Things start to unwind.

After the exertions of the previous day, enjoyable as they were, the 12th was given over entirely to sitting about the hostel drinking excellent Dutch beer from the very tidy and well-stocked bar, eating yet more pickled herring (I really do love them) and trying desperately to keep this journal up which I really was finding difficult to do.

I had tried blogging before when I was also writing my tips on the Virtual Tourist website and I really do struggle with juggling the two as I always like to research my tips / reviews fully. I would say that a single review of a hotel / hostel / bar / restaurant or whatever would rarely take me much less than an hour and often considerably longer so the time really did mount up. Add on top of that the writing required for the journal entries and it probably explains why I ended up beginning to write this entry on a train between Metz and Nancy in France exactly a fortnight after the events described. I finished it in a delightful art deco brasserie in Nancy later still. Hopefully this new format of having my own site where I do everything in one place will assist me in keeping vaguely up to date.

For some obscure reason I did try to get a bit arty again with my little compact camera and a most wonderful moon.  Not easy and certainly does not

I love pickled herring!

how atmospheric it was but these are the best two of my efforts and hopefully they will give you an idea.


As this entry was pretty meagre I shall pass straight on to the next day.


The day of the 13th April began in ridiculous fashion with me waking up at some unnatural hour in the morning. I am normally thrown out of a room by the chambermaid or the manager as I have long overslept the check-out time but on this particular day I was up, dressed and sitting having a smoke in the gorgeous garden area of the hostel having a fairly one-sided conversation with the equally gorgeous hostel cat by about 0700.

Ani & Haakinen hostel, Rotterdam.

I know, I know but yes, I talk to cats or dogs or just about anything because I just talk all the bloody time! I suspect my early rising was to do with my requirement for nicotine being in inverse proportion to my bladder capacity, but enough of that, I was up and about. After a couple of cans of breakfast and packing up it was time for the off.

My plan, such as it was for the day, was to go to a place called Beauraing for no better reasons than I had never been there and I liked the name. Yes, really, that is the way this particular little excursion was going. As I shall explain, I singularly failed to get anywhere close but it was an interesting day all the same. I should have liked to stay another night in that wonderful hostel as I felt really comfortable there and I was thoroughly enjoying Rotterdam but, as explained earlier in this journal, it was school holidays and the place was completely booked out for that night.

As I have noted previously here I am travelling extremely light and so humping the kit around really is not a problem as I don’t have that much of it. My increasingly frantic search for a launderette later on in this journal will attest to just how light I was travelling!

Street scene, Rotterdam.

With my ability to wander about more or less freely, I decided to go for another walk around the centre of the city which is very compact and do a bit more happy snapping on my trusty little camera which is about as compact as Rotterdam. As an aside here, I do recommend the Canon Ixus as a cheap and reliable compact, I love mine.

One of the many statues in Rotterdam.

Whilst I did get productive with the camera as some of the fairly amateur efforts here indicate, it almost inevitably degenerated into a bit of a pub crawl and the Premiere Brasserie and Cafe Plein do stand out in the memory.  Let me tell you about them in a moment but first let me alert you to the fact that some of the camera efforts mentioned will be featured in an image gallery here.

Premiere Brasserie, Rotterdam.

The reason I picked the Premiere Brasserie over the many other bars in the area was simply that I happened to be passing it at the time. It looked clean and tidy so why not?


Walking past the numerous tables outside, which would have been lovely in summer but a bit chilly in early April, I walked into a spacious and virtually empty bar. I went to the bar and enquired of the young lady if they were open and she informed me that they were.

Premiere Brasserie, Rotterdam.
Premiere Brasserie, Rotterdam.

I knew I had a bit of a journey in front of me so I wanted something pretty weak and Heineken fits that bill precisely. A later perusal of the beer menu shows that they do have an extensive selection here which is as good an excuse as any to return at some point.


Although I did not eat there I did have a look at the menu outside when I went for a smoke later on and it appeared to be as extensive as that of the beer with separate offerings for lunch and dinner and even a daily special.

Premiere Brasserie, Rotterdam.

I had taken up my usual post at the bar and was chatting to the very friendly barmaid but a look round showed that it appeared to be very comfortable and when I went to use the “facilities” they were immaculate.

