With Italy, Sweden and Belgium behind us, Mrs Romance and I are excited about the good times ahead in our next stop: the Netherlands.
This week we’re heading to Rotterdam to meet up with our lovely friends Sara-May and Pat, who moved here from Sydney a few years ago. We can’t wait to see how they’re getting on in their new home.
This Week’s IG Edition takes you around this super-modern port town that – thanks to its waterways – is known as the Gateway to the World.
We hope you enjoy this Edition!
Jim & Christina x
Here’s one last photo from Belgium we wanted to share with you before we take you down to Holland. This fountain is in a park in the centre of Brussels we found.
We don’t often publish selfies, but we thought you might like this one. 🙂
We’ve arrived at Rotterdam’s amazing Centraal Station and Sara-May is here to meet us. It’s great to see her and she points out that the station is an award-winning building and is in fact one of the city’s tourist attractions.
It seems a bit strange until we realise that Rotterdam is a city whose modern reputation has been built on its architecture. The design of this place is fascinating.
From WWII when the Nazis bombed Old Rotterdam flat, the city used the opportunity to make modern day Rotterdam as contemporary and interesting through its design as possible. I think they’ve won this one.
There are still about 3 of the old buildings from pre-1940 Rotterdam standing like the Witte Huis here. Somehow these beautiful old pieces of architecture remained relatively unscathed in the aerial bombardment.
They work as a beautiful contrast to the ultra-modern quirkiness of the rest of what’s come since.
A perfect example of what’s come from this new Rotterdam mindset are the Kijk Kubus. These Cube Houses are one of Rotterdam’s strangest buildings. They’re apartments and one is even a hostel.
They’ve been designed to represent the tops of trees in a forest of structural design. I think they’re amazing – though I’m not sure if I could live in one!
Rotterdam Markthal is another astounding piece of architectural design. This huge arc houses an amazing fresh food market with a massive array of stalls selling everything from fruit to cut meat. Underground there are cafés and supermarkets.
Most amazing though is the windows you can see all around the outside of the building. These are apartments. You can live above the Markthal and if you look up at the ceiling, you can see windows that look up into the terraces of this amazing apartment block.
Inside Markthal are places like this selling incredibly tempting selections of delicacies from local and international producers.
I’m kind of glad there’s nothing like this in Sydney: I’d be massively fat and excruciatingly poor.
Today Sara-May is walking us across the Erasmus Bridge to check out another part of the city.
It’s amazing how well the bike lanes work here – even on this main arterial road through Rotterdam. It’s so interesting to see how a modern city should look – one that’s built specifically to our current needs instead of trying to house what we need in older designs.
We walk past the New York Hotel, which once held the head offices to the Holland America Line shipping company. This part of Rotterdam is famous for its proximity to the ports, which, although are still running, have been gentrified.
You’re more likely to see cruise liners and waterbuses going past now than freighters.
We’ve come to Fenix Food Factory for lunch, which is just round the corner to the New York Hotel.
This beautifully styled food co-operative is a repurposed warehouse full of delicious artisanal bites and breweries.
The chocolate scene in Rotterdam is definitely worth checking out too. These guys make amazing hot chocolate drinks.
Coffee in Rotterdam – a bit like Belgium – is touch and go though. Many places use long-life milk, so if you don’t like the flavour of that, you’re better off sticking to an espresso or an Americano. We do have the best tip for great coffee in Rotterdam at the end of this post though.
Today, Sara-May has taken us on a bike ride! Well, when in Holland…
The bike lanes here are so good, even we, who rarely ride, are able to get around on a couple of the city’s rental bikes. We’re off to KralingseBos Park just on the northeastern edge of the city.
In KralingseBos Park there’s a lake, some great little spots to stop for lunch and a big enclosure full of fallow deer. This buck is absolutely beautiful. We’re surprised how fluffy his antlers look though!
Back in Rotterdam, Mrs Romance and Sara-May have left me and Pat to sleep in while they head to the weekly food markets that happen outside Markthal every Tuesday and Saturday. It’s the biggest open food market in Europe.
