For the first time ever, I went to Europe and had a place to stay. My sister and brother-in-law now live in The Hague, which is the capital city of The Netherlands, also known as Holland.
Melanie and Steve (Stringfellow) have lived in Texas almost their entire lives. After their children moved out, they fulfilled a once-in-a-lifetime chance to work abroad, where Steve is a petroleum engineer for Halliburton.
I tried to take the whole family, but fortunately, for my pocketbook, conflicts and logistics prevented this. So it was my 17-year-old son John and I. This worked well since John loves to travel and loves to visit museum, of which there are many in The Hague.
Bikes are everywhere. More people bike than drive, aided by the perfectly flat landscape. Roads have three parts to them: one for pedestrians, one for bikes and one for cars. Everybody has their own stoplights coordinated so all modes of transportation co-exist smoothly.
The next push is to share cars. A phone app will tell you where the nearest available car is on the street and a swipe car will give you access. When you’re done, just part it on the street. Sharing cars in this manner will drastically reduce the need for parking.
The Dutch are extraordinarily smart and successful people. The Netherlands is one-third the size of the Mississippi with six times as many people. Yet this small, crowded country is the second leading exporter of agricultural products in the world, bested only by the U. S. The country exports $90 billion of fruits and vegetables annually. Now that is truly incredible.
They treat agriculture as a manufacturing process. Greenhouses are everywhere with perfectly controlled environments that can grow anything. There are 35,000 acres of greenhouses, half devoted to fruits and vegetables. For instance, The Netherlands grows most of the tomatoes eaten in Europe. They grow 22 percent of the world’s potato exports.
When you see how much this tiny country produces, you realize there will never be a global limitation on food production as long as humans deploy skill and ingenuity.
The Hague has more museums per capita than any other city in the world. The architecture is magnificent. I was amazed at the countless magestic structures, all in perfect condition.
Jackson would kill for just one single walking street with outdoor cafes, shops and nightly activity. In The Hague there were hundreds. In fact, every street was like that. There were dozens of “pleines” (plazas) where people would hang out and enjoy the typical 72-degree summer weather.
Most of the streets of The Hague are brick. The bricks are laid with no cement, so there is no need to tear up a street when replacing underground lines. The workers just carefully pick up the bricks, put in the fiber optic lines, and place the bricks back down.
Native cuisine was hard to find. Most of the Dutch restaurants are Italian, French, Indonesian or any other international genre. That being said, the restaurants were excellent. A favorite streetside delicacy is fresh raw herring de-boned and swallowed whole. It was deliciously fresh, caught a few miles away in the North Sea, and not at all fishy tasting.
The Hague is just a 15 minute bike ride from the beach, where the tan sand stretches on for miles. The beaches width is about a quarter mile and it is packed with people during the summer. Huge hotels line the beach and a miles-long walking street is lined with endless outdoor cafes with lounging areas where Europeans hang out with family and friends, chilling, eating and drinking for hours, days on end.
Like Florida, there are also vast stretches of pristine beaches where no development is allowed and wildlife is protected.
We took a side trip to Paris where I ate enough snails and foie gras to kill a horse. Drinking a pastisse at a French outdoor cafe while munching on foie gras and watching the interesting Parisians walk by should be on everybody’s bucket list. We also so the magnificent Chartres Cathedral. Unfortunately, a heat wave hit Paris and the temperature was 97 degrees while an cold front held Jackson to the mid 70s. Timing is everything.
It is truly incredible how much land Americans are blessed to possess. Unfortunately, this means a low population density, making urban mass transportation, outdoor cafes, walking streets and the like impractical. Jackson will be a car based society and there is nothing we can do about it.
But we can always visit Europe.