Saturday, March 2, 2024

The Enduring Delights of Traditional Hotels

The Duke's Palace, Bruge, Belgium. 
For a few millennia, inns have existed. Until the last century or two, however, places to plop your head typically hosted working travelers and tradesmen, not leisure travelers and vacationers. 

In fact, the concept of a vacation is a recent development. (Decades ago, a French instructor taught me that the word “travel” is related to the French word “travaille”, which means work. In the not-too-distant past, there was not much that was enjoyable about travel. It was work.) 

Good thing for the modern-day traveler that enterprising individuals figured out that all travel might not be work and that there was a market for grand hotels and quaint inns. These spots took advantage of stunning views, inspiring settings, cozy rooms, or palatial surroundings. And a newly-hatched leisure class checked in. 


These days, travelers have another option, of course. With the Internet, we can easily book villas or homes via Air BnB and other apps. As a result, many of us have forsaken traditional hotels. 


For me, though, there’s a lot to like about Old School hotels. And while I occasionally rent a house or condo, I’m reluctant to give up my hotel habit. 


I’m no Luddite or hopelessly-out-of-touch Boomer, mind you. I’ve used Vrbo and Airbnb, and while the villas and condos I booked offered sweet spots to vacation, there was always something lacking. 


The Mayan Inn, Chichicastenango, Guatemala. 

I’m not talking about the fact that a Vrbo “luxury” home near Sonoma offered five bedrooms, but only two bathrooms, or that a fifth floor Paris pied-à-terre was tucked at the top of a building without a working elevator. No, these were minor inconveniences in the scheme of things. It’s something else, something far more fundamental I’m missing when I don’t stay in a hotel. 


For starters, I love the breakfasts that only traditional hotels offer. Travel ought to include trying a new thing or two and it’s rare that I belly up to a buffet at an international or small U.S. hotel that doesn’t feature a food I’ve never eaten. And then there’s the mesmerizing murmur of conversation—tourists plan their day, studying subway maps and plotting walking routes. Businesspeople make notes and talk shop with co-workers. 


Hotel breakfasts are an invitation to linger, to read an entire newspaper or a few chapters of that difficult-to-put-down novel. Or perhaps to ponder life’s great questions. 


The Hassler Bar, Rome.
And then there’s the breakfast room itself. “Rooms” range from the palatial at Rome’s Hassler to Eden-like in the courtyard garden of Austria’s Weingut Nigl. Or there’s the verdant patio of Cambodia’s Shinta Mani.


While a good breakfast room can make a hotel, it’s hardly the only interesting room. For downtime in the afternoon, libraries, sitting rooms, and sunny nooks with comfortable armchairs seduce. 


And for evenings—both early and late—the bar. There is no quintessential hotel bar: good ones are as varied as hotels themselves—dark, tiny, grand, marbled, worn, cozy, hushed or lively. 


And then there’s perhaps the most obvious room of all: the lobby. Like the much-ballyhooed hotel bar, a great hotel lobby is unique. There is no exact formula that creates the perfect space, but we know a great lobby the moment we enter it. 


A great lobby tempts you to linger to soak up the space, observe fellow guests coming and going, and maybe sip a drink. It might have semi-private corners for hushed conversations (or to quietly observe others) or prominent, comfortable chairs and sofas that invite lounging. 


Finally, traditional hotels have the upper hand come check-out time. Unlike rented rooms or houses, there is no cleaning, no bed-stripping, no tidying things up prior to departure. Departure options can include a scheduled taxi to the airport or a breakfast to-go bag, if you’d like, and almost always a cheery farewell. 


While a sizable chunk of the modern traveling world may have checked out of checking in to hotels, I won’t be giving up my traditional hotel habit anytime soon. 


For some of my favorite spots, as well as some of the things that make them unique, read on. 

The Hassler (Rome, Italy) Atop the Spanish Steps, the fabled Hassler offers one of the most intimate, atmosphere-rich bars in a city brimming with enticing spots. Think polished wood, marble, murals of old Rome, impeccable service, and expertly-mixed drinks perfectly suited for this gilded spot. 

Shinta Mani (Siam Reap, Cambodia) Warm smiles, cool, jasmine-scented towels and icy lemongrass-flavored water greet you after a day of exploring the tumbled ruins of steamy Angkor Wat. Sublime, work-of-art flower displays created daily complement immense contemporary paintings—all illuminated by candlelight come nightfall. This Bensley Collection property competes with the nearby ancient ruins for attention and time. 

