Monday, September 11, 2017

Postcard from Amsterdam

After a wonderfully relaxing time at Holland's seaside (click here), we were looking forward to a few days in Amsterdam to explore Dutch city life. Again we were so impressed by how friendly, warm and welcoming everyone is (and speaking perfect English, too).

Amsterdam's picturesque canals are flanked by beautiful narrow buildings, constructed by merchants who became wealthy in the 17th century, Amsterdam's Golden Age. Holland's trade, military art and science was on top of the world, and brought enormous wealth to the city.

Most people cross town on bicycles... the young, the old, and everyone in between. Bikes outnumber cars by far, and it has the wonderful side effect of greatly reducing engine noise and pollution, which contributes so much to the laid-back atmosphere of this pretty city.

The 'De Negen Straatjes' (Nine Streets) is located in the heart of the historic canal district and is a lovely neighbourhood to explore:  Nine picturesque streets span three blocks and canals and are lined with shops, cafes, art galleries and restaurants.

We stayed at the chic and stylish Dylan hotel, located on the Keizersgraacht in the heart of the Negen Straatjes. The rooms and suites are beautifully decorated, making you feel at home away from home. It also has a cool bar (Occo), romantic inner courtyard and a Michelin starred restaurant (Vinkeles) under its roof.

Lounge area at the Dylan

the bar / Occa Brasserie

loved the calm and balanced decor of our room

the inner courtyard - a stylish and tranquil place for an alfresco meal or afternoon tea

On our first day I found this tunic dress by Scandinavian designer Filippa K (available here) in the Nine Streets and it became an instant favorite. You can dress it up or down with a simple change of accessories (here with a MaiTai Collection Double Anneau necklace in noir/or, available here), which makes it a perfect travel companion. Teamed with trousers and boots it will be great for the coming winter and autumn months too.

Holland has always been progressive and I've never seen so many electric cars in any city. Charging stations are everywhere, and some of the cars are so small that they never have the problem of  finding a parking space. I was just wondering how anyone could get into them...

And then.. apparently no problem for a family of three!

The Cornelis Schuytstraat is another great area for shopping, and you also come across plenty of lovely little restaurants and cafés. Holland's most famous exports are flowers, and at the Menno Kroon Concept Store you see a very lovely and beautiful selection.

Cornelis Schuytstraat

In keeping with the general laid back atmosphere, many boutiques have benches where you (and your tired shopping companions) can have a rest..

If after a day's walking you find yourself thinking of a coffee or a little something, be careful not to pick up a muffin from the counter of a 'coffeshop'... unless you'd like to 'alter your state of mind' that is. What may look like an ordinary muffin could in fact be a space cake, infused with hash or weed, whatever the preference. Other items on the menu include a variety of pre-rolled joints, hash by the gram, as well as regular coffees and soft drinks. Ordinary cafés are called 'coffee houses', so be sure to enter the right kind!

Coffeeshop offerings

My new dress, worn tunic style with a white pair of jeans.

Dating back to 1683.. 'It really does not matter' What a great motto.

Missed the Wiener Boys (click here to see their IG page) of course, and found myself stalking dachshunds.. this one had a leash matching his owner's dress!

Nine Streets quarter..

For an evening out, wearing the tunic dress by Maje I bought last year (click here to see the blog post), accessorised with a Kelly Pochette in black croc, MaiTai Collection Double Anneau necklace, Charniere bracelet in black lizard/rosé gold and Dior (Frisson2) sunglasses.

Where to eat, drink and stay

1. The Rijks,  right next to the Rijks museum

 All wines, cheeses and spirits served at the Rijks have a Dutch connection.. if not actually produced in Holland, then wine makers, distillers or cheese makers of Dutch origin.

The chic modern interior. The evening was so lovely and mild that everyone was dining on the terrace instead.

The Côtes de Provence Fleur de l'Amaurigue rosé (by Dutch de Groot winemaker family) was excellent and reminded us of home. 

I love restaurants with an open kitchen, it is always fun to see the chefs at work. At the Rijks  the shelves are lined with cookery books, and the ingredients laid out on the counter almost prompt you to ask 'can I chop some onions?'

Cheese from Holland, of course!

2. The Duchess - A fantastic venue (it used to be a bank) and a fun menu.. all courses are meant to be shared, so you end up with plenty of different dishes. Most of the former KSK bank's features are still intact.. the ornamented ceiling, marbled counters, and huge stand-alone clock are in striking contrast to the ultra modern screens and the open kitchen. It's a fabulous mix, lit by huge chandeliers and candle lights.

3. Right across the street from the Duchess you find the W lounge bar with and Mr Porter restaurant. If you book at the restaurant, it is well worth getting there a bit early and having a drink in the bar... it offers stunning panoramic surround views of Amsterdam.

Mr Porter is Amsterdam's most famous steakhouse with a staggering choice of carefully selected meats and cuts, but it offers beautiful vegetarian dishes too.

