A postcard I picked up at a market in Amsterdam

I’ve been time traveling and recuperating since mid May. I was in the Netherlands and Germany, getting around to Gouda, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Cologne. I was traveling various means of transport along the way; aboard a mini bus with eight other travelers, camping, and taking the cross-country trains. I have a few stories from this trip that will eventually make it here.

The Netherlands is known as the Pays-Bas in French, the Low Country. You can see across the country side for miles and miles. It’s a beautiful mix of canals and trees. Layers of blue and green that are thin stripes painted across your view. I loved just looking out the window of the bus across the vast region. It also helped me forget about the winding curvy roads that are only wide enough for one car at a time. I dare say these roads were worse than the roads I experienced in Corsica. The most inspiring moments would be at night when I could see lights piled on top of each other. I imagine Van Gogh didn’t have quite as many lights, but it made me feel as though I could really finally understand “Starry Night”. No, I don’t care that this is one of the most well-known paintings of all time, it is still a favorite of mine, and I still find it amazingly moving to this day. I’ve always been a night owl.

I attempted two different recreations of what I saw. These are just the beginning of many more to come. I’m satisfied with the recreations as they currently stand. Soon, I’ll add in the reflection of the stars in the canals as well as more color variations.

piles of lights, as far as you can see

lights, with a tree lined avenue framing

More to come.

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I’ve always been a fairly curious person. I can remember when I was younger asking a lot of questions. I was disappointed once because I was asked “What is the gray thing attached to some telephone poles” and I did not have the answer, although I had noted their presence. I immediately sought out the answer, it was a transformer for electricity. I was mortified. I imagined them to be houses for squirrels. As I saw it, this was a better use for the boxes. I then realized it would be a very bad idea to have a family of squirrels move in.

I’ve never considered myself a master of nature. However, since arriving in France, and when I was in Italy, I have begun questioning what types of trees I’m surrounded by. I am still hunting for the name of my favorite bird, quite numerous here in Angers. Unfortunately, Google searches for “black and blue bird, Angers” don’t turn up results, in French or English. I did succeed in solving one mystery.

“What are those balls in the trees?” “Quoi est-ce les boules dans l’arbes?”

This is what I began asking anyone who was French.

“What balls?” “Quelles boules?”

This was the response, every time. Trying to explain the balls, where to begin?

“You know, they are like green leaves but shaped like balls, they are round, and they grow in the trees. Or tell me what kind of tree this is at least.”

“They are probably nests.”

Those Balls

They most certainly were not nests. I know what  a nest looks like. And honestly, the birds here are either on steroids or are contractors, because all their nests are mansions. Its kind of hard to miss a nest here. Not to mention, nests aren’t green, nor are they circles, balls, 360 degrees in the round. Although, that would be kind of cool, to have a sphere house. I digress.

Would you believe, the all-knowing roommate finally figured out what I meant, it took some serious Google image searches to get on the same page. Turns out it’s Mistletoe. Apparently it exists in the States too, but mostly in the South. What’s even more amazing about this, is the Mistletoe has a whole lore here. The Druids used to go into the woods, and hack down the Mistletoe at night with a Golden Scythe. Why gold? Why at night? The real question: Why not climb trees and cut shit down? Guess you haven’t been drunk in the woods ever. Also, the mistletoe must touch the ground, or its ruined. Why? I have the answer, because they are Druids, and they live in the woods, and that’s just the way it is.

"Woohoo! What a party!! You guys are NUTS!!"

Turns out the whole Christmas tradition of kissing under the stuff is the same in both countries.

What really surprised me was how many people had no idea what I was talking about. I mean, you see this all the time, and no one questions it. I’m sure if aliens landed, as long as they didn’t cause any problems, no one would question it here in France.

As the French love to say, “C’est comme ça.” (That’s just the way it is.)

Gui de Chêne

"Oh scythe it, baby."