A treasure – part V

I headed off down two flights of stairs to the basement,


069 noticing on my way that all the household woodwork, windows and glass panes were the originals, very sturdy and handsome,

070where to access the Conservatory, and breakfast, my path lay through my proprieters’ sitting room,

110which was truly a homage to the collector’s art.  This was no mere jumble of possessions but everything was carefully positioned and placed.





There were at least two pianos and two more organs amongst all the other fine artefacts.


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And so, through to the Conservatory.  Well, where to begin?  Perhaps with the breakfast!

I had a pretty table in the window laid up for me with a dish of very fresh, home-made fruit salad in it.  All looked divine.  On another table were five different kinds of crispbreads and rusky-type things; four different yoghourts – one soya, one goat, some plain, some flavoured; the same kind of variety of muesli and milk; different spreads of butter or vegetable oils; honeys, jams, marmalades; and then my hostess asked whether I would prefer coffee or tea, and if the latter, what kind; also would I like fresh rolls or buns or muffins and what would I fancy in the way of a cooked breakfast.

Gosh.  I settled for the fruit salad with plain, live yoghourt followed by scrambled eggs, ham and cheese.  After that I could eat nothing else, much to her worry and perhaps disappointment.  She did say how much she enjoyed giving her guests a really good breakfast.  During our chats each day it emerged that she used to be a nurse, and whilst her husband does not enjoy the company of strangers, she does enjoy meeting people.  They have been collectors all their lives and she has clearly always enjoyed spending time dusting, cleaning and tending for their objects.  Later on I did notice piles of Collector Magazines in the house so, if I had been in any doubt, they were serious about it.

We managed a little chat about the weather, life at my home, and then what to visit.  After that she left me to relax and enjoy my food, which I did, whilst chilling out in the most enchanting surroundings.  But more of those next time!!

Next instalment

Is coming soon!!  I have a lot of photos to sort out and suddenly even more things to sort in my private life, but I am working my way through both.

One thing which has taken a lot of my time it trying to arrange for some tutorials for my grandson: he is not backward, rather is too bright and bored at school and therefore not trying since he can ‘wing it’.  He has asked me if he could have a tutor so I have been researching the subject.  This has involved interviewing bright young male academics in our University, so no hardship there!!!  I have found a Greek Ph.D. student working at the LHC and another in Electronic Engineering (which is what Theo is most interested in at the moment) and both seem very likeable and intelligent so I have been arranging trial tutorials.  I am looking for someone whose own academic life can enthuse Theo and open mental doors for him as to the possibilities out there if he will get down to some of the more mundane school work.  I remember myself how hard it was to concentrate on the basics when one’s mind wanted to fly onwards to subjects which were exciting but I did not have the necessary ground work in place.  I have always felt that children could easily be given access to greater concepts even if they are not yet able to participate in the methodology, to give them something to aim for.

As a first year undergrad I went to some open lectures on particle physics: now I am not a physicist and do not have the mathematical skills to ever become one, but that did not stop me being quite thunder struck at the concepts and what was being discovered.  The impulse of those lectures has never left me. (This image is not my copyright but comes from:  http://www.kip.uni-heidelberg.de/~coulon/Lectures/SM/  where it is credited to’ Fermilab Visual Media Services’) 

If only our poor teachers were given time and space (sorry, bad pun) in the curriculum to be able to spend a little time just enthusing students and describing what was happening at the coal face of research.

Right, back to my stacks of photos.  Be back soon.

A treasure Part IV

The next morning I woke after a reasonable night’s sleep: you know what it is like, the first night in a strange place.  Although I slept really well I woke frequently.  But I had had the most comfortable night ever: I did not think such a mattress existed in the world – pure bliss.

And the heating was so good; everything was as warm as toast.  What comfort, what luxury:)  (At home our central heating boiler had broken down and until we knew whether or not our dog needed an operation we could not afford to replace it, so home was just a little cool!)

I got up to make a cup of tea to take back to bed, and on the way opened the curtains to see what kind of day it was.  As light flooded the suite I was amazed.

My bedroom had double floor-length windows, doors really, giving onto a balcony at the front of the Villa.



The view looked over at other houses and trees, some of which still had a few leaves.



As I went through the flat opening curtains I realized just how light an apartment this was despite being a rainy day.





