cicadas emerging from the earth, or the shedding of velvet skin from
the horns of a wapiti, I too am a slave to biological forces beyond
my control. Every 6 months or so, the repressor proteins which bind
tightly to my "wanderlust" gene are loosened and the urge
to venture out in the world begins anew.
I contemplated my destination this time, I felt I should start filling
in some important gaps in my travel resume - One glaring omission
from the list: Paris. How can anyone who professes a love for history
and travel not explore Paris?! It was an oversight I was happy to
correct.. Especially since airfare prices are, to borrow a phrase
from the French, "cheaper than the talk of your moronic, warmongering
president" (and I quote directly)
that brings up a good point - I was about to head across the lake
and wasn't really sure if my bonehead president was going to pick
a war while I was over there. (Ooh, like it would be so terrible to
be stuck in Paris and unable to return to Cleveland.. oh cruel fate!)
Well, as you may have guessed, I'm the kind of guy that takes a chance
from time to time, which brings me to the next part of this tale:
my travel companion.
I was supposed to explore Europe with Matt, my buddy from the African
travel journal (also on this website). However, due to the fact that
the universe was currently defecating on my friend, he would be unable
to accompany me on this trip. I whined to my sister about the situation
(did you know that I am the patron saint of whining?), who informed
me that her friend Jennifer really wanted to go to Amsterdam &
Paris. Not only that, but she was ready to go - Well, it sounded good
to me, so we made plans to travel together. Now before you think this
was an 11-day blind date in Europe, I had met Jennifer (once) before,
while visiting my sister in Houston and she seemed like a nice, normal
human being. She assured me she was easy to travel with (for I require
low-maintenance travel companions), and her 50% contribution to the
accommodation costs would be most welcome. We were on our way!
flight to Charles de Gaulle via Newark arrived an hour early (must've
been some damn tail wind!) - This allowed simultaneous arrival with
Jennifer's plane, and we were able to find each other in the baggage
claim area with no problem. The problem came trying to figure out
the damn French train ticket machine.. Apparently "coins only"
means no credit cards, in addition to no paper money (How dare the
French be logical and succinct in their communication!) So we found
the first bilingual service representative of the trip. She, like
most people we would meet this trip spoke excellent English and was
quite helpful in getting us on the train to the heart of Paris. Actually,
this is very important, so I'm going to jump right into the first
OBSERVATION right here:
about that whole "French-rude-thing" you hear about. From
my experiences, I gotta call bullshit on that. We never met a single
rude Parisian during our entire trip (well, they weren't rude to our
face, at least). My French is abysmal (damn-near non-existent), so
I had to speak English during my visit. I had heard that the French
are not very tolerant of people who come to their country and don't
attempt their language. I couldn't confirm this at all. Most people
spoke passable to excellent English and had no reservations speaking
English to us. No political or anti-American sentiments were ever
observed either (even with this stupid pre-war "freedom fries"
thing going on), and if anything, we were treated quite hospitably
everywhere we went. Perhaps this was a "gosh we're happy to see
tourists in the off-season" kinda thing, but nonetheless, it
appeared that we were very welcome. (Also know that I am not a demanding
American traveler - I don't expect to be waited on, hand-and-foot,
nor do I wave my American heritage around like a French surrender
hanky - Oop! Who's the rude bastard now?)
a minor directionally challenged moment, we located our hotel in the
Latin Quarter. According to my cheap-ass tourist map, we were about
2 blocks from Notre Dame cathedral, which was very cool - and one
block from the Metro station, which was going to be our best friend
for the next 4 days. Stuff stowed, we decided to head for the Eiffel
Tower first, as there was sun and nicely clouded skies to provide
excellent photographic opportunities (you know about me and my damn
Nice theory. While we were riding the Metro under the streets of Paris,
the skies had magically become overcast. Not to be deterred, we decided
to ascend to the top of the tower anyway. Noting the line for the
elevator, I suggested we take the stairs to the first level and then
take the elevator from there - it seemed like a good idea (hey, it's
only 57 meters - how hard could it be?). <huff> <puff>
Okay, we'll definitely take the elevator to the second level. Er,
no.. Nice theory. Our "stair ticket" meant we had to walk
to the 115 meter (379 feet) second level as well. Jennifer
(and her anti-stairs philosophy) vowed she would not speak to me for
the remainder of our trip. Well, she loosened her stance after it
was determined that we had to take the elevator from the second
level to the top (276 meters - 905 feet). If we had to climb the last
part, I think she would've thrown me off.
