Archive for the ‘Tourism’ Category

By Cara Mia DiMassaOctober 6, 2013

APELDOORN, NETHERLANDS — Dozens of black-and-yellow squirrel monkeys scampered around us, some running above on high ropes, others swooping in close to us as we walked.

This was one of the many delights of the Apenheul, a primate park in rural Netherlands where monkeys, apes and lemurs are allowed to run free.

The squirrel monkeys hopped easily onto the arms and shoulders of park visitors, who snapped pictures of the spectacle with cameras and phones. Our daughters, ages 4 and 8, squealed. Green-clad docents schooled them in proper primate behavior. (Keep your fists closed, for example, so the monkeys don’t think you are about to feed them.)

Our daughters moved in closer, carefully approaching one group of monkeys that had gathered on a low wall. Annika, our older one, stuck out a bent arm toward one of them. She cooed and coaxed. After a few tries, the squirrel monkey tentatively climbed onto her arm, then stayed there contentedly. Annika beamed.

Planning a family visit to the Netherlands often centers on Amsterdam and will, most definitely, include challenges and counter-programming. Yes, there are spectacular museums, canal houses and the ghost of Anne Frank, but a visit with young children in tow requires vigilance in certain districts and coffee shops.

But travel 60 miles southeast of Amsterdam and you will be rewarded with family-friendly destinations. On a recent trip to the Netherlands, my husband, daughters and I found elaborate climbing structures and playgrounds awaiting us at many tourist destinations, including the phenomenal Burgers’ Zoo outside of Arnhem and De Hoge Veluwe, the more-than-13,000-acre national park where a stable of bicycles provides the only form of transportation. “Pancake houses,” where menus include a variety of scrumptious pannekoeken from savory to sweet, were ubiquitous in most cities and towns.

Our greatest pleasure came from our visit to the Apenheul, the product of one man’s hobby-turned-folly that has become a major tourist draw for the city of Apeldoorn, which sits at the center of the Netherlands.

My husband’s great-aunt, who has lived in the area for decades, had been anticipating our visit, and when we arrived at her apartment she took a handful of newspaper clippings from a cabinet, her printed argument that a trip to her city would be incomplete without a visit to the Apenheul.

We took her advice and were rewarded with memories and photographs for a lifetime.

Wim Mager, a Dutch photographer from Rotterdam, bought his first primates — two pygmy monkeys — from a pet store in the 1960s. After the monkeys had a baby and Mager started taking in stray primates, his collection blossomed.

In the late 1960s he began looking for space to house them and in 1971 founded the Apenheul on a half-acre of property in the middle of the Apeldoorn park known as Berg en Bos, or Mountain and Forest.

At first the Apenheul focused on South American primates, but as visitors began to stream in, the park expanded its list to include monkeys, apes and prosimians — primates such as lemurs and bush babies.

Apenheul can be translated as “ape consolation.” The park’s name stems from the fact that the apes give comfort to the humans who visit them — and vice versa.

Mager envisioned a big, green, natural property where people could encounter primates free of the bars and cages that were typical of most animal enclosures. Such a property, he believed, would allow the animals to enjoy themselves more. And when animals are having more fun, he suggested, visitors can have more fun, too.

The concept was simple but compelling. The park began to expand, growing its space and its list of primates. Today the park, open from late March through late October, hosts about a half-million visitors a year. Placards, maps and other materials were available in Dutch, English and German when we visited. Although we tried to use our limited Dutch at the Apenheul, we found English speakers everywhere, eager to help us as we fumbled along.

Guidance from the green-jacketed park docents started as soon as we stepped through the Apenheul’s gates. We were encouraged to place all of our belongings in “monkey-proof” sacks, brightly colored messenger bags designed to keep curious primates out of our pockets and backpacks.

As we walked through the park, we felt as though we were circling the globe on a special kind of safari, spotting animals of all colors and sizes, many with behavior that seemed altogether familiar.

In the bonobo house, an indoor playground of rope, logs and baskets, a 2-year-old bonobo played what looked like a tickle game with two adults.

When a furry reddish creature crossed our path, we thought it looked like a combination of a raccoon and a possum — two animals that make frequent visits to our hillside neighborhood. A lemur, a nearby sign explained.

At the sight of a proboscis monkey — with its Muppet-like features and an unmistakable bulbous nose — our younger daughter, Giuliana, laughed out loud. “These are really ridiculous,” she said.

