Dine amid Dutch design at Kazerne in Eindhoven

August 27, 2015

Doesn’t everyone have a go-to restaurant for taking out-of-town guests? Well, I have a few, but my favorite is Kazerne, in the center of Eindhoven, near our home in the Netherlands. The owners made something very special out of nothing and it perfectly showcases the city’s attributes: technology (especially with light), art, and design. And, even better, the food is great too! I was so grateful to be able to spread the word about Kazerne in the New York Times this year! Here’s what I wrote:

Restaurant Kazerne amid Dutch design

Restaurant Kazerne amid Dutch design

On paper, the plan for Kazerne must have sounded pie-in-the-sky: renovate a beat-up, cavernous building in the center of Eindhoven, a southern Dutch city in the midst of a reawakening. Transform it into a restaurant-slash-showcase for design and technology. Throw in meeting spaces, a design shop and lodging.

To the delight of locals, that dream, concocted by a Dutch couple, was realized late last year when Kazerne opened its doors in an industrial space. Improbably, the 8,000-square-foot main room, in dark hues illuminated by moody lighting, manages to convey both cool and cozy, aided by a smallish dining area in the center. (The remaining element, seven guest rooms, is planned for 2016.)

Designer Annemoon Geurts [photo Mike Roelofs]

Designer Annemoon Geurts [photo Mike Roelofs]

The idealists behind Kazerne are the designer Annemoon Geurts and her partner Koen Rijnbeek. Like many of the designers whose work Ms. Geurts spotlights, she graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven. The idea emerged from a pop-up restaurant they ran during Dutch Design Week.

”We wouldn’t have started Kazerne if it was just a place to eat,” said Ms. Geurts, who runs the business through two nonprofits. ”It’s really our mission to bring the added value of the creative industries to people, to add a layer to the experience.”

Layers is more like it. The art enveloping Kazerne’s diners ranges from kinetic sculpture to mesmerizing lighting in exhibits rotating every few months.

Part of a recent exhibit at Kazerne

Part of a recent exhibit at Kazerne

With such emphasis on design, I feared that the food would be an afterthought. Not so. The Mediterranean-influenced menu from Roger van de Loo, the chef, changes weekly (atypical in these parts), offering four starters and main dishes. During a recent visit, we began with a crisp cold octopus, eggplant and tomato salad and a hefty portion of beef pastrami with a zesty tomato chutney. Enticed by aromas from a neighboring table, I ordered the eggplant Parmesan, which was flavorful and not too cheesy, while my partner dug into a healthy portion of spicy chopped lamb, accompanied by basil mashed potatoes and crunchy asparagus.

Before leaving, we peeked into a back room to admire a flowing, glowing sculpture of LED-powered dandelions by Studio Drift, artwork Ms. Geurts describes as ”the DNA of Eindhoven — technical and emotional, and together they make a beautiful thing.”

Kazerne, Paradijslaan 2-8; 31 40-30-41-388; kazerne.com. An average meal for two, without drinks or tip, is about $80.

A new resource for cycling routes and services

May 22, 2015

One of my favorite things is spreading the word in high-profile publications about people, services, and destinations I think contribute something positive to the world. Here’s one of them, about Bikabout, a wonderful cycling-centric service for travelers founded by cycling enthusiast and tireless advocate Megan Ramey. A small article ran in the New York Times May 17. Here’s my original version, which includes a few more details. Happy pedaling! 

By Diane Daniel

Bikabout founder Megan Ramey with daughter Annika Ramey on Plum Island, Mass. [photo Kyle Ramey]

Bikabout founder Megan Ramey with daughter Annika Ramey on Plum Island, Mass. [photo Kyle Ramey]

Megan Ramey’s first bike-related vacation with her husband and their daughter, now 5, partly inspired her to start Bikabout, an online travel resource for everything bicycling, with information on bike-friendly lodging, traveling with bikes, renting them, and where to ride them around town along with tips on culture, etiquette and safety.

