Amsterdam Guide

Rose's Arsenal Amsterdam Guide

I often say there are way too many places I want to visit on my bucket list to ever go anywhere twice.  But Amsterdam is a city I think I could be happy visiting time and time again.  My mom, sisters and I spent a week there in July and it was nothing short of amazing.  

I had always thought of Amsterdam as a party city but that’s really just one small side of its personality.  There are so many beautiful and quiet streets along the canals to get lost along, world class museums, culture and history, and every restaurant we ate at was one of our best meals. It seemed like most people spoke English and the city itself is such a manageable size that it was easy to walk anywhere we wanted to go. And I swear the Dutch have the best taste in design as every place we went had impeccable style.

I put together a little travel video of our week together as well as a travel guide below if you are planning your own trip to Amsterdam.

JORDAAN NEIGHBORHOOD

We stayed in an Airbnb in the Jordaan Neighborhood which ended up being our very favorite of the neighborhoods in Amsterdam.  The location was perfect as it was close to all the major sites but still tucked away from the touristy areas that we felt like we still got a little bit of local flavor.  The Jordaan is filled with flower lined canals and adorable narrow streets with quaint cafes on every corner.  I could seriously spend all day just wandering the streets of this neighborhood.

The Jordaan was built in the early 17th Century and was initially a working class neighborhood with low rents.  It eventually became a slum by World War II and there were proposals after the war to tear the whole neighborhood down and build apartment buildings.  I’m so glad they didn’t as it is one of the most charming neighborhoods and now is one of the most desirable as well.  

Jordaan Amsterdam
Jordaan Amsterdam
Cat Sleeping Amsterdam
Jordaan Amsterdam
Jordaan at Night Amsterdam
Bikes Amsterdam

GETTING AROUND

The best way to get around Amsterdam is by walking or biking but you really need to know what you are doing or stick to side streets to bike in Amsterdam.  Definitely, don't rent a car as there is little parking and it's hard to get around with the narrow streets and bikes everywhere. I thought I was prepared for how many bikers there are in Amsterdam but I definitely was not. I was in constant awe of the women biking in 4-inch stiletto heels, kids riding on the back racks just holding on and people talking on the phone or texting while biking. Bikes definitely rule the road and if you are walking you should be careful about stepping into bike lanes. The sidewalks are narrow in many places so you won't always be able to safely stay out of the way so you just need to stay aware. We walked everywhere but the one night we took an uber to dinner as it was on the outskirts of the city.

The trains in and out of the city are very easy to navigate and we were able to walk to the train station from our Airbnb in the Jordaan for our day trip to Delft.  It took us about an hour to get to Delft, even with transferring trains it was a very smooth process. The only thing we made a mistake on is on the train back to Amsterdam we didn't realize we got on the express train and ended up having to pay a little extra but that wasn't a big deal.

AIRBNB

Our Airbnb was owned by a photographer and he had such a great mix of interesting vintage items and decor.  We usually choose to rent apartments when we travel so that we can have a little more space as well as a kitchen to at least make breakfast and coffee in the morning.  It’s also a great way to live like a local for a few days and stay in a true neighborhood instead of the city center.

If you are interested in our Airbnb you can check it out here or if it's not available for your dates I recommend looking in the Jordaan neighborhood in general: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5437847

Amsterdam Apartment Jordaan
vintage cameras
Amsterdam Apartment Jordaan
Amsterdam Apartment Jordaan
Amsterdam Apartment Jordaan
Amsterdam Apartment Jordaan
Amsterdam Apartment Jordaan

WHAT TO DO

I used to not be a big fan of tours but I’ve learned it’s a great way to get local inside information, you just have to choose the right tour that keeps the numbers small and brings you off the beaten path.

CANAL BOAT TOUR | This was the number one recommendation I received from those who have visited Amsterdam before and I definitely have to agree.  It is such a great way to get a different perspective of the city.  We chose Those Dam Boat Guys as they use small 8-person boats instead of the huge touristy boats.

