You Know Me Well, Zoku

For weeks I had been meaning to buy a pair of scissors along one of the stops on my trip. It sounds like no big deal, but it had been on the back burner of my mind for weeks. From Svalbard, to Oslo, to Copenhagen, I needed a damn pair of scissors to work into a few scraps of ideas as I slowly plan towards my book for the Global Seed Vault. This was one of those things you'd never need when abroad, but of course I find myself in constant demands of the trivialities that your typical traveler does not. A "photographer" *cringe,* an "artist" *rolls eyes,* but most of all an excess baggage traveler *large sigh* is how I see myself every time I leave the house, let alone the country. I'm that guy with a backpack heavier than his own weight, always cramming just one more thing into the overhead bin because god forbid I check a bag and share the space. And I needed a pair scissors once and for all. 

After weeks of bed hopping from the Arctic, to Oslo, the countryside of Norway, and then Copenhagen, I finally found relief and comfort at Zoku.. but most of all, a pair of scissors waiting for me in my room!! With no prior request, Zoku Lofts was the place prepared for that traveler like me, someone always in need of the extraneous tools to spur a bit more of unpredictable creativity forward. 

Zoku, because 99% chance says you haven't been there (yet 😉) is a start up hotel in the city skies of Amsterdam. Located at the top of a building overlook away from the hectic city center, more and more visitors, entrepreneurs and designers are learning to live Zoku. Let me explain how one achieves this: 

Hop on a plane, have an idea, any idea of a project or business plan or rock star dream or just a desire to meet other rising creatives, and head to Zoku. Their mission statement is simple but all the while powerful: to mix together like-minded individuals under one roof – aligning international guests with internationally minded locals.

Here, I had the time and space to not only hunt down one or two.. or three or four more artist book venues around the city, but I finally had a space to bring it all back to and very literally lay it out on the table and think to myself: what can I learn from the rising Euro artist book culture. 

The staff at Zoku really encourages the entire hotel to feel like your home, with a sense of 8 or 9 unique living room and dining spaces all joined together. This led me to meet a diverse but equally passionate group of people all working towards projects they believe in and want to share. 

During my stay, I worked with Zoku to explore and feature the group of spots and shops that I experienced as one of a kind to Amsterdam and the incredible mix of old and new pushing up against one another. 

Check out the list below, and put some thought towards Zoku if you're ever in town. Hell, I'll go with you!

Wildernis

A local plant shoppe & café overflowing with peculiar plants and tools for personalizing any space to accommodate an abundance of greenery. Though it may only be two years old, it seemed to me that this is going to be one of those stores that will become a cornerstone of the neighborhood as the years pass. 

Bar Botanique

Café by day, bar by night, Bar Botanique is a contemporary  tropical setting far off the beaten path from tourists. It offers the relaxing vibes we all dream of when wanting to kick back under the palms within a city. 

Retro & Chic

One of the most tastefully curated vintage clothing stores that I have come across, and I'm not just speaking in terms of Amsterdam. Retro & Chic wasn't on any of the travel blogs that I researched beforehand, which maybe explains why it felt like such a hidden gem and discovery to me. I admired the owner's, Kim Laura de Jong, story behind her shop: coming from parents who had their own problems-turned-obsessions with hoarding.  As she learned to hoard hand-crafted items of her travels and her country, the owner eventually turned the habit her parents left her with and channeled it into a consistently excellent and unique shop that is celebrating it's 12th year. Right before I left, Kim exhaled in saying, "It's nice being able to make a living out of something you love."

Loekie Delicatessen

I think befriending a fromager in every city should be in the go-to travel rulebook. Loekie is fromagerie running on its fourth decade in Amsterdam, passed down onto it's third generation of the original owner. Though much of Amsterdam may feel like its changing to accommodate the spike in tourism and the city's transition into a global market, places like Loekie maintain the memory and charm of historic Amsterdam. 

Rik Van Houten

It might look like Rik Van Houten has held its ground in Amsterdam for decades but the shop is actually only on it's second year in business. Before it's time, this space used to be a knife shop. When Rik bought the space, some of the equipment left behind proved useful, but it certainly required time to make the store into what it is today. "It took a lot when getting started, but now the shop is bringing in visitors and customers from around the world."

Huis Marseille

Yes, you have your fair share of options when it comes to museums in Amsterdam, yet Huis Marseille certainly cried out to me as one of the most unique to the city. Featuring rising dutch contemporary photographers, this space cultivates a strong sense of Dutch aesthetics and stores an incredible library/store of photography artist books of local and global photographers. You feel like you can get lost in the narrow but tall space that feels as if it escalates to four or five or six levels of gallery spaces.. you leave not sure if you in fact found all the levels that this museum offers.