Saturday, December 18, 2004

Driving down Memory Lane - Sunrise over Gare de l'Est just dug up those pictures, taken in April 1999 during my Interrail trip together with Vera. I have to apoligize for the quality of the pictures, they where taken with a (now vintage) Panasonic DC-1000 Panasonic DCF-2 :-) Most of the pictures were taken by Vera.

This was a vacation I surely won't forget. I have prepared by buying proper boots a few month before the trip. To make sure the boots won't cause me blisters on the feets, I wore them every day before the trip. The result was, that the boots fell apart the day before the trip... I tried to glue them together and took them with me, but the glue I had was not good enough for boots. So after taking the night train from Munich to Paris, I arrived in Paris Gare de l'Est with boots that where falling apart. Thank god the weather was nice and Vera could lend me her sandals.

We walked all the way from the Gare de l'Est to the Seine. Rue Saint-Martin was very interesting. You could see how every quater in Paris had its "own function". In the Rue Saint-Martin you could find one cloth shop beside the other. Some children cloth shops, but none of the big chains like C&A :-).

Vera has read the "Le pendule de Foucault" by Umberto Eco and wanted to go to the Musee National des Techniques. I wanted to see it too, but more because I am a geek. As we passed near the Musee anyway, we went to visit it. No luck, the Musee was closed...

We got a hotel room in the Rue de Charonne in probably the cheapest hotel in Paris. It was a bit filthy and the bed was awful. But the 11th arrondissement in Paris west of the Bastile was nice. Again this quarter had its "own function". Here we found a lot little wood shops selling hand made furniture. But most of these little shops were closing and made way for little bars.

We toured Paris in the following days. Eiffel tower, Centre Pompidou, St-Michel-Notre-Dame, Parc Montsouris, Les Halles, Montmartre, Catacombes, the Tower of Montparnasse, Institut Du Monde Arabe, Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise with the grave of Jim Morrison.

What I found really cool, was that we went to lunch to Paris universities. We had cards from the German-French student services which allowed us to use the universities canteens.

After a week of Paris, we went to Holland. We stayed in Amsterdam for one day. One day in a hotel in Amsterdam costed about as much as a week in Paris. After Amsterdam, we went to Nijmengen. Vera wanted to go to Nijmegen University for a semester and she wanted to check out the city and the university. In the city of Nijmegen, I finally bought new shoes. It was a pair of Nijmegen shoes from Reebok :-) So we walked through Nijmegen, when my feet started to swell. I finally had proper shoes and my feet started to grow to big for the shoes! We didn't know if the shoes were causing the problems, so I put the sandales from Vera back on. In the evening we took the train back to Amsterdam to catch the night train to Paris and then go to Bordeaux. Unfortunately we had left our backpacks in Amsterdam Central Station in a locker, otherwise we might have stayed for the night in Nijmegen.

But the train to Amsterdam stopped in the next city and we somehow figured out that we had to take the bus to get to the next city. Someone told us, that two people comitted suicide and that the train way was closed. So we managed to catch the bus and we were on our way again. After getting onboard a train again and changing trains in Utrecht, we managed to get Amsterdam somehow. But the night train to Paris was already gone... We didn't want to take another expensive hotel in Amsterdam, we were totally tiered and we didn't want to go to some pub. So we decided to sleep a bit in the locker area and take the first train to Paris :-) The police threw us out, in the middle of the night, but we went back and could stay there until the first train went to Paris.

In the morning, we boarded the first train and we were on our way again. A couple of hours later, we arrived in Brussels. There we wanted to take the next train to Paris. But only TGVs seem to go from Brussels to Paris. We needed a expensive reservation for the TGV and the first reservation we could get, would have been for a train in the afternoon. We were considering taking the TGV to London, but I was a bit of a tightwad, we had Interail tickets for France and I wanted to see France. I persuaded Vera to go to France again. So I went to the information and asked if there was any non-TGV train going to Paris. The answer: "No." So I went to study the timetable. Indeed, only TGVs go to Paris. But wait, I found "normal" trains going to Luxenbourg. So I went back to the information and asked I they could print out a connection to Paris over Luxenbourg. And, behold, I had a connection to Paris! I went back to Vera, told her the good news. I looked at the paper: The train would leave at 10:42. I looked at the clock: 10:42. We started to run. I still had swollen feet and it was horrible. We finally got to the stairs to the plattform. We hurried up the escalator until our way was blocked by a guy. We finally reached the plattform. The train was still here. We tried to open the doors: No luck. The guy who blocked us, tried the same. He went to the train operator and managed to get the doors open. As it turns out, he was the conductor. So finally we are off to Paris via Luxenbourg and Metz. Hurray! The train from Brussels to Luxenbourg is one of the most beautiful I had taken. Really nice landscape.

Several hours later, we arrive in Paris. Getting across the city to get to Gare d'Austerlitz. Finally on board the night train to Bordeaux. We find an empty compartment. But not entirly empty. In the luggage rack is very big gym back. We get afraid. It was 1999, 2 1/2 years before 9/11. But still back then there were terror attacks. We left the train again, went to the first uniformed persons we could find. I think they were actually police officers. We told them about the gym back. No reaction whatsoever. I think today, they would have evacuated the whole trainstation. But back then: nothing. No way, I didn't want to get on this train. Fortunatly there was a train two hours later. So at around 10 o'clock in the evening we are on board a train again and arrive in Bordeaux in the next morning. And thank god, the gym back on the other train didn't seem to have exploded.

Two days in Bordeaux, but I regred not seeing the Atlantic. So close. Anyway, we have spend enough money and we just wanted to get back to our home. We took the TGV from Bordeaux to Paris (which was a lot cheaper than the TGV from Brussels to Paris). The TGV is about five times faster than the night train. But in both you see nothing of the landscape... Then from Paris to Munich the night train again. Another train ride, and we are back at home again.

Here are some pictures:

In 2000, I made the second (and last) Interail trip, and I took no TGVs and no night trains, but that is a different story :-)

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