TRAVELLER ZOO – Educator nervoso

Educator nervosoA teacher’s trip to Paris would be so much more relaxing if it didn’t require wrangling a pack of high school students, trying to interest them in language, art and history, and occasionally bribing them with les Big Macs.

Identifying call: ‘You do that again, son, and you’ll be on the next plane home!’

Illustration by Simon Letch, graduate cum laude of the University of Life. First published Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age 2015.


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No, I don’t mean ‘free drinks’ and I haven’t tried one myself.

‘Dinking’ was the old Aussie word for giving someone a lift on the your bike, back in the days when such things were legal.

It’s still a common way to get around in Amsterdam, though the idea of offering and/or accepting a ride from a stranger is probably (1) a cool marketing exercise for bike hire company Yellow Bikes and (2) likely to give a new meaning to the phrase ‘pick up’.

Anyone accepting a ‘Yellow Backie’ dink from an already wobbly rider like me would be taking their life in my hands. They’d need a stiff drink afterwards.

Look at the YouTube video above and see what you think of the idea.


Filed under Amsterdam, Cycling


The Vecht at Loenen.

The Vecht at Loenen.

It’s our last week in Amsterdam for this year. Time for one more bike ride, this one with my friend and guide Hans, down the Rhine Canal to Loenen, between the lakes to Ankeveen, along the winding River Vecht to Weesp, and home again.

The wonderful thing about cycling here is that even after years of exploring the area around Amsterdam on two wheels, there are still new routes for us to discover, all of them with quiet, safe, all-but-car-free cycle paths. Continue reading


Filed under Cycle touring, Holland

TRAVELLER ZOO – Urbis cyclisti instabile

Urbis cyclisti instabileIn towns that offer public bicycles, you may spot pairs of these intrepid visitors, uncertainly reading instructions and pressing buttons at the parking stations, then wobbling unsteadily through speeding traffic on their clunky steeds.

Identifying call: ‘Are you sure we’re allowed on the autobahn?’

Illustration by Simon Letch, who seldom wobbles unsteadily. First published, Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age 2015.

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CYCLING THE GREEN HEART – Holland’s most beautiful

The oldest town in the Netherlands. Not so many people know about it.

The oldest town in the Netherlands. Not so many people know about it.

‘This landscape always reminds me of Holland,’ said my mother, years ago, somewhere outside Melbourne, on a road between Springvale and Frankston.

She’d never seen Holland and neither had I, but we both knew what she meant. What I only discovered recently was that the image we had of classic Dutch landscape came from 19th century paintings. Even the word ‘landscape’ comes from the Dutch ‘landschap’. Continue reading


Filed under Art, Cycle touring, Cycling, Holland

COMPUTER PROBLEMS? – dial a Dutch genius

We often feel much like the monk in the above, rightly-famous Norwegian comedy sketch, summoning the mediaeval help desk. (If you haven’t watched it before, do so now.)

The source of all IT wisdom in the family is our son, but he’s inconveniently living in LA at the moment.

So it’s wonderful that, having not long ago acquired a Smart TV that’s far smarter than we are, we’ve discovered Student Aan Huis (‘Student at Home’) Continue reading


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TRAVELLER ZOO – Hostus airbnbus

Hosts are always upbeat about their outer suburban ghettos, enthusiastically referring their guests to fascinating 40-minute strolling routes to the nearest public transport and hip little joints serving the best Chinese takeaway in Kazakhstan.

Identifying call: ‘You’ll love it here, guys; this is a cool neighbourhood the tourists don’t know about.’

Illustration from the outer reaches of the far-flung Simon Letch. First published, Melbourne Age and Sydney Morning Herald, 2015.

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