As I write this we are zooming across the North of France towards Brussels, then Cologne, where we will change trains for a short jog to Dusseldorf. Along the way, we will make stops at Liege and Achen. If only the U.S. had trains like these. On time, immaculate – and at this moment moving at about 140 m.p.h. Once we cleared the station and the engineer put the hammer down I had the sensation of being shot out of a cannon.
We are speeding through lush, asymmetrical farmlands growing wheat and barley. Long undulating carpets of green are punctuated by luminously bright plots of stunningly vibrant yellow rapeseed, or Colza, which is used to make canola oil and biodiesel. Colza is also a part of the family of plants from which yellow mustard is made. (And no, French’s mustard isn’t French.)
Farms and villages peek over the gently sloping dales where crops grow. Plows and tractors crawl along ribs of freshly broken earth, but occasionally one sees a farmer hoeing by hand in a small plot. Cobblestone houses with terra cotta-tiled roofs cling to winding streets that lead to the bell tower that marks the center of each settlement.
All of my students are good travelers. I asked them to be in the lobby at 6:15 a.m. and they were all in the lobby at 6:15 a.m. Most of them are sleeping in the adjoining passenger compartment. I guess since I am group leader and ordered the tickets, Thalys was nice enough to give me a seat in a “comfort compartment” which I have all to myself. I’m not complaining.
We had a nice group dinner at a trattoria near the hotel last night and it was fun to hear everyone swap tales of their adventures in Paris. It is impossible to see and experience everything Paris has to offer in six days, but no one is leaving feeling that they did not make the best use of every minute. Collectively and in small groups we visited landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Trocadero, the Tower of Vendome, the Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur, Hospital de Invalides, Jardins du Luxembourg, the Paris Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the Louvre, the Monet Museum, The Cinema Museum and Parc Bercy, the Champs du Mars, Versailles, and on and on. Not to mention countless bistros and cafes.
Everyone leaves an expert metro rider – and everyone leaves, I think it is fair to say, exhausted.
Paris est en effet une partie des adultes. . .