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Tourist Traps And Take Aways (Or - Why Sometimes It Is Better To Blend In With The Locals)
As someone who has never actually set foot in the Richard The Third Visitors' Centre in Leicester (and - to be perfectly honest - has no intention of ever doing so due to the cost) - you may or may not be surprised to learn that I attempt to avoid "Tourist Traps" like the proverbial Bubonic.

This is not just because I have read several articles saying how following the "Tourist Trail" in certain countries means you miss out on getting a flavour of the local life (as well as depriving locsl small businesses of income).  My major reason is slightly different.

Playing "Tourist" can cost you a lot of unnecessary money but doing a little homework in advance of your trip can save you money.  (By "doing a little homework" I don't necessarily mean buy every single guide book available on your intended destination either.)  In this age of Social Media I am sure you will find at least one English account which will help you learn about things like Music Festivals, etc.

What got me thinking was a tweet by someone in Rotterdam (I think they were working for Tourist Information) asking where people would send tourists - this was in connection with the world's biggest Cruise Ship being in Rotterdam.

If I had to send a Tourist to any part of Rotterdam I would send them to a Tourist Trap Estraordinnaire - the area around Rotterdam Blaak Metro (underground) station.  Within a few feet of that building you will find my version of "Tourist" Rotterdam - the Strange flats, the Market Hall, and the most strangely coloured Library building I have ever come across.

However, if you want to visit my Rotterdam you would have to be prepared to get a bit lost.  You see - most of my favourite places do not feature in any Tourist Guide of Rotterdam.  For example - Tourist Guides don't tell you about the experience of buying a half "Rookworst" (or Smoked Sausage - think the "U" shaped sausage you can get in supermarkets over here) in a small paper bag from a shop called the "Hema" - and burning your mouth when you attempt to eat it in the open air.  Nor do they bother introducing you to the delights of a shop called "Media Markt" (this one really has to be seen to be believed - especially the Rotterdam version of it).

Come to think of it - I have never seen my favourite Shopping Centre on Earth appear in any Tourist Guides of Rotterdam.  Formally known as "Alexandrium" (but known to me and my family by its former name of "Oosterhof") it is a bit like a smaller version of Milton Keynes but a lot more fun.  (One of the journeys to get there is rather interesting as well - you can either get the train and get off at a station called "Rotterdam Alexander" or you can catch a Metro train which goes very close to parts of Rotterdam which I have great memories of.

If you really want to get off the beaten track I would take you to my all time favourite part of Rotterdam - Schiebroek.  It is a rather non-descript kind of a place but it holds lots of memories for me.  Apart from that - the journey from Rotterdam City Centre to Schiebroek will expose you to a pretty wide variety of the population.  Put it this way - I really love using Public Transport in Rotterdam because I can just sit down and observe the locals as they go about their daily lives.

So - next time you decide to go on holiday to somewhere out of your usual routine - go and find the places where the locals shop,eat, live, etc.  I cannot guarantee you will enjoy yourself all the time you are among them but you will get a true flavour of the place if you do!!!

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