Europe

Twelve hours in and around Rotterdam

The end of the pandemic seems to be within reach, but yet it still feel so far away. My travel heart is aching for some real adventures, but for now it’s only getting a band-aid on its wound. Fortunately, the band-aids are still pretty, so while it’s not the actual cure, it at least helps with the discomfort.

Last weekend, we dared to cross the border again, only for a few hours. While last year I went south and explored loads of places in France, this time I went north and crossed the border to our Dutch friends from The Netherlands. Destination; Rotterdam.

My training for the Olympic Triathlon in Lisbon (which will hopefully finally happen end of September this year) are still going strong, so to combine my exploring with my training, I put my race bike in the truck of the car and headed for the Maasvlakte. The Maasvlakte is an extention of the Port of Rotterdam, which is the largest seaport of Europe. Plenty of space to take my bike for a spin, don’t you think?

I took off at the base of the Calandbrug, an impressive vertical lift bridge over the Caland canal. Crossing the bridge, I arrived at the Voorne-Putten island. Big, pretty cycling paths took me over the island and to the idyllic town of Brielle. I immediately fell in love with the view of this little, old, fortified city.

I spent most of my time on the Voorne-Putten island as there was plenty of nature to discover and I just couldn’t get enough of it. But I of course couldn’t ignore the Maasvlakte. So I continued to the Maasvlaktestrand (Maasvlakte Beach) so take a quick look around. It didn’t seem all that special, and the Maasvlakte itself was mostly just industry. Impressive to see, but not all that charming to bike through.

So it was time to return, cross the Calandbrug again and ride the last few kilometers north towards the Maeslantkering, a storm surge barrier on the ‘Nieuwe Waterweg’. Quite an impressive construction and the perfect end destination of my bike trip. And a cute reunion with my boyfriend who was busy trying not to drown while fishing in the ‘Nieuwe Waterweg’.

After devouring our lunch we had brought from home, it was time to get more touristy; off to Rotterdam city. While it’s only about a two hour ride from home, I’d never visited the second-largest city of The Netherlands before. A shame, I know!

We parked our car in the center of the city, at Interparking Lijnbaan, for a fare of 10 euros for the whole day. The exit of the car park is right in the middle of the shopping area of the city. We weren’t really looking for some shopping fun, but the ambiance there was really lovely, so I’m glad we could stroll through it. Through the shopping street, we arrived at the Markthal (‘Market Hall’), a building I was pretty curious about. It’s a market hall but located underneath a residential and office building. It only opened in 2014 so still a pretty recent structure. Especially the artwork on the inside is pretty amazing.

Continuing our city walk, we arrived at another architectural curiosity in the city; the Cube Houses. The whole idea behind the art is not quite my cup of tea, but the whole construction is definitely worth a stop.

And then we arrived at the Oude Haven (‘Old Port’), one of the oldest ports in Rotterdam. It dates back to the fourteenth century and is now the place to be to grab a drink on one of the terraces. Quite a lovely ambiance and a pretty little harbor. But since the terraces didn’t seem to be all that covid-proof anymore, we quickly left the area to our next point of interest; the Erasmus Bridge. This bridge is one of Rotterdam’s most iconic landmarks, so of course we had to cross it. Bucketlist stuff, right?

Time was flying by and before we knew it, it was time for our ride up the top of the Euromast, the highest observation tower in The Netherlands. If offers a beautiful view over the city and port of Rotterdam. No need for extra arguments to convince me to add this to my to-do list! We had booked the ticket in advance online, for 10,5 euros and got a time slot of 45 minutes to visit. This is plenty of time to enjoy the view, from the deck and the revolving gyro tower.

Back on ground floor, we were ready for our next attraction; the water taxi. While crossing the Erasmusbridge we had noticed the high-speed yellow water taxis passing below and gotten very intrigued. The little boats can take from 8 up until 12 passengers from and to fifty different locations in Rotterdam. Not really knowing how the system worked, we decided to just wait at one of the stops until a taxi appeared. After about fifteen minutes, one arrived. Hooray! The captain of the vessel then informed us that we couldn’t just board but had to call to book a taxi and the current waiting time was one hour. Deep, deep disappointment. But to our biggest surprise, he still asked where we wanted to go to. Our plan was to head to Noordereiland (‘Northern Island’) but we also informed him we’d be happy to go wherever he had to go for his next pick-up. A quick phone-call was made and hallelujah we were allowed to board the taxi! And the captain would even take us to Noordereiland! That man is now definitely in my list of favorite people because that taxi ride was such. a. thrill! Definitely highlight of the trip!

So now we were on Noordereiland. A quick stroll to view some of the pretty houses on the shore was all I had in mind there before we would return to the mainland.

For dinner, we returned to Markhal as we’d seen many options available there. Of course by 6pm, most of the stalls were closed. Bummer! The Greek restaurant Elliniko was still open however and the meat platters looked pretty delicious, so all was well in our world.

Bellies more than full we returned to our car, sad to leave the city of Rotterdam behind us. I honestly feel ashamed that I’ve left this city unexplored for so long. The architecture, the ambiance, the sights; it’s all worth the trip north!

But our trip wasn’t entirely over yet. About an half on hour outside of Rotterdam, there is a UNESCO world heritage site. And if something makes me travel heart beats faster, it’s world heritage sites. So before crossing the border to Belgium again, we made a detour to visit the windmills at Kinderdijk.

The eighteen windmills were all build between 1738 and 1740 to keep the water out of the polder. It’s the largest concentration of old mills in The Netherlands so obviously one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country. We arrived at little past 8pm and there were only a few other people wandering around. I was thankful for that as the windmills offer such peace and quiet and the hustle and bustle of a heap of tourists would definitely have changed that ambiance.

And then our twelve hours were over and we had to head back to little Belgium. But I was feeling a little lighter and very high on life thanks to that one perfect day abroad. It’s not much travel-wise, but it was new and it was beautiful, so I’m grateful for the experience!

♡ Ellen

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