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The Flaming Artist Speaks to the World

The Amsterdam Trip—January, 2005

7:10 a.m. Tuesday, February 1, 2005

We checked out of the Hotel Winston at 11:00 a.m., took the trolley to Central Station in order to catch our 12:56 train to Paris. The day, as all our days have been, was cold, overcast, and humid with occasional showers and even rarer patches of sun. John was almost finished with The Da Vinci Code. In the train station bookstore, he purchased The Da Vinci Code Decoded. I purchased the latest essay collection by David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. I read the first essay. So far, not as brilliant as his work in Me Talk Pretty One Day.

We were booked in first class, When we departed Amsterdam we had the car practically to ourselves. By the time we reached Paris, almost every seat was filled.

When the stewardess came by to check our tickets against our passports, she found a problem with John’s. He was booked as a senior citizen but he would not be 60 for another 2 days. She was unbending. “Two days—it could be one day. It does not matter.” John, of course, was pissed, was muttering under his breath periodically for the rest of the trip. “Happy un-birthday,” I quipped.

We arrived in Paris, at the Gare du Nord train station, at 5:05 p.m., the height of rush hour. We were both tired… train lagged. We were studying one of the wall maps, trying to figure out where we were vs where we needed to go. Also, we were trying to decide whether we should take a cab or buy a 3-day pass & brave the local mass transit. A swarthy young man, in his early 30’s, saw our plight and took us under his wing. He told us to take Line 5 one stop to Gar de l’Est, transfer to Line 7, and go two stops to Cadet (the stop our travel agent, Roberta, had informed us was nearest to our hotel). He then walked briskly across the station floor, beckoning us to follow—a problem for both J. & I—John following some distance behind, calling, “Where are you going?” I turned back occasionally, shrugging. We found the ticket window, purchased our 3-day Metro passes. As we staggered back toward the entrance to Line 5, our self-appointed guide re-appeared, gave us one last once-over, and declared us good to go.

I was paranoid about Parisians. One hears so much about how rude they are. In this case, our first encounter was quite positive. The young man made our negotiation of the Gare du Nord so much easier.

We then had to brave several flights of stairs, some up, mostly down, and what a down it was—I was carrying two 40-lb cases. Both were on rollers but that was no help on the steep, narrow, crowded stairways. As usual, each downward step caused shooting pains up my ankles. Then there was the added pressure of trying to keep out of way of other, more experienced, more hurried commuters.

The trip went quickly. Each time we reached a platform, our train was already waiting for us, and took off soon after our entry. We disembarked at the Cadet station at 6:00 p.m. I asked directions at a nearby news kiosk. I was told some French variant of “two,” and was pointed down the street we were already on. We found our hotel soon after & checked in by 6:30 p.m.

We are only going to be in Paris for two days. As we checked into the hotel, we booked a bus tour of Paris, leaving from the hotel at 8:30 a.m. We napped, woke almost simultaneously at 8:30 p.m., went out to eat at a nearby Italian restaurant, complete with a brusque, impatient French waiter. On the way back, we stopped at a local market, got some booze, some fruit & some water.

I’ve had difficulty sleeping the last 2 nights. The beds in Paris sucked, although they were probably better than those in Amsterdam. It’s reminiscent of the hotel in Rome we stayed at back in ’03—a small floorplan with only one tiny elevator & one narrow staircase. One can only imagine what a bottleneck that would be during the height of the season. It was made even worse by the elevators letting out between floors. In the lobby, one had to descend a half flight to the elevator. From then on it was 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, etc. We had the choice of 2/3 or 3/4—I liked 2/3, as it allowed us to climb (I get shooting pains on any descent), John preferred 3/4 (he finds climbing more painful).

© 2005 Flaming Artist

 
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