WHOA lansi

francophile, oenophile, logophile, turophile

Secret’s out! We’re having a baby!

I'm pregnant!

Surprise! I’m pregnant! My birthday is going to be a little bit different this year. 😉

N was down in California on the morning I took a pregnancy test. I only had the one test & remember wishing I had a few more on hand so I could take another one. Once I realized the little line wasn’t going anywhere, I skyped N to share the good news. Of course, he immediately knew why I was calling since we don’t usually skype each other unexpectedly. I had toyed with the idea of surprising him with the news when he was home next, but there was no way I could keep it a secret for that long. It was the best phone call I’ve ever made.

Pregnant

You’re going to be a big brother, O.

The first few months have been filled with more emotions than I ever thought possible (heyyyyy hormones), but I’m overwhelmingly grateful & excited for everything to come this year. We can’t week to meet you, baby!

New Year, Same Me

2018 New Year's Resolutions

New year, New me? I’ve been seeing a lot of this sentiment around the internet so far this year, & I have some serious issues with it. Resolutions go hand in hand with ringing in the new year, but I’ve personally never been a huge fan. I’m even less fond of this idea that there’s something wrong with last year’s version of myself. In fact, it makes me a little bit angry that it seems to be trending this year.

Let’s be clear: Goals are great, striving to be a better version of yourself is great, putting a plan to reach your dreams in place is great. If you think you need a whole new you this year though, I’m concerned. I don’t believe for a second there aren’t lessons to be learned & things to cherish about 2017 you.

I spent the first week of January really thinking about what I wanted to do this year, where I wanted to be at this time next year, & from there, set some intentions. I’m over the whole resolution thing right now. We’re going with 2018 intentions. Deal with it.

I bought a new Bullet Journal & put them on the very first page, front & center.

1. Move Daily

Movement is such an integral piece of the puzzle for me, even if it just means getting out for a walk with Odin. It gives me a chance to clear my head, look at things from a different perspective, & get away from life’s many distractions. I always feel better when I’m making this a priority. I’ve kicked off this year with a 4080 running challenge, & I’m on track to complete my 40 km in 2 weeks. It’s been a great way to make running a habit right out of the gate, & a fantastic reminder that going for a run is as simple as lacing up my shoes & heading out the door.

2. Get More Sleep

I’m such a night owl, & notorious for staying up well past 11. I’m especially bad for doing this when N is away. I’ve changed my phone settings to dim the light. I’ve got a bunch of books I want to get through. I’m going to stop pushing that bedtime back.

3. Write Often

This is usually a theme for me. I love writing & journaling, & I so appreciate when I give myself the time to do both. I want to blog more – I have a lot of great ideas to share on here. & I’ve got a better BuJo layout this year for more sporadic journaling. I started using in in SF, & it worked really well, so I’m hoping to carry this forward.

4. Practice Patience

I am not an overly patient person. I’m passionate & opinionated, & generally quick to speak my mind. Impatience is not my favourite quality, so I’d like to work on that this year. Be kinder to people, take a breath before I speak my mind, let it go.

Bullet Journal

& that’s it. I’m keeping it simple this year with just four goals. Same old me, focused on a few new things. What do you think of New Year’s Resolutions? Do you have any goals, big or small, for this year?

Happy Holidays!

We wish you a merry christmas!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! Wishing you & yours the happiest of holidays – filled with family, friends, and all your wonderful traditions.

We stuck around Calgary this year to spend Christmas with N’s family, & are celebrating with mine tomorrow evening. It gave us the opportunity to catch up with many friends who are in town this year, which has been just lovely. We’re in the midst of quite the cold snap, so I’ve been trying to take a page from the Danes & their lovely concept of hygge. We’ve been lighting candles more often, playing lots of games, & cozying up under blankets, our attempt at making the most of the frigid temperatures.

Thank you to all those of you who read this little blog from time to time. I am very grateful to everyone who stops by, letting me share a little bit of my life with you. It’s been a great year for me & I’m looking forward to even more adventure in 2018.

