Friday, August 24, 2007

Traveling from Amsterdam to Paris

I learned my lesson upon arrival in Amsterdam when I drug my luggage from the train station to my first apartment. (See post titled, "Nobody says, "Next time, I'm going to pack heavier!"" at I decided then and there that I would spend 10E to have a taxi pick me up at my apartment door and drive me to the train station when I left the city.

I got up the morning of August 4th, got ready to go to school and take my last set of final exams, and finished my last minute packing. My exams were at 10:35 a.m. until 12:10 and again from 1:05 to 2:40. My train was scheduled to leave the train station at 4:58 p.m. I decided I would walk back to the apartment after the last test, take out the garbage and do last minute cleaning, and then call for a taxi to pick me up at 3:45 p.m. Yeah right.

As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

It is a good thing that I am an over-planner who leaves room for contingencies. It turns out that August 4th was the day of the big Gay Pride Parade for the Netherlands. In fact, people came from outlying towns and even Great Britain and Belgium to attend the parade, which took place on the city's canals. Unfortunately for me, the parade was passing through the canal in front of my apartment in the afternoon and the road was closed to auto traffic.

So, I walked back to my apartment, finished my last-minute tasks, and had to lug my three bags over four long cobble-stoned blocks to Westerkirk (West Church) to catch a taxi from the taxi stand. As you can see from the pictures, the weather was beautiful and it was HOT! I made it though - the taxi only cost me 6E, and I arrived at the train station by 4:00 p.m.

While waiting on the platform for the train, I talked to an American woman who lives at The Hague. She told me that the Thalys train between Amsterdam and Paris is considered the "poor man's Orient Express." The train really was fantastic.

I had ordered my ticket directly from the SNCF website and got a fabulous price of 60E for a first-class ticket. I checked prices directly at the train station and found a second-class ticket for 98E. My ticket was 38E cheaper AND first class. Yay me!

I was in a row with a single chair, which gave me the best of both worlds - both aisle and window. It also suited my post-exams antisocial tendencies. I tried to read some of my material for my Rome program, but mostly listened to my iPod and looked out the window.

They also served dinner, which was nice - not at all like airline fare - and included wine. I also realized how terrible dutch food really was when the plain orzo pasta that accompanied dinner had more flavor than anything I had eaten during the previous month.

The Thalys is a high-speed train, but the tracks between Amsterdam and Brussels are not set up for high-speed travel yet. Therefore, it took 3 hours to go between the two cities. However, once we left Brussels, the train went VERY FAST and we were to Paris in about an hour.

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