The saying goes TGIF, but I’m saying thank goodness it’s Thursday! What a gorgeous afternoon we had here in Amsterdam. I spent some time on the sunny terrace of the Eye. Might even got sunburned! But I love the ferry on sunny days. Where were you?
Hopefully the sun keeps up this magical work til Monday — the nations best holiday — King’s Day!
Fadi Hindash directed the short documentary ‘Mama Agatha‘. This heart-warming film is about migrant women in Amsterdam learning to ride a bike. Cycling means more freedom, and integration in Dutch society. Women of all ages and nationalities are taught by teacher Mama Agatha. Most of his life Fadi lived in car dominated Dubai, but three years ago he moved to Amsterdam. He was not able to cycle, but learned it from Mama Agatha herself. The premiere of ‘Mama Agatha’ will be on the 2nd of May during Leiden International Short Film Experience. Reason enough to make Fadi our cyclist of the month!
How did you come up with this topic for the documentary?
I was having coffee on my friend’s terrace overlooking a park where a group of Moroccan women were learning how to ride a bicycle. Immediately I was struck with how much that image said about integration and the life of migrants. I personally moved to the Netherlands 3 years ago but I have grown up with the identity of a migrant long before. I was raised in Dubai where my family and I lived as outsiders in our own home which is why the issue of integration is one that is very close to my heart. So when I saw the group of Arab women learning to cycle in Amsterdam, I immediately knew there was a story there for me. The fact that it looked so sweet and humorous set the tone for the film. Plus, I also never learned how to cycle because Dubai is a city of cars, which made the film even more personal as I was going through what the women were going through.
Why is it important to learn to ride a bike?
Because it gives you freedom, not just physically but also emotionally. Cycling feels like flying, on wheels.
I don’t see any men in the documentary, are these cycling lessons just for women. If so, why do you think that is?
I had the same question during filming. As far as I know there aren’t similar courses for men. It could be because men tend to be more proud about admitting they don’t know something so basic or they would feel more embarrassed about falling in the street. I was lucky to have Mama Agatha as a teacher, she taught me behind the scenes while making the documentary.
What do you like about Amsterdam?
It’s the perfect combination of a city and a little town. It’s cozy when you need it to be but also cosmopolitan when you need it to be. There’s also the other factor that cannot be put into words: it has this magic quality to it. It looks so pretty, almost like a dollhouse. I love things that seem unreal with a touch of fantasy, that’s the filmmaker in me.
- The premiere of Mama Agatha takes place on the 2nd of May at The Leiden International Short Film Experience at 14:45.
- The documentary will also be screened at Shortcutz Amsterdam in May
- Interested in organising a screening of ‘Mama Agatha’ yourself?
Contact Marek (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Follow ‘Mama Agatha‘ on Facebook
- Visit the Mama Agatha website for more information
Finally the first real spring days! And what do you do? Ride to your local park and chill out. At the Sarphati Park, in De Pijp, you could barely see the grass. Bikes and people everywhere. Oh ya.
You see a lot of double bikers in town. Sometimes you just need to bring back your spare bike from the other side of town (after one too many drinks..*hiccup*!), or lend a bike to a friend. Let me tell you, it’s not easy to balance! It’s the next on my list of things to master. Holding an umbrella whilst cycling was my last successful feat..whoop!
The Dutch word for ‘gloves’ is my second all-time favourite Dutch word: handschoenen. Literally translated as ‘hand shoes.’ Yep, that’s what they are: shoes for the hands.
And just as I was getting quite comfortable toting these things around everywhere I go, it seems like it might be time to put them away (the jacket and scarf can stay handy though). Because 15ºC of sun calls for bare hands on the handlebars! Weeeeeeee!
You can pretty much do anything on a bike here, even sports it seems! This keen Coxswain motivates her rowers from a bicycle all the way down the Amstel. Talk about a multi-tasker!
Go girls go!
Sometimes it’s cold. Hailing. Wet. Cloudy. And then sometimes we get lucky with nothing but sun. Yep, that makes us smile, smiles like these two. No gloves or hats even. That’s what being on your bike does — makes you smile.