All the best for the new year!
Bisous,

A & N
xx

Travel \\ Berlin

Berlin was the second major European city I ever visited. In 2005, while I was living in Rennes, I took an overnight train to the German capital to meet some friends for the weekend. It was one of the best weekend trips I’ve ever been on, & left me longing for another visit. Twelve years later, the city is still an eclectic mix of elegant modernity & a certain level of grittiness. Two days definitely wasn’t enough time to experience everything I’d hoped to, but here’s a sampling of what I loved about this lively metropolis. Do yourself a favour & dedicate a few extra days to really explore.

The Street Food

I think this may be my favourite thing about the city. The street food culture in Berlin is like none other; it’s a little glimpse into the vibrant multiculturalism that is such a part of any visit. The best part? You can eat really well on a tiny budget. Seriously well.

Our first stop was thanks to Anthony Bourdain (of course). Konnopke’s Imbiss is a sausage stall beneath the elevated subway lines in Prenzlauer Berg. You can find currywurst pretty much everywhere in Berlin – it’s a cheap & filling lunch, if nothing else – but if you’re going to check out this adorable area, you might as well go here. Afterwards, you can wander the beautiful Oderberger Strasse or grab a beer at Berlin’s oldest beer garden: Prater Garten (or do both, as we did).

Konnopke’s Imbiss

Oderberger Strasse

Prater Garten

If you go to Berlin & don’t experience any Turkish food, I think you’re seriously missing out. Most of my memories of Berlin revolve around doner kebabs. Cheap, delicious, & perfect whether you’re heading out for the night or on your way home. This time around, N & I had two amazing Turkish food experiences. First, we shared an amazing kofte sandwich at Konak Grill in Kreuzberg. Later that same evening, we had the most magnificent doner kebab of my life at a stand on a bridge at Warschauer Strasse S-Bahn. It may have been the beers, but I think I’d honestly go back to this spot if I’m ever in Berlin again (& we almost did on our way home). It was that good.

Tell me that doesn’t look amazing

Neighbourhoods

Part of Berlin’s popularity stems from its global feel. There’s a little corner of Berlin to suit any taste – you just have to find yours.

Mitte is the city’s center, literally meaning “middle” in German. It’s where you’ll find most monuments, memorials, & museums. If it’s your first visit, it’s a good place to start. Check out the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, & Alexanderplatz. Maybe wander the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe or the Topography of Terror.

Brandenberg Gate

Hotel Adlon

 

The hauntingly moving Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Hotel Adlon

We did a free walking tour, which I will almost always recommend. Unfortunately, this one was my least favourite & we left disappointed. We just didn’t like our guide, which is the hazard of any tour, free or paid. It really was such a shame as I think it tainted the others’ first impressions of Berlin. (Berlin was actually the first city I ever did a walking tour in & Per set the bar high – it’s still the best tour I’ve ever done.) Museum Island is also undergoing massive upgrades until 2019 & is a little difficult to get around, so budget extra time to see it.

Museum Island

St Mary’s near Alexanderplatz

Checkpoint Charlie at the end of our tour

The Berlin wall cut through major roadways & is memorialized with bricks.

Topography of Terror

Mitte is an interesting mix of modern buildings & old cobblestone streets. There’s fantastic restaurants & more sights than you’ll likely have time to take in. Don’t underestimate Berlin – it’s huge.

We stayed in Kreuzberg, which feels like a different world from both central Mitte & the pristine Prenzlauer Berg. It’s got a bit of reputation. With a huge Turkish population, this is where we found the best street food. It’s a little bit grimy & a lot edgy; it’s got tons of personality. I’m glad we stayed here so we got to experience it a little bit more than we likely would have otherwise.

Görlitzer Park at dusk

Across the Spree River, you’ll find Friedrichshain, known mostly for its wicked party scene & the East Side Gallery: a slice of the Berlin Wall turned open air international mural exhibit. Grab some beers at craft beer shop, Drink Drunk, on your way across the Spree (drinking in public is perfectly acceptable in Germany, & is the perfect way to enjoy the gallery, if you ask me.).

Beers at the East Side Gallery

Go out on the town

Berlin is a city for all tastes, whether it’s a simple evening meal with family & friends or a wild night of bar hopping, you can do it all.

