Tuesday, January 2, 2018


We've been very lucky in life to have traveled to many parts of the world staying in some of the most glamorous international hotels but none have given us the joy and thrill of the Villa Augustus in Dordrecht, a small canal town south of Amsterdam and east of Rotterdam.
Most of the highly touted hotels of the world rest their reputations on pretention and exclusivity. The Augustus' only provides a smile, a smile attached to every inch of its design, every amenity and every service they offer.
Everything is perfection. Even the smallest detail did not go unaddressed with a touch of class and a brush stroke of whimsy.
Although, I suspect it's not a hotel for everyone. The design is quirky. There's no pool. They thrive on a self-sufficiency and organic approach to life and for us, it was a real slice of heaven on earth.
The hotel is a renovated water tower originally built in 1882 as a purification and storage facility for drinking water supplied to the residents of Dordrecht. The original design was very romantic and fanciful; castle-like in its slender octagonal shape with its four irregular spires. It was not your typical municipal services buildings of today where adornment and detail would be luxuries above the standard budgetary limits.
Later when a new facility for water treatment was put into place, the building was abandoned.  In 2005 it was transformed into a complex consisting of the hotel, a restaurant and a market, along with an organic produce, flower and a formal garden.

Built in 1882, the building retains its original brick base but the four turrets on its crown had been removed. In the current renovation, the images of the turrets were cleverly replaced by metal sculptures replicating the sizes and shapes of the original ones. The industrial quality of the original building appeals to many who value repurposing and reuse. At first glance, there's almost an eerie derelict feel to the building.
However, as you get closer the buildings and surrounding structures along with the gardens and furnishings transform the eeriness into a kind of chic yet shabby elegance.

The minute you enter into the bisecting hall of the lobby
the reception area sets the tone for the renovated interior design of the hotel,
an eclectic mix of old and new with an emphasis on comfortable industrial chic where even the bed linens resting above the rafters are part of the propping and not hidden away in a closet.
Charm strolled through the lobby in the form of painted garden benches, vintage tables, flowers
and weathered vintage cabinets.
There is also an amazing collection of original art.
Two additional banquet halls flank the central core of the lobby area.
Stocked with their signature fresh flower buckets and color so bright it turns a gloomy day into sunshine.
Even the obligatory souvenirs are a draw we couldn't avoid.

No two rooms at the hotel are the same; each one is given its own personality.
The headboard in our room was constructed from doors salvaged from the original building.
Even the bathroom made you want to spend time relaxing in its oversized soaking tub.

Located in the back of the hotel and surrounded by a stone wall, the formal garden is sculpted primarily from boxwoods and ivy.
On one side of the garden is a shallow pond complete with fountain and geometrically pruned shrubs.
On the other side is a stone wall draped with espaliered fruit trees that drip their bounty in the warmer months.
Our room had a spectacular view looking out over the garden.

An open kitchen provides the anchor for the restaurant
with dining on either side.
There are fresh flowers everywhere adding splashes of color to an already animated scene.
Shelves of collectibles help to define areas like this wall of pitchers and teapots between the hostess and the kitchen.
Walls decked out in calligraphy complete the envelope of the space.
On weekends and holidays, the din of the dining room is mellowed by chamber music.

Go to any Holiday Inn or even a classic hotel on the Via Veneto in Rome and the breakfast offerings won't come close to the spread put out by the Villa Augustus.
Whether its savory
or sweet you're looking for you'd find it on the buffet table here.
I'm a hot chocolate connoisseur and the hot chocolate at the Villa Augustus is right up there at the top, especially when served with a side of sweet clotted cream.
Even a simple cup of ginger tea, when served in a clear glass mug with a sprig of thyme, becomes a piece of art.
No matter your age, the food, lovingly prepared, is eaten with gusto by young and old alike.

A beautiful produce and flower garden rests between the hotel and the restaurant. It is the main food supply for the restaurant producing organic vegetables, herbs and fruits.
Even in the cold of early winter, small hearty root vegetables, herbs and even some small flowers are still being harvested.

Adjacent to the restaurant the Villa Augustus provides a market selling everything you'd expect to find at a farm stand and so much more.
There is a cooled produce pantry stocked with goods grown in the gardens,
a bakery with aromatic loaves of bread tugging at your sense of smell along with a case filled with delectable sweets,
and an abundance of kitchen and gift items to tempt the "must have" in all of us.
The market is a fantasy land for anyone young at heart where even the most mundane everyday items are turned into exquisite illuminated works of art.

There is a playfulness to the entire design concept of the hotel, its restaurant and market and even the grounds.
From the Villa's ubiquitous logo of a hare to the eclectic styling of the interior design,
along with the graphics and typeface used on its printed material and signage,
all the way to how they utilize color it all works to make you feel welcome and at ease. The pretention of the posh is pushed aside in every aspect of the Villa Augustus.
If you spill your drink or want to slurp your pears soaked in thyme and maple syrup don't worry.
Come comfortably dressed, because the only dress code required is to wear a smile!

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