Amsterdam bound!

I am finally making good on a long-held promise to myself and taking a solo trip to Amsterdam, Bruges, and Brussels! I’m looking forward to checking out the art museums, sitting in canalside bruin cafes to read and journal and people-watch, and riding a bike through through the Dutch countryside and along the backstreets of Bruges. First stop is Amsterdam for six days, which I hope will be long enough to settle into my comfy Airbnb abode near the Jordaan and pretend I live there. That way I can see and experience what I want without having to rush around too much.

Amsterdam by Frank Frambach - My Shot - 2010-03-11Photo by Frank Frambach/My Shot, National Geographic

To get myself in mind for the journey, I’ve been studying Fodor’s Amsterdam and Rick Steves’ Amsterdam Bruges & Brussels, and incessantly watching Rick Steves’ videos in the Netherlands and Belgium. The following posts have gotten me giddy too—I can’t wait to check out these places for myself.

National Geographic Traveler’s “I Heart My City: Keith’s Amsterdam” by Keith Jenkins of Velvet Escape

My favorite jogging/walking route is along the entire length of the Keizersgracht—my favorite canal. It’s an excellent walking route through the heart of the city center, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Start at the canal’s intersection with the Brouwersgracht. You’ll pass the wonderfully atmospheric Jordaan neighborhood, the shopping haven in the Nine Streets neighborhood and many stately houses before reaching the Amstel River. I can also recommend the route along the Amstel River to Ouderkerk. As you leave the city behind you, you’ll pass beautiful windmills, grazing cows and sheep, and historic mansions. [Note: Keith’s “Cycling Route North of Amsterdam” has me equally convinced that I need to hop on a bike and pedal out of the city too; the weather’s supposed to be in the gorgeous low 70s F/low 20s C.]

When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to my favorite neighborhood restaurant: Eten aan de Rijn. I love to cook but I enjoy eating out just as much. Eten aan de Rijn has a daily three-course menu for 25 euros. Excellent food and the owners Jaap and Nadja are great company!

The FEBO, a Dutch institution, is the spot for late-night eats. It’s a quirky experience as you eat ‘out of a wall’ but you have to try it!

• Fathom – Way to Go’s “Just Back from: Amsterdam” by Scott Rosen and Laura Siciliano-Rosen of Eat Your World

eat your world canal at twilight

What did you do?
Scott: For five days we covered the city on foot and bicycle, eating, drinking local beer, and photographing the beautiful architecture and scenery. It was great to get lost and wander, marveling at the houseboats along the canals, wondering who the hell lives in there. We also took a day trip by bike to a nearby village.
Laura: We rented a sweet, two-level apartment in the gorgeous Jordaan neighborhood. We made a food map based on loads of pre-trip research, so we truly did a lot of eating. Between meals we wandered the city strolling canals, taking lots of pictures, drinking beer, visiting the occasional coffee shop. We went to the big museums (Anne Frank, Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum) and shopped and snacked at the best markets (Albert Cuypmarkt, Saturday/Monday Noordemarkt). On our last day, we finally made like locals and rented bikes, which we took past the windmills and farms to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, about 12 km south of A’dam.

What was the best tip you got before you left? And where did you find it?
Scott: We heavily researched the city for food, accommodations, and nightlife options, so were very prepared. But our best tip came from a friend-of-a-friend (and former Amsterdam resident) who told us to go to a very special restaurant we would not have found on our own.
Laura: Restaurant Utrechtsedwarstafel! Seasonal food from a daily changing menu, wine pairings with every new dish, and a table-side visit from the chef and sommelier to describe each course. The host was surprised we foreigners had found it, as most of their business is by word of mouth.

eat your world amsterdam bike ride

Speed round of favorites.
3. Site/place/thing you did:
Scott: Bike riding through the city at night.
Laura: A bike ride out of the city is a must.

4. Cafe/casual hangout:
Laura: Café Winkel in the Jordaan was our morning hangout, with great coffee and the best appeltaart in town. At night, it was Café ’t Arendsnest, where we spent a lot of time exploring the amazing selection of Dutch craft beers.

• A Cup of Jo’s “Crazy News: We’re Going to Amsterdam!” (for the locals’ tips in the comments section) and “Vacation Photos: Amsterdam” (for the fun narrative) by Joanna Goddard

de kas amsterdam bikesde kas champagne flutes amsterdam

“One night, as a special treat, we went to dinner at De Kas, an award-winning restaurant in a greenhouse, where we had one of the best meals of our lives. I loved that people still rode their bikes, even though it was a super fancy place.” [Note: Suffice to say, given all the positive press I’ve read about this place, I booked my reservation three months ago.]

For A’dam eats I also referred to Mark Bittman’s two—I hope not too dated—articles for The New York Times: “Eating Out in Amsterdam: Way Beyond Herring” (January 20, 2012) and “Choice Tables: In Amsterdam, Mediterranean-Style Holds Sway” (September 15, 2002).

I can hardly wait. Every year I travel both in the U.S. and internationally with family or close friends, but I haven’t taken a vacation abroad by myself in 10+ years and I miss it! It’s exhilarating and empowering to be able to do what you want, went you want, and step outside your day-to-day bubble for a bit.

