Saturday, October 11, 2008

London to Amsterdam

Time seems to go by much faster over here. We got up at 06:30 and before we knew it we were almost running behind. I’ll have to say we both slept extremely well. I guess when you’re this tired it really helps. We had to pack up everything and went down to the concierge lounge for breakfast. I had to stop in the lobby to look up what Tram we needed to take in Amsterdam to the hotel. We took a taxi and were dropped off at St. Pancras Station (Mom wants me to note that it was a bright purple taxi). It was a mad-house. I hadn’t considered how many people travel on the weekend AND it’s a 3-day weekend as Monday is a holiday. I went to print out our tickets, but they could not be found, so the stress level rose a bit. I left mom with the luggage and had to go and find some help. There was a huge line at that area, so I asked one of the Eurostar attendants what I needed to do. He was kind enough to take me back and was able to print out the tickets. By this point the queue for checking in seemed like a mile long, though it moved fast. Mom has done an amazing job of keeping up – I think the Percocet she took this morning has helped a great deal. We went through security and passport control. I looked like a pack mule as I have the 2 large cases, backpack and purse. I thought you had to check-in your luggage, but you actually keep it with you. We found the area up to the platforms, but they only let you board 20 minutes prior. There were so many people in the station; I was a bit worried about us getting run over when we were able to board. I found the lift to go up and we waited there. Talk about someone looking after us, two gentlemen came up to the lift and punched in a code (they worked there but were traveling to Brussels for the weekend). We asked if we could go on up with them and so we did. We managed to get ahead of the crowd. We boarded and were able to stow our luggage rather easily. We have 2 seats facing one another and a table in between. We were served brunch – yoghurt, croissant with jam, chive scrambled eggs, sausage, mushrooms and potatoes. We are now on the “champagne course”. Mom is dozing off as I type this and we are officially in the Chunnel. I’m trying to figure out if we lose another hour today. We are scheduled to be on the high-speed train to Amsterdam, the Thalys, which will depart at 13:52 and will arrive in Amsterdam at 16:36. We will then head to the hotel. I think that will be about all mom can handle for the day. The past two days have been very hectic and we have covered a lot of ground.

A lot has happened since we were sipping champagne in the Chunnel. We came out in Calais, France and we had in fact lost another hour. We went through Lille en route to Brussels. The country side was beautiful Due to the fire a few weeks back, trains are running a little slower than usual, which meant we didn’t arrive in Brussels until 13:40. Our next train was in 12 minutes and all the way on the other side of the terminal. We had to wait on the lift due to the “freakish amount of luggage” we are carrying. On our way down the one level a young woman could tell we were a little unsure of where to go. She was most helpful in directing us and when we asked where she was from, she replied North Carolina. Turns out she’s from Durham, went to Chapel Hill, and graduated in ’99. Since we were on such a tight schedule, we thanked her and had to quickly move on. At one point I turned around and mom was carrying her cane and “running” through the terminal. We made it to the platform and the train arrived within one minute. It was the high-speed Thalys coming from Paris. We jumped on the first carriage we saw – and there was just enough space for the big cases. We found a seat and asked if this was going to Amsterdam. A guy behind us who was from Chicago said yes and we can sit wherever. Good thing since we weren’t sure where we were
supposed to be.

After settling down a bit, we ended up talking to a lovely couple from Australia who were on holiday for a month. Next thing I knew my phone was ringing and it was dad. We were so happy to hear from him again. Mom was fascinated by how much agriculture is here, and especially the cows, sheep, horses, and geese. Someone said there are 16 million people in The Netherlands and 8 million cows. We didn’t count them. It also seemed as though every flat surface was covered in graffiti. Some of it was very pretty. The other things that seem to be ubiquitous here are bicycles. People riding them along the road, by the train,
everywhere! We then at last saw the first windmill.

We arrived 15 minutes late, but at this point we were in no rush. I had thought we would take the tram one stop to the hotel, but some wise travelers said not to try it. We opted for a taxi, very nice driver. We arrived and checked in. It is an ultra modern hotel, very nice. The best part is they have free internet. We have been able to call folks via Skype – we have been able to talk to Dad, Hunter, Papa, Kasey, and Kathleen. We tried Susie, but no luck. It is so nice to be able to have some contact. We went downstairs for dinner as neither one of us wanted to venture out. We’ve had about all the fun we can handle for one day. They do have a very good restaurant here – we had roasted red pepper soup, Mom had seared scallops and I had wok seared duck. We finished it up with the Mövenpick ice cream. It was so tasty. We are soon to retired for the day. I have decided that losing an hour during the day is much easier than losing it overnight. We are now 6 hours ahead of EST. As I am writing this, we had a bit of a MacGyver moment. The lens of mom’s glasses just popped out across the floor. Luckily the screw remained in there, but we had to use tweezers to get it back together. She went to put on her sunglasses and realized that one of the nose pads was missing, so I luckily had some moleskin handy to put on there in the meantime. I think we need to go to bed! More adventures tomorrow.


Kasey said...

Oh Yes- Bank Holidays. I forgot about them. It is amazing how many North Carolinians you meet over there- I guess we are just an outgoing and helpful bunch. I am so glad we were able to chat. I hope you enjoy you next cruise and that you have strong internet.

Miss you

Hunter said...

L was riding the Eurostar, and it looks like it went well for the two of you. Thanks for the call today since the internet is not available. You all have a great time and look forward to when you get back online. L/DHS

S Knell said...

Sounds like you two are staying busy...hope you have time to relax at some point, so that you can get refreshed! Lara, you are doing such a great job with the blog...I almost feel like I'm there with you! LOL
Love You Both,