This week I have found myself reminiscing over Rotterdam. It isn’t just because we are not long back from The Netherlands, but because my blog idea was born there.
In July 2016, we had the opportunity to visit Rotterdam as Jit was speaking at a conference there and I was able to tag along. Neither of us had been to anywhere in The Netherlands before so were curious as to what it would be like. With the stereotypical ideas of Amsterdam, we considered that Rotterdam would be slightly less debauched. Other than that, we didn’t have many other expectations.
I spent some time prior to our trip trawling through Pinterest for some ideas and information. There aren’t too many travel books about Rotterdam, so it was down to me to collect what I could. I found the usual things like the Cube Houses, the Market Hall and of course bridges. My interest piqued when I discovered the contemporary architecture which fills the city. As a lover of the urban environment, modern design and buildings, I got quite excited.
The first part of our trip gave us the experience of central living over looking the water. A perfect start to our trip, I must say. The base was the Rotterdam Ibis City Central which is in close proximity to everything! The room was great for the two of us. We flew out in the evening so arrived not long before the sun was going down. To make the most of the evening we unpacked our gear and headed straight out to get to know our home for the few days we were there.
Being right by the marina, it was obvious that we would have to do a wander around there first. And of course, sample the beer in the boat bar, Vessel 11 just a minute’s walk from the hotel.
Different yet familiar
Living in the centre of Rotterdam is not like how I imagine living in the centre of a large UK city would be. The streets are wider, the buildings more set apart and it seems less busy of a morning. No clanking of business bins and bottle banks at daft o’ clock in the morning as my friends reported when stating in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Everything in Rotterdam seems that bit calmer and more organised in a way.
We woke up early, eager to explore in the morning light and distract ourselves from the EU referendum. Yes, we were in the Netherlands when the results came out. It is a wonder we even returned! Anyway, a quick breakfast and we were out onto the sun drenched streets. The water glistening on the canal and bouncing from the glass in the surrounding windows.
If you have ever walked through a city during morning rush hour, I can imagine that you will recognise the sea of dark clothes, eyes to the ground and sullen faces staring back at you. In Rotterdam on our first morning it was nothing of the sort! Empty streets and shopping centres, quiet roads and the people you met would smile at you! A completely refreshing change to the hubbub of the British city at that time.
After our short exploration, I dropped Jit at the imposing green World Trade Centre for his conference and headed off to enjoy my ow adventures.
The Urban Wander
Before travelling to The Netherlands, I had downloaded a couple of free audio walking tours. One of my favourite tried and tested ways to make the most of a city in a short space of time. When I had the time to myself, I popped in my headphones and searched out my starting destination. On realising that I was a fair walk from Rotterdam Centraal Station where it was to begin, I packed away my kit and began my urban wander in that direction. Or in vaguely that direction as it turned out.
In true form I found myself following my curiosity when I spotted signs for a Museum Park. I am certainly glad I did too.
The Museumpark is home to over fie museums, a recreation area for the local hospital and generally a lovely space to spend some time. Situated between some very busy roads, it is a sanctuary away from the cars (not that there were many at the time I arrived, but it get busier though the day).
Aware that I was actually on my way to the starting point of my walk, I had a quick wander around the park and made note to return when Jit was free to explore with me. I absorbed what I could in the time that I was there and headed onto the road beside the Kunsthal.
What felt like mere minutes after regaining my bearings and heading on my way I was being lured away from my direction by yet more green space. Not only that, there was a strange tower looming overhead which seemed to be part of the park. Away I went, letting my curiosity guide me once again.
What I discovered in this green oasis was outdoor sculpture, manicured gardens and the Euromast Tower! I ended up spending a lot more time in Het Park than I had anticipated. My mind was flow with ideas about The Urban Wanderer. I felt elated with each and every one that popped by, inspiring and exciting me. I even chatted with another visitor who shared her picks of Rotterdam, which I noted carefully into my notebook, sure to venture that way with her kind recommendation.
As the rain began to pick up, I decided to venture back onto my map and head for my walk. I had covered more ground that I could have expected already and it was still early. One thing that you will notice in The Netherlands is that because it is so flat, you can go for miles without a single muscle tiring. (by the end of that day I had walked over 18 miles!)
The Walking Tour
I’m not going to go into the details of the tour as my post is more in the flour of reminiscence. Of enjoying the memory and the feeling rather than the detail. (I’ll do another post about that when I’m not feeling so romantically involved in the story!)
Getting to the staring point was an experience in itself. Fast roads, bridges, tunnels and of course cyclists. Although the cyclists were less of the issue, the mopeds in the cycle lanes were more of a concern. Making it in one piece, I was able to start listing to the information and discovering the deep post-war history of the bombarded city of Rotterdam and it’s rise back into life. The tour wasn’t, of course, free from distractions and detours!
Walking beneath the tall harsh modern buildings reminded me of the lady I was chatting to in the airport. The lady who snarled with disgust when I shared my excitement for exploring the city’s architecture. No, it was no quaint place with little Dutch houses, nor was it of the style and scale of Amsterdam, bu it was beautiful all the same. The stories behind the secret meetings of architects, surveyors and financiers to plan the redevelopment while the city was being destroyed is inspirational. Some may look dull in comparison, but at the time they were cutting edge and still play an important role in the business and growth of the city.
As my wandering turned to meandering and the time was drawing near for Jit to finish at his conference I began to enjoy the thoughts of my new blog. Of sharing the exploring I do through The Urban Wanderer. I smiled to myself as I remembered the feelings I got when it came to me in Het Park earlier that day. When I was taking the time to follow my curiosity, to get to know the place and to just see where my journey led me. It kind of became my mantra for life really, to follow my curiosity rather than trying to ‘stick to the plan’ or put it off for later. And I’m glad I did too.
Not only do I have this crazy adventure that is my blog on the go, I have traveled more in the last year than ever before. I have tried and failed at ideas and ventures, I have succeeded and made a difference. I have gone full throttle to indulge in my curiosity and it has paid off in spades. All I hope now is that it is inspiring you to do the same too. Even if it’s just a little bit at first.
I have thoroughly enjoyed reminiscing over Rotterdam, my adventures in the city and birth of my blog idea. Now your turn, where have you visited that helped you to make a change, bring a dream into reality or just take a piece of your heart? Let me know in the comments below.
Now for me to try to get my head back from the clouds (and away from the flight comparison sites!) and back to work. My romantic memory interval is over, for now, but not forever!