City Break 1 – Amsterdam and Rotterdam

The long awaited first ‘city break’ trip to Europe has finally occurred!
Even better, English immigration let us back into the country on our return!
After lengthy deliberations about where to go, when to go, could we get annual leave, how should we get there to reduce carbon miles etc etc, we decided we’d almost left it too late to enjoy some summer weather somewhere other than England, bit the bullet, and booked ourselves a trip to Holland. Holland, we discovered, is not the same as the Netherlands, but a smaller area within the greater country known as the Netherlands, a little bit like England is to the UK. Different again to the Low Countries, which include Belgium and Luxembourg, which three countries also make up the term Benelux from the first letters of each name. Interesting huh.
We spent three days in Amsterdam and one in Rotterdam, over a weekend with two days off work either side. The moral of the story is to book holidays in advance, as it ended up costing a fair bit to book flights and accommodation a few days before we intended to go, in peak summer time. The other moral of the story is that BMI flights may be cheaper than all others, and fly from Heathrow instead of other airports that require a day trip and a packed lunch to get to, but they are consistently delayed, so you shouldn’t book them for a late evening flight as you won’t get on a plane till 11pm, or to your destination until 1pm. This occurred in both directions, in conjunction with a 2 hour tube trip home due to an unattended package at Acton Town causing a security threat. Got to love London’s security threats – seriously, who’d blow up Acton Town, it’s full of Aussies!
So anyway, Amsterdam! It was great, a very lovely, friendly, pedestrian-oriented city. We did loads of walking, saw lots of old terraced housing buildings, old churches (including the ‘New’ church, built sometime in the 14th century!) picturesque bridges over canals, lots of tulips, and a couple of windmills outside the city. We also hired bikes for a few hours on the last day to ride down to the harbour area to see the more contemporary architecture including Renzo Piano’s big green copper-clad building that looks like the hull of a ship, otherwise known as NEMO the science museum, aka The New Metropolis Building.
Also saw lots of famous modern buildings in Rotterdam, but they weren’t quite as inspiring as we had expected, most on a very big scale and very international in style, although there were some interesting housing developments including the famous tilted yellow cubes (photos to follow). The urban design in Rotterdam was totally different to Amsterdam, as it was completely bombed during the war and rebuilt from scratch around the all-powerful automobile, so has the same massive problems for the pedestrian as all other car-focussed modern cities in America and Australia including overly wide streets with no visual, physical or psychological connection from side to side, lack of legibility as to where people walk and cycle, long expanses of blank, uninteresting streetscapes that seem to take an age to traverse, no transitional space between building and street, and a feeling of being really exposed and unprotected from the sun and/or rain. I wonder how many protesting comments this post will get from car fanatics?
Strangely there were almost no people around in Rotterdam, it was quite desolate. Either they agree with me about the urban design or perhaps they, and the rest of Europe, were all in Amsterdam, for the annual gay pride procession. I can’t say march, as there wasn’t any marching, rather a lot of dancing as they floated along on canal boats decorated with pink balloons and rainbow banners. It was all very jolly, although the techno dance beat and lots of loud Kylie music got a little wearing after a while. 500,000 spectators we heard, not bad for a city of 800,000 people.
I managed to restrain my touristy purchasing, and only succumbed to a bag of tulip bulbs which I intend to brighten up our flat, unfortunately won’t be able to take them back to Aus. It was difficult, but I didn’t buy any delft china or wooden clogs. All in all a good relaxing first european adventure.

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3 Responses to City Break 1 – Amsterdam and Rotterdam

  1. Antediluvian Subaru-owning Mum says:

    Don’t tell me that the fellow who spent 10 years creating Mint-Car has gone anti-vehicular? ! OK, I know, Mint-Car only races at places like Mallala, but still …….

  2. Jane says:

    Mum that was my post, not Justin’s!
    However yes, he agrees with me – in this as in all things, right Justin???

  3. Justin will say yes because he’s a good boy. Even if he secretly visits McDonalds every day on his bike ride to work or on the way home. But he’ll keep telling you he keeps ‘getting lost’.

    But the comment ‘reduce carbon miles’ gives it away as I’m sure he would not say something like that without slagging off someone in the words immediately following it. Same for the bit about the gay parade 😉

    Although I am very dissapointed you did not buy any Klompen, and I recon you’d look ace in one of those Dutch hats.

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