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Thursday, September 26, 2002

France 2002

2/16/2010: Google is removing its "Pages" functionality and replacing it with "Sites."  Sites does not fit my needs as far as integrating into Blogger, so I won't be using it.  At least, right now.  However, they have started allowing "Pages" within Blogger, which is functionality that Wordpress has had for a while and has been sorely missing from Blogger.  I'm converting everything that was once in Pages over to Blogger, either as blog posts or as pages (they have a limit to how many pages they will allow).  So, here is an old post from there.  I realize that this post pre-dates the entire blog, so just realize that this was moved from another location and brought here.

This is my trip report from my trip to France in September, 2002.

Day One

Friday 13 September 2002

  • 5:55pm EDT - Depart for Zurich, Switzerland from Dulles, VA
  • Long. Tiring. There were German teenagers behind us that kept turning their overhead lights off and on. This was annoying. Then they were kicking our seats. We flew over the Naval Academy on our way out. Alcohol was free on the plane! I didn't drink much of it, just a glass of wine.
Day Two

Saturday 14 September 2002

  • 7:55am CET - Arrive Zurich
  • 9:45am CET - Depart Zurich for Paris, France
  • 11:05am CET - Arrive Paris, France
  • See Versailles (including fountain show!)
  • Paris is Busy. Fast. Exciting. Dangerous for pedestrians. Our first day was the most exhausting of them all. Dave and I had not slept on the plane and in order to get over jet lag, we couldn't sleep once we got to Paris until at least 9pm. The plane landed at 11am, so this was a LONG TIME. We got metro tickets, went to our hotel. The metro was mostly stairs. Carrying our luggage up & down the stairs sucked. However, when we got out of the metro, there we were on the Champs Elysees staring at the Arch de Triomphe!
    We made it to our hotel, took a shower in the scalding hot water (there was cold also, but the shower was so small that you easily knocked the handle towards hot). Then, off to Versailles where we fell asleep on the train on the way over. We had a snack at McDonalds because it was easy. Toured the gardens. The fountains were on (well, for 10 minutes anyway). Toured Versailles. Contemplated staying for the night fountain show. Decided we were very tired. Headed back to the hotel. On the way back, we got to see the flowers & graffiti over the tunnel where Princess Diana died.
    Had dinner in a brasserie (less formal restaurant). Onion soup bland. Steak sucked. Duck not too bad. Served with French Fries (frites). Dessert was creme caramel for me, chocolate mousse for Dave. Crashed at hotel.
Day Three

Sunday 15 September 2002

  • Day tour of Paris
  • See Notre Dame Cathedral - see the choir sing
  • Visit the Opera Garnier - home of the Phantom of the Opera!
  • Visit the Louvre Museum - Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo
  • Woke up, ate breakfast in hotel. Breakfast was good in Paris. French bread, soft cheese, pain au chocolat (chocolate pastry), sausage, eggs, fruit, cafe au lait. Went on a tour. I had forgotten my tour info, so I couldn't remember when the tour was supposed to pick us up. This was bad, but it worked out in the end after we waited an hour and a half for it to come. Tour took us to all of the major sights in Paris. This was Sunday, so mass was going on at Notre Dame and the Sacre Coeur. I lit candles in both churches. Actually, I lit candles in every church that we visited. At Montmartre, some street artists came up with black paper and scissors. They looked at me & Dave and started cutting the paper. Lo and behold, they had cut perfect silouettes of us just by looking at us! This was pretty incredible.
    After the tour, we ate lunch at a brasserie on the Champs-Elysees. Dave had a croque monsieur, I had a croque madame. A croque monsieur is a grilled ham & cheese sandwhich w/ cheese on top. Big in France. A Croque madame is a croque monsieur with a fried egg on top. I also had Orangina! Back to the hotel and off to the Louvre. Saw the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo. Looked at paintings. Looked at the Egypt section. Saw the sarcophogus of Imhotep. Dave took video of everything. I almost fell down the stairs. Saw some anotomically correct sculptures. I had had enough.
    Off to the Opera Garnier. I finally got to see the inside of the opera house. This was nice, but not very exciting. We went to the train station to inquire about TGV tickets for Tuesday. Bought them. Feeling drained. Back to hotel. Ate dinner in an italian restaurant on the Champs Elysees. Dave ordered a bottle of airplanes with dinner instead of water. Dessert was tirmisu. Crashed at hotel after watching French "The Weakest Link".
Day Four

