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Category Archive for Netherlands

De Pijp, hip neighborhood of Amsterdam. Halloween travels & speaking at Experience Bucharest tourism conference!

whitby abbey dracula castle uk

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.)

vampire steampunk victorian fashion

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.)

giger alien bar gruyeres interior

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).

london camden market lolita store

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.)

moroccan middle eastern bathroom tiles

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.

Restaurant Bazar Amsterdam

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)

De Pijp District hip restaurants

The bathroom situation is straight out of 1001  Arabian Nights! Photographer Arina Dresviannikova had fun taking photos of Leyla (Dutch fashion / mommy blogger) and me, reflected in the many mirrors.

gypsy warrior alien sweater

– 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:

bazar restaurant Albert Cuyp market

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.

alien shirt top, gypsywarrior

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.

cool morocco bathrooms, mirrors

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.

alien shirts, sweaters clothing

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:)

hipster neighborhood amsterdam netherlands

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. 

De Kinderfeestwinkel party store

These rainbow flags beckoned us into De Kinderfeestwinkel, a store for kid’s party goods.

toy shop amsterdam kids

Doesn’t this feel like a Wes Anderson dreamscape? Masks and gadgets and hats everywhere!

stuffed uniforn plush toy

Arina couldn’t resist taking home this magical stuffed unicorn. My attention went to the rack of Miffy books, of course.

cute ghost lamp, 3d printed octopus

The smiling ghost light stole my heart. We wandered past a 3D printing shop, and saw these “octo-pussycat” designs.

hip clothing fashion stores amsterdam

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.

anna + nina amsterdam boutique

Case in point: Anna + Nina, a shop with eclectic jewellery and old-world home accessories that reflect their love of travel.

silk floral white kimono gown

The boutique is filled with textures: a floral silk dressing gown, golden leaves, fresh blossoms.

curved mid century modern lamp

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.

michael jackson face mask costume

Pick up a cactus, or Michael Jackson’s glittery mask… that’s the humorous spirit of De Pijp!

supperclub amsterdam restaurant

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.

dining on beds supper club

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.

(Watch Leyla’s travel vlog about Supperclub for footage of this unique dining experience. All our Amsterdam videos are in this playlist that she created on her LeylaFashion YouTube.)

supperclub menu food amsterdam meal

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.

amsterdam rows of bicycles

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. 

nunc home interiors shop

Amsterdam is great for wandering around and popping into stores. Arina is peering into Nunc, which carries handmade, fair-trade and recycled products.

sugar skull cats

We saw cute skeleton cats and robots in one window…

miffy toys collection

… 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).

amsterdam red light district graffiti

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.

casa rosso red elephant club

Tourists can see live erotic entertainment at venues like Casa Rosso, which has a cheeky red elephant mascot.

i amsterdam iamsterdam card pass

Dank je to Hotel The Exchange and Lloyd for hosting us, and to iAmsterdam for the City Card (which provides unlimited public transportation, and access to the top museums).

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.

amsterdam canals friends tourists

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.

miffy bunny store amsterdam

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!

miffy friends walmart toys books

(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.)

de winkel van nijntje amsterdam

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.)

dutch miffy art parade statues exhibit

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)

miffy toy shop, stuffed toys

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):

dick bruna rip dead

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).

big miffy plush toy rabbit

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!)

baby room miffy designs

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.

miffy purse, nijntje shop amsterdam

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.

miffy bunny plates, kids goods

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!

miffy children books, shops

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.

miffy statues, figurines

That’s the Tao of Miffy: she reflects who we are, in any stage of life.

miffy shopping guide de winkel nijntje

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.

miffy bean bag chairs cushions

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). 

mr maria lamp designers studio

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!

mrmaria cute children's bedroom decor

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.

mr maria kokeshi lamp

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.)

miffy lamps bean bags mr maria

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.

miffy dog kids lamps

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).

miffy bunny studio amsterdam

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.

mr maria lighting design studio

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.)

mr maria lamps collection

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?

