Oh Amsterdam!

Where shall I begin.  Not only is Amsterdam one of the most liberal cities in Europe with regards to almost anything, but it’s also filled with so much history, people and amazing architecture.  Let’s rewind back a bit.  Boarding my flight on Egypt Air, I was pleasantly surprised by the spacious seating and that was it.  The air stewards were not the friendliest people and nor are their english skills up to hostess/steward standard in my opinion, I enjoyed my flight which was important.  (Oh, and remember, they don’t serve any alcohol on their planes).  Being my first trip to The Netherlands, I waited in anticipation for the plane to touch down so I can put my two feet on foreign soil and just drink everything in that was happening around me.  Yep, I’m that type of romanticist.

I quickly find my way through immigration, collected my monster of a suitcase and braved the metro.  Everything works well here.  Busses and trains arrive to the second and the people are friendly.  The Dutch language on the other hand can sometimes be tricky, even to me as a native Afrikaans speaker, I have to concentrate and listen very well not to miss anything.  Day 1 saw me being the victim of a pick pocket and so I lost my OVkaart (metro card) with E30,00 on it and had to get another one.  Visiting a new city I’m usually inclined to pack away my smartphone and try to steer clear from using  maps.  I started my walk and followed all the signs that indicated Amsterdam Centraal.  Walking along there were a few things that any visitor in Amsterdam should take note of:  1.  Stay out of the bicycle lanes and 2, watch out for the trams.  My head almost felt like it was spinning as I looked left, right, up, down, left again and then only crossing any street or lane.

The Netherlands is famous for their cheeses and naturally I visited a cheese shop to taste and see what they had on offer.  Wonderful experience and note that the more central you go, the more expensive the cheeses are (in my opinion).  As we all know, The Netherlands are very liberal and using cannabis (smoking weed) in the city is quite a common thing.  Don’t be fooled by going into a coffee shop and think you are going to get just coffee, you will be getting cannabis experience with it.  Coffee shops in Amsterdam are known for being spots where you can  comfortably light up and enjoy your joint.  Heading deeper into the city I found myself in the famous red light district and man, was this an interesting experience.  Girls prancing around in the windows, scantily dressed and trying to make eye contact with their next potential customer.  Moving on swiftly!

Canal cruises are very popular in Amsterdam and is one of those “to do’s” that you just have to tick off your list.  My suggestion to you, walk a bit to the outer canals and take your canal cruises there as they are less crowded and off course less expensive.  I went to the Bootvaart kiosk on the Amstel river and paid E11 for an hour long canal cruise, totally worth it since you get to see a lot in that hour.

Food in Amsterdam can be very expensive or it can be cheap and it totally depends on what you prefer.  I enjoyed a lovely glass of Merlot (red wine) and a pizza at Casa de Leo for E14,00 which is not bad at all.  A croissant will typically cost you around E3,00 and a take away Americano about E2,00.  The wonderful thing about Amsterdam is that you can find almost anything here, from fast food, Indonesian cuisine, Italian, Tapas, Burgers and the options are endless.

So, when visiting Amsterdam what are the things one should keep in mind:

  1. Get an OVkaarten.

This will help you to use the tram, train, bus and is reloadable via their yellow machines at most stops and stations.

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2.     Drink enough water.

Water in Amsterdam are filtered by the dunes, due to the fact that they are lower than sea level and tap water is pleasant to drink.  Stay hydrated.

3.     Watch out for pick pockets.

Make sure you keep an eye on your phone, wallet and bag.  Don’t get caught by a nasty surprise.

4.     Download the 9292 (especially developed for travel in The Netherlands) app for your smartphone.

This app will help you tremendously to navigate yourself through transport in Amsterdam.

5.  Museum visits:

Get your tickets online to skip the queue.  Really, queues can get ridiculously long. 

6.  Albert Heijn Supermarket:

Pop in to any Albert Heine to buy yourself something to eat should you get hungry.  A lot cheaper than any restaurant and a good spot to shop when you need something.

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7.  Take an umbrella:

Thankfully I packed mine and man was I glad I did.  Since it’s October here in Europe, the weather is unpredictable and my umbrella was my saving grace.  This brings me to point 8….

8.   Download the Buienradar app. 

This is so precise and shows you exactly when it will rain and when it will stop.  This is super cool!

9.   Rent a bicycle.

If walking is a bit of an issue to you, why not rent a bicycle and explore the city this way.  Can cost you between E9,00 to E13,00 depending on where you rent it from.

10.  Stroopwaffels.

This is a Dutch classic and these small sweet treats are amazing.  I bought 3 packs for E7,00 to take back home at a food market and I can’t wait to indulge.

