A peek into my life for my friends all over the world!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Just a weekend in Amsterdam

The heat wave left us somewhere during mid last week, however spring is still here (we actually can't believe it...I think I've never seen so many blue skies so constantly in the Netherlands!). Anyway, this means that me and my friends have taken advantage of this and we've had a really nice weekend.

I started with a "pre-weekend" activity on Thursday evening where me and some friends went for dinner to the "Blue tea house" which is located in the Vondelpark. We still managed to make it an early evening so I managed to go work on Friday and in the evening I met a friend in De Pijp to catch up.

On Saturday, my friend Aleksandra was having a housewarming party at 4pm in the north part of Amsterdam.

Now, for the ones that don't know Amsterdam let me tell you that this city has totally spoiled me. I come from Lima a VERY big city where I used to spend about one hour in a "combi" (small bus) to go from home to university every day. I did the same when I was living in London where it took me about 1 hour and 20 minutes to get from home to work (by underground and a bus).

However Amsterdam is a different story. Amsterdam is more like a village than a city...and my life is always around the same areas. After all the Netherlands is the European country with more population density...we are kind of on top of each other, and there are SO many things next to the other. I don't even live in the centre, but it takes me less than 10 minutes by bike to get to the centre (I literally have to cross the Vondelpark). When I have to go somewhere and I have to cycle over 15 minutes I already start thinking it's a little far. 20, means far...and more than 20...it's rather annoying ;-) So yes, I'm totally spoiled here.

Anyway, all this explanation to tell you that Aleks' house was in the North of Amsterdam (behind central station). You have to understand that my view of Amsterdam is a little like the one that Europeans had of the world before Christopher Columbus discovered America. For me Central Station is THE NORTH...and anything behind is some land after the water ;-) haha So having to look for the address on the map and trying to figure out a cycle way...was quite a challenge ;-) However I did manage to get there, I got a little lost but after 35 minutes I got there.

We spent a nice afternoon and evening in the roof top terrace until the sun was gone and we started getting cold. We ended the party in Alek's nice livingroom, having some nice chats, drinking some wine, eating lots of yummy things and overlooking a beautiful view. You'll see it on the photos!

At about 22:30, 7 of us made our way into the centre to Zebra Lounge, a nightclub where Vitor, a good friend of mine was celebrating his 32nd party. Vitor is a real "party animal". He's the friend that whenever I feel like going out and dance or I want to know "what's on" in the Amsterdam night life agenda I call and usually he can put me on the guestlist. It was a really great party, 4 different DJs made a great combination of music, the crowd was great, several of my friends were there. I had a really nice time.

I cycled home at around 3 am...I had been partying and drinking since 4pm if you remember....

You can see a few photos of this by clicking here

On Sunday we had a GORGEOUS spring day! And so I joined Joost, Aleks, Geert jan and Daf in Saxy (the boat). We cruised around the Amsterdam canals while finishing all the remaining food from the party the day before...the people from the other boat were very jealous of our vast variety of cheeses: Brie, Camembert, Goat cheese, Blue cheese, Cheese with Dille, Cheese with Nuts...you got it right?

It was a really fun and beautiful afternoon. The sun was shining over Amsterdam and the wateer and I actually took out my camera and decided to take all the photos that normally tourists would take and that I never do (as I'm not a tourist anymore) and when I downloaded them yesterday evening, I realised what I already know...I LOVE Amsterdam. It's such a beautiful city, and no wonder I fell in love with it! :)
Look up the photos of my beautiful Amsterdam here (can you tell I love this city?)

And you can also view 2 videos: Prinsengracht and me cycling back home yesterday evening

Monday, April 16, 2007

Starved for sun and warmth: 1st hot weekend in 07

I'll never forget my first summer in the northern part of Europe. It was back in 1998 when I was doing a traineeship in Mannheim, Germany. One day the sun came out and suddenly everybody was half naked, everybody had sunglasses on and going out in the streets, people were SO happy, So cheerful, everybody was sitting outside in the terraces, in the parks, they would cram themselves in tiny little balconies (that I would have never called balconies myself)....summer was here (at least for a day)...and they HAD to enjoy it.