While the street food is second to none, there’s also an incredible restaurant scene happening. I had a hopelessly impossible list. We came nowhere near to making a dent in it. In fact, we really only had one sit down meal, our first night in Berlin. We settled on somewhere near our AirBnB, Café Restaurant Jolesch. We sat on their patio, enjoyed fantastic service, & delicious, extra crispy schnitzel the size of our faces (literally). It was a great meal. If you’re looking for great German comfort food, you can’t go wrong with this spot.

Dinner on the patio

giant schnitzel

Afterwards, we made the trek to Klunkerkranich, in Neukölln. Hidden away on the top floor of the parking garage at the somewhat abandoned-looking Neukölln Arkaden Mall. You’ll walk up the ramp to the very top to find…I don’t really know how to describe it. A trendy hipster bar, with a garden, outdoor tables, & a fantastic view over Berlin? It’s a great spot to watch a sunset, or simply grab drinks at the end of an evening. It’s definitely worth checking out, for its eclectic mix of people & decor & the views. Bring cash, there’s sometimes cover & you’ll need a deposit for glassware (they don’t have anyone to clear their tables).

View from the top!

Outdoor biergarten

funky lights

Berlin skyline

Our second night, we grabbed a few craft beers for the road at Drink Drunk, crossed the bridge over the Spree, & wandered the couple kilometers of leftover Berlin wall that make up the East Side Gallery. Afterward, we grabbed a drink on one of the Riverboats & watched the sun set.

Strolling the East Side Gallery

River Spree

Sunset on a boat

It was a Tuesday night, but we wanted to experience some of Berlin’s famous nightlife, so we headed into Friedrichshain next. Everything I’d read told me this was the place to party in Berlin, but still, neither of us could get over how incredibly lively it was for a weeknight. We marveled at restaurant patios packed with locals enjoying a meal together, & bar after bar with no shortage of thirsty patrons. There were so many charming options (& no shortage of night clubs either, if that’s your jam). Friedrichshain is fantastic!

Wandering Urban Spree after close

We settled on Hops & Barley, one of the oldest craft breweries in the city. It’s a pretty unassuming spot, brewing natural unfiltered beers. They aren’t afraid to experiment a little, so there are some intriguing options. The patio was full, but we managed to find ourselves a little table in the back, amid a funny mix of locals & foreign exchange students. We stayed until they wouldn’t serve us any longer before making the trek back to Kreuzberg for the night.

Our time is Berlin was a little more limited that I’d expected. Picking up our rental car was more time consuming that I’d hoped, & we hadn’t budgeted a lot of time to begin with. The construction on Museum Island also threw a wrench in our plans as it was much harder to navigate than when I’d first visited. If we’d had more time in Berlin, I’d probably have suggested we spend some time in the Tiergarten (a 500 acre park in Mitte) or exploring the Reichstag. There is truly no shortage of things to do in Berlin.

The next morning, we grabbed coffees & hit the road for our next stop: Prague!

October in Instagram

It’s winter. A week into November & winter has hit us full force. Last week, it snowed for a few days & with temperatures sticking in the -15C range, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It almost seems like I was playing fetch on the beach with Odin & N in a different life. Was I really living in California a month ago? Anyway, here’s what we got up to in October according to Instagram.

Oct 2017 IG

  1. I still can’t get over this perfect little town. Carmel, & the Happy Landing Inn, might have been a dream. The view out the front door of our suite made me so happy.
  2. A final visit to my favourite Bay Area brewery: Fieldwork. Odin, N, & I spent many happy afternoons on their patio. Their beers are fantastic & it’s the most dog friendly spot in the Bay. I can’t recommend it enough (& their shirts & hoodies are SO soft. I may have a little collection…).
  3. A lot of my time in the Bay Area was spent seeking out a view. There are no shortage of amazing ones in the area. This one, from Ina Coolbrith Park, on Russian Hill is definitely worth the steep trek up Vallejo Street.
  4. Back in Canada! My mom & I drove from California to BC in two days so we could spent the weekend at the lake. Fall walks with this view are good for my soul, I think (& Odin loves running free up here too).
  5. The boys playing on Stinson Beach. Odin loved running free at the beaches in California. This was the most time Nathan’s ever spent with our pup, uninterrupted. I love watching them together & am so grateful we got the chance to spend a couple months together in Richmond.
  6. Castle Mountain guiding me home. I always know we’re almost there when I see this view.
  7. My Finnish wool socks are already coming in handy, & I can never get enough puppy cuddles.
  8. Our friends decided to do a house crawl this year for Halloween, which was a really fun idea. There were three stops, each with a signature cocktail & some snacks. We got hit with some nasty weather on our way to the final house, but it was still such a fun evening.
  9. Odin’s day care, Pawsitively Pooched, had an open house to show off the renovations to the facility & he got the chance to go for a little swim. He was a little skittish getting in, but once he was wet he had a blast. I think he’d fetch all day if he could!

