A bit of an early morning. A pretty day in Paris, with temperatures in the mid 60’s. After a short ride and one change on the Metro we’re in Paris’ Gare du Nord, we’re on board the Thalys, a high speed train bound for Amsterdam. There’s hardly anyone on board until 10 minutes before departure, when people start to board in larger numbers. Seats on this train, like the TGV and the Eurostar (both of which we see in the station) , must be reserved. We’re leaving precisely on time.
We have a nice ride today, taking about 3.5 hours before arriving in Amsterdam’s Central Station. There is wifi on the train, but unfortunately, not for the class ticket we bought. As we move out of Paris, the train picks up speed. There’s no speed indicator inside this train as there are on some, but we’re ripping along pretty fast. We pass vehicles on a parallel road like they are standing still. Outside, there are a lot of wheat fields (the flour for those croissants has to come from somewhere!). Here and there, the fields’ expanse is broken by the spire of a small church or a small farm, village, or an array of giant wind turbines.
About an hour into the trip, I get a plink on my phone with “Welcome to Belgium”, but there’s no physical indication outside we’re in another country. About an hour and fifteen minutes after leaving Paris, the train slows as we prepare to stop in Brussels; we’ll stay in the same compartment and continue on to Amsterdam. The train really fills up with more passengers here.
Orienting ourselves at Amsterdam’s Central Station, buying a tram pass and figuring out which tram to take,and how far, took a few minutes. Also time for a trip to the ATM for some euros. Though not that far from Central Station, it was easier to take a tram part way to the hotel. After checking in, it was time to crash for a while. Jet lag has caught up with us both. It stays light here late (10pm), so we’ll go exploring a bit later.
‘Later’ turned out to be a bit later than we hoped, but though it was early evening, it looked mid-afternoon. Mostly just wandered around the neighborhood, enjoying the views of the canals and the different character of Amsterdam. Cool and clear afternoon. Here, the streets are very narrow, a lot of people walk, cycle, or take the tram. With land at a premium, when buildings were constructed along the canals, they went narrow in the width and up (usually 3-4 stories). On the older buildings, you’ll see a beam sticking out of the building at the top. This was for hoisting goods from the canal to the upper floors.
A number of coffee shops (only 1 Starbucks I saw) and lots of Indonesian restaurants, both heritages of Holland’s colonial past. Walling past them, or just down the street, you occasionally get a whiff of something not from their colonial past, and currently not legal in the US.
Photos on Flickr
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