food

Living la Vie en Rose in a Parisian Home

The time spent in Iza and Paul’s beautiful apartment in the 7th arrondissement of Paris was truly magic. We were there for a total of five days during this Easter holiday.

La vie en rose is definitely not a myth, I can tell you that much. It starts in the morning, when pushing the curtains sideways to open the window. The classic white shutters need unlocking and I swear there is no better promise of a new day than making this gesture! The crisp air comes in and the flavoured coffee steam is raising from the cups, into the sunlight. On the dining table, fresh buttery croissants and pain au chocolat from the boulangerie downstairs. And the gentle, warm flickering of candles. Whoever said candles were an evening delight only was definitely not Parisian.

With the traces of sleep still visible on our faces, we would have breakfast together, enjoying the comfort of food and friendship. La vie en rose. The sweet life. We would have a similar ritual late in the evening, with a cup of tea, to share stories about how we spent our day. Needless to say, as visitors, we were out most of the time, wandering the city streets and taking photos, so there was plenty of catching up to do.

As always, leaving Paris was hard. Leaving this sweet home away from home was even harder. Although our friends have only recently moved in and they believe there is still plenty to do in terms of decorating etc., I say they’ve done a great job. They made the place theirs, that’s for sure. Being such a sucker for beautiful details, I had to keep on taking photos of it. I also had to take home a bottle of that same rose scented shower gel Iza was using – my attempt of bringing a bit of la vie en rose to Amsterdam. Will it work? I surely hope so!

<< Post originally published on Amsterdamming.com in April 2017 >>

Home in Rotterdam

This past Sunday we paid our first visit to Jennifer and York’s new home in Rotterdam. Like I have already confessed to them, I felt like a kid in a candy shop, trying to absorb all the beautiful details of the space – the light, the mood, their choice of furniture and decoration – and, at the same time, to take photos of everything.

“It’s work in progress,” Jennifer said apologetically, to which I replied I was already impressed, yet was nevertheless looking forward to seeing it in its final form, too.  It really is one of the most charming and full of character homes I have ever been to.

<< Post originally published on Amsterdamming.com in January 2018 >>

Sunday in a Bubble

Among other things, Alina loves to be a host. She would effortlessly throw something in the oven, get some drinks on the table, put on a nice dress and some lipstick, and wait for the guests to arrive. Food, conversation, and pretty clothes – three of her favourite things into one activity. For years I have been witnessing her home parties on her blog Life in a Bubble and, together with Knausgård, Alina is the person who put Norway on my map. She has been living in Oslo for so long, sometimes I forget she is Romanian.

This weekend, Alina and her boyfriend have come to Amsterdam for a short visit. We had dinner together at our place on Friday evening, then met for brunch at New Werktheater on Sunday. When they invited us for a post-brunch glass of wine at their rental apartment in the East, we could not refuse.

I was caught totally off guard by the overdose of cosiness and the plethora of beautiful details in the house. Alina and I could have spent the entire afternoon just lying on that sofa, the sun on our face, talking in the carefree Romanian style, slightly amused by the reactions of our non-Romanian boyfriends. I could tell how much she loves to be a host – even when travelling!

We did not stay for too long though. The weather was good and they had plans to go to the museum. Before leaving, Alina took me upstairs to show me the cradle hanging from the ceiling in the bedroom. I took some photos, then said goodbye, hoping to meet again in Amsterdam, Oslo, Bucharest, or elsewhere.

<< Post originally published on Amsterdamming.com in March 2018 >>

A Day in the Life of… Alehandra, in Oud-West

This Saturday, I let Alehandra, the happy inhabitant of my former loft in Amsterdam West, show me around her side of town. Alehandra and I first met on a cold day in November 2012, when I handed the keys over to her, and continued to see each other ever since. Some friendships start like that.

I am not at all surprised when she suggests we meet at The Breakfast Club, behind the Food Hallen. She is a big fan of pancakes – and of food, in general – and they surely have good pancakes at The Breakfast Club! It’s a warm Saturday afternoon and Alehandra is “recovering” after a week with her relatives from Romania, who visited and stayed at her place in Amsterdam. “I wish I looked like that when I’m 50,” she says as we are brunching on the terrace, pointing at a neatly dressed blonde lady at a table nearby. If only pancakes could help!

