Hello and welcome to this week’s blog post, which as promised, is a little more special than usual. I’ve been on my travels again, and though it was only a short break away, I’ve got plenty of stories to share, all the way from the stylish city of Rotterdam! Read on to hear all about the sights, the travelling, and the incredible foods from my trip away, and how I’ve been inspired by the experience!
Rise and shine! We headed the airport first thing on a drizzly Tuesday morning, and couldn’t wait to escape the rain. It was a smooth and swift journey to the Netherlands, where a speedy transfer from Amsterdam Schipol Airport landed us right in the heart of Rotterdam. A quick wander around the local area confirmed that we’d chosen a great city for our adventure – with stunning architecture, cosy cafés and a buzzing atmosphere surrounding us. And the sun was shining to top it off! We couldn’t stay long though, as our Airbnb host was awaiting our arrival, and after a short ride on the local tram, we found ourselves in a lively neighbourhood at our beautiful rented apartment.
Now this was to be our first time using an Airbnb, so despite the scores of 5 star reviews for our chosen apartment, I couldn’t help but be a little anxious about what to expect. My fears were cast well aside when Peter (a warm and welcoming perfectionist of a host) introduced us to his traditional apartment with a twist – the twist being an abundance of incredible high-end and homely touches. We couldn’t have felt any more at home, with a sparkling kitchen, suave lounge/dining room, comfortable double room and luxurious bathroom all to ourselves! And it was much-needed after a full day of travelling! Following a simple dinner thrown together with supplies from the local shop, we settled down for the evening and prepared for a big day of exploring.
We began our first full day in Rotterdam with a short trip to our local supermarket (Albert Heijn – our top choice convenience store) to pick up fresh supplies for breakfast. For me, it was absolute heaven! – Dutch and Scandinavian foods are some of my absolute favourites, so I couldn’t resist picking up some traditional Quark (a high-protein, low-fat cheese/yoghurt-style product) to start the day with!
It definitely powered me up for our long amble to the city, where we took the time to explore all the little hidden gems the city had to offer. But our ultimate destination – the famous Markthal – beckoned, and we couldn’t wait to get there!
We were in awe when we arrived, with almost every sense overwhelmed as soon as we stepped into the huge hall. Everywhere we turned there were bright murals and stalls, incredible fresh foods to sample, and mouthwatering meals to tempt us. After touring around the hall, we settled upon our lunch options, and mine was a custom-made Sally’s Salad – smoked salmon (a must when you’re in northern Europe), avocado, chickpeas, tri-colour pasta, beetroot, and a delicious sesame dressing. It definitely hit the spot for freshness and was great value for just €6! After a little more sampling – the Stroopwaffel and natural peanut butter stalls were definite favourites – we continued on our journey into the shopping district of Beurs.
A few snapshots from the inside of Markthal (special shoutout to Casa Reiners for their incredible range of minimally refined oils, nuts butters and vinegars!)
Our stroll through the bustling streets eventually led us back towards Centraal Station, where we spotted a sophisticated-looking café that would be perfect for us to rest our legs. It was Douwe Egberts café – a modern, artsy hub of a coffee shop next to Centraal Station – and the menu was huge! For me, it was a Chai Latte, and I suppose I’m late to this party (Chai-spiced food and drink is massive right now!), but there’s no going back for me now! As a fan of spices and anything warm and comforting, nothing suits me more. Chai lattes will be my go-to this autumn, maybe with some chai-flavoured bakes to accompany (watch this space!).
It felt so good to just sit down and spend time relaxing with my sister. Though we spend a lot of time together at home, there’s something more special about it when you’re in a different environment, sharing new experiences and memories. The best thing about travelling together is that we understand each others’ interests (and when we need to rest, which saves a lot of arguments!), so it’s easy to agree on plans for trip activities. But after the long day of walking we were worn out and agreed that it was time to head home for the evening via tram and recharge our batteries for the next day.
