Bonjour from Paris! After a busy week of final exams, group projects, research papers, and a midterm, I welcomed my mother for a visit from the United States and we took off for a four-day trip to Amsterdam and Paris. We departed from the St. Pancras train station on a Eurostar train and transferred at Brussels where we finished the trip on a Thalys train. I found these two European cities to be very different from each other. Amsterdam is a neighbourhood oriented destination known especially for the ring of canals that surround the city centre. We stayed in a Dutch hotel along the Prinsengracht Canal, close to the Leidse Square. Walking along the canal district at night was a beautiful experience with the many bridges lit up.
It was so interesting to see up close the lives of people living on houseboats. The city is quite compact in this area and there are literally thousands of bicycles zipping past and parked everywhere. The next morning, we were booked for a street food tour in the De Pijp district. We sampled foods from the local market and small cafes, including herring and stroopwafel. As it turned out, we were the only guests that morning and our private tour was relaxed and interesting. There is a strong Indonesian influence in the market as a result of Dutch colonisation in the East Indies, and the food and culture in this hip neighbourhood was reflected even in our guide who was half Indonesian and half Dutch.
On to Paris, where my mother had wisely pre-booked our tickets to the iconic Tour Eiffel and Le Louvre, as well as splurging on first class train tickets. I highly recommend purchasing tickets on the Internet in advance to avoid waiting hours in lines for every venue in Paris. We stayed on the Ile de St. Louis situated in the River Seine in the shadow of Notre Dame cathedral. It was a quiet neighbourhood compared to bustling streets of Paris and the nearby sidewalk cafes were the best places for people and dog watching. We had amazing meals including omelettes, onion soup, croissants and crepes. There were many street performers to entertain us from the bridge, especially the gentleman with his accordion and the man who brought a full sized piano.
We took the lift to the summit of the Tour Eiffel one evening and though the tower had been engulfed in clouds and fog all day, the sky cleared at sunset and we had incredible views of the lights of Paris. Before our descent, the clouds began to roll in so it was rather a magical experience. The next morning, we headed to the Louvre museum where once again we passed up the crowds and spent the day viewing some of the world’s great masterpieces. It was amazing to stand inches from Ancient Greek and Roman statues, paintings by Vermeer, Matisse, and Renoir and of course da Vinci’s La Jacond, or Mona Lisa. It was an inspiring day and we later settled into some fountain-side deck chairs in the Tuileries Gardens to enjoy the sun and rest a bit.
The highlight of the trip for me was a special gift from my mother…tickets to the famous Parisienne cabaret Le Moulin Rouge. The beautiful dancers and performers entertained us for two non-stop hours. We definitely had the best table in the house and along with a bottle of champagne, it was a night I will never forget.
Until next time,