Day 10 - "An Excellent Final Day" - Rotterdam/Kinderdijk

June 19, 2013

The decision was made to try breakfast at the hotel again.  After last time's buffet debacle, we could have written off the breakfast at the hotel.  But we knew we could have breakfast a la carte.  So we tried it.  Elias got eggs and bacon.  I had croissants and jam and cheese.  They did pull the food directly from the buffet table, but it got the job done.  And for the same cost as one buffet breakfast.

I gave Elias a job.  He was to search out a place to go to see windmills.  He found Kinderdijk.  Kinderdijk is just southeast of Rotterdam and is known for windmills.  Kinderdijk had a very light entry in the Rough Guide, so I couldn't do too much on the research on the go.  I knew in general how to get there, but much of this day was going to be winging it.

The morning started out easy.  We knew where Amsterdam Centraal was.  We can definitely figure out how to buy tickets.  After that...we will let the day figure out what's going to happen.

Tickets to Rotterdam were significantly more than I'd expected.  We got from Brussels to Den Bosch for €50.  Our round trip ticket to Rotterdam was €58.  This is total though...not each.  And I guess Brussels to Den Bosch was a one way trip, but still...more expensive than expected.  So we jumped on a train to Rotterdam.  Man, Metra BNSF could take some tips from this train.  Brightly lit, comfy seats, a board that counts down the stops and when exactly the stop will be made.  Then again, if the BNSF did try this out, the whole train would be destroyed quickly after a Cubs Afternoon Game.

Rough Guides said we could take the 190 bus in Rotterdam to Kinderdijk.  That should have been a warning sign.  I don't do well in busses.  Especially since the bus incident in the early 2000's where I didn't know we had to pull the cord for the stop and four of the whitest people ever were on a (deep) South Side bound bus in Chicago.  There is no scarier moment than when an elderly African American woman leans over to one of your friends and says, "How far are you going to ride this bus??"  Or something to that effect.  Scott, Craig, Megan and I may all have slightly different memories of the sentence.  Needless to say, we got off the bus quick as hell, then stood on the corner of Drug Street and Murder Avenue wondering if we would live long enough to catch the bus back to the Museum of Science and Industry.  Spoiler alert, we lived to tell the tale.

So that's why I hate busses.

Elias and I walked to the bus area to figure out where we needed to go and found...nothing.  I had no clue.  So I figured there had to be an information area in the station.  We ended up finding the Tourist Information Board of Rotterdam.  We asked about Kinderdijk and low and behold, they had a tour that would be very easy and less money than taking the bus.  You know what...sign us up.  Seriously.  I don't know where I'm going.  I don't know exactly how to get there.  So let's have someone else do it for once on this trip.  We just had to find the boat.  Once we found the boat that left at 2:15p, we would be on the canal for an hour, we'd see the windmills for an hour, we'd be on the canal for an hour.  All for €14 each.  Done.

So the boat left at 2:15 and it was only 11a.  That was a lot of time to spend in a city I had not researched or cared to look up.  Which is why we went shopping.  I didn't want to pay €1 for a map of the city ("I have a map in my book, we'll be fine."  Jesus.  Have I not been paying attention over the last 9 days??  I need all the help I can get!!  I do not have a mind made for directions/map reading like Adele does), so we started walking south.  Right into a ton of shopping.  Which was a perfect way to kill time.

It was also a perfect way to spend money.  Elias found a Dutch store called WE in Den Bosche and found a cool shirt there.  He found another one in Rotterdam, so now we had a bag to lug around.  Though I didn't have room to gripe.  As we were walking down the street, I saw a pair of Pink patent leather Gizeh Birkenstock sandals on a display.  They were on sale.  And there were only two pair.  One in my size.  If that wasn't a freaking sign, nothing was.  I'd actually been pricing out these sandals for a while.  Zappos usually has them for $79.  The ones on sale were €40.  Even with the conversion, they would only be around $55 or so.  So I win.  Birkenstocks are everywhere here.  People of all shapes and sizes and ages and genders are wearing the Birks.  I love that.  What was interesting was that a little later, I saw a store carrying Converse shoes.  So I looked at the price to compare.  €80.  What??  Converting brings the dollar amount to around $95 (and my converting is really just rounding up with no math to speak of, so get off of my back sour how this isn't really how much it would cost.  I don't care).  It was a surprise.  Then again, Germany is next door to the Netherlands, so maybe that's why the shoes are so inexpensive.  This makes two sets of Birks purchased in or because of an European trip.  I bought a pair of purple Mary Jane Birks because I saw them in Dublin a few years ago.

