So, tell me what you want (what you really, really want)

Before we set out to view apartments for sale in Amsterdam, I thought Marlon and I knew what we wanted. Our wish list included:

  • A minimum of 80 square meters—smaller than our current place, but not too small
  • Something special—period details such as original moldings or exposed beams
  • Ground floor or first floor, max
  • Two bedrooms—one for us, one for the baby (plus a possible future kid)
  • A bathtub and a back yard would be nice, at least a balcony will do
  • An open kitchen

It turned out that we had only the vaguest idea. Our broker (who specializes in expat rentals, but gamely took us on) easily stumped us by asking questions like: “If you were to rank your criteria, what would be your top three considerations and why?” Cue long and puzzled silence.

That’s why our first “housing tour”, as they call it here, was so important. Each of the six apartments we saw was like a date, or a mini-relationship. Each clued us into a little piece of what we wanted and didn’t want—which, like love and many other things in life, are tedious but necessary steps that eventually lead to The One.

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Maternity style: Month 4

September—weeks 12 through 16 of my pregnancy—has been exciting because I’ve started to see more “proof” that I’m actually pregnant. I know that sounds weird (the pregnancy test and two ultrasound scans weren’t enough?) but I’ve had such a smooth pregnancy, I do sometimes forget that I’m pregnant. Well, the fog of unreality has cleared, thanks to two thrilling developments.

One: I’ve started to feel the baby move! The first time was at week 14, while sitting at the dining table talking to Marlon late one evening. I suddenly felt this subtle, unusual fluttering at the very bottom of my belly. It went on for about 10 minutes and was so unlike everything I’d ever felt… and I cried. The movements—which also felt like soft little taps on the inside of my belly, or like speeding downhill in a fast car—started to get more regular through the next week, but I could only really feel them if I sat or lay down quietly.

Now I can feel the baby move a little bit every day, sometimes even while I’m out and about. It’s a wonderful feeling, and when it happens, everything else just goes quiet for me. I can’t wait for the movements to get stronger so Marlon can feel them too.

Second: I now have a little bump! I find it so thrilling because I want to be showing already… I want to have a good excuse to have a big tummy! It’s not huge (heck, heavy meals have given me a bigger belly many times in the past), but it’s exciting because now I get to start dressing the bump.

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Let’s do brunch in… London

Oh, London… so near, yet so far. London is one of those major destinations that I wonder if I’ll ever get to visit while living in Europe. Though it’s just 45 minutes from Amsterdam by plane, getting a UK visa entails a trip to Dusseldorf (yes, in Germany!)… which is an even bigger hassle than applying for a visa to the US.

So, until the visa process gets easier (which, for a Philippine passport holder, will be… never) or I have a compelling reason to go, I satisfy my wanderlust for London through the sharp, discerning eyes of one Tina Bernstein, who blogs at Colourliving. A property curator living in London, Tina’s passion for the city, for creativity and for cosmopolitan living (and of course, for color!) shines through loud and clear in her blog.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tina at The Hive Berlin last May; since then, I turn to Colourliving when I want a break from the precious, pretty, pastel and perfectly styled imagery that sometimes floods the blogosphere. This week, she takes us to London for brunch—and in true Tina style, chooses a spot that’s refreshingly real and full of urban character.

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House hunt: Choosing a neighborhood

Buying an apartment in Amsterdam has given Marlon and myself a lot to think about. I’d like to think we know much more about life here than when when we first went house-hunting, nearly two years ago. Plus, buying is so much more complex than renting. So I decided that before showing you some of the places we’ve seen, I’d share some of the peculiarities of house hunting in Amsterdam to give you an insight into life here.

The first thing I wanted to share is, to me, the most striking difference in looking for an apartment here versus the two cities I lived in previously. And that is how much impact choosing a neighborhood has on your decision.

In Manila, your neighborhood is determined pretty much determined for you by budget and commute time. For example, as a prospective Pasig resident, you might love the feel of Valle Verde… but only really have the budget for Barangay Bagong Ilog (lol). Reducing the amount of time you spend sitting in traffic is also a major concern, so proximity to a school or workplace usually seals the deal.

In Singapore, the neighborhood hardly matters as everything feels so.. alike. With very few exceptions, you will find the same HDB flats and condos, the same malls with the same shops, the same infrastructure everywhere. That’s why it’s so easy to just settle in. The sameness eliminates the guesswork about what is the right or wrong neighborhood.

Even people I know who lived in Geylang (the “red light district”) had a cushy condo just minutes from an MRT station. The area you live in hardly comes into play unless you’re trying to get your kids into a certain school or achieve a certain status. When we were looking for a condo in Singapore, our decisions never hinged on how Yio Chu Kang “felt” versus, say, Novena. Character is just not a factor.

In Amsterdam, the first question I’m usually asked by friends I’ve told about our decision to buy is, “Where are you looking?”

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IJburg: A different Amsterdam

Inside Design Amsterdam was held in IJburg, which I’ve always wanted to explore. As far as Amsterdam neighborhoods go, IJburg is completely different from anything in the city.

For starters, IJburg is the only neighborhood that sits in a lake, the IJmeer (eye-meer), and was constructed atop reclaimed land—on six man-made islands of dredged-up sand, to be exact. More importantly, and what makes it unique in a city with medieval roots, IJburg is new. Bright, shiny and new. This neighborhood came to life when the first buildings were completed in 2001, and construction is still ongoing on its second phase.

I first visited IJburg to investigate the city beach known as Blijburg… and was sorely disappointed. That experience didn’t endear IJburg to me at all. But Inside Design Amsterdam (with the help of sunshine and blue skies) changed that. Suddenly, IJburg looked… appealing.

Steigereiland apartments

Stepping into this part of Steigereiland felt like finding myself in an architectural rendering.

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