Map of travel plans.
The plan started way back in September-ish, when Josh found a hot deal on flights to Geneva. We booked those and decided to fill in the trip casually over the next few months. Fast-forward to March and we really hadn't done anything
beyond buying and doing some light reading on Lonely Planet and Rick Steves.
We did a day-long brainstorm of places we were really interested in seeing, then formulated a general idea of a loop that would start and end in Geneva
. I created a map that would give us an idea of how things landed geographically, and this served as an anchor for the entire planning process.
I very much wanted to have the trip planned out before departure. Sometimes looking for hotels and trains can be an adventure, but I preferred to reduce the stress level and didn't want to spend, say, half of Tuesday looking for a hotel for Tuesday night. So we gradually worked out car and train schedules, knowing that we could then come back and figure out accommodations, restaurants, and sightseeing.
I had decent cell service the entire trip, but it made sense to download offline maps prior to departure.
We downloaded Google translate
and the offline language packs. It had the usual type/speak translation functionality, but Jes
and I were most impressed by the photo translation feature.
We brought 2k in euro and 1k in Swiss francs and returned with 800 euro. Cash was especially helpful for avoiding out-of-country card charges.
Our departure was out of LAX so we had the option of driving and leaving a car or taking the train
to Union Station and then Lyfting to the airport. Neither was a very exciting option but since we were looking at many hours of airplanes it seemed like the train would be them most free range option.
Of course the train was late - actually the train before our train was late for our departure time. Ours did eventually come along and we had a relaxing ride up the coast with a slight delay from a train/big rig incident on the track ahead. We arrived at union station with five hours until takeoff.
A map check showed the Los Angeles Metro ran from LAX (train) to LAX (plane) with a mere three changeovers
. Given the time we had and traffic around downtown, it seemed like the metro would be better than a Lyft. We took the red line two stops and made it to the dark blue line (not the light blue line, mind you). We intended to ride down to the green line which would take us close enough to LAX to catch their connection shuttle. Simple. Except when we get on the dark blue line, a sign in the train indicated construction left the track closed a few stops short of the green line. So we rode the dark blue line to its end, which happened to be Watts Towers, and then took a Lyft for the final stretch. The freeway part wasn't too bad, but it took us a solid thirty minutes to get from the airport entrance to the departures.
Check-in went easy, and we breezed through security since I guess not many international travelers have precheck. An early (07:30) departure and constant travel since had left us both fairly hungry. We went for calories since the airplane meal/time was a bit of an unknown, and Chang's noodles and honey chicked did the job.
Boarding was super smooth since the A380 had three doors open and we were in the upper deck. Naturally, they served us dinner as soon as we got to altitude, so we at what we could put down.
Okay, the coolest obvious idea ever
: have cameras mounted on the nose, tail, and underbelly and let people watch the feed from their seats.
Despite illness and loading up on all downers imaginable, I didn't get any sleep on the eleven hour trip from LAX to CDG. Jessica
got ten minute dozes in, but wasn't able to get comfortable. What did wake us up was getting struck by lightning
on the initial descent into Paris. The plane lit up and everything shook very briefly.
Geneva to Lyon.
We had a brief layover at De Gaulle before we boarded another AirFrance flight to Geneva where we eventually found the France side Alamo car rental and headed down the motorway toward Lyon.
was on the Rhone right by the city park. The park was a great place to stroll and contemplate flowers and geese and jet lag.
For dinner we walked across the Rhone to Terasse St Clair
for a great bistro dinner and my favorite wine from the entire trip
, the Crozes-Hermitage from Cave de Tain.
After hitting the hay at 20:00 the night before, Jes
and I both woke up at midnight - which I don't think was morning in any time zone we crossed the previous day. Getting adjusted to local time seemed rather critical
, so we downed a melatonin and slept for... eleven hours. Whoops. Happily, France doesn't do any of that 11:00 checkout nonsense.
The first/nearest item on Jes
's list was a large market called Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse
. We were getting a late start, but it seemed like a reasonable place to get breakfast, drive provisions...
... and coffee.
