On (and off) the tourist trail

It’s another lazy winter weekend. The weather invites us to stay inside, bake some cookies, curl up with a book, maybe watch a movie.  On these kinds of days, though, we often end up asking ourselves if we “should” be doing more. We’re living in a beautiful  European city. Are we wasting time? Will we one day regret these lazy days?

I suspect this is a not-uncommon question for expats. There is a struggle to find the balance between exploring the city, and just having a “normal”, relaxed life. We could easily spend every weekend at a museum. We could become day-trippers who start every Saturday with a train ticket in one hand and a guide book in the other. We could go further afield and fly to another country every Friday evening, getting back just in time to start the work week. Instead, we’ve opted to be slightly lower-key. Maybe we’ll be more ambitious when spring arrives, and the weather is more welcoming.


Planning a trip?

This is not to say that we’ve been total home-bodies. Last weekend we hit a good balance between tourism and local-ism. In preparation for our upcoming move (more about that another time) we went in search of some second-hand furniture. Our hunting took us to Van Dijk & Co., an amazing warehouse in an industrial part of Amsterdam Noord.  No tourists to be found here, just stuff. So much stuff. Shelves of suitcases stacked to the ceiling. Desks, dishes, tables, armoires. Office furniture, filing cabinets, lamps, religious statues. It was a prop-master’s dream. We didn’t buy anything (yet), but it was great to explore the huge space and all its treasures. And it was fun to bike to a part of Noord that we’d never been to before – just getting there felt a bit like a treasure hunt, too.

The following day we were back on the more traditional tourist trail, finally crossing the Amsterdam Museum off our list.  (I should report that I ultimately failed in my year-long quest to get to every museum in Amsterdam that accepts the Museumkaart, but I came close.) After a surprisingly cozy lunch at a very friendly Dutch cafe, we headed to the museum. We were not the only tourists on the trail that day, and the museum was crowded. It was the last day of an exhibit about graffiti artists in the 1970s and 80s, which explained the high number of visitors. Graffiti as art is not something I’m into, but I did find it interesting to see how the artistic influences could be traced from New York City to Amsterdam.  Another of the many links between (Old) Amsterdam and New Amsterdam.


We ended our touristy day with a stroke of great luck. We headed to Van Stapele for an afternoon snack. We were introduced to this charming shop on a Hungry Birds food tour, and it’s become a favorite stop when we’re in the neighborhood (and even when we’re nowhere near the neighborhood). The sign on the door said they were sold out, but we managed to get the last two cookies of the day. Sometimes these little rewards are the best motivation for getting us off the couch and out the door. For today, though, we’re staying put.