It’s not just fresh strawberries that you can pick up at the markets. The fresh flowers you can get here are not only cheap, they’re stunning too.
Best of all, Sara-May has bought Mrs R a bunch of her favourite flowers: Peonies.
One of the oldest remaining buildings in Rotterdam is Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk Protestant church. This beautiful gothic church is right in the centre of the city and there’s a lot of speculation as to how this building wasn’t destroyed with the rest.
If you’re in the area long enough, you’ll be treated to a tune or two they play on the church bells. We’ve heard quite a few covers since we’ve been here!
Further out from the city centre are some older style buildings that make the juxtaposition between the modern city and the old town clear. It’s hard not to try to imagine what Rotterdam must have looked like before the war.
Tonight, Sara-May and Pat have taken us out on the town in Rotterdam. We’re in the aptly named Cool District. Here bars, restaurants and cafés line the street, and the atmosphere is amazing.
It’s impressive to see how many people come out here after work for drinks and dinner. Summer in Europe is always so much fun.
Pat has brought us to what’s widely considered the best burger place in town: Ter Marche & Co. I must say we’re all pretty impressed and Sara-May is delighted to finally have a decent burger in the Netherlands. It seems it’s one area that a lot of places haven’t really bothered with.
It’s amazingly busy here at Ter Marche & Co, but it’s really worth it. The food’s great and the people-watching is sensational! Top tip: if you need the bathroom, don’t bother trying to fight the crowds through to the back of the restaurant; just pop across the road to Wunderbar. It’s a bit weird in there, but it’s much easier to ‘get a spot’.
Rotterdam is full of interesting street art. The graffiti scene here is off the charts and even the buildings themselves are like monuments. As for the statues, well, I’ll leave this one up to you to appraise.
It was commissioned by the council and artist Paul McCarthy once again pushed the boundaries a bit too far. It’s supposed to represent Santa Claus and the object he’s holding is – apparently – a Christmas tree… however, this enormous statue is known to locals as the Buttplug Gnome.
This morning, Pat, Sara-May have taken us to the next town of Schiedam (pronounced ‘skee-dam’) to see the opening of a new bridge and to explore the canal-side of this pretty little town.
There are festivals pretty much every week here in Schiedam and the locals really get into it. Mrs Romance has met a group dressed in the traditional clothes of the canal workers who used to ferry goods around the busy waterways before roads were a thing.
Schiedam is also the birthplaces of jenever – the predecessor of gin. We’ve come to the Schiedam Jenever Museum to learn a bit more about this fascinating spirit and industry.
Although this is a museum, it’s also one of the last few craft jenever distilleries left in Schiedam – a town that once had over 400 distilleries. Of the town’s 24 windmills, 20 were there to grind the grain for the distilleries.
For a little extra on top of the entrance fee for the museum, you get a three-drink flight of jenever at the end to taste what they make here. It’s absolutely worth it – just don’t try and drive home.
Outside the museum, the town is really getting into the celebrations. This group of men have started singing some old Dutch shanties, and it’s really brought the atmosphere here up another level.
All around Rotterdam there’s interesting street art that attempts to reactivate areas that were either run down or not being used. It’s an interesting concept but it seems to be working. And the street art is generally very well respected. You don’t see many pieces covered in tags.
It’s almost time for us to leave the Netherlands. Sara-May and Pat have taken us out for breakfast at one of the lesser-visited breakfast spots called Man with Glasses. It’s a cool café that not only serves really excellent coffee (I promised I’d tell you, didn’t I?), it also roasts its own beans.
The food here is delicious too!
With one last look at the canals of Rotterdam – this is Delftsevaart Canal with its cool shaped apartments – we head off back to the station for the last part of our journey. We’re heading back to England.
The train from Rotterdam Centraal Station to Amsterdam Airport really isn’t a difficult trip. It takes no time and the train is fast and comfortable. There’s just enough time to fix our Mon Purse bag tags on our suitcases and prepare ourselves for Luton Airport where our friends are waiting for us to show us round St Albans and their new house.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our IG Edition this week. We’ll chat again soon.
Cheers – Jim & Christina x