Monday 16 September 2002

  • See Le Sacre-Couer and Montmartre
  • Climb the Eiffel Tower
  • Visit the Centre Pompidou
  • Explore Paris
  • Breakfast in hotel. Decided not to visit the Sacre-Couer as that was covered in our tour the previous day. Instead, we went to Sainte Chapelle. It was loud in there and every once in a while a guy would get on the loudspeaker and say "Shhhhhh..... Silence! Merci." Dave and I would repeat this the whole trip. Off to the Eiffel Tower where we were annoyed by street salesmen. 2 Euro for a plastic Eiffel Tower keychain!! Well, it wasn't appealing when the last 15 guys tried to sell us one, but now I'm starting to feel differently...
    After the Tower, we bought sandwiches from a stand (and frites) and ate them on the Champ de Mars, outside the Eiffel Tower. I paid too much for a Souvenir Pen that a college student sold me. We decided to skip the Centre Pompidou and instead rode a Bateau Mouche (scenic boat tour on the Seine). There, we ran into a boatload (haha) of FDNY people. I appreciate their heroism, but they were a tad on the obnoxious side. They got a kick of the Pompiers (French fire fighters).
    Back at the hotel, we saw an interesting French Game Show called "letters and numbers" that was more intellectual than anything you find on american television. A guy name Serge won.
    Then, we went to the Tuilerie Gardens to hang around and eat ice cream. We went to Montmartre for dinner, ended up in Pigalle (Paris red light district). Dinner included frites. Dave got fish soup. I had escargot and duck. He also had filet mignon with gravy on it (?). I don't remember dessert. At one point, the owner of the restaurant pushed a man out and threatened to call the police. We don't know what that was all about.
Day Five

Tuesday 17 September 2002

  • 8:15am CET - Depart Paris for Tours via TGV!
  • 9:19am CET - Arrive Tours
  • Explore Tours
  • Breakfast in hotel, and we were surprised they had it that early. We took the 7:45 TGV instead of 8:15. We went to Montparnasse station after carrying our luggage up & down more stairs on the metro. Activated our rail passes, boarded the train without an issue. The train ride was nice. Uneventful. In Tours, we had to locate the hotel and drag our luggage to it. Dave and I switched bags. His was lighter and had the wheels on the edge of the bag rather than towards the middle. We've started calling mine "the wonk" because it tends to fall over while you're pulling it. I swore I was going to throw it in the dumpster as soon as we got home.
    Checked into the hotel, the maids were still in the room. Boarded "Le Petit Train" (sightseeing tour) at 10am. Le Petit Train was in French. They gave us a sheet of paper with the English tour written on it. Grammer was so poor that we had trouble figuring out what it was saying. We had lunch in a brasserie. It was very good - Dave had some sort of sausage with a sauce that he said was too strong. I ordered Pot au feu which I couldn't remember what it was when I ordered it. Turned out it was pot roast. I never did identify one of the veggies in it. I think it was either turnip or radish. Wandered around Tours, found an internet cafe and checked our email. Tried to talk on AOL Instant Messenger but no one was online to talk to. Got some pastries from a patisserie. Got drinks from a super marche (perrier and cherry coke) and ate them back in the hotel.
    Wandered around Tours, I saw some cute childrens clothes for my nieces & nephews, but they were too expensive. In the Bassilica of Saint Martin, we visited the tomb of Saint Martin (Patron Saint of Tours. I need to look up more info on him). We were doing ok at being somber in the tomb and then an old man passed some gas really loudly and we started laughing. Oh well. Dinner was in a restaurant in Tours next to some obnoxious New Yorkers. Dave had chicken and I had rabbit. I also tried foie gras and decided that I didn't like it. Dessert was creme brulee for me and I don't remember what Dave had. The New York people yelled at the restauarant guy and he said "Cool Down!" in a French accent. This was funny to us.
    Serge won on Letters & Numbers again.
Day Six