ANNE FRANK HOUSE | The Anne Frank House has to be one of the most popular attractions in Amsterdam.  It was extremely crowded when we went and even though we bought our timed tickets ahead of time there were still so many people that we stood in line the entire way through.  BUT I will say despite that it was still such a moving experience, which is saying a lot because I hate lines and crowds.  They sell timed tickets online in advance from 9 am - 3:30 pm (and you definitely have to buy them well in advance because they sell out) and then from 3:30 pm - closing you can stand in line the day of and buy a ticket.  But I recommend just getting your ticket ahead of time so you don’t have to spend your entire day standing in line.

RIJKSMUSEUM & VAN GOGH MUSEUM | The Rijksmuseum is the Netherland’s principal museum full of Dutch art from the middle ages to present day.  Every gallery and floor have a distinct time period and style which makes it a pretty easy museum to navigate.  While the halls with the most famous paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gogh were crowded we found that the rest of the museum was not.  We also really enjoyed the beautiful outdoor gardens which are free to walk around without buying a ticket and there was a nice spot to buy coffee with chairs to sit throughout the garden.  While that area is full of tourists I found the gardens to actually be pretty quiet and pleasant and had we had more time I would have happily sipped a coffee there. We, unfortunately, did not make it to the Van Gogh museum but I included it because it is right next to the Rijksmuseum and also was highly recommended to us.

FOOD TOUR | Ever since we did the most amazing food tour in Barcelona I make it a point to book one in every international city we visit.  It is a great way to taste all the local dishes and check out hole in the wall mom and pop spots that we’d never know about on our own.  We did the Hungry Birds food tour and it was about 5-hours of non-stop amazing eating.  From fries and pickled herring at an outdoor market, beer and bitterballen at the old train station turned food hall, Indonesian in a grocery store, apple pie and more beer at a brown cafe and cheese and chocolate at a local cheese shop it was all delicious.  They say on their website they can’t guarantee to be able to accommodate food allergies but Esther our tour guide went out of her way for our mom who has a gluten allergy and even brought extra food for the stops that our mom couldn’t eat at.

VONDELPARK | One thing that I did notice about the city center was that there aren’t very many green spaces but Vondelpark definitely makes up for that fact.  It is a huge park on the southwest side of the city with an open air theater, bike trails and canals running through it.  We didn’t spend much time there as we were on a tight schedule on our last day but when I go back I’d love to grab a picnic or maybe brave renting bikes around there.

Despite being in the middle of tourist central, the Rijksmuseum was a quiet sanctuary to catch a break.

Despite being in the middle of tourist central, the Rijksmuseum was a quiet sanctuary to catch a break.

Rijksmuseum Gardens
Canal Boat Tour Amsterdam

PRIVATE COUNTRYSIDE TOUR

We scheduled a private countryside day tour with Tom’s Travel Tours and they jam packed it with a bike ride, wooden shoe factory, cheese making tour, windmills and lots of cute small towns. It was really nice to have someone who knew the area to show us around and he picked us up and dropped us off at our Airbnb which was very convenient.

Windmill Netherlands
Biking in Marken Netherlands
Marken Netherlands
Marken Netherlands
Marken Netherlands
Dutch Shoes Netherlands
Henri Willig Cheese Netherlands

DAY TRIP TO DELFT

We had only one day to day trip out of the city and we had a hard time deciding what town to go to.  The Netherlands is actually a very accessible and small country so most places were within an hour or two by train.  We decided on Delft because it’s more of a quaint and small canal town that would give us a different flavor from Amsterdam.  While there isn’t necessarily a ton to do there we just had a great time grabbing lunch and coffee and wandering around the town. And it’s an easy 1-hour train ride from Amsterdam.

We ate lunch at 't Postkantoor which had a great mix of mid-century and Moroccan decor (sounds random but it totally works) and a really beautiful outdoor courtyard.  We also randomly stumbled across a cafe, bakery, store concept called Van Maanen that we loved so much we stopped there three times in one day!  

