Monday, 29 June 2015

Fireworks and Calligraphy class,

Saturday was a wait for fireworks by the bay kind of day. Love the heart thumping of each shoot up.
Of Black and White on B&W, featuring my cracked nail polish.
And the real sparks that afternoon @ Wessex tavern, thanks to Souldeelight's calligraphy class I now have a new tool to play with! Hello pretty nibs and jet black ink, my mind's already bursting about the myraid of colours and magic playing with ganache! Weekends please come sooner.
July has always been the charm of the year, but work's been horrendously piling up - August please be nice and you will be rewarded.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Dark nights,

Indeed, The darkest nights produce the brightest stars. Late night calligraphy doodles with an office pen and dividers, and of course with Matchbox 20 on repeat - nostalgic of good ole school nights and procrastination at its best. On the brightest note, have signed up for my first calligraphy class with Souldeelight on 27 June @Wessex Tavern, really excited and we'll see what amazing sparks transpire.

Saturday, 13 June 2015


1 March 2013: Be at London Victoria Station by the Whistlestop Shop at 7pm.

I was clearly on time and even had time to spare in fussing with my frizzy dry hair (winter blues). Zoe (from Georgia, US)  invited me for a short weekend trip down to Amsterdam, as her friend had a spare ticket for an overnight bus ride across the English channel - saying yes to spontaneity, I had packed up my backpack in a jiffy. That's the charm of being on exchange, plans change and you're *snap* game on.

With the bus being delayed by almost 4-5 hours, was glad to have befriended friendly Brazilians and Americans along the way - which really helped to negate the long bus ride and wait! This lucky lad forgot his passport, and had the luxury to fetch it from home (all the way to Kensington and back) with hours to spare lol.

Party and high night life aside, Amsterdam 's beauty lies in her origins as the dam of Amstel river. Derived from its Dutch name Amsteledamme, Amsterdam started as a fishing village in the 12th century - later growing to become one of the most famous ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. Today, she is the capital city of the Netherlands and sits in the province of North Holland. The endless systems of canals, winding waterways and idyllic bridges prides Amsterdam as a UNESCO World Heritage site, are quite a therapeutic sight to behold (but most definitely not a system to get lost in, for we learnt it the hard way!).

Making only 1 pitstop (read: brushing teeth in ice cold water) at a conveniently opened 24-hours MacDonalds, we woke up achy on the overnight coach. The sinks in the ladies' bathroom were swamped with groggy passengers inching to get the chance to fresh up. Toothbrushes out, facial wash, girls powdering their morning faces - and then someone decides to makes a protein shake which spontaneously bursts open and gets awkwardly strewn across 3 sinks and the mirrors, much to everyone's dismay. Good morning Amsterdam.

At first glance, Amsterdam was blanketed in the typical winter gloom. The trees were lifeless and the ground dry and barren. It didn't change much upon reaching the city...

Until we walked over to the canals ♥ Throwback to 1997, Amsterdam remains as one of the cities I fondly remember - the bricked residences, mirror-like reflections on the canal waters, bicycles galore and idyllic bridges. And not to mention the boat houses lined along the waterways.

Tranquility in the form of 2 visiting swans gliding across the waters. Amsterdam has a grand total of 165 canals, which amounts to about 100km - wonder how long they swim each day!

Easiest transportation around the city is via the tram lines, the stations can be conveniently found across the city - just be sure to hop on in the correct direction! Best way to travel is possibly by cycling though, but note that it may be quite a challenge to spot out your parked bicycle in a sea of entangled bikes.

Or if you're rushing for a boat ride - take a cab! It wasn't too expensive when we split it 3-way and the driver was really friendly.

Dam square is the city's central area that is buzzing with activity, and a perfect place to orientate yourself in the medieval city centre. Overlooking the square lies the Royal Palace which was the former Cityhall in the Dutch Golden Age. It later housed King Louis Napoleon and became the Dutch Royal House. Next to it is the Nieuwe Kerk, a 15th Century church; and a National monument. On many occasions, the Dam square is used for National events, such as Remembrance Day (4 May) or for light-hearted carnivals complete with ferris wheels and candy stores. In other times, it is typically filled with tourists and locals alike, and many passer-bys in transition. Definitely a great place to people watch if it wasn't so chilly!

The Old Wooden House: Silently standing in one of the secluded inner courts of the city, (Begijnhof)  the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam has been restored and preserved for its heritage since 1528. The courts now belong to the English Reformed Church. The house most certainly stands out from its red brick neighbours and is very easy to pick out once you enter the private courtyards - pretty amazing how it has stood the test of time and even fire hazards in the past!

A key trait of buildings in Amsterdam is that many of them tilt forward. They definitely aren't visible in the pictures and at most times you won't even be able to tell in real life either! In the past, many of the buildings were warehouses, and often had a pulley or hoist system to lift goods up to various floors. Hence, the slight tilt helped to prevent the goods from damaging the foundation of the building through these daily operations. With the conversion of these old warehouses to residences, these quirky characteristics remain untouched.

