Antwerp was in such a furious hurray: It was as if they couldn’t decide what to build and what to pull down. The inner city resembled one big construction site. After navigating around the docks we headed out where the corn fields meet the town. There’s a playful aspect to the Flemish people, evident in the kitsch displays of concrete garden sculptures and topiary.
We cycled out into the countryside saying goodbye to Belgium and hello once again to the Netherlands. Quiet tree lined cycle paths through bucolic rural scenes, friendly sheep, talkative cows and more fruit. Roadside plums, pears and blackberries provided gratis- the fat of the land.
We stayed on a nature park, essentially camping at a working farm outside the pretty village of Oudewater.
Cycling along the crown of the dykes we passed working windmills, old lochs and thatched houses, all the while a pungent fecund vinegar rural aroma wafted on the warm breeze. The canals and farms continued all the way to the edge of Amsterdam itself.
The Amsterdam locals exhibit a casual efficiency as they navigate the cycle ways effortlessly. Texting or talking on the mobile as they go, the only ones wearing a bicycle helmet are the road bike riders.
Every possible type of bicycle imaginable can be seen. Some are neglected or seemingly abandoned. I want to take them home and give them a little love.
We cycled and walked the streets. In the coffee shops there are squads of tourists young and old, smoking dope and gorging on cookies and special cakes. The smell of Marijuana hangs heavy in the air.
A younger me would have been in paradise, but I’m an old geezer now about as straight as they come. I wouldn’t even sample the supposedly innocuous cookies, however, I was happy to take in the various architectural styles and quintessential beauty of the city.
I had noticed previously how the Dutch like to make a feature of their windows. Homes often have a simple but well thought out floral or sculptural display giving a glimpse of what may be inside. A similar effort has been made in the red light district. Attractive, bored looking scantily clad women look back at the passersby with a piercing knowing.
I was determined to sample at least one of the more earthly pleasures on offer. Can I say the local delicacy of raw herring, onion and pickle sandwich was sublime.