You can find out more and choose a lamp here. I encourage you to order direct from MrMaria and support my independent, Dutch designer friends.

amsterdam miffy chocolates

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 nijntje chocolate

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.

miffy dutch chocolate shop

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.

miffy balloon, party balloons

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).

kasteel de haar moat bridge

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.)

utrecht de Haar Castle

Naughty Miffy kept trying to blow away from us! I was afraid she’d get spiked on gates of De Haar Castle.

famous holland dutch 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.)

netherlands renaissance fair, castle

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. 

kasteel de Haar Castle tickets visting

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.)

inside netherlands medieval castle

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.

miffy sheets bed bedspread

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.

miffy souvenir shop schiphol airport

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!

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Amsterdam’s coolest fashion & art hotels! Hotel Lloyd & The Exchange, artist themed hotel rooms.

hotel the exchange amsterdam lobby

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

suzanne oxenaar artistic director hotel lloyd

…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. 

Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy

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)

Suzanne Oxenaar artist exhibition art hotel

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.

hotel lloyd amsterdam netherlands

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.

cherry blossom tree art exhibition

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).

– Outfit Details – My alien sweater is from Gypsy Warrior; it’s similar to this aliens top. Click the thumbnails for more intergalactic options:

historic lloyd hotel prison immigrant dorms

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.

8-person bed giant mattress

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.

modular movable hotel room furniture

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!

hotel room with swing

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?

My Dutch vlogger frend Leyla, who runs LeylaFashion blog and @leylafashion YouTube channel, created a vlog about our tour of the hotel — you can see us playing around on these swings!

(If you like my alien fashion, check out the items below:)

 

weird crazy art design hotels

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.

lloyd hotel cultural embassy

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.

art boutique hotels amsterdam

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.

amsterdam artist in residence program

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!

hotel the exchange amsterdam

Leyla, Arina and I also stayed at Hotel The Exchange — another whimsical property run by Suzanne and her team.

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 xxx symbol sculpture

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.

fashion blogger selfie

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 exchange interior

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)

i amsterdam city pass card

Once we checked in, I spread out my belongings on my bed.

Details of my silver clutch by Makeup Junkie Bags, and I Amsterdam city card (which gave me free, unlimited access to public transit and all the major museums in Amsterdam).

classic Amsterdam houses

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.

ghost hello kitty, dutch pikachu

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.

fashion hotel exchange, Amsterdam

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).

fashion designer hotel netherlands

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.

hotel the exchange theme rooms

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.

art hotels amsterdam

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.

hotel room noose hanging rope

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.

hotel the exchange rooms, suites

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.

gothic goth hotel rooms

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. 

themed hotels, decorated rooms

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 sewing fashion

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! 

cafe stock, amsterdam breakfast

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.

large christmas lights sculpture

Cheers to Hotel The Exchange and Lloyd Hotel / Cultural Embassy for the inspiring stay. Hearts and stars to I Amsterdam for making these stories possible.

bright pink curled hair hairstyle

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!

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Noord: a hidden, off-the-beaten-track Amsterdam hipster neighborhood! Eye Film Museum, restaurants, art studios.

long clothing dollskill dolls kill

This girl is all smiles (despite what my Long Clothing top says)… because I’ve discovered an Amsterdam district filled with inspiration! 

Have you heard of “Noord,” the waterfront area north of the city center? Home to EDM festivals, artist studios, and transformed warehouses, this is a side of Amsterdam that very few tourists see.

space goth fashion uchuu kei

Like intrepid astronauts (or… space cadets), my friends and I will take you to the most cutting-edge hangouts in Noord. It’s incredible to see how these run-down shipyards have been transformed into hipster heaven.

(Above, I’m wearing this Long Clothing Drippy sweatshirt.)

bbc radio the why factor goths gothic black friday

But first, a quick announcement: I had the honor of being interviewed by BBC Radio about Goth lifestyle and culture! The show “talks to Gothic blogger, La Carmina, about the extraordinary and extreme goth scene in Japan that includes body modifications.”

