Europe - Germany, Belgium, and France

 

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Antarctica!
Dec 7-20, 2000

Europe - Germany, Belgium, and France
Nov 28 - Dec 6, 2000

Nepal - Around Manaslu
Oct 30 - Nov 27, 2000

India
Oct 18-29, 2000

Australia - Driving around Southern Australia
Oct 6-17, 2000

Australia - Olympics
Sep 25 - Oct 5, 2000

Australia - Great Barrier Reef
Sep 17-24, 2000

Bali
Sep 10-16, 2000

Thailand - Bangkok
Sep 4-9, 2000

Cambodia
Aug 30 - Sep 3, 2000

Vietnam - Central and South
Aug 20-29, 2000

Vietnam - North
Aug 10-19, 2000

Laos
Aug 5-9, 2000

China
Jul 26 - Aug 4, 2000

Egypt - Along the Nile
Jul 16-25, 2000

Egypt - Touring and diving
Jul 11-15, 2000

Israel and Jordan
Jul 5-10, 2000

Norway
Jun 22 - Jul 4, 2000

Brief return to the USA
Jun 6-21, 2000

Ecuador - Quito and surroundings
Jun 1-6, 2000

Ecuador - Galapagos Islands
May 25-31, 2000

Ecuador - Quito and the jungle
May 21-24, 2000

Peru - Machu Picchu and Lima
May 17-20, 2000

Peru - Cusco and the Sacred Valley
May 11-16, 2000

Bolivia
May 3-10, 2000

Zimbabwe and South Africa - Vic Falls and Blyde River Canyon
Apr 27 - May 2, 2000

South Africa - Motorcycle trip
Apr 12-26, 2000

Argentina - Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls
Mar 30 - Apr 11, 2000

Argentina - Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes
Mar 25-29, 2000

Chile - Exploring the Lake Region
Mar 17-24, 2000

Chile - Pucon and the Bio Bio
Mar 9-16, 2000

Argentina - El Calafate and El Chalten
Mar 1-8, 2000

Chile - Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine
Feb 18-29, 2000

Argentina - Rio Gallegos and Ushuaia
Feb 13-17, 2000

Chile - Santiago and Punta Arenas
Feb 8-12, 2000

Guatemala and Honduras - Rio Dulce and Copan
Feb 4-7, 2000

Guatemala - Coban and Spanish school
Jan 28 - Feb 3, 2000

Guatemala - Tikal and Spanish school
Jan 22-27, 2000

Guatemala - Antigua and Spanish school
Jan 16-21, 2000

Belize
Jan 6-15, 2000

 

Tue Nov 28, 2000 - Frankfurt

The plane touched down on time at 5:30. We whisked through immigration which required no paperwork and strangely, the only lines were for EC citizens. After getting the stamps, we started the walk into Frankfurt, or at least that is what if felt like we were doing on the way to baggage claim.

The duffel bag with Christmas presents and technical gear was one of the first items on the carousel. We waited and waited for the other bag, the one containing all of our clothing, electronic gear, pictures, and daily use stuff. It never arrived. A woman from Thai airlines was waiting, which on reflection made us think that they knew something was astray. We remained quite calm and she filled in the paperwork for the lost bag claim quickly. She could not tell us where the bag was or if it got out of Kathmandu, which did not leave us very optimistic.

We continued on what seemed like the extensive tour of the airport to find the Hertz desk and get money from an ATM. And, continued wandering still farther to rent a cellular phone. With everything done, and at least 10 kilometers walked, we loaded the bags into the Ford Mondeo station wagon and hit the road.

We were surprised that it was still almost completely dark outside at 7:30. We drove to the Trommel's which is a lovely house near Frankfurt but in a fantastic country village setting. They were waiting for us with a huge and delicious breakfast spread. As with most Germans, their English is fantastic which made chatting easy, and delightful.

The winter chill was intensified with a drizzle so we dug out whatever warmer items we had in the duffel bag. We continued to laugh that the bag that we did not need arrived and the one with everything for the week was nowhere to be found.

After breakfast the Trommels took us into Frankfurt for a tour of the old city, which is now downtown. We saw the assembly hall that was originally built as a church and twice turned into a meeting hall, and was used for the German equivalent of a constitutional congress. The streets wind around and most of the buildings possess architectural charm, even though the city was bombed substantially during WWII.