Morning followed the same pattern as the previous day, with a trip to the supermarket for fresh breakfast supplies, and it was another of my top European superfoods on the menu – kefir. This staple food is getting a lot of attention in the health world at the moment due to its probiotic properties (you can read more here), which are famed for benefitting gut health and function. For those who are fans of natural yoghurt like myself, you would love it as it’s a sour-tasting yoghurt/milk drink, but there’s also so much you can do with it. Drink it, pour it over cereal, blend it up in smoothies – it’s easy to incorporate into your diet, and it’s becoming more popular in the UK. So if you spot it on supermarket shelves, give it a go, you might be surprised!
After breakfast we headed to the city, and a short walk from Centraal Station took us to Blijdorp Zoo – just the place my animal-lover sister had been desperate to visit! Out of the main visitor season it was a little bit quieter, and it meant that we could have a chilled wander around the zoo and take time to admire the incredible array of creatures. Flamingos, polar bears, sharks and sea lions – this zoo had it all, and I couldn’t help but feel like a young girl again as we took it all in. Though the weather was awful, it didn’t dampen our spirits or stop us from having a fantastic time together. We enjoyed each others’ company – bad inside jokes and countless silly discussions can keep us occupied for hours! – and we definitely took the opportunity to indulge in this whilst we were away.
Blijdorp Zoo – A stunning environment, home to a variety of beautiful creatures
So our final day was upon us and we took the opportunity to visit the final few landmarks that we’d missed, and take another wander to our top destinations in the city. A casual walk to the city accidentally resulted in an hour-long detour to the west harbour (completely my fault, I’ll admit!), but eventually we made it across the famous Erasmus (Swan) Bridge and into the stunning city once more. By this point, the lively streets seemed so familiar to us, and so it was easy to make our way to Markthal for the final time. From the moment we arrived in Rotterdam it was clear to see that it’s a place of great diversity – both in environment and in culture. In every corner of the city you can find a variety of communities hailing from different cultures – with food stores and restaurants to match. And this is what Markthal embraces – it’s a celebration of all of the exciting foods that different countries and cultures have to offer. This time I fancied something a little more exotic, and tried my first Gözleme – a traditional Turkish street food with a savoury filling. I made mine a ‘Vega’ – stuffed with feta, olives, tomatoes, onions and spinach – and watched as the skilled chef prepared it right in front of my eyes. In minutes, my freshly-grilled pastry was portioned and boxed up for me to take away and indulge in – and I enjoyed every bite (albeit in two sittings – it was huge!). For only €6 this was amazing food for amazing value, and once more inspired me to create something similar for myself at home. After a final sampling tour around Markthal – well we couldn’t leave without a taste of something sweet, could we?! – we emerged onto the shopping district and once more took in the atmosphere around us.
Our last day – featuring a nerve-wracking hike across Erasmus Bridge and one last lunch date at Markthal
From conversations with locals and our own impressions of the trip, it was clear to see that Rotterdam is a very special city. It’s brimming with ambition, culture, history, style…and great food! Everything that travellers adore. So if you haven’t been already, I’d definitely recommend it! If you do decide to go, here’s a few tips to make your experience as amazing as ours:
- Take your own walking tour: by following tram or bus routes through the city and outer regions, you can find so many hidden gems, and you’ll have time to take all the photos you want without the time pressure of a bus tour
- Visit Markthal: even if you’re not a foodie, you’ll love this place for its vibrancy and quirkiness – the outer building is actually inhabited accommodation, whilst the inside hall serves as the market space!
- Take some quiet time to appreciate the surroundings: like so many European cities, Rotterdam is heaving with activity, but there are so many stunning parks and cute cafés to take some time-out in. You can really fit in a bit of mindfulness here, which will give you that much-deserved ‘me-time’ and allow you to enjoy your break away even more.
Thanks for reading all about my trip to Rotterdam, and be sure to look out for future posts on TheCookingYam Instagram for my travel-inspired concoctions!