There is very little else to say about the Premiere really other than I can find no fault with it and it is certainly central if you fancy a break from a hard day’s sightseeing or retail therapy.



Having torn myself away from the Premiere it was time for a little more sightseeing and a few more images and one sight of particular note is the rather cumbersomely named Herdenkingsmonument which you can see above.


On my various travels in the Netherlands I have noticed that the Dutch are extremely fond of statuary and Rotterdam is no exception to this rule. My favourite of the many statues I saw in the city, for execution and most certainly not for what it represents, is the Herdenkingsmonument which literally translates simply as Commemoration Monument and stands appropriately in Plein 1940. It is the work of the sculptor Ossip Zadkine who seems to have specialised in war memorials.

The statue was unveiled in 1953 a mere eight years after the end of the Second World War which it commemorates and when memories must still have been fresh and raw of the virtual destruction of central Rotterdam by the German Luftwaffe. Apart from it’s obvious artistic merit I think it makes a very powerful statement.

Obviously everyone will have their own taste in such things but I would suggest that if the traveller specifically seeks out one statue of the many on offer that they make it this one.

Cafe Plein.

Well, it had been a while since the last beer so I was ready for another and I decided on the Cafe Plein although there were certainly enough bars to choose from. A man should never go thirsty in this fine city.

Cafe Plein.

There were a few people sitting outside although I have no idea either how or why as it was freezing. Perhaps I am just not hardy enough to be Dutch. Hypothermia was not on the day’s agenda and so I wimpishly went inside (which was completely empty) and in the hope of perhaps warming up just a little, ordered my beer and the result was as you can see in the images, there was actually frost on the outside of the glass. Perhaps a Jamaican coffee would have been a better bet. Still, I don’t mind cold beer, it is warm beer I don’t like.

Cafe Plein.

The barman appeared to be busy doing all sorts behind the bar and so I contented myself with watching chef working hard in the semi-open kitchen to the rear of the bar. I am not surprised he was busy as he has a very extensive menu to contend with.


Most of the bars in city centres in the Netherlands seem to follow this pattern of being cafe / bars with huge menus during the day and morphing into clubs at night. Cafe Plein fits this pattern exactly and is no better nor worse than any of the rest of them. Service was prompt and polite, the bar was comfortable and the “facilities” spotless.

Not a scam at all.

I have mentioned a couple of times about how bitingly cold it was here in April although it was thankfully dry and quite bright most days but my meagre wardrobe wasn’t up to the task and I knew that something warm was the order of the day. I had a look in a few shop windows but everything seemed very expensive, at least comparable to London prices if not higher. I am no clothes horse and so style wasn’t a big issue, I just wanted something to keep out the chill. Thankfully I stumbled upon the clothes shop you can see here which were offering good bargains. It was called Scamm but it really was not a scam as I got a really warm jumper for a knockdown price and it was to stand me in good stead for the rest of my trip.

Here are another few images from my day of wandering round this lovely city.

Street scene, Rotterdam.
Sorry about the roadworks.




I had read about a mode of public transport in Rotterdam called the Waterbus which is exactly what the name implies. My thinking was that I could get that as far as Dordrecht and then catch a connecting train to Beauraing.

Erasmusbrug, Rotterdam.

I had made enquiries at the station in Rotterdam and been told that this was perfectly feasible. As you shall see shortly, this was not to be the case. The first part of the journey was no problem and I found the jetty and boarded for a very enjoyable hour or so “cruise” on the Nieuwe Maas, alighting in good order in the lovely town of Dordrecht. Let me tell you about the trip which was great fun.

It is well-known that the Netherlands is famous amongst other things for it’s waterways both natural and man-made and this is hardly surprising as so much of the country is reclaimed land and below sea level. Although I had seen plenty I had not been on the water on this trip to the country and so the waterbus to Dordrecht to continue my journey onwards was a bit of a foregone conclusion.


I knew I needed the number 20 line and found the quay easily enough as it is adjacent to the large new bridge. There was a clean and tidy waiting area which should have been welcome on a bitingly cold day but I was doing my tourist thing on the quay taking images, some of which accompany this entry.

