The city of Dordrecht lies just 18km from Rotterdam but, in many other respects, it is several lifetimes away. Life in this picturesque town is altogether more languid. Canals flow at a gentler pace, windmills whirr wistfully, people are unhurried, easy-going and keen to pass the time of day [in perfect English, of course] with visitors who, like us, have drifted in on the afternoon tide.
|decorative tiles to be found in the Simon Van Gijn Museum, Dordrecht, The Netherlands|
Dordrecht is the oldest city in Holland. Rich in culture, decorated with delightful architecture and steeped in history with a mediaeval heart, this is a charming and beguiling town. Handsome houses of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries line kilometres of canals, shady squares provide attractive meeting places whilst a wealth of museums, churches and some 950 monuments paint a picture of Dordrecht's past which is both colourful and significant.
|a fine example of the splendid architecture which is to be seen throughout Dordrecht|
And, joy of joys, we arrived in town on the very day that the preparations for 'Dordt in Steam', Europe's biggest steam event, were in full swing. Historical steam boats filled the canals, brushed and polished to perfection by their proud owners, whilst the quay sides boasted all the trappings of a bygone age.
|the canals of Dordrecht give berth to the shipping of a previous age and time|
But, for all its illustrious past, Dordrecht also has its eyes focussed firmly on the future. Its noble industrial heritage has been revitalised to meet the demands of twenty-first century living.
|view of the interior of The Grand Café Khotinsky, 1905, Dordrecht|
The Grand Café Khotinsky, built in 1905 as a power plant, is now home to concerts, both classical and pop, a theatre, a cinema, dance studios, workshops, a café, bistro and bar. And the Villa Augustus, completed in 1882 as a water tower, today serves as a boutique hotel, a restaurant and function rooms surrounded by formal gardens, an orchard and an immaculate kitchen garden which supplies the Villa's ultra chic market café.
|exterior of the Villa Augustus, in former times a water tower|
|a part of the formal gardens which surround the Villa Augustus|
There can surely be no more sublime surroundings than these, we thought, for taking Afternoon Tea on a hot summer's day. The Lemon Pie was deliciously lemony, the tea reviving and refreshing and the waiter, Rolin, was efficient, amusing, and handsome. Perfection indeed.
|Jane and Lance Hattatt at the Villa Augustus, Dordrecht this summer|
"Do come for dinner in Budapest," we invited.
"I shall," he replied.
And so he did!
|Rolin Den Heijer joins the sentries on duty in The Castle District, Budapest|