Katie headed back to Michigan yesterday (that would be Tuesday). We took her to Charles de Gaulle via metro and saw her through the security line, then headed off to Roissy-en-France to secure a hotel for our return to Paris next Sunday. Roissy, you may remember, is where we stayed the week we were stuck in Paris due to a volcanic eruption. We took the wrong shuttle and went by hotels that we had never seen and because I do this sort of thing, I immediately assumed that all of the hotels had been torn down and rebuilt in the last two years, so let’s just stay at ONE OF THESE HOTELS. WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM? (that last bit aimed at Chuck, who was by God going to find the place we stayed at last time. As the shuttle circled back to the airport I thought my head was going explode right there. I looked at him and said in my quiet menacing voice, “We seem to be headed back to the airport.” He wisely kept his mouth shut. On the second circle of the shuttle, we got off and started walking and quickly found that we were about two blocks away from where we had stayed – we had taken the wrong shuttle. The steam having vented from my head, we went into the Millennium Hotel where we had stayed before and once they learned that we had stayed there for a week last time, they suggested we join their customer loyalty club. As it was two years ago, their prices are very reasonable (109 Euros/night), have free wifi and they are on the free shuttle route to the airport.
Having worked that all out with no blood being shed, we headed back to Paris to go to the Musee d’Orsay (my first time!). Uh-oh. We got there about 4pm which would give us two hours in the museum (it closed at 6pm). Oh my God, the crowds! It made the Louvre look like nothing! There was a snaking line that wrapped itself all through the square outside the entrance – and that was the ticket line! And they stop selling tickets at 5pm. To anybody planning a trip to Paris, buy your tickets for the Musee d’Orsay in advance or through a concierge service, otherwise it will be a really awful experience. And make sure you get in the right line as there are several and with that many people it can get really confusing. We bailed as there was no way were going to get tickets that day in time, and the day we have free before we go home is – of course! – Monday, the day the museum is closed. Oh well, one of these trips I’ll get to see it. Since the Musee d”Orsay was out, we opted to walk along the Seine and soak up the sights and sounds (along the way we encountered a phenom completely new to me: the love padlock!). Since Chuck had never been to Shakespeare and Company, I aimed our walk in that direction.
The first time I went to Europe, in my early 20′s, I was backpacking and on a very tight budget (the length of the trip was based on my ability to stretch my savings – once that was gone, I had to go home), so my favorite things to do were either free or close to it (I used to take extra rolls from the breakfast at hostels and save them for lunch) and one of my fondest memories of that first trip was Shakespeare and Company where the quality of a person was based soley on the books they had read. And in that area, I could hold my own.
Fast forward 30 years, and the place hasn’t changed much, beyond maybe becoming even more charming. Chuck and I wandered its crazy narrow rows for some time, encountered along the way an impromptu piano recital, some neat study cubicles with typewriters (and notes from the writers or typists who came before you), and a wildly eclectic selection of books.
After that we wended our way back to our apartment and ended the say watching “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” on Chuck’s iPad using a headphone splitter (can you say “romance?”).
We left Paris this morning (What day is it? Oh yeah, Wednesday!) after Paris Visit came and inspected the apartment and returned our 700 Euro security deposit. This was not a hugely onerous process: we had to make sure that any plates, cups, silverware etc had been washed in the dishwasher (or handed washed), dried and out away and we had to empty the trash and make sure all windows were closed and locked. We did not have to vacuum up seven days of baguette crumbs, clean the bathrooms or strip the beds. I have stayed in WAY more uptight places in the U.S. 700 Euros in hand, we made our way to Gare du Nord for our train to Amsterdam (arranged by our BFF personal concierge Stephane – and as an aside, though I’ve never thought of myself as the sort of person who who want/need a personal assistant, experiencing Stephane has made me question my resolve. Maybe I DO need a personal assistant!). We had lunch at the train station then boarded our TGV train. The trip took us 3 1/2 hours, and we even stopped at a few stations along the way! America, what’s up!?! If you have ever driven up or down Highway 5 in California, you’ll know just how awesome it would be to sit back and read, watch a movie, take a nap and three hours later be at your destination. Okay, I get that this would require a massive investment in infrastructure but still, wow – just imagine!
Anyway, we arrived in Amsterdam to the fist flat out gloomy skies of our trip. It’s COLD here – in the mid 40′s – but folks are out on their bikes riding like it’s a sunny day. We copped out and took a taxi from the train station to our hotel, because it was cold and we, well, we just flat copped out. Now here we are in this awesome hotel that Stephane picked out for us (and where our first choice involved wine, champagne or chocolate). And for the next four days our hardest decision is going to be what to see next!
On my to-do list:
- The Anne Frank Museum
- The Remembrandt Museum
- The Van Gogh Museum
- DOK Library Concept Center
- A coffeehouse
We’ll see how many of these goals we can accomplish in four days!
Pics are here.