We arrived at the Gare du Nord train station early and traveled by high-speed train to Amsterdam.
A rushed cup of coffee and we were quickly whisked by cab to the Gare du Nord train station to catch the high-speed train to Amsterdam. Train travel is a comfortable, efficient, and affordable mode of transportation in Europe with trains going virtually everywhere. Our train traveled at about 150 MPH and the trip took a little over 3 hours with quick stops in Brussels and Rotterdam.
Outside the huge Amsterdam train station were thousands of bicycles in extensive bike racks. We saw people towing suitcases behind their bicycles, so apparently many people ride their bikes to the train station. We learned that bicycles outnumber people and cars in Amsterdam by a lot!
After some minor issues with our train station to hotel transfer and with our reservation, we checked our luggage and walked to nearby downtown Amsterdam. We quickly learned to stay out of the bike lanes to avoid being run over and joined the tourist throngs walking through the colorful canal-lined streets.
That evening, after checking into our room, we walked back downtown where we enjoyed a red light district tour and saw the other side of Amsterdam. Girls in the windows, cops on horses breaking up disturbances, and many many other things fill my memory but photos were not allowed in most places so use your imagination. It was a pretty lively area indeed.
Lots of fun things to see all over Amsterdam with distinctive architecture all around and many houseboat lined canals. We sampled some locally brewed Heineken beer and some very nice local wines. I know it would be a sacrilege to some of the foodies we know, but we had lunch at Maoz Vegetarian, which offers great U-build-it falafel sandwiches for less than 5 Euros. We had discovered this chain of vegan fast food restaurants in the the Latin Quarter of Paris and I was thrilled to also find one in Amsterdam within walking distance of our hotel.
The morning of our final day in Paris we popped out of bed, had breakfast, and headed for the river. Our hop on hop off combo ticket allowed us to board a river cruise in addition to buses. The cruise wasn’t as great as we had expected so after a few stops we exited the boat near the Louvre to explore a bit. Since we didn’t really have the time we never entered the Louvre, but the view outside was tremendous. After taking a few pictures we walked a few blocks and grabbed the hoho bus headed north toward the Montmartre district and the Sacré-Cœur basilica. The bus does not go all the way to our destination, so we got as close as we could and then we walked and walked and walked until we finally reached the top of the hill. Flora had worn the wrong shoes and required a bit of blister first aid.
Montmartre is an artist community and the look of it was much different than in the heart of Paris. The Sacré-Cœur basilica lies at the very top of the hill and offers a great view of the city below. We had lunch of mussels and wine at a nearby restaurant and then continued our walk back down the hill, getting lost a few times, heading slightly the wrong direction on the windy streets, but finally finding the next hoho bus stop across the street from the Moulin Rouge. The hoho bus gave us our first look the Gare du Nord train station where we would be boarding a high-speed train the next day for our trip to Amsterdam.
We exited the bus a couple of miles from our hotel and walked through the Les Halles and Le Marais districts on the way back to our hotel to try to get a feel for yet another part of Paris. We packed, went out for our final night on the town, and upon our return left a request for our early morning wakeup call.