Throughout the park the Apenheul tries to underscore the similarities between humans and primates. Beyond the usual information about evolution, with skulls and skeletons making the physical argument for the relationships between our species, a series of playgrounds challenged young visitors to climb, crawl, walk and move like their primate cousins. A climbing wall near the Berber monkeys and a swinging rope near the orangutan exhibit were especially popular with our daughters.

So, too, were the presence of many baby primates. On our visit, during our daughters’ spring break vacations, the springtime effect was in full force. At the orangutan exhibit, a baby clung to its mother’s fur as she climbed in and out between the indoor and outdoor play areas.

At the pygmy marmoset space, a baby no bigger than my pinkie finger perched on a grown marmoset’s shoulder. The baby had been born less than two weeks before our visit, and as it huddled with three other marmosets under a heat lamp, I could only think of my own little family of four.

Five baby gorillas, four female and one male, had been born at the Apenheul in the previous year, a record for a zoo its size. And though the park’s gorillas spend much of the year on a small “island” at a distance from the other primates and visitors, they were still inside “Gorillas innen,” a special gorilla house where we could see the babies and their mothers up close.

We were instantly charmed. Save for their size and strength, the baby gorillas seemed to act like typical toddlers, banging their fists for food, enjoying games of tag and cuddling up to their mothers for hugs.

One baby gorilla in particular caught our older daughter’s eye. She patiently waited for other guests to clear the area and then put her hand up against the plexiglass in a sign of greeting.

She, and we, were floored by what came next: The young gorilla peered at our daughter for a moment and then placed its hand against the glass on the opposite side, mimicking our daughter’s greeting.

Our daughter turned to us, tears in her eyes, visibly moved. “I’ll never forget this,” she said.

Nor would we.

travel@latimes.com

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The details on Apeldoorn, Netherlands

THE BEST WAY TO APELDOORN, NETHERLANDS

From LAX, nonstop service to Amsterdam is offered on KLM, and connecting service (change of plane) is offered on Delta, United, Air France, British and Lufthansa. Restricted round-trip airfares range from $1,124 to $1,487, including taxes and fees. ArkeFly also flies nonstop from LAX, but service is seasonal (ends Oct. 20). Apeldoorn is about one hour and 10 minutes by train from Amsterdam.

TELEPHONES

To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 31 (the country code for Netherlands), the city code and the local number.

WHAT TO SEE

Apenheul Primate Park, 21 J.C. Wilslaan, Apeldoorn, Netherlands; 55-357-5757, http://www.apenheul.com. Inside Berg en Bos Park in Apeldoorn. Open from late March to late October. Admission about $27 for adults, $24 for children ages 3-9. Children younger than 3 are free.

Other family-friendly destinations nearby include the De Houge Veluwe, a national parkhttp://www.hogeveluwe.nl/en/14 and the Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem, http://www.burgerszoo.nl.

WHERE TO STAY

Van der Valk Hotel de Cantharel, 20 Van Golsteinlaan, Apeldoorn; 55-541-44-55, http://www.hoteldecantharel.nl/en. A 10-minute drive from the Apenheul, with a children’s playground chickens and deer out back). A family room that could accommodate four begins at about $200 a night.

Linge Hotel Elst, 23B Dorpsstraat, Elst; 481-365-260, http://www.lingehotelelst.nl/en/index.html. The small town of Elst is an easy 45-minute drive from Apeldoorn. The 28-room has a special “family room” ( two adjoining rooms, with a bathtub in the children’s room) for about $TK a night with breakfast. We found it cozy, and the staff were helpful and cheery.

WHERE TO EAT

Restaurant ‘t Koetshuis, 2 Maarten van Rossumplein, Vaassen; 578-571-501, http://restaurant-koetshuis.nl/. A favorite of our family living in the area and a kid’s dream come true, mostly because it’s in the coach house of the nearby Cannenburch Castle. The restaurant serves a seasonal, three-course prix fixe menu, with a range of choices, about $44.

Hartelust Pannekoekvilla, 48 Dorpsstraat, Elst; 481-45-2789, http://www.hartelust.com. Pancake — or pannekoek — houses abound in the Netherlands and are a great choice when kids are in tow. I loved the apple pannekoek with ginger, and a version with bananas and whipped cream was a hit with our daughters. Dinner for four was about $68-$80.

