Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Christmas at Kew Gardens 2015

On 27th December, my husband and I visited Kew Gardens in order to experience Christmas at Kew's seasonal illuminations. 

Once again, the beautiful gardens at Kew have been given a festive makeover with a mile-long illuminated path that winds its way past the Choir of the Holly Bushes, a scented Fire Garden, colourful lanterns and dancing fountains, not to mention the illumination of the magnificient and iconic Palm House.

The Palm House

Choir of the Holly Bushes

There are a lot of additional extras such as marshmallow roasting pits, food stalls and mulled wine - perfect for children and adults alike.

The Scented Fire Garden

The Scented Fire Garden

The Scented Fire Garden

One thing I should mention is that the food stalls at the end of the trail are limited. We saw signs for food approximately half way around the trail and should have looked at that stage for more options.

Lanterns

Colourful Cone Lanterns

Christmas at Kew is open daily from 5pm to 10pm between 25 November 2015 to 2 January 2016. Tickets cost £18 per adult and £12 per child between 4-16 years of age (with a £2 discount if booked in advance) or £55 for a family of 2 adults, 2 children (£48 if booked in advance). Under 4's and carers get free entry.





I particularly enjoyed the Choir of the Holly Bushes and the illuminated flower garden, both of which had a distinctly 'Alice in Wonderland' type feeling.








Overall, this really was a beautiful, magical experience and I am glad we decided to pay a visit.

Of note, I think this event is much more child-friendly than Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland. There crowds are smaller, there are fewer tacky stalls/rides and a lot less alcohol, although this is obviously balanced by the entry fee.

(Apologies for the poor photographs - I received a new mobile phone for Christmas and I am still getting to grips with the camera!)



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Curious Cat's Christmas Review: The Christmas Party by Carole Matthews


Title: The Christmas Party
Author: Carole Matthews
Publisher: Sphere (Little, Brown Book Group)
Publication Date: 7 August 2014 (ePub) and 23 October 2014 (paperback)

Twitter: @carolematthews 
Website: http://www.carolematthews.com/ 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Blurb

Louise Young is a devoted single mother whose only priority is providing for her daughter, Mia. Louise has a good job in a huge international corporation and she's grateful for it. The only problem is her boss who can't keep his hands to himself, but Louise can handle him. What she really doesn't have time for is romance - until she meets the company's rising star, Josh Wallace.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Curious Cat's Christmas Countdown - Review: Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson



Title: Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper
Author: Debbie Johnson
Publisher: HarperImpulse
Publication Date: 5 November 2015

Twitter: @debbiemjohnson

Facebook: www.facebook.com/debbiejohnsonauthor
Blog/website: www.debbiejohnsonauthor.com

Rating: 4 out of 5

Blurb

You’ve seen Mark Darcy in the reindeer jumper his mother gave him, now meet Marco Cavelli in this season’s hottest Christmas knit!

For single mum Maggie, Christmas has always been a family occasion – her daughter Ellen filling the house with her bubbly warmth and mistletoe, her dad Paddy having one too many festive tipples, and the traditional family Christmas tree looking like a drunken elf vomited a rainbow all over it.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Curious Cat's Christmas Countdown - Review: What Happens at Christmas... by T.A. Williams



Title: What Happens at Christmas...
Author:  T.A. Williams
Publisher: Carina UK
Publication Date: 22 October 2015

Twitter: @TAWilliamsBooks

Blog/website: http://www.tawilliamsbooks.com/


Rating: 4 out of 5

Blurb

For the perfect Christmas…

When career-girl Holly Brice learns that her estranged father has died, she decides to take a trip down memory lane and find out about the man she never knew.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Curious Cat's Christmas Countdown - Review: Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale


Title: Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses
Author: Jenny Hale
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 16 October 2015

Twitter: @jhaleauthor

Blog/website: http://itsjennyhale.com/

Rating: 4 out of 5

Blurb

An uplifting, beautiful story about never letting go of your dreams, the special magic of a family Christmas… and the rush of falling in love under the mistletoe.


Single mother Abbey Fuller loves her family more than anything, and doesn’t regret for a moment having had to put her dreams of being an interior designer on hold. But with her son, Max, growing up, when a friend recommends her for a small design job she jumps at the chance. How hard can it be?

