I’ve noticed that I’m inclined to find poetry in most of life’s occurrences, especially as I travel. Leaving England further reinforced this sensation as I watched its coastline disappear over the horizon while my ferry slipped into a haunting, grey fog in the North Sea. The shroud never abated until we docket in Ijmuiden, the port town west of Amsterdam.Though the sky remained ominous, there was a warmth in the air that indicated spring really has arrived.
|I would share the picture of the fog, but it’s pure grey|
The customs officer was the most cheerful I’ve ever encountered and, after stamping my passport, commented with an impressed tone that it is almost full. He bade me a safe journey and set me loose upon this new land as the sun broke through the low clouds. I then cycled over 70 kilometers almost entirely on a dedicated bike path. Even when I did have to “share” the road in the countryside, there was no fear that motorists would run me off the road (some cyclists did pass a bit close, though). This was a massive relief after England, and a major thrill to just go.
Holland’s flatness allowed me to fly along the cycle lanes, through picturesque villages and past towering windmills. I felt even more liberated than before, something I did not expect to be possible. Biking here is even more hospitable than I had expected, and I can only hope that such infrastructure takes off at home like it is poised to do. The benefits to society would be immense.
|Like saving us from parallel parking|
So far in Holland I’ve stayed in Utrecht with my cousin, Michelle. She and her boyfriend, Michael, have very generously taken me in to provide a base for exploring the northern part of the Netherlands.
|The cats greeted me very warmly|
Michelle showed me around Utrecht’s downtown and we climbed the 112 meter Domtoren, which is about the same height as the Liverpool Cathedral’s tower. I’m getting fairly good at dealing with heights by this point. I spent another day exploring Amsterdam’s city center (centrum in Dutch), which feels like a larger and more crowded version of Utrecht. Despite my curiosity, though, I haven’t yet ventured into any coffeeshops.
|I’m getting great practice with “grand, sweeping views” photography|
|No foreigner can pass this without getting their photo taken. It’s the law. Try to find me.|
What I’ve most enjoyed, though, is getting to spend time with a cousin that I haven’t seen much lately. One of the greatest gifts that our parents and grandparents (great grandparents, even) have given us is a close-knit family. The cousins, as we tend to refer to ourselves, have grown up with each other and still look forward to family holidays as some of the greatest moments of the year.
Even without seeing each other for years and living across the world, we can still meet one another not as distant relatives but as close family. It’s a gift that I know not everybody has. That makes me value such a bond even more, and I’m elated that my brothers and cousins are carrying this on to the next generation.