Hotel Pensione Villa Accademia (Venice, Italy) The former Russian embassy, this sleepy, quaint spot near the Accademia boasts an antique- and light-filled second story sala perfect for lounging—or cocktails. 


Hotel Captain Cook (Anchorage, Alaska) Don’t let the somewhat bland, contemporary façade fool you: this Anchorage hotel full of paintings documenting Captain Cook’s travels around the Pacific couldn’t be anywhere but Alaska. And it’s anything but bland inside. Many rooms offer views of distant volcanoes and an occasional ghostly-white beluga whale plying the waters just below the hotel.


Bosque del Cabo (Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica) Part of the wild and sometimes raucous rainforest, this eco-resort and its serene sea-view villas allow you to experience Costa Rican nature without leaving your private terrace. Several species of monkeys, endangered macaws, flocks of toucans, and an occasional puma prowl and cavort on the manicured grounds surrounding the villas. Communal dinners in an open-air main lodge offer abundant candlelight and conversation under the warm blanket of jungle darkness. Interested? Read more about my experiences here.

Chicago Athletic Association (Chicago, USA) A cavernous, dimly-lit lobby bar channels an old Venetian palace and the hotel’s earlier incarnation as a private men’s club. In winter, grab a table in front of one of the immense fireplaces or peer over Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park while nibbling breakfast or sipping a cocktail. 

Hotel Bristol (Oslo, Norway) One of Scandinavia’s great gifts to the world is the smorgasbord. And the Hotel Bristol, set in the heart of the city, may render all previous smorgasbord experiences inferior. Come evening, carefully-concocted cocktails are shaken and stirred by fastidious bartenders in the atmosphere-rich bar.


Old Cataract (Aswan, Egypt) Virginia Woolf knew how to write a mystery, but she also clearly knew how to choose a hotel. Perched above the serene Nile with views of Elephantine Island and the Western Desert beyond (just as depicted in the 70’s Death on the Nile), the Old Cataract is to Egypt what Claridge’s is to London. Spacious rooms in a new tower offer expansive terraces with unforgettable views of the Nile speckled with feluccas and brightly painted boats. Happy Hour here comes with unrivaled, cinematic views and the hypnotic, other-worldly call to prayer while the sun sinks behind dun-colored western hills and the mausoleum of the Aga Khan. 

Hotel Imperial (Vienna, Austria) That this former Hapsburg pad feels palatial isn’t by chance—it is, in fact, a former palace. The historic property is full of fine paintings (some of which decorate rooms) and a staircase that cannot be passed by without taking a regal selfie. Breakfast is served by formally attired, fastidious and friendly waiters in the sunny café with Viennese coffee specialties and a selection of newspapers. 

Norfolk (Nairobi, Kenya) When I stayed at this storied haunt in the late 1990s and early aughts, it wasn’t yet owned by a luxury chain. Today, the hotel retains an aura of its early days when corridors were roamed by Lord Delamere, Theodore Roosevelt and Karen Blixen. During my stays, we kicked off and ended trips to Kenya with a traditional dowa (medicine, in Swahili) served by stylishly-attired waiters at the old school bar.


Weingut Nigl (Wachau Valley, Austria) Nestled in steep vineyard-cloaked hills near the Danube, Weingut’s rooms include private terraces overlooking a sleepy, bucolic river valley. Magnificent breakfasts in the quaint cobblestoned courtyard feature local cheeses, wines, and locally-made apricot jam.

The Mayan Inn (Chichicastenango, Guatemala) Steeped in history and loaded with traditional Guatemalan art and textiles, this one-of-a-kind inn offers antique-filled rooms with fireplaces, an essential amenity to ward off the chill of highland nights. Enjoy dinner in a dining room lined with historic, captivating paintings of indigenous Guatemalans and return to your room to find a blazing fire started by the Inn’s resident fire-tender—the only hotel I’ve visited with such a position. 

And a few more: 

The main building of Villa San Michele, nestled in the Eden-like hills above Florence,
was designed by little-known Renaissance architect/artist Michelangelo.  

Dinner with a view.
Villa San Michele's multiple terraces offer views of the Tuscan countryside and Florence.
Table service at Al Moudira on Luxor's West Bank.

Multi-course breakfasts at Pura Vida in San Jose, Costa Rica 
begin with flavor-packed local fruit and tropical fruit smoothies. And Costa Rican coffee. 

