My City: Amsterdam

Name: Jessica Lipowski
Born: 1987
Profession: Writer

Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Jessica moved to Amsterdam in February 2011. She’s had the opportunity to visit 29 countries and 43 of the 50 United States. Now, Jessica is working on a non-fiction book that documents the stories of 83 entrepreneurs from around the world, originating from 50 different countries. Regardless of origin or background, there is one thing these people have in common: all own a restaurant in Amsterdam. This project, combined with her travels over the years and life as an expat, has enabled her to view food, travel and culture through a different lens.

Where do you live? Amsterdam

Here I grew up: Troy, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit), USA

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Why I visit Amsterdam: Ever since I was a young girl, I always fantasized about living abroad. From the first time I visited London around the age of 12 to subsequent European travels in 2006 and 2010, I always described to my parents how I could imagine living there. When I decided to pursue this long-time dream, I started searching for jobs in London and Amsterdam, two cities I perceived as the most English speaking. In February 2011, I made the move to the Netherlands. Now, I live in Amsterdam and have the opportunity to bike through the historic, charming city.

My first memory: I first travelled to Amsterdam with my mom and step-dad in May 2010, right after I graduated from Michigan State University. I distinctly remember two things: the beautiful architecture and houses along the historic canals and the scantily clad women in the Red Light District windows.

How do you find the best places to eat when you travel? Before traveling somewhere, I try to do research ahead of time. I reach out to the travel Twitter community for must-try recommendations. It is also interesting to see if I can meet up with those I’ve interacted in various chats in person. A local perspective really makes a difference. Additionally, news outlets and travel or foodie bloggers also address good quality restaurants, as well as local favorites. In line with this, I study what type of food the destination is known for, for instance street food or a particular dish, and seek that out while visiting.

My favorite place to eat: Amsterdam offers so many wonderful cuisines from all over the world. If I had to choose, though, it would be Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs. Known for pancakes, a Dutch favourite, this tiny four-table restaurant is situated in an old Amsterdam canal house at the top of a steep set of stairs. The establishment, run by two very friendly men, boasts an eclectic interior, the walls decorated with pictures of the Dutch Royal Family and the ceiling covered with an assortment of cute dangling teapots. Address: Grimburgwal 2,1012 GA Amsterdam

What do you eat there? At home, my Dutch partner Matthijs and I prepare a variety of dishes. Coming from the US originally, I have been exposed to cuisine from all over the world from a young age and that reflected in my parent’s cooking growing up. Additionally, my heritage is a mix of German and Polish, backgrounds that also shaped the meals in the household. Now, Matthijs and I alternate who cooks depending on time constraints and inspiration. One of our favourite go-to dishes is the one-pot chicken and chorizo 

If and when we go out to eat, I prefer trying something new. In Amsterdam, a city home to 178 nationalities, there is no shortage of new restaurants and experiences. You can find everything from Eritrean and Brazilian to Italian, French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai, as well as Mexican, Turkish, Indian, and of course, Dutch.

Typical local food? When you visit Amsterdam, there are a few foods you must try that are typical Dutch. Stamppot is a staple. The foundation of this dish is potatoes mashed together with a vegetable, usually endive, carrots or kale, and served with sausage, gravy and mustard. The Netherlands is also known for bitterballen, round deep-fried creations, the inside filled with meat ragout. Bitterballen is best accompanied with a cold, refreshing beer. Raw herring is another cannot-miss delicacy. Plus, don’t forget the cheese, like Gouda and Edam, or pancakes. Finally, stroopwafels, two thin waffle cookies filled with gooey, sweet caramel in the middle, is the icing on the cake.

