Music in Hostelle

Here in Hostelle we always have a music channel playing. My shift just wouldn’t be the same without some music playing in the background. Especially when it is early in the morning I like to listen to something. Personally I don’t like to listen to a movie. Not because I don’t like the movie (although most of the times I actually don’t like the movie), but because it is distracting. I like to read books behind the desk and for some reason it’s hard for me to really get into the story when there is a movie playing in the background. I guess I’m inclined to listen to the dialogue and I’ll lose my concentration.

In the good, old days when Hostelle just opened, I listened to the radio. We had a lot of options to choose from and yet I always picked the 60’s & 70’s music station and later on I switched to the 80’s & 90’s music station. The last one was my personal favourite. What shall I say, I love 80’s music!

At the moment we mostly play two channels: Lite TV and VH1 Classics. My personal favourite is VH1 Classics. I like their programming. They change the decade of the music very frequently. We are the 80’s and Smells like the 90’s are examples. Most of the time they play All time hits which is a mixture of different decades. Not long ago they added music from in between 2000 and 2010. I guess those counts as classic nowadays, which makes me feel old.

Lite TV mixes old and new music, which of course is a nice change. Not everyone likes old songs and I don’t like the new songs, so this channel will keep everyone happy. It also mixes well known American and British music with Dutch music. But the reason why I don’t play this channel often is because they repeat the same songs a lot. Especially if a song is really popular you can expect it every hour. Believe it or not, but when I first heard ‘Blurred Lines’ on that channel (I hadn’t heard it before) I really liked the song. Since they overplayed it, it had gotten old quickly. And I don’t know if they still do this, but they used to play YouTube videos of people covering a popular song. The worst one that still haunts my mind, was of a man and his daughter(?) and they were singing ‘Rolling in the deep’ by Adele. Most people thought the girl was cute, but she butchered the song by yelling the chorus. Kids, am I right?!

Like I said I love 80’s music and lucky for me they play some of my favourite 80’s songs regularly. I love David Bowie and they play him very often. Although I would appreciate more ‘China girl’ and less ‘Dancing in the street’. ’Alone’ by Heart is played almost every day but that song never gets old. Besides great songs the 80’s also brought us some weird music videos. Did you ever see the video for ‘Total eclipse of the heart’? Well if you didn’t go check it out on YouTube and be mesmerized. One of my favourite lame videos with a cheesy song is ‘You spin me round (like a record)’. Yup, that’s the 80’s for you.

I personally enjoy this kind of music, but I can understand that someone else does not. To each his/her own. If someone wants to listen to MTV I really wouldn’t mind. Yes, we actually have a MTV channel that still plays music. Hooray digital television! Especially when I’m reading I’m good as long as it’s music and not a movie. And movie musicals don’t count!

Movies in Hostelle

Here in Hostelle we have a nice collection of movies. Most of them are chick flicks, which I’m not a big fan of, but some of them are tolerable. There are movies I simply can’t stand, while others are really enjoyable. Random fact about me, I love making lists. That’s why I present my random top 5 ‘Nice-you’re-watching-that-movie’ list and my random top 5 ‘Crap-you’re-watching-that-movie’ list. Let’s start with the easy one.

Top 5 ‘Crap you’re watching that movie’ – in random order

  1. Mama Mia!

I don’t have anything against movie musicals, but I do against this one. It is one of our most popular movies and I can’t figure out why. To put it nicely, I’m not a fan of ABBA, let alone covers of their songs. I really like watching movies starring Meryl Streep, just not this one.

  1. He’s just not that in to you

In 2012 this was Hostelle’s number 1 movie. It was so popular we had to buy it 3 times because people kept on stealing it (no joke). The main reason I don’t like this movie is because I’ve ‘heard’ it way too much. I once worked a shift where I ‘heard’ the movie 3 times and 1 of those times in French. Not cool.