“When our daughter was nine months we took our Burley trailer on the Chinatown bus from Boston and had the most amazing five days biking around with her in Brooklyn,” said Ramey, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., and volunteers with several bicycle advocacy groups. “Our next trip was to the Netherlands, where one out of every two people bike, which was totally eye-opening. If I can help get the US halfway to where the Netherlands is, then I will have accomplished a great thing.”

The site, which launched last year, is this spring rolling out new guides on Washington and New York City, soon to be followed by Atlanta, Milwaukee, San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, adding to the 13 cities already available.

Bikabout founder Megan Ramey with daughter Annika in Madison, Wisc. [photo Kyle Ramey]

Bikabout founder Megan Ramey with daughter Annika in Madison, Wisc. [photo Kyle Ramey]

The downloadable homegrown local rides, provided by Bikabout “ambassadors,” have proven to be the most popular part of the service, she said.

“You can of course go on MapMyRide and find rides there, but most of those are for people going 60 miles a day. Ours are for everyone and are less than 20 miles. They’re designed to have people really see and support the real city, to get off the beaten path and into the nooks and crannies.”

For example, the 7-mile East Van Brewery Tour in Vancouver visits six craft breweries and a few food stops, while the 13-mile Charleston (S.C.) Coastal See Food Tour includes key dining spots and expansive water views. Ramey also has partnered with several Kimpton Hotels, including those in D.C., and will supply them with themed routes starting from each location to give guests.

“Someday I’d like Bikabout to represent every major city in the U.S. that can accommodate bike tourism,” she said. “I don’t have the goal of making tons of money on this. I’m doing this more as a change agent. I want there to be a direct correlation between the amount of money that cities realize in bike tourism and how much they invest in bike infrastructure and safety.”

Den Bosch is a secret Dutch treat

February 6, 2015

Lina and I spent last Saturday researching and photographing a story about ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Say whuh? I know, the name is so crazy that even the Dutch use the colloquial Den Bosch. Phew. Den Bosch is one of those off-the-beaten- path towns popular with Dutch day-trippers and virtually unknown by the average tourist. In short, our kind of place! An amazing bonus: it was sunny! Cold, yes, but the rare blue skies made up for it.

Eetbar Dit in Den Bosch

Eetbar Dit in Den Bosch

Den Bosch is only half an hour north of us, so will be one of our go-to spots for houseguests. I’d visited before, but it had been a decade. Its medieval town center remains a beauty, but a recent bonus is that hip and trendy food and shopping spots have opened, most notably Eetbar Dit, Mariapaviljoen (a medically themed hoot), Nom Nom wine bar, some cool vintage shops and a bunch of funky “concept stores” on Verwersstraat and Vughterstraat streets. (I hate the term “concept store,” but the Dutch use it often. Basically it’s a “lifestyle store” and usually cutting-edge contemporary.)

The Jheronimus Bosch Art Center

The Jheronimus Bosch Art Center

The other exciting Den Bosch additions are the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center, in praise of Den Bosch’s famous native son, whose 500th “death-day” they’re honoring in big ways all of 2016; and the new contemporary art museum, The Stedelijk, not associated with the one of the same name in Amsterdam. It focuses on jewelry and glass and has an outstanding gift shop, down to its walls and displays of wavy wood.

That’s enough for now — the details are going in my article, for an American Auto Club travel magazine. But for you, dear blog reader, a short list of things you gotta do there:

The famous Bossche Bol

The famous Bossche Bol

Treat yourself to a famed ”Bossche Bol,” a puff pastry filled with fresh whipped cream and dipped in dark chocolate.

Take a canal tour (March to October). The canals here are special because they’re below the buildings and you’ll ride through tunnels, some with artful arches.

Visit the Stedelijk and the adjacent Noordbrabants Museum, and also the Bosch center. Make sure you’re at the latter on the hour to see the astronomical clock in action.

St. John's cathedral

St. John’s cathedral

Visit the city’s pride and joy, St. John’s Cathedral, one of the best known churches in the Netherlands. It was built between 1380 and 1530 and shows off 600 statues inside and out. Just gorgeous. If you’re up for climbing 218 steps, take a tour of the bell tower for a stellar view of the city.

