Europe, North America · 15 Days · 224 Moments · September 2015

Mark's trip France, London, Geneva and Italy

13 October 2015

Landed in Philadelphia. The fun had ended but there will be more trips. I wanted to thank all me followers for reading my totally silly posts and inspiring me to every great ridiculousness. I had fun every minute of this trip and enjoyed sharing it with my followers. The many pictures and postings will allow me to remember the details of the trip that would not have been possible if not for blogging. I hope you were reasonably entertained and looked forward to what the next day plan would be. I truly did know what the plan would be until I woke up and considered the many options

13 October 2015

Boarded the plane. I am coming home. I look forward to seeing family and friends. I plan to read my posts to remind myself of the ridiculousness of this no packing, no reservations and limited planning trip. I learned a lot about this "type" of travel. It is challenging and surprising (and just a little stressful at times). The #1 benefit I see from this "type" of travel is when you put your head down on the pillow each night you are between 10% and 70% sure what the plan will be the next day and no idea what will be the day after.m. The excitement of not knowing is the fun part. The trip is a success by you just getting on the plane and going. If I had sat in a hotel room for 14 days and did nothing more than that I would be coming home happy. To leave behind the day to day schedule, pressures and routine is enough to make a successful trip.
Laduree is a world famous macaroon store in Paris. They have a location at the airport so you do not need to carry them around. This is a excellent gift and the box can be kept as a reminder of Paris and great macaroons. I included a picture the bag I purchased and checked. The nylon bag was $25. This might be worth bringing along from the start to have for souvenirs and gifts. The bag is very lite and talks no space in your carry on.
I consider myself a traveler not a tourist or explorer. I tourist comes at a trip with a planned, booked and packed for trip. There is nothing wrong with being a tourist. When with other people (particularly with kids) being a tourist may make more sense. My family and I were tourists last December in Barcelona and it was a great trip. I am not an explorer because there is nothing "new" about where I am going and things I am seeing. It is more about how I am moving around. I let the trip come at me rather than me coming at it. The trip meanders along with each day unfolding as it does with little time table or plan. To be a traveler you can not have a hotel booked for any future days. When you wake up decide what that day will be and were you will likely be at the end of the day and then book the hotel for that night. Do not rent a car or buy tickets for a future day of the trip that you are not willing to not use if the trip does not unfold so planned. Flexible return date helps.
2nd set of pictures Sunrise over the river Seine and me sitting after have breakfast at the Yelp rated #1 breakfast place in Paris. See 2nd post of other pictures.
1st set of pictures Sunrise over the river Seine and me sitting after have breakfast at the Yelp rated #1 breakfast place in Paris. See 2nd post of other pictures.
Claus - La Table du Petit -Dejeuner is rated the #1 breakfast place in Paris. After the sunrise over the Seine I headed over for my first and only breakfast of this trip. The eggs, flat bacon, bread and homemade granola were all amazing. I decided to eat big for breakfast since I will not eat much at the airport and nothing on the plane. All other days I skipped breakfast to eat a big lunch OR dinner. Most lunches were a fresh made sandwich on French bagelette (long thin bread) with a meat and cheese. Dinners were based on a theme (#1 hamburger/French onion soup), try something totaling crazy (snails/pig cheeks), Yelp recommendation for the area or I just found a nice place walking around. I think all the walking, lack of snacking and eating 1 big meal a day I might have lost a pound or two. I am surprised since I planned to eat my way through France. I assume there are no calories in steak tartar (raw hamburger). There were a number of high stress moments that helped burn calories.
Metro station on way to sunrise over the Seine had long walls of tiles murals.
Sunrise trip is on. Leaving airport hotel at 6:00 am for an 8:10 am sunrise over the river Seine and Notre Dame. Getting out of Metro it is still completely dark and cold (42). I have the zipper sweater over my pullover sweater. The city is still asleep. I will walk around until the sun comes up.
Trip list of transportation taken with only flight out booked before leaving Night 14 Train Tours, France to Paris airport Night 13 Car Courmayeur, Alps Italy to Tours, central France Night 12 Car Chamonix, Alps France to Courmayeur, Alps northern Italy Night 11 Car Geneva, Switzerland to Chamonix, Alps France Night 10 Car Tours central France to Geneva, Switzerland Night 9 Car drove around Montlivault, central France Night 8 Plane London to Montlivault, central France, Night 7 Tube (Subway)London, England Night 6 Tube (Subway) London, England Night 5 Mega bus overnight Paris to London Night 4 Metro (subway) Paris, France Night 3 Metro (subway) Paris, France Night 2 Metro (subway) Paris, France Night 1 Plane Newark to Paris
Trip list of places stayed over night on this trip Night 14 Paris airport, France Night 13 Tours, France Night 12 Courmayeur, Italy Night 11 Chamonix, France Night 10 Geneva, Switzerland Night 9 Montlivault, central France Night 8 Montlivault, central France Night 7 London, England Night 6 London, England Night 5 Mega bus Paris to London Night 4 Paris, France Night 3 Paris, France Night 2 Paris, France Night 1 Plane Newark to Paris
I am currently at the Charles de Gale airport Ibis hotel outside of Paris. My flight home is tomorrow (Tuesday) at 1:20 pm (7:20 am your time). Got back to the hotel tonight from French onion soup tasking extravaganza at 11:00 pm and fell asleep from the three glasses of red wine (1 at each restaurant). Woke up at 3:15 am and deciding if should go back to sleep or take the first train from the airport to Paris (4:30 am) to watch the sun come up over Paris. The picture is from the Internet

