We left Spa Belgium and meandered northwest, then northeast, then west and then southwest along the Netherlands/Belgium/French coasts of the North Sea. It’s been a lazy, hazy time in which our schedule was loose and our destinations blurry. We rolled through the country sides of Belgium, a bit of Germany, the Netherlands and eventually France. We took in the rolling hills and farms of northern Belgium, the unexpected dense forests of the Netherlands, the sand dunes along the North Sea, and the juxtaposition of wind mills with oil tankers in Rotterdam. Along the way we got gobbled up in the crush of Dutch freeway traffic, got lost in one of the world’s largest ports, Rotterdam, and spent time in out-of-the-way Dutch beach towns.
Karen and I disagree on Amsterdam. She didn’t like its almost chaotic, certainly frenetic, maze of bicyclists, pedestrians, trains and cars. Stepping carefully is Rule #1 for new comers to this city so as to not crash into a biker or scooter. It’s emblematic that most bicycles don’t have brakes. Why use brakes when you can bounce off a pedestrian to stop?
All of this is true, of course, as Amsterdam is a chaotic, frenzied kind of place in which everyone and everything is moving, which is exactly why I like it. At a different time, and certainly different age, I could live in there, At least during the 60 days it’s not raining. It’s a smaller, more charming version of NYC with canals.
Canals and water play a major role in Amsterdam. The city is ringed and intersected with canals of all shapes and sizes. Amsterdam is an international city primarily as a result of the city controlling 50% OF THE WORLD’S TRADE in the 1500/1600’s. Like NY or LA, one can tell its an international place by just looking at the different kinds/shades of people.
House boats of one kind or another line every canal. Some are large, others are tiny and barely afloat. I fantasized about living in one until I heard the price: $300K Euros for a permit and $400-1,500K for the boat. Aside from the house boats, Amsterdam is a 1%’r kind of city with town houses costing tens of millions of dollars. Puerto Vallarta and Sandia Park here I come!
I’ve liked a number of places we’ve stayed on this trip. Thonon-les-Bains, France. Verona and Florence Italy. Bad Ass & Wild (look it up), Monschau, and even Breda NL. Amsterdam is the only place where I could see living.
Here’s what the last week or so has looked like.