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What to do?
Our dream is that all of us take time to relax. The good news is that it is possible. You can have more free time when you let us solve your problems and make your worries dissapear. We would like to make some suggestions what you could do with more time on your hands, because we want you to have no more worries about your spare time. My suggestions are very personal, but if you want to suggest other activities please let us know so we can add them to the list below. 

 

So let us mention some some places of interest to visit, books to read, movies to see, food to eat and things to do. Having our places in Holland, Tuscany and the Provence many of our suggestions have to do with these parts of Europe. 

 

Where to go?

Amsterdam

Being there almost every day, it is hard to say what a visitor should see or do there except visiting our office in a beautiful and well hidden part of Amsterdam. Probably the Rijksmuseum is an absolute must-see. After some 15 years of restoration I think it is a gem not to be missed. While you are on the Museum square the Stedelijk Museum and Van Gogh Museum are worth considering also. And then you simply must make a tour through the canals of Amsterdam preferably starting some time before it gets dark and then going on until the thousands of lights go on illuminating the canals in the evening. Think of renting a nice boat for a small party enjoying some drinks and food while sailing along (info@denederlanden.com). We love the bio market on the Noordermarkt in the heart of old Amsterdam on Mondays and Saturdays. For shoppers we suggest the so-called 9 straatjes. Amsterdam is best visited on a bike and they can be rented on lots of places.

 

Den Haag and Scheveningen

Our home town, some 50 kilometers from Amsterdam, is on the Northsea and is the only big city on the sea with a great beach and numerous small restaurants there (See also hereunder Culpepper). Den Haag, known in English as The Hague, is the legal Capital of the World with institutions such as the International Court of Justice, The International Criminal Court and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, but there are also some very special museums such as The Mauritshuis, home to many paintings of Vermeer and Rembrandt, Panorama Mesdag  a full circle painting of Scheveningen end 19th century with a diameter of 40 meters and 14meters high, and the modern arts museum Gemeentemuseum. See that and then go for a stroll on the beach or bike for dozens of kilometers through the dunes both north and south of the city.  

 

Trequanda: Cinque Sorelle in Tuscany

A small, warm paradise on earth. Situated in the South Eastern part of Tuscany close to Montepulciano, Monte Oliveto and Cortona, Trequanda is one of the small ancient ,medieval hilltop villages known as the five sisters (see also www.villaglioppitoscana.eu and www.casasantapia.com/engels/castelmuzio.htm) It is Tuscany as you dream it to be before coming there. The region is filled with history, rolling hills, forests, pastures with sheep (“Pecorino”!) and the Chianina cows and olive trees and above all, hospitable, gentle people. A great area for sports and relaxing, reading and eating

 

Arezzo: La vita e bella!!!
Some 30 kilometres east of Trequanda is the ancient city of Arezzo. One of the many Italian treasures that most visitors to Italy happen to miss. It is a truly nice place where life is beautiful on most days close to the autostrada from Florence to Rome. Visit the San Francisco church in which 15th C. frescoes depicting the Legend of the True Cross can be admired (buy an entrance ticket in advance on http://selectitaly.com/browse/things-to-do/museums or phone in advance +39057520630). Arezzo has a very romantic Piazza Grande where the movie La Vita a bella (Life is beautiful) was shot and each 1st Sunday of the month there is a major antique and vintage market.

 

Salernes, Aups and Tourtour

Between the Méditerranée and the French Alps in the heart of the Provence are the largely unspoiled villages of Salernes, Tourtour and Aups. Away from crowded St-Tropez at some 60 km and Nice and Marseille at an hour or so by car, you can indulge in the sweet life of the Provence. The green hills and the villages give a total relaxed feeling without worries.

 

Where to eat?
Culpepper (North Beach of Scheveningen, The Hague)
Living close to the North sea in Scheveningen (the fishing and boardwalk suburb of The Hague) one of our favourite places is  around the corner and on the beach. The beach restaurant we particularly enjoy is Culpepper (http://culpepper.nl)  just a few hundred yards north of the Boulevard and Pier. The food is excellent and you should try the Pizza Culpepper which even spoiled Italians rave about. Eating there comfortably with your feet in the sand and the sun setting over the sea, is so good that even if you have worries, they are quickly forgotten.

 

La Faisanderie (Arras)
One day I missed the last flight from Paris to Amsterdam. Together with a friend I rented a car to take us home. We got somewhat hungry and then decided after some 150 kilometers north of Paris to exit and find a decent restaurant. We reached Arras and although its outskirts are nog attractive (mildly put), we went on to the old city centre. On the medieval main square we found this fantastic restaurant La Faisanderie. I promise you that you will rarely have eaten better in France. It is in de cellar of an old house on the beautiful square and what they cook there is pure relaxation! Try it when you go home from or via Paris to say England or the Benelux or make a detour. You will not regret it.

 

Logge Vasari (Arezzo)
Before or after your visit to the old town Arezzo which has lots to offer, do not forget to go to my favourite restaurant Logge Vasari on the Piazza Grande 18. You can sit outside under the arcades catching, if you want a bit of sun and a lot of atmosphere. In winter everything is indoors and that has its own charm, but for us it is best there from April to November when you can feast your eyes while having a good glass of local product with some nice fish or agnello and pasta and…. Well go there and see for yourself. It is one of those places where life feels good. Call Andrea in advance at tel no +390575295894.

 

Where to sleep?

 

The Odéon Saint Germain (Paris)

Until recently we found it difficult to find “the hotel” in Paris. There are great places but often at a steep price. Recently we discovered the Odéon Saint Germain on the Rue Saint Sulpica in the middle of the 6e arrondisement. We really like the place particularly because of the veru friendly, helpful, smiling people working there. It is great value for money when you book in time and nearly everything is walking or biking distance.