The Halles did not disappoint. Meats, cheeses, breads, fish, pastries, cheeses, cheeses. Everything looked like it had been prepared for a travel brochure and tasted like it had been served in a nice restaurant. The vendors were friendly, spoke varying amounts of English, and seemed entertained by our wide eyes. We had cappucinos and filled a bag with edibles
, then pushed on down the road.
I'm sure there are similar markets elsewhere, but none were close enough to our route to visit. In retrospect, it's a massive disappointment we didn't have one of these places to hit a half-dozen times, trying new things each day.
Lyon to Gigondas.
After eighty minutes' drive down the motorway - being wary of speed camera scaffolding - we headed into the vineyards of the Rhone. It felt quite a bit like Sonoma/Napa, but with stone buildings and frequent small towns. Being April, the vines were trimmed back and bare
, so it wasn't the visual glory of a summer or fall visit.
Our destination, Gigondas, is a town perched on a hillside that Jessica
found simply by looking for a wine country midpoint between Lyon and the Med.
We were staying at the Chambres L'Oustalet
, a family business with a wine cellar, handful of hotel rooms, and Michelin restaurant. The room was a nice, updated apartment and included local wine and a great selection of coffee and tea.
It was early evening when we checked in, so we used the remaining daylight to walk up to the medieval ruins and gardens just above town
We circled back through the abbey and had a charcuterie plate at the tasting room.
The unconventional sleep schedule from the first night worked, we woke up at 0830 and enjoyed a huge breakfast in the tasting room. We had a few options
for places to visit on our drive to Rayol Canadel Sur Mer.
- The wine road mentioned in Rick Steves's book was a priority for Jes
- Papal Palace/Pont d'Avignon had come highly recommended from Sophie
- Pont du Gard was another mention from Rick Steves
- Aix-en-Provence seemed like a cool town to check out
- Marseille had a basillica that Jes wanted to check out, as well as some coastal hikes
- Somewhere between Avignon and Marseille was a castle that seemed worth checking out
We settled on aiming for Avignon since it was just off the motorway, from there we could decide on whether to tour the Palais de Papes and/or eat lunch and keep going. We swung by the south end of the wine road, though it didn't look too different from our inbound drive.
On arriving at Avignon, Jessica
grabbed the wheel and plunged us into a parking garage, saying something to the effect of "omg it's like a huge castle". Indeed, without even seeing the palace, Avignon has a rather impressive city wall and interior
We walked through the medieval city to the palace exterior and decided to take the self-guided audio/tablet tour.
The tablets had some cool features, like an augmented reality display that showed a rendering of various rooms from their better days.
The sheer magnitude of some of the rooms
was the most impressive part of the palace...
... particularly when the engineering feat was juxtaposed with where interior decorating was in the 1300s.
Right? The other best part of the tour was standing on the tower, admiring the view, and realizing that you were ten stories up on 700 year old construction.
The palais tour had a small upsell to add on a walk to the pont. It was worth it.
Gigondas to Rayol Canadel sur Mer via Avignon and Aix en Provence.
Spending a couple hours in Avignon meant we needed to push on to the coast, but stopped in Aix for lunch
. Driving through town felt like the running of the bulls, so we eventually peeled off and found parking with just a short walk into the town center.
The narrow, carless streets made for a nice walk to absorb the atmosphere and get "tacos" (panini-grilled pitas).
Rayol Canadel Sur Mer
After a bit more driving in the light rain, we found our hotel on the Med. About the size of Gigondas, this town consisted of coastal villas rather than dense tenements. Our accomodations
were just up the hill from the beach and featured a nice view
The concierge looked in to scuba options, but being the offseason the only option was an upcoming boat trip the day we needed to leave for Paris.
We walked up the hill to take stock of the restaurant and market options. Not having the appetite for a full dinner, we grabbed some instant noodles and other snacks. And we checked out the beach situation. Crystal clear water in the low 60s and dreary conditions
Friday morning we had pastries and coffee at the town's boulangerie and decided to start the day with a hike. Gmaps told us there was a natural park, Sentier Fenouillet
just a few km east.
There was off-road parking and trails that ran to the cliffs and down to the beach. The chill weather was nice for hiking, and since it was April everything was in bloom
The coast view was nice, we checked that out and then headed down to the beach.
