International Writers Magazine: Dutch Treat:
am recalling a phrase that I heard once. Though it was in French,
I am going to try my best to translate in the appropriate English.
"One never feels comfortable anywhere but one only feels comfortable
with someone." On a Friday afternoon, I had just arrived in
Amsterdam. I took a long bath followed by a shower, sat at my desk
and went through my emails while I was drinking all the soft drinks
from the mini-bar. I pressed a button and rang the reception,
image © A Montfrond
I asked for something
"off menu" which was simply a ham and cheese sandwich. Menus
can get quite complicated in such places for someone that eats really
simply or in other words, nothing at all. At least properly. A sudden
knock on my door and I thought to myself "Thats quite an
efficient room service!". It seemed it was actually the manager
of the hotel. He welcomed me and hoped everything was alright for me.
I then ate my sandwich, looked at the view through the immense windows.
There was a canal full of boats along an asymmetric and distorted architecture.
This might have looked like Lego land, though I have not been there
myself but I can imagine the settings. I lied in my bed with my computer,
listening to some music. The phone rang. It was a friend from Paris
that just arrived in Amsterdam to join me for the Week End. It had been
a year since I last saw him. He was telling me about his hostel and
he thought the ambience was nice. There were a lot of young people.
While I was telling him about the hotel he thought that was nice but
one might feel lonely in a room like this. I smiled and glanced quickly
at my room, before telling him "To be honest, I could not care
.!!!". He burst out laughing and so did I. I fell asleep
holding the ten pillows. One can therefore feel comfortable anywhere,
it all depends where you are staying and not with whom you are. Although
you can be with someone you really like anywhere but better being comfortable
somewhere and with someone.
It basically makes you feel you are in a castle. The rooms have incredibly
high ceilings and exaggerative large windows that give you a fantastic
city view over the canal. There is a swimming pool and sauna which is
also free. I did not know that and I am not particularly interested
in this kind of things but for people who want to spend time at the
hotel. It can be good to know.
five stars Grand Hotel Amrâth is the most luxurious hotel
in Amsterdam. It opened recently and its location makes it accessible
by foot. A five minutes walk from the central train station. The
hotel cant be missed. Its romantic and almost magical architecture
looks like it came right from a Disney film. The rooms are spacious
with shower and bath. There is also free wireless Internet access
in the rooms as well as free mini bar.
On the Saturday
morning, my friend came at my hotel and we started to embark for
a long weekend. The first stop was the Van Gogh museum. We could
not find it and were completely lost. We jumped in a tram and
it looked like everyone was heading to the Van Gogh Museum.
I could not speak a word of Dutch but generally most of people
would speak French and English. I did not need to make any sentences.
I asked the driver "Van Gogh?" and he replied, "Next
stop". Then two other people asked me "Van Gogh?"
and I replied, "Next stop". We stood on the street looking
around with the other people while the driver with a blasé
look on his face, made a sign with his hand to show us the direction
of the museum. I looked at my friend and smiled "Poor guy,
could you imagine how many times in a day and maybe for years
he had to show the direction of the museum!"
This is the home
of Van Gogh after all. The worlds largest collection of his works
are there so no wonder it attracts the majority of tourists that come
to Amsterdam. Even though I am an admirer of Van Gogh works and was
quite eager to see them I was quickly disappointed by the queue at the
entrance. I tried to skip it and got inside but even though I had a
ticket, I had to queue for a ticket. This did not make any sense and
I could feel that my friend was realising that it might have been the
first time I would have to queue for anything. We were laughing but
persisted to see the exhibition anyway.
When we got inside it was over crowed and there was a queue that formed
a line like in a supermarket. We could not have a close look at the
paintings. That was a bit of a pity as I enjoy looking at the brush
strokes and details of any painting I like. The museum has also a shop
with a lot of different art books especially on Van Gogh with museum
publications. If you don't mind the crowd I guess you would enjoy the
visit. The other interesting place is the Rembrandts house museum.
It is where Rembrandt used to live. He raised his son Titus there while
he created his most famous works. I walked through his atelier and could
see his old brushes and art sets. Some of his oil painting tubes were
still almost full. Even though Rembrandt was not one of favourites painters,
I felt curiosity towards this master and its technical abilities that
had disappeared in the art of today. On the evening, we headed to the
Hard rock café for a drink before having dinner at my hotel.
the Sunday morning, we went for a one-hour cruise through Amsterdams
canals. You can appreciate some of the citys most beautiful
spots including the old city, elegant mansions and carillon-crowned
churches. You get this cruise free with the Amsterdam card as well
as many museums including those I am mentioning. You also get a
lot of discounts, a free coffee and a silver key ring that might
be worth 1/3 of the card itself. In the afternoon, we chose to visit
Amsterdams botanical garden "Hortus Botanicus" which
is of the oldest botanical garden in the world dated from 1638.
There are 4,000 plant species in the garden from six different climates.
I was quite fascinated by the carnivorous plants. They all had the
same features with traps. This place is a paradise for people that
enjoy being close to nature.
On the Monday morning
before catching my plane, we visited the Jewish historical museum located
in the heart of the former Jewish quarter. It is about the history of
the Jews in Netherlands from 1900 onwards and its culture. There is
an interesting bookshop inside the museum that sells some books in Hebrew.
We then visited the Synagogue nearby when we managed to find it. The
hidden Portuguese synagogue dates from the 17th Century. Its interior
is completely intact and the synagogue is still active.
We got back to my hotel. I took my stuff and we headed to the central
station. I was feeling a bit nostalgic and told my friend I felt like
I wanted to stay. He replied, "Thats because of the hotel".
I dont mean it is only about the hotel but it made me feel so
comfortable that I liked Amsterdam and enjoyed it more and also with
The Amsterdam card comes with a booklet listing all free attractions,
gifts and discounts.
General info, reservations :
Grand Hotel Amrâth
Prins Hendrikkade 108
1011 AK Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0) 20 5520 000
Aer lingus flies directly to Amsterdam from Dublin and London
weekend in Helsinki
I was taken aback by its calm serenity. There was something beautiful
about all of this.
Weekend in Geneva
think of Switzerland, They think of Geneva. It is the third largest
city in Switzerland.
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