Rotterdam, and Den Haag
Today was a chance to get out and see a bit more of the countryside – a while ago we’d both seen pictures of the new Markthal (Market Hall) in Rotterdam, it definitely looked like a cool place to visit.
Breakfast at a little place near the hotel was “niet zo goed” … yup, not so good. Not awful, but there was one guy trying run the whole place and he was struggling a bit. Actually, just about every bar /restaurant we walk past has a sign out the front saying they are looking for staff. So if you need a job, and you enjoy working in the food industry, come to Amsterdam!
We topped up some extra money on our ‘OV-chipkaarts’, and helped our other intrepid travellers buy theirs. Train travel in Sydney might be less-than-reliable, a bit dirty, a bit noisy, a bit… crap. But, it is cheap! It does cost a bit more to get around by train in Holland. For example the trip to Rotterdam today was about 15 euro each way, so currently around $AUD 22, for a 50-minute train ride. Not whinging, just noting the differences. The trains in Holland are fast and clean and (mostly) on time.
Arriving at Rotterdam, we pretty quickly got a good idea if why this city is renowned for its modern architecture. The station building itself is pretty spectacular.
We took a walk around, heading toward the Markthal, and walking through a shopping street we found another tourist essential: Poffertjes. Tick! I looked at the menu such as it was, and thought yep I can do this – finally took a chance to use my (extremely limited) Dutch. I don’t think it was too convincing, this is how the conversation went:
Me: “Hallo – een groote poffertjes alstublieft” – (a big serve of Poffertjes please)
Poffertjes seller: “Sure, that’ll be 5 Euro thanks. Where are you visiting from?”
Oh well. At least I tried.
But man, the poffertjes were awesome! Freshly cooked, and smothered in butter (which quickly melted over the poffertjes) and generously dusted (drowned) in icing sugar. Awesome! Definitely the snack we needed to keep us going on our long journey toward to Martkhal… which was about 5 minutes away.
The Markthal building itself is pretty amazing – a giant horseshoe about 12 stories high – with apartments all along the outside, and dozen of food stalls and restaurant on the inside. I guess it’s a handy place to live if your a foodie who like having fancy produce just a moment away. There was an amazing array of foods, much of which looked delicious. Except for the herring. Sorry, I may be half Dutch but I definitely didn’t get the half that thinks pickled herring can be considered a food. And no, I wimped out, I didn’t try it. Perry did, and his first impression was basically “cat food”.. he’s no fan of it either. Sorry, but we’ll stick to the poffertjes.
Lunch was at the straightforwardly-named “Burgers and Wine”. You can probably guess what we had for lunch.
After that it was time to again farewell the rest of our intrepid travellers, as they headed back to Amsterdam, while we had another mission. Yesterday we found the old houses that my Dad used to live in – and since I wasn’t well organised enough to do this yesterday, today we headed off to Den Haag to find the house where Perry’s Mum lived for a few years.
It’s pretty easy to navigate the Dutch train system – the website is helpful, comprehensive, and has the all-important (to me at least) ‘English’ button. Also the information boards are easy to follow, and usually I can kind-of get the idea of some of the announcements. So off we trotted to Den Haag, eventually. The delays hit us again – but apparently it was due to a fatality on the track, so can’t blame the train networks for that.
Arriving in Den Haag, it was a lot less Rotterdam, and a lot more Amsterdam. As the train approached we started to see canals, narrow houses, it was all looking quite familiar. We found the tram that would take us out to were we needed to go, and it was there that the similarities with Amsterdam quickly faded. It’s a quite different city to both Amsterdam and Rotterdam. It was certainly a more multicultural city, and with a lot of relatively-new buildings, not really having the architectural flair of Rotterdam.
As we approached Perry’s Mum’s street though, it was in a lovely tree-lined part of town, and before long we found the house – the place next door was for sale, so hey if ever you wanted to get back into the neighbourhood, now is the time 🙂
We grabbed a few photos (in the beautiful warm sun) before heading back on the tram to Den Haag Centraal.
The tram stops near Centraal all had really nice wooden floorboards for the platforms, made a nice change! And that was it for Den Haag – back on another train and headed back to Amsterdam..arriving right on time, pretty much to the second.
When we got out of the train and into Amsterdam … it was suddenly as if the population had doubled or even tripled. Today marks the start of “Sail” – a massive Sailing festival that happens once every five years, with tall ships from around the world converging on the town, and goodness knows how many other ships boats dinghies barges and whatever else. And people. Lots and lots of people. Apparently it brings about a million visitors to the town … so it’s no wonder the streets we just crazy-packed this afternoon. It also explains exactly why we had so much difficulty booking accommodation for our originally planned dates (next week).
Dinner this evening was at “Humphrey’s”, a small-looking restaurant right next door to the hotel. As they say, appearances can be deceiving – when we went inside I think the restaurant somehow took up two of the adjoining properties as well, it was massive! Happily, the food was absolutely brilliant, 26 euro for 3 courses – and was incredible value. I had a carpaccio, veal steak, and sorbet for dessert, and all of it was top notch, delicious, high quality … definitely felt like it was a lot more expensive than it was. So that was a big win for dinner. Anyone heading to Amsterdam, I can recommend Humphrey’s very highly. Our other intrepid travellers that dined with us also left feeling very impressed.
With full bellies and feeling very lethargic, we still managed to make to one more bar for a drink, before calling it a night. We pretty much felt obliged to visit a gay bar since we hadn’t yet, so we headed off to the closest one, the delightfully named “Prik”. I don’t know if it was too late in the evening, or maybe too early – but it was pretty dead. Still, we did what we set out to do – turn up, having a drink, and leave again. Mission accomplished.
And that brought us to the end of another big eventful day – lots still to do, and only one full day left to do it in…but I’m sure we’ll make the most of it.