Along with those helpful hints, do the usual: Shop. Bop. Eat. Drink. Eet smakelijk en proost!

Visit Baja Peninsula on historic yacht

January 24, 2015

If I were to take cruises, they would be on small ships, like the one I wrote about for the In Transit section of the New York Times. This one comes with its own history, as well. I also really want to go to the Baja Peninsula, which now is even farther away from me geographically, so who knows when that will happen. Here’s my ditty, which ran Jan. 23:

The Westward yacht first launched in 1924 (photo AdventureSmith Explorations)

The Westward yacht first launched in 1924 (photo AdventureSmith Explorations)

Small-ship cruise expert AdventureSmith Explorations has added a historic yacht to its inventory of ships exploring the Baja Peninsula. A new 10-day Baja adventure will be based aboard the 86-foot, historic eight-guest adventure yacht Westward, launched in 1924 as the flagship of the Alaska Coast Hunting and Cruising Co.

Westward Voyages in the Sea of Cortez spends seven days in January and February cruising in the Sea of Cortez, with three days watching gray whales based from Kuyimita Tent Camp adjacent to San Ignacio Lagoon Whale Sanctuary. Each stateroom in the non-air-conditioned ship has three portholes that open, and guests and crew gather on the 17-by-14-foot shaded back deck for meals and conversation.  Westward is listed with the US National Register of Historic Places and remains powered by its original Atlas-Imperial diesel engine. Modeled after a salmon cannery tender, the ship served a noteworthy clientele of hunters and fishermen for nearly 20 years, including Bing Crosby, Walt Disney and John Wayne. During World War II, it served as a patrol boat off the California coast before returning to the Pacific Northwest. The per person double rate for the Westward trip is $5,750.

AdventureSmith runs other Baja cruise programs on ships for up to 84 guests. Additional options include two eight-day whale watching cruises from January to March on a variety of small ships. Rates are from $2,995 per person, double, aboard the 84-guest Safari Endeavor and $5,990 per person, double, aboard the 62-guest National Geographic Sea Lion and Sea Bird. Additional cruise programs for up to 15 days are also offered in this region.

Bike tour in E. Germany, with pickles and ‘kraut

November 17, 2014

Now that we’re living in the Netherlands, I’m pondering all the awesome bike trips we can do here and in surrounding countries. We prefer to go the self-guided route, though I love to scour catalogs of group tour outfitters to see what they’re up to and get route ideas. One new offering from VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations caught my fancy so much that I had to spread the word. So I wrote a brief ditty about it for the In Transit section of the New York Times. Who doesn’t want to go to a gherkin pickle business or paddle through Spreewald, for crying out loud? Here’s the scoop:

The tour includes a boat trip in Spreewald. Photo by VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations.

The tour includes a boat trip in Spreewald. Photo by VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations.

 “Berlin to Dresden: Hidden Gems of Eastern Germany,” a new trip for 2015 from VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations, features connections with local residents, a lesson in sauerkraut making, and wine sampling at a local vineyard. Bicycling routes follow easy terrain with optional rolling hills. Stops along the way include the landscaped gardens of Potsdam’s world-famous Sanssouci Park and palace; the lush wetlands and tranquil waterways of the Spreewald, a UNESCO biosphere reserve; a visit to the 300-year-old Meissen porcelain factory to learn how the dishware is made; and a trip to the sandstone peaks of the Bastei, in Saxon Switzerland National Park.

The trip concludes with a walking tour of Dresden. Photo by VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations.

The trip concludes with a walking tour of Dresden. Photo by VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations.

Riders will having several opportunities to speak with local East Germans, including dining with a family on their cucumber farm, where a generations-old gherkin pickling business is run that was originally under the control of the East German state under communism and then purchased back after the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago. The tour concludes in the cultural capital of Dresden, which travelers will explore on a walking tour.

This 10-day itinerary starts at $3,745 including international airfare, with a $200 discount for reservations made by Oct. 15. Add-ons include a pre-trip to Berlin and a post-trip to Prague.

