Search Results for: leylafashion
De Pijp, hip neighborhood of Amsterdam. Halloween travels & speaking at Experience Bucharest tourism conference!
Get your fangs out… Halloween 2017 is going to be bloody fabulous!
This year, I’ll be in three European countries famous for Vampires, Alien, and Jack the Ripper. (Any guesses? The reveal is below.)
First, I’m excited to officially announce: I’m off to the land of vampires, Transylvania! I was invited to attend and speak at Experience Bucharest, the largest project ever to promote tourism in Romania’s capital and beyond. For several days, worldwide travel influencers will be gathering to see the capital through the eyes of its passionate residents.
It’s been my long-time dream to visit the ultimate Goth destination, and experience the dark underground culture. I’m honored to be speaking on at Travel Massive’s “Future of Tourism in Romania” conference, on a panel about travel and social media.
Follow along my social media @LaCarmina and hashtag #experiencebucharest to join the fun, including a visit to the castle of Count Dracula. (Above, photographer Joey Wong captured me in front of UK’s Whitby Abbey, an inspiration for Bram Stoker’s novel.)
While in Europe, I’m also teaming up with Switzerland Tourism and La Gruyère Tourisme… to visit the H.R. Giger bar in Gruyeres!
Fans of the Alien movies will immediately recognize these eerie bio-mechanical works, which form the backbone of the art design in the series. I’m fascinated with Giger’s imagination, and can’t wait to see his sci-fi bar and museum. (Images above by Kristin Thorogood Photography).
Finally… I’ll be in London, England for the first time in ages! Time to reunite with spooky friends, and check out the many dark Halloween events in the city. If you have suggestions for what to see and do (around the end of October), please let me know in the comments.
(To get you in the mood, here is my friend John’s London Goth travel guide. His photo above shows a store in Camden Market.)
Since I’m off to Europe again, I thought it was nigh time to release my final article about the Netherlands.
A while back, I shared my tour of Noord, the artistic district north of Centraal Station. Now, I’ll take you around De Pijp, another Amsterdam hipster neighborhood.
De Pijp translates to “the pipe,” for reasons that are unclear (perhaps it refers to the winding streets, or a former gas company with that name). In line with this spirit, the borough has a funky, good-humored vibe. Both travellers and locals come here for the bustling Albert Cuyp market, and to dine in ethnic restaurants.
My friends and I went for lunch at Bazar Restaurant, which was recommended by several people. The word “bazaar” aptly describes the tw0-level space filled with Middle Eastern decor and music to delight the senses. When I walked in, I was transported back to the time I visited the markets of Morocco.
(Address: Albert Cuypstraat 182, 1073 Amsterdam, Netherlands)
– I love my alien sweater, which looks similar to the keyboard emoji. There’s a similar alien shirt here, and more sci-fi fashion below:
I began with a cup of fresh Moroccan mint tea, while Leyla perused the gluten free menu. Bazar has options for everyone, including vegan and vegetarian plates.
As you can see, we ordered a bit of everything! Bazar’s dishes take inspiration from the cuisine of North Africa and the Middle East — everything is moderately priced, and perfect for sharing with a group. I particularly loved the grape leaves, garlic sauce and falafel that came in one of the mixed platters.
A visit to Bazar feels like stepping into a Far Eastern fairy tale. I lounged under the high ceilings, next to these spectacular hand-painted tiled walls.
The vibrant spirit continues right outside Bazaar, at Albert Cuypmarkt. Six days a week, this street is packed with vendors selling everything from hippie skirts to stroopwafels.
I think we fit in rather well with the creative spirit of De Pijp! (My alien top is similar to this one; browse more styles below:)
De Pijp was once a working class quarter, and home to residents of many nationalities. Today, the neighborhood remains filled with color. Leyla spreads her wings on Gerard Doustraat, a street lined with indie shops.
These rainbow flags beckoned us into De Kinderfeestwinkel, a store for kid’s party goods.
Doesn’t this feel like a Wes Anderson dreamscape? Masks and gadgets and hats everywhere!
Arina couldn’t resist taking home this magical stuffed unicorn. My attention went to the rack of Miffy books, of course.
