Mont Saint Michel is one of those places you have to go. At night we were able to see the tides wrap around it like a protective blanket. It is the natural tides that kept this stronghold, founded around 708 CE, so safe for so long. When we arrived early in the morning (we made sure to get there just as it opened), the tides were still pulling away. I really wished we could have stayed on the pseudo island, but maybe some other time. 😉 The tides had sunk one of the parking lots, so cleaners were out to remove the salt that would erode the road away. In fact, you are not allowed to leave your car in any of the parking lots after a certain time because it may not be there when you get back, having been washed out with the riptide.
We walked the narrow winding road to the top, where the abbey watches over the French countryside. What a sight! Herr and I fought over the camera, and luckily Ozzy was easygoing enough that it didn’t bother him. After spending a few hours there, we traveled down the now packed narrow street to a restaurant that overlooked the tidal plain. I went all out and ordered grilled lobster and Herr got the standard three course French meal. My lobster came out halved with everything still intact, so I think that will be my last lobster experience for a long time. 😛 It was good, but creepy. We left late after waiting quite a while for Herr’s dessert, which made the trip back into a crazy escapade!
We left around 1:30 p.m. and needed to drop the car off in Versailles before 6 p.m. then catch our ICE train by 7 p.m. We got Ozzy to Bayeaux (about an hour out off the path and back) and back on the road by 3:30 p.m. I was really stressing out at that point because we had nearly three hours left of the trip to take. Google Maps listed it as three hours total, but I knew from the day before it would take twice as long. That in mind, Herr did the only thing he could… went fast. Through rain and construction zones, but luckily no heavy traffic. He was extremely tired and we were both very certain we were not going to get the car back in time.
It was at this point we both decided to stop thinking negatively and turned our energy towards hope and optimism. I just had to stay calm and think it was all going to work out in the end. We hit the outskirts of the cities around 5 p.m. (our car was technically due back in fifteen minutes at that point). The directions I had in hand were incomplete and required an hour trek through the city. Herr decided to take an earlier exit that rendered those instructions useless. Amazingly, we took a road that led directly to the Versailles chateau from the north. Incredible! We knew exactly where we were, and there was even a gas station a few blocks before the rental place. We turned it in, running, ten minutes before closing.
But we were still in Versailles (south west of Paris) and needed to be in north eastern Paris. Fortunately, an SNCF train station was two blocks from the rental place. We ran there, waited as patiently as possible in line to get tickets, found out the metro to Montparnasse was leaving in less than a minute, ran to it, and the train pulled away just as we sat down.
We got to Montparnasse in south Paris at 6:25 p.m. No time to breathe, we ran nearly a kilometer to the other end of the Montparnasse station to the local metro 4 line that arrived ten seconds after we reached it. Crowded and hot (Europeans do not believe in air conditioning), we had to ride it thirteen stops to Gare de L’Est. Thirteen! With twenty minutes before departure, it was all we could do. Again, luckily, the metro arrived directly under Gare de L’Est, unlike Montparnasse. We had little under ten minutes, so we ran like mad up the stairs and to the long distance train platforms. We got on that train with five minutes to spare. I thought I would just cry at that point, but I was too thirsty from the heat and running. What a race against time!
I am ready to settle down for a few weeks and not go anywhere. I have done a ton of traveling, work and leisure (if running and being jet lagged can be called leisure). Mont Saint Michel was so worth it, but oy vei! What a trip!
At the end of March (yes, I know, I have been busy), my parents and their good friend were able to visit us for a week. Since it was my father and their friend’s first time to Europe, we kept them busy. The first day here we had a large barbecue and played some Rock Band. After that, things went much faster. 😉
Day 2: Paris
We caught the 6 a.m. train over to Paris and were lucky to get an entire compartment to ourselves there and back! In Paris, our first destination was the Eiffel Tower. The weather was turning unfriendly as we made it up, so we didn’t go to the very top. We had a nice French lunch right outside the L’Hotel des Invalides, where we saw some very interesting weapons and Napoleon’s tomb. Hopping a metro, we walked around Notre Dame and ate some expensive (but average) ice cream. With not much time left, we crossed the Seine and briefly walked around the pyramid at the Louvre, then caught the train back to Germany. We didn’t return until midnight, but we were able to get up early enough the next day for our trip to Luxembourg.
Eiffel Tower with Peace Monument in foreground
Chapel at the L’Hotel des Invalides
Day 3: Luxembourg
Friday was our World War II history day. We split into two cars and made for the north eastern border of Luxembourg, where Vianden Castle sits. Vianden was a famous POW location, but they did not allow us to see any of the dungeons. After a tasty bite in the town, we drove to Luxembourg City, drove past the huge ruins in the middle of the city, then visited the American Cemetery in Hamm just south of the main city. General Patton is buried there, as well as a very nice war memorial. We thought about stopping by Trier on the way back, but in the end we all just needed sleep.
