Saturday, November 7, 2015

Our Tour of France

Although we started worrying when Christine’s flight from D.C. to Miami was delayed, the flight went smoothly. We were scheduled to arrive at 12:30 p.m. By 1:00 p.m. we had secured Euros, purchased metro and museum passes and had checked into our hotel.

After cleaning up, we walked to Ile St. Louis and joined a long line for ice cream cones at a famous though small establishment. (on Tierney's and Rick Steves’ recommendations.) The ice cream was very good but the portions were small. We visited a church on the island where we enjoyed a group of youngsters who were practicing classical music.

On to the Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame, where the line to get in was long (when did that start?) so we didn’t go in.
 
 

 Instead we wandered through the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank, dropped in on a wedding at St. Severes. We walked past Sainte Chappelle and the Hall of Justice, the Flower Market, then to Pont Neuf.




From there we hopped on the Metro to Montemarte and walked up to Sacre Couer which we visited. We walked around Montemarte some more before getting on the Metro back to our neighborhood.




On the walk back we grabbed dinner at a Kebab place- three of us had a grilled lamb kebab, Teresa had a regular one.
Sunday morning after breakfast at the hotel we metroed to the Orsay Museum. We immediately discovered the value of the Museum Pass as we skipped the long line of people waiting to pay admission. Impressionists dominated the Orsay, lots of Monet, Renoir, Pissaro, Degas, etc. We moved on to the L’Orangerie, again skipped the line. This museum featured two large oval rooms with huge Monet water lilies paintings surrounding the rooms.




At the Place de Concorde we got Coke Zero’s and saw the sight where Marie Antionette paid big time for her life of privilege and arrogance.


 Next to the Rodin Museum with quite a bit of the art outside, including “The Thinker”(one of several).







 Next door was the Hotel des Invalides, where we toured the Armor museum, St. Louis Church and Napoleon’s Tomb. We also shared sandwiches at the cafeteria.
We walked to the Plain of Mars, (former military training site) and then to the Eiffel tower. We did not go up as the wait was two hours and our Museum Pass wouldn’t let us jump the line here.


 We crossed the Seine and walked to the Arch de Triumph. Our pass let us skip the long line and we climbed to the top.


We metroed it back to our room then went to dinner at the Vin aux Pyrenees. The service was very slow, the food was very good. Three of us had salmon, Shane had a different fish.

Monday morning we headed to the Louvre. We listened to Rick Steve’s audio tour, then ventured on our own. We left at 2:00 p.m. and grabbed lunch at a pizza/panini place.








Next we toured the Concierge, a former Palace, oldest medieval structure still extant, then on to St. Chappelle, where Shane greeted the upper Chapel with a “Wow”. The sun came out and gave us a beautiful view of the stained glass on one side of the chapel.








From there we metroed to the Pantheon, after which we decided to call it a day and went back to our hotel to clean up which gave Shane some time to delete a slew of pictures, having 505 already on his camera.
That evening we metroed to the Latin Quarter and walked back toward the Seine where we decided on a Greek Restaurant, not a great meal. We walked home and stopped on the Ile de St. Louis to try the gelato place. We decided that although the portions were more generous, it wasn’t quite as good as the more famous French ice cream.

Tuesday we walked to Notre Dame and were able to walk right in.





 After touring the Cathedral we hiked south across the Seine to the small street market on the south end of Rue de Mouffetaud. We wondered first if it was the right place as it was small and there weren’t many people there. Two people who were there… Martina Navratilova and her partner. Martina saw that I recognized her and said “Uh oh”. I said “Martina!” She then looked the other way and said “Where? Where?” I then said “I’m a big fan.” Martina: “You are not that big a fan.” When I appeared confused she said smiling, “You are not that big, especially for an American.” which I assume was intended as a compliment. After a laugh I resisted bothering her anymore. Teresa later went into a store looking for a knife and found herself standing next to Martina. She beat a hasty retreat, not wanting Martina to think she was being stalked.
We bought a couple of sandwiches, 3 cheeses, additional bread and 2 huge chocolate flan pastries. We then walked to Jardin de Luxembourg for our picnic.