Wieger and Anne Marie love to go out for dinner, visit art galleries, and look for nice boutique hotels or B&B’s for their next city trip. So why not turn their passion into their work? That’s what they did, they started their own B&B in a typical Amsterdam house in the popular neighbourhood De Pijp. It is called Ollies Bed and Breakfast. The breakfast is lovely, they have cool photography in the rooms and they made their own mini-guide of the city so that their guests can enjoy Amsterdam as much as they do.
Food and Art
Wieger and Anne Marie love art. The museum district is only a 5 minute walk from their B&B. Wieger: “The Rijksmuseum is really a must see, both for the art and for the cool designed building. It is amazingly done.” Anne Marie: “But we actually prefer to visit art galleries and especially photography galleries. In weekends we love to walk around de Spiegelkwartier. We always pay a visit to Jaski Art Gallery and the Yellow Korner.” The Spiegelkwartier has been the heart of the art and antiques trade for the past 80 years with over 70 specialised art and antique dealers.
Their other hobby is to go out for dinner. Anne Marie: “We love restaurant Sent just across the street. It is a small and lovely place where they cook with a Green Egg. But we have so many other favourites like Vis aan de Schelde [Close to RAI. “Michelin-star quality food, and a very relaxed atmosphere”], Toscanini in the Jordaan [a very popular Italian place, so make sure to make a reservation], ‘French-bistro-style’ restaurant Rijsel in a side street of the Amstel, fine dining at Fyra just off Vijzelgracht and Bar Americano [along the Amstel, where you can eat Italian food and stay till late at night for drinks at the bar].”
What to do in Amsterdam
Wieger calls himself an Amsterdamophile: “Amsterdam is the best city to live in. The size is perfect, everything is walking distance. And after living here for almost fifteen years, I still enjoy the beauty of the city.” Anne Marie: “There is always something nice to do in Amsterdam; concerts, expositions, new pop-up stores opening and there are many festivals. I am not that much into electronic music festivals but I love food and art festivals like De Rollende Keukens in the Westerpark, the Food Soul Festival and the Affordable Art Fair in Amsterdam-Noord. For shopping I recommend the 9 Straatjes and the Pijp. Just a few minutes’ walk from our B&B you have the Gerard Doustraat. Since a few years a lot of nice stores have opened there. It is becoming very trendy.”
Bikes and Boats
“The best way to see Amsterdam is by bike or boat”, says Wieger. “My favourite cycling spots are the Vondelpark, the old canals and the cycle path under the Rijksmuseum.” Anne Marie: “On sunny days we take a boat, bring some food and drinks, friends and nice music and sail through the canals.” They would both recommend tourists to rent a bike and go through the city like locals do. Wieger: “I think it is recommendable for tourists to plan their cycling trip a bit before they start cycling. Cycling can be quite hectic. But there are nice routes and neighbourhoods like the Jordaan are great to discover by bike.”
Ollie’s Bed and Breakfast
Ollie’s Bed and Breakfast has got three rooms. Anne Marie and Wieger live on the first and second floor and the rooms are on the third and fourth floor of a typical ‘de Pijp’ building with steep stairs in a cosy street. “Working together is going really well. We have a good division of tasks but we also work a lot together,” says Anne Marie. Wieger: “We have the same taste of style and paid a lot of attention to detail when furbishing the room. We would love to have guests over who share our taste for interior design and our love for photography.”
The other day I was riding down Vijzelstraat towards the city centre. As I was approaching the Prinsengracht (a one-way and precisely here), I slowed down, looked for on-coming cars and bikes from the left and right… and kept riding.
Yes, I knowingly rode through a red light. In Amsterdam. The capital of red-light-running. I know, that doesn’t make it ok.
A police car followed me, pulled me over, and proceeded to lecture me about how it’s unsafe, especially “because a police car was parked at the intersection.”
And then he actually asked me if he could give me a fine of €97. I had already argued my side by saying I felt safe, so I didn’t argue further. But could I have said no? I wonder.
So watch out Amsterdammers. They’re out to get ya!