Simply Sunday, I have said it before and I will say it again, and again. Take time out for nature and you will feel so much better, so much more able adequately to work, relax, socialise, everything.
The first thing I do when I get home – well, after greeting My Man, who makes my life worth living – the first thing after THAT is always get on my bike, for a circuit round the country lanes, up and down hilly roads through woods. Everyone I pass, which could be no-one or maximum six, says Hello or Hi. This is a greeting part of the world. Just as on Silversea, when you automatically acknowledge everyone, passenger or crew member, so the same should happen in all luxury hotels but sadly some customers do not have those kinds of manners and some staff members do not have confidence.
So, on that initial cycle ride around the lanes, five bullocks have moved in to one field and they do know how to behave. They are the world’s best greeters (or are they just nosy?). Happy Easter everyone.
More celebrations at Hotel De L’Europe since the gal was last in Amsterdam. On 25th November, 2013, Michelin announced that Bord’eau, the hotel’s 42-seat gourmet restaurant, had been awarded its second star. Wow what a difference it has made to business, says the gal. Fine-diners from far and wide reserve way ahead and once they have a table confirmed they will then plan a trip, staying overnight or longer in a top suite, and, if they are sensible, they will also book time in the hotel’s splendid new SKINS Spa.
At lunch there is a €38 set menu, which is attractive to business diners who need to avoid ostentation – but then they add on here, add on there, and possibly end up with a post-prandial cigar in the fumoir so the bill per head is probably into three digits. Dine more slowly, and chef Richard van Oostenbrugge and his team of 34 cooks will put on a treat. Even before you start, you are bought fougasse-type bread, a round of Guernsey butter, and Les Costes olive oil, from southern Spain.
Then let the amuses begin, and you cannot stop them. They are so small you do not mind. You might start with a baby portion of rice couscous with crumbled Pierre Robert cheese, you might have a tiny eggcup-sized container which is infused, via pipette in front of you, with a spiced liquid. You might have a one-bite lobster roll, and, to follow, what looks like a bone marrow section but is in fact rolled potato around minced veal, with caviar on top. Sommelier Daphne Oudshoorn, wearing a stylish black ‘frock coat’ like all her female colleagues (all of whom get 10/10 for hair and facial grooming) delicately pours a glass of Ch Lafon Rochet 2006 St Estèphe.
My chosen dishes finally begin. I start with beetroot baked in salt crust with tiny spiced wasabi ice-cream balls. I go on to lightly-smoked steamed turbot with young fennel – what will lunch be tomorrow? The 12 top ladies in town, all heads of this and heads of that, are being invited for a get-to-know each other (and get-to-know this divine cooking, of course). I hear later that they stayed far longer, and drank far more midday wine, than the several all-male groups that have similarly been hosted at Bord’eau. They probably also had a tour of the restaurant’s wine room, which has a thousand labels, 10,000 bottles in all.
Of course there is a pre-dessert, a ball of Roquefort and chocolate. The dessert-proper is called Stones, Rock & Roll. Well, it does look like two baby rocks, of sheep yoghurt, one icecream, one frozen sorbet, with, sandwiched between, buckthorn berry, and more fennel, and citrus. It is now well after 10.30 p.m. and another party of four comes in, casually dressed but somehow empathising with the servers in their formal, though modern-twist attire.
Tom Krooswijk, big-boss of this amazing Leading luxury hotel, says with a big grin that he has never had so much fun in his life – well, he has had some hardship posts, in places like Libreville, for instance. He and Richard van Oostenbrugge are like teenagers plotting even more enhancements for Bord’eau. As I leave they are planning a trip to Tokyo to tour the Tsukiji fish market before it is relocated for development.
Walk back into the lovely Leading Hotel De L’Europe, Amsterdam, turn immediately to your left and it looks as if the royal greeting at this luxury hotel is indeed just that, says the gal. Over front desk is a giant photo of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander, who succeeded his mother on April 30th, 2013. He is with Queen Máxima (the former Máxima Zorreguieta, born and brought up in Buenos Aires), and their three daughters, Princess Catharina-Amalia (full name Catharina-Amalia Beatrix Carmen Victoria, the Princess of Orange, Princess of Orange-Nassau, Princess of the Netherlands, born 2003), Princess Alexia (Alexia Juliana Marcela Laurentien of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, born 2005) and Princess Ariane (Ariane Wilhelmina Máxima Ines, of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, born 2007).
Saturday April 26th, 2014, will be celebrated as Koningsdag, King’s Day, which is officially on 27th, the King’s birthday but if that falls on a Sunday, they celebrate early. They are celebrating all month here at Hotel De L’Europe. The magnificent tall lobby, mainly scarlet but highlighted by eight crystal chandeliers and big blow-ups of Old Masters characters from the nearby Rijksmuseum, now has lots of portraits of the Royal Family. Two more show Obama. In one, taken March 25th, 2014, he is in front of Rembrandt’s Night Watch, which normal people can only see through a melée of other art-lovers. In the other he was with the royal couple.
The hotel itself has much to celebrate. This January it opened its SKINS Spa, bringing in one of Benelux’s well-established names right into the hotel. SKINS was started here in The Netherlands in 2000, by Philip Hillege and it now has two spas and nine stand-alone shops, with another opening in May in Ibiza. SKINS, the Institute, specializes in niche products and allowing consumers to try and test before buying – it also has a very impressive website with online ordering. SKINS, the spa at Hotel De L’Europe, has transformed the gorgeous hotel’s wellness: the gym has been expanded, with new Technogym equipment, and the pool has been incorporated into the whole spa experience.
There are saunas and steam rooms, and the treatment rooms are lovely, cream and gold and fresh and clean. SKINS advertises that one of its best-selling products is Patyka from Paris, but in fact the highly-skilled therapist who did me used Marie Veronique Organics MVO, produced in Berkeley CA by one-time chemistry teacher Marie Veronique Nadeau, who started experimenting with ingredients, in her own kitchen, to help cure her lifelong rosacea – her products are now also in Auberge Resorts, and at Sundance. But honestly the best thing about this facial, here at SKINS in Hotel De L’Europe, was the totally amazing facial and neck massage, which consisted of pulling and tweaking little bits of skin as though I were a plucked chicken.
Could I do that all myself? Yes, possibly, but I would run the risk of pulling and tweaking in the wrong places, wrong directions, and I would end up looking like a polka-dot fabric rather than the ideal poulet de Bresse. I also would not be in the right ambience. After whatever treatment at SKINS spa here, you can relax inside, or, in summer, outside on the spa’s own terrace, cantilevered over the water. I think of other spas over water, Naladhu and One&Only Reethi Rah, and under it, Hufaven Fushi – all in the Maldives (it is too long since I was in those glorious islands).
I wake up, feeling a thousand times better, and head up home, to suite 424 in the old block of this distinctive and oh-so-central luxury hotel. I look out of the window, across the Amstel to Munt Plein and its throng of bicycles and other activity. Like all rooms in this block, the room honours a Rijksmuseum Old Master – this one has two blow-ups, one about eight by six feet, the other smaller, of a still life of three copper pots. Fortunately there is no sign of President Obama standing in front of it…. gollee, I am hungry….