The beach had road access, but we only had to share the sandy shore with a family that was leaving and a few teenagers that were arriving.
I wasn't going to leave the Med without a short swim, so I waded a bit and then dove into the clear water.
After the kids down the beach did the same, Jessica
decided that with a little Belgian courage she would too.
The beach felt quite a bit warmer after that. We hung out some and finished the not-too-undrinkable Belgian.
Rayol Canadel sur Mer to Cavalaire sur Mer.
After a short hike back to the car, we drove the nearby Cavalaire Sur Mer embarcadero and stopped in at the popular-looking Petite Creperie
. We were not disappointed.
Back at the hotel, I looked into kayak rentals from the restaurant/shop on the beach. The staff told me that they didn't have any boats pulled out of storage, but would have them the following day.
We rounded out the evening with a stroll down Le Battier and dinner at Maurin des Maures
Rayol Canadel Sur Mer
Saturday morning Boukarou Beach delivered on the kayak rental and we paddled around the coves for an hour
. The weather was nice, the water was nice.
Drive to Nice
Getting to Nice for our 14:00 car return and 16:00 TGV departure meant we could take the coast through St. Tropez, but then had to cut up to the motorway for the last stretch.
Drive from Rayol Canadel Sur Mer to Nice.
We stopped across from St. Tropez to check out the bay view.
The backroad into the motorway was great, reminiscent of the California central coast.
After returning the car, we caught a city bus to the Gare de Ville where we had a couple hours
to grab a pizza and check out the yellow vest(?) protest going on outside the station.
The TGV was a super relaxing way to cross France
. We did backtrack through to Marseille at normal train speed, so maybe it wasn't especially worth doing the drive and brief stop in Nice.
TGV from Nice to Paris.
On arriving in paris at ~22:00, we had an easy yellow line metro trip from Gare Nice to Tuileries, which was across the street from the Hotel St. James Albany
. After a quick shower, we walked a few blocks to get some late night eats at Le Royal Opera.
Of absolute course our arrival in Paris meant Jessica would come down with the cold
that resulted from hours next to me on a plane. But her mind was set on loading up on meds and pushing through it.
The first thing to do was to find medicine at a pharmacy. This proved difficult, as it was Sunday and we were at kilometer two of the Paris Marathon. I found a shop listed as open, but after crossing the marathon route found that it was in fact closed.
Scenic Paris walking/metro loop, from Google Maps.
I returned to the room empty-handed, but hopeful that we could find meds elsewhere. Our route for the day was a big loop
(depicted above, but not showing the metro segments) - metro to the catacombs and then to Arc de Triomphe, where we would take the scenic walk back to the hotel. The original plan called for a stop at Notre Dame, where we'd just walk around the outside and head on our way. This caught the chopping block, and it seemed the Champs walk might have to turn into a metro ride.
We found an open pharmacy near the catacombs metro stop. Jes
dosed up and prepared herself for what must have been a very rough day. The catacombs had a long line for the prebook people and a huge line for the day-of suckers, but we got in after ten minutes or so.
The self-guided audio tour consisted of a short walk wayyy below the city. It included history from a quarry era, various (gulp) collapses, and then its famous role as corpse storage.
Another metro ride took us to the Arc de Triomphe
The marathon had apparently started on the Champs Elysees, so not only did we have the rare benefit of the road being closed to vehicular traffic, all of the marathon people had pretty well cleared out as well. So we walked down the center of the Las Vegas Blvd of Paris, somewhat disappointed that the shops are just name brand designer boutiques on repeat.
The route runs by all sorts of neat sights
- the Place de la Concorde, palaces large and small, and the Tuileries gardens.
Eventually we made it to the hotel, where Jes
promptly zonked out.
I made myself scarce and found a bottle of wine at Le Bar.
My surprise for Jes
that night was dinner and a show at Moulin Rouge (recommended by Santos
). She rallied for it and we took the metro north a few stops to the colorful part of Paris where we walked past live shows and misshapen Eiffel towers to the theater.
The line to get seated wasn't great, but dinner was good. On account of early booking or maybe just luck, we had front row/table seats.
The show was entertaining and varied
, dance routines, real and lip synched singing, circus acts, even some small horses and large snakes.