12 October 2015

This place is #2 in the Yelp French onion soup list. See noted in other posting about this night. This restaurant is called Comptori de la Gastronomie. I sat at an outside since the inside was full. The restaurant is medium size with 15 outside tables. I got a glass of their new house red wine. The soup had cheese that was shredded and tasty. The soup was served very hot. The onions were cut smaller than most other soups. There was less bread in the soup than most other soups. The bread they served separately from the soup was the best. The bread was mostly crust and perfect for dipping in the soup. The 2 staff were working very hard cover the 15 tables. A lot of customers ordered the soup.
This place is #4 in the Yelp French onion soup list. See noted in other posting about this night. The restaurant is called La Temps des Cerises. The restaurant was small with 15 tables inside and no outside seating. There were 4 stools at the bar, I eat at the bar. The Soup had lots of cheese on top that was hard to the touch. The 1st layer of bread in the soup was bread crumbs (first time I saw this) melted into the under side of the cheese. The onions were thick and tasty. Under the bread crumbs there was standard soup bread. The cheese is strong and tasty. The extras bread serve was very good. The staff are super friendly and work hard serving the 15 tables. The bar staff helps with the tables. There are 4 house wines on tap. When ordered the staff fill a reusable wine bottle. Many of the patrons appeared to "regulars" based on how they greeted the staff when entering the restaurant. The lighting was dark and friendly place.
My last night of the trip was French onion soup tasting extravaganza. I tried to get to the Yelp top 5 but only made it to numbers 1, 2, and 4. Number 3 was in a very different part of Paris. Before I could get to #5 it got to late. The Airport train stops at 11:00 pm and I did not finish eating at the 4th until 10:15 pm. I had 1 glass of red wine with each bowl. The pictures here are from #1 and is called Le Bistro de Perigord. It was great. There was less cheese and more soup them the one I had at Chamonix. There was an extra piece of bread in the soup that stayed hard until eaten near the end of the meal. The bread was in chunks that soak up the soup, The soup was tasty and there seemed to be 2 types of cheese. The cheese was not browned as much as other places. The soup was served in a white soup bowl with no cheese on the sides. The restaurant was bright and medium size, staff was pleasant and helpful.
A few final pictures of Paris at night.
Train between the Airport to Paris is very easy. The train can take anywhere from 30 min (express) to 1 hr and 15 min. Cost is $25 when you buy rounds trip. Taxi is between $55 and $75. Über is about the same. With a taxi there is likely traffic. Most automated ticket areas have a train representative that is eager to help. They ask you questions about where you are going and give different train options. Very helpful and all speak English. Some Metro stops have beautiful tile murals. My train back to the airport was express. I got on at Chatelet-Les Halles (a major station in central Paris). There was 1 stop and then express to the airport.
Charles de Gaulle airport has three hotels attached to the terminals. I booked the Ibis at $155 a night. The other hotels were $225 or higher. The Ibis is connected to Terminal 3 (no shuttle needed). The lobby is large and they have 2 restaurants open until 1:00 am. The room has space to walk around. This is the perfect hotel to end my trip. I am going to take the train into Paris for dinner and waking around. I am thinking about looking up the best French Onion soup in Paris to compare to the soup in Chamonix, France. Might try to have the top two in Paris.
Train from Tours, France to Paris look a lot like USA trains. The guy on the train looked very French. There was a small problem with the train. I got on the wrong train. It worked out because the train was going to the airport. It is better to stay at a hotel close (if not at the airport) than in Paris. If I stayed in Paris I would have to leave at 9:45 am for a 1:20 pm flight. The train from Paris takes 1 hr and 15 min. Paris airport has color coded terminal signs with matching chairs. At the airport I got in the wrong airport shuttle and had 25 min ride around in circle. The guy in the picture set me right. He was at a Metro (subway) help kiosk. He spoke perfect English.
Kyriad hotel (I did not stay here) is the perfect hotel for visiting castles. Rooms are just $100 for a very modern hotel. The hotel is connected to the Saint Pierce des Corp high speed train station, larger visitor center and all the major car rental outlets. I sat in the lodge and used free wifi. The train station is small with limited seating. The train station is 15 minutes from Tours, France airport. This airport is a big hub for Ryanair. The high speed trains go to/from Paris every few hours and take under an hour. I dropped the car here and got a ticket on the Paris to train. I say got a ticket because I am currently on the wrong train. The 3 train staff tried to help but all had limited English. The train is going north (very fast) and I think will stop at the airport. I will take Metro from the airport to the center of Paris. The train staff are ok with me staying on the train but 1 seemed to say it was better to get off at the first stop and change trains. See next post.
Saint Pierce des Corp train station. This is a smallish train station with 6 platforms. There are high speed trains to/from Paris (and other cities) and the airport all day. There is only 1 train company called SNCF. I took the picture of the girls smoking because a lot of young people smoke in France. The picture of the train with #'s and letters tells passengers where (along the platform) each train car will stop. Makes meeting people on the train easier. I got on the wrong train. The train is going north toward Paris. I think they said the train stops at the airport. I might get a hotel near the airport and take the Metro into the city for the afternoon and evening. My flight is at 1:20 pm. I would need to leave Paris at 9:45 am. tomorrow morning. The train ride is 1 hr and 15 min and I want to get there 2 hours before they start loading (20 min before departure).
Page 2 people I photographed on this trip
Page 2 people I photographed on this trip
The Fiat 500 (automatic) has been returned. I drove 1,150 miles around central/southern France, western edge of Switzerland (Geneva) and northern Italy (Courmayeur). Getting gas was tricky at times but I got the hang of it. Pay tolls was very scary the first few times but started having my coins/paper money ready. Only once did I have to backup from a toll because I entered the motorcycle lane. I must have driven around and heard Google map voice see "at the roundabout" 200 times. France has circles on every road other than the main highway. Think of a roundabout at almost every intersection of medium size roads. A manual shift car would have been very difficult (and dangerous). The red Fiat 500 was a blast to drive and I felt very European. I am confident this is the car Johnny Depp would have driven if he taken this trip.
The Ibis was a great hotel last night. The hotel is modern, clean, good size rooms, full modern bathroom, desk to blog, nice lobby, free (very fast) wifi and free breakfast. All for $60. I like staying in different smaller (owner run) hotels because no room (or hotel) is the same. The option of the Ibis chain needs to be considered. There are several Ibis hotel levels. I do not know what more you would want then the budget level. There are Ibis hotels everywhere and they are all modern, clean and inexpensive. It is easy to change hotels and cities a lot when you just look for the closest Ibis hotel.
My carry-on bag is full. The pictures are what perfectly in my bag. The problem is I have gifts that will not fit. The cost to ship is $50 for a medium size box. The gifts (other than gift clothes) with the other non clothes items could also fit in the bag perfectly. I purchased light jackets in Courmayeur, Italy for three family members. To get everything down to the single carry-on I would need to use 2 or 3 boxes. The cost would be $100 to $150. I have determined that for a return trip it is necessary to purchase an inexpensive bag to be checked. The cost of shipping is to high and it is nice to bring back souvenirs and gifts. I will work on this for the next trip.
Ibis budget hotel in Tours, France Nice hotel with good size room and bathroom. Booked the room from the road (at a rest stop) from Courmayeur, Italy to Tours Francs. The room was only $60. This is the best deal of the trip.

11 October 2015

Courmayeur, Italy final shopping and walk around town Leave for 7 hour drive to Tours, France
Terme Pre Ufficio, see additional note other post. Many rooms to soak and sauna.
Terme Pre Ufficio, see additional note other post. Many rooms to soak and sauna.
Terme Pre Ufficio, see additional note other post. Unlimited fruit, bread, biscuits, fruit juice (many type), coffee, expressing, granola, yogurt and more.
Terme Pre Ufficio, see additional note other post. Many rooms to soak and sauna.
Terme Pre Ufficio, see additional note other post. You take any locker with a key in it. They give you a card that going inside the locker door lock to allow the key to work. You get a nice rob, fluffy towel and sanders. Everyone wears the rib when walking around. It gets chilly outside. There are many different rooms to try.
Terme Pre Ufficio is a great natural thermal spring spa. I want to the thermal spa and not the spa connected to their hotel. The Hotel spa is more of a high end luxury spa with many types of treatments. The Terme is more soaking and sauna. For $55 you can stay all day. They are open 9:00 am to 8:00 pm. There is unlimited fruit, granola, yogurt, fruit juices (7 types), coffee, expressing, biscuits and bread. They have indoor/outdoor soaking pools/sanua, ice cold baths, ice cold walking tanks, rooms with water raining down on you, rooms to lay down and sleep, comfortable rocking chair rooms and more. It was amazing and was there for 4 hours and could have stayed longer. I spent almost an hour floating in a pool (with a swim tube) in a dark room with time lights illuminating the ceiling. The trick is to put your ears just under the water. They have piped in music that can only be heard under water. This would be a good place to come after a day's of hiking.
Courmayeur, Italy store Ardi had a lot of good hiking supplies (at reasonable prices). I purchased a bathing suit to wear at the spa. I considered getting a Speedo but decided the other spa guests might not be happy about it. The spa has several different natural hot tubes. They give you a robe and slippers. The shop owner told me about the Tour du Mont Blanc. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in Europe. The trail is 110 miles long. Parts of the trail are in in Italy, Switzerland and France. To walk the entire trail it take 9 to 11 days with 6 to 7 hours hiking each day. The hiker is given options (along the trail) to take harder or easier trails. There are many places to stay along the route. The places to stay range from private rooms to large dorm sleeping. The hike can be broken into small daily hikes. There are tour companies That will drop at your daily starting point, pick you up at an agreed location and drive you (and your bags) to a "real" hotel.
Courmayeur, Italy cafe that makes good sandwiches to eat as you walk around the shops. They off the main shopping route so this is another reason to explore the side roads.
Courmayeur, Italy shop had more Swiss knife options then I found in Switzerland. The polar bear was in front of a tour company.
Courmayeur, Italy has shops selling food, clothes, hiking equipment, toys and more. I liked that they had nut spread other than Nutella (which they have everywhere). There was an interesting tree outside a cafe. The branches seemed to have gotten confused. You can buy walking sticks as hiking is a big part of visiting the Alps.
Courmayeur, Italy is an amazing town to walk around. You can shop, eat, look at the Alps and sit in plazas.
Hotel Crampon was great last night. The hotel has a nice breakfast that is include (ends at 9:00 am). There is a large room for guests to sit (and blog), play games, have a drink and plan the next day. The staff is very nice and all speak English. All the hotels in Courmayeur, Italy look great.

