Monday, May 29, 2006 

Go Go Go

I went for a long bike ride this weekend. This won't mean anything to anyone who doesn't know San Francisco, but I rode from 48th Ave./Ortega down the Great Highway past Ocean Beach (where the wind blew sand in my face the whole time,) through Golden Gate Park, down to Hayes Valley, and then home to the Mission District. It's about 10 miles.

That ride nearly kicked my ass. I hadn't been on my bike for months. I love to ride, but the weather had been so crappy - and I despise riding in the rain. You never know how far out of shape you are until you attempt some form of physical activity.

My legs are sore - but in a good way. In a "we should do this more often" way. So, I'm off.

Monday, May 22, 2006 

Waking Up is Hard to Do

I woke up this morning with a start. As if jerked by a string I sat straight up. I looked at the clock. 5:08 AM. Dammit, I hate that. I hate having my sleep interrupted. It's so difficult for me to fall asleep in the first place, that to wake up two hours before I need to is frustrating. I honestly can't remember the last time I slept for six hours straight.

I used to sleep. It was one of my favorite things to do. These days it seems to have become elusive. I don't know exactly why. I do enjoy sleeping alone. Taking up the whole bed, not being relegated to "my side."

As my memory of his face fades, I wonder if I would even recognize him again in person. The one photo I have is not enough for me to recall him. I do remember flashes of him. Of us. Me, curled against his back with my arm draped over him, our fingers entwined as he pulled me closer to him. My face buried in the nape of his neck, kissing his spine.

This memory lulled me back to sleep.

I have gone on four dates (four different men) in the last month. That's a lot for me. But there hasn't been anyone I'd particularly like to see again. Not that they weren't nice/attractive/interesting/smart, but I'm not sure how many more bars/coffee shops/dinners/movies I have in me at this point.

I'm having a better time lately just riding my bike. Alone.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 

In Other News

So, I do have other stuff going on.

Firstly, I have been loathe to look for a new job myself. I've decided to go the easier route by registering with two consulting/recruiting agencies.

One agency forwarded my CV to a school here in San Francisco. I had a first interview a couple of weeks ago, and last Friday had a second. The second interview was from 9:45 - 4:15. Seriously. I'd never heard of such a thing. I met with faculty, staff, administration, parent volunteers and the Board of Trustees. I can never tell how I do in interviews, so we'll see.

The second agency is one that does international placements. Today they sent me an email asking if I'd be interested in applying for the position of Development Manager for the National Museums of Scotland. I thought to myself "Are you fucking kidding me with this?"

Also, I am so over my mouth. In the past few weeks I've had check ups with my oral surgeon and orthodontist, and on friday I have an appointment with a periodontist. Today I returned to my dentist for the third time in less than two weeks. The first time was for a cleaning/x-rays, next she decided I need a night guard because I clench my teeth, so I had to go back for moldings (yuck), and today I picked it up. I am done.

Oh, and that $5,000 I got? When I returned from my trip, I went to the ATM for some cash. I looked at my receipt and thought "Why do I have so much money in my account?" Part of it was because I had gotten my State tax return. The rest was because my last job kept paying me via direct deposit. Twice. I haven't spent the money because I thought they might ask for it back - but they haven't. Man, I couldn't wait until this past Monday...payday! Unfortunately, there was no deposit made into my account, so I guess the jig is up. Dammit! I had plans for the rest of that salary...

Update I decided to put my name forward for consideration for the National Museums of Scotland job. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something.

 

Moving On...

In regards to Scottie's comment on my last post let me just say this, and move on: I do not in any way consider our time together "shallow." Much the opposite, in fact, which is why I've had such a hard time of it. But I will get over it. I really learned from the experience - and I genuinely had a very good time with him. I only wish our time together had been longer, and that he'd liked me as much as I like him. I hope he didn't come off as too much of a dick through all this. He's not. Honestly.

I think I've exhausted this topic.

Saturday, May 13, 2006 

Epilogue

I had a wonderful time on this trip. I was so looking forward to spending time alone in Paris - something I'd never before had the opportunity to do. I relished the chance to not have a schedule, and to have the freedom to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

I also eagerly anticipated meeting some new friends. I had a great time with JennC. We laughed like old friends. Gabrielle and I ate some of the best food Paris has to offer together - twice, and Eric is, quite frankly, a great guy.

