We left Amsterdam in a flurry of wind and rain the perfect anticipation for a high speed train rush to Paris. It was only a tease as the train plods along comfortably like a Dutch burger through the flat and featureless countryside.
Getting out of the city is a blessing as the miles roll by you get a real sense of what the Dutch Masters and van Gogh were capturing. It is the sky that dominates. As in Saskatchewan the sky writes the poetry.
Holland in the winter would be a giant studio for the landscape artist. With the sun low in the southern sky for much of the day, the magic light of morning and evening is elongated giving the artist time to capture the subtle play of light on thunderheads, fleeting clouds and wisps of mists. But there is little warmth in this sunlight. the price of painting here could be high as the artist racing against the cold would have to work fast capturing the light before the seemingly ever present rain washes all away and the cold numbed fingers let the brush drop from the hand,
As we roll south the land is flat and without relief; a hill would be a welcome site. Everywhere the canals hold back the water. But they 're cold and without natures sparkle they are only ditches lacking the life of a river or the sea.
Through the low lands the train rolls until finally we reach Brussels where the train inexplicably breaks down in the terminal. There's a practiced scramble for a sister train, apparently this happens often. Once reembarked we slip into France and truly begin to race with the small countries behind us we literally begin to cut through the rolling hills of northern France faster and faster we plummet south trying in vain to catch the days last rays of sun.
Finally as the sun sets we slide into Gare Nord. Off the train we climb down into the darkness of the Metro only to pop up like mushrooms miles away. A short walk and we have reached our hotel. Next to the hotel is a tiny restaurant, small tables covered in pure white linen we crack open the glass pane that separates the magical room from the sidewalk and sit down to a wonderful dinner. Its what you come to Paris for. A perfect first night.