10 October 2015

Dinner was at a nice Italian restaurant that is a short walk from my hotel. I ordered meat lasagna and a half bottle of wine. The lasagna was delicious. I feel a certain pressure to order wine when I am in France or Italy. In France and Italy I rarely see a table without wine. London seemed to be more of a beer town. Tomorrow is spa day. I assume the hot springs will sweat the wine out of me.
Race party pictures page 2. See detail on page 1
Courmayeur, Italy had a running race in the Italian Alps today. The race was 12 miles, runners/walkers were in teams, dressed in a theme and it was sponsored by a beer company. Every few miles there was a free beer station. After the race the beer company setup a large tent (50x100) with a wooden dance floor, DJ and free beer. I could hear the music from my hotel and the receptionist told me how to walk to the tent. When I got there the party was in full swing. Everyone was dancing with a bit of craziness that comes from hours and hours of free beer. The DJ played mostly American top 40 from years ago. I have not seen so many happy drunk people since college. I stayed for an hour and enjoyed watching them get crazier as the night (and the drinking) went on.
Page 3 people I photographed on this trip
So I got to Italy (25 minute drive) and needed a hotel. Trip advisor had a few options. I picked Hotel Crampton for $115. The hotel is 5 min from the Mont Blanc tunnel and 10 minutes from the Spa. The room is great with lots of space, nice bathroom and view of town. I am planning to be at the Spa all day on Sunday. Monday is still open. I have to drop the car in Tours, France (7 hour drive). I can take a train directly from Tours to the airport Tuesday or go a day earlier to Paris for my last day and night. I will consider my options soaking in the hot springs with water from the Alps.
My return date is 89% set for Tuesday at 1:20 pm Paris to Philadelphia. I set it at 89% because with frequent flyer miles the ticket can be changed for no charge. I tried to decide how to spend my last two full days but could not settle on 1 idea. I decided to "channel" Johnny Depp and think what he would do. Stay in Chamonix, no he needs something different for the end. Return to Geneva or Paris to explore more of the city, no still not new enough. Drive around southern France, no he lived there for 10 years and has seen it all. What about Italy? It is only 10 miles away through the Mont Blanc tunnel? What is there? Terme di Pre Saint Didier Spa with all day hot springs soaks for $40 and 1 hr massage for $65. Perfect way to end a trip. Off to Italy!
Chamonix has so many great shops. There are shops with meats, cheeses, candy, gifts and many more. You could spend days exploring this town.
After getting down from 15,000 foot high Mont Blanc I need to decided where to go next or stay in Chamonix. Walking from the mountain I took a few last picture and then found a coffee shop with free wifi. The blog posts much faster when on wifi. Bucks Coffee was a short walk and I could still see Mont Blanc.
Just before I left for the cable car two donkeys came walking into the cafe sitting area. The donkeys were looking for food from the visitor but left after a few minutes. Donkeys and ibex can be seen in the hiking area. For the record I did not gain weight. I have on a t-shirt, long sleeve shirt and pull over bulky sweater.
Hiking is a must when visiting Mont Blanc. The hiking is well below the snow and cold. There are several marked trails (see sign) that estimate how long the hike will take. You do not need to stay on the marked trails. There are miles and miles of area to hike. You can hike up, down or across and then take the cable car down. There is large cafe in the middle of the hiking area. A lot of people go there and back (after a break). You could hike over several days and see something new every time. Wanting to try everything I decide to try a hike. After 5 min I determined this was not a good idea. My summer canvas shoes have no tread, thin sole, no ankle support and no arch support. They have been perfect for walking but hiking would not have been pretty. I decide to save the hiking for the next trip. Since I will not be packing for the next trip I will need to buy hiking shoes in France and mail them home.
The top of Mont Blanc has enclosed heated areas/stairs, restaurant and cafe. It was nice to warm up. I never got around to buying socks or a hat. My toes are a little chilly in my summer canvas shoes and no socks. I did not buy a hat because all the type Johnny Depp would wear were $60+. It did not feel right wearing a non Johnny Depp hat in France. My ears are a little unhappy and do not care about Johnny Depp.
Mont Blanc has numerous places to view the Alps. Every location offers a different perspective . There are heated enclosed seating areas so you can take a break (blog) and warmup. I was fine but several people needed to sit and catch their breath. Being at 15,000 the air is thinner (less oxygen). There were ice mountain climbers getting ready. The spikes on the shoes were long.
Mont Blanc is worth the trip. I took the last picture to show that parts of the viewing platform are wood.
Base jumping is beyond insane. This guy suited up, climbed over the railing (to join his friend), turned to face the 15,000 feet drop and pushed away. They both flew down the mountain and into the valley. It was hard to comprehend what I was watching. This goes on all day. There are no rules against base jumping, hang gliding or mountain climbing.
The Void. This is a thick plastic box that hangs over the mountain at 15,000 feet. I look like I gained weight because I am wearing a t-shirt, shirt, pull over sweater and zipper sweater. It is insanely scary to step into The Void. The staff take your picture (with your camera). You have to step back or the picture is to dark. That 1 step is VERY hard todo. The views are simply amazing. This is a must for any trip to southern France, Northern Italy or Geneva.
Mont Blanc is an amazing place to see glaciers. Every view is a little different and were breath taking. There was 1 female base jumper. All the other base jumpers, mountain climbers and hang gliders were male.
Waiting area was not crowd as this is not a busy tourist time for Mont Blanc. There were mountain climbers and base jumpers in my cable car. A base jumpers wears a winged suit and flys down the mountain. I have pictures of two base jumpers in another post. There were several hang gliders on the mountain .
Chamonix walking to cable car and buying ticket to the top of Mont Blanc. The town is small enough to walk to the cable car. There are interesting homes and business along the walk. A hang glider was getting ready when I arrived. My ticket is for the 2nd level (top). You can go to just the first level and hike the trails (not snow covered). There is another cable car that goes across Mont Blanc into Italy. This is only open in the summer.
Chamonix, France is cold. The town is at the base of the Alps. The town is at 3,264 above sea level and goes as to over 15,000. Denver is the mile high city because it is at 5,280 above sea level. The air is a little thinner at 5,280 but much thinner at over 15,000. I will be going to the top of Mont Blanc that is at 15,775 feet. This is the 11th highest point on the plant and the highest point in Europe. In the USA the highest point (not in Alaska is Mt. Whitney in California at 14,500 feet. Chamonix temperature was 27 at sunrise and has warmed to 37. Should get to 50. The problem is on Mont Blano the it is 7 (that is Fahrenheit) and going to 9. This will not be a pretty hike in summer canvas shoes. I will wear the sweater, new pants and gloves I got at H&M in Geneva (see picture). I still need to buy socks and a hat. Not sure if will go for warmth or style for the hat. When I get to the hat store I will think what Johnny Depp would wear to the top of a very cold mountain.

