I am beginning to think of Leiden as a place where people live. Not as in living life to the fullest or anything like that – although I’m sure many do. But in the way that this is a place people put down roots, come to intentionally, set up shop or home, attend university, carry out their day-to-day’s as they’ve designed them. Except for the Rembrandt boat tours and the luggage-lugging people walking into the Visitor’s Centre, I don’t spot a lot of tourists each day.
It is a city where people live, where blacksmiths work in their shops for real and where cobblestone streets are repaired by hand and hammer.
Fathers fasten their toddlers in the seat on their handlebars and cycle to school, then work. Students attend classes and cause lovable ruckus on pub streets at night. The chocolatier I passed in the window today was not making chocolate in a bigger city, in an overtly romantic way. But he was practicing his art as trained, perfecting it because it is what he does.
All the while, the city is beautiful. I read that when first being built, narrow canalside buildings were made with large windows (lots) in order to make the buildings themselves more light-weight. Today that means less electricity to burn, more natural light for free. It means the sun bounces off the water and then off the glass windows in the evening.
Here’s the street where I live:
and a bridge I’ve cycled or walked over everyday so far:
‘”My dream is to walk around the world. A smallish backpack, all essentials neatly in place. A camera. A notebook. A traveling paint set. A hat. Good shoes. A nice pleated (green?) skirt for the occasional seaside hotel afternoon dance.”‘
– Maira Kalman, The Principles of Uncertainty
Wide-eyed always, and feeling really lucky to be here.