Friday, November 03, 2006

Europe - Part II

Warning! This is a very loooong post - I'll wake you up when it's over :)

Holland - where we found a sense of home...

What else can I say about Holland except that I think it could easily be my second home. I love this country. I know, we were only there for a brief period of time, but of all the places we travelled though, I found this country resonated the strongest for me. Bicycles, canals and rows upon rows of tall, teetering houses - seriously, I felt like I was in some sort of fairytale when we arrived in Amsterdam. I think the dutch people are fantastic, they keep gorgeous homes and obviously value family and community. Harry recieved an email from one of his writing mentors saying that the difference between Canadian cities and many European cities is that they are planned around people, rather than cars. This is so true about Amsterdam, but we felt this even more when we visited Harry's relatives, Ben and Nel, in Utrecht. They took us on a tour of the countryside, and made a stop in the tiny village of Cohten. This was a very special stop since it is the town where Harry's mother was born and where the Van Leur family originated. We toured a windmill and the church that his family attended.

Our sightseeing highlights in Amsterdam:

  • NightTrain to Amsterdam - talk about close quarters! VanGogh gallery and RihksMuseum (original Rembrandts, Vermeer and Hals as well as the history of Holland)
  • A visit to the Anne Frank house
  • A walk through the Red Light district - oh, how naughty!
  • Daytrip to Utrecht and Cohten
  • Bicycling through Utrecht - I really MUST get a bike. This was defenitely a highlight of the entire trip.

While in Holland, I learned that Gouda is defenitely a superior cheese and that a panekoek is best with apples and sugar - mmmm... I also found out that the government has made home mortgage tax deductable - how cool is that!
I had a wonderful time getting to know Harry's relatives, learning more about life in Holland. I have come back inspired to simplify my life and really focus on to the things that mean the most to us. Ben and Nel are both incredibly creative people - they keep a simple, beautiful home; filled with the warmth of home cooking, music and art projects. When I had a conversation with Nel about my life and work at home, she just said to me; "I hope you find something to do creatively in your daily work." She was so genuine and adament about this simple statement that I found ringing over in my head throughout our travels.

And onward to Brussels

We were NOT ready to leave Holland. The train ride to Brussels was quiet and reflective as Harry and I mentally prepared for a new unknown city. Our first impressions of the city were quite mixed. We both found this to be a strange contrast of rich history against fast emerging business and commerce. We both agreed that it felt like the city didn't feel comfortable with it's past; perhaps they were just impatient to get on with the here and now.

At any rate, here are the highlights:
-Walking through the Grand Place and area for shopping and eating
-Musee des Beaux-Arts
-Musee de la bande dessinee - comics! with lots of TinTin
-Antique browsing in Sablon and a visit to famous Belgian chocolatier
-Palais do Justice - impressive architecture!

We had a bit of a rough go with Brussels, but I have to say you cannot get a better gaufre chaude with whipping cream, strawberries and chocolate - delicious! Also, where else would you be able to find a cherry beer except in Belgium. I did appreciate all the treats that were offered here. Also, the architecture really was something to marvel at - particularly the palais de Justice. For a couple Canadian kids who consider an antique some item from the 50's this city was quite the eye opener. Wow!

Paris! Leaving Europe with a bang...or, was that more like a fizzle?

Oi, we were exhausted by the time we got to Paris. We were getting seriously worn out from the days and days of walking and we really needed to do some laundry and slow down to conserve energy. First day in this magnificent city we spent in our rented apartment doing laundry, watching bad french cable and eating a home cooked meal. Ah, the simple pleasures in life. The rest of our time was fairly typical of any tourist. We hit all the main attractions, enjoyed the shopping and holy cow, let's not forget about the unforgettable cafe au lait! Perfection!

The weather had turned a bit grey and cold shortly after we got there and this concrete city began to look quite melancholy. I had so many expectations of what Paris would be like, but somehow it fell short. Don't get me wrong - I was totally blown away by the art, architecture and style of everything around us. But, perhaps it was the overcrowded streets, the unending tourists, the overpriced everything - I don't know, but we had certainly had enough by the time the week was over. Also, it was unfortunate that Harry picked up some sort of virus while we were there which started out as flu symptoms and escalated to something much worse when we got home. So, I suppose our Paris experience is not the best in the world, but it certainly was memorable.

Overall this trip was worth every second and every cent! We discovered a lot about ourselves as travellers and how we relate to each other as a couple. I know I couldn't do this trip without Hubby - it was so unbelievable to share all those moments with him. I feel happy to be home, but even happier that we have so many memories between us. (Now I better stop before it gets too sappy!)

[Clap Clap!] OK, you can wake up now! The slide show is over :) Hope I didn't totally bore the pants off you, but if I did it's a good thing you can just stop reading! Ha! Now it's back to normal routines. I'm anxious to get going on Illustration Friday again as well as some Xmas projects. Stay tuned - I'll keep you posted!


Julie said...

Really enjoyed reading about your travels. I've been to Amsterdam and travelled a bit in Belgium and your writing and photos really brought it back. I know what you mean about Holland - like Paris Amsterdam is a large cultural city but it seems somehow more homely and welcoming. I see Amsterdam and Paris a bit like the contrast between Craft and Modern Art. Glad you're enjoying being back - it's great to travel but there's no place like home. Welcome back!

Love Squalor said...

boring? quite the opposite actually! it's been a few years since i've traveled out of the country and your travel stories, photos, and sketches are absolutely magical - they fill my need to travel and wonder at the different lives people lead. I have really really enjoyed your trip - next best thing to actually going there myself! Thank You! So glad you had a wonderful time.

Kempton said...

Thanks for sharing your travel memories and pix with us. Now, I am really looking forward to your newly inspired artwork.

I would love to visit Pairs and I think I can easily spend hours trying to photograph I. M. Pei's grand building/entrance.

Note to self: visit Paris.

flossy-p said...

I've never been to Holland but seeing your photo's and sketches and hearing what you loved about it has definitely made me want to go!

It's funny, you're the second person this week who has said that Paris didn't impress them as much as they expected.

Great photo's!

faun said...

oh- to have walked a mile in your shoes :) holland- a dream. so beautiful, lucky you. I have never been out of the country -but when i do holland will be a stop for me, thank you!

cruststation said...

Thank you for sharing so much about your trip, I love it that you managed to visit friends and family during your travels too which makes it a better experience. I especially enjoyed your stories, photos and sketches of your trip to Holland I agree with every word! Aren't they are stylish bunch? More than one person have already told me that they can see themselves living in Amsterdam (I agree in parts). Apart from that you seem to have done so much in the short time! Wow I was there for 3days but mainly a relaxing walkabout and not really visited as many museums as I would have liked.

Brussels sounds great too, I guess our next trip would be Paris or Rome -I'll remember to ask you for recommendations :)

Annette-h said...

Thank you for loving my country!!!!

Greetings from Holland!