June in Rotterdam and Northern Ireland

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.

bvlenci is online now  
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
bilboburgler is offline  
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.
bvlenci is online now  
Nov 2nd, 2019, 03:55 AM
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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.
bvlenci is online now  
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.
Macross is offline  
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.
bvlenci is online now  
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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