First up, if you missed Part One of the (newly named) Dutch Diaries, you can check out some big organs, big dunes, and a big (but fun) tourist trap HERE.
But if you’re ready to hop on the train and head into Part Two….all aboard!
Saying Goodbye to Haarlem
After four nights in Haarlem, it was time to hop the train to chug chug chug along down to Delft for the next eight nights of our First European Adventure in Far Too Long.
I’ll get to the delights of Delft in a later post, but if you’re wondering why we opted to stay there for so long, it’s because it’s a great spot for day trips.
Yes, there are more convenient spots. Rotterdam is far more central with better connections. Even Den Haag (The Hague) is more connected, meaning fewer chances of having to change trains part way through a journey. However, the more day trips we did to these “more convenient” places, the more I was glad we opted to stay in Delft.
Again, more on Delft soon….and yes, that was a teaser…mwahahahha!
We took three day trips from Delft. We had planned on doing more, but ended up finding so much to do in Delft (and liking the town so much), we simply didn’t bother to leave much.
Note: because one of the day trips was a LOONNGG day out, I’m only covering two of our excursions this time around. Yes, that was another teaser : )
Day Trip #1: Living It Up In Leiden
From that subheading, the super geniuses amongst you will have gathered that our first day trip out of Delft was to Leiden…about a twenty-minute train ride away.
Now, Leiden is chockfull of amazing museums, including a really interesting looking archaeology museum, a natural history museum, art museums, and a botanical garden.
We did none of these.
Because basically, we showed up to Leiden with no clue as to what we wanted to do.
As I’ve said, it’s been a while since we’ve traveled to Europe, so I guess we’d forgotten how to do things in the three years since our last European adventure.
However, right when we entered the town, well, it was hard to miss this attraction…
That’s right, it’s another windmill.
This one is called Molen de Valk (the Falcon). It was built in 1785 (although there’s been a windmill here since 1611) and if you’re wondering why it’s so weirdly tall, it’s because it had to be high enough for the blades to clear the town wall (I hope they didn’t figure that one out the hard way).
The lower portion is where the windmill keeper lived…and is actually pretty cozy inside…wouldn’t mind settling in myself.
You can climb up and up the “stairs” (normal people would call them ladders)….
…to view the grain-grinding giant stones, giant vats, and giant gears….
…and you can keep on climbing to the exterior platform, which is a good way to burn off breakfast, but honestly, the views of Leiden from there aren’t going to be gracing any postcards anytime soon.
Curse You, Rick Steves!
Once we’d made our way down the “stairs”, it was time to explore Leiden….sort of.
See, we’d ripped a self-guided walking tour of Leiden out from a Rick Steves guidebook. The tour points out all kinds of old buildings you should notice, explains what might have happened on certain streets, and all sorts of interesting historical and architectural tidbits.
If you can follow the damn directions.
Which we barely could.
And it’s not that we’re stupid or can’t read a map. It’s because Rick gives instructions like “go down the tree-lined street”….at an intersection where every street you could pick is tree-lined!!!
Needless to say, we did a lot of backtracking.
But I did get this very postcard-worthy shot along one of the canals….
And a nice little snap of the Kerkbrug Bridge…a cast iron bridge built in 1867.
We also happened to be in Leiden during market day and spent far too much time ogling the cheap produce, baked goods, and tasty nibbles. So many nibbles…
Leiden Travel Tip:
If you’d rather not be confused and confounded on a Rick Steves walking tour of Leiden, pop into the Tourist Office when you get to town and ask out about their guided tours…your feet will thank you!
Day Trip #3: Getting Modern in Rotterdam
(Again, stayed tuned for Day Trip #2)
With all these old churches, old windmills, old canals, and old bridges over the old canals, you could be lured into thinking there’s nothing new in the Netherlands.
And that’s when you head into Rotterdam.
Rotterdam’s only a 10-minute train ride away from Delft, and is about as modern as you can get with architects trying to outdo each other with inventive and kooky designs.
See, Rotterdam was bombed to smithereens by the Germans back in World War II. Plenty of other Dutch cities felt their fair share of bombs during the war, but many opted to rebuild in the traditional style.
Not Rotterdam. It’s like all those architects finally got to play. And play they did.
One of these playful bits is known as the Cube Houses.
And to be honest, these funky houses were my main reason for wanting to go to Rotterdam…especially when I found out you could go in one…for only three euro!
These homes (yes, they are really houses that real people live in) were designed by Piet Boom in the 1970s and are all titled at a 45-degree angle (don’t worry, the floors inside are all perfectly level).
You’ve got to be ready to climb A LOT of stairs and to plan for some interesting furniture placement, but if that doesn’t bother you, one was for sale when we were there.
Rotterdam also has an amazing super modern library with something like seven levels of bookish goodies that I could have spent hours wandering through.
There’s also the Market Hall (Markthal), which although it’s got a nice mural on the ceiling…
…was kind of disappointing.
I was expecting something more like Vancouver, BC’s, Granville Market or Cork’s English Market that feature all kinds of produce stands, bakeries, cheese vendors, etc, plus a few cafes.
But the Markthal (except for one grocery store below) had no vendors and was literally nothing but restaurants and fast food places and a whole lot of chaos of people waiting in line for their food.
We wandered around a bit, looked at a few menus, and then just left to hop the train back to Delft.
If you go to Rotterdam and really only want to see the cube houses, library, and Markthal, do NOT get off the train at Rotterdam’s Central station (which is about 4km from the cube houses). instead, get off at the Rotterdam Blaak station. Once you come up the steps from the station, you’re smack dab in the heart of the architectural fun!
There’s More to Come!
That’s it for now. I’ll be back with more Dutch Diaries soon to share with you that second day trip and to gush about the delights of Delft.
Have you been to Rotterdam or Leiden? What did you think? How lost have you gotten on a self-guided tour? Would you want to live in a cube house? Pop a comment below!
Type at you soon!
Be sure to introduce yourself to Mrs Morris & Mort in my FREE short story Mrs Morris Meets Death
LET’S STAY IN TOUCH!
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