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Mostly Food & Travel Journal

Interview: François Geurds

200 Years of The Netherlands

Between Heaven and Earth – Atelier NL

Givenchy and Hepburn at Gemeentemuseum, The Hague

Around Gouda

Gouda – a cheese for all seasons

Gouda Candle Night, Gouda

Groningen – Contemporary and Historic

The Hague – Staying and Eating – Contemporary and Historic

The Hague’s fashion souvenirs

Het Noordbrabants Museum acquires van Gogh watercolour

Jim De Jong

Kröller-Müller Museum

The Markthal - Rotterdam

The Netherlands - A Liberating Interlude

The Princess, the Palace and the Painter

Rijsttafel in The Hague

Rotterdam – beds, buildings and gastronomic surprises

Rotterdam – building with new energy, treasuring old charm

Rotterdam – Culinary Comfort and Creativity

Stena Line to the Hook of Holland

The Textile Museum – Tilburg

Three Chairs for The Netherlands

The Tomb of the Unknown Uncle - Flowering of Liberation

The War of Jan Loos

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Travel Reviews
- Netherlands

On this page:

Interview: François Geurds

200 Years of The Netherlands

Between Heaven and Earth – Atelier NL

Givenchy and Hepburn at Gemeentemuseum, The Hague

Around Gouda

Gouda – a cheese for all seasons

Gouda Candle Night, Gouda

Groningen – Contemporary and Historic

The Hague – Staying and Eating – Contemporary and Historic

The Hague’s fashion souvenirs

Het Noordbrabants Museum acquires van Gogh watercolour

Jim De Jong

Kröller-Müller Museum

The Markthal - Rotterdam

The Netherlands - A Liberating Interlude

The Princess, the Palace and the Painter

Rijsttafel in The Hague

Rotterdam – beds, buildings and gastronomic surprises

Rotterdam – building with new energy, treasuring old charm

Rotterdam – Culinary Comfort and Creativity

Stena Line to the Hook of Holland

The Textile Museum – Tilburg

Three Chairs for The Netherlands

The Tomb of the Unknown Uncle - Flowering of Liberation

The War of Jan Loos

Three Chairs for The Netherlands

I am an unashamed supporter of The Netherlands. It’s next door, but unknown to many British. (That might be perceived as an advantage, at least to us who have already discovered it!) It has history, beautiful architecture, surprisingly good food, art and individual design. Those national assets are not confined to Amsterdam but are scattered across this small country, making Holland an ideal leisure destination.

netherlands chairLet’s consider both art and design, for they are often indistinguishable one from the other. Design is, or should be, about form following function, with art contributing aesthetics. When buying furniture one hopes to find a marriage of both design and art, with perhaps a little bridesmaid in the guise of comfort.

Piet Hein Eek began making his Waste furniture in the 1990s as a result of finding that he was having to throw away wood left over from his other furniture projects. That concept of recycling of otherwise useless material for furniture and other household goods has been mimicked across the globe. The furniture was originally constructed by stacking up pieces of scrap wood that would normally be discarded. But there is another collection: the new Waste 40x40 collection takes a different and perhaps more practical approach.

Piet’s process of furniture-making obviously results in waste wood in small amounts, and often in impractical shapes that are impossible to use. He cuts down all these pieces into identical squares of 40 by 40 millimetres. These are then glued together to cover the surface of chairs, tables and benches. The result is striking, with those coloured chips creating a tapestry which has become an iconic feature and a Piet Hein Eek trade mark.

The Piet Hein Eek factory in Eindhoven is well worth a visit for chairs and more. Learn more here.

netherlands chair There is another "Piet" and perhaps this one is a little more celebrated outside his homeland. This is Piet Mondriaan the painter. He has influenced not only artists but designers too. Mondrian (using the non-Dutch spelling) was a contributor to the De Stijl art movement which was founded by Theo van Doesburg. Mondrian is famed for the form which he termed neoplasticism, which consisted of a white background with a grid of vertical and horizontal black lines and the three primary colours.

The former home of the Mondriaan family constitutes one wing of the Mondriaan Villa Museum’s building. Villa Mondriaan was officially opened in May 2013 and it holds not only the art of Mondrian but other exhibits which illustrate that Dutch design is alive and practical.

Dirk Vander Kooij uses technology to create chairs which are both functional and well-formed, and are also somewhat amusing. In 2009 he graduated from the Design Academy in Eindhoven. Yes, that town has a reputation for encouraging both design and technology. He presented a robotic arm designed to make objects as large as furniture from material that would otherwise likely find its way to landfill.

In 2010 Dirk created an Endless chair which echoes Mondriaan in its simplicity of material, but here Dirk adds texture and utility to his projects. One thick plastic cord is extruded when soft, and woven by the ‘hands’ of a robot into a rigid 3D structure. The plastic is actually recycled from old refrigerators. This resulting chair, and others in the collection, give the impression that they are knitted rather than moulded. This medium is a joy for designers. As Dirk says, mistakes and failures can be melted down to produce something perfect. Dirk Vander Kooij won the Dutch Design Award in 2011 with his ground-breaking Endless Chairs.

Visit Villa Mondriaan here

Learn more about Dirk Vander Kooij here.

netherlands chairBut if we return to Mondrian’s ideal colour spectrum then we find the Red and Blue Chair. This is a chair designed in 1917 by Gerrit Rietveld. It represents one of the first expressions in 3D by the De Stijl art movement.

Gerrit Rietveld was a Dutch furniture designer and architect. He became one of the principal members of the Dutch artistic movement De Stijl. Rietveld is famous for his Red and Blue Chair and for the Rietveld Schröder House, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Utrecht.

This colourful chair is actually the second version: the original chair was made of unstained beech. It did not take on its colourful Mondrian-esque persona until a couple of years later in the 1920s. Fellow member of De Stijl and architect, Bart van der Leck, saw his original model and suggested that it would look better with colour. Rietveld built the new model of the chair with a thinner profile. It was entirely painted black with areas of primary colours reminiscent of Mondrian and the De Stijl movement.

See this chair at the Rietveld Schröder House

De Ploeg is the only industrial building designed by Gerrit Rietveld and also has one of his iconic chairs. Learn more here.

Learn more about visiting the Netherlands here

food and travel reviews

Kröller-Müller Museum – gardens and galleries

Kroller Muller entry This delightful museum is a triumph. Yes, it will be a draw for lovers of art but it has such broad appeal for those who appreciate the open and wooded spaces of this corner of The Netherlands.

But who were Kröller and Müller? In fact they were a she and evidently a woman before her time. Helene Kröller-Müller was born in 1869 and was one of the first European women to curate a significant art collection. She was born Helene Emma Laura Juliane Müller in Essen, Germany. Her family were wealthy industrialists (has anyone ever heard of a poor industrialist?).

Helene married Dutch shipping and mining magnate Anton Kröller in 1888 thus becoming Mrs Kröller-Müller. But she was not destined to become a conventional housewife. Helene studied under Henk Bremmer between 1906 and1907 and then she began constructing her collection, and was one of the first people to appreciate the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. His work formed a large proportion of the collection with 90 paintings and 185 drawings. It is, in fact, one of the largest collections of van Gogh outside the bespoke Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Kroller Muller vincent From 1913 parts of her collection were open to the public in an exhibition hall in The Hague. It was one of the few galleries where one could see works of modern art at that time. In 1928 Helene and her husband created the Kröller-Müller Foundation to assure the future of the increasing collection and of their estates. Between 1907 and 1922 they had acquired more than 11,000 pieces of art, making this one of the largest private collections of the twentieth century. In the mid-1930s, they donated their entire collection, totalling approximately 12,000 objects, to the people of The Netherlands. There was one condition and that was that a museum be built in the gardens of the estate. The Kröller-Müller Museum was opened in 1938.

The Kröller-Müller Museum we see today is surrounded by 30 hectares of beautiful unspoiled wooded country estate, and is the largest national park in the Netherlands. A large forest sculpture garden was added in 1961 and includes works by Auguste Rodin and Henry Moore. The garden is open all year offering different perspectives of these sculptures as the quality of light and shade changes.

kroller muller portrait Many people will come especially to see the works of Vincent van Gogh, and those pieces include Café Terrace at Night, Sorrowing Old Man and a version of The Potato Eaters; but there are other works by Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, and many more. But I made a discovery! An artist called Charley Toorop. She became a member of the group of artists called Het Signaal (The Signal) in 1916. The group strove to depict reality through the use of colours and heavily accentuated lines and contrasts. I found three self-portraits by this lady and they displayed Het Signaal characteristics in striking fashion. We find a woman aging and showing the cares of passing years. It’s said that eyes are the windows on the soul and the eyes on this trio of canvases draw one in. These eyes are large, wide and are somehow ‘haunted’.

There are the permanent exhibitions which will always be popular with visitors, but there are also temporary exhibitions which will encourage return visits. Arp: The Poetry of Forms starts on May 20th 2017 and continues till September 17th 2017. Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1966) is considered to be one of the most innovative and influential artists of the European avant-garde movement. The exhibition offers sculptures, reliefs, sketches, poetry, and books. Between 1925 and 1927 he published several of his poems in the magazine De Stijl.

Like those artists who were recently showcased with major solo exhibitions, Arp is being included in the artistic offerings of the Kröller-Müller. He was a great supporter of the museum and the director, Bram Hammacher, expanded the sculpture collection with one of Arp’s works. That piece is called Cloud Shepherd and it shines still in the garden, and is mirrored in the lake. This must surely be one of the most iconic permanent sculptures at The Kröller-Müller Museum.

Kroller Muller cloud I am not an art professional and I find some museums to be dry and dusty halls of irrelevance. I was charmed and excited by The Kröller-Müller Museum, in which I could have lingered long. True, there are the works of the great Masters of painting and sculpture, and they are thrilling to see at close quarters, but there are the lesser-known gems which might actually encourage the viewer to ask more questions and to embark on their own journey of artistic discovery.

Access to Arp: The Poetry of Forms: €18.60 per person
(including access to the park)

Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 hrs to 17.00 hrs (the sculpture garden: 16.30 hrs). The museum is closed on Mondays (except national holidays: Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost, Christmas, King’s Day 27 April, Liberation Day 5 May) and on 1 January.

Walk, or cycle to the museum on one of the free white bicycles from the park entrance to the museum.

Kröller-Müller Museum
Houtkampweg 6
6731 AW Otterlo
The Netherlands

Phone: +31 (0)318 591 241

Visit the Kröller-Müller Museum here

Learn more about visiting the Netherlands here

food and travel reviews

The Textile Museum – Tilburg, The Netherlands

‘No, Mum, not a museum!’ Yes, many of us have heard that sad and somewhat panic-stricken refrain from youngsters who are dreading the prospect of another 3-hour amble around galleries hung with dark oil paintings or museums stuffed full of glass cases displaying old clothes. What the juvenile members of the group are expressing is the sense that these emporiums of education for the high-minded are not relevant …and are not fun! (Well, not for a few years, anyway.) They want to see moving parts and lots of colour.

textile blue But there is a museum that will enthral and excite everyone. It’s TextielMuseum - The Textile Museum in Tilburg, The Netherlands. It’s far from a conventional museum of lots of dust and not enough action. This is a beautiful former textile factory which tells the story of cloth and weaving in a fashion which will be appealing to every visitor, whatever their age.

The Textile Museum in Tilburg is one of the few Dutch working museums. The renovation of the historic textile factory that houses the museum has created a space which retains so much of its original industrial charm but it also displays modern fabric-making techniques, groundbreaking technology and the essential café and shop; and all in this former damask-weaving mill.

textile hanging Textile has played an important part in the history of Tilburg, and you can learn all about it at the museum. The industrialization of the Netherlands greatly affected the world of textile production here, which developed from just a small cottage industry with hand-weaving looms. This industry evolved to those large factories with hundreds of steam-driven machines able to do the work of many home-workers in a fraction of the time and with more predictable quality.

The Textile Museum uses every medium to transport the visitor back to the Dutch textile industry from around 1860 and then on to modern times. There are beautiful lengths of cloth, works of fabric art and associated objects from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. One can see the punched card 'software' and looms that used this first ‘computerised’ system, working in the same way as Victorian Pianola pianos which could play by themselves!

In the TextielLab, visitors can enjoy the unique experience of watching designers, artists and architects at work. They will likely be using the modern machines in the factory to create art as well as clothes, and all with texture, colour and imagination. One might find some textiles with Marilyn Monroe laser-cut to create a fabric portrait. Sewing machines produce intricate designs which might later be seen on the streets around The Netherlands, decorating flags, caps and bandannas.