our way back to the hotel, the rain started. It didn't rain for the
entire trip, but most of the time the sky wanted us to know
that it could if it wanted to. Assume the weather is in the mid-50s
and overcast unless otherwise stated.
braved the elements to find our first sample of Parisian food - Italian
pasta! It seems that Italian is pretty much the universal cuisine
wherever you go. I'm a big fan, and was happy to dive into some tasty
salmon pasta. Oh, and don't forget the "house wine" - It
was cheaper than buying bottled water and always seemed to taste damn
fine. It would become a staple of our European culinary adventures.
was awakened at 7:40 by church bells (The church was at the end of
our block). The fact that I was up at a normal a.m. hour struck me
as odd, for my biological clock was -6 time zones removed. I guess
the body can adjust pretty quickly if you go 6 hours ahead
(but going BACK was a different thing entirely!).
hotel featured what I like to call the "European Tard Shower"
- it's a standard tub with no shower curtain. Rather than suspend
the shower head above you, the ETS mounts the device at shin-height,
on the end of a flexible metal hose. I gathered you were supposed
to sit in the tub and apply water when and where you needed it. I
would just like to say for the record that this is a retarded way
to wash a human body and therefore will always refer to this mechanism
as the aforementioned ETS. Oh well, where were we - oh yes, about
to go to Notre Dame Cathedral..
French started building Notre Dame in 1163 - Wanna know what our country
was doing in 1163? Starting a 330-year wait to be discovered by European
explorers. It's mind-boggling - even more boggling to think that it
took over 100 years to build this thing. Imagine 3 generations of
people building this cathedral, many of them never living to see it
completed. Wild stuff.. And it's gorgeous! - I loaded some black &
white film and started to go to town (Oh, how I love the flying buttresses!).
Although it's equally impressive on the inside, the highlight of the
exploration was the climb (yes, more stairs for J) to the top of the
spires. From there we could get a good look at the famous gargoyles,
silently overlooking greater Paris (and Notre Dame is considered the
exact center of Paris, as all things in the city are measured from
it - so the view in all directions is staggering).
the Cathedral, we walked to the Louvre, stopping briefly at an overpriced
café for a snack-lunch (this is where we determined that wine
is way cheaper than coke!). It started to rain just after we
entered the museum (good timing on our part), and we proceeded to
spend the next 5 hours wandering through the unbelievable amount of
art. It was truly overwhelming. In fact, I credit the museum for giving
me TB (tired brain). Upon starting the 4th hour of viewing, I essentially
turned into a drooling art-zombie, shuffling past the vast number
of paintings in the Richelieu wing on inertia alone. I was happy to
see the Jacques-Louis David paintings when my brain was fresh and
new, as he is one of my favorite artists (and the Louvre has a ton
that bugged me about the museum (and all of Europe for that matter)
was the pronounced lack of public drinking fountains. I never found
ONE. I mean, walking around looking at art for 5 hours takes a lot
out of you, physically and mentally, and they make you pay $2.50 for
a water-recharge.. the bastards.
the Louvre, we walked back to the hotel in some light rain. I engaged
in one of the most well-deserved naps of my 34 young years. Afterwards
we toured the neighborhood and ended up in a different, yummy Italian
place. On the way back to the hotel, we decided to get some wine and
a small dessert at our neighborhood bakery. I wouldn't have mentioned
this except the nice lady at the bakery lady snuck us a tasty-looking
second dessert which happened to be the best thing I've ever
eaten. I'm guessing it was some kind of chocolate-crack thing, from
the euphoric effect it had on my museum-tired brain. Jennifer &
I tried to get back there the next 2 nights to get another one, but
they were either closed or had people lined up down the block. Oh
sad day.. no more choco-crack for us.
we did a lot of eating and drinking during this European adventure.