And, joy of joys, my dining room was in a tower!!!!!!!  A tower room all to myself.  Like something out of a little girl’s dream.  “Rapunzel, Rapunzel,  let down your hair”.  Only I am not blond, neither is my hair long enough, nor am I young enough.  Still, one can fantasize.


During the days to come, I would sit in the tower room having several of my ‘moments’, surrounded by cosy radiators, reading, doing the crossword, looking at maps, planning excursions, writing my diary and smiling at the occasional pedestrian who happened to look up.


The front of the Villa showing my set of rooms on the first floor: bedroom over the hotel entrance, sitting room in the middle and my tower room on the left hand side!

From one side I could look up and down the road, from another I could look over the lovely garden, into which the conservatory projected.


I was so happy.  In my wildest dreams I could never have imagined having such a place to stay, and especially at this price.  As I had my tea and then got ready for the day ahead, I felt the luckiest person in the world:)

Time to head downstairs to the basement for breakfast in the conservatory


I have copied this photo from the Villa Imhof website at http://www.hotelimhof.nl/index.php?lang=en.   It is their photograph, their copyright and not mine.

(View from the side. The Villa is built into a hill so access to the main entrance is from the road on the right, whereas the conservatory where breakfast was taken is at the basement level:  mine is the top room in the tower.)

And if I thought what I had experienced so far was wonderful, I had no idea what lay ahead.    You ain’t seen nothing yet!

To be continued.

A treasure part III

As the darkness and silence of the house fell around me I entered my rooms: I was tired and rather drained by the small but panicky experiences of the trip and as yet unsure of where I was and how it all looked, having arrived at Bloemendaal after sunset.

But I was indoors, at the right place and could now begin to unwind I hoped, although the intense quiet was unexpected.  Neither interior nor exterior sound penetrated this house.  Clearly, property was built solidly in 1902.

As I entered my rooms I was met by curtains closed against the night outside, warm lighting, a cheerful colour scheme and a blast of heat from the central heating.

My landlady had said that because I was the only guest, they had given me their best suite, the red suite: indeed it was.  This was a reality far better than any fiction I could have dreamt up.

019.jpg1The view from my little hall – across the sitting room to the dining alcove.

I shook off my wet coat and shoes, unpacked, made myself a cup of tea, fell on the chaise longue and turned on the TV.

When I was a little recovered, I unpacked and ate my salad.   I found myself surrounded by original art, textiles, glass, china and furniture.  Often eclectic but working very well together.  It was amazing.  Nothing could be further from a modern hotel room.  So then I began to take photos of my domain. I wanted a record of THIS!

The bedroom is through the archway.



Looking back from the bedroom:


Looking back from the dining area:


The kitchenette is through this archway


and contains:- a fridge, electric kettle, cupboards, sink, utensils, and on the opposite wall a large cupboard with electric ring, toaster, microwave, coffee maker plus tea, coffee, milk, sugar, drinking chocolate and  fruit filled bars.  Just perfect and so neat and compact,


The bathroom was a shower room but I prefer showers anyway: the only thing was it would have been a little tight for someone who was really large.  It was off the hallway and perfect for tidying up before going out and washing hands when coming in.

Then there were little vignettes in every corner:


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My little kingdom for a week: everything I could possible want, and more, to feel quite comfortable and secure, even if a spell of bad health did hit.  I was sooooo pleased with my choice:)

An early night beckoned so I fell into bed, very happy.   The complete and utter stillness and silence were still a bit unnerving and the consciousness of floors of rooms all round me being empty made me a tiny bit uneasy but I decided that what I needed was a good night’s sleep and to take stock tomorrow in the light of day.

To be continued.

A treasure: part II

There are several ways to get to Bloemendaal from Schiphol Airport.

There is a taxi.  But that costs from about £33 to £50.00.

There is the train.  But you have to change trains in Amsterdam and, depending on the train, again in Haarlem.  I believe that costs about £11.00.  On the trains you have to either go down some stairs to sit, or upstairs to sit, and I know from bitter experience that I find that difficult with a large suitcase.

Then there is the special Airport bus which runs from the Airport to Haarlem Central Train Station and costs £3.00.  It leaves Schiphol every six to ten minutes and takes 45 minutes to get to Haarlem.  There is a designated lane on the motorway which only this bus can use so it overtakes and sweeps past all other traffic and hold-ups.  It has priority at all road crossings!