9 October 2015

Page 4 people I photographed on this trip
L'M Brasserir looks like a ski lodge. I had 2 glass of local red wine (still have to move the car), French Onion soup and a hamburger. Words can not describe how good the French Onion soup was. The soup came to my table still bubbling hot. NO cheese was wasted along the sides. I could smell the different cheeses in the bowl. As I tasted the first spoon full I realized the "thing" we Americans call French Onion soup was a LIE. I will no longer eat the "thing" we call French Onion soup. If someone orders it for themselves I will leave the table when it comes out and only return when it has been removed. Not because I can not stand to look at it but because I will be remained of the moment I tasted the real thing. My eyes have been opened and can never be closed again.
Chamonix, France is the main town at the base of the French Alps. It reminds me of Vale Colorado (yes I have been there). Everything is stone and upscale. I am excited to see the town and the alps in the day light.
French Alps in town called Chamonix, France. I booked this hotel (cost $80) just a few hours ago. The hotel and room are amazing. I arrived to an envelop with keys, map of the area, wifi code and other helpful information. The room is normal size for a hotel room in the USA. The bed is a four corner iron frame queen. Reminds me of the beds in the castles (a little). The bathroom is all tiled with a large shower. There is desk for me to sit and plan my trip and blog. There is courtyard outside the hotel. The hotel is in the middle of the town at the base of the Alps I will be climbing tomorrow. It is just amazing. Stay in Hotel Le Cretes Blanches.
Checking out of the Hotel Les Cretes Blanches and walking around Chamonix. The Town is just what you would think a ski town would look like. There is a small river running under the town from the snow melt. There are many town squares, places to sit, food stores and tons of shopping. The shopping is at all price levels. There are lots of non ski related shops. You could spends a full day exploring the Chamonix.
Geneva interesting stuff Johnny Depp is watching me with his ads. The phone store had little pads at each phone with sheets to take with phone info. There is a store with every Swiss Army knife you can buy. The most expensive was $79 and can do ANYTHING you can think of doing. Rolex (the real one) is everywhere. The water fountain looked more impressive in the low light. The bridge over the river is busy at rush hour. The river Le Rhone flows quickly through the center of the city. There are running water station around the city. I am not sure why.
Internet access in Geneva There are times when the Mifi card you rented does not work. The battery might be dead. Order the 2nd battery and keep it charged. The unit can also be charged with an external battery. Another issue can be you are visiting a country that xcom global was not told about so the unit will not work. Option 1 is Starbacks. Complete a short online registration page when you first access and it is free. Sit in comfortable chairs and surf away. Option 2 go to the Tourist Center next to the main Geneva post office. They offer free wifi and places to sit. Option 3 is an Internet cafe. They charge a responsible $5 for 60 min and you use a computer. This is good for doing work (why would you) or researching fun stuff to do
Food and drink information. There are sandwich/quiche places all over the city. The items range in price from $3 to $6 and are very good. The items can be heated up or eaten at room temperature. These places are good for a lite lunch or snack when walking around. Every place I saw offered soda in a bottle for $3. The post office (yes the post office) has a vending machine that sales the same bottle for $1. This is a great deal. McDonald's in Geneva uses the kiosk and walk up for ordering.
Geneva has some cool cars. I found amore exchange places as I was walking around the city. USB (a big bank) has a store filled with ATM machines. The store is next to the Metro Shop entrance to the Train station.
Switzerland post offices do a lot more than mail letters, packages and have post office boxes. They sell lottery tickets, candy, greeting cards , school supplies, corded phones, cell phones and cell phone attachments. They have a large lcd screen to tell customers which window is available.m
Beth Yaakov Synagogue, Geneva, Switzerland also called the Grand Synagogue of Geneva was built in 1850 and is still used today. The is Synagogue is located in the middle of the city. To read more go to
Paris and Geneva have public bathrooms that are free, easy to use and totaling clean. You push the button and the doors open. The doors automatically close and lock behind you. When you are done you push a button inside to flush. To leave you push the inside door handle. After you leave the doors close behind you. The ENTIRE inside is sprayed with down and dried before the next person enters. If a person enters after you leave but before the doors close for the wash cycle they will remain open until the person leaves. It is a great system. Another bathroom option I like is using the bathroom in any fancy hotel. Every fancy hotel has lobby bathrooms. You need to walk in like you are ready to spend $400 to $1,400 a night for a room, you are waiting for someone or plan to (but do not) buy a drink at the bar. Most hotel staff do not even look at you or ask any questions. If you feel uncomfortable looking for the bathroom sit in the lobby for a few minutes then ask. Just a travel tip
The tram cars are everywhere in Geneva. They are so colorful I can not help taking pictures. The main shopping streets have all the designer and a few chocolatiers.
Geneva has parks in all parts of the city. This park was large wth lots of shade trees. The giant chess and checkers were fun to watch. The green covered "humps" were fun to lay on. The green material is Astro turf.
Geneva flea market was mostly farms (no shirts to buy). There were a lot of mushroom sellers.
Geneva park with three run playground ideas.
Geneva seems to have limited ATM and money exchange locations. Google maps sends you to the private banks. I found both after some walking around. I major attraction is the giant water fountain in the middle of river Le Rhone. This is called Je d'Eav. You can take a boat ride that gets close (you will get wet). There are parks throughout the city and interesting old streets to walk around. I came across a flea market at a park in the middle of the city. Walking around you never know what shops you will see or old streets to explore. Geneva is a great walking city. I found a parking spot (small charges) on the street (I was in before 9:30). The space is good for 90 min. I will go back and move it to get another 90 min. Time to hit the flea market for the 2 shirts I needs. Might get some gloves for the Alps tomorrow.
I went looking for a bank to exchange money. Switzerland uses the Swish Franc and not the Euro. I went to 5 banks and all said they were only private banks and do not exchange money or open accounts for walk-in customers. At the bank with the big doors the receptionist was nice enough to ask a private banker to come talk to me. He explained that as a private bank they only open accounts with $1 million or more. He said this with a straight face. I left without any Swiss Franc or Swiss bank account. I found my first Swiss Chocolatier. It was delicious. I found an iPhone case holder store. I got a frame only case that is on a neck rope that detaches easily. This will reduce my needing to reach into my European men's carry bag 100 times a day. Geneva has an extensive tram system. The trams are very long and colorful. They do not have a subway system.
Geneva, Switzerland is different from Paris and London but there are similarities to all cities. The giant yellow bunny was in front of a Paris style cafe. The phone box looked like London (just not red). The expensive car just looked cool. I was amazed how Google map had the street section in red for an accident that happened no more than 30 min earlier.
Geneva, Switzerland is were I find myself today. After 2 and half days and 4 castles I decided to see the French Alps 🚠. I left the Loire Valley at 7:00 pm for the 6 hour drive 🚗 to Chamomix, France. The main highway was closed 🚧twice for road work. I changed Google map setting (avoid highways) to get directions around the detours. After 2 detours and other stops I decide it was best to stay in Geneva (1/2 from Chamonix). I got to Geneva at 3:15 am and called a few hotels in town. All the hotels were full. The airport hotels generally have openings. I got a great room ($155) at the Holiday Inn Express near the airport. I sleep until just now (8:00 am). I plan to walk around Geneva for the morning then drive to the Alps. I still need too buy 2 shirts. I might open a Swiss bank account and get a safe deposit box just so I can say I have them.

