To Market to Market! Jiggety Jig!

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unnamed-3.jpgI love Saturdays in Amsterdam because Saturdays are market days. After breakfast and my daughter’s soccer game, we almost always head for the Jordaan. Even though we live five minutes from the famous Albert Cuypmakt, open 6 days a week, it just doesn’t have the pull that the Joordan’s festive open air farmer’s markets have on Saturdays.

With our little dog in tow, as well as our pushcart and extra bags for purchases, we board the 170 bus for a ten minute ride to the Westermarkt stop. Exiting the bus at the towering Wester Kerk (West Church) where Rembrandt is buried, somewhere in there, we head up the Prinsengracht about 15 minutes.

The closer we get, we can hear the constant clanging of bike bells, music, and hum of people carrying baskets and bags, either heading home with their market finds or heading in, like us. Excitement builds. The Noordermarkt, an organic farmer’s market, is one of the prettiest markets in the Dam. Stepping into the square, you’re greeted by a feast for the senses from the tantalizing smells of vendors cooking breakfast and lunch to the vibrant colors of wares from the sellers’ stalls.

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Stands line the market with mounds of delicious, fresh, prized organic flowers, breads, honey, soap, spices, herbs, oysters, wine, produce, cakes, smoothies, meats, sausages, wild mushrooms and cheese, glorious cheese. Plus, an area of bric-a-brac, vintage clothes, hats, boots, leather goods, maps, books, records and jewelry. There’s even a King Louis (Dutch brand of women and kids clothes) outlet area. We take our time walking through the rows of stalls, stopping here and there to taste samples, make purchases, seeking out what’s on our shopping list, and finding treasures that aren’t.

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Our favorite organic cheese stall offers the most delicious French cheese that is soft but not too soft, salty, but not too salty, pungent, but not stinky, and it’s even delicious melted in homemade mac and cheese. I mean, really, there is noting better. Well, maybe another kind of French cheese could be. I especially love, after a year coming here, the woman who sells this cheese smiles broadly when she sees us coming. She knows what we like and sometimes asks us to try other cheeses – which, of course, we buy. This past Saturday we bought a new cheese with a rind made with clover. Amazing!

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Directly across from this cheese is the best bakery stall I’ve found in the Dam. I cannot even describe the smells of the bread that’s baking, but trust me it’s divine. We try different types each week and my daughter always gets the chocolate chocolate chip muffin, half for now, half for later. I’ve been known to steal a few bites.

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Once through the Noordermarkt we round the corner to the much larger Lindenmarkt, a combined farmer’s and flea market that fills the Lindengracht (a very long, wide street lined with lime trees that once had a canal, but was filled in around 1900). Before stepping into this covered market, (very handy for those very possible rainy Saturdays) we always stop to have lunch at Capri, a very reasonable and lekker Italian restaurant to fill up on “market fuel” as my husband calls it. And our little dog, Cookie, gets to take a rest under our table. Yes, European restaurants allow dogs.

The Lindenmarkt is very Dutch with hardly any expats or tourists and I love practicing my Nederlands (Dutch) here. You can find packages of socks for five euros, deals on gloves, scarves, clothes, hats, dresses, bathing suits, wallets, iPhone accessories, extension cords, pocket books and even watches. There are fresh fish stalls and the usual produce and cheese, bread stalls, a fresh stroopwaffel stall, poffertje stall and hot bischopswijn (similar to gluhwien) in the winter.

It’s a long walk through this market and the last stop is for flowers. Always. You cannot carry flowers longer than you absolutely have to. And also, it’s because I have to see what all the vendors are selling before my ultimate decision. It kind of drives my family nuts. Oh, did I mention the nuts? This is my husband’s favorite stall. You’ve not seen a nut stall till you’ve been to the Lindenmarkt. It’s like four or five stalls long. Even if you think you don’t you like nuts, you do. Trust me. From almonds, cashews, pistachios and peanuts, to nuts that are chocolate covered, clustered, candied, sugared, toasted and baked. It’s a nut lover’s heaven.

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If there is one thing I will truly miss about living here when I repatriate back home, it will be these market Saturdays spent with my family in the Joordan. But why am I thinking about this now?

Expats in the Dam, do yourself a favor and head to the Joordan for some great food on a Satruday. You’re sure to enjoy this much more than the trip to the Albert Heijn. The Noordermarkt is open Saturdays and Mondays 9 am to 3 pm and the Lindenmarkt is open Saturdays from 9 am – 4 pm. Eet smakelijk!

Here Comes the Rain… Again

Here comes the rain again. While it’s falling on my head and in my face and all over the place.. like a tragedy…. as Annie Lenox would say, I keep reminding myself how fabulous it is to live in Amsterdam. It’s my battle strategy.

The kids are back to school, leaving in the dark with umbrella in hand, darning coats, then coats and scarves, then add hats and finally gloves, all in the span of a week. My dogs are dragging in the mud, dead leaves and that unmistakable aroma of “wet dog” from outside. And I have turned on the heat. Fall is here.

Heading out in the Dam these days, I continually battle with myself trying to decide if I want to bike and brave the elements or deal with the tram. Which option will be least troublesome? Pedaling against the wind and driving rain and getting chilled and wet, then trying to find a place to kickstand and lock it up, or squishing into a packed tram weaving in and out of other trammers through a sea of wet backpacks? Both equally unattractive. Nine times out of ten, I opt for the tram.

 

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Waterproofing is key here, just ask my landlord who’s had to hire workmen this month to inject our rental’s basement walls and floor with some kind of chemical to keep out the ground water. The Dutch are experts at rerouting water, even inside their homes.

After living here a year, I now own three pairs of waterproof boots, two waterproof jackets, have lost and replaced at least 6 umbrellas, have many more scarves and hats and need a new pair of gloves pronto! If I don’t get them as soon as they hit the stores, I know they’ll be gone in a week. I think I’m turning Dutch, although that can’t be because true Dutchies don’t fret about biking in the rain.

An impressive quality of the Dutch, in addition to their ingenuity and astounding resilience, is patience. Americans, on the other hand, like myself, not so patient. The Dutch don’t seem to get upset, slightly annoyed or even bothered if they have to wait in a really long line anywhere. Even in the rain. Is this socialism? Is it outstanding self-control? Or is it that the Dutch are simply unfazed by bad weather?

 

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Yesterday waiting at the tram stop as I tried to point my umbrella in the direction of oncoming gusts of wind and rain, I was tapped on the shoulder by an American. “Excuse me, do you know which direction is Dam Square?” “This is the right direction,” I answer. Then she stared down the tracks and asked “How long do these trams usually take?” I sensed her impatience, heightened by the typical inconvenient Dutch weather and her non-waterproof attire, and replied without thinking “Not long, it should be here any minute.” Was that true? No. A good ten minutes later as the tram arrived, I watched my compatriot pushing her way to the front of the little crowd as the tram stopped. Her behavior screamed “American.” It was at that point I moved down to the other set of opening doors with the more patient crew of Dutchies.

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The frequency of rain in the Dam is a recurring inconvenience that forces one to approach outdoor excursions with a kind of battle strategy. You can’t let it defeat you. You must get out, keep your appointments, rethink that walk through the Vondelpark or to the Nine Streets. Chances are there will be breaks in the rain with short intervals of sun. Maybe even a rainbow. Seize those moments! The Dutch must have this ingrained in their psyche. For expats, this ingraining takes time. My advice to those who’ve just arrived – as my mother who was not Dutch, used to say – “It’s not bad weather, it’s just bad clothing. Now get outside!”

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