Doug McLean World Tour 1999-2000
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Date: Thursday, September 30, 1999 9:31 AM
Subject: Sept 22-24, 1999: Brussels and Amsterdam

NOTE: I had forgotten in an earlier e-mail to include some pretty profound words from my friend Emer...she said that for her 17 month trip she had one motto:

ONLY REGRET THE THINGS THAT YOU HAVE DONE...NOT THE THINGS THAT YOU HAVEN´T
DONE.

I like that spirit of travel...she told me this when I was describing my Morocco experience...I had a great time...and would have regretted it if I had not gone.

Sept 22, 1999
Clare and I woke on the deck of the ferry going to Cherbourg, France...

The ferry arrived...she was headed to Monte St. Michael (sp) on the coast in France for a few days...then to S. France to spend some time in an artist's retreat...I was headed to Brussels and Amsterdam...we had to split.

Now, it is not often that I travel for over a week with someone...I really enjoyed spending the time with Clare...a very interesting gal...and a wonderful person. Hope to catchup with her again in S. France or somewhereelse in the world...adios for now Clare, it was great!!!

...so I was off to Brussels...by myself for the first time in quite some time...I missed the company...but enjoyed the solitude on the trains...I did not try to start conversations...enjoyed the privacy.

Connected in Paris...ummmm...tried to avoid spending time or money there...and went directly to Brussels. Checked into the hostel and met some cool folks...Fabiano/Brazil, Chris and Josh/Minnesota, and Beth/Florida...we all hung out and walked downtown together to see what trouble we could get
into...

We liked the city...but there were an unusual number of police in riot gear...and barbwire barricades strewn outside various important looking buildings...we asked the police if there was a problem...they said...NO...just a few riots by foreigners (unknown origins...did not know if the Canucks had finally taken up arms against their mortal enemies, the Belgians???...or not...who knows...probably a bunch of darned Kiwis on a rampage...) either way we were not wanting to be in the middle of it...we headed to the middle of the city...the Royal Palace.

The Royal Palace Plaza/Square...whatever...not looking at my Lonely Planet right now...was AWESOME! Now...when I say awesome...I mean it in this case.  It is a spectacular square...and at night it is all lit up...we literally walked into the square...and could not help but be overwhelmed by it´s beauty...then the lights went out!

DAMN!!!! We all thought...just our bad luck...we arrived as the lights went out...then...the music started...

...exactly the opposite...our timing had been right on! The light show started...it was spectacular...the changing colored lights on the natural canvass of these amazing buildings was splendid...and perfectly synchronized with the beautiful music. We all just sat down in the square...overcome by the moment! ...really it was THAT cool.

Anyway...at the end of it we start talking to a couple of Belgium gals (names...I can´t remember...so many gals...so little time...so sue me...). We talked with them...and hung out with them and drank on the steps of the Belgium Stock Exchange...cool, eh? Also met a guy from Nepal w worked at an Indian restaurant in Belgium??!! We all then walked and saw Manequin Pis (sp?)!

Now...for you uncultured heathens who do not know what/who Manequin Pis is...it is that famous small statue (about 2 feet tall) of a little boy peeing...yes...it really exists...and it is a major landmark of the city...postcards, banners, etc...all in honor of this little peeing statue...and yes...no kidding...the name is Manequin Pis.

...needless to say...it rained on us as we walked home...becoming the norm in Europe...

Sept 23, 1999
Woke up...(guess if I didn´t wake up...you´d not be getting this e-mail...)...joined the group...decided to go to Amsterdam today with them...packed the bag...stored it in the trainstation in Brussels for the day...went to tour Brussels.

It is a lovely city...the Royal Palace Plaza/Square is just as amazing during the day as during the night. Visited the City Museum...note...this houses the spectacular collection of all the little outfits that they have put on Manequin Pis...YES...did I mention that they dress him up in different outfits??? I swear it is true...kinda like the Jade Budda in
Thailand...this is the Belgian version of the dress-up Barbie doll...they have outfits of a little pissing Samuri, Ninja, Spaniard, Astronaut, cowboy, baseball player, golfer,...everything...I swear...really kinda funny and
strange.

Walked through much of the city...it is nice...then hit the trainstation...Amsterdam awaits!

...Arrival in Amsterdam...it is raining...surprise!

I have a friend (Kim-who I met at the Pink Palace in Corfu) who lives in Amsterdam...and had invited me to come visit...but I arrived a day early...so I went with Josh, Chris, Fabiano, and Beth to check into a
hostel...the Flying Pig Hostel (our first choice) was full...so were others...so we went to one that Beth had stayed in before...THE LAST WATERHOLE.

The Last Waterhole is truly a find...I have no Idea how/or why Beth found this hostel...but we followed her into the redlight district, down a dark alley, and into the door of this somewhat seedy establishment...but it was our last...and only choice. ...we checked in...and were put in dorm rooms for about 18 people. Went downstairs to the bar/coffeeshop and hung out...it was actually a very cool place...and after later walking around the redlight district, we realized that it was one of the best bars in the area...and we lived there!

Now...let me explain something...everything is legal...and regulated in Amsterdam. Now you would think that in this bastian of liberalism that the darned folks would call a business that sells hash or marijuana something like a Hash Houses or Weed Warehouses...or something close to what they are selling...or even...since they like to mix marijuana into brownies and muffins you would think that they would call them Pot Pastries in Paradise...or something!!! ...but NO! The places where they sell marijuana
or hash or pot brownies (which I almost accidentaly sampled once in life as a mistake...but was stopped by a good friend saying...ummm...no Doug...you don´t want that..it is a Pot Brownie...whereupon I thought...ummm, I don´t care what kind of pan was used to make it, it looks good to eat...then my
friend said...ummmm...no DOUG, that is a MARIJUANA brownie...I said ummmm...thanks...) ...anyway, these places to buy this stuff are called Coffeehouses...go figure.

I mean in Amsterdam...you´d think they would call it as it was...so much for
rampant liberalism. If you ONLZ want a coffee in Amsterdam, you must go to
a Cafe...go figure.

...anyway...we also went to see the redlight district...wasn´t hard to find...just walk outside our hostel...it is wierd to see windows with women in them and know that it is just a cash machine transaction away to have sex...kinda disappointing...and many are lovely...but still very sad commentary...hmnmmmm...I am not sure if I think regulated prostitution is a good thing...I mean...it is pretty easy to get on the bandwagon and say that prostitution is bad...but the world´s oldest profession has never seen a decline in business....I guess if I had my choice...yes...I think that regulated sex and drugs have their place...but then again...I believe that having designated zones are good...then people visiting those places know
what they are getting into...like gambling...I like it in Vegas, Reno, Atlantic City, Monaco, Etc...but would not like every 7-Eleven to have a slot machine...too accessible...but maybe I am just trying to save people
from themselves...don´t know...but vices won´t go away...no matter what I say...guess I could fight this bear all day...

We hung out at the Last Waterhole...watched a band...played pool...and crashed.

Doug

PS. For travelling friends...today is Sept 30...currently in Munich...go to Prague tomorrow...then Budapest...then probably Vienna and then Italy for a wedding. If anyone is in those areas...let me know.