Our limo picked up us at the hotel right on time and shuttled us to Charles De Gaulle airport. We were escorted thru the first class check in and then to a private lounge - all in just a few minutes time.
We enjoyed the lounge and had a farewell crousiant and espresso before boarding our flight.
Our flight back was comfortable, uneventful, and landed on time.
We really had a great trip back until we hit Philadelphia Airport where things headed south a tad. To go thru customs in PHL you get your bags from the plane, clear customs, give your bags back to the airline and then have to stand in an hour and a half line to clear thru the security checkpoint again.
Since I had some wine that I purchased in CDG Paris Airport (in the secure area) that I had carried onto the plane - I now had to unpack luggage and find space to pack it inside my checked bags. (hope it doesn't break or I'm going to have to eat my clothes)
Seriously - cant this all just be done in a secure area so that you dont have to clear thru security a second time?
The customs and immigration people were nice and professional but the TSA folks.... We'll lets just say I think that some of them were turned down by McDonalds first.
Thank god we had 3 hours between our arrival and departure flight so that we didn't miss the connection. We pretty much needed all 3 of those hours. (and I thought we would be able to catch and earlier connector - ha)
Then when we got on our connecting flight we were number 25 to take off so we spent another hour or so sitting on the runway waiting for our turn to take off. Gotta love flying in the good ol USA these days. Our flight landed an hour late
After traveling on smooth highways, well run railways, on-time ferries, and simple border checks it is sort of a shock to get back to the richest country on earth.
Oh well - I really do not want to end the trip on a rant so lets just say.....
We spent our last day in Paris visiting more sights... The Arc de Triomphe, walked the Champs-Élysées, The Louvre, Islands in the Seine (forgot the name at the moment) Notre Dame, and alot more places who's names I can't pronounce none the less try to spell.
Put on many many more foot miles, hit several expresso bars, had lunch and some wine at a sidewalk cafe, took a couple of subway rides, watched some musicians playing classical music in the subway, had more expresso, and now are chilling for a bit before hitting the streets one last time to do the evening wine and feedbag.
Tomorrow morning we will pound down some last minute bread, jam, fromage, and cafe' before our 10:15 pickup at the hotel for our 12 + hour trip back to the states.
A quick recap of the trip:
7 Countries, 3,000 miles on the rental car, 4 boat rides about 70 miles total, a couple of bus rides, several taxis, 5 trains a few hundred more miles, 2 subways, 10 arial tramways, 4 plane rides (another 7000 miles or so), 1 horse and buggy ride, 12 hotel rooms (all were superb except for the one we refer to as the "stinky feet room" and that was just a one night stay.). We have almost 2,000 pictures, 3 hours of video, and some very very worn maps and sneakers.
We've had duck, venison, wild boar, and food we can't pronounce or that we don't even know what it was other than it was damn good. (some was even raw meat)
We discovered some really good herbal cough remedies in Switzerland (syrup of Plantain). It works wonders.
We've visited countless churches and cathedrals, museums, sites both on and off the normal tourist routes, and generally had very full days, yet still had several days to relax and smell the flowers and meet Alfie the dog from England.
I cant believe how quickly we put this all together and how perfectly it all came out.
Now I just hope my new expresso machine is waiting for me when we get home or it could get nasty.
I think this picture has a background that you should recognize.
We just got back to the hotel after about 7 miles on our feet, one complete dinner polished off, and one really great bottle of wine downed.
Just when I think I can't drink a better bottle of wine - I find one even better than the last.
I have the name - time to start looking for some on the web to add to the collection headed to the states as I write.
Tomorrow is our last day and in some ways it is a good thing. The food, the cheese and the wine is so so good that Kate and I (especially me) are expanding in size daily. Much longer and it could get downright nasty.
We visited Pointe du Hoc, a site where about 300 army ranger scaled a 200 foot high cliff to take out a battery of German guns that would have had range over both Utah and Omaha beach invasion areas. Of the 300 that started the assault only about 60 survived, but they did take out the gun crews and accomplished the mission. The sad part of this was that the guns had been removed and the assault was not needed.