 After touring the gardens we headed to the church of St. Sulfice. This church was featured in the Da Vinci Code as it had a bronze line for the elliptical path of the sun which was established in 1745.







After strolling through the neighboring antique and fine arts flea market, we headed to more serious shopping along the Rue de Sevres. I should say window shopping after we saw an outfit consisting of a small skirt and top that cost more than the cost to transport the 4 of us from Miami to Paris and back.

We walked to the Boulevard Saint Germaine and followed it to the bridge, then to the Place de la Concorde. We then walked the length of the Champs Elysees. At that point we decided to metro back to our hotel even though it was only 4:30 as we had done a lot of walking and a big night was ahead of us.

For dinner we went Moroccan at the 404. We shared appetizers of pigeon pie and a spicy cooked vegetable dish that was eaten on bread. For dinner I had a Tajine dish with apples, cinnamon and almonds, Teresa and Christine had lamb with peas and artichokes and Shane had couscous with skewered chicken and vegetables.

After dinner we took the 10:00 Seine boat ride, then walked back to the hotel.



 

The next morning we taxied to the Louvre to pick up our car. The Garmin did a great job of getting us out of Paris and to the town of Fountainbleu, but had trouble getting us to the chateau itself. Fountainbleu has a good deal of history associated with it and some wonderfully decorated rooms but architecturally it was uninspiring.




Our next stop, Chambord Chateau was the opposite. Its design both inside and out was remarkable, the rooms less so.




Our final stop for the day was Amboise. Only one of our 2 rooms was air-conditioned. Guess whose wasn’t? We got a fan that worked well enough. After cleaning up we headed out. We decided not to walk all the way to Leonardo Da Vinci’s house so we proceeded to the city center and its museum chateau.

 Dinner at the Via Romos, where we split two salads. I had Pasta Gorganzola, Shane a veal cutlet with pasta, Teresa lasagna and Christine had ham and other stuff pasta. We then walked some more, halfway across the bridge to get the view of the chateau; located a supermarket for the next morning, and then – gelato.




The next morning got off to a good start. First the supermarket where we got provisions, then to 3 different pastry shops. I chose best; a chocolate éclair that was wonderful, then an apple pastry, all washed down with a Coke Zero.
Our first stop was Chateau de Chenonceau which was visually stunning, literally built on the Cher River, art works inside include several Rubens; fresh flower arrangements in many rooms, well decorated interior and traditional planned garden.


 




 From there we drove to the Gardens of Villandry (the Garmin had a very good day). We toured the grounds and had a picnic lunch at a play area with picnic tables, good bread, tomatoes, sausage and our remaining cheese from our last picnic with an added wedge from the grocery store.







 Next we drove to Chinon where we first checked into our hotel. We walked around the city and finally decided to tour the castle, which featured audio and visual displays. The castle had quite a history but was not greatly intact. This was the base of the Plantangenet kings for their realms in France. It was here that Joan of Arc implored the future King Charles VII to allow her to take an army to relieve Orleans.


After the castle visit we strolled around some more, stopping at a pastaseria/chocolatier to buy the next morning’s breakfast.
That evening we ate at a very nice restaurant. I had a tomato custard appetizer which was very good, steak with a special butter and fried potatoes- lemon meringue shortcake for dessert. The girls both had salads, chicken cordon bleu and a banana and whipped cream dessert. Shane had a smoked salmon caustaeuer on toast (he said reminiscent of smak) for his appetizer, pike for his plat and the banana dessert.


The next morning featured a long scenic drive on the way to Sarlat. We arrived about 1:00, so walked around the city center. We split sandwiches for lunch; and because this is one of the places they filmed Chocolat, we had to buy some. Of course we visited a church along the way. Three of us had gelato on the way back to the hotel.



We then got back in the car and took our scenic town tour (Rick Steves) along the Dordogne River. We went by Montfort Castle which is reputed to be owned currently by the brother of the Emir of Kuwait.