A whole lot bigger than the boat I was on.


The boats leave every half hour and take just about an hour to reach Dordrecht with five intermediate stops. I was able to buy my ticket onboard from the conductor in a pretty comfortable salon complete with a large plasma TV although I was busy watching the passing scenery on the Nieuwe Maas which was fascinating.


I had the inside almost to myself as my few fellow passengers seemed content to stand out on the back deck with their bicycles. Bicycles on a riverboat, how quintissentially Dutch.


I realise that this is predominantly a local standard mode of transport rather than designed for tourists but I do recommend it as an alternative to the train for a slightly different view of the area. It is not exactly scenic but it offers a great insight into to the hinterland of what is one of the busiest seaports in the world.

I did take some video footage of the journey which I will post here if I work out how. Another step on the learning curve but I shall persevere until I work it out.

Welcome to Dordrecht.

Once in Dordrecht I made my way quickly to the train station stopping only briefly for a few photos and it was here that, as my old school friend and excellent musician Andy White puts it in one of his songs, things start to unwind.

Then another option occurred to me as I found out I could get a train to Namur which at least was going in the right direction so I jumped on that, alighting there a short time later. Well, what was I going to do next?

Grand Hotel de Flandre, Namur.

As always, when in doubt, resort to the pub which is what I did. I could not access the internet there and so I asked the barman, a large and slightly rough-looking sort of a bloke who turned out to be absolutely charming, if he had any suggestions. At this point a lady sitting at the bar enters the equation. It was later to transpire that she was the barman’s partner but I did not know that then. There was a decent amount of English spoken and she understood enough to get on her mobile ‘phone and do a search for me although I had not even asked. Just yet another example of the numerous small kindnesses I seem to get on the road all the time. Certainly many very strange things happen to me but the vast majority of them are incredibly positive. The lady had seen that I was in a bit of a predicament and took it upon herself to assist. I have no contact details for her and I doubt she will ever read this but I do thank her most sincerely.


The result of the good lady’s research was to find out that the best deal in town was literally across the road from there, the Grand Hotel de Flandre (most of the images were taken next day).  I suspect it has been “Grande” in it’s day and still carries the marks of an old style railway hotel with a most beautiful staircase but it now boasts decent modern rooms with all the accoutrements required by the 21st century traveller. Whlst it was a bit above what I normally budget for, it was very comfortable and literally across the road from the station so it suited nicely. Let me tell you a bit about the hotel.

A glimpse of a bygone age.

I suspect it has been “Grande” in it’s day and still carries the hallmarks of an old style railway hotel with a most beautiful staircase but it now boasts decent modern rooms with all the accoutrements required by the 21st century traveller. Whlst it was a bit above what I normally budget for, it was very comfortable and literally across the road from the station so the location suited nicely.

The room was en-suite oviously, even boasting a bath which regrettably would have been far too short for my lanky frame but it was nice to have the option. I had a twin room facing the road but it was not a problem with road noise as the town was pretty deserted by the time I got there. The single bed in a twin room was comfortable and the room warm enough on what was a fairly chilly night.


I cannot comment on the facilities in the hotel other than the room itself as I literally slept and bathed there before moving on but all in all it was a pleasant experience.

With my kit dumped fairly unceremoniously, it was totally incumbent upon me to return to the little bar and at least buy the lady a drink which I duly did. Truth be told, we had several, including a couple on the house from the barman when he had “closed”. It was a most convivial evening and yet another example of the reason I travel.

I was pretty hungry by then and the only place that appeared to be open was a kebab shop but that suits nicely after a bellyful of beer and so it was a doner washed down with a final beer for supper. It was a very content Fergy that slumped into a comfortable bed for a great night’s sleep. OK, I was in entirely the wrong place but I have spent most of my life being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I promise I get to Beauraing tomorrow (i.e. the next journal entry) so stay tuned and spread the word.

Fabulous Frank, fabulous Rotterdam, fabulous beer, fabulous day.

I awoke quite early on the morning of the 11th April and it wasn’t due to being in a communal room of six as all my young fellow travellers behaved in an exemplary manner, it had been the old man i.e. me that was last to bed but that is not unusual. I do not wish to be indelicate but I do not have need of an alarm clock because at my age I have a bladder to perform the function for me.

