Riviera to Paris

30th May, 1995
31st May, 1995
1st June, 1995
2nd June, 1995
3rd June, 1995
4th June, 1995

Tuesday, 30th May, 1995

Drop Cap e left Nice today with no regrets, though we did have a good meal last night. Lamb brochettes cooked on the coals and tender but cooked through. With french fries and beans and a glass of wine it was delicious.

Sisterone photograph

Sisterone, Route Napoleon, France

Drop Cap nyway, today we headed up the "Route Napoleon", the way he came when he escaped from Elba in 1815, from the coast to Grenoble in the Alpes. It was a spectacular route, mountains, gorges, rivers and riven rocks, looking as though they had been gouged out. We stopped at Sisterone for an early lunch then headed off again. Unfortunately it started raining again and rained mostly through the mountains which was a pity as they were very picturesque.

Drop Cap renoble is a large city; when Jenny was going through its claims to fame - winter Olympics city 1968, university, nuclear facilities etc, she somehow didn't mention that the wrestler, Andre the Giant comes from here. Still, what does she know? She thought bauxite was used to make uranium and bombs. She said so when describing Les Baux, in Provence, where bauxite was first discovered.

Beaune photograph

Coloured tile roof of Hotel Dieu, Beaune, France

Drop Cap n into Burgundy to Beaune, an old wine town with a 14th C. Hotel Dieu or Hospice, which is still used for the same purpose (terminal illnesses and aged people). It has the most spectacular coloured tile roof. Another Novotel tonight, new and comfy and a lovely meal.

Wednesday, 31st May, 1995

Drop Cap aining again today, rather disappointing as we drove through Burgundy and the famous wine villages like Chambertin and Nuits St.Georges. We stopped for a couple of hours at Dijon and wandered through the market streets and some department stores, (Galeries Lafayette). I bought a lovely marquetry box at a jewellers in the town hall square. We had a sandwich and coffee and went on.

Colmar photograph

Old Town, Colmar, Alsace, France

Drop Cap ith a break at the Porte d'Alsace we arrived in Colmar, very close to the Swiss/German border in time to wander along the canal (Little Venice inevitably although whoever named it has never seen Venice, this is much prettier with boxes of geraniums hanging over the railings.)

Colmar photograph

Old Town, Colmar, Alsace, France

Drop Cap e followed the canal through the Old Town where the ancient half timbered houses and shops are more reminiscent of Germany than France. It is a delightful town, even in the rain we enjoyed it. Bought some postcards in case the photos don't turn out then back to the hotel and a very good dinner. Early to rise again tomorrow.

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Thursday, 1st June, 1995

Riquewihr photograph

Riquewihr wine village, Alsace, France

Drop Cap aining again this morning, very hard too. On the way to Strasbourg we stopped at a medieval wine village in Alsace called Riquewihr. It was quite delightful with brightly painted half timbered houses and shops with lovely gilded wrought iron sign boards. We actually saw a stork nesting on top of a building a little later on, apparently they are becoming endangered, and they are the symbol of Alsace. It poured all the way to Strasbourg, an otherwise very picturesque place in the same style but larger than Colmar. There is a canal too. We walked to and around the cathedral, very spectacular and beautiful (and out of the rain) They had an incredible clock in the cathedral with all sorts of figures doing things on the hour. There used to be a copy of it in the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney and I think it has been transferred to the Powerhouse Museum.

Drop Cap e had hot chocolate and pastries in a lovely little patisserie which had the distinction of being the only place we have been in which banned smoking! We got quite wet, wandering aimlessly around, then came back to the bus and drove around to the European Parliament area and then on through WWI battle areas of Metz and Verdun and the Meuse. It all looks very peaceful now.

Reims photograph

Postcard Reims Cathedral, Champagne, France

Drop Cap he weather cleared by the time we reached Reims, centre of the Champagne wine industry, where we stopped to look at yet another cathedral. This one had a fantastic rose window that the sun was pouring through and altar windows by Marc Chagall. They are excavating outside in the area where Clovis, son of Charlemagne, was baptised and the funniest thing I saw all day was the gargoyles with plastic drain pipes in their mouths going down to the road. We stayed at the Holiday Inn at Reims, a lovely hotel with huge rooms, a glass elevator and a 7th floor restaurant. The food was good too. The girl at the desk gave us a map and we went for a walk after dinner to find the canal. There is something to be said for American style hotels, they are efficient and we got a good breakfast without any drama.

Friday, 2nd June, 1995

Dom Perignon photograph

Dom Perignon at Moet et Chandon, Champagne, France

Drop Cap ff to Paris today, via Epernay in the Champagne country. We stopped at Moet et Chandon, the top dog of champers where we had a guided tour of their cellars and a glass of the product. It wasn't bad, as champagnes go, but we all tended to doze towards Paris afterwards.

Drop Cap he Novotel Gare de Lyon doesn't seem to have become any closer to opening the front entrance, Raymond had to back the bus into the one way street to reach it. We spent the afternoon in the shopping area, near the Opera (the old Paris Opera which the Phantom lived in, lake and all).

