Wednesday, 30 November 2016

happy birthdays

The pre-birthday celebrations started high up on the hills of Stannington on Saturday night at the Reserved Cafe pop-up bistro night for a 5 course taster menu of surprises and fun.
Such a lovely whirlwind weekend in the best of company.
Then came my birthday proper yesterday, the day dawned sunny and frosty - totally perfect autumn/winter weather.  Our garden was golden
our pond frozen over
But we were soon venturing up through the woods towards Wharncliffe Crags on a path heavy with frost and ice and quite beautiful, if freezing cold!

The weird thing was, and it was impossible to photograph (a Seamus Heaney fleeting moment like in Postscript) - all we could hear was the sound of leaves falling all around us, frozen from the trees.  Totally magical and surreal.  They were raining down like soft snow.
We trudged upwards past the ponds
and finally out of the woods and onto the gloriously open freedom of the Heath
Though I am getting worried my hair's starting to look frosted too, like some sort of ice queen
Beautiful frozen fronds
and not another soul - the whole of Wharncliffe Heath and Crags to ourselves.
until a little chappy happened along the path towards me!
and we headed back through the woods for warm soup and coffee . . .  just about perfect.
But not to forget, just the day before, Mum reached the grand old age of 96 and all I can say is I hope the 'spring chicken' genes have been passed on!!
And finally,we mustn't forget Tilly, the other November birthday girl - who probably got the best cake of all - but then we don't have 3rd birthday parties every day do we!!
Happy Birthday one and all

Thursday, 17 November 2016

red sails in the sunset

Wednesday 26 to Sunday 31 October - 'Five go to Antwerp and Rotterdam'

(or if you'd prefer to start this holiday at the beginning, please start with "in the midnight hour")


So this was the view we woke up to from our nhow hotel windows - what a joy!
 and we waited patiently for the lift to breakfast on the stylish heated seats
 Loved the edge of the impressive theatre on the edge of the river
 bit weird that the Metro sign looks horribly like the Ronald MacDonald's M
 but it was very snazzy down below
We were soon at the fun and amazing cube houses Piet Blom's Kubuswoningen, built 1984
by now the sun was warm, quite incredible for a late October day.  Loved seeing the immense bike parks all over the place, this one double deckered!
We enter the huge cathedral like Markthal only built a couple of years ago by the MVRDV practice and teaming with people and incredible food stalls.
fabulous wall murals on the inside and double decker cafes, while the apartment dwellers peered down from their little windows.  Enjoyed watching some waffle making but avoided temptation!
 and we found a great little coffee stop just outside - the tea lab
 and not far away was another Rem Koolhaus, his Timmerhaus, built just last year
But the afternoon was now drawing in and we all made a spur of the moment decision to take a boat ride on the Maas from the Erasums Bridge, which was great fun.
And here's the nhow hotel from the water - our 19th floor was only half way up - just near the joins!!
all aboard, full steam ahead and all that
and here's a good classic to float along to:
 past the immense container docks, busy loading and unloading every day of the week
past the rather incredible art deco ventilation shafts for the Maastunnel.
These ventilation buildings, designed by city architect Van der Steur, are also entry points for the bicycle and pedestrian tunnel.  And reading the Maastunnel article, it looks like there are original escalators running down there too, like Antwerp.  Amazing
Full circle: that little old building dwarfed by the new giants, houses the New York bar where we had our nightcaps last night!
So now it was a super dash to get to Centraal Station in time for our trains to Brussels and London - but we had one more feast to go - our intrepid foodies had caught word of Fritez for the best ever (and I mean that) take away homemade-skin-on chips, dowsed in beef stew, that you have EVER tasted.
 and we make it - dodging bicycles and trams - the incredible beautiful Centraal Station, remodelled a couple of years ago by Benthem Crouwel Architects
and I know this is horribly blurred, taken through the glass on a high speed train - but I needed to share the deep pink sunset that blazed in the sky as we sped past Antwerp.
End of a perfect holiday - over all too soon but packed with fun and wonderful things and the best of companions.

If you feel the need to go back and see it all again from day one, just click here "in the midnight hour"

this could be Rotterdam

Wednesday 26 to Sunday 31 October - 'Five go to Antwerp and Rotterdam'

(or if you'd prefer to start this holiday at the beginning, please start with "in the midnight hour")


Early morning at the palatial Antwerpen Centraal - an incredible station with layer upon layer of platform levels and huge cathedral-like spaces inside.

We also spied Antwerp Zoo right next to the station - we've got to visit that next time we return - looked amazing on the outside and it's said to be one of the oldest zoos in the world, founded in 1843.
And yes, we are still inside the station . . .
 awaiting the crowded 9:45 to Rotterdam - we had to stand all the way, it was jammed!!
We travelled through a thick white mist as we crossed the Belgian/Dutch border but as soon as we hit Rotterdam the sky cleared and the sun came out.  We stashed our cases in the left luggage and headed straight out to the bus terminus to await our bus to the Spaanse Polder industrial zone, north-west of Rotterdam.

Waiting for the bus was a dream on these swivel seats.

First stop a wonderful 2 hour tour of the incredible UNESCO-listed Van Nelle Fabriek.  This was a real treat and such an incredible modernist building built in 1931.  We heard all the fascinating history of the family and it's use as a tobacco, coffee and tea factory.  It was designed by Leendert van der Vlugt.
View of Rotterdam from the roof of the Van Nelle factory
and of the De Schie Prison below - designed by Carel Weeber
And somehow the Van Nelle factory preservation got me to wondering what they will do with the old purpose built modernist Cadbury's factory in Moreton where so many of us worked over the years.  Its 70 acres now empty and up for sale.  So much inside: all the different old production lines and packing stations and the staff theatre, recreation and dining rooms. And all those old clocking-on machines in the entrances!!  I hope they allow tours before it's possibly demolished for much needed housing.  Might have to turn urban explorer if not . . .Now I know I am diverging from Rotterdam, but a quick google and I have uncovered that the landscaping around the factory, still there to see from the Merseyrail, was the work of Geoffrey Jellicoe as this fascinating post explains - The Cadbury factory, a pivotal modern landscape.
But back to the lovely Rotterdam . . .
We left Van Nelle, walking through the estates it's workers had lived in, and took the tram into the city centre.  Our next stop was the beautiful Rem Koolhaus art gallery, the KunstHal
first stop, you've guessed, was for lunch and I had a pretty amazing lentil soup
loved this Anthony Gormley figure on the top
and how about this for a green transport system . . .
loving Rotterdam very spacious and modern with a great excitement and outward looking feel about it.
This was a theatre designed by Bolles and Wilson, right next to our hotel
And we finally check into said hotel, the fabulous Nhow - also designed by Rem Koolhaus
and this was the view from our windows on floors 19 & 20 as night set in - the famous Erasmus Bridge by UNStudio spanning the River Maas - you'd think it didn't get much better than this - but wait til you see the morning light on it tomorrow!!
Anyway, after a great 4 course tasting meal in the panoramic restaurant, we strolled along the quay to the New York Bar for a final nightcap then wandered back to our hotel with all the city sparkling at our feet along the river.  Magical
So ofcourse I had to finish with this one, as it was swirling around in our heads all day!! Click and enjoy . . .

and tomorrow was our last day in Rotterdam so be sure to tune in and read all about it.