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Book Review: Spellbound by Laurie Elizabeth Ashcroft



Title: Spellbound (Armitage Black Book 1)
Author: Laurie Elizabeth Ashcroft
Publisher: Amazon Media
Publication Date: 24 July 2015

Twitter: @laurielisash87

Website: https://thesinglegirlssurvivalblog.wordpress.com/

Rating: 3 out of 5

Blurb 


When a number of unusual murders start happening in her village of Habely, 21-year-old Police Typist Armitage Black is beyond intrigued. The circumstances of each murder identical to the last, and when the man responsible is finally caught, he claims that he had been forced to do it by Elodia Knight – a witch with full-blown magic powers. 

But everyone knows that witches aren’t real…

Right?  

Monday, 7 December 2015

Monthly Round Up - November 2015



It's that time again! Check out what I've been up to in November 2015.

New Books - received, bought & won



1.         The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith
2.         The Winter Wedding by Abby Clements
3.         The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements
4.         The One-in-a-million Boy by Monica Wood
5.         The Killing of Polly Carter by Robert Thorogood

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Book Review: Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover Swank



Title: Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes (Rose Gardner Mystery, Book 1)
Author: Denise Grover Swank
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date: 19 March 2012

Twitter: @DeniseMSwank 
Website: http://denisegroverswank.com/ 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Blurb


For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV on a Friday afternoon is bad even before she sees a vision of herself dead. She’s had plenty of visions, usually boring ones like someone’s toilet’s overflowed, but she’s never seen one of herself before. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered on her sofa instead, two things are certain: There isn't enough hydrogen peroxide in the state of Arkansas to get that stain out, and Rose is the prime suspect.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Book Review: Fairytale Beginnings by Holly Martin



Title: Fairytale Beginnings
Author: Holly Martin
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 10 July 2015

Twitter: @hollymartin00

Blog/website: https://hollymartinwriter.wordpress.com/

Rating:  4 out of 5

Blurb

Love is an open door…except when it keeps slamming in your face


Hopeless romantic Milly Rose has had her fair share of heartbreak. Obsessed with all things Disney, she refuses to give up on finding her Prince Charming – he’s out there somewhere, isn’t he?

 
When Milly is given a job to investigate the origins of a historical building in the village of Clover's Rest, she’s not sure what to expect. What she discovers takes her breath away - a beautiful real life Cinderella castle, complete with turrets, a magnificent drawbridge AND a very handsome owner…Cameron Heartstone.


As Milly and Cameron begin to unearth the secrets of Clover Castle, they can’t ignore the intense chemistry building between them. But they’ve both been hurt badly before. Can they take a big leap of faith and find their own happily-ever-after?
 
A deliciously enchanting read that will delight fans of Rachael Lucas, Lucy Diamond and Miranda Dickinson or anyone who has ever blubbed at a Disney movie. Who says real life can’t be a fairytale?



Review

Thank you to Bookouture and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book for review purposes.


If we consider all the elements of a traditional fairy tale – a protagonist with a thoroughly good character, an evil character, an element of royalty (i.e. king, queen, princess, castle etc…), poverty, romance, a supernatural element (i.e. poisoned apples, dwarfs, evil curses etc..) and universal truths - Fairytale Beginnings has them all. It really is a modern day fairy tale!

Milly Rose and Cameron Heartstone meet when she visits his family home, Clover Castle, to assess whether her company can help Cameron to restore the castle. He needs an injection of cash, otherwise the castle will need to be sold to a fairly unscrupulous hotel chain (royalty/castle -  tick; poverty - tick, evil character/company - tick). The setting of Clover Castle sounds delightful. The author brings to life a beautiful building full of turrets, dungeons, secret passages, hidden doors, ghosts and hidden treasure. It’s impossible not to be intrigued by the thought of exploring such a building.

Milly is a lovely main character with a love of castles and sparkly Converse trainers, she is bouncy, positive and energetic, going above and beyond her remit to help Cameron to find a suitable solution for his current problems. Milly is a very endearing character with a thoroughly good nature (good character - tick). Cameron is a hero worthy of the title. He is tall, dark and handsome. He is also funny, thoughtful and slightly mysterious! How can Milly possibly resist the man after a week in his smouldering company?!  The chemistry between Milly and Cameron is believable and sizzling hot! With their up and down dance of flirting and then backing off, I found myself anxious for them to get together before they missed their chance! The development of their friendship and trust was lovely to read.

