Holland – My View from the Middle Seat http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com Travel Advice for DINK Couples Fri, 19 Jan 2018 13:37:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 9 Photos That Will Make You Want to Book a Trip to Holland Immediately http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/2017/08/9-photos-will-make-want-book-trip-holland-immediately/ http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/2017/08/9-photos-will-make-want-book-trip-holland-immediately/#comments Tue, 01 Aug 2017 06:28:22 +0000 http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/?p=7373 Rotterdam’s markets are amazing & definitely worth a visit! Head to Markthal hungry – there are four floors of food. The best way to visit is to try a bite from different stalls in a make-your-own foodie tour. Hanging out near the Fenix Food Factory but want a site down meal? Head across the street […]

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Photos of Holland cheese

selling Holland cheese at Markthal in Rotterdam (get your purchase vacuum sealed for easy transport)
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Rotterdam’s markets are amazing & definitely worth a visit! Head to Markthal hungry – there are four floors of food. The best way to visit is to try a bite from different stalls in a make-your-own foodie tour.

Photos of Holland rotterdam restaurant

Rotterdam’s very cute blue & white restaurant
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Hanging out near the Fenix Food Factory but want a site down meal? Head across the street to the cutest blue & white restaurant anywhere in Holland!

Photos of Holland villa augusta

rose wine is crazy inexpensive in Holland – enjoy a glass on the patio of Villa Augusta
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Villa Augusta’s service was very hit or miss the day I visited – food took forever to come out! But the view of the amazing garden & hotel was worth the wait. Grab a cheap glass of rose (or two) & enjoy the nice weather.

Photos of Holland tulips

tulips galore from the moment you step off the plane at Schiphol
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Tulips & Holland go hand in hand. Don’t want to carry them around the country? Bulbs & fresh cut tulips can be bought right at the airport. Can you imagine, though, sitting on an 8 hour flight with a bouquet of flowers on your lap?

Photos of Holland stroopwaffel

traditional Stroopwaffel & coffee
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Stroopwaffel tastes nothing like its American counterpart – & that’s a very good thing.

Photos of Holland windmills

windmills – & horses – are everywhere in Holland
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Make sure to get out of the city & explore the countryside – it’s beautiful & very accessible!

Photos of Holland dordrecht

Dordrecht is Holland’s oldest city
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Dordrecht is the perfect place for wandering & getting lost. I think we were the only Americans there!

Photos of Holland national parks

national parks are easily accessible from urban areas
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

I love getting out into national parks when I travel. The best part of Holland’s are the electric boats that are easy to navigate.

Photos of Holland Rotterdam

Rotterdam was leveled in WWII. The architecture that has sprung up from rebuilding is funky & modern
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Don’t skip Rotterdam! There’s so much more to Holland than Amsterdam.

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Kinderdijk 101: 10 Things You Need to Know About Holland’s Famous Windmills http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/2017/07/kinderdijk-101-10-things-need-know-hollands-famous-windmills/ http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/2017/07/kinderdijk-101-10-things-need-know-hollands-famous-windmills/#comments Sat, 29 Jul 2017 13:50:17 +0000 http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/?p=7332 The windmill is synonymous with Holland. Built early in the country’s history as a water management tool, these mills pumped water out to let farmland & people in. Perhaps the most famous collection of windmills anywhere in the world can be found in Kinderdijk, South Holland. The Kinderdijk windmills are one of the most popular […]

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The windmill is synonymous with Holland. Built early in the country’s history as a water management tool, these mills pumped water out to let farmland & people in. Perhaps the most famous collection of windmills anywhere in the world can be found in Kinderdijk, South Holland. The Kinderdijk windmills are one of the most popular tourist sites in Holland & the one I enjoyed visiting most when I was touring the country as a guest of Visit Holland. Here are 10 things you need to know about Holland’s famous windmills:

1. They’ve been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1977. That means that they are protected from development & preserved for generations to come.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

