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Bicycle trips, cafes, shopping, bringing tulips to Canada, picnics, architecture, chilling at chic patios, making friends.

How A Frugal Strudel’s Reluctant End Sets the Stage For the Joy of Spontaneity

Homemade, soul warming soup in Amsterdam

Homemade, soul warming soup in Amsterdam.                                                                                                                                                         Many years ago, I was out with several friends in Toronto where we inevitably always seemed to end up at the good for nothing but calories, the cozy and aesthetically pleasing, Future Bakery. I never was a pie girl, but this time, we all agreed to buy a braided, frugal, apple strudel, that was long enough to share and then some. On a night like this, we launch into ad-hoc improvisation, as per standard, where no idea is rejected, only built upon. The salt and pepper shakers and anything we could find on the table became puppets for our re-enactments with interesting characters. In fact, so did the hand puppets I carted around from the party themed store I was working at which gave us great pleasure. Through these characters, alot could be expressed with humour. Someone of us had brought his cousin, who fit in with us like he had always been a pawn in our humour squad.                                                                                                                                                               Somewhere around midnight, laughing our guts out, I started to feel melancholy. I looked down at the disappearing apple loaded braids, and said “It’s just that…I don’t want the strudel…to end…” My reluctance was contagious. There I had said it. And as soon as it left my mouth, we had all caught on to the double meanings and enjoyed their fruits for our story telling ways.                                                                                                            We’re talking at least a decade now, and that strudel is still fresh in my head. I can think of a few times in my life I did not want “the strudel” to end, because the spontaneity, the laughter, the adventure, or the wonder is something that only disappoints due to it’s fleeting freshness. Here now, memory thereafter. Good memories should be savored, and create inspiration for the next “now.”                                                                                      Hence this savory blog, weaving braids of experiences into a life-gulping journey. Why aim for the last bite when every moment gives us a chance to choose the path of indulgent spontaneity? Of course, I am not just talking about food here, but as humans, we do need fuel for our collective adventures. And sharing it with worthy eat-mates heightens a meal’s enjoyment. Even if we are alone, yet amongst locals, it can feel like a child looking through a peep hole…witnessing other lives passing uncoincidentally by our hungry eyes.

Higher than a bird's eye view, the big picture. photo Paula Erskine

Higher than a bird’s eye view, the big picture. photo Paula Erskine

Destiny is in your hands, photo by Paula Erskine, Spain.

Destiny is in your hands, photo by Paula Erskine, Spain.

I was always the glass half full, positive type. Second City Improv classes in Toronto helped me very much to expand upon building a “scene” on the now and saying yes..and… in order to create a spontaneous and funny plot. But laughing at your self, you know, the ego part, is quite a great preparation for letting go of what wasn’t and opening one’s self up to what could be the unfolding now. But since getting my self-realization, through Sahaja Yoga meditation, this billboard takes on a whole new reality. There is more to life than just avoiding what we fear. There is one more dimension to be added to our collection. The fourth dimension, the connection point, is what makes life even more juicier than it already is. Life in the present, in connection, is where the happy part of us keeps attracting more and more enjoyment and laughter. It can make a sunset in Greece, so simple, so priceless, a monumental event to be savored. 

Island of Hydra, Greece at Sunset. photo by Paula Erskine

Island of Hydra, Greece at Sunset. photo by Paula Erskine

High Tea in Manchester, England, on the healthy side. photo by Paula Erskine

High Tea in Manchester, England, on the healthy side. photo by Paula Erskine

Savoury Meat Goulash with Noodles in the village of Vrbnik, Krk Island, Croatia. All photos Paula Erskine

Savoury Meat Goulash with Noodles in the village of Vrbnik, Krk Island, Croatia. All photos Paula Erskine

Soothing beach coconut icecream, Costa Rica, all photos Paula Erskine

Soothing beach coconut icecream, Costa Rica, all photos Paula Erskine

Delectable Fried or Grilled Squid (Calimari) on the island of Krk, Croatia. photo, Paula Erskine

Delectable Fried or Grilled Squid (Calimari) on the island of Krk, Croatia. photo, Paula Erskine

A chance meeting in Cameroon, on the continent of Africa, a nomadic tribe of women and children taking a rest with their children and cattle. Butter and milk in tow. Photo by Paula Erskine

A chance meeting in Cameroon, on the continent of Africa, a nomadic tribe of women and children taking a rest with their children and cattle. Butter and milk in tow. Photo by Paula Erskine

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        How the anti-life-affirming fears and conditionings have peeled their pesky layers with every new step taken. It is that newness, exploring the unknown, inside and out in a thoughtless, yet aware state, that delights my soul daily. Here in these photos and articles, are just a taste of people, places, things that have inspired and fulfilled my appetite for travel, the meaning of our being, and the beauty all around. Life is seemingly imperfect, only because we put it in a box full of limitations according to our materialistic unreality. The reality is, we can explore the implication that the strudel’s infinite figure eights are not so far from what can be.  Enjoying the variety of people on this earth through the eyes of a child and a pure heart, through taste, sight and sound, in which each culture adds its’ flavour to beautify the planet, is the strudel of life.

Remedy Cafe, Edmonton, Canada...Chai tea and savoury Indian Chicken Korma in a jam packed, artsy-boutique type cafe with loungy, mismatched armchairs. All photos Paula Erskine

Remedy Cafe, Edmonton, Canada…Kasmiri Chai tea with slivered pistachios and savoury Indian Chicken Korma in a jam packed, artsy-boutique type cafe with loungy, mismatched armchairs. All photos Paula Erskine

On standby in Japan, on our way to Thailand, shortly afterward, a mild earthquake rocks our world, but as you can see, we survived.