I wandered downstairs to the breakfast room where there was an excellent continental breakfast type spread laid on although I contented myself with some excellent coffee (another thing the Dutch do exceptionally well), some orange juice and a couple of slices of very tasty Dutch cheese. Is there anything the Dutch aren’t good at?

With the amount and variety on offer I reckon that if the traveller is on a really tight budget then eating up heartily at breakfast would easily keep them going until the evening meal which would be simple to prepare for themselves here as I would say it is one of the best hostel kitchens I have ever seen. It has ample cutlery, crockery and every imaginable utensil not to mention the most comprehensively stocked hostel larder imaginable. As with the garden I shall let the reader draw their own conclusions.

On what was to prove to be a three and a half month tour in Europe (sorry about the spoiler) I stayed in many hostels – one horror, a few acceptable but nothing to write home about and several that were absolutely outstanding. Ani & Haakien hostel in Rotterdam is certainly in the latter category. It is exceptional on every level as I hope to explain.

Firstly location. Most of the reason I picked it was for it’s proximity to Centraal Station as I don’t want to be messing about with taxis to end up on the outskirts of town somewhere. Forget that but even for a pensioner like me with luggage it was the work of five minutes station to hostel. I realise that many backpackers will be on budgets and prefer a cheaper alternative to the train and the national and international coach station is adjacent to the rail station so those travel options are equally well served.

Common area, Ani & Haakien hostel, Rotterdam.

I had wandered into the bright and modern reception area to be greeted with a cheery smile and greeting. I was to find out during my stay here that this is not a “have a nice day” type of smile as I call it but was undoubtedly genuine. The young staff here are remarkably friendly and even seem to hang around the place when they are not actually on duty. I had a few lengthy and fascinating conversations with several of them. I firmly believe that any establishment is only as good as the staff and on that basis alone this hostel is world-class.

Having been allotted my bunk I had headed upstairs to stow the kit and it was immediately evident that this was a very arts orientated operation as there were bits and bobs of art everywhere. All this before I had even seen the common area or garden! I just knew it was absolutely right for me and so it was to transpire. The room was the standard hostel affair and I was just about to say that it was clean and tidy but it was a hostel room so it was clean! I was later to find out that the bunk was comfortable and long enough for me which is not always the case. Please remember that whilst this appears on the date of the 11th this all happened on the evening of the 10th.

I did have a quick glance around but decided to leave it until the morning to have a proper look round and so off to bed. In the daylight of the earlyish next morning and what a wonderful place this is. It is immaculately kept and comfortable but it was only when I went out the back for a smoke that I discovered the jewel in the crown which is the garden area and is utterly delightful as well as being downright relaxing, I’d love to hang out there in summer. It is also very”green orientated” as is the whole hostel. Everything is recycled and so on which has to be a good thing, I think. I’ll let the images do the talking for me, the reader will undoubtedly be glad to know.


Back upstairs for a quick shower which more than fulfilled my second accommodation requirement, namely a decent water pressure and plenty of hot water. In keeping with the rest of the premises the washrooms were immaculately maintained throughout my entire stay.


I had decided on a few hours trying to get my journal up to date (I was behind even then) with a few beers from the hostel. There is no bar per se but they sell beer from a fridge at reasonable prices. Guests are at liberty to bring their own alcohol and there is a large Aldi supermarket about ten minute’s walk away.

Suzy the cat, Ani & Haakien hostel, Rotterdam.

Finally, I cannot conclude without a word about Suzy, the final staff member who, when not trying to stare out the guests, is fond of licking herself. Before you start wondering, Suzy is an adorable cat and even has her own website.

I think it is no fluke on the part of the “higher powers” that it’s postal address is Coolsestraat 47-49 as it is easily one of the coolest places I have ever stayed.

Whilst returning from the breakfast room to where I was sitting in the rather pleasant communal area I spied a noticeboard with a list of daily suggestions for things to do and this being a Tuesday the daytime suggestion was for a highlights walking tour with “fabulous Frank”, whoever he might have been, beginning at 1100. I made enquiry at the desk and was told that Frank would be along soon. I should mention here that “fabulous” is not a soubriquet he applies to himself, the hostel do it.