Delft Bike
Delft Netherlands
Delft Canal
Delft Bike Flowers
Van Maanen Cafe, bakery, and shop in Delft

Van Maanen Cafe, bakery, and shop in Delft

Van Maanen Delft
T' Postkantoor Delft
Van Maanen Delft

LOCAL FOODS TO EAT

STROOPWAFEL | These amazing Dutch desserts are two thin waffle cookies with a caramel-like syrup filling in between. You can find them prepackaged in many stores but the best ones are fresh from a market stand.

BITTERBALLEN | Basically a croquette filled with meat and vegetables.  We tried ours at De BallenBar in Foodhallen, an old train station turned food hall.

APPLE PIE | Dutch Apple pie is different from its American version as it is extremely deep filled to the brim with apples and with a buttery crust base.  You can find Apple Pie at most cafes around Amsterdam but we had ours at Cafe Sonneveld.

INDONESIAN | Because Indonesia was a Dutch colony, one of the most popular ethnic foods you will find in Amsterdam is Indonesian.

KIBBELING | Battered and deep fried white fish usually served with mayonnaise.  

CHEESE | Cheese is a huge industry in the Netherlands and you definitely can’t leave without trying some gouda.  We did a cheese tasting at Dutch Delicacy which we were able to enjoy with a glass of wine and bought our weight in cheese to bring home.  They told us if it was vacuum sealed (which all their cheese was) it would last a few months without refrigeration.

PICKLED HERRING | I was a little nervous to try this Dutch delicacy but it actually tastes similar to sushi and wasn’t bad.  Not sure I could eat a whole meal of it but it’s worth trying while you are there.

Pickled Herring
De Ballen Bar Amsterdam Bitterballen
Dutch Delicacy Cheese Amsterdam

RESTAURANTS

One of the trends that seems very popular in Amsterdam and that I love is the chef’s course menu.  We went to three different restaurants where all you decide is how many courses you want to eat and then they bring out what the chef is cooking that night.  I ended up trying many things I wouldn’t normally order and it was all so fresh and creative.  My mom has gluten and shellfish allergies and even the restaurants with the set menus were really great about adjusting the dish to fit her dietary restrictions. Most restaurants in Amsterdam take reservations so to make sure we got into our top choices I made reservations a few weeks before traveling.

DAALDER | Our first night in Amsterdam we ate at Daalder and it really set the tone for our week.  The cuisine is a mixture of french and dutch but honestly every dish we had was so inventive with unique flavor combinations.  The menu changes often and you just select how many courses you’d like.  The decor is very cozy and feels like a classic European cafe.

RESTAURANT DE KAS | A modern greenhouse and restaurant that grows a lot of their food in-house.  When we first arrived at De Kas the hostess took us on a tour of the greenhouse and pointed out many of the fruits and vegetables that would be used in our food which I thought was a really nice touch.  Throughout the meal I also saw chefs going out there to pick items, you seriously can’t get fresher than that. The menu is a set meal and many of the dishes are vegetable focused.  We ate here our last night and agreed it might of been our favorite which is saying a lot since it had a lot of stiff competition. You will most likely need to take a taxi to this restaurant as it is on the outskirts of town in a large park.

GUTS AND GLORY | Gust and Glory is still fairly new to the restaurant scene but I had seen it on several lists for hot new restaurants in Amsterdam and knew we had to give it a try.  It is a rotating concept restaurant so every few months they change their entire theme.  When we went they had just finished their Japanese Chapter and were on their first week of their Spanish Chapter.  

SLA | A local salad bar chain with really fresh ingredients and fast, healthy meals.  After having so many huge and heavy meals SLA was a nice change of pace for a quick lunch.  The atmosphere is also nice and bright for a fast and casual restuarant.

BAKERS AND ROASTERS | A breakfast spot with a mix of New Zealand and Brazillian style. The food is very much similar to American brunch but all really fresh and delicious.  And I'm pretty sure every dish at Bakers and Roasters is Instagram worthy. It’s a pretty popular spot as we went at 10:00 am on a weekday and still had to wait for a table.