 Next we went to La Roque-Gageac, a charming town on the river against a cliff. Castleraud (English held during the 100 year war), dating from medieval times; Beynoc (French held) which included another medieval town with a castle above. Because of the lateness, we did not tour either (some sighs from Teresa and Shane, not Christine!)










Back to Sarlat to clean up for dinner. Quite a dinner it was. Rick Steves recommended La Mirondal so we went there. As an appetizer I had pate de foie gras with 3 sauces, one of which was a delicious sweet wine sauce made from a local wine. This was the second best appetizer. Teresa had the best, a salad … Bib lettuce., sliced duck gizzards, bacon, apple and walnuts.

Next for Teresa and me was duck breast in truffle sauce but Christine’s leg of duck took first place. All plates included potatoes with garlic and green herbs and carrot puree that Teresa raved about. Next was a goat cheese salad with a delicious horse radish or mustard dressing. Finally dessert was where I won with my apple tart, beating out the walnut tart everyone else had.

After dinner we walked around the old walled city, eschewing gelato.
The next morning was Saturday which meant Market Day in Sarlat. The street market took over the town. Christine and Teresa bought ceramics and a decorative purse mirrors for gifts. We all had pastries for breakfast. Christine rated the market very highly.





In the car now, to head to Lescaux, the 17,000 year old cave paintings (actually you can only see an exact replica of the cave, the original cave had to be closed up because having so many people enter, caused changes in the cave environment and was damaging the paintings.) The tour guide was passionate and enlightening. We drove past Roc St. Christopher where the local inhabitants would flee to the caves in the cliffs to escape Viking raiders. Roc De Regne was next, a similar sight.

Driving along the river, we reached St. Leon, where we walked around, purchased a pizza to go and picnicked by the river. We then headed west to the Prehistory Museum which although it had some English, was not a good choice considering the time and cost associated with it.


We drove back to Sarlat where we did laundry.
For dinner we again went to La Mirondal (repeating a restaurant for dinner is very rare for us). We had no reservation and were being told we were out of luck when the owner came by and remembered us from the night before. He told us one table had come early and would be done in 20 minutes if we wished to come back- we did. Shane and I had the goose gizzard and bacon salad, delicious; Christine and Teresa had the mixed vegetable salad which they claimed was good. Shane had the leg of goose, my leg was duck. Christine had Coq au Vin, Teresa had the duck bean soup. I claimed victory on this but truth be told, Teresa’s dish was great. Teresa decided to eat her goat cheese from the salad with bread which she related tasted better than with the lettuce. Our waiter suggested the chocolate cake for dessert so 3 of us got it. Christine got the crème Brule but she envied us ours after a taste. On the way home I got a chocolate brownie gelato cone to amuse the rest of them.
 

Sunday was Father’s Day- to my surprise, I was presented with a card, pastries and a Coke Zero (which Christine got up early to go out and purchase). I also had the promise of a tee shirt of my choice.

We left early for Carcossonne. It was described as the best medieval fortified city in Europe and we could not disagree. It was started by the Romans at the intersection of two important trading routes. Following civilizations added on to it as it withstood sieges by the Huns, Arabs, and Franks until it became so formidable that no one bothered it any more.
We first went to the Cathedral then toured the castle and after a nice lunch of sandwiches, we walked the ramparts ending back in the castle where I chose my tee-shirt.





It was then off to Arles, another long drive. We arrived in time to tour the Historic Museum, then we checked into our hotel, “Le Calendel”, the same one Rick Steves stayed in. There is a Roman Theater and Amphitheater (Coliseum) in Arles, both in good shape, close together with our hotel between them. Parking the car was quite a trek though. After cleaning up we walked around a while and settled on a restaurant in the Place Forum. Teresa and I had beef Bourgogne, the kids had salads which ended up being pretty small. Although we all had dessert with the meal, apple turnovers and lemon tarts, three of us had gelato after dinner.



In Arles they have “easels” throughout the city set up where Van Gogh painted a scene with a picture of his painting. We tracked down 2 that night without the map the TI sells.

