Arguably the best thing about Europe is that there is a hugely diverse set of cultures, and histories, just a few hours away. As with anything, it's easy to take for granted. I would say that we didn't take living in Japan for granted at all—we saw so much of Japan in a relatively short time. I have a friend who assures me that I have seen more of his own country than most natives (himself included).
However, since coming back home, to the UK, it's easy to get into a state of mind whereby Europe being "just a few hours away" means that you never nudge yourself over the energy barrier and actually do something about it.
On the topic of taking things for granted, comes "effort". Specifically, the effort that some people go to, in order to make things look nice. Themselves, their local area, the community. It all colours our impressions of a place so vividly, yet we rarely give it a second thought. Take the cherry blossom in the picture above; before I lived in Japan, where cherry blossom viewing is practically a national sport, I don't recall noticing cherry blossom trees. At all.
Now spring is here, I am noticing them everywhere. Though not on the scale of the blossoms in Japan, it's been lovely to see them on my drive in to work each morning. It wasn't until I was here in Amsterdam, that I could finally slow down and take a few snaps.
The UK is famous for its tea consumption, which is great for the majority of the UK and the ritual brew, but I am a coffee person. The main issue I face, is that many places stop serving coffee at around 5pm, and there's rarely a coffee shop which isn't some multinational chain. There's no real coffee culture, to speak of. Not really. Luckily, there is in Europe. Coffee shops are everywhere, and good espresso-based beverages are just a few euros away.
I'll end part two of my Amsterdam trip here, because I still have a few photos to post and I have enough in this one already I think. It's also quite late, and I have work in the morning.