Amsterdam

ALWAYS STARE AT JACOB

brunch

Well they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day don’t they? This might apply during the week when you quickly ram something in your mouth before getting out the door to attend the daily grind. However at the weekend, I strongly disagree! Brunch is the most important meal of the day and there’s a great spot in Amsterdam called Staring At Jacob. I love brunch! It’s the perfect time to catch up with friends (usually hungover) and piece together the night before over coffee Bloody Mary’s and food flirting between breakfast and lunch.

Sitting on the corner of Jacob van Lennepkade and Staringstraat you can find this hot bed of brunch brilliance. A popular choice for locals and tourists alike, you’ll find a great atmosphere and grub to die for. Typical American favourites can be found on the menu such as Chicken and Waffles, Bacon and Pancakes and for the health conscious among you some muesli and yogurt combination. With an ever changing menu you can visit time after time and try something new. Speaking from the experience of various visits I can tell you that no matter your preference they’re all delicious. The super cool interior, friendly service, relaxed atmosphere, great food and drinks ensure that it’s always busy with the sound of chit chat.

staring

Should you not quite make it out of bed in time to catch brunch you can even go later and try some of their small bites. So go check out this hotspot for yourself and stare squarely at Jacob!

.S.

SAHARA JANUARY SUCCESS

photo 1

January has been drier than an AA meeting, through choice I might add. There’s always a lot of talk about “Dry January” just as the final party popper confetti hits the booze soaked floor during the New Year celebrations. How many of you said you’d do it? How many of you did? Well by some absolute miracle, I DID IT! Yes, I do feel rather proud of myself and am dangerously close to being that smug non-drinker that laughs in the face of your hangover. I hate myself!

I’ve recently heard via a friend that dry January is actually unhealthy but I’ve felt some benefits. Improved diet, more gym hours and best of all the start of this very blog. Had I spent January ’14 like every month of 2013 between work, drinking, partying, hangover there would have been little time or energy for proactive movement let alone clear thinking for writing. That said it has been a touch on the deathly boring side. Without the fresh vigor of blogging discovery I may just have crumbled. Which does beg the question – Can you really be social without drinking alcohol?

Its not that you can’t have fun without drinking your weight in Gin (although it certainly helps). In my recent experience its very hard to be your usual social self when you’re being boring….I mean….when you’re not drinking. Not because of the need for social lubricant to be comfortable, absolutely not. But when every social occasion revolves around a bar here, a dinner there, a club anywhere I’ve practically hibernated to avoid temptation. And drunk people! When you’re stone cold sober drunk people are not your ally. I do like a drink and so do my friends but really I’d say we’re firmly in the category of weekend binge drinkers. But aren’t we all? These days if someone tells you they don’t drink its more surprising than if they told you their favorite tipple is mentholated spirit!

This weekend I leapt with joy from wagon and began with a visit to the Ron Gastrobar accompanied by my good friend CC. She assures me she’s not had so much of a sniff of the unholy water in Jan and I’ll just about take her word for it. Being an Englishman I’ve visited my fair share of gastrobars/pubs back in the homeland taking in the good, the average and the gastronomically terrible. Here in Amsterdam this seems to be a new concept with Ron Blaauw making the claim this is the first of its kind and I wholly agree with the Michelin stared master chef. I’ve certainly never been to a Gastrobar like this! With a soundtrack including the likes of Wham! and other 80’s delights the atmosphere was casual and relaxed.

The interior was modern and littered with the artwork of Selwyn Senatori, an Italian-Dutch artist I discovered when I first touched down in Amsterdam. It should have come as no surprise when sitting right opposite me was the man himself! We exchanged smiles, mine far more enthusiastic than his. The food was of the quality you’d expect from a place named after and associated to a multiple Michelin stared chef. The  prices on the other hand were not! €15 per course to be precise, affordable for even the tightest of wallets. Upon receiving the first course it became apparent why as the portion size was verging on puny. We did then realise the concept was to have multiple courses and subsequently ordered 3 deserts. I’ll certainly be going back to work my way through a few more.

ron

 Dry January was a challenge and one I’m happy to have succeeded at even if The Daily Mail says its unhealthy. I don’t know whats more surprising, the fact they say dry January is unhealthy or that they’ve spared some column inches away from their usual subjects of immigrants and former BBC presenters turned paedos.

So can you be social when you’re on the wagon? Yes you can but the fact is it’s just not as much fun. A hangover has never felt so good!

.S.

CULTIVATING YOUR CLIQUE

friends

Relocating to any country is a daunting process with many things to consider and take into account such as where to live, how to set up a bank account, dealing with a different currency, a different style of life, different culture. The list goes on and on. Now that I look back on it, surprisingly there were a lot of things I hadn’t thought about. Isn’t hindsight a beautiful thing?! Once you’ve taken care of all the important and often boring stuff it’s time to think about your social circle. Your social life can define your relocation experience and how you feel about your new home. Back in your homeland you’ve got an established circle of pals/buddies/mates/acquaintances. Whatever you want to call your clique, they’re all there with no real need to expand this core group further. But what about when they’re all in another country? A whatsapp group chat doesn’t quite cut it.  The realization hit me and to quote Paul Rudd in one of my favourite movies – I Love You Man – “I gotta get some fuckin’ friends”

When I came to Amsterdam I pretty much knew just one person, my very good friend James L. He’d been in Amsterdam for one year and had been instrumental in making the move a little less scary. James had already made plenty of mates and many of which I can now happily also call my friends but I was also conscious I had to get out there and find some of my own. But how? where? Going up to some dude in a bar and asking him to be your friend was going to give totally the wrong impression and is just plain weird! I was never the most forward of people in the past.

I looked into meetup groups, groups where people with similar interests gather, chat and as the name suggests meet up. But in the end I didn’t actually attend any. I felt like using these groups to meet people was almost admitting defeat and that I couldn’t find friends by myself, that there must have been something wrong with my character. Which now I have to say I see as a bit of a stupid way to look at it but at the time that was my feeling. So now what?

In my experience the people who make up this wonderful city are pretty open with Amsterdam being a very multi-cultural city made up of locals as well as many expats just like me. This common ground is an ideal way to make a connection and before long you’ll find it second nature to strike up a conversation with someone you’ve never met before. It’s just a matter of putting yourself out there, getting out of your comfort zone and stop being a pussy! Bars, Parties, through other friends are great ways to meet people but the key is to follow it up. If you meet someone you get on with, exchange numbers and arrange to meet up again. Being the person to take the initiative and send that first message is the final hurdle and pretty soon you’ll feel right at home with people who not so long ago were total strangers. I’ve made some amazing friends over the past 18 months, friends who I know will be in my life in one way or another for a very long time to come.

Relocating is more than just a journey for your clothes, photo’s and nick nack’s to make in a suitcase. It’s a journey of personal discovery and one I hope you enjoy as much as I continue to.

.S.