Westerpark Amsterdam: Fall colors in the city

Fall leaves Westergasfabriek Amsterdam

One thing I’ve realized about fall in Amsterdam: it goes from ‘picturesque’ to ‘miserable’ quicker than you think. Looking out my window as I write, the trees lining our canal are almost bare. I stop and ask myself: have I made the most of this beautiful yet fleeting time?

I’d like to think I have. I’ve got pictures to prove it, and a certain pigtailed little girl to thank.

Mirakelbrug Westerpark Amsterdam

With an increasingly mobile toddler who gets restless being cooped up at home, long walks in Westerpark Amsterdam have become a staple in our routine. I hardly ever use a stroller; I take Tala on my bike, or strap her into a tricycle I bought secondhand (her feet can’t reach the pedals yet). Our walks have been great for our bonding, and on some days, essential to my sanity.

Autumn turns to winter swiftly here. Now I can’t go out coatless and just in sneakers anymore. In a matter of days, the grass in Westerpark went from littered with fallen leaves…

Fall leaves on green grass Westerpark Amsterdam

to thickly carpeted with them.

Gorgeous fall leaves at Westerpark Amsterdam

As a Manila-born and bred Filipina living in the Netherlands, fall is still fresh and magical to me. Forget my daughter… I wanted to roll and play in the autumn leaves myself!

Tala doesn’t quite share my enthusiasm for the magic of autumn. That’s okay; I think I have enough for both of us.

Fall don't care Westerpark Amsterdam

We’ve tried setting her on the ground among the leaves to see if she would go wild and just roll around in the leaves or something. Nope. Mostly she just wants to cling to Daddy.

Playing with fall leaves Westerpark Amsterdam

What she does love about Westerpark, regardless of the season: feeding the pigeons, seagulls and ducks. Fall simply brings us this dreamy light, and creates the atmosphere of sunset even if it’s early in the afternoon.

Feeding the ducks Westerpark Amsterdam

The first time Marlon gave Tala a few crumbs of stale bread for the birds, she immediately popped it into her own mouth. Oops! Now she knows a little better, although the crumbs don’t always make it into the water. But she loves it when the birds swarm around her to peck at the crumbs by her feet.

Feeding ducks at Westerpark Amsterdam

She also loves the little playground by the pond. It has three sand pits, but they’re usually too damp and cold to play in. She loves the bouncy horse…

Westerpark Amsterdam playground bouncy horse

and she’s crazy about the slide, especially since she’s learned how to slide down by herself. Yes, she goes down the slide by herself, at 1.5 years old. No, we are not irresponsible parents. Besides, she still needs our help to go up!

Westerpark Amsterdam playground

This is just daily life in Amsterdam for us. But this is also one of those myriad little ways that having a child can change your life. If it was totally up to me, I’d spend all those chilly autumn mornings curled in a blanket on the couch, reading a book.

Without Tala dragging me out into the world, this lazy mom would have missed the transformation of fall as it happened bit by bit, day by day, right in my own back yard. And now that it’s almost all done, I’m so glad I got to watch it unfold.

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Amsterdam with kids: Westerpark kinderbadje

You know what’s a godsend for people in Amsterdam with kids? The kinderbadje at Westerpark, that’s what!

Westerpark kinderbadje Amsterdam with kids

Thanks to last weekend’s spectacular sunshine, we’ve practically been living at the Westerpark kinderbadje, or paddling pool, these last few days. It’s a wonder we haven’t grown webbing between our toes. Now that many of my friends and I have kids, it’s harder to get together for a picnic on a sunny day. I blame the paddling pools—it’s almost impossible to tear friends away from their neighborhood kinderbadje.

Amsterdam with kids kinderbadje Westerpark

Naturally, I think the one in our neighborhood is the coolest. A few reasons why:

  • Water is changed daily, and contains no chemicals because it’s recycled to irrigate the greenery in the park. Clean and green!
  • A grassy, sunny slope right next to the pool is perfect for sunbathing and picnics.
  • Right around the corner from cakewood-fired pizzaquality coffee (they have flat whites!), even mussels and gin & tonics. Not that babies should have coffee or gin and tonics, but hey, we parents need to get through the day somehow.
  • Ice cream! How can you not end a summer day at the pool with ice cream? Just steps away, Ijscuypje also makes sorbet milkshakes with rum—strictly for Mama and Papa, of course.

It was Tala’s first time at the pool last Friday, and this certified water baby is hooked. She loves crawling on her hands and feet in the shallows…

Tala crawling in the pool Westerpark

then taking great shaky strides with one hand with a death grip on Mama, the other splashing in the water.

Amsterdam with kids Tala at the baby pool Westerpark

She’s most fascinated by older kids, squealing in delight (perhaps even envy) when she sees them swim, splash and run. I’m hoping it inspires her to get up on her own two feet and run after them… or am I?