I should also point out here that I have only once or twice, to my recollection, been on a guided walk as the idea of them just makes me uncomfortable for some obscure and unfathomable reason. I prefer to roam about alone. Frank duly appeared, a very tall young guy with long, blond hair and an extremely friendly demeanour. He didn’t try to push me at all as I still had not really made up my mind whether to go or not but we chatted of this and that and it transpired that he had lived in London for some time which may partially have accounted for his faultless English although I believe he is originally Polish. I was much taken by the guy and decided to go on his walk which I do like doing anyway. My companions were to be two Belgian couples who turned out to be charming so it was not like being in a coach trip party as we were such a small group.

First stop on Frank’s tour.

I won’t go into the route in detail here as frankly I cannot remember it exactly now but I have to say that Frank was utterly brilliant with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the city. I was particularly interested in the way he described the events of post World War Two where the entire centre of the city was essentially obliterated by Nazi German bombardment.

What I propose to do instead is to publish a separate gallery for the numerous images I took on that day with as much accompanying information as I can get together.

Rotterdam is an old city and there were many historic buildings damaged although some were still capable of being saved but, with the exception of a scant few, the city fathers took the decision to literally tear down the lot and start all over which is why the city is so modern looking now. Amazingly, they had started drawing up plans for the redevelopment literally a few weeks after the bombardment stopped. Work finally began in 1946 and they basically rebuilt a city in a very few years. It was all remarkably interesting stuff.


It was all going swimmingly well and so something had to go wrong sooner or later, and it did. Frank had told us we were coming to the last point of

Street scene, Rotterdam.

, of which there had been many, which was the Markt Haus (Market House) close by and then he would tell us a quick way home. Rotterdam is very compact and we had literally not been more than 15 minutes walk from the hostel at any point.

The image that caused my downfall.

Naturally, the Market House is near the market and we were walking through a very crowded and interesting street market. I love street markets but it was not that which caused my downfall. I stopped to take an “arty” picture of an old Church and when I looked round the rest of them were nowhere to be seen. I mentioned earlier that Frank is a tall guy with a shock of blond hair and I stand 6’5″ so I thought it would be no problem to spot him over the crowd. Wrong! Admittedly it was very busy but they had just vanished. Ah well, no problem as I knew where the hostel was.

When I say there was no problem, actually there was. Frank does not charge a set fee for his tours but invites his clients to tip him what they think it was worth and, believe me, it was worth a lot. I was a bit worried he would think I had “done a runner” to avoid giving him money but that was resolved later in the evening when I ran into him back at the hostel and did indeed give him what I thought his brilliant tour had been worth.  I’ll include a few more images from the tour here.

Centraal Station in daylight.
I liked the look of this building.



Town Hall gardens.



Town Hall interior.



In cases such as this there is only one solution and that is to adopt Fergy SOPs (Standard Operational Procedures) i.e. find a bar and so off I went. Normally, I would have dived into the first bar I saw but for some reason I walked past a couple of perfectly acceptable looking venues. I am quite used to things like this happening to me and don’t consciously dwell on it, I just go where the mood takes me.

I lost the group but at least I found a market.

Turning into a street I now know to be called Mauritsweg I saw the rather strange sight of a fairly modern and slightly odd-looking building sandwiched two traditional old Dutch structures which was obviously a cafe / bar called  I put this down to the street probably having been bombed in World War Two when the Germans virtually obliterated central Rotterdam.


Despite the fact that there was only one other customer there, a lady with a glass of wine watching the world go by, I went in. It was lunchtime so my normal instinct would have been that the place was unpopular, for which there must be an explanation, and avoided it but I didn’t. Looking round, it was clean and tidy with no apparent reason for the lack of patrons.

de Unie bar, Rotterdam.

I walked past the hugely ornate wooden chair you can see in the images and wondered what it was doing there as the rest of the decor was modern. I actually thought it was a salvaged pulpit from an old church somewhere although the significance eluded me. I ordered my beer from the friendly barman who appeared to be quite busy doing various chores behind the bar. I later found out that the place is primarily a gay nightclub which is open until 0500 so he was probably just sorting out some odds and ends from the night before.



