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March 21, 2014

DODD: European vacation family style

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Whenever Kim, Cameron and I have been on a trip to Europe we find ourselves at some point when sharing a special moment looking at one another with one of us saying something like, “Did you ever believe we would ever be in Amsterdam?”

We have both been able to travel both domestically and abroad. For the last three years we have been in Europe. Having our son Cameron be able to join us has certainly made the trips all the more special. Amsterdam certainly did not disappoint us in that manner.

Probably first and foremost our family’s favorite thing to do in Europe is simply to hit the streets every day and walk anywhere for 6 to 10 hours in any given direction. We have found that the older sections of European cities are usually laid out most perfectly for beating the pavement (or in many cases in Europe the bricks). The main streets are usually not as wide as American streets and the side streets and alleys are very narrow. While some green spaces can be found for the most part there is building after building.  

We took a day trip out to Volderdam and Edam which allowed us to see the harbor and one of the famous Dutch dykes. The harbor front was lovely and as we walked through the Old Dutch village still intact. Volderdam was originally the harbor for Edam in the 1300s. As we strolled through the original village neighborhood it was surreal. Kim even commented, “This doesn’t seem real. It’s like a fairy tale.” The houses were small and had that authentic Dutch architecture one might look at as a stereotype from an old black and white film or a painting by one of the Dutch artists. Everything seemed to fit together flawlessly as if laid out in a perfect blueprint with miniscule yards in between the bricks and buildings.

Cameron and I decided while on the harbor front to experience a Garra Rufa Fish Spa Therapy foot massage which originated in Turkey and is used in Syria, Iran, and Iraq. The spa treatment goes back 200 years. We first cleaned our feet and sat upon a cushioned bench while lowering our feet and legs into a combination pool/aquarium. Hundreds of small fish then proceeded to nibble at our feet and legs. It was quite honestly one of the strangest sensations I have ever experienced. I laughed uncontrollably for the first couple of minutes. It was a combination of a ticklish sensation combined with a feeling of electrical impulses.

According to some research literature the fish eat dead skin cells and simultaneously salivate an enzyme containing anthralin that stimulates the development of new skin cell growth. When done on a regular basis the process reportedly improves blood flow in the feet. Cameron and I noticed a very smooth feeling after just one 20-plus minute session and my feet felt wonderful all afternoon. We became quite the tourist attraction that morning in Volderdam as many people stopped to watch our feet literally covered in skin cell sucking miniature fish.

Even as we pleaded with her about the benefits and the wonderful results Kim refused to allow the skin sucking fish to get anywhere near her feet. Some might refer to her as the more normal one of the trio. It struck to the philosophy Cameron and I like to pursue as to having done something a bit different when we can while on a vacation outing.

Dam Square lies at the historical center of Amsterdam. It was quite the hub of activity when we were there on a weekend afternoon. On one side there was a political protest taking place over the Russian invasion of Crimea. Just across the square various street performers entertained large audiences. The area is surrounded by shopping and other tourist stops. Think of a Times Square without the neon lights or traffic. As an addicted people watcher I was in heaven in the square while Kim and Cameron did some clothes shopping for him. He is a young guy who can still look good in the European cut jeans.

Probably my favorite time in Amsterdam was traversing the city at night. It is a beautiful city when lit up and we felt totally safe as there was a buzz of foot traffic everywhere until very late in the evening. The lights reflecting on the canal water was very unique.

We also spent a few hours visiting the Ann Frank house. It was the original building preserved and many artifacts are on display as well as the history of the German occupation of the city and the first ostracizing of the Jews and later the story of the imprisonment and mass murders that took place during a dark time in history. I felt a bit there like I did when I visited Ford’s Theater where Lincoln was assassinated or when I stood in Dealey Plaza where JFK was shot. Some places should always stand as consecrated and hallowed ground. While originally I wasn’t sure I wanted to stand in the constant long line, it was worth the wait.

The things that took the biggest beating while in Amsterdam were my waistline, my feet, and our wallet. You can’t really put a price on an unbelievable family experience, however, once the receipts are added together we will have a pretty good idea.

Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com

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