Tuesday, September 14, 2010


09 Sept 2010 13:10
When the wake up call came in at 4:30 this morning I thought it was the smoke alarm. Loud and sharp, it made us all jump. Lily was out of bed first. She was ready to leave Paris. I was ready for more sleep. In 45 minutes we were all out the door on our way to the Metro station 4 blocks away. The streets were deserted as were the trains. Three station changes later we were at the airport. We got Lily’s ticket printed, kissed her good bye and got her in the security line. Scott and I went on to the ticket counter to change our ticket home to a day later than originally scheduled. I work in Heidelberg until 6 pm on the 26th and there are no night trains to Paris. I am not complaining about an extra day of vacation! Before heading back to the hotel we stopped for coffee, a breakfast quiche and one more macaron. When we returned to the hotel I shot off an e-mail to our Netherlands connection to let him know when we would be arriving at the train station and we packed our backpacks. We exited the hotel for the second trip of the day to the Metro. We arrived at the train station at noon and our train was scheduled to leave at 12:25. The line to get our ticket validated was a half mile long and after I stood there for 10 minutes without it moving, I blew it off and went to a machine in front of the boarding platform to validate it there. It wouldn’t work. It validated other passenger’s tickets, but mine refused to work. The RailEurope website stressed over and over how important it was to get your EuRail Pass and your tickets validated. Dire consequences were predicted if you failed to perform this task. Tough…we’ll just get on the train anyway, I mean, what are they going to do? Throw us off? I stopped a conductor as we boarded and showed him my ticket, “It wouldn’t validate in the machine…”I told him. “No problem, just get on the train.” Okay…I was certain that since I hadn’t validated our ticket to Amsterdam OR our EuRail Pass we were in big trouble. The train was crowded…it seemed every twenty something in Europe was traveling to Amsterdam on this particular day. We finally found our seats, stashed our backpacks and other bags, took off our coats and settled in when an announcement came over the intercom. Everyone had to evacuate the train. Get your bags and exit. I figured they were probably waiting for us outside the train with hand cuffs, ready to take us away for trying to sneak on the train with invalidated tickets. But no, it was a technical problem and they had another train ready for us to board. So after 20 minutes we were on a new train and it was heading out of Paris to Holland. And you know what? The conductor came by to check our tickets and simply punched the hole in them without a word…no questions and certainly no handcuffs.

The train trip to Rotterdam was uneventful except for some really bad sandwiches from the dining car because we had neglected to pack a lunch beforehand. An announcement came over the intercom as we approached Brussels. “We are arriving in the Brussels station. Please watch for pickpockets on the station platform and on the train. Keep track of your belongings.” Interesting…

When we reached Rotterdam I was determined to get our EuRail pass validated, so I left Scott below by the platform and headed upstairs to the ticket office. When I asked to have my ticket validated, the clerk hesitated and I was sure he was going to question how I got to Rotterdam. But he took my ticket and told me he had to show it to another clerk. After a short discussion he came back to his desk, stamped my Pass and that was that. We were legal and on our way.