Wednesday 18 September 2002

  • Visit Chateau de Chenonceau
  • Visit Clos Luce - Leonardo da Vinci's home!
  • View Chateau d'Ambiose
  • Lunch at the Hostel du Roy in Chenonceau
  • Visit Chateau de Chambord
  • Visit Nitray - plus Wine tasting! (website in French)
  • View Blois
  • View Chateau de Chaumont
  • Breakfast in our hotel. Breakfast in Tours was ok. We had bread, preserves, cheese, hard boiled eggs, pain au chocolat (I was starting to eat 2-3 per day) and cafe au lait. Walked to office of tourism to meet with tour group. Traveled to chateaux with a couple from Australia and two ladies from Spain. First, we went to Amboise. It turns out that "view the chateau" means to drive past it at a high rate of speed. I attempted to take pictures. Have you seen the commercial for film where the girls are in Rome on the car tour taking photos and they all come out blurry? It was like that.
    Clos Luce was next. It was interesting and the most like a home of all of the chateaux that we visited. We got to see models of some of the more interesting things that da Vinci invented. My favorite was a measurement device. It had a big wheel like a wheel barrow and you pushed it. When you did that, a disk with holes would spin and each time a hole passed under one section, a ball would fall through the hole into a lower compartment. When you finished pushing it along the area you wished to measure, you counted the balls to find out how far you went.
    Next was Chenonceau. It was the most crowded one. It spans the river Cher and was beautiful. This is where I would live if I were a queen. Next was lunch. We had a salad with salmon & duck, white wine, beef burgandy, potatoes, and ice cream for dessert (Vienetta to be exact). The ladies from Spain cussed out the restaurant people saying that the place was too hot and too expensive. Then, it was on to Chambord, which was really far away. More blurry pictures of other Chateaux.
    Chambord was a bit of a disappointment. Once you were inside, it was boring, big and confusing. The staircase was cool, though. Once I got up to the top I was a little dizzy and afraid of heights. We were also getting tired & irritable and I was catching a cold. I had a sore throat. We then went on to Nitray where a fun little French guy gave us a tour of the winery. "Then, in 1940, the Germans came and drank all the wine. This was very bad..." We had a white sparkling wine, a red wine, and another white wine. We then bought 2 bottles and had to haul them with us the whole rest of the trip. The French guy also had a dog that ate pine cones.
    Dinner was in Tours. I had pate and entrecote, which is beef. The beef had a yummy cheese sauce. Dessert for me was Tarte Tantin (Tarte Tantin from Tour at Les Touriste! It's fun to say fast). Dave had mousse I think. While we were in the restaurant, the roof started leaking from a huge thunderstorm. The owner seem positively mystified and then spent the next 45 minutes mopping up the floor. It was dry, but he was still freaking out about it.
    We went back to the hotel and found that one of the French TV Stations was showing Jerry Springer. Everything else was dubbed, but Jerry Springer was in English with French Subtitles!!! This is where we learned that the subtitles used perfect grammar even though those on Springer certainly did not. We also learned that "Salope" means bitch in french. We missed Letters & Numbers and contemplated how Serge did.
Day Seven

