A Travellerspoint blog

An Eiffel of Colourful Ports

Paris - Rouen - Honfleur

sunny 27 °C

22nd September 2013

Breakfast at Movenpick was very good this morning. The room was nice and bright and the variety was great. We got up at 620am to pack our cases. The next few days are going to be quite busy as we only have one night at each hotel until we reach Amboise. There we have two nights.

We are on the coach with all of our new companions and we are underway. First stop is actually a city tour and then a climb of the Eiffel Tower, by elevator of course! Our guide is French American and is very knowledgable and quite quirky.

We reach the Eiffel Tower and it is a giant when you are underneath it. We take a few photographs and then skip the line and go straight to the elevators. Up we went to the 2nd level and took some time up there viewing the city from each corner. Our guide pointed out the main attractions and then we visited the gift shop. Ethan bought some sour Eiffel Tower lollies and I got a couple of trinkets.

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After this we head for the town of Rouen, a town once overrun by Vikings. It is a bit of a drive but quite pleasant. I sleep a little bit and type up my blog notes for a while as well. Rouen is known for the burning of Joan of Arc and it also has a cathedral with the heart of Richard The Lionheart. It is a very sweet little village, a square of course, and a cathedral. We stop by the memorial to Joan Of Arc. It has a lovely statue and a garden. Then we are shown the market and then walked around to the cathedral. It is a very large cathedral and the walk around the outside is a long one. Inside it is dark and not as fancy as other churches, but there is an excellent staircase and some stunning stain glass windows.

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We had 30 minutes left to get lunch and get back to the coach. We decide to try Quick - its a burger place that is always situated right near McDonalds. It is a slightly healthier version, and really tasty. Its was only 16 Euro for all of us so it was not expensive and quick enough so that we make it the coach on time.

The next stop was Honfluer, a picturesque port which appeared to contribute to the impressionist movement. Many famous painters working from this area including Monet & Boudin. Our guide showed us Saint Catherine's church, the oldest church in France made entirely from wood, with a separate bell tower. It is fascinating. We also pass by some extremely old buildings used around 800 years ago. The town's speciality is nougat and as we walk around we see many stalls selling sweets and a stall that is chocolate coating almonds as you wait. We decided to sit down for a drink, but sadly lack of service lead us to leave the cafe and just eat a takeaway ice cream at another vendor instead.

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I would have liked to spend some more time there, but we were on the coach and after a very long drive we arrived at Bayeux. Novotel Bayeux is a great hotel, and I quickly see that the difference in cost saver trips to 4-5 star is quite a big one! The room is great and there is free wifi, although not very strong.

Tonight's dinner is included and in-house. We start with a deconstructed Caesar salad with melted Camembert on it. Then we had a lovely chicken with scalloped potato and vegetables. The dessert was a fruit tart that was also very nice. I am really impressed with the service.

Tomorrow we will be heading to the D-Day beaches and then onto Mont St Michel.

Posted by JenMF 04:34 Archived in France Comments (0)

Bridges, Arcs and the Seine

Paris

sunny 26 °C

21st September 2013

For our final day with this group we had a nice breakfast at Mercure an then boarded our coach for the last time. We were all going for a guided tour of Paris. Christina met us in town and we drove around the major monuments again but with a much clearer description of their history. This was very early at around 830am.

We said our goodbyes later that morning and decided to climb the Arc de Triomph. It was great. AUD$14 gets you in and able to walk to the top. The stairs were one large spiral and it was a hike! A few more steps from the first floor to the second and we were at the top. What spectacular views. All around us was the wonderful Paris as far as the eye could see.

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We decided then to walk around the river and see how far we could get today. We walked past many spectacular buildings. When we arrived at the river we see that there is a local market on - a food market even better! Lining the bank were stalls offering French food, mainly simple things, home grown/made. We stopped at one stall and it was a natural foods stall. It had vegetable chips and chocolate chip cookies. Ethan & I got a cookie each - they were quite good with sunflower seeds and pecans. Next up were some oils, vegetables, crepes, and then a macaron stall. There were free samples so of course we partake. They were quite small and not like the ones we have at home.They were not joined together with fondant, it was a small layer of jam, hardly noticeable. The price was 7 for 5 Euro so we bought some to have in our packs as a snack. They were very good.

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When we had walked the length of the market we ascended to the walking path along the top and came to the most ornate and extravagant bridge in Paris, Pont Alexandre III . A look around and a lot of photos later we walk across to the column - The Luxor Obelisk, a gift given to France from the Egyptians in 1829. At 3300 years old it is the oldest monument in Paris. It is flanked on both sides by fountains and surrounded on one side by the American embassy and other government buildings. In this immediate area we see two ferraris for hire! No we didn't take them up, although I wanted to. There were also some crepe stalls. Ethan had been hounding us for crepes since we got here so we went to get crepes for lunch. By this time we had walked so much, it was lunchtime. Ethan had nutella and banana crepes and I had ham and cheese.

