Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

01 December 2012

One of Europe's Surprises

I spent a week in Paris and a couple of days in Amsterdam over the last two weeks. You know, if you know me well, that most of my interests run toward the academic; this means that I spent most of my time looking at art and architecture and visiting historically significant sites. I went to a whole bunch of museums: the Stedelijk Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Musée d'Orsay, the Musée du Louvre, and the Mémorial de Caen (the Cité de l'Histoire pour la Paix).

And I visited a whole bunch of historical sites, too. At places like Omaha Beach or the Pointe du Hoc or Notre-Dame de Paris and (for me especially) La Tour Eiffel and the Palace at Versailles, I felt like I could reach out and touch history. It isn't the air or the plant life that's thick with history, but the dirt and the walls and – even through metal fencing – the statuary and the paint.

As you probably know if you read my stuff a lot, I love the feeling I get when I understand myself as only a very very small part of a great vastness. I feel that when I go to a place like the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, and I feel that in a totally different way when I am in places rich with history, where centuries of the countless dead are mere meters below my feet in the Conciergerie. I know it isn't fashionable to think about such things, but this is what comes to my mind when I am in such places.

More importantly however, there was wine and cheese and beer. And the discoveries that are most important to share with you are:
  1. First of all, wine is cheap in both Paris and Amsterdam. In cafés it's cheaper than coca-cola or coffee. Why have a coke when you can have a vin rouge?
  2. USAmerican beer is so much better than European beer. Beer, like here, is in all of the grocery stores, but invariably it is Belgian beer or Belgian-style beer. I say U.S. beer is better because I hate Belgian-style beer. If I could help it I would drink nothing but India Pale Ales for the rest of my life. These are impossible to find in grocery stores, in pubs, in restaurants. As far as I can tell this is true for Amsterdam and Paris both.
  3. But that's okay, because Heineken is delicious!

Now, I know you're thinking but Aaron, it always tastes skunky, and all you drink is IPAs, how can it possibly be delicious? I have no idea. But it tastes totally different in Europe – this is true of both Paris and Amsterdam – and it tastes great. It is on tap everywhere and it's really good. I was shocked. This must be a serious quality-control problem for the company. I mean, why does it taste so bad in the U.S. and so good in Europe? But whatever the problem with the beer in the U.S. is, if you find yourself in Europe and at a bar or a café or basically at any table at any time – we drank beer and wine every time we had lunch (why wouldn't you?) – don't be scared about ordering a Heineken. I promise you, it's not what you think.