(Image from – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zuidtangent.  It is NOT my copyright.)

Then one could either take a taxi from Haarlem to Bloemendaal which costs £14.00 or a train which costs £3.00.

I thought it would be more of an adventure as well as cheaper and easier with my luggage to take the Bus to Haarlem and then the train, and then a taxi in Bloemendaal from the station to the Villa Imhof if I did not feel like a walk.

This all passed off beautifully and I was very pleased with my choices.  I felt less like a tourist on the bus with the commuters going home, and the Haarlem Train station ticket office were extremely helpful making sure I understood how their trains worked, where to get on and where to get off.  They said not to bother sitting down because the journey only lasted 2 minutes.  This was true.

So I arrived happily and confidently in Bloemendaal: however it was now dark, it being November and about six o’clock in the evening.  The station buildings appeared closed for the day but there was a car park and a forecourt, so I took myself off to get a taxi.  None.

Weary looking people were heading off into the blackness on bikes and in their own cars but one chap was being met by a wife/partner and while he was waiting for her I asked him where I should look for the taxis.  He looked blank and then said that there were no taxis at the train station or anywhere else in Bloemendaal.  One had to ring a taxi firm in Harlaam if one wanted a taxi.

My heart sank, it was cold, beginning to rain and I had no idea where I was going.  I had no phone numbers for my friends in Holland or their family, and had not made a note of their hotel number either.  My ancient phone could not give me a sat nav and stupidly, I never thought of ringing the Villa.  However, I could see a map on a board so I went over to find out where I was and where I needed to be – cursing myself under my breath for being a stupid woman wanting some local colour.  Well, I was going to get local colour all right.  I was going to be lost in a maze of dark, tree lined and dripping roads, all looking completely anonymous, dragging my suitcase behind me, tired and panicking.

The chap came over to join me at the board and asked where I wanted to get to.  I explained but he had never heard of the Villa Imhof so could not direct me. (That gave me pause for thought!).  The roads were not labelled on the map so I could not find the address of the Villa there, and I could not see road names on the streets either.  At this point his wife turned up and he went off to their car: but after some conversation he turned and asked whether I would like a lift with them.  They would take me to my friends’ hotel of which they had heard, and then leave me there.  I had a few misgivings but it is interesting how fatigue and bad weather affect the choices one makes.

They appeared surprised when I accepted their offer with alacrity!  But a (by now) wild-looking, middle-aged, English woman was a creature they must have heard about even if they had not met one before,


(This image comes from –    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2293725/Wake-wrong-bed-Dozy-koala-looks-far-thrilled-woken-soaking-garden-sprinkler.html and was taken by taken by Matt Wilkinson, 39, in the garden of his home in Adelaide, Australia.  It is NOT my copyright.  Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2293725/Wake-wrong-bed-Dozy-koala-looks-far-thrilled-woken-soaking-garden-sprinkler.html#ixzz2qkLD768U)

 so they put my luggage in the boot and set off for the centre of the town.  Everywhere looked black and wet and the same, so I just gave up and sat back and waited to see what would happen.  After about ten minutes they stopped outside my friends’ hotel and looking anxious and a little bemused they left me and set off for their home, probably having gone quite out of their way.  How kind.

I could not enter the hotel as the doors were locked and nobody answered the bell.  After about five minutes a chap came up the steps to go in who had the door code and I jumped inside behind him: he looked surprised but my explanation seemed to be OK.  He called for the hotel proprieter who came up from the gym. and who called my friends down and we fell on each other’s necks.  They offered coffee or tea and an evening with their family but  I decided I just wanted to get installed in my own place, eat the salad I had brought with me and fall into bed, so after a chat we parted.  I was given instructions to get to my Villa by their hotel owner who seemed concerned and wanted to give me more help, for what reason I knew not, but at  that point I just wanted to be in my room and rest, so with great insouciance I gaily told one and all that I would be fine, and set off.  Apparently it was only a six or seven minute walk from there.

Well, I had not reckoned on the cyclists.  They are a horror.  They seem to ride on the pavements, take priority over everyone else and you have to look all round you before you make a move or you will be mown down.  This was not helped by the fact that what I took to be a raised pedestrian footpath along the side of the road turned out to be a bicycle track.  In which case there was no pavement for pedestrians to walk along then.  My first warning was a frantic ringing of bicycle bells.  Apparently I was lucky: usually they give no warning before they run into you.

