Rotterdam is the city I want to go on a night out with.
Like the girls I saw in a super funky bar, I’ll get dressed up in a posh cocktail frock for when we hit the town, but I’ll be sure to throw on my battered flat boots with it. You see, we’ll probably be out all night and Rotterdam will laugh in my face if I wear my five inch heels. She won’t have it if I complain that I can’t hit the dance-floor because my feet are hurting.
Our night out will happen in Manchester or Liverpool, because I’ll want to show Rotterdam the sights the next morning when we both declare that hangovers are for those who shouldn’t bother to drink in the first place – not us!
But for now the night is young, so we’ll start it by drinking swanky cocktails in a swish hotel bar, knowing full well we’ll end it in an old-man pub, drinking pints of bitter.
Rotterdam and I will have solved every problem on the planet by sunrise when it’s time to go to bed. We’ll put the world to rights over Mojitos, and we’ll laugh so hard that some of mine will shoot out of my nose. Then we’ll drown our sorrows with a bottle of pink wine.
Rotterdam will tell me what it was like to get bombed in the war; how beautiful buildings might crumble, but strength of human spirit is all you need to help you rebuild. She’ll whisper that she wept for her pieces of history which were reduced to World War II rubble, but she’ll voice emphatically how she vowed not to dwell, and instead be born again in a way that broke a whole new mould. You can’t go back, she’ll say.
I’ll imagine her tomorrow standing by the bombed out church I plan to show her in Liverpool, and I know she’ll sniff back a tear brought on by feelings of painful pride and remembrance. It wasn’t just buildings she lost; Rotterdam will think about her people, too.
People are important to Rotterdam, so I’ll tell her about warmth of Liverpool natives who welcome anyone and everyone into their homes with open arms and local terms of affection, despite their almost tribal loyalty to both their city and each other. She’ll learn how the mud of a difficult past has been washed off by the rivers of regeneration that flow from the suburbs to the Mersey.
She’ll understand that Liverpool is no longer just a city, but a destination – with a waterfront that has real wow-factor for visitors. Rotterdam will nod as I speak. It’s something that only other port cities like her will ever understand, and she’ll tilt her head in encouragement as she listens earnestly to me rambling on. Then Rotterdam will take sip of beer and her eyes will tell me she genuinely gets it. She’s a destination now as well.
I’ll go on to talk to her about the thriving city of Manchester and the IRA bombing that devastated it in 1996. Rotterdam will relate to that and she’ll agree sincerely that it was a miracle no-one died in the blast. But then she’ll tell me that we need to buck up and start drinking to bright futures instead. There are good times ahead for us both.
Rotterdam will suggest we do tequila shots as we toast triumphantly to the spectacular resurgence of Manchester’s central shopping hub which has now been strikingly rebuilt and revived by the determined Mancunians to whom the city is so beloved. I’ll inform her that Manchester people are some of the best she will ever meet. Their city is perfect for a day of cool shopping and classy lunching, so I’ll say that perhaps later on tomorrow we’ll head there for retail therapy and afternoon tea. I think Rotterdam will like that.
Soon we’ll move on to another port of call on our pub crawl. And Rotterdam and I will get another round in as we discuss how we both think love at first sight is overrated, but both concur that the old adage of beauty being in the eye of the beholder is completely true. Rotterdam will get exasperated and tell me she wishes people would just give her a chance; I’ll reply that she has the kind of striking look which is as unconventional as it is stunning. She’ll believe me because I mean every word.
Later, as we decide it’s time to down our drinks and dance the rest of the night away, my feet will thank Rotterdam for the flat boots I’m wearing and I’ll realise that in her I’ve found a friend for life. She’s the kind of friend I might not speak to everyday or even every week because I won’t need to. Rotterdam and I both know that next time we get together it will seem like barely a minute has passed since we were last in each other’s company.
And when I tell her over a late night snack that I’ll be back to visit her soon, Rotterdam will smile and instinctively know that it’s completely true.