Some of you may have thought you were signing up to receive travel updates, yes? Can do.

As a result of having taken my sweet time earlier — a week or more in each of Prague, Munich, and Paris — I've had to move faster on this leg of the trip. (This works out well strategically, since I'll have plenty of time to recover when I get home in a week.) Since Barcelona, I've been to:

Nice: Pleasant. Restful. A little hoity-toity for my taste, at least while I'm an unemployed and/or student type. Better get used to that! Not much touristing to do, other than the pleasant Chagall Museum (which, after having been hit over the head with the Louvre, answered my question of “Where's all the Jewish art?”) and the historically significant “Chateau” hill.

Monaco: Gorgeous place to put a city. No soul, and after a couple hours of looking around, I felt like I was going to lose mine. Couldn't stand being there anymore. Couldn't get back to Nice soon enough. Which was strange.

Florence: Tourist heaven. Not my style. I dig narrow streets and bicycles, but feel less comfortable in French and Italian towns than in Austrian and German ones, I think because Austrians and Germans are culturally very concerned with making people feel comfortable. But Florence engaged my brain. Also, it ain't particularly ugly.

Innsbruck: Not even a little bit ugly. In fact, it's breathtakingly gorgeous, and very comfortable to be in (of course, it's in Austria). They eat and drink very well (of course, it's in Austria). Terrific place for all kinds of outdoor sports and activities. Hillary and I biked around the countryside for an afternoon. There were several more adventurous options we could have chosen.

Brussels: Messy, busy, and all the tourists are packed into a very small area. But there are things to like, too. For one, of necessity, Brussels wants to do whatever it takes to communicate with you. Everything is in French and Dutch. In the train station, everything is also in German and English. For another, they know about Medtner! Sitting outside at a bar in the beautiful weather, perusing the local free paper (in French), I read that I'd missed Evgeny Kissin by two days. And he'd played some Medtner. Later that evening, glancing randomly at the window of a CD store, I saw an Emil Gilels recording that included some Medtner. Clearly this is a cultured city.

Ghent: One of the Dorks spent several months there; at his strong recommendation, I spent a day. Large enough to hold one's interest, small enough to feel unhurried, striking to behold, and delicious to eat and drink, I could have enjoyed several months there myself.

I arrived in Amsterdam yesterday afternoon and have been walking, walking, walking, except for a brief afternoon nap in the Vondelpark. The weather is still beautiful, and so is most of what I've seen here.

I must say, I don't care for this high-speed tourism. One can't get to know a place this way. But one who reads up a bit, then leaves the maps and lists at home and ambles slowly around all day, stopping wherever looks interesting, can be introduced fairly well.

On Thursday, I jump a small pond to London; Saturday, another small pond to western Ireland; and Monday, the big pond home. I'm more ready to be done than I expected. Although I'm excited for what's left to see and do, I'm also eager to start working it all off — financially and physically — and to start preparing for departure on the next long, slow leg of my life's journey.