Category Archives: The Netherlands

The Netherlands, Rotterdam

I couldn’t resist a one hour train ride into the Netherlands to see Rotterdam – I think I may have visited her once when I was about 9 years old – so of course remembered nothing! Luckily I have a friend who knows this city very well and he was able to direct me on how to get maximum mileage from a day trip – which I think I did.

Even the arrival into Rotterdam Central is fun given its ultra modern and quite new station.

Rotterdam Centraal Station

It is very central so I started by walking up the road immediately in front of it which is leafy and pleasant – lots of cafes to stop at too.

A pedestrianised and tram section of one of the main arteries in Rotterdam

So many bars and cafes. So little time. Cafes and restaurants abound – I ate or drank in two of these. The third is famous but was closed!

I jumped on a tram and headed down to Delfhaven- this area used to be part of Delft and hence its name. It is delightful, peaceful and even though I was sweltering in 33 degree heat I walked all around it before some beer and bitterballen (a Dutch speciality – deep fried balls usually filled with a meat ragout or mashed potato and minced meat) served with mustard for dipping – they go down a treat with beer although can easily burn the inside of your mouth as they are served piping hot and just cooked. You have been warned….

The undiscovered Delfhaven and I’m sure the locals want to keep it that way!

Beer and bitterballen in Delfhaven, Rotterdam

I caught another tram to the waterside and took a one hour harbour cruise. This is not a scenic cruise in the usual sense but takes you around what is one of the biggest harbours in the world. It is huge and everything in it is too. It was like floating around in a real meccano set. We passed the SS Rotterdam – which was a cruise liner but is now permanently moored and a hotel, restaurant and conference centre and then a current day cruise ship was setting sail as we returned. Some interesting architecture too.

Cruising on Rotterdam Harbour

Architecture and activity in Rotterdam Harbour

Next stop was the giant MarktHalle which has every kind of food imaginable to both buy and eat on site. It is another quite new addition to the city.

Markthalle

Just beyond the Markthalle are the cubed houses! These were designed by Piet Blom as an innovative way of living where the living quarters are the roof and everyone shares the lower area. I looked at them from all directions and was still struggling to understand why people wouldn’t be falling over inside them – and they are lived in. Quite a curiosity.

The White House in the top right is across from the cubed houses and was built in 1898 as an art nouveau designed office building – it was the first official sky scraper in Europe!

Cubed houses and the Witte Huis

So a busy but fun packed day in Rotterdam – I think people often bypass it for Amsterdam and other Dutch towns – but if you’ve done those before Rotterdam is certainly worth seeing.

The Netherlands, Three day trips from Amsterdam – Giethoorn, Haarlem and the Kroner Muller Museum. Last post from the Netherlands

While Amsterdam is a wonderful city which can easily keep you amused for a week, I also wanted to take the opportunity to get out of town and visit some places in other areas of the country where I had never been before.

First visit was to Giethoorn – a picturesque village built totally on small canals. It is very popular at this time of year but when you get the chance to see through the people it is quite cute. It’s interesting claim to fame is that it has a place on the official international Monopoly board. They achieved this very cleverly. The place is very much loved by Chinese visitors and the locations to be chosen for the Monopoly set were to be set by a global vote so every Chinese visitor was asked to vote for the town and to ask their mates back in China to do the same – and Bingo – there they sit alongside London, New York and Sydney. The power of social media! Best to do Giethoorn via a coach trip as not easy to get to with public transport.

Giethoorn

Next stop Haarlem – just 15 minutes out of Haarlem on the train and a lovely smaller version of Amsterdam with far less people so great place to visit in August when the city crowds get a bit too much. The artist Frans Hals was born here so there is also a museum about his works (I didn’t like how it was curated) and a very large church. The place has a great vibe.

Then finally to the Kroner Muller Museum. My friend Heleen who I first met in Melbourne and who now lives back in her home of the Netherlands kindly took me to this museum. It is another collection where a wealthy woman bought some amazing works of art and has shared them with the public. Unbelievably, since I’d never heard of it before, it has the second largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world – and this time pics were allowed so I am enclosing a chunk of his works plus others in her collection. It is also situated in a massive park so you can wander around enjoying the sculptures too and we got a glimpse of the Royal Family’s hunting lodge. Great day out.

