Monday, July 4, 2011

Euro Road Trip Day 5 - Paris to Amsterdam

My amazing road trip was coming to an end, but there was so much more to look forward to with a weekend in one of the most exciting cities in the world - Amsterdam. Driving from Paris to Amsterdam therefore paled in comparison to the potential of the coming weekend, however it was a lot of fun - especially driving through lesser traveled towns that were, nonetheless, famous during the World Wars. An example of this was Arras, a small town just south of Lens, where 240 French Resistance members were executed by the Gestapo during World War II. Another was Antwerp, which as a major Belgian port, was a strategic control point for both Allied and Axis troops during World War II. Being in the presence of that history was amazing - sometimes better than the sanitized view one gets in museums and history books.

The Van Gogh Museum

Amsterdam itself was a lot of fun - it was my first time in the city proper and I must say, it's a marvel of engineering. In almost any other region of the world (except maybe Canada, Australia and Japan), a city like Amsterdam, located a bit of a ways below sea level, would not exist without some sort of periodic natural disaster overunning it. I'd add the United States to the list, but after Katrina I think it's fair to say that they haven't gotten it right when it comes to shoreline protection.

The famous graachts and houseboats of Amsterdam's inner city -  very walkable and very historic. You may recognize some of these places from movies and books :-)
Houseboats on Prisengraacht

Anne Frank Museum - the lineups start at 8am

Centraal Station - one of the most iconic terminuses in the world

Leidsegraacht - very close to the world famous Leidseplein

Eastern end of Leidseplein - very close to the Pancake House :-)
 Amsterdam was a lot of fun -  its residents epitomize the work hard/play harder maxim. The bicycle-riding gets a bit crazy, but I'd take it over the motorbikes of Paris.
Of course, there's a seedy side to Amsterdam - and one that attracts a certain sort of tourist - but overall it's safe and its many historical sites and museums provide valuable learnings for all ages.

Daily Summary - 520km traveled, 3 countries visited: France, Belgium, Netherlands

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