I would have never thought, that some years later...I would join "them" and I would get SO excited as well to get some sun. I guess it's true...you always long for what you don't have, or what you are not sure if you will get. In this part of the world...the world Summer doesn't mean "heat" or the fact that you will be able to wear summer clothes or sandals. Long gone are the days back in Lima, when I would put away all the coats, jackets and anything that had long sleeves; socks and closed shoes. For the past 7 years...I've been chasing the sun and trying to get the most out of it! I now understand why the euphoria, why the need of getting half naked and joining the masses of half naked bodies in wherever part of the city we might enjoy some rays of the long longed God sun! (However, I don't think I will ever join the group of people that feel it's nice to parade around in underwear in public parks!!)

I think there's enough evidence by now to prove to the more sceptics that Global Warming is here, been reading a very interesting special about it in the latest Newskeek. And regardless of the fears and the politics behind, besides the potential scenarios that make me actually wonder if I should invest in a beach house by the Baltic sea ;-)...the fact is that since Friday not only Spring was here but with a breaking record of 28.9 degrees Celsius for the month of April in the Netherlands it felt like Summer was actually here.

On Friday evening I joined Joost, Geert Jan and some other friends for a quick drink in De Pijp...and there was some holiday feeling to people sitting in the terraces or just standing outside with beers, white beers, white wines or Mohitos in their hands.

On Saturday Aissa and me decided that we HAD to go to Bloemendaal, one of the closest beaches to Amsterdam. I have to point out that Aissa is Brazilian and we actually became quite good friends since last Summer when we would get into the train on Saturdays and Sundays ready to make the most out of the beach...we both have grown up by the beach and we definitely LOVE it! However this time we decided to cycle to Bloemendaal (for Non-Dutch pronounce "Blue-mendal"). It took us 1 hour and 40 minutes at a steady pace to ride the 30kms to Bloemendaal and 1 hour and 30mins for our way back. As the Netherlands is so flat and as we cycle almost every day, it was not hard, we didn't get soar legs or were tired, however as we have just plain city bikes...God did our asses hurt on the way back ;-) And we spent a really GREAT day laying down in the sand and feeling the gorgeous rays caressing our bodies!

On Sunday I decided to stay in Amsterdam, however the day was even warmer than Saturday so I actually spent about 8 hours lying in the sun in the Vondelpark. For the ones that don't know, the Vondelpark is a rather big park in the middle of Amsterdam and I happen to live only 5 minutes away from the south exit. Petter, Aissa, Stephie, Paul and Nema joined me....and from 2pm till almost 9pm (when it started getting dark- I LOVE the looooong days) we enjoyed copious amounts of white and rose wine and then some lovely white beer. It was only when I cycled back home that I realised that I was a little drunk and the fact was furtherly confirmed at 4am when I woke up and had a terrible urge for over a liter of water ;-)

All in all a perfect hot weekend, the perfect beginning of the warm season! I look forward to more beach days, more picnics in the Vondelpark and definitely more wine and beers in good company ;-)

For a few photos of Sat and Sun click here and for a 1 min video of my cycling through the park click here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter Weekend

Even though it appeared that I was only just back from holidays, the long Easter weekend was very much welcome! I was definitely happy to have 4 days off.

As I had been so busy planning my trip to Aspen I had totally forgotten to plan something for it, once I was back all flights for short breaks around Europe were already quite full and were already quite expensive so I decided that I would make the most out of the Netherlands.

Italo, one of my best friends who is currently living in Essex UK, came over for the weekend and we organised several really fun activities.


Keukenhof is one of the world's most spectacular gardens. It's only opened about 6 weeks every year at the beginning of the spring, and it's a real delight for the senses.

Italo and me took a train to Leiden and then a beautiful bus ride among the flower fields all the way to the park.

The place is really stunning. A huge display of flowers, colours, nature. Something really worth seeing if you are ever in the Netherlands at around this time of the year...believe it or not...even though I'm over 4 years here, I had never been there before.