There are free daily mini-tours to enhance the museum experience. Guides will take you for a journey through the most important aspects of the TextielMuseum and TextielLab and will pass on their own expertise. In groups of a maximum of 15 people there will be plenty of chance to ask questions. The shop will be the final stop and that’s where one can find some gorgeous mementoes of an outstanding museum.

Daily (Tuesday till Sunday); duration of the tour: 30 minutes, starting at 13:00/14:00/15:00 - registration at the entrance desk.

Goirkestraat 96
5046 GN Tilburg
The Netherlands

Telephone: +31 (0)13 536 74 75 (Tuesday to Friday from 10.00 to 17.00)

Visit TextielMuseum here

food and travel reviews

Between Heaven and Earth – Atelier NL

Eindhoven pottery windowIt seemed unlikely. A pottery in a church in Eindhoven. But here it was and it is indeed a divine space in which to sympathetically develop well-designed products from natural clay. But not just any clay – this is Dutch clay.

Nadine Sterk and Lonny van Ryswyck studied at Eindhoven’s Design Academy, working on projects together and travelling lots. After graduating in 2006 Nadine and Lonny founded Atelier NL. Atelier is French for workshop, and the partnership designs and produces pottery but they also offer masterclasses to educate, inspire and excite visitors. Their work combines geology, chemistry and artistry.

Nadine and Lonny are the potters who have turned a dream into a reality, and in a building that had more to do with heaven than earth. This is a perfectly proportioned space, with the original church’s stained windows giving a nod to its former incarnation. There is a mezzanine floor with steep and precarious stairs, but the visitor will be more interested in the impressive tile-wall.

eindhoven clay tiles The wall of tiles doesn’t, however, look like a corner of a contemporary bathroom showroom. These small tablets of clay are made from Dutch soil, they are in natural earth tones, and it looks like there are thousands of them. They are all stamped and hanging on nails to give an indication of the diversity of the soil here in the Netherlands.

The tile-wall is a collection of clay samples from each farm in the Noordoostpolder region. Nadine and Lonny worked with these farmers for many months in order to make these tiles, with each one representing a particular field and carrying its unique plot number.

These women don’t go out and buy commercial potter’s clay for their tableware, etc – they make it themselves. They have sifted Dutch soil into a fine powder free from impurities. All these powders have different colours, as displayed in all those aforementioned tiles. The powder is mixed with water and kneaded to become clay which can be worked and pressed into moulds. Their pieces are functional, tactile and natural. Yes, they might be described as rustic but that rusticity has its own elegance.

Think for a moment about still-life oil paintings. Their subject matter was so often a display of vegetables on dishes that had just the same qualities as those made here at Atelier NL. They had earth hues and were beautiful in their simplicity. These modern dishes are not for a showcase but for the table – they should be used! One could imagine that chicory served on these dishes might have actually grown in the ground from which the plate was made.

eindhoven potter And talking of Dutch Masters, Atelier NL has created a palette of almost 300 colours from earth found around the town of Neunen, where Van Gogh lived and worked. The Atelier offers a workshop where one can learn how to make paints directly from soil, using traditional methods which would have been familiar to Van Gogh, his contemporaries and to artists for centuries before.

Atelier NL also produces glassware, but with that same ethos of base ingredients from the land. Their ‘ZandGlas’ line features designer glass tumblers and decanters which are made from fused sand from the coast of Southern Netherlands. Zandmotor, or ‘Sand Engine’, is an artificial peninsula created in 2011 to reinforce that part of the Dutch coastline. It was designed to use sea currents and winds to spread sand along a length of coastline which was fast eroding. This project will also create wider beaches, which will be an asset to the local community and wider tourism.

ZandGlas (or sand-glass) has a pale sea-green hue, unfussy lines and good balance. The tumblers have perfect weight and hand-feel, making this a collection that would grace a formal dinner table but would equally work as vessels at a casual lunch. Once again Atelier NL tells a story.

eindhoven pottery glass Atelier NL
Bergmannstraat 76
5615 KG Eindhoven
The Netherlands
Phone: 040 - 787 63 91

Visit Atelier NL here

Learn more about Eindhoven here

Learn more about visiting the Netherlands here.

food and travel reviews

Het Noordbrabants Museum acquires van Gogh watercolour
- until 19 March 2017

Het Noordbrabants Museum, Den Bosch, Holland has recently acquired from a private collection The Garden of the Vicarage at Nuenen by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). The work of October-November 1885 is the last known watercolour van Gogh produced in Nuenen and occupies a special place in his oeuvre. This acquisition – the most important purchase ever made by Het Noordbrabants Museum – underlines the museum’s ambition to offer a representative overview of van Gogh’s Brabant period by means of original works by the artist. The purchase of The Garden of the Vicarage at Nuenen was made possible by the generous support of the BankGiro Lottery, the Mondriaan Fund, the VSB Foundation, the Friends of Het Noordbrabants Museum, the Renschdael Art Foundation and Coen Teulings. The BankGiro Lottery donated almost half of the total purchase price of over 1 million euros.

Its importance to Dutch cultural heritage

van gogh watercolour Vincent van Gogh lived with his parents in the vicarage at Nuenen for nearly a year and a half. The garden behind the vicarage was one of his favourite spots, and he produced a number of works there, some of them very ambitious indeed. This watercolour occupies an important place in van Gogh’s oeuvre for a variety of reasons. In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent wrote: ‘I’ve also made another autumn study of the pond in the garden at home. There’s definitely a painting in that spot.’ In fact, van Gogh did make a large painting based on this drawing, but it was lost in the Second World War and is known only from black-and-white reproductions. The watercolour drawing gives a rough idea of the palette of the lost painting. Both works were intended to be used as examples for a well-conceived, complex figure piece, the kind of picture that van Gogh had been wanting to make from the beginning of his artistic career. It is, moreover, his first experiment with a subject that he would also depict in Paris and Arles: strolling figures and couples in an attractive garden or a poetic park setting. As one of his last Nuenen works (and the only drawing), this sheet displays the brighter colours that van Gogh began to use after visiting the Rijksmuseum in early October 1885. Studying the Old Masters there had made him realise that he had gone too far in his preference for a dark palette. Back in Nuenen, he immediately set to work, bearing in mind his new insight; this resulted in the appealing (and well-preserved) coloration of this work. The watercolour was presumably acquired in 1903 by the renowned art critic and lecturer H.P. (Hendrik) Bremmer, who later became adviser to Helene Kröller-Müller; after Bremmer’s death in 1956 it became the property of his heirs. Around 1969 the work ended up in the collection from which it was recently acquired through the art dealer Ivo Bouwman.

Its importance to Noord-Brabant

In ‘van Gogh Brabant’, five cultural heritage institutions in the province of Noord-Brabant – the van Gogh Village in Nuenen, Vincents Tekenlokaal in Tilburg, the van Goghkerk in Etten-Leur, the Vincent van Gogh House in Zundert and Het Noordbrabants Museum in ’s-Hertogenbosch – have joined forces to preserve and share van Gogh’s cultural legacy in Brabant. There is increasing collaboration with ‘van Gogh Europe’, a joint Dutch, Belgian and French venture, the goal of which is to preserve and promote van Gogh’s legacy in this international context. The purchase of the watercolour also fits in with the intention of the province of Noord-Brabant to pursue a more active policy in the coming years to link van Gogh more explicitly to Brabant. Interestingly, the new acquisition actually depicts one of the van Gogh cultural heritage sites in Brabant.

Van Gogh in Het Noordbrabants Museum

Het Noordbrabants Museum Het Noordbrabants Museum is the only museum in the southern part of the Netherlands to exhibit original works by Vincent van Gogh. They are on display in Het Verhaal van Brabant (The Story of Brabant): to be exact, in a pavilion devoted to van Gogh and his Brabant period. In addition to the one painting in its possession (Peasant Woman Digging), the museum has, among others, two works on permanent loan from the Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed (Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands) and several works on temporary loan from the van Gogh Museum. The new acquisition will be added to the display in the van Gogh pavilion. Owing to its fragility, the watercolour will now be shown only until 19 March 2017. After a few months of rest, it will return to a specially built display case, where it can be viewed for longer periods.

Van Gogh Examined – presentation of research results

Between 1884 and 1888, van Gogh re-used his canvases with some regularity. Het Noordbrabants Museum wishes to know more about what is beneath the paint layer of a number of works in the permanent display. For this reason, five paintings will be examined by means of X-radiography, infrared photography, infrared reflectography and raking light photography. The exhibition van Gogh Examined (24 June 2017 – 21 January 2018) will present the results of this research.

Visit Het Noordbrabants Museum here.

food and travel reviews

The Hague’s fashion souvenirs

We are going on a well-deserved city break, but what does the discerning and well-turned-out shopper bring back? Well, usually nothing apart from a bottle of duty-free. But the fashion-conscious will find so much in the stylish and elegant Hague to bring home. There are design souvenirs aplenty which will garner more admiring glances than that bottle of cheap vodka.

the hague fashionLes Soeurs Rouges is a fashion and accessory brand, founded in 2009 by the talented sisters Dorrith de Roode and Marlous de Roode.  The family name, de Roode, is Dutch for the French version of rouge, meaning red. But why have they chosen a French name for their label? A couple of centuries ago French was widely spoken in The Hague, which has always been cosmopolitan and a trend setter.  Les Soeurs Rouges products are designed and handmade by the company to the highest of standards.

Fashion is in the de Roode genes and has been for several generations. They had a grandfather who was business manager at department store Peek and Cloppenburg, who still say that ‘Sophisticated fashion is our passion’. Their grandmother worked in the ready-to-wear side of clothes production.  Their mother still works in the fashion industry; she started as a seamstress and now supports the sisters in their successful design endeavours.

The themes of their collections are taken from the iconic age of fabric creations in the 1920s, along with memories of lost places in The Hague. Le Parc Perdu (the Lost Park) Collection is striking, beautiful and whimsical, and reflects animals and foliage in a zoo which was once in The Hague, established in 1863 and finally demolished in 1968.

What could be a more unique souvenir of The Hague than an accessory from Le Parc Perdu Collection? The distinctive Ivy Necklace 7 Leaves - black metal and leather leaf, handmade by Les Soeurs Rouges, is a limited edition of only 20 pieces.

A silk scarf from Le Parc Perdu Collection is iconic and is something of a trademark. It comes in several colour combinations but peach and black are colours often paired in work by Les Soeurs Rouges. The background is light peach with sharp print in black. It’s 86 cm x 86 cm and made from 100% silk in France. This is also a limited edition of 20 of each colour combination. This is a luxurious and practical gift which is also, thankfully, portable and easy posted.

Les Soeurs Rouges
Binckhorstlaan 36 | M350
2516 BE The Hague
The Netherlands


Phone: +31(0)6 12 36 08 96

Visit Les Soeurs Rouges here

the hague fashion But a discerning traveller needs a bag of distinction, and The Hague has a veritable emporium of leather goods with a fascinating story behind the window display. Omar Munie has his flagship store in The Hague and it’s famed in the Dutch fashion world and beyond.

Omar Munie fled from his country of birth, Somalia, as a nine-year-old. His family, along with many others, were fleeing the civil war. He didn’t speak Dutch but learnt very quickly and became an independent young man who wanted to attend fashion school, and there he discovered a passion for craftsmanship in leather and other materials.

Omar made some bags and in 2003 he surprised a few of his classmates when he took one of his creations to school, and his fellow students were impressed. The next day he took another three bags to school and sold them for €35 each. That was the start of his business.  These days celebrities like Jane Fonda and Oprah Winfrey own Omar bags, too. His bags are exclusive and handmade from the finest leathers, and have beautiful linings. There are different styles, from wallets to larger items for day or evening, for men and for women, but all have his distinctive mark of quality and craftsmanship.

Souvenirs are often little items which demand dusting and serve no purpose apart from reminding the buyer of a wonderful city. An Omar Munie bag will endure, and will become better with use and as the leather warms to its owner. These bags range in colour and size so there is bound to be one that would be perfect.

Omar Munie
Noordeinde 43 T
The Hague
The Netherlands

Phone: +31 (0)70 347 8184

Visit Omar Munie here

hague fashion So you have travelled to The Hague and you have some marvellously inspired accessories, and a bag with which to turn heads, but what to wear? The work of Dutch fashion designer Michael Barnaart van Bergen is remarkable yet simple and clean-cut, although in reality the term should be clean-knit, for that is this designer’s preferred medium.

In 2009 Michael Barnaart van Bergen released his first ready-to-wear collection with his handbag line Anna, alongside his couture pieces. He named the Anna bag after his mother. Michael created red-carpet dresses for three actresses nominated for the Musical Awards, and designed a unique shoe collection for Sacha Shoes’ 100th anniversary. In 2010 Michael was installed as Fashion Ambassador for The Hague.

