This year one of my aims is to make the most of my leisure time and to get out and see a bit more of the world. I’m already in a very fortunate position as I often get to travel for work but the majority of these trips are fleeting and I spend more time exploring the airports than the actual cities that I visit.
I was given a helping hand very early on this year when easyJet got in touch and challenged me to take a #WeekendSwap with a mate. In a nutshell the airline suggested I swap my usual weekend activities with something different and a little bit more fun. With their huge network of destinations across Europe served from many of the UK’s airports it is pretty easy and relatively low cost (if you plan it well enough) to take a short flight to somewhere completely new.
My #WeekendSwap would be to Holland, a country that I had visited once before but like many people I never got any further than Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a great city with lots to see and do but I was intrigued to discover that with train connections of well under an hour I could also visit the cities of Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague. My normal weekends consist of gym, playing catch up with work and maybe grabbing a few drinks in my local bar so the chance to visit four new places certainly trumped that!
As you can imagine, four days worth of travel gave me plenty to write about, but here are some of my highlights from the trip…
After flying into Amsterdam from Gatwick my first port of call was Utrecht, a short 30-minute train ride directly from the airport. After a long week of work we decided to get an early night and kick things off the following morning. To wake us up we headed to the Domtoren (the highest clock tower in Holland) and climbed the 465 steps to the top where we were able to enjoy unspoiled panoramic views of the historic city and the surrounding area. We then took a walk around the cities medieval streets which were filled with small independent quirky shops and plenty of bars and eateries running along the edge of the canal.
After lunch we grabbed our bags from the hotel and headed for Rotterdam, the second city of the Netherlands and my favourite place from the whole weekend trip. We were staying in the Mainport hotel, which was amazing offering modern luxury with stunning views of the riverside, and Erasmus Bridge. I stay in many hotels over the course of my travels but this place has become one of my favourites and it comes with my highest recommendation.
The architecture in Rotterdam is very modernist from the cube houses which made me dizzy looking at them to the huge new indoor market, you can see this is a city that has and continues to undergo massive regeneration. The market itself is a bustling mixture of cafes, bars and stalls selling a variety of foods and produce. We stopped for a bite of lunch and enjoyed a prime spot for people watching across the whole space from the roof of one of the cafés.
After lunch we were on the road again, this time to The Hague the city on our itinerary I knew the least about. After a short tram ride from the train station we arrived and I was surprised to find a seaside resort. Not quite like those we find along the British coast but not far off it with an expansive promenade lined with shops, amusements, cafes and people enjoying their Sunday. Of course this was January in Holland so the weather was not exactly made for sunbathing but the beach itself looked lovely, clean and sandy. I can imagine that it is a very pleasant spot to visit during the summer months.
We then enjoyed some chips and a nice cold beer on the pier before it was time to travel on to our final destination Amsterdam. I think it may be one of the prettiest capitals I have visited but not in an obvious way, the vast network of canals, the crooked little buildings and the bikes that just give it a feeling like no other place I have visited.
During January the city hosts a festival of light and as we departed from the train station we were welcomed with the first installation, a large neon piece over the water proclaiming, ‘Today I Love U’ which put a smile on my face as we waited on a cab.
There is so much to see and do in Amsterdam like any capital but if you were on a flying visit I would definitely recommend taking the canal boat tour. It gives you a quick tour of the main attractions and is something a little bit different from the usual city sightseeing bus tour. When hunger strikes check out Lotti’s in the Hoxton Hotel. We went for dinner and enjoyed the laid back atmosphere and the tasty grub!
To bring the #WeekendSwap to an end we decided to go out with a bang and headed to the decadent venue that is the Supperclub. A dining experience like no other where we were served up a 6 course taster menu of food while lying with our shoes off on beds that you would more often expect to find in a trendy summertime beach club. At 11pm the food was done and dusted and the venue turns into a buzzing nightclub that was packed out even though we went on a Monday night.
For your chance to win a #WeekendSwap for you and a friend to Holland, all you have to do is tweet @easyJet with your weekend plans that you want to swap!
#Spon: This trip was organised in collaboration with easyJet however all words and views are my own