It never occurred to me that I might meet someone. I'd been so shut down, that the thought never crossed my mind. In fact, when I met Scottie, I vaguely remember thinking he was cute, but I never imagined that anything would come of it. Never. Which is why I continued to be so surprised every step of the way - from the realization that I was on a date, to his being so eager and excited when he knew he might be getting lucky, to his wanting me to spend the night, and to him wanting to see me again (and again.)

I've written before about how I am not conventionally beautiful. I'm not fishing for compliments here - I don't think I'm ugly, and children don't recoil in fear when they see me. But honestly, I am generally ignored by men these days. Over time, that can be as soul crushing as someone calling you unattractive.

I have gained some perspective over the last few weeks, and think the word that sums up this trip for me is grateful. I'm grateful for the new friends I've made, for the beautiful city I was able to discover on my own, and to Scottie too.

See, even though I now clearly see our "relationship" for what it actually was - basically him using me to masturbate instead of his hand - I appreciate what he did for me, which was to remind me that yes, I can still be attractive, and I don't have to retreat inside the shell I've built around myself. I appreciate that.

Admittedly, it did take these few weeks to come to terms with that. In my mind, when we were together those first couple of times, everything was so full of promise, and potential. He's smart, he's funny, he's cute (I did take his picture, but promised I wouldn't post it - sorry.) Plus, he lives in Paris and plays the guitar. Swoon. But something changed. I'll never know if it was something I did (or didn't) do. After I left for Caen to meet my daughter, he obviously began to have second thoughts, and I think he must have consciously decided to nip things in the bud (except for the sex. He still wanted to have sex with me.) Unfortunately for me the way he did that was via a worrisome text message, and then again through a worrisome act (which I won't get into here, but it kind of made me feel like shit when he did it.)

God, what happened? That thought ran through my mind for a good two weeks after my return. I couldn't figure out how I'd fucked up. I even broke down and sent Scottie a text message. It said "Come to San Francisco." That's it, four words. I did get a reply "I would like a holiday there. Work prevails at the moment though. I can't take holidays until at least September." But I know in my heart that I'll never see or hear from him again (I gave him my email address and blog address, but he's made no contact.) I'll be okay with that...eventually. Although it didn't help a few days ago when, I swear to god, I turned on the radio in the car taking the girl to school and In a Big Country, a song about Scotland, by a Scottish band was on. After I came home from dropping her off, I turned on the television to the Travel Channel, and watched Anthony Bourdain talk about Les Halles and walk right by Scottie's apartment. Later that night, Billy Connolly was the guest on the Daily Show. Yeah, Wednesday was kind of fucked up! It was god laughing at me and rubbing Scottie in my face at every turn.

I learned a lot from this trip, however: first, I learned that I am definately not cut out for one night stands (or "holiday romances" to use Scottie's euphemism.) Next, I learned that I can still be wanted, and finally, I learned that you can send text messages internationally. Who knew?

So, thank you Paris, and thank you blogosphere. And yes, thank you too, Rob.

 

Je t'aime, au revoir

April 20, 2006

The alarm went off at 7:00. We got dressed, and checked out of our room.

We took a taxi for the short trip to the Gare de Lyon, where we picked up the Air France coach. We took our seats on the bus. As we wended our way through the streets of Paris and onto the boulevard périphérique, it really hit me: I'm leaving Paris. I dug into my bag, and pulled out my iPod. I set the music to "shuffle songs" pushed "play" and sat back, looking out the window as the disappearing city rushed by. I smiled, sadly to myself when I realized how appropriate the first song that came on was - Thomas Dolby's I Love You, Goodbye

Some words are sad to sing
Some leave me tongue-tied
(But the hardest thing to tell you)
But the hardest words I know
Are I love you goodbye
I love you goodbye
(Je t'aime, au revoir)
I love you goodbye
(Je t'aime, toujours)
I love you, goodbye



After checking in, and making it through security, we arrived at the gate where we were greeted by four other girls from Bink's class who were also on the same flight.