On 13 October 2011 the Michael Barnaart van Bergen Boutique opened. The small shop sells the Michael Barnaart van Bergen collection. His dresses and jackets are smart, contemporary and comfortable. They show European style in classic and timeless swathes of soft knit. The designs have a graphic quality which works well for both chic urban and suburban wear.

Michael Barnaart van Bergen Boutique
Papestraat 1B
2513 AV The Hague
The Netherlands

Phone: +31 (0)70 744 57 05

Visit Michael Barnaart van Bergen Boutique here

The Hague is a city of culture and refinement, and just the place to show an exhibition of the finest design and some of the most instantly recognised couture. Hubert de Givenchy created some of Audrey Hepburn’s most celebrated film costumes, and many of them can be seen at Hubert de Givenchy – To Audrey with Love here in the Gemeentemuseum.

Hague fashion The classic costumes were seen in such movies as How to steal a Million, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Charade. One can view these and more along with sketches, magazine covers and memorabilia at this unmissable exhibition which is presented in cooperation with UNICEF Netherlands.

This is not the first Givenchy exhibition here: in 1988 the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague presented a show called ‘Hubert de Givenchy: Haute Couture worn by Audrey Hepburn’ and the launch was attended by both Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy.

But how about a souvenir of this outstanding event? There is a gallery devoted to Ms Hepburn’s work with UNICEF and to raise funds for the organisation.  A proportion of the profits from merchandise will be donated, as will money collected from the popular photo booth where wannabe stars can dress in hats and dark glasses and dream of being on the cover of Vogue! A souvenir which will cost a lot less than a Givenchy gown...or even that botle of vodka!

The exhibition: Hubert de Givenchy – To Audrey with Love, runs from 26 November 2016 to 26 March 2017.

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
Stadhouderslaan 41
2517 HV Den Haag
The Netherlands

Visit Gemeentemuseum Den Haag here

food and travel reviews

Givenchy and Hepburn at Gemeentemuseum, The Hague

Givenchy and HepburnThe yellow brick Art-Deco museum is solid and striking and an icon of its time. Built between 1931 and 1935, it was designed by the Dutch architect H. P. Berlage, described as the Dutch Frank Lloyd Wright. Berlage believed this would be his greatest work but unfortunately it was also to be his last as he died a year before the building was finished. Its light and spacious interior and still-contemporary colour scheme present a venue which is most apt for this gorgeous exhibition of clothes designed for Audrey Hepburn by Hubert de Givenchy.

This collection, called Hubert de Givenchy – To Audrey with Love, gives a warm insight into Hubert de Givenchy’s career, many of his favourite creations, and, equally important, his close friendship with Audrey Hepburn. Part of the exhibition highlights their personal and professional association which began in 1953.

Givenchy created some of Ms Hepburn’s most celebrated film costumes. They were seen in such movies as How to steal a Million, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Charade. One can see these and more along with sketches, magazine covers and memorabilia at this unmissable exhibition which is presented in cooperation with UNICEF Netherlands.

This is not the first Givenchy exhibition here. In 1988 the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague presented a show called ‘Hubert de Givenchy: Haute Couture worn by Audrey Hepburn’ and the launch was attended by both Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy.

Givenchy and Hepburn Audrey Hepburn was de Givenchy’s muse and it’s easy to see why she captured the heart of this renowned designer. She had a unique and fresh beauty which lasted through the decades but she is also remembered for her personal qualities of genuine compassion, generosity and natural charm. M. de Givenchy relates that Ms Hepburn would greet electricians on the film sets just as readily as she would the director or her co-stars.

In 1988 she became a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, the organization that works to improve the lives of children around the world. She travelled to impoverished countries to draw attention to the importance of education and healthcare. There is a gallery devoted to Ms Hepburn’s work with UNICEF and to raise funds for the organisation.  A proportion of the profits from merchandise will be donated, as will money collected from the popular photo booth where wannabe stars can dress in hats and dark glasses and dream of being on the cover of Vogue!

Hubert de Givenchy was born on 21 February 1927 in Beauvais, Oise, and design was in his blood. He was the younger son of Lucien Taffin de Givenchy, Marquis of Givenchy, and his wife, Béatrice Badin. Givenchy’s maternal great-grandfather, Jules Dieterle, was a set designer who also created artwork for the Beauvais tapestry factory, and for the Elysée Palace. One of his great-great-grandfathers also designed sets for the Paris Opera.

Givenchy and HepburnThe first meeting between Hepburn and Givenchy, who would remain friends for four decades, started with a misunderstanding. M. de Givenchy was actually expecting Katharine, the only Hepburn of whom he had heard. However, Audrey had evidently heard of Hubert de Givenchy whose clients would include Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Maria Callas, Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and the Duchess of Windsor.

Audrey impressed M. de Givenchy on that very first meeting. She had youthful elfin beauty and wore simple Capri pants, flat shoes and a tee-shirt – a style that would have been considered ultra-casual for an actress at that time.  She begged the designer to make her wardrobe for the film Sabrina.  He explained to Audrey that there was no time for him to produce a bespoke movie wardrobe but that she could look at already-finished costumes and take her pick.  That proved to be a wise invitation!

Givenchy and HepburnAudrey Hepburn was undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest beauties, and considered one of the best-dressed women. The costumes designed by M. de Givenchy defined an era but they still resonate with lovers of well-cut clothes these days. Clean lines, elegance and well-chosen materials with thoughtfully paired accessories still turn heads. This marvellous exhibition shows that good taste lasts. It’s a must-visit for any lover of the films of Audrey Hepburn or of the iconic couturier Hubert de Givenchy. It’s a positive delight of fabric and form.

The exhibition: Hubert de Givenchy – To Audrey with Love, runs from 26 November 2016 to 26 March 2017.

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
Stadhouderslaan 41
2517 HV Den Haag
The Netherlands

Visit Gemeentemuseum Den Haag here

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Gouda Candle Night, Gouda
16 December 2016

Gouda by Candlelight, known colloquially as Kaarsjesavond (Candle Night), is a famous annual Christmas event in the city of Gouda. This tradition is marked by countless lit candles, singing, and festivities.

Gouda Candle Night, Gouda Thousands flock to Gouda by Candlelight every year, including important national and international guests. The event is held at the central market square in front of the Gothic town hall. Street and electric lights are turned off, and instead the evening is lit by candles placed in windows facing and around the square. The Mayor gives a speech and lights a towering Christmas tree adorned with thousands of light bulbs to create a truly magical experience. The Christmas tree is an annual gift from its Norwegian sister city, Kongsberg.

Candle Night in Gouda is a long-running tradition spanning decades. Choirs gather to sing Christmas carols with audiences enthusiastically joining in. Attendees visit nearby churches and museums following the celebration. Gouda became known for producing quality candles around the mid-19th century, although it is probably most famous for its other waxy product – Gouda cheese. Gouda candles are made from a natural wax that burns steadily for hours and can be purchased around the city as souvenirs.

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Rijsttafel in The Hague

I love The Netherlands and am an unashamed supporter. It’s an oft-disregarded tourist destination even though it’s easy to get to from London. Short breaks are more usually taken in Paris or Berlin. That’s a shame as Dutch cities offer history, architectural charm and delicious food. Yes, dear reader, that statement isn’t an affectation of a rampant auto-correction error.

The Hague is a refined and beautiful city with a wealth of high-end dining options. One can eat relatively cheaply on local specialities but there is also a style of dining that one is unlikely to find elsewhere. I refer to the celebrated Rijsttafel which is hardly known outside The Netherlands, but it has nothing to do with cheese or herrings. This array of dishes has its birth in faraway Indonesia.

Rijsttafel in The Hague Dutch Indonesian cuisine has its roots in the former Dutch colonies of the East Indies which became Indonesia. It was brought back to the Netherlands by former colonials and exiled Indonesians after Indonesia gained its independence in 1945. The rijsttafel remained popular with those returning Dutch families. Ironically, when Indonesia became independent, nationalism increased and Dutch colonial traditions, including the rijsttafel, were largely swept away and it has almost entirely disappeared from Indonesia's own restaurants.

Dutch cuisine, in general, has been much influenced by other cultures and their foods. Holland headed the lucrative international spice trade in the 17th century. This wasn’t just one-way traffic as the colonists also introduced coffee to Indonesia, and in fact Indonesia was the first country outside Arabia and Ethiopia to grow coffee.

The Dutch feast, the rijsttafel, is a marriage of Indonesian dishes and, if one believes some explanations, Dutch frugality. I was told by an Indonesian, although with a twinkle in his eye, that the spread of multiple dishes, the ‘rice table’, was a way of using up the leftovers from meals of previous days. I am not entirely convinced by that explanation as I would think the tropical heat and lack of a good fridge in those days would make eating lingering meaty plates a little dicey.

The Hague has many good Indonesian restaurants and one of those is Blauw, part of a small chain, which offers smart casual dining on a full menu of individual Indonesian dishes as well as the iconic rijsttafel, an extravaganza that is best shared with others, who should come with a sense of culinary adventure and big appetites. A feast at Blauw is memorable and spectacular. The dishes are varied, attractive and delicious giving a gastronomic overview of the food and spices of Indonesia.

The meat and fish selection consists of Chicken Satay which is an unmissable classic, Goat Satay, Turmeric Beef, Spicy Beef, Sweet Soy Pork, Meat-Potato Pastry, Spicy Fried Potatoes, Spicy Shrimp, Shrimp Satay, Fish Curry, Fish in Soy sauce, Steamed Fish, Vegetables with Peanut Sauce, Roasted Coconut, Sweet-Sour Cucumber, Fried Banana, Tofu in Soy Sauce, Egg in Sambal Sauce, Vegetables with Coconut Sauce. That should surely be enough to sate the healthiest of appetites. All the above are served with White Rice and Fried Rice which should be eaten with small portions of the spicy dishes. No need to pile your plate but rather choose a little of this and that, keeping the various curries and satays separate to enjoy their individual and distinctive flavours. Non-meat eaters are not forgotten at Blauw as there is also an equally-sizeable vegetarian option.

Discovering food and drink is such a big part of travel. It’s even more exciting when those discoveries are so unexpected and exotic. The Hague is home to embassies and head offices of international companies. The population of this grand city expect the best and it’s easy to find. Blauw offers the style of meal over which to linger along with discerning friends who will appreciate the rich tapestry of flavours and colours. Order the rijsttafel at Blauw for a meal that you will be talking about long after you return home.

Restaurant Blauw
Javastraat 13
2585 AB  's Gravenhage

Phone: 070-7200900

Visit Blauw here

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The Princess, the Palace and the Painter

Escher OK, so I have lied and we are only into the first paragraph! The Princess, the Palace and the Painter is an intriguing title with almost fairy-tale charm. All the characters are real, although the Painter was actually an Artist, but that didn’t begin with a ‘P’.

The story is set in The Hague in the Netherlands with a queen who was born in Germany. Emma was a princess of the principality of Waldeck-Pyrmont. The family was connected, as all European noble families seem to be, to the British monarchy and others. Her brother, Friedrich, was the last reigning Prince of Waldeck-Pyrmont and her sister, Helena Frederica, became the wife of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Emma’s marriage in 1879 to the elderly William III, King of Holland, was considered a marriage of convenience as he was 40 or so years her senior.  William’s first wife had died two years before. He had a bad reputation as "the greatest debauché of the age" and had already been rejected by Emma's sister Pauline and by Princess Thyra of Denmark.

William wished to be succeeded by a son. He had three with his first wife but they had passed away before their father. However, it was a daughter who arrived and eventually became Queen Wilhelmina. She was only ten years old when her father died, leaving Emma as Regent till Wilhelmina reached her majority.

Queen Emma became extremely popular, in contrast to her late husband. She is said to have saved the Dutch monarchy and been the cornerstone of its strength in modern times. She lived in many palaces but bought Lange Voorhout Palace in 1896 as her winter home.

In 1760, Pieter de Swarte had designed a house on the Lange Voorhout for the mayor of the Friesian town Sloten. The building was purchased in 1796 by Archibald Hope who was a financier of the European nobility. Queen Emma bought the building with the legacy from her brother-in-law Prince Hendrik. She evidently thought the old house needed updating as she had it extensively remodelled before, in 1901, taking up residence after the marriage of her daughter Queen Wilhelmina.

Escher These days the palace can be visited by anyone interested in architecture as well as art, for it is now also a gallery. We can see the celebrated staircase up to the first floor with its copper rail that in the time of Queen Emma had to be polished each week by Royal command. Only three people could use those ornate stairs: her majesty and her two most trusted ladies-in-waiting. The servants had to use the staircase that runs behind the walls and this is still used by visitors today. Queen Emma converted the garden room into a ballroom, she added stained glass and a bathroom with hot water.

