Tag Archives: Dutch

Back by popular demand

Or I soon will be. My first year in Rotterdam was fantastic – I’ve loved almost every minute. Sorry for my absence from your screens. I have been duly reprimanded and will endeavour to try harder.

After a Summer break, back in the UK, August turns and I start to think about coming back to Pancake Street. I’ll be sharpening my pencils and filling my fountain pen in readiness for the MA proper. At the end of June the results were in – confirming that I had cleared the hurdle of passing the Pre-Master year.

My Pre-Master thesis was on the relationship between CEOs and boards of arts organisations. I got a good grade but gratefully take on board the feedback that I made it a bit too complicated. This is great learning for next year when the thesis element will be twice as long and worth a third of the grades for the year.

20160606_181421Since I last tapped a key on this site I have also completed courses in Academic Writing, International Arts Markets and Advanced Economics of the Cultural Industries. I feel academically well equipped and a little nervous about the year to come. Most of my Pre-Master friends will be returning with another thirty five or so new faces who will be coming straight onto the Master year. Lots of new friends to make and new people to learn from. I can confidently say that I have learned as much, if not more, from my fellow students as I have from the formal lectures and assignments – that is how Universities should be.

I will be flying back to Rotterdam in about ten days time. Sue is coming back with me for the weekend and I’ve got a few days to re-orientate myself before the learning begins in earnest. I fear that my limited Dutch has rusted over during the Summer and I will be a lot poorer as the pound has plummeted against the Euro but I look forward to settling back into life on Pancake Street.

Koffie en appeltart

I think that the appeltart in Dudok is going to he hard to beat.

There are lots of great places to eat and drink in Rotterdam. No doubt I’ll be talking about a few of them over the next few months. There is one place that I’ve been to a few times now that is really worthy of early note.

20150723_152405In 1945, Rotterdam started to think about rebuilding itself after the devastation of the second world war. Influential Dutch architect Willem Marinus Dudok, designed a new insurance building with a grand Hall on the ground floor. I’m not sure what happened to the insurance company but the space is now a grand European cafe and brasserie. Being Dutch is is a lot less formal than its Viennese cousins . The twentieth century classic building is just as grand and the waiting staff just as smart but the atmosphere is bright and welcoming. There is free wifi, (not remarkable for 20150722_155950Rotterdam), tables with laptop sockets, magazines and newspapers. It’s busy but there always seems to be a place to sit, including outside in nice weather.

I’ve not sampled much of the menu yet. I was told that their appletart was to die for. A couple of months ago I needed some wifi in order to take part in a Culturapedia Team Meeting via Google video hangout. (This was before I got connected in the apartment). Go to a cafe and you have to order something so I went for the famous apple tart  – with cream. It was a 20150722_160524major distraction to my colleagues who had to enviously watch me eat it as we talked over our various projects.

Dudok is now a bit of a chain with grand cafes in a number of Dutch cities and a kiosk at the central station. They also have a pizzeria in Krallingen. This building is where it started and I’m glad that in a city or architecture one architect is being remembered in such positive way.

Last week I went into town to buy something prosaic like a small saucepan. As I passed Dudok I couldn’t resist just making sure that the appeltart was as good as I’d remembered it. It was.

Enrolled and official

I’m going to Rotterdam to study and to learn.  Yesterday, my status at the University changed from ‘accepted to ‘enrolled’ . I am officially a student again. As the start time gets closer I get more and more nervous. Erasmus University in Rotterdam is a proper university. According to the Times World University Rankings it comes in at 72. It is only beaten by about half a dozen UK universities that I would never dream of applying to. I’m just a boy with a mediocre vocational design BA from a former Polytechnic. I can’t even find my alma mater in the rankings. The course that I am going to do is ranked second in the world for  “Arts and Cultural Management” according to www.best-masters.com.  This is serious stuff.20150717_121557_001

I’ve got a lot of experience in cultural management. I’ve been doing it for years but the academic rigour is going to be a challenge. It’s no good just knowing something. You need to know why and how. You also need to back it up with research and evidence. I will also need to get into the habit of academic writing. The thing I’m least looking forward to is all the reading. I want to learn, I want to gain the knowledge but I also know that some of the texts I need to absorb will be rather dry and not well written from a readers point of view.

