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Yvonne and Mike, are back on the road and this time they stopped over in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. Once again they were kind enough to share their experience while on an exchange.
Our recent swap to Rotterdam has made us appreciate just what close neighbours Britain and Holland really are.
The distance between our home in Leigh-on-sea and Rotterdam in a straight line is 165 miles.
In 35 minutes, just a little more time than it takes us to commute to London, we hopped on an EasyJet flight from our local airport and crossed the sea to another country and another culture.
We had heard people say that Amsterdam is the city full of canals and Rotterdam exists of only concrete architecture so we were pleased to soon find there are many beautiful historic parts of the city, including Delfshaven, Rotterdam’s historical harbour, and the modern architecture we found generally to be really quirky and exciting.
We discovered a few other interesting things about the city that we didn’t know. That Rotterdam is the only city in the Netherlands with a skyline and crossing the Erasmus bridge over the Maas in Rotterdam, you get a great view of this.
In fact, each day we were surprised at just how very interesting and enjoyable the city was and how it came alive especially in the summer.
The SS Rotterdam from the Holland-America Line is now a hotel and there is a pool on one of the roof terraces, which you can enter for free!
It also has great outdoorsy nightlife, the street bar De Witte Aap at the Witte de Withstraat in Rotterdam had been named the best bar in the world.
It was a real treat to meet our hosts Helen and Rob in their stylish Rotterdam home. (It’s not always possible to meet your hosts, but in this case, they lived downstairs from their top floor, self-contained apartment which acts as their exchange property.) And while Rob’s daughter enjoyed Leigh on Sea and London whilst staying at our home, we spent our second evening drinking strange Dutch brews and laughing about our cultural similarities and differences. Spending the evening with Helen and Rob felt so easy and familiar – it was like nipping next door to share a drink with a neighbour. And it made house swapping seem like the most natural thing in the world to do. It’s such a unique way to experience a country and get a sense of what it would be like to actually live there.
This familiarity was compounded the next day whilst strolling along a back street towards the Markthal, when we saw someone approaching us who looked like the spitting image of our next door neighbour back home. It was only when he stopped to look at us and said “Hello you two, fancy meeting you here,” that we realised it really was Adam, our next door neighbour. He was on business and was about to catch his flight back. He was amused to hear that he might well encounter some alternative next door neighbours when he returned to Leigh on Sea that evening.
So thanks, Rotterdam, you’ve made us appreciate our neighbours even more. Both our friendly, easy going neighbour in Leigh on Sea, and our forward thinking and quirky Dutch neighbour across the sea.
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