I think that I'll make use of the frase "one image speaks more than thousand words" and click here so you can see the photos!

You can also enjoy Keukenhof videos by clicking here and here!

Saturday: A boat tour in the A'dam canals

On Saturday we did "Saxy's 2007 maiden's tour" in the A'dam canals. Saxy is my good friend Joost's boat. He used this weekend to ensure that all was working ok, to put the engine back on after the winter and to ensure that Saxy is ready for 2007's season. Italo and me met Joost in the Princengracht prepared with wine and some snacks and we were ready for it.

Cruising Amsterdam canals is one of the nicest things to do on a sunny day. Even though I have done it numerous times, I will never get bored of it. You view the city from a total different perspective, you realise that most of the Amsterdam buildings are astonishing and that each one has a special characteristics. It's also nice to see that the other boat "captains" will always greet you when you cross their way- something totally unexpected in a busy city as Amsterdam.

Furthermore, as this was Italo's first time on a private boat...we decided to cruise around the Red Light District. Which gave us an interestinig advantage...I managed to photograph some of the "ladies on the windows" ;-) which is something that you are not allowed to do if you are wondering around the area.

Finally, at the end of the day, Italo and me were cycling back home and we passed along Museum Plein. The sun was out and it looked so pretty...we decided to sit in the field and enjoy the sunshine...and we also decided to take some nice touristy photos.

For photos of the whole day, includding the "ladies from the red light district" click here ;-)

For videos on the the canal ride click here and also here.

Saturday and Sunday: Park, Rembrandt Plein and National Park

Saturday was a really sunny day. Italo and me packed a chilled bottle of white wine and we met Stephie in the Vondelpark. We had a really nice time enjoying the sun. After 2.5 hours we decided to go to Rembrandtplein where Yamil joined us and we had some really decadent ice-creams and a beer.

On Sunday Joost, Geert Jan, Italo and me went all the way to Otterlo to the Hoge veluwe National Park. After parking the car, we walked about 2.5kms towards the centre of the park. There we decided to first visit to the "Kroller-Muller" museum which had an amazing Van Gogh collection and also some impressionists and post-impressionists (my favorites) and a rather impressive modern art from the 20th century collection. This was all in the inside, in the outside they had a quite particular exhibition of modern sculptures.

After the museum visit and after a small lunch we managed to get a hold of 4 of the white bikes which are meant to be for free for the visitors. We decided to go to St. Huber, a small castle, that used to be a lodge for hunters, we cycled about 20 kms to get there...which was rather nice to do in between the forest and the nice scenary which you'll be able to see in the photos. We reached St. Huber, we saw a little bit of it and we cycled back toward the entrance and then we drove back Amsterdam.

For photos of the visit to Hoge Veluwe click here.

For a short video of me trying to get the surroundings while cycling...click here ;-)

All in all a really nice long weekend with beautiful long and sunny days, spring is definitely here....and everybody is really happy!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Happy Easter!! Felices Pascuas! Buona Pasqua!

I wish you all a nice Easter. Enjoy the short break! Chocolate greetings from Amsterdam :)

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The cabin in Snowmas Mountain

Up in Snowmass mountain, hidden from the "non-locals" you can find a cabin in the middle of the woods. It was taken there by helicopter about 40 years ago during the construction of one of the chair lifts by a man who used to work in Snowmass called "Mr Sneaky" and that's why it's called "Sneak's Inn". The cabin is not bigger than 20square meters and it is very rudimentary. It has 3 rather long bunk beds where a maximum of 12 people can sleep. The furniture (chairs) are made out of wood in a way that you can still see the logs. There is a small furnace where logs are burnt to produce heat.

The cabin is opened to anybody 365 days a year, there's no need to book it...Anto tells me that so far she's never met another group of people. The people who go there take care of it, they leave some non perishable food, there's some spare jackets, blankets, sleeping bags and shoes.

Anto had always talked to me about this cabin, so when I was in Aspen I definitely wanted to go there. We were 7 of us going there: Greg, Deidree, Murphy, Anto, Gus, Jason and me.

