Friday, August 29, 2014

Trip Report - Our Big Trip - August 10th - Amsterdam to Paris, and an Unfortunate Event

The ship had docked in Amsterdam in the early morning. After a last good breakfast, we fastened the color-coded bags on our luggage (different colors for those who would be staying for an 'after-cruise stay' in Amsterdam, for those who would be being picked up by bus to be taken to the airport, and for those who were departing by taxi or on foot.) We could see the train station from the ship, and we stopped to tell the desk clerk that we were going to walk to the train station to make sure we would be taking the shortest route when we rolled our luggage to the station. The luxury part of our vacation was over, from now on we would rely on public transportation.

The desk clerk told us to leave our bags by our rooms, so we did. We walked away from the dock for a few blocks, then circled back to the train station. It was still early morning, so not many people were about. At one point, thinking of Amsterdam's reputation for drugs I said "I'm disappointed, we've been here fifteen minutes and I haven't seen anyone smoking a joint…"only to immediately catch the whiff of marijuana smoke. At one point I looked into a front window to see a man dancing, dressed only in a leather loincloth. When he noticed me staring, he blew me a kiss.

We went into the front entrance of the train station and checked that we had the right platform and departure times, then walked back to the ship, although we still had a few hours left until our train left for Paris. There was a pile of baggage on the dock, and Harry's bag was there, but mine was not. Then followed a nightmare of searching everywhere, even moving the other bags, one by one, to make sure I hadn't somehow missed my relatively small suitcase. Nothing. I was terrified. I had done the terminally stupid, which was to have left most of my prescription medicine in my suitcase, thinking "what can happen, we are only going for a short walk."

Finally, there was nothing left to be done and we could delay no longer, so we walked back to the train station and caught the Thalys Express to Paris. It felt strange to be getting on a train without luggage, and I wondered what would happen next.

In spite of my concerns, the train trip was very pleasant. There were wide, comfortable seats instead of the cramped confines of tourist class, and the attendant gave us snacks and beverages soon after we sat down. Later they served us a full meal, and they offered city maps and also offered to arrange to have a cab meet us when we arrived.

We got out at the Paris North Station and walked a few short blocks to the Hotel Ibis Styles. This was a 'no-frills' hotel we chose mainly because it was only a short walk from the train station and we would only be in Paris for two nights. Checking in, I explained to the desk clerk why we only had the one suitcase between us "The tour company lost my luggage" I complained, and the desk clerk replied "You're not the first" which helped me put things in perspective.

The room was small, but clean. There were no storage cabinets to speak of,  but room to put down the one suitcase and there was a nice bathroom and hot water.

I had inventoried what I was carrying with me and it turned out that I had both of my asthma inhalers, and Harry had a few extra of another medicine we both take, and he offered to share. I was still missing most of my over-the-counter pills, and the medicine I take for arthritis pain, but I wasn't going to die. I tried calling the ship to see if they had somehow found my suitcase, and wasn't able to reach anyone. By this time I knew the ship was sailing the long stretch of the Rhine back towards Cologne. I also sent an email to what I thought was corporate headquarters asking for guidance, only to find out days later that it had gone to their marketing division instead.

Pedestrian crossing, Amsterdam
We walked over to the Paris East Station, and at a pharmacy there I bought some small necessities, then we took a walk in the neighborhood of our hotel. This was in the 10th Arrondissement, not a popular tourist spot, but there were some nice parks and a lovely walk along the Canal St. Martin.

When we had taken French in adult education classes, our instructor had told us that in the first two weeks of August every Parisian who can goes on vacation. We found this did indeed seem to be true, as many small shops had notices which Harry translated as "back on the 15th of August." Even the MonoPrix around the corner from our hotel was closed.
A canal near the train station, Amsterdam

The Madonna Steak House, Amsterdam
Bike next to "Don't park bike here" sign in Amsterdam

Thalys, Amsterdam to Paris, much
nicer than flying.

Lunch on Thalys to Paris 

View from our Paris window

Our room in Paris

Canal St. Martin

I had seen many locks fastened to fences,
this was the first time I had seen stuffed animals
fastened to fences. Young love?

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