Drop Cap e did some shopping at Galeries Lafayette (souvenirs and gifts) had some coffee and joined the others for dinner then the Eiffel Tower and illuminations tour. It was great and Paris looks fabulous at night. While waiting for the others to get back from the Eiffel Tower we strolled down to the river where we saw some of the enormous Bateaux Mouches, boats which ply the Seine complete with restaurants and orchestras. We decided however, that on our free day we will go on a ferry tour which advertised "boats of human size".

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Saturday, 3rd June, 1995

Notre Dame photograph

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

Drop Cap ur last day with Insight. We had a guided tour around the sights of Paris with a local guide including the interior of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. No sign of a hunchback except a bar opposite the cathedral called "Quasimodo's". The stained glass, especially the rose windows, was beautiful but the interior was no more wonderful than Strasbourg or Reims and I still prefer Ely and Wells. After this we had a cruise on the Seine, with commentary (and about half a million other people) and we had a group photo taken at the Ecole Militaire with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Versailles photograph

Great Court, Versailles, France

Drop Cap hen we dropped half the busload at the Opera and drove to Versailles with the local guide. We had lunch and went into the palace. There was a lot of people in groups going through and the groups got mixed up. I thought our guide was going to come to blows with another guide and as for her telling other individuals to get out of the way of our group (when they had paid FF42 to get in) it was quite embarrassing. One guy got very sarcastic and I didn't blame him.

Drop Cap ersailles is certainly a good example of royal excess. I am only surprised that the Revolution took so long in coming. The hall of mirrors was certainly spectacular even though the mirrors were misted by age (and dust) There was LOTS of gold, good 350 year old parquet and carpets and lots of paintings on the ceiling, etc. It was certainly worth seeing and the formal gardens were quite lovely, although it would have been better with the fountains going.

Versailles photograph

In the Gardens, Versailles, France

Drop Cap ack to Paris to be caught in the most horrendous traffic jam caused by about a million (well...) cyclists demonstrating to get the cars out of Paris (for ecological reasons, of course, not to give them better access!) It took ages to get through but Raymond finally muscled the bus through and we got back in time to do a load of washing and have a shower and wash hair etc. before our farewell dinner.


Drop Cap e went to a small neighbourhood brasserie called Les Noces de Jeannette for the farewell dinner which was fun, boozy and merry and the food was good. We had escargots, boeuf bourguignonne, cheese and a lemon mousse. Delicious! The photo has turned out well also. On the way back to the hotel we dropped the others in Montmartre at their nightclub (Nouvelle Eve) and we saw the Moulin Rouge turning at the end of the street. So at least we saw it, if not the show or Marissa.

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Sunday, 4th June, 1995

Hotel de Ville photograph

Hotel de Ville from the River, Paris

Drop Cap ur last day in France. We said a fond farewell to the others at breakfast, Barry and Jackie Lamb from Canada promising cards and accommodation if we ever get to Vancouver. I liked them both, Barry suffers, as he says himself, from verbal diarrhoea as an ex salesman, but he is very good natured.

Drop Cap e went to the Gare de Lyon to confirm our tickets and were told just to front up to the train, no problem, 10.28 tomorrow. We changed some French francs into Swiss francs then took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower.

Drop Cap here were queues a mile long to get up into the tower so we gave it a miss for the moment and went off on a one hour river trip by ferry. It was very relaxing and when we came back at 1 p.m. the queues at the ET were much shorter.

Musee D'Orsay photograph

Musee d'Orsay, from the river, Paris

Eiffel Tower photograph

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Drop Cap o we got tickets for the top floor and piled into the first lift which takes you to the first and second stages. I felt a bit queasy going up but on the second etage it was great.

The view was staggering, you can see for miles. It took ages shuffling in the queue for the third stage and the wind was bitter. However the third etage was closed in, thank Heaven, because it was a bit frightening. There is an open level up a flight of steps. Mac went up, I didn't. We left as the view began to be obscured by rain clouds and indeed the sky opened as we headed back to the Metro. So we stopped for lunch, sitting outside with an awning keeping us reasonably dry, then off by Metro to Bastille where we got some money out of the autobank and came home.

Paris photograph

Panoramic Paris from Eiffel Tower, Paris


Drop Cap e didn't feel like much to eat so, after wandering around checking out the local brasseries, we came back and had delicious omelettes and salad and wine at the hotel restaurant. It was very good.

Drop Cap ur general summary of France and Italy seems to be back to front to what we had expected. Everyone said the Italians were happy-go-lucky and would love you to try speaking Italian whereas the French were arrogant and unhelpful to those who don't speak the language. We found the Italians (in hotels and restaurants) generally aloof, indifferent and uncaring, not all of them of course but more than I expected while the French have been generally helpful and keen to speak to you in English or at least help you to understand them in French. I would painstakingly converse in French and be answered in fluent English, frustrating! France is expensive but the cities are lovely, especially Paris. Italy's cities are slums, historic or not.

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