Amsterdam

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1. I took my first real solo trip to Amsterdam over the weekend, and it was frustrating, but I also think it was a necessary and important experience for me to have. My luggage didn’t make it with me on the plane, so I had to go a few days with only the things I had in my backpack. I could only buy the bare necessities, because my credit card wasn’t working and I left a majority of my cash in my luggage (super smart, I know), so it was a very minimalistic weekend. Regardless, it was good for me to be alone for a few days. I could take everything in at my own pace. I could process everything on my own time. I’m a lot more emotional when I’m on my own, and I think everyone needs to have the space to feel what they need to feel and stop when they feel overwhelmed. It was annoying dealing with the luggage situation without any help and scary taking on a completely new city without someone by my side, but at the same time, it was also nice to adventure without the pressure of filling time or going to the “must-see” things.

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2. The main reason I chose to come to Amsterdam this particular weekend was so I could see one of my favourite artists, Owen Pallett, perform live. He’s been on the top of my list for the past 4 years, and the show was definitely the highlight of my trip. I couldn’t believe how incredible the venue was. The concert was in a small lounge area at the top of the Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ, which is a glass contemporary music space that overlooks the canals of Amsterdam. It was intimate, with couches and hanging lights in the background, and it was probably one of the most beautiful venues I’ve ever been in. I was blown away by how Owen Pallett live loops, swooned by the gentleness and dissonance of his violin fingers, and surprised by his dry sarcasm. The night was cosmic and ethereal, and I’ve never cried at a concert before this, but it happened (like I said, I am much more emotional when I am alone, haha).

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3. I was really impressed by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, not because there were a bunch of famous paintings, but because it gave a really a visceral perspective on his life. I love the way he paints as if people were made of earth, the way he compared himself to a monk or a nun in his dedication to art, and the way he believed that hands were the most expressive part of the body. My favourite part of the museum was where you could listen to letters that were written between Vincent and his brother Theo, who was his most trusted confidant. You could tell how much he loved his brother, because he spent time picking his words the same way he mixes his paint colours until they are just right.

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4. The Amsterdam floating flower market is one of the dreamiest places I’ve ever been to. The first thing I saw were these huge pink floral clouds hanging from the ceilings and I couldn’t believe it was real. Everything smells so fresh, and you can buy just about everything flower- and plant-related… including a Grow-Your-Own-Weed starter kit, ha.

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5. I spent most of my time wandering aimlessly through the streets, bridges and canals of the city. Amsterdam is really just a great place to walk through, because every building is so unique, but somehow they all fit together. There are plenty of cafes around to duck into if you’re tired or cold, and I think it’s been the best city I’ve been too aesthetically. You literally can’t go 30 seconds without seeing a bike or something on a bike, which makes everything even cuter, but also more dangerous as a pedestrian, because instead of watching for 2 lanes of car traffic, you have to watch for 4 and sometimes 6, because of the bike lanes and tram lines.

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6. The last thing I did in the city was go to the Anne Frank House. It was an incredibly sombering experience, and there was one video of her best friend talking about her experiences with Anne at Auschwitz that really broke my heart. I liked that at the end of it all, there was hope for better things to come – for healing and for things to be different. My favourite quote I heard was this:

“Her would-haves can be our reality. Her would-haves are our opportunities.”

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7. The first thing the receptionist said to me when I arrived was, “Be careful of the stairs! They’re dutch!” All the stairs were very steep and narrow, and for the most part, they’re like that in all the buildings in Amsterdam. It makes sense, because all the houses are also very tall and narrow. And when I thought about it a bit more, maybe that’s why the Netherlands have the tallest people in the world (the average for a man is 6 ft!). It’s like how fish grow bigger when they are put in bigger bowls, so I guess this might be true for humans too (but don’t ask me to back up my theory with scientific facts, haha). Maybe if I stayed there a little longer, I would grow taller as well.

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HAMBURG

Even though I was in Europe for less than 2 weeks, I decided to go out on a limb and take a solo trip to the beautiful city of Hamburg! Unfortunately, my trip had to be cut short, because Air France went on strike during my time there, so my 5-day stay pretty much turned into a 3-day one, which was not enough to see all that the city has to offer. I still tried to make the best of it, and here are some stories and photos:

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1. The Reeperbahn Festival – I was missing Canada a little bit, and oddly enough, flying to Germany brought me close to some west coast sounds. I saw some of my favourite Vancouver and Calgary bands play, and was super stoked to see Brian work his magic on the cello! There is something about seeing a familiar face in an unfamiliar place that makes a city feel both brand new and like a place that’s recognizable.

