Almost twelve months ago, my friend Tim and I decided we wanted to do a photo-shoot based on an iconic image by photographer Peter Lindbergh, you know the one, the five supermodels on the cover of Vogue magazine. If you follow us both on social media you will know that we achieved that goal thanks to Georgia, Jaime, Rachel, Abbie and Ellie. However, during the time it took us to bring it to fruition, Mr Lindbergh launched his exhibition which led Tim to suggest we should have a trip away to see it for ourselves. So that’s exactly what we did.
Arriving in Amsterdam and after a slightly eventful transfer to Rotterdam, we arrived at Hotel One in the centre of the city and checked in. Dropping the bags in our rooms, we dashed out to find something to eat. It appears that chefs go home around 11.00pm in Rotterdam, but thankfully we found a Chinese restaurant willing to serve us and a short while later, we all tumbled into bed.
I love waking up in a new city, there’s always a sense of excitement as to what will be discovered. We all descended to the hotel lounge and tucked into a continental breakfast, mulling over the US presidential inauguration and what it may mean, one thing is for sure, the world is likely to experience some change over the next four years.
Bright blue skies, sunshine and sub-zero temperatures met us as we stepped out of the hotel as we made our way to the main event and of course, there were photo opportunities everywhere, however we arrived at the Kunsthal Art Gallery at 10.00am and headed inside. Almost two and a half hours later, we had a cuppa in the café and reflected on what we all felt was, without doubt one of the best exhibitions we have visited full of iconic images and so worth the effort (Even Mr E agreed – so it must have been good).
Our next destination were the rather surreal cube houses (Kubuswoningen), near to the market hall. Designed by architect Piet Blom, these three storey homes are indeed cubes, tilted at 45 degrees – I have no idea how people live in them, or deal with the constant stream of curious visitors. The horse-shoe shaped market hall is a very new building which was opened in 2014. It is a combination of office and residential premises on the outside and houses a very impressive food market within. It would also be remiss of me not to mention the artwork which covers the inside of the hall, some 11,000 square metres it is a cornucopia of fruit, flowers and vegetables – it’s affectionately known as the Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam.
Food in Rotterdam is a very cosmopolitan affair, with no obvious style which makes it typically Dutch, although croquettes seem to be very popular, we did find a very typical dish later during our stay, but more on that later.
Fast forward a couple of hours during which there was browsing of shops (very similar to back home) and of course more picture-taking, where I stumbled across a new model – not sure what he was advertising!
Following a quick drink and a warm up back at the hotel it was soon time for dinner. We realised our hotel was surrounded by oriental and Asian restaurants and decided on Vietnamese, on the basis that none of us had ever tried it before. Of course, faced with the challenge of interpreting a menu presented in Dutch and Vietnamese there were a few problems and much changing of minds, particularly for one of our party. Suffice to say the memory of dish 116 will stay with us for a very long time – Gail even has her own hash-tag now #116!. The food was however quite delicious when it came, fresh taste, lots of flavour, definitely recommended. It was still early when we finished and we found a tiny little bar where Binky the Boston Terrier was helping(?) his owner, just 7 months old, he was having a grand time chasing a chew and shoes – just look at his little face.
We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on Sunday morning and even though we decided on an early check-out, we were still hitting the streets at 10.00am. It was obvious that we had gotten our bearings on Saturday and we quickly found ourselves back at the harbour, where to everyone’s astonishment, the water had frozen. As we wandered along the front, the ice was moving and almost singing to us – I caught it on my phone (have a look on FB) and it sounded very odd indeed. It does however support my earlier observation that the temperature was sub-zero for the duration of our visit and I was glad I’d packed my vest!
Peering into one of the maritime museum sheds, the door suddenly opened and we were invited in to watch a local blacksmith at work, whilst he did most of his explanation in Dutch I think we got the gist.
A little further on we came upon the Erasmus Bridge (Erasmusbrug) also known as ‘The Swan’ due to its’ graceful lines. Spanning the river Maas, it consists of four traffic lanes, two tramways, two cycle-ways and two pavements. I feel duty-bound to point out it was not Flint bridge as one of my friends Gill suggested via Fb following my uploading a photo and I thought it had a distinct look of New York about it (Do you recognise the couple in one of these?)
A late lunch beckoned and we finally managed to get a table in ‘Syjf’, a recommended eatery. It was here we discovered a real Dutch speciality, ‘bitterballs’ and Lee could not stop herself from ordering some for us to try. They were in fact similar to croquettes, deep fried and containing meat and cheese, very tasty, but what a name for a dish!
So, what did I like about Rotterdam? Everything!
It’s a clean, modern, compact city, easy to get around on foot, has lots of museums and culture, good food, even better beer and wine, but for me it was the people, a warm, engaging bunch, always ready have a chat.
Of course the highlight was the Peter Lindbergh exhibition at Kunsthal, and I’d seriously consider another trip back should another interesting exhibition arise.
Thanks to Gail who was an excellent tour operator, Tim, Eifion, Lee and of course, the current Mr E who exercised considerable restraint and only bought a single CD from a record shop – it was all in all a perfect short break with good friends.
Until next time.