2. People call these famous windmills home. I was blown away to learn that millers have called 15 of the 19 Kinderdijk windmills home for centuries & many families pass them down from generation to generation. One particular windmill has been in the Hoek family since it was built in the 1400s, with the 10th generation currently being raised in this piece of Netherlands history.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

3. Windmills aren’t just pretty to look at, they serve an important purpose: starting in the 1400s, windmills were built around Holland to pump water out of the marshy peat soil. Currently there are 56 windmills around Holland pumping out water, including the 19 at Kinderdijk which were built in the 1700s.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

4. These internationally known windmills are visited by 500,000 – 600,000 people a year. While it is possible to visit the site without paying admission, visitors are encouraged to purchase a tour ticket, as the money goes directly back into the maintenance of the Kinderdijk windmills.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

5. Windmill arms (or sails, as they’re officially known) can be used to communicate. By stopping the arms in a certain position, the miller can share news of the birth of a baby, a wedding or a death in their family.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

6. Because of the protected nature of the landscape, many rare birds call Kinderdijk home, including the Black Tern & Purple Heron.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

7. The best way to see the Kinderdijk windmills is by boat or by bike. Visitors can take a navigated boat tour, which runs throughout the day, or rent a bike in town & ride along flat gravel paths past the iconic sites.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

8. Kinderdijk can be reached via car, but can also be easily reached by water taxi from Dordrecht or, for the especially adventurous, all the way from Rotterdam.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

9. Clogs are the real deal! These wooden shoes have been loved by millers for generations, since they provide a stable walking surface across the often soggy land. Modern day millers still wear them on a daily basis.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

10. The majority of the guides at Kinderdijk are volunteers who are passionate about preserving the windmill culture & sharing the site’s important history.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Note: My visit to Kinderdijk was hosted by Visit Holland; however, as always, all opinions are my own. 

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A Fairy Tale on Water: Giethoorn http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/2017/07/a-fairy-tale-on-water-giethoorn/ http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/2017/07/a-fairy-tale-on-water-giethoorn/#comments Tue, 18 Jul 2017 06:16:31 +0000 http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/?p=7334 Tucked into northern Holland is a fairy tale on water: the village of Giethoorn sits idyllically on a series of canals to form Holland’s own version of Venice. As a guest of Visit Holland, I enjoyed exploring the village as part of my tour of the country. Giethoorn: a brief history There are no cars […]

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Tucked into northern Holland is a fairy tale on water: the village of Giethoorn sits idyllically on a series of canals to form Holland’s own version of Venice. As a guest of Visit Holland, I enjoyed exploring the village as part of my tour of the country.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Giethoorn: a brief history

There are no cars in the center of this small town which was first inhabited by Italians who took advantage of the excellent peat farming in the area. A Mennonite community followed & its current 2600 residents live peacefully on the water, riding bikes & motoring around in quiet electric boats, dodging tourists who think their private homes are fake & open for public viewing & tourists who have never driven a motorboat before & have no idea what they’re doing (guilty). Located within De Weerriben-Widen National Park, a visit to this fairy tale village makes for a lovely afternoon of wandering, cycling, boating or kayaking.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

 

thatched roofs are common in this part of Holland – they’re made with dried reeds
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Where to Stay, Where to Eat

There are a number of B&Bs right inside the village center (just be prepared to carry your luggage since there’s no vehicle access!). We stayed just outside the city at Hotel Giethoorn, which was perfectly lovely. The included breakfast was ample & my room was simple & – most importantly – quiet.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Yes, there was a swan painted on my bathroom door. No, I’m not entirely sure why.
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

In Giethoorn, there are a number of restaurants to choose from. I enjoyed a traditional Dutch lunch at De Sloothaak. Everything at this small cafe is sources from within the Netherlands. While it’s not the healthiest thing on the menu, a traditional Dutch sandwich of croquettes, a side of french fries with mayo & peanut sauce, all washed down with a Royal Lemon really hit the spot.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Know if you go… 

– while driving to Giethoorn is by far the easiest way, it is possible to get there via public transit. From Amsterdam, take the Intercity train towards Leeuwarden & get off in Steenwijk. Then hop on the number 70 bus toward Zwartsluis & go (according to Google maps) 15 stops. Depending on when you’re going, this could take 2-4 hours, but I promise it’s worth it! Google maps has good transit directions, but always double check at the train station before heading out.