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We got a taxi back to the hotel after this, we needed to pack everything and go to our next hotel. The next tour is a 5 star one so the hotel is better.

We get a cab easily and before we know it we are at Movenpick Neuilly. Holy Moly was this place grand. We had a two bedroom apartment more or less. The television was huge and you could convert the shows to English, which had not be available before. Mind you had not had much time for watching tv, but it's nice when you are packing or going to bed to relax in front of tv for a while. There was also Bvlgari fragrances and toiletries in the bathrooms. They found their way into my case.

After a briefing meeting where we met all of our fellow travellers, a welcome dinner was included and we thought it would be at the hotel. However we all got onto the coach for the first time with this group, and were taken on a tour of Paris. This guide had similar information as our last tour, but it was all beneficial. We stopped at a restaurant Chez ......... in Champs-Élysées and had a lovely dinner. Starting with French Onion soup which ahd so much cheese and bread, that's all I needed. Next was chicken and vegtables, followed by Creme Brulee. A great way to start our second tour, and so far it was much better than the last one.

Off to bed as we just have one night in this hotel and then onto the Loire Valley.

Posted by JenMF 04:00 Archived in France Comments (1)

Nothing Much But Driving....

Lucerne to Paris

overcast 25 °C

20th September 2013

Today was a very early start at 600am. We travelled to Paris without many stops at all. We had a stop for rest rooms twice and a stop for lunch at an Auto Grill. It was very confusing as it was like buffet style and you just pay for what you put on your plates. We all had cheeseburgers with fries, something we had not had for weeks!

Our travel director played us a movie to get us into a Parisian mood - Taken with Liam Neeson. It was great to take our minds off the long trip.

We go into our Paris hotel - The Mercure, La Defense. It was comfortable, but quite poorly finished off. A lot of paint peeling off and marks on walls.

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This evening we took a bus trip optional for a scenic cruise down the Seine. First our driver took us around Paris to look at the major attractions. We were then dropped off to find some dinner on our own. We found a brasserie called Hippopotamus - apparently a USA chain? It was great. We each had a salad, Caesar, Greca, Chef's and they were all great.We also had some onion rings and fries to share.

After dinner we were driven to the river and boarded our cruise. It was on a purpose built long boat with chairs along the top and inside. We opted for the outdoor seats up top and each of us sat on an edge so that we could see everything going past. I got some good shots but being dark, and with the boat moving,it was difficult. This sightseeing tour was amazing. The boat had huge lights that illuminated all of the buildings and monuments. A highlight of our trip for sure.

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From there, at around 945pm, we headed to Trocadero to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle at 10pm. It is lit every night but from 9pm on the hour it twinkles with fairy lights for 5 minutes. It is a sight to see. All the time there are guys selling small Eiffel Tower keyrings, scarves and other trinkets. They are illegal and they do harass you sometimes, but for the most part they are not too bad.

We headed back to the hotel after a short drive to look at a few monuments again. In bed at 11.30pm!

Posted by JenMF 03:48 Archived in France Comments (0)

Cloudy Cable Cars

Lucerne

rain 21 °C
View Europe 2013 on JenMF's travel map.

19th September 2013

We had an early start this morning - on the coach by 730am. It was pouring this morning and it is so cloudy that I didn't think I would get any great pictures of the traditional Swiss village. Ethan is feeling much better and is almost fully recovered. At breakfast there was some brilliant muesli with hazelnuts, seeds and granola pieces. I am a little sick of the bread and croissants and this was good for a change.

We travelled to Stanserhorn and took a funicular railway up the side of a hill to meet the Cabrio, a two story cable car that goes to the top of the mountain. The top story is open so its like sitting outside the entire trip. I am usual a bit uneasy on these things, but it was seamless. At the top it was so cloudy that we could not see anything much. They have several walking tracks, but first we went into the gift shop to get warm. It was still raining a little and our clothes felt damp. After looking around and having a hot chocolate, we decided to warm up by walking one of the tracks. We started out on a 30minute one but could only really walk for 20minutes as it was so cloudy we couldn't see the track! When we returned the group were having a go at a Swiss horn. It was a lot of fun watching everyone have a go.

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Part of this morning's activities was a cruise around Lake Lucerne. We took the cable car and funicular back down and went to the dock. A nice boat picked us up and took us for a 45minute cruise around the lake, explaining all of the expensive looking homes, chapels and historical sites. It was good. The boat took us to Lucerne city and we had the rest of the day free to do as we pleased.

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J.E.D. walked around the city streets until we found Bucherer. It is a very expensive jewellery shop that were giving tourists a free silver spoon if they came into the store. Well we went and got the spoon but as for anything else - some watches in there were AUD$330,000. Thats a new Aston Martin! I'd much rather drive a car than wear something that expensive on my wrist.

