Here are just a few tidbits from the Netherlands.

First, an update on the drama at the red light district in Utrecht. As of right now, the houseboats are all closed. The prostitutes have had to clear out their personal belongings and vacate the boats. In effect, they have no place to conduct their business.

The city has had serious concerns about human trafficking and do not believe that having business as usual is a safe environment for the women. Mayor Aleid Wolfsen has said that the city is not against prostitution, but against forced prostitution. He maintains that there is enough proof that some women, not all, but some women are being forced to be a prostitute. Most of these women are from other countries, and may have been brought here for this work. A judge has agreed with the city’s decision to close down this area, and at the end of July, the entire houseboat area and some specific rooms were all closed. 230 people are now out of work.

Right now, some of the women are working to create a cooperative that will allow them to work legally in Utrecht. Some women will leave the city and go Amsterdam or Rotterdam. But the prostitutes want to stay in Utrecht and one of the main reasons is that Utrecht is safer than the other cities. So the windows of the houseboats are dark right now and there are no cars touring the area. I am not sure how long this will last, but the city seems very determined to keep the area shut down.

A recent survey was taken about what Dutch city is the most expensive when it comes to buying a round of drinks at an outdoor café or terrace. The definition of a round is two small beers, two glasses of red wine, and two soft drinks. The Hague has won this distinction this year with the most expensive round costing  21.70 euros. That has gone up, last year it cost 20.86 euros.

Amsterdam has been the most expensive city (for the cost of drinks) for 7 years, and now it is number 5 on the list. In Amsterdam, the current cost of a round is 21.15 euros.

How does that translate into dollars? 21.70 euros comes to $28.80 for a round of drinks. What do you think? Does that seem comparable to what you pay at your café or bar? Just imagine what the tab will be at the end of the night, with more rounds ordered and maybe some snacks too. It is hard to find a place in this country to go to for a cheap night out. It might be smarter to buy some beer and wine at the winkel, take it home and call some friends over.

And finally, some good news. Seventeen year old Mats Valk, from the Netherlands, came in second in the Rubik’s Cube World Championships in Las Vegas. He completed his cube in 8.65 seconds. The winner was from Australia. But Mats is still the world record holder with a time of 5.55 seconds. I cannot even imagine doing the cube in 5 minutes, let alone seconds. Who am I kidding? I could work on that thing all day and I would end up throwing it out the window.

Recommended reading: THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB by Will Schwalbe. This is the true story about a woman diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but I must stress that this woman is simply extraordinary. Her son has written about their relationship as she is being treated for cancer and facing the end of her life. They both share a passion for reading and they created their own book club. This is a love story in the highest level. But it is also a great reminder of the power of books. A truly lovely book.

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  • Charlotte  On August 1, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    I really loved this book. Now, I have On Chesil Beach and Crossing to Safety on my nightstand. After reading Schwalbe’s book I had to read Joan Didion’s Blue NIghts and Year of Magical Thinking. Year of Magical Thinking inspired me to get John Murray’s Intensive Care. This reminds me a bit of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie … ( If you give him a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk) …

  • Shers Gallagher  On August 2, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Dear Jane,

    Have you heard of the famous twin prostitutes of Amsterdam? These sisters have unbelievably just retired at 70!! I’ll include below a Youtube clip for your interest. Not only are these ladies humorous but they’re also well known for initiating entrepreneurships and getting many other girls away from their pimps….

  • Wendy  On August 2, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    I just finished The end of your like book club. I loved it. What a remarkable woman.

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