My suitcase wheels were becoming clogged with mashed up leaves from the Autumn drifts which were now soaking with rain, and although I tried to follow the directions I had been given,  I could see no name signs on any roads.  However, I remembered the shape of the roads from the Google map I had seen at home and just followed my nose.  Despite this I seemed to make no progress.  As panic was rising again I suddenly found myself outside the Villa Imhof -  but it was on the opposite side of the road from where I expected it to be so how I got there I am not sure.

I passed under the curved Hotel sign, walked up the soaking gravel path under the dark, dripping trees, to a large, looming house where a faint light shone in the distance through the glass in the front door.  I rang the bell expecting to hear a corresponding tolling echoing in some subterranean region.  Through the glass I could make out the gigantic orchestrion immediately behind the door: would it begin  spontaneously to play, all 288 pipes booming a dire  warning welcome.

An elderly lady rose up some stairs from the basement and came to the door and ushered me in.  Her English was better than my Dutch which is not saying much, but with some French, a little German and lots of hand gestures we managed very well.

She proceeded to lead me upstairs to my rooms, gave me some keys, asked when I would like breakfast and explained that she and her husband, “who was rather reclusive”, lived only in the basement.  As she left me she did say that I was the only person staying there that week.

Drumroll -  dum de dum dum dum.

All the upper floors were empty and dark apart from me and a landing light.  A cold hand clutched my stomach. The house fell under a total, soundless, blanket of quiet and I entered my suite.

To be continued.

A treasure

I have dear American friends who live in California.  One of their sons has married a girl from Holland and he, she and their two children live in a small town twenty minutes from Amsterdam, called Bloemendaal.

Last November my friends decided to pay a family visit but stay in a local Hotel because their relatives’ house was not large, and also they did not want to impose on daily life too much.  Most days they spent doing things together and meeting the family in the evening.  Some days their son’s parents-in-law came over and took them out.

I was invited over to spend a week there: I have known the son and his wife since before the children were twinkles in the eye and spent a New Year in Paris some years ago with both the friends from California and the parents-in-law, so we were all acquainted.  However, like my friends, I did not want to tread on anybody’s toes, and especially did not want to intrude on special family time.  I was conscious that they are all so kind they would inevitably invite me to everything but I needed to give them some space.  Probably I was worrying too much, but there we are.  So I looked for accommodation in Bloemendaal, close-ish to my friends’ hotel but just  a little apart.

As is my wont, I researched carefully: I found Trip Advisor to be excellent and discovered a small hotel which had five stars and four rooms, which advertised B&B (Bed and Breakfast -  usually in a private home for those of you not used to the term) only five minutes walk from my friends’ hotel.  It was called the Villa Imhof and this is what I read on its website:

The villa was built by the well-known architect J.van den Ban in 1902. The hotel is named after the huge Imhof & Mukle orchestrion in the entrance hall. The former residence of this impressive instrument, built in 1885 in the Black Forest, was the Mekanisk Musik Museum in Copenhagen. It has a 64-key mechanism with 288 pipes, bassdrum, snare-drum, cymbal and triangle in a walnut case with an arched top, glazed doors and glazed panels to the barrel compartment.”

I was intrigued and pursued the Villa Imhof.  I found that three of the ‘rooms’ were in fact suites of rooms which sounded lovely, the rates – including a huge breakfast – were more than reasonable, and then I found some photos which people had posted on Trip Advisor.

Photos of Hotel Villa Imhof, Bloemendaal
This photo of Hotel Villa Imhof is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The above photo did give me a few chills: reminiscent of the Adams Family home, only during daytime. Silly of me.  Only, travelling alone, sometimes one does think of all the horror stories one has heard.

And another photo showing breakfast in the conservatory, from      https://foursquare.com/v/hotel-villa-imhof/4be192f88dd062b55a5e3e3c

Another website said “If you’re looking for somewhere unique to stay, then Hotel Villa Imhof is it! Situated in the leafy,affluent village of Bloemendaal, the villa dates back to 1902 and looks like it should be a film set.”