Erasmus University, (EUR), is not ivy covered. It’s not actually very old. In University terms it’s just a baby having been formed a mere 102 year ago in 1913 as the Netherlands School of Commerce. It’s occupied its present site since 1973. As with the rest of Rotterdam there is a lot of concrete. There is also a major building programme going on with twenty first century architecture springing up along the new University Plaza. There is a separate Medical Centre and Erasmus University College, (across the road from my flat on Pannekoekstraat), in the city centre but the main Woudenstein campus on the edge of Kralingen is where I’ll be based. It’s about a fifteen minute cycle or short tram ride away.  EUR has about 21,000 students of which about a quarter are international. Its alumni include nobel prize winners and Dutch Prime Ministers.

I’m still waiting for my timetable. It would be handy to have it soon so that I can book flights back to the UK when they are cheapest. It looks like things are well organised and that all lectures are condensed into half a week. There are four terms and the timetable changes for each one. For the past two years Term One contact time, (lectures, seminars and work groups), has started as midday on a Tuesday and finished at midday on a Thursday.  British universities seem to start in October and finish at the end of November for Christmas.  EUR lectures start on August 31 and don’t finish ’till December 18.  My first exams will be at the end of Term One in November.

If you’re interested this is what I’ll be studying in my first year:

Study schedule per term

Term Courses
Term 1 Introduction to Economic Theory
Creative Economy and Creative Organizations
Introduction to Social Science Research
Term 2 Economic Geography of Creativity and Urban Development
Values of Culture
Introduction to Statistical Analysis
Term 3 International Art Markets
Academic writing 
Bachelor’s Thesis Class (gr. 4-E or 5-E) (4 weeks)
Term 4
Advanced Economic Aspects of Cultural Industries
Bachelor’s Thesis Class (continuing from term 3)
Bachelor’s Thesis

Come fly with me

This is where my green credentials fly out of the window. I never throw a piece of paper away without writing on both sides, I compost all my food waste and teabags, I hate excess packaging. This adventure, though blows it all as it involves rather a lot of flying. I put my hands up and say sorry. As I mentioned in my previous post ” Warning this route crosses Belgium”, the ferry from Hull is eye wateringly expensive and takes an age. Driving down to Dover then up to Rotterdam is also not very sustainable.

GIven that I’ve made the dark decision to fly I seem to have three choices if I want to fly from Manchester to Schiphol. They are KLM, Easyjet and FlyBe and so far I’ve tried all three. I thought I’d try and work out which I prefer.20150628_132550

In fairness all three are OK. Our first investigative trip at Easter was with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. By far the poshest of the three. It’s going home when it goes to Schiphol and gets the best gates. This is the Dutch flag carrier. It has the most flights per day and you get a free drink and snack on the short flight. There is a bit more leg room and if you feel so inclined you can go 20150703_154528first class. I think I’d feel a bit hard done by if I’d paid all the extra gilders only to find that they just put you in front of a curtain and leave every other seat unattended. I can’t imagine that the tea and coffee is of higher quality. The Heineken still comes out of a can. I didn’t like the way that they “Especially want to thank” their Flying Blue customers. It makes everyone else seem a bit inferior.

I’ve used Easyjet before and have always been a bit of a reluctant fan. It is put in the same category with Ryanair which I hate. Have you ever managed to get a Ryanair member of staff to smile with their eyes as well as widening their mouth. (It’s a good game if you’re ever forced to fly with them but it’s hard work). Easyjet by contrast are always smiling and being friendly. They seem to enjoy their work. It’s a bit cramped on an Easyjet flight but the hop over to Schiphol is short enough.

20150628_143434_001The third option is FlyBe which claims to be the worlds largest regional airline, (not really sure what that means). It used to belong to Jack Walker who was a Blackburn metal magnate so there’s a connection to home.  The planes are smaller than KLM and Easyjet which seems to offer the passenger a bit more room. You are sitting two abreast rather than three. I’ve also noticed that the cabin staff seem to be a bit older – this may just be the flights I’ve done. They definitely smile and are really pleasant and smiley. If you can’t do the whole hour without a drink of something then you have to pay like Easyjet but you go get a free branded sweet as you disembark. Flybe definitely has the best in-flight magazine – I really enjoyed reading it and learned a lot. It has a whole business section which indicates that they fly a lot of business customers.

