Bloemendaal aan Zee


A very compelling reason to live in Haarlem is the proximity to the sea.

The whole area is a unique part of the country. Whereas you can't swing a dead cat in the Netherlands without hitting a canal or a fiets, a trip to the coastal towns of Zandvoort and Bloemendaal takes you through dunes that you don't see in most parts. These big, winding (and environmentally protected) sand dunes go for miles in several directions.

An easy 30-45 minute bike ride from Haarlem brings you to Bloemendaal aan Zee - a huge chunk of North Sea beach lined with cafes and clubs. The bike ride itself takes you along a winding path through the dunes for a good 15 minutes, with dozens of stops along the way to take a breather and check out the view.

The beach is apparently packed in the summer, at least on each of the 3.5 warm days here between June and September. In fall and winter, as this past weekend showed, it is a great spot when the sun is shining for a long walk and a lunch with coffee or a drink.

These straw roofs (rooves?) are popular in higher-end neighbourhoods in Holland. This one was spotted between Haarlem and Zandvoort.

The views from the dunes

Get to Know an Amsterdammer 2


As I continue to approach strangers and ask them for a few minutes of their time (and so far no punches or slaps), I met up with a local musician at Amsterdam's classic Cafe de Jaren, a sprawling two-level bar/restaurant with a canal-side terrace that is packed on summer evenings. This being November, however, we opted to stay in.

Some brief background info here:

This Amsterdammer was downsized from his sales job at Monster last year. He's been singing for years on the side, made the leap fully late in 2010, and in just under a year has landed the title song for a Reebok campaign (beating out OutKast, among others) and connecting with some big music industry movers in Holland and Los Angeles.

His first album is due in 2011. Check out his YouTube channel here. Check out his site (and cheeky Reebok ad) here.

Name: Steffen Morrison

Age: 31

Profession: Singer

How long have you lived in Amsterdam?
I arrived from Suriname on Oct. 4, 1992 in Amsterdam. Which makes it eighteen years for me.

List three quick words to describe the city, the first things that come to mind.
Diverse, Vibrant, A Living Postcard (Ed. note - it looks like five words after the Euro~Dollar exchange rate).

What are some of your favourite things about living here?
I love the canals in Amsterdam. These truly give the city its own unique character and identity. One of the other conveniences of this city is that you are literally 15 to 30 minutes away from everything by bike. Also, there is so much to be discovered about this city in general in terms of its history. Even for us who live in Amsterdam, at times we feel like a tourist because you discover so much daily.
Nightlife-wise, Paradiso and Sugar Factory are great for special shows.

What do you like the least about living here?
People on the bike tend to be pretty impatient. (Ed. - Er, yes. I just clobbered someone yesterday on the bike... more later). The fact there isn't much room for more tolerance in that area is something I would want to change about this city.

If you weren't living here, where would you want to live?
I would want to live in Los Angeles if I wasn't living in Amsterdam.



Some interesting views in and around Amsterdam and Haarlem over the past three days....

Seen: at Albert Cuyp street market
"Um, ok, give me one of those and two of those, jerkface."

Eaten: in Bloemendaal Aan Zee, at a snack shack
This is "Mexicano", a deep fried concoction involving some kind of ground meat.
As with many of Holland's culinary treats, created for maximum convenience and viscosity, it's best to take a page from the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

Seen: At a highway exit ramp leading to Amsterdam
Of all the reactions one might have to the above scenario, the disdain evident on this fellow's face seems the least likely. Although I would probably buy that suit.

Seen: at the same exit ramp, facing the above billboard
This seems to be a more appropriate reaction.

Seen: on bus 176 from Amsterdam to Haarlem
This security screen appears in almost every bus here.
The Comfort Meter is of particular interest to me. How do they know? Isn't 9 a bit high? Obviously they aren't aware of the Mexicano I ate earlier.