The magical Amsterdam canals by night, colourful houses of a fishing village in Italy, aerial images of amazing architecture… As photography artist Arden likes to say: ‘’Every capture has its own unique story.’’ Throughout the month of May, Samsara Books & Art – the daughter company of the Ambassade Hotel – is hosting an exhibition of unique framed photographs by Arden Photography!
About Arden: photography artist based in Amsterdam
Arden is a photography artist based in Amsterdam and specialized in aerial photos, architecture, colorful patterns and reflections. His work has been published by media such as the BBC and Euronews, and has been featured on the largest travel and photography social media accounts worldwide. With more than 240.000 people following him on Instagram, he is building an empire of his own.
Arden has been fascinated by photography for many years, but only after his trip to Namibia in 2017, he decided to buy a professional camera which enables him to capture the beauty of the world in a passionate way. ‘’I have a computer science background that helps me to look at my surroundings in an analytical way and I use small details to always have unique perspectives.’’
Arden Photography at Samsara Books & Art
During the month of May, numerous beautiful works by Arden are on display at Samsara Books & Art. At the exhibition you will find, for instance, the extraordinary photo called ‘Damrak Houses’. Arden took this magical photo during a quiet night in Amsterdam. Because of how still the canal water was at that moment, Arden was able to capture the reflection of the houses in a perfect way. The complete picture felt like a testament to the famous words of Vincent Van Gogh, who once said: “I often think that the night is more alive and more richly coloured than the day.”
‘Ambassade Night Reflections’
The Ambassade Hotel has also been captured in a very unique way by Arden. ‘Ambassade Night Reflections’ was taken during his stay at the Ambassade Hotel. Arden had asked the hotel to switch on the lights of all the rooms at the front of the hotel, which enabled him to take this remarkable picture. As a result of the bright lights shining from the windows and their beautiful reflections on the canal, this image became one of Arden’s most liked photos of all time on social media.
Extraordinary photo’s from all over the world
In addition to the amazing images of Amsterdam, there are also remarkable photographs that were made in other countries, all over the world. Arden took ‘Color Palette from Gdansk’ during a sunny autumn day in Gdansk, Poland. This amazing photo has been viewed and shared by millions on social media, and has been published by mass media as well.
If you’re staying at the Ambassade Hotel, be sure to stop by this month (May ’21) to admire Arden’s extraordinary works from his ‘Amsterdam’ & ‘Colours of the world’ series at Samsara Books & Art, or shop them online! Samsara Books & Art offers both framed and unframed prints.
Combine your visit to Samsara Books & Art with a wonderful stay at the Ambassade hotel, with for example our Art & Culture package. With this special offer package, you will discover our hotel’s art collection, and the history & highlights of Amsterdam! You can view all our special offer packages here.
Oude Spiegelstraat 7
1016 BM Amsterdam
Brasserie Ambassade is the restaurant at the Ambassade Hotel, which has been impressing diners since it opened in 2015. The restaurant prides itself on quality and service. The kitchen team creates French classics using the finest ingredients, and the courteous staff are ready to oblige day and night. ‘It’s French joie de vivre in a unique spot, with a view of Herengracht and a colourful backdrop of works by the artists of the international COBRA movement,’ says chef Tommy van de Coolwijk proudly, as we ask him about his love of French cuisine and the success of this restaurant in such an enviable location.
— So Brasserie Ambassade is oriented towards French cuisine? —
‘You can tell by the name. French Mediterranean cuisine has a long tradition of wonderful dishes and is renowned for its refinement and variety. I love the fact that I can express my passion for French cuisine through the menu. I always choose dishes you wouldn’t tend to make at home. All our food is prepared with finesse, plated beautifully, and served in just the right way. We also have a great wine list with reasonable prices, and we pay a lot of attention to food and wine combinations.’
— You can tell that the management and your team have achieved something special from the rave reviews and high ratings on TripAdvisor and TheFork. —
‘It’s because of our careful attention to service and quality, and the excellent price-quality ratio. Our guests particularly value the depth of flavour in our dishes and the variety on the menu: from a wonderful house-made bisque or salade au chèvre at lunchtime to a steak tartare or a refined confit de canard at dinner.’
— These days, sustainability is an important issue. A growing number of diners are eating less meat or none at all. How do you respond to this trend? —
‘French cuisine traditionally has many meat and fish dishes, but we see that there’s a growing demand for vegetarian dishes. So we always have more than one vegetarian starter and main dish on the menu. As far as possible, we also use seasonal ingredients, which we buy sustainably from local suppliers whenever we can.’