A Michigan institution and Arts & Crafts gem, the Lakeside Inn offers vintage 
charms and easy access to the broad, powdery beaches of Lake Michigan.

Rooms at Costa Rica's Lost Iguana offer 
mesmerizing views of verdant rainforest and jungle-clad Volcan Arenal.

The courtyard and lounge, perfect spots for breakfast, cocktails and lantern-lit 
dinners at Al Moudira on Luxor's West Bank.

Amsterdam's quirky Pulitzer offers a serene garden courtyard and 
its own vintage canal boat. 

The Robey Hotel's rooms and terrace offer 
expansive views of historic Wicker Park and Chicago's iconic skyline. 

The Langham, a modernist delight, occupies a Mies van der Rohe-designed building with killer views of iconic architecture lining the Chicago River.




Sunday, December 4, 2022

A Sunshine State Surprise: Farm to Fork in Florida

At certain points in life, we think we know the world. For many of us, this smugness springs from an age-related belief that we know places completely, that we’ve got them figured out.  

But sometimes, we discover we were mistaken. 

And so it was with me and Florida. As with more than a few Americans, I suffer from a complicated relationship with the so-called Sunshine State. I’ve been traveling there since the late 1970s when Disney World was a novelty and Epcot Center was a swamp inhabited by alligators.

During near annual trips as a kid, I visited snowbird grandparents near Tampa and spent most of my days at a beach. Some years later, I explored Miami before a cruise and on assignment to cover a music festival. And then there were multiple long weekends spent with a pack of sun-seeking cousins and siblings in Winter Park after an aunt and uncle moved there. 

In the course of dozens of trips, I found Florida to be a greener, swampier, and slightly more subdued version of hedonistic, flashy, and luxe-loving Las Vegas. Sure, the third state to join the Confederacy lacked the massive casinos and glitzy shows of its dusty Nevada sibling, but it had something of the same in-it-for-the-money, all about entertainment, schlocky feel. 

Both spots’ raison d'être is to appeal to masses of tourists by transporting them to a fantastical vacation-land featuring dozens of diversions such as alligator farms, wading flamingos, mock pirate ship battles, or Cirque du Soleil shows and platters of cheap buffet food (illuminated by amber lighting that wouldn’t look out of place on Mars.)

If food in Vegas a few decades ago consisted primarily of giant all you can eat buffets, food in Florida was hardly gourmet either. Aided by the occasional seafood shack, Cuban sandwich shop, or ubiquitous grouper sandwich, the Sunshine State’s culinary cupboard was only slightly better. 

And so after decades of trips to the Sunshine State and its ho-hum restaurants, I was pleasantly surprised during a recent visit to discover a farm to fork restaurant—on an actual, functioning farm!

Nestled into verdant farm country inland from the Gulf Coast, Rosy Tomorrow’s is an easy drive from Fort Meyers. Operated by Rose O’Dell King, a former sheep farmer and chef, the farm and restaurant represent the best of the last few decades’ movement to source locally and responsibly. 

Palmetto and pine-studded pastures, stables, gardens, and a patio surround the airy, warmly-lit restaurant. Instead of solid walls, a lofty, barn-like structure features floor to ceiling screened windows (this is Florida, after all) with views of vibrant green pastures, wandering ducks and chickens, and white fenced paddocks with cattle, goats, and pigs. 

And speaking of livestock, some of them travel a distance from pasture to table that can be measured in yards, not miles. It’s one of the shortest farm to plate journeys I’ve experienced. 

A fetching setting, ethical treatment of animals, sourcing of food from other local farmers and purveyors, and storybook surroundings don’t matter much if the food isn’t as sublime as the setting. At Rosy’s, the seasonal offerings are as good or better than the concept and surroundings. 

Here you’ll find unique farm to table treats, such as mangrove salt harvested twice annually, and fresh, sustainably sourced seafood, including plump gulf shrimp and mangrove snapper. Summertime brings fruits, turmeric, ginger, and water-grown wasabi. Winter’s cool produces sweet peppers, beets, kale and sugarcane. 

Still, this is Florida. During our visit, as we sipped cocktails and watched the sun drop behind palms and moss-draped trees, the sound of gunfire erupted in the distance. 

Shooting range? Hunters? Someone shooting off their guns for fun? Who knew? 

