A couple of weeks ago, I embarked on my first ever road trip, yes, you read that right, I've never been on a long road trip before, eeek! Along with a couple of amazing bloggers, Lucie and Georgina and the lovely Julie, we set off for a little weekend trip to Leer, Northern Germany for an unforgettable three days. Let me let you in on what we got up to, from how we travelled to where we visited to what we ate.
How we travelled
Forget all that fancy, schmanzy plane stuff, let's talk ferry travel. The last time I got on a ferry was ages ago on a family trip to France and back then I was more worried about the travel sickness than what they had on board for travellers. However, this time round and years older, I was able to fully experience what they had on offer and I was pleasantly surprised. We travelled from Harwich port, with Stena Line to Hook of Holland, which is the most direct route to the Netherlands and Germany from the South of England. Other than Holland, Stena Line also operate routes to Ireland, France and beyond and have the largest fleet of ferries in Europe.
Because we were travelling on the night ferry, we had booked in to overnight cabins which to my amazement, were super cosy, equipped with a shower, a dressing table and a large comfy bed. As an added bonus, we also had the seaview window, which meant that in the morning, the view was going to be incredible. As mentioned earlier, the onboard experience was what surprised me the most. There are a variety of restaurants for day and night and well stock bars alongside them. If a bit of retail therapy is of interest, there is a shop which is stocked full of well-known brands for maximum indulgent. There is also the option to upgrade to Stena Plus if comfort is your thing. Within the lounge, there comfortable seating, an array of magazines and newspapers and complimentary drinks and snacks.
Overall, the whole ferry experience exceeded my expectations and if you're not cut for time and prefer travelling on a budget, then I'd definitely recommend using ferries. Honestly, it's come a long way from just an option to get from A to B, there is so much more to offer on board.
Where We Stayed
After picking up the hire car at Rotterdam station, we proceeded to our destination which was roughly a three hour drive. The hotel we stayed in was Hotel Hafenspeicher located in Leer town and has only just been open for six months. The decor inside was modern, clean and brand new with really nice, special touches. In the room, I had a large, fluffy bed to jump straight in to, a spotless bathroom and comfy working desk with the most gorgeous view of the river. Within the hotel, there is also a restaurant (more on that later), a bar, a lounge area, sauna and gym. Rooms are priced at around £89 a night which isn't too bad considering the facilities and the location.
Our first and only activity for day one was to visit the original East Frisian tea museum which was only a short walk from the hotel. Tea is very important to the people of Osfriesland and to them, no matter what, there is always time for a good cup of tea. The preparation is key for that perfect cup and they are super particular about how it's presented. The leaves are brewed for four minutes before poured in to a small cup with the sugar lumps already inside. The cream is then added on top, using a spoon to control how much goes in to create that the perfect tea clouds. They also don't stir their tea like we do, but rather, let it settle in to three layers, cream on top, tea in the middle, then the very sweet layer at the bottom. Add in a side dish of Rosinenbrot (fruit bread with lashings of butter), then you have the perfect afternoon tea session.
Kiekkaaste (Observation Platform for Ornithologist and Tourists)
Day two - Visiting this observation platform was a bit of surreal experience to say the least. We parked up in Germany, walked across the road and were on the border of Netherlands. After a short walk along a wooden path amongst the reeds, we reached a small hut (Vogelkijkhut) with some stairs. In this small hut, was a viewing platform overlooking the Dollard Sea and it is a popular viewpoint for tourists and birdwatchers.
Next stop on day two was a private garden in the beautiful town of Oostwold Oldambt (Groningen). The garden is divided in to ten rooms and hosts over sixty different types of flowers and plants. Thankfully, the weather was beautiful that day so we were able to explore the garden with ease. For those who love their flowers and plants, this place is a definite must-visit.
I do like a good glass of wine, so when I saw on the itinerary that we were going to visit a winery, I kind of let out a slight squeal. Vineyard Ol Diek is situated in Oldambt, in the province of Groningen and covers three hectares of land. The farm, alongside the winery dates back to 1867 and has since been voted as the 'top best wine of Netherlands' in 2015. Wine tasting is a regular occurrence at the winery and during the tasting, a tour is given around the vineyard explaining how the wine is made, a walk through the farm tasting the fresh fruit as well enjoying a selection of appetisers with your glass. Other than the wine itself, the shop within the winery also sells selections of fruit, cheeses and bakery goods. My favourite was the Rosé wine and one bottle costs around €9.25.
Our last activity of the day was to take the Dollard Route Ferry from the Netherlands back to Germany and this is a popular route taken by cyclists especially as these ferries have special provisions to accommodate a large amount of bikes. The route took around an hour and twenty minutes and tea, coffee and beer is also available on board.
Narrow Bridge and Hand Pulled Boat
On our last day, we only had one scheduled activity and that was to cross Germany's narrowest bridge. But to get to the bridge, we had to cross the river via Europe's last hand operated ferry called the Pünte. More like a raft, than a ferry in my opinion, however the experience was interesting and definitely kept the men who operate it extremely muscly and fit indeed. Then came the bridge and because I was too busy trying to Snapchat and vlog, I didn't get any pictures, but when they say narrow bridge, they definitely weren't joking. Thankfully, there were barriers for safety and the bridge itself wasn't too long, so it was a pretty quick ride across.
What I ate - Stena Line
Because both our ferry rides to and from Holland were overnight, we got the chance to experience the three-course meal in the Metropolitan restaurant. The restaurant itself was nice and spacious with incredibly friendly staff. On the way out, I opted for steak as my main and it was definitely amongst one of the best I've tried. Coming back, I had the lobster soup to start and leg of lamb for mains and honestly, I just can't fault it, it was so, so tasty.
What we ate - Hotel Hafenspeicher and Traditional Netherlands Dish
We had dinner at hotel for two nights and for the first night, we had a set menu which consisted of sushi/soup to start, fish for mains and a yummy tiramisu dessert to finish. The hotel restaurant specialises in fish dishes, so naturally, it was going to be super yummy.
We also sampled a traditional Netherlands dish called Kipsate which is chicken with peanut sauce aka chicken satay and it was very tasty indeed. From that meal, we also learnt that spare ribs was also a very popular dish, so on the last day of our trip, we stopped by an American style river ranch and while I'm not a fan of ribs, the girls did say that it was really good.
So that brings me to the end of my three days in Germany/Netherlands. I had an amazing time with the ladies and would highly recommend ferry travelling, hiring or taking your own car and just enjoying the experience.
Now, I'd like to know whether you've travelled by ferry before and what your experience was like and also if you was to go by ferry, which route would you take?
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