Monday, August 15, 2011

9 Days, 4 Cities, 3 Countries, and 1 crazy 2 year old - Our Family Trip Part 1, Rotterdam

We just got back yesterday from our big family vacation and are going to try to update the blog quickly while it's still fresh in our minds.  Ideally, we would have liked to have booked a flat somewhere (in one location) for an entire week, but everyone else in Europe was also on vacation last week.  Anything that was available was really expensive.  So, like the crazy parents we are, we decided to book hotels in three different cities with our 2 year old monster in tow.  Dylan was good for our 5 day trip to Berlin in April, so we decided to push our luck and proceeded to book a 9 day and 8 night vacation spanning 4 cities and 3 countries.  Oscar stayed in Borken with a friend.

The first stop on our itinerary was Rotterdam, Netherlands, a city that we knew nothing about.  We chose Rotterdam for no particular reason other than it was in between Borken and Brussels (our second stop) and based on Google searches, it seemed like a decent place to kick off our holiday.  We could have gone to Amsterdam, but we've "been there, done that" and weren't really interested in going back.

Rotterdam turned out to be very cool.  We stayed at the Novotel Hotel near Erasmus University and were just a short walk to the metro station, and 5 stops away from the city center.  Rotterdam has a variety of open air, pedestrian malls, all pretty close together.  The most popular one is The Beursplein and is very large and has all the typical European commercial establishments we've come to expect (aka: an H&M every 100 meters).  There was also the Lijnbaan, which I promptly pointed out to Bryan as we window shopped, "This was the very first outdoors pedestrian walking mall in the world," a fact that I learned while researching the city, to which Bryan scrunched up his face, slid imaginary glasses up his nose and said "Ohhh, really?" in his 'nerdy' voice.  We also enjoyed walking up Nieuwe Binnenweg, which has a nice eclectic mix of shops and bars.

Bryan and Dylan walking through the Beursplein.

A popular brand and store in Europe ... this explains why skinny jeans and capri pants are so popular for men here - they shop at Sissy-Boy.

Walking along the river in Rotterdam.
In the evening of our first night, as we were walking into the train station someone came out and kindly told us that there has been a security threat in the train station in the city center and all the metro trains were shut down, therefore we had to walk.  So, we walked a long way and ended up hungry and near the city center just as it began to pour down rain and we realized Dylan's rain jacket and our umbrella were still packed in the hotel room. We took shelter in a local park and got a pizza, and wandered around in the rain before taking the light-rail (apparently not affected by the metro bomb scare) back to the hotel.  It turned out that some unlucky traveller had forgotten their suitcase in the train terminal and the Rotterdam police took extreme precautions to ensure it was not an explosive.
We did come across the famous Rotterdam Cube Houses which, although cool to look at, seem painfully awkward to live in. 

On Sunday, we spent the morning walking around the Delfshaven neighborhood, which is like Rotterdam's "Old Town."  This area of town was spared from being completely bombed during WWII, so many of the buildings are very old.  Being the dork that I am, I also pointed out to Bryan that this is where the original Pilgrims set out from on their journey to America.  Unfortunately, their original boat, the Speedwell, was very leaky and barely made it to England where they all transferred to the more famous Mayflower. He didn't appreciate the history lesson, but I like to know these details about the places we visit.  Delfshaven was really my favorite place in Rotterdam.  The old architecture and canals reminded me of Amsterdam, but without the prostitutes and drugged up tourists.

Delfshaven, Rotterdam, Netherlands

The Pilgrim's Father's Church - they held their last service here in 1640 before setting off on the Speedwell to America.

Bryan trying to hold Dylan still enough to take a photo.

Dylan was enamored with this old blue car and really wanted a picture with it. 

"Onward to America!"

Delfshaven architecture.

Running through the streets of Delfshaven.

Finally, it's not raining!

Being a rascal, as usual.

The old windmill.  Dylan calls this a "Big Fan!" 

Inside The Pelgrim brewery and bar.  Bryan got a "Dylan-free" hour in the bar to sample some original brews while I chased Dylan around Delfshaven.  
Being a Sunday, we were expecting to only be able to walk around and window shop, but to our delight and surprise around noon everything opened up.  All of the retail shops in the shopping centers opened from noon to 6 and even the grocery stores were open!  Bryan even took Dylan for an hour and I got to shop alone and uninterrupted - what a gift!

We missed Oscar (who stayed with a friend). But he wasn't too far from our thoughts.  This cute statue even has a characteristic "poo" pile that's easy to trip on if you're not paying attention, much like regular dog poo left on the sidewalk.

These creepy street performers were everywhere.  We stood and debated whether or not this was a fake or real.    After a couple minutes of analyzing, I dared Bryan to touch him.  It turned out to be a really cool place to lock your bike.

After two good nights of sleep, we checked out of our hotel on Monday morning and moved on to our next destination, Brussels Belgium.