KLM has a loyalty scheme where you collect air miles but it would take a whole lot of short hops over the North Sea to collect enough to do anything serious.  With FlyBe you get Avois – there are lots of other ways to collect these so it might be worth looking at.

It all boils down to timetables really. All three can be booked easily online but FlyBe’s website is a bit clunky. Their smart phone app is awful. KLM and Easyjet do digital boarding passes. FlyBe seem to be working on this.

A big difference is where they operate at the airports. At Manchester Easyjet operates out of Terminal 1. This is the main one, Its enormous and there are often queues for security. FlyBe and KLM operate out of Terminal 3 which is nearer to the railway station, considerably smaller and considerably faster. There are less shopping opportunities but who buys all that stuff when they’re about to get on a plane. T3s got a Boots and a Smiths. You can squirt yourself with the latest smellies and get a Costa Coffee. What else would you want to do at an airport?

At Schiphol it was a very long walk to get to my FlyBe and Easyjet gates. We only taken hold luggage on KLM so far but loved the automatic luggage drop off machines at Schiphol.

It’s an hours flight. It’s comes down not long after it’s gone up. I suspect I will be an airline tart and fly with the one offering the best price at the best time.

 

Planning ahead

This blog is called Life on Pancake Street – I feel like a bit of a fraud as I’m not currently experiencing Life on Pancake Street. I’m still in the UK working on a busy Summer for Culturapedia. This week we’ve got a troupe of New Zealand Dancers performing on a moving double decker bus across six Pennine Lancashire Towns.

I will be back on Pancake Street on Sunday night, (28 June). I will be busy. On Monday I need to cycle over to my estate agents in Kralingen and pick up keys to the post box and the bike store. In the afternoon I have 50+ square meters of laminate flooring being delivered. It has to sit in the apartment for two days to acclimatise before it can be fitted.

20150530_132624We sorted this out last time we were there from a showroom just round the corner on Mariniersweg. I got a bargain. It was reduced and I’ve saved €5.00 per square meter. Rotterdam is a city that people live in. They live, en masse, right in the centre. They don’t have cars so the market comes to them. Also on Mariniersweg there is a Praxis, part of a DIY chain where we bought paint.

I will need to get busy with a paint brush. It makes sense to get as much paint on the walls as I can before the lovely new floor is down. I also need to lift up the floor that is still down in the living room and the main bedroom.

On Monday they will also transfer over the gas and electricity. I won’t need to do much there other than take meter readings.

On Tuesday I will still be painting and pulling up floors. Ziggo will be coming to fit a digibox and internet. I will be connected to the world. If they come before 2pm I will be able to join in the Culturapedia team meeting via Google Hangouts – live from the new Rotterdam office.

Wednesday, the floor fitter is coming. I will be no doubt moving things out of their way, making coffee etc. I’ve successfully fitted plenty of floors myself in the past including the rather nice bamboo one that we have here in the Culturapedia office. For speed and efficiency I decided to let a professional do this one. I won’t have all the tools and there’s plenty of other things I can do to make the place home.

On Thursday, at some point, A truck will be arriving from IKEA.nl. Last week I braved a Friday evening in IKEA in Warrington. The great thing about it being an international company is that they sell the same products everywhere and they always have the same silly names. I needed to sort out the big things that I won’t be able to carry myself or get up two flights of stairs.

Armed with phone photos and notes I got back home and set about filling a Winkelwagen, (shopping cart) on the IKEA.nl website. Their Dutch website can be as difficult to navigate as their UK one -especially when it comes to finding individual components for their PAX wardrobe systems. I got there in the end.

If all goes to plan the truck will contain: a spare bed, mattress, wardrobes in multiple bits, a washing machine, curtain rails and curtains. Luckily IKEA.nl are happy to deliver to apartments. (It is islands that they don’t like). I had to tell them what floor I was on.  This question was reassuring as the nightmare would be them turning up and dumping it all in the lobby downstairs.