– remember that you are walking around someone’s neighborhood & be respectful. These are real houses, with real people living in them. It might look like Disney, but it’s not!

– just a head’s up: take it easy when you first get in the electric boat! They’re not as easy to control as meets the eye…

 

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Exploring Holland’s National Parks http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/2017/07/exploring-hollands-national-parks/ http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/2017/07/exploring-hollands-national-parks/#comments Thu, 13 Jul 2017 06:01:56 +0000 http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/?p=7297 One of the things I love most about the U.S. is our National Park System. I don’t know if all Americans realize how lucky we are to have not only a large number of parks, but also ones that is well maintained. I’m always curious to visit other country’s national parks; Canada, for instance, has […]

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One of the things I love most about the U.S. is our National Park System. I don’t know if all Americans realize how lucky we are to have not only a large number of parks, but also ones that is well maintained. I’m always curious to visit other country’s national parks; Canada, for instance, has amazing parks – they’re celebrating their 150th birthday with free admission this year. It’s only natural with Holland’s smaller size that their parks should be smaller, & simpler, as well. I jumped at the chance to spend some time in the great outdoors while tootling around the country as a guest of Visit Holland. What really struck me was how close their parks are to relatively large cities, like Rotterdam – easily accessible for much of the population (& populations from neighboring countries like Germany & Belgium). I had two very different park experiences, both worth considering if you have extra time during your next hop across the pond.

National Park Weerribben-Wieden

The idyllic town of Giethoorn (more on there later – it’s amazing!) is located within the second largest national park in Western Europe, Weerribben-Wieden. Popular with German visitors, my tour group was actually only the second group of Americans to visit the park in recent memory – I hope we represented well! There are several options for recreation in the park, including renting a canoe or electric boat to explore the mangroves, renting a bike to explore the nearby canal town or going for a long hike.

We enjoyed a leisurely electric boat tour, which was refreshingly peaceful compared to the motorboats that dominate many US national & state parks. Along the way, we discovered camp grounds & the cutest cabins, which are available for rent by the week through the park (there are also cottages in nearby towns available for rent).

photo (C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

photo (C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

The visit really got interesting when we jumped on our rented bikes for a “short” 10km ride around the area. A series of missed turns meant that we were soon pedaling past cow pastures & grazing horses. Our fairly vague map, combined with our American optimism meant, that we just kept cycling – in the wrong direction – confident we were going in the right direction. Finally, someone got smart & suggested we turn around.

Back in town, we finally found our way & once again began our ride. I’m so glad we turned around, though, as cycling the canal, past thatched roof houses was really a highlight of the park visit. As we pedaled along, we came across a small pedestrian drawbridge. As a passing boat approached, the draw bridge keeper opened his window & lowered a wooden shoe to collect the toll! It was a delightfully Dutch moment (luckily captured on video by one of my fellow travelers).

A post shared by Dana Rebmann (@danarebmann) on

If you’re hungry post-ride, the restaurant at the park visitor center is surprisingly modern & the food fairly good. Highlights included Hetog Jan Weizener, a Holland-brewed white ale, which they serve on tap; a meze of spreads perfect for sharing; & a Dutch delicacy: chicken sate. (A quick aside on chicken sate in case you’re puzzled, as I was, on why a dish most commonly found in Thai restaurants is so popular in Holland: it throws back to colonial times when the Nethelands East Indian Dutch Company had a large trading post in Indonesia.)

photo (C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

photo (C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

National Park de Biesbosch

De Biesbosch is one of the few freshwater tidal areas in the world, making it a unique ecosystem to explore – & something that looks right out of the Florida everglades! This large park is full of activities & visitors eager to enjoy the outdoors. We enjoyed an electric boat ride one morning, motoring through the sea grass, searching for the park’s iconic beavers. As we cruised along, we passed a number of personal boats that had been docked for the weekend, allowing visitors from across Europe a chance to enjoy nature on a beautiful sunny day.