The fun and humour of the story shines through from the start as Milly enters the odd, off-the-map village of Clover’s Rest in her ancient car, Dick, and meets the first of its unusual inhabitants. I particularly liked the scenes involving the weird and wonderful villagers and their unique outlook on life. This added a great sense of fun to the story. The Summer Solstice scene is certainly an odd moment. Whilst it doesn’t really add much to the story, it provides a humorous break from the main plotline and gives the reader chance to really understand what an odd village Clover’s Rest is.

The plot is interesting and it was impossible not to be intrigued by the mysteries of Clover Castle, the curse which Milly must help break and the castle’s very own ghost (supernatural element - tick).

Fairytale Beginnings is another beautiful and magical tale, showing the reader that with love is the power to defeat evil (universal truth - tick). You really get the sense that the tale begins with a “Once upon a time” and ends with a “Happily ever after”! I think I’ve now managed to tick off all of the fairy tale elements ;)

Fairytale Beginnings is a cute and entertaining read from the fabulous Holly Martin. If you are in the mood for an uplifting, feel-good, light-hearted romance, this may well be the book for you!

About the Author


Holly lives in sunny Bedfordshire in a house with round windows. She studied media at university which led to a very glitzy career as a hotel receptionist followed by a even more glamorous two years working in a bank. The moment that one of her colleagues received the much coveted carriage clock for fifteen years' service was the moment when she knew she had to escape. She quit her job and returned to university to train to be a teacher. Three years later, she emerged wide eyed and terrified that she now had responsibility for the development of thirty young minds. She taught for four years and then escaped the classroom to teach history workshops, dressing up as a Viking one day and an Egyptian High Priestess the next. But the long journeys around the UK and many hours sat on the M25 gave her a lot of time to plan out her stories and she now writes full time, doing what she loves.


Holly has been writing for 6 years. She was shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance. Her short story won the Sunlounger competition and was published in the Sunlounger anthology. She won the Carina Valentine's competition at the Festival of Romance 2013 with her novel The Guestbook. She was shortlisted for Best Romantic Read, Best eBook and Innovation in Romantic Fiction at the Festival of Romance 2014.
 

Buy Links


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Thursday, 3 December 2015

Book Review: Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams by Sue Watson



Title: Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams
Author: Sue Watson
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 1 July 2015

Twitter: @suewatsonwriter

Blog/website: http://www.suewatsonbooks.com/

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Blurb


Dance like nobody’s watching. Love like you’ll never get hurt…

 

Laura Watkin’s heart isn’t broken, she’s just forgotten how to use it. After years on her own, the highlight of single mum Laura’s week is watching Strictly Come Dancing with a glass of Pinot Grigio and a large helping of imagination.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Book Review: The Bookshop on The Corner by Rebecca Raisin


Title: The Bookshop on The Corner
Author: Rebecca Raisin
Publisher: Carina UK
Publication Date: 17 June 2014

Twitter: @jaxandwillsmum
Blog/website: http://www.rebeccaraisin.com/

Rating: 4 out of 5

Blurb

Who said that only real heroes could be found in fiction?

Sarah Smith had an addiction – she was addicted to romance novels. The meet-cute, the passion, the drama and the gorgeous men! Now this wouldn’t have been such an issue if she hadn’t been the owner of the only bookshop in Ashford, Connecticut.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Travel Report - The Netherlands - Rotterdam, Amsterdam & Delft



August/September 2015 brought with is a long overdue trip to The Netherlands with my husband, Mr Ginger Cat, courtesy of a competition win with Expedia to commemorate 125 years since the death of Van Gogh.

We were allowed to choose our destination and, on the advice of the lovely Zarina at pagetostagereviews.com, we decided to book a week at the 5* Mainport Hotel in Rotterdam.

Day 1

After an early morning flight, we landed at Amsterdam Schipol Airport and jumped straight onto the train to Rotterdam. We were delighted to discover that public transportation in The Netherlands is extensive and very easy to use.