— In everything you say about your work as a chef, one thing stands out: your passion for the guests. Can you say something more about that? —
‘The main ambition of everybody here, both the kitchen team and the front of house, is to satisfy our guests. We want them to have a fantastic evening, to pamper them, and make them feel they haven’t wanted for anything. I go home satisfied if I see they’ve appreciated the quality of our food and it’s clear they’ve had a good time because of all the care and attention they’ve received. That’s what we’re interested in at Brasserie Ambassade, not all the latest restaurant fashions. Although, as chefs, of course we do keep up to date with that!’
The American travel writer Rick Steves, a regular guest at the Ambassade Hotel, is renowned in the US as an authority on travelling in Europe. In his travel guides and TV programmes he encourages American tourists to head off the beaten track and genuinely discover other cultures. Steves is also a social activist and philanthropist.
— You are very well-known from your books and blogs about travelling all over the world. Why, for American people, is Amsterdam a nice place to visit? And did this change over the years? —
Amsterdam is a kind of fairy-tale Europe for many Americans: it’s amazingly well-preserved, provides a peek at Old World affluence, and serves up lots of cultural clichés. Combine that with a well-organized tourism welcome, and friendly, English-speaking locals — and Amsterdam makes a good first stop on the Continent. As to what’s changed over the years, mostly it’s Amsterdam’s popularity, combined with the crazy TripAdvisor mindset that makes everybody want to do the same thing — which means congestion at the most popular sights.
— Your mission at Rick Steves’ Europe is not only to give travel advice but also to inspire Americans to broaden their cultural understanding and to contribute to the world by travelling. Contributing to the world we live in is something you have been working on for years with your initiatives such as ‘Bread for the World’. Do you see a positive development in the world? —
A fundamental part of my teaching is helping Americans get out and make friends with the world. Our world is filled with joy, love, and good people…very much like our own neighborhoods. But if your world view is shaped by sensational commercial news (as it is for too many Americans), you become a fearful person. When you become a fearful person, evil politicians can capitalize on that fear and manipulate you. When we travel and get to know people, we become less fearful, and stronger. When we travel, we learn that suffering far away is as real as suffering across the street. We can learn about our country by leaving it and looking at it from afar. A thoughtful traveler understands how important American leadership is in our world, and how impactful our laws can be on struggling people and nations. I support Bread for the World because they bring a compassionate world view and a Christian perspective on taking care of the poor and hungry into the halls of our government. They make a huge difference in how the USA deals with economic justice issues, both at home and abroad.
— You encourage your readers and viewers to visit not just major cities but also cozy villages away from popular tourist routes. The Dutch government is also trying to actively spread tourism to remove the pressure from Amsterdam, but is over-tourism in general not becoming a problem? —
If you only go to famous places, overcrowding is becoming a serious issue. Barcelona’s Ramblas, Amsterdam’s Damrak, and Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori are all changing in character as tourism, Airbnb, and economic forces drive away real communities. This problem is compounded by millions of people from emerging economies, such as India and China, who converge on Europe’s most famous places. Sure, 20% of the top sights in Europe are terribly congested. But 80% of Europe rarely experiences a tourist crowd — and 80% of the Netherlands, too! My tip for the traveler: Get off the beaten path…explore!
— What is in your opinion the most important value that a hotel can offer its guests? From that perspective, do you have any advice for the Ambassade Hotel for the coming years? —
For me, a hotel provides a comfortable, efficient, and friendly nest. It’s a place to call home — and a springboard from which to explore a great city. And that’s why when I sleep in Amsterdam, I choose a hotel like Ambassade.
Best wishes and happy travels!
– Rick Steves
The Ambassade Hotel is renowned as the place to stay in Amsterdam for writers. All the big Dutch publishers book rooms here for their authors – much to the gratitude of the hotel, which has been able to assemble an amazing book collection thanks to all its literary guests. The library currently holds an astonishing 5000 signed books offering a cross section of the entire range of contemporary literature.
The books are housed in the Library Bar and Library Lounge, which were completed in 2015. The person with responsibility for the library is Eelco Douma, who has been working at the Ambassade Hotel for 25 years. He’s proud of the collection and well aware that it wouldn’t have been possible without the publishers.
‘It’s extraordinary how the collection has developed. Publishers traditionally had their offices on Herengracht, and they book rooms with us for their authors. The hotel always receives a signed copy of their latest work. Because the writers keep coming back, from some of them we have their entire oeuvre. Take novelists like Arnon Grunberg and György Konrád for instance, or non-fiction authors like Ian Buruma and Philipp Blom. We have work by authors from 76 countries, and our Belgian neighbours in particular are close to our hearts. Tom Lanoye and Dimitri Verhulst are regular guests, for example. Verhulst actually devoted two pages to us in his book to mark the 2015 Dutch literature week!’