The smiling ghost light stole my heart. We wandered past a 3D printing shop, and saw these “octo-pussycat” designs.
The other “hipster district,” Noord, is more for experimental art and murals. If you’re looking for indie fashion and cafes, De Pijp is the place to be.
Case in point: Anna + Nina, a shop with eclectic jewellery and old-world home accessories that reflect their love of travel.
The boutique is filled with textures: a floral silk dressing gown, golden leaves, fresh blossoms.
If I had more space in my apartment, I’d set up a curving mid-century modern floor lamp like this one. Many of the stores in De Pijp sell both clothing and interior decor, mostly by local designers.
Pick up a cactus, or Michael Jackson’s glittery mask… that’s the humorous spirit of De Pijp!
In the evening, my friends and I had dinner at Supperclub. The restaurant is designed like a nightclub, with flamboyant light projections and quirky performances throughout the evening.
All of the diners get to lounge on beds while eating dinner! Between the courses of the set menu, we watched dance and art performances right in front of us. My favorite was a woman with a giant eyeball for a head — she came up to each bed and interacted with guests, in funny ways.
Later in the evening, the venue turned into a dance club. Cheers to the fantastic staff, for keeping our wine-glasses filled and making this night a delight.
I leave you with some snaps from our walks around Amsterdam. I was drawn to the city’s modern architecture, and never-ending rows of bikes.
Amsterdam is great for wandering around and popping into stores. Arina is peering into Nunc, which carries handmade, fair-trade and recycled products.
We saw cute skeleton cats and robots in one window…
… and posse of Miffies in another. (Psst: I wrote this guide to Miffy stores in Amsterdam, which includes De Winkel Van Nijntje, Mr. Maria studio and a chocolaterie).
We couldn’t leave without a stroll through the Red Light district, home to brothels and marijuana cafes. Note: it’s forbidden to take photos of the girls in the glass windows. If you attempt to take an image, you’ll get shooed off by their security.
Tourists can see live erotic entertainment at venues like Casa Rosso, which has a cheeky red elephant mascot.
If you’re planning a visit to Amsterdam, here are all my Netherlands offbeat travel tips on a single page. I hope you find them helpful.
I had such a great time with my friends in Amsterdam, and I’m sure we will be back soon.
And now, time to prepare for London, Bucharest and Gruyeres! If you have travel advice for me, or know of events happening in these cities at the end of October, please let me know in the comments. Here’s to the bloodiest Halloween yet.
Finding Miffy stores in Amsterdam! Shopping at De Winkel van Nijntje, Mr Maria lamp studio, bunny chocolates.
I’ve got Miffy mania! My favorite mascot, the minimalist bunny, is a Dutch creation. Naturally, when I was in Amsterdam, I sought out everything related to her.
My friends and I visited her De Winkel van Nijntje store, and swung by Mr Maria’s lamp studio (they create the glorious Miffy lamps, as well as other cute creatures). We bit off her chocolate bunny ears, and even took her to a castle in the form of a balloon.
Enjoy this travel guide to all things Miffy in the Netherlands!
(PS – if you aren’t anywhere near Amsterdam, don’t worry. Miffy is taking over the world… she has a new animated TV series, and just released a product line available at Walmart in stores and online. Above are some toy figures from this collection, plus books, bags, stationery, a rainbow lamp and and more that she sent me! You can find out more on the Miffy and Friends US Facebook.)
Now, let’s follow the white rabbit through Amsterdam.
Because of her “kawaii” round look, many people mistakenly assume Miffy is Japanese. In fact, Dutch artist Dick Bruna released his first bunny book in 1955, 20 years before Sanrio’s Hello Kitty.
I loved Miffy as a child, and continue to be… a tad obsessed. Her minimal look and narrative leave tons of room to the imagination, and make her adaptable to numerous products. (You might recall that I have a lot of her designs in my apartment decor.)
If you’re a Miffy fan in Amsterdam, you must head straight to her largest store. It’s called De Winkel van Nijntje, which translates to “The store of Miffy” (Nijntje means “little rabbit,” and is her name in Dutch). I snuck up behind her giant window display, where she wears the traditional clothing of her homeland.
