower farms in the area and create your own tulip adventure! You can head out further to explore other cities along the flower route Hillegom, Leiden and Naaldwijk. We even stopped visited a road side stand selling freshly picked bundles for tulips for only €2 of the farms along the way and pick up fresh flowers at road side stalls or

Despite the grey, spring clouds (and perhaps a tiny King’s Day hangover), I set off by train to meet up with my friend and fellow photographer, Anouk, who happens to live in Lisse, the modern heart of tulip mania. Fortunately, Anouk frequents the rural backroads of Lisse and she knew exactly where to find the fields in bloom. From one farm to the next, we rode in awe of our vivid surroundings and pulled over once and a while to carefully explore the flowers up close and before hopping back in the to search for another. Anouk was kind enough to snap a few photos of me in the flowers which was extra special since I am usually the one behind the lens.

 Photo by Anouk Boetzer

Photo by Anouk Boetzer

Exploring with another photographer was relaxing in the sense that we share a mutual understanding when it comes to patience for finding the right light and an appreciation for how quickly all the different, delicate parts of a natural setting can change. Needless to say, wind and rain were a bit of a struggle while out in the fields but that didn't hold us back from crawling through the mud when needed. Of course, the moody overcast skies you see here eventually lead to rain and I found inspiration in the big, fat rain drops balancing perfectly on the delicate tulip petals and stalks. 

Time passed differently out in the tulip fields, perhaps because there were far less distractions than in the city. I could focus on the details, like how each individual flower aded to the bunch while still holding its own individual character. Visiting towards the end of tulip season we found many fields with fallen flowers, scattered in disarray. The sight was a reminder to appreciate the moment and bask in the fleeting beauty of nature.

Dutch flower farms don’t only grow tulips—there are growing seasons for daffodils, dahlias and so much more. The aromatic hyacinths were my favorite. Their sweet fragrance mixed with the scent of muddy earth and fresh rain create that perfect smell of spring. 

After trekking through a few fields, we settled down in Lisse's little city center for a tasty pizza before I headed back to Amsterdam by train with a box of of fresh hyascenth. Curious for more? You can see more outtakes from our tulip trip on my Instagram stories or join the conversation and visit this post on Instagram.

Amsterdam's Frozen Canals

Every winter, locals anticipate an icy spectacle and this year it finally happened. Amsterdam's canals FROZE! For those of you who may have missed it, the city turned into a real-life snow globe for the first time since 2012. What a majestic sight! 

Desipite feeling under the weather, I bundled up and ventured out to the Prinsengracht on Friday afternoon. To my delight, the canal was indeed frozen as skaters of all levels and brave explorers began filling the natural ice. At first, my intention was only to observe and snap photos, I hadn't planned to actually hop down onto the ice (natural ice is, no, was a huge fear of mine!) but this year I'm all about taking risks and trying new things so... 

I watched and waited to find a good point of entry where I, reluctant at first, slowly and steadily, slid down onto the ice from the bank of the canal. Anxious, for both myself and my camera, it took a few nervous minutes to catch my bearings. Once the ice felt stable, my slow steps turned into more confident strides and soon enough I was loving it. Suddenly, I'd stepped into another world where walking on water was a reality, it was magical!

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Wheeee! I can't believe I'm jumping for joy in the middle of a frozen canal!

A friendly stranger snapped the photo above and immersed in the moment, I did a gleeful, little hop in the air.  So, there you have it. Eight years and endless memories along with the Prinsengracht—from the countless boat ride to canal side picnics and our annual Gay Pride parade—but this was definitely one of the most remarkable moments in my Amsterdam history. This weekend, I feel even more in love with my adopted city. 

I was in the action for about half an hour before my fingers went numb and I headed off to my last meeting of the day... only to return again later in the evening.  By then, the frozen Prinsengracht had turned into a wild scene, complete with (frozen) boat parties, gluhwein and plenty of ice skaters. You're probably curious if people fell in. Well, of course, they did. However, that didn't dissuade the Dutch who love to skate, this was their moment to shine and on natural ice nonetheless!

I love living in a city where it's socially acceptable to take a spin on the frozen canals. In fact, the city helped make this happen by closing off the canals during our week long freeze to encourage ice formation. I was a bit shocked to find a few of the self-made gluhwein stands (pictured below) had not really thought through the idea of stretching an electrical extension cord over ice which is of course bound to melt at some point. 

Ready for more? I sure was! Thinking back at this weekend, I still can't believe that I stood in the middle of a frozen canal and had the courage to face the cold and go back for more. The following day, I returned to our belved canals with my friend Bert to catch the action. I'm glad we did because the ice began to melt later in the afternoon and by Sunday, our ice walking fantasy had melted into history. 

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Winter at Bloemendaal Beach

I have a confession to make: having grown up surrounded by Florida’s scenic, tropical shores, I hardly frequent Dutch beaches… not even during the summer. As a true sun-lover, it's sometimes hard to grasp how I've even managed to survive the cold Dutch climate for eight years and counting.  That said, I’d probably be crazy to visit the beach in the dead of winter. The way I see it, a beach trip without a bikini is blasphemy. Nonetheless, the beach is exactly where I ended up. Knowing that I’m never one to pass up a little adventure, my friends invited me for a walk along the shore and lured me with the promise of gezelligheid and a boozy, hot chocolate to warm up. With my scarf, mittens and my camera in tow, off we went on the train from Amsterdam to Zandvoort aan Zee. From there, we walked about four kilometers along the shore over to Bloemendaal.

