Thursday, February 18, 2016

Bonus Travel Post


Before I go rogue over here, I just want to remind you all that it is not too late to enter to win the huge Valentine's Day Giveaway!  Just CLICK HERE and comment to win on the post.  Entries still possible till 11:59PM CST Friday Feb. 19!

Okay, so today I'm chatting about something a bit different.  This is not a travel blog.  And while Charming Suitor and I love to wander the world together, our travel adventures are just not something that I write about.  We don't publicize our trips on social media, we only really tell close friends and family when we are going to be away, it is just one of those things we protect for ourselves.  As such, you'll notice that while I might recommend a cool piece of travel gear or equipment on this blog, you don't really see me touting places to go or things to do.  There are many many terrific travel blogs out there, and it just has never seemed cogent to this space to write about tourism stuff.

Which is usually fine, except every now and again you have an experience so wonderful, and so unexpected, that you want to give a little shout-out.  I rely so much on people who enjoy my books to tell their social media circles about them, even if they don't have a "book blog", so when CS and I had a surprising and fantastic experience on a trip recently, I decided that this time, it was worth taking a moment to acknowledge it publicly.

CS travels a tremendous amount for work.  Sometimes this is domestic, but lately a lot of it has been to Europe.  And since my job is eminently portable, and my boss is super nice about giving me freedom to roam, occasionally I get to burn some frequent flier miles and accompany him!  Recently he had a meeting scheduled in Amsterdam.  This is a city neither of us had ever been to.  So it seemed like it would be fun to test it out for a few days, to see if it should be on our list of places to come back to and explore more in depth.  To be honest, our expectations weren't exactly sky high.  We knew there were some great museums we wanted to see, and that it would be very cool to check out a city built on canals.  But as neither of us are interested in cannibis in any meaningful way, ditto legal hookers in windows, we sort of figured it might be a "one and done" city for us.

And that?  Could not be further from the truth.  And a big part of that has to do with two businesses that I want to tell you about.

First off, I can say unequivocally, GO TO AMSTERDAM.  It is a super fun little city, chock full of wonderful cultural experiences, and quite simply the nicest people we have ever met.  Seriously the Dutch?  Amazing.  Sweet, funny, easy going, helpful, fantastic people.  The food is varied and extraordinary.  The little shopping boutiques have really cool stuff, the architecture is like nothing either of us had ever seen before.  The three days we had there were not nearly enough, and we will definitely be going back.

And when we do, we are staying at The Hoxton again.  We got the recommendation for this sweet little boutique hotel from a friend who used to live in Amsterdam.  It is right in the middle of an area called the 9 Streets, which is essentially SoHo.  9 streets full of adorable boutiques and shops and fantastic cafes and restaurants, you can wander this area for a full day and never get bored or hungry. And from the moment we checked in, they took such good care of us, with such clever amenities, we knew that this was a special place.

Let me be clear.  CS and I have stayed in a LOT of hotels over the years.  There are some we love for location and function, and some we love for their romantic essence and luxury, and some we put up with because they are the best of what is available in our budget for where we are going.  But The Hoxton?  Made us fall in love a little bit.

For starters, the staff is amazing.  So helpful and accommodating, so genuine and warm, every one of them.  The rooms are quirky and comfortable, with really great beds and linens, and some fun local products in the bathrooms.  They give you a fridge in your room instead of a mini bar, and then at the front desk you can pick up anything you might want, handmade potato chips, local artisanal chocolates, wine and booze.  As they said, why stock your fridge with a ton of stuff you probably don't want, when you could customize it for yourself.  They have as much bottled water as you want or need for no charge.  Heading out for the day?  Stop at the desk and pick up a water to take with you, no problem.

They have a quirky and fun sense of humor, so the do not disturb sign essentially says "Don't come in, I'm naked", and the little sticker on the extra toilet paper says "Wipe Away!".  They have local graphic artists do custom maps for them of the area that they put in your room, with recommendations of places to visit and eat.  Lotti's, the restaurant and bar in the lobby is clearly a place the locals love as much as guests, it is bustling and lively, with really terrific food.  No boring lobby cafe this, this is just a great restaurant that happens to be in a hotel.  It was fun to come back on Friday night to find the place full of vibrant people all eating and drinking and having a great time, it brings really nice energy to the place.

And no, there was no special deal or anything, it was just a place that a friend recommended that was in the price point for CS's company, so it was like finding a magical unicorn.

Thank you Hoxton Amsterdam for taking such good care of us, we will be back!

The second business I want to give a shout-out to is Hungry Birds.  Since we had so little time, we decided to do a half-day foodie tour of Amsterdam.  I did some research online, and Hungry Birds seemed to be the perfect fit, four hours, tours limited in size, incorporates the big Albert Cuyp market that we had wanted to see anyway.  And it was fantastic.  Our guide, Ester-Hanna was fun and funny, and incorporated some history of Amsterdam into our tour.  We had a terrific group of people, and explored all sorts of delicacies.  They focus on small, family-run businesses, so every stop we met amazing proprietors who shared their personal stories with us, which made the food even more delicious.  We tasted everything from Indonesian and Surinamese food, to old school Dutch specialties, to funky fast food!  There was a custom organic yogurt bar that blew us away. (yeah, game changing yogurt, who'd have thunk THAT?!)  Well balanced with sweet and savory, and even a couple of stops that included drink as well as eats, we spent a wonderful four hours and left feeling like we had a true sense of the food culture of Amsterdam, and a list of places to return to.

So, my little Chickens, if you have opportunity, CS and I cannot recommend Amsterdam enough, and if you are lucky enough to go, stay at The Hoxton and take a Hungry Birds tour.  Tell them we sent you.  And no, cynics, this is not a sponsored post, they have no idea who I am or that I'm sharing this with you...I just like to give credit where it is due, and these are places that deserved more than just recommendations in passing :)

Please take this moment to share in the comments a business or product that you just love and think the rest of us should know about!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath


  1. Sounds like it was an amazing trip!

  2. I completely agree; we've been to Amsterdam 3 times and each time is a different experience! There is a complete Holland tour you can take that goes to the flower auction (amazing!), Rotterdam, Delft, and a town built completely out of miniatures - Maturodam (sp?) Anyway, I can't wait to go back!

  3. We just booked The Hoxton for our summer trip!! GREAT TIP!

  4. Amsterdam added to my list! As for small companies I know and love - Santa Barbara Chocolate Company. I use their chocolates for all my baking needs - I'm not employed by or affiliated with them in anyway, either, just a big fan of delicious, creamy chocolate. In addition to baking with them, I'll eat a few of the disks as a treat from time to time, too. Good stuff.