The ground around the Pointe has been left undisturbed for all of these years and is now maintained by the US Govt as an historic site. From all the countless bombs that were dropped on this site prior to the invasion to try and destroy the guns, the area literally looks like the surface of the moon. There are just enormous bomb craters everywhere. I did not post a picture as I don't think a small one would do it justice.
The picture posted is of a nearby German Battery of 4 well preserved guns that were taken out without destroying the guns so they remain pretty much as they did in 1944.
On Sunday June 15 we traveled to Normandy. We have been without internet access till tonight so I will try to do some catching up.
A visit to the American Cemetery is an incredibly moving experience. An endless sea of perfectly manicured graves – almost 10,000 in all tell the story of so many lives cut short. So many sons who would never come home to finish out their lives. Or fathers who would never see their kids grow up. It’s too sad to even write about.
We visited many historic sites related to the D Day invasion, saw well preserved gun emplacements, artificial harbors, and a country side filled with people who still remember the sacrifices made here.
Normandy is an incredibly beautiful, and peaceful area. All thru Europe the one thing that has struck us over and over is the beautiful fragrances. The smell of jasmine, roses, and countless other flowers seems to fill the air everywhere we have been and Normandy has been no different. The weather has been fantastic – a comfortable high 60’s – low 70’s with a cool breeze blowing at night. A truly beautiful place – it’s impossible for me to imagine the horror that took place here 64 years and 9 days ago.
This afternoon we drove to Mont St Michel on the way to our next 2 nights resting spot along the Brittany coast in Dinard, France. As you can see from the photo the Mont is an awesome site from outside the walls. The problem for us was that once we got inside it was just swarming with busloads of tourists, kids from schools visiting for the day, and of course us. It was standing room only – inching our way up the narrow cobblestone medieval streets – lined with one souvenir shop after another - almost over come by the ever present chain smokers.
It seems that a lot of people in Europe have not heard about lung cancer or just don’t care, and while I sure support their right to kill themselves if they wish – it was still pretty hard to take sometimes in tight quarters. Oh well we just grin and bear it as part of the cultural difference.
After about 1/2 hour of this circus we finally called it quits and got out of dodge. It seems that the beautiful Mont have become a victim of its own beauty. Perhaps we were just there at the wrong time. It was worth the visit just to see it from outside. I would suggest that perhaps getting there first thing in the morning might be a better option before the crowds get there.
Last night we stayed in Angers France, a mid size city in Western France which seems to be just a wee bit off of the well worn tourist trails. That factor alone made it a pleasant stay, yet it is a very nice city in its own right. It was our first time where the language barrier could not be breached at dinner time so that added to the adventure. The bottom line is that when our meal did arrive it was nothing at all like we expected, but delicious none the less.
After dinner we walked the town – a great park with a beautiful fountain was a block away from our hotel and we then walked some of the side streets and helped a nice old woman get her dog back. At this time of year – in this part of the world – it does not get dark till around 11pm. Its pretty weird but nice. The sun does not set till around 10pm or so.
This morning as we left town we stopped and visited the Chateau d’ Angers an interesting Chateau within a walled fortification which dates back to the 9th Century. Inside the Chateau are the Apocalypse Tapestries which consist of about 77 woven tapestries dated from 1375 which stretch over 328 feet in total. That’s a lot of sewing.
Today (Thursday) we traveled from Chartres thru the Loire valley and visited a couple of pretty nice houses. The top one was King Francois digs. It would have required a small army just to keep the 400+ fireplaces going none the less vacume the place.
The second was King Henry’s mistress’s place. (pretty nice house just for sleeping with the king)
Problem was when Henry kicked the bucket his wife threw the mistress out and kept the place for herself.
Jen, with some substantial gutting and renovation you might even like one of these homes.