(Address: Scheldestraat 61, 1078 GH Amsterdam, Netherlands)
This is heaven… A wall of Miffy stuffed toys in every size, color, material and costume! From Santa Claus to steampunk, she seems to have an outfit for every occasion.
(If you aren’t in Amsterdam, you can still shop for her character goods with a click below):
At the counter, there was a warm tribute to Dick Bruna, who passed away on February 16 of this year. The kind-hearted illustrator is loved for his storybooks and unmistakable designs.
I’m most drawn to Miffy in her most minimal form, such as the all-white statuettes above. I ended up taking home at postcard with only the outline of her bunny ears, drawn with Bruna’s brush. (You can see it in my bedroom, on top of my books).
Behold, a massive Miffy! I must go over and squish it.
When you push the numbers on her feet, she talks (not sure how, since her mouth is an unmoving X!)
A lot of Miffy items are designed for babies and children, which makes De Winkel Van Nijntje a great shop for families to visit. There are items for every stage of life: I saw teething rings, bibs and nightlights.
But no matter how old you are, you can enjoy a hang-out session with the Dutch bunny!
My local friend Leyla, who runs LeylaFashion blog and @leylafashion YouTube, grew up with Nijntje and now has a young son. She picked up some interior decor in this shop, for Danny’s room renovation.
Above, watch Leyla’s vlog about our visit to De Winkel van Nijntje store in Amsterdam, as well as Mr Maria’s studio, and the Miffy chocolate shop.
I was pleased with the large selection of items in this store, which encompassed all types of products in different price ranges.
On the right, there are collectible Miffy statues from the 60th anniversary Art Parade. Artists made their own interpretation of the bunny: one turned her into a duck, one spraypainted her gold, and another put her in Goth vampire piercings!
It all began with a storybook about a little white bunny. All of the Miffy books ever written and illustrated by Dick Bruna can be found here, in different languages. They’re charming and timeless, with universal lessons about family, loss, friendship and strength.
That’s the Tao of Miffy: she reflects who we are, in any stage of life.
Thanks to Arina Dresviannikova for the photos in this post. I was keen to visit De Winkel van Nijntje for ages, and it was even more fun to do so with friends.
On another day, I crossed off another bucket-list item: meeting the Mr. Maria studio team in Amsterdam! I’ve been friends with the lighting designers for years, but never got a chance to meet them in real life until now.
Mr. Maria famously created the Miffy lamp, which I have in my living room. (You can see it in the window above, along with their upcoming Miffy cushions and bean-bag chairs).
Dutch designers Jannes Hak and Lennart Bosker welcomed us with heart (literally — they just released this Lia white heart-shaped lamp!) They showed us around their inspiring Mr. Maria studio, and then we sat down for a coffee and chat.
Although their lights are often found in children’s bedrooms, these two are alternative spirits like us. Mr Maria established their design studio with a go-getting, DIY attitude — they used to make Miffy lamps late into the night, while blasting Rammstein!
To this day, the studio is a space for joyful experimentation. Lennart and Jannes showed us 3D printed prototypes of potential new designs (they are now producing more home interior design objects, in addition to lamps). They sometimes make one-offs for special occasions: playfulness and modern, simple creativity are truly at the core of this brand.
Kawaii minimalism is the connection between all their designs. With only white rounded shapes and a few black strokes, they convey pure happiness. (Above is their Kokeshi Japanese doll lamp; you can see the full Mr Maria collection here.)
Although the team is constantly pushing forward with new concepts, the X-mouthed bunny remains the star of the show. “Miffy is like the Buddha,” said Jannes. It’s true; she sits in silent repose, and is everything and nothing all at once.
In the bottom corner, you can see another similarly Zen-like character: Brown, the bear from Line friends. I have this lamp in my apartment too; they really do feel like calm, glowing Buddhist statues.
Above are a few experimentations: a cut-out 3D paper design, and a Snuffy prototype (Miffy’s dog).
Mr Maria lives up to their motto, “making people smile.” It was an absolute joy to visit their studio and see the creative energy in action.
I’m excited for the release of their next products: sleepy Miffy beanbag chairs and oversize cushions! Here’s your first glance at what is coming soon.
