Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Notes on Paris and Amsterdam

We just got into Flekkefjord, Norway, where Susan’s great grandfather Siefert Helle (Johnson was his given American name) was born. This sort of marks the half way point in our trip, so I’ll briefly recant what we done so far.

Three nights in Paris was wonderful. Stayed at the Pont Royal Hotel with a small room, but fabulous view of Paris…Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeure, Arch de Triumph, etc. Spent the first day walking the ritzy area behind the Louvre, around Opera, and then down through the Marais. Walked across the Ile de St. Louis and found the hotel we will stay in on our return from Norway before flying home; and then back along Rue St. Germaine to our hotel. The next day we spent most of out time around the Sorbonne. This is probably my favorite area because it is hip, lots of little cafes and quaint restaurants, and near the Luxembourg Gardens, Notre Dame, the quays of the Seine…all the charm I love about Paris. When we come back, we will return to the Minerve Hotel where we stayed before because it is reasonably priced and a perfect location.

We took the Thalys fast train to Amsterdam…I love train travel…comfortable, efficient, and views of the countryside. We stayed two nights at the Amrath Grand Hotel near Central Station…real nice location…close to the Red Light District! and all the touristy restaurants. We took a nice canal cruise, and went to the Van Gogh museum, and drank some good beer (finally!) We had booked a standard room at the Grand, but for some reason we wound up with the Presidential Suite ($2400/nite)…huge living room with conference table, work desk, eating area, free minibar, and plush bedroom and bathroom. This is the second time this has happened to us; if it happens a third, I’ll have to change my name to Obama or something.

Amsterdam is very cool, but vary touristy in the area we stayed. For a more old time sense of architecture, canals, and history, we really liked Bruge in Belgium much better. A lot less of an “in your face” mob scene!

We flew up to Oslo and then took a short flight down to Kristiansand on the south coast. Rented a car…a Peugot 380 diesel…drives nice…we’ll see what kind of mileage it gets since gas is over $10/gallon. Everything here is expensive; I’d say that food, beer, etc is about 3x as much as in the states. I peeked into a MacDonalds…a happy meal was around $12. We ate at an Irish pub…good beer, burgers, packed with both youngsters and oldsters alike. People are very friendly…not as much English spoken here as in other places, but enough to get by. We drove the 80 miles to Flekkefjord today, and took mostly all back roads along the coast. At one point we wound up on a narrow gravel road over the mountain…fantastic views…lots of photos. Everything is neat and clean, roads are great, and everyone seems to have a relaxed lifestyle.

So here we are. I think it is Monday; and we’ll spend a few days here exploring. Internet access here is very slow, so I don’t know how many photos we’ll be able to upload. We’ll do some on Facebook, some via emails, and some with this blog.

The sun is shining…off to drink some beer…I think pizza is in the not too far distance.
Tomorrow, we’ll explore the two graveyards in town, and drive around the countryside.

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