8 October 2015

It is best to try getting gas BEFORE the level is down to 2 of 10 and you are on a major highway with all signs in French. I missed the first stop with gas and decided to get off for gas. Tolls are tricky because everything is in French and big trucks are everywhere. There is bar so you have to pay and no staff work any toll. Google maps had gas in 4 miles. Got to gas station and everything was in French. The Fiat gas cap (not the cover flap) requires the car key. It took a few minutes to get the cap off (nice guy waiting behind me was laughing). Tried pumping but nothing happened. I looked at small wooden hut that looked closed. I started walking to the hut and lady from the real store (on the side) came out. She spoke French very fast and understood no English. She pumped the gas and waived me to come in to pay. Problem locking the cap so decided to move the car so guy behind could get gas. Car would not go into 1st because of cap. Car just rolled out of the way. All good now.
Chateau de Chenonceau inside pictures page 3. The pictures include the first time a staircase was straight with each step over the other. In the past all steps were spiral and set back from each other.
Chateau de Chenonceau inside pictures page 2. Lots of fireplaces, beds and seating areas.
Chateau de Chenonceau walking gardens. The large area the gardens covers are so visitors can walk and look at the plantings. The plantings are changed each year.
Chateau de Chenonceau kitchen pictures page 3. Pictures include a spigot to roast meat with counter weight to turn the bars and a rope system to bring delivers up from the river.
Chateau de Chenonceau is an amazing castle. The original castle was built for protection in 1100. The original castle was torn down to build the current castle in 1525. This castle was more a residence for powerful and rich members of the Kings court. No kings lived here but they visited. The part of the castle over the river was added in the late 1500's. This addition allowed access to the woods for hunting. The river is The Cher. The castle has a large kitchen in the basement. The castle has a lot of original furniture and wall tapestries. The tapestries and fireplaces were to keep the rooms warm. The gardens are a big part of the castles popularity with the French King's court. There are large open gardens for walking and smaller planting type gardens to seat and think about life. I have many pictures of inside the castles and gardens. I enjoyed walking around this castle and grounds.
Chateau de Chenonceau kitchen pictures page 1. Pictures include bread oven and roasting fireplaces.
Chateau de Chenonceau kitchen pictures page 2. Picture include staff sinning table in the kitchen and a large roasting fireplace.
Chateau de Chenonceau inside pictures page 1. This includes the audio commentary staff person. Any time you visit a place with an audio commentary rental DO IT. It will cost about $6 to $8. The audio commentary tells you a lot about the place and plans your walk. The Louvre audio is worth getting but hard to use. The map is 3D (confusing) and the room numbers go in several directions. The audio for Chateau de Chenonceau was perfect. They use an iPod with easy numbers to follow. There is a pause and play button.
Chateau de Chenonceau planting garden pictures page 2. This part of the gardens are for seating and thinking about life. The group plantings for color, size and shape.
Chateau de Chenonceau planting garden pictures page 1. This part of the gardens are for seating and thinking about life. The group plantings for color, size and shape.
Chateau de Cheverny inside decorated rooms page 1
Chateau de Cheverny has many very large trees. The tree pictures here has been growing since 1870. The tree was tall with a trunk that was 15 feet across.
Chateau de Cheverny inside decorated rooms page 3
Chateau de Cheverny keeps 70 hunting dogs. They take them out hunting twice a week. I have no idea were they let them hunt or what they hunt. The pictures I took were about 25 dogs. They make a crazy amount of noise. I took a video to record the barking.
Chateau de Cheverny gardens page 1. They use flowers, shrubs, stones and pumpkins/gourds (not grown there) to contrast the colors and make it Fall related.
Chateau de Cheverny inside decorated rooms page 2
Chateau de Cheverny gardens page 2. They use flowers, shrubs, stones and pumpkins/gourds (not grown there) to contrast the colors and make it Fall related.
Chateau de Cheverny is a family home and has been since 1634. It has had many owners and was never a home to a king. It is large with very thick walls. The stair case was impressive. The interior has all original pieces. I liked the large trunks they used as luggage. I have come full circle since the 1600's.
Chateau de Cheverny walking paths and open spaces surrounding the Chateau. They spend a lot of trimming the areas.
Thurs morning and the castle tour continues. I am wearing he t-shirt I bought to do laundry. In London I mailed the 2 sweaters and 1 shirt I purchased in Paris the 1st day. I still have the 1 shirt I purchased in London but have worn it twice. I tried to buy shirts yesterday in Blois but every shirt was $90+. I will get a shirt today. There is a picture of the courtyard and receptionist at Hotel La Maison de Côté. I can not say enough about this hotel. 8 rooms, 1 star Michelin restaurant (that is a big deal), centrally located, large rooms, perfect bathroom, and $85. If you go to Loire Vally stay here. Picture of Google Maps (makes my silliness possible) with the D then # that matches road signs. Prefect French radio station 106.1 or 106.3. USA songs and some French songs. Turns out the Fiat 500 is a real automatic (like in the USA). The A/M on shifter stand for automatic or manual. I was playing with the shifter and moving it to manual. Leaving it alone 100% Fiat shifting

7 October 2015

Travel tips and French roads I like to use ziplock bags for everything. At Stansted airport they give away bags for liquids in your luggage (I stocked up). It is easier to pack and find things in your European men's carry bag when using ziplock bags. It is very important to charge your iPhone, wifi card and backup batteries every night. The 5 usb plug (with French outlet plug) I got from Amazon ($30) is perfect. You can charge everything in one location at the same time. French roads have a name (French words) and a second identification that starts with a D and than a number. The D# is always at the top of any street sign. Google maps says the name in English (still French word) and the D#. The D# makes it much easier to follow the directions. Bread is everywhere and available all day. Town names are clearly marked along the roads.
French town I was looking for was found. Driving through the French countryside making random turns. I came to a town with rows of houses and a small group of stores. There was a bakery, bar, general store, butcher and post office. I was waiting for Johnny Depp to walk out and comment how great I smelled (I went a little overboard on the Depp body spray). I got bread from the bakery, cheeses from the general store and went in to the butcher to get smoked meat to make my dinner (French sandwich). I went into the butcher but no staff was inside. I waited a few minutes and left. I got packaged smoked meat from the general store. I went into the bar to check it out. There were 5 stools and 2 tables. I got nervous when the 5 locals all stared at me. I just turned around and walked out. I had left the car in front of the butcher shop and as I went back to the car the butcher came running out from the bar to help me with my butcher selection. I was nervous and left. I plan to go back.
When I was searching for my perfect French town I turned on a road that cut through a very large grape vineyard. I am not sure it was a public road but it did connect at the end to another road. There were grape vines (used to make wine) as far as the eye could see. There was a tall silo I assume for grapes or wine. The town of Blois (favorite place of French kings) had many shops. I got some great travel/blog themed gifts for my followers. The store (Espace Culturel) clerk was helpful. There were a lot of chocolatier stores in this town.
Château de Blois pictures page 2 See blog on page 1
This was a tour of Château de Blois. This is not a castle but the residence of more than 7 French kings. Some kings stayed in Paris most of the year but lived at this location in Blois at times during the year. Some kings traveled a lot but spent months at a time at this location. Blois was a popular town for French kings. Castles are generally built to defend an area. This residence had many entrance doors and large outside windows to let light inside. Doors and large windows are not good for defense. The main staircase is open to the main courtyard. The residence has 4 very different styles as 4 different kings added to the residence over a 100 year period.
This is a picture of my castle tour route. I just need a general idea of the places so I cam plan the days and pick a place to stay each night. I have started buying souvenirs and a gift for each follower. The gifts will be small but I will try to not get tourist stuff at the airport. My daughter (Lauren) pointed out that most gifts from my travels are from an airport. It turns out doing the castle tour (with a car) at the end has worked out great. I can keep souvenirs and gifts in the car until the end of the trip. I will mail all my clothes home and put souvenirs and gifts in the carry on bag 👝. France post office 📮 has a fixed rate for mailing a box 📦 to the USA. The cost is $40 and all my clothes will fit in the box. Let the shopping begin.
Chambord castle pictures page 3 See comment page 1
Chambord page 2 See comments page 1
Chambord castle visit page 1 I parked 1/2 away to walk 🚶through the marsh approach to the castle. The castle gets very impressive as you get closer. The castle was built over a 20 years period by Francois I in 1545. There are 400 rooms (i think I saw 300), 375 fireplaces and 84 staircases. The many fireplaces were need to heat the rooms and halls (no central heating in the 1500's) The castle was built as a hunting lodge. When the king went hunting there were over 2,000 people in his party. They had stables for hundreds of horses. Many of the 2,000 were soldiers, cooks, maids, guards and guests of the King. The castle was built to impress guests of the King. In the 550 years since it was built it has been used less than 150 days. Many kings after Francois I found it to large and were not as into hunting. Some kings felt it best to travel around to better monitor their kingdom (France).
Fiat 500 is a blast to drive. The car is bright red (inside and out) and seems very cool European for some reason. I can see Johnny Depp zipping around his compound in the south of France in a red fiat 500. Car is like a VW beetle. It is an automatic (thank you nice lady at Eurpocar rental). The engine seems to want my to shift up and down sometimes. There is a + and - on the shifter rather then D (for drive). The instrument panel has a shift up and down light that comes on. There is no clutch pedal but this is not an automatic like in the USA. When driving I have to take my right off the wheel to shift. This would not be an issue but my left hand is generally holding my iPhone with Google maps. Google maps has voice but the road names are still French words so I need to see the map. I will try to get an iPhone dashboard holder. It does not help that I have gone around more traffic circles on 2 days than the last 20 years driving on NJ. Glad they drive on the same side of the road.
I got up early (8:00 am) and walked around Montlivault village. The is a small village around my hotel from last night. The village is mostly single family homes without any shops or town. square. I assumed all French villages were like the one in the Jonny Depp movie Chocolat. There was no collection of shops with a new mysteries lady (Juliette Binoche type) opening a shop selling chocolate that makes every better. I will keep searching for this village or something close to it.
Tonight a went against my "travel guideline" and stayed in the same hotel a 2nd night. The hotel is La Maison Da Côté. I did have to change rooms (just as good). The rate was again $86 (super rate). I booked it last night when I was sitting on the king size bed, using fast free wifi, looking at the floor to ceiling tiled bathroom, using the reading light next to the bed and basking in the space I could use if I had more stuff. In addition, the owners operates an adjacent restaurant that earned 1 Michelin star in the past year. This is a big deal since only 485 have been earned in France (135 in the USA). The hotel is also within 45 min of all the castles I will be visiting. The only issue was I ended the day 40 minutes away and could have booked a hotel in that town. Good thing I enjoy driving the Fiat 500 and exploring towns along the drive. The only other issue was the restaurant is closed Tues and Wed so if I want to try it I will have to drive back. No 3rd night is planned.