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What to see and do in Amsterdam this autumn, including suggestions from our expert on where to stay.
Amsterdam attractions: what to see and do in autumn

Autumn in Amsterdam is for bracing walks along the canals Photo: AP

9:53AM BST 25 Sep 2013 

Why go?

Amsterdam somehow manages to have it all. It has the buzz of a metropolis, with few big-city drawbacks. It’s small enough to walk or cycle almost anywhere you want, yet is rarely dull. Dinky gabled buildings, pretty bridges and quiet canals give it village-like charm, yet you’ll also find top-ranking art museums and one of the best orchestras in the world. Most of all, Amsterdam combines its glittering past with a wry, rough, rebellious contemporary edginess.

Any season in Amsterdam has its allure, and autumn for bracing walks along the canals.

On the downside, expect rain or Tupperware-grey skies any time of year – but then there’s more than enough on the museum front to keep you entertained indoors, and at the slightest hint of good weather the chairs and tables go out at pavement cafés.

Autumn foliage

Trees line Amsterdam’s famous canals, meaning autumn is a great time for strolling around the city, and soaking up the colours. Wander the main 17th-century canals – Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht – but check out the picture-postcard Brouwersgracht, and the patch around Reguliersgracht, too.

Vondelpark, to the southwest of the city centre, is another decent bet for leaf-peeping. Other green spaces include Beatrixpark, Sarphatipark, and Oosterpark.

New exhibitions

Hermitage Amsterdam
Gaugin, Bonnard, Denis: A Russian Taste for French Art (until February 2014)

Set in a former almshouse for the aged, built in the 1680s, Hermitage Amsterdam shows off treasures on loan from the Hermitage palace in St Petersburg, in different themed exhibitions.

Its current exhibition highlights the works of three French artists from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
www.hermitage.nl

Rijksmuseum
Documenting the Netherlands: Our Daily Bread (until January 7, 2014)

The Dutch national treasure-house of art has at last re-opened after a decade-long renovation. Golden Age masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and so many more are on show alongside centuries’ worth of fine furniture, Delftware, costume and jewellery. There’s a superb Asian collection, and new aquisitions which bring the display up to the present day.

The new exhibition features images from photographer Henk Wildschut that aim to depict the reality behind the production of fruit, vegetables, meat, milk, fish and eggs in the Netherlands.
www.rijksmuseum.nl

Expert hotel pick
Hotel Bellington is a modest option in Amsterdam’s flashiest quarter.

Van Gogh Museum
Van Gogh at Work (until January 12, 2014)

More of the tortured artist’s paintings and drawings are collected here than anywhere in the world, and the temporary exhibitions of associated works are usually inspired and engrossing.

The current exhibition is a revealing look at the formative ten years that shaped his craft, showcasing over 200 pieces including paintings, works on paper, letters, original sketchbooks and his only surviving palette.
www.vangoghmuseum.nl

The Van Gogh Museum

Other attractions

Anne Frank House
The attic rooms where the Frank family hid out during the Second World War, reached through a door behind a hinged bookcase, are bare of furniture yet almost unbearably poignant, with magazine pictures pasted on the walls by Anne still in situ.
www.annefrank.org

Expert hotel pick
Hotel Van Onna is a simple, well-run and clean hotel situated on a pretty canal. What more does one need?

Museum Van Loon
A peek indoors at the home of an Amsterdam patrician family. The 17th-century canalside mansion, one of the grandest in town, has been magnificently restored, to the last tinkling chandelier and lick of gilding.
www.museumvanloon.nl

Autumn events

Amsterdam Dance Event
October 16-20
The electronic music extravaganza is dubbed as the biggest music festival and conference in the world, featuring 2,000 artists and 450 events across 100 venues in the city.www.amsterdam-dance-event.nl

Bokbier Festival
October 25-27
This annual beer festival takes place in the historic Beurs van Berlage building in the heart of the city, where visitors can sample over 50 varieties of bock beer accompanied by music from a live band. www.pint.nl

Expert hotel pick
The Exchange Hotel is an affotable option on a hectic street between Centraal Station and the Dam, a heartbeat from the red-light district.