Tomorrow we head for Brittany. A little town called Dinard right on the English Channel to get some salt water into our system. We will stay there 2 nights and then just travel a short distance and stay in Normandy for 2 nights. This is the relaxing portion of our journeys. We will do day trips from both places to see all the local sights. More on that later.
Bill got all the countries correct first. Karen came in 15 minutes later so Bill wins the prize. Bill to get ready for the prize I suggest that you go to the local feed supply and get yourself about 50 Kilos of kitty litter to start. An equal amount of raw meat would be wise also.
The correct countries are: Italy, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria, Germany, and France.
Today we traveled 450 miles from Germany to Chartres France (our 6th and final country) and saw the Notre Dame Cathedral. Quite a place to say the least. Seems like there are several cathedrals with that name in France.
Tomorrow we head off down the Loire Valley to visit several of the chateaus then off to Brittany and Normandy.
It is getting confusing - all these different languages in such a short time. We just get used to saying please and thank you in one language and all of a sudden it's time for another.
We've decided to sulk today and not post any pictures since we are not getting very many emails or posted comments.
If you want more pictures then send out a shout our way to say hello.
We miss hearing from everyone.
And yes it has been 6 countries (not counting the US) see if you can figure them out.
The first winner gets a prize brought back for them.
Originally we were only going to stay one night but now I have caught Kates cold (Kate is almost better) so I’m going to give it a days rest before we leave Germany behind and drive the 7 hours to Chartres France tomorrow (Weds).
Both us are convinced that since we are usually healthy people, and that we don’t normally catch each others colds – that we must be picking up some ancient cold germs that inhabit all of the centuries old moldy old cathedrals that we have been visiting the past week and a half. With our sneezing we are probably leaving a path of illness in our wake.
This morning Kate also fell in the bathtub and hit her head on the rim and gave herself a good lump. Hopefully it doesn’t turn into a black eye or I’m gonna look like a wife beater. Talk about the walking wounded us two. In spite of it we are still having a great time and running around at 90%.
Rothenburg is another amazing place which we have thoroughly enjoyed visiting. Last night we walked outside of the city walls and went to a little family owned place away from the touristy places for another fantastic dinner. Wurst, Kraut, and Dunkle Bier for me. Kate and I agree that our favorite for food so far has been Germany hands down.
We left Garmish Partenkirchen on a clear sunny day and had a beautiful drive thru the Alps to this Fairy Tale Castle in Southern Bavaria. You then hike about 40 minutes up a steep trail thru the forest, wait an hour or so for your turn, then take a 30 minute guided tour thru this incredible palace.
After the tour - 25 minutes or so back down the trail and we were on the road around 1pm for our next stop Rothenburg ob der Tauber (on the Tauber) Germany. Rothenburg odt was a 180 mile – 2 hour flight up the Autobahn.
Rothenburg is considered the best preserved medieval city in Europe and of course was a lot of fun (not) trying to navigate the maze of cobblestone streets inside the city walls – thru the crowds – trying to find our hotel. After the normal amount of passing the same place twice we found our home for the next 2 nights.
Ok - I just have to mention the beer and the food here in Bavaria. It is really out of this world.
Last night and tonight Kate & I both had 2 of the best meals that we have ever had. Last night was Venison and Oxen, and tonight Roast Pork in a dark dark gravy with potato dumplings and red cabbage. All washed down with a large dunkle Bier. (Dark beer) Man the bier is sehr gut! Bob P - this beer is for you.
I hope tomorrow we can still fit into our compact car.
This is another great town. Today we walked Partenkirchen, a quaint town with painted buildings. Soon we are going to walk back there for Abendessen. (dinner)
This afternoon we took the cog train and tram to the top of Zugspitzer the highest mountain in Germany. Unfortunately the weather has been our nemisis the past few days and although it was not terrible, about 3/4 of the way up we were back in the clouds. The view would have been stupendous but we just had to settle for great.
Funny thing was 10 min after we took the tram back down in the rain - it cleared up and now all the mountains are visible from town and the view from the top would have been all that it should have. Oh well - we still had a great day and now are off to the beirgarten.
