Autumn on the Dutch dunes: Wijk aan Zee

It’s a Saturday morning in the Netherlands. It’s November and all of 4 degrees Celsius outside, but at least the sun is out. What is there to do?

Go to the beach, of course!

Autumn on the Dutch dunes Wijk aan Zee

On a Saturday morning like the one I’ve just described, we bundled up in full winter gear and headed out to Wijk aan Zee, a small, pretty town tucked into the Dutch dunes on the North Sea.

Cycling on the Dutch dunes Wijk aan Zee

That I can even conceive of this as an enjoyable activity is a testament to how far I’ve come since I moved to the Netherlands almost four years ago.

I arrived here a die-hard beach snob. Coming from a tropical country with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Philippine beaches—their white sands, warm turquoise waters, stunning sunsets and perfect weather—had spoiled me rotten.

Looking around for the nearest beach to sustain me, I turned to the North Sea—and was less than inspired by what I found.

Walk on the beach Wijk aan Zee

I almost froze to death on my first trip to Texel, one of a chain of islands so far north it was practically nudging Denmark. I wrinkled my nose at the frigid, muddy-brown waters of Zandvoort, Bloemendaal, and the towns along the Dutch coast who all shared the same last name “aan zee”. (Although I had to admit the Dutch dunes were pretty.) Den Haag’s Scheveningen was mobbed and frenetic. And the city beaches of Amsterdam depressed me outright.

So what was a sun-starved, beach-loving tropical girl to do? Live with it. Tolerate it. Make do with what I had.

But somewhere along the way, something strange happened. I fell in love.

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Instagramsterdam: October

Instagram Amsterdam October fall

What I will remember about October:

Long walks in Westerpark with Tala in the crisp air and changing colors of fall.

A turning point in my career—taking on new jobs from local clients that kept me busy the whole month, making little breaks such as coffee with a friend even sweeter.

The gloom of misty mornings and rainy days pushed away by sudden bursts of sunshine and blue skies.

Turning 33, of course.

Did I mention those fall colors? They’re worth mentioning again.

November means longer nights, cozy cuddles on the couch, and buckling up for the arrival of winter. But for now, let me enjoy these fall pleasures while they last.

Instagramsterdam is a blog series rounding up my favorite Instagram posts about Amsterdam every month. For me, it’s a way to appreciate the little things I enjoy about living in Amsterdam, and to embrace my adopted city a little bit more.

If you haven’t yet, come FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM

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Instagramsterdam: September

Wait, what? September’s over already???

Instagramsterdam September 2014

Seems like I wasn’t here for much of September, no? Here meaning both Amsterdam and the blog.

After Tuscany I took an unintended blog break to get life back on track. I worked a lot on my career and it really paid off. I got my second Dutch client… and it’s a big one. (I popped open a bottle of Heineken to celebrate, wink wink!) Right now I’m working my butt off to make sure that they’ll want a repeat performance from me. Ah, the life of a freelancer. Wish me luck!

There’s so much about Tuscany that I still want to share. At the same time, I have a backlog of posts about life here at home that’s growing longer and longer as well. Life is pulling me offline, and I’m so glad you don’t hate me for it.

Glimpses of daily life in Amsterdam continue on Instagram. This week, you can get a double dose of me as I’m on Day 3 of my takeover of the @sisterMAG Instagram feed. It’s been a lot of fun and a bit challenging too, thinking for a different audience.

I’ll be back soon with my little (blog) hoard of Tuscan treasures. See you in a bit!

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Autumn in Westerpark

Temperatures in the low single digits, days that aren’t just gray but also dark and gloomy, and sunsets that come all too soon at 4:30 in the afternoon. Winter is coming? Nope, it looks like winter is here.

And just when I started running, too. I started a couch to 10k running program with the hope that it would be kinder to my body than the HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts I loved before I got pregnant. I only managed it twice a week, and my current level of fitness requires a lot more walking and jogging than actual running, but I was really starting to get into it.

I found pushing my body into motion in the crisp autumn air to be calming and therapeutic. Clearing my mind with exercise became even more important last week, to break the cycle of frustration, outrage, helplessness and sorrow that arose from being glued to the news of Typhoon Yolanda’s aftermath.

Whenever I would reach a saturation point, I would unplug, get moving, recharge. And one unusually sunny morning, I took the camera with me to document the last of these fleeting autumn colors.

Amsterdam Westerpark autumn sunshine

Amsterdam Westerpark autumn leaves turning

These gorgeous yellows won’t last for long, and I want to hug them to myself for just a little while longer. The elm tree outside our window is already bare.

Amsterdam Westerpark autumn red and yellow leaves

Amsterdam Westerpark autumn yellow leaves

I just need to hang on for a few more weeks until we go home for our annual dose of sunshine.

Amsterdam Westerpark autumn trees

Till then, I need to find things to embrace about winter, and say my farewells to fall. Goodbye, autumn! You were short, but you tried your best to blaze bright and beautiful when you could. See you next year.

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Fall colors on Instagram

Can you tell I really didn’t want to leave Greece behind? All those blog posts were my way of coping with the end of summer and of our Greek adventures. But fall is, and has been for some time now, really and truly here.

Much as I love summer, fall has its own pleasures. Those first few days of a change in the air, that crisp, cold summer air that made me want to breathe in deep lungfuls of it. Leather jackets and long knit cardigans, not to mention the dark tights that are so flattering to short, curvy ladies such as yours truly. Evenings with warm bubble baths, fluffy bathrobes, and full-bodied, smoky red wine.

And of course, the colors, which I’ve been documenting on Instagram.

Amsterdam fall on Instagram

There are not a lot of striking fall colors in Amsterdam, which makes the beautiful bright yellow of the elms so special. Amsterdam is filled with elm trees, particularly lining canals like ours. Seeing the yellow of fall reminds me of this same time last year, when we first fell in love with our home and our neighborhood.

Gray is another Amsterdam fall color—and much as I love gray, seeing it everywhere for weeks is not fun. It’s not the deep, velvety gray of gathering storm clouds, it’s just a sullen, flat gray, endless and kind of depressing. Ugh. On to happier thoughts.

I’ve come to associate fall with a time to buckle down and get to work. With the weather forcing lots of indoor time, it’s a season for starting creative projects, looking inward and focusing on home and family. This fall, I’ve taken up Dutch language classes again and signed up for a couple of cool classes on Skillshare.

I’m also working on plans for this blog, so stay tuned. And if you haven’t yet, come follow me on Instagram for more fall colors and other bits of everyday life in Amsterdam.

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