otterdam has this not-so-little secret spot for families, hidden in one of its swanky neighbourhood, Hillegersberg. While I have frequented this area to dine out, I only discovered Plaswicjkpark of late. Because why else would one go here if one doesn’t have an offspring?
Last year on the way back from Nantes, we stopped by a small town called Amiens in the north of France to see it’s world famous gothic cathedral. It was already dusk and drizzling a bit and on a Sunday evening, the town was almost empty.
It has charming alleys on the way up to the cathedral and a beautiful canal view in Quai Belu. It was so pretty during the night with the lights of the restaurants reflecting on the water.
When the rain started to fall, we went straight to Amiens Cathedral because we didn’t want to waste time. It was a sight to behold – very detailed design especially the facade and it’s towers. It is the largest Gothic cathedral in France and known as the “Parthenon of Gothic architecture” because of its pure gothic design.
Note: Sorry for the crappy Blackberry photos. My time in Rome was very short and very hectic that’s why I wans’t able to take decent photos.
In the Philippines, we call a 24-hour trip an “overnight” because it means spending a night somewhere else than your own house. Kids and teenagers usually look forward to “overnights” at their friends’ houses – it’s a way of getting away from the prying eyes of their parents while enjoying time with friends. While for me, an overnight had been a way to see Europe in between business trips.
Hi and goodbye
Last summer I spent an evening in pompous Rome after a news conference in Umbria. Because I already travelled to Italy the week before for my other job, I did not have the luxury to extend my weekend trip any longer than Monday. So Rome and I sort of just said hi and hello – a very quick meet-up.
I stayed at Hotel Alpi, a 4-star hotel about 10 minutes walk away from Central Termini Station. I find it a bit on the expensive side at €98 per night, especially when I wasn’t able to enjoy the hotel fully – not it’s breakfast nor it’s cozy terrace. But what I found most disappointing was when they advertised at booking.com that they offer free wifi in their hotel rooms but when you ask them for it, they will tell you that it’s not possible with my computer but when I checked, I actually have to pay for it. That’s lying!
I spent a couple of hours enjoying the sights of Rome, on top of a double-decker bus. That little window of time made me appreciate the history of the city, frown at it’s excesses and realized it’s importance to the modern society. I wished I had more time to stay.
The road to Brielle (Den Briel) from Rotterdam is a sight full of power plants and the many industrial buildings located in the great Port of Rotterdam. The smell of this industrial part of the Netherlands is inevitable, so is the view of the the ships going in and out of the port. It is quite hard to expect, that in the middle of this modernity, lies an old, enclosed town that played an important role in the war between Netherlands and Spain.
The old city of Ghent is an all-time favorite destination.. Ghent was one of first European cities I’ve visited when I came here in 2008. Back then I can’t fully appreciate the city, partly because of the run-down and often discouraging suburbs and the amount of walking that it takes to go around the city.
On a recent work-related trip to Ghent, I was ecstatic to see the old city again. And just like the first time, I frowned when the car went past the decaying century-old buildings and the dark streets littered with garbage on its way to the city center.
“And I thought you like Ghent?” my companion said seeing my disappointments.
“I do but not this. I just hope that take care of the suburbs as much as they do the center,” I answered with a sigh. Unfortunately the Belgians are still struggling to form a government so it might take a while.
Castles, medieval houses and art galleries
As I barely have three hours to spent in Ghent before supper, I resigned my feet to the fact that these three hours will be spent walking. Surprisingly this time, I did not mind. It was a chilly afternoon (first time I came was summer) and the sun is casting the last of its golden rays on the city. As cliche as it sounds, there is romance in the way the sunlight hits the walls of the Gravensteen (Castle of the Counts) or the stepped gable roofs of the medieval Belgian houses. I could walk here for hours without complaining, just passing old buildings, discovering an alley leading to a canal, or peeking through the windows of the many art galleries in Ghent.
“How come there’s a lot of art galleries in Ghent? You never see them in the Netherlands like this” I asked my companion, whom I know of as an art lover, as I’ve counted four galleries in one alley.
“Well because it’s a tourist place and these galleries probably sells a lot to tourists.” I nod, not quite convinced but it makes sense. Ghent being the biggest city in the East Flanders naturally attracts tourists who can pay for an art piece they’ve seen only once in a window.
