Normany, France 2016

Our long weekend was rather spontaneously booked 2/3 weeks before we went. I first wanted to surprise my partner to visit there as he’s wanted to go for a long time to visit all the museums and learn more of the history of WW2. Well, I tried keeping it a surprise until he borrowed my laptop that had open my Trip Advisor account showing places to visit!! However it was good that he found out really, as we could both plan exactly what we want to see and do.

We reserved a car from Europcar, booked the beautiful Le Clos Saint Jean B&B and had a full list of museums, memorials and places to walk planned for our weekend. Driving from Rotterdam, Netherlands to Bayeux, France took us roughly 6.5 hours, not including our lunch stop, but it was a good drive with only one traffic jam of 30mins.

DSC_2025We arrived by the late afternoon, greeted by an amazing couple who had been running the B&B only for 3 months. They recommended that we walk along from the little stoney beach thats only 400m from the B&B to Omaha beach while the tide is out, and back along the bike path at the top of the cliff. It was a lovely 1 hour walk to do before settling in for the evening. It was cool and uncool at the same time to walk there, knowing so many people, most younger than us, had died there. 

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Check out the links below of how our itinerary filled our long weekend!

Day One –  360 Museum, D-Day Museum De Debarquement, Pegasus Bridge museum & Arromanche.

Day Two – Pointe Du Hoc,  La Combe German Cemetery, American Cemetery & Memorial, the Overlord Museum & Bayeux.

Day Three – The Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy, British War Cemetery, Bayeux Tapestry Museum, 1944 Radar Museum & the Longues-sur-Mer battery.

Day Four – Leaving the B&B to drive back home via the Fortress of Mimoyecques & La Coupole.

Normandy, France – Day Four

An early checkout at the B&B meant that we had a good head start on getting back to the Netherlands with plenty of time before needing to check the rented car back in. We decided to drive towards Calais as we had discovered some hidden underground places to visit. They are classed as ‘dark tourism’ so we were interested! It was 3 hours into our 6 hour drive so a great time to stop and stretch our legs too!

Luckily with no traffic on the motorway and a little detour through the Caps et Marais d’Opale Natural Regional Park we arrived at our first destination of the day, the Fortress of Mimoyecques, once an underground world of workers that was the launch base of V-2 Rockets, which would of been sent to bomb London, UK. From the sunny 28°c outside we explored the 10°c tunnels inside. It was cold, dark and a little creepy, since we were the only ones in it for a while! Though very interesting to see what was planned here during the war, and how they managed to keep it a secret for so long from spying enemy planes. Well worth a read on the link and a visit if you are in the area!

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The second destination was something a little similar, with underground tunnels and the perfect hideout for the R&D and manufacturing process of rockets, which again of would been used against London, UK if they weren’t stopped in time. Hidden under a concrete dome is the La Coupole. You follow the cold tunnels through to the lift, which takes you to the main part of the museum under the dome. Here you have two really interesting videos about the V2 rockets and how people were treated who worked and lived in the tunnels. You are provided with so much information via the audio headset, so it’s understandable to hear about the history as you look at the recovered artefacts . It’s a place you can spend the whole afternoon at. Definitely recommended to visit!

DSC_2253Our visit to Normandy was short but packed with knowledge! We recommend the Le Clos Saint Jean to stay if you have a car as it is perfect location to travel to and from for visiting the northern coast between Carentan and Cabourg. The rooms are a good size (we had one with private bathroom) and the served breakfasts are delicious. They included fresh bread and cheeses, different fruit salads, jams and fresh juices made straight from their garden. My favourite was their homemade brioche bread with freshly crushed raspberries to pour the juice over the top, delicious! Good luck to the owners Caroline and her husband who only started running it in late 2016.

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Click here to go back to the start of our Normandy trip!

10. Feyenoord Champions Once More!!

More than 18 years ago, on the 25th April 1999, the Rotterdam team Feyenoord won the Eredivisie Championships. Today, they have made history again by becoming the 2017 Champions!

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The Champions Festival of Feyenoord on the Coolsingel on 25 april 1999
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Another photo from 25th April 1999

Since the last two weeks there has already been preparations for the celebrations, such as a 500-600kg flag hung up at Hofplein, projecting the logo against the 5th tallest building in the Netherlands, cakes with the logo and Rotterdam harbour workers making the letter F for Feyenoord with red and white containers. Oh and I nearly forgot to mention even cheese!!

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Source: RTV Rijnmond Twitter Account

Match One

Last Sunday was the first chance to become champions, with their match against Excelsior. Since the morning from 10am there were already cars tooting past the house, flags hanging out the windows. Fireworks heard going off all around the city and everywhere you look there were people in red and white.

The city was prepared for the match, with big screens and public areas completely filling up ready to watch! Containers were put around the city in place for security measures but most people used them to see the big screens!