One of the biggest challenges with visiting de Biesbosch is that none of the written material or signage is in English – Dutch & German prevail. It’s still do-able – & maybe makes the experience even more authentic! The park is very popular with Belgians, who come for a day trip.

Know if you go…

– Renting a bike is a great way to see most of Holland, especially the parks; however, keep in mind that the Dutch are the tallest people in the world (on average, most women are nearly 6′ tall!) & their bicycles are fit for them. That means that my short little 5’4″ American legs could barely reach the pedals, even with the seat all the way down. Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to ask for a kids bike!

– These parks are fairly easy to navigate on their own, but both feature guided tours. If you feel less confident with a map (especially a map in Dutch!), this might be a good idea.

Note: I toured these parks as a guest of Visit Holland; however, all opinions are my own. We really did get quite lost cycling!

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Dordrecht: South Holland’s Oldest City http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/2017/07/dordrecht-holland/ http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/2017/07/dordrecht-holland/#comments Thu, 06 Jul 2017 06:35:21 +0000 http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/?p=7301 One of my favorite things about traveling around Europe is exploring old small towns – we just don’t have old in the United States! A stop in Dordrecht, Holland’s oldest city, is a must for anyone who adores small towns, quirky architecture & being the only American around for miles (this is not a bad thing). […]

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One of my favorite things about traveling around Europe is exploring old small towns – we just don’t have old in the United States! A stop in Dordrecht, Holland’s oldest city, is a must for anyone who adores small towns, quirky architecture & being the only American around for miles (this is not a bad thing). Founded in 1220, the area had rather infamous flood in 1412 & they’ve been perfecting water management ever since. The houses are all either built at a slant, to allow for furniture to be hoisted up to upper floors, or have ended up at quite a slant, due to the soft ground they’re built upon. An hour of walking covers most of the town, including the lovely waterfront area where you can catch a waterbus to Kinderdijk or all the way to Rotterdam. I toured the city as a guest of Visit Holland; here are some of my favorite images from our time there:

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Dordrecht Holland

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Dordrecht Holland

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Dordrecht Holland

everything leans!
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Dordrecht Holland

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Dordrecht Holland

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Dordrecht Holland restaurant

Looking for a lovely al fresco dinner after your day of touring? Try Huis Roodenburch – just be forewarned: the menu is only available in Dutch! Also, bring your patience, as service was “European speed” (that is: not fast)
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Note: My time in Holland was hosted by Visit Holland; however, all opinions here are my own. Dinner & the town really was awesome, even if it moved at a slower pace than Americans are used to.

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48 Hours in Rotterdam http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/2017/06/48-hours-in-rotterdam/ http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/2017/06/48-hours-in-rotterdam/#comments Thu, 29 Jun 2017 06:18:56 +0000 http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/?p=7263 Admit it: when someone asks you to name a city in Holland, your first response is “Amsterdam.” It’s only natural, right? But your answer should be Holland’s youngest city, Rotterdam. Situated along the Maas River, South Holland’s largest city was leveled by bombing in WWII, but has bounced back fabulously & is well worth adding to […]

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Admit it: when someone asks you to name a city in Holland, your first response is “Amsterdam.” It’s only natural, right? But your answer should be Holland’s youngest city, Rotterdam. Situated along the Maas River, South Holland’s largest city was leveled by bombing in WWII, but has bounced back fabulously & is well worth adding to any Holland itinerary. I loved exploring the city as a guest of Visit Holland. Here’s what you should do for 48 hours in Rotterdam:

How to Get There

Like many places in Holland, Rotterdam is easily accessible by both car & train. Only a 25 minute express train ride from Holland’s large international airport, Schiphol (take the Intercity Direct), once you’ve arrived in the city, Rotterdam Centraal is located within walking distance to many of the major sites & also right on the easy-to-navigate subway line. If the Intercity Direct isn’t an option (it wasn’t during my visit due to a transit strike), the Intercity train, which makes several stops along the way, takes about 50 minutes. Both painless!

