Just a Moment

Posted: Nov 18, 2003 10:03:53 AM

One of the dilemmas of writing these reports is exactly how much or how little to tell about the various museums, ruins, historical sites, and other points of interest that I run into on the way. I'm sure an endless list of museums (and I have been going to one a day on average) would be quite dry, and yet I can't always have weird personal experiences to relate, because sometimes nothing of interest happens in that direction.

For example, I could begin with a basic description of the path I have taken over the last week: exploring Zurich and Liechtenstein, then the overnight train to Koln, a day-trip over to Aachen to pay my respects to Charlemagne (well, they wouldn't let you close enough to actually dance on his grave), then on to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam to Brussels, on to Bruges, back to Brussels (by the way, having now tried both Belgian and Swiss chocolate, I can say that Swiss chocolate wins the contest hands-down), across to Luxembourg, from there to Paris, from Paris immediately a day-trip to Bayeux, then back to Paris, where I am now.

If that was boring to read, imagine how I've felt after all these train journeys. 'Don Quixote', which I began reading in Turkey, is almost done. This is not to say that the visits themselves were boring - far from it - but it's never non-stop excitement and wild times.

Probably my favourite points are the Moments. Specifically, those times when everything comes together and you have a point of silent awe, at the fact that you are in Europe, and that everything is so amazing. Today I'm going to write about some of those moments.

Amsterdam had a very profound and moving moment to its name, and that was of course walking through Anne Frank's house, where she and her family and some others hid from the Nazis for two years in a secret annex behind a bookcase. The diaries themselves are in the house; innocent little workbooks, one with a cushioned plaid cover, it was their simplicity more than anything else that touched me. In the midst of the otherwise seedy city (well, my hostel bordered on the red-light district, and a pick-pocket tried to trip me up in the square where the first dam was erected), it was a Moment. I bought a copy of the diaries in the bookshop, and the next day read the entire thing in one sitting.

Bruges is a town in western Belgium that is famous as a relic of medieval architecture. Everywhere was stunningly beautiful, with antiquated brick buildings lining every street, but the Moment didn't come until I wandered through what was in the thirteenth century a commune of female religious mystics. It's called the Begijnhof, and as I entered I saw an aged Benedictine nun, stooped over until she was almost at right angles to herself, hobble across the central square. I've seen plenty of nuns, especially in Italy and (obviously) Rome, but there was something about the perfect serenity on her face that was quite a Moment.

Luxembourg did not impress me at first. The city is perched on top of a number of hills or promontories, with huge arched bridges passing between each peak. All of the 'poor' areas of town are in the valleys (as was the hostel, surprise surprise), millennium-old fortifications between them and the summit, much like the demarcation described in the opening pages of 'Titus Groan' (for those few of you who have read that book). I foolishly kept to the upper city for most of my time in the Grand Duchy, and it wasn't until the last afternoon that I descended into a park in the largest valley. Of course, it was there that I hit another Moment. It was completely deserted, wet from rainfall, covered in fallen leaves, and like the middle of the country. Two hundred metres above, medieval ruins and a metropolitan city. Below, isolation and peace.


Paris, of course, will always inspire Moments. I wandered into the Place de la Concorde yesterday (where they executed lots of people), turned around, and there was the Champs-Elysees (pictured). Turn around again, and there was the Arc de Triomphe. Turn around, and there was the Jardin des Tuileries (the garden in front of the Louvre). Look up, and there, at last, is the Tour Eiffel. I could only stand and gawp for about ten minutes.

Yet another moment later in the day, after I sped to Bayeux. It was the best day for a day-trip, because my rail pass was valid until midnight, and I had only used up the morning getting from Luxembourg to Paris. But it was also a risk, as the only train for Bayeux left at 3pm, and I didn't know whether the museum would still be open when I got there. But go I did, and arrived at the door to the museum at 5:16pm, only to discover that the museum closed at 6, and that last admissions were 45 minutes before closing. You do the math. Fortunately, their clocks must have been off, so I was allowed in, and because it was so late, for several moments I was the only person in the horseshoe-shaped room with the tapestry. Wow. The Moment came when I closely examined the stitching of Halley's Comet (a famous part of the tapestry), and noticed that some of the threads were made of two colours of wool, masterfully twined from one hue to another. Incredible, and something you'd never notice until you're right in front of it.

So now I'm back in Paris, hoping that a few more Moments will come by; now I'm heading off to the Musee des Arts et Metiers, which will be familiar to anyone who has read Umberto Eco's 'Foucault's Pendulum'. Later, I will look into doing something quite absurd and different. No idea if I can get a place at such short notice, but consider the following: Paris on Wheels. Should be quite a moment.


