I have been traveling to Amsterdam for the last ten years and the city never fails to impress me. The city is small enough to be manageable on foot for the weekend and large enough to be interesting. If you are looking for culture, impressive art, getting drunk, prostitution or smoking pot you can find it all. As a conservative good English boy there are only some of the above that I enjoy. That said, the wonderful spirit of Amsterdam is it’s liberal culture. Being raised in a mainly Irish Catholic family where nothing is discussed and everything is brushed under the carpet it is refreshing to see such an open society.
So what to do, where to stay and of course where to eat!
The DE L’Europe hotel, owned by the Heineken family is always my go to hotel. Set on the can all in the centre of town you have everything you need. The rooms are individually designed and so delightfully Dutch. The service is perfect and the cigar bar is a delightful retreat for the end of your day. The spa is quite excellent, so don’t forget to take some time to rest your feet after a day of getting lost in the canals in the city.
The city is full of interesting places to visit, the house of Anne Frank, the red and blue light district (red being ladies on offer and the blue being men dressed as ladies, whatever tickles your fancy), and the Van Gogh museum are some interesting choices. This trip I chose the recently opened Rijks museum. After years of renovation and whoever knows what expense I have to say it is magnificent. Not only one of the best collections of art but also a treasure trove of interesting objects, furniture and artifacts. The building inside and out is breath taking. A must visit in Amsterdam.
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As I have said in previous articles, British Fathers and Sons find it almost impossible to express affection. In recent years I have realized that spending time with your parents is terribly important.
The relationship with your parents is one you never fully understand until you are in its third evolution. When we are children (between birth and eight/nine we completely depend on our parents in every way and respect them). Most of us then enter the difficult stage as teenagers and treat our parents with different levels of respect! The majority of people enter a stage of rebellion against their parents as they enter their teenage years. We then enter our own periods of adulthood and we reestablish our relationship with our parents and more importantly realize the importance of it.
With the above in mind, I decided on my Father’s birthday to arrange day in London without our normal distraction of work and enjoy a personal day together.
Here the day in London:
Breakfast at St Pancras – Renaissance Hotel – The Booking Office
The restoration of this building is fabulous. A true gem in London and starting the day for breakfast here was the perfect hit.
Late breakfast meant we would skip lunch and wait for our early dinner reservation.
After breakfast then time for some culture and I would recommend the Churchill War Rooms.
Fantastic display of the original bunker occupied by Churchill and his government during the Second World War. It is a perfect father and son exhibition to visit.
A couple of historic spots to take a beer in London and enjoy watching the world go by!
The Coal Hole
Narrow bar on the heart of the Strand and a must stop for a pint!
Traditional restaurant in London with a tiny bar with great people watching to enjoy.
London dinner with Father
Wiltons Restaurant opened in the seventeen hundreds and many of the originals features and customs that still stand. Very old English and the perfect place to find a final dinner.
In conclusion, spending time with your parents is both important and for me, a rare treat these days. Don’t underestimate the importance of appreciating your parents.
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A few highlights from my recent London trip; firstly, an old English friend (a hotel I dearly love) that I have not visited for some time. For any English man this is like steeping into our heritage in every way and I believe is uniquely offered by Claridges.
Whilst I don’t stay here on a regular basis I always visit. It is a wonderful place for lunch, afternoon tea or just to simply sit at the bar with a cocktail. The staff are a delight and always pay special attention to a familiar face. You can take any nationality here and they will be impressed with the history in so many different ways.
Some of the highlights:
A delightful spot to take drinks with even Mom, friends or a date:
Cocktails are spectacular, service is done with such perfection and the crowd is never disappointing.
If timing allows for afternoon tea or lunch, check out:
Reading Room and the Foyer
My Grandmother used to visit Claridges when studying over sixty years ago and I always feel a connection to my own history as well as that of London when visiting this place. £35 pre fixe lunch provides the perfect setting for a truly English part of your day.
I wanted to write a little about some key restaurants that I took refuge in over the holidays. New York has so many options, however there are some that continue to blow my mind when it comes to food atmosphere and quality.
This is simply a west village Gem. Situated on the delightful Commerce Street you step back into the Art Deco period. Caution: it gets very crowded and the service is not perfect, however you simply can’t go wrong with the food. Any occasion, with you mother, boyfriend or girlfriend, or just hanging out, Commerce is the perfect spot! Try the Devil Eggs, Avocado Toast and the Truffle Chicken!
Formal, inviting and one step away from a Michelin star, this is a high-end restaurant and must be tried. Piora is a tiny spot in a town house on Hudson Street.
The food, presentation and staff are excellent. The menu is limited, however the dishes are always in top form. Try the monkey bread whilst you are looking at the menu and finish with a banana rum at the end of the night. I will leave the rest to you and you will not be disappointed.
Alert for all cheese lovers loving in New York: this is a hidden spot with great drinks and as much cheese as you can consume, hidden in the basement of the cheese shop on the corner of 20th street and Broadway.
A dark and vibrant atmosphere with the occasional hum of a passing subway, this is the perfect date spot. Beware there menu is limited and not a good option for non cheese lovers.
Scalpers opened its flagship store in Madrid in 2010. The brand started in Seville a number of year earlier making bespoke shirts and ties and has expanded to several locations across Spain. As I always find with Spanish Fashion, they create a good quality product at a good price. The style is typically Spanish and provides a unique look in both the U.K. and the U.S.
We have seen several Spanish brands expand to other areas of Europe and the U.S. however Scalpers remains exclusively in Spain. Since returning with several purchases I have been stopped in the streets of New York several times. They offer a great collection for the casual look. There formal range is limited and I do believe you have other Spanish brands that can offer a better product for the cost on the formal side. Casual fall is currently on offer and you really can’t go wrong for the costs. Added bonus you will possibly be uniquely dressed outside Spain.
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Over the last decade I have spent a lot of time in Madrid for a mixture of business and pleasure, however I have rarely visited Barcelona.
My visit in early September was a rare treat to experience my normal Spanish delights and experience a few more on offer in Barcelona. My summary in one line would be, the delights of Spanish life with the benefit of a glorious coast line and Southern European fall weather.
Where to stay
The hotel Arts is part of the Ritz Carlton group and a must stay. Located on the edge of the beach a short taxi ride from the very center of the city it is the perfect location. You can sip cocktails on the beach, explore the unique architecture by Antoni Gaudi and given the late nature of Spanish culture you can enjoy the Spanish fashion and cuisine during the evening / early morning.
The service, and style of the hotel is exquisite. The rooms are designed with special detail and elegance and the suites offer breath taking views of the ocean and the city.
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From being a very young boy I have always been told a gentleman should have the following:
– Well shined shoes
– Well groomed hair
A polishing kit is an absolute must for any gentleman. This luxury shoe shine kit by Horchow comes with all the essentials a man may need to keep his shoes polished and shiny, and will help you put your best foot forward whilst traveling, in a manner of speaking.
One of the amenities I love about New York is the affordability and access to shoe shiners all over the city, unique in my experience to America and rarely found in Europe.
Although I love nothing more than to sit and peruse the Wall Street Journal whilst having a professional tend to my oxfords, it isn’t always timely or feasible. A travel shoe shine kit can be a luxury for a jet-setting corporate man, and a life-saver for last minute touch ups.
Key tip: one of the widely available services in hotels (tremendously underused) is the shoe shine services which is always overlooked. Next time you are travelling you must ensure you arrive for every event looking fresh and remember, that in any decent hotel it is complimentary!
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