Amsterdam to Paris

There’s a train strike taking place in France with the rail workers protesting the government’s plan (government owns the national rail system) to reduce benefits. President Macron, like some others before him recognize the costs and inflexibility impact on the French economy created by the unions. The unions want to protect their members’ lifetime employment and benefits. The union knows how to inflict pain on the government, which it does by alternating days when trains don’t run. They affect more local and regional service to inconvenience locals who use the train daily to commute to work and are more likely to pressure the government to give in. You can check train schedules the night before to see if they will be affected and ours was not supposed to be affected since it is an international train, but we’ll see.

Trains in Europe are always on time, except when they aren’t. Completely unrelated to the train strike, today was one of those times. Often, there’s not a lot of time between when a train arrives in the station and when it leaves (maybe 10-15 minutes), so prior to the train’s arrival you need to position yourself along the track based on your ticket class and or car number (if you have a reservation). There’s usually a composition board that illustrates what cars will be in what sections (like section A has cars 1-5, etc) of the track so you’ll know where to be, because you don’t have a lot of time to board a large train.

The train from Amsterdam to Brussels Midi (they have four rail stations) left Amsterdam on time and we should have had about twenty minutes between arrival on an intercity train (stops in multiple cities along the way) and our departure on the Thalys high speed train from Brussels Midi to Paris. Except, the train into Brussels was fifteen minutes late, meaning we had minutes to get from track 18 to track four, find our car and get on. Fortunately we knew beforehand that we needed track four and didn’t have to waste time looking at the announcement board for departures tracks (“spoor”in Dutch). It was just the physical challenge of finding track four and getting on the train in that time. We were lucky enough to get to the train before its departure and the conductor allowed us to get on the first car (wasn’t ours) just to be on the train. We could then traverse the cars from car one to car five to get to our seat (all seats on high speed trains require seat reservations). As we rolled our luggage down the aisle of car one, the train began to move, leaving the station. It was that close. If we hadn’t made it, perhaps there would be another train (when?), but because we bought our tickets in advance, a ticket on a non advance purchase basis would have been as much per person as the tickets for the two of us. We didn’t have to fight that battle.

Arrival in Paris Gare du Nord for Eurostar/ Thalys, on time.

There’s no security screening boarding the train in Amsterdam. The only security security screening we’ve seen was on the Eurostar when going to/from France and the UK. But they have put police onboard after increased terror attacks and shortly after we left the station, a group of five national police made their way down our car to the next.

Our train was going 290 km/h at one point (180 mph) but slows (going through small towns) and accelerates along the way. I use a gps application to get the speed at any point in time.

Interesting to note that there is security in Paris to get **on** the Thalys, just not from Amsterdam to Paris. There are Gendarmes standing at the entrance to the train to make sure you go through the security screening. And the Army with automatic weapons patrolling the station.

Paris has many train stations, so your station will depend on from/to where you are traveling.

The Metro line going the direction we needed was shut down for construction, so we walked to the next. The hotel is but three stops and a few blocks from the Metro.

The hotel is a quiet oasis. Unfortunately, there’s someone like me in our room with 4pm checkout, so we’ll go find something to eat since we had breakfast at 7:30 and it’s now 3pm.

The hotel is fully booked today and we’re not exactly excited with the room, but it “is difficult ” according to them. Grrr

We walked over to Laduree to get a macaron (not a macaroon) and pass by the Ritz Hotel on Place Vendôme. Along with the inevitable but boring Mercedes and G-Wagon valet parked was this little cream puff of a car, which was getting all the attention.

Place Vendôme is an iconic location in Paris, housing the Ministry of Justice, the Ritz Hotel and a large number of luxury jewelry retailers. The last few years has been cleaning the exterior facades. The Ritz must have been closed for four years. Typically when large renovations are taking place, there’s a cover/building wrap over the superstructure while the work is done to keep things looking neater, especially necessary in Place Vendôme. Louis Vuitton jewelry is on one corner and had a decorative cover wrapped around its building during renovation. Not to be outdone, Boucheron has a striking wrap around its building on the opposite corner. We may eventually get to the point where there’s no scaffolding or building wraps in Place Vendôme, but central Paris is under constant change, with renovation a part of everyday life.

We were attracted to an unusual but iconic French car called the 2CV parked across from the column at the center of Place Vendôme. The 2CV is “deux chevaux-vapeur”, or literally “two steam horses”, actually about 9 horsepower. Here, eight of them gathered together. Prior to today , I may have seen eight in total.

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