On standby in Japan, on our way to Thailand, shortly afterward, a mild earthquake rocks our world, but as you can see, we survived.

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Amsterdam’s Vondelpark Free Concerts

Amsterdam's Vondelpark Free ConcertsArticle and photos by Paula Erskine

Just a few minutes down the same street as the Rijks Museum is Vondelpark and Vondeling Restaurant where we enjoyed free, live entertainment. Vondelpark is brimming with locals, bicyclists and tourists alike seeking solace among it’s artful ponds and green space. Sights and sounds of Vondelpark included the aroma of sizzling dutch barbeques, bicyclists, roller-skaters, and the unmistakeable singing coming from the centre of the park.

Luckily we followed the sounds of a free outdoor concert on Sunday at Vondeling Restaurant equipped with a bandstand, bleachers and platforms. We grooved to Berget Lewis debuting her album and decided she was Chaka Khan meets Beyoncé.

Berget Lewis at her Album launch at Vondeling Restaurant, Vondelpark, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo by Paula Erskine

Berget Lewis at her Album launch at Vondeling Restaurant, Vondelpark, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo by Paula Erskine

We locked up our bikes and chilled to her wide range of song styles. In Europe, it seems that artists don't have to stick to any particular "sound" which I suppose is something our North American music industry shuns. Free concert goers cannot be choosers. We really enjoyed people and fashion watching. It really reminded me of Central Park in New York City in the summer. Amsterdam's artistic community and families gather here for a city-park daycation. Blending into the local ambiance was easy breezy in Vondelpark and I highly recommend putting it on your list of self-made bike tours of Amsterdam.

A serene view of Vondelpark's many vistas. Photo by Paula Erskine

A serene view of Vondelpark’s many vistas. Photo by Paula Erskine

Self-Made Bike Tour Itineraries, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Self-Made Bike Tour Itineraries, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Bicycle through the idealic, acoustic archways featuring often-talented musical buskers to discover modern sculptures against the classic backdrop of the Rijks Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Photo and article by Paula Erskine

A few bicycle tour companies to rent and/or take standard bike tours with in Amsterdam, Netherlands are Mac Bike tours, Yellowbike tours, Budget tours and many more less known, but less expensive local bike shops everywhere. I have enjoyed the country bike tour with Yellow Bike tours, and the city tour with Mac Bike tours. In hindsight, Amsterdam has great architecture and is a must ride and stroll. Sometimes the city tours are best done with some helpful advice. However, the city routes haven’t changed much in the last few years, with its staid and unoriginal and un-Dutch visits to seedier parts of town. If you really want to know, the Dutch consider the Red Light District and drug-filled streets to be untypical of their culture, and a self-destructive tourist trap. The misuse of spiritual images to promote drug use is parasitic and anti-culture.

That being said, the country yellow-bike tour was very picturesque for me with it’s windmills, farmlands and pancake house. There is so much more to Amsterdam than the conveyer belt mass tours of the city, so here are some ideas to make your own bike/walk/museum/art/concert tour of your own. It would very much please the locals if you discovered the real treasures Amsterdam has to offer to the visiting tourist. Ready-made tours are a great way to meet people but cost a little more. To save money, rent a bike on your own and pick two or three spots with ample flexibility for the unexpected “finds.” I paid nine euros for twenty-four hours and dropped my key off at the front desk of my hotel. All bikes are equipped with one to two industrial locks and I have always opted to take the insurance against theft or damage.

Renting your own bike saves money and time in Amsterdam. Pink Floral bike, Vondelpark. photo by Paula Erskine

Renting your own bike saves money and time in Amsterdam. Pink Floral bike, Vondelpark. photo by Paula Erskine

I Amsterdam, behind Rijks Museum. A great photo opportunity located between Rijks and the pond of modern art. Photo by Paula Erskine

I Amsterdam, behind Rijks Museum. A great photo opportunity located between Rijks and the pond of modern art. Photo by Paula Erskine

Let’s get down to saving money on your bike tour and best tips for skipping museum lines. Most lineups for museums consist of non-ticket holders waiting to pay by debit or credit. So, do yourself a favor and buy your tickets ahead of time for example at the booth near central station. With pre-purchased tickets, skip the line and walk right to the front and cut in to the “ticket holder” line, and sail right in. I have it on good authority, that most museums don’t take more than an hour. Without a lineup, you will cover far more territory if time is limited.

Rijks man made water feature reflects whimsical, inspired soothing sculptures. Photo by Paula Erskine

Rijks man made water feature reflects whimsical, inspired soothing sculptures. Photo by Paula Erskine

Which brings me to this stunning photo of the Rijks Museum grounds. You do not have to be a museum-type to appreciate the surrounding pond, serene grounds and tasteful, modern art in the Rijks backyard. It did not cost anything for us to enjoy this park, without even entering the museum.

Archways grace the middle of the building where hundreds of bikes course through the tunnels. Beyond, a serene pond reflecting “tin-foil” statues of twisted, graceful shapes in pastels are waiting to be discovered. This place took my breath away!

If that weren’t enough, you can climb up the giant letters “I AMSTERDAM” (aren’t they clever?) for a fun, interactive photo opportunity to proudly announce your destination.

Back through the tunnels, an accordion player, and a violinist sing gloriously into the acoustic, makeshift bike-drive-by concert archway. I would have paid either of the buskers to watch them in concert, they were that good.

Stay tuned for more of my Amsterdam bicycle journey.