The Herengracht is one of the most beautiful canals in Amsterdam. It’s home to the Golden Bend, a prestigious canal-front curve, boasting of double-wide mansions, inner gardens, and private coach houses. I am lucky enough to work on the Herengracht, and although our office is quite modernized, the building is an artfully disguised time capsule. The walls are painted a clinical white, but you can still make out rich moldings. Computer cords line the ground, but I can easily imagine beautiful hard wood floors and plush, oriental carpets. Working in a historical building opens your mind to the people who lived there before – the people who walked the halls, ate breakfast in the garden, and danced in the ballroom. Few buildings on the Herengracht are still homes – the property tax alone is astronomical – leaving what might have been a far stretch for the imagination.
However, last week our office received a generous invitation. Our Herengracht neighbors, one of the few families who still call this beautiful canal home, knocked on the door and kindly invited us over for an intimate evening of music. They would be hosting Marnix van de Poll, a talented pianist, who had agreed to perform a private concert for friends and family in their ballroom. We politely accepted and arrived next door at 8pm sharp, not quite sure what to expect.
What an interesting surprise – we entered their front hall and were immediately transported into a scene from Downton Abbey. The house was breathtaking, a preserved piece of history – a lavish canal home just as it would have been 100 years ago.We wandered through the rooms, admiring our surroundings and the beauty of this preserved canal front home.The roomy downstairs was used to showcase an exquisite art collection.Most stunning of all was the ballroom. The walls were a deep caramel brown, wrapped in an intricately carved white and gold trim. An elegant crystal chandelier hung from the high ceiling, polished hardwood floors ran from wall to wall, and a large marble fireplace rested in the center, overlooking the room like a wise, immovable elder.The piano sat grandly on the edge of the ballroom, tuned and ready for Marnix van de Poll to take his seat.When the performance started, the room fell silent. The only noise drifted sweetly from the piano, an object come to life, captivating us all in a melodic trance. I only snapped two photos of the performance – even the click of my camera was loud in comparison to the breathless room.When he finished, no on spoke. No one wanted to move. We didn’t want to leave the green fields or rowdy bars the music had taken us to. The silence was broken with a round of applause. We clapped and smiled and looked around in awe. The evening was truly surreal – entertained by a pianist in a grand ballroom. Yes, this was definitely something from an episode of Downton Abbey!!