Friday, 24th May – Strasbourg to Tübingen

This morning we left France crossing the Rhine River making our way into Germany through the Black Forest. The name Black Forest comes from the general dark colour of the numerous pine trees that grow in this region, as you can see from the photo below.

Our first stop today was at Rottenburg Am Neckar, we parked the car, walked across the bridge into the old town and had lunch at the local bakery.

Hohenzollern Castle was on our way to Tübingen. We enjoyed taking photos leading up to the castle, however we decided we didn’t have the time to park the car, get the shuttle bus and then wait in line to walk through the castle. Instead we enjoyed the view from afar and took a sneaky photo of the old castle gate.

Once we arrived in Tübingen we checked into our hotel and made the very short walk into the Old Town. The bridge, Eberhardsbrücke, offered the most amazing view of the Neckar River, where many locals had come out to enjoy the weather and watch the gondolas.

We made our way to the Marktplatz through the old town enjoying the atmosphere.

Tourists and locals alike were gathered around the Stiftskirche enjoying a drink or ice cream in what had turned into a  really warm day.

Around the Rathaus in the Marktplatz people were busy setting up for the night markets.

We really enjoyed Tübingen and is one of the highlights of our trip so far.

2019 European Adventure France Germany

Thursday, 23rd May – Basel to Strasbourg

We left Basel early this morning to make our way to Strasbourg. Usually we opt to avoid highways where possible because there is more to see. A good example is this church in a little town called Dessenheim – the Saint-Léger Church.

There are wild flowers everywhere at the moment as it’s the beginning of Spring, we picked a couple of these orange poppies as we drove in to Neuf-Brisach.

Neuf-Brisach is a fortified town in France intended to guard the border between France and the Holy Roman Empire. Today it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We parked in the free parking space just inside the city gate and enjoyed the very short walk to the centre of town. Apart from seeing the town square and buildings on the way, we found a bakery that sold many pastries and couldn’t resist buying an apple turnover for morning tea.

Another little town we came across was Illhaeusern on the L’ill River. These pictures don’t do it justice, standing on the bridge and overlooking this town was like being in a postcard.

Our next stop was the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg. We managed to get some great photos as we drove closer leading up to the castle. Trip Advisor reviews indicated that it wasn’t safe to leave the car in the parking lot, apparently there had been a lot of robberies. We managed to jump out and take some quick photos without leaving the car.

That apple turnover was teasing us in the back seat so we found a random village for our coffee stop.

After doing some washing at a local laundromat we checked in to our Strasbourg hotel. We caught the tram (conveniently located across the road from the hotel) in to the Old Town, getting off at Broglie.

We made our way through Kiéber Square.

Gutenberg Platz

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg

Museum of Decorative Arts

We found a great spot to stop and look out over the Rhine River.

The Gate at the Old Strasbourg Hospital

St Nikolas Church

With weary feet we caught the Tram from Homme de Fer to République, seeing the Palais du Rhin and gardens as well as the National Theatre of Strasbourg, before making our way back to the hotel.

2019 European Adventure France Switzerland

Monday, 20th May – Annecy to Bern

After such an incredible time in Annecy with Blake and Peter’s family and friends it was time for us to commence our European Adventure.

We enjoyed one last huge breakfast at the Imperial and began our trip to Bern. Firstly though we stopped in at the most adorable little medieval village, Yvoire.

The charm of this quaint little village made up for the drizzly weather. Our early start meant that we were almost the only people walking around and as we left the first tour busses were arriving.

From Yvoire we left France, making our way to Montreux, the Swiss city on the side of a mountain. It is a confusing maze of one way streets but we eventually found the parking garage – Parking du Marché-Forum. This parking garage was well researched for its proximity to the promenade and the Freddy Mercury statue. It’s a beautiful location and despite the rain we really enjoyed the walk to the Queen Studio Experience.

The band Queen recorded a number of their albums in “Mountain Studios” in Montreux. Being a huge Queen fan Keith was keen to see the exhibition where the studios have been converted to a museum: Queen The Studio Experience.

On the way to Bern we drove passed Fribourg and couldn’t resist stopping to take a few photos.

2019 European Adventure France Switzerland

Friday, 17th May to Sunday, 19th May – Annecy

This post is a pictographic journey through the weekend spent in Annecy.

On Friday we circumnavigated Lake Annecy via Montmin. The views of the lake were even more breathtaking from up high.

Keep a look out for the sculpture of a face and the petrol station with the best view in the world.

Saturday was the big day! We had been so excited in the lead up to Blake and Peter’s wedding and we woke up thrilled to share their special day. The morning whilst starting off a bit foggy ended up being absolutely perfect.

Sunday morning (post wedding) Bec enjoyed some extra sleep while Keith cleared his head by taking a long walk around the lake. The view of Annecy from the other side of the lake gave a new perspective.

A generous brunch provided by the happy couple gave us the fuel we needed for the walk into the Old Town of Annecy. It’s easy to see from these photos why the city is referred to as “The Venice of the Alps”.

 

Witnessing two of the best humans get married in such an incredible location and meeting some truly great people was an awesome way for us to start our adventure in Europe.