After a long, unrushed meal, I follow Alehandra on what she calls her Saturday afternoon ritual. First stop is Ten Katemarkt. As colourful and ethnically diverse as I can remember it from the times when I used to go there to supply on fruits and vegetables, this market is an accurate mirror of the city area where it is located – the West. From a stand with mouth-watering Middle Eastern delicacies Alehandra gets some hummus with fried onions, and some dates. The air smells, at turns, like caramelised nuts, fresh baked bread, fried dough, cheese, melon, fish, and flowers.

“Now I’m going to show you one of my favourite streets in Amsterdam,” Alehandra says as we turn left of Ten Katestraat and on to Bellamystraat. I realise never before have I walked along Bellamystraat – not all the way to its end, at least. Trees and flowers have grown wild, apparently with no human intervention, and they are now a green lining between the slightly worn-out house façades – a rare sight in polished Amsterdam – and the street itself, where buildings spread on both sides. The abundant vegetation creates mystery and decadence, and I can see why Alehandra likes this street so much. “It reminds me of that place in Great Expectations, where the old woman lives,” she says. “Paradiso Perduto!” I say and instantly agree. The lost paradise on Bellamystraat. I cannot believe I have been living in Amsterdam for seven years without ever seeing it. The atmosphere is idyllic: children playing with the ball in front of the houses, a young mother with her baby sitting on a bench in the sun, sidewalks painted in chalk – blue, yellow, and pink. Living in Amsterdam does feel like paradise sometimes.

We leave the labyrinth of peaceful streets behind as we find our way to Tweede Kostverlorenkade. Across the water, a mosque is shining in the sun. We continue to Postjesweg and stop at the flower shop at the intersection with Witte de Withstraat, right by the bridge. It’s where I used to buy flowers when living in the area. “Today I’m for sunflowers,” Alehandra says, disappearing inside. She returns with a large bouquet, which I offer to carry for her. One more stop – at the Albert Heijn, to get some drinks – and we’re almost home.

“Hummus, dates, beer, and sunflowers,” she says smiling, making an inventory of the bike’s crane. At that point we are already walking down Antillenstraat, only a few blocks away from her place. I tell Alehandra how much I like this street I once lived on, she tells me how she hopes to own an apartment here one day. She parks her bike next to the playground and goes upstairs. I realise I forgot to buy cigarettes – I am an occasional smoker, and being in Alehandra’s loft is definitely an occasion -, so I go get some from the small supermarket on the corner. “How are you?” the man behind the counter – the owner – greets me, visibly surprised and, at the same time, happy to see me. “Do you remember me?” I say just as surprised and happy. I used to shop there sometimes, true, but that was more than five years ago. It suddenly feels as if time stood still on Antillenstraat. When I climb the stairs to Alehandra’s place I see the calendar on the second floor agrees – it is stuck at June 2012.

In the loft I am welcome by a warm, familiar light. The blissful sun rays pouring through the windows make the two kittens lounge and be lazy, and have absolutely no remorse about that. The first thing getting my attention are the prints hanging – or waiting to be hanged – on the walls. I get an explanatory tour of them, ending with Alehandra’s favourite – a portrait of herself shot on film by a friend in London.

In the loft I am welcome by a warm, familiar light. The blissful sun rays pouring through the windows make the two kittens lounge and be lazy, and have absolutely no remorse about that. The first thing getting my attention are the prints hanging – or waiting to be hanged – on the walls. I get an explanatory tour of them, ending with Alehandra’s favourite – a portrait of herself shot on film by a friend in London.

Time flies when in good company. I realise it’s been hours since our brunch. Yet, I am not ready to leave until we have one last beer – this time on the roof terrace. The terrace goes around the building and there used to be no real obstacles to walk from one apartment to the other – not that anyone was ever into that. The lack of borders and the view of the sky could make you feel on top of the world – if you wanted to. In the recent years, however, fences were raised to delimitate property. Alehandra’s landlord made no exception. With or without limitations, the loft’s terrace remains a special place to be. The chimney pipes, painted like mushrooms by a former resident, create a surreal feeling interrupted only by the domestic sounds coming, every now and then, from the other apartments.

I let Alehandra with her two cats in the loft, and I find my way back down the stairs, to Antillenstraat, and finally to Surinameplein, where a tram is waiting to get me back home. As she pointed out, her staying in the loft is the longest of all previous residents. Yet, it only takes a moment to fall in love, and even less than that is necessary when it comes to the loft on Antillenstraat.

<< Post originally published on Amsterdamming.com in August 2017 >>