Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Amsterdam-Paris - Girlfriend Trip!

Huntsville to Amsterdam - 5/17/14 to 5/20/14 and then Amsterdam to Paris 5/20/14 to 5/25/14.

I left for my trip to Paris today May 17. Via Amsterdam Netherlands first.  I am meeting my friend Pam there for a couple of days and them we leave for Paris.  Last night I realized my ticket did not match my passport and had a total meltdown. Spent 2 1/2 hrs on phone getting that fixed. But all is well now and trip is back on schedule.

Loong plane ride, overbooked, overweight plane, but I watched 4 movies, the new Thor, Frozen, Saving Mr. Banks and one more than I cannot remember!  Flight was over 9 hours, 7 hour time difference.  I left Huntsville at 11:30 AM Saturday and arrived in Amsterdam at 6:30 AM (had a layover in Atlanta).  I was met by a very nice looking man holding a sign "Mrs. Rogers" right outside of Customs.  I wanted to take a photo of him so bad holding my name card up, but I figured I would probably embarrass him, so I let it go.  I've always wanted to be met by my own private driver at an airport holding my name card - I felt so "special"!  haha - corny right.  If that had been on my bucket list, I could have marked it off though!  I need to make my bucket list!

I met Pam at a beautiful hotel "The Pulitzer" and we had breakfast with her work crew and then I went back to our room to unpack.

The hotel was on a canal, then entrance faced a canal, and the rear, which was the bar, faced a canal.

I was on my own during the day, so after I unpack I took off on a walk about and saw the sights of Amsterdam.  They have over 100 canals, and over 1000 bridges, so there is water everywhere and the canals are lined with houseboats that are permanent homes which people live in.  They start at an average of $400,000 and go up from there.

 Bicycles are the main mode of transportation, I don't think I saw one single overweight person in all of Amsterdam, except the tourist ...   in the middle on bottom of photo, there is a double decker parking deck just for bikes!
Our hotel was one block away from the Anne Frank House/Museum, but the lines were so long, I didn't go.
I found a flea market - disappointing and I did see one or two of the famous "coffee houses", check out the menu ...
I went on a canal tour just so I could say I saw the main sites of Amsterdam and it really is a beautiful place.

Later that evening, Pam's boss booked a smaller boat, stocked it with buckets of champagne and wine and we went on an even cooler canal tour.

The boat dropped us off at our restaurant for the evening ...
It really was called 5 Flies.
I think this was my favorite evening.  How could it not be ...  champagne tour of the canals of Amsterdam, followed by a really great meal, and a moonlight stroll back to the hotel.  This hotel had the most comfortable beds ever! 
I walked at least 5 miles a day on this trip.
On Tuesday, we left Amsterdam via plane to Paris.
My first sight of the Arc de Triumphe, which I saw many times on this trip as we were only about 4 blocks from it, and we had to walk to it to get to the Metro (subway) which we rode quite a bit.  I was as giddy as a school girl, hanging my head out the cab to take a photo ...
Our first full day in Paris, we went to the Louvre ...  didn't even see a 1/4 of it!  When people say its large, you really just don't get how large large is ... because the Louvre, its really large.  We saw the Egyptian artifacts, some roman sculptures, renaissance-Italian paintings, and of course, Mona, then pooped, we attempted to find our way out, got completely turned around, okay lost, but finally found the exit and took off back to the hotel.

Pooped, but determined to see Paris, we booked a private car to drive us around Paris to see all of the sites.  The driver was great and gave us a commentary of everything we saw, Notre Dam, the palace, we drove through the Latin Quarter, Bastille, saw Moulin Rouge, Montemarte, and on an on ...  it was raining, but Paris in the rain is still beautiful.  I took photos through the rain dropped windows ...

