This is our first blog post on the new epica.com website, and so it's appropriate that its author is the founder and former owner of Epica, Mr. Tari Mannello. Tari founded Epica shortly after graduating university in 2001. We are proud and privileged to share his post....
It is said that spending money on travel is the only expense that will make you richer. Over the course of the last several years I’ve been lucky enough to explore the word and in doing so, have documented some of these experiences. There is nothing like doing so in your own hand crafted Italian leather journal.
The following are a few of my experiences from the Netherlands, while in Amsterdam. When doing your own traveling I hope these words inspire you to discover your own path and to create your own story but more importantly, to document it, by hand, in a journal of your own.
Let’s set the stage. I’m sitting at the kitchen table overlooking two canals. Small quiet boats pass through, breaking the still waters as I type. Before I found myself in this position, and on my walk home, I discovered a specialty foods shop a stone’s throw from the apartment where I’m staying. It’s exactly the kind of specialty shop you want to stumble upon: a smorgasbord of black truffle potato chips, fudge made in small batches, old Amsterdam cheese, various types of prepared organic salads. Effectively, something for everyone. A large convection oven protruding from the wall stands ready to warm your bread or pastry and a moments notice and a warm inviting atmosphere drew me in the way a disney character smells a freshly baked pie from miles away, levitates off the ground and floats inside. Incidentally, the waffle and crepe shops will give you the same effect.
But for now, several of these gourmet ingredients are spread across the kitchen table as church bells signal that it’s half past the hour. As I let the slow drip of honey spread across my baguette, and I top it with a slice of special cheese and consume the whole thing at once.
The canal is quiet. But just one night ago there were thunder and lightening storms so loud and bright it felt like an IMAX experience, or better said, a real nature experience.
Earlier today I was on the subway which might as well be the nicest underground I have ever laid my eyes upon. Immaculate from top to bottom, no doors separating each train so you can see straight through to the very end and possibly cleanest floors ever. It was delightful.
Simply walking through the streets of Amsterdam as an experience in itself. Like many European cities, the streets are lined with cobblestone and different textured stones and that makes just the mere act of walking a joyous moment. Different smells waft by, sometimes fresh air, sometimes pot, sometimes delicious cooking. My favorite is when a family is at home and about to eat dinner.
And Taxis. Can you imagine that if an E or S class Mercedes Benz doesn’t pick you up, any number of 100 different Tesla’s will? Fully Electric, top of the line, cutting edge Teslas as taxis!
Having lived in Venice for a year many years ago, it’s hard to not immediately notice the similarities between there and Amsterdam. In fact Amsterdam is often referred to as the Venice of the Netherlands. Fantastic architecture, the numerous uneven and winding canals and waterways, small boats, bridges, all nestled in a small compact city that is easily accessible by foot. But what is so interesting about the Dutch style of architecture here, is how narrow everything is. Because property was taxed based on it’s width, people built their homes as narrow as possible and as deep as possible and generally with high ceilings.
The quantity of cheese to be found in Amsterdam is beyond compare. There are many different flavors, sizes, shapes to choose from. Naturally each shop is usually also lined with freshly baked bread with unique flavors such as chestnut, mushroom, caramelized onion… every day is Christmas in Amsterdam. I found a particular favorite kind of cheese sold in a cube that tasted like caramel.
One day a native friend took me on a phenomenal tour to the outskirts of Amsterdam which proved to be exactly what you would imagine Holland to look like: fresh air, blue skies, a cool wind, lakes and water, grassy fields, free roaming cows and sheep with a little black sheep to boot. We stopped at a friend’s large yellow estate, and as soon as we arrived their Lassie dog came running up to greet us, as the wind blew briskly through his thick fur. Their back yard simply backed up into the bay / ocean and I thought to myself, this must be the Dutch version of the Hamptons.
Now, I don’t drink beer but after a few friends enjoyed their second one of the evening, and because it was only made in small batches and only available to a dozen or so restaurants in all of Amsterdam, curiosity got the best of me…
And wow! Great beer! Great cheese! Great vegetables! Great wine! Great food! Great prices! The dutch really know how to do it. And I appreciate small things like the fact that the Dutch aren’t obsessed with closing their blinds and shutting out the light. They are not vampires but actually welcome the light and don’t gawk into other peoples houses. They are simply used to sharing space and having windows open. Of course, as usual, I have found people here to be friendly, amiable and generous, offering good eye contact, and good vibes.
Traveling allows you to notice the little things and oddly, I am also particularly excited about the bathroom hardware I often have seen here in Amsterdam. For instance to turn on your shower, rather than bending over and turning a few dials dials. there is a shower mechanism that looks like a small thin cylinder with two easy to turn dials on either side. The shower hose attached to this. When you gently twist one end, the water comes on, and when you twist the other, it adjusts the heat. It’s so simple, and elegant, I want one for my own place.
Our eyes have also gotten to witness something else that is very special. Much like my small family at JJ’s in LA, there are a group of 50+ and 60+ year-old acrobats, who all bass and fly each other in the most outrageous of tricks! Tricks such as handstand on head, Corbets and cascades, jumping from the head into hand-in-hand, toe pitch to high bird and so forth. In sum, tricks that would give a 20-year-old pause. I am touched, inspired, and thankful to know that I can be 60 years old and still playing safely while doing outrageously fun things.
Unfortunately for the last couple days I had a pinched neck from who knows what. I had the opportunity to stop at a physiotherapist, who was able to see me within less than a days notice. Not only was my treatment affordable (35 Euro per visit!) but I also got to experience something called “dry needling,” which almost instantly removed the extremely sharp pain from my neck! To top it off I also didn’t have to fill out 20 pages of paperwork as we so often do in America.
Yes, being in Holland is thoroughly pleasing. It’s a shame there is a 90 day limit that Americans may spend in Europe, because quite frankly I can see myself living here for quite sometime, as I could also see doing so in Vienna, italy, Barcelona, and especially Switzerland.
My heart is so full of appreciation and wonder. Having lived in Europe on two separate occasions for a year each time, I thought being back here perhaps might feel a little same old, same old, but it has in fact been anything but that. I hope that those of you who took the time to read this will also feel inspired to come, to write your own story by hand, and choose your own adventure. Wishing you all the best wherever your road is taking you!
Written by Tari Mannello