Monthly Archives: May 2011

Yours truly, on the tandem bicycle.

There has been a lot of speculation about this “mystery” bike I have been riding for the past few months.  Wonder no longer my friends, here is the bike in all its glory!

Here’s how it works:

The two girls I Au Pair for sit in front of me; the older sister sits in the first seat and helps with the pedaling, and the younger one sits comfortbaly on the second seat.   I steer, balance and pedal this bad boy from the back seat, and keep a constant look out for cars, trams, dogs, other bikes, horse and buggy.. you get the picture.  Learning to maneuver this bike is a skill set in its own right.  It’s very, very heavy, and difficult to turn.  In order to get this bike into the bike rack, you must have patience and perserverance (two qualities I haven’t been naturally blessed with).  Needless to say, I stay quite in shape handling this bike five days a week, and tourists seem to be quite impressed with the contraption.  I should say, we are sort of a tourist attraction on this bike.. not that I’m bragging or anything;)

Safe cycling to all! xx Helen Anne

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Musica!

It’s time to talk Music.  I’ve always been a great music lover; I danced to Chopin in my ballet classes, and at home my Dad played anything from Tori Amos to System of a Down, and my favorite 80’s new wave (Enjoy the Silence, Blue Monday, and Need You Tonight, are still great loves of mine).   Mom played the piano, and my lovely auntie is an opera singer and vocal teacher.  I guess it’s in my genes.

HOWEVER, I am probably the first of my family to really enjoy electronic music.  And this is where Amsterdam comes into play.  European music lesson #1:  there is Berlin, and then there is Amsterdam.  Berlin is the king of new, exciting, experimental electronic and house music.  Amsterdam is the queen.  We have some of the finest venues and sound systems in the business, and the city attracts major, major DJ talent for the October festival: Amsterdam Dance Event.  Anyone ever heard of Tiesto or Fedde le Grand?  Maybe Armin van Buren??  Yeah, they’re all Dutch.  The hardest part about Amsterdam being a rad music capital, is that it becomes really expensive to go out on the town.  At a “good party” in Amsterdam, you will pay anywhere between 10 and 50 euros.  Most people pre-book their tickets for festivals and special club nights, and popular events sell out fast.

The most fascinating discovery I have made about nightlife in Amsterdam, is that it really IS all about the music.  All the things that used to matter in the NYC club scene: fancy shoes, cocktails, taxi cabs, promoters, lip gloss, being polite: no pushing, no spilling drinks on other people.. virtually do not exist here.  I wear my converse sneakers (or boots in the winter) to listen to music in, and I drink beer or cheap wine [with the realization that I will get spilled on, and that it’s just a matter of time until someone will push me into a wall].  Here in Europe, glass bottles are in abundance, and inevitably the glass will end up all over the floor (and for that matter, in your shoes).  But these are all minor details, as the experience of being with hundreds of other human beings who are completely entranced by the DJ, and enjoying the experience with their hands in the air, is pretty spectacular.

If you’re wondering what the hip Europeans (and this American) are listening to these days, check out the below list of artists and songs:

Deadmau5: I Remember, Faxing Berlin, Ghosts n Stuff

Fritz Kalkbrenner: Kings in Exile, Facing the Sun, Right in the Dark

Joris Delacroix: Symbiose, Maeva, Oui mais Non, Feelings, Missing M

Julien Jabre: Swimming Places, War

Gui Boratto: Azzura, Besides, Colors

Goldfish: Hold Tight, Times May Change You, This is How it Goes, Fort Knox (saw them live- simply amazing!)

Swedish House Mafia:  One, Miami to Ibiza, Save the World (this is mainstream electronical music)

009 Soundsystem: Dreamscape, With a Spirit

This one is particularly awesome.  Edu Imbernon: The XX – Crystalised (Edu Imbernon Remix)

*Some good festival DJ’s: James Holden, Joris Voorn, Luciano, Paco Osuna, Sandwell District

Lastly, a special thanks to Hugo Heuts, for keeping me “in the know!”

Peace, Love & Beats.

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A Lazy Sunday.

Photo and edits courtesy of Simon Heuts.

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Ibiza: the photographs.

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Ibiza, or paradise, same thing.

Friends, I have taken the best trip of my life.  Well, maybe not the absolute best, but it’s up there in the top 3.  Ibiza was everything I had dreamed of, and more.  The people on this island are so friendly and inviting, whether you’re at a two star hotel, or asking a bartender for directions.  The weather.. don’t even get me started, or I’ll burst into tears.. is fabulous!  Sunny, sunny skies await you in Ibiza, with warm temperatures, and a lovely sea breeze to cool you off while you’re baking in the sun.  Ibiza is known for its “hippy vibe,” which we experienced with the fashion and lifestyle of its easy going residents.  Life here is slow, very slow, and that is one of the most important ingrediants for a luxurious holiday.

Simon and I stayed in Ibiza town, which is the most populated place on the island.  Our hotel was in the central area of the Figueretas Playa; a lovely resort area covered with palm trees, beachside cafes, and shops selling everything under the sun.  I won’t bore you with the details of the hotel, as it was extremely cheap (we’re on a budget, remember?) and not that memorable.  From our hotel, we could walk into the city in about 5 minutes, and reach the old town in about 15 minutes.  The old town was really a dream for me.. picture the white washed buildings of Greece, paired with tiny, curving alleyways filled with flowers, and locals hanging their laundry out of the windows.  The really old part of the hilltop is actually not white houses, but terracotta colored 16th century Spanish buildings, that are mostly under-construction- but still jaw dropping.  I am a big fan of “old Europe,” so I was immediately charmed by this small hillside village inside a city.

