Searching for Pancakes in the Palace

Episode 10 - Amsterdam to Mont St. Michel

Donnie set the alarm for 7:00 because we had to catch a train at 9:26 AM (I will not comment on this, except to point out the fact that we were 5 minutes away from the Central Train station by tram, and the tram stop was 20 steps from our hotel.). Anyway, believe it or not, we made it to the train on time. The train was a high-speed train and we had first-class reserved-seat tickets, thanks to our travel agent. We weren't really sure whether first-class tickets were necessary, but we discovered that they were worthwhile. The seats were roomy, comfortable, with tray tables, AC outlets, and, wonder-of-wonders, there were signs everywhere saying WiFi on-board! Unfortunately we found out that the WiFi was working, but the connection to the Internet was not. They made an announcement apologizing for the technical problem. Ah well. The other advantages of first-class were free coffee, beverages, snacks, and lunch, which, unfortunately consisted of some raw herring that didn't taste very good.

Even though the train was advertised as a high-speed train, there was some obstruction on the line somewhere, so the train had to use the regular track, and so was rather slow for the first couple of hours. Then when we got into Belgium, it starting really moving fast. We ended up only 10 or 15 minutes late into Paris!

The Gare du Nord train station in Paris was a Zoo! Many, many people of all races, nationalities, and styles of dress were rushing in every direction. It took us a while to find and use the toilets, and then find the Hertz counter, where we had a pre-reserved, pre-paid car waiting. We finally found the Hertz counter, and arranged for the car. Unfortunately, since I had no driver's license, Donnie would have to do all the driving. It took us another long time to find the car in the maze of the multi-level underground parking garage, and then to get out of the garage. Finally, brave Donnie exited the garage into Paris traffic! Luckily, the directions given us by the Hertz clerk required that we only go a few blocks to get to the ring road leading to the highway out of Paris, and we managed to do it without hitting any cars, pedestrians or other obstacles, again thanks to Donnie. We didn't even get lost.

The four-hour drive to Le Mont St Michel (we now know from the road signs that it has to be LE Mont St Michel) was relatively uneventful and there was not much traffic. The tolls in France are high, though, and every ten or fifteen miles was a toll area where we had to pay between 5 and 8 dollars. We were getting worried because it was starting to get late. We calculated that we wouldn't arrive until 8:00 PM, and we didn't know how late the hotel would hold the room, or even if they would be open. Some small hotels we have encountered on our trips to Europe in the past, have no desk clerks after a certain hour. We needn't have worried. When we finally arrived there were lots of cars, lots of people, and the hotel clerk said that they have had guests arrive at midnight. We knew, from reading on the web, that there might be a long walk to the hotel, and our room might be up several flights of steps, so we had previously packed just the necessities in a couple of small carry-on bags, so we didn't have to deal with suitcases. This was good planning because our room was at the very top of the hotel, on the 4th floor, which is the 5th floor to Americans. During check-in we were asked if we wanted to have dinner in the hotel restaurant, and, once again worried that other places might not be open, said yes, so they made us a dinner reservation for 9:00 p.m.

It was 8:30 by the time we came down from the room, so we decided to take a short walk up the main winding street that goes in a spiral up the mountain to the Abbey at the top. The street isn't really a street since it is only about 4 feet wide in some places. There are no cars, bicycles, or vehicles of any kind on the island. The street is lined with restaurants, snack bars, and souvenir shops. The last time I was here, over 20 years ago, the tour guide at the Abbey said not to think badly of all the shops down in the street because there have been shops like that selling souvenirs to the pilgrims for over 900 years.

After walking for a few minutes, admiring all the old buildings and taking photos, we turned back and headed to our hotel for dinner. The restaurant was a part of our hotel, and was famous for a special dish unique to Mont St. Michel, which was a very large, very fluffy omelet, prepared in a traditional way, being highly whipped in big copper bowls and then cooked in copper pans with long handles, over an open fire. However neither Donnie or I are big omelet lovers, so we skipped the house specialty. The dinner was very nice, very haute-cuisine, very traditional, and very, very expensive, but we considered it a celebration of our visit to the lovely Mont St. Michel and didn't mind the expense too much.

After dinner, we climbed the many steps to our room and collapsed.