Thankfully, the shooting subsided and we were soon back to enjoying our drinks with just the evening song of birds and the occasional lowing of cattle. 

Please note: Rosy’s is temporarily closed; however, you can still pick up food boxes and stroll the grounds. Check the website to order food or to see when the restaurant is reopening. 

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Armchair Travel: Serene Scandinavia

While the world continues to open up to travelers, some corners of the planet remain difficult or impossible to visit. But one corner of the planet has always been more challenging for Americans to visit:  Scandinavia. 

A Norwegian coastal village. 
With fewer access points than Continental Europe, smaller cities, a lower population overall, and higher prices, the region, as a whole, can be daunting to visit. While over the past few decades I’ve had several trips to this quiet corner of the planet, one of my favorites involved a cruise. 

Typically, a cruise isn’t high on my list of ways to travel. I prefer to settle into a place and experience its streets and moods in the morning for breakfast, at cocktail hour as daylight fades, and after dinner when lights twinkle. I like to stay in a city for more than a day and ideally for a week. And by design, cruises force a traveler to superficially sample, but never linger in a place. 

So what’s the pay-off of a Scandinavian cruise? 

For me, the advantage was being able to cover a lot of ground in a relatively short amount of time, and to visit some spots that are more difficult to reach (I'm talking about you, Estonia!) 

And for those who don't have unlimited money, a cruise is vastly more economical, particularly in Scandinavia, which tends to be a pricey part of the planet.  

St. Petersburg's Church of the Spilled Blood (never mind the name, it's worth a visit--if and when it's advisable to visit Russia again.)
To cover these same cities and countries via separate trips would be costly—in dollars and time. And many cruises actually sail the Baltic Sea and may include even more difficult to reach ports such as St. Petersburg (Russia),  Gdansk (Poland), and Riga (Latvia).  

The cruise also enabled me to visit an infrequently visited historic and architectural gem: Talinn, Estonia. With its intact, towering medieval wall and cobblestone streets, Talinn offers off-the-chart charm. I’ve visited countless Continental towns, villages, and cities, but Talinn was truly unique.

Many cruises start or end in Stockholm. I’m glad mine started here because our departure made for one of my most memorable travel experience ever. As we set sail from the Nordic city’s deep-water port in the middle of summer, I sipped a glass of wine as we glided through an archipelago inhabited by  summering Swedes and their brightly colored wooden vacation homes. From the ship’s deck, we could see scores of summer-loving Scandinavians on holiday—perched on porches, lounging on lawns, docks, and rocks, and splashing in the clear sea. The backdrop? Pine and birch trees, patches of brilliant wildflowers, cottony clouds, small sailboats skimming across the glittering water, and waves reflecting the golden, early evening sun. 

I wanted to pull into one of those islands and spend a few hours enjoying the view from one of the lawns or gently-aged wooden docks. And that’s the disadvantage of a cruise—there’s no opportunity to linger longer in special spots such as these. Still, I experienced the idyllic islands up close and watched as Swedes celebrated their short, sublime summer. For a time, I was provided a glimpse of another world and another way of living. And isn’t that what travel is all about? 

Stockholm's idyllic harbor. 

TIP: If you book on Silversea or similar, most cabins have balconies. As we pulled into Helsinki and Copenhagen, I was treated to views of the cities, nearby islands, and harbors from the privacy of my balcony—while enjoying breakfast. 


Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Seabourn Cruises

Viking Cruises

Bergen, Norway.

A Swedish summer home. 

Stockholm, Sweden. 


Sunday, January 23, 2022

Pandemic Travel: Michigan, Paradise in My Backyard

In this pandemic-era of constricted travel and hemmed-in horizons, those of us hard-wired to travel couldn’t be faulted for falling into a fit of gloom. Many of the places we’ve longed to finally visit or pined to return to are unreachable or associated with risk. 

Michigan's The Fields.

During the past year or so, I reminded myself that I’ve got options. We all live someplace, after all, and though we may have the urge to board a flight that requires a passport or wander further afield, destinations in our own backyards merit discovering—or, in my case, rediscovering. 

While national travel and lifestyle magazines tell us there are only certain places in the world worth visiting, this is certainly untrue. In my case, influencers and tastemakers have long suggested that the Midwest has little more than the mundane to offer, but they’re misinformed. 