Meet the locals: Dating back to 1670, Café Hoppe is one of the oldest cafes in Amsterdam. This historic establishment is very popular with locals of all ages, whether for a cup of coffee and breakfast in the morning or a Friday after-work drink. The covered patio is perfect for people watching, while the inside exudes a typical brown café atmosphere. Address: Spui 18-20, 1012 XA Amsterdam

My favourite pub: Brouwerij t’IJ  is a local Amsterdam brewery situated at the foot of a windmill. Located in the East part of the city, the establishment is known for good beer, a large, sunny terrace and cozy interior. Inside, the walls are lined with old beer bottles and communal tables provide ample seating. I enjoy the atmosphere, the people and of course the variety of beer. Address: Funenkade 7, 1018 AL Amsterdam

Best place for a first date? The SkyLounge, housed on the 11th floor of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel near Amsterdam Centraal Station, is a wonderful atmosphere for a first date. The SkyLounge is hands down one of the best views of the city. Year round, you can sit by the window and admire the view or lounge on the terrace in the summer months, soaking up some rays high above the city. In the winter, there is even a small ice-skating rink. On the weekends, the SkyLounge brings in entertainment, such as a DJ or live music, adding musical vibes. Order a glass of wine or cocktail, perhaps a tea or cup of coffee, an appetizer such as bitterballen and get to know your date. In the evening, lights are turned down low, adding to the romantic ambiance. Address: Oosterdoksstraat 4.

My secret place: On the corner of the Keizersgracht and Reguliersgracht is a bench. I love to sit there year round – winter, spring, summer or autumn – and watch people pass by. When it’s warm, I often come to this spot to read or write. Overlooking the canals and surrounded by beautiful arched bridges, distinct historic Amsterdam houses and lush trees lining the streets, I find myself at peace and absorbed in my own thoughts. It is moments like these, looking out at a postcard perfect picture, that I appreciate Amsterdam even more.

My best advice: Explore the canals of Amsterdam. Be sure to stop along the way and appreciate the architecture, especially the top of the houses. Admire the history and people as they streak by on their bikes. If the sun is shining, sit outside on a terrace and enjoy a refreshing beverage as you people watch. Take a stroll at night and take in the magical atmosphere.

My favorite shop: With three floors filled from floor to ceiling with great reads, the American Book Center (ABC) is a book worm’s paradise. I can browse the shelves for hours. Situated on the Spui, only steps away from the Kalverstraat shopping street, the ABC offers a variety of genres, from fiction and philosophy to cook books and manga, all at a great price. The store features beloved favourites, as well, marked with a green “ABC Favourites” sticker. Additionally, they have a special section dedicated to “blind book dates.” Readers can pick a book based on genre and a short description, rather than title or appearance as the book is wrapped in brown paper. Address: Spui 12

My favorite Event: King’s Day, formerly known as Queen’s Day, is one of my all-time favourite events in the Netherlands. Held every year on April 27 in honour of King Willem-Alexander, Amsterdam and other cities around the country transform into a sea of orange. The party starts the night before on King’s Night and continues the entire day thereafter, offering activities suitable for all ages. In addition to music, DJs and food, people are permitted to sell various goods, creating a city-wide market called the vrijmarkt (literally translated to “free market”). Boats dot the canals and streets are flooded with national pride. The market starts as early as six o’clock in the morning, while the rest of the festivities take off mid-day. As the celebration occurs in the spring, the sun is usually shining and everyone has a smile on their face. Visit iamsterdam for more information.

Taxi or other local transport: Amsterdam is the city of bikes! There are more bikes in the city than residents. Therefore, when in the Netherlands, do as the locals do and hop on a bike. Alternatively, Amsterdam offers excellent public transportation: trains, metros, trams and buses. Plus, as the city is one of the smallest European capitals, exploring by foot is also an option.

Keep away of: The bike lanes. Watch out for bikers. Listen for bells, as well, notifying you of a biker’s presence.

Why do you travel? Travel opens our eyes to the world, introducing us to new cultures, local customs, delicious food and different perspectives. I travel not only to explore but also to learn about life and people around the world, experiencing what a destination has to offer.

Where next? Our next big trip is to Michigan. During our visit, we are planning to take a short road trip to the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, making stops along the way at places such as Tahquamenon Falls, Pictured Rocks and Mackinac Island. My partner has never experienced Michigan in the summer, and I would like to show him what my beautiful home state has to offer.



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