FraZ   Nov 18, 2003 11:13:14 AM

i have'tn read it yet

Peter   Nov 18, 2003 11:52:00 AM

And another nice report from the master himself...
Of course there where no quiet moments in Vienna, since I was babbling all the time. And if I didn't, my parents would fill the gap... ;)

Captain Roberto T. Fruitbat   Nov 18, 2003 12:31:31 PM

Aaarrrggghhh - the segway !!!!! AAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!

Ok, long story. Anyway, if you have the time and are in the neighborhood, ride the turbo-sidewalk at Gare Montparnasse. It connects the train station with the Metro station and it´s way cool.

Mal   Nov 18, 2003 5:34:41 PM

"No idea if I can get a place at such short notice, but consider the following: Paris on Wheels."

<green three eyed alien form>

<return to normal>

Damon   Nov 18, 2003 6:20:15 PM

Heehee - I have officially, and of Thursday, got wheels.

Captain Roberto T. Fruitbat   Nov 18, 2003 6:59:54 PM


I´m going to go back to Paris, find that moron from the tourist information and show him how much it hurts when a Segway that´s stuck up your nose has to be surgically removed.

Siobhan   Nov 18, 2003 9:09:18 PM

Segway watch! Hee, I'll have to tell Rooklius.

strangeshe   Nov 18, 2003 10:24:26 PM

*L* What a way to see Paris!

And I've really enjoyed reading your reports, Damon, even though I don't always comment. This latest, though.... wow. I can only imagine those Moments. What a wonderful trip it's been. :)

*nudges Siobhan*
Revealed at last, eh? You shouldn't worry so much. A lovely and interesting name. :)

Agnes   Nov 18, 2003 10:41:28 PM

Hi, Damon. So many more interesting reports have been added since the last time I came here ;)
Even though I've forgotten the details of Anne Frank's diary (read it when I was in high school), I do have to say that some of her little thoughts amaze me. And that book is also a good source for history study. Diary from this poor little girl can be more prescious than some big articles by some "scholars".
Michael and I are going flatting soon, we will welcome you to go to our place sometime when you come back :)
Enjoy your exciting journey!

FraZ   Nov 18, 2003 11:07:47 PM

Hang on , did you get to ride on a segway, one of thoues, realy cool thingys, with the wheels & the lean foward & back?, classy

mother of pearl   Nov 18, 2003 11:41:07 PM

may I gracelessly remark how, err, stupid that looks with the helmets and reflecting vests? But still, I guess it must've been fun. Oh, the event of having become a sight oneself ;P

I can sooo imagine you riding on one of those thigns with a big fat grin on your face. Okay, self-projection there.
I'm all for the moments. Moments soothe my purse. They remind me why it was worth it to spend all that precioussss money .)

Charlotte   Nov 19, 2003 1:23:28 AM

He said Thursday, so I don't think he's done the Sedway thing yet. Nice to see you doing some cheesy things Damon!

I've had Moments here too: Japan is such a busy place, even in the countryside like Matsuyama, and with work it's easy to forget that I'm in a country with a history many times longer than NZ. And then turning a corner I'll come across something that I could never see back home and I'll stop and think 'wow, I'm in Japan'.

Of course that hasn't stopped me thinking 'mmm, Melting Moments' everytime I read "Moments". *grin*

Siobhan   Nov 19, 2003 1:30:22 AM

The vests and helmets are dopey. Maybe we can get everyone to sing the Safety Dance.

Charlotte   Nov 19, 2003 3:49:41 AM

Oooo, yay! A singalong! Just what this website needs. How does the Safety Song go? *clears throat in preparation*

Charlotte   Nov 19, 2003 3:50:31 AM

Oops! Safety Dance! That's even better, because I don't sing particularly melodiously.

Damon   Nov 19, 2003 6:26:38 PM

Goodness, you go away for a day and everyone messes up the place *smile*

Why is the Fruitbat not a Segway fan? It's good to see StrangeShe and Agnes back again, too; I miss y'all, even though I don't always comment on absences. Certainly my Palmerston North friends have been quieter than th'others *shrug*

Great to hear about you moving out, btw, Agnes; I too will be entering a new flat almost immediately upon returning home (i.e. before the end of the year, everything working out), so it's all good.

The vests are fortunately only for the night runs, which I won't be doing, but the helmets look supremely dopey. Oh well, I expect riding on a Segway in the middle of Paris will look fairly dopey anyway, so one thing more won't make a huge difference.

Also: Mother of Pearl? I'm having trouble keeping track of the pseudonyms (although I remembered who Mr. Gump was about two hours after asking in earnest).

