Sunday, October 13, 2013
Friday, September 27, 2013
Monday, July 8, 2013
Europe has us beat in property graffiti especially in the big cities and along rail lines. Evidently they don't care about removing it. On the other hand Americans are leading in body graffiti. I saw a few tattoos but nothing like everyday life here in the USA.
They have toll roads all over and it can get expensive. In France they are called the Peage. The results of those tolls are very smooth well kept freeways. We drove many of those roads as it was simply the fastest way to get from A to B but I would have preferred driving more back roads and we could have saved some money. Of course I live in Northern California where toll roads don't exist unlike parts of the mid west and east coast. A downside of freeways just like the U.S. is it is difficult to see anything. Back roads through small towns are much more interesting.
Cars are smaller in Europe especially in France. We saw a few larger cars in Switzerland and more in Germany. We had a small brand new Mercedes diesel with no room to spare. The trunk was completely stuffed with bags but there was enough leg room and the riding was comfortable especially if the sandman started beating on me.
Ireland, France and Germany operate on the Euro which is worth more than the dollar. So when a meal costs 20 Euros it is really $25.70. I had to continually tell myself that an item in Euros is more in dollars but we forget. In Switzerland the currency is Swiss Francs and 20 CFH is $20.74, much easier to keep track of. The glitch is you don't want to leave Switzerland with Francs or Europe with Euros, I have about 15 Euros taking a long out of circulation rest at home.
I may have said it before but here it is again, Europeans walk much more than Americans especially those who use public transportation. Many of the cities are designed for walking and cars are banished in many parts of the cities. I think people are healthier because of the need to walk and they look more fit.
Every where we went with a few exceptions it was pay parking. All the city streets are pay parking even in front of our Ireland condo. The price of gas and the pay parking make public transportation look very reasonable. Someday the U.S. will get there.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
A major plus was our travel partners Joan and John. John did almost all of the driving and was a great tour guide. As the person with the most travel experience he knew where to go and what to see. Joan did most of the navigating with a map and three GPS that didn't always agree. She always kept a positive spin on situations even when the Tour bus is coming at us on a very narrow walled road/lane in Ireland and it looks like there is absolutely no room for us to pass.
Joan also kept track of expenses so we could split the costs. This was extremely helpful when our major credit card was compromised and cancelled. I suggest to anyone traveling in a foreign country to have at least two credit cards per person. Another tip is to investigate credit card coverage for rental cars which can save a lot of money as we found out in Ireland.
A downside is we rediscovered that Europeans of all ages smoke much more than in the U.S. As a consequence it is difficult to escape second hand smoke. I was continually surprised by people who I would guess as being non smokers and then would light up.
Europeans have improved their bathrooms and showers but they still have a ways to go. It wasn't a cleanliness issue more like a space, water pressure or water control problem. I never did figure out the shower controls even after three nights in Sarlat. On another note all the hotel rooms were bigger than I expected.
My vote for the best food was Ireland outside of Dublin and at the best prices. Most expensive food was in Switzerland including prices in Lucerne. We did find a good restaurant in Lauterbrunnen at a campground close to our condo. I wouldn't think of going to a campground for dinner but this place was good, maybe the best in town. A few of our better and least expensive meals were prepared in the condo by Joan and Gail after a stop at the local, sometimes small, grocery store.
My favorite stop on our tour was Switzerland. We had a nice condo with a beautiful view of a Yosemite like valley and at least four waterfalls, and where we watched the farmer move his sheep every evening. The car was parked when we arrived and we walked or took trains for the entire five days. Which brings up another point we did a lot of walking almost everywhere we went. I would have liked to rented some bikes but the opportunity didn't really present itself.
The travel time back to California we figure at about 24-25 hours. That is from doorstep to doorstep and includes the taxi ride to the airport, waiting time. layover time and the final ride home. Actual flight time was close to fourteen hours. The final two hours felt like ten. We flew from Paris, a very confusing airport, to Charlotte and then to SFO.
