Waking up early at 5am in the morning is not something that I do quite often while working, least of all while on holiday. But that was what we did on the day that we had to catch the Thalys to Amsterdam. The earliest train leaves Paris Gare du Nord at 625am and arriving at Amsterdam Centraal 3 hours later.
Please make sure that you have your Métro tickets ready because the counters are usually not manned at those god forsaken hours. We were joined by a few locals/tourists with their travelling bags too while waiting for the subway train. Quite surprised that there were others willing to do away with their early morning sleep.
Some stations do not have the wider berth for your travel bags, you would have to hoist your bag over the ticket gate
One more thing, please make sure that you have lighter bags, because some Métro stations do not have the slightly wider ticket berth for your travel bags. I had to lift mine over the shiny stainless steel ticketing
booth gate and mind you, that is no piece of cake! “Why didn’t you use the lifts?” one would ask. Unfortunately, not all stations have lifts.
Arriving at Gare du Nord, you would be bombarded by a lot of signs. Do not fret. Just follow my advice: make your way up 2 flights of escalators, most of the normal train departures are located 2 stories above the Métro exit, including Thalys. Be prepared to walk a long way to your carriage once you arrived at the Thalys platform, or maybe mine was a bit too long than I imagined it would be. On my count, 18 carriages, not including 4 train heads and the buffet coach!
On my count, the train had 18 carriages, 4 train heads and including the buffet coach!
Big luggages are meant to be placed at the entrance to the carriages, while hand-carry ones can be placed on top of your head or on your seat. Our immediate neighbour were a French mother and her daughter with their pet dog. Surprisingly, the dog was very well behaved throughout the entire journey. They were on their way to Amsterdam for a short trip. A few on our coach were probably heading somewhere for business trips, since they were in shirts and ties.
The train travel was pretty smooth with a few stops in between. We arrived at Amsterdam Centraal just somewhere around 10am in the morning.
Initially, we wanted to stow our luggages at the lockers located at the Amsterdam Centraal station, unfortunately, I failed to activate the PIN number for my Visa, so we could not use the facilities. A word of reminder: Activate your PIN number before travelling. This PIN number thing is uncommon from where I came from, hence the lack of planning on my part.
Tip: Get a hotel/rental right next to the station that you are departing/arriving from
Luckily, Ibis Amsterdam (our hotel), which was just next to the train station, allowed us to keep our luggages in their cloakroom. Another tip: Get a hotel/rental right next to the train station that you are arriving/departing from.
The weather in Amsterdam was as cold as it was in Paris, fortunately, it was not raining as we had an outing planned — Keukenhof.
How To Get To Keukenhof
It is easy as long as you are willing to take the train and bus. First, get yourself train tickets from Amsterdam Centraal to Schipol Airport. It will cost you around €8.10 for a return ticket.
Tip: It is cheaper to buy from the automated ticketing machines rather than from the counter.
It is cheaper to buy from the automated ticketing machines rather than from the counter
Once you have arrived at Schipol Airport, find the Connexion ticketing counter. It is going to be a 5-minute brisk walk if you know your way around the airport, or it could be a 15-minute sightseeing tour of Schipol Airport, since you would be passing by a lot of retail shops along the way.
It is at this counter that you will be purchasing the bus fare and entrance tickets to Keukenhof — €21 per person.
Although you might arrive at the counter early, the bus would not leave until it is full, which was what I experienced. So stay tuned for the next post — Keukenhof!
(to be continued)