We took the last gondola of the day at 4pm from the bottom of "Fanny hill" in Snowmas mountain. After we went all the way to the top we had to ski a little and then we had to hike for some minutes until we found the cabin, hidden in between some trees.

Even though this was my second time skiing, and I took a one day lesson and I actually improved quite a lot, lets say that I still didn't feel very comfortable at having to ski with a backpack and a sleeping bag. Somehow I managed (and it is amazing if you consider that this was the same day of my previous post...thank God for Gatorade!) but I was really amazed at seeing all the other guys with really big and heavy backpacks and, very importantly, carrying 12-packs of beer :) (check Murphyto on the right)

The hike was a very short one, however the snow was "rotten", this means that every couple of steps one of us would manage to sink a whole leg in the snow. The first time this happened to me, I freaked out a little bit...cause it is very tough to pull it out, and if you are not used to it, it can be a little scary. Of course afterwards I realised that it happened to everyone and that it was just a matter of being patience and careful and eventually you could be back on your feet!

The place was amazing. The guys made a nice fire outside where we sat around while having beers, eating and chatting. Of course the guys are rather hyperactive and they had to find ways to entertain themselves and burn some energy....so they did all kinds of things such us cutting wood, small fights, invent silly little games, sled or chase each other around in the snow! By clicking on the links on the previous sentence you can view small videos!

Once it was dark, and it got a little colder we all went inside. Some of the guys cooked some food, some attempted to play the guitar, some danced ;-), we played some Jenga. We had plenty of fun.

One of the interesting experiences was going trying to pee in the dark. It reminded me of camping in the beach back in Peru...of course there is easier as it is not cold, you don't sink in the snow and somehow you can see a little better. Anto and me would go with the head lamp and some toilet paper....and everything was so still and so quiet and so surrounded by trees....it was kind of scary! However it all looked so nice. We were up in the mountain and the sky looked so big and dark and so full of stars!

The next morning we woke up rather late (at 9am) considering that we were all in bunk beds....it felt a little like being in a pyjama party because we were all talking to each other and we were laughing non stop...I was sleeping in the middle bunk so it was just funny to have someone talking to me from the top bunk and from the bottom one.

After cleaning and tidying up we all skiied down the mountain all the way to "the mall" in Snowmass where we all shared a really nice breakfast.

My visit to the cabin was definitely a really nice experience!

Peru reunion: wild night!

On Wednesday 21st we decided to make a "Peru reunion" with all the people that were in Aspen and that had attended Anto's and Gus' wedding back in October last year. We decided to go to "Cantina", a Mexican restaurant downtown Aspen. I had already been there the last time I was in Aspen and I knew that the food was good and that they had some really nice Margarita Pitchers.

Anto, Gus, Greg, Murphy, Jason, Lucy and Kimmy joined us. Unfortunately Karina and "Jason 2" couldn't join us that evening, however we also had Greg's parents over who were visiting him that week. It was a nice and fun evening where we ate good, we drank quite some pitchers and and we had a nice chat.

I guess the evening started to take a different turn once someone suggested that I HAD TO HAVE the "Aspen ski shot". This Aspen ski shot is a group shot. The shot glasses are placed in a ski and then all the "drinkers" stand next to each other, hold the ski and down it (as you can see in the photo here).

We finished dinner before 10pm so some of us decided that we just couldn't go home yet...Anto and Gus were not working the next day, I was on holidays....in the end the 3 of us, Lucy, Jason and Murphy went to "Texas red" where they were having a karaoke evening.

By that time not everybody was drunk enough to sing...however I like singing so Anto and me sang a very nice interpretation of "La Isla Bonita" from Madonna. After our singing and after several Coronas, Gus picked a song for the guys. They sang a country song which was only known by Gus...however Jason and Murphy did quite good at singing certain parts of the lyrics: " but you don't have to call me darling, darling" ;-)

Gus and Anto left a little after 1am. This means that it was only 4 of us left. After some more booze, Lucy decided that she was ready to sing and she and me had the last song of the evening (before they kicked us out), we gave a memorable performance of "If I could turn back time" from Cher....not only us, Jason and Murphy were quite enthousiastic cheering for us in the dance floor!

