My two and a half years of living in Rotterdam evidently weren’t enough to uncover the huge park that is the Kralingse Plas, a popular recreational area with a beautiful man-made lake in the suburbs of Rotterdam. In a complete turnaround from yesterday’s gray dreariness, today’s Goldilocks weather was as good as it could get – bright, moderate, Sunday summer – and a chance to meet up with a Rotterdam friend for lunch by the lake sounded close to an instant celebration.
Given it was a weekend and with good weather to boot, I was happily surprised we could even get a spot at the last minute. As we were already in the neighborhood but too early for The Boathouse’s lunch time, we had to make a stop somewhere first. The nearby Beach House, which was a minute’s walk away, proved perfect – lively but uncrowded, relaxing, and for a quick coffee was a successful start. Even with the late booking, once we got to The Boathouse we still got our choice of any table – always a nice luxury – and the unimpeded lakeside view on the terrace did not disappoint in the least. The wonderful peace and quiet, and the fantastic view – clearly the restaurant’s main draw – boded well for a memorable meal.
The lunch menu wasn’t that complicated but it was still a toss up between the quiche of the day and the spicy gambas – especially since no one was inclined to join me on the grand fish platter. The gambas won out this time and, going with the theme of the day, proved again to be faultless. The gambas were the best I’d had in a long while, each piece of accompanying bread soaked in the juices was heaven for the taste buds and, even if I dared, was far better than anything I could ever do at home. As the sun continued to shine and conversation flowed, after a splurge of mocha espresso cake (among others) we decided to continue the day with a walk around the lake and through the busy but not overly-crowded park, with only the smallest effort to physically distance.
Seeing Rotterdammers laid on the grass, spying their kids in the playground, wandering aimlessly in an honest to goodness full-grown forest (in the city!), tree-climbing for the slightly adventurous or laying out nearby on a secluded, nude beach for the so inclined were all great to see. It’s the kind of freedom and atmosphere I would wish for any urban community and I’m certainly glad I was able to at least experience it now.
Rotterdam in my mind had always maintained a lowly rep having lived there during my dark, earliest years in Europe, and only recently in line with visits to Teko’s mom and common friends has it gone differently. It’s normal I suppose since I’m in a much better state of mind that places I once looked at with little appreciation now appear in a flattering light, and it’s almost with childlike wonder how the same places now come across after all the time that’s passed. With physical limitations in place and little willingness to cross borders, quick visits to the areas in and around Rotterdam are now frequent, and increasingly welcome – like finding money in a pair of jeans in storage or rediscovering old photographs from twenty years ago. Rotterdam with time has become uncomplicated, and pleasantly surprising.