So there we have it my dear friends.  Amsterdam is a very enligtning city and offers you experiences galore.  Don’t be afraid to take a walk, taste something new, braving the queue or spending a bit extra and your experience in the city will be one that will be rewarded with great experiences, sights, sounds and tastes.  Dank je wel! (Thank you in Dutch).

What’s in a space?

 

So there I was, walking through the Sandton (Johannesburg’s Business Disctrict) CBD on my way to attend a session hosted by Equinox and Cerebra.  It was windy and I almost felt a bit like Batman, pacing from the Gautrain station upwards towards Maude street, with my coat dangling in the wind.  Jip, winter is definitely here and I craved shelter from the taunting wind.

I found a cute little roastery that sold coffee and I was sorted.  With warm comfort (coffee) in hand, I walked further.  The shade cast by the towers and business buildings made me a bit grumpy as they were stealing the warm sunlight.  If it wasn’t for their beauty, Batman (that would be me for the moment) would roundhouse kick them to let through some vital sunshine D, aka the sun.  I arrived at 15 Alice Lane and the corporate energy can be felt in the expensive vehicles, people’s suits and the way they queue to get through security.  What mattered more was that I was inside, away from the wind.  “You need to go down to level -1” the lady at reception remarked.  -1? Surely if this is a corporate session, why do I go down to the basement? Shouldn’t it be in the professional, corporate auditorium further along? It struck me as odd, but I obliged and took the elevator down.

The doors swallowed me up only to spit me out again a level down.  PING! the sound almost ripped me from my thoughts.  There I was.  I was baffled.  I am almost sure I took a wrong turn and arrived at the Underground in London somewhere.  The distinct styling, tiles and signage teleported me to a different place.  The friendly man told me to ring the bell.  No more Batman vibes, these are James Bond vibes! The door opened and closed behind me and I was cubicled with a lovely wooden clock to keep me company. Another door swished (is there such a word?) open and I entered an old library, complete with seating, dimmed lighting, books, knick knacks on the shelves and I was no longer in Corporate Johannesburg.  I was in the underbelly of a creative thing.  What magic is this??!

There it was again….. swiish… another door opened and I am greeted by lovely receptionists clearly enjoying my baffled expression as I sign in.  Through the doors again and I entered a room where circling television screens greeted me, empty apart from the beanbags scattered to the side.  This is literally a mind@#%$,  (a good one might I add) and through the worm hole I arrived at the reception area with artificial grass and seating.  After I collected my Americano, I sat down.  How is it possible that within the corporate structure that imposes, impresses and almost intimidates, flows a space where I can breath, absorb light, sights, sounds and a plethora of creative energy.

We were greeted and guided to the session hall.  There an ensemble of seating awaited us, unconventional, different, colourful and on wheels.  Yes, the seating moved the moment you put your weight down on it.  Think it’s that way for a reason, to blur lines, make you aware of how out of control and IN control collaboration can be sometimes.  I enjoyed my morning on Internal Collaboration hosted by Mike Stopforth from Cerebra a lot.  What I enjoyed even more, or shall I say appreciated, was the creative space that was born from a need by the Corporate sector in Sandton, to use space to create, dream, make mistakes, ask silly questions and a space that can be the catalyst to exceptional collaboration.

The question still bugged me.  What are we doing with our spaces?  Can we do the same? Are we utilizing spaces to serve us or are we doing things to serve and justify the space we use?  Surely creativity cannot be boxed, but it can be found.  It can be found in the creative underbelly of the Corporate towers called Equinox.  It can be felt at the Roastery just off West street, where I bought my coffee from earlier, it can be found in the garden, kitchen, on mountains and so I can go on.  WE (us), need to use our spaces better, utilize our spaces to service not just us, but others.  Well done Equinox on being a catalyst and thank you for the challenge to create and collaborate and create spaces for people to be baffled in, to dream in, to meet in, to work in, to play in, to bring change about.

PS. They are open to host your meeting, go Google them! Now!

Choco-holic? Check out Chocolat et Café!

Personally I’m not one with a sweet tooth, but appreciate a good sweet or treat here and there.  Here in the capital of South Africa, you have plenty of options to satisfy the sugar craving if and when it hits, you just need to know where to look.  O yes, make sure that they have the good stuff.

The world of Chocolate in Pretoria is not a well known one in my opinion and the question lingers; “Where do Chocoholics go to get their fix?”.  The past weekend, I stumbled upon a little place hidden away like a pirate’s treasure and I was fortunate enough to find it.  Chocolat et Café is literally the sweet spot, located in the new trendy, up and coming Hazelwood Food Village in Pretoria.  Nestled between Culture Club Bar de Tapas and Alfies you go deeper where you are greeted by a refreshing space with Turqoise umbrellas, tables and chairs.  Quaint and pettite.  Obviously, the nosey person I am, a needed to take an up close look inside and was amazed by the amount of decadence this small space held.