Air France has these cool, kind of futuristic pods that they load passengers on that drive them to the plane, raise up, and unload passengers directly onto the plane. Cool.

We found our seats and settled in. Before I replaced my temporary SIM card, with my "real" one, I decided to send Scottie one last message. "Whatever, dude! On plane. Glad I met you." A few minutes later, I got this reply "Aye aye quine. Keep smiling. I hope you get back to work without bother." Whatever.

The flight itself was uneventful, Bink spent most of it with her friends, the roaming pack of American girls who speak French. The flight attendants loved them, and kept slipping them ice cream.

And then, we were back in San Francisco. The trip was over.

 

Our Last Day in Paris (Part 2)

April 19, 2006

So, the girl and I head to Montmartre. I'd never taken the funiculaire, so I decided to give it a try. Bink, ever the athelete, decided to race me (on the funiculaire) to the top - by running up the stairs. On the one hand, she won (the trains are on a timer, so she had a head start.) On the other hand, she was panting like she had a collapsed lung when I caught up with her.

I phoned the Adult Runaway who came to meet us. We decided to head back to Le Temps des Cerises for dinner.

The meal started of innocently enough - a couple of on-the-house rosés for Gabrielle and myself, and a grape juice for the girl. Gabrielle opted to order the crèpe with salmon and crème fraîche, Bink ordered a large salad that involved serrano ham and hearts of palm, and I went for one of the homemade pastas topped with foie gras, figuring "What the heck, it' my last night in Paris!" The food there is awesome, but it doesn't compare with the proprietors Madeleine and Jean Paul. They are a hoot, and so generous. After plying us with orange scented mousse au chocolat, and cherry crèpes, John Paul came out to present Gabrielle and me a taste of his secret, homemade hooch. He placed a shot glass before each of us, and filled them with the contents of the scarf draped bottle. After a quick "Salud!" we each downed our shots. "Yum! Is that prune?" "It's very good."

Jean Paul left the bottle on the table. From the other side of the room, he told Gabrielle to look under the scarf. From her reaction I knew it couldn't be good. She pulled the scarf off, and there it was: a huge freaking snake - embalmed in the liquor. Eeewww. Jean Paul was in hysterics! The other diners turned to see what the big deal was. The Italian woman dining with her husband, freaked out - she couldn't even look at it! One of the two Swiss gentlemen at another table came over to take a photo.

We'd had a great time, but I needed to get back to the room so we could finish all of our packing. So we bade our new friend goodnight, and headed back to Bastille.

After everything was packed, and Bink was in bed asleep, I stood looking out the window. I decided to go for one last walk. It was after midnight. I walked around for a good two hours, taking photos, getting lost, and getting tired. I hailed a taxi, and went back to the hotel, and to bed. We needed to leave the hotel by 7:30 to catch our flight back to San Francisco.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006 

Our Last Day in Paris (Part 1)

April 19, 2006

I woke the girl up early so that we could get the most out of our last full day in Paris.

After a quick breakfast we headed for the Métro. After switching to the RER, we exited at Javel, and walked through Parc André Citroën to her surprise: a ride in the Aeroparis balloon. I'm not a big fan of heights, but she loves them. So, we got our tickets and went up the 150 meters in the balloon. The views were, admittedly, breathtaking (from what I saw - my eyes were closed a good part of the time.)

After our ride, I checked my messages. I'd gotten a call from my friend Robin. She'd been out of town visiting her family in Lyon, so we hadn't had a chance to see each other before that day. We made plans to meet later that afternoon.

Though I'd heard many horror stories about getting one's hair cut in France, my daughter was in dire need, so when we were walking down the street and saw a sign in a salon window that they were having a special on kid's haircuts, we went in. The woman there was kind enough to take her without an appointment. After she washed and conditioned Bink's hair, she took her to the chair for the cut. Surprisingly (I was surprised because of everything I'd heard), she did exactly as Bink requested - just a trim. Next, she did what I have no patience to do: she straightened her hair with a blow dryer and a round brush. My daughter has really curly, but baby-fine hair. It took a good half hour to get through it all, but when she did, Bink looked great.