London Calling
November 1-2
This annaul music showcase features new bands from Britain and the US. Florence and the Machine, Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand are among the artists who made their Dutch debut at the Paradisco stage where it all takes place.
www.londoncalling.nl

Museum Night
November 2
Fifty museums across the city are open late into the night, presenting a variety of art, music, fashion and film activities and events, alongside their regular exhibitions.
www.museumnachtamsterdam.nl

The Rijksmuseum

Expert hotel pick
The Seven One Seven is a sumptuous canal-house hotel with the ambience of an (admittedly very grand) private home.

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)
November 20-December 1
Filmmakers from around the globe descend on Amsterdam for the 250 or so screenings that make up the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, with energetic public debates and discussions on the go, too.
www.idfa.nl

Additional research by Soo Kim

Click here to read the original article.

The Dutch capital is cleaning up its act. Brothels and cannabis cafés are being closed. But the most significant transformation is the renovation of the Rijksmuseum, says Robert Bevan.

At the medieval heart of Amsterdam is the Oude Kerk. The church, founded in 1213, is the city’s oldest building, a stripped back Calvinist beauty with pearly light pouring through its tall windows, over its gilded carvings and across its stone flagged floors. It is the kind of serene interior captured in the luminous oils of the Dutch Masters.

Outside, the activities are rather less sacred. The Oude Kerk is at the centre of Europe‘s largest red-light district – the Wallen – and is ringed by hot-pink shopfronts where sex workers tap the windows to attract any likely passing trade. Opposite the church door is one of dozens of cannabis cafés where you can spark up a joint of Lemon Haze and waste the day away.

For decades, such scenes have been regarded as examples of civilised Dutch tolerance – a “whatever blows your hair back” attitude – butAmsterdam has had enough. The municipality says its tolerance is being abused as the centre is being overwhelmed by tawdry sex shows, drug dealing and British stag-party weekenders. Organised crime has moved in and many businesses are fronts for money-laundering and human trafficking. So the city is rebranding itself, and has invested upwards of €700m on remaking its cultural institutions over the past decade.

The Van Gogh museum has been renovated and reopens in May, theNational Maritime Museum has been made ship-shape and the new EYE Film Institute Netherlands has opened in a futuristic building in the Overhoeks neighbourhood. The Stedelijk Museum of contemporary art, meanwhile, has been treated to a bath-like extension the size of a city block.

The futuristic EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam

‘The EYE Film Institute Netherlands has opened in a futuristic building’: Amsterdam’s answer to London’s National Film Theatre. Photograph: Henk Meijer /AlamyCrowning these efforts, the Rijksmuseum – the Dutch answer to the Louvre – reopened to the public this weekend after a decade-long closure. Under a €375m rebuilding project led by the Spanish architects Cruz y Ortiz, the museum’s two halves have been united by an undercroft that joins its two courtyards. The remodelling has been so extensive that only Rembrandt’s Night Watch remains in its original location among 8,000 objects in its 80 rooms. The central Gallery of Honour, containing works by Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch, has had a century of whitewash removed and its original late 19th-century frescos restored and reinstated.

Elsewhere, canvases are displayed alongside furniture of the same period, white-marble busts illuminated dramatically against dark charcoal walls. In the special collections section, small items have been gathered to form art installations – a wall of intricate metal keys, for example, is displayed opposite a vitrine full of locked boxes; an entire fleet of miniature wooden ships sails alongside a row of model lighthouses.

Meanwhile Project 1012, named after the red-light district’s postcode, aims to clean up the neighbourhood. The initiative began in 2007 and plans the closure of 200 out of 480 window brothels, and 26 out of 76 cannabis coffee houses; there are also plans to turn the sleazy Damrak – the main street into town from Centraal railway station – into a “red carpet” of welcome to the city, with “upmarket shopping, fashion and cuisine”. Right-wing politicians called for tourists to be banned entirely from the coffee shops, a step too far for the municipality of Amsterdam, which has just won an exemption to the weed law. But it has negotiated a €25m deal to buy 18 brothels and gambling dens from their owners and put them to new uses, following the 2008 experiments Red Light Fashion and Red Light Design in which young Dutch designers were allowed to live and work rent free for a year in former brothels and use their windows for showcases. Since then, a former gambling house has been transformed into the Mata Hari bar, and a micro-brewery, deli, florist and homewares stores have also opened nearby.

The poster project for Project 1012 is Anna, a fine-dining restaurant carved out of an old gallery and printworks by former club owner Michiel Kleiss. “You don’t need much critical mass around here,” Kleiss tells me. “If you are doing something classy, it immediately works.”