In the morning we headed to Pont du Gard, one of the best preserved Roman aqueducts from 20 A.D. No mortar was used in its construction. We learned the lesson that Christine really does need her coffee first thing in the morning!
 




From there we drove to Avignon, where Popes brought the Holy See for about 70 years. They built city walls to defend it and turned a sleepy little town into a respectable city. We checked out the Garden and the views from the Roc and then did the audio tour of the Papal Palace. Very little decoration inside but the large complex is intact. Lunch was next. Shane and I had kebabs, the girls had sandwiches.



 Drove back to Arles and a quick trip to our room followed by visiting the Roman Theater and Amphitheatre. By now we had acquired an ‘easel’ map and tracked down two more. We walked around looking for a wine store for Christine. We found one where she bought a Chateau Neuf de Pape at a very good price. Nearby we bought some magnums which we ate on the hike back to the hotel.



That night Christine picked the restaurant. I had shrimp with aioli sauce, pigs feet Provencal with rice and an apple tart. Shane had escargot, bull steak (a little tough) and the tart. Teresa had Nicosia salad she greatly enjoyed, bull chunks which were tender and crème Brule. Christine had the Provencal special of cod, potatoes, carrots, escargot, and cauliflower all with aioli sauce. We looked for gelato, but sadly, it was closed.

The next morning we went first to picturesque Aix-en-Provence where we got pastry at the local shop Rick Steves recommended and Shane and Christine drank coffee at his recommended college coffee hang out. We went to the market and bought vittles for our lunch, including duck sausage (not a hit with Christine). I got a Coke. We toured the Cathedral as well as the main drag which took us to their fountain. Time was up on our parking so we headed to Juan les Pins to stay at a bed and breakfast.


We arrived at 1:00pm and since we had emailed we would be there at 2:00, we went to the beach for a picnic. After getting settled in our B & B, we went to the beach for real which was packed. Shane was the only one of us to go in the sea.
It was the summer solstice and Juan les Pins had started a tradition of live bands performing throughout the city that night. We walked around before finally deciding on Italian for dinner. I had an anchovy and olive pizza, Shane ham and parmesan, Christine and Teresa split a Nicoise salad and a pizza with peppers, olives, and drizzled with basil pesto.



We then caught various bands as we wandered. We finally settled on having a drink and listening to a group of French men called “Arkansas” who played American Country and Western, mostly Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Jr. That took us to10:30 and bedtime.
In the morning after our breakfast and more conversation with our hosts (who lived in Texas half of the year and in France the other half, very nice people) we drove the short drive to Antibes. First the nature walk of 2 hours plus around the cape, most of which is now owned by a Russian Billionaire. After completing it one way, we missed our turn and ended up walking the walk back along the trail. (Christine told us we were going the wrong way, she has an excellent sense of direction!) We hurried the walk back to have time to spend in Antibes’ market.





 The city was founded by the Greeks 2,500 years ago. We walked all around the city, including the market and shopping area. For lunch we found a very large sandwich and some olive spread and we improvised a picnic. We were witness to one drunk man beating on another, someone called the police. We also found at least the second best gelato we had eaten all trip, all partook.



We headed back to our B & B. After changing, Shane and I went to the beach while Christine and Teresa went shopping. Christine got a bathing suit and they also picked up some Rose wine and lemonade. They dropped the drinks off at the B & B, before joining us at the beach. Shane and Teresa swam, then she and I went for a walk. We headed back to our rooms where we ate peaches with the Rose (a disappointment) and Lemonade for me.
We decided to drive to Antibes for the evening. After more strolling we found an Italian restaurant. We shared fried calamari and a salad as an entré. I had veal and spaghetti, Christine had tagliete bollognaise, and Shane had tagliete over Fruits de Mer. Teresa had a chicken over rice dish that left her the winner.

We then walked the portion of the ramparts over the harbor and saw the statue made of letters and the large collection of pleasure vessels. Back into town for gelato, then we drove back to Juan les Pins.