Chunky Chocolate Brownies, Caramel Cheese Cake, Carrot Cake, Macaroons, Chocolate Toffees, Truffles that looks exquisite and of course slabs of chocolate in every variety, colour and fragrance (yes, I smelled them) you can get.  This is truly a HAVE TO, to any self proclaimed chocoholic.  Did I mention the coffee in a sugar cone?  Strange, but I have to go back to try it.  A second question popped: “Why don’t we know of all of these little treasures?”.  I arrived at a simple answer… routine dining.  Exploring a bit, hunting the treasure and when someone talks about something special they experienced, listen.  Luckily word of mouth did it’s thing and I walked away happy, over-chocced (is there such a word?) and telling my posé all about this little treasure called Chocolat et Café in Waterkloof, Pretoria. Go! Now!

 

 

 

Give us today our Daily Coffee

Always looking for the next coffee spot in Pretoria? Then The Daily Coffee is just the place to visit.  They are situated in the Greenlyn Centre in Menlopark and easily accessible from the N1 via Atterbury.  Nestled in between the greenery of the premises, The Daily Coffee gives you a setting that’s both private and relaxed. 

Pretoria has seen an uprising of coffee spots and the coffee culture in the capital is definitely making a turn for the better.  I find it always very refreshing when you can experience something that’s different, good quality and gives you a setting where you can breathe, work and even relax.  Meet, The Daily Coffee.

The Daily Coffee have a variety of menu options ranging from lovely well prepared coffee (well duh!) to gorgeous breakfasts, light meals like burgers, sandwiches and wraps and even low carb meals.  Menus are reasonably priced and makes them a good restaurant anytime of the month.  Ask them about their Gluten free options. 

Their food is prepared well and their coffee is the best!  I enjoyed their Daily Fix breakfast and fellow diners ordered Eggs Benedict and a open sandwich with salmon & rocket.  It was decadent, tasty and you can be sure they use the freshest of ingredients and are not shy when it comes to portion volume.  I left, happy, satisfied and will be back for sure.  Points scored:  Setting in the garden, privacy and it’s pet friendly!  Points deducted: attention to detail, make sure the plate is clean of smears before it arrives at the table.  Overall impression:  Love it, Go! Now!

Run Rabbit Run Coffee Roastery

Being fortunate enough to attend a coffee experience , I wasn’t sure what to expect (well duh, apart from tasting amazing coffee).  So, not being Capetownian, I made my way from Blouberg into the city.  The maps application on my phone had other plans, we are not going to the trendy city centre, but rather took a sharp left towards Observatory.

Driving on, you get a sense that you are entering a very old part of Cape Town and seems almost industrial to some extend.  I arrived.  A beautiful building that looks almost like a theatre, the Bijou building.  I did some digging and found out that it was in fact a theatre, almost a forgotten era gem, but this is not the focus here….. coffee.

Run Rabbit Run micro coffee roastery is based in the foyer of the Bijou building.  From the moment you enter through the wrought iron doors, you get a sense that this is going to be a good one.  Talking to Phillip (the owner), you immediately know this guy is passionate about coffee.  You see, I love coffee, but I am not nearly as passionate about it as he is.  Being busy within the hospitality industry, Phillip told his story of moving from the restaurant sphere to what he loves best, coffee.  14 months being at it, roasting, trying, getting it right, getting it wrong, until he got to a point of perfection.

First up, was a bit of history and the way coffee was grown and harvested and one thing that strikes me as odd, was that he referred to it as actually being coffee seeds.  Well, technically it must be, because the bean is actually enveloped by fleshy fruit.  Ok, but that’s besides the point.  We moved on to coffee cupping.  Different blends, absorption rates, colour, acidity the whole shebang.  We even roasted a batch ourselves and that only in a few minutes while Phillip looked like a crazy Alchemist, turning knobs on the roasting machine, monitoring the graphs and constantly explaining the process.

I must admit that I got a little lost there as I couldn’t stop staring at the green coffee beans turning a deep, rich, brown and smelling the change and fragrant air that developed.  Done with the roasting it was time for a cup and he treated me to a pour-over of one of his special blends.  Taking it all in, being narrated by Phillip around every sip.  We closed the session with a trip to a nearby roastery called Espressolab and closed with a nice Kenian espresso and having a chat about consumerism and how we seldom don’t grasp the bigger picture at play.

Nearing the end I’m confronted with multiple messages, the dominant being coffee, but more so, enjoying your cup ethically.  Knowing what we consume haven’t caused harm to anyone, the environment and the industry at large.  Being able to buy a product that is of top grade and having a guilt-free experience is for you to decide and sadly we are dictated to what our wallets allows us.   One thing that we can exercise however, is a choice over how we speak about or what we say about those things we consume.  Being knowledgable and aware of what our purchase will do and what change we might affect by taking that glorious sip.