A Travellerspoint blog

Suicide in the Land of Tulips

Guest blog by Anne:

The train rumbled towards Amsterdam just as my stomach rumbled. Oh no, I can't be the next victim of the illness. Our plans for Amsterdam were derailed when a person jumped onto the tracks between Brussels and Antwerp, Belgium and committed suicide by train. Thankfully it wasn't our train but the train right before ours. So instead of spending the day in Amsterdam, we spent it at Mechelen Train Station. Catherine enjoyed running around the platforms in the sun. Tom drank his Belgium Ale as I was crying because we would miss our slotted time at the Anne Frank Museum - the sole purpose for this leisurely day. A three hour train ride turned into an eight hour ride. We arrived in Amsterdam tattered, desperate and starving with only two hours to explore. We ran out of the most beautiful train station towards Anne Frank House. The smell of marijuana lingered into the street. Sex workers were dancing in front windows. I was unprepared for how liberal Amsterdam was. We arrived at the Anne Frank House at 4:30 pm. I immediately started crying when the security guard opened the door. After telling him the story about the suicide, he replied, "I understand". Touring the house has been a lifelong dream. Imagining life in the annex was heartbreaking. Some stairs were literally vertical and we had to use the railing to pull ourselves up. I felt like we were little ants walking silently to our death during the tour. It was one of the most powerful museums. And yes, I cried imagining what it would be like to be a parent and have to face a holocaust knowing the possible fate of your children. Next stop was the De Bierkoning, one of the most impressive craft beer stores in Amsterdam. Armed with bottles of beer, we made it on the 6:17 pm train back home - back home to Paris. When Meme and Papi asked Catherine about her day she exclaimed, "Choo Choo trains!" Even though the day was a disappointment, there is no one else I would rather be stuck on a train with than my lovely traveling partners.







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Loving Montmartre

Anne, Tom, and Catherine left early to take a train for an adventure in Amsterdam, so Bob and I were alone for the day in Paris. After our breakfast of the baba au rhum which included about a shot of rum in each square inch of the cake, we decided to tackle the laundry. This is a frustrating endeavor since the wash cycle takes about two and a half hours and the drying time is eternal with no clothes coming out dry. We left the machines on their own and ran out to do a few errands.
Interestingly, the first time we walked down Boulevard Clichy, all we could see were the sex shops lining the street. Now we cross to the center pedestrian area and we see a beautiful tree-lined boulevard with park benches and pigeons at our feet.
Then we took our métro Pigalle to Sajou, an adorable embroidery and cross-stitch store in the garment district. Mannequins for sale, bolts of fabric, ribbons by the wall-full and designer ateliers line these rather seedy streets.
We wanted to explore our own area of Montmartre a little more so we headed home and climbed our street to the Place des Abbesses where we discovered a little carrousel just waiting for Catherine. A little further uphill and we were already in the shadow of Sacré Coeur. Unapologetically we rode up the mountain on the funiculaire. The view is truly breathtaking. Once inside the basilica I even took a few photos since, clearly, no one was really obeying the "Photos Prohibited" sign.
The foot of Sacré Coeur, Place de St-Pierre, was lined with off-priced fabric stores. Just touching these gorgeous velvets, linens, wools, Provençal cottons, silks and every other type of fabric imaginable was a pleasure unto itself. And serendipitously on the way home, we walked right past a laverie. What more could I ask for was a clothes dryer close to home. I think my favorite neighborhood in Paris is this very one, Montmartre.
As for Anne and Tom, their day trip to Amsterdam got a little complicated. Someone decided to commit suicide by jumping on the tracks in front of the train that was traveling in front of theirs. All traffic on the lanes was halted and what was supposed to be a three hour trip ended up being eight. We're not sure whether or not they will be coming home tonight or finding a place to stay in Amsterdam. They just arrived very happily home...







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I love Paris in the Winter When it Drizzles

Happily I left our apartment feeling hungry and a little dizzy, but significantly better than yesterday. First Starbucks and then a Michael Jackson performer on the métro and this rainy day was looking up. When we saw the line at the Centre Pompidou, it was longer than we expected. We are very spoiled that we haven't seen too many tourists. Riding up the exterior escalator tubes gave us a beautiful view of the city with the tip of the Eiffel Tower hiding in the clouds.
The works of German artist, Anselm Kiefer, were in a special exhibition there and I found them extremely moving and very interesting. He felt like Germany had a certain amnesia after World War II and wanted the people to appreciate the cultural richness that had been present before Nazi Germany.
On our way to the market street, Rue Montorgueil, we stopped at the Église de St-Eustache which dates back to 1532. This Gothic structure has many Renaissance details and the height of the interior is about 110 feet high and was magnificent. Along Rue Montorgueil, we stopped at Stohrer, the bakery that was founded in 1730 by Nicolas Stohrer who was the pastry chef to Louis XV. Their baba au rhum is the same recipe, so of course we had to add some to our pastry collection. Next we had to scratch off L'Atelier de l'Éclair from our pastry shop list. I'm sorry to say that we are eating everyone's souvenirs since clearly we cannot bring them home with us.







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On Being Sick in the City

In the history of my lifetime I don't ever remember being this sick (except for appendicitis which was easily cured with a knife). I know that Anne feels like I am missing out on the days and adventures that I had planned, but hearing about their experiences in the midst of their excitement is almost equally as rewarding as participating. Plus I didn't have to walk those ten miles and wear holes in my socks. Maybe that's just a benefit of old age.
My whole idea of staying in an apartment was to feel like I was actually living a tiny sliver of my life in Paris. Slowing things down and enjoying the moments. These might not have been the moments I had imagined, but they are moments nonetheless. Like turning the knob to open the window-doors (there must be a better name for these beautiful opening fenêtres) and have the feeling of being outside overlooking the beautiful apartments and watching the ouvrier put mortar in the aging stone wall.
Also feeling the immense joy when the non-stop running toilet mysteriously starts working again without a plumber's intervention. And being there at the moment when the laundry from three days ago finally dries. (I'm not sure if the dryer is broken or if European clothes dryers simply don't work). I'm grateful for the wire contraptions for hanging clothes.
So I'm not sure if I will be able to participate in my itinerary tomorrow since my body did not particularly appreciate the spoonfuls of soup I ate for dinner, but even if I don't, I will still have some very Parisian moments to remember.


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On Our Own and On Our Feet

After returning from Avignon, my grippe took a gastrointestinal turn. I could not be more than thirty seconds away from the WC. Since I was clearly not able to leave our Paris apartment, here is Anne's version of the day:
With my mom sick, Tom, Catherine and I ventured out armed with the itinerary. Catherine and I sang the ABC's in French as we walked past Les Invalides and the snipers on the roof. Our first stop was the Musée Rodin. Catherine played in the jardin with the stones among Rodin's sculptures. Onto the posh rue - Rue de Bac. The children's stores were so inviting, calling us to spend more. The pastries were works of art in round circular glass domes. The chocolate mousse was oozing with goodness. We barely made it to Bon Marché for soup for my mom and of course French beer for Tom. Climbing Montparnasse with the best views of the Eiffel Tower was worth the 30 Euros to sit down. After walking for over ten miles today, our feet were tired and our tummies filled with Paris Brest and the other nine pastries that I insisted we needed.







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