Travelling around the world you’re bound from time to time to come across the curious, the evocative, the unexpected, the downright weird and wonderful.
Amongst the weird and wonderful, is Villa Augustus.
It might sound like a villa from the days of the Roman Empire. It isn’t. Instead it is a hotel in a former water tower in the Netherlands. And a restaurant. And a garden.
Most of all, it is this wonderfully Gothic building. I’m reminded of Moulin Rouge. In fact, I can practically hear Ewan McGregor declare his love through song.
Come what may!
We’re in Dordrecht, a pleasant city in the south of the Netherlands. Specifically, we’re on the Wantij River.
And it is Dordrecht’s old water tower we’re looking at, today housing a hotel – or parts of a hotel. Of the 45 rooms, 20 are in the water tower, 17 are in the garden and 8 rooms are floating. That’s right! We’re in the Netherlands, after all. One thing all these rooms have in common, is phenomenal views – whether it is over the river or over the garden. From the latter ones, you can just step out, and have a morning stroll, coffee cup in hand.
And that brings me to, well, the garden. Or rather, gardens. We’re talking vegetable beds galore, herbs and spices, fruit trees, an ornamental Italian garden, and there’s even a little forest; in short, everything you could ever want in an oasis. 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres) of delight for all the senses. And you know I like that.
As I wander around this garden, the sun warming my skin, I smell the herbs. I think about tasting all the lovely vegetables and enjoy the beautiful sight of this tranquil place. Touch – smell – taste – vision – sound (in this case tranquil, so no sound. Which is a sound in itself.)
Here in the midst of the garden is the old pump house, where I am about to sample goodies from the garden, once I can tear myself away. Straight from the garden to the open kitchen to your fork – all organically and sustainably grown, and in sync with what the Dutch season has to offer.
This is the kind of place where I could just walk around taking photos and forget I have an appointment inside. But then I remember, and discover the food is excellent, too.
You can stop by for the breakfast buffet, with sweets and savouries from the bakery, seasonal fruits, salads, yogurt, sour-dough sandwiches, roasted veggies: the homemade squash is a speciality of the house and comes highly recommended.
Then there’s afternoon tea, complete with the 3-tier etagère: cakes, freshly baked scones with clotted cream and jam (homemade, of course), savoury sourdough sandwiches, quiche… and these cosy chubby tea pots.
I’m here for a mid-afternoon snack – and this is my choice:
Have a working lunch? Or just in the mood to be on your own for a bit? (*Raising my hand)
Loved this eat and read-space
The Netherlands is a small country, where no place is very far away from anywhere else. Dordrecht is about one hour from Amsterdam, and only half an hour from Rotterdam. In the very near neighbourhood, just 10 minutes away, is Biesbosch National Park, Europe’s largest freshwater tidal zone. The famous windmills at Kinderdijk, probably the best known image of the country, is 20 minutes away. Finally, from the 11th century, Dordrecht itself is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, charming and well worth a visit.