The Amsterdam to Paris Express

 

I love this shot.  Simply put, it illustrates the reasons I love to travel.  Just read the sign. 8AM, Amsterdam, waiting for the arrival of the TGV to Paris.  Anticipation, excitement, spontaneity; it’s all there in the picture.  If truth be told Michon and I were up late the previous evening joining in the revelry of Amsterdam’s Leidseplein pub scene.  But after a stay at the excellent Park Hotel, we were mostly awake and definitely excited to be headed to Paris.   I think you can see that I stopped short of overdoing it the night before.  Fact is I was still shaking off a 6 hour single malt scotch marathon with a good friend in Wassenaar, a charter member of the Dutch Single Malt Scotch Society, and half of a wonderful couple that Michon and I have counted as friends for almost 30 years. (she even longer)  So, it was on to Paris.  And what better way to get there than on the TGV.

 

Now, before we go further let me just say that Michon looks much better than I do waiting for a train.  Let’s face it, that’s a world-class platform look and something I’ve never been able to pull off.  You might not think that’s important, but it really is.

Anyway, the moment of the train’s arrival is not something that we from the U.S. are quite ready for.  As we Americans endlessly debate the merits and costs of high-speed rail, Europe, China, Japan and other nations are already a decade or more into providing the service.

The train is futuristic, sleek, and arrives with barely a sound….not at all the same experience as the monstrous and chugging diesels that lumber down the Amtrak rail lines in the U.S., and are largely ignored by the American traveling public.  You can clearly see how happy we are to not be piling into the passenger section of an Amtrak this particular morning.

This was actually our second trip on this particular TGV as a couple. We had taken the trip from Paris to Amsterdam many years before and were repeating the experience, this time in reverse.

Once on board the sounds are muted, the colors pleasant, and the experience one of calm.  Before
long the views of the Dutch countryside are spreading out in all directions.  Shortly after we whizz out of the station, breakfast arrives.  I must say there are few things more elegant and enticing than flying along on a journey to exotic destinations, and having a nice meal served while you enjoy views of an ever-changing countryside.

Before long, you arrive in Belgium, then Brussels.  The transition is so smooth, you don’t quite realize that you’ve traveled from one country to another.  Time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride, as Michon is doing here, in a decidedly dreamy state.

Here’s the thing about train travel, and why in many ways it is so far superior to travel by car.  You really don’t have to do anything.  You have plenty of time for quiet contemplation, for reading, for gazing out the window, and just being.  Not something that most of we Americans do very well, so it always takes me some time to stop trying to figure things out, and just relax.  As you can see, I’ve put down the guidebook, and grabbed the camera.

 

 

There are some amazing train journeys to be taken in Europe and Asia, and each offers its own special combination of sights, sounds and luxuries.  And we hope to share many of these with you in the coming months and years.  But for now, my favorite train trip has to be the 4-5 hour jaunt from Amsterdam to Paris’s Gare du Nord.  Not because of the luxuries of the train, through it is very nice, and not due to the speed to travel, which at 320 km per hour, makes the trip perhaps too short.  No, it is because of the anticipation of the destination ahead, of leaving one world-class city and culture, jumping on a train, and becoming immersed in another just a few hours later.

To illustrate the point, check out these two shots of Michon.  The first taken around 7:30 AM in Amsterdam.  The beauty of the city in full bloom.  The next, upon emerging from the Paris metro, on the left bank, near our hotel just hours later.  What could be better?

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