Sunday Ride: Now and Then

When we were kids, my brothers and I were periodically subjected to my father’s long Sunday drives after church. If my father was still alive, I think he would recall these drives as the foundation of our interests in architectural style. My memory to date is that I hated them: the three of us kids in the back seat poking at one another; my dad putting on classical music and telling us to be quiet; he pointing out interesting homes for us to look at and appreciate; sitting after having already sat through Catholic mass–it was really a lot to ask from three rowdy kids.

Today, history repeated itself one generation later, but with an improved concoction if you ask me. We skipped church this morning and slept in (or at least I slept in; the boys did a few science projects, played chess and played with legos). I finally joined them for a leisurely breakfast and we stayed inside until the early afternoon.

Only when the sun was beckoning did we get on our bicycles and head out. The three of us cycled through Wassenaar-a  town within twenty minutes cycling distance of The Hague. The estates, mansions, and embassy homes have such grandeur that I accidentally called Wassenaar Montecito a few times. (Montecito is a wealthy estate-laden area just outside of Santa Barbara, California with grand villas and mansions of the rich and famous, all tucked into the rolling hills of California bordering the Pacific.)

Whereas Montecito offers beautiful curvy roads, it is far from bicycle-friendly. Wassenaar on the other hand is full of bicycle paths that parallel the streets and highways and weave in and out of natural spaces and parks.

Bicycling through the neighborhoods is far preferable to sitting in the back seat of a car. Our son replied with enthusiasm as my husband pointed out grand churches, estates from the 1890s now home to ambassadors of Middle Eastern countries and grand mansions with the requisite Mercedes and Jaguars parked out front.

Villa Ruy in Wassenaar photo credit: Wikimapia
Villa Ruy in Wassenaar photo credit: Wikimapia

As I sit behind the computer and recall our chilly afternoon cycling tour, there is not an ancy bone in my body. My son seems equally content to work behind his desk on another science project without the need to be entertained. In fact, I haven’t heard that tell tale “I’m bored” that often follows too much sedentary activity or screen time since our two hour cycling adventure. I might even go so far as to say there is a certain kind of peaceful harmony in our home as we all work on our own projects.

“Mom. Can I play on the iPad?” My son asks. Where did he come from and what happened to the science project?

“Only if you practice your vocabulary list first,” I respond.

Okay. So I might have given that whole outdoor experience a little too much credit after all. At least I was true in sharing the idealistic views of a parent.


Do the Dutch Celebrate Earth Day?

The Dutch are busy with many aspects of environmentalism by default. Due to rising sea levels linked with climate change, they have become experts in water and flood plain management. (There are more reasons they have expertise in water, but that’s for another post). The Netherlands, with 17 million people in a country that’s about 1/10th the size of the State of California, suffers from side effects of high-density living, which include air pollution and water pollution. Those picturesque cows also contribute to the problem (NL has the highest count of livestock in Europe and all that pooping and methane release by flatulence has a bigger impact than you’d think!).

But besides all that, are the Dutch environmentally minded? My first answer is YES! They are big recyclers and bicyclers, they have an excellent public transportation system and there are hundreds of government initiatives and local non-profits working on environmental issues–especially in the areas of reducing dependency on fossil fuels and creating climate neutral cities. But can the Dutch party around going green? In other words, do they celebrate Earth Day along with the other billion people worldwide in 192 countries? Not so much.

But that could change this year if Earth Day 2015 the Netherlands has it’s way. This group of native Dutch as well as internationals are organizing a festival to celebrate the earth and the sustainable living movement in The Netherlands. Planned events include: a fair with environmental non-profits, soil and gardening workshops, lectures on the state of our oceans, as well as other topics, organic and fair trade food, musical performances and more. Earth Day The Netherlands Saturday, April 18, 2015 11:00-15:00 Christus Triumfatorkerk Juliana van Stolberglaan 154 2595 CL The Hague More details are forthcoming beginning in March, 2015, but feel free to mark your calendars now! Know of other Earth Day events planned in the Netherlands? Report them here! Want to find Earth Day events planned in other countries? Go to the Earth Day Network site.

The Dutch do have a national day of sustainability, however, called Dag van de Duurzaamheid which falls on October 9th, 2015. Thus a few dates in your calendar to  color green and take action for the earth.