June in Rotterdam and Northern Ireland

Old Nov 1st, 2019, 09:04 AM
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June in Rotterdam and Northern Ireland

I'm very tardy with this trip report, and I feel that I must post it before my next trip, which is coming up soon. When planning this trip, I had extensive and very useful help from Menachem and others. I try my best to offer practical help people who are traveling to my neck of the woods in Italy, but I know that trip reports are also very helpful.

By the way, I once read that “neck of the woods” derives from a old Dutch word which meant (roughly) neighborhood. However, I've never found any confirmation of this. The modern Dutch word for neigborhood (buurt) is nothing like “neck”. I did see that in Middle Dutch the word for neighbor is naghebuur, which is a possibility. I don't know if Menachem can shed any light on this.

Our original intention was to visit Northern Ireland, where I have many relatives. I had planned a visit for 2020, but one of my favourite cousins has been rather unwell, and I decided to go earlier. When searching flights from our home in Italy, I saw that many flights to Belfast had stopovers in Amsterdam. I lived in Rotterdam in 1986, and worked in the Hague, so I thought it would be nice to pass a few days in my old haunts in Rotterdam en route. I've been back to the Netherlands a few times since, but never got back to Rotterdam. (By the way, “old haunts” derives from the Old French hanter, which means “to frequent”.)

When I lived in the Netherlands, I was a single mother, working full time. I didn't have a lot of time for sightseeing, and, since I had never been to Europe before, I wanted to see some other countries as well. Every weekend, I tried to visit some part of the Netherlands, but we quickly had some favorite places where we returned often. On long holidays, I tried to plan a trip to some other country. For someone who spent considerable time in the Netherlands, I really saw very little.

My husband leaves all the trip planning to me, and I try hard to make our trips enjoyable for him. He has been to Northern Ireland with me three times, and I know it's a bit of a trial for him, because inevitably I spend a lot of time with family, and he struggles with English. Add in the Ulster accents, and he is really not able to keep up with the conversation. I try to balance family visits with plenty of time alone together, so he can converse in his native tongue. For this reason, I thought the time in the Netherlands should include a lot of things that would interest my husband, although I did want to visit where I used to live, where I used to work, and the lovely little house in the Hague where I housesat for a month. Still, it was a trip largely centered on my interests, and I'm very grateful to have married a good sport.

In my next post, I'll cover some of the logistics: transportation and lodging.





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Old Nov 1st, 2019, 10:39 AM
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I guess the poor guy also found three types of potatoes for every meal a bit trying.

On for the ride
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Old Nov 2nd, 2019, 03:39 AM
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Actually, Bilbo, we generally eat pretty well in Northern Ireland these days. Even my relatives have diversified their cuisine. My elderly great-aunt served quiche, of all things, for tea the last time we were there, 13 years ago. (She's now quite frail and doesn't cook any more.)

When I was a child, we ate potatoes with every meal except breakfast. (That exception was the result of the Americanization of my parents, who had discovered corn flakes.) They were boiled potatoes, with an occasional exception of mashed potatoes on Sunday or fried potatoes when my mother took a whim.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2019, 03:55 AM
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Transportation
I started out with the hope that I could find a direct flight to Northern Ireland from somewhere in Italy. It turns out, there is no such route. Then I tried various options for direct flights to Dublin, or nondirect flights to Belfast. I had no specific dates in mind, but we had to be home by the third week in June, because my daughter and granddaughter were coming to visit.

To search for imprecise trips like this, I like to use www.skyscanner.net . You can specify your destination as, for example, “Spain”, and your departure point as “Italy”. You can give your travel dates as “June”. Using Skyscanner, I found a flight from Bologna to Amsterdam (Schiphol) on Easyjet, and from Amsterdam to Belfast on KLM. On the way back, we had almost three hours to make the connection, but I got a travel insurance policy to insure the connection, since the flight was with two different airlines and not on the same ticket.

We nearly missed the flight to Amsterdam, because of unusually heavy rain, which caused our train to Bologna to be greatly delayed. Then there was an announcement that all northbound trains were cancelled, as the tracks were flooded. We would have had to take a train to Rimini, which would arrive at some unspecified time, and another train from there to Bologna. I was sure we were going to miss our flight. However, another passenger had urgent need to get to Bologna, so we called a taxi and shared it. It was about half an hour's ride to the train station, and we got the airport shuttle from there.

