The Netherlands – Dutch treat!
Rotterdam – A home exchange within a home exchange
He said: Very nice home exchange, but we should have planned more time to explore the area.
She said: Lots to see! Make sure you have coins (euro) for the public rest areas.
Our home exchange to Belgium was all set for nearly 4 weeks in a small town near Antwerp. A family from Rotterdam saw our schedule on our Home Exchange profile and wondered if we wanted to visit them for a few days in exchange for them coming to visit us in Colorado in 2014. Well, that worked out great since we were hoping to visit Amsterdam which is easier as a day trip from Rotterdam. After a little more research, we saw that there is plenty to do near Rotterdam. So let’s do it.
Weary travelers. We arrived in Rotterdam (named after the damming of the river Rot) after a very fun 3 day road trip through the Mosel Valley of Germany, a whirlwind tour of Luxembourg, and a highlight stop in charming Riquewihr, France to visit friends from Switzerland. We were definitely road weary after about 7 hours driving from France with rain splash-back most of the way.
We arrived to find a beautiful, classic row house – tall and skinny – 3 stories tall but only about 20 feet wide – with steep narrow stairs between floors and a lovely duck-filled canal along the front.
More importantly, we liked our hosts instantly – a family of three – Arend, Birte and 4 year old daughter. Birte had a yummy, home-cooked, Dutch dinner ready for us (and local beer too). After her initial shyness, their cute little blonde munchkin took to Sheila like her favorite aunt. Maybe she was fascinated by the fact that she’ll probably be taller than Sheila before her 5th birthday. We stayed in their comfortable Rotterdam home for 3 nights. This was a hospitality exchange – meaning we were their guests while they stayed at home, but they were gone a lot since one of their sisters was having a baby!
From Rotterdam, so many sites to see. We chose:
North Sea Beaches
After all that driving, it was time for a relaxing afternoon on the beach. The air was just warm enough to be comfortable, but the water was frigid. Plenty of Dutch natives thought it was good enough for swimming, but we only got our feet in.
Famous for its blue pottery and dinnerware. Unfortunately for Sheila (fortunately for Tom), we arrived as shops were closing…too late to buy any blue stuff. She had 10 minutes to find a Christmas ornament and she did! The town was very picturesque, and dinner was yummy.
Home to the largest concentration of functioning traditional windmills anywhere. These windmills were very well-maintained and it is a requirement of ownership that the owners live in them. Walking paths and boat tours give easy access. We had fun getting artsy with the photography of windmills, marshes, and reflections.
Every travel list says this is a must-see city. Sheila had been there once before and enjoyed a symphony rehearsal and tulip markets. Maybe we were just having a bad day, but we wouldn’t rate it very high. It’s possible that we were spoiled by recent visits to Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, and even Delft. We found Amsterdam to be noisy, crowded, and less clean than other Dutch and Belgian cities. There were certainly highlights – the Anne Frank house/ museum merits a visit (and is very sobering); just be sure to plan something fun and upbeat afterward. The red light district is interesting, but we preferred the Red Wine District! The canal boat tour let us see more of the off-the-beaten track areas…and kiss under De Magere Brug (which means our love will last forever!).
The highlight of our Amsterdam visit was in the Red Wine District where we stumbled upon an excellent Italian restaurant (Il Pacioccone) and Sheila’s smile got her an invitation to the kitchen (and a phone number!). Once again, it’s good thing Tom’s not the jealous type.
Strangely, we had very little time left to actually see the highlights of Rotterdam itself. Rotterdam is a modern and industrial town – actually one of the biggest seaports in the world, which is why it was bombed relentlessly during WWII. There aren’t many historical sites remaining. Tours of the seaport would be interesting, maybe next time.
We enjoyed our Netherlands home exchange and want to explore more, perhaps further north
Our new Rotterdam friends visited us here in Denver in April of 2014 as part of their visit to the USA. While here, they toured the Denver Aquarium, saw a Colorado Rockies baseball game at Coors Field (their first live baseball), and toured Colorado Springs, including Garden of the Gods. We later enjoyed their stories as they traveled in other parts of the USA. To see the little blonde girl from The Netherlands sporting her western boots and skirts was beyond precious!
RTG Helpful Hints
- We highly recommend our hosts! View Rotterdam Home Exchange profile.
Trip Date: August 2013