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On a standard city break, it is not unusual to see DJ and I power walking from sight to sight, clocking up the equivalent of a marathon over two days. We always opt to do this over public transport purely as you see so much more, we often find little stores or random restaurants filled will locals that we not mentioned in any guide book or travel blog yet, it is how we find the hidden gems like Monisour Voung’s in Berlin or Blue Taco in Copenhagen. We always end of with incredibly achy limbs but a much bigger sense of achievement of exploring new ground, it also helps to balance out the over eating at these new found wonderful places (mildly!).
However, when we were in Rotterdam, we were introduced to the cities Bike and Bite tour, a bike led tour that lets you truly experience the sights and culture of the city through the language of food. Pretty perfect for us I would say, however, one problem, on a bike I am more Phoebe Buffay then Chris Hoy (I actually did ask for stabilisers) but nevertheless, I was not going to let that stop me, so I ever so ungracefully hopped on a bike and joined the tour.
We were lucky enough to have Paul, the tours creator, as our guide. I always harp on about my love and support for small business owners, you see the passion and excitement when they talk about their idea and it is exactly what I saw with Paul, for me it made Bike and Bite that bit more wonderful. As our itinerary that weekend was quite packed, we opted for the ‘short and sweet tour‘, a 2.5-hour tour showcasing the highlights of the city with various food stops a long the way, considering I am quite the cycling novice I found this just the right amount time for me.
We met Paul outside the city’s Natural History Museum (A frequent point of interest on mine and DJ’s trips) and after our introductions along with some various chit chat, we headed off through Het Park to our first location. Along the way, Paul pointed various points of interest and highlighted different areas for us to return to throughout our weekend. Our first stop of the tour found us at Buiten, a wonderfully bright Soup, Deli and Brunch kitchen that wouldn’t look out of place on the streets of Hampstead, London. While we waited for the staff to prepare their favourite dish for us, we sat by one of the garden windows with the sun shining through and learnt all about Paul’s life, from his Irish roots to his wife’s idea to start their now very successful business. Maybe it is just me being a nosy person but it’s these interactions when travelling that I enjoy the most, learning people’s stories and how they came to be where they are now. Further stories were shared over a warm lentil soup and fresh bread before we headed off on our bikes to the next area of town.
Our next destination took us to the Chinatown district of Rotterdam, not as conventionally touristy as other Chinatown’s located around the world, Rotterdam’s Chinatown is more Asian supermarkets and tiny restaurants serving up their local cuisine. Our stop was a small cafe with a few odd tables, called Kong’s Place, which to be completely honest I probably would have walked straight past had I been on my own. As we sampled the most delicious warmed curry sandwich, perfectly complimented by fresh cucumber and a hot chilli sauce, we discussed our various travels around the world, Paul shared tips of places to see in India, while we harped on about our love for Vietnam. As I mentioned, I don’t think I would have looked twice at Kong’s Place had I been walking past, but it turns out it was actually my favourite food while in Rotterdam, which I think highlights the beauty of this tour – seeing the city through a local’s eyes.
Off on our bikes again, we cycled to one of the lesser known parts of town, and after visiting the remarkably yellow Luchtsingel Bridge, the world’s first Crowdfunded infrastructure, we ascended many stairs to my favourite location of the tour – Op Het Dak. A green oasis that over looks the city and boasts its own eco-system, complete with Bee farm, Op Het Dak serves fresh meals throughout the day, many of which use ingredients grown in the same garden where you eat the food. On this stop, we had our sweet dish, fresh homemade banana bread with salted caramel drizzle. If the guys that run this place ever read this post, please bring a branch to London, as it is exactly what we need in our city (the venue and the cake!).
By this point, I have to admit, my cycling stress levels had started to climb and I was becoming ever more grateful for Holland’s cycle paths so when I learnt our final stop was a much-needed coffee stop I was delighted. However, as I learnt quickly along this tour, Paul would not be taking us to any ordinary coffee shop, we ended up at Man Met Bril (simply meaning Man with Glasses), which has the most complex coffee production that I have ever seen, so much so that it is controlled by an Apple Mac. The beans are sourced from various locations around the globe and therefore regularly change, while I did find these particular beans quite bitter, the laid back atmosphere made a great location for final chats which various topics including blogging and the ever changing social media trends, after parting ways, myself and DJ once again followed our stomachs heading towards the Markthal.
I adored the Bike and Bite tour, it gave a read insider’s insight into the city with some wonderful food along the way. As with all tours like this, I do feel your guide contributes a lot to your enjoyment, so I do hope all the guides are engaging as Paul, and from talking to him regarding the business success I am sure they are.
If you are looking for a unique way to see a city as well filling your stomach a long the way, Bike and Bite Rotterdam is the tour for you.
We attended the Bike and Bite tour as part of a press trip with Visit Holland, but as always all opinions and our love of food are very much our own.