Monday, October 14, 2013

September 8-9 Sunday / Monday Train to Rotterdam

Sept 8-9, 2013 
Sunday morning we're packing up to head for the train station in Paris to travel up to Rotterdam (Holland) for a day. The next night we'll be taking an overnight ferry to Hull, England. We took a cab over to the station, got dropped off in front, and went inside. It seemed kind of small, more like a bus station where about 8 tracks could hold trains. 
 A constantly changing electronic board would update every 15 minutes showing which track your train location would pull in. There was little to no seating, enough for 10 people is all we saw. And we were an hour early. So we stood with a lot of people near the schedule board and people-watched, all the time looking out for those pickpockets everyone warned us about. But I think the armed soldiers kept that problem at bay.
Our train finally arrived, quite a sleek one, and not an old fashioned one as I'd hoped. Hubby was worried the whole time about being separated from our luggage and having it stolen while we weren't around. He'd even tried to buy bicycle locks to lock them to something. We ended up sitting only 4 rows of seats away from the luggage cart but he was constantly watching and standing up each time we stopped to make sure none of our luggage walked away.
On the final long junction he finally relaxed and we could enjoy our lunch we were served with our tickets. It was an interesting pasta salad with veggies but I think I would have liked it warm rather than cold. Same with the green beans. The strudel wasn't bad though.
 I kept trying to take photos of the countryside but we were moving too fast, and then walls and barriers would block the view. I wanted to show what Rotterdam looked like. I didn't expect to see any windmills because I don't think we were in any part of the country. There was a lot of graffiti on the walls too. I guess that happens all over the world. And we didn't see any pretty parts of town.
We finally reached the train station at Rotterdam and it was kind of run down and confusing to us. The signs weren't helping either. So we just kind of followed the crowds to find the exit and look around for a taxi cab. They still lined up out front like ours do so that was easy. Our driver spoke some English and was able to answer some questions but there wasn't much he could tell us because the area we were in was industrial, not a tourist area. It was getting to be disappointing and I was losing my spirits seeing all the big tanks and non-descript buildings. Our driver asked us a couple times why we were here, and I started wondering too. But it was the most convenient and closest location for us to catch the ferry tomorrow night.
*Suddenly the commercial for popped into my head-- You're driving down dirt roads, trudging through sand, dragging your suitcases, and wondering "did I make a mistake?"*
Our hotel, the Carlton Oasis in Spijkenisse, was in the middle of an industrial park.  I had to have the name repeated to me multiple times to get it. *Spee kanesse with soft s's"

It was a "boutique" hotel, catering to business conferences, and with nothing else around, the restaurant is a gathering for the residents for dinner.
This was our view out the windows of our room.

See that tall green thing? I think that's supposed to be art. It's a tall blade of grass. Also notice the dark clouds in the back? A massive thunderstorm was arriving. Moments later it started thundering with lightening around us, and an hour later it was dumping buckets of rain on us, and continued doing that the entire next day. Enough rain came down the next morning that the roof in the dining room was starting to have drips around us.
Our room was a suite where the bedroom was walled off on one end, and it was nice. Not exactly to our decorating tastes, but nice. And the bed had a down mattress.  
Since I don't have much to write about this place, I'm including this: I'm fascinated by foreign bathrooms, and this one was no exception. See that white box on the wall to the right of the toilet? It's the toilet paper dispenser and they come out in single sheets, the size of half a Kleenex. Takes about 4 sheets. One thing I noticed on our trip is that their toilet paper over there is thicker than ours, so it takes less. 

As I said, it was pouring rain the next day and anyhow we were miles away from a town worth visiting, and the cab fare would be ridiculous, so we used this as a day of rest from all that walking in Paris. I thought I'd get my journaling caught up but spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to load up photos on my laptop so I could share some on Facebook. Hubby spent a good part of the day trying to figure out how to get either of the TVs to work, watching a few programs and napping. I happened to catch a BBC Two program similar to our TV series on renovating old houses, called "Restoration Home",  but here they have REALLY OLD houses. They renovated an old stone manor, Castle Cassillas, where they dug up the stone floor basement kitchen and found relics down there. Man, I would love to watch that series at home!  Oooh, just found a link to it. Hope it works so I can watch it on my computer.  Restoration Home   *Nope, the videos don't work in the US*
We went downstairs for dinner to a really nice looking restaurant there, and had a fabulous dinner. I had grilled jumbo shrimp on a bed of finely diced vegetables, on top of grilled potato medallions. It was delicious. I've noticed in Paris and here they cut their veggies much smaller than we do, and I like that. I'm getting tired of trying to eat chunks that are too big for my mouth.  My dessert was a pear tart that came with a walnut cream to pour over the top, and a thick cream with a tart berry that they said is for decoration, like we do parsley.

We didn't really unpack our suitcases this time so we were able to wait till the last minute to leave for the ferry. I took a final photo of the lobby of the hotel before we left. It really wasn't a bad place at all, and I can see why they called it Carlton Oasis because amidst the industrial park, it would be an oasis.

Our ferry was leaving at 9pm so we called our taxi and headed out on the 45 minute drive to the Rotterdam Port. I'm not sure what I was expecting. We had reserved a cabin to sleep in, and I'm wondering was it going to be like the ferries in Washington, that transports people and cars across the water? What a surprise when we came to the terminal and found it was just like a small cruise ship! It's getting better! 
*Cue commercial- trudging up the gangplank dragging your suitcases* Except we went up three levels by escalator. Stepping on board we saw lots of travelers looking like day trippers. It wasn't quite as complicated as one of our cruise ships. We walked down the hallway to our corner suite and suddenly......
Booking dot YEAHHHHHH!!     Cute, isn't it? 

The shower room and toilet (each w/ its own sink) were in separate rooms in our room, although small, but usable. 

Things were looking up. We already had our dinner earlier so we just wandered around the ship, checking out the club room, the casino (kind of small) and the shopping (one large room of mainly cosmetics, purses, and toiletries). Nothing like one of our cruise ships but these are only meant to do short trips, not week-long. 
Then we headed back for bed and get prepared for our arrival next morning in Hull, England. 
Except our beds were hard as rocks, and so were the pillows. What?!!!! Come on people!!! 

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