After the late night at Moulin Rouge, we slept in until it was time to walk a few blocks to our lunch reservation at Saturne
. I'm purposefully keeping the food talk/photos in a separate post, but suffice it to say the lunch was delicious.
Since the evening activity was a bike tour, the plan was to get Jessica
back to sleep. But I did take us back via a short detour through the Palais Royal and Louvre courtyard. In spite of her frequent Lime/Bird-related ICU patients, I talked Jes
When we arrived at the car-free Louvre courtyard, we did a tandem ride
. I'm fairly certain scooters will be banned there very soon.
Fit Tire bike tour route.
A few hours later it was time to take the metro down to Grenelle for the Fat Tire bike tour that the Cooleys had recommended. Right away it felt like a great way to see the city
- you can move along fairly quickly and have the relative safety (from traffic) of a group.
The first stop was the Ecole Militaire. We paused to get a little history, and then moved on to run into a few delays when someone dropped a phone and another person's pedal came off.
When things got back on track, there was a dark plume of smoke rising directly ahead of us. I asked our guide, Michael, if that was perhaps the direction of the airport, he said he wasn't sure and continued on. At the next stoplight as I was unlocking my phone for a photo, Ryan had sent me the answer.
Soon after, everyone was getting alerts of some form, so we stopped at the nearby St. Clotilde to take stock. After some discussions with the office, our guide decided we'd stop by Les Invalides and head over to the Seine cruise portion of the tour.
Naturally, everyone was distracted by video feeds, fire trucks, and people gazing in the direction of the disaster. We did our best to put that aside and enjoy the city
The cruise was the usual deal - a lap of the important parts of the city, even catching the Eiffel Tower for the few minutes that it flashes its neat strobe lights. Micheal even had a pack full of wine for us.
After riding back from the boat dock, we returned our bikes, grabbed some chinese takeout, and caught the metro back to the hotel.
Tuesday we caught the 10:00 Thalys train from Gare Nord up to Brussels
. The pleasant two hour journey meant we had some time to kill before check in. One option was to check the bags and find something to do, but as I was down to my last pair of underwear, inside out, round two, we decide to find a laundromat between the station and the hotel.
Train station to hotel.
We were pleasantly surprised that, after dodging cars in Paris, the town center was more-or-less pedestrians only
What's more, while Paris was rife with clothing boutiques, Brussels had a bit more variety
. Bandes-dessinnees shops featured local heroes as well as international ones
, there were cafes with Belgian brews and pastry shops that didn't expect you to order three-course meals. There was charming street art as well.
We snuck a glimpse of the famed Grand Place, but focused on the laundry task. After a small snafu with being extremely used to doors opening outward, we navigated the detergent dispenser and washing machines. Well, Jes
did. I snuck away to get a Tintin book, a coffee mug, and a Jupiler.
We moved on to the hotel where we still had a little time to kill, so we grabbed some local brews. Belgians really aren't my thing. After dumping our bags and freshly-laundered clothes, we headed back toward the town center
in search of sights and late lunch.
We stumbled upon the impressive St. Michael cathedral and toured its perimeter and inside, then found a convenient greek restaurant.
The walk back to the hotel passed through the Grand Place. After taking in the breathtaking architecture, Jessica
crashed early. She was still on the tail end of her illness.
I returned to the town center and watched the ManU/Barca and Ajax/Juve matches at a local pub
The thing we'd missed out on the previous day was, of course, Belgian waffles
En route to the cafe, I found some couch cushions that I would have bought on the spot. Alas it was too early.
Soon it was time to catch the train to Bacharach
, with a transfer in Cologne. The local line that runs down the Rhine offered some impressive views; the river is dotted with villages, towers, churches, and burgs. Being a local train, it also stopped frequently, but by early evening we arrived at the picturesque town of Bacharach.
Postcard German architecture and riesling vineyards
made for nice scenery and a change of pace from the large cities. After checking in to the Rheinhotel
, which was more like a large B&B, we took an hourlong hike up into the hills to catch sunset.
Like in France, the riesling grapes weren't doing too much, but the panoramas were still picturesque.
The grapes grow on rather steep slopes.
Then a three course dinner from the very friendly and enthusiastic Chef, who also owns and runs the hotel.
