Monday, August 31, 2015

Days 19 & 20: Tranfer to Paris

After a brief ride on a local train from The Hague to Rotterdam, we picked up the Thalys fast train that was traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. (This is the same run that had been attacked 10 days before by a lone gunman, who was subdued by some ex-servicemen from California.) I had purchased the tickets in advance over the internet. We caught that train at 11:58. The scenery wasn't much good because the track was lined much of the way with earthen berms that we couldn't see over; the sky grew scary dark for awhile as we sped through a storm.

We arrived at Paris Nord at 2:35 and took a taxi to the Best Western Hotel Quartier Latin. We were shocked when we got to our room because it was about the width of a recreational vehicle. Dark walls and furnishings made it seem even more claustrophobic. I flopped on the bed and told Dan to go down to the front desk and upgrade our room. When he returned he reported that all the rooms at the hotel were the same, so we were screwed. At least the room had good air-conditioning.

Exhaustion overcame me and I was out of commission the rest of that day and all of the next day.

Dan explored the neighborhood, got some cash from the nearby ATM, and did some laundry at the local self-service laundromat. He was pleased with how well everything worked at the laundromat. For dinner he had fresh sea bass and two large glasses of white wine at the Bistro du Marché, just a block away.

The next day he had breakfast at the same bistro: omelette with salad, latte, and croissant with jam. The bistro's main customers are regulars, and the scene is very interesting.

Then he took his camera and walked over to the Jardin des Plantes, a very large public botanical garden. The weather was cool but dry; the sun appeared now and then.

He left the garden by a different gate than the one he entered and discovered the Grande Mosque of Paris. He walked into the lobby, but he couldn't enter the lovely courtyard until visitors' hours started at 2 p.m. Since it was noon, he looked for a lunch spot instead. He found a small Thai café.

Then he returned to the hotel and took a load of my dirty clothes to the laundry. While the clothes were washing, he took a walk down Rue Monge—that's our street, where the hotel and bistro are located—without his camera. It was about 6 p.m. and the temperature was perfect. He felt as if he were in a French movie. People were rushing past, men smoking cigarettes, women with small children. He passed food shops, restaurants, bars, clothing shops, banks, and book stores. Six-story apartment buildings line both sides of the street, creating a canyon-like effect. He was amazed that all these 120-year-old buildings would be so similar in style and color. On balconies there were flowers or vines. Some of the ground level entrances had elegant arches or there might be sculptures on either side of a double door.

That night I was feeling well enough to join him at the Bistro du Marche. I had a light snack while he had a steak with fries, salad, and two glasses of excellent red wine. An Australian couple, Kim and Jan from Sydney, sat nearby. They were friendly people in their early sixties who had rented an apartment nearby for two weeks.

The next morning I was ready to resume our museum marathon, so we went to the Louvre.