'My City: Amsterdam', The Simple Things #2, Nov 2012

The Simple Things is a British publication about slowing down, taking the time to live well, and making the most of the everyday. In each issue they interview an urbanite brimming with passion for their city, to find out what makes it so special. Amsterdam was their featured city, in November 2012:



How long have you lived in Amsterdam?

I arrived during the height of summer 2008, and I have no plans to leave anytime soon. I fell in love with the city instantaneously.

If you’re not a native, what drew you there?

After studying architecture at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, I moved here to write for the design and architecture magazines FRAME and MARK.

Where are you from originally?

Cincinnati is my hometown. In a way, Cincinnati’s built environment echoes that of Amsterdam’s, both being so clearly rooted in brick. Perhaps that’s why I feel so at home here; bricks are a comforting reminder of my childhood.

What lifts your spirits?

This city is very much alive, and my spirits are lifted when I feel connected to its zeitgeist. It excites me in ways that are beyond words. Boats float down canals, bicycles roll up and over wrought-iron bridges, and rarely are its citizens in a rush. It’s a festive, jovial city basking in the pleasures comprising modern continental life.

Tell us about the colours of your city.

Amsterdam’s weather reaches its most inviting in autumn, and it’s then that the most striking sunsets occur. The clouds often hang so low that it seems I could reach out and touch them.

What keeps you in the city now?

After I learned to navigate the city’s residents–who are sometimes reluctant to open up–I experienced that Amsterdam will throw open its arms to anyone. If you speak Dutch, the city will even put out a welcome mat. It’s a charming city, and its streets sing with a disciplined carefree outlook on life.

What excites you on a daily basis?

Amsterdam continues to reveal itself to me in unexpected ways. This city is full of secret places and spaces known only to me–or so I tell myself. I’ll often stumble upon another previously unknown side street that invites me to pass through.

What do you long for the most if you’ve been away?

After traveling, one of the first things I do is go for a destination-less cycle through the city.

What is the light like?

Amsterdam is full of earthly burnt umber, standing alongside vibrant and luscious greens of all shades. Fluid ribbons of pinks, blues, golden yellows, and creams stream across Amsterdam's sky at sunset.

What’s your favorite way to get about the city?

My trusty bike is always near my side, ready to take me anywhere and nowhere.

What would surprise a newcomer to your city?

A newcomer to Amsterdam would be shocked at how many times people say the word 'lekker' (Dutch for ‘pleasant’ or ‘tasty’). It's acceptable in almost any situation. And the bikes, yes the bikes; there are so many!

If you could change one thing about the city, what would it be?

Nothing in Amsterdam needs to be changed. The quality of life here is superb.

What are your favorite places to gather with friends?

Any one of the city's magical parks. Most are landscaped in the English style, so they are an escape within themselves.

What’s the best time of day to eat out in your city and where do you go?

CafĂ© Letting on Prinsenstraat is the location of Amsterdam's best breakfast–the secret is out. Their pancakes are perfectly poured, and their cappuccino has the option of coming with soy milk, which is a rarity in Amsterdam.

Where do you find your guilty pleasures?

Many of my most contemplative moments occur while attending the tiny garden of copious flowers pots on my terrace. They keep me connected to the seasons, and it brings me immense joy to see my lavender return each year.

Do you like people watching?

I love to be alone and out within the city, and the biggest reason for that is to find a bench, sit, wait, and watch the world go by.

Do you exercise outdoors?

I am an avid morning runner and will be running this year's marathon in Amsterdam. Running enlivens me, wakes me up, and prepares me for the day ahead.

What games do you play as you go about your everyday life?

Whenever I have the chance, I make sure to run, or cycle, past the flamingos outside Artis, Amsterdam's zoo. Some days they're quiet, and others not, but one thing they always are is a welcomed sight.

What types of shop do you most like to visit? Have you discovered anything really special or different?

Second hand bookshops are my favorite place to pass the day way in Amsterdam. Tucked within the city's tiny streets, some have seen better days while others thrive with a constant clatter of casual conversation.

Where would you like to live if you could not live here?

If I were to live anywhere else, it would be San Francisco. That city also sweeps you in, but in a very non-fairytale way. Every continent has its charms.