Two nights in Bacharach meant we could daytrip to one of a few options we had listed. After some breakfast in bed, we decided on the hour-ish train trip to Rick Steves's favoritest castle, Burg Eltz
. This barely edged out seeing Katz and Maus castles.
We'd done all our intercity bookings in advance, this would be our first platform purchase. As you'd expect, the train arrived and left from the opposite platform as we were buying our tickets, but it'd only be an hour til the next one.
The burg was a pleasant hour-ish hike upstream from the Moselkern train station
The cottages gave way to a forest that had trees and flowers beginning to bloom and lots of bright green moss.
The castle was a neat, vertical affair built into a natural rock spire. As it is full of unrestored and original-but-restored stuff
, the only way to see the interior was a guided tour. The tour was brief and interesting, and punctuated with a viewing of some beautifully-crafted muskets, swords, and jewelry in the treasury.
Rheinhotel had offered a picnic pack
that was perfect for our return trip through the forest.
We'd scouted the return trips from Moselkern and there'd been hourly trains listed. When we arrived at the station, however, the ticket machine said we might not make the connection to Bacharach. Gmaps also said we would miss the last train from Koblenz to Bacharach. Uh oh.
Burg Eltz to Bacharach on foot.
We took the first leg anyway, it would at least put us just ten hours' walk from our hotel. As we got closer to Koblenz, I pulled up the DeutscheBahn website and found that there were still trains making the trip from Koblenz to Bacharach.
After a quick shower, we were happy to see a few Bacharach restaurants open on the eve of the Good Friday holiday. A full day capped with pizza and beer left us ready to zonk out.
We didn't want to risk transport issues on a holiday, going from a small town to a small town far away in another country, so we hit the train platform early
for our local train into Mainz to catch our direct (with stops) train to Interlaken. Pulling up the web site, it appeared the last ten miles of our commuter segment was replaced with a bus ride that was projected to arrive just twelve minutes before departure.
I have nothing but confidence in the European train system, but not twelve minutes of confidence in our ability to find the right platform. So when an earlier train showed up, we audibled and got on
, hoping to give us more options and time - especially if we needed to cab it. After boarding, a quick look showed that this train's destination was Mainz, but a different station. Still, closer than Budenheim, the new end of the line for our original train. But comparing the current train to the original, this one had many more stops and would get to Mainz much, much later.
In Bingen, we hopped off at what was thankfully one of the few stops for our original train, then waited an agonizing 20 minutes for it to arrive. The train's station list crawler still showed Mainz Hbf, but between the DB web site, a long monologue (in German) by the conductor, and finally a nice dude overhearing our conversation and translating, we knew that we had to risk the bus.
Thankfully, the bus was a dedicated coach (not a city bus) and made it to the Mainz station on time. With a little distress, we found the bridge and platform for our train. Whew. Obligatory American traveler train crisis averted.
Bacharach, Germany to Interlaken, Switzerland by train.
As usual, we were thankful to have palatable and not-overpriced food available on the train
. It was a relaxing ride.
Interlaken was intended to be a stopover on the way up to the mountains - we couldn't get a car on Good Friday - but I was optimistic after rave reviews from J and Derrick
. The Hotel Lotschberg
was just a couple blocks from the train station and had an awesome host and excellent free breakfast. The rooms were comfortable but not recently renovated, but it was a very good deal for the price.
After dropping the bags, we took a lap around a nice but very touristy downtown. There was a stop at a chocolatier and some gawking at the paragliders landing in the field in the middle of town. The real goal here was to have fondue
, and we certainly did. It did not disappoint; flavor was cranked to 11. Oh wait, I have a separate food post. No more writing about tasty fondue.
Saturday morning I strolled over to the Hotel Metropole to get the rental from Europcar. The drive back to the hotel was a bit circuitous due to one way streets, construction, and pedestrian areas. Navigating + following unfamiliar road rules + avoiding vehicular 187 is a lot to do at once. But outside of town, driving was easy.
Short drive from Interlaken to Stechelberg.
The short drive from Interlaken to the Stechelberg gondola was simply breathtaking
, I could see why we saw so many bikers the day before. We had planned to do a hike on the valley floor, but the trail was nowhere to be found, so we just took the gondola up. The wait wasn't too bad, but it looked like the station could get pretty crowded.
