Travel Destination: The Netherlands
The plane has landed. I awake from my stupor after little sleep and I’m drowsed by jet lag that has already settled in my bones. Travel season has started and we just arrived in the Netherlands. Yet even though I feel groggy I’m excited. The Netherlands is one of my favorite destinations for both personal and business (as is the case this time) travel. Memories start flashing back of good times that I’ve had and these thoughts lift me out of the grogginess as I start looking forward to yet more fun ahead.
You may wonder why the Netherlands is one of my favorite travel destinations. There are many reasons but in this post I’ll try to briefly summarize some of the main items that make this a place worthy of a visit. Overall it’s a combination of the people, the comfort to travel in a country with good infrastructure, the excellent and diverse international cuisine and the beauty of the endless fields, canals and charming towns.
1. The People
Holland is known for its excellent education and as a result you’ll meet a sophisticated nation that’s friendly, open minded and helpful. When you get lost there is usually a helping hand to get you on the right route and whether you work here or just visit you will be treated with respect. It’s refreshing and really helpful especially when traveling in countries like this where a language barrier may exist.
2. The infrastructure
Holland has excellent transport that can get you almost anywhere by train at affordable rates. It further has good trams and buses in cities across the country. Additionally, if you decide to spend a couple of days in Brussels or Paris you can be there within three hours from Schiphol by train. The train system is usually on time, it’s affordable and clean. Intercity trams are also very convenient. These are clean and affordable and arrive approximately every 5 minutes at most stops.
3. The cuisine
My experience of dining in the Netherlands is limited to the restaurants in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Given that I spent my most recent trip working in Rotterdam, this post will focus on the food in this city however Amsterdam is also known for its good food. Please feel free to share some of your favorites in the city if you’ve traveled there.
Even though not usually on the traveler’s list Rotterdam has, in my opinion, of the best restaurants in the country. The beauty of Rotterdam is that it offers flavors from around the globe and, whether it is Vietnamese, French or Mediterranean cuisine, you won’t be easily disappointed. Some of my favorites during the most recent trip to Rotterdam include Little V, Stockholm, Open and Bazar.
Little V – If you are craving Asian cuisine, specifically Vietnamese, don’t miss Little V, an affordable, trendy restaurant in the heart of downtown Rotterdam. Make sure to especially order the beef with basil – a combination of steak infused with garlic and spices that melts in your mouth.
Open Cafe was most likely my favorite during this trip. With no more than 15 tables and a constantly changing menu that’s written with chalk on a blackboard in the sitting area this is a little gem that you shouldn’t miss. Beware the menu is only in Dutch, however the manager speaks fluent English so you’ll easily be able to order what you’re craving. And the Italian inspired cuisine is to die for! Try the soup, pizza or pasta. I especially recommend the pasta but beware, the portions are large! If it’s on the menu order the “Pancetta”: penne pasta served with pine nuts, truffle oil, wild mushrooms and pancetta topped with Rocket.
Restaurant Stockholm, a trendy restaurant with French inspired cuisine and a stellar drink list should be on your list. Located just off Blaak metro exit it’s in the heart of Rotterdam. With a lovely interior, excellent cuisine and good outside seating overlooking the harbor this is a place that one can spend an evening enjoying fine dining, the trendy atmosphere and creative cocktails until the early hours.
4. The Character
Whether your travels only take you to Amsterdam, or if you have the opportunity to visit other towns/cities, you’ll have ample opportunity to enjoy the architecture, the cobblestone roads and atmosphere of the Netherlands. To get a unique feel of Amsterdam just walk around! Make sure to stop at the Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market) and De Nege Straatjes, nine small streets that have unique shopping and restaurant choices. The character of the streets are traditional and the shopping experience truly unique.
5. The History
Whether your preference is Van Gogh, Rembrandt, World War II history, or the history of beer, there are ample choices in Amsterdam that can keep you busy for days. I immensely enjoyed my trip to the Van Gogh museum as well as a surprisingly pleasant visit to the Heineken museum. Since I enjoy wine generally over beer I didn’t know what to expect. Den Haag is another prime destination. It houses the parliament of Amsterdam as well as other wonderful secrets such as “The Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer and is only 30 minutes by train from Amsterdam Central Station.