6 October 2015

I am in Hotel Maison da Côte. The hotel is 15 min from Chambord castlle in the small town of Montlivault. I booked the hotel on Tripadvisor for $85 after taking pictures of the castle. When I drove up at 10:30 the hotel was dark. I called the number on the door and only got a recorded message in Frence. After hanging up a started making plans to sleep in the back seat of the Fiat 500 (or start looking for another hotel). After a few minutes a lady came out from a few doors down speaking in French. The lady was the night checking person and I was all set. This room is amazing. The room is 3 times larger then any room so far with has a king size bed. There is desk to sit and organize visiting the castles. The bathroom is large with a full size shower and new tile thorough out. It will be very hard to leave this hotel. The castles in the Loire Valley are spread so staying in one hotel would require a lot more driving. I plan to walk around the town in the morning and then atour Chambord
I made it to Chambord. This is 25 miles north of Tours. I left the airport parking lot and in the first 2 miles went around 5 circles. During the 25 mile drive there had to have been 15 circles. Tours loves their circles. The tolls were scary as they have a bar so you have to pay, no staff anywhere and 16 wheelers behind boxing you in the toll. I did it but had limited change and everything is in French. Once it was a ticket then pay. I was able to use paper money. Chambord is considered one of the most recognizable castles in France. What is amazing is seeing it light up at night. I general visit castles during the day. This castle is closed but I drove in since the signs were all in France they can just tell me to leave. I plan to come back tomorrow to see it in the light. I made a wrong return and drive through a small town and to get back out I might have been driving the wrong way on a oneway road. I think the sign with black and red arrows was telling me I missed a turn.
I arrived at Tours, France airport with no rental car booked. The rental office was closed. Several other travelers (smarter than me) had reservations and called the # on the door. The agent for Europcar arrived to help them. She told me there were no cars 🚙. She saw I was sad and check the return key drop box. She found a car had been returned. It was a manual (stick shift) I said ok (no other options). She drove me back to the main office to do the paperwork. Going there we came to a traffic circle (roundabout). I asked if they had a lot of circles since I had not driven a manual car in 30 years. She said Tours had more circles then any other city in France. She saw I was sad (and a little concerned). At the main office she went in the back and found me an automatic red Fiat 500. She saw I was happy (and less concerned). She booked the rental as if I had a reservation to make it cheaper. I think she liked my no plans no packet traveling strategy. Off to find a hotel for the night
The Stansted airport ✈️ had a Comfort Lounge at a cost of $35. I did not do it but it sounded good. They give you free food/drink, free wifi and comfortable seats. Ryanair plane looks like a "real" plane. There is a risk when you fly on a flight that does not start or end in the USA. The USA has the tightest airplane inspection requirement but they only apply to flights that enter or leave the USA or the airline has other flights in the USA. Ryanair has no flights into or out of the USA so they do not have to follow any USA rules. I have flown in country (as it is called) in Peru when I was an auditor. I was scared going over the Mountains. The locals cheered when the plane landed. The only flight risker then flying in country in Peru was when in high school Melissa (my wife 💗) took a flight in country in Russia. This was when Russia was full communist and was the Wild West of air travel. They had more crashes then all other countries combined. Russian flights are much better now.
Got to the airport (Stansted London) early so looked at every page in the fashion magazines looking for a model I photographed at Paris Fashion week. No luck but I will check on line to so if any of the other paparazzi pictures got used. Since I almost got hit by the same motorcycles, cars and buses I feel I can call myself part of the Paris paparazzi. The police yelled at me the same. I was to nervous to ask the models to stop plus I was shooting with an iPhone 5s
Stansted airport 🚅 requires all passengers to take a long walk through Dutyfree before getting to the gate waiting area. It work on me as I purchased the new Johnny Depp Dior body spray. I found out about body sprays on my drive to Missouri to bring Morgan her car. I now have a travel carry-on bag and European Mens bag that I am confident Johnny Depp uses along with the same body spray. This may help get me access to the Depp compound that is for sale ($25 million) in the south of France. An airport cafe was selling a bacon 🐖 on muffin sandwich. This was simply bacon stacked high on a muffin. There was a very large bowl of bacon ready to be used. I got a cup of chicken coconut soup 🍲 for under 300 calories
I am at Stansted London airport. This is an up and coming airport. The airport is 45 min from Liverpool tube station via the London Train system. You can board and pay for the train using the Oyster underground pass. The airport just completed an overhaul and expansion. The two big airlines are easy jet and Ryanair. Rumor is Ryanair will be expanding to the USA. My flight to Tours, France cost $24. They have flights that start at $14 up to $450 oneway. Be flexible and you can find a flight anywhere in their large net erik for under $60. On Ryanair checkin should be done online or before going to the airport. They charge $65 to checkin at the airport (including the kiosk checkin). You can use your phone picture of the boarding pass. They charge $22 to print a boarding pass. You have to go to Ryanair visa/passport check after checking in for approval. The airport has the most security check in areas in Europe. Prior to inspection they have repacking stations with free bags.
Paddington Tube/Rail Station (and other stations) has a package shipping service (Doddle) that is much cheaper than any other service. Cheapest other services were $75+ to ship a box to the USA. Doddle was $30. The staff was very helpful getting my two sweaters, 1 shirt and 1 pair pants into the cheaper bag (vs box). The box would have been $45. I shipped the clothes home so I could by other clothes in small French villages around Tours, France. The clothes from this trip will be my French wardrobe for the Fall and Winter
Tomorrow (Tuesday) I fly from Stansted, England (that is an hour north of Lonon) to Tours, France. The flight is on Ryanair and cost $24. Yes $24. The flight leaves at 2:30 pm (9:30 am your time) and is only 90 minutes. When I land I need to rent a car and book a hotel. I will likely drive to the first castle and find a hotel. I may have to rent a manual (stick shift) car in Tours. The automatic rentals are big family or luxury vehicles. I stick shift will be interesting to drive. I am hoping to visit castles around Tours and explore small French villages around the area. I might take a drive south to checkout Jonny Depp $25 million compound that is for sale. The compound is actually a very small town he purchased and restored.