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The beach was full of visitors walking their dogs and wind surfers in wet suits flying high before crashing into the waves. On dry land, the wind was cold enough to bring tears to my eyes and my fingers went numb more as soon as I could warm them. Even now, thinking of how cold that water must have been still makes me shudder!  

The moody overcast light, sea foam and misty horizon kept me entertained as I lagged behind our group, snapping photos and trying to adjust my camera settings with thick leather gloves on. Eventually, we arrived to the cafe for a well-deserved round of warm drinks and you can bet that I had my cocoa with an extra shot of bourbon and whipped cream. 

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With the company of good friends and enough thick layers (and whiskey) to keep me warm, this skeptic survived a winter visit to the beach. However, when I popped back outside to capture the sunset a burst of frozen wind blew and I swear, the tear froze to my face. That’s the moment when our beach visit had me begging for the warmer breezes of home.

Instead, I settled for a bubble bath back at my flat and made a resolution to visit the Dutch coast again some day. That is, if summer ever arrives—there's talk about the canals freezing over this year!

Exploring Marrakech—A feast for the senses

It's a cold, dreary Saturday here in Amsterdam, I'm peeking out the window to grey skies and the sound of fat raindrops hitting my window. It's hard to believe that just a month ago, I was hopping in a taxi at 4am with adventure on my mind and making my way to warm, sunny Morocco.

My destination was Marrakech, where I joined eleven other curious, creative freelance women from the Netherlands, France and South Africa. We met up for six days of exploring, eating, sharing and learning in the sunshine! 

Needless to say, since returning, I've often caught myself daydreaming of the colorful, flavorful moments we experienced—from visiting the gorgeous Jardin Marjorelle, to cooking traditional Moroccan tagine at our riad, exploring the chaotic medina. No trip to Morocco is complete without an awkward camel ride at sunset, right? We did that too! Our retreat was action packed so, I've got plenty of colorful photos and adventure stories share. Let's start by exploring the vibrant city of Marrakech...

 The rooftop view during our lunch at Nomad

The rooftop view during our lunch at Nomad

With chilly November in mind, I set out on this journey for inspiration because, let's be honest, winter drains my spirit and escaping for sunshine helps these darker months pass by. As someone who loves to travel and has organized countless of excursions abroad, I was apprehensive to let someone else take the reigns. However, with my over-packed work schedule lately, it turned out to be a blessing. All I had to do was pack and show up, ready to embrace new experiences. In the end, I got out of my comfort zone and everything worked out perfectly thanks to House of Notoire

This was my first visit to the North African country and the best way I can describe Marrakech is a feast for the senses. My expectations we far exceeded—detailed, geometric wood carvings, curvy archways, and colorful, tiled patterns were everywhere we looked. Spicy, earthy scents filled the air as we explored the twisting pathways of the medina with our local guide. 

The medina is the medieval, walled city center of Marrakech and it's a wild beast of its own. Upon first sight, you immediately feel the crazy, at times overwhelming energy— walking the tight alleyways of this clay-walled labyrinth is a feast for the senses. It's bustling with locals, feral, aggressive catcallers, persuasive merchants, bicycles, wagons, children running chasing footballs, and scooters stretching past. I gotta say, the worst parts of this trip were the disgusting creeps on the street and the pandemonium of the Jamaa el Fna market square. I could have done without either but it's a small price to pay for the incredible time we had everywhere else.  

Our riad, Zam Zam, was a short wander through the media and offered a secluded oasis in the midst of the chaotic, dusty city. During the first evening, we laughed and conversed in the courtyard while the smell of smokey incense and sweet oranges filled the air. Some of my favorite memories of the retreat came from the little moments, chatting about our dreams and challenges and soaking up the sun on the rooftop while setting new goals for 2018.

Aside from the obvious opportunity to explore Marrakech (my first time!), my next intention was to engage with other young, female entrepreneurs. I was excited to get to know the other cool, creative ladies and hear their stories. If you've followed this blog for a while, then you know that expat life has never been an easy path for me. After eight years in Amsterdam, I'm finally feeling settled but I’ve paid the price to watch a lot of great friends come and go due to the transient, expat flow of Amsterdam. At times, I’ve experienced an aching void when it comes to connecting with lady friends, cool chicks are hard to find! Needless to say, the wild energy of our group clicked from the start. Plus, the meisjes were graciously patient with my Dutch which, was really flowing on this trip! We quickly bonded and it was evident after just a few short days that strong sisterhood was budding. We were so goofy and comfortable around one another that it made it easy to be open and especially vulnerable during our boss lady workshops. I left Marrakech with recharged energy, inspired mind, and a full heart knowing that there are eleven, fabulous new ladies friends and countless inside jokes that still bring us to tears (Issa honey thing, okrrrrr!)

Curious for more? Check out my photography blog series for The Creative Women Collective: The Flavors of Morocco, Best Back Drop, The Power of Self Reflection and The Connective Power of Travel.

In the mean time, check out the lovely ladies behind House of Notoire, Creative Women Collective, Girls that Grub and Celmatique or take a peek at #honeysinmarrakech on Instagram.