So much to say. So many feelings and experiences are swirling in my jet-laggy brain. I start to cry spontaneously. Sometimes out of sadness over my return. Sometimes out of happiness for the beautiful weather in Toronto. Sometimes out of fear of my Visa bill. You know what I mean.
What better way to get back in the swing than with a reductive "Best of / Worst of" post! So, here goes...
Best single moment
- Looking at the Seine from the Pont Neuf, during a clear (cold) sunset. The lights from the Eiffel Tower twinkled in the distance. Boats ambled by. Perfect architecture was framed by a perfect sky. I was in the thrall of a timeless experience. Lovers from all ages - famed and faceless - have watched that same sky with the same awe. Sounds stupid, but it was meditative and profound.
- Paris. People, I would never recommend this city for the savoury food. Admittedly, I don't know where to go and I might have had no luck, but I am like a food whisperer. I can generally find it anywhere.
- Paris. Lord, this was awesome. I ate a lot of flan (a very firm creme patissiere) in a beautiful laminated pastry, pie shell crust. I don't know how to describe it, except to say that it was perfection in every respect. Taste (perfectly sweet, not lingering), texture (firm enough to walk with but not too eggy, the crust was never soggy despite the viscous quality of the filling - how did they manage that?!?!), presentation (110%).
- Amsterdam. I don't even like bread and I was stuffing it down as fast as they would bring it...
- Paris - Berthillon, Ile St. Louis
- Gotta give this one to Paris
- Oooh, it's a toss up on this one...
- Also a toss up. Gotta go with Paris. We loved the truly hidden Arene de Lutece (1st century colosseum) in the 5th, and then wandering to the Place de la Contrescarpe (the oldest place in Paris, apparently). While en route we found, by accident, Hemingway's home in Paris - though we had searched for it in vain for days. It was walking excellence.
- Is this even a contest?? Amsterdam, natch.
- Business class on the trip home. OMG - how will I ever travel like the riff-raff again?? BTW, it makes the pain of the end of one's vacation much more bearable. And on KLM, you can upgrade online, 30 hours in advance, if there are any available seats. Note: We did it for an additional $450.00 a ticket and it was so worth it.
- Paris deluge, during which my clothing was plastered to me as if I had emerged from a swim in the ocean. It was dirty, freezing, unremitting and it killed any chance of alternate transportation. Stranded us, at dinner time, for about 2 hours. Don't believe me? Well, watch (Note: Video shot by my husband. This is first hand peeps...):
- Amsterdam. Run, don't walk to this place. One of the top 25 best meals of my life. And a spectacular experience. PS: We walked there from the city centre - took an hour but the walk was fantastically interesting and it really sparked an appetite. Note: You don't choose what you're going to eat - they serve a fixed menu each day - but they do ask if you have any allergies or food-hates. I hate to give up control of my eating experience, but I was in the best hands. Every single morsel of food was sublime.
- Amsterdam - The Dylan. Please peeeps, someone go stay there and post about it.
- Amsterdam has better food than Paris, any day.
- Every single building in Paris is historically relevant. (Only slight exaggeration...)
- Paris Plage - extremely weird inner-city beach concept, especially given the weather we had.
- I really am an adult. I went half way around the world on a fantastic vacation that didn't involve any back packs and it wasn't on my parents' dime.
- We didn't take one taxi in Europe. If we couldn't walk it (and we averaged 10 - 15 miles a day), we cycled, took a bus or tram, or went by subway. Somehow this makes me feel very native.
- Euro washrooms are MUCH better than they used to be - practically all cleaner and less scary than any you'll find in an average TO restaurant. Having said that, avoid having to pee at any cemetery.
- The weather categorically sucked in both cities - 15C and rainy most days. Thank God the shopping was so good! Note that, despite my hatred of rain and gloom, this didn't depress me or limit me in any way. I felt liberated! And I was never too warm - you know how I loathe direct sunlight! Mind you, if you live in Amsterdam, you've got to just suck it up and consign yourself to eternal dampness.
- The French I saw in Paris (and I knew they were, at least French, if not Parisian), were not substantively slimmer than your average urban North American.
- Having said this, leave your vanity-sizing bias at home. Yikes, those clothes fit small.
- Yeah, everything closes in Europe in August, but it's still fantastic. Don't let that stop you if it's the only time of year you can get away. FYI, Paris was much more shut than Amsterdam, for what it's worth...
- This trip has made me realize - fully - how awesome the food is in Toronto (and in Montreal). We really have access to some of the best variety, quality and food ambiance in the world. I would unreservedly recommend either TO or Mtl for restaurants and for vacation.
- It's also made me realize how tremendously awesome our hotels are in Canada. Esp. in Montreal and Quebec City. On this trip, we averaged $300.00 (CDN) a night per room in Europe and went to very respectable places - but they didn't compare to those I've stayed at in Canada. For that amount in Montreal you can get an awesome, sexy room, great bathroom, space, great bed and bedding, really good room amenities, excellent in-room toiletries and delish breakfast. And, while you're there, you'll find a terrific dinner practically anywhere - and you can even feel French, if you like.
- Note: I'm not trying to lead you to believe we roughed it. We were in totally charming (and sometimes sexy) 4-star hotels. Mind you, to stay in Paris like I stay in Montreal would have cost me 800 bucks a night.
- This trip has in no way undercut my love of travel closer to home. It's only enhanced it on its own merits though, naturally, if I could, I'd go back to Europe yearly!
But let's open up the lines here - what was your best and / or worst in Paris or Amsterdam? Share your experience - I want to know!