Room service soup with bread and butter - yum.  Bed ... nice!
Our room was beautiful, complete with fresh flowers, small fruit bowl, one night they gave us a complimentary bottle of wine, the bed wasn't as comfy as Amsterdam, but it was all very nice.
The next day, we slept in.  Jet lag was dragging us down.  We got up, walked to a sidewalk café close to the Eiffel Tower, ate chocolate crepes and quiche drank rum and cokes (this was the main drink of the trip) and walked over to the Eiffel Tower - it is quite breathtaking.   We stayed a long time and enjoyed the park and took lots of photos.  We had dinner late that day and I made Pam walk back over to the tower at midnight so we could see it sparkle.  It sparkled for 5 minutes at top of the hour from 10 PM to 1 AM every night.
We went to Montemarte the next day.  Info:  "Montmartre  is a hill in the north of Paris, France.  Montmartre is primarily known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Cœur on its summit and as a nightclub district. The other, older, church on the hill is Saint Pierre de Montmartre, which claims to be the location at which the Jesuit order of priests was founded. Many artists had studios or worked around the community of Montmartre such as Salvador Dalí, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. Montmartre is also the setting for several hit films."

It was beautiful.  The church was awesome - no photos allowed, but they had at least 2 gift shops inside the church ... go figure!  The little village around the church was filled with tourist shopping and artists selling their paintings.  I was told, the artist can no longer afford to live in this area as they once did.

I did buy 2 small paintings here.  :)
The next day - sadly our last day in Paris, we went to see a cemetery - Père Lachaise Cemetery,  it has some beautiful sculptures.  It is 110 acres large.  No we did not see it all, but we saw a lot.

Here is your history lesson on Pere Lachaise ...  "Many of the tombs are about the size and shape of a telephone booth, with just enough space for a mourner to step inside, kneel to say a prayer, and leave some flowers.The cemetery manages to squeeze an increasing number of bodies into a finite and already crowded space. One way it does this is by combining the remains of multiple family members in the same grave. At Père Lachaise, it is not uncommon to reopen a grave after a body has decomposed and inter another coffin. Some family mausoleums or multi-family tombs contain dozens of bodies, often in several separate but contiguous graves. Shelves are usually fitted out to accommodate them.  In relatively recent times, Père Lachaise has adopted a standard practice of issuing 30-year leases on gravesites, so that if a lease is not renewed by the family, the remains can be removed, space made for a new grave, and the overall deterioration of the cemetery minimized. Abandoned remains are boxed, tagged and moved to Aux Morts ossuary, in Père Lachaise cemetery.[7]
Plots can be bought in perpetuity, for 50, 30 or 10 years, the last being the least expensive option. Even in the case of mausoleums and chapels, coffins are most of the time below ground.
Although some sources incorrectly estimate the number of interred as 300,000 in Père Lachaise, according to official website of the city of Paris, one million people have been buried there to date.[5] Along with the stored remains in the Aux Morts ossuary, the number of human remains exceeds 2–3 million."

I thought this was interesting.

And of course, Jim Morrison is buried here.  Died in 1971 - 27 years old and people still come and put flowers and other things on his grave.   "Permanent crowds and occasional vandalism surrounding this tomb have caused tensions with the families of other, less famous, interred individuals, the site is regularly guarded (due to graffiti and other nuisances)."  He grave has been vandalized, he had a cast of his head on his grave at one time, but it was stolen years ago.

Strange gum tree - chewed gum of visitors have been stuck to this tree, some have been signed. Weird.
We walked forever on this day, not only through the 110 acre cemetery, but when we left, we walked through a sidewalk antique fair, Pam didn't want to linger, but I could have stayed and rambled through their stalls forever.  We ate nutella crepes from a sidewalk vender, walked in the rain for blocks, and finally called it a day and hailed a cab to take us back to hotel.  We stayed in this last night, we sat out on our patio, watched the Eiffel Towel twinkle and sparkle, ate bread and butter with risotta with truffels, drank red wine and packed our bags.
It was a good trip, saw some amazing things, spent some great time with one of my best and oldest friends.  Never thought I would see Paris, much less Amsterdam too.  It was awesome.  If I ever make a bucket list, I will put this on it, just so I can check it off!

I flew home from Paris through Atlanta; Pam flew home from Paris through Amsterdam, but she got stuck in Amsterdam, flight cancelled, caught a last minute flight to New York, had to stay overnight in New York and fly home the next day.  I don't know when her luggage caught up with her.  Not in New York.

We were both glad to be home!

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