We held our piece of paper and nodded toward them knowingly – after all, we were in the same boat.
At Harwich, groups stood around in matching outfits, one a hockey team all in blue, another all dressed as the Blues Brothers, each member in turn asked to remove their black sunglasses at passport control.
On board there was a restaurant and bar, a cinema, a games room and a cage on deck with basketball hoops for the sprightly. But we were tired, so we paid a €22 supplement to get our own cabin for the day, which was well worth it.
The cabins are all ensuite and have bunk beds, a sofa, and TVs with loads of channels, including my personal favourite – the kennel channel – on which you can watch other people’s pets LIVE for the duration of the crossing.
On our first night in Rotterdam, we found a restaurant called Bazar on the Witte de Withstraat, the most vibrant street in the city.
There were colourful Moroccan glass lights hanging from the ceiling, candlelit tables, and blue-painted tiled walls. The place had a wonderful atmosphere and happy staff. Plus, you could look down from the interior balcony to groups of people sharing shish kebabs and cous-cous dishes around large round tables.
The next day, as my travelmate is a really big fan of towers, we took a speedy water taxi to the 185m high Euromast. Tickets were just under €10 each, and it was a great experience. There were views of the water, shipping container cranes, and a windmill, with all the green spaces in between. Afterwards, we had beer in the Euromast bar before dinner at the unpretentious and very Dutch De Ballentent, which was just two minutes walk away.
On our last day, we decided to go to Den Haag (the Hague), just a short train ride from Rotterdam. It was gloriously sunny. Our first stop was a bike rental shop, marked by a large green bike on the street, just down the road from Lola’s Bikes and Coffee.
Bikes were €10 each for a day and came with a free coffee at Lola’s. The coffee is delish, and the cafe is bright and fun, so it’s a pretty good deal.
Once on our bikes, I fell over at every junction because of the high saddle, much to the amusement and bewilderment of passers-by, yet whizzing past the tree-lined cycle path to the beach was wonderful. We had beers at the Copacabana bar and felt for a few moments as if we might have been somewhere more exotic – before several dogs took dumps on the beach in the distance.
We cycled back past the Peace Palace, where the International Court of Justice is, and returned our bikes. We then walked through the Sunday markets all around St Lawrence Church (Laurenskerk) to a lovely cafe bar called De Twee Heeren, where you could pile a small plate with delicious tapas dishes for just €3.50 and sit on tables on the street. We washed our salamis down with a final beer before heading back to Rotterdam to collect our things for the much calmer night crossing back to the UK.
Tickets from London to anywhere in Holland cost from £45 each way, but if you travel overnight you have to book a cabin too, starting at £21.50 pp. Tickets can be booked through aferry.co.uk or StenaLine directly.
Read about Sophie’s travels at Sophieontrack.com