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6. Two Stars End the Day

Spectacular Lake Dinind

Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
Saturday, May 7, 2016

We awake and do not believe the clock. We have slept until 8:30. That's never happened before.

We are off up the road for breakfast at @seven, a local hangout which sported inviting sidewalk seating. As we dine on fried eggs atop white toast and too-strong coffee, we wonder why these sidewalk cafes are not more prevalent in the U.S. They are delightful and omnipresent in Europe.

Dodging bicycles—there are more bicycles here than residents—we make our way back to the hotel to begin our day of exploration. B4 has let it be known that she wants to get many steps in today and I choose to not disappoint. First, however, she and Lita have appointments for manicures so I set out on my own for Amsterdam’s Central Railway station about four miles away. My plan is that their nails will be done at about the same time as my walk takes me to the old city and we will meet there.

The plan works. Lita drops B4 off and we meander as one must when walking through an old city in Europe. I take her through the red light district for shock value. The merchants there who stand in doorways clad in bikinis amaze my lady. This is a neighborhood both bright and heavily traveled by families which also sports coffee houses where the aroma of marijuana permeates the nostrils as the expanse of skin occupies the eye. We pause for neither attraction.

large_ee9be490-2f4e-11ea-9991-d165fed63495.jpglarge_ee9750b0-2f4e-11ea-9b76-e75e0c33840c.jpglarge_eea3d3d0-2f4e-11ea-8d78-914e2081f16f.jpgOur first stop, as it turns out, is a Gassan Diamonds where we are delayed spying Rolex watches in the window. I have a desire to own a green-faced Rolex one day so we stop to shop. The stuffy staff sizes us up as paupers and we are barely tolerated because it is clear that we are not Russell and Raff but riff raff instead. Our sales person should have TO’d us, that’s for sure. We left quickly, potential purchase abandoned.

Our strolling took us to the Rijksmuseum where we marveled at how Rembrandt played with light in his paintings and then returned to the hotel to clean up for dinner with the Asscher family.

The two-star Michelin Restaurant Ann de Poel was our destination. My, my. The setting on the lake was spectacular and the weather accommodated so well that the staff relocated all guests from the dining room to the large terrace so that we left the inside abandoned to dine al fresco beneath the setting sun. Michelin chef Stefan van Sprang was more gracious than one could have any right to expect from one so exaulted as he personally explained course after course from beautifully presented yellowfin tuna with shitake, sambai and magnolia which was a feast for the eyes as well as the pallet to local white Dutch asparagus with Pata Negra, pastrami, egg yolk and parsley.

large_ee8e7710-2f4e-11ea-83da-d9628e7db8db.jpglarge_ee72ffd0-2f4e-11ea-8d78-914e2081f16f.jpgThe conversation with Edward ranged from business to family history. I was spellbound with the evening and count myself as privileged to be in attendance. The Royal Asscher Diamond Company was founded six generations prior in 1854 and has been responsible for cutting the most famous diamonds in the world. First among those was the Cullinan Diamond which weighed in at over 3,000 carats. King Edward of England invited the Asschers to cleave the diamond which they did. Nine stones resulted; one caps the Queen’s sceptre and another centers her crown. When these are not in use they can be seen by you and I in the Jewel House which is a vault at the Tower of London. Tell them the Asschers sent you.

During the second world war the Nazis entered Amsterdam and seized both the company and its diamonds. Edward’s parents were deported to Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Man’s inhumanity visited these fine people in a way most of us cannot imagine. Rebuilt, the company somehow managed to remain in Amsterdam and grow itself back up until, in 1980, Her Majesty Queen Juliana bestowed a royal title so today it is known as The Royal Asscher Diamond Company. Google them to know more. Daughter Lita and son Mike now inherit the helm from Edward with son Guido standing close.

Through our wonderful meal, I hung on every word. So did B4.

Posted by paulej4 16:01 Archived in Netherlands

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