After seeing some of the sights, and a taste of the Christmas festival, we popped into some stores to replenish missing items. Louisa started with wool pants and shoes to warm up. We found practically everything in one store which was convenient.

After walking along the high rent shopping street for some window shopping, seeing the gorgeously restored Opera House, Goethe's house and a Gutenberg statue, we stopped in an Italian restaurant for lunch.

We headed back to the Trommels for a short nap, since our jet lag was catching up with us. We were delighted to find out that our bag had been delivered while were gone, and left with a neighbor. Although she was not home when we arrived, she brought it over a little while later, and we were reunited. What a relief! We never did find out where it had been.

After our nap we had a cup of tea with the Trommels. We really enjoyed their company, and the conversation was quite enjoyable. Tom also borrowed their computer and internet connection for a few minutes to send our mobile phone number to the family.

They proposed that we go back into Frankfurt for the Christmas festival, which sounded great to us. We walked around the public squares that were filled with small kiosks and food stalls, sampling the hot spiced wine and fried potato pancakes. We looked at the variety of ornaments and other handicrafts, and marveled at the huge Danish tree decorated in the main square.

Soon we were tired again, so we went back home for a light dinner of soup and cheese. The time zone caught up with us, and we stumbled upstairs and fell into bed.

 

Wed Nov 29, 2000 - Munich

We awoke in the dark, even though it was 7am, and took quick showers before heading down for breakfast. The Trommels had put out another fantastic breakfast spread, including their special-recipe cereal, as well as eggs, croissants, cheese, and ham. We ate well as we watched the sun come up around 8am. Kristof showed us where what routes to take on our inadequate Hertz map, then we went back upstairs to finish packing up.

We loaded up the car, then thanked the Trommels for their wonderful hospitality. They waved as we pulled out and pointed the Mondeo towards Munich.

We drove steadily all morning, with only one stop for a bathroom and snack at McDonalds. Tom's parents called at this time, so he chatted with them for a few minutes.

By around 2pm we were in Munich, where we drove around a bit trying to find a place to park downtown. Finally we found a spot, and as we walked out, there was a cybercafe right there. We went in to spend a half-hour answering emails.

In the brisk afternoon we wandered through Munich's streets. It took a while for Louisa to get her sense of direction, but we enjoyed the meandering. In one square some protesters were dressed in black and white cow and bright pink pig outfits protesting something. Later we figured out that it was the recent outbreak of BSE in Europe. The main square was quite crowded with stands for Munich's own Christmas market similar to the one that we had visited in Frankfurt.

We waited in the main square thinking that the dancing statues in the cathedral would move at the hour of four, but they did not. We walked on to the BMW pavilion, only to discover that it is not a showroom, but an exhibit hall to display their historical cars and motorcycles. We surfed their website at a painfully slow computer they had set up and discovered a European delivery option which intrigued us Finally on the way out a man appeared and he gave us directions to the closer dealer.

Kyra called at this point, so Tom talked to her as we walked to pick up our car. We discovered that she will be in Paris through Wednesday and we said that we would try to figure out a way to meet them in Paris.

We found the local BMW dealer and hopped in the X5 in the showroom. A woman approached us and let us know that the cars they sell in Germany are not ready for the streets of the USA. She called the headquarters and got a name and number of a woman who handles all export sales, which take from three to six months to process. We left dispirited. So much for buying an X5 and driving it around for the next week. Who would have thought that it would be so difficult?

Even though it was just after 5 pm, it was completely dark outside. Used to the autobahn by now, Tom whisked us along the road to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We drove through the streets looking for hotels, and finally spotted a hotel information map. Only two of them had any English, so we figured out where they were on the map and drove to the closest one.

The hotel was quite nice, advertised a spa, and was pretty expensive so we decided to grab some dinner first. On the way to the crowded pizzeria that we spied earlier, the hotel by the train station caught our eye. The room was freezing cold and simple, but we turned on the radiators, checked in and went out for dinner.

The pizza place was crowded, which was a good sign. We ordered and then started an incredibly long wait. We heard a lot of American English which surprised us. Finally the soup arrived only for us to realize that Tom had ordered a huge seafood stew! Oops! The entrees appeared and were equally as large. Jet lag was in full force so we had most of the delicious entrees wrapped up and returned to the hotel where we gratefully fell into the duvet covers for a deep sleep.

