Thursday, June 25, 2009
We left our hotel in Hasselt early for a day trip in our rental car. The drive took us through Brussels and Antwerpen and into Holland. We encountered a lot of small cars moving very fast on the highways. We also encountered some traffic jams especially near the outer centrums of the large cities.
We stopped in Rotterdam and walked into the central downtown shopping area. Sitting outside in the pedestrian plaza, we enjoyed a good-sized American-style cup of coffee while conversing with a couple of young 20 somethings locals. It was warm and sunny and even the locals were surprised at how pleasant the weather was. There was a large food wagon in the middle of the square that sold french fries in paper cones. I had not seen this since leaving Belgium back when I was just a boy. I asked the two locals where the old historical part of city was and they replied there was none. They then went on to explain that during WWII, the German Luftwaffe bombed this strategic port city day in and day out until there was nothing left standing. Hence, Rotterdam had to be rebuilt from scratch.
After a short stay, we drove further up the coast and made it to Amsterdam in about an hour and a half. Amsterdam is not a car-friendly city as there are few places to park in the heart of the city. Bicycles rule! The majority of the inhabitants we saw were young and the scene resembled that of a university town.
We finally parked the car in the outlying business section and walked about but we were too far away to get to the historic city center. After a momentary scare, we did finally find our way back to our car and decided just to tour the city from our car as it was getting late and we had a long drive back to Hasselt. As usual, we wished we had more time to explore this beautiful old city.
The drive back was long and we stopped at a roadside restaurant in Nederweert just north of the Belgian border. The food was good and plentiful and reasonably priced.
We got back late and exhausted.