CAFE 'T SMALLE | One of the more beautiful traditional brown cafes.  We were able to grab a spot on the canal after visiting the Anne Frank House close by and enjoyed a bottle of Rose.

FOODHALLEN | Foodhallen is an old train depot turned large food hall with endless food and drink options to satisfy everyone’s cravings.  We stopped here a few times and it was always packed no matter the time as it’s a popular spot.

Foodhallen is a super trendy food hall in an old train depot.

Foodhallen is a super trendy food hall in an old train depot.

All the food at Bakers and Roasters is beautiful

All the food at Bakers and Roasters is beautiful

Fresh and quick salads at SLA.

Fresh and quick salads at SLA.

I loved the European Cafe ambiance of Daalder.

I loved the European Cafe ambiance of Daalder.

Guts and Glory changes food concept every few months.

Guts and Glory changes food concept every few months.

COFFEE SHOPS AND SHOPPING

I love visiting beautiful coffee shops and try to make it a point to visit one in every town I go to. For a girls trip we shockingly didn’t do very much shopping but there are a few stores we stopped in that stood out to me.

COFFEE + COCONUTS | I basically dragged my mom and sister’s across town to this spot on our last day because I had seen it in so many blog posts and just had to go.  It is an old theater turned coffee shop with four different levels of seating from community tables to couches and everything in between.  Owned by an Australian the ambiance at Coffee + Coconuts is very airy beach shack vibe.  We ordered a late lunch there along with iced coconut coffee that was to die for.  If I lived in Amsterdam this place would for sure be my spot.

PLUK | A beautiful concept store, coffee shop and lunch spot.  We only got coffee to go at PLUK but it is such a gorgeous little place with adorable gifts and what looked like to be a light and healthy menu. Located in the cozy 9 streets, a great shopping district next to the Jordaan, it's the perfect spot to take a break between stores. 

RHEE 7 | Truth be told we only popped our heads in here as it was Saturday and they were packed with no tables.  But Rhee 7 is the sister restaurant to Pluk and just a few doors down as well.  It looked like another beautiful space that would be great for lunch or an afternoon coffee and next time I’m in Amsterdam I am definitely hitting it up.

THE MAKER MARKET | Located in the same former train depot as Food Hallen, the Maker Market is all unique products from local creators and brands and is the perfect place to find a unique souvenir.

ALL THE LUCK IN THE WORLD | A mixture of vintage homegoods, jewelry, and gifts.  Everything in this store is so well curated.  All the Luck in the World has three locations but the one in De Pijp on Gerard Doustraat is in a great shopping district with lots of other home and clothing stores.  It is also close to the Albert Cuypmarkt which is mostly junk but they have a stand with the best stroopwafels in the city.

If I lived in Amsterdam, Coffee + Coconuts would be my go to spot.

If I lived in Amsterdam, Coffee + Coconuts would be my go to spot.

The Makers Market is the perfect spot for souvenirs.

The Makers Market is the perfect spot for souvenirs.

PLUK is the most gorgeous shop and cafe nestled in the 9 streets.

PLUK is the most gorgeous shop and cafe nestled in the 9 streets.

All the Luck in the World was a gem of a find in De Pijp.

All the Luck in the World was a gem of a find in De Pijp.

I honestly loved Amsterdam more than I even expected to and it is a city I could see myself going back to time and time again.  From the delicious food, picturesque flower lined canals, art and culture and genuinely nice people, it has so much to offer and I can’t wait to someday make another trip back.

Marken Netherlands
Marken Netherlands
Delft Netherlands
9 streets cafe Amsterdam
Jordaan Canal Amsterdam
Flower Bike Delft
Dutch Shoes Delft
Netherlands Windmill
Eastern Gate Delft

Salty Spruce Photography Studio Rebrand

I took a hiatus from blogging but I am happy to be back and sharing new work.  Last fall I worked with the lovely Melissa from Salty Spruce Photography Studio to rebrand her business and help her identify her ideal clients.