Thursday 19 September 2002

  • 9:45am CET - Depart Tours for Caen
  • 12:47pm CET - Arrive Caen
  • 2:38pm CET - Depart Caen for Bayeux
  • 2:54pm CET - Arrive Bayeux
  • Visit the Bayeux Tapestry
  • Explore Bayeux
  • 7:36pm CET - Depart Bayeux for Caen
  • 7:53pm CET - Arrive Caen
  • Hauled all of our junk, including 2 bottles of wine to the train station. Boarded the train for Caen. Enjoyed laughing that each of the stations we stopped in on the way ended in "on". Put our rail passes on the window sill while we played cards. Suddenly, the train turned a bit and the rail passes went down the air vent. Stared at each other in absolute horror since those were our method of transportation for the whole rest of the trip. Tried to pry open the vent. Tried to fish them out with a pen. The pen fell in. Finally, managed to grab them from the bottom and get them out. Breathed sigh of relief.
    Got off train in Caen. Tried to find hotel. Got lost. The hotel was really far away. Dave's backpack was open and spilled on the ground. We were still lost. Some old man who didn't speak English tried to tell us where to go. Dave and I were yelling at each other. Finally found hotel. Rushed back to the train station and couldn't figure out where the train was supposed to come. Realized that we were reading military time wrong and we were an hour early. Decided to find food and somewhere to change our money. Walked many blocks. Never found anywhere to change our money. Decided to pull some out of the ATM. The ATM rejected my ATM card. Gave up on the money and decided to get food somewhere that took credit cards. Found a place and ordered sammiches and chips. Our credit card was declined. Gave them our only other credit card, it worked and we took the food on the train.
    Traveled to Bayeux. Made it there and found a ton of people over 60 at the tapestry. Parts of the tapestry museum were very corny. All of the museum was crowded. Dave filmed the whole thing. We bought playing cards and some other stuff. Went down to the cathedral and took a look at it. This was the spookiest of all of the cathedrals that we visited. The crypt had several people in it and was mighty spooky. I felt like I was in a game of Diablo. There were also bats in the church.
    We went back to Caen. We had dinner in a nice little place. I had baked cheese (Camembert), sole in a cream sauce, a cheese plate (yummy soft cheeses), and Tarte Tantin for dessert. Dave had some sort of thing that was a bunch of cream puffs with ice cream in them instead of cream and chocolate sauce on top. I forget what it was called. Turns out that our credit card was ok. We decided to name our first born son Serge.
Day Eight

Friday 20 September 2002

  • Visit D-Day Beaches
  • Drive to Mont-St-Michel
  • Stay at Mere Poulard
  • Ate breakfast in the hotel. Cheese, bread, cafe au lait. Same old, same old. Successfully picked up the rental car. It was HUGE because I reserved an intermediate size thinking that anything smaller would be too small. It was a station wagon. Dave had some trouble getting it into reverse. We made it back to the hotel without getting into an accident. Packed up and headed out. Ran 2 red lights. Cut someone off. Drove the wrong direction towards Omaha Beach (we headed towards Gold Beach). Finally found the American Cemetary after cutting back through Bayeux.
    Explored the American Cemetary. I considered calling my dad to find out if we had any relatives that died in France during WWII. Ended up just searching around for anyone named Ennis or Hubbard or Aubrey (grandmother's name). Walked down to the beach and collected rocks. Waded in the water. Searched around in what remained of the German fortifications. Decided that pretending we had been shot like we did at Antietam would not have been appropriate (what with all of the WWII vets around and what not). Went back to the car and drove down to the Omaha Beach museum. Bought Nick a souvenir for watching our house.
    Drove on and decided that we were too hungry to look at anything else. Found no food. Finally stopped in Grandcamps in a small bar. Dave had a croque monsieur and I had quiche. This was the most out of place we ever felt since we were obviously the only tourists in the town. I got a twix bar. Then, we drove down to Mont-st-Michel without incident except when we passed the truck with hay on it where we thought it was going to tip over. Oh, and we almost ran over some sheep.
    Checked in to Mere Poulard and decided not to eat there. Unpacked our needs for the night into our back packs because it was such a long walk to the hotel and then we were on the fourth floor without an elevator. Watched the tide come in from our hotel room. Also watched the tourists leaving for the day. Discovered from watching our German TV Channel that indeed, Germans do love David Hasselhoff. Explored Mont-St-Michel a bit. Ate dinner at a little restaurant. Had cider, cheese, omelette and lamb. Dessert was pear charlotte for me and I don't remember what Dave had. We watched Italian "Who wants to be a millionaire."
Day Nine