 

Thu Nov 30, 2000 - Zugspitz

Louisa was still fighting a cold, so she decided not to try skiing in the Alps today. We awoke a bit late anyway, so by the time Tom got his gear together and we ate breakfast, we had missed the train from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We still had time to catch it in Eibsee, however, so Louisa drove Tom there, where he bought a ticket and started up towards Zugspitz.

The train ride was beautiful, and climbed steeply along the face. Tom had a great view of the Eibsee just before the train entered a 4km tunnel that climbed even more steeply to the small bowl near the summit.

At the top, Tom went to rent a snowboard, where he was a little surprised to find hard boots and carving boards available - these are not common for rental in the States. Unfortunately, the hard boots were a little small, so he tried the soft boots, which were even smaller. He crammed his feet into the hard ones, and headed to the slopes.

The top was overcast but still fairly warm, so he didn't wear everything he brought. Unfortunately, they had not had much snow, so only the central 4 t-bar lifts were open, with basically 3 bunny slopes available. Tom kept looking around, hoping some other part of the mountain was open, but that really was all of it.

He boarded down to the t-bar, feeling a little rusty, and then watched for a few minutes to see how it was done. When he got to the front of the line, he didn't line the board up properly, and promptly fell on his butt trying to get started.

Red-faced, he went to the back of the line, and tried to watch more snowboarders seemingly having no trouble at all. He discovered that the trick is to place the t-bar between your legs, so you can face sideways and have the board go straight up the slope. Ready to try again, he got in line.

This time he caught the bar and started going, but soon lost his balance, and about 50 yards up the slope fell off again. Determined to keep trying, he went back once more. The third time was the charm - despite comic antics and windmilling arms, he managed to keep his balance all the way to the top of the hill, and successfully take his first run.

The next time on, he shared the t-bar with another boarder, who not only provided support, but also advice, mostly "relax." With his help, Tom figured it out, and had no further difficulties the entire day.

The real problems was that the slope took less than 2 minutes to board down, and the t-bar less than 6 minutes back up, so it was possible to do a dozen runs in a hour. This gets boring quickly. Despite meeting several friendly Germans and even one American from Ohio, Tom was looking for something else to do.

He decided against trying the halfpipe, mostly because there were some pros there, making everyone look bad. On the slopes were several dozen German army soldiers in fatigues, and on meeting one on the t-bar, Tom learned that part of their training was learning how to ski. He also took a few breaks to check out the views, and take a few pictures.

At 12:30 or so he took a break to eat sandwiches and drink some hot cocoa, then boarded one more hour. His knee started hurting, and the sun went behind the mountain, so he was just about done. He had planned to go up to the summit and take a look at the art gallery there, but on his last run, the t-bar tore the entire crotch out of his waterproof pants. As it turns out, he had just enough time to return the board and catch the 2pm train down to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. On the way down, the sun peeked through the clouds and lit the mountains with a gorgeous yellow light.

Back in town, Louisa explored. First stop was a few errands in the helpful train station, where she found an American InStyle magazine, and at the post office. She tried to find an internet cafe that the hotel clerk recommended. The fifteen minute walk through town took her to a picturesque Bavarian street lined with white Christmas lights. The internet cafe runs from 5 to 8 pm, so it was closed, but this put her in prime shopping position.

After meandering between the shops she returned to the hotel for a rest and some CNN for a presidential election update. This refueled her for some more walking this time in the other direction.

More charming boutique-lined and Christmas-decorated streets greeted her. She found a sunlit park where she sat to make some phone calls figuring out some logistical challenges. A charming cafe caught her eye so she stopped in for a coffee and to savor every page of the In Style magazine, something that did not present such enjoyment last year.

On the return to the hotel a few more boutique window displays caught her eye. One store had the perfect Christmas outfit, which they set aside for Tom's approval apres-ski. None of the other shops had must-have items.

The sun lit the mountains and warmed the air perfect for an afternoon run. The streets quickly turned into country lanes with picturesque Bavarian houses. The town also boasts a lengthy network of walking paths along the streams which made for a pleasant time. Since we were expecting a few phone calls, she kept the phone with her and practically on cue Kyra called and they made arrangements for meeting in Paris on Monday.

Tom showed up a bit early just after Louisa returned to the hotel. He took a shower and relaxed before Louisa coaxed him out. First stop was approval for the Christmas outfit, which came. We also bought some more waterproof cameras for the kayaking next week.