I have M.E. which is not too bad but is persistant and I also have some other medical problems including crippling migraines from time to time, so I really wanted somewhere that I would feel at home in, if I were not able to go out and about for a couple of days. Certainly not some faceless hotel room. I emailed Villa Imhof and got a reply offering me a suite at the basic price, no extras for single occupancy. I was allocated a suite with bedroom, sitting room, bathroom, kitchenette, hall and dining room and an enormous breakfast all for 75 euros ($101.92 or £62.00) a night.

So, I went for it.  After all, anywhere with an organ that huge in the hall must have something going for it.  And eccentric does me just fine.http://www.ambiancehotels.com/hotel/data/fotos/nl-bloemendaal-villaimhof-1.jpg

Next time:  Getting to Bloemendaal,  and trying to find the Villa Imhof!

Warning!  Horrific pictures are in this post.

I tend not to promote petitions on this site because there are so many just causes: how to choose without spending your whole life reading and perhaps signing. 

But I was so horrified when I discovered that products are harvested from live animal sources in this way that I had to publicise them.

Please boycott these firms and if you feel so moved, sign and publicise these petitions.

Really, have humans no depths to which they will not sink?

I have copied and pasted the following articles from two petition sites:


Sign the Petition To Ask Ralph Lauren to Stop Selling Angora!



Recently, PETA investigated 9 angora fur farms and released bone-chilling footage of workers violently ripping rabbit fur from the animals bodies as they scream in pain. In response, several major clothing companies have stopped selling angora — but retail giant Ralph Lauren is still marketing angora.

I started a petition asking Ralph Lauren to stop selling angora until they can prove the rabbits used in their clothing aren’t being tortured. Please add your name. When the rabbits endure this horrific, violent yanking of their fur, they scream in pain and to go into extreme shock. Then they are thrown back inside filthy, tiny wire cages with no bedding to lie alone, motionless in shock. This is repeated every 3 months, for 2 to 5 years, until the rabbits are hung upside down to have their throats slit, and are skinned. More than 90% of the world gets its angora fur from rabbits farmed in China, where there are no animal welfare standards, and no penalties for animal abuse on rabbit farms. In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that nearly all of Ralph Lauren’s clothing is manufactured in China. When European companies including H&M heard about this harrowing investigative report, they stopped selling their angora products and announced that they would be investigating their supply chain. Now that H&M has done the right thing, I’m confident that if enough of us speak up, Ralph Lauren will follow their lead


Tell Outdoor Gear Companies to End Down-Plucking Torture of Live Geese



  • author: Susan V
  • target: North Face, Patagonia, Rab, Allied Feather & Down
  • signatures: 109,008

Update #2 January 6, 2014

The Biomimicry Institute is working to develop a non-toxic alternative to natural down. Perhaps the outdoor gear companies and others who are unable to ensure that down is obtained cruelty-free could help fund this important work. http://www.asknature.org/strategy/5797a30d2419a61e81b0ae7e6d0e299f

Update #1 January 7, 2014

In 2010, North Face and Patagonia reportedly admitted that some down used in their products was from cruelly treated geese. In 2012, North Face pledged to find a source of down that was not the product of force-feeding. Now North Face reports on its website that it’s been working on a “Responsible Down Standard,” which it says will be completed in 2014. Keep the pressure on North Face and other billion-dollar industries to end this torture now – not later!

About this Petition

Down feathers are sometimes cruelly and painfully plucked from live birds. But consumers and most retailers don’t know which products contain this live-plucked down.

Peta and Four Paws have obtained undercover video footage of workers pulling fistfuls of feathers from geese as the ravished birds shriek with pain. During the torture the geese are often squeezed between pluckers’ knees or sometimes have their necks sat upon. The traumatized, suffering birds are often left with gaping wounds, which many don’t survive.

But the horror doesn’t always end after this torment, because many of these tortured birds are further victimized by the foie gras market, and then some go on to be slaughtered or dumped into scalding water – also while still alive.

Most upsetting is that none of this cruelty is necessary. Imitation materials that mimic down are warmer and washable and now available, and outdoor gear company Coleman says it has already made the switch.

More important, the Biomimicry Institute is working to design a nontoxic alternative to natural down, and the outdoor gear companies could pool their resources to fund this project.

Tell The North Face, Patagonia and Rab to support non-toxic alternatives to down and stop supporting this cruelty!


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