Rotterdam Diaries: Part One

“Rotterdam? Isn’t that a port?”

This was the response I was met with, every time I said I was going there by myself for three days. I used, “its amazing architecture”, as my go-to reply but soon realised this sounded weird when I wasn’t exactly a budding architect – so I quickly added “art, food and the Eurostar” onto the end. The guilty truth, however, was that an influencer I followed on Instagram had been there on a press trip and I thought it looked amazing.

I was too shy to admit the latter but the other reasons for going were all still true. Embarking on my first ever solo trip, I wanted to hop onto the Eurostar at St Pancras and hop off at Rotterdam Centraal, in a matter of hours. Yes, Rotterdam is known for being a port, but it’s also renowned for unconventional skyscrapers, a mixture of art deco and brownstone buildings of which it brought to New York, some of the best bars and coffee houses in Europe and art exhibitions that showcase up-and-coming talent. It also happens to be Amsterdam’s much less touristy cousin.

‘Rotterdam is known for being a port but it’s also renowned for unconventional skyscrapers, some of the best bars in Europe and art exhibitions showcasing up-and-coming talent’.

But a part of me was embarrassed about travelling alone. I was quick to spurt out my rehearsed answer, whenever I had to explain myself to people. I would also laugh awkwardly and any follow up questions were met with curt, one word replies as I desperately wished for the conversation to be over. “You sound like a spy”, my colleague joked.

That said, I was still quite excited about solo travelling. I kidded myself into thinking I was an unapologetic nomad but on the night before my trip, I found myself terrified and questioning why on earth I had voluntarily decided to do this.

I didn’t succeed at making it any less scary for myself the next morning. My 7:00AM departure from St Pancras required me to travel through Clapham Junction to Victoria around 5:00AM and they were both ghost towns. My sleepy train creaked through the dark London suburbs and rather than spitting out a carriage-full of commuters, only a mere seven of us trickled out at the end. I texted my mum every five minutes. “At platform”. “On train”. “Going to tube”. Foreseeing them as evidence, when I eventually went missing. My mobile phone was my only tether to the world and I had to repeatedly confirm the existence of my Passport in my rucksack.

‘Embarking on my first ever solo trip, I was on my own for three days now’.

I kept thinking I was meeting someone at the other end but last night’s dinner noisily churned away in my stomach every time I remembered that wasn’t the case. I was on my own for three days now. Arriving at Kings Cross, and taking the glowing escalator to St Pancras, like I was already boarding my way to heaven, I quickly found out I had no idea where I was going. I ended up running around the station, searching for the platform to Rotterdam, whilst someone ferociously played away on the famous St Pancras piano. I was suddenly the protagonist in my own Richard Curtis movie.

Passport control done and I was onto the train. “Wow”, I thought, “this is really happening. We’re moving; we’re leaving –  oh my god – why am I doing this again?!”

Text mum: “Left London”.

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