Orange fever: King’s Day in Amsterdam

“Mama, why am I wearing a crown and every single piece of orange clothing in my wardrobe?”

Tala's first King's Day in Amsterdam

Anak, that’s because it’s King’s Day!”

“What’s King’s Day?”

“King’s Day is the Netherlands’ biggest holiday, celebrating the birthday of King Willem-Alexander. Because the Netherlands had many, many queens before King Willem-Alexander was crowned last year, this will be the first King’s Day in 123 years!”

Amsterdam King's Day boats on Prinsengracht

Amsterdam King's Day boats on Brouwersgracht

Amsterdam King's Day houseboat party

“On King’s Day, everyone wears orange, the color of the House of Oranje-Nassau, the Dutch royal family. In Amsterdam, the whole city turns into one big street party—maybe even the biggest street party in the world. Everyone parties in the streets, or in boats on the canals. It’s pretty awesome.”

“Ah. Now I get the orange outfit. Tell me more, Mama!”

[Read more…]

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Market day

Our little family is beginning to find its rhythm on the weekends. Mornings are slow and lazy, with everyone—including Rogue!—staying in bed for Tala’s first feed at around 7 or 8 a.m. After we have breakfast and coffee in bed, Marlon gets to do what he’s been itching to do all week: cuddle Tala and play with her while she’s still adorably fresh (read: not fussy or tired).

This frees me up for an hour or so of me time, in which I go back to sleep, enjoy a long hot shower, or take my sweet, sweet time getting ready to go out. Going back and forth over what to wear (not that my nursing-friendly wardrobe leaves me with a lot of options), blow-drying my hair, putting on eyeliner—all of that really relaxes me. Never underestimate the therapeutic power of clothes and makeup!

Then we head out for lunch and a walk, with Tala falling asleep in the stroller. I love exploring our new neighborhood and finding new things to enjoy. This week, we found the perfect chai tea latte and carrot cake at Small World Catering, a deli style shop and tiny (often packed) cafe on a street corner in the Jordaan…

Chai and carrot cake

… which we enjoyed in a rare seat in the sunshine, always a tough thing to find on a beautiful spring day. Tala graciously let us finish lunch and dessert before demanding her own meal. Look ma, no nursing covers!

Sitting in the sunshine

Then we strolled down one of the prettiest canals in Amsterdam to the Lindenmarkt, which runs just behind the popular Noordermarkt. While the former is more of a regular neighborhood market, the latter is a farmer’s market with organic and specialty items.

Lindenmarkt tulips and cheese

 

Aside from being open on Saturdays, both markets have another thing in common: an abundance of tulips and cheese. How very Dutch indeed!

How was your weekend?

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Exploring the Jordaan

Full term and 37 weeks today! At this point I’m in serious nesting mode, reluctant to leave home unless absolutely necessary—kind of like how mama cats hole up in a dark corner before giving birth. With Little Mango heavy in my belly (2.6 kilos, or 5.7 pounds!), walking is becoming uncomfortable and tires me out easily.

This is why it’s been hard to find the energy to explore our new surroundings. It’s a bit of a shame, because I was so excited to move here! Not only is our new ‘hood Westerpark diverse and interesting in itself, it’s also just off the Jordaan, one of Amsterdam’s most picturesque, charming neighborhoods.

I practically have to force myself to get out of the house for short weekend strolls. I don’t always succeed! But when I do, I end up wide-eyed and delighted. I become a tourist all over again… or maybe I never stopped being one.

Jordaan red shutters

For example, just minutes from our doorstep lies what I think is one of Amsterdam’s prettiest canals: Brouwersgracht.

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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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Amsterdam’s front door gardens

Living in Amsterdam, it helps to have a short memory. That way it only takes a day or two of warmth and sunshine to forget three weeks of drizzle and gray. When the sun is out, all is forgiven and everything is transformed. Over the weekend, I spent some much-needed time in the sun and rediscovered some of the little things I love about living in Amsterdam.

Front door gardens are one of them. Flowers are abundant and cheap in the Netherlands, but growing your own flowers is how locals get them even cheaper. Apartment living doesn’t stop Amsterdammers from gardening; thus the presence of gorgeous blooms on doorsteps, where they have the best chance of catching the sunshine they need.

StepsFlower pots Purple

It’s June and all the front door gardens are in full bloom. A walk around the Jordaan shows an abundance of bright green spilling over gates…

Green

… of colors cascading over doors, and roses tumbling down over windows.

Cascades

Where does your garden grow? Out of brick walls, crates, buckets… even old wooden shoes, apparently.

Hanging on brick walls

I have a despicably black thumb (Paisley Parsley, Alexander Coriander and Rosemary Gil all died prematurely), but my weekend walk inspired me to give gardening another try. Have you had any success growing plants at home? Any tips for a newbie apartment gardener?

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