Viewing: Westerpark

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?

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.

JR’s Inside Out Project in Amsterdam

I discovered the street art of JR a few months ago while visiting Berlin. After seeing his large-scale paper pastings in Berlin, I became interested in his work and hoped that one day I might be able to participate in one of his art projects. So this weekend I was thrilled to find JR’s Inside Out Project in Amsterdam, right in my own neighborhood!

The Inside Out Project is a global participatory art project launched by JR when he won the TED Prize in 2011. Instead of taking photographs of people and pasting them in different location all over the world, as he normally would, JR invited the public to share their portraits as a way of standing up for something they cared about.

Since then, more than 130,000 people in over 108 countries have taken their own portraits, sent them to JR via the Inside Out website, and received large format posters to paste in their own communities. Most of them are groups that have used the Inside Out Project to make statements on everything from LBGT rights and violence, to dreams and memories. The Inside Out Project has also sent traveling photobooth trucks all over the world, most notably this year at Times Square in New York.

This weekend, the Inside Out Project came to the Unseen Photo Fair at the Westergasfabriek in my neighborhood park.

Inside Out Project by JR at Unseen Amsterdam

So cool! How could I not participate?! So on Saturday afternoon, Marlon, Tala and I queued up at the Inside Out photo truck to have our portraits taken.

[Read more...]

NeighbourFood Market

It’s no secret that I love my neighborhood. Among my friends, I’m the unofficial Westerpark Tourism Bureau—I’m always trying to get people to come over to one of the many cool things happening just around the corner.

We are so lucky to live right next to a park that hosts not one, but two awesome weekend markets. On the first Sunday of every month, there’s the Sunday Market; and every third (or sometimes fourth) Sunday, there’s the NeighbourFood Market.

Neighbourfood Market table

With long communal tables, grandma’s living room furniture and homey flower arrangements, the Neighbourfood Market has a warm and friendly community atmosphere. The setting is extremely baby- and child-friendly; seeing young families with babies just like us, Marlon and I felt reassured that moving here was the right decision.

Neighbourfood Market communal table

Neighbourfood Market vintage chairs

Neighbourfood Market Vedett deck chairs

The shared seating makes it easy to start a conversation, so we got to meet people who live in our neighborhood. And that’s really nice. Admittedly, growing up in Manila has made me me suspicious of most strangers, so I’m never the one starting a conversation—but once people talk to me I’m too polite to say no. Then if I decide the person talking to me is totally un-creepy, I’m happy to open up. I don’t bite, promise!

Casual eats in Amsterdam tend to be all the same (read: sandwiches), so I always jump at the chance to have something different. And variety is something that the Neighbourfood Market has for sure. It was tempting to run around trying to eat everything, but I had to remind myself that I live here and that I can try something different every month.

Neighbourfood Market Baq-fiets

Neighbourfood Westerpark chocolate and cookies

Neighbourfood Market Branco bread

The stalls seem to be mostly home cooks and small businesses, with quite a few of them run by expats and immigrants. From Mexican tacos to Vietnamese bun cha, South African style meatballs to American baked goods, it’s a fairly diverse selection. I even had a Singaporean curry puff, although the spice level was adjusted to Dutch palates. Still, it was a nice reminder of my morning walks to the office past Killiney Kopitiam and afternoon escapes to the curry puff stall on Killiney Road. Now if I could only find a good char siew bao

Neighbourfood Westerpark Mexican Vietnamese

Neighbourfood Market meat

We’ve been watching Tala for signs that she’s ready for solid food. She has never shown any interest in our meals, but yesterday she suddenly lurched toward my blueberry cinnamon bun. Looks like someone has inherited her mother’s taste buds!

Tala and the cinnamon bun

And if you want to take away more than just a few extra pounds, the NeighbourFood flea market allows you to bring home a piece of the homey vintage atmosphere.

Neighbourfood Westerpark flea market
I love exploring weekend markets. Is there a good weekend market where you live?

Three months!

Tala is three months old!

Tala 3 Months

She turned three months over the weekend, while we were in Germany, so I didn’t have my usual white onesie and star-print blanket with me. As you can see, I had to improvise with a hotel duvet and the nicest outfit in her vacation wardrobe. But I like it, she looks like a little lady here!

