Summer 2014: Amsterdam

Greetings from Thessaloniki!

I’m currently in a cute little coffee shop in the center of Thessaloniki, Greece. My friend Susan (aka Sooooooze) and I opted for an 8-hour layover here on our way to Istanbul instead of an overnight layover. Thought it would be nice to see another Greek city. Bad news is, it’s Sunday so things are pretty dead. The good news is, there are a ton of coffee shops here. Apparently (says Greek Reporter) Thessaloniki has the most coffee shops per capita of any city in Greece. That being said, it didn’t take long before Sooooze and I popped a squat a this chic little spot called Baker Street to have a drank.

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We don’t have to be back at the airport for another couple of hours so I thought I’d get some bloggin in. I was trying to think about how I wanted to organize my posts since I’m having trouble posting as a I go. I thought I would just go in order of the places I’m traveling until I get through everything. That being said, lets chat about life in the Low Country…

In Amsterdam, I had the pleasure of staying with my friend Sam. She was finishing up her Masters at the University of Amsterdam so I was able to crash with her until she left and then with her friends for my last few days. This was awesome for various reasons. Aside from not having to pay for housing, I also got to hang out with Sam and meet some of the awesome friends she made over the last year. I can honestly say that they were a solid group of people and since they’re now my Facebook and Instagram friends, I’m sure that our connection will stand the test of time.

As for my class, I really enjoyed it. I’m not sure if I ever went into detail about what this whole European adventure was about. I got funding from my program to take a course on Black Europe in Amsterdam. Since the course was only two weeks long, it was time intensive, meeting Monday-Friday from 9:30-12:30 and then from 2-4:30 following lunch. I must say, the second session was often a struggle. After a long morning session and lunch, everyone was a little sluggish but we always managed to get into some interesting discussions. It was really cool because the people taking the class (about 40 of us) were from all of the world, which allowed for a range of perspectives. Race/racism/racial relations look very different in Europe than they do in the US so I found it extremely valuable for helping me think through a project that engages race and gender in a non-US context. I learned a lot of important fact based information but the incite of the European students was definitely the highlight. So many interesting discussions with intelligent, passionate people. I’m really grateful for the experience and looking forward to seeing how it will influence my work.

In addition to the academic and social components of my time in Amsterdam, I also had a great fitness experience. Since I was in Amsterdam for 15 days straight and my foot fracture was still heeling, I thought it would be worth it to try to find some sort of gym or fitness studio. I did a little research and I came across a blog that mentioned that Health Club Jordaan had a tourist memberships I looked into it. I ended up getting the one month tourist membership for 69 euros since the weekly rate was 35 euros and I would have needed two weeks. While it would have been ideal to not have to pay for a gym and just run as I had planned before hurting my foot, I don’t retreat spending this money at all. The gym was awesome and really helped me get into a mini-routine during my stay. The classes were challenging and the facilities were up to date and clean. The staff and instructors were super friendly and helpful. I often ended up just chatting with them after classes about my course, my impressions of Amsterdam, and just life in general. They also have a great smoothie bar/health store whee I was able to find paleo-friendly snacks! If you’re ever in Amsterdam, as a tourist or otherwise, I definitely recommend this place. Will definitely go back there if I ever find myself back in Amsterdam.

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Speaking of health, I was really pleasantly surprised at how easy it was for me to stick to paleo eating in Amsterdam. I didn’t eat out very much because I was able to cook and store food at Sam’s place. I also didn’t have the best gastronomical experience during my first visit to Amsterdam a few years ago so I didn’t come to the city with big foodie plans. Perhaps I should have given it a second change but I figured I’d take advantage of having a kitchen while I could since I knew I’d be eating out a ton for the rest of my trip. The great thing about making my own meals was that I got to play around in the grocery stores. Foreign grocery stores are probably the only thing more exciting than grocery stores in the US. I was really curious to see what the health food scene was like outside if the States. On my second day in the city, I inevitably stumbled upon what Sam described as the “Dutch version of Whole Foods” – Marqt. I walked in, saw the produce section and knew I had found my grocery store home for my stay. After throwing some beets, smoked salmon, almond milk, and a bar of Green and Blacks 85% Dark into my basket, I headed to checkout and found that it was card only and that they take American cards. When does that ever happen in Europe? Can you say heaven?

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In addition to Marqt, I also frequented the little store next to Sports Club Jordaan, appropriately called Organic. Though smaller than Marqt and not a chain, this place has a great selection of produce, nuts (and nut butters!), dairy-free products, and premade healthy meals. The owner of this store is also this awesome Dutch man with two super cute daughters. I know this because we talked about them, their differing personalities, and watched a video of the youngest one’s most recent dance performance. Obviously, we bonded. He’s great and so is his store. Not sure what I would have done without almond and cashew butter for an entire two weeks!

Jeez. I didn’t realize how much I had to write about Amsterdizzle until I started typing. I think I’m gonna call this post a wrap and just end with some quick info about some other places I enjoyed while in Holland.

SLA- great salad bar restaurant with great fresh ingredients. So yummy! Loved the lamb meatballs.

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Delicious Foods – Great small grocery store next door to SLA. Bulk nuts, seeds, grains, and beans. Also great dark chocolate selection. 😀

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