On our arrival at Rotterdam Centraal Station, we made quick use of the metro system to get us to Leuvehaven where the Mainport Hotel is located, close to the Erasmusbrug. The metro stop is directly across the road from the hotel, which was very convenient.
The Mainport Hotel, whilst looking fairly non-descript from the outside, is an example of the modern, stylish and funky design synonymous with Rotterdam, from the continental-designed floors to the chandelier in the lobby.  We were booked into a fourth floor (I think!) Waterfront Spa Room which was quite simply INCREDIBLE!

 
The huge (474 sq ft) room was beautifully designed, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the harbour, and contained both a wooden sauna in the bathroom and a whirlpool Jacuzzi in front of the windows looking out onto the river Maas. Amenities included free Wi-Fi, flat screen TV, coffee and tea making facilities, bathrobes, Malin+Goetz toiletries and some additional extras in the form of bath salts for the Jacuzzi and essential oil for the sauna, not to mention a travel journal for guests to leave their tips for future guests to read. The bed itself was incredibly comfortable. I could not fault a single thing. I can honestly say that this was one of the best (if not THE best) hotel room that we have ever stayed in!


On arrival, after having spent half a day travelling, we first treated ourselves to a beer on the terrace overlooking the harbour whilst we looked at the map and got our bearings. It was a beautiful, hot day and we were happy for the rest. However, we started to feel a bit peckish and decided to walk towards the town centre, in the hope of finding some food.  We stopped at Sijf, in the shopping district, where we enjoyed one of their tasty doorstop-sized sandwiches whilst watching the world go by. The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring, before pre-dinner drinks at Manzara followed by an early dinner at Il Faro Sardo. Our meal of pasta, bread, olives and red wine was delicious, however be warned that the menu is very limited. The evening was then spent relaxing and enjoying the facilities in our hotel room.

Mainport Hotel, Leuvehaven 77, 3011 EA Rotterdam (http://www.mainporthotel.com)

Bar Restaurant Sijf, Oude Binnenweg 115, 3012 JB Rotterdam  (http://www.sijf.nl/)
Manzara, Leuvehaven 65, 3011 EA Rotterdam (http://www.manzara.nu/)
Il Faro Sardo, Leuvehaven 73-74, 3011 EA Rotterdam (http://www.ilfaro.nl/)

Day 2

An early start to day 2 saw us making our way down to the famous Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge). We took a walk over the bridge and explored the other side of the harbour, an area that I believe is referred to as Kop Van Zuid.



Returning back across the Erasmusbrug and made our way through the park to the Euromast, an ugly looking tower which apparently has great views across the city. We had intended to venture up the Euromast tower, however the queue was long and we were hungry, so we instead made our way back to Oude Binnenweg where we stopped at Melief Bender for a quick bite to eat.



Rotterdam, the second largest city in The Netherlands, was rebuilt after WWII bombings and from the moment you arrive in the city and walk out of Central Station, it is impossible to ignore the modern, geometrical architecture which makes the city so distinct. After lunch, we decided to walk over to Blaak to visited the famous Kubuswoningen or Cube Houses.  Designed by Dutch architect Piet Blom, these striking cube-shaped houses are perched on top of hexagonal pylons and tilted so that all of the walls are angled. The three-storey houses are supposed to individually represent trees and collectively a forest. You are able to take a look around one of the houses, for a small price and we found it interesting from a design aspect but very claustrophobic inside.


After getting a bit overheated in the cube house, we walked over to the imposing archway-shaped Markthal to grab a drink.  The Markthal is a large indoor market, filled to the brim with tasty delights. When entering the building, your eyes cannot help but be drawn to the incredible ceiling. Described on their website as the ‘Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam’, artist Arno Coenen has designed a brightly coloured mural which covers the entire 11,000 sq metre ceiling.  I could have spent hours here – a truly wonderful place to visit!




Late afternoon/early evening was spent outside Rodin, with a few pre-dinner drinks whilst watching the many cyclists and shoppers passing by. Dinner that evening was Middle Eastern cuisine at Restaurant Bazar. The meal was reasonably priced and quite tasty, however we agreed that we probably would not revisit the restaurant during our stay.



