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.
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!