Wanna know what you get when you ask for a coffee at one of the many
Parisian cafés? Well, you get espresso. One little stinkin'
shot of bitter, coffee concentrate. Though I drink black coffee in
the states (where coffee is coffee), I had to resort to a long-forgotten,
sugar-using past to enjoy what Parisians call coffee. I know it sounds
like I'm whining - and I suppose I did the first time, and maybe even
the second time, but by the third time, I knew what I was ordering
and happily enjoyed my little bitter beverage.
another awkward tard shower (and yummy free breakfast), we ventured
out along the Seine to the Musée d'Orsay through off n' on
bouts of rain. Since it was Sunday, we were able to get into the museum
for free (!) In direct contrast to the Louvre, the collection at the
d'Orsay is quite manageable, and we were able to see the entire collection
in about 3 hours. The highlight of the museum is undoubtedly the fabulous
(and huge) collection of European impressionists. Jennifer enjoyed
seeing Whistler's Mother (some kind of inside joke with her company
in Houston) and gawked at the handful of Van Goghs, while I discovered
a couple of new painters myself and snapped a roll or two of pictures
of the fabulous museum architecture (it used to be a train station).
we were leaving the museum, it seemed like the sun wanted to come
out, so we decided to head to Montmartre and the beautiful white hilltop
cathedral, Sacre Coeur. But in another cruel joke from the European
weather gods, it started raining on us when we exited the metro station.
We ducked into a nice corner café for some lunch, then into
the cathedral itself for a brief tour, but I shot all of 2 pictures
and couldn't help but be a little disappointed.
times like these that pre-trip research pays off. Wanting to see stuff,
but stay out of the rain, I proposed we head back to the Southern
part of the city to see the catacombs. A lot of people have died in
the 2000 or so years that Paris has been around, and these catacombs
were established about 200 years ago, mainly for cemetery relocation
or overload - they house the remains of some 6 million Parisians -
some dead by disease, some by war or revolution, some by rich, tasty
sauces - but all dead, and on display for the morbid or unconventional
tourist (hey, that's me!) The general structural arrangement of the
bones consists of sturdy walls of femurs and skulls, with the other
bones packed behind (out of view). So the tourist sees miles and miles
of this kind of repeating pattern ().
I was in morbid photographer's heaven! I snapped a roll & ½
of gruesome images, hoping all the time that they would come out okay,
as it was quite dark (they did). It was a perfect environment for
B&W and you can see a few of my favorites here on the website.
impressed (and a little creeped-out), we returned to the hotel for
a rest, some dinner and some cards (I taught Jennifer to play Gin
- she's a fast learner and kicked my butt in a game or two).
be praised, there was no rain and the sun was hiding only behind a
thin layer of clouds, providing ample light for photography and exploration
(I'm feeling better already). First on the agenda for today, the Peré
Lachaise cemetery - The final resting place for notable dead people
like: Balzac, Chopin, Corot (painter), Moliére, Proust, and
most the visited: Jim Morrison.
cemetery was an instant highlight of the trip - acres and acres (hectares?)
of tightly packed crypts, mausoleums, and elaborate headstones. Many
were quite ornate, and some even sported surreal, morbid sculptures
(such as the dead inhabitant bursting out of his crypt -picture on
this site!). It was truly a photographer's wet dream - I finished
off the black & white from yesterday's catacombs and shot another
roll and a half - I was mindlessly happy and it wasn't even 10 a.m.!
the cemetery, we crossed the entire length of Paris to get to the
Arch de Triomphe, stopping briefly at another café for Jennifer's
caffeine fix. The Arch is most impressive, allowing great views (and
photography) from the top - though you have to go up lots of steps
to get there (Jennifer no likey the steps). Atop the structure, I
remembered seeing newsreels of Hitler's procession through the arch
after his successful invasion of France - It brings to mind the words
of Regis Philbin (and I NEVER thought I'd hear myself say that): "The
only time France wants us to go to war is when the German army is
in Paris drinking coffee." It's funny because it's true.
a stunning example of travel flexibility, we decided to go back to
Sacre Coeur, since the weather was so much better than yesterday.