5 October 2015

Scroll and click on each picture. Some general interesting stuff. There are great plays in London that have very inexpensive tickets. There are still red phone boxes all over London. All the buses are red double decker. The supermarket had a basket with a single handle. You have to full it equally or it tips over and things fall out. London chinatown is a few streets with Chinese restaurants packed together. The Chinatown is next to the theater area. The shoe picture is from when was leaving Les Miserables. The lady was standing with a long line of bags.
It is intermission at Les Miserables at the Queens theater in London🇦🇺. I booked the ticket just a few days ago. The seat was under $100 and is 4th row dead center. In NYC it would have cost $350+. I bought directly from the theater (no Stubhub). Tickets in London are 1/3 or less then NYC. I believe it was available because it was a single seat on a Mondays night. Fun fact Morgan (my oldest daughter a soph in college) middle name is Cosette. I wanted it to be her first name. Cosette is a star of Les Mis. I have seen the play 7 and 1/2 times. The half was because one afternoon I found myself outside the show in NYC as intermission was ending. I got swept up with the smokers and others going back in for the 2nd act. I found a seat at the top after everyone was seated. I mailed the theater half the cost of the seat.
Today was was laundry day. I bought a new shirt to wear to Les Mis as the sweaters would not be dry. I bought a t-shirt and sweat shorts to wear to the laundry mat. There was a supermarket across from the laundry mat with a cereal called Just Right. The London the 10 and under line just says "basket only". Less pressure since no set count of items. New clothes from H&M store with a helpful clerk.
London Underground is the easiest and fastest way to get around. The system is very easy to learn (Google maps does most of the work). The stations have clear signs listing stops and trains. Trains have assigned number, color and the last destination. The last destination tells you the direction the train is going. The system has 6 zones but tourist never need to leave zones 1 and 2. A single trip in zones 1 and 2 cost $4.25. A daily ticket cost $12. The daily cost is less then 3 singles. The easiest way to use the underground is to buy an Oyster card (at most stations). You put any amount on the card at any station. You hold the card against entrance terminal and it deducts for the ride. What is great is after the first two rides (in a 24 hour period) it deducts 1/2 for the 3rd single (amount remaining if you had purchased a daily) and it is free after this ride. I had an Oyster card from last year with $12 on it and it work fine. Get the Oyster card and add $ as you need it
Tonight (Monday) I booked a room with Airbnb. I wanted to try this service and London seemed like the best place (everyone speaks English). Airbnb are private people renting their apartment. I only considered a studio or 1 bedroom with no other people sharing the rental. The App is very easy to use and you can set several filters. Another nice feature (trip advisor also has this feature) is you can map the offering with the price showing. Everything is done with email or messaging within the App. This rental was $125. A lot of the owners use a lockbox with keys on the door so you just go to the location after 2:00 pm and enter the rental. They change the lockbox after each rental. The owners hire a cleaning service (like Long Beach Island rentals). Most rentals have full kitchens and bathrooms. The studios have kitchenettes. Generally the Airbnb are less expense and the rooms are larger then the inexpensive hotel rooms. You can book different space each time. Try it.
The Tutor Court Hotel was great. The cost was $135 (with full private bathroom). They have rooms with shared toilet for $80. The hotel is a great location near Paddington station and easy walk to Kensington Garden park. The area is beautiful and very safe. The room was very small but fine for two people (that what to be able reach out and touch each other at any time). The bathroom is small but that is to be expected in London. There is no elevator (4 floors). My room was on the 4th floor (glad I only had 1 bag). The staff is very friendly and helpful. Like most less expensive hotels the wifi is FREE. The expensive hotels generally charge for wifi. I would love to stay a 2nd night but rules are rules so I have to change hotels. Changing hotels is the best way to learn a city and have different experiences. Change is good. Something the change is not as good as what you had before but it is something different.

4 October 2015

Last night (Sunday) I went to see the movie The Martin at the Odean theater near Bayswater Tube. Odean has luxury and regular seating. I did the luxury theater with large comfortable reclining seats. Do not buy (as I did) anything from the regular concession stand. You order from a waitress that comes to your seat before the movie. During the movie you push a button and the waitress will come. The food is from an attached restaurant "The Lounge". You can order regular motive stuff from the waitress. I paid $37 for the luxury 3D ticket. I did not order food because I ate dinner earlier. A regular movie ticket in London will cost $20 and a 3D (non luxury) $26. The government subsidies the "Broadway" type plays industry so it might be cheaper to go to a real play then the movies. The Martin was a very good movie.
Wembley stadium has a system that the ticket holder puts the ticket with bar code into a slot and the gate opens. The space is tight and you feel like if the ticket is fraudulent the system will lock you in before you can run. The stadium is only 1/4 full at 45 min before the game. Most fans are drinking and eating and have not gone to their seats. The game is sold out. My seat is high up behind the goal posts in the end zone that has Jets written in in the grass. I am wearing a blue sweater, blue/black pants, no socks, canvas shoes (no arch support) and have a light Brown Coach European men's carry bag. I am in the 7 row from the top just to the left of the goal post.
Slide over pictures to see them all and click on each to see the full picture. I am at Wembley stadium for Dolphins vs Jets. Stadium is a 20 minute tube (London name for subway also called the Underground) ride. Stadium holds 90,000. There are high end food trucks along the path to the stadium. I picked up my tickets from Stubhub. Seats are high up but only cost $60. Stubhub staff lady is in blue. I got here 2 hours before to check it out. NFL had a stage setup with past players talking to the crowd and playing guessing games. The English do like to drank beer.
Walking around hotel before going to the Dolphins football game. Pictures are some unique things on. London street and Kensington Gardens. The red mail box is very London. They paint which way to look for tourists. It is VERY confusing and just a little dangerous crossing streets in London. Kensington Gardens is a large park in the center of London. It is connect to Hyde Park. Beautiful shaded paths, fountains and benches.
This is the hotel I booked for Sunday night. The cost is $135 with all taxes. London (and most of Europe) have a 20% value added tax. My rate include this tax. The outside entrance, lobby and stairs look nice. The owners are very friendly and speak perfect English (it is London so you would expect they would speak English). My room will not be ready until 1:00 pm. I will walk around and look into buying clothes. The hotel is very close to Paddington Underground station and near Hyde Park. The main London shopping area is a short walk away.
The overnight bus ride is over. This is not an easy ride. You have the opportunity to sleep in 1 to 2 hour blocks over the 10 hour trip. Pictures are the bus pulling on and off the ferry, food and shopping on the ferry, Underground (London subway) station, Underground seating, Underground train (inside and out) and a stops display. Some London stations are very large buildings. The largest are Underground and Regular Train stations. This station is Victoria and is a major Train station. I would do the overnight bus again if it worked into a plan. It is very cheap (around $20) and the bus is rarely sold out. I had two seats as did most riders. You lose no vacation time and save on a hotel night. Sometimes Ryanair or Easyjet are under $50 for the same trip.
My overnight bus from Paris to London is currently at the port of Calais. It is 2:45 am France time. The next ferry is at 4:00 am. The ferry ride is about 90 min. The drive from Dover to London is just under 2 hrs. Calais to Dover is the shortest distance between France and England. The port is large with ferries the size of a football Statium. The cars and buses lineup and drive directly on to the ferry. We do not stay on the bus. The ferry has places to seat inside. You can buy food and watch TV. Sleeping on this overnight ride is hard. The drive from Paris to Calais is 4 hours and stated at 10:30 pm. You have to wake up for customs at 2:30 am. You have to wake up to board the ferry at 4:00 am. You have to wake up after the ferry at 6:00 am. If I get hotel early and the room is ready I might try to sleep before the game at 2:30 pm. If not I will sleep after the game.

