We awoke the next morning in our hotel room in Ghent, feeling a bit worse for wear thanks to our self-guided pub crawl the night before. If anyone ever tells you Belgian beers aren’t that strong, they are lying.
We spent most of the morning lying in bed, listening to the rain hitting the hotel room window, wishing for the humidity to break. Finally, as checkout time approached, we gathered our things, zipped up our raincoats and reemerged into the world.
The rain continued to fall as we retraced our steps back to the train station. With each step, I was being hit in the face by a thousand tiny droplets, while my hair was being whipped around by the wind. Even with my hood on I wasn’t safe from the elements.
We arrived at the station and saw that the next train to Antwerp (where we would change trains en route to Rotterdam) would give us just enough time to get coffee, breakfast and splurge on a fresh-pressed juice concoction that guaranteed to cure our hangovers—not only did it cure what ailed me, but it was delicious and since then I’ve been obsessed with the idea of buying a juicer once we’re resettled.
We found a table in a quiet corner of the station, and sipped our drinks and snacked on our croissants until it was time to make our way to the platform.
It was a Saturday, and the day of the big game, so the platform was covered in overly enthusiastic Red Devils fans who insisted on yelling, chanting and singing to pass the time before boarding the train. Thankfully, my delicious hangover juice had worked its magic, otherwise, I can guarantee my brain would have been crying with each passing refrain.
After a few moments of waiting, the train chugged into the station and we all proceeded to jockey for position as it slowly came to a stop. As soon as the doors opened, I used my small size to slither my way in, find seats and plunked myself down ready to make the first leg of our journey.
Nearly an hour later, the train arrived in the city of Antwerp. As the train pulled into Antwerpen-Berchem station, the announcer mumbled something in Flemish, French and English about international connections. My ears perked up when he mentioned Rotterdam, but as all of our tickets said Antwerp-Centraal, we decided to stay on.
This was a mistake, and I knew it as soon as the train started to move again, taking us to the final stop: Antwerpen-Centraal. It was too late to change our minds so we just settled in for the rest of the ride.
We arrived in Antwerpen-Centraal and descended onto the platform as football fans all around us sang and got into the soccer spirit. Their enthusiasm for the upcoming game echoed around us in the immense open station. It was hard not to smile as their booming chants reverberated throughout.
We quickly found a board so we could identify when the next train to Rotterdam was and noticed there was one leaving in just 15 minutes. No track was listed, but having spent so much time using the Spanish train system where they often don’t announce a track until a minute before departure, we thought little of it and went in search of a snack.
With frites in hand, we made our way back to the board and I awkwardly stood in the middle of the station, staring up at the departures board like an excited child, waiting for a track to be announced. As time ticked away I was becoming increasingly nervous, until finally I couldn’t take it anymore and went to ask one of the nearby station agents.
Turns out, my earlier inclination to get off at Antwerpen-Berchem had been right. We now had just five minutes to get on a train and get back to the previous station, or we’d be forced to wait for another hour for our train. Up the escalator we ran, hoping on the first train we could. I was anxious, I was tired, and all I wanted was to get moving. But, the train just sat there. With each passing minute my anxiety rose; if we left at that exact second maybe we would make the train, I thought to myself. But with each thought came another minute of sitting.
At 12:45 PM, the exact time our train to Rotterdam was scheduled to leave from the other station, our train finally pulled out of Antwerpen-Centraal. I was beyond disappointed; the last thing I wanted was to kill another hour in a train station. There are only so many frites a girl can eat!
But, as our luck would have it, when we arrived at the station we learned that the trains had been delayed, and ours, instead of leaving at 12:45, wasn’t due to arrive until 1 PM! Clearly, the travel gods had smiled down on us.
After a relatively short wait, we were back on the train and all settled in for the last leg of our journey. Over the next hour and a half, our train wound its way north through the Belgian and Dutch countrysides, past windmills and farms, and grazing cows. It was idyllic, stereotypical and I loved every second of it.
We arrived in Rotterdam, figured out our route to the hotel and got to walking. We barely made it a block before deciding we needed a snack—we’d recently been talking about the lack of bagels in Madrid, so when we happened upon a speciality bagel shop we knew we couldn’t pass it up. We popped in, placed our orders and took a seat while they toasted our bagels and dressed them with speciality, homemade cream cheeses.
As we sat at the window, waiting for delicious bagel treats, we watched as the skies slowly opened above the city, and massive raindrops began to fall in a fury. From my warm perch I watched as passersby struggled with their umbrellas in the wind and ran across city blocks trying to seek shelter before they were completely drenched; many made it, and many did not.
Just as we were passed our bagels, the downpours started to ease up so we thought it was safe to head back onto the streets and make our way to the hotel. Mother Nature gave us just enough time to finish our snacks and then she unleashed upon us an unrelenting stream of raindrops. I’m from the west coast of Canada, which is often fondly referred to as the wet coast, so I am no stranger to rain, but even this was something of a sight.
From Rotterdam Centraal we wound our way through the city, seeking shelter under trees, awnings and roofs as often as we could. Even with an umbrella and a hood we arrived at our hotel in Wijnhaven completely drenched.
Despite being the early days of summer, we were both chilled to the bone when we got into our room. Immediately, we stripped away our wet clothes, hanging the various items around the room, hoping they would be dry enough by the time we needed to put them back on for dinner (one of the downsides of traveling carry-on only, you might have to re-wear those pants, even if they’re still damp because there the only ones you’ve brought).
We snuggled into bed in an effort to warm up and both quickly fell asleep. It was a glorious nap and one that was much needed after such a harrowing journey (and, we were hungover).
We awoke a while later, happy to see sunshine streaming into the room through the curtains. Eager to take advantage of the dry weather, we pulled our nearly dry clothes off their hangers, redressed and made our way back out onto the streets of Rotterdam.
The rain mostly held off as we explored the streets of Rotterdam. With a map in hand, we dodged puddles and droplets as we tried to see as many sights as possible. We explored the massive Markthal, browsing all of its stalls, admiring at the different cheeses and sampling the local delicacy: the pickled herring sandwich. We walked up and down the streets marvelling at the different architectural styles—from classic baroque to modern and cubist–all that seemed to compliment each other despite being so drastically different. It’s a city that’s taken power clashing to the extreme.
Finally, after a few hours of sightseeing, the rains couldn’t be held off any longer and we were forced inside. Perched on our stools beside floor to ceiling windows, we sipped on our beers and snacked on our hipster-crafted friend chicken as we watched the world around us be enveloped in clouds and rain.
Most of our time in Rotterdam would be marked with rain, wind and other unsightly weather. While it wasn’t the best way to experience a city, the ominous clouds provided the perfect background for the city to pop against.
Read other posts from this series:
- In Bruges
- Petite Adventures’ Guide to Bruges
- Surviving the Rain and Exploring Ghent
- Petite Adventures’ Guide to Ghent
- Top Ten Reasons to Take a Canal Tour in Bruges & Ghent
- Petite Adventures’ Guide to Rotterdam
- A Day in Amsterdam
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