Our ship entered the canals of the Netherlands around 8 am this morning. By 10 am we were in Rotterdam. We passed some interesting buildings along the way as well as a windmill or two (off in the distance). Rotterdam is a city that was almost completely destroyed during WWII so most of the buildings are new, and the architecture is unique in many of them.
Our plan for the day was to take the waterbus to Kinderdijk to see the windmills and then to come back to town and wander around for a bit. I had printed off directions on how to get to the waterbus from the ship as well as the cost so we were ready to go. We went down to the Promenade Deck to watch the ship dock (our cabin was on the wrong side of the ship) and were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time; we were first off the ship! Unlike most of the places we have visited Rotterdam has a large cruise terminal building. There is a covered ramp that takes you directly from the ship to the terminal building. To get to the waterbus is simple: turn left and cross the enormous bridge, then turn left again. We saw a ticket office so headed there first. She pointed us to the waterbus stop instead. The ticket office is for the Spido boats which are for harbor cruises. The waterbus was just about to leave so we caught it just in the nick of time. The ticket seller only accepted Euros; fortunately I had enough Euros in my purse to pay for our fare to Kinderdijk. There was another couple from the ship on the waterbus. They didn’t have any Euros and were told that it was a mile to the closest ATM. We felt lucky that we had enough money to cover our fare!
There is an express waterbus to Kinderdijk but it only runs every couple of hours. The waterbus that we were on would require a transfer to a small ferry. We were told that it would cost another 1.10 Euros each for that ferry. It turns out that is actually 1.70/person (no senior discount). Fortunately I had enough extra money to cover the additional cost. That is the last of the good news!
We got off the boat and immediately ducked into a shop to ask where the nearest ATM was. And the answer? There is no ATM anywhere near there. This left us in a bit of predicament because though I had enough money to cover our fare there, I did not have enough to get us back to Rotterdam. We asked if there was any way if I purchased an item that she could ring up an additional amount and give us that in cash. Not a chance. We asked the man directing traffic at the entrance if he knew where an ATM might be located. He said that there was a town about 5 minutes away by car and that they might have an ATM, but that he doubted it.
I guess we learned an important travel lesson from this. Our experience has been that there are ATMs everywhere, especially near popular tourist sites. This is definitely not true here! We went to the ticket booth at the entrance to Kinderdijk hoping that someone there might be able to point us to an ATM. No luck. On the upside it turns out that to wander around the windmills is free. You only need to pay admission if you want to watch a film at the visitor center and/or take a canal boat ride to view the windmills. We like to walk and so opted for the free version. The clerk did suggest that we check at the restaurant to see if they could help us with the money situation.
There is a small coffee shop at the entry to Kinderdijk. We were hoping that if we added a tip to an order that we could get enough change to get us back to town. No chance. The person I asked was most unfriendly about it, too. She said she absolutely would help us. She said that the cash register would not allow it, but that in a year or two they would be updating their system and then it would work. Perhaps a little too late for us!
We walked along the canal and took some pictures of the charming windmills. We decided that we would see if we could get a taxi back to town; most taxis will accept credit cards. We were extremely fortunate in that there was a cab that had just dropped off a group at the windmills. We asked him if he could call a cab for us to get back to town. Instead, he checked with the group he had dropped off as to how long they intended to stay (to town and back is about an hour). Fortunately they planned on staying long enough that he could drive us in to Rotterdam. Whew!
This was a very expensive lesson learned. ALWAYS CARRY SUFFICIENT LOCAL CURRENCY! Never assume you will be able to find an ATM. I am just glad we were able to find a cab; never mind the cost. And, the drive back was really quite lovely. The first half consisted of driving through picturesque villages. As we got closer to Rotterdam we drove on a highway that took us in to the central part of town where most of the touristy sites are located. We paid the cab driver (a little over 72 Euros; well worth every penny) and pulled out our map that we had picked up earlier.
As I mentioned previously, Rotterdam is known for its unique architecture. We chose to be dropped off in front of the cube houses. I took lots of pictures; I think the symmetry in the houses is quite lovely. Just past the houses is an older part of town; one of the few parts that was not destroyed in the war.
We meandered around for a while. We stopped in a couple of shops but didn’t buy anything. We visited McDonalds just to compare the prices to those at home (quite comparable). I took pictures of buildings that caught my fancy. I did like the artwork around town; it was quite whimsical. I especially enjoyed the statue pictured below. I wish I knew what the inscription around the base said.
The port here offers a free shuttle bus from the ship to City Hall; we could’ve taken it to return to the ship but opted to walk back instead. As you might expect, there are plenty of people riding bicycles here. They have dedicated bike lanes, separated completely from the car lanes and the sidewalks. Notice that by the bus station there is double-decker bike parking!
We kept following signs to Erasmusbrug, the long bridge we crossed over earlier. The bridge was “up” so there was a long line of cyclists and pedestrians waiting to be able to cross. We didn’t have to wait more than a couple of minutes for the bridge to be lowered. We continued our journey and headed back to the ship. Boy, do our feet hurt today! I don’t know how many miles we walked altogether, but I am glad tomorrow is a sea day so we can rest up!