May 30, 2015
The Netherlands: Rotterdam
[ Previous Netherlands post: Where We Stayed ]
We visited three, incredibly different, cities in the Netherlands, so I thought it would make the most sense to do one post per city. Our journey starts in Rotterdam...
Emma and her mom picked us up from the airport and after checking into our hotel, we had dinner at their house. When we booked our trip to the Netherlands, we didn't realize it would take place during one of their national (and biggest) holidays, King's Day. I have a slight fascination with Royals and if you think William and Kate are darling, just check out the Dutch Royal Family.
This day occurs on the King's birthday and even though the Dutch flag is red, white, and blue, you wear orange to celebrate (something to do with the House of Orange). The city puts on concerts and celebrations and everyone sets up yard sales in the marketplaces. Children even perform for money. Emma and her brother would save old toys and stuff to sell on Queen's or King's day each year. So much fun!
Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself, on Sunday, the day before King's Day, we had dinner at Emma's parent's house. They served us snacks to start, orange pastries for the holiday.
Brandon stills talks about how good these were. I failed to get photos of the rest of dinner, but Emma's mom served us a really delicious (probably my favorite-meal-of-the-whole-trip-delicious) Indonesian dinner with chicken satay with peanut sauce, rice, etc. They also served traditional Dutch custard, which is kind of a thinner pudding with caramel flavoring. It was fantastic.
We spent the night catching up, talking, and laughing with her family and extended family. Dutch people love the word gezelligheid and I think the real reason they love it is that there's no direct translation to English, so it's like a secret Dutch club or something. During appetizers and dinner with Emma's family though, someone commented "Gezellig!" and I finally felt like I understood the true meaning of it! It's more or less a cozy, warm, inviting feeling spent with others. It was truly a "gezellig-y" evening.
Emma's puppy, Jamie, is also all about the gezelligheid.
The next morning, Emma met us at our hotel and we took a water taxi over to the center of Rotterdam for King's Day festivities.
I know that Amsterdam gets all of the fanfare in this beautiful country, but Rotterdam is an absolute gem. This city has a completely different vibe. It feels more modern, tech-y, and the architecture is absolutely insane. They definitely take more risks when it comes to building design.
One of the biggest architectural achievements of the city is the new building called Market Hall. It's truly amazing. Inside the dome is a market place with restaurants, desserts, flowers, cheese stands, and produce. Around it are apartments and condos. I could have spent hours in there.
Orange pastries for King's Day with tiny Dutch flags.
The Dutch are known for their cheese and I think they do deserve the bragging rights. So good. We were able to sample quite a few pieces.
The view from the top! Emma's brother Thomas and his girlfriend Siri actually LIVE in the Market Hall. Can you imagine? This is the view from their apartment. They say whenever you are hungry, you just go down and sample away. That's like living in a really high end Costco :)
After visiting with them, we had lunch where I got my first taste of bitterballen - a Dutch speciality meatball/falafel.
They have a savory meat and peppery gravy kind of flavor to them and while Emma said these definitely weren't the best she's had, we still really liked them.
After lunch, we hopped on a boat to take us up the Maas River to see windmills and caught some more gorgeous views of the city.
See that tiny little building with the green dome to the far right? That was our hotel!
Kinderdijk is a small area full of windmills and streams. It was fairly crowded, but definitely worth seeing. It didn't hurt that it was a beautiful day. We rarely get clouds like this here in California.
Funny story: when we hopped into this shoe, we found a kid inside it just hanging out. He said hi and when he saw we were getting a photo, he popped out for one too and then went back into the toe of the shoe.
The next day we explored a Schiedam (suburb of Rotterdam), as well as the Port of Rotterdam.
Schiedam is like a mini version of Amsterdam, though without the tourists. I found it to be incredibly quaint and I could have spent all day just walking up and down its little streets and alleys.
We stopped off for some delicious chocolate and found bags of hagelslag, something Emma has always talked about. The Dutch love to put this on everything!
We then went INSIDE the windmill, which was a really cool experience. This is where I was first introduced to the fact that the Dutch love some steep stairs and may or may not have made it to the top because I'm ridiculously afraid of heights.
Out next stop was lunch on our way to see the tulip fields. We had savory Dutch pancakes with ham, cheese and bacon. It reminded more of a crepe than pancake, but was really delicious. It also twice the size of my head, so +10, Dutch pancakes!
And then we did this. No explanation necessary.
p.s. I did not saturate these photos. I actually had to tone them down! The flowers were that vibrant.
Driving through the countryside and looking at the famous Dutch tulips ranks way up there on my bucket list. The tulip season is pretty short in The Netherlands, so I really was grateful to get to witness it and spend the quality time with Emma and her dad (and Brandon too, of course). Later that evening, we met up with more of her family for pizza and ice cream. It was definitely sad to say goodbye to her parents, who were such gracious hosts and tour guides, but we were super excited to see more of the country the next day.
Next up: Maastricht, where we experienced true Burgundian lifestyle. And liked it. A lot.
at 9:13:00 AM