 
The Casablanca (New York)
If you like a few days smack in the centre of New York you should try the small hotel Casablanca (
http://www.casablancahotel.com). Even if it is less than 50 meters from Times Square, it is a quiet and very pleasant place to stay with truly friendly and helpful service. On the first floor is a lounge for guests where there is a free, splendid breakfast in the morning and drinks and snacks during the entire day. The rooms are sizeable for big cities standards and well kept. In short I had no worries staying in this small paradise and I hope that you can relax there one day whether you are in New York on business or for pleasure.

 

Dormy House (Broadway, The Cotswolds)
Another very relaxing place is the recently completely redone Dormy House Hotel in Broadway (
http://dormyhouse.co.uk). It is some 15 miles from Stratford (you know the place to see Shakespeare) and close to many lovely villages in the heart of England. The hotel is surrounded by a Golf Course -do not know how good that course is because I do not play golf- and the area is great for walking and horse riding. Big fires in autumn and winter with very easy chairs invite you to relax and forget your worries. I like particularly the rooms in the so-called Danish Court overlooking the Golf Course. There is a nice pub restaurant and a more haute cuisine restaurant so you hardly have to leave the place safe for trips around. I have been staying there for nearly 30 years and it is a place to forget your troubles without any difficulty.

 

The Long Beach in Kommetjie (close to Cape Town)

A tiny hotel on one of the most spectacular beaches I know, the Long Beach is a home away from home (www.thelastword.co.za). You wake up with the sound of the ocean in your ears and a view of the sea and the mountains near Cape Town. You can walk for hours on an almost deserted (very) long beach or go explore the Cape. The staff is super friendly and helpful and will make you a good lunch or dinner which you can eat on a terrace overlooking the bay.  Cape Town is only 45 minutes away from this quiet and unspoiled place. If you follow the Chapmans Peak Drive to Hout Bay on Friday afternoons or Saturdays then you can have a great time at the Harbour Market where you can buy many nice local things and enjoy good South African food and music

 

 

What to see?
Monte Oliveto Maggiore (Asciano; 30 k East of Siena)
When you travel through the so called Crete from Siena to Asciano you can take close to Asciano the road towards the abbey Monte Oliveto Maggiore. This beautifully located abbey is certainly worth a journey. Building of the abbey started in 1313 and it is an abbey of the Benedictine monks. When you go there you will have to visit the so called Claustrum where you can admire 36 beautiful 15th century frescoes painted by Luca Signorelli and Il Sodoma. Once you have visited the abbey, continue towards the small town of San Giovanni d’Asso. Just before you reach this small place, you will have a very special park called Il Bosco della Ragnaia on your right hand site. Park your car there and walk around in this fantasy world shaped by an American artist.

Santorini (Greece)
The island of Santorini is known by many tourists for its nature and beaches. However not too many take the time to visit the excavation in a place called Akrotiri. Here archaeologists are busy since many years to discover a town which dates back to very ancient Greek days. The town was covered by ash from a volcano in 1628 BC. This volcanic eruption finished the old, Minoic civilisation as well as the high level of civilisation in Akrotiri. Little if anything was known about Akrotiri and its civilisation until the excavations started. When you visit this place you will be surprised how far advanced civilisation was in the 17th century BV. It is a good way to combine a holiday on a nice island with some historical detective work.

What to read or watch?
The Gospel according to Pilate (Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt)
Pilate recounts in this book his version of the facts about the trial and crucifixion of Christ and the events thereafter in fictitious letters to his brother Titus. The book tells about the shocking experiences and confrontational preaching’s, about a religion of love that went against all norms set by the Romans at that time. The cold analytical Roman approach by Pilate cannot answer questions such as whether there is a ‘Jesus mystery’ or just a ‘Jesus problem’. In his book, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt approaches life and religion from an unusual perspective.

Night train to Lisbon (Pascal Mercier)
I found this book challenging and beautiful. It confronts the reader with questions he or she might have about the way life can be led and the changes that can be made to it. The main character is a teacher of Greek and Latin for many years. When he meets very briefly a Portuguese woman he decides to break out of his life and take the train to Lisbon. Not easy to read but very beautiful and a worthwhile confrontation with everyday life.

Pane e tulipani

A wonderful, light Italian movie about a woman, slaving housewife and mother of 2 boys in their teens, who is forgotten by her family in a restaurant on the Italian motorway. She does not await the return of her husband and sons, but decides to take her life back in her own hands. Venice is where it all starts and what a setting for this dreaming away film which reminded me somewhat of the movie Shirley Valentine.

 

Shadow of the wind (Carlos Ruiz Záfon)

I could not stop reading this book about a doomed love and a young man who discovers a book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. It is a story within a story that keeps you reading and only think about the main character Daniel (or is it Julian or ??) It is a mysterious novel about the mysteries of life and love and the quest for those and for other hidden treasures.

 

Winnie the Pooh (A A Milne)

My favourite book since childhood! And I still read parts of the book from time to time. Winnie the Pooh is the character you would want to have yourself or the type of undemanding always optimistic, good humoured friend. For me all characters in this book portray a type of person and it is so funny to read about these animals  and the think who in your neighbourhood looks like Tigger, Piglet, Kanga, Owl or Eeyore or any of the others. The book is full of unquestioning loyalty, friendship and humour. For me the most positive book I can read and quote like the little conversation between Pooh and Piglet, when Pooh asks “what day is it”? Piglet then says “It is today” to which Pooh reacts saying “my favourite day”.