Tuesday, August 11, 2015


We've done enough traveling around Europe to know that our most memorable trips don't center around the big cities and popular tourist destinations. This isn't to say we don't include treks to those museums and restaurants that are always highlighted in the travel books and on the must see lists, we do. But we love staying in some of the smaller destinations. Those places less crowded with tourists, places where it is easier getting to know the locals and the way their cultures mirror and differ from ours.
That's part of the reason we're in Dordrecht, a small historic canal town just outside Rotterdam and about an hour and a half south of Amsterdam.
The other half of the reason and the main reason for making this trip in the first place is to spend time with our close friends the Vermeer/van Zon's: Wim, Laura and their kids Rogier, Victor and Andrea.
While Emmy will be staying with Laura and the kids in an apartment that borders on one of Dordrecht's boat lined canals, Rick and I have rented a garret on the opposite side of the canal in view of the van Zon apartment.
It's a third floor walk-up with pitched walls that follow the peaked rooflines.
The apartment came with very simple furnishings lining a combination living area and kitchen, an expansive bedroom, a small terrace overlooking the canal and a renovated bathroom.
Each room had its charm: the kitchen with its cabinetry made from found lumber and its concrete countertop,
the bedroom with its bed in all white linen
and a closet made from plywood shipping crates,
the terrace with its blue bench and spectacular view
 and the bathroom with its pebble floor, claw foot bathtub and rain head shower.
The owners had a small antique shop on the bottom floor. Little vignettes of children's toys from their shop where sparsely and strategically tucked into corners and along ledges leading into the loft. This was a space that perfectly suited our personalities. That added to our list of perfect choices when it came to finding the best lodgings for our holiday.

The world is filled with cities and towns I've never heard of. I'd be no match for the kids who compete in the National Geographic Bee. If it weren't for our friends the Vermeer/van Zons I probably would never have thought of Dordrecht as a travel destination. I would have missed this jewel in the heart of the Netherlands.
Dordrecht is a town of 120,000 inhabitants, about the size of Green Bay or about a third the size of Madison. I'd always taken great pride in our hometown on the isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, but I'm forced to concede its total lack of charm in comparison to a town like Dordrecht.
I know we haven't the longevity factor that much of Europe possesses; Dordrecht is Holland's oldest city dating back to 1220 when the count of Holland granted city rights to a residential area that would be called Dordrecht.
Architecturally we're hard pressed to compete with the historic heritage Europe is able to build on
and our commercial offerings are at a disadvantage as we're so spread out we can't expect a walking city center to be a part of our culture.
Our expectations on coming to Dordrecht were quite modest. We were thinking a sweet little town with a couple of interesting shops, a few restaurants and not much more. What we found was a center city so delightful and culturally overwhelming we gasped at every street corner as we looked down another brick lined alley or canal filled with high-end shops, antique stores, art galleries, museums, churches that we would have called cathedrals, market squares and architecture that covered every century from medieval time to the present.
There was so much to see and report on I find I'll have to do more than one posting on the town that has stolen our hearts.

No comments:

Post a Comment