Tuesday, August 9, 2011

We're Not In Kansas Anymore

No. We're not in Colorado, either. We're back in Amsterdam after three days in Paris. I'll do a city by city detailed account with photos when we return home, but I did want to update you on some of the highlights while they're fresh.

We had no reason to fear being Americans without any French language skills. The people we met were charming and friendly. Our time there was beyond special, if not without trials. Getting out of Amsterdam proved to be a trial because the metro line we were to take no longer connected to our destination due to work on the line. None of us knew that, however, and every time we got on one of the trams, it let us off at the next stop. We made it to Amsterdam Central Station with 30 minutes to spare, but there are no signs telling people where to go for which train, so you have to ask. No one knew—and John needed a bathroom. We finally decided to stop looking for one of those and continue looking for the train.

We wound up on a track that I was sure was the right place. Someone in a uniform came along, and I thought I'd verify with him by showing him our tickets. He said, No, go over there and pointed across the rails to the other side of the track. We had ten minutes before the train was to leave, so we rushed down the track, a set of stairs, a concourse, then up another set of stairs and down that track. It took five minutes to get to the top. No one was there. I looked across to where we had been and saw a train was now boarding. I yelled across at a different man in uniform. Is that the train to Paris? Yes, he said. It leaves in four minutes. Hurry! We ran all the way back, suitcases bumping down the stairs, and were out of breath, and the last the board the train before it pulled out 30 seconds after we got on. John got to use the W.C. on board.

The train station in Paris is very different. Everything is well marked. You would have to be an idiot to get lost there, I think. We had no trouble finding our way from the train to the metro, nor did I have any difficulty buying tickets for two two-day Metro passes and a one way Metro ticket each for our trip that evening to the hotel.

Some of the images I'll keep in my head forever from Paris are the man playing violin in the Metro station while he waited for his train to come. The trio practicing with keyboard, sax, and horn that we rode with long enough one of the days to hear Blue Moon and Hello Dolly. They were really good. Reading signs and realizing I could understand some of them. Watching John try to find a cup of American coffee. He'd end up drinking espresso and being polite about it, but he never did find what he was looking for. The bread! I'll probably dream about the breads we ate... baguettes, croissants, breads I have no idea what their sweet little French names were. They'll all live in my heart forever, absolutely delicious.

One thing we realized when we got on the train is that my beautiful raincoat got lost somewhere—probably on the last train they crammed us into on our way to Central Station. It was standing room only, and they were starting and stopping at full speed. People were falling into each other, and John took my hat and raincoat along with all the baggage to keep me from getting hurt, so I'd have two hands to hold onto the pole with. He's a good guy like that. We met a wonderful clerk in a boutique next to the hotel after getting caught in a rainstorm. She had nothing under 400 euros, and I told her that was over my means. She gave me directions to a store near the Louvre. Wait until you see my Paris raincoat! I've never had anything so beautifully made. And that kind lady was right. We paid 68 euros for it. I can't get over the detailing on it.

When I revisit the cities one by one (with photos) I'll go into details on The Louvre and The Eiffel Tower, the Arch de Triumphe and Notre Dame. Meanwhile, just know that I wouldn't trade these memories. And I'm so grateful I have John for my traveling companion. He's the best.

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