3 October 2015

Just a reminder Almost all posts have more than 1 picture. You have to scroll the pictures over to see the next one in the series. The site limits the pictures per post to 10. Sometimes the pictures are done in several posts. The site limits the length of a single post. This helps when the post gets to wordy and I rework it.
I am back at my hotel from last night (Hotel Flor Rivoli) to get my bag and go to the Megabus terminal for the overnight bus/ferry/bus to London. Cost $20. As a final plug for this hotel there is a nice bar on one side and great city supermarket in the other side. I will stock on snacks for the overnight bus ride.
The Arc de Triomphe is massive. I took a picture with a bus in the shot so you could see the scale. It is on the scale of the Effie Tower. There is an access tunnel on two side that goes under the traffic circle. The traffic circle surrounds the arc that is insane. Cars come from 10 different directions. Some cars want to go around and others are cutting across to another street. Some stay close inside (near the arc) with others on the outside dodging other cars and buses. At some point the inside cars have to cut across the 10 lanes to get out. I say lanes but there are no markings of any kind to control the cars moving around the circle. The motorcycles are just nuts to be out there. There were lots of near accidents involving all types of vehicles. My current plan is to rent a car in Tours France and drop it off in Paris. I might consider taking on this circle from Hell. I will be sure to take the full rental insurance package.
Did a 1 hour sightseeing river cruise. Cost $16. It's a relaxing hour off your feet with views you can only see from the water. I had perfect weather (69 and sunny). I would put this on your Paris list. I got the boat at the Eiffel Tower but there are other locations. I included a picture of a formal river dinner cruise. You have to dress nice for the some of the dinner cruises.
The Eiffel Tower is much more impressive then you can imagine. As you exit the Metro stop you see it in the distance but can not comprehend the massive size until you get closer. It's size seems to grow as you get closer. You can buy tickets to go inside at each corner of the base. The lines are much shorter at the corners away from the main road. In addition, tours arrive a lot and have a separate line at the front right corner that basically cuts the line. The lines do move rather quickly. I plan to go back at the end of my trip and get there early so the line is shorter. After buying a ticket you can take the vertical cable car (or walk) to the 1st, 2nd or 3rd level.
Today I righted a wrong that occurred 22 years ago. When Melissa and I were in Paris 22 years ago I ordered steak tartar under the assumption it was a type of steak. It was not. When Melissa's meal came out they gave me a plate of RAW hamburger and 4 condiments. I assumed it was so I could approve the meat and pick my condiments. I was wrong. The waiter explained I was to eat the RAW hamburger. I do not. Today I ordered and eat the entire 100% raw hamburger. It was mind over stomach and the mind won. It tasted like what you would like raw hamburger tasted like and went down easy. I would try it again but it was not special enough to order as a meal again. Snails, pig cheeks and raw hamburger. I think only frogs legs are left. Sorry to those with weak stomachs.
Rodin museum picture page 2
Rodin museum pictures page 3
I went to the Rodin museum and garden today. The garden is a small park with about 10 of his bronze statues. The most famous is The Thinker. You have to look at it from all sides, a few steps back and up close. The detail is amazing.
This is a strange post but a real problem. I am experiencing "male travel cuticle pain". The problem is when I reach into my men's European carry bag I scrape my cuticles on the pocket side or items in the bag. The pictures compare my right and left hand. The problem is on my left hand. Because I am a lefty (only 8% in the world) I keep my bag on the left side. I tried moving the bag to the right side but it felt strange and will result in the same problem on my right hand. Bandaids will not work as they will get pushed back over time. Until I find a solution I have to go to my bag slowly or use my right hand to push the pockets wider. I know it is dumb but it hurts.
Some interesting Metro station stuff. There was a very long moving walkway. The seats seem different at each station. I liked the round half moon seats. A lot of the trains have lights that track the train movement. The lights helps to confirm you are going the right way.
Update about hotel last night. The Hotel Flor Rivoli has just 3 rooms without private toilets. When I booked yesterday on Tripadvisor the rooms with FULL bathrooms were all booked. The rooms with full bathrooms are $105 a night and are larger. This a great hotel even at $105 because of the location.
Picture are the three pair of pants, 1 shirt and 2 sweaters I bought in France and of a famous designer going into the Dior Fashion show. I have worn 2 "outfits" twice (1 on the overnight bus ride). The current plan does not have me staying in 1 city long enough to use a dry cleaner and washing the designer clothes might not go well. I could try to find a 1 day dry cleaner or ship everything home and buy another 3 "outfits". My single carry on bag will not fit more than 3 "outfits". I may try to buy clothe that can be washed. I am not into jeans or tie shirts. This is a problem but I am having it in London and France so I can deal with it.
This is a 2 day Metro card. The 2 day is $20. The 1 day is $12. A single oneway trip is $2. Yesterday I got the 2 day since I planned to move around to different museums. In the future I plan to buy 6 singles tickets and not the daily (or 2 day). The single can be used anytime. To make a daily pass worth it over singles you would need to do more then 6 single rides. Generally you will have a single from the hotel and back. That leaves 4 single rides. It is unlikely you will use 4 single rides in a day. Paris is a great walking city. The more walking the more you learn about the city and you may come across something fun. Yesterday I could have taken the Metro to Blend (Hamburger place) but decided to take the 20 to 25 min walk. I came across a crazy scene at Paris Fashion week and had a fun 2 and 1/2 hours. I try to have dinner before going back to the hotel. When I get make to the hotel around 7:00 I relax until about 9:00 and than walk around the new area (new because changed hotel)
As I repack my European men's bag before heading out I wanted to share what is in it. Museum pass, wall charging plug with converter, Mifi 2nd battery, coins/paper money ($120), cord (short) charge Mifi, cord (long) charge phone, portable charger for Mifi, portable charger for phone, 2nd portable charger, passport (best to carry copy not original), Metro day card and card with hotel name/address My hotels have asked to hold the room key Items that will have very limited use are put in zip lock bags to keep the bag organized. Items that will get used some are put in pockets inside the bag. Items that will get used a lot are put in outer pockets. The iPhone goes in the outside facing pocket because I reach for every few minutes when looked at directions. Money ($20 paper and all coins ) and AAA visa go in the outer pocket facing me. Packet light but take what you need for the day. Going back to the hotel during the day takes time and sometimes it is hard to get back out.
I am not watching much TV but when I do there is only 1 channel in english. The BBC World News is in english. BBC has no stories about the USA presidential election (no Donald Trump) or Hurricane. Some stories they cover are silly (moose in Norway following a drone) but it is a nice break from our news.
Going to Megabus for my overnight bus/ferry/bus to London. Got some fruit 🍐🍌, yogurt and bread 🍞for the trip. We get to the English channel Ferry at 1:55 am. I am sure if the bus goes on the Ferry or just the passengers (and get another bus on the other side)
Currently on the Megabus to London. We are 1 hour from Calais. Not sure if we are taking a Ferry, bus getting on a train flatbed car to go through the the tunnel or bus driving through the tunnel. I could have asked but want it to be a surprise. It is 12:55 Saturday night. We get in at 7:50 am London time. I need to find a hotel, drop off my bag, pickup England Mifi card, shop for a few clothes, ship some current clothes, train to Wembley Statium, pickup football tickets from Stubhub (cheap seats), watch the game, take tube (London subway) back to the hotel, relax for and hour or two then walk around and get dinner. That is the current plan but things may change.

2 October 2015

Walked around hotel last night. This area around Hotel de Rivoli has great views and endless cafes, bars and restaurants that are open late. The pictures are of Notre Dame all light up. The other photos are of two McDonalds that had order stations. Ones was in a mall and had no walk up ordering. The other was on a street and had both. I ordered a soda to try the system. It was easy to use and payment was done when ordering at the station.
I am in my third hotel in 3 nights. Changing hotels is a great way to learn about a city and found new areas to explore. I am in Hotel Flor Rivoli. The 2 best things about it are the location and price. The hotel is 1 1/2 blocks from the Seine River, 5 blocks from Louvre one way and 5 blocks from Notre Dame the other way. It is in the middle of great shopping with many cafe, bars and restaurants. The area has people out until late into the night. The Metro is 30 feet away. The price is $80 (including taxes). The 1 draw back is the room has a bathroom with sink and shower. The toilet is in a separate room in the hall. I understand most (if not all) would not accept this but remember the location and price. The room is small but fine for two people. The hotel, room and bathroom (without a toilet) are clean and well maintained. The staff is very nice and speak english. Walking around I found Hotel Louvre Rivoli. This is a nicer hotel (with full private bathroom) for $105.
Pictures of several streets and Metro stop. This Metro stop had barrier keeping rides from the tracks. First time I have seen this. There is a street with cars and buses driving through what is more of a people plaza. Very confusing to tourists (myself included). A street had a sitting area with a few trees and benches. Saw 2 small parks in the city that had a lot of kids and parents. City had 10 electric car charging stations. Only time I have seen seen this in the city. Almost all buildings are 5 stories and made of stone. In 1974 the City banned all buildings over 7 stories.
Busy Butcher shop with many types of meat. Large section of sausages. The butcher made hamburgers to order. There is a picture of the butcher loading meat to be ground up and then pressed into a hamburger shape. Outside the Butcher shop was a chicken cooker with glass front. There was a large case keeping 30 cooked chickens warm. Street has sea food sellers. I have seen several City supermarkets that are small but have a large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Visited the Pablo Picasso museum. There are works from many of his different periods. The museum is small but worth the trip. I took a very close picture from the side of 1 painting to try and show you how thick some of the paint was in many areas. There is nothing between the visitor and the paintings. They let visitors get very close to priceless paintings.
I got that hamburger I was trying to get last night (but had snails and pig cheeks instead). This place is called Blend and some on Yelp rate it the best burger in Paris. It was very good and cooked perfect. The Chicago $26 burger is still my top burger. The fries were the best I can recall eating. They were flavorful, crispy and still moist inside. This place gets a long line in the evening so I want for a late lunch at 4:30.