Get to Know an Amsterdammer 3


In the third installment of this series, we travel to Delicieux!, a caterer and small restaurant across from Olympisch Stadion, the site in the Amsterdam Oud-Zuid (Old South) area - site of the Olympic Games in 1928.

Name: Camilla

Age: 23

Profession: Waitress

How long have you lived in Amsterdam? About 4 years

List three quick words to describe the city, the first things that come to your mind:
Exciting, beautiful, characteristic, lively (Ed. note - Camilla provided the 4th word for free)

What are some of of your favourite things about living here?
In this city you can go almost anywhere on your bicycle, just about everything is around the corner. I love going to an area that is called "de Jordaan", they have lovely little boutiques with unique things and cafe's where you can have nice lunches, or just for a cup of coffee.

In the summer it's nice to be on the water, there are a lot of canal cruises and nice buildings to see. Nightlife is pretty good, I usually go to Palladium (Ed. - cool website) for a nice cocktail and afterwards there are a lot of nice bars around the Leidseplein to go to.

What do you like the least about living here?
The weather is not always as good as you would like;)

If you weren't living here, where would you want to live?
I think I would want to live somewhere in Italy. I really like Italian people and the cities are amazing.

Hot Spots I


"Just to be sure: the use of the spa facilities is co-ed and in the nude."

It is with these friendly words of warning that I was cordially invited to the first place on my newest quest, visiting 5-10 saunas in the Amsterdam and Haarlem area over the coming weeks. And with winter arriving with full force, warming up seems like a solid plan.

Some long-time readers might recall the first time I dipped my, er, toe into the European world of saunas here.

Since that nerve-wracking first time, where I had to shed not only all clothing but also 30+ years of North American conservatism (only with regards to public nudity, I should add), it seems I have embraced my inner (and now outer) nudist.

I figure now is the time to go and feel relatively secure, before pastries, age, and Dutch cheese take their toll.

With this in mind, a number of places in the city have agreed to let me in, and in some cases interview the owner/manager.

First up, Haarlem's Sauna van Egmond.

This place is a must-visit - it provides the perfect Dutch gezellig feeling as soon as you walk in - lounge areas, a large fireplace, a movie room with plush couches, stillness rooms for taking a nap, a restaurant. All with soft lights and dark corners. Then there are the steam rooms, saunas (infra-red and regular), hot tubs, cold tubs, rooftop terrace, full salon and swimming pool.

I met with K.C, the amiable manager who has been at SvE for 22 years. He walked me through the facility and provided most of the information. "People are here for a good time," he mentioned right away. "There are no grumpy people once they walk through the doors."

Decidedly un-grumpy, and armed with a robe, slippers, and towels, I was on my way...

Pre-sauna. I exhaled shortly after this photo was taken.

Since: 1974. The building itself is not very old, but the decor has been made to look "vintage" - and it could easily double as a museum.

Client mix: about 95% Dutch, 5% tourist

Age range and gender: The sauna is for those 14+, but the vast majority are over 20 at least. During my visit - 11am-2pm on a frosty Tuesday - it was 70% female, with a few couples. Ages ranged from 22 to about 65.
Weekends and evenings bring a more 50-50 male/female split. For those trying to visualize the mix: picture your oldest aunt and uncle naked, as well as the girl or guy next door.

Cost: 27Euros for the full day, robe and towels extra but people also can bring their own.

Most interesting story: There have been several wedding proposals here, according to K.C. - in the nude, in full view of the other patrons. (I did not ask where the groom hid the ring).

The vibe: Relaxed. This is NOT a pick-up place. Most people are in couples, or mothers and daughters, or friends. Hushed conversations and only occasional chats with strangers occur. "People mind their own business here," says K.C. (Plus, what would your opening line be anyway? "Hmm, sure is hot in here?")

Average stay: According to K.C, the average visit can range from 3-5 hours. Though some people spend the full day - 10am-11pm. With movies, naps, steam sessions, reading areas, food, and drinks, it is possible to stay this long. Steam and time evaporate here.

Most interesting moment: At one point, I was the only male in a sauna with 7 women. Some outweighed me. I would suggest that this is very good practice for those looking to lower their inhibitions, as I had to walk past them all to get to the only available space to sit.

The verdict: An absolute must-visit when you come to Amsterdam. It's a short train or bus ride to Haarlem and a very novel experience for us non-Northern Europeans. It's also pure relaxation, pure atmosphere and a first-class facility. Plus, you get to keep the slippers.

(Photos below are from the Sauna van Egmond brochure)

Film Fest


The purpose of life is to increase the warm heart - Dalai Lama

I love documentaries. I love them the way Dutch people love birthday calendars in their bathrooms. The way Parisians love strikes. I love them the way Dan Brown loves italics.

With that in mind, it seemed fitting to see Love Etc as my first movie at this year's IDFA.

It's year 23 of the International Documentary Film Festival, year two for me at this great 10-day cinematic smorgasbord. The full program is immense - over 250 films, with 10 days and four locations throughout the city. Each film is either done in English or has English subtitles.

So with limited time and only two eyeballs, how does one choose which ones to see? You look for some award winners and some with topics of interest (last year's Rainbow Warriors of Waiheke Island is still clearly in my mind).

Love Etc follows a number of people in various stages of relationships in New York City. An elderly couple with the wife suffering from the early stages of dementia, a young Indian couple getting married, a divorced blue-collar single dad, a gay single man about to adopt baby twins, and a pair of 18-year olds. It's filled with the requisite NYC sights, energy and authenticity, and each profile makes you think about your own relationships. Check out the trailer here.

Herbstgold (Autumn Gold) is about several men and women from parts of Europe (Austria, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic) preparing for and competing in the track and field World Masters Championships in Finland. The catch? The youngest person featured is 84, and the oldest is 100. It follows their lives, their relationships (most of them have lost a husband or wife) and their training. It's an incredible movie - touching, funny, wrinkled, and inspiring. The trailer is here.

If you're looking to get off the couch, think, or just increase the warm heart, catch both movies and see the way Albert and Marion still treat each other after 48 years of marriage, and how a 100-year-old discus thrower spends his training time.