Day 21. Wrap it up, I'll take it.
We've been home about 36 hours and the jetlag is fading. In a while, I will try my hand at making Dutch pancakes. But first, here are some thoughts on our trip, in no particular order.
- Americans eat too much. Or rather, we're offered too much. Go to a restaurant and there is so much food delivered that you will either burst or you ask for a takeout bag. Most of this trip, we were offered meals proportioned so that a typical adult could finish them. Then again, teenaged boys aren't typical adults, so it was good we had one with us when we couldn't clean our plate.
- Salad is not iceberg lettuce with ranch dressing. Most of the time a salad consisted of a plant called Rocket, which we would call arugula. I don't mind a bit of arugula mixed in with spinach or romaine, but not an entire salad of it. It's too sharp for my taste, but Jackie seemed to like it.
- I loved driving the smooth stick shift of the Peugeot. I wish American cars still had a manual option, other than a few niche vehicles. Allegedly, Peugeot is considering selling cars in the US after a 25 year absence, so I may have a chance again some day.
- If you pass a semi-truck and suddenly find a vehicle on your tail, seemingly out of nowhere, it's a Mercedes and invariably painted black. If it passes you on the right side, a definite no-no in Europe, it's a BMW. If it flashes it's lights and sits on your tail until you move, it's an Audi. Somehow, people with certain personality traits gravitate toward certain vehicles.
- Riding the train through the Channel Tunnel is a bucket list item for many people. While it's an engineering marvel, the actual occurrence is quite underwhelming because it's completely dark outside the window. Aside from the fact that you are hurtling at 100 MPH (160kph) through a hole that's 250 feet (75 m) beneath the bottom of the English Channel, there's not much to experience.
- I regret that we didn't get more time in Amsterdam. It's a neat town and I loved that you could get anywhere within the inner city with a bicycle or the tram system.
- Belgium, with it's fractured history, seems to have a personality crisis. They can't decide what they want to be or which language to speak. They choose bits of their personality from French, German, Spanish and Dutch influences, possibly in the wrong proportions.
- Like Dr. Frankenstein, sometimes I wonder about what I've helped to create. There's a lot of negative social behaviors with cell phones, and it's nowhere more obvious than in the places we visited. Some people would step in front of every piece of art in a museum and take a shot or a burst of shots, disrupting the peace. Despite the ban on selfie-sticks in museums, the signs are ignored. One young woman spent 20 minutes photographing her food at a restaurant, using a selfie-stick and even got Jackie involved. The compulsion to take a selfie in front of every notable work of art or famous location is insane. We would allow the kids to play or listen to music on the train or busses, but when it came time to see a sight or eat a meal, the phones went in their pockets. Not that they didn't pull them out, but if we saw them, we made them put the gadgets up, sometimes with a grumble or a heavy sigh.
- The strength of the dollar versus the Euro definitely made this trip easier on us than in 2009. I didn't fret or rationalize eating at restaurants. I may change my mind next month when the credit card bill comes due. The strength of the dollar versus the Pound Sterling is never good, so we did conserve while in London.
- I didn't mention this in any of the daily blogs, but Beau could be a pill at times. One minute, she would be fine and the next moment she would find a reason to be arguing with her mother or brooding because she didn't get her way. Any parent of a 12-year-old girl can understand. I can't imagine how my college friend Cody, with five daughters, has survived with his sanity. I assume he has a hunting shack or a barn somewhere with a kegerator and satellite TV.
When it was all said and done, I have to ask if we would do this again. Despite the hiccups, it was worth it but I'm not looking to go again anytime soon. We spent a lot of money to get there, have fun and interesting things to do, and have places to stay. Our hope was that our kids will see there's a big world out there and it's a pretty cool place. When they study history, they can say "Hey, I've been there!" and give a personal narrative.
Thanks so much for following along!