Apart from the system of canals, narrow back alleys are also characteristic of the city. Check out the free expressions on the walls and bicycles parked at every corner possible!

Mini greenhouses selling flowers by one of the main canals, the flowers in the market were indeed very fresh - was really tempted to purchase some for my window beam back home. Eventually decided against it when I thought of the long bus ride to London, couldn't bear to see my precious tulips being squished from all angles. Really wish we had an optimal climate for tulips to thrive in Singapore, they are one of my favourite flowers :') (But tend to be extremely expensive, thanks R for the occasional effort to gift them even though they don't last very long!)

When in Holland, fill up on Dutch pancakes! There are many bruin cafes around which serve authentic Dutch food, and they are mostly cosy and very homely. Loosely translated as 'brown cafes', they are traditional Dutch pubs which showcase a dark wood interior and dim lighting. Some of the older cafes have sand on the floor, as this was typical of the past.

Posting a postcard home, made it a point to send one from every city I visited.

Queued up for Anne frank's house, we waited close to an hour.

Amsterdam is renowned for their coffeeshops, many of them can be found condensed around Oudebrugsteeg. This is just across the waters from Central Station, and just next to the Red light district. Always interesting to just step in and check out the interiors, even if you're not a fan. Note: Am not advocating any cause here, this is purely for information.

Battling the cold to pay a visit to the Heineken brewery

Learning about hops and brewing them for beer:

The Heineken experience (they pride in not calling themselves a museum) was certainly informative and interesting, you could get a glimpse into the industry of beer brewing and be surrounded by brass beer tanks. They even had a small horse stable, seemingly to replicate one of their older designs on the beer bottles. It was however, rather commercialized and for a whooping 18 euros per ticket, would have easily given this a miss and head straight for the Rijksmuseum just a 10 mins walk away. 

Amsterdam Heineken Experience 
Stadhouderskade 78 1072 AE 
 Amsterdam The Netherlands

More canal wandering:

'IAmstermdam' is how the city brands and prides itself, you can locate the big bold letters behind the Rijksmuseum. On a side note, the museum is definitely worth a visit even though I didn't get the chance to do so during this trip.

Catching a mini boat ride across the canal, it was great to end the day on such a soothing note - my dear companions fell asleep 10 mins into the ride.

Walking around aimlessly to settle down for dinner, spoilt for choice!

Central Station

What is this strange curved wall doing in the open? Much to our dismay (or surprise, however you look at it) it's meant for guys to pee in the open! When you gotta go, you gotta go! Believe R and I saw this Brussels as well, so it's pretty common in Europe.

Waiting for the bus by the road side.

By night, the city exudes a different kind of charm, a far cry from her day facade. At first glance, it was pretty overwhelming, especially with just 2 of us girls and when we walked up the wrong alley with tons of guys shoving around in the Red Light district. The Amsterdam of the day transforms into the night of sins and lust - certainly an eye opener.

And nearby, a church perches itself nonchalantly.

So Z and I legit-ly wanted to get some English tea/coffee for warmth, and scuttled around trying to find a real coffeeshop - to no avail! It was seemingly easier to find a Coffeeshop (where they sell marijuana/hash, space cakes) than a Koffie Huis (juices, coffee, tea, sandwiches).

We also stumbled upon one of the most famous coffeeshops in the city - The Bulldog was the first coffee shop established in Amsterdam and was brimming with customers even at 8pm. It's located at Leidseplein (Oudezijds Voorburgwal 220), where a police station once resided and just beside the canal. Shouldn't be hard to spot because of it's distinctive blue glow.

So we decided to just settle for some Mayo soaked fries and hot tea from Burger King for supper.

We woke early the next day to head down to De Zaanse Schans - would have been pretty fun to cycle instead, though it would have been really chilly. Venturing out to the outskirts was such a great idea because of the picturesque sights that being in the city can never replace (though I would like to believe I'm still a city girl), we also caught some windmills and flying countryside birds along the way. Gorgeous!

The Zaan district has many industrial windmills that help to drive the manufacturing of products such as lumber and paint. There's also a cheese and clog factory, which I fondly remember visiting when I was younger.

Finding out how cheese and made, and sampling - some things never change and it was exactly how I remembered it to be from many years back!

Ain't no cheese without them goats.

Hi there buddy!

Soaking in the windmills and gorgeous open plains - while the breeze made it slightly chilly, the landscape was really unforgettable! We decided to venture towards these giant windmills, many of which were painted in bright bold colours or housed with bricks.

The Clog factory - excellent workmanship and craftswork but some traditions are hard to keep...

Heading back to London

 Would most definitely wish to come back to Amsterdam once again, and to try cycling to the outskirts and neighbouring districts! One of the most beautiful memories I've had of Holland was the fields and fields of tulips, truly mesmerizing - which typically happens in May (dependent on the year and temperature). But for now, I'll just encapsulate these fond memories in the form of the wooden tulips on my shelf, preciously kept since 1997 ♥

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