Amsterdam with kids after paddling Westerpark

These pictures of Tala at the kinderbadje were enough to get Papa to pack up and leave the office at 3:30 p.m. on a Friday. Thankfully, this is the Netherlands, where doing so is considered totally normal on a warm day. Marlon wasn’t the only dad in his office clothes at the pool, I can tell you that.

Amsterdam with kids bike ride in Westerpark

Having Tala is making me rediscover my city in a whole new way—call it Amsterdam 2.0, or Amsterdam with kids. With her chubby little hand in mine and the sun on our faces, I can’t wait to experience more.

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Rollende Keukens, Amsterdam’s food truck festival

Rollende Keukens 2014 Amsterdam tosti camper van

If there’s a time of year that makes me glad we live in Westerpark, it’s every last weekend of May. That’s when over a hundred food trucks roll into our neighborhood for Rollende Keukens, Amsterdam’s very own food truck festival.

From 20 “rolling kitchens” in 2008, Rollende Keukens has grown bigger, better and yummier every year. This year’s festival was an extended five-day foodie extravaganza with 130 food trucks featuring both tried-and-tested Dutch favorites and cuisines from all over the world.

Rollende Keukens 2014 Amsterdam tortilla truck

Westerpark becomes packed to bursting with people from all walks of life: kids and toddlers squealing on the Ferris wheel, and crusty old men living out their rockstar dreams—or reliving their rock n’ roll pasts, who knows?—on the live music stages dotting the festival; trendy hipsters and young families (and that special hybrid, trendy young hipster families); the ever-practical Dutchies who stock up on cheaper drinks at the nearest Albert Heijn before coming, and Amsterdam expats seeking a taste of home.

Rollende Keukens 2014 Amsterdam sweet dreams are made of cheese

There’s something for everyone at Rollende Keukens, whether it’s simple Dutch fare like grilled cheese tostis and kroketten presented in a fun, creative way, or flavors from a dozen different countries and cultures.

If you don’t enjoy the food, which is highly unlikely, you’re sure to enjoy that untranslatable Dutch gezelligheid—a feeling of belonging and fun that comes from being in the right place with the right company. I know I do.

Rollende Keukens 2014 Amsterdam

With all this food truck fun just around the corner from our house, it was so easy to stop by every day for a quick bite. Here are my foodie favorites from this year’s edition of Rollende Keukens.

[Read more…]

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Meanwhile, back in Amsterdam…

As you can probably tell from the last few blog posts, being home in Philippines stuck with me for a while. Blogging about Manila, El Nido and my family helped me extend the experience just a little bit longer.

I might’ve been somewhere else mentally and emotionally, but in reality, life goes on here in Amsterdam. And it hasn’t been so bad. The Dutch have been complaining about this “non-winter” (hardly any days dipping below 0ºC, and no snow) but I like it—it’s made the transition back from the tropics easier.

Here’s what we’ve been up to at home over the last few weeks.

Dam Square Amsterdam National Tulip Day

To celebrate the start of the tulip season, Dam Square became a pick-your-own tulip garden for a day—specifically, on National Tulip Day. It was a bit touristy for my taste and we came too late, but it was fun seeing something a bit fresher and greener than the usual living statues and street performers on Dam Square.

Cafe Tabac Amsterdam coffee and tulips

Tulips are indeed starting to pop up all around the city. It will take another month or two until they grow big, bold and bright, but right now they are a welcome pop of color in this dreary winter.

Taschen winter sale

Another mid-winter perk-me-up: sales! Many stores go on sale to start creating space for new spring inventory. After Manila, I declared a shopping moratorium on clothes for Mommy and baby… but not on books!

Taschen books winter sale

Cologne-based publishing house Taschen is one of my favorite publishers. I can’t get enough of their beautiful and affordable books on design, architecture, film, art, culture and fashion. So I couldn’t resist hitting up their mid-winter sale for some seriously discounted books! I’ll share my loot in another post.

Bloody Mary Bennys and Marys pop-up brunch Amsterdam

Getting back to our regular routines has made life easier and more comfortable. But on weekends, I love to find a little something out of the ordinary, like a new pop-up brunch… and a wickedly good Bloody Mary.

Speaking of pop-ups, a city icon popped up right in our backyard!

iAmsterdam Westergasfabriek

There’s a permanent Iamsterdam sign at Museumplein, but there also seems to be a traveling one. This one came to our neighborhood park together with Amsterdam Fashion Week.


iAmsterdam sign D

Guess who tried to climb it, but realized he isn’t 12 years old anymore? iAmsterdam sign Westerpark

It wouldn’t be an Amsterdam winter without lots of gloom and rain. We’ve spent many a day indoors, nursing a cough or cold, watching the world from the warm confines of the living room. Thank goodness for giant windows, and a baby who likes to watch the rain.

Inside on a rainy day
But whenever I can, I try to override this mid-winter slump with a walk around the neighborhood. Even running errands in a city like this is enough to perk me up.

Brouwersgracht houseboats Amsterdam
What’s been perking you up lately?
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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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