Rotterdam’s colorful Markthal is unveiled

October 13, 2014

Now that I’m based in Veldhoven, the Netherlands, I have a new country and continent to explore. First, must unpack boxes! Meanwhile, I wrote in advance about Rotterdam’s new stunning market and can’t wait to visit it. Here’s the update:

Animated mural 'Horn of Plenty' covers the ceiling (courtesy Markthal Rotterdam)

Animated mural ‘Horn of Plenty’ covers the ceiling (courtesy Markthal Rotterdam)

Rotterdam’s spacious indoor market, Markthal, had a very colorful opening on Oct. 1, as it unveiled its the “Horn of Plenty” digital mural that adorns the walls and ceiling of the arch-shaped building. Queen Maxima was there for the opening, natuurlijk.

The mural covers 36,000 square feet and consists of 4,000 tiles that form a 3D print showing brilliant high-resolution images of fruits, vegetables and other items that are available at the market. The artwork was designed by the Dutch artist Arno Coenen in cooperation with Pixar (of Disney fame), which enlisted 3D animators and special effects experts. Animations of products appearing to be falling from the sky will be projected on the walls of the 131-foot-high building.

The crowds pour in for opening day (courtesy Markthal Rotterdam)

The crowds pour in for opening day (courtesy Markthal Rotterdam)

The market building features more than 90 fresh-food stands including bakers and fishmongers, as well as eight restaurants, 15 retailers, 228 apartments and 1,200 parking spaces, making it the country’s first indoor market hall with a combined commercial and residential function.

While the overall effect is futuristic, a glimpse into Rotterdam’s past can be seen on the TijdTrap, or TimeStairs, an exhibit set into the staircases of the five floors of escalators. Paying homage to the market’s location, around where the city was founded in the late 13th century, it includes a historical timeline and archaeological artifacts discovered during construction.

Ciclismo Classico spins off into photo tours

August 19, 2014
Serrania del Hornocal in Jujuy. Photo by Ossian Lindholm

Serrania del Hornocal in Jujuy. Photo by Ossian Lindholm

I had fun catching up with Lauren Hefferon, who I’ve known through the Boston cycling community and through travel writing for many years. The company she started 25 years ago, Ciclismo Classico, has become a leader in bike and adventure tours in Italy.

Before that, Lauren even wrote and illustrated a little cookbook for touring cyclists. Called “Cycle Food: A Guide to Satisfying Your Inner Tube,” you can still find it for purchase online. I’m holding on to my copy!

Cuesta del Obispo Pass. Photo by Ossian Lindholm

Cuesta del Obispo Pass. Photo by Ossian Lindholm

So when I learned that Lauren had discovered a passion for photography and was spinning that into photography tours, I wrote that up for the New York Times In Transit section. Initially, when it was posted online, it was the only In Transit without a photo! For a photo-tour story! I was happy that Lauren’s peeps pointed that out to me. Turned out it was just an oversight and a photo was added.

Here’s the text, along with images from the photographer leading the first tours with Lauren. Oh, another fun part — Lina and I had traveled the very roads they’re taking in northwest Argentina and blogged about it. Definitely photo worthy!!

Here’s the news:

El Carmen church in Angastaco in the Calchaqui Valley. Photo by Ossian Lindholm

El Carmen church in Angastaco, Calchaqui Valley. Photo by Ossian Lindholm

The 25-year-old bike touring company Ciclismo Classico has created a spin-off that focuses on seeing as much as doing. The charter destination for a series of photography tours — called TravelVision Journeys — is northwest Argentina. The four scheduled Vision & Vine treks will explore mountain landscape, indigenous communities and high-altitude vineyards. They were developed by Ciclismo founder and enthusiastic photographer Lauren Hefferon, who will co-lead the nine-day trips with Argentinian photographer and documentary filmmaker Ossian Lindholm. Destinations include the salt desert Las Salinas Grandes, the small cities of Humahuaca and Cachi, and Los Cardones National Park.

Valle Encantado National Park Los Cardones. Photo by Ossian Lindholm

Valle Encantado National Park Los Cardones. Photo by Ossian Lindholm

“The trip will be physical, cultural and educational. The bicycle is a way to immerse yourself in a place and its culture, and so is the camera,” said Hefferon, who is personally planning, managing, and leading the tours. “It’s like another chapter opening up in my life, because so many of the elements are new to me.”