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

The other option is to drive: the city is an easy 40 minute drive from Schiphol & about an hour from Amsterdam. You won’t need a car in the city center, so ditch it once you arrive to avoid city-priced hotel parking fees.

Where to Stay

Rotterdam has a variety of places to stay, including an expanding Airbnb market. Anyone who reads this blog, though, knows that I love luxury boutique hotels, so that’s where I stayed during my recent time in the city. The Mainport’s great location, comfortable rooms & fabulous style (travel themed rooms & floors!) make it the ideal place to lay your head in the city. My South American themed City XL Room was huge by European hotel room standards & featured a big soaking tub, complete with bath amenities, & a walk-in shower. A large “American style” king bed (not two twins pushed together, like most European hotels) faced a bay of windows which offered a sweeping view of the Rotterdam skyline.

mural in the Mainport lobby details old school shipping routes
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

look at the awesome wallpaper
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

yes, there is a TV in the bathroom mirror
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Breakfast makes or breaks a hotel for me & Mainport definitely delivered with made-to-order eggs, platters of meats & cheeses & a yogurt bar with a variety of toppings, as well as more traditional American & British hot breakfast items. An automated espresso machine brews coffee to order, but the highlight was a large jar of self servcefresh mint for making hot int tea – something I’ve never seen before in a hotel. Indoor & outdoor seating meant a comfortable al fresco breakfast right on the waterfront. Other property amenities include a small pool & sauna on the 8th floor, which are free for guests (somewhat of a rarity in Europe), a decent sized gym & complimentary wifi throughout the property. There’s a watertaxi stop right outside & the front entrance mere steps from the Leuvhaven Metro Station.

Where to Eat

Rotterdam’s thriving food scene both surprised me & left me eager to return to continue eating my way around the city.

Where to Eat Lunch

Op Het Dak opened four years ago in a building that was slated for demolition but was saved by some enterprising residents before being into a space for artists & musicians. The rooftop now boasts one of the largest urban gardens in Europe & is the location of Op Het Dak, a small cafe focused on cooking what they grow. An army of volunteers cares for the garden, while the chef mans the kitchen, taking a two month break every winter to head to Mexico to cook, experiment & learn. This awesome women-owned restaurant serves up beautiful, colorful dishes of mostly vegetarian food with an occasional meat & fish thrown in. Highlights the day I visited included the bavette steak with grilled vegetables & crispy lentils, the seasonal salad bowl with grilled veggies & the buddha bowl, an overflowing rice bowl with local mushrooms, temph, kimchi & tahin dressing. I’m already plotting a return visit to brunch, where £17,50 gets you coffee, yogurt, a brunch entree & fresh juice – such a good deal. The menu changes seasonally to match what’s in the garden (or what they can get fresh in the winter months).

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

In the mood for a little afternoon dessert? Dudok has got you covered: they’re famous for their Dutch Apple Pie (there’s one in Schiphol if you need to grab a piece to go!)

Where to Eat Dinner

Dertien is located on a long street of restaurants in Rotterdam’s main entertainment district. But what sets them apart is their dedication to all things Holland: every ingredient is sourced from Holland & served seasonally. The chef believes in head-to-tail cooking & even vegetable cores are used in some way or another. Complimenting their menu is a collection of old world wines & special beers from Holland, Norway & Belgium. When I visited with friends, we ordered basically everything off the menu posted outside the restaurant (no printed menus here!). Highlights included sparking rhubarb wine, beets with beet foam & goat cheese ice cream (still dreaming of the ice cream…), white asparagus (a Dutch delicacy) with peanuts, white potatoes & prosciutto, lamb shoulder with polenta & green herbs & – as if we weren’t stuffed already – dark chocolate fudge caramel pie with a blood orange sauce. If the weather is nice, grab a table outside on the patio – it’ll make you feel like a local.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Where to Drink

Vessel 11, an old British lightship turned British pub, is straight out of a Wes Anderson fantasy. This rather authentic (at least in drink) gastropub can only be describe as funky. One thing that isn’t messing around, though, is their drinks: from their home brewed beers (try the sampler, which comes with four generous pours – my favorite was the red ale – & some nuts) to pages upon pages of gin & tonics, lemonades, rums, whiskies & cocktails (the Pimm’s Cup was delightfully traditional). Sipping beverages on the top deck on a sunny day in Rotterdam? You’ll be hard pressed to find anything finer.