The Oude Kerk has been known as Amsterdam’s living room throughout its history, and these days it is also used as a concert hall and exhibition space as part of its restoration. Across the square, Orpheu de Jong runs Red Light Radio and has a recording studio in the window. A few doors down his sister Afaina, a former architect, has opened the Ultra de la Rue gallery. Both were brought up only a few minutes from the red-light district but say they didn’t set foot in it until they were adults. “It’s a good thing for the area,” says Afaina, but both she and Orpheu are wary of the area losing its edge entirely.

Stand in front of the Rijksmuseum’s charcoal-painted walls and look again at those Golden Age pictures of church interiors and you will find depictions of dogs cavorting, gallants chatting up maids and market stalls trading within the house of God. There will always be many shades of grey in Amsterdam.

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Boom Chicago started as a joke. In 1992, Andrew Moskos and Jon “Pep” Rosenfeld, two aimless Northwestern University grads who’d been in their college improv troupe, Mee-Ow—well, Rosenfeld was a member, Moskos was a superfan—were on vacation in Amsterdam when they had what Moskos now refers to as the “best stoner idea” ever. During the trip, they’d noticed how many people in Amsterdam spoke English. Why not open an improv theater in the city? Six months later, the two had quit their jobs at educational nonprofits in Illinois and were running Boom Chicago out of a dilapidated piano bar in the Leidseplein, a sketchy tourist district. Last month, Boom finally moved into a classy theater in Jordaan, a quiet residential neighborhood, solidifying its spot alongside Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, Second City in Chicago, and the Groundlings in Los Angeles as one of the world’s preeminent improv institutions. And it only took 20 years.

The improv comedy business model is built on cheap beer, cheaper tickets, and lowbrow humor, and as an investment opportunity, it’s a punch line. The Upright Citizens Brigade in New York has thrived in part by not paying performers. Ticket prices are kept low, and funny strivers sacrifice cash for onstage exposure. While more than 300,000 fans visit Second City in Chicago each year, even it’s had trouble expanding beyond its borders, closing its Las Vegas show in 2008 because of spotty ticket sales. Smaller outfits fare worse: In the last year, once-healthy improv clubs have shuttered in Louisville (Fourth Street Live!), Los Angeles (Hollywood Improv), and Tempe, Ariz. (the Tempe Improv, which had been open 20 years). Yet after two decades,Boom continues to grow. Moskos and Rosenfeld “went out there on a trip, saw a void, and professionally f-‍-‍-ing filled it. And now they serve dinner with it,” says past Boom performer (’00-’01) and current Saturday Night Live cast member Jason Sudeikis.

Boom might not have the name recognition of the Groundlings or the Harvard Lampoon, but its alumni certainly rate. There’s SNL’s head writer Seth Meyers and cast member Sudeikis, Jordan Peele, whose Key and Peele is the buzziest new show on Comedy Central (VIA), The Mindy Project’s Ike Barinholtz, Pitch Perfect screenwriter Kay Cannon, How I Met Your Mother’s Joe Kelly, and names from Veep and Portlandia. Attracting cast members wasn’t difficult even in the early days, says Rosenfeld; young comedians just wanted to be onstage. Allison Silverman (’97), later an Emmy winner for The Colbert Report, was one of Boom’s first hires. “At the time I was, honest to God, a receptionist at a sausage factory in Chicago,” she says. The job at Boom, which paid around €200 ($261) a week, came with the use of a bunk bed in the kitchen of a shared apartment.

The first Boom Chicago show drew around 25 customers, mostly drunk American co-eds recruited as they were leaving the Heineken factory tour. Tickets were 15 guilders (€7), and marketing was essential. To boost awareness, Rosenfeld and Moskos (whose father, Charles Moskos, was the military policy expert who wrote “don’t ask, don’t tell” for Bill Clinton) put together a tourist guide to Amsterdam that steered visitors to local restaurants and attractions. “One of the things the map was very hot for was Boom Chicago,” says Rosenfeld.

Attendance improved, but there were other challenges. “All those great social benefits you hear about in Europe?” says Ken Schaefle, the theater’s first technical director. “They’re paid for by the employer. This is going to sound like a joke, but Holland requires you to sign a lifetime contract with your employee.” It’s true: After a year, without a special provision, workers at Dutch companies automatically become permanent. Boom ended up having to buy out a lot of employee contracts. “I’m all for socialism. But it’s a pretty bad scene when the s-‍-‍-‍-y bartender knows you’d fire him if you could but continues to be s-‍-‍-‍-y,” says Meyers (’97-’99).

