The Glorious Cities, Part I

London 041 We’re concluding our trip with a fabulous couple of weeks in Europe.  We’ve spent several days in London, an amazing city that we could go back to over and over.  From there, we spent a weekend in Brussels with close friends from Boston who now live there.  We then went to Amsterdam and are now in Vienna.

London 005 In London, we didn’t do a lot of the standard tourist activities, many of which we’ve done in the past.  But we did take in a performance of “Lion King,” which seemed quite appropriate after our time in Africa.  Having seen all of the animals many times in the wild, it was fun to see how they were presented in the musical. 

London 122 We generally just hung out in London, had some great family time, and took in a couple of things we really wanted to see.  We celebrated Sterling’s tenth birthday, and Elizabeth and I marveled that we now have no children in ‘single digits.”  We spent an afternoon in Kew Gardens, lots of fun time in Hyde Park, the London Eye, and lots of walking around and just casually exploring this great city.  The kids went to Hambley’s, a great toy store, frequently, and bought some remote-control helicopters that performed better in the store than at the hotel.  As Sterling said at one point, “Daddy, my helicopter has gone completely mad!” 

Brussels 068 We took the train from London to Brussels, which was remarkably easy to do.  The trip lasts less than two hours, and goes through the Chunnel.  At one point, Elizabeth asked one of the people who works on the train if he could tell us when we were about to go through the tunnel.  His answer was, “We just did!”  Trains in Europe put those in the U.S. to shame, and are a great form of transportation.

Brussels 028 The highlight of our time in Brussels was our chance to get together with our very close friends from Boston, Sydney Loughran and Andreas Wolf, and their two very-cute children.  During our trip, we’ve had precious little time to spend with friends, so seeing them was like finding an oasis in a very large desert! 

Brussels 083 They have a terrific situation in Brussels, living in a great house that abuts a club with soccer fields and tennis courts.  And their neighborhood is gorgeous, with a nearby park and a great Sunday morning market.  It was so interesting to see a broad set of vendors come to the neighborhood with their wares, and see the entire “commune” (they call ‘communities’ in Brussels ‘communes’) buy many of their week’s supplies there, and catch up with each other.  Vendors sold an impressive set of things at the market — beautiful fresh produce and fish, rotisserie chicken, clothes, toys, art work, kitchen supplies, you name it!  It was a great opportunity for us to experience life in a very cosmopolitan European city.

Brussels 019 We did get a bit of rain in Brussels, which has been most unusual on our trip.  But it didn’t really slow us down, and saved us from having to use sun screen :-) .  Oddly, Brussels gets almost no snow, but a fair amount of rain annually.  And it was beautiful blue sky on our last day there.  It’s a great walking city, and so interesting to see so many gorgeous older buildings.

Brussels 247 From Brussels, we took an easy train ride to Amsterdam, and spent a couple of nights there.  Amsterdam is a city of canals, and we took a great boat ride throughout the city.  We also went to the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum.  The works at these places are terrific.  But I was in Amsterdam some twenty-five  years ago, and I remember quite clearly walking through the Van Gogh Brussels 143Museum (but in a different building) that was almost deserted.  Admittedly, I was in Amsterdam on a cold winter weekday, but these museums are now quite “discovered,” as the quality of their works would indicate.  Still, in one beautiful sunny day, we could take in great works of Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and other great Dutch painters.

Brussels 015 One very noteworthy observation about European cities.  There are almost no big cars here.  Maybe one in a hundred.  Maybe less.  Funny how a long-time gas tax will shift vehicle purchases away from gas-guzzling SUV’s (and worse!) to small, fuel-efficient cars.  It was so interesting to see lots of heavily-used public transportation, downtowns with relatively few cars (almost none in Amsterdam, for instance), and an automobile capital stock with almost no inefficient guzzlers.  Too bad we couldn’t have figured this out in the U.S. three decades ago!

I’ll save my reports on a couple of other things we saw in these cities (the Winston Churchill International War Museum, and the Anne Frank House) for a later post.  And I’ll continue with my “Great Cities” post when I report on Vienna and Paris in a couple of days.  But I have gotten some photos up from London, Brussels, and Amsterdam.

One Response to “The Glorious Cities, Part I”

  1. Michelle Finnegan Says:

    I hope this message is read by someone. As luck would have it, before I turned my computer off, I googled Sydney Loughran Wolfe (and other old friends of mine in Boston) on the chance I might find her contact info in Boston, which is where I last heard from her. I’m ashamed to admit I lost contact. Clearly it’s been a long while since I’ve looked, but I had moved to Naples and just lost track of many of my friends as life had me focused in other directions. (You can read my website to learn some of where my time disappeared.) I may be headed to Boston for The Flip Flop Regatta in August and could not help but think of Sydney. Ally Zapp, for whom the Flip Flop regatta is held was also a friend of mine, as well as an actress in the film I wrote and produced many years ago in Boston. Ally and many friends, including Sydney are acknowledged in the book. I promised Sydney and another mutual friend that we traveled across Africa with that should I ever publish the book, I would mention them in it (at their request). Now that the book version of my film, “Hung Jury” is published, I would love to let Sydney know. If you could please get this message to her, I would greatly appreciate it. It is unbelievable how much time has passed, especially looking at the photo of Sydney. She doesn’t look like she has changed a day!

    I look forward to hearing from you soon!

    Thank you!
    Michelle

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