Friday, 16 April 2010

Dover, Calais, Rotterdam, Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel, Running, the Metro and Kinderdijk

Last weekend my younger daughter, Katie, was running in the Rotterdam marathon. We’d decided to go along and offer moral support … oh … and also a credit card.

03:30 Saturday 10th April 2010 and the alarm starts to buzz.

04:10 and we’re driving to Dover.

05:50 the man that is checking passports just waves us on.

05:51 the lady that is checking out the cars and the people waves at us to stop.

“We just need to check the underside of your car.”

A trolley with an attached mirror makes its way under and around the car.

It’s a little amusing.

The underside of the car is checked quite thoroughly.

But not the boot (trunk) nor the inside of the car.

05:53 “Pleas could you get out of the car and walk through the security scanner?”

“All of us?”

“No … just you sir.”

Next time I should travel as a girl I think.

I get out.

Empty my pockets into a plastic tray.

Walk through the the security scanner.

And that’s it.

Knowing that they have the authority to dismantle the car if they choose to I resist the temptation to ask what the point of all that was.

But … really … I find it hard to see what the point was.

The ferry to Calais is uneventful.

My fingernails are a slightly sparkly purple colour. No one pays much attention.

Sally: “Un croissant et un pain au chocolat s’il vous plait.”

The barman: “Et les boissons? "

Sally’s knowledge of French is rumbled.

Driving on the right (as opposed to left) side of the road isn’t so bad … so long as you remember. Remembering is easy so long as there is traffic about.

The drive from Calais to Rotterdam is pretty straightforward with the SatNav. Chris While and Julie Matthews and Indigo Girls keep me entertained together with a little of Simone White.

Kph is tricky compared with mph. The kph numbers are tiny on the car’s speedometer.

A pee stop and about 3 hours driving and the SatNav says “you have reached your destination.”

We can see the hotel across a grassy embankment but we aren’t quite there.

We’re about 15 minutes drive from Rotterdam centre. Parking in the centre is not so easy this weekend we are told because of the marathon.

We head for Alexander Park and Ride.

Getting a metro ticket is a challenge at Alexander Park and Ride if you’re a newcomer.

There’s a mainline railway station as well as a metro station.

You can’t buy a ticket from a human being … only a machine.

A lot of the machines seem to be designed to let you top up a railcard – but it’s not obvious how you get the railcard in the first place.

After a lot of searching we find a machine where you can buy a ticket. Just the one machine.

You can use money …. but only coins and not notes.

A two day travel pass costs 9 Euros. There are three of us and no coins … just notes.

So out comes the credit card … thankfully the machine does English as well as Dutch … German … French …

You can only but one ticket at a time.

Egg … the provider of my preferred credit card … have a habit of querying transactions that look even a little out of the ordinary.

But we manage to get the three tickets … eventually … and head through the barriers.

Are we on the right platform?

This is a little tricky to be certain about … no maps in any obvious place.

But we guess right and pretty soon arrive at Burse in the city centre.

A snack and then we head to the World Trade Centre building so Katie can confirm her presence. A tiny can of Heineken costs 2 Euros.

We walk around a bit …. wishing we had brought coats.

Next morning as we head for the city centre again ready for the start of the race we’re glad we got the two day rail cards … there is a very long line of marathon-runner-types standing in line at the ticket machine.

The race stars at 11:00 am.

Sally and I:

  • see Katie run by
  • get to the metro to get ahead
  • watch Katie run by
  • get the metro
  • watch Katie run by

You get the general idea?

Actually though it’s good that we manage to spot her at each place that we try.

A little before 15:00 we’re at the 350 metres from the end line.

Katie runs by … a time of 3 hours and 57 minutes.

I’m glad that I took the metro.

That evening we eat at Cartoons restaurant ( … recommended by the receptionist at the hotel. The food is great … if you’re ever anywhere near Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel then go for it.

Monday and we travel back home taking a little while to look at the windmills at Kinderdijk (

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