We arrived in Leiden an hour late due to our train evacuation in Paris. At Rotterdam station we tried to call Cor to let him know of our delay, but we couldn’t reach him on his cell. After a few tries, Scott called his home and spoke to his son, Aris. Cor was at the Lieden station, but if we hadn’t arrived on that train he would have gone home. Thank goodness we caught the correct train out of Rotterdam. We first met Cor Dees three years ago at Mid-Ohio Vintage Motorcycle Days. He had come to the States with Piero Laverda for the Laverda Rally at Mid-Ohio. That had been a great trip for Scott and I with stops on the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky on the way up to Ohio. We spent time with Cor again last year Laverda’s 60th Anniversary Celebration in Breganze, Italy where we also got to meet his two sons, Mels and Aris and his wife, Angeline. I have always enjoyed spending time with Cor as he is a very energetic and enthusiastic man. He also has a vast knowledge of Laverda’s and was one of the main reasons we were heading to Holland as he has the Laverda Museum in Lisse. Holland is incredibly lovely-green and fresh and clean. The air smells wonderful and while we visited it was moist (not humid though because of the mild temps) with canals running through the Eastern part we were visiting. Cor’s home sits on the banks of a small lake and I mean this literally. The water line is a few feet from the edge of his driveway. But one side of the lake is only inches deep. I saw a flock of water birds land on the lake...and then walk around on the surface.  It was funny to see.  His property is, if I remember correctly, about 2 meters below sea level (about 6 feet). This concept concerned me and I questioned Cor about it. He explained that much of Holland is below sea level and an intricate system of canals and pumps keep the water level low and constantly pump water out into the North Sea. The canals are all fresh water, which seems amazing to me considering that they are lower than the salt water North Sea. Engineers (and city fathers) from New Orleans have traveled to The Netherlands to study how the system works. The part of Holland where Cor & his family live is a prime flower growing area. We did not arrive in the midst of the growing season, but there were still fields of flowers everywhere.
Gladiolas were just finishing, larkspur fields were in full flower, dahlias were just beginning. Walking around his neighborhood was like being in a Disney movie.
Neatly mowed green fields, long rows of flowers, bard rock chickens milling around a chicken yard, people on bicycles everywhere. And crisscrossing it all were canals and tall trees. It seemed idyllic. Cor and Angeline’s home is lovely. Spacious with beautiful views, it was warm and inviting. We had a great dinner with Cor, Angeline and their son Aris, who is 17 and very handsome with a head of curly blonde hair and smiling eyes. Angeline had prepared a shepherds pie of sorts with a delicious base of meat, vegetables and apples topped with mashed potatoes. Along with this was served a fresh salad loaded with chopped vegetables. It was a wonderful meal. After dinner I tagged along on a long walk with Angeline and her friend.  Both spoke almost perfect English and we chatted the entire way.  Once back to the house Cor, Scott and I headed out to the Museum behind Cor’s home for the first view of the collection we’d heard about for years. From the outside the building looks fairly unassuming, but once inside it was huge and full of motorcycles, photos and memorabilia. The Laverda name was first associated with agricultural equipment. They manufactured threshing machines and combines. They made wine presses. Motorcycles came into the picture in 1949 and the rest, as they say, is history and Cor’s museum was full of it. He had an early threshing machine and 2 wine presses, but from there, Laverda’s full motorbike history was represented. I walked around the museum, but was so tired that I finally sat on a stool and put my head down on the bar and dozed. I don’t know how long it was before Scott and Cor made it to my side of the room, but soon after we were in the van and heading to our room at the Hotel de Duif. We settled into our beds (yes, plural beds as Europeans seem to think twin beds are the norm for couples-I am always very grateful when we discover a hotel room with a double bed) very ready for some rest as our day had started at 4:30 putting Lily on a plane to the States. At 6:30 the next morning we were started out of bed by the fire alarm. Scott jumped about 3 feet, I just rolled over and pulled the quilt further over my shoulders. We could hear movement in the hallway-peoples voices and doors opening and closing-and at one point Scott parted the curtains and told me there was a fire truck beside the hotel. I stayed in bed. Scott walked down to reception and was told a man had been smoking in his room (strictly forbidden) and there was no danger. By the time he made it back to the room, I had reluctantly gotten out of bed and was getting dressed for breakfast. The lobby and breakfast room of the hotel was sumptuous and elegant. Plush couches faced the fireplace and dark wood paneling covered the walls. The dining room had comfortable upholstered chairs and an extensive buffet of breakfast foods that ranged from meats and cheeses to assorted breads and jams; yogurts and cereals to puddings and trays of fresh fruit. We headed to the coffee bar and made 2 cafĂ© au laits and found a table. A number of coffees and some breakfast later, we returned to our room to gather clothes and head to the laundry before Cor came to pick us up so we could start our day. On the schedule: a trip to the Louwman Automobile Museum. I have to say here that by this time I was sick of cars and bikes(!). Our last afternoon in Paris I had chastised Scott rather bluntly about his constant obsession preoccupation with all things vehicular-or at least his need to involve me in his “ramblings”. I’m afraid I wasn’t as nice as I probably should have been and I will explain it away here as not enough sleep and being in Paris (perhaps I was becoming annoyed by osmosis). But in truth I will confess that sometimes (but, in my defense, infrequently) I am not as nice and tolerant of my husband as I should be. He is a wonderful man and treats me very sweetly and I should be a better wife. Okay, that’s over with (whew), now back to the Louwman Automobile Museum. It is a new museum, just opened in July and Cor had been once already and was duly impressed. As someone who mere days before complained about the proliferation of cars in our life, I was blown away. We spent almost 3 hours at the museum and I could have spent twice that. It was magnificent. Not only significant cars due to ownership (and really because they were cool cars overall)-cars that belonged to everyone from Winston Churchill to Elvis, Steve McQueen to Kaiser Wilhelm; but also unusual cars, motorized vehicles that I had never seen before. Humor me here...these are really cool...
A Fiat from the mid 70's with the interior done entirely in wicker!!
The very first motorized bus.  I thought it was interesting that, after we were told to watch for pickpockets on the train outside Brussels, we saw this sign inside this bus from 1910:
I guess some things never change!
Winston Churchill's car.  The ashtray in the back seat was huge to accomodate his fat cigars!
The ceiling of the ground floor entrance!  Stunning!
Cor Dees of Lisse, Holland.
I am so sorry I didn't get a picture of the whole family!

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