Myself and Mark have just returned from a lovely long-weekend break in Nieuwendammerdijk, Amsterdam.


We were last in Amsterdam in November 2014, when we fell in love with the welcoming large windows, beautiful crooked old houses, glittering stretches of canals, tinkling carillon bells and culinary delights of the Netherlands. We vowed we would go back, and I’m sure this recent excursion was not our last because there is so much more to explore and discover in this wonderful country.

When we went to Amsterdam in Winter, we stayed in a beautiful old Art Deco hotel in the city centre. We took a boat ride around the canals, drank mulled wine and wore all our woollies! Highlights included a lovely long walk to a brewery in an old windmill and a visit to the Cat Cabinet – an old house rammed full of amazing cat-themed artwork, guarded by a couple of sleepy, real life resident felines.






It was a weekend break of white wintry sunlight, cosy indoor beers, and brusque urban walks. I have a particularly lovely memory of standing near Oude Kirk, blowing on my fingers to keep them warm, and listening to tinkly bells ringing out across the frosty early evening.

On this more recent trip we discovered that Amsterdam is very different in the summer. The windows are still wide and welcoming and the carillons still sound beautiful, but the city centre is far busier with comrades drawn to the red light district and its beguiling attractions.


We were glad to be a little bit out of town this time, and we found an amazing place to stay via AirBnB in the beautiful Nieuwendammerdijk area. The doorway to our place is just behind the big pine tree in this photo; it’s on a street that is full of bikes, cats, and hollyhocks that are going to be amazing when they all bloom at once!


It was about 15 minutes by bus from there to the city centre and we enjoyed walking the long way to the bus stop to enjoy all sights along the way…




…in the main part of the city we discovered a gem of a place called Wynand Fockink where you can try all sorts of amazing Jenevas and liqueurs, and where you are obliged to bow to slurp the first mouthful of drinks from your tulip-shaped glass.


We also found lots of tasty bits of cheese, including a superb hunk of gouda with big salty crystals in it…


…and a fantastic bar that only serves Dutch beer.


One evening when we were walking back from a really lovely dinner in the city centre, we discovered that the frogs were all singing in the lake near our house.

Riding on bikes away from the city took us to wonderfully flat, clear cycle paths around the dykes and waterways.




We discovered sheep and beer of the Texel variety…



…And I found some Texel wool in Amsterdam’s famous yarn boutique, Stephen and Penelope!


I love this yarn shop. The collection of yarns is really carefully sourced and of amazing quality, and many skeins come with wondrous known provenance and top sheepy credentials, so there is something for every sort of knitter to enjoy. I picked up some yarns I have really wanted for a long time – A skein of Rosa Pomar’s Zagal made from the wool of the Portugese Merino sheep, and a skein of Texelse Schapenwol. I regretted not buying Nancy Marchant’s Leafy Brioche book at Edinburgh Yarn Festival and was thrilled to repair that on this Amsterdam adventure, and Stephen and Malia kindly introduced us to an awesome Indonesian restaurant. We have only met up before around the Edinburgh Yarn Festival where we’ve all been working really hard so it was really nice to just hang out on a balmy summer evening, chatting about this and that and tucking away loads of amazing little bites of delicious Indonesian food.

Mark has been obsessed with the Internet of Things (IoT) – a project which started life in Amsterdam. The IoT is about creating amazing smart cities where clever little sensors and devices collect data, enabling better town planning and improved quality of life; keeping it open-source and low cost and using low-frequency public bandwidths mean this technology can be collectively owned and free to use. The IoT was invented in Amsterdam by a group of folks who essentially crowd-sourced the funds to get network coverage for their city and who are now on a mission to replicate this process all over the world. Mark has funding for a few IoT projects here in Reading, and has been busily organising coverage for the whole town, so it was awesome to meet Johan, one of the co-founders of the IoT, and to visit the spiritual home of this Utopian technology project.

The Things Network from Soda Content on Vimeo.

I am not sure when we will go back to Amsterdam, but the sunshine and friendship and creativity we enjoyed there this weekend were so awesome that I wanted to share some of it with you.


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