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Of all the places one can relocate, I followed my heart and moved to the Netherlands to fulfill an internship and to be closer to my partner. To some, Rotterdam may sound like an unlikely place to end up, but having discovered so much of what it has to offer, I can only say that unlikely is what makes this city so wondrous. Get to know Rotterdam's Westersingel and you'll see what I mean.
Throughout my stay in Rotterdam, people often ask me what I like most about the city and what are some of my favourite places to visit. This includes asking what restaurants I like and what I think about the Dutch. Naturally, people are curious about this because it comes from someone who is not from to the Netherlands, wherein lies the presumption that my feedback is genuine and less biased than that of someone who doesn't bother to visit or skips Rotterdam altogether. Normally I come to the defence some of these people, because we're all tourists somewhere, right? But come on, are we really supposed to believe that it is through no fault of their own that people land themselves in the tourist trappings of coffee shops, long cues to the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House? Sure, if people are lucky they'll set themselves up for a windmill tour, but even that, as I've come to learn, has lost its charm.
Perhaps this is why Rotterdam feels special to me, in that there's an authenticity that lingers about – a uniqueness that seems to carry with it a real mystique. In my opinion, Rotterdam is urbanism done right. Qualifying me to make such a claim is how easy it is to get around, which is an accomplishment in comparison to other cities in the Netherlands. Like in every city, there are main arteries and roads that lead to shopping quarters, cafés and bridges, but my favourite is the one that immediately greets you as you walk out of the Centraal Station: the Westersingel.
Taking the Westersingel you get a good glimpse of Rotterdam's options; like that of the Doelen and the Schouwburg theatre which are only yards away from the shopping alleys and streets that make the city so lively. Take to the right off the same path and you land on West-Kruiskade, a street known for giving Rotterdam its Asian, Surinamese and Turkish flair. Here, not only can one find much of the international flavours that are brought into Rotterdam, but also buy quality goods from these countries by way of its many boutiques and bodega style shops.
Taking things just a bit further, on the Mauritsweg side to be exact, is De Unie, with Bar de Regenboog and Café Strano not far behind. It is only fitting that these LGBT institutions accentuate the Westersingel, which can also lead visitors to Loud Bar and the Ferry Store on opposite ends. Given their location, these bars welcome just about everyone, but as most things LGBT, these pack a lot of fun and excitement. Keeping that spirit, the same can be said about the Nieuwe Binnenweg and Witte de Withstraat further down the singel. It is on these streets that Rotterdam meets its visitors, dances with them, drinks with them and welcomes them to the table.
However, if one has to be completely honest about why the Westersingel should be the path taken, it's probably because of its crown jewels at the end of the singel: the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and Rotterdam Kunsthal. As if guiding people in the right direction, the work of Auguste Rodin, Henri Laurens and others can be found on the Westersingel, before being greeted by the monumental work of Pablo Picasso at the corner of Westersingel and Museumpark. Here, you will find your way to both institutions, who aside from boasting rich collections in classical art and modern art, give way to a beautiful museum park located behind them. There is simply no better place to take a stroll and sip your coffee, if the weather calls for it, nor a better place to read and hang out with friends on a summer's day.
So what spots and places should you visit? I say, stick to the Westersingel and you're bound to find something.
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TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHY: FRANK FRANCO
ROTTERDAM | MARCH 2017
Leaving Texas to fulfil an internship at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Frank Franco is a new addition to GayRotterdam.nl. Frank (35) recently completed his studies and achieved his master's in journalism from the University of North Texas. Prior to that, he travelled extensively serving in the US Navy.
Having travelled and seen a large part of the globe, his passions have always revolved around art, music and culture - something the Netherlands is never short of. He now takes the pleasure in calling Rotterdam his home, documenting his discoveries and experiences along the way.