day trip: amsterdam

I absolutely had to get a photo in this cool bench inside our hotel! Reading up on my brioche while my yarn purchases from Stephen and Penelope keep me company.

I absolutely had to get a photo in this cool bench inside our hotel! Reading up on my brioche while my yarn purchases from Stephen and Penelope keep me company.

You read that right - a day in Amsterdam. Really, I should say a ‘couple of hours’ in Amsterdam, but let’s give it the benefit of the doubt. 

Originally, I was accompanying Dylan on his 3-day work trip to Amsterdam as a mini vacay for me to explore the yarn and yoga scene. Enter winter storm Emma. (This is Eurpoean winter storm Emma, as I know we over in the US are well into the alphabet for named winter storms!) Winter storm Emma dropped an immense amount of snow in Dublin, shutting the airport down. It just so happened that’s where Dylan’s lighting guy was connecting through on his way to Amsterdam. He tried everything to get out of Dublin, but at the end of it all, they suggested he get a hotel and wait it out. 

That translated to Dylan and myself scrambling to rent gear and figure out the schedule for the three days of filming that he and his partner were supposed to do together. All of that left only a couple of precious hours in Amsterdam for fun. I had to be super duper selective with what I did, so of course, I chose to visit the well-known LYS, Stephen and Penelope. (There are other yarn/craft stores - even a fabric store next door to S&P, but I could only choose one, so the others will have to wait until next time!) 

Yarn Scene

Things to notice: quintessential Amsterdam, bikes in their logo - not to mention outside; Stephen West Chevron Shenanigans shawls grace the window (having just been released); the big huge brown boxes of YARN that were being unloaded inside; and the already bright rows of delectable fiber inside. Even if I weren't a yarn lover, I would want to take a peek inside this store! 

Things to notice: quintessential Amsterdam, bikes in their logo - not to mention outside; Stephen West Chevron Shenanigans shawls grace the window (having just been released); the big huge brown boxes of YARN that were being unloaded inside; and the already bright rows of delectable fiber inside. Even if I weren't a yarn lover, I would want to take a peek inside this store! 

Stephen and Penelope is the beloved yarn shop of co-owners Stephen West and Malia Mae Joseph. Stephen is famous for his bold, eccentric, style and knitwear design. Malia Mae, also a knitwear designer, has contributed to books like Wool Journey: Shetland and Malabrigo Book Six.  Together, their love for fine yarn and passion for community is made manifest in their little shop. 

Stephen and Penelope is in the center of Amsterdam, on a side street off a canal. It has wonderful street presence, enlivened by a yarn-bombed bicycle out front. Inside, hanks of bright, beautiful yarn line the walls from places like Denmark, Germany, the UK, and Ireland, “local” by EU terms. (And other places too, of course, like the US.) I inquired about any ‘local to Amsterdam yarns,’ and was brought to the Undercover Otter section at the very front of the shop. 

Knitter's paradise. Yarn, books, notions, friendly faces. 

Knitter's paradise. Yarn, books, notions, friendly faces. 

All the colors, please.

All the colors, please.

My Amsterdam loot! I can do some real shopping even with very little time! 

My Amsterdam loot! I can do some real shopping even with very little time! 

The fiber and yarn bases of Undercover Otter come from mills, shepherds and small wholesale businesses within the EU, and are then dyed in Amsterdam by Petra Sielias and her team. Since I was in Stephen West’s shop, I wanted to get something wild in color - completely unlike what I gravitate toward. It was difficult to choose, as there were a lot that fit the bill! I settled with a color way called Killer Klowns from Outer Space. (I was informed that many of Undercover Otter’s colorways are named after horror movies, such as this one, which I never would have known since I do not watch horror films.) Killer Klowns is every color neon, and I have no idea what it will become, but boy does it brighten up my stash! 

Going along with the whole, 'buying local' theme, I also bought one of Stephen's West Knit kits for a shawl using WALK Collection yarn (from Germany). I chose a highlighter yellow and black/richly speckled combination of yarns. It came with the pattern for “Walk It” and a cute Stephen and Penelope tote. Of course, I also got the Amsterdam bicycle enamel pin for my Fringe Field bag. And the last item I bought (ya, totally went crazy!) was a book by Nancy Marchant. 

Nancy Marchant is another knit-famous resident of Amsterdam. I first learned about her through a KnitStars class on the tuck stitch. As I have blogged about before, she is known as the queen of brioche knitting. I was told that her book, Knitting Fresh Brioche, was a comprehensive introduction to her techniques and patterns, and although perhaps a little advanced for me, it sounded like the perfect addition to my knitbrary. (I wish it was autographed, but knowing I got it around the corner from where she lives, is enough for me.) 