Here’s the link to my BBC Radio Worldwide interview, and you can hear my voice throughout in the entire program for “The Why Factor” show. Thanks everyone for the positive reception so far!

amsterdam alternative tour guide

Now, back to Holland. The team at I Amsterdam (the city’s tourism board) matched me with the perfect guide for an insider tour of Noord. I instantly clicked with Faustina, who shared my love of glamorous fashion and cat-eye sunglasses!

She met us at Hotel The Exchange, and did an introduction with maps to get me oriented. (Soon, I’ll take you around this stylish boutique hotel).

bicycle racks netherlands

We walked to Centraal Station, where Faustina locked her bike next to literally thousands. Notice the “parking lot” above her, filled to the brim. Amsterdam truly is the city of bicycles.

ferry to noord, uptown amsterdam

Noord is located only 5 minutes from the central station, making it a convenient yet off-the-beaten-path destination.

Anyone can hop onto the Buiksloterweg ferry. The ride is free, departs every 10 minutes, and can accommodate bicycles and scooters. Before you can figure out how to pronounce the ferry’s name, you’ve crossed IJ Lake and arrived at NDSM wharf.

noord bicycle rental

Step off the little ferry, and you’re arrived in northern, uptown Amsterdam. Right away, you can sense that Noord has an artistic, young vibe. (All photography by Arina Dresviannikova)

noord street art hipsters

“I see a little silhouette of a man”… that’s the one and only Freddie Mercury, next to a decorative wall overlooking the waters.

adam tower amsterdam edm

It’s impossible to miss A’DAM Toren, named for “Amsterdam Dance And Music.” This 22-storey tower looks over the waterfront, and was opened by a creative team that includes EDM pioneers. 

As you might expect, this is a one-stop place to party. ADAM Tower contains nightclubs, bars, cafes, hotel rooms, and a revolving restaurant (the square-shaped disc at the top rotates around). The top floor has a 360 degree panoramic terrace, and Europe’s highest swing that sends adrenaline junkies “over the edge.”

eye filmmuseum architecture building

There’s another space-age building nearby: EYE Film Museum.

Named after the river IJ (which is pronounced “eye”), this modern structure is a film buff’s dream. You’ll find four cinemas and a restaurant inside, plus an extensive archive, and rotating exhibitions about filmmakers. 

interior eye film museum cafe

The Eye is the vision of architects Delugan Meissl. Like a projected film, the building seems to be in constant motion. As the designers put it,  the concept is a “sustained encounter between urban reality and cinematographic fiction.”

film museum amsterdam movie posters

When I visited, EYE Film Museum had a fascinating exhibit dedicated to Hungary’s Bela Tarr, auteur of melancholic films about the human condition.

His films played in sets that re-created his world — including a decaying tree surrounded by barbed wire fences, with leaves blasting though the room. (We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, so you’ll have to use your imagination — or better yet, visit for yourself).

north amsterdam waterfront

On the ground floor, the Eye has an open-plan cafe with spectacular views of the IJ harbor.

cinema museum netherlands

Eye Filmmuseum hosts frequent screenings and lectures. They have an annual Imagine Film Festival, dedicated to exploitation, cult and lower budget films.

Within these walls, there lies an extensive film archive with close to 40,000 Dutch and foreign titles. The collections also include posters, photographs, soundtracks and other archival material: a treasure trove for studies.

dutch films history museum

In the lower level, we saw historical cameras, projectors, and clips of Dutch films dating back to the late 19th century. This museum is a must for movie-lovers.

noord waterfront warehouses

We continued our walk through Noord, and Faustina told us about its history. In the 1600s, sailors and merchants moved to the northern banks, to work in the maritime industry and find affordable housing.

