Rotterdam, Netherlands first impressions

We arrived in the Netherlands Monday morning around 8:30 am. To us, it felt like 2 am. Ouch. Typically in this state, we have a driver from the hotel to pick us up at the airport. Not so today, for we get to have a car here! So we found the rental car place, got a car, and were on our way driving through the Dutch country side from Amsterdam airport to Rotterdam. I re-learned how to drive a stick in 15 seconds and realized after awhile that I had totally bypassed first and second gears and had successfully started the car moving in third gear! We finally got to our hotel. We did not see any tulips on our drive, but daffodils were starting to bloom and we did admire mostly modern windmills with the occasional old-style windmill you would expect from the Netherlands. 

Our hotel, photo credit here

Our hotel room boasts that it is kid-friendly. What that really means is that the sofa turns into a bed, so more people can reside in a tiny European hotel room. There is a deep soaker tub in the bathroom that makes up for the lack of space somewhat, but the moment I walked in the room, I knew that Landon and I would be going on excursions every day to get out of the tiny room! There is an outdoor play structure and an indoor play room with legos and books that Landon likes to escape to whenever possible, preferably when my arms are full and all I want is to put our stuff down in our room! Breakfast each morning consists of sausage and bacon, eggs, and a variety of bread products, fruit, yogurt, and meats and cheeses that can be made into sandwiches. The Dutch are really into their sandwiches. There is also a machine that can give me hot milk for hot chocolate so I’m a happy camper. The pastries and breads are just wonderful, but I would not expect any less from a European hotel. They really know how to bake here!

Landon in the stroller line for the tram

Although the weather reports (mostly giving average temperatures) said that it is usually in the 50’s around this time of year, it has mostly been in the 40’s with really strong wind or rain. Although I knew that Holland was famous for windmills, I did not connect that this also meant that it is windy as well. Since we have been living in an eternal summer (except for trips to see family) for the last year or so, I did not have a mid-temperature jacket for Landon, and did not pack his snow coat. We are now on a hunt for a mid-temperature jacket so he doesn’t freeze during our excursions. That also means that I am trying to find the indoor activities to do now, and do outdoor ones when it gets warmer. It is just a miserable experience to be outside right now!

OV Chipkaart and scanner here

The trams and trains are very easily navigated, even with me having to split my attention between what I am doing and making sure I’m keeping a toddler happy. An OV-chipkaart is a reloadable transit card that works on trains, trams, and buses all over the Netherlands. It is basically the best thing ever. I just load up this one card, and scan it before I board a train and off I go. I can even change my mind about what city we are going to, since the fare is charged once we reach our destination. I am impressed with the accessibility of the stations we have visited so far. I always bring my stroller because my toddler is both uncooperative when it comes to walking in the same direction as a reasonable adult, and he is also 35 lbs. and at this point, is too heavy to carry. The only times I have had to carry my stroller up the stairs or down the stairs is when the elevator is undergoing maintenance or cleaning. I can’t lift the stroller with Landon in it either, so I get him out and coax him up or down the stairs as I take the stroller. 

Fries with weird sauce here

The food is good, and interesting here. Fries are ubiquitous and always come with a tangy mayo type dipping sauce. I’m not a huge fan, but it is better than eating them dry. There is a big Indonesian food influence here, so many menus offer Chicken satay which is something that I became very accustomed to in Indonesia! We are staying in Schiedam, which is now a suburb of Rotterdam and is the closest city to Austin’s work with public transport close by. I’m not exactly sure if I’m just really good at finding Turkish food, or if there is a larger Turkish population in this area, but I managed to have Turkish food two nights in a row- a kebap at a Turkish grocery store (mystery meat sandwich) and a chicken dish with a spicy sauce, onions and peppers the next night at a cafe next to the train station. We have also had some great pizza here so far. For some meals, we pick up these yummy salads from the grocery store that have cheese, mixed greens, pasta, and other assorted veggies with balsamic or pesto dressing. They are filling with the pasta, and some of them have meat too. If it was warmer outside I would eat these every day. 

Even the laundromat is pretty

Driving around is fairly easy, the signage is informative and not too confusing. Parking is something that you pay for everywhere except the grocery store. On that note, public toilets are usually pay toilets as well. I try to take advantage of the facilities at paid attractions, because I’m there anyway and they are usually free toilets once I pay the admission fee. 

Money is another interesting subject. Many locations do not take credit cards, especially grocery stores. They take local PIN (debit cards) or cash. So, I have to pack the cash around to pay for things. Typically tourist attractions will take credit cards with chips, but sometimes only with a PIN. A funny thing I learned first time I tried to buy my train pass is that the machine takes credit with PIN, local debit, or COINS. Just coins. I had lots of cash but not very many coins, so I had to go buy something very small from the grocery store near the train station and then ask for change in coins to buy my train pass. After that, I learned the PIN for my credit card so I can use that as well now. 

Picturesque canal on our run one morning

Everybody speaks English here. Some people look at me and automatically start speaking English. Others look at me and speak Dutch until I say something in English, and then they’ll switch over. Church was in Dutch, but there were at least two people there who could translate, and they even broke out the translation headsets so we could understand the whole meeting. 

Aside from the atrocious weather, this is a very fun country to explore, and I look forward to the coming weeks as we make the most of our time here in Holland (and see some tulips!)


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