Archive for the ‘Netherlands’ 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!

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.

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.

Bicycle rides around the country, and the world

June 18, 2013

Here in North Carolina, our summer days are often too dang hot for bike riding, unless you get up at the crack o’ dawn (which we occasionally do). But in many parts of the country and certainly in northern Europe, where one of us hails from, this is the ultimate cycling season. To that end, some trips to inspire you.

201306_01_placestobikeFirst, check out the book “Fifty Places to Bike Before You Die,” by Chris Santella (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $24.95). Santella is more editor than author — he enlists advice from a hosts of cyclists, from advocates to tour guides to writers. It’s a great read, and for cyclists like us, it’s like reading a dessert menu that spans the globe.

For those of us sticking closer to home, I wrote a list of cross-state bike rides for the Boston Globe that I’m reprinting here. As avid cyclists know, nearly every state these days offers some kind of multiple-day ride. Many are staged by volunteers or advocacy groups and are quite affordable, though, yeah, you’re not staying at the Four Seasons. For you luxury-minded riders, I suggest a trip with a commercial tour company, of which there are zillions. For the rest of us, check these out or Google your way to rides in your favorite states.

Participants of the Ride the Rockies

Participants of the Ride the Rockies

RIDE THE ROCKIES

One of the most rugged cross-state tours, this year’s sold-out Colorado version (right), from Telluride to Colorado Springs, features three scenic mountain passes and 20,400 feet of climbing over 513 miles. June 8-15, http://www.ridetherockies.com (Some friends are about to embark on an awesome Colorado tour. I had to pass because of my work schedule. So sad.)

BIKEMAINE

Inaugural weeklong event kicks off Sept. 7 with a challenging 400-mile loop starting in Orono and including stops in Belfast, Castine, Bar Harbor, and Bangor, with a cumulative elevation gain of 24,000 feet. Routes will change yearly. http://ride.bikemaine.org/

201306_03_RAGBRAI

RAGBRAI

The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, an annual seven-day, 470-mile ride in July, is the oldest (since 1972), largest, and longest bicycle touring event in the world. Day passes available. July 21-27, http://www.ragbrai.com (I did this in 2005.  What a blast!!!!!!!! Make sure you train for it!)

RIDE ACROSS WASHINGTON

This year’s tour, themed “Pines to Vines,” takes 250 riders from near the Canadian border north of Spokane south to the Hood River with about 21,000 feet of climbing and spectacular scenery. Aug. 3-10, http://www.cascade.org

Logo of the 2013 Bike Florida tour

Logo of the 2013 Bike Florida tour

BIKE FLORIDA

The 20th anniversary ride, in early spring 2014, will showcase northeast Florida’s back roads, trails, and beaches. Dates and stops to be determined. http://www.bikeflorida.org

Polar plunges will warm your heart

January 5, 2013

I seriously cannot imagine taking a “polar plunge.” Heck, I’m sitting here with cold hands and feet in my office as I type this. But I do love the concept, which is why I wrote this roundup of plunges for the Boston Globe’s travel section. Most take place on New Year’s Day, but one hasn’t happened yet — which means there is still time for you to sign up! Or, you can ready yourself for Jan. 1, 2014! Here’s the list:

MSP Polar Bear Plunge, Annapolis, MD (photo Steve Ruark)

MSP Polar Bear Plunge, Annapolis, MD (photo Steve Ruark)

MSP POLAR BEAR PLUNGE, ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND

The largest plunge in the country, hosted by the Maryland State Police as a fund-raiser for Special Olympics Maryland, is held later in January, this year on the 26th. In 2012, some 11,000 plungers jumped into the Chesapeake Bay, raising $2.6 million.

CONEY ISLAND POLAR BEAR CLUB, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club, founded in 1903, these days attracts about 1,500 participants who kick off the New Year with a daring dip in the Atlantic Ocean.

THE COURAGE POLAR BEAR DIP, OAKVILLE, ONTARIO, CANADA

While polar bear plunges are a New Year’s Day tradition all across Canada, the Courage event on the shore of Lake Ontario has become the country’s biggest, with more than 700 dippers and thousands of onlookers. To date, nearly $1 million has been raised to support clean water projects through World Vision Canada.

Nieuwjaarsduik (New Year's Dive) Scheveningen in 2010 (photo Alexander Fritze)

Nieuwjaarsduik (New Year’s Dive), Scheveningen in 2010 (photo Alexander Fritze)

NIEUWJAARSDUIK (NEW YEAR’S DIVE), SCHEVENINGEN, THE NETHERLANDS

As in Canada, New Year’s Day dips are held in dozens of communities across the Netherlands. The largest is in Scheveningen, a beach resort town near The Hague, where about 10,000 dive into the North Sea, many wearing sponsor Unox’s orange hats and gloves.

L STREET BROWNIES, SOUTH BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

In our backyard, upward of 700 swimmers jump into the frigid waters of Boston Harbor for the annual Jan. 1 plunge from the Curley Community Center. The Brownies, who started the event in 1904, are so named for their year-round tans.

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!