After 10 years into a marriage with three children in tow, quite frankly any escape for a few days is a welcomed luxury. So to mark this special anniversary minus the offspring and wanting to visit somewhere new, we headed to Amsterdam to discover its romantic side.
We opted for the relative ease of flying from Southend Airport. Lacking the commotion of Heathrow or Gatwick, we made it from check-in to the gate in a stress-free 30 minutes.
Our Easyjet flight left for Schiphol before breakfast, and we had a return lined up for the end of the weekend by dinnertime, so it felt no more hassle than a commute up the M1.
The exceedingly short flight time and easy-to-follow train system meant we were in central Amsterdam before midday and had ample time to begin our celebrations at the delightfully unique De Kas restaurant.
Situated in the former City Greenery, the dedicated chefs grow all their own herbs and vegetables on site and each day create one fixed menu based on its harvest. While meat and fish feature, it is the vegetables that take centre stage and so we indulged in a four-course feast, paired with suitable wines, that despite the grand greenhouse setting was every bit the intimate, personal and decadent introduction to Amsterdam we had hoped for.
Suitably stuffed and ready to explore, we opted for the long, picturesque walk back to the city centre, via the beautiful Jewish Museum.
Housed in four former Ashkenazi synagogues dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, it documents the 400-year history of the Jewish people in Amsterdam and the Netherlands, covering themes such as Jewish identity, religion and culture as well as Jewish history. Well worth a visit, it also boasts a kosher café serving inexpensive tasty snacks and lunches.
Our hotel was the palatial, multi-award winning Sofitel Legend The Grand; a sprawling yet demure building offering 177 guest rooms and suites, as well as a Michelin-starred restaurant, luxury spa and banqueting rooms, including the former Council Chamber where Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands married in 1966.
We were shown to our well-appointed suite by the dedicated butler and, with views of the canals at our feet and the apartment oozing Dutch stylistic charm with hints of French elegance, we felt the stresses of life immediately wash away. Observant without being obtrusive, the staff made us feel extremely welcome and the steady stream of thoughtful touches, including Hermes toiletries and local foods to sample, were much appreciated. Tempting as it was to don a fluffy robe, sink into the vast bed and tuck into the complimentary home-made chocolates complete with edible ‘happy anniversary’ message, there was a city to explore.
With Dam Square a stone’s throw from the hotel, we wandered the streets, meandering round the web of canals, enchanted by Amsterdam’s charm and character. It mattered not that temperatures had plummeted; indeed, the crisp air and foggy haze only added to its beauty.
Convinced that every day should begin with a Bridges breakfast, the next morning we sipped champagne and feasted to our hearts’ content on Dutch delicacies in the hotel’s flagship restaurant, before heading out to hit the infamous Nine Streets. One of the city’s most delightful shopping areas, the streets straddle the 17th century canals from the Singel to the Prinsengracht and are peppered with beautiful and quirky boutique offerings alongside high street chains.
We left to experience Amsterdam in the most traditional and arguably finest way possible. On board the Tourist, the stunning and quintessentially Dutch canal boat owned and managed by The Pulitzer hotel, we enjoyed a 90-minute tour of the city by water. Travelling down the Reguliersgracht canal as the sun set and seeing the famous seven bridges all illuminated was truly impressive.
After warming up inside the confines of the Pulitzer, we spent our anniversary night dining at its renowned Dutch-inspired eatery, Jansz. A concise but inviting à la carte menu offered something for everyone and my miso-glazed cod with dashi broth was quite possibly my favourite fish meal ever. It’s also safe to say that the chocolate cake with salted caramel sauce and almond crumble surpassed expectations. Bustling yet attentive, it was the perfect venue in which to toast our marital milestone.
Whatever your reason for visiting this city, you cannot leave before taking in the Anne Frank House. The endless queues, comprising tourists and natives, is testament to the importance it still has in modern-day Amsterdam. Book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Having robustly tapped into other markets, Amsterdam isn’t the obvious choice for a European romantic getaway, yet it really is a hidden gem. Offering masses of culture, exquisite dining experiences and top-class hotels, all against the backdrop of the whimsical canals and rickety bicycles at every juncture, it is the perfect setting to escape, indulge and enjoy.
Where to stay
Caron stayed at the Sofitel Legend The Grand, Amsterdam, sofitel-legend-thegrand.com and enjoyed a 90-minute tour aboard the Tourist, pulitzeramsterdam.com/concierge/boat. She dined at De Kas, restaurantdekas.nl/home and Jansz, janszamsterdam.com