The beauty of a beating heart

There is something so calming and comforting about sitting and having a cup of tea with a woman who exudes quiet happiness, confidence and gratitude. If you haven’t tried it yet, see if Joanna Monkhouse is free - she’s just the gal for it.

For an Englishwoman who has traveled extensively and lived in places like Cairo and Yemen, it may seem strange that she’s sitting in the scooter retail shop she runs in the middle of Amsterdam, chatting with us, telling her kids over the phone where to find a snack in their house a few doors down, and expertly selling a customer a helmet in Dutch. But in fact it’s not, and it all came down to one thing for Joanna.

“What brought you to Amsterdam in the first place?” we asked.

“Love,” she replied without a moment of hesitation and approximately zero bashfulness. “Love brought me to Amsterdam.”

While living in London for many years, Joanna worked for a travel company that reviewed and booked boutique hotels. When the opportunity came up to visit her uncle who was living in Amsterdam, Joanna added a few days to her trip to scout new hotels. While in a hotel on the Keizersgracht, she saw a flyer in the window for a different hotel on the Leliegracht. She made a mental note to check it out when she got back to work but happened upon it once she turned the corner.

She thought she might as well pop in since she was there anyway and it was that fateful decision that lead her to her life today.

A handsome man was working at the hotel and she registered him with a mental “Wow,” she says. They chatted cordially for a bit about work things and then she left.

And that would have been it, except it wasn't.

"Marc-Peter [my husband] has said that when I walked in it felt like there was someone tapping him on his shoulder saying 'Pay attention to this.'"

So he did and they began corresponding frequently via email and she came to visit again after about a month. It was clear there was something special there so after about a year of back and forth between Amsterdam and London, she moved here.

That was fourteen years, two lovely daughters, a beautiful Moroccan wedding and a happy Amsterdam life ago.

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It's the kind of love story that makes you swoon. And love pours over into the whole of Joanna's life: the love she has for her daughters, her extended family and friends is evident in openness of her heart... and her home.

"Our house is like a... well my mother calls it Paddington train station. There are always people coming and going and it's kind of like an open house. It'll be friends and relations but it's also strangers sometimes who've come via friends and sometimes people end up staying for a month or two. We're really open to that and we love it."

Before Joanna settled in the heart of the city with her doors flung open to friends and passerby alike, she was an avid traveler herself. She studied Arabic in university and spent time in Cairo and Egypt. When she landed her job with a luxury travel company, she quickly became the Morocco expert and help set it up as an up-and-coming destination. Her and her husband were even married in Marrakech.

While she still travels frequently with her family now, she says she's actually a bit of a homebody and doesn't miss jetting off to somewhere new all the time. But travel will no doubt hold a special place in her heart forever. Travel is what gave her the love of her life, her forever home in Amsterdam and ultimately the life she holds so dear.

"Well, your life sounds pretty cool," we told her.

Again, without hesitation she replied with her ready smile, "Yah, my life is pretty cool." 

So today, you're eating a beating heart: a box full of love and life and happiness. So soak it up and soak it in, it's pretty special!

In the box today...

Grilled peach and massaged wild spinach salad sprinkled with dukkah

Classic spiced hummus

Buckwheat tabbouleh

Slow-roasted aubergine with tarragon yoghurt, pomegranate rubies and chervil

Pea sprouts

Lemony dressing