Thursday, May 22, 2008

Europe, 9 p.m.

I just spent a month in Europe, and yes, that's the reason why you didn't find any new posts here over the past few weeks.

One of the things in Europe that keeps surprising me is how long the evenings are. Here in Taiwan, it gets dark at six, so you never go home from work and still get to enjoy long evenings doing the things you like in the daylight.

Yet, Europe is completely different. To prove it: this picture taken in a Western European garden at 9 p.m. last month.

Yes, on those rare occasions when the weather is fine, you get home when the sun is still shining. So you get out in the garden and do for hours what you like doing: reading the newspaper in a chair on the lawn, tending the garden, listening to the birds or watching the frogs in the pond, swimming if you have a pool, and even dining the Italian way, alfresco, even if you're nowhere near Italy.

Long evenings in spring, summer, and autumn are part of the European way of life, and it's too bad we don't have them in Taiwan. They'd make life a whole lot more pleasant, and would cut down on the hours of TV I'm watching. Instead of sitting inside, I'd rather spend the evening walking along the Tamshui River if it were still light at 9 p.m.

Other pleasures I've had during my stay in Europe were driving cars on roads that do not include motorcycles zapping around you - even if the speed restrictions can get ludicrously draconic in some places - and eating fine European cuisine. Even plain wheat bread with cheese - any French, Swiss or Dutch cheese - felt like a dining experience worthy of a luxury restaurant. Never mind the steak with parsley butter, steak with anchovies butter, and lemon chickens I had. Simple, but delicious.

Europe may not be perfect - it can get too quiet for someone used to the hustle and bustle of the Asian megalopolis - but it sure has a lot going for it in the 'quality of life' category, and I hope to share more in my next postings.


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