After school ended in early May we packed up and hit the trains again. (And thanks to our good friend Randall who toted our overweight bag back to the US for us, so we could travel light for the remainder of our adventure.
Our first stop was the city of Amsterdam. My (Matt) father’s close friend and former other half of the Olsen & Hart duo, Dan Hart, and his partner Dirk live right in the heart of the city. Dan and Dirk used to live in NYC, but as Dirk is a native of Holland they relocated there a few years ago. And since then, they have been gracious hosts to the Olsen’s whenever traveling through Europe. My Dad on many occasions, my Mom on her circumnavigation of the globe en route to Nepal, Randi in her early adulthood adventures, and even her now husband Chris on his whirlwind tour of Europe after a school opportunity in Switzerland. So naturally, if Rachael and I were that close to Holland, there was no way we would flirt with faulting tradition. And more so, it is always wonderful to be reunited with friends. And Dan and Dirk are two of the classiest gentlemen I have ever met in my life.
Our first evening was spent having an excellent dinner with the duo that Dirk prepared. It was a treat and a surprised to find out that Dirk is not only a chef, but a published chef as well! We were spoiled every night. We later went out on the town, weaving through shortcuts and along canals to the celebration of Holland’s independence. Waving to the Queen and getting a wave back was a close second to Dirk and Rachael singing “We’ll Meet Again” along with the Orchestra, Holland’s most accomplished opera singers, and at least half of Amsterdam that packed the streets. It was a lot of fun and a great first preview of the city.
On day two we slept in, had a leisurely breakfast, then took the train out to Keukenhof to see the tulip fields. It was a cool, partly sunny, spring day. The flowers were as beautiful as expected and it was just a nice day as newlyweds, wandering the gardens. We took naps on the lawn, navigated mazes, climbed windmills, and kissed. That’s my kind of garden.
On day three we spent some time wandering the city and scoping things out. So, pretty much anything you have heard about Amsterdam is true. It’s all there, and you can find it if you want it. But it was still enjoyable for a couple of BYU grads exploring Europe. What was funny as we got off of the train on the first day was after walking down the street for a mere 30 minutes I turned to Rach and said, “I’ve smelled pot like 3 times already…” Her reply was, “I’ve counted 5.” We got a laugh out of that. Leave it to the Mormons to keep tally… Haha! Anyway, day three we went to the Anne Frank Museum, which was very very well done. It told the story, sent the message, and really captured the brilliance of that little girl. It’s a shame that she was so close to freedom when she was murdered. Fortunately she left the gift of her story. We ended the day with a stop at a really tasty Thai place that we stumbled across while we waited for the She & Him concert to start! Rachael found out they were playing while we were in town, so we made sure we got there. Zoe is just as darling as you would imagine…disgustingly so. It was a great show and the perfect end to our stay in Amsterdam.
Overall, Amsterdam was the perfect way to relax as our first stop after school. Again, a special thank you to Dan and Dirk for being the perfect hosts and always caring for the Olsen clan.
Next stop, Pear-ee!
We left Amsterdam and boarded the high-speed train direct to Paris. Those babies are sweet! The trains in Europe are a great way to travel and I’m really glad that Rachael and I learned how to really travel, early in our marriage. We both hope is serves us well, many times, as the years go on.
So, my expectations were very very low for Paris. Why? I don’t know… I’ve just never been that excited about it. I’ve always spent my time dreaming of the Alps and Paris always seemed like just a place girls fanaticized about because they were groomed to believe it was the most romantic city in the world, or whatever. We’ll I was so impressed with that little town! It is absolutely beautiful…everywhere. At least everywhere we went.
After we dropped off the bags we headed out for Notre Dame. It turns out that the scaling of the map of Paris is much different than for the other cities in Europe we had visited up to that point. Paris is huge! Things are much further away than we (mostly my fault) realized. But after that first long walk in the rain we made it a point to get the hang of the city train system. And we did a dang good job too!
Notre Dame was great. It is a beautiful sight, and the view along the Siene nearby was incredible. After a quick look around Notre Dame we made a stop at Shakespeare & Co. to walk the same steps as the many great authors who had visited over the years. It was a great shop and made me think I should get more into books. After that we wandered the streets until we made it to Café Flore for the best hot chocolate (at 6 Euro a pop!) we had ever tasted. It was like the best chocolate bar in the world being melted right into your mouth. Mind = blown! And since that wasn’t enough we chased it with a crepe and hoped the subway over to the Eiffel tower. The rain persisted, but we had fun wandering and seeing the city and it’s great sights. We didn’t go to the top of the tower since it was dark, cloudy, and we were told it was over rated. It worked for us.
The next morning we went into the heart of the city again for church. It was like a reunion! Between the two of us we knew about 5 or six people. It was so fun! They had a little mix and mingle after the meetings and it was just a blast. After church we hopped the train out to Versailles. Holy cow! Incredibly beautiful and the perfect Sunday afternoon. The palace and the gardens are amazing and it would be offensive to try and describe it any better. Mostly because I’m incapable. The highlight was Rachael and I rowing each other around the pools and just being charmed by the whole experience. Oh, and rowing is harder than I thought. I learned to focus on my hands and not the end of the oars. It helped the coordination, but I’m still weaksauce. We ended our Sunday with a walk up to Sacre Ceour. The tower was closed, but the view from the hill was great. The little neighborhood was charming as well. Well, except for the creepiest and worst mime ever.
On our last day in Paris we just hit the Champs and loved it. First stop was the Arch. This is s perfect 360 view if the city and we dug that whole area. After that we made a critical stop at McDonalds. Being tired, almost broke, and just craving some nuggets we buckled, abandoned Parisian cuisine, and loved it. I swore off McD’s years ago. But man did it hit the spot at the Berlin train station and again that day in Paris.
We then walked the length of the Champs de Elleysee to the Louvre. We felt so lame for being so exhausted by just traveling around these incredible cities in Europe. I mean, tough life, right? But is is tiring! So we only spent a couple of hours there, saw Mona and Venus, sorry David, and made our way on to the favorite falafel place of Lenny Kravitz. It was good!
We loved Paris and need to go back since we really didn’t go a do a lot of things in depth.
Early the next morning we headed out to the airport for our Honeymoon to Greece. Had it not been for a generous old man at the station and another kind younger one on the train we may not have made it. We new there was no room for error in order to catch our flight and they made sure we were on the right train, got off at the right spot, and “navigated” the ticket gate since we bought the wrong ticket. The French get a bad wrap, but it sure isn’t because of these two guys. The best line was from the younger guy… After we found out he was just back in France visiting since he lives in the US, Rachael asked why he came home. His reply? “For love!” With the tone that could only imply that there was no other reason for a man to journey so far… So, there’s your romance. Paris, you never fail us.