  1. The devil wears Prada

I don’t like it for the same reason I don’t like He’s just not that in to you, I’ve ‘heard’ it too many times. I actually like Meryl Streep in this movie, so for this one I’m blaming Anne Hathaway.

  1. The wedding singer

This one is not as popular as the other ones, but it is certainly annoying. For this one I’m blaming Adam Sandler, because I don’t think he is funny. I can honestly say that I think that all of the movies he is the lead in, are lame.

  1. Crossroads

Ugh… I cringe every time someone watches this movie. It’s just bad. ‘Nuff said. One of my fondest memories of working in Hostelle, was when the guests watched this movie. The whole lounge was full and everyone was really in to it. When the movie ended and the credits started to roll, the song I’m not a girl not yet a woman started to play. Let me tell you, it is quite a sight to see a lounge full of girls sing along to a Britney song.

 Top 5 ‘Nice you’re watching that movie’ – in random order

  1. Titanic

This is one of my all-time favourite movies.  Sure it is a long movie, but I don’t mind listening to it during my shift.

  1. Bridget Jones’s diary

I must admit, I never actually watched the movie, I have only heard it. But I have to say it sounds like a fun movie. Luckily this is also one of the most popular movies here.

  1. Scream

Too bad this movie isn’t watched that often when I’m working. I really like slasher movies, so I’m always silently hoping that they will watch it. But they won’t. Not long ago I was working the Friday evening shift, which is also movie night, and guess which movie we watched!!

  1. Austin Powers

This movie has actually never been watched during any of my shifts. For me it’s unfortunate because I really like this one. It’s a really funny movie and I hope our guests will watch it more often.

  1. Zoolander

This is one of my all-time favourite comedies. It used to be one of our popular movies, but after some time the DVD wasn’t working properly anymore. As much as I like this movie, watching it while it gets stuck every 2 seconds is absolutely annoying. I’m not sure if we have replaced thr DVD.

Bonus List

Hostelle’s most popular movie from 2012-2014 – Based on the shifts I have worked

  • Mama Mia!
  • The devil wears Prada
  • It’s complicated
  • Bridget Jones’s diary
  • He’s just not that in to you
  • Me, myself and Irene
  • Pretty woman

Random tales of an Amsterdam born receptionist

While thinking of a subject to write about in my next post, I was thinking how I could make it a bit more personal. I could always write about my personal favourite [insert topic], but I wanted do something different for once. After brainstorming for a while I figured I could just write about myself. How’s that for personal, am I right? By the way, I picked the title because it was catchy. I like to talk about random things and that is exactly what I’m going to do with this post.

Where to begin? The year was 1991; in an Amsterdam hospital I was born. Time leap to 2014; and now I’m working behind the reception in Hostelle. Everything in between has been actually very common.

In my younger days (before I turned 20) I never was much of a reader. I mean I liked it, but I would rather watch television. And then I accepted a job behind the reception. When Hostelle first opened in 2012, business was slow. We were a brand new hostel so not a lot of people had discovered us. During this period I began reading a lot. For my birthday that year I got the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson and for those who aren’t familiar with the books, all three of them are about 1500 pages. Well at least the copies I have. Since it was so quiet I finished them in no time. Yes, it truly was an eye opening experience.

Besides reading behind the desk, I would sometimes study something. I’m not in college or anything so I wanted to keep my brain active. At first I studied the Spanish language. I was taught Spanish in high school, so it was easy to pick up again. For some random reason, still unknown to myself, I never continued with Spanish and instead I switched to the Japanese language. Then the same thing happened and I decided to do a course. And that course was manicure. I recently finished it, so besides introducing myself in Spanish and writing my name in Japanese, I can also give people a professional manicure.

One of my favourite things to do behind the reception is colouring. We actually have a colouring book for adults (seriously that’s the name) and I frequently use it. I actually find colouring very relaxing. If I can find a moment during a chaotic shift and if I remembered to bring my coloured markers, I really like to colour a page of the book. It’s very stress-reducing, you should try it.

