When was I last in Rotterdam? It's so long I can't say with any certainty.
I think it was when I was still writing city guides for the NLM flight magazine.I regularly made research trips to the city looking for new places. When was that? 2004 or 2005. More than 15 years, at any rate. That's a frightening thought. But why would I visit Rotterdam? Other than maybe going to watch Sparta play.
I'm not counting a couple of times that I've changed trains there. At least they've improved the station. There used to be individual little roofs over the platforms. Not that much use on a windy day. Now a single roof spans all the platforms.
I took a train from Amsterdam Zuid, despite it entailing a change. I'd rather not go to Amsterdam Centraal, if I can avoid it. Plus changing trains is a piece of piss. All I needed to do was walk across the platform to my connecting train. No trouble at all and no delay. It's not something I'd be very keen to do on the UK, where the trains are far more chaotic.
I was off to meet Robbie from Glasgow. Who was catching a ferry to Harwich later in the evening.
Public transport is so well organised here. My journey by bus, train and metro was all done using a single card. It makes life so much easier.
Not getting out of town much nowadays, I was more interested in the countryside slipping past the window than usual. The trees have far fewer leaves out here. Most are just skeletal hands reaching for the sky.
Stopped in a station, I noticed a rather sinister sign on an office building:
"WE WON'T STOP UNTIL YOU'RE ALL CONNECTED"
Note the use of "we" and "you". Sounds like they're going to connect us up whether we want it or not.
The Rotterdam metro is more useful than Amsterdam's, Eve after the opening of the Nord-Zuid line. Big chunks of the city remain miles away from any line. In comparison, the Rotterdam system is far more coherent with lines running out of the city in all four points of the compass.
I headed for Delfshaven. The nice bit of Rotterdam. The only 17th-century bit left after the wartime bombing. It wasn't originally part of Rotterdam, but the harbour for neighbouring Delft, until engulfed by 19th-century sprawl.
The original plan was to meet in Oude Sluis at 13:00. Until Robbie discovered that it didn't open until 14:00. Instead, he suggested we kick off in brewpub Pelgrim, which is just around the corner. I'd no problem with that. It would be a chance to try some of their beers for the first time in ages.
As I was late, Robbie was already well into a beer when I rolled up.
Being a cold day, I plump for a Dubbelbock at a warming 8% ABV. It's really rather nice.Chewily drinkable, is how I'd describe. It's good to see Robbie. It's been a couple of years. Not quite as long as the last time I'd visited this city.
He filled me in on some of the research he's been doing into the origins of Schwarzbier. I'm glad someone is looking into it. There are some pretty dodgy stories knocking around.
Next, we both ordered a Vagabond, described as an Export Stout. It's also a warming 8% ABV.
Oude Sluis is probably my favourite Rotterdam pub. Built around 1900, it's arse hangs out over the water. While not huge, it's bigger than many Amsterdam cafés. A couple of massive relief images adorn its walls. Reminding be a bit of the corner bar in Zum Uerige.
The draught list only runs to 7 or 8 beers, but there are plenty of bottles, mostly Belgian. Including ones from an impressive 11 Trappist monasteries. There are so many of them brewing, nowadays.
They had La Trappe Bock on tap. Tasting rather similar to their Dubbel. Not that I'm complaining. I used to drink loads of La Trappe Dubbel in Café Belgique.
Robbie tried 0.0% La Trappe. The barman warns him:
"You know that's alcohol-free, don't you?"
Robbie's verdict "Not awful. Rather thin, like a Dark Mild." it's OK, but he won't be ordering another in hurry.
He has to get off around six. Handily, he can take a metro directly to the ferry terminal. We couldn't have stayed out that much later. It was the day the pubs started closing at 20:00.
I picked some additions to the sandwiches I brought with me: two bags of crisps and a can of Gulpener Gladiator. That kept me going.