As you can imagine by the amount of my goodies purchased, we spent a good deal of time in Stephen and Penelope’s. I squished all the yarn and perused the books and notions. The three ladies working there were absolutely delightful. They offered help, invited me to craft night (later that night and had it not been for jet lag, I would have totally gone), and gave me a cup of tea to enjoy while I spent time in the shop. It was bitterly cold outside, but with the steaming beverage, the enchantment of color and fiber, and the embracing friendliness of the employees, I felt a happy coziness, hygge, at Stephen and Penelope's. 

Yoga Scene

From what I'd heard and what I saw while there, Amsterdam has a pretty big yoga scene. Before arriving, I had already picked out the yoga studio (and class) I was going to attend - Delight Yoga (their De Clercqstraat location, as they have four studios in Amsterdam and one in Den Haag).

Their website is in English, as I imagine their classes would be (?), but just in case, I intended on going to an Ashtanga Led class at noon on Friday. (Ashtanga classes are pretty much the same poses and the same pacing no matter where you go.)

Since Emma had different plans for me, it ended up that I was working with Dylan on Friday in Leiden, so I did not make it to the class nor the studio that I'd planned. The talent that Dylan was filming told me of another yoga studio close to our hotel to check out, so I made a snap judgement to catch an early morning class there on Saturday morning before we were to film again. 

Turns out that early yoga on Saturday morning must be popular in Amsterdam, as the class was sold out by the time I went to book it. Total bummer. But that studio, Yagoy, has quite the offerings of classes as well. From the look of their website (also in English) they have two locations, and two rooms at each location. Yoga is pretty much on demand, and yet I still couldn't catch a class! 

All to say, if you're in Amsterdam and you have a spare hour block, there's a pretty good chance that you can find a yoga class! And, from what I researched, a lot of studios have mats for use, so you don't need to travel with one. 

Drinking Scene

So it's true, we only had about three hours that first day to 'do our own thing' in Amsterdam. But, on our last day, we also had an afternoon to go exploring with the talent of the video we were there filming. (It wasn't alllll work and no play!) She took us out for an Amsterdam afternoon experience which involved beer, wine and cheese. There were zero complaints!

Let me start off with a note of gratitude for Logan and her boyfriend, who are champions at knowing where to go and what to do with limited time to experience Amsterdam. After our Saturday work was complete, the four of us hopped on the tram to a local brewery, Brouwerij't Ij, which is inside a windmill. How Dutch is that?

Cheers to a job well done!

Cheers to a job well done!

Quintessential windmill...

Quintessential windmill...

...turned brewery!

...turned brewery!

We celebrated our filming success with a couple of pints and some traditional Dutch bar food, bitterballen (in this case vegetarian), fried balls of different veggies/spices and sauces to dip them in. But beer and bitterballen aren't much of a meal, so we headed to Amsterdam Noord (took the tram, train, and ferry to get there!) for some wine and cheese at Fromagerie Abraham Kef

My mouth is watering all over again.

My mouth is watering all over again.

This place seemed off the beaten path, and certainly a spot that neither Dylan or myself would have known to seek out on our own. What a gem! This fromagerie, French for cheese shop, specializes in cheese tastings. They bring you a drink menu from which you can select any number of wines, red and white, or beer. Then, they go to work crafting a cheese experience that accompanies your drink of choice. Our server had extensive knowledge and passion for cheese. It was evident in the detail of his descriptions for our pairings. The table got some bread and crackers, and since we each had different drinks, we each received different cheese selections. I must say, now that I know 'cheese tastings' exist, I will seek them out in other locations! 

With full bellies and packing to do, we bid our afternoon hosts/tour guides adieu and headed back to our hotel. And that, my friends, was how we did Amsterdam in 'a day.' Dylan and I have already agreed that the next time a flight of ours connects through Amsterdam, we'll take a layover to see more of the sights and taste more of the cheese! 

This blurry photo documents the crazy coincidence of meeting back where we began!

This blurry photo documents the crazy coincidence of meeting back where we began!

Oh, and one last thing - after being delayed two hours (while on the plane leaving Amsterdam), I had to run to catch my connecting flight from Boston to Charlotte. Thankfully, I made that flight, which also ended up being delayed. Exhausted, but with a two hour drive ahead of me, I stopped for a coffee just before leaving the Charlotte terminal. While waiting for my beverage, I heard my name. I looked up, and lo and behold, there was Dylan's lighting guy, Adam, having just flown home from his weekend stranded in Dublin. What are the chances?!?!