Having just been at the Wimbledon tennis tournament in London, I wondered what could possibly be more exciting in London. Walking through Hyde Park several times a day was an extremely pleasurable city activity just across the street from our apartment, but it was not exciting. Then we discovered, by chance when walking by the park concert grandstand, that Paul McCartney was to perform in the park while we were in London. He was the headliner for an all-day concert that was part of an all-weekend concert, which was part of an all-month concert in the park. We could not believe our eyes, we thought we must be reading something wrong and went home to goggle it and sure enough tickets were for sale and two were ours! The London itinerary did not include 4 days at Wimbledon with McCartney singing in the park where we were staying. This could not be a better tour package!
We arrived for the act before McCartney which was Crosby, Stills and Nash. The crowd had grown to about 50,000 by then with a mixture of all age groups. The crowd was in a dance mood which CSN obliged. I liked CSN, especially in the 70’s, and most of their lyrics are about those times. I wondered, as the younger concert goers danced, what relevance do any of the CSN’s songs have to this generation. What could “Almost Cut My Hair” mean today? All of McCartney’s songs seem to have stood the test of 40+ years of time and the crowd was in a dancing mood the whole time. It was strange,though, to see some try to jump/sway/and twitch to Eleanor Rigby. The night was full of Beatle and Wings hits with a touching Lennon tribute song that McCartney said he only wished he could have played for John when Lennon was alive. He also sang Harrison’s “Something in the Way She Moves” accompanying himself at the start on a ukulele and ending the song with his full rocking guitar backup. Maybe everyone’s last concert is their favorite, and this was no exception. McCartney did three encores ending with “Yesterday” and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Club Band (We hope you have enjoyed the show) Ann’s favorite Beatle’s song has always been “A Day In The Life”. It was a show-stopper in Hyde Park.
If a town has a Salvador Dali museum in its city center, then I think the the town should be a great visit. Salvador Dali said “There are some days that I think I’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction.” This is how I felt about Brugge, Belgium. It was a perfect town for what we do best – walk, shop, talk and eat or just plain explore. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage site with cobblestone roads of medieval architecture with a small system of canals and an unusual array of shops and friendly people. Brugge refers to itself as the “Venice of Northern Europe”. This last leg of our trip was out of Brussels, Belgium with visits to Brugge and Amsterdam. Because Brugge has such a fascinating and relaxing atmosphere, and probably because it is near the end of our trip, I did a lot of thinking about past experiences. I was reminded of our Tokyo city walk when we exited a Buddha shrine the same time as a lone Japanese traveler. After asking for directions, we ended up for the rest of the evening walking the city with him . He was a doctor and said that walking around Tokyo frees his mind to think of better ways to care for his patients. Brugge had this kind of effect. At times it felt like we were on a movie set. European World Cup fever reached its pinnacle while we were in Brugge. The night before the football final, a dance and concert was held on market square. It was interesting that the band talked in Dutch before and after every song, but all night long they performed songs like Beach Boys and Eagles in perfect English. A good time was had by all. This is a good time to mention that Belgium has close to 1000 different beer brands. The Belgium beach season is short from July 1st to August 31st. On the first 80 + degree day we took a train and a tram to Bredene aan Zee for a day at the beach. It was early in the season and the north winds were blowing across the really cold water of the North Sea. Wind shields are a real popular beach accessory.
The Belgium rail system took us into Amsterdam Netherlands for a 7 night stay in a Joordan apartment. We had to connect to another train in Rotterdam. Our train could not get into the Amsterdam station because an estimated 1 million people were celebrating the return of the Netherlands soccer team from the World Cup. Fortunately when we arrived, the mob was retreating away from the center of town but had left the city trashed. It is an historically fascinating city known for its high tolerance level that helped it become the wealthiest city in the world 350 plus years ago. A series of plagues, Napolean and Hilter has robbed the city of most of its wealth. Today, Amsterdam’s liberal drug laws and almost non existent alcohol law attracts huge throngs of teenage urban backpackers looking for the next party – which they found with the soccer welcome-home celebration. The whole city structure is unique with its wide canals and 4 story buildings built at sea level. A unique feature of the homes is the incredibly steep stairs connecting the different floors. Therefore, most homes are narrow and 3,4 or 5 stories tall. Amsterdam does not fill its streets with statues as the other European cities we visited, but one monument that has left a strong imprint on Dutch history is the windmill. After the 80 year war with Spain, the skilled craftsmen and merchants from Antwerp immigrated to Amsterdam, a town of skilled seamen and mapmakers. Soon, thousands of windmills were built. Some windmills were built to power sawmills that were used to build ships. Before long, the Dutch had the best shipping routes and captured the rich spice trade of the day. This led to accumulating a lot of the wealth that led to creating the world’s first stock exchange (Dutch East India Company), the first central bank and the first economic bubble – the tulip mania.
This was the Dutch “Golden Age”. The Dutch extended their influence into the New World setting up New Amsterdam in their colony of New Netherlands. In 1664, the Dutch surrendered the city to the English and it was renamed New York. Many famous and familiar Dutch names came from this era. One name that everyone is familiar with is Rembrandt. who was a son of a miller. You have to wonder if the paradigm will shift again with today’s resurgence of the windmill.
From the lava flow of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii to the windmills of Zaanse Schans Netherlands with 3 tennis grand slam tournaments in between, these 10 months of no more snow have gone by fast. Ten months though is a long time traveling and we are in need of a pit-stop at home, family and friends. The weather we experienced for the last 3 months in Europe has been high 60’s, and 70’s with an occasional low 80 degrees. We can not wait to totally enjoy in this summer’s New York scorcher especially at the US Open!
Stay tuned for TT production’s video of the Terrible Towel Goes Around the World.