Tomorrow we are off to Neuschwanstein Castle (Walt Disney patterned his castle off of this one) then north to Rottenburg ob der Tauber a medival city about 180 miles north of here. I reserved us what should be an awsome castle like room for tommorow night.
By the way - the breakfasts have all been unbelievable. And the coffee is fantastic. Before we get home we are ordering some new coffee making equipment so that we can drink it euro style.
On Thursday we drove about 4hrs from Lk Como Italy to Steckelberg Switzerland. We then hopped 2 trams (cable cars) and went up another 3000 feet or so to the car free town of Murren Switzerland.
(pictures are of the car-free main street in Murren and from the tram on the way up - its a long way down)
Our plan was to do some mountain biking amoung some of the best scenery found on earth. The problem was that it has been raining for days and most of the time we spent in the clouds, in the rain, so biking was out.
On Friday we instead took the tram back down into the valley and did some sight seeing at lower altitude before heading back up to our quiet car free mountainside village for our evening respite.
On brief occasions we caught glimpses of the higher peaks that surrounded us but unfortunately the weather did not cooperate so we kind of missed out a bunch on the scenery. We did get to see an awful lot - and so many beautuful shades of green that we did not know existed on this planet. From our hotel balcony we should have been looking directly at the highest peaks in the swiss alps, but instead we were looking at fog.
Oh well, the cheese is excellent as the cows are very contented eating the green green grass. They all have these cow bells around thier necks which kind of make their own music in the mountains. Gemutlichkeit.
The Swiss people are among the friendliest that we have met and I have been getting to use my German so its been alot of fun and very helpful too.
Today (Saturday) we drove to Garmisch Partenkirchen Germany (went thru Lichtenstein & Austria). Tomorow we stay here and Eat Bratwurst and drink big big steins of Beer.
Today we drove about 5 hours north and are now in the town of Bellagio on Lake Como Italy, just a stones throw from the Swiss border which we will cross tomorrow. The picture is from our hotel balcony.
Kate says George Clooney has a place around here somewhere so she is keeping her eyes peeled. The road in here was 20 very winding miles - at times not even wide enough for 2 cars to pass at the same time. We still have the paint on the sides and both mirrors so I think I did ok. Our Garmin did tell us the hotel was somewhere else than where it really is but once we were on a dirt road, with Pigs and Chickens running around I had the sense that perhaps we had to resort to the old fashioned way and “wing it” which is what we did and found this beautiful hotel. The weather is cloudy with just a faint glimpse of sun now and then and supposed to remain iffy for a couple of days.
Tomorrow we have a 4hr drive into Switzerland, then a cable car ride up out of the valley to the town of Murren which has no cars. We will stay there for 2 nights – leaving Sat morning.. If the weather is nice hopefully we will get to bike down into the valley. Kate has a cold going right now so we will play things by ear. We can always just hang out on the balcony and enjoy the Alps, and the quiet mountain air. I’m not sure if we have internet access there so the next blog might not be till Sat or Sunday.
Yesterday we drove to a couple of other hill top towns in Tuscany. The picture shows a typical street looking back towards the entry portal where the iron fence would be dropped to block entry. Many of the old towns were built like forts on the tops of the mountains, the city surrounded by a wall, in order to defend them selves from the marauders. Each town is unique and absolutely beautiful. They also require a lot of walking up and down, and up and down since there is barely any flat ground to be found in most towns. In between towns we traveled small country roads and really got to see small town Toscana. We found some wine that we really like so we shipped home a case ½ Chianti, and ½ Montepulciano a smooth local red. We were sorry to say goodbye to Tuscany so soon but new adventures beckon and we are road warriors.
We always promised our selves that we would go to Tuscany some day and here we are. We are in the town of Sienna. It is a medieval town completely surrounded by a large wall. The streets are all cobblestone (come to think of it – so was Rome and Sorrento). Walking thru town you can imagine knights and damsels from King Arthur’s time (ok wrong country but the analogy works).