This was a shipbuilding area until the 1980s, when the industry declined. Before long, Noord turned into an industrial wasteland, filled with the ghosts of the past.

hip graffiti amsterdam north

Lured by low rents, artists moved in — followed by creative companies like MTV. They revitalised Noord, transforming these decrepit lots into a graffiti-covered wonderland.

Today, Noord is a lively neighborhood with a diverse population. Many tech startups and artistic firms are headquartered here.

street style amsterdam fashion blog

The Netherlands gives generous support to young artists, including providing studios for them to create.

Faustina took is to NDSM Wharf, a giant collective of creative minds. As we approached, the street art grew more and more vivid.

artist collective studios noord

NDSM stands for Nederlands Dok en Scheepsgebouw Maatschappij (Dutch Dock and Shipbuilding Company): one of the largest European shipyards before going bankrupt in 1980.

The abandoned warehouses fell into disrepair, until street artists from around the world turned them into colorful canvases.

space astronaut mural

We peeked into design studios, and posed in front of this intergalactic mural. There was even a cheeky, hot-pink installation called a “Barbie Peep Show.”

amsterdam hipsters, artist neighborhood

“Make art, not Euros.” That’s the DIY spirit at NDSM.

industrial cool north amsterdam

As we kept walking, I was impressed by the myriad of ways that locals turned industrial skeletons into art.

Crane Hotel Faralda Amsterdam

Case in point: Crane Hotel Faralda. In this old shipyard, an abandoned 50-meter-high crane was turned into a three-room boutique hotel! 

pllek shipping containers restaurant

I witnessed one of the coolest transformations at Pllek, a modern restaurant built out of shipping containers. (Address: TT Neveritaweg 59, Amsterdam)

It’s easy to mistake this entrance for a pile of rusting compartments. However, when you walk in, you’ll discover a spacious glass-front eatery by the river. 

hip restaurant noord amsterdam

Pllek continues the upcycled theme inside, with furniture made from salvaged maritime artifacts. Concrete floors maintain the industrial feel, while a disco ball adds fabulosity.

The diners tend to be young, hip foodies… an alien would fit right into the picture!

dutch desserts, apple pie

The menu relies on organic, sustainable meats and produce. I ordered a pumpkin ravioli, and it was one of the best meals of the trip.

Desserts are a must at Pllek: Dutch apple pie, creme brule, chocolate cake, ahh.

pllek beach NDSM wharf

Outside, Pllek has picnic benches and a strip of sand. When the sun shines, this is “the” place to hang out by the river.

Pllek also organises regular cultural events, ranging from photography exhibits to yoga and Tai Chi on the beach. At night, they bring in DJs for some of Amsterdam’s best dance parties. 

Restaurant Lt. Cornelis Amsterdam

Back in the city center, I had another spectacular meal at Restaurant Lt. Cornelis (Address: Voetboogstraat 13, Amsterdam).

As you might guess from the “chiaroscuro” portraits, they specialize in traditional Dutch cuisine, prepared with locally sourced ingredients.

dutch traditional restaurant amsterdam

However, a peek into the open kitchen, and you’ll see young chefs with tattoos working with flames. Restaurant Cornelis draws from the past, but gives all their dishes a modern flair.

holland fine dining, wine tasting menu

I recommend going for the “Menu Cornelis,” a four-course tasting that will surprise your palate. Each dish also comes perfectly paired with wine.

The friendly servers brought out dishes that I had never tried before, including melt-in-your-mouth bitterballen (Dutch croquettes). Everything was beautifully plated and prepared: highlights included the sustainable sirloin, and a chocolate/citrus/white chocolate dessert with foam.

alternative amsterdam underground tour

Cheers to all the new friends we made on this journey! I’m glad I got the chance to see the underground, alternative, obscure side of Amsterdam. 

If you’re planning a visit, check out the I Amsterdam website. You can find more suggestions for attractions in Noord and other areas.

weird bizarre amsterdam murals

What’s next… a space-disco journey throughout the galaxy? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out where I’ll be next!

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