This building was not only the Winter Palace of Queen Emma, but also the working palace for the Princesses Wilhelmina, Juliana and Beatrix. There was a famous and much-photographed tradition of hand-waving by the Royal Family on the balcony at the front of the building. The family sold the building to the local authority of The Hague on condition that it would only be used for cultural activities – and that’s where the artist comes into view.

Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) is one of the world's most famous graphic artists. His works are recognised by millions of people across the globe – one might not know his name but he created so-called impossible constructions, such as Ascending and Descending, Relativity, Transformation Prints, the Metamorphosis series, and many more works that intrigue and provoke thought.

Escher’s other works are less familiar but are, in my opinion, just as striking and they show a more traditional face of this multi-talented native of The Netherlands. He produced beautiful and much more realistic pieces when he lived and travelled in Italy. He made 448 lithographs, woodcuts and wood engravings and over 2000 drawings and sketches. He illustrated books, designed tapestries, murals and postage stamps.

Escher in Het Paleis (Escher at the Palace) is a permanent exhibition dedicated to this unique artist. It is the only public building in The Hague where the original royal ambience of a palace has been preserved, making this a must-see for any discerning visitor to the town. There are over 150 prints and a changing selection of graphic art and tessellations.  The centrepiece of the exhibition is the 7-meters long Metamorphosis III. The exhibits are displayed in rooms decorated in classic fashion with whimsical glass chandeliers which are in themselves noteworthy.

Escher Maurits Cornelis Escher would, I don’t doubt, approve of this home for his life’s work. The fabric of the building offers an insight into a bygone age of elegance and refinement, and Emma’s journey will fascinate those who follow European Royalty. The palace offers visitors art and history in a fashion that will be enjoyed by every member of the family, who will each take away something a little different from this delightful experience.

Learn more about Queen Emma, Maurits Cornelis Escher and the Palace here

Lange Voorhout 74
2514 EH Den Haag
Phone:+31 70 427 7730

Hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday 11:00 am – 5:00 pm

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Gouda – a cheese for all seasons

Gouda – a cheese for all seasons We have many cheese choices in specialist shops and even our local supermarket. Gouda can easily be overlooked. It seems to have been with us forever and we don’t even notice it anymore. The first mention of Gouda cheese dates from 1184, making it one of the oldest recorded cheeses in the world still being made.

This round, yellow cheese takes its name from the Dutch town of Gouda, just a short distance from Rotterdam. It’s the Netherlands’ most popular cheese and, in fact, accounts for more than 60% of the cheese produced in the country.

Gouda is a traditional hard cheese covered in a wax rind which is usually yellow but does also come in other colours. The flavour is mild and creamy but as the cheese ages the taste intensifies and becomes more interesting. The cheese is dried for a few days before being coated with a yellow waxy substance to prevent it from drying out further. Cheeses of 18 months old or more are considered as Mature Gouda and coated in black wax.

Gouda is pronounced "Hou-da" by the Dutch and is usually made from pasteurised cow’s milk. There are seven recognised types of Gouda cheese, listed by age. Graskaas (spring cheese) is young Gouda ready to be consumed within 4 weeks of production. Other designations are Young, matured 8 to 10 weeks, Matured – 16 to 18 weeks, Extra Matured – 7 to 8 months, Old Cheese – 10 to 12 months, and Very Old cheese – 1 year or more.  There is also the extra-aged, Overjarig cheese. Each cheese becomes firmer in texture and more complex with the passage of time. As it ages the cheese develops a caramel-like sweetness with crunchy crystals, making this the savoury cheeseboard equivalent of the very trendy salted caramel. Aged Gouda is perhaps my favourite hard-hard cheese.

Gouda – a cheese for all seasons Although the cheese is named after the Dutch city, the cheese isn’t made there, but Gouda is the centre for trading, as in the Middle Ages Dutch cities could be awarded total monopoly on certain goods – Gouda acquired the right to hold a cheese market. Most Gouda these days is produced in cheese factories but 300 or so farmers still produce "Boerenkaas", or Farmer’s cheese. This is a protected form of Gouda made in the traditional way using unpasteurized milk.

One can still visit that colourful market that is held one day each week for several months of the year. Porters in jaunty hats, farmers in blue traditional costume and noble wagon drivers all help to make this a lively spectacular. There is much banter for the benefit of the tourists, and handjeklap in which buyers and sellers slap each other's hands and shout prices until they agree, and that’s when the slap becomes a handshake. The porters carry the cheese to the weigh-house to be weighed, tasted and taxed.

Gouda is available in large wheels, each weighing between 10 and 25 pounds although there are some producers who make 60lb cheeses. They are mostly sold in smaller slices to the family shopper. It’s eaten in sandwiches, it’s used in cooking and the more mature cheese is cubed and nibbled along with a good glass of red or some beer.

Give Gouda a try. Find a good cheese shop and taste the unexpected depth of some fine Dutch cheese. The Cheese Market in Gouda is great fun. The town is beautiful with more to see and do when the market finishes. You could visit a restaurant and ask for Gouda Fondue or other dishes made from the town’s most celebrated product.

Gouda – a cheese for all seasons
Museumhavencafé for cheese fondue
Open from 1 May
Thursday - Sunday from 12:00 to 18:00
Phone    +31 6 44267175

Visit Museumhavencafé here

Read another article about Gouda here

See more images of Gouda here

Learn more about Gouda here

Visit Voyages SNCF here

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Jim De Jong – Say it with flowers …and cheese

De Jong Rotterdam is fast becoming known for food. It’s the Netherlands and it might be a bit of a cliché, but, yes there is cheese. Chef Jim De Jong was challenged to make a menu composed of Holland’s most iconic staple, and his creations were stunning.

Jim has his culinary focus on seasonality, freshness, and vegetables, with the addition of herbs and flowers. He grows as much as he can and then buys local wherever possible. His menus are constantly changing and evolving. He is influenced by French cuisine as well as traditional Dutch.

We asked Jim to present six courses with the common factor being cheese. Many a chef would be daunted by the prospect but Jim was delighted at the very thought of creating a feast that would remain engaging, exciting and intriguing right to the last bite. He presented dishes that were beautiful, delicious and fun.

De Jong Restaurant De Jong is underneath the arches – railway arches, that is. That might not sound a classy address but this neighbourhood is being polished and preened and is becoming a magnet for energetic chefs and bar owners.

It’s a light, bright and contemporary restaurant with an open kitchen. It is tastefully understated, offering not a hint of the quality of food awaiting its diners. The tables are well-spaced in this restaurant, with ambiance that changes as the sun goes down.

Smoked quail’s egg with Hay-mayonnaise and mustard powder was our first dish, or more accurately, bowl – the serving vessels are well considered at Restaurant De Jong. The spice offered a sharp counterpoint to the egg and the creamy mayonnaise.

White asparagus and Bergens Blonde cheese, samphire and buckwheat followed. The cheese was soft with Brie notes but this is Dutch. The white asparagus is much preferred in Europe to the green which is ubiquitous in the UK.

De Jong Blauwklaver cheese with artichoke, lemon, flax seed and oxalis was next. This ’blue clover’ is a soft blue cheese and one which I shall be seeking on my next trip to the Netherlands. Oxalis was the floral garnish and is a member of the wood-sorrel family.

Pickled onions and radish, Charmeur goat's cheese broth, and lovage with radish flowers was my dish-of-the-meal. Those pickles had bite that complemented the cheese. Reminded one of the very best cheese and onion crisps one has ever tasted …in less crunchy form.

Green asparagus, old Texels sheep's cheese and mustard was next in line. Texel is one of the Dutch Wadden Islands. This cheese is made from raw sheep’s milk, and has been produced for more than 500 years on the island. This is another cheese for the wish-list.

De Jong Dessert was rhubarb, lavender and yoghurt, giving a perfumed finale to the meal which was inspiring, amusing, conversation-provoking and the most marvellous showcase for Dutch cheese and dairy products. It’s a shame that the Netherlands seems known outside its borders only for Edam and Gouda. These are both fine cheeses, but one could have quite a gastronomic adventure in Holland just discovering the lesser-known local cheeses.

Chef Jim De Jong might not consider himself an ambassador but he proved himself to be just that. He has passion and culinary vitality. His support of local food is commendable and he offers both the Dutch and visitors a glimpse of how good the food here can be. You might not get a chance to eat these same dishes but perhaps this menu will give a few ideas. It’s a sure bet that Chef Jim will have other memorable dishes for you.

Restaurant De Jong
Boog 1/Raampoortstraat 38
3032 AH Rotterdam

Phone: 010 465 7955

Visit Restaurant De Jong here

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Around Gouda

Around gouda Gouda is a city and municipality in the province of South Holland. It’s an historic town which was granted city status in 1272 by Floris V, Count of Holland. Most tourists will know Gouda cheese but might not even realise that there really is a town of the same name, which has more to offer the world than its delicious namesake.

In the Middle Ages a settlement was founded by the Van der Goude family, who built a castle on the banks of the Gouwe River. This low-lying area was originally marsh but has been drained. By 1225, a canal was linked to the river and its estuary was made into a harbour.

Gouda is a strikingly beautiful town with easily walked streets. The Old City Hall at the Markt square was finished in 1450 and is one of the oldest Gothic city halls in the Netherlands. The Waag (weigh house) was built in 1667 and is found just opposite. It is an imposing structure with a marble frieze (the original of which can be seen inside the building) depicting the process of weighing cheese and noting the weight for taxes.  It is now a national monument and houses a cheese museum and souvenir shop.

The Gouda Cheese Market is held every Thursday morning from 2 April to 27 August. One can enjoy the traditional scene of farmers haggling over the price of cheese with the traders. There is much hand-slapping before the deal is finally sealed with a handshake, just as it has always been. These days have a festive air with many of those farmers, wagon drivers and cheese shifters wearing tradition costume. Yes, there are plenty of clogs.

Around gouda Grote or St. Jans Kerk (Great or Saint John Church) is the longest church in the Netherlands. It’s dedicated to John the Baptist, the patron saint of this town, and was built between the 15th and 16th centuries. But it’s more famous for its stained glass windows which were made between 1530 and 1603. The windows were made and installed primarily by the brothers Dirk and Wouter Crabeth. I am no glass specialist but these windows are the finest and most numerous in one building that I have hitherto found in my travels. As far back as the 17th century they were considered a tourist attraction. In 1939, at the start of World War II, the stained glass was removed for safe keeping; the windows were restored when peace once again reigned. This must surely be one of the most impressive town churches in Europe. The simple white walls are a perfect foil for the bright illumination of the coloured glass.

A stroopwafel or syrup waffle is a classic Dutch confection and a speciality of Gouda, its town of origin. These are addictive sweet waffle biscuits which are deftly cut through to produce 2 discs which are spread with a caramel sauce. They are made on waffle irons with shallow indentations to produce a fine lattice. A firm dough rather than a batter is made from flour, butter, brown sugar, yeast, milk, and eggs. The sweet filling is made from boiling together molasses, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon.

The stroopwafel was first made around the late 18th century by a baker using breadcrumbs and syrup. In the 19th century, there were around 100 waffle makers in Gouda, which was, at that time, the only city in which they were made. After 1870 they were also produced in markets in other cities. In the 20th century factories started making the popular biscuits, and several still exist, helping to stock supermarkets around Holland and beyond.

Around gouda One cannot live by stroopwafel alone although many would probably have tried. For those looking for Gouda’s savoury dishes then visit the park near the Mallegat Luis at the Schielands High Seawall. Here you will find the small but perfectly formed Museumhavencafé in 'tIJsselmeer House. This building was once the waiting room for skippers of vessels going through the locks. These days it’s a café which serves such delights as cheese fondue along with local beer and spirits. If you are lucky you might be serenaded by an accordion player.

Holland is a small country with an exceptional transport network connecting its cities and towns to each other as well as European rail hubs. It’s now possible to reach Gouda easily from London by train with just a couple of changes. Voyages SNCF might be the first place to look for travel advice for any history-, cheese- and cookie-loving tripper. They will help plan rail transport to Gouda as well as other destinations in The Netherlands and the rest of Europe.

