Archive for the ‘Dutch’ Category

Hieronymus Bosch retrospective

January 30, 2016
Statue of Hieronymus Bosch in Den Bosch

Statue of Hieronymus Bosch in Den Bosch

One of our favorite places to take visitors is the charming Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, locally known as the much-easier-to-pronounce Den Bosch. This year is HUGE for Den Bosch, as it celebrates the virtual return of its native son, famed medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch, who died 500 years ago. Though the city isn’t fortunate enough to own any of the artist’s paintings, this year it will present the largest retrospective of Bosch’s work ever, with all the pieces on loan from several leading museums. “Jheronimus Bosch – Visions of a Genius,” displaying 20 paintings and 19 drawings, runs from Feb. 13 to May 8 at Het Noordbrabants Museum. In addition, seven other museums in the province of North Brabant will present complementary shows. Timed tickets are already on sale, and the museum has expanded its opening hours.

Saint John’s Cathedral in Den Bosch

Saint John’s Cathedral in Den Bosch

But, wait, there’s more. In its elegant baroque center and along its small canal system, Den Bosch is pulling out all stops for visitors, with special events throughout the year, including nightly light shows on the market square, projected 3-D images of diabolical Bosch characters, themed tours of the canals, and rare climbs outside Saint John’s Cathedral, which is covered with fantastical gargoyles and sculptures. I hope to do one of those climbs myself, as soon as they’re available. Can’t wait!

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.

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!

Dutch to celebrate first King’s Day in style

April 21, 2014
The Prinsengracht canal is jam-packed with boats, most blaring dance music

The Prinsengracht canal is jam-packed with boats, most blaring dance music

It’s a big week in the Netherlands, where the country celebrates its first King’s Day (Koningsdag), after a long run of Queen’s Days — since 1890. I wrote this little ditty about it for the New York Times. The change came after Queen Beatrix abdicated her post to her son Willem-Alexander, who now heads the House of Orange. He changed the holiday to his birthdate, April 27, but because that falls on a Sunday this year, the debut party was moved up to April 26. Willem-Alexander, btw, is Europe’s youngest monarch — he turns 47 on Sunday.

Friends entertain the crowd at Vondelpark

Friends entertain the crowd at Vondelpark

Not much will change for the visitor. In Amsterdam, you’ll still see hundreds of thousands of Dutchies covered in orange, sidewalk sales, open-air music and dance, and family activities (go to Vondelpark for those). The craziest site is the canals, so clogged with revelers on boats that sometimes you can’t even see the water.

The second-largest King’s Day celebration is historically in Eindhoven, to the south. So if you’re looking for a smaller sea of orange, but  still with plenty of activities, consider checking out the action there.

Diane celebrates Queen's Day in Amsterdam in 2010

Diane celebrates Queen’s Day in Amsterdam in 2010

Lina and I joined the Amsterdam fray in 2010 and it was one of the most joyous occasions I’ve witnessed. The key is to leave before the rowdies come out early evening, unless you’re of ‘em. Then have at it! If you’re coming from afar, make sure to visit a bargain store for some orange-colored clothing, like I did. Lina got the inflatable crown for me — someone was handing them out on the street.  Quite fetching, don’t you think?

In Amsterdam, a new skating rink

January 5, 2014
201401_01c_skating Amsterdam

Skating rink with replica of the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge)

Fans of Hans Brinker, the fictional Dutch boy who enters an ice-skating race to win a pair of silver skates, can practice their moves at Ice*Amsterdam, the recently opened skating rink in the shadows of the majestic Rijksmuseum, on Museum Square. (An aside: Hans Brinker is an American creation. The Dutch have erected statues to “him” to keep American tourists happy. Nothing wrong with that, I say!)

201401_02c_skating Amsterdam

Skating is especially magical at night

The seasonal rink, previously operated by the city and this year run by a private concessionaire, has been upgraded to include a new design decorated with custom-made mosaic orbs; the restaurant Brasserie Winters, with heated outdoor terrace and bar; and a walkway over the rink replicating the city’s most famous drawbridge, the Magere Brug, or “Skinny Bridge.” It’s especially magical at night, but a lovely spot to visit any time.  During the day you should also visit the nearby Van Gogh and the Stedelijk museums.