It was while she was having her hair done that Robin came in to meet us. After leaving the salon, we headed for lunch, passing something I'd never seen before in Paris: police on horseback. We sat at a cafe next to the Fontaine Stravinsky and caught up talking. She is a lesbian - the ex-girlfriend of a good friend of mine here in SF. I wanted to talk to her about PACS, and perhaps coming to some kind of agreement. As she explained it to me, the civil union would not work as far as immigration was concerned - I'd already need to be living in France (on a student visa, for example,) and the PACS would allow me to stay beyond the visa. So, alas, no hot lesbian PACS action for me.

Next on the agenda was a stop at Monop' for groceries. We had a long list of things we wanted to bring back to the States. Robin came with us, and we did a ton of shopping. She helped us lug it back to the hotel, and then she headed home.

After sorting out the purchases, we headed to Sacré Cœur to meet Gabrielle for our last dinner in Paris.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006 

Somebody Talk Me Out of it

I have gotten a $5,000 windfall.

I am thinking of taking another trip to Europe in July (it'll be my birthday, and my daughter spends the summer with my mom in Seattle.)

It's a stupid idea. I am unemployed. I have bills to pay. I should save this money. Plus, I don't want there to be any risk of my running into Scottie - another
bad, bad idea.

Crap. I'll pay some bills off instead. That would be the smart thing to do, right? Right.

Damn.

Sunday, May 07, 2006 

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Life goes on. That's from The White Album, you know ;)

April 18, 2006

Since I couldn't very well let my daughter know why I was feeling a bit blue, I put on a happy face, and we started our day.

First on the list: making our way to the Jardin des Tuileries to spread some of my dearly departed dog's ashes. Yes. I brought my dead dog's ashes to Paris. See, the thing is, I loved this dog. I got him when he was nine weeks old, and he died at 15 years, 4 months. He was with me my entire adult life, until he died last July. In fact, my daughter called him her "dog brother." I'd always considered bringing him with me when I vacationed in France, but didn't think he'd abide the crate for the flight very well. So, I finally brought him with me.

As we walked through the park, we ran into (yet another) teacher from my daughter's school. She had been a chaperone on the exchange trip. We stopped and chatted for a few moments. She asked us if we'd seen any other kids from the trip with their parents. We hadn't, but she had run into a couple of families. After a couple of minutes, we headed off in opposite directions.

My daughter and I found a nice tree to spread the ashes, and take a moment to say goodbye. Nope - we didn't get caught!

Afterwards, we walked to the Place de la Concorde (where Eric took this lovely photo.)

We walked over to Place de la Madeleine, did some serious (window) shopping at Fauchon. I bought some mustard at Maille (mango with Thai spices!) and, surprise(!), there's a Ladurée there, too.

I took this opportunity to introduce her to the magic that is the macaron. Her favorite? Rose. Yuck. To each his own, I suppose.

We hopped on the Métro and headed for the huge Tati at Barbès-Rochechouart in the 18eme. Man, what a zoo! It was kind of worth it though: I bought some towels, some kitchen stuff, some bath stuff, socks - and made it out of there having spent less than 20€. Nice.

After Tati, we walked by a discount luggage store. We went in, and I bought a roller bag to bring back all of our purchases.

After dropping our stuff at the hotel, we had lunch, and then we went to the only monument that really mattered to my daughter: Berthillon. We walked over to the Île de la Cité, made our way past the crowds of people eating ice cream on the street. Unfortunately, the shop itself was closed. There was a sign in the window saying they'd be on vacation until the 20th (the day we were leaving.) Bummer! She was kind of pissed, I think, but was easily consoled with a cone from one of the Berthillon vendors across the street.

We decided to walk over to H&M at the Forum des Halles. She had tried on some really cute pants at the store in Brussels, but they didn't have her size. On our way there, as we were walking down the street, we hear this [Binky! Binky!] from the other side of the rue de Rivoli. There were two girls from her class (and their moms) buying crèpes. So, instead of shopping, we hung out with them. Unfortunately. (I happen to not be a big fan of the majority of parents at her school, but that's another issue for another day.)