Euromast, Parkhaven 20, 3016 GM Rotterdam (http://www.euromast.nl/en)
Kubuswoningen, Overblaak 70, 3011 MH Rotterdam, Netherlands (http://www.kubuswoning.nl)
Markthal, Dominee Jan Scharpstraat 298, 3011 GZ Rotterdam (https://www.markthal.nl/en)

Melief Bender, Oude Binnenweg 134, 3012 JH Rotterdam (http://www.meliefbender.nl/)
Rodin, Schilderstraat 20A, 3011 Rotterdam (http://rodinrotterdam.nl/)
Restaurant Bazar, Witte de Withstraat 16, 3012 BP Rotterdam (http://www.bazarrotterdam.nl/)

Day 3

The Netherlands has fantastic infrastructure for cyclists. Wherever you venture, you will see as many bicycles as you do cars. The bicycles themselves are largely a charming, upright style and despite not having been on a bicycle (other than an exercise bike) for years, I was determined to have a go! After some persuasion, my husband agreed to my plan to hire bicycles and then take the waterbus to Kinderdijk for the morning.


We picked up our bikes from hire shop under the Erasmusbrug and then got on the waterbus to Dordrecht, disembarking at Ridderkerk where we transferred onto the Driehoeksveer, a smaller ferry boat that took us to Kinderdijk. The waterferry ticket gives you a 10% discount on the entrance fee to Kinderdijk.



Kinderdijk is a big tourist attraction and an iconic sight. This UNESCO world heritage site is a collection of 19 windmills spaced out along a canal. There is a visitor’s centre and a couple of the windmills are open as museums to show how they would have been used many years ago.

There is a boat which can take you on a tour along the canal, however it is the perfect place to cycle and we thoroughly enjoyed our day here.



After a few hours exploring the windmills, we took the waterbus back to Rotterdam and stopped at Grand Café-Restaurant Loos for a coffee and a slice of lemon meringue pie.

Afternoon was spent on a bit more exploration whilst enjoying the sunny weather, before dinner at American-style restaurant Hudson Bar & Kitchen where I enjoyed the most fantastic plate of ribs. A perfect meal to end a really fantastic day.


Grand Café-Restaurant Loos, Westplein 51, Rotterdam (http://www.loos-rotterdam.nl/)
Hudson Bar & Kitchen, Schiedamse Vest 28, 3011 BA Rotterdam (http://www.restauranthudson.nl/en/home)

Day 4

Day 4 got off to an early start as we jumped on the train to Amsterdam. We had booked a hotel for the night in order to give us plenty of time to explore the city. Amsterdam is a beautiful city, built around a network of canals lined by picturesque town houses. There are bicycles everywhere and I was surprised by the sheer amount of people on the streets.



After arriving in Amsterdam, we walked the short distance to the Inntel Hotel Amsterdam Centre. Whilst not luxurious, the hotel was clean, cheap and central – similar in style to a Holiday Inn or a Premier Inn.


After a quick drink at the Five Bells Bar, we decided to go exploring. We first walked over to Ann Frank’s house, only to be met by a huge queue. As such, we decided not to wait but to continue our exploration, first stopping for a spot of lunch at the nearby Bagel & Beans. I’m a huge bagel lover and I was so excited to see how popular they are in The Netherlands!

After lunch, we walked down through Dam, through the flower market and over to the Rijksmuseum, exploring all the little side roads as we went. Amsterdam is really a very charming city. We had intended to visit one of the museums, however after our meandering walking tour of Amsterdam, we arrived a half hour just before the museum’s closed and decided that did not leave us enough time for a visit.


We walked back up towards Amsterdam Centraal Railway Station, stopping for a couple of drinks on the way. As it grew dark, we decided to head towards the infamous Red Light District.  During the day, the red light district is cloaked under a façade of charming buildings and beautiful canals. However, once sunset hits, it certainly is a unique and eye-opening experience there. The shop windows glow with red lights whilst scantily clad women wave to passers-by and beckon willing gentlemen through the doors. Whilst being undeniably seedy, it is an obvious tourist attraction with a great atmosphere and an experience that shouldn’t be missed when visiting the city.

Dinner was a pizza at Italian restaurant, Dolce, before a slow walk back to our hotel whilst taking in the sights and sounds of Amsterdam at night.

Inntel Hotel Amsterdam Centre (http://www.inntelhotelsamsterdamcentre.nl/).

Dolce (unable to find online)

Day 5

Day 5 was another day spent exploring the delights of Amsterdam.

After heading over to Anne Frank’s house and finding yet more queues, we decided to give up on the chance of seeing the house (if you plan to visit here, I would definitely advise you to book tickets in advance) and instead stopped for a breakfast of traditional mini Dutch pancakes (poffertjes) at Sara’s Pancake House.



