So here are some further observations of the human condition European Vacation-style for your amusement:
TREATED LIKE ROYALTY: When I was in Amsterdam in late April, it was the last official ‘Queen’s Day’ celebration of Queen Beatrix, in honour of her mother’s birthday Queen Juliana since 1949. It made for quite the party as she officially turned over the reins to her son, King Willem-Alexander, marking the first time Holland has had a male monarch since 1890.
Europeans sure love their royalty with their 24-hour coverage of ‘Royal Watchers’ and people camping out for days just to capture a glimpse when they may be appearing for a function.
Perhaps we as Canadians could learn a thing or two about the esteem we hold our own political leaders in — to a degree. I do believe Europeans go a little bit too overboard with the mania that is their respective royalty.
Royalty should be treated with a certain degree of dignity and I can’t see how having their faces plastered everywhere on poorly-made T-shirts, commemorative plates and limited edition coins — and by limited edition I mean eight zillion, adds to the mystique that is royalty.
I was half expecting to go into a drugstore in which Beatrix’s face was on a home pregnancy test with the saying “Because only one child can get the throne.” We certainly do not give our political leaders the same esteem on the higher levels, but we certainly do not wallow in the lower levels either.
MUCHMUSIC: People in the Netherlands love their Canadians, and apparently our music as well.
What was odd was I don’t think it’s music we listen to ourselves anymore.
There I was celebrating Queen’s Day in Amsterdam, awash in a sea of orange where I decided to hanker down on one of the streets that was featuring a DJ. You found people dancing in the streets in patches, but then they all swarmed together when Snow’s 1992 hit “Informer” came off the DJ’s spin table.
The same phenomenon happened when “Squeeze Toy” was played from the Boomtang Boys.
These are songs that we Canadians would be lucky to hear again within a two-year rotation on Canadian radio in which I heard twice in my two weeks there.
FUN-SIZED: They make fun-sized candy, apparently they make fun-sized hotels in Paris as well. I did my research before booking online trying to find a room that was reasonably priced, yet still had some solid reviews.
I had heard from a fellow traveller that I bumped into in my travels who was from Alberta telling me rooms in Paris were small, but I never imagined. My first clue was the charming, creaking elevator going to my room. It looked like it was still functioning after being attacked by the Nazis during WWII.
I read on the inside how it has a maximum capacity of four people and was wondering if the engineering specs were mistakenly mixed up for those meant for Smurf Village. Unless the other two people were planning on sitting on the other two guys’ shoulders, I had no idea how you could even remotely fit four people in that elevator.
The adventure continued on in the hotel room where I had to stand a certain way just to fit through the entry way and in the shower.
I guess it’s just bitching about First-World problems being used to so much open space here back in Canada, but it was a tad weird feeling nevertheless, and made me appreciate what I had even more.
ECONOMICAL: As is a surprise to none, it is expensive to travel in Europe. The train ride to Paris was quite the pinch as was the plane ticket to get over to the Netherlands. When you factor in the exchange rate, food and clothing is way more expensive as well. But for you bargain hunters out there like me who view beer like Mother’s Milk, you will think you’ve died and gone to heaven.
There I was seeing 24 beers at grocery stores for around 14 euro which even with the exchange is cheaper than buying a case of 12 beer here. That’s Libation Economics 101 right there.
Stay thirsty my friends.
TRAINS, PLANES AND AUTOMOBILES: I love to people watch in airports. Maybe it’s that sadistic impulse we have as kids when we laugh when someone gets (mildly) hurt on the playground.
I get this impulse when I see people running in airports to catch their flights. People like me whose biggest form of exercise most of the day is getting another slice of pizza, yet manage to look like Carl Lewis winning 100-metre dash gold at the Olympics because a connector was delayed an hour. This is the same phenomena I saw at the various train stations in the Netherlands I rode and in Belgium and France as well.
But unlike airports, the trains wait for no one. I was amazed at how punctual the trains were right down to the half- minute. If you are running on the platform and you see those doors slam shut you might as well conserve your energy — you ain’t getting on. But never fear, there’s another train likely coming your way mere minutes away.
DAILY DIET: My mother is amazed to hear the foods I will try nowadays given how fussy I was in my youth with my palate.
But for me, it is simply saying I tried something once when I travelled outside my country. I always laugh when I recall the time I was in Germany and a fellow Canadian beside me at a pub ordered, well, a Canadian. You’ve travelled thousands of miles just so you can order a beer you can find anywhere in your homeland?
So there I was in the Netherlands chowing down some of the cuisine the Dutch had to offer, some with the help of former Taber basketball standout Ross Bekkering in Hollandse Nieuwe Haring (raw herring), Stamppot, Patat, Stroopwafel, Bitterballen, Dropsies, and Kroketten. The verdicts are in, some I absolutely loved like Patat, some I thought were OK like the raw herring and some I despised like the drop which is essentially black licorice which I should have known I would not have liked. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
ELITE-LEVEL DIVING TEAM: Sorry soccer fans out there, seeing some elite-level European soccer (football) on the television while enjoying a pint in Leiden has not endeared me to your sport to any greater degree. While a highly-skilled game I can appreciate, it never ceases to amaze me all the diving that goes on while barely being touched.