Another quick beer and I went on my way thinking nothing more about what looked to me like just another Dutch bar if slightly architecturally quirky. It was only whilst writing this some months later that I discovered De Unie is of considerable artistic importance and here is a very brief potted history. De Unie was not originally here at all but in nearby Coolsingel where it was indeed bombed during the war. It had been designed by J.J.P. Oud, a leading member of de Stijl (the Style) which was a Dutch artistic / architectural movement of the 1920s known as neo-plasticism, whatever that is. No, I had never heard of any of this so travel does indeed broaden the mind!

In 1986 an architect called Weeber came up with the idea of

reconstructing De Unie in a spare “hole” in the current location which is what he did. As I say, this is only a brief overview but an internet search of anything I have mentioned so far is so fascinating it took me well over four hours to compose this brief piece in the first place.

Knowing the history of the building is great and whilst researching it I also found out what the “pulpit” was all about. Although not an original piece it is of artistic interest also. J.J.P. Oud had designed this piece which was rather prosaically called Chair 07B which, for various reasons, was never realised. When de Unie was being rebuilt the interior designer, a chap called Hopman, sought and obtained permission from Oud’s heirs to produce a limited edition of 52 of these chairs which he did. It is all clear to me now.

As a bar it is perfectly fine and I have no complaints at all although I cannot help but wonder why I walked past others to go in here. Strange things happen to me!

Update July 2018.

I do like to constantly check my information and have found out whilst re-researching this for publication here that the premises went bankrupt in October 2017.  I do wonder what happened to the chair.

Street Art, Rotterdam.

I navigated myself back to the general area of the hostel but of course it was still early afternoon and all that walking had made me thirsty so the hostel got a bit of a body swerve and the very pleasant Holy Smoke bar / restaurant, which I mentioned in the previous instalment, received my full attention until I returned home at a ridiculously early hour for me.


Before I departed however I ended up sampling one of the strangest things I have ever drunk in my life and I have drunk some very strange things, believe me. I had seen on the chalkboard of the constantly changing draught beers an item billed as “Kitchen Confidential – piccalilli beer”

Holy Smoke bar, Rotterdam.

This interested me on two levels as “Kitchen Confidential” is the title of an absolutely excellent book by the world-acclaimed chef Anthony (Tony) Bourdain. It is a wonderful read about the lives of haute cuisine chefs in the 1980’s in New York where they used to stay awake on cocaine for 72 hours to prepare the most obscenely decadent feasts for the super rich of that city. It is brutally honest and well worth seeking out. As an aside Tony used to be a “star” writer on the now butchered Virtual Tourist website where I invested 12 happy years of my life. I am editing this for inclusion here in July 2018 and it was only a couple of weeks ago that I heard the very sad news that Tony had committed suicide. What a waste.

Picalilli beer – whatever next?

The second reason for my interest was that it was a piccalilli beer, what the Hell was that? I adore pickles of all sorts and even have a strange notion that food merely exists in many cases to supplement the so-called condiments. In my time I have drunk banana beer, garlic beer, chilli beer and a host of others but how was anyone ever going to pull piccallili beer off? It sounded too ludicrous even for my rather odd palate, if indeed I can be said to have one.


I spoke to my young lady friend from the night before thinking it had perhaps been a mistranslation of Piccadilly in London and therefore denoting some sort of London ale but I was assured that, no, it was a picallili beer from the Jopen brewery which is highly respected and, like so many in this region, linked to a religious order. This simply had to be done and so a large glass was ordered. I am not a beer snob and know little about it except drinking it but I must confess I did a little beer snobbery by actually sniffing the product (or nosing, or whatever the purists call it) and I swear it was just like opening a jar of that particular pickle. I feel I can speak on this as I even spent a very long time making my own once some years ago. Too much like hard work for me to attempt again although it tasted great!

Time for the taste test now and it was simply divine, one of the best beers I have ever drunk. I know it sounds like a totally mad idea but it works so

Honestly, I am not joking.

. I do not know what the base beer was, I suspect probably a duvel but you cannot argue with these guys as they have been brewing for literally centuries, indeed technically millenia now. I doubt it is available for export but if you can source it, do. Mortgage your home to do it and you will not regret it because it is that good. Beer and pickles all in the one glass made for a very happy Fergy.

