Writing my 2016 roundup, it was so nice to look back on some of my earlier trips, trips I had nearly forgotten had been part of last year. One of said trips was our weekend in Rotterdam.

I was feeling a bit nostalgic and decided to read back on some of my blog posts from our time there…. only to find I had only written ONE. Just the ONE?!?! Hardly acceptable for a city break that was up there as one of my favourites. So I thought I’d take advantage of #ThrowbackThursday and talk about some of the great things you have to check out in the awesome city that is Rotterdam:

 

Kubuswoningen, Cube houses

Rotterdam is known for being the city of architecture. After the World War two bombing, the architect Piet Blom was set a task to redevelop the area and these cube houses were his sort of experiement. He wanted to create something that had character, put a modern twist on what we define as being ‘home.’ He took what could be an ordinary house, tilted it 45 degrees and then launched it up in the air. It is believed each house was designed to represent a tree and as a collection altogether, they make up a forest. Blom’s work was heavily inspired by the work of Le Corbusier.

Modern architecture, mimicking nature – my kind of design!!!

The cube houses are open 11am till 5pm, you can actually explore the inside, see for yourself that there are no straight walls! As we were limited time wise, we settled on just exploring the surrounding. However if you did want to venture in, entrance will cost you 2.50 euros, it’s not going to break the bank.

 

 

Markthal, Blaak Market

Well this was not at all what I was expecting and fyi the Blaak market – is not the black market. Instead it is an area in the city where you will find an array of stalls selling all kinds of goodies. From fresh veg to electronics and clothes, even antiques.

Location wise it’s right opposite the Cube houses mentioned above and you really can’t miss the grand Markthall. Now this is definitely THE grandest market I’ve ever seen. As an architect lover, the building is spectacular. Beautifully curved, the use of space is quite jaw dropping and the artwork that flows all over the interior is incredible.

The market floor itself is filled with artisan food stalls, the displays, the smells all as good as all the European favourites such as La Boqueria, Mathallen and Torvehallerne. A second tier has been included here at Markthal, as some stalls have steps leading up to the first floor where there are restaurants and seating areas.

Above that are a further TEN floors, with apartments built INTO the arches. Honestly I was in structural heaven. And to detract from this engineering marvel, the whole inner area of the arch has been tattoed with images of flowers and plants. If that’s not enough space maximising, they have even built a supermarket and car park in the basement. *Sigh* I’m almost exhausted thinking of all the brilliant features of this place. Definitely a sight to be seen.

The food itself? it’s going to need it’s own blog post, I could rabbit on about that for a while (right now you just need to know it was goooood).

 

 

Euromast, TV tower

Euromast is actually the highest viewing tower in the whole of the Netherlands. So we went and took the lift to the main floor at 100 metres, which was already pretty high for me.

We climbed some stairs to get a bit higher… and then there was another set of steps to arrive at the platform where you can take the last revolving lift right up to the top.

I was already having some serious issues with the whole scared of heights situation. It was SO windy and I was convinced that I was about to be blown off the edge, I practically had to crawl up the last set of stairs and plaster myself against the wall to reduce the wind resistance. That and the long queue that was moving at an extremely slow pace, was enough to convince us we would much rather spend our time having drinks and snacks in the café below (boy was I RELIEVED!)

The café below is actually quite nice, they were preparing to close by the time we got there but it was still busy and they still kindly served us.

 

 

Kinderdijk

Technically, Kinderdijk is not in the city centre, in fact it takes about an hour to reach it (by boat), but I’d say it’s definitely worth a visit. So much so I wrote a whole blog post about our day out.

We decided to take a boat to reach Alblasserdam and I’d recommend doing the same. You can see all sorts cruising along the river, including the famous Erasmusburg bridge and De Rotterdam buildings, helps you tick a few more sights from your architectural hit list.

 

 

And ok, this isn’t really a sight you have to see but the whole point of our trip to the Netherlands was to attend festival Pal Mundo at Rotterdam Ahoy! As a city centre arena, it was as you can imagine quite easy to get to. We ended up taking a taxi as we were running late and if you are thinking of attending Pal Mundo like we did, be assured the music is AMAZING – a spectacular night celebrating Latin, Caribbean and Reggaeton music. Like every other concert venue, ideally you want to take some cash with you as atm queues can be pretty long.

 

 

These are just a few of the highlights we encountered, we had no major plan on arrival all of the above we discovered ad hoc. We spent most of our time exploring on foot, but we did hop on and trial out the tram, boat, bus and taxi services – and on every single one of them we experienced the best customer service. Like the BEST.

We had a lot of fun that weekend, and Rotterdam is definitely a place we would return to. Pal Mundo 2017 perhaps… 😉

 

 

Have you been to Rotterdam? What would you recommend we see next time around??

 

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the-windmills-of-kinderdijk

I was tidying up my computer desktop and realised since our weekend trip to Rotterdam in March, I hadn’t had a chance to browse through the photos. As soon as I began, I knew I had to post some up. Starting with our sunny Sunday trip to the windmills of Kinderdijk…

As usual, my dad had sent us one of his cut and paste travel guides, but this time there was an extra special two-page document to try and convince us to spend a day at Kinderdijk, around 15 miles east of Rotterdam. As soon as we saw the words ‘UNESCO’ and ‘windmill,’ we were sold.

It was Easter Sunday, and with a concert to attend in the evening, we were keen to head out early and catch the first waterbus from Rotterdam Erasmusburg.

The waterbus runs regularly and is a good mode of transport. We were travelling off season so the boats were hourly, but between May and September, the boats are a lot more frequent and you can travel to a stop closer to Kinderdijk, Dordrecht Merwekade (click here to check the waterbus timetable). You can buy your tickets on board, relax inside on the plush seating or nip out into the open air and feel the wind and water as you zoom off.

