Amsterdam students on wheels

When I was a student in Amsterdam and I was looking for a job, I stumbled upon an ad in the newspaper for a babysitting gig in De Jordaan (a lovely neighborhood that was close to mine). It was for Elisabeth (then 6, now 24) and Titus (then 3, now 21). They were really fun (and still are), as were their parents, who also became good friends. Now Lies and Ties are both students (Lies is a Psychology major and Ties an Art History minor). We sat down for a chat about growing up in Amsterdam, their favorite hangouts, and those annoying tourists on bikes… I did manage to get some tips out of them too on how to NOT be an annoying tourist.


You were born in Amsterdam and then moved away for a few years right? Tell me about that.

Lies: Yes, we were born here in Amsterdam, in an old manufactory in a ‘hofje’ (kind of hidden courtyard) in the Jordaan. When I was 14, and Ties 11, our parents decided to move to the countryside in Groningen because our father (sculptor Herbert Nouwens) needed more space to work. It was a disaster for us.


What were the biggest differences?

Lies: In Amsterdam we did everything by bike. There were a lot of friends who lived close by. We were always out and about, doing fun stuff in the neighborhood. In Groningen we were in the middle of nowhere so we had to take the bus to school. It was a different world. We ended up having a good time anyways, but still were eager to leave when we were 18. I went straight back to Amsterdam, and Ties first for two years to Barcelona.


What are clear memories of growing up in the Jordaan?

I remember in the last class of elementary school having parties in the city and roaming the streets at night, being naughty. Like loosening the valves of bike tires. Really annoying of course.

Lies: Haha, Yes, me and a girlfriend once took off about all bike bells in the Jordaan! We put them in a big plastic bag. I think her mother found it one day…


Being back in the neighborhood now not much has changed, there are still many friends and parents who live in this neighborhood, and they recognize us in the shops. But there are many more shops and café’s in the Westerstraat for example, it has become of a ‘street’, and more lively.


How about your bikes? How do you use them?

Lies: I use my bike always, to go everywhere. Even if I only have to go 100 meters!

Ties: Yes, Lies is always on her bike. I prefer to walk sometimes for short distances, so I don’t have to fuss with my locks and all.

Lies: Oh no not me, I always use it, even if I go to the café around the corner and I know it is so crowded with bikes that I can hardly park it.


Do you have some favorite routes?

Lies: I usually take a different route back from University. It depends on my mood.

Ties: I try to always take another route. If I go to the Spui or Waterlooplein, for example, I take all these little streets and bridges, like zigzagging my way over there, constantly changing. Maybe this is because when I lived in Barcelona, I always wanted to take a different way to get to know more of the city. I do visit the same places often, and if I have to go somewhere else, I look it up on the map.


Do you have tips for tourists how they have to bike in Amsterdam?

Lies laughing: Yes, sure, I find them pretty annoying!


Ok, so tips for them to be less annoying…

Lies: Just don’t bike.

Ties: Don’t walk either.

Lies: My tip is that they at least have to push their pedals harder. They go so slow that their bikes go all wobbly, and they cannot ride in a straight line. Also, they want to sightsee while biking, but then you can better go walking. But then again, when they walk they often freak out with cyclists.

Ties: Tourists on bikes often stop at very strange – and inconvenient – places. So better not do that.

Lies: When they walk they often kind of freeze in the middle of the bike path. This is a bad idea as Amsterdam cyclists anticipate a lot. They are used to move around moving objects. When you stand still you disrupt the flow. Everyone in Amsterdam knows that you always have to keep moving. That’s a tip.

Ties: Maybe they have to trust more in the traffic here. Motorists here really take cyclists into consideration. It may seem that everyone is going fast and not paying attention, but this is not the case.

Bikers are really well anticipated.

Lies: Also a good tip is to make eye contact with a motorist. I always do this.

Ties: Oh I just do the opposite!

Lies: Right

Ties: Of course, if you have eye contact it is not clear who is going to stop. If you don’t, drivers will stop anyways.

Lies: Oh no, I always do it. And I wink. This works really well. No, just kidding. But I do signal. Communication is important.


Do you call on the bike?

Lies: Yes, always. Or I listen to music.

Ties: Me too.


What are you favorite places in Amsterdam

Lies: I love CAFE DE TUIN (2e Tuindwarsstraat 13). If I have a hangover, to have breakfast, or in the evening. There are a lot of regulars. It’s really a neighborhood café. And across the street is a restaurant by the same owners called Tuin 10 (across the street), which is good too. And P96 (Prinsengracht 96), especially during the day at the terrace on a canal boat, and also at night, when during the week it’s open till late and filled with drunk people. Also, the NOORDERMARKT of course, and LINDEGRACHT MARKET on Saturdays.

Ties: It’s good to not eat before and sample all kinds of things at the market. In general, I don’t go to café’s during the day so often, I find it too expensive. For dinner, I like DONA SOFIA (Anjeliersstraat 300) Even my Italian friend who is quite picky loves it. As well as IL MATARELLO (they have a new name now but I forgot) Westerstraat 77. Here you get wonderfully fresh Italian food to go or you can join the communal table and eat whatever the chef proposes.

Lies: For Thai food I like to go to KINNAREE (1e Anjeliersdwarsstraat 14)

Ties: CAFE L’AFFICHE (Jacob van Lennepstraat 39) is my favorite neighborhood café in Oud West, I used to come there a lot because my friend lived next door. There is only one bartender, who kind of makes the mood.


Lies: De Jordaan still has a few hardcore Jordanese places with a real in crowd following that you easily walk by. Like CAFE DE ZON (Noorderkerkstraat corner Lindegracht) or ONDERSTEBOVEN (Westerstraat 270). Actually, I should go there more often too. It’s fun.


Ties: Two more tips for places to eat, OT301 on the Overtoom. Great food and I like that you can decide how much to pay between 7 and 10 euros. And DE VLIEGENDE SCHOTEL (Nieuwe Leliestraat 162) in de Jordaan is vegan/vegetarian and slightly anarchistic, but really delicious and not expensive – plus relaxing classical music and friendly people.