Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dinsdag (Amsterdam to Paris)...

Awoke to a brilliant blue sky accented by puffy cumulus clouds. With about an hour and a half between breakfast our our taxi pickup, we ventured out for one last walk. Of course, not 100 yards from our hotel, a rogue dark cloud swept across our path, unleashing wetness...not rain, but whatever that maximum drizzle is before it becomes rain. We ducked in an antique print shop...and the cloud passed. The stopover was fortuitous for Jeff since he bought an antique 19th century photo postcard of the Heresgracht canal. Crossed the Amstel river, visited the bookstore of the Amsterdam Hermitage (branch location of the Russian Hermitage Museum)...one of Jeff's favorites...even though he hasn't yet made it to St. Petersburg.

Returned to the hotel and our taxi arrived shortly to whisk us to the train station.

Boarded the 12:56 Thalys train to Paris. Rijtuig 16, Zitplaats 63/64...the worst zitplaats in the entire car. We squatted in zitplaats with windows until we had to move. Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Brussels among the distinctive stops.

Beautiful sun for traveling. Along the way...extensive canals of varying size for transport and irrigation, herons, ducks, alternating fields of leafy green and tilled brown, cows and sheep mingling, a lone alpaca, sleek modern windmills for electricity, quaint old windmills for water (or perhaps nostalgia), two children on a trampoline.

A bomb alert stalled us for about 15 minutes in Rysjwick outside Der Haag. Oddly, they have gentle, pre-recorded messages to apologize for bomb alerts.

Slipped from the Netherlands to Belgium and finally to France. Dinsdag became Mardi.

Lost our 'squatters seats' in Brussels. Between Brussels and Paris, much of the countryside disappeared as the train reached high-speed tracks isolated by high grassy berms and concrete walls. What we did see was lit by the warm late afternoon sun.

Arrived at Gare du Nord in Paris...about 40 minutes late due to the bomb threat slowdown. A long taxi line, but moved nicely. Lots of evening traffic.

On to the Ile Saint Louis where Christophe and Phillippe welcomed us back with big smiles and hardy handshakes. (We had used their Guest Apartment services on our previous trip...highly recommended...thank you again Brooks!) A different apartment on this visit...this one on Quai d'Anjou...a cozy apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Seine. The beautiful building was built circa 1640 as the mansion of Merginy who created the Machine de Marly which supplied water to the fountains in Marly and Versailles (a wonder of engineering at the time).

Paris feels about 5 degrees warmer than Amsterdam, which felt about 5 degrees warmer than Mainz. Took a leisurely evening walk to the Place de Voges and quiet surrounding streets. Still some bicycles here, but many more motorscooters. After a long day, craved something known and comfortable...so ate at Cafe Vito in the Marais...yummy pizzas plus a fantastic Chianti Classico. Barely recognized Cafe Vito, because it got a radical facelift since we last visited in February...discarding its faux Italian interior for a cleaner modern look...but keeping the same reliable food. The crowded tables seemed to agree with the changes.

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