The irony that we found lovely weather in the Netherlands, while back home in Italy there were multiple deluges, didn't escape us.

From Schiphol, we took a direct train to Rotterdam Blaak station. From there we could have walked or taken a tram to ur hotel, but we took a taxi. On the way back, we took the tram.

After our stay in Rotterdam, we flew on to Belfast International Airport. From there, we took a bus to Omagh, changing in central Belfast. In Omagh, one of my cousins met us at the bus station and took us to the Enterprise car rental agency. I believe this is the only major rental agency in this area, and they were very professional and helpful, beyond what one would expect. They told us to call them when we heading back to Omagh to turn in the car, and they would make sure to have an extra person on duty to bring us back to the bus station. After turning in the car, we took the bus back to Belfast International Airport for our flight home. We flew back to Bologna, with a stopover in Schiphol.

While in the Netherlands, we used public transportation exclusively, except for one organized day trip. The Netherlands has one of the most extensive and functional public transportation systems I've ever seen. When I lived there, I usually counted on going to the train station without even checking the schedules, with the certainty that I would get a train in less than half an hour. Much credit goes to the Dutch government for this, but it also helps that the Netherlands is a very densely populated country. I once tried to explain to a Danish student why it would be impossible to have trains or buses every 20 minutes in most of the USA .

In Northern Ireland, especially the part where my extended family lives, public transportation is rather scarse. You can get from major town to major town, sometimes with several changes of bus. When my sister visits family there, she usually depends on relatives to drive her around, but we prefer to rent a car.

Usually, when we're in an English speaking country, I do all the driving, because my husband isn't fluent in English, and I'm not fast enough at translating road signs to Italian. This leads to heated discussions at times, so it's better that I just drive. This time, to my shock, when we went to rent the car, I realized that my license had expired several months earlier. So my husband, rather reluctantly, signed on as the principal (and only) driver. It had been quite a while since he had driven on the left, but he did very well. Even though he is over age 75, there was no surcharge, and none of the fitness-to-drive certification that someone (Progol?) recently reported at a car rental agency in Dublin.

We always request automatic trasmission when we rent cars in Ireland or the UK, on the assumption that shifting with the left hand adds another complicato to driving on the left. This makes the rental more expensive, but usually not outrageously so. I've never had a problem with driving on the left, and think I could handle the standard trasmission, but my husband prefers the automatic.

Last edited by bvlenci; Nov 2nd, 2019 at 04:18 AM.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2019, 05:39 AM
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I am so interested in your NI report. I don't think potatoes are served as much anymore. Irish food is very good and the pub food is even changing.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2019, 10:04 AM
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I made a mistake: This trip was in late May, not June. That's what happens when you don't post a timely trip report. I wish I could edit the title.

Last edited by bvlenci; Nov 2nd, 2019 at 11:00 AM.
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Old Nov 12th, 2019, 11:04 PM
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Just saying what a pleasure it was to meet you and Marcello and have dinner together.
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 01:34 PM
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I got sidetracked by my complicated life and never finished this trip report. I had originally planned to give a blow-by.blow account of our trip, but now I just want to cover the highlights, because it would be a shame not to mention some of the delightful experiences we had, including meeting Menachem, who helped us enormously in the planning of the trip.

We got to Rotterdam by direct train from Schiphol Airport; we changed trains at Rotterdam Centraal to Rotterdam Blaak. From there we took a taxi to the Student Hotel. We could have gone all the way from Rotterdam Centraal by train, but I'm always concerned that I'll be meandering around in the vicinity of an unfamiliar street corner with suitcases. It turned out to be a very easy trip by tram, and we took the tram on our way back to the airport.

I lived in Rotterdam in 1986, which is why I chose to visit this city. I was back several times, but not in the past 30 years. The city was almost unrecognizable since I last saw it. In 1986, I would say that it had a slightly stodgy air, but now it's a modern, vibrant city. The Student Hotel is not right in the center. I had chosen it because it was not far from where I used to live.