By 1997, Boom had enough money to move out of its first tiny home into a bigger space nearby with more seats and a restaurant. The food business brought in cash, but Boom’s performers had to contend with office holiday parties and drunk patrons who treated the show as background noise. In 2003 the theater was still struggling, Schaefle says, with the owners memorably canceling their Christmas vacations to meet payroll. “People ask me, ‘Oh, you live in Amsterdam, do you get high all the time?’ I say, ‘No, I get high all the time in Chicago. In Amsterdam I run a business,’ ” says Rosenfeld.

What kept Boom going was its belief in what it was selling—a mix of topical humor (early Facebook (FB) cracks, George W. Bush jokes) and silly European observations. “Dutch people will take you apart,” says Barinholtz (’99-’01). “They’ll say, ‘It was not my cup of tea. You were medium-funny. Your black friend was quite funny.’ ” When in doubt, Peele (’00-’03) says, “If you made a joke about Germans being a-‍-holes or Belgians being stupid, that was money in the bank.”

Two-thirds of Boom Chicago’s audience is now Dutch

Photograph by Raimond Wouda for Bloomberg Businessweek

Two-thirds of Boom Chicago’s audience is now Dutch

Boom’s finances slowly began to stabilize. From 2007 to 2008, the troupe had its own show on Comedy Central Netherlands, which regularly beat SNL and The Daily Show in local ratings. As the theater’s reputation grew, celebrities would often show up to check out the scene. Sheryl Crow, Michael Chiklis, Ron Jeremy, Burt Reynolds, and Pink all attended performances. “We were sort of D-list celebs. It’s a small enough city that you could bump into people who knew you from the show,” says MadTV’s Josh Meyers (’98-’02), who very nearly spent the night with Brigitte Nielsen after a Boom show (long story). With alumni succeeding in Hollywood and in New York—Seth Meyers on SNL, Silverman and Peter Grocz with Colbert—Boom became a career steppingstone for comedians, as valid as doing time at ImprovOlympic in Chicago or at the Groundlings in L.A. Peele says he got a job at MadTVbecause he’d worked with Barinholtz and Josh Meyers at Boom. Peele’s paying it forward, having hired Boom alums Colton Dunn and Rebecca Drysdale to write for Key and Peele. “I think the biggest uses [of the alumni network] are still on the way,” he says.

Moskos, who married Boom’s first employee, Saskia Maas, is happy to report that the new space in Jordaan has showers for the performers and a bar, but no restaurant. “We sell a bucket of beer and you take it into the theater,” he says. He expects the bar to bring in €500,000 this year, and the top ticket price has reached €40. These days, two-thirds of Boom’s audience (which has reached about 50,000 paying customers yearly) is made up of locals, and the theater is now so ingrained in Dutch culture thatAirFrance-KLM (AFLYY) airline executives recently hired the Boom cast to shoot their in-air promos. The comedians, who make a comfortable €30,000 a year, recently did their first full sketch in Dutch, a game show called Mogelijk of Niet Mogelijk, which translates roughly as “Possible or Not Possible”—the punch line had something to do with a much-delayed new Amsterdam train line.

A 20th anniversary party is planned for May, with many notable former cast members flying in to mark the occasion. Barinholtz waxes poetic about the alumni connection. “It’s that feeling when two vets run into each other. No matter if it’s a Korean War vet talking to a Gulf War vet—we all share this experience,” he says. “Yes, I am comparing me making pee-pee jokes to America’s greatest heroes,” he adds. “I want to make that clear.”

Read original article here.

It may be cold outside right now, but here’s a promise of good things to come. French photographer Normann Szkop snapped these amazing aerial photos of the tulip fields of Anna Paulowna in northern Netherlands.

BY / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2013, 3:12 PM

NORMANN SZKOP

Here’s a vibrant reminder of what makes springtime in the Netherlands so beautiful.

French photographer Normann Szkop took to the skies last year to capture these glorious aerial shots of tulip fields in Anna Paulowna, a town in northern Netherlands. For tulip farmers, this beauty is a business. The flowers are sheared off, and about 2 billion bulbs are exported every year. But for a fleeting moment, the angles and lines created by these tulips turn mass production into quite a lovely thing.