After dinner, I had to get her to bed at a reasonable hour because I had a surprise for her the following day.

 

Moore, Goode, Dick

I love this - and this isn't at all gay in the least...check out how these Arkansas Razorback football players (Clarke Moore, Brett Goode and Casey Dick) are arranged along the sidelines of one of their games last season:



Image via Trent

Thursday, May 04, 2006 

The Long Goodbye

Operative word there being long. This is a lengthy entry.

April 17, 2006

I couldn't wait to get back to Paris. Not just to see Scottie, but because my daughter and I had lots of fun stuff to cram into the last three days of our trip.

We checked out of our hotel, and made our way to Utrecht Centraal station, and got on our Paris-bound train. The ride was pretty uneventful. There was a large group of (American) teenagers behaving obnoxiously. Coincidentally, we'd seen this same group at the Anne Frank house the day before.

During the ride, my phone's message alert sounded. I checked it and found a message from Scottie. It read "I have friends coming to stay arriving Tuesday night. We would have to shack up at your hotel if you were keen for sex." I wasn't exactly sure how to respond to that. In fact, I re-read the message several times. Something had changed. I mean, I knew that we weren't dating, but still. I felt somewhat...I don't know. Objectified, maybe? Whatever. For some reason my feelings were kind of hurt. Whether or not my feelings were reasonable or justified or not, they were what they were.

Ironically, one of the things that I found most attractive about him was his lack of pretense. He always said exactly what he meant, and looked me in the eye when we were talking. No pussyfooting around.

After thinking (okay, obsessing) about his message for a while, I responded with "Hmmm...well, I do want to see you, so I'll work something out."

We arrived back to the Gare du Nord, and took a taxi back to the Lyon-Mulhouse - the same hotel I'd been at the previous week. I had actually reserved a room for our return!

After we settled in, the text flurry began. Admittedly, they're mundane...but I've saved them all, so I'll share these few with you:
"Hi Scottie! I'm back in Paris."
"Aye aye. How's it going? What you up to?"
"Just got out of the shower. Gonna go check my email. You still at work?"
"No work today. I'm getting a bit of sun in Les Halles park. Then I was thinking of making a chili."
"Glad you had a day off. Want to come over later? My daughter is going to a movie at 8."
"Ok. You give me a toot when I should horse on."
"Now!"
"Ok. Coming."

I told my daughter that I had a date. Now, as it happens, our hotel was right next to a movie theater. Not one of the monster googleplexes we have in the States, a small two or three screen place. One of the films showing was Ice Age 2. We'd (my daughter and I) gone to the theater earlier and asked about her attending the movie alone - she's gone with friends her own age, but never completely alone. They said it'd be okay, and that they'd keep an eye on her. She was stoked. Let's just say, she's always been very independent.

So, at about 7:45 my phone rang. It was Scottie. I asked him if he was downstairs. He said he was out front. I told him we'd be right down.

Bink and I went downstairs. I dropped off the key at the desk, and we went outside. There he was. He turned around to see us, and all I could think was "Oh my god. You look so f*ing hot!" Maybe it was the four days apart, maybe it was his leather jacket. Who knows?

I introduced them. Scottie asked her about her exchange, and about our trip to Amsterdam. Did we go to the Rijksmuseum? Anne Frank's house? What did she think about this and that? I thought it was really sweet.

We went next door to the theater, waited with her, and walked her in.

Then we went back to the hotel, retrieved my key and went upstairs.

As soon as we walked in and closed the door, he took off his shoes and jacket and sat on my bed. He took my hand and pulled me over to him, and down on the bed.

I said, "I can't believe I'm doing this." And then did it anyway.

A bit later, we decided to go for a drink. We stopped at the theater to double check the movie's end time, and then went to a bar.

"Do you know rue de Lappe?" he asked. Of course, I did, because Eric had taken me there the week before.

After one drink, he mentioned that he was hungry. We decided to go to a cafe across from the hotel and movie theater. I checked the time and mentioned that we should go because it was time to go get my daughter. He said no, he wasn't going.

"What?," I asked. "Why not?"