Open from 1 May
Thursday - Sunday from 12:00 to 18:00
Phone    +31 6 44267175

Visit Museumhavencafé here

Read another article about Gouda here

Learn more about Gouda here

Visit Voyages SNCF here

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François Geurds – unassuming genius

François Geurds – unassuming genius I have met François Geurds on a few occasions now. A couple of times at his eponymous FG Restaurant and also at the newer Food Lab. For once, the Michelin judges have awarded their coveted stars with logic and insight.
But it wasn’t just the food that impressed me, it was also the man. I know that Michelin judges are looking for ‘impressive’ in a juggernaut kinda way, but François is impressive with warmth, sense of fun and passion for his food. You can really imagine that this chap actually has friends!

Although based in The Netherlands, François Geurds has travelled the world honing his craft. He has worked in the New York kitchens of three-Michelin star Per Se with Thomas Keller, at WD 50 with Chef Wiley Dufresne, and at Le Bernardin. He moved to Italy to gain experience in the two-star restaurant of Gualtiero Marchesi. I talked to François about his life and travels.

What are this chef’s first memories of food? ‘I can remember when I was 8 years old, cooking with my mother. She would be cooking for a couple of hours every day. I would cook with her, standing on a stool and I made my first cake when I was a kid. I was fascinated when watching the cake rise. It was like a living organism. I wanted to learn about what was going on inside the cake. I am still interested in cooking from the science point of view.

‘I only ever wanted to be a chef when I was growing up. When I was 12 years old I was working in a restaurant. I was still studying and enjoying sport but, yes, cooking was my passion and it still is. Every single day of the week I am thinking and reading about gastronomy. It’s my life. I was 14 when I got a job at my first Michelin-star restaurant. Over the years I have worked at many 1, 2 and 3-star restaurants. I have worked in New York, Italy, Belgium. You have to spread your wings and look around and see things outside your own country. European chefs travel all over the world, French chefs to New York, for example.

François Geurds – unassuming genius ‘I like to travel. If you want to be a good chef you need to travel to see what they are doing and what they are doing differently elsewhere. I think it makes you more complete. I have lived away from home for half my life: it’s made me the chef I am now.’

What are the culinary influences for this globe-trotting chef? ‘I like Asian food and I like South American food. Most of all I like cooking that comes from the heart. That’s what makes a good chef. Thai cuisine I find to be quite pure. It has such a lot of ingredients. Beautiful people, great food. They really have a passion for food. Last year I visited Japan – Osaka and Tokyo. I was really interested in the respect they pay to their ingredients. It was an amazing thing to see; you don’t realise until you actually go there. It’s always good to travel for a couple of weeks just to see such things. You realise there is still a lot to learn.

‘I had an ambition to be a good chef, a successful chef, making good food – it was that way with me. I am really glad to have achieved that and am able to work with the best products one can find. It’s a privilege.

‘I opened my first restaurant over 5 years ago and within 6 months I had my first Michelin star. In another 4 years we had the second star. We are still working hard to serve the best dishes we can.’ Recently François added another star to his growing firmament with one for FG Food Lab.

François indulges his obsession with food and experimentation at his two restaurants. They are distinctly different in ambiance. FG Restaurant is conventional with a smart-casual character. It appeals to discerning diners who appreciate culinary flair in accessible surroundings. This isn’t a stiff, starchy and intimidating establishment: it’s about good food and company without layers of formality.

François Geurds – unassuming genius ‘At the start of 2014 I opened my second restaurant, and it’s called Food Lab. It’s called that as it’s a technical test kitchen. It has the feeling of a San Sebastian tapas bar. We try and serve good food in a relaxed atmosphere.’ The Food Lab is unique. It’s actually under the railway arches in Rotterdam and that might not sound too appealing but it’s at the very hub of this posh and trendy city. François has constructed his own gastronomic workshop. The restaurant is intimate and cosy with the aforementioned arches creating a wine-cellarish scene. The open kitchen allows virtually every guest the impression of sitting at the Chef’s Table, or almost. I asked François why he wanted a food lab. ‘I look for and find how things work in nature. I work to discover how we might improve on the flavours, how we can improve the structure.’

This charming and natural chef has achieved so much in a vibrant city that is sadly too often overlooked by food tourists. But what next? ‘In future I want to combine more dishes from the two restaurants. We are trying to explore that – crazy things. We are always looking for ways to introduce a bit of humour. It’s a memory of childhood – it gives you a cosy feeling.’ It sounds like François Geurds has come full circle, but I don’t think so: this chef is still very much on a journey, and a delicious one.

FG Restaurant
Lloydstraat 204
3024 EA Rotterdam
The Netherlands
Phone: +31 (0) 10 425 0520

Opening times:
Tuesday - Thursday 12:00 noon to 14:00 pm - 6:30 p.m. to 21:00 pm
Friday and Saturday 12:00 noon to 14:00 pm - 19:00-21:00 pm

Katshoek 41
3032 AE Rotterdam
The Netherlands
Phone: +31 (0) 10 425 0520

Opening times:
Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
Thursday / Monday – 11:00am to 15:00pm - 5:00pm to 22:00pm

Visit Food Lab here

Visit FG Restaurant here

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The Netherlands - A Liberating Interlude

I am, as regular readers will have noticed, an unapologetic supporter of The Netherlands. It’s a small country that not only welcomes the British tourist but embraces them. There are few language problems, yes the water is safe to drink, the little-known food is delicious, and there is history and landscape aplenty.

2014 is a year of commemoration of the start of Liberation across Europe at the end of the Second World War. The Netherlands has its portion of the Liberation Route which offers a new generation, and indeed several generations, a glimpse of those tragic days. There are fewer living eye-witnesses with every year that passes. The Netherlands has done a sterling job of the preservation of facts.

The Netherlands Liberation Liberation Route Europe is an ever-growing international remembrance trail, linking those significant events of modern European history. Liberation Route Europe connects the main regions along the way of the Western Allied Forces’ advance. The towns of Arnhem and Nijmegen played a great part in the story of the conflict. There are around 50 boulders at various locations throughout the region, the so-called Listening Locations, where you can learn about the people who lived and fought there during 1944 and 1945. The audio stories are available on the Liberation Route website and can be downloaded free.

One might assume that a Liberation Route tour would be strictly for enthusiasts of all things military - those who sport khaki sweaters all year round and probably boast a kitchen modelled on a NAAFI canteen. Not a bit of it. I am a woman of a certain age with not the slightest interest in wars, apart from being an enthusiastic supporter of the notion that they are probably not a good idea. The Netherlands presents history wrapped in charm, excitement and even fun.

We met Bert Eikelenboom who runs Liberation Tour and owns an original World War 2 Dodge. For the untutored, and I certainly was, this is something like a big Jeep, so it’s a Beep. We snuggled in the back under fleeces and listened to Glenn Miller as we drove through, initially, streets and then into open countryside. Bert can lead you through the fields where the famous Market Garden parachute drop took place. He can also take you to the National Liberation Museum which will give all the background to the events before, during and after Liberation. It’s seldom one has the chance to interact with living history, but this unique tour is informative and gently thrilling.

Another site of battle at the time of Market Garden and at the end of the war is the town of Arnhem. The Information Centre for the Battle of Arnhem is at the foot of the John Frost Bridge. This small but animated museum will tell the story of bloodshed and heroism but without glorification. Both military and civilian stories are illustrated here, bringing events to life.

The Netherlands Liberation The Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’ is a larger affair than the Arnhem centre. Its exhibits have their focus mostly on the British 1st Airborne Division. It was a hotel during WWII and for a short time became General Urquhart’s HQ during the ill-fated Market Garden landing. It was retaken by the Germans and one can still see a bullet hole in a handrail. The kids will love that! The gardens are delightful so plenty of chance for relaxed contemplation.

The small towns and villages are picturesque and it’s hard to believe that this area was at the epicentre of international hostilities 70 years ago. There are statues and poignant monuments that remind one of those times but this is not an area given over to mawkish sentiment. It’s a beautiful region with plenty to see and do, and some rather smart restaurants and hotels, too.

Landgoed Jachtslot de Mookerheide was built in 1903 and is any architecture-lover’s dream. It took advantage of the design trends of the era and is a veritable showcase of the Art Nouveau movement. Its original features include stained glass, tiles and sumptuous dark wood, and all with the classic organic lines of the period, reflecting the taste of the original owner who built this gem as a personal residence and hunting lodge. He was Baron Jan Jacob Luden and he commissioned brothers Oscan and Henry Leo Jr. to build Jachtslot Mookerheide. He lived there till 1910 when, to pay debts, the lodge was sold at a fraction of the cost of building.

During the Second World War both German and Canadian soldiers were stationed at Jactslot Mookerheide - but not at the same time. Remarkably the lodge survived the war without any damage, and in 1946 the property was purchased by the Dominican Nuns of Bethany to use as a convent. The Sisters remained until 1985, when the convent was sold to the Van Hout family and was converted into the hotel and restaurant that we see today. It’s now a national monument and worth a visit for lunch or an overnight stay. It’s close to Het Rijk Golf Club, National Liberation Museum, and Bijbels Openluchtmuseum.

The Netherlands Liberation Hotel Courage Sionshof is set in a forested area near Nijmegen and offers an attractive restaurant and a garden terrace. Nijmegen is an 8-minute drive away. Built in 1930 the Hotel Sionshof has cultivated a reputation for friendly hospitality. It played a part in World War II as it was the headquarters for the Germans for 4 years. On 17 September 1944 the hotel was re-taken by General Gavin and was used as headquarters for the Allies before the liberation of Nijmegen. There’s a Liberation Route boulder next to the hotel which gives some background to that event.

The rooms here are spacious and my room sported a bathroom of generous proportions. It was comfortable and cosy and more like a domestic bedroom than a room at a commercial hotel. However, it’s the dining room that is the jewel in the hotel’s crown. It’s light and airy with Art Deco elements that set this room apart from many another hotel restaurant. The quality of the décor is matched by the food which is fresh and well-presented.

It’s always good to find a truly different hotel. There are those with striking historic features, others have memorable views …and then there are those which present the guest with an all-round different experience. That would be Hotel Papendal! It’s a Sport Hotel but don’t fear, dear inert reader, one is not forced into a track-suit or, for heaven’s sake, a leotard. It’s a hotel that offers outstanding facilities to sportsmen and women.

The setting is tranquil and the only clue that energetic sorts are courted are the groups of young and trim guests who are indeed wearing track-suits …or skateboard attire. The up-side that will no doubt balance your shame (“Will join the gym next week”) is that food here is great. Breakfast is memorable and truly the brekkie of champions with a choice that puts many 5-star hotels to shame. Rooms are contemporary and the location is both convenient and green. There are jogging and Nordic Walking routes and others for mountain biking in the hotel grounds.

Netherlands food  and travel review The Netherlands in general offers so much to the visitor. It has history, beauty, delicious and unpublicised food - and it’s accessible. The Liberation Route offers a look at a very particular time, and that picture is framed in charming fashion.

Visit Liberation Route Europe here

Visit the Airborne Museum Hartenstein here

Visit Liberation Tour here

Visit Mookerheide here

Visit Hotel Courage Sionshof here

Visit Hotel Papendal here

Visit Stenaline here

food and travel reviews

The Tomb of the Unknown Uncle - Flowering of Liberation

Dutch liberation 2014 is a special year and after my recent visit to the Netherlands I am reminded that every year should be special. This year we remember the Liberation of parts of Europe, towards the end of the Second World War, and the heroism not only of servicemen but of civilians.

This was a bitter-sweet trip. I love Holland and I am there as often and for as long as possible. I have enjoyed its delicious and underpublicised food (there is much more to delight the palate than cheese). I have photographed modern and historic architecture and have appreciated the relaxed and vibrant lifestyles of those lucky enough to call the Netherlands home.

But I have a very personal connection with this friendly land. You might say that my family own a small part of it. My Uncle Bill rests there, and not by choice. He was killed over Holland in 1942 - yes, a couple of years before the start of the official Liberation Route, but that route could be said to have started back in 1939 when invasions and aggression made war inevitable.

So the tomb of my unknown soldier, for I never met my uncle, focused my mind. There is a formal Debt of Honour Register which states: In Memory of WILLIAM JOHN BARKER Sergeant 75 Squadron, Air Force Volunteer Reserve who died on Saturday 6 September 1941. Age 33.

This man didn’t have the blessing of a long life but he was a decade or so older than those others who died with him. Ironically I even know the name of the German pilot who shot down my uncle’s plane. One might suppose I would harbour ill-will and be heaping curses upon that man’s house. But it’s the nature of war that people are obliged to kill and others are obliged to die. All these young men were just doing their jobs.

During this Liberation Route visit I had the privilege to interview Jan Loos who was just a teenager living near Arnhem in 1942. His country had been under occupation for years. He explained that there was a big difference between regular servicemen and the SS, for instance. He became friends with a German officer who had a son of Jan’s age. There are no winners in war: the Liberation Route serves not to revel in victory but to celebrate the freedom that cost so many so much.