As we worked through the answers of her survey I start every project with it became clear her two ideal clients she loved working with were the adventurous couple who wanted a small intimate wedding or elopement and the creative entrepreneur who wanted branded images for their website and social media channels to match their personality.

Colorado Photographer Moodboard

The first step in the process was to design a mood board that helped establish a look and feel for her brand.  Melissa named her business after her two loves, the ocean and the mountains.  Having grown up going back and forth between Colorado and the North Carolina coast her ties to both are strong.  She expressed to me she wanted a mix of natural elements mixed in with modern architectural lines and a color scheme that was both moody but still light.  

I tried to represent all these elements into her mood board including photos that represent her two ideal clients, modern architectural design with natural elements, the sense of adventure her ideal clients might seek and the beautiful space her ideal clients may work in.  When I design a mood board for a client like to ensure there is a reason for every photo I select besides the fact it is a pretty photo in the right color scheme.

Colorado Photographer Brand Design

After we finalized her mood board we moved onto designing her logo and brand elements.  The logo option she chose has a modern line-drawn tree with wave elements to represent her ties to the mountains and coast and pull in the architectural but natural look she wanted.  The two patterns are a modern line pattern meant to look like mountains or waves and a topographic map pattern to represent the adventures and travels of her and her clients.

Colorado Photographer Business Card Design

The final piece of the puzzle and my favorite part was her website design.  I wanted to include design elements and patterns that really help tie the brand together but I also wanted Melissa's beautiful photography to really shine.  

Colorado Photographer Website Design

A few screenshots of her site design are below but I urge you to peruse her site yourself by visiting www.saltysprucestudio.com.  Especially if you are in need of a photographer for your business or wedding!

And if you are a small business owner either in need of a rebrand or you want to take your business to the next level by reaching your ideal clients with a unique brand, I'd love to chat!  I offer free 15-minute intro calls to discuss your needs and get to know each other before committing to a package.  There is no better way to start out the new year than to set your business up for success with a well designed brand and website.  Fill out my contact form here and I can't wait to chat with you about your business!

Five Lessons From My First Year in Business

When I hit my first anniversary of going full time with my business back in November I reflected back and wrote out a few lessons I learned.  But then I got scared to hit post as I was afraid they were too negative.  I feel so lucky to be able to build my own dreams and love what I do but that definitely doesn't make it easy.  Now that I'm halfway into my second year I realize how true these lessons still ring and would love to share them now.  I've worked hard in my second year to correct many of the areas I struggled with but these are the five tough truths I learned about running my own business that took me by surprise:

 

  1. I got lonely working from home: I was so excited to work from home, set my own hours, and not be constantly interrupted like I was in my office job. What I didn’t expect was that it got lonely very quickly and I actually missed the interruptions and opportunities to socialize with my coworkers. It took me a few months to solve this problem but I started meeting other business owners for coffee, doing Skype dates with creative entrepreneurs in different parts of the country, going to networking groups and building my own community. My situation was also unique in that I went out on my own at the same time that we moved across the country and I didn’t know a soul in my new home. So I had to build a new network from scratch in all areas of my life. But creating a network of other designers and business owners has been huge for me. They’ve become my coworkers who I bounce ideas off of and share resources. I no longer feel alone in my business and am so thankful for the community I found but it definitely takes time to build.

  2. Working for myself wasn't necessarily freeing:  I thought with setting my own hours I would be able to work out all the time, make myself super healthy lunches, bring the dog to the park and run errands whenever I needed. Boy was I wrong. In theory yes I guess I could just decide to do those things. But running your own business is a lot of hard work and I actually work longer days than when I was working for someone else. I find my clients are on email during the day, making requests and its just hard to get away during that time. I definitely need to get better about setting boundaries with my clients so I can create more freedom to do these things, but this did not happen in my first year.