In the Library Bar there are also 20 guestbooks with valuable contributions and reflections by famous guests. ‘They include internationally renowned writers, among them virtually every winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature over the past 30 years, as well as politicians, philosophers, and even a balloon pilot. There are various notes in the guestbooks by authors like Isabel Allende, Salman Rushdie, David Sedaris, Connie Palmen, Eckhart Tolle, Mario Vargas Llosa, Umberto Eco, and Jonathan Safran Foer.’
‘The writer and former chief editor of the magazine Vrij Nederland, Rinus Ferdinandusse, used to come to the hotel sometimes to interview a guest, and one day he said, ‘Do you know who’s sitting over there in the corner of the lobby?’ It turned out to be John le Carré, whom we hadn’t recognised because he’d reserved under his real name, David Cornwell. From then on, Le Carré stayed here regularly. I still have a handwritten letter from him thanking me for the Christmas gift we send him every year and saying he has such ‘fond memories’ of the Ambassade Hotel. I’ll always cherish that letter.’
‘Just before my time, though from the stories it sounds very impressive, there was a visit from the famous writer Alberto Moravia, éminence grise of Italian literature. It was as if the Pope was visiting, he was given so much attention and respect. Things are different these days; the top Italian author today, Paolo Giordano, is very relaxed and greets me like an old friend when he stays with us.’
‘Something that made a big impression on me a year ago was a visit by Nadya Tolokonnikova of the punk band Pussy Riot, who was here because of her book ‘How to Start a Revolution’. Usually I wouldn’t take such a liberty, but when I saw her sitting in the library I went up to her and said that I think she’s extremely courageous and she should keep up her fight.’
The writers’ hotel:
For a period of six months, a different author is invited to stay at the Ambassade Hotel for two nights every week. The author will write a column about their experience of being a writer in this era. The columns will be published weekly
in the Dutch newspaper ‘Het Parool’.
The staff at the Ambassade Hotel are hospitality experts. Both in their contact with the guests and behind the scenes, they put their hearts and souls into providing the best possible service. The emphasis lies on devoting time and attention to the guests, with a personal touch, so the hotel feels like a home away from home.
It’s time the reception assistants took a turn in the limelight. Their job is crucial: they look after luggage, show guests the way, provide room service, give information, and make sure the hotel is always looking its best. In cooperation with the reception staff, they also make any reservations the guests might want, and they have the hotel bikes ready and waiting on request. But their most important task is to give the guests a warm welcome and ensure they have a carefree stay.
‘We’re the guests’ first point of contact with the hotel, and first impressions count,’ says Ewout Smit, a reception assistant who has found his ideal job. ‘A warm and respectful reception is crucial. It’s so important that guests feel welcome from the moment they arrive, and that someone devotes time and attention to them. You need to be sensitive to the type of guest, and his or her culture.’
Wim Breden, who has worked at the Ambassade Hotel for years, nods in agreement.
‘The way you treat an elderly English aristocrat is quite different from the way you treat a jovial American.’
‘The longer you do this job, the more you develop feelers for it. You constantly have to work out the right approach and sense what each guest needs. At the Ambassade Hotel, we give people all the time and attention they need, and they really appreciate it. It’s not for nothing that guests regularly return. I’ve really developed a close relationship with many of them over the years.’
Wim has a colourful anecdote by way of illustration. ‘For years a famous high society lady from New York used to stay here. She was a flamboyant type, with cashmere scarves, and impeccable style. A couple of times a year I would pick her up from Schiphol Airport, where for her there was no such thing as waiting in line. She would simply walk through and nobody would stop her or say anything. She had such charisma and strength of personality, you couldn’t say no to her. But she had a heart of gold, and we had the most amazing conversations. As a token of her appreciation she invited me to come and visit her, but a month before I was due to go, I received the news that she’d passed away… I certainly shed a tear.’
Philosopher, writer and television programme maker Stine Jensen was the guest in the January edition of the Ambassade Hotel’s literary interview series, Literaire Salon @ Ambassade Hotel. Writer and journalist Chris Keulemans talked to her about her essay ‘First Love’, which was commissioned for this year’s Spirituality Month. The essay combines an account of Jensen’s experience of first love with philosophical and spiritual reflections on love in relation to attention.
What can you remember about the first time you were in love? Hopefully, it was an all-embracing experience of complete attention. All your attention was focused on the other person, and theirs on you. But is that what really happens?
When Stine Jensen looks back at her first love Mark, she arrives at a different conclusion. Mark showered her with attention. Every day she would receive long letters, which he would deliver through her letterbox. Much as she loved this, she never wrote back. One day the letters stopped coming, and the self-doubt began. Had she done something wrong? Wasn’t she good enough anymore?
Now, in retrospect, Jensen sees that this first love wasn’t about her attention for Mark at all; it was her self-love that was being gratified. Isn’t it wonderful to feel that you’re special? And doesn’t it make you panic if the attention suddenly dries up! Significantly, it works both ways. Mark’s letters weren’t declarations of love, but accounts of what he’d been doing that day. They were actually about him.