DSC_3683DSC_3680The match started at 14:30 against Excelsior in their home stadium, but not that far from De Kuip, home stadium of Feyenoord.

The first half wasn’t the best, making a few tries but nothing really special. By half time they were 0-0 so it wasn’t looking too good for them. The 2nd half caught them even more off guard as Excelsior scored 3 goals within 9 minutes of each other. Unfortunately Feyenoord didn’t make a single goal and lost the match 0-3 to Excelsior.

It sure was disappointing feeling walking back through the city full of supporters, who were ultimately starting riots against the police with so much alcohol in their system. The riot police were already ready for the rioters.

DSC_3727Match Two

This match was the deciding factor of whether Feyenoord would be champions of not. The pressure was on them even more, but there was a sense of confidence throughout the fans as Feyenoord would be playing at home, in De Kuip.

This time they were against Heracles starting at the same time of 14:30.

More regulations were set this weekend in the city, such as tickets needed now for certain open areas and all supermarkets within the center were banned to sell alcohol during a specific time limit. But that didn’t stop the supporters, bringing alcohol with them obviously bought the day before.

Well what a way to start a match! 40 seconds into the start was the first goal scored by Dirk Kuyt, followed by the second before half time. The last goal was scored also by him in the second half, making it a perfect hat-trick. Heracles managed to score a goal in the second half but with a strong defence the championships were already won. Finishing the game with 3-1 to Feyenoord!

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Kuyt Celebrating in De Kuip! Source: Feyenoord Twitter Account

Once the match was ended, the whole city was crazy!! Now I’m not really a big football fan, but to experience this was unbelievable!! So much energy and excitement from EVERYONE. The one place all supporters go to visit is Hofplein, the fountain shown in the third photo. It is a well known spot to celebrate victories!!

DSC_3786DSC_3805DSC_3794DSC_3800As you can see below, you actually cannot see the fountain any more!!

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Source: RTV Rijnmond Twitter Account from Bart Luters

DSC_3837Tomorrow supporters and the team will celebrate on the Coolsingel for the champions ceremony, just like in the first photo 18 years ago.

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Source: Feyenoord Twitter Account

Hoek Van Holland

When you think of the Netherlands the first thoughts are often about the tulips, cycling, windmills at Kinderdijk, smoking the legal drug cannabis or the red light district of Amsterdam (I got lost here once!). But the Netherlands also has many beaches to visit, one of them is the well known beach of Hoek Van Holland.

It’s the main entrance for cruise and container ships to enter the Rotterdam Harbour, along the the River Maas from the North Sea. So when the tide is high, the wind is strong and you walk along the North Pier you could be in for a swim! The North Pier itself is 4.5 kilometres long and perfect to walk to the end.

Friday 7th August (19)The beach is a combination of sand and stones, with one path that leads you from the North Pier to the busier section of the boulevard, where most tourists and locals stop for a bite to eat and to enjoy the activities.

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It’s a great place for a wintery walk with your cosy winter coat on, before stopping for a hot chocolate in a restaurant, as well as a day in summer in your bikini, having a dip in the sea before getting an ice cream.

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Getting here by train or bus is pretty easy, with a new metro being built that should be complete by 2018. I once cycled here from Rotterdam, took a little over 2 hours at a pleasant speed with some stops along the way like at Maassluis and at the Het Keringhuis  (the storm barrier flood gates).

So grab your winter coat or bikini and visit for a great day out!

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Cycling from Rotterdam

 

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Friday 7th August (18)

Kinderdijk, The Netherlands

After 5 years of living in Rotterdam I finally got the chance to visit the beautiful Kinderdijk. I took the opportunity to visit Kinderdijk at the same time as my family visiting me in the Netherlands, combining both was a good chance for us all to visit something new together.

Day One (8)Planning our visit we decided to take the Waterbus from the Rotterdam stop at Erasmus Bridge that takes only 30 minutes to Kinderdijk. A perfect mode of transport to also enjoy the views Rotterdam from a boat, as you can stand on the open section at the back of the boat as well as sitting inside if it’s cold. You can use your OV chip card or buy a ticket on board.

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Arriving at Kinderdijk you will know exactly where to walk with the first windmills in sight. Paying only €8,00 for adults and €5.50 for children (4-12 years) to get in it’s well worth it. The main path takes you past the first restaurant along the walking route to see all 19 windmills that stand there since 1740. The whole route is 15km which can be done in a day with sensible shoes.

Day One (62)Kinderdijk is not just a pretty site, it’s actually needed for the land. Since most of the Netherlands is below sea level, including Kinderdijk, the function of the windmills are part of the water management system to prevent floods.

