Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Summer in Amsterdam

September has started, summer is over now and it's back to university now after 3 months of what were probably my last real holidays ever.
All in all, this summer turned out to be less exciting than it could have been: of the day trips I had originally planned (and announced here earlier), not a single one became reality, either due to lack of time or due to bad weather. Yup, Dutch summer weather proved to be extremely disappointing: While practically next door Germany was experiencing its hottest summer in centuries, we got barely a handfull of days with temperatures significantly above 20°C. And during those few warm stretches, I was mostly in Germany, and couldn't even go to the beach here once.

But, on the bright side: We had a whole lot of people coming to visit us here this summer! And with its many summer festivals and events it really is hard to get bored around here - even when the weather is bad.

As soon as the sun comes out, we usually go into one of the many water-side beergardens here. Our favorite, as it's just around the corner, is the Waterkant. It does not have that many tables but you can always just grab a beer at the bar and sit down somewhere on the pier (or bring your own drinks - nobody really minds as the quay technically isn't part of the bar). It usually has sun until rather late in the evening, so it's also crowded during the week and many people arrive in boats to refill on booze there or to pick up their friends.

Another favorite is Roest in the eastern part of the city (sooo far away), which boasts a swing hanging from an old industrial crane going into the canal, for swinging into the water on hot days (yuck, canal water!).

And up in Amsterdam Noord, a 10 minute ferry ride away is Pllek, built from old shipping containers, with the most comfortable bean bags and canvas chairs on its little beach overlooking the IJ river. On one of those bean bags I managed to get my first sunburn in years - I guess my skin just was not used to the sun anymore.

Then there was the Grachtenfestival: A week of concerts, most of them classical or jazz, many of them for free and on stages built onto the canals. We went to see the opening concert on the Kloveniersburgwal, and since the stage was on the canal, the audience was mostly gathered on boats and the surrounding bridges.

Probably my highlight this summer was the Amsterdam SAIL 2015. It only takes place every 5 years, so we were rather lucky to experience it now: It is probably the largest free maritime event in the world and brought this year around 50 tall ships and hundreds of other vessels: antique steamboats, submarines, ships of the Dutch navy and basically everything else that was able to swim.
It was a magnificent sight to see them all come down the IJ river on the wednesday before the event - and I may have just rediscovered my love for sail ships, if I should ever win the lottery I'll buy myself a luxury cruise on the clipper Stad Amsterdam through tropical islands.
My poor smartphone camera pictures barely do it justice, so I'll just embed one of the official videos here.

During the weekend there were hundreds of side events: parties, concerts, parades, tours, children's events, ...
Oh, and: there were so many sailors in their uniforms out and about in the city... ;)

We spent a whole day wandering around the docks (they had even partially dismanteled one of the bridges on the eastern islands so the ships could pass through!), went onto several of the large ships and marvelled at everything to be seen. The boyfriend and I agreed on a ship from Sweden, the Götheborg, being the prettiest of them all - you can see her sailing in rather in the beginning of the video, in blue and yellow.

And, to stick to the naval topic: We finally managed to go on a boat here! With visiting friends, we rented an electric boat and, within our 2 hours, we managed to go almost once along the Prinsengracht and back. Much to my dismay, we didnt quite make it until the Amstel without the danger of being late to return the boat. Maybe we should get one for ourselves.

And I'm finishing this up with a picture from Museumplein, where the new wing of the Van Gogh museum was opened last week. To celebrate this, thousands of sunflowers had been arranged on the museum square in front of it in a maze - an impressive sight!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

London Calling - The Cumberbitch Dress

In the beginning, there was a First-World-Problem

and a piece of fabric from the Lapjesmarkt.

Fortunately, the internet is a seemingly bottomless resource for free sewing patterns, and while looking for more vintage fashion patterns in the style of the dresses in Masters of Sex (as I wrote earlier - my new addiction, thanks to my friend Rebecca), I found this awesome blog with lots of free 30s-50s inspired sewing patterns. Among them was a this cute 1950s inspired cocktail dress that was a perfect fit for the coupon of fabric I had picked up on the fabric market some weeks ago.

The pattern itself was around 1 size too large for me, this time I adjusted the size directly on the cut fabric pieces (I like to live dangerously!), which worked out quite well, although I feel that I could have taken it in a little more. The pattern is very well explained with an A4 page of instructions. Almost too much for my taste, since I daresay I know my stuff and I'm too impatient to read longer texts, but it will probably be a great help for less proficient (and less impatient) seamstresses.

Please note the pattern matching in the front and in the back - the zipper in the back spoiled my efforts a little, but if you don't look too closely it's okay I guess.

Overall cost: 1€ for the fabric, 2€ for the zipper.

In the end, things worked out a little differently than planned: We arrived in London on saturday morning and were greeted by sunshine and warm weather, so we spent the afternoon in Camden town, which was rather busy, given that it was holiday season and a weekend.
Mad Tea party in Camden

Camden Lock

 Canals, boats, biertje - we instantly felt at home. Shopping on the famous Camden Market however wasnt much fun, the exchange rate for the British Pound isn't exactly favourable at the moment. Towards the evening, we met up with our friends and then went for dinner somewhere near our hotel. Followed by another beer, in a pub nearby. Once we had settled down with our drinks at a table, who walks in? 
None other than Benedict Cumberbatch.
I'm proud, we girls were well-behaved and did not jump into full fangirl-mode, let the guy have his after-show pint and just found it incredibly cool to breathe the same air ;) After all, we would see him on stage on Monday evening.

One of the few sunny spells - Walkie-Talkie, Tower Bridge and The Shard

The rest of our stay in London was completely rainy, so we spent most of the time in Museums. I went to see the Shoes - Pleasure and Pain Exhibition in the V&A and now would like a copy of the high-heeled victorian leather boots they had on display *sigh* We also went to the Science Museum (always worth a visit, even if its just for seeing Charles Babbage's brain floating in a jar) and to the Tate Modern.

No pictures allowed inside :(

Mandatory book haul at Waterstones Piccadilly Circus
All in all I have to say, living in Amsterdam really spoils other cities for you. London seemed dirty, loud and noisy in comparison, and not exactly pretty either, with its inhomogeneous architecture (Old church next to steel-and-glass-skyscraper next to ugly 1960s concrete block...) and so much traffic. My last visits to London always gave me this adrenaline rush of finally being in a metropolis again, but now that I'm living in the prettiest capital of them all, I just don't feel it anymore.

And to conclude this post: Hamlet was simply divine! Probably my favorite theatre moment so far: the whole cast was amazing (after all, the Royal Shakespeare Company should know their stuff), the stage design placed the story in a hauntingly beautiful castle, and even the Shakespeare-novice and theatre-agnostic in our midst was well-entertained. I have to admit, I cannot really judge the quality of the production itself, since it has been more than 10 years since I thoroughly read Hamlet, but that may be for the better (I tend to over-criticize).

Super-bad interval selfie with champagne!