The gondola ride to Murren was as scenic as it was frightening.
I neglected to mention to Jes
that our return from Murren would be the last day before the cables were scheduled to be replaced.
was on the opposite side of Murren from the gondola, so a four minute walk. After dropping our bags, we decided to hike 1000' down to the town Jes had originally been most interested in
, the Car Free Town of Gimmelwald. Wait, is it really called the Car Free Town of Gimmelwald? Yes and no. It's simply Gimmelwald, but in Rick Steves and elsewhere, this factoid pops up frequently. And it's something that I really didn't believe based on the road shown below and general unsuitability of gondolas and helicopters to support entire towns. Okay, yes there is a train as well.
Some dashed line from the valley to the Car-Free Town of Gimmelwald.
But sure enough. Rick was right. There are simply no cars in CFToG:
Misnomers aside, the entire Murren/CFToG scene is spectacular, whether you're hiking the car free roads or having a campari on the patio. The alpine panorama is simply majestic.
Being (just) off season and a holiday, CFToG was completely shuttered, save for the gondola station and probably the hostel we didn't check out. Jes had envisioned a town-size farmers' market with cows roaming freely, wearing large bells
. Alas, there were just some closed shops and a horse that didn't like her. Oh and I guess in the low season they spray the hillsides with rather pungent manure.
Still, even without alpcheese vendors or cows, the area has a lot going for it.
Back up in Murren, we settled down to a pint at Jungfrau and met an interesting local and his dog. Dinner that night was at one of the few open establishments, the Hotel Eidelweiss.
We started Easter Sunday at 0800, enjoying the Jungfrau's great continental breakfast. The options were a big day hike or a pricey but scenic gondola ride up to the Schilthorn peak
. We decided on the former, since standing at a summit and looking around sounded less awesome than hiking the mountain and looking for goats. Actually the ideal would have been both (gondola up, hike down), but the concierge told us the snow was still pretty deep at the peak.
There was actually a chance of both (gondola up, hike down), but the concierge told us it was snowshoe-depth up there. She instead drew out a loop around the area
that covered about 1500' elevation.
The route started on single-lane maintenance roads, but once we reached the valley south of the Car Free Town of Gimmelwald, it curled up into ski pistes with the 'trail' simply following the gentlest grade.
The snow was mostly well-packed and mostly thin, but the hike was neither easy nor completely free of knee-deep sections. With some effort, we made it to the cutover just under Schiltalp and swung back into the big bowl above Murren.
The descent was pretty spectacular, we traded looking down on the Birg gondola for looking up at it.
Crossing the bowl, we climbed another rise and circled the backside to return to the northern tip of town. No goats, but lots of exercise and views.
We made good enough time on the hike that we were back at the hotel just after noon, so we decided to execute on the second of our options. The summit featured an all-you-can-eat-brunch in a rotating restaurant, so that seemed like as good a lunch plan as any.
The summit gondola - from Murren - was of course $80 apiece. It was a two-segment ride (via Berg) to what was used as Blofeld's lair in On Her Majesty's Secret Service
. They really milk that fact. Everything is 007 branded, especially the brunch.
The experience was just about worth the price tag. There were 360 views of the other peaks and then down toward Interlaken and Bern. The buffet was good enough and included prosecco. And there were two attractions that didn't cost extra - the mini 007 museum and the cliffside scaffolding walk.
The touristy summit experience combined with the holiday crowd and people trying to get the last bit of skiing in meant that there were hundreds of people waiting for a single gondola down.
After some relaxing back at the hotel, we took a sunset stroll down the tracks that run along the cliffs.
Part of the Switzerland choice was to visit Jes
's bff Jocelyn in Lausanne. Joce had an afternoon planned out for us, so we hit the buffet at 0800 again and headed down the gondola to the car. It's hard for any drive to measure up to the one we'd just done, but the more 'normal' part of Switzerland was still rather impressive. Miles of green pastures set against snowcapped mountains
, then a huge blue lake.