We drove up here this morning on the Autostrada. Its kind of fun being able to legally go 85mph. (I wont say how fast we really went ) but you sure can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. We are here today and tomorrow. After that our schedule is open. We may stay another day here or we may head north towards Switzerland. You will know when we do.
Did I mention that we are paying about $9.00 for a gallon of gas?
We also brought so much clothes that we are seriously contemplating either shipping a bunch back home or just throwing out a suitcase full. The saving grace I guess is that we are traveling by car. If we were going by train we would have already lighted the load.
Took the train to Pompeii for the day on Sunday. The ruins are amazing. They cover such a large area. Its hard to imagine how the city could have just disappeared that fateful day. It was a beautiful sunny day and we walked for hours and took hundreds of photos.
At the end of the day we took the train back to Sorrento, had a nice dinner, a bottle of wine, and did our usual evening walk about for a few hours.
The atmosphere in Rome was that of a big street party each night. In Sorrento it is more of a street festival. Each night the town closes off its main roads to traffic and it seems like everyone comes out to walk, have a gelato and just enjoy the night breezes. Either way the Italians sure know how to have fun and live life. We are going to miss this town.
Getting out of Rome was as interesting as expected.
We picked up our rental car (just getting it was a whole story) and then proceeded to make several orbits of the same area trying to find our way thru the maze of streets, one ways, and dead ends. After the third time of saying to each other: "didn't we just pass by that building 5 minutes ago?" we found our way onto the Autostrada and finally out of the city.
The problem with my Garmin was that I had forgotten that I programmed it for walking and forgot to turn it back to automobile mode. It was figuring that since I was supposed to be walking, that I could go down one way streets and alley ways only 3 feet wide.... Whoops! Didn't remember that till we were out of town.
A few hours later we found ourselves in Paradise. What a great town - a beautiful hotel - and a room bigger than many apartments. The lap of luxury and a balcony overlooking the Med. The picture of the ocean was taken from our balcony. The picture above it is downtown Sorrento.
We just got back from walking thru town, stopped at a grocery and picked up some italian bread, cheese, capicola and salami, and some vino. Now for some alfreso dining on the balcony enjoying the sea breeze.
Rome is one heck of a town. We had a great flight. That is after we played Monty Hall "lets make a deal" as US Air did exactly what I was afraid they would do and give Kate and I seats on different sides of the plane.
Once we got our seating issues straighted out all was well. First class seats are really someting special. The seats are electrically adjustable and have about 12 different adjustments. They lie down flat so after my meal of lamb chops with mint jelly it was off to bed for a good 5 hrs of sleep. Then wake up time for breakfast then we hit the ground running. The space allotted for a seat in first class is hugh. It is at least 3 times the room of coach. Its like having 2 rows in front of you with no seats in them.
We took the train from Rome airport to the city center, then hopped a cab to the hotel. It rained a good part of the day and we walked around with our unbrellas and still got to see lots and lots.
The city is a maze of streets and it is really easy to get lost (as we did) but even getting lost worked as we just bumped into more sights that we wanted to see anyway and once we knew again where we were we were able to find out way to the next attraction. We covered over 7 miles today per Mr Garmin.
After a nice dinner at a side walk cafe on a beautiful square with a statue and fountain in the middle (as almost all are) it's back to the hotel for blogging and bed. Another busy day coming up.
Tommorow is the vatican and more foot tours then Saturday we pick up the car and head South to Naples, Pompei, and of course - Salerno Province.
The wine is great, the food is great, and the city is a hoot.
Well here is our first post. I thought that this would be a good point to put a photo of Mr. B when he was just a pup and to thank him for being such a great friend and companion for the past 8 years. We sure are gonna miss you big guy.
We started this blog so that we could share our upcoming adventures (or lack therof) with our friends.
If you enjoy it then by all means feel free to compliment me on my wonderful talents.