Dutch liberation The Liberation Route does truly exist. It’s not just a strategic process but a physical path that crosses The Netherlands with noteworthy stops along the way. It is a route that takes you to over 80 significant spots, each marked by a large stone and each one illustrating a particular event - stories of civilians and soldiers who lived or fought there between 1944 and 1945. The audio versions can be downloaded as MP3s from the Liberation Route website. They are historic milestones and they become more important as there are fewer and fewer eye-witnesses still alive.

Don’t expect a landscape scarred by warfare. Nature is gentle, forests are dense, and fields softly undulate. One listens to the whistle of birds rather than shells. One is refreshed by the perfume of dew-laden foliage rather than fuel and fire. There are poignant reminders: a shrapnel-pitted house wall, statues of evacuating women and children, monuments to the fallen.

But Holland is famed for flowers. Tulips provided food in the lean days at the end of the war, they have been immortalised in song, and those ubiquitous blooms are the icons for the tourist board - a far more beautiful logo than that of a ball of Edam or a bottle of gin. There can surely be no finer and no more apt celebration of Liberation than a brand new tulip.

Major (Retd) Kenneth George Mayhew RMWO, is the bearer of the highest Dutch military Medal of Valour. He was the guest of honour at the London Residence of the Ambassador of the Netherlands, Ms Laetitia van den Assum. Major Mayhew is now 97 years old and was not only the guest of honour in word but honoured in deed, as worthy military men of a new generation respectfully saluted him. I am touched that Dutch people continue to demonstrate their care for those who contributed to Liberation and those who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War II. Cemeteries are immaculate and often tended by school children who adopt a soldier or airman and look after his last resting place. It’s a source of comfort to us, the families of those servicemen.

Dutch liberation Major Mayhew officially baptised the new Liberation tulip and wetted the ‘baby’s head’ in champagne. The striking red and yellow flower was cultivated by celebrated Dutch bulb-grower JUB Holland for this important and unique occasion, which marks the first step in commemorating the liberation of the Netherlands which started with the ill-fated Operation Market Garden in 1944. The tulip was presented on behalf of all Allied Forces who took part in the liberation. Distinguished representatives of Australian, British, Canadian, Polish, New Zealand, and US forces attended, along with Major General Hoitink for the Dutch Chief of Defence Staff.

Members of the general public will be able to see the new tulip next year as two flower mosaics will be planted in the autumn. Kew Gardens in London will have one display and the other will be in Lincolnshire, from where the RAF launched Operation Manna which was a relief initiative to feed civilians. The Liberation Route and the tulip are not about glory. They are about memories and future. They are about lessons learnt and hope, about partnership and new-forged alliances. They are about peace, and offer reminders of the fragility of that treasure.

Holland offers so much; but the prospect of a trip to mainland Europe has us musing on a little bistro in Paris, although Holland has an exciting contemporary dining culture. We crave the arts, so that must be Rome, even though Holland has the Dutch Masters. There are few language barriers in Holland and that, even for this world traveller, is a bonus. We British feel at home in The Netherlands and there is always a warm welcome. That’s nothing new: it started 70 years ago.
Liberation Route Europe:
JUB Holland:

Picture of Chrissie Walker by Farrukh Younus

food and travel reviews

The War of Jan Loos

The last year of World War II offered the hope of an end to hostilities, but they were, in fact, a long way from being over. France and Belgium were liberated and The Netherlands was the logical next step.

The terrain is divided by waterways running from east to west but Allied forces would be moving from south to north. Bridges would play a decisive part in the success, or otherwise, of the legendary Market Garden offensive.

Jan Loos was a schoolboy and living in Oosterbeek at the time of the ill-fated military campaign, and he told me about the lives of civilians at that time. They are the most vulnerable in any conflict and their stories are so often overlooked. There are fine museums filled with guns and uniforms but there are voices that need to be heard. It’s many years since the end of the Second World War and those voices are getting faint with age, and there are fewer of them. Jan Loose has made it his mission to present a different perspective on warfare.

I met Jan at the Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’ in Oosterbeek, and this is his story of a few long days of war:

‘Sunday 17th September was a sunny day. My mother, my sister and I went to church as usual that morning. My Dad had left on his bicycle to go to work in Arnhem. He worked for the Regional Food Distribution Authority which was responsible for rationing the little food that was available. His office was near Arnhem Bridge and he didn’t know what was going to hit him!

Oosterbeek Market Garden ‘We saw the landing on that Sunday afternoon from our house as the weather was so beautiful. The whole sky was filled with aircraft and, for me as a junior pilot, it was like a festival. The first thing we saw were the bombers and they were so low it looked like they were flying at treetop level but they must have been at 500 - 600 feet. At high altitude we saw American bombers going into Germany. It was all very impressive.

‘What surprised us was that the low flying aircraft had a length of rope trailing behind and attached to the other end was a glider. We had never seen them before. We stood there in complete amazement. As we watched, the gliders disengaged and started to land just a couple of miles away from us. They disappeared behind the trees.

‘As soon as that landing had finished, still more aircraft flew in and all of a sudden the sky was filled with parachutes - there were more than 3000 paratroops who jumped, making a massive impression.

‘People in the streets started leaping up and down. They were out of their minds with joy. Finally we were being liberated! Flags came out and people were embracing each other. We were singing and we felt strong. We had watched the Allies land and we could not understand why they were not with us yet. All of that Sunday we didn’t see a single British soldier. They had been held up fighting the Germans.

‘There were no mobile phones and we didn’t know what was going on until my mother called Dad that evening. She said ‘I am going to tell Dad what we have seen today because he might like to know.’ There was one telephone in our area and that was at the butcher’s shop so she went there to call. When she returned she said, ‘Dad has already been liberated by the British soldiers in Arnhem who have taken over the office. They are holding the bridge.’ That night we went to sleep wondering when the others would arrive to liberate us.

‘The next morning I left the house and didn’t tell my mother I was going. During the night we had heard intermittent shooting. There were 9 dead Germans in the street. I had never seen a dead body before. I felt no emotion, we had been under occupation for four years. The night before, the Germans had picked up three civilians in our area and had executed them because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

‘I was never afraid - I was 14! Once in a while one might be afraid of being shot. Boys play with guns and play Cowboys and Indians and now this was real. My mother worried but I didn’t.

‘We saw them come just like the day before. We saw the gliders. We saw the parachutes. We watched as the gliders were hit. They just fell apart and it’s not just jeeps that fall out, it’s the soldiers they were carrying too. They didn’t have parachutes. We saw these people falling from the planes and it was no time to feel happy.
‘We didn’t sleep in our beds on Monday night as there had been too much shooting in the area. There were fires in the distance and Arnhem was one red glow. That indicated that things were not going smoothly. So we slept on the kitchen floor close to the basement so we could find shelter if needed.

‘All of a sudden on Tuesday morning, the door opens and there is a group of British. They pull down the curtains, they move the dresser, put a machine gun on top and pull up two chairs. That was an indication that they were expecting unwelcome visitors. My mother was in tears as they had ruined her beautiful furniture.

Oosterbeek Market Garden ‘There was no more water, no more electricity, no gas, and food was scarce. My mother talks to the neighbours and they decide to group together. So we move next door and prepare the basement. We pack a small bag each and while we do that we hear shells dropping nearby. We rushed to the basement and that’s where we spent Tuesday night.

‘My mother returned from phoning my father and said, “It’s bad news, Dad says the building is on fire and the Germans are back. He is leaving now and will try to get back to Oosterbeek.”

‘Wednesday was a day of sitting and waiting with the sound of battle getting nearer. The Germans were only 400 metres away from us. Most of the day we were in the basement. Oosterbeek started to look like a bomb site. You saw burning buildings and vehicles, and dead soldiers. On Thursday morning the ‘grown-ups’ decided that we should leave the town. The moment comes when we must go out into the open. We stumble along past our old house and try to make it out of town.

‘When we reached the main road I looked towards Arnhem and saw a tank. It fired in our direction. We saw the flash and heard the whoosh and an explosion. Some artillery shells landed around us. We lay flat on our faces waiting for it to be over. My mother yelled, “We go back.” Nobody argued. We didn’t move as a group this time but as a lot of individuals moving as fast as they could. So after an hour we were back in the basement again, without water or food.

‘We boys decided that we needed water. We picked up the buckets and made the trip to the pump a couple of streets away. We didn’t realise that the Germans were in the back yards of the houses surrounding the pump. Shells landed all around us and we would dive for cover, go on again and dive again.

‘We arrived at the pump and we pumped quickly! The buckets were full of water so what should we do? We walked! No running and diving for cover as all the water would have been lost. I remember very well the hair on the back of my neck stood up! The danger was behind us. We walked and tried not to think of what might happen. We were almost home when something hit my leg. I didn’t bother to look. I could still move so we walked on. It was nothing serious. I was lucky.

‘We sat all day Saturday just listening to shooting and wondering when this was all going to end. By Saturday night the Germans were just next door! A soldier tried to make it to our house but was hit. For four hours we listened to his cries of “Mum, help me, I’ve been hit!” We didn’t want to hear that. He was dying.

‘Early on Monday morning a German voice with authority asked, “Are there any civilians in the house?” It sounds threatening but we said, “Yes.” “Out in 2 minutes, hands up,” shouts the German. And then you have to make the decision. Do we come out or not? Knowing the British are in the house the Germans are right there and you have to go between them. I was sitting on the bottom step of the basement so I was the first one out. Just to the right of the door are the two British soldiers sitting on the floor. One of them is wounded. He looks at me and says, “Good luck.” I say “Good luck” and we shake hands.

Oosterbeek Market Garden ‘The house is partially destroyed so we didn’t have a door to go through - we just walked out. We walk down the garden path and there is a German lying behind a wall and waving us along. “Quick. Go.” And then you step out into the line of fire! Not thinking, because you can’t think. You just follow someone’s instructions. He apparently knows what to do. The firing stops for 10 - 15 seconds and then we are through. Behind us, hell breaks loose again. And it must have been hell because when we came back after the war there was not a trace of that house.

‘We leave Oosterbeek with nothing. We are refugees. We don’t have anything apart from the clothes we have on. Not knowing where to go, not knowing where we would sleep that night or where we would get something to eat, and depending on others to survive.

‘We go through the forest until, after 2 or 3 hours of walking, we finally hit a paved road and on that road are thousands of people who have left Arnhem. We spent a while trying to decide whether to go with them or find a place to sleep. A woman came out of the crowd and recognised my mother. She said, “Your husband is looking for you. I have just been talking to him.” 200 metres away was my Dad. That was a pretty happy reunion, I can tell you! We stood there and just held each other, so happy to see each other all in one piece.
‘We finally ended up in a small farming village in the north of Holland where we spent the rest of the war - 10 months till June 1945. We didn’t know what we would find when we came back. When my mother saw what was left of her home and all the things inside she cried. Everything was smashed, there was not a single thing intact. The roof had gone so rain and snow had come in.

‘Slowly things started to function again. Amazingly, in a very short time the water was running again but we had to find pots and pans to put it in. You could find things to eat but you needed a stove to cook on. As soon as we were inside our house our cat arrived. It had survived 10 months on its own. My mother saw the cat and said, “OK, now we are home.”

‘I have frequently been asked what I feel about Germans all these years after the war. There was a big difference between the regular soldier and the SS or the security police. I became friends with a Staff Officer - he had a son of my age. When you listen to stories of German soldiers they are the same as the British. In 1952 Germany joined NATO and then they were our colleagues. I can understand the mood of Germans after the First World War. They had been humiliated as no other nation had been humiliated. You can never be sure there will not be another war. Peace talks might look useless, but let them talk - as long as they don’t fight.’

To learn more about the liberation of the Netherlands visit Liberation Route Europe here

Visit the Airborne Museum ‘Hartenstein’ in Oosterbeek here

Stena Line (; 08447 70 70 70) offers twice-daily return six-hour crossings between Harwich and the Hook of Holland. Fares start from £118 return for an adult and car. Additional adults cost from £24 and children (between four and 15 years old) from £12 return. Infants (under four years old) travel free of charge. Rail and sail tickets available from £68 per person return (

Picture of Jan Loos courtesy of Farrukh Younus

food and travel reviews

The Hague – Staying and Eating – Contemporary and Historic

The Hague is indeed a ‘Royal’ city. You might even come across one of the ‘Oranges’, as they are considered perhaps the most accessible royal family in Europe. The Hague has been home to the House of Orange for more than four hundred years; first they were Stadholders and later gained the title of monarchs. Prince Maurits was the first of them to live in The Hague, in 1585, and the rest followed.

