Birthday staycation: Hotel Vondel

In the grand Paul-Plazo tradition of the birthday whisk, Marlon whisked me away to a top-secret location for my birthday weekend. Like all our previous birthday whisks, it was all a big secret until we pulled up in a taxi (he knows how to push my buttons, this husband) to the front door of the Hotel Vondel, right in the center of Amsterdam.

Like I said, Marlon knows how to push all my buttons. He knew very well that sleeping late in a cloud of white sheets, padding around in fluffy bathrobes and ordering in room service for our Top Chef Masters marathon would make me the happiest little birthday girl in Amsterdam. And he was right!

I loved our room on the top floor with its slanted roof and black shutters. It had a nice mix of coziness and luxury that was great for a weekend staycation.

The rest of the hotel was not bad either!

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Maternity style: Fall colors

I really regretted not taking more pictures outdoors last fall. So this year, I’ve made more of an effort. Amsterdam doesn’t have a whole kaleidoscope of autumn colors, but what it does have is this glorious yellow that’s everywhere at this time of year. I wish I knew what these trees were called!

I love looking out the window—or down at my feet, if I’m out—and seeing these rich shades of yellow. They’re a much-needed burst of happy brightness against Amsterdam’s persistent gray.

Fall colors are also seeping into my wardrobe—like this burgundy, tan and blue-gray outfit I wore to take visiting friends out to lunch last Sunday. I’m happy to say that all this stuff is still non-maternity! The striped t-shirt is from Uniqlo, the mullet skirt is from Forever 21, and the gold flats are from Jonak, a French shoe brand that I fell in love with on a trip to Paris last year. The burgundy tights are from American Apparel; one of the surprising advantages of being a short girl who wears a large size is that all of my regular tights are so long on me that they go up and over the baby bump. Yay.

And the knit turban… well, I made that myself! I saw a similar knotted headband being sold at the Westerpark Sunday Market for a whopping €42. It came with this whole song and dance about being handmade from 100% alpaca by grannies from Belgium. Okaaayyyy.

Using this super easy tutorial from Craft Snob, I made my own version for just €3.25 (the cost of half a ball of yarn). And it’s got its own exotic song and dance too. After all, it’s handmade from 100% Icelandic sheep’s wool by an expecting mother from the Third World. Beat that!

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First snow

Thanks to my obsessive monitoring of the weather reports (which are always accurate here), I was prepared for a cold snap this week—temperatures ranging from -15℃ to -1℃. It would be the first time this winter that temperatures dipped below zero. This meant that yes, it would be freezing, but we could also have snow and go ice skating on the canals.

On Monday morning, I woke up to this.

Nope, it wasn’t snow yet… only frost that had formed overnight. A teaser of things to come, this scratchy thin layer of ice soon melted away.

Today, it finally happened. As soon as the snow began to fall, a little before lunchtime, I went crazy monkey giddy. I was glued to the windows shrieking “Let’s go! Let’s go!” like a banshee on crack, forcing Marlon to call it an early lunch so we could get dressed and go out into the fast-falling whiteness. When we stepped out into our street, I learned the difference between frost and real snow.

 

The air outside felt completely different, not the normal heavy cold of the Dutch winter. It changed us into kids again. As you can tell, Marlon was really happy to be working from home today.

The street was completely deserted but for the two of us and a woman sprinkling salt on the road. We must have looked like lunatics to the neighbors. We couldn’t help it… it was our first real snow!

Click on through to enjoy this snowy day with us!

Right in front of our house was where Marlon and I made our first snowballs. The snow was fluffy and flaky, not at all compact. We forced it into snowballs anyway, and threw them at each other.

Then we decided to take a short walk around the neighborhood.

A Christmas gift from my sister from her stint in Norway, these boots were made for walking… in the snow. Thank you, Ate!

I thought people who’d left cars parked outside might probably be pissed to see their cars covered in snow. So I left a few smileys to cheer them up, just in case.

We walked down to the Stadionkade, the canal closest to our house. A thin layer of ice had formed, freezing boats into the canal. Everything was covered with white and looked so peaceful.

Marlon found a large branch, which he used to carve our initials into the canal. #sweet

We took portraits of each other with my beloved 50mm prime lens.

Snow as natural reflector = awesome lighting. 

This being Amsterdam, there were snow-covered bikes everywhere. They looked more magical and less utilitarian, thanks to a thick dusting of snow. 

Not all the bikes were left to gather snow. Nothing gets between the Dutch and their favorite form of transportation! The biking never stops here.

Everything I saw around me made me feel light, calm, free. It was a special time. I can’t describe how happy I felt, but I’ll always remember.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

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Around the Zuid

Yesterday was such a gorgeous day, full of sunshine and bright blue skies, which made it so much fun to do my errands. I put on a pair of hot pink socks and matching hot pink lipstick to go to the market, haha.

I did my market shopping last Monday and nearly half the stalls on Albert Cuyp were closed. Wednesday seems to be a much better day; the market was really bustling. I counted at least three more flower stalls which seems like a wonderful sign that spring is on the way.

One thing I love about this city is how the neighborhoods are so distinct. We apparently got a bargain on our flat, which is in a ritzy neighborhood (locals I’ve spoken to have used the words “ooh la la” and “chic”). When you cross the boundary of De Pijp, you know you’re in our area when you start seeing the real housewives of Amsterdam Zuid.

Taray ng lola mo!

After lunch I went to ABN Amro at the World Trade Center, which is a 10-minute walk from my house. It’s one of my favorite walks, especially crossing the river at Stadionkade behind my house. It looks like this on a normal gray day, but yesterday it was sunny so people were sitting out on the bridge chatting and reading.

Along the river I came across another fabulous old dame out for a walk in an ankle-length fur coat, leopard hat and giant pearl earrings. Taray! She caught me by surprise, else I would have taken her photo. 

The WTC is a big business area, all shiny and new. The metro station (which takes you further out of Amsterdam, as opposed to the tram system that runs within the city) is there as well, which is turning out to be really convenient for us. 

There are also buses direct to and from Schiphol airport.
As per usual, gorgeous design is everywhere. 

On the way there and back, my walk takes me through gorgeous Minervalaan. I can only imagine how stunning it will be in full bloom when spring comes. And the pollen these trees are sure to generate! I will need my asthma inhaler with me for sure.

The fact that it’s lined with actual houses, not apartments, with at least two cars per driveway (even spotted a few sports cars and vintage cars) tells me that this is Millionaire’s Row. At dito lang ako nakakakita ng mga Asian yayas pushing prams with European babies. Having full-time help here costs a bomb, and it’s not something I’ve seen in other neighborhoods. And yet the houses are so understated; there’s nary a cherub-topped fountain or Corinthian column in sight. 
Maybe I’ll take a walk again today :) 
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