On the way by the hotel we picked up the car since the evening air became quite chilly. The internet cafe had modern computers and a very fast connection. An hour passed before we even realized it. Our stomachs called, so we drove to Spago, a restaurant that caught our eye, for dinner.

A friendly waiter greeted us and offered to translate anything off of the German-only menu. The food and wine were excellent which made the surprisingly low prices even better. Jet lag took our energy so we returned to the hotel, called Jo and Arnie to confirm plans and fell into bed.

 

Fri Dec 1, 2000 - Travel to Brussels

We woke early thanks to our bodies being on Asian time. It worked out well though since we had to pack everything. After another filling breakfast we hit the road. While Tom enjoyed the speed limit free autobahns, we opted for a more scenic "shortcut" through Oberammergau. There was not much to see, but we found the Passion Play theater, then continued the scenic route to Augsberg. We enjoyed the pace of the autobahns until Stuttgart where we were re-routed due to construction. After a painfully slow 1/2 hour detour we zoomed on the autobahn at speeds over 100mph, with cars passing us as if we were walking.

On arrival at the Frankfurt airport at 1:30 we split forces. Tom returned the car and bought train tickets while Louisa worked with a trainee at the Lufthansa desk for a variety of changes. On the way to the train we could not resist McDonald's for a late lunch, so we caved.

The trains were pleasant, new and quite punctual. We secured a coveted seat with a table on which we worked on the journal and wrote emails to pass the first 2 hours. We then had to change in Koln (Cologne) for the train to Brussels. Our train was about 3 minutes late, and we had a 9 minute connection, so we had to hurry through the station to the next track, and then find a car with empty seats.

We crowded in with two men at a table seat again, but soon changed to a more spacious one across the car as people got off. We spent these 3 hours getting the journal up to date and reading some more.

In Brussels, we had little trouble finding Jo, and Arnie was waiting right outside in the car. They had had some problems with their large Volvo, so they picked us up in the Ford Focus, which was just barely big enough for us and our bags. We drove to their apartment to drop of the bags - they had a car break-in their first week, so we didn't want to leave anything while we ate.

They had a recommendation for dinner, so we quickly headed back into town, since it was late (almost 9) and we were hungry. Unfortunately, the directions were not good, so we could not find the place. After wandering around a bit, we stumbled on a cute Italian place, so we decided to eat there.

The waiters were all characters, and in a mixture of French, Italian, German, and a smattering of English we managed to communicate with them. We had excellent family-style pasta dishes and a huge antipasti plate, as well as a good bottle of wine. We also had a wonderful time catching up with Jo and Arnie, and hearing all about their recent wedding and honeymoon.

By the time we were done, it was quite late, and we headed back to the apartment. There, Louisa discovered wedding pictures, so she and Jo stayed up even later, with Louisa exclaiming over pictures, and Jo sharing stories. We finally made it to bed well after midnight.

 

Sat Dec 2, 2000 - Shopping in Brussels

Arnie returned from his run which alerted the rest of us that the day had begun. We lazed around the apartment in Arnie and Jo's comfortable furniture for the next couple of hours. After rotating through the one shower (they have 3 baths, but only one shower) we walked to their village square for coffee. Many of the shops were adorned with lights and Christmas trees were in the center making it all seem festive. We popped into a bar for hot coffee and to escape the drizzle.

Next we piled into the surprisingly comfortable Focus and wandered through the hip and young neighborhood of Excel. We lunched at a small boulangerie which served great salads and soup while Louisa feasted on the Nutella put on every table. The leisurely pace of the day seemed to fit all of our needs.

Throughout the afternoon we walked around Brussels window shopping. Every pair of Tom's pants sported a tear, so started to scour the stores looking for some long enough, feeling confident that the tall European men must shop somewhere. We struck-out in the first few shops, but Jo found some Dockers in the department store. These were good, but not great since the pants his length were only available with 30 or 32 inch waists, giving us a laugh. Finally a pair of corduroys by another American company were the perfect fit, but un-hemmed. He made the purchase and went off in search of a tailor.

Louisa and Jo stayed in the store to spend enough to qualify for the tax refund. If they spent 1200BF, the tax return would be 1200BF, so they obliged by scouring the store for a purchase.

On the second stop Tom found a tailor able to hem his pants in an hour. He got on her good side by fixing the curtain around the changing room which paid off since she did a fantastic job. During the hour wait we wandered further along the Avenue Louise stopping for some famous Belgian frites.

