Earlier this year, during my Easter break, I visited Amsterdam for approximately 20 hours. My friend, co-worker, fellow expat and fellow blogger Ania (girl, the list is getting longer, and I haven’t even mentioned our shared taste in music here) was with me. We were headed to Italy and chose to fly KLM in order to have a stopover in the Dutch capital to catch a favourite artist of ours performing there (here comes the shared musical taste). The first time I visited Amsterdam was back in 2010 and the main reason for my trip was to go see Anneke van Giersbergen, my favourite singer. The very same reason why I ended up in Amsterdam for 20 hours again this year.
I’ve been a fan of this delightful woman for over 10 years and I’ve been hardcore enough to see her perform 9 times in total. I really really enjoy her concerts, I really really appreciate that she usually meets up the fans afterwards (I have my holy collection of pictures taken with her ever since my first time in 2006) and as a photographer I absolutely adore taking pictures at her shows. She is truly an outstanding performer.My first time in Amsterdam I remember that taking a picture of the iconic “I amsterdam” sign was high among my priorities. Clearly I was not the only one, the sign was super crowded and full of people crawling over every letter all the time. My second time in Amsterdam I made the right decision to go and see it by night, so we headed there after the concert. Clear of tourists, finally!There have been other recurring elements in both my visits to Amsterdam city apart from seeing Anneke play. One of them was paying a visit to a Hema store, because it’s my favourite Dutch store. Then there has been devouring a cone of fries with mayonnaise. This time my friend took me to the best place in town, apparently, and they were really delicious. I wish I had taken a picture but my hands got greasy the very moment I grabbed my cone and I just gave up photographing and spent my time indulging instead. I enjoyed my fries walking and didn’t make the mistake of getting on public transport while eating them this time (my first time in Amsterdam I had been kicked out of a tram because I was holding and eating a cone of fries. Embarassing).Another thing that tasted delicious, as always, was a glass of cold Heineken from the tap. I am always amazed by how much better it tastes when you drink it there. Canned, for export, I can barely drink it. But give it to me from the tap in Amsterdam and I’ll love it. This time we had one just before the concert, we retreated in a small pub nearby to kill time. The previous time I had enjoyed one while on a canal tour by night.I might be an atypical traveler, but both times I couldn’t care less about the Red Light District or the coffeeshops. Actually, Amsterdam is a city so vibrant and full of beauty that I think it’s unfair those two features often overshadow all the other awesomeness found there. The coolest thing, in my opinion, is the city’s architecture. The streets with wide bike paths, the countless bridges over the canals, and those beautiful houses with their unmistakable narrow façades with ample windows… The houses are what I love the most. In fact, Amsterdam houses were the main inspiration for this winter’s gingerbread house-making, courtesy of Ania and her amazing ideas.So I relied on my gingerbread cookie recipe and last Friday night had fun recreating the Amsterdam houses in my kitchen. I just made one batch of dough, divided it in three, added some cocoa powder to one third to make it slightly darker, some red food colouring to another to make it slightly reddish, and left a third of its original colour (having used dark muscovado sugar, it didn’t blend completely and left the lighter dough marbled).Then it was all about cutting each house the right shape and having fun with the icing drawing the windows. The decorations came out quite simple, but the three different tones of the cookies gave them a nice touch. I didn’t venture into making the whole houses and stopped at the façades. I displayed them nicely over my living room furniture to photograph them and I am seriously thinking of leaving them there for the rest of the holiday season. They make such a cute Christmas decoration and remind me of one of the beautiful places I’ve been lucky to travel to this year.