If you are looking for alfresco dining, the Occa Brasserie in the Dylan's romantic courtyard setting could not be lovelier

Where to stay: The Dylan


The Dylan: Keizersgracht 384, 1016 GB Amsterdam. Tel: +31 (0)20 5302010



Occa Brasserie (same address at the Dylan)

The Duchess: Spuistraat 172, 1012 VT Amsterdam. Tel: +31 (0)20 811 3322

Mr Porter:  Spuistraat 175, 1012 VN Amsterdam. Tel: +31 (0)20 811 3399


The Nine Streets shopping area:

P.C. Hoofstraat: Amsterdam's high end shopping street, where you find Hermes and many other luxury brands. It is a lovely and relaxing street, making shopping extra pleasureable!

Cornelis Schuytstraat:

Filippa K:

Menno Kroon Concept Store: Cornelis Schuytstraat 11, 1071 JC Amsterdam.
Tel: +31 (0)20 679 1950

X Bank concept store: Spuistraat 172, 1012 VT Amsterdam. Tel: +31 (0)20 811 3320

Amsterdam coffeeshop map:

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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Post card from Holland - North Sea

I hope everyone has been having a happy and beautiful summer so far! Here in Southern France it's been very hot as usual at this time of year, so when it gets to holiday time, we tend to do the opposite to the rest of Europe... by the time most people are migratimg to the South to soak up the  sunshine, we've already had too much of it! This year, we combined fresh weather, a beach holiday and a city trip by going to Holland. We headed to the Dutch coast first for some relaxation, followed by a few days in Amsterdam for some city fun.

Windmills, flowers, cheese and bicycles.. you know instantly which country you are in!

For the first part of our trip we went to a little place by the sea called Noordwijk, less than an hour from Amsterdam. I found it when I was looking for somewhere that had lovely beach clubs and a cool hotel by the dunes. The idea was to unwind and do nothing much other than walk, settle down for the day on a lounger with a book, and drop by the beach restaurants for lunch or dinner.

The weather was beautiful and fresh, the beaches uncrowded and the sand cool and pristine. Feeling much recuperated after a couple of days, we decided to explore the unspoilt natural dunes and woods that surround Noordwjik. Hiking trails and cycling paths criss-cross through a vast area of lovely countryside with stunning views over the North Sea, bulb fields and rugged dunes. Following a tip from a friend (lieben Dank Ch.!), we rented battery assisted bikes and it was fantastic. It doesn't mean that you don't push into the pedals, but the days of struggling uphill or fighting against headwinds are simply in the past. You just turn the switch to turbo, and on you sail.

Turbo mode!

Dogs are very welcome in most places, although the Wiener Boys had been chauffeured off for a holiday  with their mother Loulou (it's a short form of her pedigree name, which is much too long.. it consists of six words and 28 letters!), because I didn't think they would  have enjoyed the Amsterdam part of our trip so much.

The calm and cool Vesper hotel is such a relaxing and welcoming place and in the perfect location (three lovely beach clubs are tucked away behind the dunes within a stone's throw).

The Caba bag (available here) was a great companion, blending right in with the overall blue and white color scheme.

the Vesper Hotel's fresh and modern interior

the breakfast terrace, also open for lunch and dinner

So wonderful to sit in the sun by the sea.. without the heat.

The Vesper's rooms all have a different decor, and I just loved the lightness and elegant simplicity of ours

The Branding Beach Club..  perfect for lunch, dinner or spending all day..

Watching the sun go down over the North Sea while having dinner was amazing. In the daytime the water is a deep blue or dark slate color, but when the sun sets, everything mellows and turns into soft pastel shades, until it eventually disappears in a milky haze. If it's a cloudless sky, the sun sets as a deep red fire ball, painting the ocean and sky with shades of pink, purple, gold and scarlet.

Starter for two

Another evening, another beautiful sunset

The Bries beach club next door is fabulous too. As in all the places we've been to in Holland, the staff are incredibly warm, friendly and welcoming,  and the food fresh, delicious and beautifully presented in stylish surroundings.

Goodbye Noordwijk, it's been a wonderful time!

Amsterdam next (coming soon)

Vesper Hotel:
Kon. Astrid Boulevard 46, 2202 BE Noordwijk, Netherlands.
+31 71 800 9988

Bike hire Noordwjik: Mooijekind, Schoolstraat 45 , 2202 HD Noordwijk.
Tel: +31 71 361 2826

Nederzandt Beach Club:
Langevelderslag 44-46, 2204 AH Noordwijk, Netherlands,
+31 252 372 430

Bries Beach Club:
Kon. Astrid Boulevard 102, 2202 BD Noordwijk, Netherlands. +31 71 361 7891

Branding Beach Club:
Kon. Astrid Boulevard 105, 2202 BD Noordwijk, Netherlands,
+31 71 511 9494

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