Follow along with more of our adventures on instagram @whoalansi.

#metoo

Prison

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations & this #metoo movement flooding my social media feeds, I’ve done a lot of thinking. None of it is overly original or groundbreaking, but I wanted to share a little nonetheless.

Like so many, I posted a #metoo status a couple weeks ago without elaborating on the who or the why or the what. I posted only these two simple words to my social media. I had a few reasons for this, & I wanted to talk a little bit about them.

Let me start my saying, I don’t think I or anyone else needs to shed light on any of the reasons for posting this status. In some ways, there are too many uncomfortable examples of misogyny, harassment, & worse, abuse, in every woman I know’s life. We’ve all felt threatened at some point. We’ve all had to think of a possible terrible outcome that many men are lucky to have never considered. That’s the everyday reality for women. I don’t feel that I need to highlight examples of this in my own life, & I don’t want to validate them by doing so. So I didn’t.

The bigger reason I hesitated to post anything though is that it didn’t feel bad enough. I lead a fantastic life. I’m extremely lucky & immeasurably privileged. I know many women who have suffered so much, & I don’t feel that I have. So at first, I felt silly posting anything at all. How many times have we heard that in the last few weeks? How many times have we to listened to someone downplaying the harassment they’ve faced, because “it really could be a whole lot worse”? But that’s what we do. That’s what society has honestly taught so many of us. It’s not that bad. Others have it worse. Maybe it’s even partially a coping mechanism. I don’t know.

Talking about these things and shedding light on the problem doesn’t take away from anything that’s happened to someone else. It doesn’t make it less. Truthfully, I think it raises more awareness about what is ok & what isn’t.

We’re all stronger together. & I hope someday I’m not still having this conversation with my children. I’m leaving this post with more questions than answers, but also with the hope that by starting a conversation, we’re heading in the right direction.

the final week

Here I am again, feeling the familiar mix of emotions I experience every time I’m about to head home. On the one hand, I love my home. Alberta is an amazing province, full of my favourite people. On the other hand, I’m sad to say goodbye to this place I’ve come to know over the last couple months. It’s a little bittersweet.

I’ve lived in several different cities in my 32 years, & I’ve loved them all in different ways. The funny thing about California is I didn’t expect to feel at home here. I really didn’t. Maybe that’s strange to some people, but I never once considered the US as somewhere I’d live. Nothing against American or the US in general – I have plenty of perfectly lovely American friends & I’ve spent time in many great cities in this country. I just never expected to feel this way about the US, especially in light of recent politics.

But here I am, absolutely loving California, & feeling a bit silly. I mean, what’s not to love? Beautiful weather, decadent dining options, & an impressive array of sights. Add a healthy dose of the loveliest people, & you’ve got the recipe that makes this place so enchanting. Honestly, Californians are wonderful.

I thought two months would feel like a long time, but it truly flew by. & with good reason – we did A LOT. We tried to cram as much into my stay as time would allow. I think we did a pretty good job, & if you look at my Instagram from the last couple months, I think it will tell that same story. Here are a few of my favourite moments from this September, according to my IG feed.