Driving wasn't the worst. Of course the speed limits are rather pessimistic and there are supposed to be speed cameras all over the place. Even in sightseeing mode, 80 kph feels slow. Parking, however, was the worst. No spots, everything in Lausanne seemed to require neighborhood permits. It was lucky Joce (and fam) had a garage space for us.
Joce took us on a walk and metro ride down to the harbor where everyone was out enjoying the holiday and weather in the high 70s.
We took a legit paddle steamer (complete with gorgeous engines) down the Lake Geneva shore that offered views of towns, vineyards, and a castle
. We disembarked near Montreax and walked the promenade that features miles of floral arrangements. After a short train ride back, we continued into Geneva to get souvenir chocolate and sleep.
Tuesday we returned the rental car and had a bunch of time to kill
in the not-super-comfortable Geneva airport.
Our return journey started with a short flight to Amsterdam. KLM seems to really embrace the dutch thing. The international depatures terminal at AMS was quite a bit less pleasant than even GVA.
After a long day of travel we were at last back in the States, where it was a simple rush hour Lyft to get to a train that arrived forty minutes late.
I'm not really a fan of photographing food, but as this was a food/wine tour, I figured I'd at least aggregate food photos/commentary to a single, skippable post
The picnicing was top notch, particularly after stopping by the Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse
Still adjusting to the time/dinner zone, Jes
and I had a cheese platter at the Oustalet tasting room
. It was enough food for 4-6 people.
We hit King Kebab
in Aix for some quick eats.
The Petite Creperie
served incredible meat/cheese crepes as well as a fantastic dessert crepe. Perfect after a day of hiking and swimming in the cold Med.
served up some hearty eats between our cote d'azure drive and TGV trip to Paris.
Our Michelin experience was provided by Saturne
in Paris. Everything was very good, but I must say my mind was blown by the white asparagus in a broth that seemed to have bamboo and szechuan peppers. Three courses, dessert, a table with a view - very good for a $50/person carte lunch menu.
After a long bike tour, Jes
and I were very happy to catch a fast-casual Chinese place on the walk back to the metro.
On arriving into Brussels
, we had to stop in at the first treat shop we saw.
The other obligatory Belgian experience is the light and flaky waffles that we ordered from Maison Dandoy
At the Rheinhotel
, we enjoyed a hearty three course meal. I was pleasantly surprised by the miso soup.
Swiss fondue, what more needs to be said? There were a few options in Interlaken, but Taverne
did not disappoint. I was intrigued by the potatoes they served with the fondue, but found them skippable. But the cheese was beyond compare.
Lamb chops at the Eidelweiss
weren't anything to write home about. The sizzling platter (complete with bib) was an amusing presentation, though it left me covered in grease. Their beer, however, was superb.
The buffet at the Schilthorn summit
was pretty typical fare. But the view was hard to beat.
I drove in France and Switzerland. Germany would have been fun, but train travel there made more sense. It all went pretty smoothly, though as you'd expect the streets can get pretty narrow in towns. The motorways are great - a generally high speed limit and people are very good about driving in the right lane
, leaving the left open for passing. Roundabouts beat the hell out of stop signs and lights. The French motorways seem to be pretty much all toll roads, we ended up spending about $60 getting from Geneva to Nice.
I didn't drive in Paris, but Aix felt like a mini-Paris. I quickly learned that in France, cars have the (de facto?) right of way. As a driver, I learned the courteous thing to do is to drive directly at pedestrians because if they smell fear or weakness it breaks the whole system down.
Nestle owns basically all of Europe, and so espresso pulls have regressed from beautiful Italian metalworks to little Nespresso machines
. You can occasionally find a real cappucino, but it's rare.
As is commonly noted by American tourists, passing people on the street you don't make eye contact, you don't exchange half-smiles. The French glared at us, the Germans glared in German. I guess you get used to it, but in the States that brief eye contact is the interpersonal cue where someone might, say, ask about train information
. That said, when we did force questions upon random strangers, they were almost always very happy to help.
Much to Jessica
's chagrin, in Europe people don't socialize their pets with strangers. Her only success was an off-leash dog on a trail that came around a bend in advance of its family. She greeted the animal as she always does, and judging by the panicked looks on the family's faces when they came around the bend, they may have thought their dog had attacked someone.