The Royal family had an entourage of nobles who also wanted to live in The Hague and these quality folks demanded fine homes, fine furnishings and the best of everything. The taste for the finer things in life is still reflected in the shops, restaurants and architecture of this masterpiece of a city. It retains the style of a very special historic town but it has a contemporary ambiance and great vibrancy.

It’s not only the Royal family that are accessible. The town is easily negotiated by the tourist via public transport. Bicycles are everywhere and they can be hired to give a truly local adventure, but the more conservative might prefer the all-weather comfort of buses and trams.

The hague You can buy a ticket for unlimited travel on public transport for the whole day. These tickets are valid on all public transport within The Hague as well as the neighbouring towns of Delft and Zoetermeer. Tickets may only be purchased in advance, and are available from most hotels, the Tourist Information Office (VVV) and at the HTM customer service desk in the train stations. The HTM Day Ticket can be purchased as a disposable paper ticket or as a plastic OV-chipcard and then you then can choose a 1-day, 2-day or 3-day ticket.

The day ticket is easy to use. All you need to do is swipe the ticket in and out at the tram or bus door when you get on and off. The day ticket is valid from when it is first swiped until the end of service that day, so it pays to start your adventure early to take best advantage.

The Hague has some striking and historic hotels and The Kurhaus is a beautiful example. The history of the hotel dates back to 1818 when Jacob Pronk opened a bathing house. No, that’s not a swimming pool but water therapy. The wooden building had just four rooms, each fitted with a bath tub which was filled with cold or heated seawater. This spa was so successful that in 1826 it was rebuilt in stone and expanded to include the hotel element, but was eventually torn down in 1884 to make way for the building we see today.

The new hotel was built by the German architects Johann Friedrich Henkenhaf and Friedrich Ebert but suffered serious fire damage so was rebuilt between 1886 and 1887. The Kurhaus fell into disrepair and closed in 1969, but was saved from demolition by being listed as a historic building. It was completely renovated, and was reopened in 1979 by Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands.

The Kurhaus Gastbook reads like an historic ‘Who’s Who’ and contains signatures of the great and the good who have enjoyed their stay in this iconic hotel. It was signed for the first time by Dutch Queen Wilhelmina in 1893, followed by Igor Stravinsky, Herbert von Karajan, Marlène Dietrich, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, King Haakon of Norway and Henry Kissinger.

Now known as the Steigenberger Kurhaus Hotel, it has 253 rooms and some of them have a sea view. The only thing separating the hotel from the wide beach is the promenade. The hotel exudes a timeless elegance which is evident even in the reception area, which sports a striking stained-glass ceiling. The architectural pièce de resistance is found just a short flight of stairs away, in the restaurant.

Even a bed and breakfast stay is memorable at this hotel. The restaurant is beautiful with painted ceilings and grand balconies. One might be distracted from the outstanding breakfast buffet and that would be a shame: graze in unhurried fashion and enjoy the classic architecture and calming ambiance.

Steigenberger Kurhaus Hotel
Gevers Deynootplein 30
2586 CK  The Hague
The Netherlands
Tel +31(0)70 416 2636
Fax +31(0)70 416 2646
Reservations: +31 (0)70 416 2630
Visit Steigenberger Kurhaus Hotel here

The hague The Hotel Des Indes for dinner will continue the theme of historic-tinted luxury. It’s a celebrated building erected in 1858 and not originally as a hotel but as a city palace. It’s been a hotel since 1881 but was completely renovated by interior designer Jacques Garcia in 2006 at a cost of a staggering €35 million. That is a surprising fact, as one has the impression of entering a stylish, tasteful and unaltered time-capsule.

The original building was the dream of Willem D.A.M. Baron van Brienen van de Groote Lindt en Dortsmunde, who was chamberlain to King Willem III and member of the Provincial States of South Holland. He wanted a home in The Hague to host parties and private functions. Willem died in 1863, leaving the palace to his son Arnold who sold it to an hotelier named Paulez.

Hotel Des Indes, like The Kurhaus, has a guest book of which to boast. The signatories include, amongst others, the former Empress Eugénie of France, President Paul Kruger of Transvaal, Sheik Feisal of Saudi Arabia, Mata Hari the celebrated First World War spy, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, and Josephine Baker the American entertainer who defined an age. Apparently she had a separate room for her pet monkey. Ballet dancer Anna Pavlova died in the hotel in 1931 of pneumonia, after aiding fellow passengers following a rail accident.

During The Second World War the hotel was used both by the occupying German forces and by the Jews in hiding. Long before the war started, the hotel manager Mr Rey had built a pigeon house on the roof of the hotel. The pigeon house later sheltered people in hiding. The war ended and American troops moved into the hotel; General Eisenhower, Winston Churchill and Field Marshal Montgomery also visited.

You might not be staying at Hotel Des Indes but you can enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner at a surprisingly reasonable price. A 3-course dinner is €49.50, a 4-course dinner €54.50, and that includes fresh local produce transformed into memorable dishes, and seamless service. This is accessible luxury and not to be missed.

Hotel Des Indes
Lange Voorhout 54-56
The Hague 2514 EG 
The Netherlands
Phone: +31 70 361 2345
Visit Hotel Des Indes here

So you have pampered yourself with two polished and historic hotels in The Hague. But one might need a break for some delicious light food and a nice cuppa during a day of walking and wondering at this delightful city. The Organic Café Juni is the spot that fits the casual culinary bill.

Café Juni, or Café June in English, is reminiscent of old-fashioned tea-rooms. It’s warm and cosy, or perhaps more accurately warm, cosy and small, so be prepared to wait …but it will be worth it. If the weather is cool then try the ever-changing Seasonal soup with bread, and perhaps follow that with a Bagel BLT; but save room for some cakes for which Juni is so famous. Walnut Mascarpone Tart with maple syrup, Banana Cake, Carrot Cake are all served in substantial wedges – and consider some hot chocolate, which comes highly recommended by regulars.

Opening hours
Monday: closed
Tuesday - Friday: 9:00am - 4:30pm
Saturday: 10:00am-17:00pm
Sunday: 11.00am-17.00pm

Café Juni
Molenstraat 63
2513 BJ The Hague
Phone: 070 3608106
Visit Juni here

The hague
The Netherlands is celebrated for its cheese, tulips and its fresh seafood. Catch Restaurant specialises, as its name suggests, in fish and shellfish. It’s on the marina of Scheveningen and has stunning views of both water and boats, as a backdrop to a meal of all things piscatorial.

The restaurant is new and smart. It’s just the style of eatery enjoyed by those stepping ashore from the neighbouring yachts. The décor is impressive, with mellow wood rippling and waving, and light reflecting from the marina. The food is simple and fresh. Even breaded fillets of white fish will tempt the discerning diner with delicate flavour. For those with cash to splash there are platters of oysters, lobsters and prawns. A glass of champagne would be the ideal garnish for such a celebratory meal.

Opening hours   
Monday - Sunday: 10:00am - 1:00am

Dr. Lelykade 43
2583 CL  Scheveningen
The Netherlands
Phone: 070-3387609
Visit Catch here

The Hague offers so much that it makes you wonder why you haven’t visited before, but this will likely be the first of many trips – there’s still that little Indonesian restaurant to investigate, and a rather nice department store sporting the Royal insignia.

To find out more about visiting The Netherlands click here

food and travel reviews

200 Years of The Netherlands

Dutch royal family Our links with The Netherlands have been long-standing. We shared a monarch in the guise of William III of England, known as William II in Scotland. He might be better known, to all but the most historically inclined, as the William of ‘William and Mary’ fame. The blood connection isn’t as strong now as then but the families are still close, being in the same ‘business’, so to speak.

Baby William was born on 4 November 1650 in The Hague in Holland. He would likely have been considered an unlucky infant; Charles Dickens might, a couple of hundred years later, have described him as a ‘posthumous’ child. His father, William II Prince of Orange, had just died of smallpox. His mother was Mary Princess Royal who was the eldest daughter of King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland – it is he who lost his head the previous year – and sister of King Charles II and King James II & VII. William was born on his mother’s nineteenth birthday with little celebration, and one would be still further convinced that this lad was a Jonah when one learns that his mother followed his father just 10 years later, on Christmas Eve 1660, on a visit to England, when she too died of smallpox.

The Hague William was given the title Sovereign Prince of Orange from the moment of his birth. Willem III van Oranje, in Dutch, ruled over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic, and from 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland, William II over Scotland; he would be the last direct male descendant of his great-grandfather William the Silent, who was head of the Protestant Dutch of the United Provinces of The Netherlands in their struggle for independence from Spain.

William, as was typical of regal arrangements of the time, married his first cousin Mary Stuart, daughter of the future king James II of England. In 1689 the couple were offered the throne by the Parliament of England following William's successful invasion of England in 1688 in what became known as the ‘Glorious Revolution’, an action that would eventually overthrow King James (Mary's father and William's uncle/father-in-law) and gain them the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland. He and his wife were crowned the King and Queen of England on 11 April 1689. With the accession to the thrones of the three kingdoms, he became one of the most powerful sovereigns in Europe, and the only one to defeat Louis XIV of France.

The Hague On his death the title ‘Prince of Orange’ passed to a cousin, John William Friso, and his descendants reigned in Holland until theFrench invasion in 1795. The then William V, Stadholder of The Netherlands, went into exile in England and Germany, and died in 1806. His son William was determined to regain the throne of Holland, and, on the withdrawal of the French in 1813, was brought by HMS Warrior to land on the beach at Scheveningen on 30 November that year. He declared himself ‘sovereign prince’ and in 1815 became King William I of The Netherlands. His landing marked the start of independence of the Netherlands from the French and the beginning of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The British connection to the House of Orange continued via other descendants of John William Friso (Jan Willem). His son William IV was an ancestor of Princess May of Teck, who married King George V and became Queen Mary.

The festivities for ‘200 Years of the Kingdom’ is a Dutch national celebration with hundreds of people taking part in events including the re-enactment of the celebrated landing of William of Orange on Scheveningen beach. The new King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima attended on a cold, windy and wet day.

The Hague This ‘Landing Day’ is commemorated every 25 years in Scheveningen but this year was a special anniversary. Yes, the weather was grey but the enthusiasm of the participants and the audience was undiminished. Hundreds of traditionally-clad locals welcomed actor Huub Stapel playing the role of Prince William. The crowd cheered and waved orange flags as the ’king’ was carried shoulder-high through the angry sea to his waiting carriage. He processed to the grandstand to pay his respects to the authentic King and Queen, who acknowledged his contribution to the nation.

There is no need to wait another quarter-century to visit The Netherlands. It’s a country boasting a proud history, garnished with arresting architecture, festivals, fine food and welcoming locals.

To find out more about visiting The Netherlands click here.

food and travel reviews

Rotterdam - Culinary Comfort and Creativity

Holland might not be the first country springing to mind when one contemplates a gastronomic break, a food adventure. No, we muse on France, as their dishes are classic and the quality is legendary (some legends owe more to fantasy than fact); then there is New York with its perennial edgy vibe. Tempting, but one seems to spend so much time airport-queuing; how’s about Asia? A good choice but no good for a short trip.

Rotterdam restaurant review So where does Holland figure in the delicious calculation? The food is world-class. The waiters are polite. It’s not far away. It’s great value for money. No jet lag. But isn’t it all cheese? No, indeed there is everything the culinarily enlightened would to hope to find in any country, and more than one might find in some.

My focus was Rotterdam and I had no idea what to expect. In fact there are restaurants here to suit every taste and every pocket although even the high-end eateries seem reasonably priced by London standards. Las Palmas is a contemporary restaurant that is famed for its seafood.  It’s the domain of celebrity chef Herman den Blijker. Guests might find this bear of a man circulating throughout his restaurant, between tables that one would be advised to reserve. The meat dishes here are also creditable but it’s a shame to miss such fine fish. Dinner here is a casual yet memorable event.

Las Palmas
Wilhelminakade 300
3072 AR Rotterdam
Phone +31 10 213 2011
Visit Las Palmas here
Rotterdam restaurant review

Rotterdam neighbourhoods still boast historic buildings attesting to its vibrant past, and one can enjoy a metaphoric taste of those days at The New York Hotel. The menu is eclectic and modern but the building was once a shipping office for a line that carried emigrants to a better life in the New World. A visit here is a must for anyone who wants to soak up some charming ambiance. Sunday brunch is buzzy, and afternoon tea might be welcome after a boat tour of the port. Plenty of ocean-liner memorabilia dotted around the public spaces, and the guest rooms are stunning!