Peter   Nov 19, 2003 6:32:20 PM

As mentioned somewhere above: Mother of Pearl = lian

Most people seem to be quiet, just because us Smarchers are so good at spamming the board.

Errr... posting nice, friendly comments...

Peter   Nov 19, 2003 6:33:17 PM

Okay, so I'm here just a couple of minutes after Damon posted...

(yeah, I should know that, since this board is running on my time zone...)

Damon   Nov 19, 2003 6:34:15 PM

Shouldn't you be having dinner or something? I'm sure it's not healthy to be online at this time of the day. Er, not that I am or anything.

Captain Roberto T. Fruitbat   Nov 19, 2003 6:42:25 PM

I wanted to ride a Segway when I was in Paris. Unfortunately I didn´t have all the details. Ok, I had no details except a vague description from my mother about that thingy she´d seen on TV that you can rent and after asking a bunch of carefully phrased questions, I was able to deduce she was talking about a Segway but as usual had not really paid attention to anything but had only glimpsed it for about two seconds.
Then I did the logical thing. Like a good tourist I went to the tourist information in Paris and talked to some helpful person. I described a Segway to him, I spelled it for him, I made him a drawing - all to no avail. So no Segway for me. At least when I watch TV, I pay attention and so I was able to find the turbo-sidewalk. That was fun but the Segway now has to wait until lucky number 13.

Damon   Nov 19, 2003 6:49:04 PM

You're going back to Paris again? Cool. And I took the turbo-sidewalk today - it was most excellent fun! I only found out about the Segway tour because I found a pamphlet in the hostel (which is the same one you were staying at, by the way - thanks for the recommendation!).

Damon   Nov 19, 2003 6:50:44 PM

Also: I found the complete Buster Keaton Shorts DVD. Mmmm... shorts.

Captain Roberto T. Fruitbat   Nov 19, 2003 7:03:41 PM

Oh boy, more stuff for you to carry. :)

No Segway pamphlets at the hotel we were staying at unfortunately but there will definitely be more visits to Paris. Even after 12 times, there´s still lots of stuff left to see - and Segways to ride of course.

Which hostel exactly are you staying at, Fourcy, Fauconnier or Maubuisson?

Damon   Nov 19, 2003 7:04:47 PM

Also (last one, I promise!), why didn't you type "Segway, Paris" into Google? The site pops right up.

Damon   Nov 19, 2003 7:08:02 PM

Maubuisson, of course. It'll all be in the next report (which may be as early as tomorrow evening, there has been so much to see and do here!).

Captain Roberto T. Fruitbat   Nov 19, 2003 7:16:15 PM

I would have searched for it had I still been in Berlin when I heard about it. As it was, I was already at my mothers place, one day before we were about to leave and simply didn´t get around to it. Ah well, there´s always next time. In the meantime, I´ll just cling to my turbo-sidewalk memories to tide me over. :)

Damon   Nov 19, 2003 7:18:54 PM

They do have the Internet in Paris, y'know...

Ah, never mind. You go to Paris often enough that it doesn't make a difference which time you get Segwaylaid.

Captain Roberto T. Fruitbat   Nov 19, 2003 7:50:57 PM

It was too hot to surf the net in Paris, hehe.

How was the Pendulum? Did you go to 145, Rue Lafayette too?

Shads   Nov 20, 2003 12:22:23 AM

I had a few "Wow, I'm in Australia." moments when I got home. :)

*Will not ride a Segway* *looks silly enough without such props*

Siobhan   Nov 20, 2003 12:28:14 AM

Aw, you told Rooklius before I could. You're no fun. I hope we'll at least get a smooth generic picture of some segways for the next report.

Binky   Nov 20, 2003 2:09:12 AM

I had a major case of OMG I'm in the northern hemisphere when I first got to Germany (for some reason, I didn't really count Hong Kong), then it faded a little, to rise again with a bang in Paris. It was the Pont Neuf and the huge number of little Gavroches running round with hands out and worldly expressions that got me there.

Back in NZ, I was hit by the number of kiwi accents on the train, and the intense blueness of the spring light.

FraZ   Nov 20, 2003 5:03:34 AM

hee hee my friend was on a bus on her way from wellingtion to Palmerston north & she had an Irish back-packer sit next to her, he said some realy funny stuff. like that god gave the irish guinness so that they didnt take over the world, he thne went on to say that if they did take over the world they wouldnt knwo what to do with it......... dont ya love it.