He said that it had been weird for him to meet her, and that he had been uncomfortable - he hadn't known what to say to her.

So he stayed in the cafe while I met her, and took her upstairs. It was just about 10:00 by then. She washed her face, brushed her teeth and put on her pajamas. I told her that Scottie was waiting for me across the street. I gave her my phone and his phone number, put her to bed, and went out.

We went back to rue de Lappe and found a cool bar. We stood laughing and talking. He made fun of my penchant for saying "Whatever, dude." He also did an hysterical American accent. I asked him, "So, Americans all sound whiny to you?!"

Throughout our "relationship," I would constantly ask him "What?" or say "Sorry?" after he said something to me, because his accent is so strong. That night he asked me "How much of what I say do you actually understand?" I thought for a moment and said "About 70%."

We were having a good time. At one point he asked me (at least I thought he asked me) "Are you enjoying the crack?" I laughed so hard! I said, "What are you talking about?" Actually he was asking me if I was enjoying the craic. There's a difference!

It was about 11:00 now. I asked him what time the Métro stopped running. He said around midnight. I told him we should leave, since we only had an hour.

"Are you saying you want to come back to mine?"
"Yes."

We walked back toward the Métro. I can't remember exactly what he said, but I remember that I asked him "Really? You can't tell that my daughter's dad is white?" He said to remember that he's from Scotland. Not a bastion of interracial relationships. I said, "I confess Scottie. You are not my first "vanilla sin."

We went back to his place. He put on The White Album (a recurring theme, I'll address at a later point) and sang to me for a bit while we lay on the couch.

Finally, we started kissing. It was weird. We knew that we had only a limited time together, but it felt as if everything was moving in slow motion. He took his shirt off, and as we were making out, I tried to take his belt off. But I couldn't figure it out. We started laughing, and he said "Don't worry about it." Then he got up and left the room.

I was sitting alone on the couch for a few minutes thinking "Um, what happened?" I went into the bedroom, and there he was. Naked in bed.

"Whatcha doin'?"

"Waiting for you."

"Ahhhh."

I don't know if he'd been holding out on me, or because this was going to be our final time together, but let's just say - he saved the best for last.

Afterwards, he asked me how I was doing. I told him that I was a little sad.

"Sad? Why?"

"Because I'm never going to see you again."

"Tant pis, as the French say."

Ouch.

I got dressed, went to the living room and got my stuff. I came back into the room, and sat on the edge of the bed. After a long hug, and a few kisses, I said goodbye. He said "Have fun, keep smiling."

I was kind of annoyed. "Fuck you. Is that all you have to say to me?"

"What do you want me to say?"

In my mind I was thinking: "Say you'lll miss me, say you don't want me to go. Say you're so glad you met me, and how unfair it is that we don't have more time together. Say something else..."

But what I said was "Nothing."

And then I left. I got back to the room. Bink was asleep.

I couldn't sleep, so I watched television.

And I was sad.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006 

Amsterdam

April 16, 2006

Happy Easter.

After breakfast, we headed into the city. First stop, though was the ticket counter in the train station so I could buy our tickets back to Paris the following day. It was a beautiful morning. Clear skies, not a cloud in sight.

We decided that it would be fun to rent bikes to get around - the sheer numbers of cyclists in Amsterdam is amazing. The sight of hundreds of bikes parked is something to behold.

We got to the bike rental shop, and it was packed - and we were there just about an hour after they opened. By the time we got to the counter, they were out of kid's bikes. My daughter is pretty tall for her age, so we tried her out on an adult bike. She wasn't comfortable. She was about three inches too short for it to work for her. I thought that maybe I could rent the bike, and she could ride on the back, but they nixed that idea. "Wait," the counterperson said. "I may have something." He ran to the back to check, and then he came back and said "How about a tandem?"

We tried it out. With a minor adjustment to the seat height, she fit in front. So, off we went. We got the hang of it pretty quickly. As the rider in the back, I was in control of the steering. I took a perverse pleasure in freaking her out. She kept thinking we were going to crash into someone or something (we didn't!)