As it was raining, we then headed towards the Van Gogh Museum before having a change of heart due to the long queues. We decided to detour to The Heineken Experience instead. This was Mr GC’s choice, however I was pleasantly surprised at how much there was to do there and we spent a good few hours learning about the brewing process and joining in on some silly but entertaining activities. I’m not a big beer drinker, so Mr GC made use of both his and my free drinks vouchers and was in a very good mood by the time we left!





After a quick drink at Carousel Pancake House, we made our way back towards the hotel, stopping at Myrabelle for a traditional lunch of bitterballen (meatballs) and kaasstengels (cheese sticks). After another pit stop at Café Wheels for a mug of traditional Dutch mint tea, we then headed back to the hotel to check out and caught the train back to Rotterdam, arriving back in time for room service and an evening making use of the Jacuzzi and sauna – a great fix for our weary legs.

I must say that whilst Amsterdam certainly has its charms, I am not a fan of crowds and it was just a too busy for me. I loved the look and feel of the city, with the canals and traditional architecture, however whilst I am happy that I have now visited and experienced the city, it is probably not somewhere that I would return to in a hurry.

Ann Frank’s House, Prinsengracht 263-267, 1016 GV Amsterdam (http://www.annefrank.org/en/)
The Heineken Experience, Stadhouderskade 78, 1072 AE Amsterdam (http://www.heinekenexperience.com)

Sara’s Pancake House, Raadhuisstraat 45, 1016 DD Amsterdam (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Saras-Pancake-House/422576581193895)
Carousel Pancake House, Tweede Weteringplantsoen 1, 1017 ZD Amsterdam (http://www.decarrouselpannenkoeken.nl/)
Myrabelle, Vijzelgracht 1, 1017 HM Amsterdam, Netherlands (http://www.myrabelle.nl/)
Café Wheels, Wolvenstraat 4, 1016 EP Amsterdam (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cafe-Wheels/456021967757387)

Day 6

We woke up to torrential rain on day 6 of our holiday which slightly scuppered our plans for the day. After a slow breakfast at the hotel, we decided to head to Rotterdam Zoo. This was not on our list of activities for the holiday, however options were limited due to the weather. Fortunately, the hotel provide umbrellas so we were able to stay somewhat dry on our walk to the Zoo.

After a bit of a trek to the Zoo, we were pleasantly surprised to find the attraction to be virtually deserted. We spent hours walking around and taking in all the attractions. Fortunately our route was well-planned and the weather seemed to clear up slightly for a few hours, except a couple of times when we, fortunately, we able to visit indoor exhibitions and stay dry.

I tend to be a bit wary of zoos as I hate to see animals cooped up away from the wild. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the facilities at Rotterdam Zoo.  The park is very large and wide variety of animals look to be well cared for and living in good conditions. We absolutely loved seeing the friendly and inquisitive Prairie Dogs – they were definitely my favourite of the animals, although seeing the Gorilla up close was definitely an impressive moment. I certainly would not like my chances against one of them in the wild!



After the hours spent at the zoo, we were starving upon leaving. However, being so close to dinnertime we made do with a quick stop at Steak En Bier for an afternoon snack of bitterballen and kaasstengels before meandering back to the hotel.

Dinner that evening was at Mexicano, where I had the chicken fajitas. This was undoubtedly one of the best meals we had during our holiday.

Rotterdam Zoo, Blijdorplaan 8, 3041 JG Rotterdam (http://www.diergaardeblijdorp.nl/en/)
Steak En Bier, Karel Doormanstraat 290, 3012 GP Rotterdam (http://steakenbier.weebly.com/)
Mexicano, Schouwburgplein 11, 3012 CL Rotterdam (http://www.restaurantemexicano.nl/)

Day 7

Day 7 was our last full day in The Netherlands and we really wanted to see a little bit more of the country. The weather was still pretty awful, so we decided to jump on a train to nearby Delf, the birthplace of artist Johannes Vermeer (The Girl with the Pearl Earring) and the origin of the traditional blue and white Delftware pottery.



Delft is a picturesque medieval town built around a network of canals and is just how I imagined Amsterdam would be. It was quiet, beautiful and idyllic, a true gem.

