UPDATE: We’re back (Brian and I) from Europe! Extremely tiring trip, but action-packed. From the ‘Ms. Blankity Blank, you dropped your Vagisil at Gate 32′ voice on the Newark Airport mic system to the hot chick on the ferris wheel by the Tuileries… it was all memorable. For me, anyway.
After touchdown at CDG, we found that we were on the tail end of a strike by the metro and bus union. For some reason, this was manifested in free fares for all trains in and around the city. It was great – free subway for a full day. I still squirm paying $800 for a hotel room (thank god for reward points and GCs…) but man, great location, hot showers and swank sheets. I swear they were like a billion thread count, they were that comfy. Non-stop through the Place de la Concorde, Jardin de Tuileries, Louvre, St. Germain l’Auxerrois church and down to the Ile Cite area for some good old climbing Notre Dame action. All typical tourist material, but I didn’t get to do this the last time I was in Paris. A night spent fruitlessly wandering… we tried seeing a show at the Opera Bastille, but there was a strike there and the show was called off. Don’t ask me who was having THAT strike. Then a walk by the Place Vendome for a quiet pricy Paris bistro dinner, some hot chocolate and a look at Hotel Costes and the George V. Capped it off with a Ferris wheel ride with the aforementioned hottie (from Moscow but living in Switzerland) and then a walk down the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, some late night wandering at the Virgin Store and getting lost down 1st Arondissement alleyways.
Next day, some time at the Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, gourmet cheese, then Place de Trocadero and Palais de Chaillot for some nice views of the Eiffel Tower. Lunch at a 2-star Michelin for some great gourmet food and service. Managed to do it all with finesse in 1.5 hours – really cutting it close to being uncouth, but made it out with honor intact. Hotel checkout, bah… well, after getting settled in the Hilton Eiffel Tower (a head on view of the tower from our room), we did the Tower climb. Skipped the Musee D’Orsay (next time), but did get a good look at the area… Ecole Militaire, Hotel des Invalides, the Rodin, etc. Dinner at a chic French-Japanese place on the Boulevard St. Germain. Bought some funny flipbooks at a French bookstore to kill time, and watched other tourists and Parisians hangin’ at Cafe Flore. I can’t really chill at a cafe with my brother, we just look out of place!
A cheapo breakfast, a run for some Godiva and off to CDG for our connecting to Amsterdam. Amsterdam is much smaller than I expected. We stayed out on the East side by Waterlooplein, and within 5 minutes, found ourselves by the Oude Kerk, Beurs Berlage (enormous place) and the Damrak. Lots of tourists, lots of shopping, lots of restaurants… TONS of restaurants. Space shops (for your shrooms connoisseur) and head shops, lots of strip bars and girlie shows, and what else but rain. After a long fondue dinner and some good Dutch beer, we headed out into the rainy night to check out the Begijnhof at night. Passed by a filled De Admiraal, Amstel (being exceptionally quiet), and the Leidseplein neighborhood. That particular section of town didn’t seem so exciting, or so we though at the time. We got all the way back to the hotel in 30 minutes after having basically covered all of downtown.
Early morning. Walk all the way down the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museums for some great time. I loved the Rijksmuseum; it was just the right size. This area was just beyond the Leidseplein area that I hadn’t liked, and I found I liked the museum area a LOT. All the pricy boutiques were in this area, as well as the Concerthall. Less tourists (aside from the visitors to the museums) made the place more relaxing. Lunch at a Dutch bistro for some GREAT raw sliced tuna on alfalfa and bread, and hot tomato and cheese soup. And beer. Dinner with the relatives at some Chinese place, and a car trip around Amsterdam West. Very quiet suburbs. The East is supposed to be more ghetto – well, that’s what all the Dutch rappers say More on French and Dutch music in the blog. Stop by a coffeeshop for some relief, and then sleep.
The awesomest soup shop in the world – more tomato and cheese soup. I was in heaven. Relaxing afternoon shopping, eating more chocolate and packing our bags to the max in order to head all the way back home… which we did. Back to CDG, smoked meats and cheese dinner, out to the Hilton Exec, one night, and a flight back.