Archive for the ‘Holland’ 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!

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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?