Sept 2017 IG

  1. N’s sister came down to visit with her boyfriend & we had the best week showing them around SF & the area. We saw the Giants win a baseball game, rode cable cars, wine tasted our way through Sonoma, biked the Golden Gate bridge, saw SF from the ferry, & toured the East Bay.
  2. Bagel stop at Beauty’s with N on a lazy Saturday in Oakland. I’ve barely put a dent in my restaurant list for the East Bay, never mind SF. There are some seriously incredible places to eat here!
  3. We witnessed another win for the home team at the Cal State vs Ole Miss game. They weren’t expected to bring home a win, so it was especially exciting.
  4. Exploring pockets of Berkeley with the Path Wanderers Association one evening. Such a cool way to see the city.
  5. The boys enjoying an afternoon at Muir Beach. Odin loves going to the beach & chasing his dad around, & we love watching how happy it makes him.
  6. I’ve been going to November Project SF for the last month & it’s been so fun getting to know this tribe, especially my friends in the East Bay.
  7. The view from Alcatraz is so cool. We had a great time exploring the island & touring the prison.
  8. N’s coworker sent us home with an amazing bounty of fresh produce from his garden. This is just one small example of the generosity we’ve experienced down here.
  9. We spent part of our last weekend in Carmel, touring around Big Sur. It’s an incredible place. We loved it so much, we stayed an extra night. We just weren’t ready to leave.

California Diaries \\ A Day in the life

As my leave of absence draws to a close, I thought I’d talk a little bit about what my days look like in California. N leaves for work before 5 am & gets home around 5:30 pm, leaving Odin & I plenty of time for adventures. Our weekends are pretty busy, so we often stick a little closer to home during the week. It also helps keep my spending in check since I’m not collecting a paycheck while I’m down here. Luckily, there are plenty of fun things to do for free, or cheap, in the East Bay.

Morning

If given the opportunity, I’ll generally take it pretty slow in the morning. I love a making some bulletproof coffee & catching up on social media on our back deck. I feel a bit guilty starting the day in such a lazy way, so I was excited to join the East Bay carpool for Monday, Wednesday, & Friday morning workouts with November Project. There’s a solid group that makes the commute from the East Bay to downtown SF. I was stoked to meet the organizers at The Crate Escape at the end of August, & get added to the carpool’s group text.

Odin & I usually leave Richmond around 5:20 am to pick up a few people in Berkeley or Oakland before heading into the city for the 6:30 am workout. Coming from Calgary, it’s hard to comprehend the insanity that is rush hour in the Bay Area. Without three people in the car, there’s no way we’d ever make it to the workout on time. With three people, we can use the carpool lanes to cross the Bay Bridge. It’s a major time saver.

I love my November Project workouts in Calgary, but I’m even more grateful for them here. Before coming down, I totally underestimated how much time I’d be spending alone. Odin is a great listener, but I definitely appreciate the social aspect in addition to the workout.

Photo by NP SF

NP SF views

Afterwards, we head back over the bridge to drop everyone off & I usually treat myself to a coffee at Blue Bottle. It’s definitely a bit of a bad habit, but their coffee is irresistible & I won’t have access to it for much longer.

Mornings in the Bay Area are generally foggy or overcast, so I try to use those hours for blogging, grocery shopping, editing photos, or researching our weekend activities. On days that I don’t workout in the morning, I still try to get up reasonably early to get all this out of the way. I love the sunshine & try to take advantage of it as much as possible, especially since I know I’m going back to much colder weather in Calgary.

Coffee with Odin

Afternoon

If it’s really hot & sunny (like today! It’s 31 C in Richmond), I’ll head to the pool to journal, read, or write. N’s community might as well be a resort. There are two pools, two hot tubs, a gym, & several ponds surrounding the condos. It’s a little oasis. It also backs onto the San Francisco Bay Trail. There are ton of great parks & beaches a short walk away. Odin loves the Bay Trail, so we use it often.

Our resort

If it’s not quite pool weather, we tend to go exploring. I’ve tried to cover as much of Berkeley & area as possible. The Rosie the Riveter museum is about a 20-minute walk away & so is a large off-leash dog park where Odin can go swimming. When we first came down, we often went into Berkeley. This whole area is extremely dog friendly, which made it easy to get to know the area without feeling guilty that I was leaving him behind. Within the neighbouring cities, there’s a wide variety of hiking trails, city paths, & beaches. It’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon. My favourites all have incredible views of SF & its beautiful bridges. I also love to go for a drive up the crazy hills around Berkeley & El Cerrito. On a clear day, you’re rewarded with a killer view around every bend.

Point Isabel Swim

Off leash run

The view from Lawrence Hall of Sciences.

Hills in El Cerrito

Views from Tilden Park

Hiking in Tilden Park

Evening

I usually start dinner before 5 pm so N & I can spend the evening together. Since he has such early mornings, we tend to go to bed pretty early. As a night owl, it’s definitely a big adjustment for me, but I think I’ve been pretty good at it.