We passed the famous Erasmus bridge, and you’ll spot some lovely buildings on route, look out for Noah’s ark and the lovely mosque!

Once at Alblasserdam there are signs directing you towards Kinderdijk, the walk is a bit of a trek, but its a pleasant one. Although I did feel the same sign saying the windmills were 3.3 km away was repeated a number of times, making the journey feel longer than it maybe was.

Make sure you look out in between the houses on the walk down, the views when you start to get close are really special…

The Alblassserwaard area suffered major floods in the 13th century and even after creating large canals to help be rid of the excess water into the River Lek, the river levels still continued to rise.

The windmills were built to help pump the water into the reservoir and helped to bridge the water level differences. Although some of the windmills are still used, the main water works is carried out by the Wisboom pumping station (Wisboomgemaal) which you will pass on the entrance to the site.

There are nineteen windmills in total, only two are open to visit, but you can walk, cycle or take the hop-on/hop-0ff water taxi round the whole site. From what I read, this is the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands!

Kinderdijk-Rotterdam-10

The name Kinderdijk actually means ‘Children Dike’ in Dutch. Named after a fairytale from the Saint Elizabeth flood back in 1421. The story is that of a wooden cradle that was seen floating along the waters, a cat was jumping from side to side to try and keep it afloat. When the cradle finally approached the land of the dike, locals found a baby inside, happy and dry. So not only was the area named after this tale, but cats are also protected and honoured in Kinderdijk – my kind of town!!!

Tickets to enter the windmills are available from the little hut just outside, and it’s worth getting to see how it all worked from the inside. The views from the windows are beautiful and it’s nice to look at the setup of how they used to live.

After all that walking, we were definitely ready to eat, and we stopped off at restaurant on the walk back to the boat. Our main reason for choosing Grand Café Buena Vista was for its inviting menu board outside, bit of quirkiness is always appealing!

It was lovely and warm, there was so much to look at and the smells surrounding us were promising. We all ordered a selection of dishes, all good quality but there were some real stand outs – Mo had the cheese and mushroom pancake which filled me with major food envy pangs. We ordered a bowl of cheese fingers for the table which was devoured in seconds. And the poffertjes for dessert!?!? Well it was the first time I tasted poffertjes and frankly I can’t understand why I haven’t been introduced to this magic fluffy mini pancake thing sooner. I don’t normally have a sweet tooth but I actually crave them (I’m craving them right now).

After all that food we were in no state to walk back, luckily there’s a bus stop right opposite the restaurant and it’s a 30 minute drive back to Alblasserdam. Bus driver was helpful and friendly (unlike many who’ve left me behind in the UK). We told him where we needed to get to and he made sure to remind us when we were near.

As we turned the corner after hopping off the bus, our boat was casting off ready to depart, we did make a run for it, but were no way fast enough and found ourselves stranded until the next.

It’s worth noting the boat return times when planning your day, otherwise like us you could be left waiting around an hour. I did have a mini strop for the first five minutes after we missed it (you would too if you just ran as fast as I tried to) but I soon got over it and we actually had a lot of fun sunbathing, taking in the views, singing and dancing in preparation for the evening ahead and just generally enjoying each others company.

All in all, it was probably one of my favourite days of the year, spent with some of my favourite people, definitely worth the Easter Sunday early start!

 

Have you visited Kinderdijk? What did you think? Do you know of any other windmill sites in the Netherlands that are worth checking out?

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There are a number of blog posts online that say the best way to motivate yourself into travelling more, is to attempt #take12trips challenge. It’s pretty simple, you just organise a trip away (nationally or internationally) or do something new every month for a year.

When I first read a blog post on it, I knew it would be something I would aim towards from that point onwards. And it will from now remain on my yearly to-do lists.

As March has just flown past (like flown), I thought I’d take a quick look back on how my quarter has gone:

 

January:

So January was a bit of a slow month. Not one where we visited a new destination, but we embarked on a Younus family trip to London for a weekend.

Maybe not a new place, but I did see a lot of new things, such as The British Museum and watching ‘Stomp’ in Covent Garden (amazing show!!).

 

February:

Shortest month of the year but the pace started to pick up. Started off in Yorkshire to witness my lovely cousin getting married and Mo and I spent the rest of the month catching up with friends and excitedly planning our trip to Abu Dhabi which was amazing!

New place, family holiday and lots of quality time with niece and nephew.  We also popped into Dubai, its only down the road after all.

 

March:

Ok March has been pretty busy. After Abu Dhabi we flew back to Jeddah and the second half of our trip was a spiritual one. It was my first time back to the two holy cities – Makkah and Madinah (Saudi Arabia). My first visit back in over 16 years and first visit with my husband and his family. All in all a very beautiful, emotional experience.

After an exhausting two weeks, we only had one weekend of rest before we were off again – this time to Rotterdam with my fantastic four group. My first visit to the Netherlands and I think it’s safe to say I definitely plan on returning again, we had an absolute blast! Can’t wait to blog all about it, but here’s a few cheeky snaps for now:

 

That’s it so far 🙂

 

As I write this I’m already starting April having just returned from another new place – Cardiff with #Traverse16 which was fab and May is looking super busy too.

I do have a challenge for June though, as Ramadhan falls within this month – so it’s going to be a toughie finding a place to go that won’t be too tiring.

Any suggestions of places to check out that aren’t too far away from Manchester? Open to all kinds of ideas! 

 

Thinking of taking on the #take12trips challenge? Well as always Monica from the Travel Hack has you covered with some great advice – click here to read her tips on making it happen

Clare from ‘Need another holiday’ was the lady who inspired me in the first place if you fancy checking her post out too – click here to read her update

If you’re already attempting it, I’d love to hear how it’s going?

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