(My bag is from Hong Kong, and no longer available… but you can get my dress and tights directly from me, on my shop.)
The sweetest family ever sits on one of their shelves: Snuffy the dog, Smiley face, Anana the elephant, Line’s Brown, Kokeshi, Nanuk the bear, and Miffy in small and large. Which one is your favorite?
After, my friends and I went on a hunt for Miffy chocolates! We walked over to chocolate shop T Goede Soet (Address: Keizersgracht 95, Amsterdam, Netherlands).
T Goede Soet is a specialty chocolate shop, and always carries a number of hand-made Miffy sweets. I had a hard time deciding between the white chocolate lollipops, dark chocolate bunnies (I guess they represent her brown bunny friend Melanie). Each was only 1 Euro each. There’s also a larger bunny chocolate that comes in a box, which is a nice gift.
The chocolates are locally made and well-designed — and absolutely delicious. I felt bad biting Miffy’s ears and head off, but it was worth it.
Finally, you can find lots of Miffy products at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. The shopping center there (which anyone can access) has several gift stores — and I found this funny bunny balloon floating above a display.
I cut Miffy loose, and took her with me on an outing with Leyla and her mom. (Above — this is a trick photograph. We’re actually standing up behind a board, designed to look like a bed).
We took a day-trip to Kasteel de Haar, the largest and most luxurious castle in The Netherlands. Once you see the moat and draw-bridge entrance, marked with coats of arms, you know you’re in for a grandiose experience.
(Address: Kasteellaan 1, 3455 RR Utrecht, Netherlands. To get here, I rode the subway to Vleuten station.)
Naughty Miffy kept trying to blow away from us! I was afraid she’d get spiked on gates of De Haar Castle.
We took Miffy for a walk in the splendid gardens, which include a pond and labyrinth made from hedges. Every year, the castle hosts a Renaissance fair that Leyla attends.
(I am wearing this exact Iron Fist silver and black dress.)
The castle was always owned by the van de Haar family, and this building dates back to 1391.
In the last 19th century, Etienne Gustave van de Haar married the fabulously rich Baroness Hélène de Rothschild. They hired Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers, who set about in rebuilding the castle in a neo-Gothic style.
The finished castle has 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms, and was inhabited off-and-on by the couples’ descendents until becoming a museum today.
The staff of volunteers did a terrific job at telling us tales of de Haar castle. The Baroness loved pink, and insisted on decorating her room in pastel hues — much to the dismay of the architect. We also learned that the family was afraid of ghosts, so the architect attached spikes to the ceilings to keep them at bay! (Thankfully, our Miffy balloon didn’t pop on one of them.)
We were in awe at the castle interior, decorated with ornate woodcarvings and chandeliers. The maximalist rooms are filled with rare art from the Rothschild collections, including rare Flemish tapestries and European church relics.
The wealthy couple traveled to Asia (quite a feat in those days), and came back with Chinese and Japanese antiquities including a palanquin (carrier coach) that belonged to the Shogun’s wife.
Oh Miffy, you’re so fine! If you’re as mad for the Dutch bunny as we are, you’ve also got to check out the Miffy museum in Utrecht (I visited with Leyla last year).
Thanks iAmsterdam for making this dreamy trip possible.
If you’re going to Amsterdam, I hope you get to check out these Miffy attractions in her homeland. Do you have a favorite cute character, like I do?
I leave you with a display of Nijntje souvenirs at Schiphol Airport (you can also shop for her cute items below). And take a minute to watch Leyla’s fun vlog about our Miffy escapades!
XXX marks the spot! We’re holding crosses because they’re the symbol of Amsterdam. But of course, I made them a tribute to Miffy the Dutch bunny (with her mouth shaped like an X).
My friends and I love experiences that weave together fashion, art and creativity. While in Amsterdam, we stayed in two boutique hotels with rooms customized by artists, ranging from one to five stars. Let us take you inside the stylish Hotel The Exchange…
…and Lloyd Hotel / Cultural Embassy, which feels like a living art installation!
At Lloyd Hotel, I sat down for coffee with co-founder and artistic director Suzanne Oxenaar. We immediately clicked over my Miffy bag, which led to lively conversations about meaningful art, the connection between Dutch and Japanese culture, and her projects around the world.