Besides, Jennifer wanted to see the Moulin Rouge (though I explained
that it probably isn't going to be anything like the popular movie
- what with all the surrounding sex shops and all), but away we went
and I got all the photography I wanted this time. Hooray for small
on the list was the cathedral Sainte Chapelle, with it's walls of
ornate stained glass - Wow, It was something, but sadly I had blown
the last of my film at Sacre Couer. On the way back to the hotel for
a much needed rest, we stopped at a cyber café to nyeah-nyeah
our friends and family back home (Happy Monday! I saw Jim Morrison's
grave, the amazing white church from Amélie, and stood atop
the Arc de Triumph - what did YOU do?) Hee hee, I just love being
a dick sometimes.
rested, I went out in search of some film and thought I would check
out the Pantheon - a huge 18th century dome only a few blocks from
our hotel. The Pantheon is where Foucault set up his famous pendulum
that proved the earth was rotating on an axis. The Pantheon was a
most impressive piece of architecture, but we were forbidden to traverse
the center of the structure, due to the periodic falling (and presumably
tourist-killing) chunks of concrete.. doh! Time for a facelift, methinks.
We saw the pendulum, and the basement where more famous Parisians
were buried, but overall, I'd have to say it wasn't really worth the
night, I caught a Simpsons episode on French TV. It was notable enough
to make an observation..
Simpsons en Français - très drôle! - First off,
Bart's voice is right-on. Lisa's is pretty close and Marge's French
voice counterpart adds the appropriate rasp -Homer however, is weird
and foreign. The episode I caught was Marge as the Church "Listen
Lady" (with the delightful "Mr. Sparkle" side-plot).
Reverend Lovejoy and Ned Flanders were not even close, but they didn't
have to change a bit of the Mr. Sparkle ad (except for the subtitles!).
I was familiar enough with the episode (because I'm a Simpsons geek
and all) to know what they were saying in English at any given time
and enjoyed the experience tremendously.
said goodbye to the European Tard Shower and boarded an a.m. train
to Brussels. Upon arrival, a pleasant Belgian in a tourist kiosk helped
us find our hotel (walking distance from the central train station
- how convenient!). It was a nicer hotel than our Paris accommodations
(which weren't really bad at all), nicely located in the shadow of
The St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral (another HUGE gothic cathedral
built up over the centuries, but started in 1226)
stashed, we ventured out to the "Grand Place" I purposefully
chose our hotel within a short walk of this architectural marvel.
It's essentially just an open market, with restaurants and breweries
along the periphery, but the buildings are beautiful, ornate and old
(well, not compared to the Cathedrals - the buildings were rebuilt
in the early 18th century after most of Brussels was leveled in war).
a bajillion photos, we browsed the heart of the Brussels shopping
area, stopping briefly for some gyros and beer (I was quite happy
to make the transition from French wine to tasty Belgian beer, though
I like them both). Jennifer insisted that we locate the Manequin-pis
(the famous statue of the little peeing boy), and we discovered that
he was urinating in full drag on account of Mardi Gras. I discovered
later that the little guy has over 600 costumes, including Elvis and
Santa. Belgium needs to get a life.
