Random Observations from Europe

Here is a post I wrote last summer but never posted. enjoy.

My family and I spent three weeks visiting New York, Brussels, London, Amsterdam and Paris this summer.  Here are some random observations.

New York has the best playgrounds–starchitects like Frank Gehry design them and they are unique.

Amsterdam felt dangerous for pedestrians, especially for children–but not from cars but bikes.  Bikes were running red lights, riding on streets and sidewalks (and the woonerf concept used there meant these were often the same).

Also, in Amsterdam I saw no local children under the age of about 12 riding their bikes; children rode in large wheelbarrow-like baskets at the front of their parents’ bikes.  This was unexpected.  I thought it would look be more like Portland Oregon with families riding bikes together.

A pleasant surprise in Amsterdam was that I hardly ever smelled pot (I’m allergic to it so always notice).  In fact, the air was much more free of it than in Vancouver.  I did notice a slight smell right outside the marijuana cafes, but rarely anywhere else.  Maybe the cafes serve to confine the smoke and the smokers to these enclosed spaces. By contrast in Vancouver everyone smokes it in public parks because there is no where to go.

Brussels

Loved the cobble stone streets; found it rather hilly for “the lowlands.”  And, I was somewhat surprized at how international and multi-cultural the population was (other than the historic architecture, it didn’t feel as European).  I was particularly intrigued to find so many Brazilians and Brazilian cafes dedicated to their favorite futbol teams.  Is there an historic connection between Brazil and Belgium that I missed?

Comments and explanations welcome!

2 comments

  1. Gord says:

    I spent 2 weeks this summer in Paris and Amsterdam – stayed in the old centre of both.

    The Amsterdam bike traffic is definitely constant and chaotic but I never felt nervous about it when walking. Maybe because I had learned from visiting Berlin last year that you watch for bike lanes and do not walk in them, and check for bike traffic at all intersections even when you have the clear right-of-way. Not perfect but I’m so much happier sharing the city with wild bicyclists than dealing with the lack of bike lanes, poor sidewalks and the endless march of cars, SUVs and trucks that clog the streets here.

    Most of the sidewalks were wide, the bike lanes nicely marked and consistently used for the most part…at least in the areas I walked. I also rented a bike for a day and felt far more at ease riding in a city that I did not know at all than I do riding at home (Barrie, ON). I can see how walking with young kids might make dealing with the bike traffic more challenging…but the bike culture was the highlight of Amsterdam for me.

    The most frighten thing to me in Amsterdam were the emergency vehicles. They do not hesitate at intersections, not even a pause. They fly down the streets with sirens blaring so you better move. (is it like that else where? Parisians didn’t move over at all for them, here they slow to a rolling stop at almost every intersection…)

    Central Paris on the other hand is a buzzing mess of scooters, cars and larger autos. Bikers and pedestrians beware. The traffic (auto, bike & pedestrian) in central Paris made Amsterdam look down right calm, civilized and law-abiding. Lovely cobblestone sidewalks and narrow winding streets, it is a very walk-able city but we were surprised at the dominance of the auto and absence of bikes when compared to Berlin or Amsterdam.

    As for Belgium and Brazil…I’ll have to leave that to someone else…

  2. nasrin says:

    hi….the article was great …i myself really enjoyed it…..i have never been in these cities….it s good to know about someones experience…..this is the first time i am coming here….i have learned so many new English words which i have never heard…a good source this site is for English learners….many thanks and lot s of luck