For the next couple of hours we lounged in Jo and Arnie's apartment finding it so comfortable that we hardly want to move for dinner. They let us use their washing machine for laundry, a true luxury.

On the way to the restaurant, we learn that it is the brother restaurant to the delicious and chaotic Italian eatery that we stumbled into the night before. We drove by and it looked appealing but empty. In the few minutes that it took to park and walk there it began to fill up.

We ordered different dishes and enjoyed extensive antipasti, osso buco and some fresh zucchini pasta accompanied by another delicious bottle of red wine. It was a great time, but all four of us were tired so we soon returned to their apartment and went directly to sleep.

 

Sun Dec 3, 2000 - Brussels touring

We woke up fairly late, but were inspired by Arnie's example of yesterday morning to go running. Jo suggested that Arnie to go with us so we would not get lost. He decided to do so despite our protests that we have been running in strange cities for a year now, and haven't gotten lost once. We soon got our running gear on, and set off.

Chatting with Arnie was fun as we ran, and we headed through the neighborhood to a large park nearby, where we ran along a beautiful lake. The roads are closed on Sundays, and a good number of people were out exercising their dogs or just walking around.

As we came around the lake, Arnie pointed out where we should exit the park, but miscalculated a bit, and we ended up in the wrong place. After a while of running around, he figured it out, but we joked quite a bit about Arnie's lack of knowledge of his new neighborhood. We ended up running for a full hour, instead of the 30-35 minute we usually do. Louisa could not believe that she had just run for an hour and started talking about racing... well, not quite.

After the run we showered and relaxed, watching CNN and chatting. Soon we were hungry, so Jo and Arnie cooked up great omelets and homemade home-fries. We feasted, and then prepared to go into town.

We hadn't see a movie in quite a while, so we decided to go see Charlie's Angels. Arnie drove us to the "Atom" where there was a movie theater. We waited in a crazy line, but got good seats, and settled in with some strange sugar-coated popcorn and drinks. The theater played dozens of commercials before the film that were often sexual and seemingly completely unrelated to the product, most of which seemed to be perfumes.

The movie was not bad, actually it was quite enjoyable. Jo and Louisa continued to laugh about it for the rest of the afternoon and vowed to buy the soundtrack at the next music store. Even the guys were prone to repeating some of the one-liners themselves.

The post-cinema entertainment was the Belgium restroom. The men and women share the same open entryway, so while the women wait on line they have a perfect view of the men using the urinal. Quite unusual for us Americans.

We returned to the car parked underneath the giant silver atom and drove into the Gran Place by way of the impressive Japanese gardens.

Arnie scored a parking space next to the cathedral which we entered. It is a beautifully maintained, massive, gothic structure. The interior was adorned with large modern art banners as an exhibit. The side aisles displayed creche scenes made in different countries around the world and we looked through the collection of gold and jewel encrusted items.

Upon walking the few blocks to the Gran Place, we came upon a street performer that Jo and Arnie had heard before and liked. We bought chocolate covered Belgian waffles (yum!) and listened to the performer croon a couple of American rock tunes to the large crowd.

The lights glittered on the gorgeous buildings of the Grand Place. Stalls filled the plaza with a variety of vendors selling crafted Christmas goods made in various countries of Europe. Louisa and Jo found and bought Christmas ornaments while we listened to the Christmas carols.

Around the corner we ducked into one of the many Greek restaurants for a good dinner. We started to drag, and returned to their apartment by 8pm. Arnie taught us the true rules to euchre. Boy were we wrong in Nepal! The four of us played and Jo and Arnie trounced us in both games.

Soon we remembered it was a school night for Jo and Arnie so we all went to bed.

 

Mon Dec 4, 2000 - To Paris

We got up to say good-bye to Jo and Arnie as they went off to work. We lazed around eating cereal and watching CNN for awhile before we packed up, called a taxi, and headed to the train station. We had lost track of time and the taxi got confused with construction around the station, so it took a little longer to get there. We arrived at the station at 10:38 for our 10:40 train.

We had no idea where to buy tickets or anything but found the track. As we ran up they were blowing the whistle and we jumped on as it pulled out of the station. The signs had stated 'reservations obligatory' so we hoped that we would not get kicked off the train moving at 300 kph!