Saturday 21 September 2002

  • Explore Mont-St-Michel
  • Travel to St Malo
  • Gamble -- BOULE!
  • Had crepes chocolat for breakfast. The chocolat actually appeared to be Nutella. Climbed the long climb to the abby at Mont-st-Michel. This put me in a bad mood. Plus, I was starting to really feel sick from my cold. The abby was crowded, but interesting. A man was sitting on the stairs talking to an employee and holding his nose. Someone said "Il tombe sur le nez" (he fell on his nose). Doh. Dave and I continued to repeat this for the rest of the trip, along with "Salope", "Cool Down!", "Wonk" and "Boeuf".
    Climbed back down, drove to St Malo. Found St Malo hotel and checked in with only minor issues. Drove into the town of St Malo and ate at McDonalds because it was easy. Walked on the beach. Explored a rock filled with mussels. St Malo was beautiful!! Played with the jellyfish and snails on the beach. Found "Le Petit Train de St Malo" and rode it. We were still enjoying saying "salope" in crowded places.
    Went to the hotel and changed for the casino (formal dress required). Drove to Dinard (since the casino there had blackjack and roulette). Parked in a questionable space on a sidewalk. Hoped we wouldn't get towed. Lost 50 Euros quickly in slot machines (0,20 Euro slots). Boule hadn't opened yet, so we went across the street to eat dinner. I got a bizarre seafood appetizer that had snails and oyster and clams and other strange things. It was unpleasant. Dave had fish soup again. I had salmon in cream sauce. Dessert for me was crepes chocolat (without nutella this time) and Dave had creme caramel. Back to the casino. Lost 100 Euros quickly at Boule. We were the only ones playing. Lost 50 Euros in the slots but then won 50 back. Decided that was enough. Looked out at the moonlight on the ocean. Car was not towed. Back to hotel. British "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" was on.
Day Ten

Sunday 22 September 2002

  • 9:58am CET - Depart St Malo for Rennes
  • 10:54am CET - Arrive Rennes
  • 11:05am CET - Depart Rennes for Paris
  • 1:15pm CET - Arrive Paris
  • Check in to The Disneyland Hotel
  • Dropped off rental car in St Malo Train Station. The only TGV tickets available from Rennes to Paris were on a smoking car. Nearly died from the smoke in the smoking car. Final count for people sitting next to Dave was 5 or 6 cigarettes in 2 hours... each. People were coming into the smoking car to smoke. I was next to an air vent and kept trying to breathe that air. Arrived in Paris and found transportation to Disneyland. Checked into our beautiful hotel. We smelled like smoke. Had lunch on Main Street USA. Hot dogs (and frites!). Rode Space Mountain, laughed at the british people. Tried to get a picture with Mickey, but he went away too soon. A little girl broke my heart crying when Mickey went away. He hadn't signed her autograph book and her face was SO SAD. Had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe.
Day Eleven and Twelve

Monday and Tuesday 23 & 24 September 2002

  • Explore Disneyland Paris
  • Breakfast was at the hotel. Same old, same old, but with the addition of Nutella and eggs and sausage. Eggs were scrabled but super runny. Dave wouldn't eat them. Finished up in the Magic Kingdom. Had candy bars for lunch. Later, we had some pizza in the Disney Studios park. Rode the scary Armageddon ride. Dinner was at Planet Hollywood.
    Breakfast at hotel again. Went to the Disney Studios and saw a car stunt show. It was very very cold (in the 40's). Went back to the hotel. I was over my cold, but Dave had one now. Lunch at McDonalds. Back to the Magic Kingdom where we rode the Pirates of the Carribean for the 3rd time, the Haunted Mansion for the second time, and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for the second time. Laughed at British people. Had dinner in the Blue Lagoon, which was a restauarant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. I had fish and Dave had beef. Dessert was pineapple cake for Dave and coconut cake for me. Dave had an aruguement with a junk peddler. We watched the Mickey Mouse show in German.
Day Thirteen

Wednesday 25 September 2002

  • 9:40am CET - Depart Paris for Zurich, Switzerland
  • 11:00am CET - Arrive Zurich
  • 12:15pm CET - Depart Zurich for Dulles, VA
  • 3:35pm EST - Arrive Dulles
  • Got up early. Got TGV tickets for the 9 minute ride to Charles De Gaulle airport from Disneyland. I had pain au chocolat in a cafe in the train station. Helped an old lady get her luggage off the train. Somehow found the right terminal and headed home. Long plane ride. Annoying French people in front of us. Sharon (sister) picked us up at Dulles.
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