I loved hearing about Suzanne’s ground-breaking work: she did a pop-up Tokyo “LLove Hotel” with mood-themed rooms by artists, and established a residence for artists at a Netherlands psychiatric institution.
In the mid-1990s, Amsterdam was keen to rejuvenate the Eastern Docklands area, which had become abandoned to squatters. Suzanne and Otto Nan accomplished this by opening Lloyd, the world’s first 1-to-5 star hotel that doubles as a “cultural embassy.” They designed the public spaces to host creatives and guests from around the world, encouraging the exchange of ideas.
(Address: Oostelijke Handelskade 34, 1019 BN Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Artists from around the globe come here for residences, or to curate exhibitions. We met the Japanese photographer who created the portrait above. (All photography by Arina Dresviannikova)
Hotel Lloyd’s cultural programs let innovators from different countries connect and collaborate. Most of the works are presented in multi-use spaces that are free and open to the public.
In love with the high ceilings and clean, modern design. Suzanne put care into each detail, such as chairs that were refurbished to be more functional and comfortable, while retaining the original skeleton.
I’ll have to come back to try a meal at Lloyd Restaurant, which serves classic European dishes made with sustainable and organic products.
Lloyd’s meeting rooms and halls are designed to inspire. Guests are encourage to use the spaces however they like, even as exhibition spaces or concert halls.
I felt like I was in Japan during sakura season, thanks to this “Under the Cherry Blossom Tree” installation by Eiko Ishizawa (made from silk screen on textile and wood).
Suzanne walked me through the fascinating history of Lloyd Hotel. This historic building was originally commissioned by Royal Holland Lloyd (cargo ship line) to house immigrants. It later became a WWII detention center and refugee camp, and then a prison for young offenders. The space transformed into a collective of artist studios, and finally a design hotel.
Chikako Watanabe, the first artist in residence at Lloyd Culturele Ambassade, made a commemorative installation based on a 1920s room at Lloyd. Families slept on a tiny cot like this, while awaiting their journey on a ship.
I’ve stayed in art / theme hotels before — but none were as creative as the ones at Lloyd Hotel! The 117 rooms are all different, designed by Dutch designers and ranging from 1 to 5 stars (to fit all needs and budgets).
I flopped down on this 8-person bed, inspired by the shenanigans of rock musicians. This “Rough Music Room” is by Joep Van Lieshout, and an example of a five-star deluxe double room.
Every room in Lloyd Hotel is unique. When you make a reservation, you can pick the “star category” (which has a corresponding price). The exact room you’ll be staying in is a surprise, unless you make a specific request in advance.
Some of the rooms are very experimental. The one above has a folding, modular hinged wall — which lets you re-arrange the bathtub, closet and partitions as you please!
Lloyd Hotel encourages you to let go and have fun. How could I resist swinging around this rustic attic-style room, with a built-in swing?
(If you like my alien fashion, check out the items below:)
This is not just a dust ball. It’s “Dust Ball,” an art piece by Japan’s Suchan Kinoshita. Like the Katamari video game, she rolled traces of the hotel’s past into this mound — a preservation and reflection of the building’s many transformations.
Even a 1-star room (top right) is cozy and designed with flair. Each floor contains different room-types, so guests from all backgrounds can mingle.
Suzanne brought us to the library, open to both guests and visitors for exhibitions, lectures, or plain relaxing and reading. The classical space contains a typewriter and furniture by De Bazel, a Dutch architect and contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright.
I couldn’t help but smile at “The Family Portraits,” an exhibition by Michiel Voet. His photos communicate family stories, and the impact that migration has on society.
The immigrant portraits are a study in friction and togetherness throughout the generations. Now I want to do a family portrait, standing on chairs and with spacesuit-jars over our heads!
What’s the deal with the XXX, which you’ll see all over Amsterdam? This symbol is from the city’s coat of arms, and represent three vertical St. Andrew’s Crosses. The saint was martyred on an X-shaped cross in the 1st century.
Amsterdam is known for adult entertainment in the Red Light District, which gives “XXX” a coincidental meaning as well. For me, it represents the X-mouth of Miffy, the Dutch mascot!