The Netherlands, Amsterdam – canals, bikes, wonky buildings and lovely light

It has hard to take a bad photo in Amsterdam as so much of it is really pretty and a good example of what UNESCO protection (the whole canal systems and buildings are protected so no changes allowed, no advertising on buildings etc). Yes there are some streets that are not that nice – usually the big ones where the hordes hang out but it doesn’t take long to find the good stuff. I particularly liked the Jordaan area which not only has nice canals and architecture but also great shops and restaurant.

Here’s what I saw – either wandering around or on a great boat tour called Pure Boats (max 10 people so you get to the smaller canals and away from the crowds – plus wine and nibbles!). Different perspectives in the day and the evening too.

The Netherlands, Amsterdam – Food Tour in the Jordaan area

Strongly recommend this tour. 12 people max and small amount of walking and lots of eating (!) in places that specialize in Dutch dishes. Company was called Eating Europe and tour was four hours. Tour guide was very good as was the food – so here we go.

In this section we have – (I will provide a mix of Dutch and English names) Brined herring with onions and pickled cucumbers; poffertjes (small puffy pancakes served with maple syrup – from Canada!); bitterballen – loved these deep fried breadcrumbed balls with a hot bechamel and ragout filling; and then kibbeling (fried cod0. All washed down with Tulip vodka!

And there’s more ……….but first a beer…..and then….

In the days of the Dutch owned East India Trading company there were large holdings in Indonesia so their food has become almost a staple in the Netherlands (even though the “empire” is no more) – hence the satay; then some Farmers Cheese (apparently the name Gouda was never patented which means things called Gouda are often pasteurized – this cheese was not which of course made it way more tasty. A variety of sausages followed – my favourite was called ossenworst – if you are a steak tartare fan this is for you and it is a cold smoked raw beer sausage – needs to be tried. Delish.

Finally a half portion (!) of Dutch Apple pie and whipped cream (the real kind). This was from a tiny place called Cafe Papeneiland which Bill Clinton once turned up at unexpectedly after hours (well his security detail did) and they eventually let them all in – in this part of the world when you are closed you are closed! Anyway, i can see why Bill and his team wanted a taste!

The Netherlands, Amsterdam – Museums. Bags and Purse, Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House

A few days in Amsterdam as I wend my way further into Northern Europe. Another amazing opportunity for museums of course but what was the first one I rushed to – Rijksmuseum? Van Gogh? Nope! It was the Museum of Bags and Purses – a lovely private collection of bags and purses from all eras. I loved it of course. The last bag is the one I designed online myself based on personality traits and style questions!

Of course I did also go to the recently renovated Rijksmuseum which looks splendid situated in the very nice museum quarter which has about 6 places to visit and lots of green space to just hang out. Beware the man waving below – he is one of the “silent assassins” of Amsterdam – otherwise known as the bike riders who rule the roads here – no question. Look left, right, left, right again and again……

The Rijksmuseum has a wonderful collection of Dutch artists including Rembrandt, Hals and Vermeer. I also like Jan Steen – his is the picture of a family stuffing themselves and overindulging. It is called The Merry Family but the words in the painting make it clear that this is a warning that they way adults behave will influence their children. Very moralistic those Dutch – although they do look like they are having a lot of fun!

Also went to the Van Gogh museum (also newly renovated) but NO PICS ALLOWED:(. So you will have to go yourself to see it – worth it but book your ticket online.

Equally NO PICS in Anne Frank’s House (which I can understand). Last time I went there I was about 11 and had just read her diary, which I reread many times as a teen. Visiting again – despite the much larger numbers – brought back what an amazing young writer she was and how tragic it was that she was murdered before she could fulfil all her potential – nevertheless she did leave a poignant but positive message of courage and hope in desperate adversity. Again book well in advance – one month to secure your ticket — they are like gold dust.