Design Museum Gent
The little time I can spare for sight-seeing, I chose to spend most of it at the Design Museum Gent (Jan Breydelstraat 5) . I’m having this fascination and unusual chances of visiting museums lately and I wouldn’t pass up a chance to see which exhibition is on display there at the moment. And what coincidence it was that I was able to catch the Art nouveau and art deco from the Netherlands exhibition in the Design Museum Gent on its last two weeks of display (until February 27, 2011).
“Art nouveau is my favorite,” said my companion. “I’ve inherited a lot of art nouveau pieces from my grandparents and I still keep these in my house. Are you familiar?” I shook my head, what do I know about art? I just like looking at them.
“That is art nouveau,” he said pointing to a set of vases with intricately hand-painted flower designs. I moved closer to the glass and admire the combination of deep colors carefully painted on the vase.
“I think I like art nouveau. I like designs like these. Unlike the modern art (there is an exhibition upstairs) which is mostly about straight edges and peculiar lines, I like the complex details of these pieces,” I said as we go around the museum.
As we walked into the section where Art Deco was displayed, I remembered the houses of very old relatives where they still use those old mahogany cabinets with really beautiful carvings. Art Deco furniture designers used a lot of wood in their works and because of the durability this material, there is still enough Art Deco furniture being used in middle class homes.
I like wood and those old wood furniture, especially chairs. They are soothing to the eyes and to the skin especially during summers. Unlike leather, they do not get too cold or too hot. And they seem to last forever.
“I should start digging up these collections I have in the basement and sell them. Im sure somebody will be interested,” said my companion as examine book covers with art nouveau designs.
“You shouldn’t sell them. Maybe one day, you can have a big house where you can display all of them,” I said dreaming of my own house with displays like these.
I would have wanted to stay a bit longer but the it’s beginning to get dark and we have to find a place to eat before heading back to the Netherlands.
Dinner at Restaurant Brasserie ‘t Stropke
It was a Sunday afternoon, a very difficult time to find a proper restaurant that is open. Most of the time you will be dining with tourists. When we saw that our initial choice was closed, we agreed to walk into the first restaurant that we will see. It happened to be Restaurant Brasserie ‘t Stropke (Brasserie ‘t Stropke – Kraanlei 1), a rather old and totally uninviting place to eat if we’re going to talk about ambiance. The restaurant is located very near the boat terminal and I reckon, very convenient for tourists.
I was already feeling tired at the end of the day and flipped straight to the main course section of the menu. It didn’t take long for us to make our choices which were two of their specialties, French duck with red port sauce and Baby deer with winter side dishes, forest mushrooms and chestnut puree.
While waiting for the food, I noticed that the tables are actually sewing machine tables and the machines were still attached to it. Quite interestingly the restaurant’s logo is a strap (called strop in Dutch) used for hanging people or by those who commits suicide. Thus the name ‘t Stropke. Quite a morbid image to use for a restaurant.
Waiting time seems to be longer when you are very hungry and I was so I couldn’t really tell if the service was slow or not. When the food arrived, I was just so happy to be fed.
The duck was cooked tenderly and the sauce was generous. Being a Filipino, that matters a lot to me. Those potato balls which I initially thought were macaroons were enough as a side dish for a fulfilling dinner. Of course I paired it with a glass of Merlot which made the dinner even more appetizing. The salad had bits of bacon on it which neutralize the sweetness of the red port sauce. And the sole tomato was fresh and crunchy.
My companion’s dinner looked just a bloke of meat to me but he said he was very satisfied with it. I am not particularly fond of game dishes so I couldn’t tell if it’s good or not.
“But it has the texture of horse’s meat,” I told him. So far I’ve tasted reindeer, deer and elk meat and every time I eat them, I think of those dried horse meat that my dad used to bring for me from Marinduque. I loved that stuff especially when deep fried and crunchy.
After the dinner I realized, you can’t really judge a restaurant by its crappy interior.
As I passed once more the Castle of the Counts and the boat terminal, I am already wishing to be back to Ghent soon. A whole weekend is needed see this city but four hours is enough to start loving it.