I have to say that I did go on a bit of a shutter frenzy or whatever the digital equivalent is and so, as I did for Frank’s walk earlier, I shall publish a separate gallery to showcase some of my attempts at photographic art, for which read drunken idiocies.


I eventually tore myself away from the very obvious delights of Holy Smoke via a local supermarket where I stocked up on a strange selection of bread rolls, pickled herring, cocktail sauce and garlic butter amongst other things and that formed the basis of the “Chez Fergy plat du jour” for the evening before settling in for an evening’s writing with a few cans of beer from the local “nightshop” which actually seemed to be open all the time. As I have said before I do have a strange taste in food when I do get round to eating occasionally.

Time to resupply.

I was still going well at that point so off to the extreme altitude of the fourth floor and an upper bunk. I nearly got a nosebleed but I did manage another good night’s sleep despite the room being full again.

How much pickled herring can I eat? All of it!

After the exertions of the previous day, enjoyable as they were, the 12th was given over entirely to sitting about the hostel drinking excellent Dutch beer from the very tidy and well-stocked bar, eating yet more pickled herring (I really do love them) and trying desperately to keep this journal up which I really was finding difficult to do. As there is not much to report on this date I shall lump it in with the previous day.

Not a bad working office.

I had tried blogging before when I was also writing my tips on Virtual Tourist and I really do struggle with juggling the two as I always like to research my tips / reviews fully and I would say that a single review would rarely take me much less than an hour and often considerably longer so the time really does mount up. Add on the writing required for journal entries and it probably explains why I ended up writing this entry on a train between Metz and Nancy in France exactly a fortnight after the events described.

After my day of writing, eating and drinking it was off for another great nights sleep. I was having a ball with the thought of going home never even crossing my mind.

In the next instalment I move on from Rotterdam and things start to go a bit pear-shaped with very interesting results so stay tuned and spread the word.

So where to next? Rotterdam maybe?

10th April and so I was already a bit past my vaguely considered return date but I just didn’t feel like going home. I had my debit cards, some cash and my passport. I had just about enough clothes to keep me going for a couple more days (this will prove to be critical later on) but it was all just becoming a little bit strange and I could see another one of my lunacies looming large on the horizon. I just wanted to keep moving and I was going to move this day. I am sure there are those amongst my admittedly limited numbers of readers that will understand.


After yet another tasty breakfast of scrambled eggs, a couple of delightful spinach and feta pastries and some very good bread it was time to move. I must say they do know how to make bread in these parts. It was so good that this breakfast oddity was in danger of becoming a habit.

I decided to walk into town as it was not that far and I am travelling extremely light. I was spared the temptation of the both excellent Sierkan and Asplaag bars as they were both shut but I knew it wasn’t going to last long. I did manage to walk past one or two more but I am with Oscar Wilde on this one when he asserted that, “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it”. Spot on, Oscar.

When the temptation got just too much I happened to be walking past the Cafe Bar Roj so I stopped walking past and walked in instead.


It was a purely random choice and it looked clean and tidy enough from the outside as it was to prove to be on the inside. It is just a typical no frills bar that is so typical of the region and as is also typical the only woman to be seen was behind the bar serving.


There where there were about three or four middle-aged blokes drinking at one end of the bar and having a jolly time of it by the look of things. I nodded a greeting and was instantly part of the company, it really did turn out to be rather sociable. I knew I was not too far from the station so I was not going to go too far wrong if I sat tight with them for a while which is exactly what I did. Even when they all drifted off, presumably for lunch, I stayed on for a couple more and a chat to the charming Turkish barmaid and even a bit of travel writing on the side.


There is a large room at the rear of the premises which I believe serves as a function room complete with small stage and some music stands and I also had a peek at the kitchen which was immaculate as, indeed, were the “facilities” when I had occasion to use them.

If you are a beer afficionado this may not be too much to your liking as it is bottle only as they have no draught which is not uncommon in these parts. I opted for a Heineken which was nice and cold at least although it is no way my favourite beer out there.

Huisregels, Cafe Bar Roj, Den Haag.