Hotel The Exchange’s name refers to the weaving together of fashion and interior design, making these rooms one-of-a-kind.
This boutique hotel’s location is ideal for travellers: right in the city center, and within walking distance of all the major sights. (Address: Damrak 50, 1012 LL Amsterdam, Netherlands)
In the spirit of playful collaboration, Otto Nan and Suzanne Oxenaar commissioned students from Amsterdam Fashion Institute to create rooms “dressed like models.” The lounge sets the whimsical tone, with has pillows made from fabric swatches and a selfie #nofilter mirror.
Hotel The Exchange is actually made up of three narrow buildings (one dates back to the 17th century), which were connected while retaining the original framework. The winding staircases and unexpected passages make this a fun space to wander through.
(All photography by Arina Dresviannikova)
Once we checked in, I spread out my belongings on my bed.
We stayed in the top-level Rembrandt Room, featuring this superb view and a bed surrounded by what looks like a giant, old-fashioned ruffled collar.
Closeup on Leyla’s cute accessories: a Hello Kitty ghost ring, and Dutch Pikachu. She uploaded a vlog about our adventures at Lloyd hotel; The Exchange footage is coming soon.
Hotel The Exchange has 61 unique rooms, each with its own theme and designed by a young graduate of AMFI. Like at Lloyd, they range from one to five stars (reflecting the amount of amenities, views and square footage).
The rooms are dressed like models on a catwalk — draped in hand-crafted designs that reflect a particular vision of Amsterdam fashion. In a world filled with cookie-cutter hotels, it’s heartening to stay in a place where you wake up feeling stylish and inspired.
I was impressed by the diversity of design. The “Mattress Room” by Roos Soetekouw deconstructs a bed into its foam, box-spring and textile parts. These pieces are re-worked into 3D furniture and textured decor. I think my Miffy purse looks quite at home on this hanger rack, made out of bed-springs.
Even the room numbers get a twist: each is a hand-embroidered disk, made up of X’s in the hotel’s signature orange-red shade.
Malu Gehner called her room “Epaulettes,” after the shoulder decorations found in military attire. Her room is decked out in braided rope trimmings.
Many of the artists incorporated special fabrics developed in collaboration with the Textile Museum in Tilburg for the project.
Roos Soetekouw created one of my favorite rooms, “Misunderstood Creatures.” This is not for everyone, but you can understand why Goths would feel right at home.
The sinister fantasy installation includes portraits of three troubled yet lovely creatures. The black ceiling seems to be crying dark tears.
I love the dark side of fashion, and The Room of Misunderstood Creatures spoke to my aesthetics.
If you look closely, there are colorful sequins encased in the floor — adding a magical sparkle to the twisted gloom.
Sofie Sleumer was inspired by the tales of the brothers Grimm. She used the walls of her small room to tell the story: a collage of nature, insects, eggs and other fairytale imagery. She also sourced broken furniture from small markets, mending the broken parts to add to the feeling.
Hotel The Exchange has several common areas for guests. This one has a wide selection of fashion and photography books, and two working sewing machines, fabric and threads!
Every morning, we looked forward to having breakfast at hotel’s Café Stock located next door. The well-lit space has illustrations from the room designers on the walls.
Arina and I couldn’t get enough of Cafe Stock’s Dutch apple pie, baked fresh and served with real hand-whipped cream. We always ordered the XL sized lattes and cheese pancakes, and the national “stroopwafel” (two pieces of thin, baked waffle with caramel syrup in between) is a must-try.
Would you stay in a fashion hotel like this one?
Don’t forget to check out Leyla’s vlog of our hotel tour, and more of my travel tips from the Netherlands here. And I’m now off to a new destination… check out my Instagram to see where I’ll be. Hint, yee-haw!
Amsterdam’s Weirdest, Strangest Museums! KattenKabinet cat museum, Dutch cocktail making & tasting tours.
Meow from Amsterdam! Welcome to my adventures in the Dutch capital.
One glance at my blog, and you know that I love all things bizarre, unusual and quirky.
To my delight, Amsterdam has museums that veer gloriously into this territory… including a cat-themed museum, Katten Kabinet!