I could go on and on about these random fact about me, but frankly that would be boring. Therefor I am going to leave it with this. Let’s hope I will have better inspiration for my next post.

When in Amsterdam you should visit…

When you think of Amsterdam, you picture the centre with its beautiful canals. You picture canal houses with some of the city’s finest architecture. You picture crowded streets with o-so-many bicycles. That or you picture the red light district and coffee shops. And I’m not talking about Starbucks if you know what I mean *wink, wink! Most tourists only explore the centre while some tourists want to visit the ‘not so touristic’ parts of Amsterdam. The centre is indeed very beautiful, but this city has a lot more to offer.

Even though I said Amsterdam is more than just the centre, I want to start with a neighbourhood in the centre. The Jordaan (west from Centraal Station, about 10 minutes of walking) is a place where tourists go, yet it remains a ‘quiet’ part of the centre.  I personally think it’s one of the city’s most beautiful neighbourhoods. It is an old part of Amsterdam and it is perfect for sightseeing. A fun place to check out is the Johnny Jordaanplein. It has statues of famous musicians from back in the old days who were born in the Jordaan.

The south of Amsterdam is interesting. First you have Oud-Zuid (old south) and then you have Nieuw-Zuid (new south). Oud-Zuid is quite touristic because the Van Gogh– and Rijksmuseum are here. Besides these museums (which are worth the visit) the area around it is great for sightseeing. It is also known as the wealthy part of Amsterdam, so you will find a lot of beautiful houses here. De Pijp is one of my favourite parts of the city. Not only are the Heineken Experience and the Albert Cuyp market (Europe’s largest street market) here, it has a great atmosphere. Have a nice walk here or have a drink in one of the many cafes.

Nieuw-Zuid, in particular the Rivierenbuurt (literally the ‘river neighbourhood’, all the streets are named after Dutch rivers), is quite interesting. Built in the 1920’s, this neighbourhood is ‘young’ compared to the centre and Oud-Zuid. One of the most interesting facts is that this is the neighbourhood where Anne Frank used to live before she hid in what is now known as the Anne Frank House. Her house was at Merwedeplein, so in addition to the Anne Frank House this is also quite impressive to visit.

Like the south, the west of Amsterdam also consists of the old and the new. I will talk about the old (Oud-West) because I like this part better and I’m not really familiar with the new (Nieuw-West). When in Oud-West you should visit the Kinkerstraat and the area around it. This is a nice place for shopping or having a drink or a bite to eat. While I wouldn’t necessarily visit this neighbourhood for sightseeing, it has a great feeling to it and it’s a nice change from the centre.

In Amsterdam born and raised, on the playground where I spent most of my days. Chilling out, maxing and relaxing all cool….. Yes that was a really random Fresh Prince reference, but where I wanted to go with that line is that I love my city. I know it really well and I can’t picture myself living somewhere else. Not even some of the smaller cities around Amsterdam (spoken like a true Amsterdammer). So for all the (future) guests of Hostelle, come find me for some nice suggestions if you want to explore Amsterdam.

The road to the perfect cappuccino in Amsterdam

Like most people, I enjoy a good cup of coffee. And like most people, I like to know where I can get a good cup of coffee. That’s why I dedicated a day to visit many different coffee spots in Amsterdam to find out where I can get great coffee. Over the years I have visited a lot of places. Most of them were good, but some of them were not. I will focus on the highlights of my coffee tour. Why should I send you guys to a place where the coffee or service isn’t good, right?

I’m a cappuccino drinker and my review will be about these. Now, I can only tell that I liked or disliked the taste of the coffee and the foam. I can’t tell why the coffee was good or bad. Was it the blend? Was it way the coffee was made? No idea. So who better to join me on my coffee tour than someone who can actually answer these questions and provide us with an explanation; my friend Farrah has been a barista for years and really knows her coffee.