The next morning after breakfast, check out and another chat with our hosts, we drove to Nice. Nothing like I remembered from 20 years ago. It was big and sprawling but had an ancient quarter we missed last time but explored this time. We visited churches and an old palace. We climbed up to the old Roman hilltop and saw the waterfall and panoramas.








For lunch we grazed on various local treats including Socco, served up by the Mad Women of the Market no less. Of course we had gelato- we took Rick Steves’ cue and got it from Fenocchios Exotic Flavors. Christine bought a white chapeau (hat) and Shane a water color painting. We also tried the candied fruit, cherries, pineapple and melon and bought a couple more little pieces of ceramics.

We walked down and visited the beach and watched some beach volley ball until it was time to take the kids to the Cote de Azur airport as they started their trek home.

We headed north through very scenic and mountainous countryside, making it as far as Digne. We found a hotel where the only room they had was for five people (the kids could have stayed). We ate at a Greek restaurant where we split a Greek salad and both had the lamb chops.







The next morning we headed straight for Anecy. We found a nice hotel on the canal (Rick Steves) with a room overlooking the water. We walked around- bought some bread (turned out to be walnut bread), tomatoes and cheese and with the duck sausage and olive spread we had, enjoyed quite a picnic in the garden area in front of the lake.





Anecy is a very picturesque and charming town. We went through 3 churches, the ile de palace and the chateau (castle) on the hill.












We decided on fondue for dinner (a RS restaurant). First we shared a huge salad, lettuce, tomatoes, grated cheese, potatoes with, again, a horseradishy dressing. The fondue came with bread and potatoes. We didn’t finish half before we were stuffed. I had to wander an hour before gelato. During that time we watched a spray paint artist work, he was quite good.

The next morning we first found pastry, I chose a tasty lemon custard, Teresa a so-so raisin pastry and we shared an oeuf en plat (eggs on a plate) which was good. We then toured the Saturday open market, which is like a huge yard sale except the sellers have exalted views of the value of their junk.

We took the scenic drive along Lake Anecy, stopping to check out the para gliding. The idea to try it was formed, but they had no openings until 2:00. Since we needed to be on our way to Chamonix, the town at the base of Mont Blanc, we decided we might try it on our return.

Chamonix was booked solid due to a marathon being run the next day, so we had to find a place (with the help of the TI) 10 miles down the road. The place was cheap, relatively speaking, and our room had a view of Mont Blanc. After picnicking outside our hotel, we drove back to Chamonix where we walked around the town, went on a short hike, then spent some time at the landing site for para gliders as they came in.




We found a place to people watch as we drank (me a very expensive beer, Teresa wine). We found a restaurant where I had tuna lasagna and Teresa had another Nicoise salad. We scouted out the town a little more before heading back to our hotel.

We rose early the next morning to purchase our all day pass to ride the various lifts up the mountains. We took the gondola for L’ Aiquille de Midi at 7:00. 80% of the people going up were serious mountain climbers who were on their way to assault Mont Blanc or one of the glaciers. The first gondola took us way up, the second way, way up, and even after an elevator ride, we were still below the peak of Mont Blanc.






We took in the views, froze, Teresa had a hot chocolate and I a Coke and both had a pastry in the little cafeteria. We took the lift back to the first station where we could free-lance a trek through the mountains. The snow here was too hard for a snowball fight. Returning from our hike we took the lift back and walked to the Train du Montenvers.



This was a cog wheel train like the one at Jung Frau Joch in Switzerland and we took it up to a glacier. They had carved a cave in the glacier (Mer de Glace) which we climbed down several hundred feet (due to global warming the height of the glacier is well below what it used to be) and entered. We climbed back up and did some more mountain climbing, again feeding the black birds with yellow beaks (three of them were banded).





After we took the trail back, we got on cooler clothes at the car and then stopped to share an excellent kebob and another Coke Zero.

We then headed to the lift first to Planpraz and then on to Brevent- more views.