This past month, Tala has become much more active. She’s no longer content to stare at things… now she’s beginning to really go after them with her hands or feet. I bought her a couple of baby gyms (second-hand goodies, can’t live without them) to give her more things to do during her awake time. It’s fun to see her interact with them, and I can see that there’s more intention behind her movements these days.

Tala and her baby gym

She loves to look at her surroundings, and I love to see the curiosity in her eyes.

Tala and Rogue

Also this past month, summer finally arrived in Amsterdam. This was perfect for enjoying lovely lazy afternoons in Westerpark, hanging out with friends or just spending some mother-daughter time together. Tala can sleep for hours when we’re at the park—her record was a little over five hours. Five hours of uninterrupted me time, woohoo! They say never wake a sleeping baby, but I got a little freaked out and woke her anyway.

Tala at Westerpark-June

The most wonderful development of the past month has been laughter.

Happy with Daddy

It’s a little more like squealing, sometimes it’s almost soundless, but it expresses joy and excitement just the way laughter should. And when I hear it, I can’t help but laugh too.

Excited in Berlin

I think it’s safe to say that things have gotten a little easier. She feeds six times during the day (like me when I was pregnant!) and sleeps for longer stretches now. She’s able to self-soothe (not all the time, but often) by sticking her hands in her mouth, or even just staring at them before falling asleep. I managed to take care of her all by myself for three days while Marlon was away on business—without extra help from a babysitter, something I couldn’t do the first time he traveled for work. I even managed to go on my first girls’ night out!

And of course, this month also marks her first flight! But I’ll save that for another post… along with a few stories and snaps from Berlin.

Rollende Keukens

Last weekend was awesome, and not just because it was my first Mother’s Day. It was a long weekend in the Netherlands for Hemelvaartsdag, or Ascension Day, which meant our little family spent four whole days together. Yay! Even better, we had a great place to spend the long weekend: at Westerpark for Rollende Keukens, or Rolling Kitchens.

As the name suggests, Rollende Keukens is all about meals on wheels. At this yearly festival, dozens of mobile kitchens roll into Westerpark to create one giant open-air restaurant.

Rollende Keukens 2013

Of the food festivals and markets I’ve been to, I have to say this one was the most fun and full of character. That’s what you get when you have creative foodies repurposing everything from Volkswagen camper vans to Airstream trailers to surfboards and boats.

Rollende Keukens Piepermobiel

Rollende Keukens Multimini

Rollende Keukens VW Camper trio

Rollende keukens boat and surfboard

More (lots more!) pictures, and my Rollende Keukens favorites and regrets, after the cut!

[Read more...]

Sunday stroll in the park

Sometimes I wonder what I’d be doing if I was living back home in Manila. On a Sunday, for example, Marlon and I would probably, like most young Filipino families like us, take our daughter to the mall for a meal and a walk.

The difference in what-could-be really strikes me on weekends like the ones we’ve had recently. I thought I would miss shopping malls when I moved to Europe, but I don’t. Not when we have this.

Westerpark nature path

On one of our weekend walks in Westerpark, we explored an idyllic footpath that brought us you closer to nature. I still have a hard time believing that this is literally minutes from my house, and I live so close to the center of Amsterdam.  [Read more...]

Westergasterras

One of my new pleasures is taking Tala on long walks in Westerpark. I’ve been meaning to show Marlon what I’ve discovered while he’s at work, and to bring the camera too. This weekend I finally got to do both.

Spring in Westerpark

After a long winter, spring is finally kicking in and everything is in bloom.

Magnolia blossoms

During my first spring in Amsterdam, I was surprised by how quickly the flowers came and went. Now I make sure to take photos before they’re gone.

Blooming trees Westerpark

Walking past all the trees in bloom, we reached the Westergasterras, a restaurant housed in one of the old brick factory buildings beside the Gashouder, a gas tank that dates back to the 1900s.

Westergasterras

The Gashouder looms large over the restaurant’s biggest draw: a large, spacious terrace that is perfect for sunny days. Westergasterras also has a cool industrial interior, with a big brick fireplace and metal pipes everywhere, but in spring it’s all about this terrace.

Westergasterras terrace

We stopped for a light lunch and coffee, plus one of the best sticky toffee cakes I’ve had in a while. I find casual dining in Amsterdam to be hit and miss, so it’s always nice to come across a place with good food.

Westergasterras food

I love discovering places like Westergasterras: so cool yet so laid-back, unpretentious, and most importantly, kid-friendly. There was a high hipster-to-stroller ratio, and all around the restaurant were toddlers wheeling around on loopfiets (balance bikes) or kids drawing on the ground with chalk.