Our adventure started in the centre of Amsterdam near Dam square. At the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 133 is a hidden gem called ‘Het koffie cultuur centrum’ (coffee culture centre). The location is great, but for some reason I always walked past it. This place is really cosy and the owner/barista Piet is a great guy who provides a great atmosphere. I ordered a cappuccino and I have to say, it was one of the best I ever had. Both a cappuccino and a latte cost €1.50, which is incredibly cheap. Farrah and I both agreed this was a great place to begin our tour. She said: “I truly did not expect this to be such an eye-opening visit. Piet provided us with two amazing coffees with the biggest smile and heart. Perfect foam and the coffee was a wonderful blend from Latin-America (incidentally, my favourite region). Definitely a hidden gem that needs to be visited when you’re on the prowl for good coffee and some typical Dutch hospitality.”.

The next place we went to is called ‘Barista’ and with a name like that, the coffee has to be amazing. And it was. It really was. Once again my cappuccino was delicious. And to make it even better, I ordered a panini. That actually was the best panini ever, so if you want to have a nice lunch this is the place to be. It is located in the Spuistraat 122 (close to the Koffie Cultuur Centrum). Farrah added: “This place might’ve served me one of my all-time favourite lattes. A completely different and more professional atmosphere from Piet’s cosy shop, but it didn’t deter from the overall feel I got from ‘Barista’.”.

Il Tramezzino will be one of my all-time favourite places. If you are in the Haarlemmerstraat, you have to visit them. Although I really like the cappuccino here, the true winners are their cannoli and their tramezzino tuna/olive, which is my personal favourite. (a tramezzino is an Italian sandwich). A certain someone wasn’t only impressed by the coffee, but also something else: “Here awaited one of the most extravagant and beautiful espresso machines I’ve seen. The beans are from a brand called Caffe Vergano, which I’ve never heard of before, but are good nonetheless.”.

The place where we actually spent the most time (as in visited the most), is the Coffee Company. You can say that this is the Dutch equivalent of Starbucks. There are many stores throughout Amsterdam (actually throughout the Netherlands), and we have visited a lot of them. It doesn’t matter where you go, the baristas are always friendly. My personal favourite is the one close to Amstelstation (Mr. Treublaan). Once the store captain of a Coffee Company Farrah can give the best review: “A Dutch chain that still feels cosy and I was proud to call my workplace for a year, Coffee Company is a very consistent place, no matter which one you visit. Skilled barista, always a good espresso blend (and an even better darker roasted bean called the ‘Ristretto Radicale’) and so many delicious things to choose from. My personal favourite is at Javaplein, but as that one might be a tad far away for the average tourist, I’ll add my own old store on the Amstelstraat (next to Rembrandtplein) as a recommendation.”.

We wanted to visit as much places as we could in one day but even we, semi-professional-coffee drinkers, can’t handle 10 cups of cappuccino in just a few hours. My conclusion of this experience is that coffee is as good as its barista. Sure the type of beans are important, but even with the perfect blend coffee can be ruined when not prepared the right way. I want to continue my journey so who knows, there might be a part 2.

Stuff Dutch people like

There is this book called ‘Stuff Dutch People Like’ by Colleen Geske and I have to say, it is very funny. And true. I recognized a lot of stuff that I did not even think as unusual or even ‘typical Dutch’.
The author is from Canada, but she is living in Amsterdam. The book discusses many topics like ‘gezelligheid’, stroopwafels, red pants, Dutch directness, the colour orange and more oh-so-Dutch things.

There are so many things that I find funny/normal yet are weird to tourists. For example, explaining what ‘hagelslag’ is, is always funny. ‘Chocolate sprinkles on your bread?’ Sure parents do not want their children to eat a lot of candy, but there is nothing wrong with eating it on your bread! Adding a thick layer of butter on the bread makes it even better!

The book also describes that when it is someone’s birthday, we congratulate everyone present at the birthday party. I had no idea that was weird. My experience with the ‘congratulations phenomenon’ was when it was my mother’s birthday; my cousin posted something on my Facebook page, congratulating my mother. And like the true Nederlander I am, I congratulated her with her aunt’s birthday. Unnecessary? Maybe. Nice gesture? Yes!

