Archive for the ‘Western Europe’ Category

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!

Untours is unparalleled in the travel industry

February 24, 2009
Sampling Dutch street food is among the Untours travel experiences

You, too, can sample street food in Leiden (in this case, herring) on an Untours trip

Even before I knew much about Untours, the Pennsylvania-based (un)tour company, I loved their travel offerings and attitude. Untours supports longer-term travel with a home base, so visitors have a chance to dig deeper than the usual surface tourist activities.

They provide accommodations for one or two weeks, mostly in Europe (they just added a couple North American locations). For a reasonable fee, you get lodging (with a kitchen), air travel (rare) and an English-speaking local host (unheard of). It’s similar to independent travel, but with someone to hold your hand if needed.

Rome is among the travel destions in Italy

Rome is among the destinations in Italy

Also terrific are Untours’ off-the-beaten path destinations. In Holland, untourists stay in the charming university town of Leiden instead of the big city of Amsterdam, in Greece it’s Nafplio instead of Athens, and in Switzerland Untours offers up Ticino, Oberland and villages between Interlaken and Lucerne. It doesn’t ignore big cities completely, especially in Italy and France, the top destinations. Italy choices include Rome, Florence, and Venice, but also Sicily and Amalfi. It’s similar for France. You can choose among Paris, Normandy, Alsace, and more.

I was surprised when Untours, now in its 34th year, recently added New York City and Quebec City to its offerings. Makes me wonder what’s next. Exciting!

Paris at night with its monuments bathed in illumination

"The Eiffel Tower at night is magical," reported one Untours traveler

While I haven’t traveled with Untours, I’ve interviewed several people who have, and they’ve all loved the experience of feeling like they were living in a community instead of merely passing through. For those of you who just have to be on the move, there are ways to combine destinations with Untours “Samplers.” Untours aren’t cheap, but from what travelers tell me, they’re a bargain when you factor in meals, airfare, etc. Check out the prices for yourself and let me know what you think.

Hal Taussig on his daily ride to work

Hal Taussig on his regular ride to work

Like I said, I’ve already loved Untours for years because I had a great feeling about them and their business practices. So I wasn’t surprised but I sure was impressed when last year I learned about Untours founder and president Hal Taussig, 84. Despite his very successful business, he and his wife live in a modest home. Since 1992 they’ve given $5 million in profits from the business to the Untours Foundation, which they founded to help enterprises around the world that create jobs that improve the lives of the poor. Untours has been engaging in “travel philanthropy” way before it became de rigueur. Hal has gotten some great press lately, but you can tell that he’s not in it for the publicity. Thank you, Hal, for inspiring us as travelers and as human beings!

Past meets present in Portugal

October 6, 2008

Having lived in Portugal in 1987-88, this was a particularly enjoyable piece for me to write. I loved that the sisters went on this journey to discover more about their father’s life, and of course their own.

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published Sept. 14, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

John Charest, Diane Charest, Stan Cheika, Carm Provost, Pam Trett at the Port Wine Institute in Lisboa

John Charest, Diane Charest, Stan Cheika, Carm Provost, Pam Trett at the Port Wine Institute in Lisboa, Portugal

WHO: Diane and John Charest, both 56, of Fitchburg, Mass.; Pam Treet, 45, of Fryeburg, Maine; and Carmina Provost, 58, and Stan Cheika, 54, both of Chicopee, Mass. (The women are sisters.)

WHERE: Portugal

WHEN: One week in April

WHY: “For years my sisters and I have wanted to visit Portugal, particularly the small town where our dad grew up,” said Diane Charest.

OPEN ARMS: Jose Valentine is from Caldas da Rainha, an hour north of Lisbon. At 16, he moved to Chicopee, where he still lives. He turns 85 this week. “My father founded the Portuguese American Club in Chicopee,” Charest said. “We called him the Portuguese godfather because everybody who moved there from Portugal would go to him for advice. He still goes to the club to watch soccer.”

Carm Provost (left), Diane Charest, Pam Trett standing in front of their father's childhood home in Caldas da Rainha, Portugal

Sisters Carm (left), Diane, and Pam standing in front of their father`s childhood home in Caldas da Rainha, Portugal

TOWN TOUR: The sisters stayed in downtown Lisbon, at the Hotel Mundial, and took day trips. Lena and Jose “Joe” Ribeiro, friends of their father who had lived in Chicopee but retired to Caldas da Rainha, gave them a tour of the town of 13,500. “It really was like a time warp,” Charest said. “I almost expected to see a horse and buggy go down the street. Joe took us to my father’s old house. That was very emotional for me. We also went to my great-grandmother’s grave. She would visit us every summer. All the graves have pictures on them, and when I saw it I remembered her.”

Diane and her husband John in front of Obidos castle

Diane and her husband, John, in front of Obidos castle

MEDIEVAL MASTERPIECE: Their father’s hometown is just north of the popular tourist stop of Obidos, a walled 12th-century town with a castle. “That’s where he went to school. He and Joe would walk up the hill there every morning. We saw the building, and it’s now the welcome center. That town is like going to Brigadoon. We didn’t want to leave.”

OUT AND ABOUT: The group toured Lisbon as well as other spots, including Fatima and Sintra. “I was moved by Fatima,” Charest said. “We looked around the church and shrines and did the walk of the stations.” Lisbon reminded her of New Orleans, with its balconies of wrought iron. “I was amazed at how the whole country was tiled,” she said. “Every night we ate outside – always fish – and we took the funicular to the Port Wine Institute.” The only downside, she said, was the number of beggars and homeless people. “That surprised me.”

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: The daughters gathered with Dad after the trip to view photos. “We did a slide show on TV so we could all see them and my dad kept telling us about everything in his town, saying, `Oh, that’s this, this is that.’ He loved seeing his house.”