any real agenda for Brussels, we decided to direct our path of exploration
towards the Museum of Modern and Ancient art. I really enjoy museums,
and even the previous visits to the Paris collections didn't diminish
my enthusiasm for the Brussels museum (plus we still had a couple
of good ones to see in Amsterdam!). Of particular interest in this
museum was the nice collection of paintings by Belgian, Rene Magritte
(if you're not sure who Magritte is, think surreal imagery - he's
the one who paints guys in bowler hats with apples in front of their
faces n' stuff). Jennifer and I amused ourselves by handing out letter
grades to each of the paintings: Try harder, C+. Good idea,
bad execution, B-, Good Job!, A.. then we'd giggle like
little school kids. No wonder everyone hates Americans.
a restaurant for dinner was an adventure within an adventure. There
are a couple of narrow roads where you can find a large concentration
of restaurants. Not only do most of them have a series of large signs,
each describing a 7, 10, or 15 Euro dinner, but they have a high-pressure,
intimidating guy stationed out front to explain why you should eat
at that particular restaurant. Jeez, it's like running a gauntlet
of food channel telemarketers! God forbid you should linger to read
a menu.. The funniest part was when one restaurant Mafioso guy would
give you a pitch like "First drink free" and was answered
next door or across the street: "First and Last drink free here!"
I was actually disappointed with the one we finally settled on (I
think they scraped my breaded chicken out of a hungry-man frozen dinner.
Even my "last drink free" didn't save it (Oh well, at least
Jennifer liked her lasagna).
disappointments were quickly forgotten with our hotel's wonderful
breakfast buffet. You know it's a good buffet when they have 5 different
kinds of fruit juice. Well, though we'd love to stay and drink guava
juice all day, we had to catch a train to Amsterdam.
still a little funny to me that you can get on a train, and in a couple
of hours you are in a completely different country, with a different
language, different architecture, and legal whores. You just gotta
again, our hotel was a block or two from the train station - Jennifer
scored a GREAT deal at the 4-star Victoria Hotel, and the proximity
to trains, food, shopping, legal whores and soft drugs was a real
was a gray day in Amsterdam, and we decided to make our first outing
the Anne Frank house (Lisa recommended it highly before I left). Wow,
what can I say? I was familiar with the story, but being in the actual
600 square feet of space Anne, her family, a second Jewish family,
and some guy named Fritz hid for 2 years from the Nazis, made it extremely
personal. I mean, I knew it was going to be a bit depressing, as most
of the group of 8 died after their capture in 1944, but because you
get a snapshot of these individual lives, it makes you realize that
these "snapshots" were only 8 of over 6 million killed by
the Nazis in the 40s. The vast majority you will never know about,
but each has a compelling story like the ones on display. It's a sobering
thought, to say the least.
golly, our choice after that experience was either to lapse into a
deep, deep depression and hatred of mankind or have a nice lunch (we
chose lunch). We found a little neighborhood restaurant and met a
nice American couple form Tennessee who were on their way home from
an African vacation (Oh how I love talking about Africa!). Tummies
full of food and beer, we walked south to the museum area. It was
a little late to start a museum, but a tour the Heineken brewery sounded
pretty good to us.
we entered the "Heineken Experience", we were greeted by
a pleasant gentlemen (looking a little like Roberto Begnini with glasses)
who happily answered our questions about the local trolley service
before sending us on our way in the brewery. As you enter the exhibits,
you are given a sheet of "coupons". A coupon is detached
from the bottom of the sheet during various stages of the tour, including
2 along-the-way bars where you can actually use the coupons for beers
(right out of the vat, I'm guessing). The tour proper is a lot of
fancy shmancy PR and "we're saving the earth by getting people
drunk" sort-of propaganda, but it was very well designed, with
tons of fun, multimedia stuff (I sent Matt an e-postcard, nyeah-nyeahing
him at work).