Ready to explore Amsterdam with me? Read on for a prowl inside the cat museum, and then we’ll get tipsy.
I teamed up with I Amsterdam, and they put together an itinerary that was tailored to my offbeat interests. (How do you like my flying outfit?)
I had a smooth direct flight from Vancouver to Schiphol Airport on KLM, the Dutch blue airlines known for its comfortable service. They’re one of my personal favorites, and even sell a Miffy bunny toy dressed in a flight attendant uniform.
● Outfit Details ● I’m wearing MySwear customized Hoxton creepers from Farfetch, which I designed to be shiny pink with an LC monogram. I’m towing this pink Samsonite suitcase, and you can see more photos of my faux fur coat here.
Before long, I was strolling through Amsterdam, a city known for its iconic bicycles and canals. Spring-time is also a great time to visit, as the weather is warming up but the tourists have yet to arrive.
I reunited with my local friend Leyla, who runs LeylaFashion blog. (Remember when we visited the Miffy museum in Utrecht together?) Together with photographer Arina Dresviannikova, we were ready for an epic girls trip.
The fun started at KattenKabinet, a cat-themed museum. My friends and I donned pointy-eared headbands, and walked over to the centrally-located building that looks over the canals. (Address: Herengracht 497, 1017 BT, Amsterdam, Netherlands).
The black kitty sign beckoned us to enter.
(Watch Leyla’s travel vlog about Katten Kabinet to see us exploring).
Most tourists stick to the popular attractions (Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum), but I was keen to get off the beaten path, and discover a lesser-known collection — featuring nothing but cats.
The museum is small (two floors) but the cat artwork is beautifully presented, with original pieces by masters including Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
We went up a winding staircase, and found ourselves in this Baroque-style room finished in red and gold.
This collection of cat-themed objects is not at all kitschy or tacky. The works are masterpieces, carefully chosen and arranged in royal style.
KattenKabinet was founded in 1990 by Bob Meijer, in memory of his red tomcat John Pierpont Morgan (named after the American banker J. P. Morgan). To this day, Meijer and his family live in the upper floors of this house.
Several of his cats roam freely through the rooms. At first, we weren’t sure if this lazy fellow was real, or a stuffed kittycat!
Katten Kabinet’s collection includes depictions of all types of cats (various species, colors), in a variety of mediums. I had a stare-down with this grumpy gold statue.
Many of the works are from the family’s personal collection, which gives De KattenKabinet a pleasingly non-commercial feeling.
This classic Amsterdam house once belonged to a 17th century merchant. Look up, and you’ll see a restored ceiling painting from this era.
However, there are contemporary works as well. In one corner, I found a spectacular costume from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” musical.
Without taking itself too seriously, the Cat Cabinet lets visitors learn about the role of felines in culture, over the centuries. These works range from advertisements for household products, to fine porcelain figures.
The gallery has partnered with famous museums like the Van Gogh, in order to present special works by famous artists. The “Cat-A-Logue” includes pieces from all over the world, such as this antique Chinese lucky cat statue.
You can’t help but smile as you walk through the exhibitions. I’ve never seen so many cats in one place!
Arina played a few songs on the grand piano. Behind her, it took us a minute to find out why this sprawling painting was cat-related.
Movie buffs may recognize this as a filming location for “Ocean’s Twelve.”
(If you like my star sweater, click for more designs below:)
The gift shop is just as joyful. The perfect place to pick up a unique souvenir for a cat enthusiast.
Isn’t the wide range of kitty-designs inspiring?
If you’re a fellow cat-lady, come on down to KattenKabinet. This funny Amsterdam museum has our paw-stamp of approval.
(You can watch Leyla’s video about our day here and above.)
Now, let’s get trippy at The House of Bols! Once more, this is not a typical museum. Bols is better described as an interactive cocktail / liqueur experience for all five senses.
(I’m wearing this Long Clothing Drippy sweatshirt with side pockets.)
House of Bols is located on Amsterdam’s Museumplein — where the major museums are — and was recently renovated. (Address: Paulus Potterstraat 14, 1071 CZ Amsterdam, Netherlands)
The new design is modern and intriguingly lit, and each room is designed to stimulate the senses. In the rainbow-colored “hall of taste,” I got to squeeze the bottles and guess the liqueur aromas, ranging from green apple to butterscotch.