When we came back down to Planpraz where we started hiking but ran into the finish of the marathon. It was a marathon that included a climb into the mountains of over 3,000 feet, the best time was 3hrs. 56 minutes.

We gave up on the hike idea since things weren’t that scenic at this stop. We took the gondola back to the city and treated ourselves to very good gelato.



We drove back to Anecy where we tried for a different hotel with easier parking but they were booked so we went back to our last hotel here. They had a room on the canal again so we cleaned up and headed out for dinner. We settled for a crepe place where Teresa had a ham, eggs and tomato crepe and I had a tuna salad. Teresa then had a nutella, banana, and Chantilly (cream) crepe for dessert. (she loved it) I had gelato.
In the morning, we had to change our room since our present room was booked to someone else. We moved upstairs, Teresa hoping the higher floor would be quieter and cooler (no ac in the hotel and this time we were street side.) We started the day off with some major exercise, carrying our bags up. On the way out we ran into Hector and Anita, a Canadian couple we had kept running into in Chamonix. Hector was jealous of our plans to para glide. We then headed to the pastry shop where I got a chocolate éclair and Teresa got an ouef en plat. We rented bicycles and rode around the lake for 2 hours. The day was warm and getting warmer.

Then we got in the car and found a bakery where we bought turkey sandwiches for lunch which we took to the beach. At 3:20 we headed for Toularies where we were driven up a mountain and we each jumped off the cliff. We were both attached to a crescent parachute and an “instructor” whose only instructions were “when I say go, run off the cliff” and “when we make it to the ground start running”. The flight lasted about 35 minutes almost all of which was spent near the cliff face as the updrafts took us well above the launch area. The flight was peaceful, exhilarating, with beautiful views of the mountains and lake.
 




After we landed we drove back to the beach area where we read and relaxed (I did- Teresa did travel planning) and then back to the room.

For dinner we went back to the fondue place but this time got the potato dishes- mine came with bacon and bleu cheese. Teresa’s came with ham and goat cheese. We shared red wine. After dinner we walked down the canal away from the lake to get a different view; then gelato, then au chambre.
The next morning we ran into Hector and Anita again before heading to Lyon.

We found a hotel through the TI, a little out from the center but with bus connections and subway, and checked in.

We bought a 1 day transportation pass and took trams, subways and funiculars to get up to where the old Roman forum was and now stands their cathedral. The bottom was devoted to St. Joseph, the top to Mary.





It was a hot day so we were happy to go into the cool Gallic-Roman Museum which was much more impressive than we had anticipated. There was a lot Of English and plenty of displays of Roman statuary, tools, steles, etc., but the most intriguing pieces were the mosaics; they were beautiful and pretty much intact. The largest was entirely intact and you were allowed to walk on it!








From there we toured the Roman Theater and Odeon (little theater) before heading down on the funicular to St. Jean’s Cathedral which we visited.


We then went through the Old Town area, explored a few courtyards, ate some gelato before crossing a bridge to the peninsula. After walking around a bit, we took subways and trams back to the hotel.
We went back to the peninsula for dinner. Young people filled the bars and restaurants. I had pork, Teresa had chicken; we both had salad and then apple tart for dessert. We went by Lyon’s famous fountain with the four horses after dinner but the water wasn’t running.


The next day was cool. We were headed to Beaune, but drove first through vineyards, visited Cluny where there is very little left of St. Benedict’s powerful monastery, and then more vineyards.


We arrived in Beaune at 3:30, found a hotel, (a Ricky Steves recommendation) then explored the town. Beaune is in the heart of Burgundy and wine is everywhere. As no one had found a wine that tasted better than root beer, I did not partake.


We did visit the first large hospice (for the poor) /hospital (for the rich), established in 1443. We then walked the ramparts of the city, then out past the walls to the gardens which back up to more vineyards. They all looked alike to me.







For dinner, I had a small salad with scallops with a cream/pea sauce as appetizer, Teresa had goat cheese salad. We both had chicken supreme with French fries, pedestrian at best, and we both had peach tart for dessert, pretty good. Back to the room where we encountered more trouble getting on the internet.

