I never did get back to my blog during this adventure. Hours were occupied with strolling, talking, and conversation in cozy warm pubs. By the time we made it back to our apartment, sleep came fast. I’ll have to summarize the best I can.
I only had that one last day in Dusseldorf as the next day we were headed to Paris. When we finally made it out of the house it was to go for a long walk along the Rhine. It was interesting and not quite what I had imagined. It was December and the sky was grey. It’s my understanding that this part of Germany is always like this in the winter. I was already amazed how dark it still was at 8am add in the cold grey and I can see how it can get a bit depressing. We attempted to find coffee along the way but it seems on this end of Germany the holiday season, post-Christmas, is taken very seriously and everything was closed. We ended up at a local grocery and contented ourselves to making dinner on our own that night and picking up some Glühwein and Champagne to take to our friends in Paris.
The next day before catching our 6:30pm train to Paris, we made a detour to Köln to see the Kölner Dom. Yet another fascinating grand Cathedral….and of course, we had to walk to the top.
The rest of the afternoon we strolled about, ate Thai food (ah, some things never change…) and eventually headed for our train. I do love European rails. It’s so easy to get places. How I wish, wish and wish again we could figure out a way to create these rail systems in the US. During the ride through France it was dark so there was nothing to see. I slept a bit but for the most part I just sat there quietly, eyes closed, and in my head feeling the intensity of every second of knowing I was somewhere so different from home.
We arrived into Paris late and jumped directly into the metro to the 7th arrondissement. You have to love the Paris subway. It goes every where and really quite easy to navigate. Mind you, the stairs with luggage isn’t fun (I have no idea how the disabled manage to get around) but if you are in good health, you can do Paris without a car. Anyway, my very good friend and Capetown travel buddy took an apartment on the Avenue de la Bourdonnais. From the station it was an easy 10 minute walk. In the dark, as we got closer to our address, our luggage bumping along the side walk, we saw it…the Eiffel Tower. It really was breathtaking. Again, I didn’t take a picture. I’m trying to savor moments in my memory these days and not always walk with my phone in front of my face.
It was pretty amazing. This was the sunrise view in the morning from our balcony. I know, right?
For the next three days the German and I did touristy things. I was fascinated by everything underground, the the Sewer Museum and how genius the Parisians set it up to keep their city streets stink free (take note SF). It was no joke, it was a fully functioning sewer. It smelled bad and you could see stuff float by. It really made me think about the total population of Paris and all the toilets flushing every second or sink being turned on. That’s a lot of water to pump through a city and dispose of! I can only imagine 300 year ago when these sewer passage ways were filled with vagrants and all other types of mysterious people. I could not help but hum songs from Les Miserables as I went along. To my surprise, they actually had a tribute to Victor Hugo and his novel down inside the Sewer Museum.
This was interesting to think about. It showed illustrations of early Paris with no sewers (can you imagine the street muck!), to early sewers to modern day. The engineering is amazing if you think about it.
During our time in Paris we also did the tour of the catacombs which took us for many blocks under the streets of Paris. Before it opened we strolled through a large cemetery. I was perplexed that in a city like Paris, these graves didn’t seem very old. Barely at the end of the 19th century and some within the past 10 years.
Then we went into the catacombs and I understood. Because land for burial was scarce, grave were dug up and the bones were stacked up in the Catacombs. Once the grave plots were empty, they were available for new burials. The marker (below) was the location of the church these bones came from and the year they were laid to rest below the streets. The front appeared organized in a decorative way. However….
If you get a peak behind the wall of leg bones and skulls, the remaining tens of thousands of bones were tossed in one big disorganized pile. Some areas it went back a few yards. Things like this really make me think. Each bone represents a person that once walked these streets. Man, woman, child, wealthy, poor, maid, scholar or merchant….it doesn’t matter. Underneath our clothes and our skin color we are just the same.
Enough of the deep thoughts. Moving on….I’ve been to Paris before so I didn’t feel the need to do museums again during this trip. I’m sure I’ll do it the next time I’m here with my sisters. Instead there was a lot of walking of the various neighborhoods and seeing interesting things along the way.
Always at the end of the day being greeting by this view.
We even took a moment to stop at the Bataclan theater and pause a moment at the memorial across the street. I don’t have the word to describe that experience.
New Years Eve found several other friends also in Paris. We toasted the new year under the sparkly lights of the Eiffel Tower with a handful of other tourists and locals hanging out across the street from our building.
January 2nd it was another train trip as we exited Paris and headed north to Amsterdam as this would be our departure point back to the US. I made arrangements for Dutch apartment as I wanted the experience of a very narrow Amsterdam house. This is what we got. 4 stories of Dutch awesome narrowness. (you can see it inside and/or rent it here Angels Canal House)
It was quite a hoot. The “stairs” were more like ladders and I decided to remain on the first floor so I didn’t have to haul my luggage 4 flights up. Instead, I could get ready for the day on the lower lever and meet my friends on the 3 floor for coffee. Even T decided to leave her luggage on the first floor and only haul up what she needed.
This was my 3rd visit to Amsterdam. I was pleasantly surprised to find the weather just as mild as Dusseldorf and Paris. A bit wet but 40 degrees by day. Not that much colder than San Francisco in the winter. That meant the canals were not frozen and there was no snow, just rain. Along with Rome, Amsterdam remains in my top 2 favorite places in the world. I could come back here again and again. (If I could only figure out a way to live here!)
While visiting the last few days we did a few tourist sites like the Modern Art museum and another canal tour. I finally got around to doing a bit of shopping too.
However, by far my most favorite part of the day was ending at Louis Pub in the evening to enjoy a beer, conversation with my friends and the last of the holiday lights in the window.