A jaunt across the North Sea: part 1 – Rotterdam

For our main May minibreak we took the leisurely way out of the country, on a daytime ferry sailing from Harwich to the Hook of Holland. A lovely restful start – ok, we could have done it more quickly but we are fortunate that time is not an issue.

Sliding past the familiar sights of Harwich and Felixstowe, in flat calm conditions, and at first a little warm sunshine, we were on our way….

… but before long, cloud and mist settled around us adding an ethereality to the Roughs Tower and the Greater Gabbard Wind Farm, its giant turbines in stately motion despite the light winds.

Only as we headed past the Maasvlakte container port did the sun re-emerge. From there into port and straight onto the equally restful half-hour metro ride, past lights and onshore turbines.

Disembarking in the middle of Rotterdam, all of that changed. From placid calm to raucous street life in a matter of seconds. It was Saturday evening, a warm one at that, and we were staying in Witte De Withstraat, which we later learned was the ‘liveliest’ street in the city. Quite the contrast!

But just a block or two away down by the docks relative serenity returned, time to eat a great Italian, to appreciate the historic boats alongside new development, including the quirky Cube Houses and the amazing almost-cylindrical Markthal, the inner wall of which is occupied by what is claimed at 11,000 m2 in extent as the largest artwork in the world,  Horn of Plenty by Arno Coenen and Iris Roskam.

At this point, serendipity swept in as Jude recognized the artwork as the self-same pattern as on the shirt I wore when we got married, exactly eight years ago to that very day!

Next morning, early, while the revellers still slept we walked the streets and chanced upon the museum quarter. It was sculpture that drew us close; we then got sucked in by the sound of Egyptian Geese serenading us from every tall building, and competing for soundspace with the equally strident Rose-ringed Parakeets and Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

Here were more remarkable buildings, especially the silvered bowl-shaped Boijmans van Beuningen Museum Depot. Its mirrors present an ever-changing panorama of the city skyline, one we thought at first must be painted on.

Around it there were other museums and galleries …

… all set amid the ecological plantings of the museum gardens …

… which include ponds and marshes, with Water-hawthorn, Water Crowfoot, Spiked Water-milfoil and Sweet Flag in flower …

… and Small China-mark moths and damselflies (Azure and Blue-tailed) together with hundreds of dragonfly exuviae. But no sign of the dragons themselves, apart from later on a Green-eyed Hawker cruising the shopping precinct.

From there it was into the older, landscaped Het Park, now overlooked by the Euromast, and a lovely brunch. Just half a day here meant we could not even start to cover it properly, so we didn’t try. Instead we resolved to return, maybe next year, armed with a Museum Pass to really get to know the area properly – including the enticing roof garden on the Depot.

But time was pressing, so it was through the city centre, past all manner of modern edifices (Rotterdam was flattened by both sides during WW2) to the most remarkable of all, the metallic golden Centraal Station, and from there the hour-long train ride to Antwerp…