The Student Hotel really was full of students. I felt as though we were twice the age of the oldest of the other guests. I have a feeling that many of the students live there during the term, The whole first floor was given over to various meeting rooms, workspaces, offices, and conference rooms, all full of industrious young people, at all times of the day. There was a maze of hallways to get from the reception desk to the stairs that led to the rooms. All the walls and doors, and even the walls of the rooms, were decorated with odd little aphorisms, such as, "Like everybody" and "Never say nothing". I found these rather irritating after a while. I don't like being told what to do, anyway, and being told who I should like and what I should say doesn't bring out the best in me. If I see a sign in my room that says, "KIck off your shoes", I get an urge to sleep with my shoes on. (I didn't, though.) Anyway, the room was very basic, but comfortable, as was the bed.

There was a breakfast bar, and a cafeteria/restaurant. We ate at the breakfast bar every morning. We once ate dinner at the restaurant, but the service was interminably slow, and the menu was not very interesting. For one thing, there seemed to be elaborate flirtations going on between the wait staff and the diners, and these seemed to take priority over service. The same thing, to a lesser extent, was sometimes a problem at the reception desk.



Last edited by bvlenci; Jan 7th, 2020 at 01:40 PM.
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 02:11 PM
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Missed this first time around, so am catching up.

You may find this interesting: https://www.theguardian.com/notesand....html%E2%80%8E
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 02:19 PM
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On Tuesday the 14th of May, our first full day in Rotterdam, we visited Delft and the Hague. Delft is on the way to the Hague, and my children and I often went there on the weekend. Delft had changed less than Rotterdam since my last visit, and I enjoyed seeing it. There were other Dutch cities I liked even better, but my husband has seen very little of the Netherlands, and Delft is an iconic Dutch city, so a good choice for our limited time. We walked from the station into the center, and to the Markt, the large market square, with the Nieuwe Kerk (new church) at one end, and the Stadhuis (state house) at the other.

After visiting the Nieuwe Kerk, we had lunch at one of the restaurants in the square, as my children and I used to do very often. They both loved to order a Croque Monsieur or a Croque Madame, but since I don't care for either of those, I passed on those. After lunch, we visited the Oude Kerk, which is obviously even older than the Nieuwe Kerk. They are both beautiful and interesting churches.

After walking around Delft a little bit, we walked back to the station and got the train to The Hague. While I was living in Rotterdam, I worked in the Hague, and while I was there I housesat for a month for a colleague who had a very cute little house on a canal in the Hague. I really liked living there, and the Hague became perhaps my favorite Dutch city. Before this trip, I contacted this colleague to get the address, which I had forgot. The house is still there, but somewhat dwarfed by a new adjacent building, and enclosed behind an iron fence that wasn't there 30 years ago, Everything seemed vaguely familiar, but different.

My cute little house is very near the Mauritshuis Museum, one of many world-class museums in the Netherlands, with an exceptional collection of paintings by the great masters of the Dutch Golden Age. We spent a few hours there, and before leaving, we had a little snack in the museum's Brasserie. I can highly recommend this restaurant, but I don't remember what we ordered.

By now, we had done a lot of walking and exploring, taking our time, and it was getting late. I had very much wanted to hear a live carillon concert, and one was scheduled that afternoon not far from the Mauritshuis, but it was too late to get there in time by the time we left the Mauritshuis. I had also wanted to see the Panorama Mesdag, which for one reason or another I had never seen when I lived so near to it. However, we were tired by now and decided to head back to Rotterdam. A museum visit always tires me more than a long walk, because the slow walking, and the standing still to admire works of art, are very hard on my legs. My Mifit band said we had walked 10 km (about six miles) already this day and we still had to walk back to the station.