American Cemetery, Luxembourg
Day 4: Hohenzollern
We had a hard time getting started on Saturday, so we only got down to see Hohenzollern Castle. It was a very cold and wet day, and the castle was like a freezer! It was nice regardless, and we were able to take the puppies with us.
Day 5: Baden Baden
Herr, my mom, and I went to taking a relaxing spa day in Baden Baden. My brother, dad, and friend went over to the technikmuseum to see tons of cars and other transportation fun stuff. Baden Baden is awesome! Highly recommended if you want some pampering done. We got a specialized treatment, but my mom highly recommends the public baths at Caracalla. They looked pretty nice from the cafe we had lunch at. 😀 Definitely a great break after rushing around.
Day 6: Wurzburg
My brother used to be stationed near Wurzburg, so he took us over to show us some of his old haunts. Wurzburg’s palace is worth seeing, even though most of it was rebuilt after being nearly demolished in the war. It was neat to see the meticulous work done to repair it to its original grandeur. We walked around the shopping area and crossed one of its beautiful bridges, ate a lot of ice cream and food… I hurt so much. 😛
Day 7: Heidelberg
On the last day here, we finally took them downtown, saw the river and walked the shopping area a bit. Roo and I hung back while the rest went up to the castle. Had to take them to Vetter, and afterwards to look at the castle from the Old Bridge. We jumped through a few bars on the way back, so they could experience drinking from a boot and a horn. 😛
We packed a lot into a week, but at the same time it was a bit more relaxed than we usually take it. lol We fit a lot into our trip to Scotland a few weeks after, but we didn’t walk nearly as much as we ate. 😛 I was very happy my parents were able to visit us.
We started at the military school. The military school ironically has a peace monument across the street, as well as the iconic Eiffel Tower. By the time we reached the tower, all the tours and tourists were already arriving. We took the stairs up to the second level and fought our way through the thickening throng of tourists to catch some sites from up high.
I wanted to make it to Notre Dame for noon mass, so we struggled with the metro to get there in time. We caught the end of the mass, which was performed by two priests, then waited in line for the towers tour. After a half an hour, we decided we wanted food instead and headed towards the Opera house. Nearby is the Hard Rock Cafe, which we have visited several locations now. Unfortunately the food wasn’t very good, but the service was awesome.
We tried to look around in the Opera house (famous for the Phantom of the Opera), but it was too late for tours. Since it was so close to departure, we wandered the area around the Opera, also known for its shopping. Au Printemps isn’t far away, but we stuck to window shopping and ended up getting a few shirts. Shopping in Paris is awesome! 😀
Despite the difficulties figuring out the metro and general business, we both really enjoyed Paris. It does smell bad and has a wide range of people, but overall it isn’t bad to visit. I want to go back to shop some more. 😛
More photos are available but need to be sorted and captioned still…
Thursday Herr brought Tommy and Ruby to a kennel for our time away until Monday, when we can pick them up. Once he got back from work in Frankfurt, we hurriedly prepared for our departure on the night train. We had a private room that could have held three if necessary, but fortunate for us, it was just the two of us. We both woke up feeling rested, despite only four hours of “sleep”, and found ourselves in Paris!
It was nearly 7 a.m. when we started wandering unable to find our hotel. Instead, we walked down to the Louvre and decided to see some of it. We did not see the Mona Lisa (we weren’t interested in fighting crowds), but the Louvre is broken into separate areas stemming from the pyramid in the courtyard area. We saw French sculpture and Napoleon’s apartments, which was just enough to appreciate our experience at the Louvre. 😉
We followed the Champs-Elysees from the Louvre west to L’Arc de Triomphe. On our way we stopped at Fouquets for lunch in the shopping area of la rue, across the street from Louis Vuitton. Fouquets was a wonderful choice for lunch, and well priced (dinner, however, is expensive from what we could see). We decided not to go up the Arch and headed to the southern side of Paris to enjoy some macabre… in the catacombs…
Lots of skeletons in the catacombs, but it wasn’t very scary. I didn’t touch any of them (although I bumped into one or two, eep!), but Herr touched a skull. Creepy! After coming back to the surface, we made our way back to Montparnasse cemetery for a bit above ground macabre. The cemetery was full of dead people houses; it could have been a normal residential area if the houses weren’t so small. Herr felt we had enough of the macabre, so we went back to northern Paris to find our hotel.
Once we did find our hotel (after some harrowing adventures in la metro, grrrrrr), we couldn’t get up again. It was an early night after a lot of sightseeing for us!
We had seen some pretty interesting things though from prostitutes, gypsies, con artists (avoid the girls with gold rings), homeless people, and the scarves. Most Parisians were very nice to us though; I imagine my two years of French back in middle- and high-school helped (I was able to ask and understand more than I thought I could). In fact, we were treated very well!