We’re really lucky to have a park with BBQs within walking distance as well as an awesome local brewery. We’ve had a couple dinners in the park over the last couple weeks & we often head up to Armistice with Odin for a game of battleship on their outdoor patio & a couple beers.

Evening BBQ with the boys

Battleship at our local brewery

Marina Bay Sunset

Evening Tub

So there you go, a day in my life down here in California. Our weekdays are substantially more laid back than our weekends, but I like to think we’ve used our time well. It’s been an amazing few months of exploring!

Travel \\ Amsterdam

Travel // Amsterdam

Amsterdam was the first stop on our 2017 Europe Beer Tour, as I would jokingly refer to the trip we took with my family earlier this summer. This trip had been on my bucket list for years. Now that it’s over, it seems almost surreal. We saw a lot & covered a lot of ground over the course of our three weeks in (mostly) Northern Europe. Maybe that’s why I’m only starting to post about it now. Or maybe I’m notoriously slow at sorting through all the media & memories after a big trip. The latter, most likely.

But here we are, a little over three months after the fact, ready for some bonafide Europe recaps. Whenever someone asks me what my favourite city in Europe is, I freeze. One city? You want me to name one city in the whole of Europe as my favourite? Nuh uh, no way, impossible! I won’t even entertain the idea. There are so many different cities that hold special places in my heart for different reasons. Three days in Amsterdam was all it took for it to win a place on that list. What makes this city so special, you ask? Let’s take a look.

The Canals

Known as the Venice of the North by some, Amsterdam has over a hundred kilometres of canals. Our first day in the city, we spent most of our time wandering around, exploring the different neighbourhoods. I’ve mentioned before that this is one of my favourite things to do in a new city. There’s nothing like having no set destination or plan & just taking in everything around you.

N & I wandering on our first day in Amsterdam

Wandering the streets in the famous canal ring, or Grachtengordel, is essential to any trip to Amsterdam. I especially loved the bohemian Jordaan quarter, a grid of tiny lanes dotted with specialty shops, restaurants, art galleries, & the incredible Anne Frank house.

Amsterdam Canals Amsterdam Canals Amsterdam Canals

We spent the morning at the Anne Frank House on our last day in Amsterdam, & it was a visit I won’t soon forget. Having read her book as a young girl, it was so moving to be able to put her experiences & memories into a tangible space. They’ve done a really lovely job of preserving the families’ memory in a museum. Tickets sell out early for good reason. (If you have trouble getting regular tickets, the introductory program is only a few dollars more & is usually available for longer.)

The bike Culture

We only rented bikes for a few hours one afternoon & it might have been the biggest mistake of the whole trip (at least for me). I loved biking around the compact city centre & wish we’d rented them for longer. It’s busy & a little bit chaotic, but a lot of fun. We biked through the centre to the Museum Quarter then along the Singelgracht to a great brewery.

Bikes in Vondelpark

Biking around Amsterdam

Afterwards, we biked around Vondelpark, before heading back through town to drop off our bikes. If you’re less confident on a bike, I’d recommend a tour around Vondelpark. Its wide, paved pathways are easy to navigate & there are lots of lovely spots to stop & enjoy the park, or some food & drinks. It’s also a worthwhile stroll if you’re really not sold on biking. Our apartment was a few short blocks away, so we did just that on on our very first day in the city.

Albert Cuyp Market

You’ll find anything from electronics to clothing at this eclectic street bazaar, but as usual, we came for the food. It was herring season, so we went looking for a classic herring sandwich as soon was we arrived. Traditionally, soused herring is eaten with just raw onions, but broodje haring (on bread) is also popular. My dad did not enjoy the texture of the fish at all – it’s a little bit slimy – but N & I enjoyed ours. I’m glad we tried it since it’s one of N’s grandpa’s favourites.

We also picked up some cheese to snack on later that evening.

Next up were stroopwaffles. You’ve probably seen these traditional waffle & caramel cookies before. I know I had. They’re even better fresh. The stall we bought ours from made them right in front of us so they were nice & hot – the perfect way to enjoy them. They seem just a little more special when the caramel is soft & melty from the warm waffles.