In the morning, we headed to Dijon on the smaller roads which meant everything we saw was either a town or a vineyard. Teresa quite enjoyed it.

The roads in Dijon were under major renovation so we spent a while looking for parking and then waiting for a space in the parking garage to open up. Dijon has a lot of free stuff. We went to an archeological museum and art museum in the ducal palace, and a wildlife museum (with all stuffed wildlife) all gratuit. We also went in churches and cathedrals but paid a bit to go in St. Stephen’s Crypt. It was built in the 11th Century but turned out to be something we really didn’t need to see.




As its name implies, Dijon has lots of hot women. For lunch we both had kebabs; Teresa had the traditional sauce, I chose the mustard sauce. Later we split a chocolate pastry.

We had looked to book a room at the TI but were told there were no rooms in the city center or they were very expensive. As we left, they admitted that they did not have access to all the rooms for hotels, some of the hotels held rooms back. We went out on our own looking and on our 3rd try, had a room very close to our car, with a/c and half the cost of the cheapest room recommended to us that would have meant more driving. After check in we walked around some more before returning to clean up.

For dinner we strolled to Café Cosi. We both had the gizzard salad, very good but not as good as the one in Sarlat. Teresa had salmon and I had steak. Teresa won this round as her salmon was terrific, my steak was tasty but as so often with European steaks, it was tough. We both had cassis ice cream with little cubes of gingerbread and whipped cream for dessert. We went back for a second touch of the good luck owl at Notre Dame since it had done such a bang up job getting us a room. We were there for the clockworks strike at 10:00 on top of the cathedral.

The next morning we visited both the indoor and outdoor market in town before driving to Colmar. Colmar is in the Alsace Lorraine region which means it has been fought over between France, Germany, and/or Prussia for hundreds of years. Should the Rhine be the boundary or the mountains? The town is French but has some German characteristics. The French do rub it in a little though; there are war memorials to heroes of the French resistance in town and in 2011 they are playing reruns of Hogan’s Heroes on local TV.



We decided to stay at the Ibis and after checking in, went to the Unterlinden Museum which housed some very famous early religious art, much revered by the Germans. The audio guide supplied had some relevant information that made the art more interesting. Next we visited two churches, the first of which was known for its art. The church was pretty much being used as just a fancy setting for that.


We walked a little more before heading back to the room as it was cooling off and we weren’t dressed for it. We strolled around before dinner and we both decided on Tarte Flambee which is like pizza, except no tomato sauce. Mine was bleu cheese, Teresa’s wasn’t. We enjoyed them but decided pizza is better. We did some more walking before securing gelato.


In the morning we took a day trip to Strasbourg, about a 35 minute drive. Strasbourg was somewhat like Colmar in that it featured canals and medieval architecture. It was a bigger city and had a tremendous cathedral with lots of stained glass. We decided to see the show of the very old astronomical clock which performed at 12:30 p.m. Both the clock and the movie immediately before the striking were overhyped and worth neither the time nor the money.












The rest of the town was charming. We settled on Kebabs and splitting a salad for lunch, very good choice. We visited other churches and got a good feel for the city.







Back to Colmar to do some more exploring before heading back to our room.





We went to the Pfieiffel for dinner. Teresa had Sylvaner wine which she enjoyed, I had a Raddler (beer and lemonade) which I hadn’t had since Munich. Teresa started with quiche, I had a farmer’s pate which was a cold slab of meatloaf with pate in it along with cabbage salad. We both had the Alsatian sausage with garnie (which was sausages and ham with sauerkraut.) We had ice cream at the restaurant which was very good.

In the morning Carmen (the Garmin) inexplicably took us to Ribeauville on the way to Nancy (Teresa had wanted to go there but we thought it would be too far out of the way.) It was another charming town with timbered houses. There was a castle on the hill above the town but it was a 45 minute climb one way so we passed on it. The walk through town was nice and we got some pastry and a Coke for me.
 