Vessel 11 beer flight
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

What to Do

At the risk of making it seem like all there is in Rotterdam is great food (is that a bad thing?) the top thing on any Rotterdam itinerary must be a visit to Markthal & Fenix Food Factory. While they’re both indoor food halls, they couldn’t be more different.

Food Halls

Markthal, the largest indoor food market in Europe, is built on the site of Rotterdam’s founding in 1270. 96 vendors fill the space under an enormous arched building, under a canopy painted with over-sized fruits, vegetables & flowers (one of the biggest pieces of art in the world). In one of the most unique aspects of the market, apartments & condos line the outside walls, creating a unique mixed use space.  Progressive snacking across various vendors would be the perfect way to spend the afternoon. Make sure & fill up at Cromwijk Kaasdok for cheese (which can be vacuumed sealed & brought home with you), a detox water (water loaded up with fruit) from Heavenly Smoothies & Bram Ladage for a paper cone stuffed full of french fries with mayo.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

best cheese ever!
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Fenix Food Factory, located in a developing part of the city across the river, is tiny in comparison to Markthal but has a big heart. The 12 vendors have all banded together into a co-op, supporting each other & their various businesses. Rent a big wooden board from the main booth & take it around to each stall, creating a meal consisting of a few bites from each vendor. This unique arrangement ensures that everyone gets a piece of the business. Waterfront tables are perfect for an afternoon of picnicking.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

bakery inside Fenix Food Factory
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Get outside!

When you’re tired of eating, just across the water from Fenix is the sprawling waterfront lawn of the Hotel New York. This patch of green space is the perfect place to people & boat watch. The former Holland America Cruiseline headquarters is now home to a luxurious hotel & a great spot for napping, reading or sipping a glass of wine.

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Got an Extra Day?

Head to Kinderdijk! This UNESCO World Heritage site of 19 famous windmills is only a €8, 30 minute waterbus ride from Rotterdam. Rent a bike for the day in Rotterdam & hop on the waterbus with it for tourist-free touring in Kinderdijk. It makes for a lovely afternoon! If you’re feeling especially adventurous, continue on the waterbus to Dordrecht – the oldest city in Holland (a 60 minute waterbus ride).

(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Or, if it’s warm out, head to the beach! Hoek van Holland Strand is only a 30 minute subway ride out to the end of the line.

#LoveRotterdam

Sometimes known as the “city without a heart,” since the main square was bombed in WWII, but Rotterdam has bounced back as a vibrant, modern, accessible, walkable metropolis. After two days of exploring, I found plenty of heart in Rotterdam & its residents.

modern Dutch design is everywhere in Rotterdam
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Know if you go….

-U.S. credit cards which are chip & signature (vs chip & pin) do not work at the train station kiosks. Just head straight to the customer service center to purchase your train ticket.

– Amsterdam might get all the press for being progressive, but Rotterdam might take the cake: their current mayor is the first mayor of a large city in Holland who is both an immigrant & Muslim.

– Keep an eye out for the amazing public art & graffiti art around the city – it’s everywhere! A piece of public art was added in celebration for each completed street as the city was being rebuilt after the war.

awesome street art!
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Note: my time in Rotterdam was hosted by Visit Holland; however, all opinions here are my own. Rotterdam truly was lovely & when I return all of these places are definitely on my “must visit” list!