Our last market food find was well earned, & probably my favourite. Just as I’d given up on finding kroketten as the Van Dobben store that was supposed to be at the corner of the market had shut down, we found their market stall. Hurray! Kroketten for all! A kroket is mashed potatoes and meat, breaded & deep fried, on a bun with a side of mustard. No complaints here.

Market snacks

There’s lots of different food to try at the market, so it makes a good lunch stop between wandering the canals in the centre & the museum quarter. Snack along the way or pick up some things to eat later, in one of the cities many beautiful parks.

The Museum Quarter

If you’re looking for the “I amsterdam” sign, this is where you’ll find it. If you’re looking for a photo op without a ton of people in it, best of luck. It was extremely busy when we went mid-day, however, we took the last tram back to our apartment one night & there wasn’t a soul in sight. Aim for early morning or late evening for a better chance at some photos without the hoards of people.

Surrounding the museumplein, you’ll find three major museums: the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum. My parents went to the Van Gogh Museum & really enjoyed it, but N & I were content to wander the park in this beautiful area.

If you do decide to visit one of the popular museums, it’s a good idea to purchase tickets online first. Even the Heineken Experience gets some crazy lines. An e-ticket will save you wasting time waiting, if you can plan what time you’d like to go in advance.

Enjoying food & drinks on the water

The tilted, gabled canal-side buildings make the perfect backdrop for lunch, dinner, afternoon drinks, or a fun night out beside the water. There are no shortage of places to enjoy any of these things in Amsterdam.

Boat touring

There’s no shortage of great spots to relax along the canals

We found a number of great bruin cafés (brown cafés are laid back bars – you’ll find them all over the city) & restaurants along the canals in every neighbourhood. My favourite dinner was at Gent aan de schinkel near our apartment. We sat outside & watched boats go by on the canal, enjoying a lovely meal together.

Dinner along the canal

I’m a sucker for spending time near the water, & Amsterdam delivered on this. We took a boat tour one day, one of those big touristy ones. Next time, I think we’ll rent a smaller boat for the afternoon & enjoy some drinks & a meal as we tour around the city. Watching others doing just this from our crowded boat definitely made it seem like the better option.

The Architecture

I absolutely loved the renaissance architecture in the center of Amsterdam. The tall, tightly-packed homes sometimes look like they’re holding each other up. On our Free Walking Tour, we were told that residents paid taxes based on the width of their homes. This is why you see these characteristic tall & narrow homes in Amsterdam. Since this makes for tight staircases & hallways inside, they also tend to have have a hook above the top floor to hoist larger items into the home or business.

These narrow, long homes are actually what made Amsterdam the perfect place for the Frank family to hide. From the street, it’s hard to tell how far back many of the homes actually go.

The Red Light District

We visited the Red Light District during the day as well as on a lively Saturday night. It was interesting to see both. In daylight, De Wallen almost seems like any other neighbourhood in Amsterdam.There’s a beautiful church, the Oude Kerk, a market, & many great cafés & restaurants. Even in the morning, you’ll notice a few women behind windows here & there, as you sip your coffee & wander the area. It’s quite the juxtaposition. We did the morning free walking tour with New Europe & had a lovely time learning about the center of Amsterdam & the Red Light District.

The side of the Oude Kerk & the narrow streets of De Wallen

N & I went back late that evening, after dark, & the district seemed to have come alive. The narrow streets were so crowded that you could barely walk down them sometimes. Bars were overflowing. It almost felt like there was some kind of festival going on, instead of just another Saturday night. There were also a lot more windows with women behind them. & many of them were putting on a bit of a show to entice customers, sometimes even knocking on the glass to call them over. The atmosphere at night was completely different than it had been during the day.

The main canal in De Wallen

Heading towards the Red Light District

If you have the time to check it out both in the morning & evening, I’d definitely recommend that. Grab a drink in one of the pubs & enjoy watching the debauchery on a Saturday night. We went back on a Sunday & while it was busy, it wasn’t quite the chaos of the night before.

The Beer

It wouldn’t be a Europe Beer Tour if we didn’t drink any beer. You’re likely already familiar with Heineken, but there are so many other great beers too. & even better, there are so many great places to try them out.

