Love in the lowlands starts badly. Mr Smith and I have a huge argument following a sulk on his part after I divulge that we are off to Holland’s fine capital for a surprise weekend of hot romance in my fatherland. Being half Dutch the pressure is on; I have to prove that Holland is as perfect a destination for love to bloom as it is for cultivating its signature rainbow-coloured tulips. Amsterdam means three Bs in his mind, apparently – breweries, brown cafes and brothels. If this were Eurovision it would be nil points to Mr Smith. I correct him: our trip will be about some other b-related activities: baby-making (if just to practise), and of course a boutique bolthole.
Our precise destination is Monnickendam – a tiny, perfectly formed 14th-century waterland town just to the north of the city: 20 minutes from central Amsterdam thanks to an efficient double-decker train, or in our case, 25 minutes in a taxi. The drive is beautiful, with long, grand, tree-lined avenues slicing the flat agricultural land into an impeccably neat patchwork of green and brown. It seems as if nothing is truly as nature intended in this flawless landscape where even the web of waterways, full of reeds and wildlife, are controlled by the touch of a button as part of a hugely advanced system of canals. An essential consideration when much of your land is under sea level.
We’re soon rolling down the cobbled streets of Monnickendam – a classic Dutch town, immaculate in every way. Suitehotel Posthoorn looks bright, charming but relatively unassuming from its façade. We step inside and a darker personality bursts forth with dark, coffee-coloured woodwork, glistening glass panelling and sumptuous chiffon-shrouded chandeliers. It’s a yin and yang fusion of masculine and feminine styling where staff also demonstrate a masterful balance of friendly, professional and easy-going. And their English, as you’d expect from the absurdly linguistic Dutch, is almost better than ours.
We follow the narrow, steep staircase to the first floor, and the moment the huge key turns in the door to our room a mammoth four-poster bed comes into view. Everything inside screams to be touched: fur-lined blankets, flock wallpaper, sparkling antique glassware and naturally, the delightfully overwhelmed person you’re with. The soft, golden autumn light streams in through the windows and shines an extremely flattering glow: Mr Smith instantaneously ushers our hotel assistant out of the room. Dix points to Mrs Smith.
We emerge some time later from our chocolate-box inspired boudoir, keen to investigate our locale, so we ask the backward-bendingly helpful staff for some advice. They tell us that one of the best things to do here is simply to go for a walk and look through the private windows of the local’s houses. Really? We leave wondering whether we’re about to get arrested and Mr Smith mutters something about the crayzhee Dutch; I ditch my half-heritage.
Stepping outside, we admire the latticed brick road that has been laid to millimetre precision. We begin to discuss all the ways in which the Dutch are to be commended. I remind Mr Smith how Dutch I am. As it’s market day and Halloween is around the corner, many of the boutiques are teeming with exquisite floral window-displays in autumnal shades. Mr Smith is mildly impressed with the myriad multi-coloured pumpkins for all of two seconds before growing wildly bored. As I windowshop some more emphasising my need for a new vase and new napkin rings, Mr Smith informs me I’m ‘killing the romance’. His suggested alternative? Beer and 'bitterballen’, I have trained him well. Most foreigners stare at these small spheres of deep-fried meat gloop in horror, my sister included (clearly not as committed to the fatherland as me), but I adore them and Mr Smith and I can consume approximately 9,000 in one sitting. Nil points to each side.
We wander the streets and stare into what seems like a hundred local picture-perfect homes. Huge, knee-height-to-gutter gleaming windows showcasing beautifully considered interiors constructed like film sets – they weren’t lying at the hotel, these people don’t mind. And if they do, I suggest curtains. Mr Smith and I have now conjured the entire blueprint of our future home. Thank you, Monnickendam.
Night falls, dinnertime calls and there’s a reason the restaurant at Suitehotel Posthoorn is decked out with soft chenille armchairs – anything else would be a hazard, padding and arm rests are simply essential to keep you in place while you drift in and out of food euphoria. Starting with a (large) G&T in the über-masculine, leather-studded study, our evening finishes approximately four hours later with a fought-over mouthful of some chocolate concoction impossible to describe without using utterly predictable words like ‘bliss’ or ‘perfection’ – which I won’t, naturally.
Rogier van Dam deserves his Michelin star for being so creative with his cooking without taking it that dangerous step too far... Melt-in-your-mouth steak, prepared just-how-I-want-it ‘medium rare’ pink but not too bloody; and for him, show-off lobster. Whenever we can grab the opportunity we lunge across the table with our forks while the other diners are distracted by their own culinary feasts. The fact that we can barely move afterwards doesn't make it any less romantic as we drift upstairs towards our Vermeer-worthy sanctuary for a night of deep, deep, happy sleep.
We wake up approximately ten-comatose-hours later, and we’re hungry again. How? Breakfast is another three-course affair. Yes, three rounds, for breakfast. The feasting starts with the most incredible, mouth-watering, crisp yet delicate Belgian waffles – fresh out of the oven and lightly dusted in icing sugar. I’m not sure I’ve done them enough justice. I’m not sure I’ve eaten enough of them.
Eventually we leave Suitehotel Posthoorn, our little Dutch secret. Mr Smith is smiling silently and it seems we’ve fallen more in love than ever. As the taxi pulls away, we stare deep into one another’s eyes. I declare, in my most sultry tone, ‘I won’.