Rotterdam

Rotterdam is a “working town”, unlike the glitzy Amsterdam. It has one of the largest harbors in the world, and it’s worth seeing. I found the people incredibly friendly and helpful. Most can and will speak English quite well. Rotterdam also has some beautiful parks, and you’ll find that everyone goes about their business at a much more relaxed pace than we do here in the States. I never got the impression that anyone was competing, or in a rush, or trying to impress me. Meals in restaurants are served and eaten at a very leisurely pace, and you may have to ask for your bill if you need to get somewhere.

You’ll be given a map of the city when you check into your hotel. While staying at Hotel Van Walsum, I found it easiest to divide the city into that intersection of the 2 main streets (Mathenesserlaan and Nieuwe Binnenweg) with my hotel more or less at its center. We couldn’t begin to pronounce the street names properly, so we gave them nicknames to remember them. Mathenesserlaan is the street where Hotel van Walsum is, and where you begin walking to Erasmus, and Nieuwe Binnenweg has all the shops, restaurants, delis, and bakeries, and the banks. There is a large modern shopping mecca on Nieuwe Binnenweg, within walking distance as well.

Hotels/Lodging

There are many hotels in Rotterdam, to suit every taste, so look around online to choose one you like. I chose Hotel Van Walsum because it’s an old fashioned and comfortable hotel, family owned, and right in the center of everything we wanted and needed. It’s also reasonably priced, and the owners and all the front desk staff treated me with warmth and grace, and never got tired of my clumsy efforts at speaking in Dutch, or English, or of our thousand and one questions. It’s a 10-12 minute walk from Van Walsum to Erasmus. This hotel also has an outstanding buffet breakfast, that can be included with the room, and if you take your meal to the outside patio you’ll find a friendly and handsome cat to keep you company, if you like animals. The hotel rooms also have a small refrigerator, a safe, and an electronic kettle. I recommend booking your stay directly with them at www.hotelvanwalsum.nl

Food

Rotterdam has a wide variety of restaurants to choose from, unforgettable delis, and at least 3 grocery stores in the center of town. Since I was on a limited budget, I combined some meals out with picking up food from delis and the grocery stores and bakeries. All the ones we used, and loved were on Nieuwe Binnenweg. The owners of the delis and restaurants became friends, and a part of my cancer journey.

Grocery Stores: The Coop, Nieuwe Binnenweg 24, is a good all-around grocery store

                             EkoPlaza, at Nieuwe Binnenweg 240 - slightly more upscale

Delis:                  I loved the French deli, Chez Moi at Nieuwe Binnenweg 302B,

                             and an Italian one La Zia Maria – Nieuwe Binnenweg 222A.

Restaurants: My two favorite restaurants are Veel Soeps, Nieuwe Binnenweg 125h, (nice fruit/veg                      store next to it, too)

                       and Sphaghettata, Nieuwe Binnenweg 151

Sample your way around the bakeries, cheese shops, cafes, etc., and all the other restaurants.

The grocery stores are very handy, but unless you speak fluent Dutch, be prepared to be confused as you make your selections from a wide variety of items labelled in Dutch. Dairy products were the most baffling for me, as I tried to find the Dutch version of “half and half” for my coffee. To the best of my knowledge no such thing exists, and “koffee melk “is evaporated milk. I learned to use melk, and it’s available as it is here, in many varieties of fat content.

Let Rotterdam spoil you with its delicious food, but keep your expectations low for hospital meals. I found their lunches pretty good, but brought my own food for breakfasts and the one dinner you’ll be there for. I brought things like croissants, fresh fruit, and yogurts – and of course chocolate.

Items to take

Erasmus provides you with a list of things you’ll need/want while getting your treatment, but there are a few other things I found very helpful to have on your trip.

Sleeping mask and earplugs for your flights.

A face mask in case you are seated near someone with a cold or other potentially contagious infection

A small soap bar and shower cap for the hospital.

A European plug converter (the hotel has several to borrow, but they’re only about $7, and nice to have your own)

A Water container – you’ll want to be sure you drink a lot, from the time you leave home until you get back

A notepad – for notes.

A reading light – if you like to read. You never know what kind of lamp your hotel room will have

Stool softeners (Senokot S) and a painkiller. Both of these just in case you need them.

Communications

Telephone – Since I had an I-phone, I was able to text anyone else with an IPhone for free, but Verizon would have charged me to text anyone else. I did not attempt to call anyone, except locally on the landline phones in the hotel and at Erasmus. I recommend you contact your provider and discuss your options/charges, settings, etc. on your mobile phone before leaving the country.

Email – Wi-Fi is widely available in Rotterdam, but it’s not everywhere. It’s very good at Erasmus, and I found this the easiest way to communicate with people back home. If you have an iPad or other tablet, I recommend bringing it. Netflix however is not available over there.

Talking in Holland, television, etc. – Talking in Rotterdam is pretty easy. Almost everyone speaks English well. There are many apps you can put on your phone for translations, especially for understanding written Dutch -- as in the food stores, etc. , and there are even ones that will translate as you speak.

Pronunciation of Dutch words is tricky, so it’s good to hear them before you start saying them. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many words are very similar to English ones, such as hallo, pardon, sorry, and goed – pronounced khoot – for good. Thank you is dahnk yuh vehl (informal) or dahnk ew vehl (formal) and yes is Ja (yah) - no is nee (nay). Any effort you make will be appreciated.

Many of the television programs are in English, with Dutch subtitles, and I found BBC in English in the evening hours. Don’t expect to find the programs we’re used to in the US, though.