Chalk drawings

A decent lunch, a cool new discovery, and another reason to love our neighborhood. Not bad for a laid-back Sunday. How was your weekend?

Rainarai at the Westergasfabriek

Our first walk in the park as a family not only made me feel giddy and happy. It also made me hungry! Luckily, at the tail end of Westerpark is Rainarai, a restaurant and lounge that serves “nomadic Algerian” cuisine.

We decided to pop in for a bite and a bit of a rest after our walk and I’m glad I did. Finding a place like this just minutes from our home makes me feel like we moved into the right neighborhood.

Rainarai Westerpark interior3

At 2:30pm on a sunny Saturday, we had the entire place to ourselves and it was just great.

Rainarai Westerpark restaurant

Aside from regular restaurant-style tables and chairs, I love that this restaurant offers “nomadic” style seating with low tables, cushions and rugs on the floor. So comfy, casual and colorful!

Rainarai Westerpark seating

Rainarai struck me as being very baby- and kid-friendly. Wide shallow steps leading up to the door made it easy to carry our stroller in (a ramp would have been nice, though). Wide aisles made it easy for us to park our sleeping beauty right beside our table as we enjoyed a long-ish, leisurely lunch.

Tala sleeping at the resto

We had the €12.50 mezze lunch, something like a chef’s special that includes soup, salad, a few sides like a kofta and vegetable relishes, plus a main dish. That day, it was a baked tortilla-style roll stuffed with our choice of mackerel or lamb. Delicious, filling, hearty and I’d say pretty good value for money.

Rainarai mezze lunch

The service was friendly too, something not to be taken for granted in Amsterdam. Or maybe people are just nicer to you when you have a baby! The woman waiting on us that afternoon offered me use of the downstairs lounge if I wanted privacy for breastfeeding, and told me Tala was probably the youngest guest they’d ever had.

“I hope we’ll see you again,” she said as we rolled out the front door.

Are you kidding? Yummy food, baby-friendly and cool interiors, plus friendly service, all within walking distance from my house? “Oh, we’ll definitely be back,” I assured her.

“Then we’ll get to see her grow up!” she said with a big smile and a goodbye wave to Tala.

And that is how you win over the mommies, folks!

A walk in Westerpark

After three weeks of being bound to hospital and house, Tala and I took our first walk in the park this weekend. It was chaos getting mommy and baby dressed and ready to go (do daddies ever have this problem?), but what a feeling when we finally made it out the front door!

Out the front door!

Being from a land where babies go out in cotton tops and diapers, I need to get used to dressing Tala for cold weather. Tying on her little knit hat made me terrified that I would accidentally choke her. The fact that she hates being dressed up (a child of mine that hates clothes? This cannot be!) didn’t make it easier. But once she was bundled up in her bassinet, she was totally fine and slept, as the saying goes, like a baby.

Tala in the Bugaboo

It was a sunny spring weekend and I was glad to finally be out and about. This is how long I’ve been away from the Philippines, a notoriously walking-averse nation: I now fantasize about and enjoy going on walks.

Westerpark Amsterdam

We are so lucky to live close to Westerpark, one of Amsterdam’s biggest city parks. Within the park is the Westergasfabriek, a former gasworks that dates back to 1885. After it closed in 1967, the beautiful brick buildings in the complex were given over to creative workspaces, festivals and events.

Westergasfabriek

Westergasfabriek brick building

There’s always something going on here, and I love that energy.

Westergasfabriek queue

Getting ready for Westerpark Sunday market

Westerpark is also dotted with public art, which made our walk even more fun.

Westerpark sculpture 2

Westerpark sculpture

And look! Regular, non-pregnancy clothes! Although I did wear this dress from Bleach Catastrophe during my last trimester. I still need to edit my closet and see what outfits are both nursing-friendly and more forgiving to my post-partum silhouette.

Amsterdam mom with Bugaboo Cameleon denim

I was so excited to be out in the sun with Marlon and Tala that I ended up pushing myself a little more than I should. By the time we got back home, I could hardly walk, and I was in serious pain for the rest of the evening. It’s easy to forget what happened to me, and I constantly have to remind myself to be more patient with myself and my body. But I’m so glad I had this sunny Saturday at the park with my family. Here’s to many more to come!