Using various media (video, sound, sculpture, photography), the museum tells the story of the Bols family, who started producing bottles of liqueur in 1575. Lucas Bols is the world’s oldest distilled spirits brand, and remains popular worldwide today.
Bols currently has 48 creatively flavored spirits, as well as genever: the neutral or juniper-flavored national liquor of the Netherlands. This is a 35% alcohol that can be a bit similar to gin, and ideal for mixing cocktails.
I thought these blue houses were toys, but they actually are bottles with a cork on top — and contain Dutch Genever!
Starting in 1952, KLM Airlines has given these “Delft Blue Houses” to business and royal class travellers. There are 96 different styles, and collectors are keen to have one of each.
What lies behind Door #2? I received a small jar of liqueur, and went inside to find out.
Suddenly, I was transported into an interactive experience called “The Art of Flavour.” Lights flashed and swirled, the floor buzzed, and music played. The taste on my tongue shifted along with these sensory changes — amazing.
In the distillery room, I learned about the extraction process and distillation of flavors. The Bols portfolio includes more than 20 brands including liqueurs, genever, gin and vodka.
Guests are encouraged to dip their hands into these bins, and smell the various natural ingredients that go into the century-old recipes.
The 48 infusions include berries, fruits, herbs and botanicals. Ginger, peppermint, blueberries, dates, amaretto, and more.
The final stop: Bols’ Mirror Bar. You can ask the professional bartenders to shake you a delicious cocktail (they are graduates of a special in-house training program)… or create one yourself.
I chose the latter, so I picked and printed out a cocktail recipe on the touch screen. I selected the “Dutch n Stormy,” which combines fresh lime and ginger beer with genever (instead of rum).
Time to shake, shake, shake! I had never made a professional cocktail, and it was fun to test out various recipes using jiggers (the measurement device) and shakers.
Visitors can also come here for group cocktail-making lessons, or book a Bols tastings or food pairing.
On another evening, we tried a variety of spirits at Wynand Fockink, a Dutch tasting tavern (proeflokaal). Established in 1679, this is the oldest tasting room and distillery in the city.
The bar is located not far from the Red Light District (address: Pijlsteeg 31 & 43, Amsterdam, Holland).
We took part in a tasting session, but you can also walk into the adjoining Wynand Fockink bar any time for a drink. It retains the 17th century atmosphere, and serves the liquors in the traditional fashion: filled to the top, in a tulip glass.
The “proper” way to take your first sip is by putting your hands behind your back, leaning over, and slurping the head off the top. Not even the royal family can get out of bowing to the drink — if you try to pick it up, you’ll inevitably spill it!
We tasted a variety of liqueurs and genevers, which are still made using the same 17th century traditional craft methods. The Dutch distillery produces more than 70 varieties in small batches, which preserves the high quality of the product.
Our guide took us into Wynand Fockink’s distillery — which had a “Breaking Bad” vibe! There were rows of flasks, filled with fruit and herb infusions. Everything is hand-brewed in this small space, just as it was centuries ago.
The equipment has been updated (and has a steampunk look), but the process of making these traditional Dutch liqueurs is exactly the same.
Back in the tasting room, our guide entertained us with stories about the spirits while we tried them. For example, the Dutch would historically serve “Naked Belly Button Liqueur” at parties, where a pregnant mother would show her growing belly!
Wynand Fockink is not afraid to experiment with limited-run flavors. They created a pine-infused Christmas tree one during the holiday season, and a charred red pepper flavor that was unexpectedly delicious. (We picked up a few flavors at their candlelit shop next door).
I hope you enjoyed this first taste of Amsterdam! Coming up, there’s a visit to the Miffy store and more… stay tuned.
PS: If you’re a museum-lover like me, I highly suggest you pick up the I Amsterdam City Card, which is what we used during this trip. It’s an unlimited travel pass for 1, 2 or 3 days, with tons of benefits.
The IAmsterdam card includes free public transport and entry to all the major attractions, including quirky museums and canal cruises. The perfect way to maximize your visit, and visit tons of places for a much lower price than if you bought individual entry tickets.