through the last part of the hike through Cinque Terre. (Shai did the
toughest two legs before I even had breakfast!)
Message to Olga and her Enormous Basil Plant: Let's recreate this in
Rise and shine at Amsterdam hotel at 6:45 a.m. like a zombie.
Walk to tram station around corner. (Free)
Take tram line 2 to central train station (2,60 euro).
Take train to Amsterdam airport (4,30 euro)
Arrive at airport. Learn that my flight for 9:30 has been delayed an
Wish madly to have that hour of sleep back.
Have bad coffee and a sausage pastry instead.
Learn my lone backpack is too big for the EasyJet requirements. Cough
up an extra 22 euros. Sigh.
Wait at gate. Watch people board with huge carryons and multiple bags.
Curse the honesty fee paid earlier.
Finally depart Milan for the sky after 11a.m.
Land in Milan. Walk through a crazy ramshackle maze of ramps, moving
Hear an alarm and banging going on by the elevator. Try to help
trapped passengers. Fail.
Reclaim backpack. Decide only to travel on British Airways from now
until my death.
Take bus from Milan's airport to Milan's train station (7 euro and 45
Take train to Levanto (18,50 euro). It departs at 16:00 from Milan to
supppsedly arrive in Levanto a few minutes before 19:00.
Stare out the window at pastel buildings and lush hills and graffiti
Arrive at Levanto at 19:19. Look for next train to Cornelia. It comes
Rush to buy ticket for 1,70 euro.
Wait 15 more minutes for train.
Get off at Cornelia at 19:45-ish. The choices are to walk 300-some
steps straight up or wait for the bus, which stops running at 20:00.
Catch the last bus. (1,50)
Find the hostel, a beautiful, spotless, simple hostel with bunkbeds
and clean bathrooms.
Walk around the corner and eat pasta while overlooking the Mediterrean
Sea as the sun fades into dusky pink.
Maybe I'll never leave.
This is a shot of the waters north of the city. The large slanted
building is Nemo, spelled out letter by letter in four flags, the
Our guide mischievously pointed out that he likes it when the wind
blows from the west, and the flags spell OMEN.
This picture was taken as we neared an extremely low bridge. To our
delight (the 8 or 10 visitors aboard) and the guide's amusement, we
all got down on our knees to duck and laugh.
After we got through the bridge, he announced that there was nothing
remotely interesting on the other side and that we would need to
immediately turn around and go back the way we came. :-)
Near Mike's Bikes, where we hopped on a city tour, is Pompadour, a
chocolate and pastry shop. We'd passed it a few times, shuttered,
until catching it open.
Shiloh ordered a hot chocolate, a deep, rich, warm creation with a
mini almond poundcake-ish treat.
I picked out three chocolates: an orange, an espresso, and an almond
Total: just under 5 euros.
You learn quickly to be flexible.
After two veggie-friendly restaurants didn't work out last night
(Green Planet had closed, despite all the rave reviews we read; the
one we were steered to next told us glumly, "We're out of food!"), we
ended up at The Pancake Bakery, near the Anne Frank House.
Pancakes seem very popular here, and (like crepes in France) come in
the sweet or savory variety.
I ordered a bacon, cheese, onion pancake, which literally flopped off
the edges of the plate.
It was crispy on the edges and built like a pancake I had in San
Francisco once - two fine layers with toppings hidden in the middle.
The bacon was so salty (seems to be an Amsterdam theme) and the cheese
Shiloh got the apple and cheese pancake, which looked pretty similar
from the outside: "The salty fried cheese was the best."
I wasn't so sure about the combination listed on the menu, but it was
great! The whole wheat bagel was fresh, dense, flavorful. Nice smooth
mustard and delicious Dutch cheese, hard and strong and yummy. And
I feel like I'm seeing the bagel sandwich in a whole new light.
(Around 4 euros at Bagels & Beans, btw.)
I love how salads are all different combinations in different countries.
Crispy, sugary, almost crackling on the outside. Warm and buttery and
doughy inside. Mmmmmm.
I took the metro to the central station area (i.e. Tourist Centrale)
and found a cafe (La Chaloupe d'Or) on the Grand Place, a beautiful,
elegant square that's empty except for an occasional cluster of
I snagged the table right by the fire (yes, a fire in July, but it's
perfect today) and ordered a coffee. I'm beginning to understand the
addiction to this liquid gold. It warms me through and makes my body
both relax deliciously and feel attuned to the day ahead. Like a
wonderfully hot and refreshing morning shower for my mind.
Later: free tour at the EU headquarters, the BELvue history museum,
and world-class beer!
(Where are the mussels?? In the salad, silly!)
Oh, and so far the fries, while crispy and tasty, are not wildly
better than the best in the States. Just in case you were wondering. :-)
The windows are decorated with luscious fruits, intricate patterns of
colorful treats, arrangements of individual chocolates of all types.
The pralines are the local specialty; I had one last night which
tasted much like a Lindt truffle but richer and with a hint of liquor.
A window at one of several Godiva shops:
At Panos, what looked to be a chain, a "Couque Swiss" - a pudding-
filled pastry with raisins and a very sugary icing. For 90 cents.
I also caught two high school bands playing concerts by a stage shaded
by scattered trees. A least one seemed to be from the U.S. They played
"Saints Go Marching In," among others.
It was, though, a little disconcerting to hear strains of "A Whole New
World" from Disney's "Aladdin"!
First, this is a horrid photo. But perhaps it will give you some vague semblance of how huge Monet's series of "Waterlilies" is at Musee d'Orangerie. There are eight, in two massive rooms designed specifically for them with oval skylights that let beautiful rays in. I had no idea they were so large, many, many feet long and many feet high. And they really do give you a lovely sense of being by a lake, with dropping trees, with flowers floating by ...
My friend Trisha and I dove into veggie land at a charming little spot in Montmartre. One woman juggled both the kitchen duties and the six tables. I was impressed.
My vast dinner plate (12 euros) included carrots, cabbage, lettuce, tomato and onion salad, beans, rice, goat cheese, bread. Tasty and different from the typical baguette and brie situation.
What do they taste like?
Hmm. Well, these weren't the ideal specimens, as they were drowned in pesto. Sort of squishy and salty and succulant, like mussels. Goooood.
Also, they come with a device to hold the shell still while you pluck out the inside with a teeny fork. It looks like a torture device for scooping out eyeballs.
I know, pleasant images all around!