Each tour will include some kind of collaboration with the local community. Travelers in the first outing will work with a school group to create a photo book and hope to raise money for the school from book sales, Hefferon said.

Hefferon is developing future trips to Sardinia and the wetlands of Pantanal in Brazil and Ibera in Argentina.

Argentina Vision & Vine costs $5,200 per person and departs from Salta, Argentina.

Bicycling just beyond New York City

July 12, 2014

Thanks to Adventure Cycling’s “Bike Bits,” an electronic newsletter filled with tidbits for folks who love bicycle touring and sightseeing-oriented riding, I learned about a couple starting up overnight bike/camping tours from New York City. The three-day outings are geared toward city-dwellers, but anyone can participate. They make things as easy as possible for newbies, which I think is key. If I hadn’t had my pal Alice Charkes, a long-time Adventure Cycling leader, showing me the ropes almost 20 years ago, I’m not sure I would have tried bike touring. Thank you, Al!

I thought Gotham Bicycle Tours would be a great item for In Transit, the New York Times online and print travel feature I regularly contribute to. My editor agreed, and here’s my little item, which ran in June:

By Diane Daniel

Lukas Herbert takes a break during a bike ride through the Harlem Valley. The route is now part of the the Hudson Valley tour. (NOTE: this was taken a few years ago before the tours). Photo by Eric Wilson

Lukas Herbert takes a break during a bike ride through Harlem Valley, part of the Hudson Valley tour. Photo by Eric Wilson

As passionate cyclists and campers, Bronx residents Lukas Herbert and Laura Willis have introduced friends to their avocation and hope to see their fellow city riders discover the joys of multiple-day bicycle touring. But they know an impediment exists.

“While bike riding is becoming hugely popular here, a lot of people do not have access to personal vehicles, which poses a major obstacle for doing a bike tour,” Mr. Herbert said in an email.

Enter Gotham Bicycle Tours, which the couple started this spring to offer three-day, two-night bike tours just outside the New York City metro region.

“Fortunately, we have a mass transit system that permits bikes, so we are setting up these tours with 100 percent access to mass transit,” said Mr. Herbert, an urban planner with Westchester County, specializing in bicycle and pedestrian work.

“The idea is to remove as many barriers as possible to get people out on a bike overnight,” he said. “Then, if they do our tours, maybe they’ll graduate to a bigger, longer tour or strike out on their own. Regardless, the goal is to increase bike traveling, which is a good thing.”

Some of the cycling will be on car-free paths, including the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. Photo by Lukas Herbert

Some of the cycling will be on car-free paths, including the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. Photo by Lukas Herbert

Four tours are scheduled, two that traverse the Hudson Valley ($275 a person) and two along eastern Long Island and out to Montauk ($295 a person). The trips start at commuter rail stops outside the city.

Aside from not doing the actual pedaling, Gotham is making the outing as easy as possible for travelers by mapping scenic routes, planning meals and arranging accommodations (bed-and-breakfast options are sometimes available for noncampers).

Gotham staff will shuttle riders’ gear and even the cyclists themselves if they get too tired. Technical assistance is available for everything from a flat tire to tent setup (tent rentals are available too).

What if you try it but you still don’t like it? Push the “panic button” and Gotham promises to put you back on a train or bus to return home.

The dish on visiting Replacements in NC

May 24, 2014

I’d always wanted to do a story on Replacements, but had no idea it would be sooooo much fun! Here’s my article, which originally ran in the Washington Post on April 27, 2014, and has since been reprinted in several other newspapers. Details for visiting are below the story. The kicker: I was cleaning out the basement after this ran and discovered yet another box of inherited crystal, worth enough money to warrant a return visit. This time I’m making a point of meeting owner Bob Page. Can’t wait!