I am always a little concerned when I visit a premises that feels the need to display houserules and when I saw the “houseregels” here, which I attempted to translate, I think they were no drugs and no weapons and the word “politie” (police) featured a bit. Admittedly I was there at lunchtime and maybe it does get a bit lively at night but I had a wonderful time although I feel it only fair to warn the reader. I know I would certainly go back.

Eventually I said goodbye and took off for the station but by a deliberately circuitous route as I wanted to get some street scenes of the city having not managed to see a heck of a whole pile of it previously. I have attached some of them here.


I made the station in good order to catch my train to Rotterdam where I had booked a hostel for two nights. I had actually wanted three but all the budget accommodation in the city was pretty much booked up. It was Easter school holidays and there were school groups everywhere.

The train trip was short and comfortable and then the short walk to the hostel Ani and Haakien where I checked in quickly, allocated a bunk where I dumped my kit and enquired of the friendly lady on reception where there was a nearby decent bar. She smilingly gave me a map with several suggestions on it and added a few of her own. I picked the Holy Smoke purely because it was closest and the young lady said is was good. Yes, I can be a lazy brute at times! I shall tell you all about the hostel in a future instalment.

Holy Smoke bar / restaurant, Rotterdam.

The reader may think that an establishment in the Netherlands called Holy Smoke would be concerned with marijuana given that country’s very liberal attitude towards the plant cannabis sativa but nothing could be further from the truth. I shall reveal all now and tell you about this brilliant bar.

I am a great believer that there is no substitute for local knowledge and this was the case here as the young lady certainly had not given me a bum steer. In a city not devoid of good bars (I know because I tried a few) this really is a standout.

Choosing a draught beer from a very extensive selection I got to chatting with the young man and young woman serving. They had plenty of time to chat as the place was nearly empty which surprised me. It is quite large inside but even allowing for that it still looked empty. After a couple of “pints” (half-litres actually) I asked the barmaid what the name was all about and she told me a while later but for the benefit of those who may not know about the Netherlands a word of explanation.

Cannabis is legal there and people smoke it openly in public. We were standing outside having a (nicotine) smoke which I think is perverse. You cannot smoke a cigarette in a bar or restaurant or whatever because of the smoking ban but you can smoke cannabis. I remember a joke from a few years ago that in 99% of the world the police bust you for having cannabis in your nicotine but only in Holland do they bust you for having nicotine in your cannabis!

View from Holy Smoke bar / restaurant, Rotterdam.

It was while we were standing there that she explained the name to me. She indicated a device that looked like a kettle type barbecue and told me it was a smoker and that the whole menu was based around smoked food all of which they prepare on the premises. They will smoke anything here including vegetables which I would like to try sometime. I deeply regret that I never had the opportunity to dine here and it is definitely pencilled in for my next visit. We went back inside then for more chat and more beer for me.

Manlove beer? A first for me.

I do love beers from the Low Countries and the variety is staggering as is the beer menu here. When I told her about my preferences she immediately suggested a Mannenliefde (translates as Manlove) Saison which was unusual to say the least but absolutely divine. I have drunk a lot of beer in my life but never one that includes lemongrass and Szechuan pepper! I have also drunk a piccalilli beer in this establishment and yes, you read that correctly, picalilli as in the pickled accompaniment to cold meats etc. and no, I had never heard of it either but that is a story for another time.

I should note here that she reeled off all the details about it without reference to a crib sheet, as indeed did other colleagues on subsequent visits, about every brew on offer which indicated to me a genuine affection for the product they sell and pride in doing it well. I was very impressed.

I did not want a late night and so a couple more did me although I could have happily sat there until 0200 when they close just as I could sit here now and praise Holy Smoke all day but I shall refrain. Just a couple of things before I sign off. If you are not a beer drinker they have an equally huge selection of other drinks on offer and I suggest you have a look at the Jenever (Dutch gin) offering.

On a technical and important note Holy Smoke appears to be fully accessible for the mobility impaired.

I even made it home in the dark!

Home then for yet another decent night’s sleep in a comfy bunk even if the climb up to the top deck was a bit precarious in the dark!

More of my new city in the next instalment so stay tuned and spread the word.