At the rink, you can rent skates or bring your own, and nervous skaters need not worry — you’ll see tots and adults hanging onto chairs for assistance. If you’re not a skater, you can watch from the sidelines or from the on-site restaurant while enjoying classic Dutch treats, including Hollandse snert (pea soup), stamppot (mashed potatoes and vegetables), and apfelstrudel (apple tart).

The rink and restaurant are open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. through February.

Happy Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day)!!!

April 29, 2012

Diane celebrates Queen's Day in Amsterdam in 2010

Lina and I are having fond memories of our crazy Queen’s Day in Amsterdam two years ago. Koninginnedag is one of the world’s most-festive and famous street parties, and though it’s held all over the Netherlands, Amsterdam is the place to be.

The fun starts now, with all-night parties leading to tomorrow. Here’s a sampling of what we encountered in 2010.

So, dear readers, start making plans now for Queen’s Day 2013. Get your airline tickets and book your hotel room. We stayed in the wild and wacky Citizen M, which was far enough away to be quiet, but on the walking path from train to town, so still lively.

Of utmost importance, start pulling together the most outlandish orange outfit you can find. I can’t wait to take mine out of the closet again for another showing.

Special watery worlds in the Netherlands

September 19, 2011

Giethoorn isn't Venice, but it is cute

We were so lucky. We had to change the day we’d designated for cycling in the Netherlands and the weather cooperated. We had only one rainstorm, and the wind, well, the wind is omnipresent, hence the country’s proliferation of windmills. For hill-loving cyclists like us, it compensates for the flat terrain. And, finally, I made it to Giethoorn, which has been on my list for a while. It’s called the “Venice of the Netherlands” (no comparison) and also got a little attention via a viral email hawking pictures from a Dutch town that has no cars.

 Well, yes and no. Only about a mile of Giethoorn is carless and it’s very, very touristy. But it was indeed cute, and has several places to eat, drink and shop, along with rent bikes and boats. (Bikes were an affordable $10.50 a day.) We enjoyed it, but were also happy to head out for less-populated areas.

Kalenberg was favorite stop of the day

Our 30-mile loop first took us along a very rural bike path (paved, of course) with no traffic and then through marshland and finally to Kalenberg, which I’m guessing Giethoorn resembled before the tourists descended. All houses were along a canal (this one was wider and more open) and one side of town was reachable only by boat or walking. The houses were adorable and everything was tidy and attractive. A little drawbridge joined the two sides and a café there overlooked the canal.

17th-century Blokzijl used to be on the sea

From there we headed for Blokzijl, a 17th-century city with a nice harbor on the former Zuiderzee, aka the South Sea (not to be confused with the South Seas). After they created (in 1942) a polder there, i.e. they reclaimed the land, the city became landlocked. Fascinating!

Lovely Lottie is a touring tekkel

On the way there, another highlight – greeting Lottie, a long-haired tekkel (dachshund) in a rear bike basket. My third tekkel of the trip! The wind about did us in, but we made it to town and thought it was lovely. Even lovelier was the tailwind back to Giethoorn, and the little bike ferry of Jonen that took us over a bridge-less canal. The price of $1.50 seemed reasonable at the time, but when I think about it, for a 30-second ride it was pricey.

All these towns are in the region called De Weerribben in the Overijssel Province. It’s a couple hours east of Amsterdam and a heck of a lot less crowded. Something different!

Hup Oranje hup! A Dutch victory!

July 6, 2010

Wessel cheers on his national team from Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.

We haven’t had great weather in rainy Florida this week, but we did have one big treat: the Netherlands made the World Cup final match for the first time since 1978! Woo-hoo. Today’s score: 3 to 2, beating  Uruguay. We don’t even have cable at home, but here in Florida we have an array of channels for our renters, including, of course, ESPN. Lucky us. We’ll be back in North Carolina for the championship game on Sunday. Germany or Spain, here we come!

Dutch players rejoice after referee finally calls the game

The Netherlands celebrates in Amsterdam after the big win

We survived Amsterdam’s orange crush

May 11, 2010

Early-morning Queen`s Day prep at Leidseplein square in Amsterdam

From the air, Queen’s Day in Amsterdam must look like one giant, pulsating orange blob. It certainly felt that way from the ground.  