Last edited by bvlenci; Jan 7th, 2020 at 02:24 PM.
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 02:20 PM
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I wanted to upload a few photos, but I don't seem to be able to do it. When I click on the little "Upload" icon, nothing happens.
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 02:38 PM
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Thanks, Hetismej, for the etymological speculation about the meaning of "neck" in the geographical sense. There are a lot of place names containing "neck" in southern New York state, which was a Dutch colony, which made me think the Dutch origin might be plausible. However, many of the names were given by English settlers to places that originally had a different Dutch name. Some of these places, such as Throg's Neck, are on peninsulas, but others, such as Teaneck don't have any particular neck-like features.
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Old Jan 7th, 2020, 10:36 PM
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Originally Posted by bvlenci View Post
Thanks, Hetismej, for the etymological speculation about the meaning of "neck" in the geographical sense. There are a lot of place names containing "neck" in southern New York state, which was a Dutch colony, which made me think the Dutch origin might be plausible. However, many of the names were given by English settlers to places that originally had a different Dutch name. Some of these places, such as Throg's Neck, are on peninsulas, but others, such as Teaneck don't have any particular neck-like features.
I read: "from Algonquin "nayak", a fishing place. Teaneck seems to have been "Tene - Neck", from "tenen": willows
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 06:45 AM
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The piece from the Guardian posted by Hetismij also mentioned the Algonquin hypothesis, but almost mentioned that "neck", meaning a strip of land, was used in England already in the 16th century. If so, it casts a serious doubt on the Algonquin origin. Teaneck is definitely not a strip of land, but maybe it was when it was named.
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Old Jan 10th, 2020, 02:48 AM
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I've found that I can upload photos from Windows, but not from my Android tablet. Here are a few from the Student Hotel and surrounding area.



One of the inscrutable mottos that covered the walls and doors of the Student Hotel



Blaak station was the closest rail station to the Student Hotel. This is where we arrived from the airport, changing at Rotterdam Centraal.

Blaak station, Rotterdam


Rotterdam's famous cube houses are just outside Blaak station.

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Old Jan 11th, 2020, 01:33 AM
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All in my hood, haha.
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Old Jan 11th, 2020, 12:46 PM
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Or, in your neck of the woods, if you please.
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Old Jan 11th, 2020, 02:28 PM
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Photos from Delft


The Nieuwe Kerk, on the Markt Square, Delft



A canal in Delft, framed by horse chesnuts in bloom
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Old Jan 11th, 2020, 10:20 PM
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Originally Posted by bvlenci View Post
Or, in your neck of the woods, if you please.

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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 12:35 PM
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Kinderdijk windmills

The next day, a Wednesday. we went to Kinderdijk, where there are a great many windmills, some still functional. This is another place I never managed to visit when I was living in Rotterdam. I'm sure my kids would have enjoyed it.

We took the metro to Wilhelminaplein, based on some less-than-accurate instructions. When we got out of the metro station, there was no "You are here" map, nor any sort of neighborhood information. It was a neighborhood of office buildings, and I didn't even see a shop where we could ask for information. Ww walked a bit and came to the enormous harbor, with an enormous bridge that crossed to the other side.


The Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam

I asked a few people in this vicinity, but the first few had no idea where the waterbus departure dock was. Google maps indicated that it was on the other side of the bridge, which was a very long bridge. Even when we got to the other side, it wasn't obvious where we were to go, even with the aid of Google maps. Eventually, we found the Waterbus and caught a direct boat to Kinderdijk. (The direct boats don't operate year round. Otherwise, you have to change at Ridderkerk.)

The boat trip through the harbor was very interesting, with all sorts of boats, ships, and barges. There was even a replica of Noah's Ark along the banks of the river, with a giraffe in the prow.


Part of the Rotterdam harbor


Kinderdijk is quite the tourist attraction, but there is lots of space there, so it doesn't seem crowded.We walked along the path that passed maybe half a dozen windmills. One has been turned into a museum, with exhibits of a household living in a mill, and information about the history of the windmills.


Kinderdijk



Before returning to Rotterdam, we had coffee and apple cake (something I remember fondly from the days when I lived in Rotterdam) at the coffee shop/snack bar at the ferry landing. The ferry goes on to Dordrecht after stopping at Kinderdijk. Dordrecht is a lovely town with an old harbor. I had seen it before, but wouldn't have minded seeing it again. Menachem had also mentioned a nature reserve we could visit near Dordrecht, and that sounded very interesting. However, I wanted to visit the neighborhood where I used to live, and I wasn't sure we'd have time the next day, our last in the Netherlands. So we headed back to Rotterdam.

Really, one could spend a week in Rotterdam and barely scratch the surface of things to see and do.

Last edited by bvlenci; Jan 12th, 2020 at 12:38 PM.
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