There will still be things I need like some light fittings etc but these are things I can pick up in the city centre easily and none of them are urgent.  It makes sense to collect things once I am actually living in the place.

On Friday afternoon I will be flying back home having spent the morning with an IKEA allen key and finishing off bits of painting.

That will be my itinerary, Let’s hope it all goes to plan.

The writing on the wall of my new apartment

I think that it’s time to write something about my new apartment.

I have bought a two bedroomed apartment on Pannekoekstraat, (Pancake Street)  The Luftwaffe did a lot of damage to Rotterdam in 1940. The centre of the old city was more or less flattened in a 50 minute bombing raid. The city was largely rebuilt in the 1950s. Rotterdam is not a city of quaint bridges, windmills and fancy dutch gable fronted houses. It is a post war city of concrete and brick from the fifties and sixties and glass and steel ever since.

Don’t for one minute think that this does not have its charm. Rotterdam has a fantastic architectural aesthetic and there is plenty of water, as you’d expect in a Dutch city. The fifties retro look is very fashionable and the eighties brought some quirky cube apartments and a giant pencil shaped block. In the noughties everything was high, glass and steel with cantilevered top floors and last year brought the stunning, gigantic new Market Hall.

The new Market Hall is a stones throw from my 1953 apartment in Pannekoekstraat which is on the second floor with its own bike store in the basement. There is a lot to like about the area and the flat. The place has a really nice atmosphere. We’ve slept there a couple of nights and it is quiet and calm. It has fantastic light with enormous south facing windows along the entire frontage. There are two balconies, one from the main bedroom at the front and the other from the kitchen at the back. The kitchen is a separate room but has a large opening into the living room allowing light to pass right through the building.

Floor plan

Floor plan

Back in the 1980s, my parents had a business selling and installing central heating, kitchens and bathrooms. There was a showroom in Prestatyn and they worked across North Wales. They sold kitchens from three companies, one of which was a Dutch company called Bruynzeel. They weren’t very common in the UK. It gave me a warm sense of nostalgia when I opened a drawer and realised one in the apartment is a Bruynzeel one. It’s like new but it was installed in 2002. They’re really good quality – not flat pack. I remembered them being delivered to the company workshop in Prestatyn on big Dutch lorries.

My new kitchen has everything you’d need – cooker, hob, extractor, sink.. there’s room for a washing machine and dishwasher too.

The writing on the wall

The writing on the wall

The flat was last lived in by the daughter of the man we bought it off and came with a number of very personal features. One wall in the living room  was home to a long and passionate statement by Harvey Milk, written in Black marker. Another wall was painted matt black. Fine for her but not my thing. When we went over on our roadtrip we bought some one coat white paint. The marker pen took four coats to cover.

Some light fittings need atention

Some light fittings need attention

The retro shower room

The retro shower room

On the whole it’s in reasonable nick – paint and wallpaper will spruce it up nicely. There is an old and faded laminate floor, with some gaps, in the main bedroom and living room. It has already been taken up in the second bedroom. I’ve arranged for a new floor to be fitted throughout next time I go. I’ve fitted flooring successfully myself in the past but this time I’ve decided to pay someone else to do it. I won’t have the time or the tools to hand. It has to be delivered 48 hours before being fitted to acclimatise – this will give me time to paint more of walls.

The toilet and shower room will, ultimately need some attention. They function and are clean but are dated and tatty. The tiles are almost vintage and the sink in the shower room is almost as big as a bath. This will need to be a job for after I’ve moved in properly. They are, as I say, serviceable.

There is plenty of storage, in addition to the store in the basement there are large built in cupboards in the second bedroom and another next to the bathroom. The main bedroom, has plenty of room for three meters worth of Ikea wardrobes – more than enough for just my clothes. These will need to be ordered after the floor is fitted.

I’ve not yet seen the bike store. The previous occupant still had to clear it out. My estate agent has the keys. I go back on June 28 ready for a few days of painting and sorting things out. It’s is going to be a great place to live.