we got to the last bar (we still had 2 of our 3 drink tickets), we
were happy to see the friendly Roberto guy tending bar. We said "hi"
and told him how much we were enjoying the tour while he poured us
a round of beer. He waived off our tickets, which was very cool of
him (it's so easy to make friends when you give them free beer), and
we found a table to enjoy our Heinies. As I was browsing the souvenir
booklet, I found Roberto on one of the pages - or at least thought
it was him "Is this the guy?" I asked Jennifer. "I
think so".. "I'm going to ask him - and if it's him,
I'm going to get him to sign it!" I said. I approached our jovial
bartender and made my inquiry. When he said yes, I asked if he would
sign my booklet, as he was a famous Heineken celebrity. "Five
Euros" he joked, and signed my brochure, adding the date 03-03-03,
which (although it was actually the 5th) had a special numerological
significance (hey, it only happens 12 times a century!). Jennifer
had hers signed and came back with ANOTHER free round from Roberto
(I can't read his signature, otherwise I'd call him by his real name).
Our celebrity bartender disappeared into the depths of the brewery,
so we started using our real tickets (with the evil bartender)
for the next two rounds.
was at this time that we met a nice couple from Liverpool, in Amsterdam
for their anniversary. Ben (of Ben & Deb) was somehow affiliated
with the Liverpool soccer program. We had no idea of the significance
of this, but one of the bartenders did and we got ANOTHER free round,
just for sitting with Ben. For those of you at home with the Traveling
Mark home game, that's 6 Heinekens for the price of 3 tickets. Needless
to say, we left the brewery buzzed like a beehive.
took the train back to the central station area and found one of the
omnipresent Italian restaurants for a nice dinner. It started raining
and I remember hoping it would stop by the morning..
yeah, right. It was a miserable gray day. It was colder than we had
experienced in Europe so far (probably in the mid-to-low 40s), and
there was a nuisance mist or drizzle as we walked down to the museum
area. It picked up to a shower (and the breeze picked up to a tsunami)
as we looked for any sort of open breakfast place. Finally, we found
an open restaurant, and we warmed up with coffee (some kind of Paris/US
hybrid) and a Dutch pancake the size of a Toyota Corolla hubcap. I'm
not a big pancake person, but I'm now officially a fan of Dutch pancakes
(especially with apples and caramel sauce on 'em). Mmm.. good stuff.
the time we had finished breakfast, the rain had abated considerably
and we were ready to hit the Van Gogh museum. Jennifer is a huge Vinnie
fan and was amazed every time we entered a new gallery: "Oh my
God - there's that one!" While I like a couple of his
works, I'm not really a big fan. But, the museum was well designed
and I enjoyed the "special exhibit" which has some of Van
Gogh's works along side some of his influences and documented "favorite
paintings". Personally, I was much more interested in seeing
the Rijksmuseum collection, which was on the agenda for tomorrow.
the weather had improved considerably, so we decided to walk back
through the city to the Rembrandt house and museum. The Dutch Master
himself hung out there and painted from 1639 to 1658 (Until financial
woes forced him to sell the place; Everything must go! Buy 1 Rembrandt,
get one free! - Oh, how I wish I was there for that liquidation).
Anyway, now you can walk through the meticulously reconstructed house
and see a near-complete collection of his etchings. It wasn't the
highlight of the trip, but it was a pleasant diversion and an interesting
thing to see while in Amsterdam.
our wander back towards the hotel, we had a yummy pizza lunch (Pizza
and house wine.. how very European). It was at this time when I decided
to try a daylight reconnaissance of the Red-light district. Whoa,
even in the daylight hours there were underwear-clad ladies in the
windows - and they wanted to have sex with me! It was such a weird
thing. And not unlike the stories of old, there were "trolls"
guarding the bridges in this district, but instead of demanding a
toll to avoid being eaten, they whispered "ecstasy, coke"
as you pass. It's nice to know they cared. In addition to the trolls
and the window women, there were countless numbers of sex shops. I
was amazed at the variety of colorful, sometimes spiky and dangerous-looking
things people buy to stick in their various orifices. Woody Allen
said it first: Human sexuality is just so.. strange.
that evening, I was curious to see if the Red Light district changed
significantly in the evening hours (more window women, etc), and noting
that the area was reasonably close to the hotel, I decided to try
a p.m. fact-finding mission. Nope, pretty much the same, except for
the arresting people part.. A scary-looking (who I presume to be)
North African gentleman was being arrested for something as I was
passing, and his friends were not liking it too much, yelling obscenities
at the officer, who was becoming more and more nervous about the situation.