  3. My daily routine went out the window: Moment of true honestly, I definitely gained weight in my first year of business. To be fair my daily routine really got turned up on its head since we moved to a new place and I lost my regular workout studios/instructors. But when I worked a 9 to 5 job I consistently got up at 5 am to fit in my workout before going to work and my day was structured in such a way I made it happen. Now that I work for myself from home I’m working later hours, getting up later, and its been really hard for me to get out of the house and go to a fitness class. For a while I’d get up at 7 am, check email in bed, stumble straight to my desk with a cup of coffee and get to work.  Often I’d pick out a 9 am class to go to but then I’d get into a working groove and tell myself I’ll go to the noon class instead. Then a client would make an urgent request where I couldn’t leave and before you know it the day is lost and I’m promising myself I’ll go tomorrow instead.  Then just repeat that whole cycle again. As someone who used to work out 6 days a week and was religiously committed to it with an insane amount of self discipline, I never in a million years thought I’d have such a struggle. But now all my self discipline goes into running my business and not much is left over. This next year I’m working on finding more balance and prioritizing fitness again but it has been so much harder to build a good routine than I ever expected.

  4. I only was able to bill half the hours I worked:  It is pretty crazy how many hats you have to wear running your own business. There is a ton of admin work you have to do that isn’t necessarily fun and in most cases isn’t billable. Emails are constantly coming in that you have to respond to in a timely manner, working on estimates for new work, sending contracts and invoices, answering client questions, keeping projects moving, reminding clients of deadlines and the list goes on. Plus there is the marketing side of your business of posting to social media, blogging, updating your website etc. This is honestly the first thing to go for me when I get really bogged down in work (which is why my blog was dead for so long).

  5. It doesn’t stop getting scary: My goal for my first year of business was just to replace my old 9 to 5 salary which amazingly I very narrowly achieved. You’d think achieving this would make me feel secure or like I’m succeeding. And in some moments it does. But in other moments I panic that it will all fall apart or my loyal clients will just disappear. Owning your own business is a total roller coaster with amazing highs but also moments of fear and fraud. This fear never fully goes away and you just have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable at times.

Despite these five tough lessons of running my own business I absolutely love what I do and I can’t imagine doing anything else. The hard work and the highs and lows are completely worth it to me. But I think it is important to put a realistic picture out there for those considering seeking a similar path. Running a business is a ton of work and it is not for the faint of heart. I think a lot of people have misconceptions that it is a life of jet setting and relaxing afternoons spent in cool coffee shops. And yes I do get to do both from time to time which is amazing.  But it is also a lot of sweat and tears that people don’t talk about as much. Building a business takes time and there really aren’t any short cuts, its all about just putting in the work and showing up every day.  

Now that I am halfway into my second year in business I realize just how far I've come and its exciting to look forward and continue building my dreams.

Woodend Wedding Invitations

Maureen and Tommy were such a dream to work with and I loved creating everything for their Woodend wedding from their logo to the day of beverage signs and everything in between.  Since they were getting married outside they wanted to tie in the nature aspect with a gold and navy color scheme.  Maureen loved the eclectic look so I designed each piece to be an individual design yet all tie together.

While the bride wanted to tie in metallics we didn't want to do anything as bold as foil so we settled on printing offset where the ink gives a nice shimmer but still ties into the natural look they were going for.

For the day of designs we tied in patterns similar to the invitation for the beverage menus, buffet labels and escort cards.  This helped bring the entire look together for what would be a beautiful wedding.

The Flourish Market Branding

This past fall I designed the branding for a friends ethical fashion truck and it was such a dream project to work on.  The Flourish Market is a fashion boutique and mobile truck spreading dignity around the globe.  They partner with companies who provide dignified jobs and fair wages to artisans and makers in vulnerable communities and I highly recommend checking out the beautiful products they sell.

When Emily came to me with her concept she wanted a brand that communicates a girly wanderlust feel with a sophisticated handmade look to represent the artisans whose work she sells.  

I developed a world map graphic with hand drawn patterns as a nod to the handmade products she sells.  She already had her color palette of black, blush and gold selected but I tried to strike a balance of girly but sophisticated.  

I love how this project turned out and I probably own half of her products as I've in turn become a loyal customer of the beautiful goods she sells.  If you live in North Carolina you need to check out her truck schedule as it is such a fun shopping experience with a great cause.