Back on the road we came to a fair/rummage sale in Roves so we stopped for that also. It was much like a trunk-boot sale but they sold some food (great custard cream puff- my choice and a less wonderful cherry tart- with seeds- Teresa’s). An orchestra of locals was playing, a few off notes.

We ended up in Nancy later than we had planned, checked into our Bookings hotel which was fine and then walked to Stanislaus Square. Being the first Sunday of the month all admission were free to museums so we first went to the Art Museum. It was a very good one. We then walked to the Ducal Palace which turned out to be mostly another art museum which wasn’t as good; a folk museum and church were connected, neither were exciting. The hall that was starred by Fodors was closed.


 We were surprised by the church of St. Epvre as it was superb, excellent stained glass.




 We then walked to the cathedral and that was a disappointment. Right outside however began the largest street market either of us had ever seen and it was mobbed. We walked through that (I got gelato).

At our hotel we got the car to go to the Museum of the Nancy School of Art which had to do with the Art Nouveau period (nature based lines, think curvy, and themes). It was in a house set in a garden and not huge but interesting.
After cleaning up, we first went to check out the Art Nouveau architecture before finding a restaurant. We settled on a small Indian place. We both had a set menu which came with a variety of appetizers and three sauces, the sweet was best. I had lamb curry and Teresa a spicier lamb. After dinner we checked out the medieval North Gate of the Old City- the only part left, then walked back to the hotel.

In the morning, Monday, we spent quite a bit of time in our room booking a room in Paris for our last night. We then headed to Troyes, intending to stay there for the night but most of what we wanted to see was closed and what wasn’t didn’t impress us, so after eating a kebob we decided to move on to Sens. We arrived about 1:30 and found free city parking. After a visit to the friendly TI for a map and a listing of hotels, we visited the Cathedral. It is considered the first of the great French Gothic cathedrals, begun in 1135. The architect, the “Master of Sens” proposed pointed arches and ribbed vaults. Some of its stained glass windows were from the early 12th century.




 This was also the Cathedral where Thomas a’ Becket sought sanctuary when fleeing Henry II. Some windows traced his chronology including his embarkation back to England (big mistake).
We then found a hotel and onto Carrefoures City to get something cold to drink (the kebabs having been quite salty) . After cleaning up we walked around the city, including across the river. For dinner we decided on the Restaurant of the Cathedral which was on the square, feet from the cathedral. We split a salad and each had a pizza. Mine was anchovies with big luscious capers. Teresa had pepperoni with onions and olives. We decided they were the best we have had outside of Croatia.



 The next morning, we headed back to Paris. We covered 95% of the distance in 5% of the time. We found our hotel even though Carmen did not recognize its address. We narrowly beat the meter maid and took off to deliver the car. After using Carmen 3 times to locate gas stations that ended up not being visible we headed to the car rental location only to spy a pump on the side of the main road to our destination. The station’s price was very inflated. Two hours later we had traveled the 2.6 miles to get there. Our 70 mile trip had taken us 5 hours.

Paris was packed with tourists much worse than our first visit but it was now July. We had pastries for breakfast at 3:15,Teresa had a banana nutella crepe for lunch at 3:45. We then visited 4 other churches we had not seen before as well as some squares and the Pompadour Center, just the outside. We also visited the Deportation (Holocaust) Memorial next to Notre Dame. After another visit to the Latin Quarter and finally trying a Magnum McFlurrie (hoping to use the bathroom which ended up closed), we metroed back to our hotel.




We first bought pastries for later then went out and had salads. Mine was a Giant Salad that had everything we had seen on a salad before plus fried potatoes and toast with hot goat cheese. Teresa enjoyed her smaller but also large salad.

Wednesday we got up at 6:30 and met our taxi to get to the airport. The traffic was heavy in some areas but we made it to the airport in about 45 minutes, plenty of time. We ate our saved pastries for breakfast and awaited our flight which was on time, with a smooth flight and a nice landing. I sat behind Teresa (comes from booking tickets through Expedia) but did have a very attractive young lady next to me, Teresa got two young Dutch computer types.







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