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NORMANN SZKOP

The Dutch fields start working early, producing crocuses in late January, according to the National Geographic. Then come the daffodils, narcissi and hyacinths. The flower season reaches a climax in April and May, when tulips blanket the fields like a quilt of many colors.

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NORMANN SZKOP

The Dutch have learned to capitalize on this spectacle, drawing tourists in with an annual Tulip Festival. This year’s festivities will begin April 17. 

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NORMANN SZKOP

The first tulip arrived in the Netherlands from Asia in 1593, sparking a flurry of sales that would later be called “Tulipomania.” During the 17th century, one bulb could cost you what a Ferrari costs today, The New York Times reports.

The bulbs are destined for Dutch auction houses, where sales of tulips produce about $300 million every year.

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NORMANN SZKOP

See more photos at “Flying over the Tulips Fields” Flickr page.

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NORMANN SZKOP

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/tulips-fields-full-bloom-article-1.1253883#ixzz2Jv8jXqYs

Heineken® marks its 140-year anniversary with the launch of a spectacular light installation and is inviting people across the globe to connect in celebration in a fun and groundbreaking way. It has illuminated its spiritual home at the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam with five thousand iconic green Heineken bottles, each carrying an LED light inside to create a digital video screen like never seen before, starring its millions of fans around the world.

The innovative exhibit will stand tall outside the building from December 7th 2012 – January 3rd 2013 – the first ever installation of its kind of this scale, celebrating Heineken’s inventive spirit. As part of an open global party people are invited to share their own celebration messages through the power of Facebook which light up in a dynamic animated showcase, alongside bold visuals inspired by the brand’s iconic evolution.

Cyril Charzat, Senior Director, Global Heineken Brand at HEINEKEN said: “Heineken’s® proud to celebrate its 140th anniversary – not by dwelling on history but by reaching out to the world and inviting everybody to join in, just as we have been connecting people since we first launched.

He added: “Heineken has the mindset of an explorer – always looking forward and progressing and it is this quality that has made it such an iconic brand. We are always seeking new and exciting ways to engaging with our consumers around the world, igniting the conversation and tapping into their lives.”

To help Heineken celebrate its 140th year, people are invited to share a personal celebration message and a picture of themselves via a dedicated tab on Heineken’s Facebook page. This will form part of a dynamic animated dance sequence bringing the party to life on the bottle wall and ensuring that while the installation takes place in Heineken’s native home Amsterdam, fans can still dance the night away in an exciting global celebration to mark a landmark in the brand’s history.

For more information or to take part: www.heineken.com/celebratewithheineken

Original Dutch Daily News article found here

Hotel Insider: Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht

Kipat Wilson on Dec 14, 2012

The welcome

A large flag helps me locate this five-star property set amid the pretty canals of Amsterdam’s city centre. Built in the 1970s as a public library, what was once an austere five-storey building has been transformed into an inviting luxury hotel with exuberant interiors by the Dutch designer Marcel Wanders. Once inside, I find myself in a lobby that has a fairy-tale atmosphere, with large, white bell-shaped chandeliers, rings of coloured lights and bright red, oversized chairs.

The neighbourhood

Prinsengracht is a classic Amsterdam street complete with cobblestones, bicycles, humpbacked bridges and canal boats sailing by, plus tall, grand, gabled buildings all squeezed together in a last-ditch effort to stay upright. It’s part of a well-heeled but not stuffy neighbourhood known as Nine Streets, which is full of charming little shops, engaging museums and snug spots to eat and drink. If you’re new to the city, you couldn’t find a more delightful place to start exploring.

The room

The 122 rooms (including five suites) have views over the canal, gardens or interior and are decorated in a fun style with white walls and a midnight blue ceiling. A large photo of a fish sits above the bed while a pair of clogs painted like a clown’s face hang on the opposite wall. Wi-Fi and the minibar are both complimentary, and there’s a small library of books related to Amsterdam.

The service

Slick and friendly. Unlike many hotels, there is no big reception desk in the lobby− just roving staff with tablet PCs who fix everything. The idea is to break down barriers, and it works.

The food

The Bluespoon Restaurant is an L-shaped space with a large, open kitchen at the corner. The menu focuses on local produce and includes traditional Dutch dishes such as codfish stamppot (mixed with mashed potatoes; €19 [Dh90]).

