Green spaces
Posted in guest quarters July 28th, 2009 by zoe


I’ve never really been a good apartment-dweller. Growing up under the wide open skies of Queensland, and an avid gardener, I feel claustrophobic without a green space of my own. While the canal-houses of old Amsterdam are undeniably beautiful, and the many trees and great parks soften the edges, I sometimes find the unbroken lines of imposing brick facades a little intimidating. Which is why I snapped up the opportunity to peek behind the brick walls on Open Tuinen Dagen (Open Garden Days), an annual festival that offers a glimpse of the oases hidden in the centre of Amsterdam’s most atmospheric suburbs.


Property in the beautiful canal district is understandably incredibly expensive, and most of the larger houses now incorporate offices and museums. While some of these spaces are open to the public on a regular basis, others serve as private, restful courtyard lunchrooms for the staff within. Can you imagine Friday afternoon drinks on a warm July evening, or a mid-morning cake-break from all those pesky meetings? I can!


Oh look, someone else had the same idea!

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Throughout the city, several of the grand 17th century manors have been lovingly restored to their former glory, inside and out, providing a wonderfully evocative glimpse back in history, albeit a history of wealth and indulgence!

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Imagine the glamorous parties, the rustle of silk gowns, the lavish dinners in the breathtaking dining room; perhaps dancing in the ballroom, and a secretive assignation between sweet young lovers behind the rose bower? Shh, can you hear the violins from the house?


Phew, just when all that glamour might be going to my head, the reality of the more diminutive of these garden spaces hauls you back. For those Amsterdammers lucky enough to possess their own slice of canal-side living, the tiny green space at the back provides a welcome respite from the busy city just metres away on the other side of the front door. Some of these gardens are true revelations, secret and cosy, private and lush.

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A space for repose, a warm sunny spot perfect for a lazy Sunday morning coffee, and an opportunity to convert Amsterdam’s ample rainfall into lush colour and delicate blooms.

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It is such a pleasure to be offered a glimpse behind the solid walls of the rather imposing canal district, though my rampant case of canal-house envy shows no sign of being cured by the experience. As if I didn’t already have a serious case of houseboat envy, thanks to the lovely writer of this blog! Ah well, there is much in this beautiful city to fuel the imagination.

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Coffee, anyone?

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all writing and photographs by Zoë Yule.

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  1. Brittany Noel says

    Beautiful, lovely photos! Glad to have you here, Zoe 🙂

    July 28th, 2009 | #

  2. Tuulikki Titine says

    Flowers everywhere just like here in Queensland :). I do get a little bit homesick though when I see your beautiful images Zoë. Especially on a summer’s day Amsterdam really rocks.

    July 28th, 2009 | #

  3. Riley says

    Welcome Zoe, wonderful first post, now I don’t feel so bad that I missed the open garden days. Lovely photos.

    July 28th, 2009 | #

  4. Andi says

    Oh my god, I think I’m going to re-read this entry about another 10 times. I’m experiencing a mix of jealousy and awe! 1st off what absolutely gorgeous pictures and writing. 2nd off I hope that in my next life I am able to live in one of those homes. I can so see myself sipping coffee while staring lovingly at the pretty peonies. Thanks for an awesome entry!!!

    July 28th, 2009 | #

  5. Anna says

    Oh, my goodness. These are wonderful! I’m chained to my desk writing a paper today, and couldn’t possibly have found a better break from it.
    Looking forward to your upcoming posts…

    July 28th, 2009 | #

  6. Paris Parfait says

    Ah, I recognise the garden at the Huis Marseille Foundation. So beautiful! Did you see the cat wandering about? I adore the canal houses and to see them restored to their former glory is a wonderful thing.

    July 29th, 2009 | #

  7. Jo in NZ says

    Lovely green glimpses, Zoe! Especially welcome on a blustery, grey Wellington day. Nice to have you staying.

    July 29th, 2009 | #

  8. Michelle | When I Grow Up Coach says

    I was going to say that I now really, really, REALLY want to visit Amsterdam during the Open Garden Days – but these photos make me feel like I already have! The pictures and the descriptions are just beautiful, and allowed me to escape for just a few minutes from my dreary cubicle. Thanks for sharing, Zoe!

    July 29th, 2009 | #

  9. Laura [what I Like] says

    I’ve really never seen anything like this…how unbelievably stunning!

    July 29th, 2009 | #

  10. Amanda says

    Wow Zoe! Thanks for such great images. That first garden is just gorgeous. You’re so right – coffee and cake in any of those courtyards would be wonderful. I have garden envy…

    July 30th, 2009 | #

  11. Zoë says

    I’m so glad everyone is enjoying the gardens of Amsterdam as much as I did! And thank you all for your wonderful comments – I was so nervous for my first post ever in public, but I should have known Pia’s readers would be warm and welcoming 😀

    July 31st, 2009 | #

  12. oldyarns. says

    Really lovely, thanks Zoë. Although Jacaranda trees are special, it seems to me not sure any gardens in Brisbane can quite match the majesty of some of these!

    August 4th, 2009 | #

  13. Victoria says

    This post was so gorgeous! I visited Amsterdam two years ago and spent the majority of my time visiting souvenir shops, pubs and coffee shops. I am eager to re-visit with my camera during the spring/summer months and witness some of the beautiful flowers that paint Amsterdam so wonderfully!

    June 27th, 2010 | #

  14. Lee Williams-emming says

    Hi Pia, i am just blown away by your GORGEOUS photos, they make me want to go out and take photographs! Would you ming awfully sharing what kind of camera you use…..or is that a trade secret. I have a super-duper Canon Rebel, but it doesn’t seem to work for me, it’s too much camera; i’d love something smaller and simpler that i can keep in my bag and whisk out when see that fabulous image. Any suggestions?

    December 31st, 2010 | #

  15. zoe says

    Hi Lee! While I agree with you completely – Pia’s photos are magical, these are taken on my little point-n-shoot, a Canon Powershot A2100IS, so nothing special! I am a complete amateur when it comes to photography, so the only advice I can offer is from my own experience, and that is – take lots of photos! Take your camera absolutely everywhere and get into the habit of taking it out all the time. Take as many photos as you can, of all sorts of things, of the same thing with different settings – hundreds of them! Delete the bad ones (on computer, NOT on your camera) and eventually you’ll find you don’t need to take as many to get that one good one! Good luck, and have fun!

    January 13th, 2011 | #

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