All in all a very nice trip but it is always good to be home and in an English speaking country.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Today we drove through some great rural countryside and visited a champagne cellar, well actually just the tasting room. The taste came with a little education on how champagne is made and what the difference is between dry, semi dry and Brut. No matter they are all good.
Northern France in the last seventy years has experienced a long respite from wars. All through this country side there are reminders of the bad times. We have seen French and American cemeteries, signs that Sargent York was here, signs to stay out of these woods forever and historical names such as the Marne and Chateau Thierry. Modern agriculture rules the day to the benefit of local residents.
Tomorrow we catch the big bird home!
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
We had lunch on the river in Verdun and the city has changed a great deal in 50 years. I was stationed here from 1960-62. Then it was a medieval town without much going for it. Now the downtown is all remodeled, streets are constructed with pavers and the waterfront area is filled with outdoor restaurants. After driving in a few circles we found my old military post which is now a French military post. I can't say I have fond memories of my time here but it is interesting to go back and see it again.
Tomorrow we are off to Meaux for our last night in Europe. It has been a great trip and there will be plenty of good memories which as always get richer as time passes.
Monday, June 17, 2013
Food in Switzerland is expensive, so far the best food and best prices have been in Ireland outside of Dublin. Restaurant prices in Lucerne are ridiculous and the quality doesn’t always reflect the cost and be careful about the price of the wine the waiter recommends. Prices and choices are better Heidelberg. In Sarlat the choices were mostly limited to: goose liver (foie gras), ham (jambon) and duck. Many restaurants depending on the city don’t open until 7pm as we found in Orleans.
We have used public transportation. We rode the train into Dublin a couple times. We took a bus from the airport into Paris, one hour standing room only, and then the Metro. We used the metro to go to Versailles and took a train to Orleans. In Lauterbrunnern we bought a 3 days pass and rode the train every day. The trains have all been comfortable and on time.
One curious sight, on the bus ride into Paris I noticed a shanty town with a lots of garbage and what looked like tarpaper houses ....... with satellite dishes on top. Go figure!
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
They say there are 74 waterfalls in this area. I have seen about 16-17. I have some work to do.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Monday, June 10, 2013
Saturday, June 8, 2013
Friday, June 7, 2013
Sarlat is a real medieval town that has been rejuvenated. There are plenty of narrow streets and alleys to investigate and you never know when you will find a restaurant in a hidden place. The main square is full of open air restaurants and folks like hanging and out enjoying a coffee, beer or wine. Up scale shops and art stores add to the local flavor. This town is like Carmel only with medieval buildings and outdoor restaurants.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
This is the castle of Chambord where we were Tuesday
This is a street in the old section of Sarlat on the way to our apartment
Turn right down this narrow street to the small square
Our apartment is on the third floor, that is our bedroom window on the upper right
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
This is the Chateau at Sully, we just walked around the grounds.
The next two pictures are from Orleans, the older section of town is being all redone. Vehicle traffic is restricted and they have a tram that runs through the middle. The tram in the picture goes right by the train station. When the tram is not present the area looks like a narrow park. Oh and the trams in the morning are jammed with passengers
Monday, June 3, 2013
Wow, long day today! We visited a magnificent castle that is really just a chateau as in someone’s home. I’ll post some pictures later. Then on to the canal over the river; the picture is below. Yes, that is a boat in a canal going over a river, all designed by the Eiffel Tower guy. Next was lunch by the Loire and then a walk around the hilltop town of Sancerre. Wine tasting was next and we purchased a couple bottles. We made the day longer by visiting Bourges and walking through the monstrous church on top of the hill. I was blown away by the size of the church. Construction started in 1195 and it wasn’t dedicated until 1279. It took 49 years of actual building, unbelievable. After a long drive we returned to the home of our travel guide Catrina. She was a great host all day and fed us at the end of the day. The purchased wines were tested and found to be of good quality as you can tell by Gail’s smile.