On our arrival, we were walking from the station to the town centre when the rain started up again with a vengeance! We ran down a narrow street and into the first café we saw, the Stads-Koffyhuis. What a delightful experience, with friendly staff, great coffee and cake and lovely décor.

From the café window, we noticed a church spire not too far in the distance and as soon as the rain eased off, we made our way across the canal to the Oude Kerk (‘old church’) where we bought tickets to allow us to look around both the old and new church.

The Oude Kerk was built in 1240 and has a beautiful interior full of striking stained glass windows. It is a beautiful building to visit and, whilst there, you must take a look for Vermeer’s gravestone.


After visiting the old church, we made our way over to the Markt Square where the Nieuwe Kerk (‘new church’) is located, stopping at a few of the charming little shops on the way.

The Nieuwe Kerk was completed in 1496 and is an ornate gothic building. Whilst both the new and old churches have their own charms from the outside, the interior of the new church is not, in my opinion, nearly as striking as the old church but is still just as interesting historically. The church tower is the second highest in The Netherlands and our main purpose was to walk up the tower in order to see the views over the town – this is certainly not for the faint-hearted! The tower consists of a very narrow seemingly-unending spiral staircase with a few doorways that you can step into if you hear people approaching from the opposite direction. You can walk to the top of the tower (which we did) or stop on one of the levels part way up. I must warn you that the climb would be difficult for anyone overweight or unfit. We had to stop for a rest several times and even discussed whether to turn around and go back down! On reaching the parapet, the bad weather meant that it was extremely windy and with the narrow walkway, I found the entire experience quite terrifying, even though I’m not really scared of heights. After a quick look, we went down to one of the lower levels and I found the wider walkways felt much safer.


On leaving the church, the rain was pouring down once again, so we ran over the square to Het Konings Huys for a spot of lunch whilst watching people run around the square trying to keep out of the rain.


After lunch, we treated ourselves to a little stroll around the shops before heading back to Rotterdam. We stopped at De Beurs for a quick drink (pink beer for me!) before heading back to the hotel to warm up in the sauna before dinner.

For dinner, the weather was too bad to venture far, so we headed back to Witte de Withstraat to try another of the numerous restaurants. We chose Italian restaurant, Gusto, where both myself and Mr GC enjoyed a bottle of wine and a pizza each. Whilst the food was not anything spectacular, it was nice and the atmosphere in the restaurant was good.

Nieuwe Kerk, Markt 80, 2611 GW Delft, Netherlands(http://oudeennieuwekerkdelft.nl/)
Oude Kerk, HH Geestkerkhof 25, 2611 HP Delft (http://oudeennieuwekerkdelft.nl/)
Stads-Koffyhuis, Oude Delft 133, 2611 BE Delft (http://stads-koffyhuis.nl/)
Het Konings Huys, Markt 38-42, 2611 GV Delft (http://www.hetkoningshuys.eu/)
De Beurs, Kruiskade 55, 3012 EE Rotterdam (http://debeursrotterdam.nl/)
Gusto, Schiedamse Vest 40, 3011 BA Rotterdam (http://www.gusto-rotterdam.nl/)

Day 8

Our flight was late afternoon on the Saturday, so we did not have to leave Rotterdam until after lunch. This gave us one last morning to spend in the city. Fortunately for us, the Wereldhavendagen or World Port Festival was starting that day in the harbour outside our hotel. 


We spent a lovely couple of hours walking along the side of the harbour, watching men carrying out traditional crafts such as grinding mustard seeds and carving wooden clogs. We got to have a look around some of the boats, went on a tour of HMS Portland, watched a couple of demonstrations and listened to more than a couple of Dutch sea shanties whilst trying out a local beer or two. Overall, a perfect end to our holiday.


Lunch was courtesy of the Bagel Bakery, after which we took a slow walk back to our hotel, collected our bags and started our journey back to Amsterdam Schipol Airport. 

Bagel Bakery, Schilderstraat 57a/59a, 3011 ER, Rotterdam

My Thoughts

Overall, we had a fantastic holiday. I loved Rotterdam, Kinderdijk and Delf. Whilst I wasn’t so keen on Amsterdam, I am still happy that I have now had the chance to visit and experience the city. Mr GC and I both agree that the holiday was a complete success and we look forward to visiting The Netherlands again in the future in order to explore a bit further afield.


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