Thursday, August 27, 2015


Laura kept encouraging us to go to a place she referred to as the kitchen store located in De Nieuwkerk, a former church, a five-minute walk from her apartment. We had passed by it the first time we arrived in Dordrecht giving us a two second impression that did really pique our interest. What we found was so much more than a simple "kitchen" store. The Dutch have a wonderful way of preserving their architectural heritage. The congregation of the Nieuwkerk had long since abandoned this beautiful building. Presumably the cost of maintenance and utilities drove them out but the government designated it a National Monument protecting it from ultimate ruin.
Almost twenty years ago the Pieters took the building over and began converting it into a retail furniture and kitchen store. I'm not sure how much assistance they were given by the government but I do know that any major repairs that need to be done are taken care of government. That meant if the roof needed replacing the government picked up the tab. If the exterior walls needed repointing the government sent out its crews and got it done. This, as Hans told us, was the only way they could afford taking over the old "new " church. They were still responsible for a manageable rent and keeping up with their utilities that in a building with thirty-foot ceilings can be rather hard to heat in the colder months.
The interior was handled with love and a good eye for design. From the beautiful blue ceiling to the soft muslin curtains blocking off a section of the building holding the offices of other tenants the showroom gave off the impression of a high-end vendor.
The biggest delight was that their inventory didn't carry the top dollar prices that we'd assumed we see when we turned over their price tags.
Much of their upholstered goods came from Poland. These dining chairs came in a dozen styles with a choice of over two hundred fabrics and almost any wood stain you could imagine all for about $150 a piece. I don't know how the Dutch say bargain but it should be spelled "PIETERS".
There was exquisite lighting and wall finishes that were tastefully sublime.
Vignettes were spread throughout the store in a way that gave the imagination deficient a way of seeing how to set up a room
minus the tomb marker imbedded in the floor.
Then there was the kitchen side. Filled with every imaginable kitchen appliance along with a kitchen school.
We have compiled a Christmas list and if we were ever to decide to get married, here is where we'd register.

A tiny blue neon sign with the letters H-O-T-E-L sits high atop Dordrecht's former water tower on the out skirts of the historic center of town.
The hotel looks out on the Wantij river and over a formal English garden in back
and a vegetable and flower garden in front.
The produce and flower garden provide an organic supply of fruits and vegetables
for the restaurant and market that form the street side part of the Augustus compound.
The restaurant serves an inventive menu with which you can relax either inside or out during the summer months.
On our third visit with the weather being extremely hot, we chose to eat inside
on a lunch of exquisite salads
and sandwiches
After lunch you can stroll through the funky industrial market where you'll find produce,
a children's corner, a bakery and enough gifts to keep you shopping for hours.
We made three separate pilgrimages there and are plotting a return for visits four, five and six.

There was no plan; there was no thumbing through guidebooks, we hadn't sought out antique meccas the way we had on many of our previous trips abroad. The first time we put our hands in our pockets and began our initial trip through the narrow streets of the historic part of Dordrecht we hadn't done it to seek out an antique trail.
We'd never seen a posting on some treasure seekers blog or found it highlighted in any travel magazine but Dordrecht is an antique hunter's bonanza. We lost count on all the little shops we kept discovering even on the last days of our stay when we thought we had gone down every street and alley.
We kept wishing we had deeper pockets and bigger suitcases. We discovered beautiful glass so thin and fragile we had no idea of how to get it home.
There was a shop filled with dolls that lit up like soft lamps,
ceramic pigs
and drawers full of plastic brides and grooms.
There were high-end shops filled with Dutch paintings, dark mahogany casegoods and marble statuary way to heavy to bring home but beautiful to look at.
There were shops filled with treasures and trash on shelves that hadn't been dusted in decades. I dug out a 50's teapot from one and a metal breadbox with a celluloid handle from another.
We had as much fun looking and coveting as if we had actually bought all things we saw and wanted.
Dordrecht for many reasons was  a heaven and a haven for us: antiques included.

There was so much beauty and so many images that I just couldn't find a place for in the posts already uploaded I needed a catchall at the end to close out our trip to a place I'm sure we'll revisit.
It's impossible to have been in Holland and not seen at least one windmill. Of course, Dordrecht has one. It operates for only a couple of hours each Saturday. We could see it spinning from our loft balcony.
We did make it to Dordrecht's beautiful Museum of Art. The collection is primarily Dutch painters of the 17th and 18th centuries but there are some contemporary artists exhibited as well.
The building, though, is as beautiful as its collection with a recently upgraded modern flair
that contrasts harmoniously with its historic exterior.
Every Friday and Saturday Dordrecht's main square and part of one of its pedestrian alleys are transformed into a typical European market selling everything from local cheeses to fresh fish to day dresses and hardware items.
On one of my photo outings while everyone else was trying to get themselves ready for the day I discovered a group of German tourist that spontaneously started a contest composed of two teams. The object was to see which team could make the longest continuous line during a given amount of time. Why someone wearing a perfectly clean white blouse would want to get down on the ground and start scooting their body along the cobblestones is beyond me but they seemed fully prepared to tackle the task at nine in the morning. I believe this was done without beer.
One last tip of the hat to the little cherub who never once peed on us as we walked under his wagging weenie on our way from our loft to Laura's apartment.
One last smile from the most beautiful women of Dordrecht

One last look at the canal we crossed a dozen times each day we were there.
One last sunset.
One last word to sum up our time in Dordrecht.

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