Wandering around on our first day, we took a break for some drinks & fantastic lamb meatballs at De Ysbreeker. Named for the icebreakers that docked in front of the building, it has a beautiful terrace & a great selection of local beers like de Prael. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a beautiful summer day.

Another spot we came to love was Hoppe. It’s been in operation for over 300 years & has a great selection of beers. Inside you’ll find antique stained glass windows, old gin barrels, & sawdust on the floor. A table on the covered terrace is a nice place to spend a few hours with friends (& maybe some bitterballen to snack on), but more often than not the after work crowd spills out into the bustling Spui square. Come here for the great local atmosphere, & some fantastic beer.

I saved my favourite spot for last: Brouwerij ‘t IJ. We biked to this microbrewery in east Amsterdam, next to the old de Gooyer windmill. Share a long table with other customers on their tree-covered terrace or head inside to their tasting room, lined with an impressive bottle collection. On weekends, they do a brewery tour for 5 euros. Arrive early to sign up – it fills up fast (as we, unfortunately, learned).

The terrace at Brewerij ‘t IJ

With a large selection of interesting (& tasty) beers, it’s a great spot to spent an afternoon. Check it out before 3 pm if you’d like to try a flight. It’s a little bit off the beaten path, so you’re more likely to find yourself amongst locals here, a welcome change after spending a couple days playing tourist.

‘t IJ Flight

Part of the bottle collection

One of the entrances

I could go on about all the great places we saw in Amsterdam (& all the great beer we drank) for a lot longer, but I’ll leave it off here. There’s something about the laidback Dutch vibe that takes all these incredible sights & experiences to the next level. Thanks for a great introductory visit, Amsterdam. I hope to come back again someday.

Dear Berkeley Bowl

I love grocery stores. I know that’s kind of an odd thing to say you love, but I really do. A truly fantastic grocery store makes me really damn happy. Before coming down to California, I was pumped to spend a couple months living near Whole Foods & Trader Joe’s. That was literally on my list of things to do in California: shop at Whole Foods. That was, until I learned about Berkeley Bowl.

Berkeley Bowl is an independent supermarket in, you guessed it, Berkeley, CA. They’re best known for their produce selection, & for good reason, it’s one the largest selections of produce I’ve ever seen in a single location. Even their organic section rivals most regular grocery stores. It’s the place to go when you’re looking for that one strange ingredient for a recipe.

Berkeley Bowl

The huge organic section

Berkeley Bowl

Berkeley Bowl

So much produce (& dang, I wish limes were this cheap at home!)

Berkeley Bowl

Berkeley Bowl

Mushrooms on mushrooms

Berkeley Bowl

There were literally too many to fit in one photo

Berkeley Bowl

Honestly though, it’s kind of the place to go for whatever your grocery needs might be.  They have a huge, full-service meat & seafood counter, more varieties of dairy products than I can even attempt to sample, most of the specialty grocery items you expect to find at Whole Foods, & an amazing bulk section. I assume the bulk section is similar to what you’d find in a Bulk Barn, but smaller. Here you can stock up on spices, pastas, cereals, flours, rices, candies… That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I like it for the spice section. I love that I can refill my existing spice containers when I run out or get a pinch of something I need for a recipe. I’m that person who filled a bag with 8 cents of red pepper flakes.

Berkeley Bowl

My favourite section, obs

Berkeley Bowl

Berkeley Bowl

Cheese Island – the happiest place

Berkeley Bowl

Bulk Spices!

Berkeley Bowl

Part of the dairy (& nut “dairy”) section

In addition to all this, they have a great full service cafe at both of their locations. I haven’t tried anything except their coffee, but it’s always busy & the food looks delicious. If you’re thinking that it comes with a Whole Foods style price tag, you’d be wrong. It’s surprisingly affordable!

With two locations in Berkeley, I often find an excuse to stop by when I’m out & about. N thinks it’s ridiculous that I enjoy spending so much time in grocery stores, but what can I say: I love food. Maybe then he’ll understand why I love it so much when he finally sees it (one of my goals is to bring him at least once before I leave), but I doubt it. He’s a “get in, get out” shopper, I’m a “compare everything, wander aimlessly” shopper. 😉

I’ll end my love letter to the Berkeley Bowl here & just say, if you find yourself hungry in this funky city, stop by & grab something delicious. You won’t be disappointed.

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