(Photos: Canal at dusk and bike riding along the Amstel via Fathom via Eat Your World: Amsterdam; De Kas bike parking and Champagne flutes via A Cup of Jo)

The 7 Questions That Tell You Who You Are

Now that’s a list of questions tailor-made for deeply introspective types! I may have to use some of them as journal prompts.

Thought Catalog

Many of the answers we’re seeking are answers we already have. We just don’t know how to access them. Understanding who you are isn’t something you stumble upon one day. It’s embedded within you; you just have to be vulnerable long enough to uncover it. Your everyday actions are shouting what you may not be conscious of.

1. What would you do with your life if you didn’t have to pay the bills? If money weren’t an issue, what would you do with your days? Would you write? Read? Sing? Whatever it is, you have to do that thing. Money is an interesting phenomenon that completely controls our everyday lives without having any purpose other than sustainability in the form of purchasing from others what we could produce and create right in our own backyards. Consider that when you’re deciding between a soulless job that will make you rich versus…

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How to dress in Florence, Italy

Tell it: “Even the bus drivers look like walking magazine covers with Ray-Ban sunglasses and fitted pants.” I do think we can feel better about ourselves when we make the extra effort on our own behalf and see to the details. Also, in case you were curious about Orkin’s “American Girl,” who would now be 85:

Girl in Florence

I love this photo. I like it so much that I bought it for myself, my dad and pretty much anyone who likes anything in black & white. The enigmatic appeal of the American girl in Italy. One has to look at a photo like this and say, wow – those Italians were so elegant.

Well, pretty much they still are except for the occasional shiny silver sneaker and black puffy trash bag jacket. While I personally wouldn’t describe Italians as ‘trendy’ since I think people tend to stick to what’s safe (with obvious super fashionable exceptions and many being the younger crowd), I would reason that people tend not to leave the house sporting shower shoes and wearing their favorite Nike t-shirt.  Oh no, the bella figura would have none of that (though don’t get confused and think it means purely your image..)

To quote Eyeitalia:

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McKellen and Stewart at the Berkeley Rep

Managed to snag tix to the sold-out run of No Man’s Land at the Berkeley Rep after the theater released some seats Friday afternoon. Three seconds after word went out on Facebook and Twitter, I jumped on the horn—screw trying to get through on the website! By the time I got through to a live person, there was literally one ticket left that hadn’t already been placed in someone’s online cart. So I snatched it up! Row E, a bit pricey for me, but stellar view. And the experience was bound to be epic.

After the show…

Ian McKellen Berkeley Rep No Man's Land

Look, look! It’s Sir Ian McKellen! Of course I can’t help grinning like a foo.

Patrick Stewart Berkeley Rep

Charles Xavier…er, Sir Patrick Stewart.

Several times during the performance, I had to pinch myself and be like, I cannot believe I am watching these two thespians live onstage.  My mind would flash to images of Gandalf and the Balrog, Magneto and Jean-Luc Picard, Richard III and The Merchant of Venice before audience laughter pulled me back into my seat.

Ian McKellen No Man's Land Berkeley Rep

Made my decade.

P.S. Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen’s friendship is the best friendship in the world.

The Founding Fathers were young

The Founding Fathers were basically teenagers. That’s what Joanna Goddard wrote in her weekly roundup of fun reads, which included the intriguing’s post “The surprising ages of the Founding Fathers on July 4, 1776.” At the thought of it Jason Kottke was like,

“This is kind of blowing my mind…because of the compression of history, I’d always assumed all these people were around the same age. But in thinking about it, all startups need young people…Hamilton, Lafayette, and Burr were perhaps the Gates, Jobs, and Zuckerberg of the War.”

That Aaron Burr was only 20 and Alexander Hamilton 21 at the time caught my eye immediately. At first I thought they could have both been ambitious, impetuous early-20-somethings who were possibly hot-headed enough to have engaged in that famous duel, but I then realized it didn’t take place until 28 years later, in 1804. Of course, in the ensuing time they came to despise each other anyway.

Just to show how my mind turns, at the mention of Aaron Burr I immediately thought of that famous original “Got Milk?” commercial, circa 1993.

Did you know that commercial was directed by Michael Bay? And the hapless history buff was played by Sean Whalen, who also played Drew Barrymore’s dorky assistant, Merkin, in the movie Never Been Kissed. (Doesn’t it drive you nuts when you know you’ve seen an actor elsewhere but can’t pin down where?)

Luchie’s “Introversion” comic

In my 20s I used to beat myself up for not being more “like other people” who liked to party and go clubbing and were masters at chatting people up and making friends—in other words, like extroverts. To this day I never fully realize what a relief it is to find validation of my experience as a reserved, deeply introverted person until I see it expressed by other people, in books or art or some other medium. That’s why I like the excerpts below from the comic “Introversion” by Luchie, who lives in Brussels, Belgium (comics capital of the world!). No matter how introverts like me may crave solitude, we still want to feel a connection that lets us we are not alone.

luchie - introversionluchie - introvert's day 2

Luchie printed a limited run of her “Introversion” comic in booklet form that launched today and quickly sold out! She’s planning another run shortly. In the meantime, you can also buy her Society6 print modified from the panels above.