Dordrecht did the job. I'm almost back on the rag, have another week of absolute shit in front of me, and our washing machine gave up the ghost a few days before we left, but still both the F-word's and my own bad moods were gone by Sunday morning after hours and hours of bike riding on Saturday. And then the Sunday morning kayaking in the Biesbosch was rather grand, many many different types of birds and a fairyish mist coming off the water - also the channels were narrow and overgrown so one got double that little kayak thrill, of "I'm going somewhere other people can't." And flowers, and green, green, green.
As the morning wore on there were more and more people, so I was almost not upset the park centre had "fucked up" (read: "purposefully altered when they got an afternoon group booking") our reservations so we only got three hours instead of five. Not to mention, in the bigger channels my crappy little tub of a kayak handled like a donkey on amphetamines and made me miss my lovely Jemima, that big beautiful 14.5 foot bitch who tracks like a crow flies. But it was magical and it did the job.
We've decided, or rather the F-word has acquiesced following some very undignified begging on my part, to head to the other Stayokay hostels in the Netherlands for weekend trips over the rest of our tenure in Europe. I'm very fond of the Netherlands as a generality, and its proximity, impressions of wide open empty spaces despite super-high population density, and high-functioning marijuana market would be enough to make it a really attractive weekend destination in any case. But on top of all that it has something most of Belgium, northern France and Germany lacks: complete bike-friendliness.
I think it's only in the Netherlands, and possibly some of the Flemish parts of Belgium, that I feel absolutely comfortable hopping on a train, arriving, renting bicycle at the station, and then having absolute liberty and security of movement for my stay because the dedicated bike paths are everywhere, without having to fart around with unfamiliar public transport systems. And I don't have to wear a helmet so I can feel the wind in my hair. That's important. It's something I hadn't really experienced otherwise since being an uncomplexed child of the mid-80's and it's something that it's a goddamn shame drivers are too shitty and dangerous to let children experience now.
It's a feeling I don't doubt people who drive feel all the time, and explains why so many people (especially men) of my acquaintance insist on taking their cars everywhere, even to places like Paris where they'll beggar themselves in parking fees alone. So while I still can, I'm going to enjoy the fuck out of it here in the Benelux; I think it's quite unique in the world.