Case in point: during my childhood, one of my family’s annual summer vacations included a trip to the fern-carpeted, pine-scented woods of northern Michigan. In mid-summer, my parents would pack our paneled station wagon with me and my four siblings, swimsuits, inflatables, and shorts, and drive to my paternal grandparents’ house, the final few hours of our drive on near-empty, narrow state roads lined with thick forests after the interstate ended in Grand Rapids. 

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

My grandparents’ house, surrounded by stands of birch interspersed with deep green pines, sat back from the edge of a steep dune overlooking a small cove. The scallop shaped cove, framed by immense trees and littered with reeds, fallen logs, and lily pads, offered a glimpse of a large, cobalt blue lake just beyond a narrow channel. 

A thick wood of birches and pines behind the house rose from an ancient seabed now carpeted in sand swales, ferns, and blueberry bushes. We typically forged our own paths through the seemingly endless woods, ever watchful for bears—which we both did and did not want to encounter—along with sweet, wild blueberries (which we weren’t conflicted about encountering.) 

Summer days at that latitude only dissipate toward midnight, the sun’s final rays burnishing the evening clouds before giving way to a vast, ink-black sky blanketed with glittering stars. My siblings and I spent the seemingly endless hours of these dreamy days in a boxy, simple boat with heavy creaking oars hunting for turtles, frogs, and bullfrogs which we caught and released in the cove while the warm August sun browned our backs. 

When we weren’t rowing around the cove, we swam in crystalline lakes, picnicked, hiked, and always, always visited nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. At the park, my siblings and I would somersault and tumble down ancient dunes the height of skyscrapers and then spend hours exhausting ourselves climbing back up. My parents and grandparents watched from shady, picnic table aeries, likely amused and undoubtedly happy that we had worn ourselves out and would fall asleep in the return car trip. 

There were visits to pine-paneled, clamorous supper clubs where everyone dressed for dinner. Late afternoon stops at ice cream shops featured flavors like Blue Moon and premises-churned ice cream long before anyone thought that was something worth promoting. Occasionally, my grandfather piled us into his tank-like car and brought us to a North Woods bar where he sipped Hamm’s or Pabst beer while my siblings and I, perched awkwardly on barstools, slurped Shirley Temples.  

Leland's historic Fishtown. 

When the pandemic reduced O’Hare flights to a trickle, closing off much of the world I’d previously so easily wandered, I suddenly found Michigan on my mind. In truth, I’d longed to return for decades—my childhood memories never having faded—but I’d postponed visiting. After all, Michigan was easy to get to. And I’d spent a few decades seeking out spots that were remote and difficult to visit.  

At that moment, I realized the pandemic provided a golden opportunity to see Michigan spots I’d visited as a child, and to discover new places that had appeared in the meantime. 

In the decades since my childhood, plenty of other Americans have somehow discovered some of these places. Summer cottages in the pristine, tranquil Leelanau Peninsula are as likely to be owned by heat birds from Dallas or Atlanta as nearby Detroit or Chicago. 

Still, it’s an uncrowded, tranquil corner of the world largely overlooked by glossy magazines and Instagram influencers. And, undoubtedly, like enticing corners of the world near you, it’s easily reached and certainly worth a visit. 

Instead of viewing the pandemic as a scourge for traveling, maybe it presents the perfect opportunity to explore—or revisit—those special spots that exist in every corner of the world, including in our own backyards. 

Western Michigan Picks:

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore For hiking, scenic drives, pristine beaches, and dune hikes for wearing out the kids.

Leland Lodge For strolls around the quaint village of Leland and golfing. TIP: Don't bother with the dingy, overpriced private cottages. 

Lakeside Inn This rustic, former artist colony inn, less than two hours from Chicago, sits on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. Think beach walks, easy drives to nearby quaint towns and restaurants, and campfires. 

Fields of Michigan Glamping with all the fixings—campfires, luxe bed linens, hot water, bike rides through farm country. TIP: Arrange for the private dinner cabin nestled on the edge of a deep green, fairy tale wood.

Virtue Cider Limited release ciders, cidery tours, and light fare surrounded by orchards and bucolic farms. 

Saugutuck Somehow charming despite swarms of tourists. TIP: For Michigan-made bespoke jams and preserves, visit American Spoon

Isabel’s Sublime baked goods and sausages, sandwiches and prepared foods to take away or eat on the patio. 

The Lakeside Inn.


Virtue cider.

The Fields of Michigan. 