In the light of Jensen’s first love experience, it’s not hard to make a connection with today’s social media. We constantly post messages and photos to show the world how interesting and fun we are. We hope to receive likes and comments as a confirmation that we are seen by others. And what happens when we like something online ourselves? Do the things we like really have our attention, or is it simply another way of putting ourselves in the limelight, in the hope that other people notice us? These are uncomfortable and confrontational questions.
But what is attention, actually? And what does it do?
Attention is a genuine and sincere interest in something or someone. Not seeing but looking, not hearing but listening, and not thinking but feeling. It is this form of attention that fosters love – in whatever form – and it is vital for long- term relationships. Without real attention for the other person, love soon dies.
Looking and listening
When you fall in love for the first time, you usually haven’t learnt this yet, and the attention you give and receive is principally a means for your insecure pubescent brain to seek reassurance. But over the years, most of us discover that to nourish true love, you need to pay less attention to yourself and more to the other person.
In an age when our pinging phones constantly beg for our attention, this is often where the problem lies. How much time do we spend truly looking at and listening to other people? Whether they’re our partners, our children, our friends, or even strangers. And if love thrives on real attention, isn’t it high time we went analogue now and again? Philosopher Stine Jensen thinks so. She argues that we owe it to ourselves to live more consciously and offer one another our genuine attention.
In Amsterdam’s bustling canal area, Koan Float is an oasis of serenity. This floating and massage centre opened in 1997 as the first of its kind in the Netherlands, so it has years of experience with the therapeutic effects of floating weightlessly in a warm solution of Epsom salt.
What is floating?
It’s like floating in the Dead Sea, but then in your own cabin of warm water. Because there are no external stimuli – no light, sound, changes in temperature, or sensation of gravity – it’s an experience of total relaxation and calm for body and mind.
The water you float in contains 550 kilogrammes of Epsom salt. This is rich in magnesium, which the body needs to be able to function properly: it’s good for the muscles, nerves, joints and bowels. The magnesium is easily absorbed through the skin, and your body takes in exactly the amount it needs.
Proven positive effects
Floating reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boosts the production of endorphins, the feelgood hormones. It strengthens the immune system, is good for blood and oxygen circulation, lowers blood pressure, stimulates creativity, and improves learning and athletic performance. People who suffer from stress, or have sleep or concentration problems, find that floating helps them to relax and improves their focus. It also helps to relieve acute or chronic pain. People with conditions including arthritis, rheumatism and migraine experience lower levels of pain both during and after floating. These and other positive effects have been proven by a range of scientific studies.
If you’d like to know more about the health effects and/or book a floating session or a massage, see www.koanfloat.nl or visit in person at Herengracht 321 (close to the Ambassade Hotel). For guests at the Ambassade Hotel, special rates apply.
Massages at Koan Float
Koan Float has around 30 masseurs and bodyworkers, each specialising in a particular type of massage. Among them they master a wide variety of disciplines, and they offer the highest quality and careful attention to every client. A combination of floating and massage provides the ultimate relaxation experience, but if you’d like only a massage, you’re also more than welcome at Koan Float.
Frances Walker, massage therapist
The challenges of everyday life mean that people often no longer experience harmony between mind and body. We may physically be in one place, but our thoughts are elsewhere. As a result we often feel disharmony and stress. ‘I’ve been working at Koan Float since 2003 and I specialise in Deep Tissue Massage, which focuses on the deeper muscle layers and connective tissue. My approach aims at helping people to experience a calm mind and body through massage. Deep Tissue Massage is particularly useful for areas under chronic stress and tension such as the neck, shoulders and lower back. It helps to relieve pain and restore freedom of movement. You’re very welcome to make an appointment!’
See the variety of massage types available at www.koanfloat.nl
The Ambassade Hotel always seeks to offer its guests the very highest quality, and strongly believes that quality and sustainability go hand in hand. That’s why sustainable enterprise is a spearhead of hotel policy.
Two years ago the Ambassade Hotel was awarded a Green Globe Certificate in recognition of its measures to promote sustainability. But the hotel’s ambitions don’t end there. The Ambassade Hotel is a member of the Circular Hotels Leaders Group, 12 hotels that have been asked by the City of Amsterdam to explore opportunities for circular business practices. Recommendations have been made based on calculations of the hotel’s carbon footprint, and there is still a lot to be gained in the areas of energy consumption, food, furnishings and laundry. And although waste represents only a fraction of the total footprint, the mindset is that in the future there will be no such thing as waste, and all the materials we use will be part of a closed cycle.
Closing the loop is no simple matter, but our strength lies in cooperation.
If hotels apply circular purchasing principles and treat waste as a resource, the hotel sector in Amsterdam can play a pioneering role in making the city sustainable.