A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: NT01

Tickets of the Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam rail system


View Nolan's Eleven Heaven meetups & Meet my TravBuddy friends - Rhea (rheagirl) & Meet my TravBuddy friends - Cathy (cookiecandy22) on NT01's travel map.

large_1840343_14290613031848.jpgIn Paris [Paris-travel-guide-471458] you will likely use the Metro the most. It's underground and runs on rubber tires so it's not as screeching noisy compared to trains with metal wheels. I am wasn't able to research much about the Mobilis or a Paris Visite pass hence we would always purchase our tickets from the vending machine. Besides, we planned to walk much of Paris so we chose a centrally located hotel not far from Notre Dame and the banks of the Seine.

The vending machines have gone digital and touchscreen since the late 1990s but they still issue a paper ticket stub that has a magnetic strip. Credit cards are already accepted but that would be risky, not to mention expensive if your credit card charges fees for international transactions.

In other countries, tickets are fancier. I especially liked the SCNF tickets which could be booked online and printed - or better yet, downloaded and stored to the Passbook of my iPhone. However the train conductors would be more interested in stamping/scanning the paper ticket than scanning the VR code on my iPhone. In any case, I always keep a copy digitally and on paper. It is just a bit of a hassle keeping paper dry and stored properly in one's backpack - unlike the phone which is usually readily available within seconds.

Overall, the train system is quite efficient and I would continue to use this transport mode as my first choice when traveling within Europe.

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Posted by NT01 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

Back to Paris and in a seedy part of town


View Nolan's Eleven Heaven meetups & Meet my TravBuddy friends - Rhea (rheagirl) & Meet my TravBuddy friends - Cathy (cookiecandy22) on NT01's travel map.

large_1840343_14340760184071.jpgDRAFT

We took the Thalys departing about 11AM from Amsterdam Centraal station heading towards Paris Gare du Nord. The trip took about three hours, way farther than the three hours it took from Brussels to Amsterdam. Upon arriving at the station, I had to gather my bearings to ensure that we were able to get to the hotel with as minimal hassle, considering we had our heavy luggage in tow.

We were warned by a few friends about hanging out in the Gare du Nord area. This is because late at night and into the early morning, the place fills up with drunks and all sorts of questionable people. While I had an idea of the hotel location, I didn't realize it was that far to walk (more than 20 minutes). As it was along a side street, we had to go around at one point because taking the main road and coming down from the north would take another 10 minutes or more.large_1840343_1434076013857.jpg In the end, we missed it because of the confusion associated with finding a small street with hardly any directions because it is so low key.

The place was disappointing. Even if it would have cost the equivalent of 90 EUR, it is a big letdown. I'd rather pay an additional 30 EUR just to be at the Best Western ducs du Bourgogne where it is a five minute walk to the RER B station which is the fastest way back to the airport. But since we got it free, I guess we could tolerate one night for savings of over 120 EUR. That was one of those nights where you couldn't really relish the thought of sleeping in a bed whose covers were dirty and stained.

So we headed out right away to maximize our time away from the hotel. We started walking towardsMontmarte and Sacre Coeur, since we wanted to try to attend the 6PM mass there.large_1840343_14340760044776.jpg Along the path where we walked, there were lots of immigrants and idle people hanging out in the roads near Sacre Coeur. We were hungry at some point so we entered a boulangerie where aFrenchman advised us to be careful with our stuff in this area. He was very friendly and spoke good English, but he was also concerned for our well-being. He even accompanied us for a few hundred meters walk until it was his turn to move on to his destination. Prior leaving, he reiterated what Metro Line (blue) and Station we were to take on our way back (Barbes Rochechouart).

The hike up Sacre Couer was interesting, especially for taking photos. There were quite a lot of people so you generally feel a bit safe for your person.large_1840343_14340760101376.jpg However, you still have to be extra cautious about your pockets since petty crime abounds in that area. We made our way to the inside of the church, and saw one of the most magnificent interiors of any church you will find in the world. Truly it would be a unique experience to attend mass here.

However, we decided against going to the 6PM mass in Sacre Coeur because of various advice from Parisians, not to mention it would be dark by then. Sowe went back to the place we were most familiar with - Notre Dame for the 6PM mass, which happened to be celebrated by the ArchBishop of Paris. The place was so solemn and the chime of the church organ was overwhelming. After mass we had dinner and walked back to Best Western ducs du Bourgogne as we left our largest piece of luggage there before the trip to Belgium.large_1840343_14340759858907.jpg Thibault wasn't around anymore, but we had no problems in claiming our bag and then we went back to the Metro Station at Chatelet, headed back toBarbes Rochechouart.

I made a separate review about Hotel Merryl but the bottomline is that it is not meant for vacationers - it seemed more suited to students and people doing business in the Gare du Nord area. In the morning we made arrangements for a van pickup at 7AM, of which the receptionist was bugging us as early as 630AM without offering to help with the luggage going down a ultra small elevator that could barely fit an individual and a single piece of luggage!

It wasn't a great end to a great vacation - we could have enjoyed it further had we decided to stay at the Best Western. Lesson learned - next time, don't make a lousy hotel spoil the rest of your trip - best to avoid it so I don't need to write and blog about it here. But definitely something to keep in mind the next time we visit Paris or another city in Europe.