Day One (34)We took some lunch with us, stopping on a bench to each and drink while other tourists walked by. There are a few restaurants and a cafe too, where you can buy souvenirs, refreshments, lunch or some typical Dutch snacks like bitterballen while waiting for the boat trip back to Rotterdam.

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I plan to go again this summer, but then by bike like a true Dutch person!

9. Turning 25

Currently sat on the balcony of my beautiful apartment. The sun is shining and I’m wondering whether I need to get my sun cream out. Turning a quarter of a century old has definitely given me time to think of some things I am proud of so far in life.

Passed my driving test… 3rd time. Wow I remember being so nervous for this! The first time I failed due to hitting the curb while trying to park and second because I pulled out of a junction in front of a slow tractor that was apparently too close. No one wants to get stuck behind a slow tractor.

I left home at 18, not just around the corner but to a whole new country. This year I’ll be celebrating 6 years in the Netherlands (and deciding whether to become a Dutch citizen depending on Brexit).

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Learnt Dutch, although consequently losing all my French and even some English!

I have a caring, trustworthy and not to forget HANDSOME partner who shares the same tastes in food, interests like music and travel, and can have a really good discussion.

I ran 10km at the Rotterdam Marathon in 2016. Pretty amazing achievement for me!

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Plus I am more active than ever, with up to 4 days in the gym follwing a fitness programme and easily reaching my 10k steps every day using my Fitbit.

I’ve rode a bike since I was little, but have acquired the skills to cycle with two children on front and back, with an IKEA 4×4 Kallax and up to 6 full bags of shopping. Not all in one go of course!

I’ve become less fussy with food. Like there is fussy and there is MAJOR fussy, which was me, so this is pretty big. I grew up only liking potato waffles and fish fingers. These days I still surprise my family with what I eat!

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I’ve NEARLY completed my bachelor degree in International Business and Management Studies, how exciting!

I have been to more than 15 countries. Even with little money over the years it’s always been possible to explore! Check some places I’ve visited here.

Goals before turning 26…. (and 27, 28, 29 and 30)

Travel more! maybe a place from the list of future travels.

Receive my degree, hopefully by July 2017! -> Then to find a full time job!

Learn to make more delicious meals.

Keep up the fitness goals.

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8. Finding A New Home in Rotterdam, NL

Moving house can always be a challenge. Finding a suitable place that you like and that matches your requirements such as the space and more importantly the price. It can be both a long or short process, but the outcome is usually rewarding.

During my childhood I had moved to a few different houses, all with different unique selling points that my parents fell in love with. But at that age you never think about how much time and energy it takes to find a place and move in!

When I decided to move to the Netherlands to become an Au Pair I never had to choose where I would be staying, as I lived in the same house as the family. And once my 1 year contract was finished, I moved in with my partner’s/his family’s apartment. It got a little crowded at times but we made it work perfectly, until the time came that we couldn’t really live in 1 bedroom any more (maybe too many clothes had something to do with it!). We were craving for our own little place. The next place was our current place from a different family member. A cute one bedroom house in Rotterdam provided us the space and independency we were looking for.

However for the last 5 months I have been on the lookout for a new place to live. Our living arrangement contract was coming to the end and we needed a new place by the end of January. It was time to find a new place of our own.

One of the most challenging things was finding a place that fit all of our requirements, such as the total square metres, storage, easy to move to (not much DIY needed!), maybe a view and the price. Looking in Rotterdam has been a BIG challenge, as houses or apartments that fit our budget didn’t fit the rest of the requirements, or the other way round, fit all our requirements but then was way over our budget! We realised half way through our 5 months that we would have to make compromises. One thing we knew for certain was that the new place had to be in Rotterdam. Why move away from a beautiful city?!

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We signed up to many websites such as Pararius.com and Funda.nl to see all the latest houses and apartments for sale, checking through the lists for something suitable. We also had help from friends and family when they had found something we might like. We visited many houses all shapes and sizes, buying or renting, with not much luck. Even when we did find a place we thought was good, we applied and we were not chosen or lucky enough to win the lottery for the place.

That’s the negative part about finding a place to live in a city that is growing and growing. One house we viewed had at least 20 other people viewing at the same time! It felt rather strange, after my experience of viewing houses with my parents as a child, being the only people in the house with the selling agent. Now it was like a fight to get to the kitchen first, to stand on the balcony or to squeeze into the bathroom. Definitely more efficient for the sales agent at least! You also had to be fast in responding and applying, as it would be gone within 2 days of being advertised.

But it wasn’t until the day before Christmas Eve that we viewed a new apartment to rent. We were one of 6 people in total who had the chance to view it, as the selling agent only took the first 6 people who called, saying that it would definitely be taken by one of us. We’ll he was right, out of the 6 people who viewed it, 3 people applied, including us… AND GUESS WHO GOT IT?!

We did.

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