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Holland: First Thoughts http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/2017/06/holland-first-thoughts/ http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/2017/06/holland-first-thoughts/#comments Fri, 23 Jun 2017 13:01:35 +0000 http://myviewfromthemiddleseat.com/?p=7247 Last weekend, I had the pleasure of spending a whirlwind few days exploring the Netherlands as a guest of Visit Holland. Heading there with very little knowledge of the country meant that everything was a new discovery – which is exactly how I like to travel. One of the most densely populated countries in the world, […]

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Last weekend, I had the pleasure of spending a whirlwind few days exploring the Netherlands as a guest of Visit Holland. Heading there with very little knowledge of the country meant that everything was a new discovery – which is exactly how I like to travel. One of the most densely populated countries in the world, I spent time exploring four different parts of Holland* & while I only saw a fraction, I already know I can’t wait to go back. Here are my first thoughts on Holland:

1. It is Green!

I don’t know why it surprised me, but I was struck by the amount of green farmland stretching for vast distances between cities. It almost looked like Ireland – but totally flat. Dairy cows, horses & sheep dot the pastures & crops (mostly potatoes & sugar beets) fill the landscape.

Kinderdijk windmills, horses & cattle
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

2. Water is everywhere

Amsterdam’s canals are relatively well known, but I was immediately struck by how much of Holland’s land is surrounded by water. Canals, rivers & lakes cover nearly 20% of the country & the Dutch have become rather famous for their lifelong battle against the sea. A lot of water also means a lot of bridges, with draw bridges spanning – & stopping traffic – on even the busiest of roads. It was fascinating exploring parks created by flood management, historic windmills built to pump water out of farm land & entire villages adapting to their unique water situation.

Giethoorn: a small village thriving amongst the water since their farmland flooded centuries ago
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

3. Everyone Speaks Dutch

I realize this is relatively a “no duh” statement, but it surprised me that, outside of Amsterdam, almost no one speaks English on the streets. While visiting the small town of Dordrecht, the oldest city in Holland, we were likely the only Americans in town. While everyone speaks passable English – children learn it in school – reading menus, signs & information in Dutch was a wonderful travel challenge.

Dordrecht: lacking in Americans. Which is a good thing.
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

4. The Dutch laid back attitude is real – & awesome

Whenever traveling abroad, I’m always struck by how relatively hurried Americans are compared to the rest of the world. We drink our coffee to go, we eat at our desks, we’re in a rush to get to this place or that & we generally have no patience for slowing down. It was refreshing to be surrounded by a culture who embraces & sees the value in a slower pace in life. Sometimes this results in long wait times for service, especially at restaurants, which means being on a tight schedule can be maddening. I’d encourage visitors to adopt the Dutch phrase for it: ‘doe maar gewoon dan doe je al gel genoeg,’ which means “just act normal, that’s crazy enough.” I think I’ve found my new life motto…

Even if service in restaurants is a bit slow at times, the food is usually worth the wait
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

5. Holland is so much more than windmills, tulips & pot

Ask many Americans what they know about Holland & they’re likely to respond “windmills, tulips, marijuana & Anne Frank.” And while the windmills are breathtaking, they also serve an important purpose in keeping the country above water. Tulips are gorgeous for about two weeks a year, but flowers are actually expensive in the country itself. Learning about Anne Frank is critically important, but so is learning about the perserveince of the people of Rotterdam who faced terrible bombing in WWII. And Holland’s famous coffeeshops? Well, to each his own – but the Dutch definitely don’t visit them.

Don’t get my wrong: the windmills are amazing. But it’s important to understand their role in Holland’s history.
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

Holland is so much more than the cliche assumptions many people have about it & I can’t wait to share more about my experiences in Rotterdam’s thriving food scene, the neatly kept national parks of Weerribben-Wieden & Biesbisch, the town of Dordrecht where buildings are purposefully built on a slant & the Disney-Esque village of Gietheroon. Here’s a sneak peak of my adventures:

*Holland & The Netherlands technically cannot be used interchangeably, as many people do. North & South Holland are two of The Netherlands’ 12 provinces.

Note: I traveled around Holland as a guest of Visit Holland; however, all opinions & content are my own. They didn’t ask me to write nice things about them, but after this visit it would be difficult not to. 

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