Damon   Nov 20, 2003 6:24:44 PM

I've run into one or two Irish backpackers. Um, yeah. And I have been having nothing but "oh, cool!" moments here in Paris, which should hopefully all be in the next report (not today, by the way; another day or two, probably). Oh, and Segways are cool *grin*

Charlotte   Nov 21, 2003 12:32:15 AM

I've just checked out the news: it's a good thing that you changed your trip around so that Turkey was at the beginning. Would have been an anxious wait for everyone otherwise, hoping that you were safe and not caught up in any bomb blasts!

I hope you have Sedway pics!

Siobhan   Nov 21, 2003 1:07:40 AM

SEGway SEGway SEGway. Urgh, if you say it too many times, it doesn't sound like a real word anymore. Which it's technically not. I'll shut up now.

David   Nov 21, 2003 3:26:22 AM

There's no news from NZ because we're all mourning coming in third at the Rugby world Cup. C4 'celebrated' with Top 10: Most depressing videos of all time.

Also, Survivors started.

And the coffee holder fell out of my computer, but it's better now.

I'll shut up now.

Nick   Nov 21, 2003 6:20:43 AM

Things to watch on foreign TV.
Michael Jackson Arrested
Bombing in Turkey
All Blacks get third place, coach sacked cause were bad losers

Glad to hear about the chocolate and that your hale and hearty. Didn't get invited to the Queens dinner with president Bush ?, Stop the press !!! Hailey Westinra(?) was there.....is she English now ?

dragondawn   Nov 21, 2003 8:17:11 AM

i miss paris. was there for oh, 4 mos in spring '90. i wish i had some cool little places to tell you about, but i don't - i was 20 yrs old and had far more time for drinking. the things i wished i'd seen are the catacombs, the clothing museum, and the Rodin sculpture museum.

i do remember college students from the Arts & Metiers school wearing silver pendants shaped like a carpenter's square, and being told it was to identify them when they were drunk face-down in the gutter....not that that has any relevance to you and your trip. *grin*

have fun!!!

Charlotte   Nov 21, 2003 10:15:53 AM

@Siobhan *snicker* Since when did you become the typo police? Emancipation from all oppressive spelling despots, I say! Let the artists of alternative spellings be free to express their creativity: school, university and message board wide! SEDway, SEDway, SEDway!

*surreptitiously checks for typos* Nope, none! No spam, either! *grins and runs*

Siobhan   Nov 21, 2003 10:58:03 AM

@Charetto: That was my chanting voice, not my correction voice. Nya!

Hee, check this out: http://www.arca.net/uffizi/

Sahi   Nov 21, 2003 6:33:52 PM

*peeks in here to see if other smarcher had trouble with smarch*

Peter   Nov 21, 2003 7:51:27 PM

Yep, it's unavailable right now. Really dead this time, not just quiet... :)
*pokes Smarch server*

Peter   Nov 21, 2003 7:52:11 PM

Being friendly never works with computers...
*kicks server*

Doesn't make the server work, but it *does* make you feel better ;)

Sahi   Nov 21, 2003 8:52:14 PM

I've sent an e-mail to support about it, although it might not reach them if the server is down (unless they don't use the same server for mail of course).

Charlotte   Nov 22, 2003 12:58:09 AM

For all those who don't know, the Smarch server motherboard is burnt toast. Smarch won't be up and running for a couple of days .

strangeshe   Nov 22, 2003 2:19:44 AM

Thanks for the info! I hadn't heard :)
Oh, and...


There. Much better.

Well, at least we can stalk ParaDamon over here, then. ;)

Peter   Nov 22, 2003 11:37:08 AM

Thanks for the info Charlotte!
How did you get that info btw?

Charlotte   Nov 22, 2003 11:56:28 AM

@Peter: I know where to look.... *tries for mysterious*

Actually, when there's a prob with Smarch, I often pop over to Guthwulf's site to see if the Smarchers there know anything about it. Matt posted info there advising that the Smarch server was observed to have smoke issuing from it and that it would be a few days before things were sorted.

Peter   Nov 22, 2003 2:15:07 PM

See, I never visit Guthwulf's site, so I'm not in the know... :)

AJ   Dec 3, 2003 1:58:37 PM

Hi Damon - I've fallen behind in reading your trip reports again :)

I loved Paris, and your moments reminded me of my seeing the sites for the first time. Like you I was amazed at the detail that is in the Bayeux tapestry to...ah, well maybe I'll get there again one day!

fangler   Dec 13, 2003 12:04:58 AM

i spent two nights in bayeux. worked in the hostel to pay my way. got drunk in a park with a 15 year old girl and learned what chukking is. Never saw the tapestry. didn't know it was there. but i'll never forget bayeux. :)

Enjoying your reports immensely. almost caught up to you getting home. :)

Damon   Dec 23, 2003 7:55:19 PM

*laugh* well, you sure missed out then. *grin*

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