Breakfast is more successful – a sumptuous buffet (€29; Dh138) featuring Dutch fish, meat, cheeses and honey worth lingering over.

The scene

Since opening in October, the hotel has attracted a steady stream of visitors who appreciate the stress–diminishing style of Andaz properties.

Marcel Wanders has a well–deserved following too − described by The New York Times as the “Lady Gaga of the design world”, he co-founded the Moooi label and has worked with companies such as Alessi, MAC Cosmetics, KLM and Marks & Spencer. Everywhere you look you can see his touches, from the specially designed dinner plates to the hand-painted washbasins.

A mural entitled Alice in Amsterdam overlooks a large garden and courtyard, which will be a useful place to relax in summer. The property also has a fitness centre and a (small) Urban Spa with a mixed sauna and two treatment rooms.

Loved

The detail in Marcel Wanders’ designs. Many of the walls are covered with words and pictures relating to Amsterdam’s rich history, making the hotel feel like a walk-in book.

Hated

The 40 works of video art dotted around the public areas range from the decorative to the unsettling and include a large screen in the lobby showing a woman endlessly jumping up and down on a bed. It gets very tiresome − and the staff agreed.

The verdict

The pairing of Marcel Wanders’ playful designs with the feel-free philosophy of Andaz Hotels is a winning mix, and the canalside location is as good as it gets in Amsterdam.

The bottom line

A double room costs from €270 (Dh1,300) per night, including taxes. Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht, Prinsengracht 587, 1067 HT Amsterdam, Netherlands (www.andazamsterdam.com; 00 31 20 523 1234).

Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/travel/hotel-insider-andaz-amsterdam-prinsengracht#ixzz2F2Z6TJ5g

More on Andaz

Here’s a second article about the Andaz in the New York Times By STEPHEN HEYMAN

 DECEMBER 5, 2012

  • The lounge area in the new Andaz hotel in Amsterdam.
  • The lobby.
  • One of the bedrooms, with overlooking view of the canal.
  • Bluespoon Kitchen at Andaz sports an open view of the kitchen

The new Andaz hotel in Amsterdam opened in late October on the Prinsengracht, the longest and probably the loveliest of the canals that ring the Dutch capital. Its arrival is part of a mini hotel boom in Amsterdam, a welcome development for a first-rate city that has long lacked first-rate hotels. The Andaz was preceded by the opening of the supersleek Conservatorium Hotel; next year, according to the city’s visitors bureau, a five-star Waldorf-Astoria will arrive along with 13 other new hotels.

For the first Andaz on the continent (there’s already one in London), the Dutch design hero Marcel Wanders was given carte blanche to transform a former city library into an eye-popping fantasia of filigrees, gigantic-backed chairs, matte-black candelabra, “monster” chairs and huge bell-shaped light fixtures. It feels very “Alice in Wonderland,” and that’s obviously one of the many things Wanders had in mind, because towering over the hotel’s garden is a gigantic mural of “Alice in Amsterdam,” a wispy girl who’s bent over and clutching a big blue spoon. “We don’t know what she took,” the hotel’s publicist told me. “But she definitely took something.”

My modestly apportioned canal-view king room was laid out in a similar fashion as the rooms at the W hotel in London: the bathroom and shower are hidden inside mirrored closets; the sink is contained in a multipurpose island table, so you can wash up and then serve drinks on the same surface. Of course the room design has also been Wandersized: wallpapered above the bed was a gigantic photograph of a herring fused together with a Champagne flute, bisected by the triple-x symbol of Amsterdam. There are clogs nailed to the wall. The w.c. is covered in local trivia, written out in Delft blue script.

This is a big beer town, God bless, but sometimes a weary traveler is in the mood for a well-made cocktail, which can be a tall order in many European cities. The barman at the Andaz, however, could teach his countrymen a few things about mixing drinks: a classic old fashioned here was appealingly stiff and citrusy and the New York sour — with port wine and scotch instead of the typical red wine and rye — made for a deeply delicious nightcap. Bluespoon Bar, the Andaz’s canal-side lobby lounge, has already become such a hit with Amsterdammers that the hotel had to relocate its complimentary afternoon wine service to a parlor off the lobby in order to discourage freeloading among nonguests.

Andaz Amsterdam, Prinsengracht 587, 011-31-20-52-31-23-4; doubles from about $425.

Original New York Times post found here