Though I didn't pause to watch, I did see the officer grab his nightstick
from his bike (knocking it over with a crash) and speak into his jacket
collar. As I made it clear of the area, I could see other officers
from all different directions closing in on the scene. I decided at
that point that I was done with the Red Light district for the remainder
of my trip.
drugs - you know, pot & hashish - all very legal in Amsterdam..
is this a good thing? Oh, I don't know, there are all kinds of arguments
for this sort of social permissiveness. However, as a self-proclaimed
adult with adult responsibilities, I felt that this was a part of
Amsterdam I didn't really need to experience, but the various smells
wafting out of the "special bars" definitely took me back
to a happier time!
was a fog-tastic morning in Amsterdam, but hey - it beats wind &
rain any day. We grabbed a quick café breakfast on the way
to the Rijksmuseum. We got there right when it opened (minimal crowd).
What a fantastic collection! I came to the (quite insightful) conclusion
that if you want to see Dutch Masters, then go to Amsterdam. There
were more Rembrandts than I could count (I have a hard time counting
past 12 or so), but I was most impressed with the few Vermeers I saw.
I didn't really know much about the artist, but the paintings I saw
blew me away. I think it was his use of composition (and his capture
of light) that floored me. I have since researched the painter a bit
and found that he only created 30 or so works during his life in the
17th century (I also learned that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has
a bunch, so I'll be going there soon). There was SO much stuff to
see at this museum and it was all presented extremely well (with English
descriptions of each of the exhibits). By the time we made it to the
Dutch History portion of the Museum, we were starting to feel the
effects of museum-induced TB. But as we blew through this part, one
of the paintings struck me - it was a portrait of a Dutch entrepreneur
who used to run the slave fortress in Elmina, West Africa. I recognized
the fort in the painting, and it was just down the coast from where
I used to live in Ghana! It was odd to link an obscure Dutch painting
with history I experienced personally in a completely different way.
It's a funny world sometimes.
the museum, I had to track down a couple of batteries for my camera
(I guess shooting 13 rolls of film took it's toll!). Charging my camera
was like an offer to the photography gods, for the sun started peeking
through the clouds giving me ample light for the fantastic Amsterdam
architecture (roll 14, here we come!).
and I spent the remainder of the afternoon taking pictures, shopping
and downing beers in various Amsterdam bars.
was the survival challenge portion of our vacation, as we weren't
really sure where our last hotel was located in Paris (I tried to
vote her off the island for that). Well, we knew it was by the airport,
and also knew that they had a free shuttle to and from the airport,
so I proposed we take a train to the airport and see if we could catch
that shuttle to our hotel. It sounded like a good plan, so off we
nothing succeeds like a well-devised plan. We took the high-speed
rail to Paris, the blue-line B train to the airport, then found the
shuttle to the Radisson with no problem. Once settled, we contemplated
heading back to central Paris, but it was getting late and the blue
train was 15 Euros for both of us, so we decided to unwind from 10
days of European exploration with overpriced hotel beer and some cards.
next morning we caught the shuttle again and managed to return to
the states without incident or problem (or war).
can I say about Western Europe in early spring? - Despite the minor
weather woes I described, I would highly recommend it. The lack of
tourist crowds, and oppressive heat far outweigh the gray days (besides,
quality museum time is indoors anyway!). Also, make sure you go with
someone who likes the same things you do. I felt fortunate to have
Jennifer as a travel companion for this trip - she was interested
doing all the same things I wanted to do, was flexible and spontaneous
(2 good travel traits), and she spoke perfect English (even after
6 Heinekens). Although I bought no souvenirs of Europe, I came back
with a new, good friend (oh, and 14 rolls of photography).
for playing the Lance Bubo home game, everyone - see you next time!