Now, I had formed the vague idea of this trip in my mind months beforehand. I knew the dates of my daughter's exchange and thought to myself "Oh, I'll just meet her in Europe, and we can do some sightseeing." But I never really sat down and planned it. If I had, I would have gone to Amsterdam before meeting up with my kid. Hello??!! I obviously wasn't thinking. So, no hash smoking or acid dropping or ecstacy taking or mushroom eating on this trip. In fact, nothing illicit at all, dammit!

Instead, after riding all over the city, we rode over to the Rijksmuseum. I loved it, but I could practically see the waves of boredom radiating off of my daughter.

Next on the list of things to see was the Anne Frank House. My daughter was reading the book at the time (she's since finished it in English, and is now reading it in French.) The line to get in was out of control, so we decided to come back later, after dinner.

We rode around some more and did some window shopping.

We had reservations at Kantjil en de Tijger for dinner. It was great. The staff was really cool, and the rijstafel was very good. We couldn't finish the 12 dishes between us, so we packed it up and took it with us.

After dinner, we rode back to the bike shop to turn in our bike.

Next, we took a tram back to the Anne Frank house. It is a really affecting monument to the cruelty of mankind, and the resilience of the human spirit.

We were shooed out at closing time. Since it was after 9:00 by then, I decided we should head back to the hotel. We had an early train to catch to get back to Paris, and (god knows!) I didn't want to miss it.

On the way back to Utrecht, I'd sent Scottie a message telling him I'd be back in Paris the next day. He replied "Aye. Give me a toot when you're back in toon." Cute, right?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006 

Poor Planning

April 15, 2006

Getting to Amsterdam was an ordeal. We checked out of our hotel in Brussels, went to the train station and, since we had "open" tickets, hopped on the first Thalys train heading for Amsterdam. Unfortunately, it didn't work that way. The tickets were good for any regular service train - not the fancy, schmancy Thalys. The ticket checker lady (TCL) was really nice, and said "No problem, just get off at the next stop, and change there." Okay, easy enough, right?

The next stop happened to be Antwerp. TCL advised me to ask the uniformed man on the platform where I needed to go. I made the mistake of asking him in French. Brussels is technically a bilingual city, with all signs being in both French and Flemish (or as Bink called it, "phlegm-ish".) In reality, I only ever heard people speaking French. That was a no-no in Antwerp. He tried to respond in French and then asked me "Do you speak English?" When I said that I do, he said "English is much better for me." I had read in a guide book that north of Brussels this was generally the case, but I guess I'd forgotten. I realized that this was the first time I'd been somewhere where I didn't have at least a rudimentary grasp of the language. It was a strange feeling. I couldn't understand any of the signs or announcements. I didn't like that feeling, I must admit.

Anyway, we made it to the correct platform and got on our train. Man, was it sloooow. It made every conceivable stop. While the original Thalys train had arrived in Amsterdam at 1:45, we got in at 4:30. Good lord.

Since I sometimes tend to be a "flexible" traveller, I didn't have any hotel reservations. Sometimes this works out okay (4 star hotel in Brussels,) sometimes not (spending the night in the train station in La Spezia,) but whatever. It's all an experience. Not a good plan in Amsterdam, though. In the spring. At Easter. We went to tourist info. to find accomodations, and were told that there was no room at the inn - any inn in all of Amsterdam, as a matter of fact. The only thing left were luxury hotels fetching over 200 euros per night. She recommended a place in Rotterdam - about an hour and a half by train. Um, no. I asked about Haarlem, and Jordaan, but nothing was showing up as available. She was finally able to find us a room in Utrecht, a suburb about a half hour outside the city. Not ideal, but available (it actually turned out to be okay because the trains between Utrecht and Amsterdam ran hourly 24h.)

So. We took the train to Utrecht, took a tram to our hotel (the public transportation in Holland is great,) checked in, dropped our bags in the room, and went back to Amsterdam.

We walked around for a while, and then it started to rain. Lovely. We couldn't decide on dinner, so we had take out Indonesian food - which served as a great preview for the next night's dinner.

It was really pouring by 9:00 when we decided to catch our train back to the hotel. Before we left the city, we stopped at the easyInternet cafe where I could check my email (and make a brief post.)

We looked forward to things being better the following day...