For those who have not seen ‘Pulp Fiction’, there is this scene where John Travolta talks about how here in the Netherlands we eat our fries with mayonnaise instead of ketchup, followed by Samuel L. Jackson’s priceless reply: ‘Yuck!’ I like ketchup, but when I buy fries somewhere (Febo, Smullers etc.) I have to eat it with mayonnaise. Whatever the menu tells me, there is no other option. And if I find mayonnaise on my sandwich, my day will be ruined. Yuck!

Sitting behind the reception I get a lot of questions, and translating the word ‘gezellig’ is almost inevitable. My explanation is this: It is all about the context you use it in. A house can be ‘gezellig’ and it would mean it looks cosy. Going out for dinner can be ‘gezellig’ which means you are having a good time. A person can be ‘gezellig’ and it will mean that the person is fun to be around. It always has a positive meaning. Except when you use it in a sarcastic manner, like I do very often (‘Dit restaurant ziet er ook gezellig uit (!)’ would mean something like ‘this restaurant sure looks great (!)’).

The only thing I, as a true Nederlander, cannot understand, do not want to understand and will never understand, are bicycles. I hate them, which apparently is very rare here in the Netherlands. I hate riding them and I hate avoiding people on bikes even more.

That being said, every country and culture has its quirks. Of course this will be normal for me, simply because I was brought up with it. The book (which was based on a blog by the author) is written in a way that you cannot help but laugh. In no way is this offensive and I really enjoyed reading it. If you are staying at Hostelle, check out our bookshelves because we have it.

Edam, Volendam & Marken

Hi there our beloved readers!

I know most of the posts in this blog are about Amsterdam, but couldn´t help to share with you three little treasures that I recently discovered in the surroundings of the city.

Last week, three friends of mine were visiting me for a few days. I showed them the city and they loved it, of course! I took them to an excursion one day as well; we visited Edam, Volendam and Marken which are pretty close among them. I had never visited this places before, so what a better excuse to go if some friends are visiting you and they are willing to see new places!

We departed from Centraal Station by bus and we could enjoy a scenic drive through the beautiful countryside of the Netherlands, and it is only a bit more than thirty minutes away from Amsterdam!

Our first destination was Edam. Does this name ring a bell? Yes, it is a kind of cheese and it was named this way because of this little town. We walked this cozy place through its charming streets and along its bridges and canals, it was lovely! It is a shame we missed the cheese market, it takes place every Wednesday morning during summer and I´ve heard it is fantastic to see!

Our second stop was Volendam; the most touristy of the three towns. It is a fishing village located along the Ijseel lake and its tiny and colourful houses next to the little harbour make it enchanting. There are a lot of souvenir shops and restaurants where you can enjoy a very nice meal with some fish and seafood specialties. The views from the port are breath-taking.

Last but not least, we visited Marken. It is a peninsula which is only accessible by sea or by the only one road that leads you to the town. This place is beyond beautiful; personally, the prettiest place of the three towns. Its wooden dark-green houses in combination with the little harbour filled with sailboats make it authentic and unique. There is a wooden shoemaker where, a part from finding all kind of different souvenirs, you can watch how a craftsman works.

All these places and more can be visited only in one day if you like. I highly recommend taking a trip to this part of the province. Amsterdam itself is full of things to visit and do, but it is worth it to spend a day outside the city if you want to discover the real Dutch countryside.

We got this ticket (Amsterdam & Region day card) for 13.50€ that includes all EBS and Connexxion buses and all trams, buses and metro within the city center for 24 hours. Such a nice deal! You can also go to places like Haarlem, Zandvoort or visit the windmills at Zaanse Schans. You can get this ticket in a few stations, including Centraal.

Trust me, if you go and visit these towns, you will have the need to show them to every person that comes to the Netherlands!