The Reeperbahn is a street filled with bars, strip clubs, and other questionable things, and it’s famous for having Hamburg’s Red Light District. It was super cool to see the whole area turned into a festival for concerts, film, art, spoken word and other creative ventures. I should have made better use of my ticket, but the time that I spent wandering in and out of venues seeing artists from all over the world was incredible. The air was electric, and in every corner (and even underground), there were bands playing from every genre. It’s crazy that all these people come to see artists they’ve never heard of and are completely receptive to it. A lot of the bars were jam-packed, and for one of Jordan Klassen’s shows, there were listeners lined up outside the window just to catch a few hints of melody. Not to mention, it was so great that even in a foreign city, there was a group of Canadians belting out the lyrics to all of We Are The City’s songs, and it all felt like an extended deja vu – the kind of “I’ve seen this before” that is good and familiar.

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JORDAN KLASSEN

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BOREAL SONS

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WE ARE THE CITY

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2. One of my favourite areas that I explored was Sternschanze. My friend Anna wrote me a guide to Hamburg before I left, and she described it as, “the place where all the hipsters live,” haha. There’s a dreamy coffee shop there called Kaffee Elbgold, and tons of cute little boutiques and unique stores that specialize in things like cabinet knobs and buttons.

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3. If you ever want to meet one of the most genuine human beings in the world, you should meet Max! He and his family hosted me for the weekend, and I was blown away by what Germany hospitality looks like. I was so well taken care of this week, and my heart is full of gratitude. There were so many mishaps like empty bike racks, broken elevators, and endless ways fate was being unkind to us, but we kept telling ourselves to look at the bright side, and it still ended up being the best day with the best beer and the best food. It was not enough time to look at everything in depth, but if you only have a short glance at a city, it’s always good to have someone by your side who looks at his home through rose coloured glasses (meant in the best way possible!) and used to study some history. We went through HafenCity using every means of transportation possible – we biked, we drove, we walked, we bussed, we trained, and we took a boat, and I think a day in Hamburg with someone so positive, sacrificial, and has a heart of gold is better than a week there alone.

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4. It’s hard not to fall in love with a city with so much water in it. All of Hamburg is laced with rivers and revolves around the Alster Lake, and Max told me that it’s the city that has the most bridges in the world (this still needs to be fact checked). I really believe that cities like this aren’t built; they’re grown from the bottom up.

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5. “If you had a boat, what would you name it?”

“Fernweh.”

“What does that mean?”

“You know the feeling of being homesick? It’s the opposite of that.”

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6. I ask to stop while we are riding to try to snap the red brick walls and glowing waters of Speicherstadt, but my hands are too shaky to capture the light. A passing by photographer lends me his tripod, and I try over and over again, but it still doesn’t look right. We walk away and Max says to me, “It’s okay, we’ll just save a photograph in our minds.” And I think about how it feels like a well-kept secret that only we know what this place looked like at this specific time. Sometimes there are better places to store images than memory cards, and sometimes our hands are too clumsy to catch the light, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to do it.

Portland Photo Set Part 2

After 7 hours in a cramped car (because Abraham decided to buy a television while we were in Oregon, so our new friend Samsung hung out with us in the back), we finally made it home last night! For our final day in Portland, we only had the best – the best coffee, the best doughnuts, and the best view in the Oregon coast. As we were driving down to Cannon Beach, everyone in the car had only one response: “Woah.” And it took everything within us to tear ourselves away from the beach and head home.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get much video footage this, because I was really sick for one of the days I was in Portland (I know, of all places to fall ill), but here’s one of the songs I was thinking about using for video I would have made:

I’m really glad the boys let me tag along for this road trip to the chillest city on earth. There is something about big cities that feel small that always get to me, and I’m 100% convinced that the west coast is the best coast. 2 weeks left in Vancouver, and then I’m off to a different kind of west coast!

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Squamish

There is something about tradition that rings true in the human heart and guides the soul. I am thankful for a tradition of driving up to Squamish, dancing till our knees can’t move anymore, and taking a dip on Murrin Lake the morning after. I am thankful for a tradition that celebrates Becca Koole’s birthday in a way that reflects her passions – her passion for her loved ones, for the rolling mountains and endless ocean, and for art in all forms. Who says tradition can’t be adventurous?

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New York Photo Set Part 1

“New York is the place where you can find everything that you didn’t realize you needed.”

The city is jam-packed top to bottom with anything you could ever imagine – all things good, all things ridiculous, all thing avant garde.

Walking down the streets of Manhatten full of beautiful clothes and beautiful people makes me dream about opportunity and the things to come, but also easily makes me feel insufficient. A place like this is overwhelming and full of light, but can work your heart in ways that shouldn’t be worked if you don’t pay attention to it. I wonder how many people feel insignificant here.

The other night, Brian took me to a show in a room shaped that felt like a shipping crate (small space, huge talent). And even though the band only made $3, I promise you that what they did that night was significant.

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KOREAN FOOD: Pocha 32 (They serve watermelon soju in a huge watermelon halves.)DSC_0124 DSC_0117

Julian Cubillos at Pete’s Candy Store

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VEGETARIAN JUICE BAR/CAFE: Butcher’s Daugther

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COFFEE SHOP: Kaffe 1668 (Make sure you pet the sheep.)

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CONSIGNMENT STORE: Buffalo Exchange

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NOODLES: Momofuku Noodle Bar