We found the last two seats together and settled in for the ride. The conductor happily charged our tickets. His grin indicated that we were paying a hefty surcharge, but we were on our way to Paris. We read, journaled and talked to Kyra on the phone. Before we could even think about getting bored, they announced the arrival at Paris Nord. Amazing! It took eighty minutes of smooth nonstop travel.

The French metro is more spread out than what we had seen in awhile. We maneuvered our way through the extensive tunnels and trains, finally emerging at Place de la Concorde. We left our bags at the Hotel Crillon and headed out with Kyra and Andrew to explore Paris.

We walked towards Madeleine Place and found a good cafe on a corner for a decent lunch. Tom and Lyn (Dad and Lyn, Tom and Mom) called as we were sitting down so we all chatted for awhile and figured out Christmas night now that we are all arriving at the same time.

We stopped in at the 3-star Hotel Madelaine Plaza next door. We looked at two rooms and bargained them down 20% for a room. It was small, but comfortable and had a great shower.

The four of us walked around some more and ended up down at L'Opera. it is a magnificently opulent building. The theater itself astounded us with its beauty and design.

We wandered through the streets for awhile more with a quick stop in Galleries Lafayette to look at overcoats for Andrew. Our meanderings took us to the Louvre. We walked inside the pyramid and walked through the shops but did not enter the exhibits.

We walked back through the Tuileries gardens then Kyra and Andrew had to get back for their dinner. We picked up our bags from their hotel and rested in ours for awhile.

The friendly man at the desk told us about a couple of restaurants and an internet cafe near Les Halles. We took the metro to the latter for awhile since none of the restaurants serve dinner until at least 7pm.

Around the corner from the hotel we ate at a tiny French restaurant, Saveurs et Salon. The food was quite good, especially a red snapper and potato 'mash' and a warm chocolate cake. The service was excellent as well including an recommendation for a good half bottle of wine. We love eating in Paris!

After dinner we returned to the hotel and climbed into bed. While tired, the pile of juicy American magazines that Kyra brought with her tempted us and we started reading. Kyra and Andrew called after their dinner which went later than expected and we made plans for the morning.

 

Tue Dec 5, 2000 - Museums and Shopping

We got up a little late, showered and walked to the Crillon. We were a few minutes late, but when we called Kyra and Andrew we woke them up, oops! They move quickly however and it was not long before we were in the luxurious dining room with a delectable breakfast.

The meal was excellent, although outrageously overpriced. Andrew disappeared to prepare for his speaking engagement while the three of us lingered over chocolate croissants and chatted. The package from Harris arrived so we have plenty of disks for pictures which was a relief.

The three of us started our day with a walk across the Place de la Concorde and the Seine to the Rodin Museum. For the next couple of hours we walked through the garden and the mansion. Rodin's sculptures provided a fabulous background for chatting, which we did for hours.

We decide that a creperie would be great for lunch but couldn't find one. Our meanderings through side streets brought us to the hotel where Andrew was speaking so we found a small place around the corner and had an excellent lunch.

After lunch we went into the hotel to find Andrew. He was just finishing and came out to join us for the shopping expedition. We wandered along some side streets on the left bank until the rain started to fall when we retreated to Bon Marche. Despite serious efforts by the women, the department store resulted in almost no purchases so we stopped in a few more boutiques afterwards. When the rain started again, we took the metro back to our hotels and relaxed for a while.

Louisa's Dad called from Florida which got us going again. We called Kyra and Andrew at 6:00 and made plans to meet at 7:00 for our dinner reservations at 8:30.

We are a few minutes late since we could not find the necklace that Louisa bought in Belgium which was too bad. The tiny bag did not make it through the travels.

We walked over to the Crillon and were glad that the rain had stopped. Tom used Andrew's laptop for a few minutes, then we took the metro to Chatelet. We walked the rest of the way to St. Louis via Notre Dame.

Upon entering the Orangerie the hostess informed us that jackets are required for the men. As we turn to leave she offers Tom and Andrew some ill-fitting jackets they have in reserve downstairs. Kyra and Louisa cram themselves in behind the table, and then we endured the supercilious waiters while choosing our meal. Kyra had spoken French so she received a lovely printed menu in French while the rest of us received xeroxed English menus.

Overall the meal was excellent and we drank a pretty good bottle of wine that was worth about 1/4 of what we paid for it. The evening was a great time of chatting and enjoying the company.