Ibiza town’s main draw is the lovely marina filled with yachts that I’m guessing cost millions- it also boasts many restuarants, a lively gay street that is extremely hip (more on this later), and tons of excellent shopping.  Let me digress on the shopping a bit.  It was to die for.  There were stores selling designer goods marked 70-80% off.  There were leather goods that Stefano Gabbana only dreams of in his designer sleep.  There was a Mango outlet.  Nough’ said.

The flora and fauna on this island is literally to die for.  Now, most people wouldn’t exactly call me a nature lover, but in Ibiza, I loved the nature!  We took a bus trip up the Southeast coast of Ibiza and visited the towns of Santa Eularia des Riu and Es Canar.  Santa Eularia was a hot spot for British tourists over the age of 55, so although we had a lovely stroll along the beachside promenade, we didn’t exaclty stay too long.  Es Canar was the true shining star of our adventure.   We climbed up a very steep hill with remarkable cactuses and plant life; at the top we had a view of dramatic cliffs, stunning aqua waters, and many small islands dotting the sea.  (Sidenote: the important thing to remember as you’re walking up a cliff next to the ocean, is to not be frightened by the skitish lizards at your feet.. one wrong step, and you could be on the otherside of that cliff!)  The town of Es Canar itself is a bit quiet and sleepy, but the main draw is a retro hippy market- which was unfortunately closed on the Thursday we went.

The funniest thing about this trip of a lifetime, is that we didn’t even go to any of the major clubs.  Not one.  You must be thinking, what? What’s wrong with her?  Who goes to Ibiza without experiencing the crazy nightlife??

I will tell you, that until the last weekend in May, all the major clubs are closed, except for Pacha, which is open year round.  We were unable to find someone who could give us a good review of Pacha in the off season, and fearing disapointment and a 200 euro night (we were told 1 beer is 15 euros), we opted not to visit the famed club.  Instead, we visited a very cool local spot, where an amazing salsa band was playing, delecious mojitoes were being served, and locals and tourists alike were cutting a rug on the dance floor.  Ironically enough, the part I most enjoyed about this, was meeting Dutch people who were impressed by my spoken Dutch!  Maybe it was the island vibe, I don’t know, but I’ve never been complimented on my Dutch skills like this before!  It was a great moment.

And that, my friends, was 4 days in paradise.  Do yourselfs a favor, and put Ibiza on your bucketlist.  You won’t regret it.

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What A Wonderful World

I am writing this blog post now because I feel very satisified.  Satisfaction is a rare and fleeting feeling in one’s life, and when you do feel it, you almost want to jump for joy  (or smile to yourself and take a sip of wine, whatever).  Moving to Holland has been such an awakening for me in so many aspects of my life, and I feel truly grateful to have this experience.  Being in a new environment often brings out the best and worst in a person, and boy, have I experience both.  A main theme in my stay here is dealing with the infamous “Dutch honesty.”  To be quite honest, I will tell you that this has actually had a positive spin on my character.  At the begining, I doubted this critical and impolite way of communicating with people.  I often felt extremely selfconcious; every move, word, technique and rhythm of life I was accustumed to looked wrong from a Dutch perspective.  I was criticized on how I washed dishes, my laziness in the morning, my initial timidness towards my bike, the fact that I wasn’t picking up the language quickly, and about a dozen other things.  I constantly second guessed myself on order and technique at my job, and felt uncomfortable with my cooking skills in my Dutch student house.  To dramatize things, I was a nervous wreck.

Until I realized something.  If I could forget my pride and the self righteous attitude of: “no one would ever dare to say that in America!” I could actually listen to the criticism and see its wisdom.  And by thinking and evaluating my habits, I could actually change them for the better, and improve my life.  Wait a second though, this is getting to sound like one of those Tony Robbins speaches.. sorry guys.   Anyways, the fact of the matter is that I can now handle criticism, and am even dishing it out more often!  It has helped to really step back and  take a look at the Dutch culture and how they use criticism and honesty, (and not to mention being really open minded) to better the way things work.  It’s the reason why the Dutch are leaders in architecture and design, own some of the most innovative companies (Phillips, Shell, KLM) have a highly rated quality of life, and are social welfare leaders.

I am constantly impressed by the productiveness and efficiency of all things Dutch.  Their rationalism and “to the point” standards put good ideas in the forefront, and virtually erase bad business.  The Dutchies I know are extremely organized; all appointments and to-d0 lists are printed neatly in agendas; many of them rise early in the day, go to work or school, afterwards they hit the gym, then plan a dinner with friends, and go to bed after reading some of their new novel.  From speaking to many of my boyfriends friends, I know that most Dutch people are fluent in at least two languages, and have traveled extensively.

However, despite all my acclamations of positive criticism and the Dutch way of life, there is still one thing I will never understand.   This simply has to do with restaurant and cafe service.  The reason it is so awful, is because there are NEVER enough waiters/ waitresses on at any given shift!  Why does it have to be like that?  Can’t they understand that with slow and rude service they are losing business?  And I said I was satisfied.  I guess for now, I’ll have to live with it 😉

xx Helen Anne

p.s. I’m editing Ibiza photos as we speak 🙂 🙂

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Leaving on a Jet Plane!

So long, Holland.  I’m leaving tomorrow morning for the island of Ibiza!  I couldn’t be more excited, as this has been a long time dream of mine.  Sand, sun, and fun awaits on this beautiful island, famous for it’s electronic music scene.  I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures so you can see firsthand how amazing this place is!  Ta ta for now, x Helen Anne

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