On a sunny Sunday afternoon, the entire family jumps in the car on a trip to Wassenaar. This relatively small town is situated 10 kilometres north of The Hague, on the N44 highway, near the North Sea coast. Instead of taking the busy N44 highway however, we take the country road and within a few minutes are transported to an oasis of green, peace, and tranquillity.
The narrow road is framed by old trees, which are uniting their crowns creating a tunnel. We slow down considerably as behind the trees we spot beautiful big houses. In contrast to the row houses of The Hague, which all look more or less similar, these are free standing, imposing houses – distinctive in their size, architecture, and design. There are big gardens, beautifully trimmed, exquisite decorations, and striking fences; swimming pools and water features. There are lots of trees and lots of flowers. It feels grand and luxurious. I am mesmerized and wondering if I’m dreaming just as the car behind us uses its horn and affirms that it is all real.
We drive faster as we have been slowing the traffic considerably. Soon we reach the city centre of Wassenaar. It is charming and supports a number of high-end shops, delicatessens, and bakeries, as well as many cafes, bars, and restaurants.
Close to the city centre, in a small square I notice from a distance a big group of people and assume that it is an organized meeting of some sort. As we get closer, I am struck by the sight of lots of really happy people, eating ice cream. There are children of all ages but in almost equal number, there are adults and a few older people in wheelchairs. Everyone has a smile on their face and the atmosphere is incredible. It is something I have never experienced in the Netherlands.
We join the crowd and stand in the long queue to buy ice cream. The waiters are very efficient though and we are soon close to the counter and faced with a plethora of flavours. There are the classic flavours of vanilla, strawberry, melon, pistachio, chocolate, and caramel. But there are also unusual flavours: Baileys, Oreo, maple syrup and walnut, coffee biscuit, Snickers, cookies and raspberry crumble pie, bubble gum, and many, many others.
My three years old son quickly decides on “Candy Crushers” but I seem to be worse than a child – overexcited and a bit nervous as I cannot make up my mind. I would love to try them all. They all look so tempting.
As I have no more time left, I decide for Amarena. We sit quietly in the sun and enjoy our ice cream. I am lost for words and the only sounds I can make are a mix of “mhhh “and “uhhh”. It is refreshing and creamy and it immediately melts on my taste buds. It softly lingers on them and kisses them with all the love in the world. The flavour of Amarena cherry sharply declares its presence while bringing joy to my palate. I dream of being a child again and claiming the cherry tree in my grandmother’s garden, eating the fruit straight from its branches. I am happy and I have no worries.
In the corner of the shop, shining strikingly in the sunlight, is a cabinet full of medals, diplomas, and awards. Although my taste buds already declared this the best ice cream I have ever had, here is the proof that Luciano’s IJssalon is indeed the best ice-cream salon in the Netherlands.
Luciano’s IJssalon: Van Hogendorpstraat 53, 2242 KX Wassenaar