Hotel New York
Koninginnenhoofd 1,
3072 AD Rotterdam
Phone: +31 10 439 0500
visit Hotel New York here

Asia has long had a relationship with Holland. The Dutch East India Company was active throughout the region of Malaysia and Indonesia, so the Dutch have an historic appreciation of all good Asian food. Anyone who wants to taste some of the best Chinese dishes in Rotterdam will book lunch or dinner at Asian Glories, where owners Jenny Fan Loh and chef S P Fan and family will invite you to experience an ever-changing menu. Restaurant guide SpecialBite has named Asian Glories as one of their top 10 restaurants in Rotterdam.

Asian Glories
Leeuwenstraat 15
3011 AL Rotterdam
Phone: +31 10 411 7107
Visit Asian Glories here

Holland has long been famed for its chocolate and cocoa powder, which is still sometimes referred to as ‘Dutch Processed’. In 1828 chemist Coenraad van Houten invented a process for extracting cocoa butter from raw cocoa, allowing the separation of cocoa powder. This gave chocolate a more consistent texture, and made it less costly to produce. This opened the door to chocolate bar manufacturers.

One can enjoy a chocolate masterclass at Chocoholic in Rotterdam. These classes can be booked for small groups of 6 or more potential chocolatiers. You will learn how to make your own hand-dipped chocolates and how to decorate and present in a chocolate basket. If your efforts are a bit misshapen then buy some professionally-made treats in the shop adjoining the kitchen studio. A masterclass here will be engaging fun for the whole family.

Goudsesingel 69

Phone: +31 10 218 3014

Rotterdam restaurant review
But I did mention cheese, and the Dutch are justifiably proud of their products. De Kaashoeve is a shop to gladden the heart of every lover of good cheese.  Located at the Oude Binnenweg this dairy boutique is hard to miss – it’s got a cow outside. No, not a real one but a full-sized homage to the mother of milk. It’s not just local cheeses that line the shelves here but those from other European countries too. The staff are knowledgeable and can point you in the direction of a suitable selection for an iconic cheeseboard, or some savoury wedges as gifts. It’s not only cheese on show at De Kaashoeve but all those things that act as garnishes for a spread of cheese. It’s a shop in which to linger and nibble. Enjoy!

De Kaashoeve
Oude Binnenweg 95a

Phone: +31 10 413 8644
Mon 12:00 – 18:00
Tue – Fri 09:00 – 18:00
Sat 09:00 – 17:00

Visit De Kaashoeve here

Rotterdam has a world-renowned and celebrated fish shop and a visit here should be on everyone’s list of must-dos. This isn’t a fish-and-chip shop so you won’t be spending hours lurking by the gherkins. This is both a wet-fish shop and a fish deli. Schmidt Seafood is found in the heart of Rotterdam near to one of its most famous landmarks, the Erasmus Bridge. It’s the Number One supplier to the high-end restaurants in the Netherlands and you can taste their goods here without a high-end price tag.

Rotterdam restaurant review Schmidt has its own smoke-house for salmon and eels. They offer marinated herring and a lesson on how to eat them. One can enjoy an oyster on the half-shell while sipping a glass of something light, white and refreshing. A visit here is an event!

Schmidt Seafood Rotterdam
Vasteland 60
3011 BM Rotterdam
Visit Schmidt Seafood here

But you will need a place to lay your travel-weary head at the end of a full day in this exciting city. Quartier du Port is well located for walking and taking the extensive metro system. It’s a boutique hotel of both character and quality. It was once a shipping office and retains so many original features. The bedrooms are comfortable, well appointed, with acres of space. It’s your good fortune that as a guest you will take advantage of a delicious breakfast, with baked goods from the shop next door (which is in fact associated with the hotel). Don’t miss the slices of freshly made cakes, as those Rotterdam attractions beckon and one will need the energy for another full day.

Hotel Quartier du Port
Van Vollenhovenstraat 48-50
3016 BJ Rotterdam
Phone +31 10 240 0425
Visit Hotel Quartier Du Pont here

food and travel reviews

Rotterdam – building with new energy, treasuring old charm

I had visited Holland once before. That was Amsterdam and many years ago. I travelled by air and the flight was quick - Holland is nearer than one might think. But a trip to Rotterdam via Stena Line ferry from Harwich made that diverse and vibrant city even more accessible.

rotterdam Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands and one of the largest ports in the world. Starting as a dam constructed in 1270 on the Rotte River, Rotterdam is often called the ‘Gateway to Europe’. Rotterdam received its city charter in 1340.

The New Waterway canal was dug between 1866 and 1872, creating a transport route between the Maas River and the sea. The town of Delfshaven became part of Rotterdam and is the birthplace of Pieter Hein (1577 –1629) who was a Dutch naval officer and folk-hero during the Eighty Years' War between the United Provinces and Spain. It’s also the harbour where the Pilgrim Fathers set off for America, and that practice of exodus from this port continued down the centuries.

The city has developed into a world port and is still the largest port in Europe and one of the busiest ports in the world, surpassed only by Shanghai. Rotterdam's commercial success owes much to its location near the mouth of the Nieuwe Maas (New Meuse), in the delta formed by the Rhine and Meuse flowing into the North Sea. These rivers lead directly into the centre of Europe, opening markets along those wide shipping lanes.

Hotel Quartier du Port in Rotterdam is a smart 4-star boutique hotel conveniently situated in the old maritime quarter in renovated 18th century shipping offices. This neighbourhood still retains many classic buildings that one thinks of as being ‘typically Dutch’ - solid brick facades, tall and narrow. These streets give an impression of what Rotterdam must have been like before the ravages of war.

The Witte Huis or White House is a building and National Heritage Site in Rotterdam inspired by American skyscrapers, and built in 1898 in the Art Nouveau style. Its 10 floors made this a ground-breaking structure for its time.

Many Europeans sought a better life overseas and started their epic journeys from Rotterdam. These emigrants often headed for North America, just like those pilgrims, and in 1873 the Nederlandsch Amerikaanse Stoomvaart Maatschappij company was founded, officially renamed ‘Holland America Line’ in 1896. In 1971, after more than 100 years of transporting emigrants and pleasure seekers, the ship Nieuw Amsterdam was the last of that line to leave Rotterdam.

rotterdam In 1977 the Holland America Line’s head office moved to Seattle and in 1984 the building on Wilhelmina Pier was put up for sale. Known as ‘The Grand Old Lady’, this office was built in the Jugendstil style in 1901 by the architects J. Muller, Droogleever Fortuin and C.B. van der Tak. It’s now occupied by the Hotel New York, a remarkable hotel and restaurant displaying many items of shipping memorabilia, and evocative of the heyday of passenger liners.

During World War II, the German army invaded the Netherlands and encountered fierce resistance, although the Dutch army was finally forced to capitulate on May 15, 1940, following Hitler's bombing of Rotterdam on May 14. The centre of Rotterdam was almost completely destroyed by the blitz, which left 900 civilians dead and 80,000 homeless. A visit to the tourist office offers striking pictures of Rotterdam before the bombing and the horrific destruction that it caused.

Rotterdam has taken advantage of its tragic blank canvas and has built striking bridges, apartments and public spaces, along with a reputation for being a platform for architectural excellence. Rotterdam is celebrated for its Kubuswoningen or cube houses built by architect Piet Blom in 1984, as well as the iconic Erasmus Bridge designed by Ben van Berkel and completed in 1996.

Along with Porto, Rotterdam was European Capital of Culture in 2001. The city has its own orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic. There is an exciting festival culture, with weeks promoting jazz, food and the arts in general. It’s an easy city to navigate with a creditable metro and tram system, and a train network for those who want to wander further.

rotterdam Rotterdam is a living entity of multi-ethnic and multicultural diversity. 47.7% of the population are of non-Dutch origin or have at least one parent born outside the country. 173 nationalities are represented here. One might liken the city to an evolved modern family home: there is the old part of the house with many charming original features and uniquely Dutch characteristics; there is the new extension designed with innovation. It’s a place filled with imagination and respect for heritage. It’s a home-city that reflects the makeup of the current Rotterdammers, and they are a forward-looking and vibrant bunch.

Hotel New York
Koninginnenhoofd 1
3072 AD Rotterdam
The Netherlands
Visit New York Hotel here

Hotel Quartier Du Pont
Van Vollenhovenstraat 48-50
3016 BJ Rotterdam
The Netherlands
Visit Hotel Quartier Du Pont here

Find more information on Rotterdam here

Find more information on Holland here

Find more information on Stena Line to Holland here

food and travel reviews

Stena Line to the Hook of Holland

stena line Well, here it was. My travel nemesis had arrived …or more accurately I was travelling to meet it.

I have never been a good sailor and many ferry crossings between the UK and France had seriously put me off. I had lost count of the hours I had spent in overcrowded squalor bobbing about like a cork in a washing machine. And this crossing between Harwich and the Hook of Holland was going to be long!

stena line Stena Line is one of the world’s biggest and most respected ferry companies. I had always wondered what a stena was but it’s not, in fact, a what but a who. At the end of the 1930s Sten A Olsson, the son of a shipper and sailing ship owner, founded the metal trading company Sten A Olssons Metallprodukter. That was the start of the Stena Group, and in 1946 he bought his first ferry and thus began Stena Line.

The next 30 years saw the company ferrying between Sweden and Denmark, Germany and Norway. In 1982 the son of Stena's founder, Dan Sten Olsson, became Stena's new Group CEO and in 1989, Stena Line acquired the Dutch company SMZ, which operated the Hook of Holland - Harwich route. In 1990 when Stena Line acquired Sealink British Ferries and two more Dutch companies, it doubled in size. In 1996 Stena Line built the world's first high-speed ferry. In 2006 Stena Line invested 400 million Euros in two new Superferries for the Hook of Holland-Harwich route, and it’s these ferries that I was to try.

The Stena Line experience owed more to flying than my past encounters with ferries had done. The Harwich terminal was quiet for the Friday evening crossing and even a group of Dutch students didn’t take up more than a fraction of the space. Plenty of seating was also a novelty after the throngs at airports.

The ship (or is it a boat?) was the size of a small cruise-liner and it had more in common with those gleaming floating hotels than with the utilitarian tubs plying routes across La Manche that I remembered from the old days. I was greeted by spotless carpets, polished brass and a lift, and there were plenty of staff on hand to give directions to overnight accommodation.

I found my Comfort Class cabin and that lived up to my, by now, higher expectations. It was the standard of a land-locked hotel room, although admittedly slightly smaller. The en-suite shower room had a full size shower, basin and loo, and a pile of fluffy towels. This was a step up from some economy hotels on land.

stena line There were more creature comforts in the guise of beds. Yes, a brace of beds garnished with puffy duvets and pillows to match. A TV that even offers anxious pet owners a view of Fido or Fifi via in-kennel camera, and for the rest of us there is more predictable viewing. For those who are still on duty there is complementary Wi-Fi.

Stena Line offers generous hospitality even in this class of cabin. The bowl of fruit, the chilled white wine and the real glass glasses invited the newly arrived voyager to linger to perhaps enjoy a reviving ‘cold beverage’ before seeking out the restaurant.

The Metropolitan restaurant was my eatery of choice and it truly gave the impression of being a regular restaurant, with glass and linen-draped tables along with attentive waiters and a chef who evidently took a pride in his kitchen. This was far from the ‘chips with everything’ ferry café with which I had been inflicted in the past. The Metropolitan restaurant offers convivial dining with a menu that presents European classics along with dishes inspired by more distant continents. The prices are very reasonable considering they have something of a captive audience. I guess one could always open a box of homemade egg sandwiches in the privacy of one’s cabin, but you won’t be pushing the metaphoric boat out dining at the Metropolitan.

stena line Morning came around surprisingly fast and was heralded by ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ over the PA system – a jolly tune that seems to represent the Dutch attitude to life. Breakfast was waiting: it was buffet style and reflected the national makeup of the passengers. Breads and coffee for those who have no regard for the culinary niceties of the most important meal of the day; plenty of cold cuts and cheese for others with refined Continental tastes; and the Full Monty tempted the rest of us. There were Dutch specialities such as pancakes, custard and sprinkles. Yes, dear reader, chocolate sprinkles that one might more usually associate with cake decoration are here considered a breakfast item for bread-garnishing. A few days in Holland will likely find you addicted to those chocolate flecks.

Stena Line to The Hook of Holland isn’t a compromise, it’s perhaps the most civilised way to travel to a host of Dutch cities. One arrives refreshed and ready for adventure with a full day ahead. One has had a good night’s sleep rather than a flight that one has viewed only as a necessary evil. One floats with Stena Line, and the holiday starts at Harwich.

Find more information on Holland here

Find more information on Stena Line to Holland here

food and travel reviews

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