After a while, I figured we should look for this magic area where the boat would be.  So we walked in the direction we thought was correct.  It was.  Mostly.  But it was getting later and later.  And we were nowhere closer to where we needed to be.  I started grumbling about how if we missed this goddamn tour...

The tour started at 2:15p.  I thought it started at 2p.  And it was 1:45p and I knew we were close, but not quite there.  Finally, we saw an area and there was some kind of an arrow, so we tried it.  But we had to walk a significant amount of time on a pier to even know we were in the right area.  When we got to a little boathouse, I pulled out the brochure and said, "Is this you??"  She shook her head and exclaimed it was.  "I didn't think we would ever find this boat!!"  We bought our tickets and realized we still had more time we could have taken.  Who cared at this point??  I just wanted to sit down.  But the next step was to get on the boat.  Which would prove to be an undertaking.

There was a giant metal plank on the dock that attached the dock to the boat.  Normally, the plank would be at a 20 or 30 degree angle.  This one was at at least a 60 degree angle.  Which for any person is difficult.  The captain of the boat was almost pulling both Elias and my arms out of their sockets to get us on the boat.  So a lot of the conversation during the ride was "How are we going to get off the boat again??"  The plank also caused a ruckus when it fell off of the boat and on to the dock before we took off.  The next couple that walked up the plank had an audience as we all wanted to make sure the plank would hold.  It did.  And we went on our way.

The boat ride was kind of perfect.  There were about 25 people on the boat.  Mostly older couples.  A few girlfriend getaways kind of groups.  Elias was by far the youngest of the lot.  There were a group of Asian tourists seated at a table next to us and at a certain point, three of the four of the tourists were asleep.  At times, the recording (in Dutch, German and English) told us about what we were seeing.  I don't remember any of it.  To me, this was a time to shut my brain down.  I haven't had that time since we got in the car last Monday.  

We arrived in Kinderdijk around 3:15p and had one hour to walk up and down and see the windmills.  Honestly, I think we could have used an hour and a half or maybe two hours, but beggars can't be choosers.  We payed for a map (I I pay for a map...this one long straight stretch.  I can't get turned around here) so I could ave some sort of souvenir from this place.  We could have bought tickets to go inside a windmill, but we didn't really have the time, so we just walked and took pictures.

Soon enough, we boarded the boat back to Rotterdam.  This was probably the best decision we could have made, taking throat tour.  Yes, it's a tour.  But it did everything we needed it to do.  It got us to a place that we wanted to go.  We would have had significant more stress trying to figure out where and what and how to get to the city and where and what and how to get back.  This tour took all of the guess work out of everything.  Thumbs up.

I didn't know the train situation back to Amsterdam, so we went to the information desk to see what train we needed to catch.  The first person I talked to wasn't really clear.  So we went to the other side of the building and asked someone else.  She directed us to Track 8 and we went along merrily.  The surprise here is that no one ever checked our tickets on the way back.  Weird.

Our last big event was to pick up a few souvenirs for ourselves and others.  We had found a place a few days ago and spent significantly less money than expected.  Then again, I don't really grab too much anymore from these shops. I pick up a magnet from each city and maybe a random figurine, but not much more.  I think Elias is picking up that same shopping habit.

We were going to stop at La Place one last time, but they were closed by the time we walked by.  We still can't get a handle on the time when things open and close.  So the decision had to be made about what to eat.  We looked at a patio seat again on Rembrandtplein square, but I nixed that because I was just tired of spending so much money.  So we each got what we wanted.  Elias got McDonald's (no's the end of a long trip) and I finally got a Doner Kebob (not as good as Istanbul, but how could it be??).  We also stopped back at the Magnum store.  This time Elias was hungry enough to eat one.  God, I love this place.  Seriously.

As the night wore on, I knew I had received a mighty sunburn.  Even though it  a an overcast day, I had been outside for probably 11 hours.  And my skin payed the price.  I am going to blame the fact that I haven't felt the warmth or seen the sun in forever.  Spring never really materialized in Chicago and by the time we left, summer wasn't here either.  So I'm not in the routine of thinking the sun will burn me.  Then again, I am 38 years old.  I should know the sun is not my friend even though it is being a few wussy clouds.  I really should know this.  So now I'm going to deal with a hilarious sunburn which will turn into a hilarious suntan.  Serious farmer tan.  And I have no one to blame but myself.  I hate when I can't blame others.

We spend the remainder of the evening packing up.  It would be an early wake up in the morning.  It was time to go home.  And we both are ready.


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