Once we had to leave we went to the only opened bar at that point, it was "Cooper street". In it, Lucy and me were the only girls, and it was full with rather drunk guys. We befriended this guy who had lived in the Netherlands and the barman. We had a couple of shots of vodka and we tried to play a game which name I can't remember...but then it was time to leave this place as well. However, our friend the barman was very considerate and gave us plastic cups so we could pour our drinks there, BUT we had to live by the back door!

Once outside, at which point you can imagine we were quite drunk, we were in this alley. I have no idea how this happened but suddenly Murhy and Jason thought that it was a good idea to climb the walls of one of the buildings. They climbed rather effortlessly and they were up there for quite a while...meanwhile Lucy and me tried to make them come down.

Once the guys came down, I REALLY needed to pee....this is also a bit cloudy in my mind but somehow Murphy guided me along Aspen alleys where I found a nice "peeing spot"...ok you can get it that I was rather drunk huh?

The rest of the time wondering the streets of Aspen includded us hiding from a police car and hugging the statue of a bear in one of the main streets...it's all a little blurry but well documented in photos ;-)

At a certain point, by this time I had totally lost the track of time, we all ended up at Jason's place. Lucy appointed herself as DJ, Murphy did some "rapping" in the stove (??) and Jason decided we needed more alchol (as if)...so he made a very nice cocktail with some Pisco. We all had so much fun, we drank, we danced, we wore Jason's funky socks and fuzzy slippers and we did make plenty of noise for Jason's flatmates. I have no clue at what time but eventually we all collapsed into the couches.

Next morning, we had the mother of the hangovers, we drank PLENTY of water and we just tried to remember what we had done the night before. Poor Lucy had to leave "early", at 11am as she had to do some snowmobiling at 12pm. Jason, Murphy and me eventually got our asses into Jason's truck and somehow Anto and Gus came to our rescue...they prepared a very greasy brunch for us.

It was a rather fun evening. I heard something from Jason that they had to proof me that they can also party the whole night long in Aspen...just like in Peru ;-) well....it's true guys!

Building Sapo

While I was in Aspen I participated in a very unusual experience...at least for me ;-)

If you know me well...you know that I'm quite useless at anything that involves being "handy". I feel already quite proud of myself every time I change a light bulb, at putting a nail on the wall or at building some uncomplicated Ikea furniture. So you can imagine that building "something" from "scratch" it's a WHOLE eye-opening experience for me.

During my last time in Peru, while a group of us was in Cuzco we played a typical Peruvian game called Sapo. This game needs a wooden structure where the "sapo" (frog) stands with the mouth open and where the players try to throw the coins from a distance. While we were there Murphy bought the sapo and the coins and he said that he was going to build it back home.

The first day I saw Murphy in Aspen I asked him about "sapo". And he had totally forgotten about it...so we decided to spend a day building it.

Tuesday 20th: Jason, Murphy and me got to work!

Ok, lets be honest it was Murphy directing and being really handy, Jason who pretty much had a very good idea of what was going on and how to use the "exotic" tools ;-) and me taking photos of the whole "operation". After one hour of me taking photos of the guys and being amazed at how things worked they managed to find a task for me: "sand dusting" with this cool machine ;-) So I took my task with real pride and I totally embraced it ;-)

It was a really great day. We were down valley at Murphy's place, the sun was shining, we were working while having some nice chilled Corona's and we just had SO much fun. As it was such an usual thing for me to do, I have to say I was having the time of my life.

It took us 6 hours to finish Sapo...and we also played it afterwards. Anto, Gus and Kimmy joined us at the end of the day and even when I was lucky enough to get the coin inside "sapo" I wasn't as excited as the time spent seeing the guys building it.

Thanks again Murphyto and Jason for that day. I had SO much fun :) We are "The Sapo team" ;-) (and after reading this you probably understand why I was so amazed, I'm rather useless at those things!)

You can see the photos of the whole process by clicking here. And you can even see a video of that day (and how handy I was) ;-) by clicking here.