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Posted by NT01 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

TravBuddy meetup in Amsterdam despite the snow and canceled


View Nolan's Eleven Heaven meetups & Meet my TravBuddy friends - Rhea (rheagirl) & France, Belgium and Netherlands 2015 & Meet my TravBuddy friends - Cathy (cookiecandy22) on NT01's travel map.

large_1840343_14234453518025.jpgPrior the day of the TravBuddy meetup in Amsterdam [Amsterdam-travel-guide-1125002], Keiko (Keikocreative) messaged us to wear extra warm clothing and non-slip shoes because the weather forecast called for snow and rain. True enough, early in the morning before dawn we heard weird sounds on the roof of the building nearby - which indeed was rain followed by snow. But not the nice powdery snow - this was the wet kind, which made the ground slippery to walk on. Later in the morning Keiko messaged me via WhatsApp that she was already at Leiden [Leiden-travel-guide-1127945] train station but the train rides were canceled or delayed. Hmmmm.large_1840343_14234453517731.jpg ..the worst case scenario was happening (and Keiko was dead serious that even a little snow can caused trains to not leave the stations)...one by one, she started messaging me about the people who likely couldn't go (Huib, then Mikiko who was waiting for her train, then Ineke, and so on. This was at 10:26 AM and she was told a train would be leaving within the next minute (but there was no train in sight). Anyway, at 10:35 AM she messages me that she is already inside the train, so it's just a matter of waiting for her to arrive. In all the confusion I miss out sending an update to Vickie who patiently made her way to our hotel at the agreed upon time, good thing we were ready and came down to meet her at the lobby.

As we were looking at half the size from the original 12 or so attendees, Keiko asked me for the number of the restaurant where we were taking lunch.large_1840343_14234453506150.jpg Due to some technical issues she decided it would be better to call from my hotel instead, since we agreed that we will inform the restaurant that we are still planning to go, although not as many as originally confirmed. A little past 11AM Ils (Ils1976) shows up at the hotel lobby and completely surprises me, I didn't expect her train to continue from Belgium all the way to Amsterdam (thanks Ils, for taking the train as early as 5AM otherwise you would have missed out the meetup). Finally Keiko arrives with Mikiko (ms_travelr) and we had a quorum (six persons, hungry for lunch). So she calls the restaurant and confirms our reservation but later than the original time.

We walk around the canals, passing through the red light district and Chinatown before reachingRestaurant Café In de Waag Amsterdam [http:/www.indewaag.nl/en/], which is house in the Weigh House (Waag) that was originally built in 1488.large_1840343_14234441418203.jpgwhile listening to Huib's story of the Skinny Bridge (Magere Brug)On the way Keiko narrates the story about the old church (Oude Kerk), and we decide to take a look and a few photos before going to the restaurant.

It was a great place and we were seated in the middle since we needed only one long table. After a few minutes Tineke (ik-ben-10eke) arrives, so that made seven of us. And just as we were about to leave, they decide on a final round of coffee and tea, which gives Huib (huibdos) enough time to arrive before we would have completely missed us. Huib was able to get a ride on the ride and armed only with the knowledge of how the building looked, walked in and was pleasantly surprised to see us there. And then there were 8 of us, ready for a walking tour courtesy of Keiko, in addition to Tineke.

Even before we could go far, we stumbled upon an open air market set for the day.large_1840343_14234441517385.jpgmore clogs!We found lots of interesting stuff but I couldn't resist tasting the cheese, and ended up buying three varieties (forgot what they were called but definitely tasted great). Then Huib introduced us to Dutch waffle cookies (Stroopwafel), which I enjoyed and later on bought a bag of at the train station before we returned to Paris (we got to bring some all the way back to Manila a couple of days later).

In the end, we were able to cover many places including the Skinny Bridge (Magere Brug), Stopera (combination of a town hall and opera house), flower market, a diamond shop, not to mention numerous cheese stores. Before we went into the diamond store Huib had to say goodbye as he had to catch his train back to Heerewaarden. And before dinner it was Tineke's turn to say goodbye as she had to be home early as well.large_1840343_14234453561710.jpg We had dinner at Humphrey's which was right beside my hotel (actually it was the deciding factor on choosing my hotel). Eef (eefab) joined us for dinner which was a sumptuous three course meal (expensive but quite an experience). As the restaurant had two serving times (we chose the 530PM schedule), we finished dinner early and had time to walk around town before moving to a Cuban bar that Mikiko had recommended. As the bar was near Cafe de Waag, we had to pass by the red light district (De Wallen) again - this time, the ladies were out displaying there wares and there were lots of male tourists gawking at them :p We were joined by a couple of TravBuddies towards the end and we called it a day and walked Vickie back to her hostel, before we brought Keiko and Mikiko to the Amsterdam Centraal station for their train rides back home (good thing the weather had cleared up and the trains were running again). Then it was Ils turn at her hotel (only about 100 meters from our hotel), before we finally called it a day. Great meetup, many thanks to Keiko who patiently organized the meetup and introducing me to far more TravBuddies I would have met if I did it on my own.

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Posted by NT01 17:00 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

France, Belgium and Netherlands 2015 - Zaandam Photos


View Nolan's Eleven Heaven meetups & Meet my TravBuddy friends - Rhea (rheagirl) & France, Belgium and Netherlands 2015 & Meet my TravBuddy friends - Cathy (cookiecandy22) on NT01's travel map.

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Posted by NT01 17:00 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

France, Belgium and Netherlands 2015 - Amsterdam Photos


View Nolan's Eleven Heaven meetups & Meet my TravBuddy friends - Rhea (rheagirl) & France, Belgium and Netherlands 2015 & Meet my TravBuddy friends - Cathy (cookiecandy22) on NT01's travel map.

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Posted by NT01 17:00 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

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