A whirlwind tour of Rotterdam and Amsterdam in two days flat...
Most people go to the Netherlands looking for Rembrandt, wooden clogs and colourful windmills, but we went searching for an orthopaedic store.
24 hours in Rotterdam
Walking is the best way to get the feel of a city and the three hours trawling Rotterdam's city centre looking for support stockings for a friend with a sprained ankle, surprisingly, turned out to be the ideal way to discover Rotterdam, and watch it come alive for World Harbour Day celebrations in September.
World Harbour Day this year coincided with the Port of Rotterdam Authority's 75th anniversary. The day began with boat races, helicopter rescue teams going through their paces, displays by fire ships, submarines and tug boats on the river Maas and ended with a free concert by international pop star Gloria Estefan, held on a specially erected stage in the middle of the harbour, performances by various Dutch artists and a fireworks display.
Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands, and had the busiest port in the world, until Shanghai took over the title in 2004.
The city is also an offbeat alternative to crowded Amsterdam where during peak holiday season and at times of exhibitions and conferences, hotel rooms are hard to come by or exorbitantly priced.
11.30am: An inexpensive and unique way to see Rotterdam is on a tram city tour. A tram dating back to the 1930s takes you through the mandatory sights. You can buy tickets on board; adults pay five euros or about Dh24.75 (and children can ride for 3.50 euros, which is about Dh17.5 (www.lijn10.nl).
3pm: Take an extended harbour tour by Spido Cruises and Excursions (www.spido.nl). Watch out for Erasmus Bridge, a 2,600-foot cable-stayed bridge linking the north and south of Rotterdam. The bridge is held up by a 138 metre tall pylon with a characteristic bend, earning the bridge its nickname 'De Zwaan' (the swan).
6 pm: Head to West Kruiskade for a unique shopping experience. At the beginning of the road is Rotterdam's Chinatown with interesting restaurants and supermarkets. More than 150 nationalities call the West Kruiskade area home, so you will find a wide mix of places to eat, drink and shop.
After a long day, if you do end up with sore feet or a bruised ankle, there are a couple of excellent orthopaedic stores on Statenweg Street in central Rotterdam.
24 hours in Amsterdam
All roads in Amsterdam lead to Dam Square — it is a popular congregation point and at any given time you will find a flea market, an impromptu music concert or a juggler doing his act.
Most tourists spend the day shooting the breeze at the steps leading up to Grand Palace, the National Memorial or the De Nieuwe Kerk church — the three main focal points of the square.
9am: Amsterdam has a number of museums, but if you have time for just one, then look no further than the mother of all museums — Rijksmuseum — which holds the most important collection of Dutch paintings in the world, including Rembrandt's 'Night Watch'.
Entry is 10 euros (about Dh49.5) per person and you can buy your tickets online at www.rijksmuseum.nl ahead of time to avoid waiting in line.
1pm: Time for the canal cruise: The canal cruise leaves every 15 minutes from the Damrak Street level across the VVV Amsterdam tourist information booth. The commentary on board is available in various languages, points out the main streets and attractions, and is an interesting way to see the city in a short period. For lunch, try a hot dog from the yellow hot-dog cart that remains permanently parked outside the Central Station. It comes steaming hot and encased in a soft roll, which you can top up with a mix of fried onions, mustard, ketchup, mayo and jalapeno peppers.
3.30 pm: The Anne Frank House is open until 7pm and a visit usually takes about an hour. Anne Frank's former hiding place, where she wrote her diary, has now been turned into a well-known museum. The museum tells the history of the eight people in hiding and those who helped them during the World War II. Anne Frank's Diary is among the original objects on display.
5pm: Grab a map of the city from the tourist information booth and head out for a walking tour. The walk will take you about two hours, but factor in an extra hour or so for rest and drink breaks. Just be careful of the city's cobbled streets, uneven pavements and dozens of cyclists zipping by.
At the end of the walk, you can stroll back to Dam Square to dine at one of the eclectic cafés and food stalls or browse through the dozens of discounted souvenir shops surrounding the area.
Madurodam is your chance to see all of Holland — in miniature. Set in sprawling gardens, the canal houses of Amsterdam, the Alkmaar cheese market and parts of the Delta Works, are all replicated down to the minutest detail on a 1:25 scale.
Madurodam is located between the centre of Den Haag (The Hague) and the seaside resort of Scheveningen and is open throughout the year from 9am onwards. The closing time varies between 6pm during winter and 11pm in the summer.