Spoons in hand we headed for somewhere to eat. Lane way after lane way we saw lots of great eating places but they just didn't look or feel right for today. We wanted to try traditional Swiss food. We finally found a lovely little place that sat on the edge of a town square. We ordered rosti (big potato fritter), Ethan & I had ours with eggs and ham, David had some sort of chicken casserole with his. They were great. AUD$110 later we decided to do some walking. Everything is very expensive here. A simple cup of tea was AUD$7.

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We saw on the map that there was an old city wall with 9 towers along it. We thought it was worth a look and walked about 20 minutes to the start. It was amazing. All of the towers/turrets were joined by a huge wall. The three middle towers were also able to be climbed up. We climbed the first one and walked across the top of the wall to the next two. Of these three towers one was a clock tower, the view from the city was fabulous from the top. We walked back down and wandered back through the gardens for the remainder of the towers.
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After rifling through some souvenir shops we thought we would take a tour of the St Leodegar im Hof church. It was burned to the ground in 1633, but rebuilt again in the gothic style, by the Jesuit brothers in 1644. Definitely a landmark in Lucerne, it is beautiful inside and out.

At around 4pm we realised that we still had Swiss Francs left and would be leaving for France tomorrow. With that in mind we went into a chocolate shop and bought some gifts. Who knew that Lindt had a chocolate brownie flavour??? The regular Lindt blocks are AUD$10, about $7 more than what we pay at home. I can't believe it.

We got the coach back to the hotel and were able to have a rest before our dinner this evening. Dinner was a little better than last night but the service was not very good at all. We had put our preferences in well in advance, months before the tour and we still got pork in front of us. We asked for something else and we all got basically large chicken nuggets. It was rubbish. The man serving was incredibly rude too. Well at least we are off to Paris tomorrow!

Posted by JenMF 07:33 Archived in Switzerland Comments (1)

It is the Alps, and Juliet is the sun....

Verona and Lucerne

overcast 25 °C
View Europe 2013 on JenMF's travel map.

18th September 2013

Today we had a long day starting with our last breakfast in Venice. It was with a sad heart that I left this place. I really needed another week to appreciate everything in the area. Even that would not be enough.

We ventured to fair Verona first up. What a beautiful place this is. Even though the story of Romeo and Juliet is a fictional one, they have made a huge tourist attraction of this town, based on that tale. I am a romantic at heart so I don't mind. As we begin our walking tour the first stop is an arena in the style of the colosseum. the stonework is different but the structure just as impressive. It sits on the outskirts of town with other official government buildings.

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As we walk past the city wall and through the city gate we are again immersed in small shops and cafes, laneways winding off in all directions, ancient metal signs hanging from the fronts of stores and flowers spilling from window boxes. It is a romantics dream.

One of the laneways is exploding with people going in and out and we realise this is the way to Juliet's balcony. Through a short tunnel entrance, the walls of which are covered with graffiti love messages, into a small courtyard with a lovey balcony. You can of course pay to go and stand in it and make your declarations. I watch many people do this and then decide its time to move on.

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I meet the boys and we head for a beautiful little market in the centre square of Verona. We choose a cafe from the many on offer and order just a hot drink each. After we are done we wander around the market and buy a couple of nick knacks. David buys a couple of light scarves because we are feeling a bit chilly. We have a bit more of a walk and then return to the market for the most brilliant fruit salad we've seen. This would be our lunch for the day.

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Well its back on the coach in the direction of Lucerne. Almost as soon as we cross the border we see a change in the landscape. Firstly the homes are Italian Swiss but after a while the Italian seems to disappear and it is exactly like I imagined. Rolling hills so green they look like golf putting greens and little houses they look like they are dolls houses. The entire scene looks as if I am standing next to a model railway and these are the trees, grass and houses surrounding the tracks. Unfortunately we don't pull over so I do not get the chance to photograph any of this as it flies past the coach windows.

Before long we are pulling up to our Hotel - Postillion in Lucerne.It looks nice and is, for the most part. The lady on duty is very disorganised and is grumpy when we ask her anything. We have time to freshen up briefly and then we are into the city for a light dinner and look around.

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Our guide takes us to one of the highlights of this city - The Lion Monument. It is a sandstone carving of a Lion with a spear in its back. It is a metaphor for a time when the French King asked specifically for Swiss Guards to protect him during the war and said that he would pay them for their service. The revolution happened, all of the guards were killed and the Swiss were never paid or acknowledged for their help. They say that the outside border of this carving is a pig, representing the French in this piece of art.

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From there we are given free time to walk around Lucerne and get some dinner. Iris, a lady in the group is on her own and will join us. We are told there is a food court under the railway station so we head there to have a look. We find a Buchmann's which have a great range of pastries, salad and drinks. I have a small quiche - it is very nice. We eat standing up because there is no food court - at least not one with seats. While we are walking we head to the second highlight in Lucerne - the covered walkway that crosses the river. It is a beautiful landmark , covered in flower boxes on both sides.

It's back on the coach then and off to bed. We have a good day in Lucerne tomorrow.

Posted by JenMF 22:49 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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