We decided to walk back and started out along the Seine. The Hotel de Ville was majestically lit and we stopped for a few pictures. The walk was farther than we imagined but it was lovely.

We reached the Place de la Concorde around 11:30 and decided to ride the tacky ferris wheel. We said our good-byes to Kyra and Andrew and headed over. It was a terribly overpriced ride for only three revolutions but gave us fantastic views of Paris lit up at night.

Afterwards we tried to take a few nighttime pictures of Paris, but as it was midnight, they kept turning the lights out on us. The Eiffel tower was glittering brightly, but the Champs-Elysees, and then the obelisk lights went out just as we were about to take pictures. We gave up and walked the few blocks back to the hotel.

There Tom found he had received a business fax, so he worked on that until nearly 2am, when we finally fell asleep completely exhausted.

 

Wed Dec 6, 2000 - Travel and Errands

We got up a bit late, but finally got motivated to take a run. The weather was still overcast and chilly, but not raining, so we put on workout clothes and headed out. The receptionist exclaimed in surprise - it seems only crazy Americans run in Paris.

We went a few blocks to the Tuileries, then ran up to the Louvre and around the gardens twice. We had expected it to be easy, but it was cold and we had a hard time getting going. After a half hour we headed back to the hotel for warm showers.

We packed and checked out, chatting briefly with the nice receptionist. This Madeleine Plaza was decently appointed, reasonably priced, and had friendly service, so we would recommend it.

A pouring rain had started, so we ran next door to the Cafe Madeleine for a late breakfast. We devoured omelets, a cheese sandwich, and salad, then went next door again to buy some wine for our Argentine friends. We then gathered our bags from the hotel and got on the metro.

In Les Halles, we went to the internet cafe, after buying tickets for the RER to take us to Charles de Gaulle airport. The internet cafe was packed, but when he heard we had to catch a plane, the man let us jump the line to check email briefly. We also sent our fax using the worlds slowest fax machine - over 15 mins to send 6 pages!

We were lucky and caught an express RER to the airport, so it took less than 30 minutes. We checked in to our flight just a half hour before departure, sending our bags through to Buenos Aires. We then dropped by the Lufthansa lounge briefly before getting on the plane.

In Frankfurt, we talked to Lufthansa about getting better seats for our 12 hour flight to Buenos Aires, but they kept telling us we had good seats, and there weren't any better. Then we went to the United desk to ensure our Christmas plane tickets were changed, and to inquire about upgrades.

The prominent sign above the desk said that it closed at 5:15, but it was 5pm, and they had already shut down most of the computers. They claimed that they closed at 5 despite the sign, and almost refused to help us, but finally ensured that our important flight change was done properly. We didn't get any help with our other things, however.

We next returned our rented cellphone, and used the internet connection there to make a reservation in Ushuaia. On the way back to the airport, we strolled through a hallway lined with Christmas booths, and spent our remaining DM coins on ornaments. We also stopped at the Bally store in the airport to look at boots for Louisa, and ended up buying some great ones.

We went through the cursory passport control and then got our tax back from the boots - a nice almost 10% discount.

We then found the Lufthansa lounge, with signs all over stating that Star Alliance Gold members are welcome. We walked in, showing our boarding cards that were clearly marked "Star Gold", but the evil woman behind the desk would not let us in, asking for our membership cards. We never carry our membership cards, because it says our status on the boarding cards. We waited while she was rude to every other person in line, then called the United Red Carpet Club to verify our status. As a parting shot, she told us we wouldn't have this wait if we would only carry our membership cards. We are planning to write a letter - her attitude and lack of service really steamed us for quite a while. By the way, her name was Alspant, and she was working the Lufthansa First Class Lounge in Terminal B in Frankfurt.

We ate snacks instead of dinner, pigging out in the little sandwiches and cheeses. We also nibbled on peanuts, and ate more than we should have from the cookies and candy table. We passed the time reading newspapers and doing a bit of journaling.

Soon it was time for us to board the plane. The 747 was packed, with hardly an empty seat, so we settled ourselves in and napped a bit before dinner, which was surprisingly good goose with potatoes and gravy. We then both sacked out hard, if a bit uncomfortably.

Revised: Wed Feb 13 11:37:55 2008 on www.shieldsaroundtheworld.com.
Copyright 2000 Tom & Louisa Shields. All rights reserved.