Southwest Michigan is known for its blueberry farms. 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Pandemic Travel: Beyond Amsterdam in an Armchair

In the midst of a pandemic, planning a trip might seem foolhardy, if not downright dangerous. But I’m re-learning how to appreciate travel the way I discovered it—in an armchair.

Whether I’m reading—or writing—about places, I’m transported. And these days, we could all use a little healthy escape. And when we’re once again able to board a plane and start exploring again, we’ll savor the experience that much more. In the meantime, I plan to armchair travel regularly. 

Holland, my first shelter-in-place stop, is so chill an ottoman is required. Just as there’s more to America than New York City, there is more to Holland than Amsterdam. When I first visited this northern European country at the end of college, though, I was most interested in its largest and most famous city. With its brown bars, Heineken Brewery, Old Masters’ art, and quaint canals—not to mention those unconventional cafés that served space cakes—Amsterdam monopolized my imagination.  

The Keukenhof Gardens live up to the hype.
Sure I knew about the famed tulip fields and windmills in the adjacent countryside and I’d heard about The Hague and Delft, but that’s about as deep as my knowledge went. During a recent trip, however, I made up for my youthful ignorance by exploring a little of the wealth of the Netherlands outsideof Amsterdam. 

For starters, I did more than check a box by visiting the famed Keukenhof Gardens with its acres of brilliant tulips. Despite crowds that sometimes seemed nearly as abundant as the blossoms on display, I found the gardens to be almost overwhelming—in a good way. Over the years I’ve seen plenty of Instagram-quality photos of fields of tulips, but none of these prepared me for the sheer scale and number of flower beds lining the park’s meandering walkways and tucked into its woods. Of course, it helped that I’d visited on a perfect late spring day that offered brilliant sunshine, mild temps, and a gentle breeze, but I’d return again in any sort of weather. 

A house in Breukelen.
After strolling the colorful garden paths of Keukenhof, we drove along the banks of the nearby Vecht River (one of the joys of exploring this petite country is that nearly every destination is nearby.) Running from the Rhine and Utrecht to the former Zuyderzee, the Vecht served as a main traffic route for thousands of years. Possibly the inspiration for illustrations in fairy tale books, the river delights as it skirts medieval villages, an occasional windmill, tidy farms, and vibrant green pastures occupied by goats (frolicking, of course), lounging cows, and bleating sheep.

One village worth a visit, Leiden, dates to Roman times, though it looks hardly older than the mere Middle Ages. Narrow cobblestone passages and streets built for pedestrians can scarcely accommodate cars, making them extra fun to stroll. Equally quaint and historic is Breukelen—predecessor to the New York version minus the hipsters and a few million people. (Think medieval—instead of edgy—charm.)

The banks along the river were first discovered during the 17thand 18thcenturies when the wealthy of Amsterdam and Utrecht built stately manor homes with en
A 17th century weekend home along the Vecht River.
tea houses. While the tea houses sat mostly empty when I visited, nearby bars, restaurants, boats, and bike lanes were full of life. On weekends, the Dutch book horse-drawn cart rides along the narrow road or boat excursions on the river and the mood is celebratory and pastoral. 

After exploring the area, have lunch or dinner at Michelin-recommended Slangevgt on the banks of the Vecht. Oysters, seafood, local meats, and bread that must have been baked in heaven make for a menu of options that provide for agonizing decisions. In my experience, though, there are no wrong decisions. Sit outside on the riverbank or in the conservatory-like section of the restaurant which provides the best of both worlds.

Closer to Amsterdam you’ll find Het Bosch which you can reach by boat, car, or bike (of course). Serving French/Dutch cuisine with stellar views of the water and sunsets that seem to last for hours, Het Bosch is a little outside of town but worth the effort to find. The best season to visit is summertime when sunsets last for hours and are reflected in the nearby water. Caution: GPS sometimes has difficulty finding this spot (ours took us to a cottage in the woods). 

Finally, no visit to the Dutch countryside is complete without a visit to the fairytale Castle De Haar. With its intact moat, acres of gardens, towers, and bridge guardhouse, the historic fortress screams Middle Ages.
The Castle de Haar features two rarities: an intact moat & bridge guardhouse.


Pulitzer (see my recent post on this unique hotel).


Visiting the Dutch countryside is possible via rental car or by booking a half-day or full-day excursion through a local tour agency. For a bespoke tour and insider’s look into the area, book a tour through Delta


Slangevegt on the river. 
Het Bosch on a waterway on the outskirts of Amsterdam. 

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