By Diane Daniel

Replacements’ 12,000-square-foot retail store and museum near Greensboro, N.C., is open to the public, with free guided tours through the warehouse

Replacements’ 12,000-square-foot retail store and museum near Greensboro, N.C., is open to the public, with free guided tours through the warehouse

When Laurie Oliver, running the sellers’ counter at Replacements, Ltd., said that it might take 90 minutes to process my six plastic tubs of china, silver and crystal, my first thought was, I’m pretty sure I’ll need more time than that.

For years, I’d driven past the gigantic showroom and warehouse (“the size of eight football fields!” according to the Web site), visible along Interstate 85 just east of Greensboro, N.C., thinking that I wanted to drop in. Not because I like to shop (I don’t), but because the scale and mission of the place fascinate me. The aptly named company maintains the world’s largest inventory of old and new china, crystal, silver and collectibles – some 12 million pieces representing more than 400,000 patterns. Broke your Margarete Bridal Rose salad plate? Look no further. Want some cash for your Spiegelau Aida water goblet? Step right up.

The bulk of the company’s dealings, both buying and selling, occur online, on the phone, and through parcel delivery. But for more than 55,000 annual visitors, Replacements transforms into much more than a center of commerce. I experienced it as a dog park, a gay rights center, an inventory-handling machine, a tableware museum and a place of worship – or at least profound appreciation – for benevolent leader Bob Page.

The rainbow flag flies under the Replacements logo. Owner and founder Bob Page is known as a gay rights leader locally and statewide.

The rainbow flag flies under the Replacements logo. Owner and founder Bob Page is known as a gay rights leader locally and statewide.

I started my unofficial tour in the back parking lot (non-selling visitors typically use the front door). I’d dutifully made the recommended sellers’ appointment and had identified my inherited china patterns. But I’d also brought a hodgepodge of indeterminate crystal and items that I hoped were actually silver. (Prices are based on supply and demand.)

The first thing I noticed was the tall pole holding two flapping flags – one stamped with the Replacements logo and the other covered in rainbow stripes, the universal gay symbol. Owner Page, once closeted, is now known as a gay rights leader locally and statewide, a bold proclamation for a mainstream business owner in these parts.

As I was unloading my boxes onto a cart, two employees passed by, one walking a black Lab and the other a Pomeranian, lending truth to the sign on the door that reads, “Well-behaved pets welcome.” Staffers told me that though dogs rule, visitors have also brought cats on leashes and even a pot-bellied pig.

After Oliver explained the drill, she cut me loose to play. I followed the yellow tape on the floor down a long corridor in a warehouse toward the retail showroom, passing row after row of floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with china, crystal and some collectibles. (Hummels, anyone?)

Read the rest of this entry »

Partners of mountain bikers, this trip’s for you

April 29, 2014

This is one of those “why didn’t people think of this before?” ideas.

Sacred Rides, a Canadian-based outfitter known for its serious singletrack mountain bike tours for experienced riders, has launched a line of Bring-Your-Partner Rides that mountain bikers and their non-biking companions can enjoy together.

 If I were with a mountain-biking partner, I’d love this. The destinations are great and I like outdoors activities and road riding, so I think I’d like to come along, thank you!

The new partner trips include hiking, yoga, hot springs, spa time and introductory mountain bike lessons for the companion, while the mountain biker will enjoy single-track cross-country riding on moderate to challenging terrain in Fernie, at Nipika Mountain Resort and Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country. Activities for couples to do together include hikes, yoga (pictured here) and paddling on the Kootenay River. More locations are expected to be added to the partner program, in North America and beyond.

Personally, I‘ll skip the mountain-bike lessons. Been there, bruised that. I’m sticking to the asphalt, because nothing bad can happen there. (Kidding!)

Sacred Rides owner Mike Brcic told me, when I first contacted him for my little New York Times item, that idea for the trips came from conversations with more than 100 clients, the majority of them male.

“Most of them are longtime mountain bikers with high incomes, but who have partners that don’t mountain bike,” he said. “With limited vacation time, it’s hard for them to get away on the mountain bike trips they dream of doing. So being able to bring their non-mountain-biking partner along is a win-win for everyone.”

Makes sense to me, Mike. All in all, though, I’m just grateful that my partner and I love doing the same things. Makes life easier!


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