This could be Rotterdam….. or anywhere

We started our tour of Europe with Rotterdam. It’s a city lots of people had said ‘’don’t bother going its not very nice’’ but I wanted to go for 2 reasons; someone had mentioned it had a good food market, but mainly because of the Beautiful South song. We arrived about 6pm on Friday evening and parked up in a campervan parking place on a cobbled street running alongside a canal next to a windmill in a suburb called Shiedam, it felt very Dutch. That evening we walked around the local park and main shopping street.

The next day we got the metro into Rotterdam and walked aimlessly around. I really liked the feel of the city and it was different to what I expected. Big open streets, huge river running through it, some exciting modern architecture, great markets, nice old cobbled streets and quiet for a city.  

About 4 pm we thought we had seen most of the city and our metro tickets gave us go anywhere  passes, so we decided to take the short trip to Den Hague. When you google Den Hague the same picture keeps coming up of their parliament building, our main impression of this was it looks nicer in photos than real life. The cobbled shopping area was nice.  We sampled some local delicacies (cone of chips and a beer) then went back to Rotterdam.

Our next Dutch city was Leiden which was a great recommendation to us. It’s a very pretty place, traditional old houses, nice churches, boats cruising up and down the river, windmills, lots of café and bars and lots of Dutch barrel organs / Draaiogrel (wind up giant music boxes). Leidens a University town and full of people cycling around, it also has lots of nice green spaces and a botanical gardens. As a small city it had a very nice vibe, probably helped by the fact we explored on a sunny and warm (20 deg) Sunday.

We explored Amsterdam in two parts. We had a friend who happened to be staying there a few nights so one evening we caught the train in from our campsite and had a night drinking in the city. It was great to meet up with people we knew, and to have a tour by friends who knew the city was even better. We had sunset drinks in a place called Hannekes Boom on the riverside and after a few there were taken to whats known as a Brown Café. They are traditional Dutch bars with a cosy feel, ours had wood everywhere you could see and brown walls (hence the names), it also bizarrely had rugs on top of each table. We then walked towards the east side of the city sampling some more Dutch beer.

Our second trip into Amsterdam was during the day, we walked through the main centre (managing to avoid the red light district area), we saw the floating (no longer really floating) flower market (that doesn’t sell many flowers), saw Amsterdam square, walked to Albert Cuyp market, Museumplein, nine streets and Jordan. Essentially most of the free touristy places we could do in one day. We also got a free ferry over to the industrial NDSM. The buildings were very pretty and lots of beautiful house boats too but I personally found our second trip not as enjoyable, not just because there was less beer consumed, but because its sooo insanely busy! So many tourists everywhere, so many cyclists in every direction, water everywhere (which is nice but the water is eerily still and makes me wonder how stagnant). I would happily go back to Amsterdam but with someone who knows the area better so that I could explore out of the touristy areas and discover what the rest of the city has to offer.  

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