Since the late Queen Juliana took office in 1948, the Netherlands has celebrated Koninginnedag on April 30. Now her daughter, Beatrix, sits in the throne in the House of Orange, but the day remains the same because B’s birthday is Jan. 31, and who wants to play outside then?

Different towns celebrate with different levels of intensity, and not surprisingly, Amsterdam’s fest is the most intense. But all Queen’s Day events feature “vrijmarkten,” or free markets, where folks set up little yard sales/street sales/flea markets all over town, featuring the usual yard sale treasures and trash.

Diane out-oranged many locals (thanks to Wessel for hat loan)

In Amsterdam, where we were, the crowds started to pour into town around noontime, with many folks dressed in orange clothing, wigs, boas, hats, nail polish and even fake eyelashes. Wessel wore a lovely blow-up orange crown the entire day. I was decked out in orange sweat pants and an orange top. I felt foolish early in the day, and proud later, after fielding many compliments (at least that’s how I chose to interpret the attention).

By far the majority of partiers were in their teens and twenties, but there was a smattering of old folks like us. Beer and vodka were the drinks of choice, and the youngsters started early. We stopped at the Museumplein for a look at the pop/rock concert, then literally had to dance our way through a street party before we reached Vondelpark, a long, narrow park that on Queen’s Day becomes a haven for families.

Friends entertain the crowd at Vondelpark

Vondelpark was our favorite stop, as it was plenty festive but not rowdy. Little kids and families set up their little yard sales, and also made games and sold homemade trinkets.  (This was also the only place with ample portable potties, FYI.) A lot of kids were drumming for dollars, and one man set up a drumming station, charging $5 for five minutes of drumming.  One man staffed a “compliment station” – 50 cents for a little compliment, 75 cents for a big one, and $1.50 for an “ego boost.”

Pilot of paper airplane challenges the ash cloud in the best game ever

Our favorite silly game was “Challenge the Ash Cloud,” created by three friends in Amsterdam. A painted half-collapsed umbrella signified the Iceland volcano. It “erupted” whenever one of them worked a bike pump that blew air from the bottom, pushing out a mountain of flour. The contestant had to fly a paper airplane over the volcano’s mouth and land it safely on the runway. Three throws cost about $1, but if you could spell Eyjafjallajökull (which we witnessed someone do), you got to play for free. It was hilarious.

The Prinsengracht canal is jam-packed with boats, most blaring dance music

At around 5, we started to follow some of the more popular canals, which were packed with boats of all shapes and sizes. Several were set up like party barges, complete with DJs with turntables and giant speakers. Then we came upon the craziest sight of all – for about the length of one city block, from one bridge to another, the canal was so jammed that the boats could barely move forward. It was like standing outside of a dozen open-air discos. One boat even had a smoke machine on it. It was  joyous and crazy and loud.

By about 8, we realized we’d never make it to the very center of town without suffocating in a sea of people, most  of them by then filled with alcohol, so we headed away from the merriment, basking in the glow of the orange.

Happy Dutch-American Friendship Day!

April 19, 2010

A salute to Dutch-American Friendship Day

Wessel loves his Dutch-themed days, so I’ve given over today’s blog posting to my favorite Dutch citizen (I think the Quincy connection is very cool!):

Today is Dutch-American Friendship Day, which commemorates that on April 19, 1782, John Adams was admitted by the States General of the Dutch Republic as Minister of the United States of America, thus obtaining the second diplomatic recognition of the United States as an independent nation (France preceded in 1777). It was also the day that the house Adams had purchased at Fluwelen Burgwal 18 in The Hague was to become the first American Embassy in the world. A treaty of commerce and friendship was signed and Adams negotiated a loan of five million guilders for war supplies. In the years after, Adams arranged three additional loans. Let’s just say that money talks.

Birthplace of U.S. President John Adams, in Quincy, Mass., is operated by the National Park Service (photo Wikipedia)

Adams had strong ties with the Netherlands. His sons, John Quincy and Charles Adams enrolled at the University of Leiden in 1781. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized that these were the Adamses, the US presidents from Quincy, Mass. Quincy is where Diane lived for years before we moved to Durham, NC. So we’re doing our part to continue a tradition of centuries of Dutch-American relationships.