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Posts tagged ‘High-speed rail’

No. 200-204: Stroopwafles, Canals, Tulips, Friets with Mayo & Bucket Lists


I’m going to be a bit cheeky again and add Amsterdam to the list of the things I love about France.

I know the Netherlands is not part of France. I know French isn’t the native tongue (although some residents speak French, along with two or three other languages), and I know I should be spending my last few months in France rather than dipping in and out of other countries. But with the high-speed train network crisscrossing France and the rest of Europe, it’s hard not to take advantage of extremely cheap rail tickets and take a peek at how the non-French live.


After four lively days in Amsterdam and the surrounding areas, I have to say, I’m pretty jazzed about the Dutch and how they run their capital city. First of all, they are so organized, efficient, and clean. Second, they all ride bikes all the time and everywhere. (In fact, there are more bikes in Amsterdam than residents.)


Third, they speak American English. Fourth, stroopwafels hot off the griddle oozing caramel and dipped in chocolate are to die for. Fourth, their canal system and ability to make land where there was only water is remarkable.


Fifth, friets, or “French” fries smothered in Dutch mayonnaise, just may make a heart attack worth having.


But the real reason to travel to Amsterdam in the springtime is the tulips…those flat and insanely brilliant fields of tulips, that seem to go on and on for miles, or kilometers, I suppose. Seeing and smelling these fields of colorful perennials has been on my bucket list since I was a shy 10-year-old girl dreaming about my future beyond the Wild West. I drew the Netherlands from a hat for my fourth grade term paper, “Countries of the World”, and since the moment I discovered the tulip fields in LIFE Magazine in 1974, I have been itching to go.



And now I’ve been, and seen, and smelled, and it was glorious. So I have another thing to love about France. Life in Paris gave me my jumping off point to realize one of my first childhood desires and see it first hand, just as I planned nearly 40 years ago.



No. 178: Bullet Trains


High-speed trains or TGVs are definitely one of the things I love about France.

With Paris as the main hub for the bullet-train network, it makes it very easy to avoid the highways and the airports when traveling around France or Europe. It also makes it very easy to go, go, go and discover new places. The key of course is planning and booking early, although last minute deals can sometimes be had.

Believe it or not, every day an astonishing 450 trains traveling to 230 destinations crisscross the network traveling as fast as 201 mph (322kph)! Nine hundred kilometers from Paris to Marseille in only three hours is ridiculously fast, and ridiculously pleasant. Barcelona is only six hours away and Zurich just four. Plus, with the added bonus of often arriving right in the heart of a city, it always seems like we have an extra day for holidaymaking rather than traveling. Three-day trips are actually three-day tips. Train travel, j’adore.


Meanwhile back at the homestead, I’ve lost track of the various roadblocks the US Congress has thrown in the way of high-speed travel in America, but I sure wish they’d all just get along and get on board and let us get on board, literally. Imagine traveling the 2,500 miles from LA to NYC in a half a day. One can dream…but right now I’m enjoying the high-speed reality in France.

No. 42: London

It may be a bit cheeky to add London to the list of the 365-things-I-love-about-France, but with the ability to jump on a high-speed train and arrive less than 2 ½ hours later smack dab in the middle of the world’s most popular city, it deserves a place on the list.

And if you’re still not convinced that it’s list worthy, consider this French connection: more French people live in London than in Bordeaux, Nantes or Strasbourg. Yep, 400,000 “frogs,” reside in London making it the sixth largest French city in the world!