2019 European Adventure France

Thursday, 16th May – Travelling to Annecy

After an unexpected 2 1/2 hour delay due to baggage issues we finally arrived in Geneva. Not withstanding the delay, our first flight with British Airways was very impressive. The staff kept us informed at all times, the service was great and the meal offered was delicious.

The process through customs was very simple. It took longer to work out which side of the airport was the French side versus the Swiss side than it did collecting our bags and proceeding through immigration.

We were then collected by a minibus to go and pick up the car that was to be ours for the rest of the trip. Now named “Pepe”, we packed everything in and headed off to Annecy on the wrong side of the road!

Only a short drive from Geneva we were excited to arrive in Annecy and check in to our hotel room at the Impérial Palace Hotel. We are commencing our holiday here for a very special reason, dear friends of ours Blake and Peter were getting married at this breathtaking location.

 

Our “day” seemed to start such a long time ago and has ranged across a number of countries and cities. We ended the day with a meal surrounded by friends, old and new at a Crepery near to the hotel.

2019 European Adventure France Switzerland

Saturday, 20th September – Paris to Ely (London)

We had packed everything yesterday and it was a good thing we had. In our infinite wisdom we had celebrated our last night in Paris with one too many bottles of red wine. Sleeping in until the last minute, we met Julien at 10.30am to hand over the keys to the apartment and got in a taxi to Gare du Nord – the train station where we were boarding the Eurostar.

The train station was absolutely beautiful and busy! Approximately 190 million travellers per year pass through Gare du Nord making it the busiest in Europe!

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We had plenty of time to get some breakfast, check in, go through customs and board our train by 1.15pm. We were hoping that this Eurostar trip would be uneventful and on time – unlike our first experience.

The trip was perfect arriving back at the London St Pancras station at 2.30pm. We were well on track to pick up the hire car that we would have for the rest of our adventure through the UK. And well, that’s when the wheels almost fell off.

The person on the reservation desk at the hire car company was nervous that we were taking the car into Northern Ireland and on a couple of ferries. We went through the paperwork where we had made these arrangements clear, finally getting confirmation from ‘someone’ over the phone we thought everything would now be sorted. Unfortunately when the poor lady when to assign our car, it appeared it had been marked as not to be re-hired. The other piece of bad news, there were no more cars available for us. Ok at this point, Bec was thinking about plan B, and listing what dear friends we had in London we could approach for emergency accommodation. Two hours later and we were given the keys to our upgraded car – a brand new Audi A4 – thanks!

Leaving London three hours later than expected, we made our way to our next destination – Ely. It was a 2 hour drive, but we were well behind and arriving before sunset was now not going to happen.

It was strange being in a right hand drive vehicle and driving on the ‘other’ side of the road. Isn’t it funny how you quickly become accustomed to something that initially you’d think would always feel wrong.

Arriving in Ely in the dark, we checked into the hotel, walked across the road and had dinner, taking our time looking over our plans for the next day.

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Friday, 19th September – Paris

Today was a milestone in our trip as it was our last night in Mainland Europe before we went back to the UK.

It was also the day that we said goodbye to Penny. We had spent 74 days with Penny our Peugeot, she had taken us on the most amazing adventures, and had been patient and perfect (with the exception of that tyre issue in Arles that she could hardly be blamed for), for just over 17,000kms. It actually felt quite sad to be saying goodbye.

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We had to drop the car off in La Défense – a major business district of the Paris Metropolitan Area just west of the city. It was a tense drive to the dealership, in Paris traffic just before peak hour wasn’t the best but we negotiated our way through the confusing streets and made it in one piece.

After dropping the car off and filling out the paperwork with relative ease, we set off on the 20 minute stroll to the metro. The business district was very surprising, there were very cool sculptures and buildings and it was interesting to see another side of Paris.

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Once we got back to the apartment we had to repack all our bags in readiness to get the Eurostar back to London in the morning. Whilst the morning had not been a lot of fun, lets face it packing is always the pits, we were both looking forward to the afternoon.

Before we left Melbourne to commence our adventure, Bec had done some research to find an English speaking hair salon. We had booked appointments via email. Style Pixie Salon is owned and run by an Aussie expat (from Melbourne), and it was a fabulous experience. It was completely out of the way – we had to change Metro lines three times, but I’m telling you it was well worth it. The service was fantastic, the staff were so friendly and the prices were very reasonable. We walked out of the salon feeling like a million dollars, with great hair!!

After leaving the salon we decided that the perfect way to end our time in Paris, was to go back to the Un Zebre a Montmartre for dinner and some more of that fabulous Bordeaux wine! We stumbled back to the apartment and fell into bed wishing we could stay in Paris for ever.

2014 European Adventure France

Thursday, 18th September – Paris

It’s fair to say that we absolutely fell in love with Paris yesterday. Today however, we had planned a day trip to nearby Versailles. A little further out, but worth the trip, was a chateau that is quite famous and the focal point of the small village of Dreux in the middle of rural France – the Chateau d’Anet.

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There may have been an ulterior motive to visit the chateau – it was the setting of another Bond movie. This time it was Sean Connery who flew from the balcony of the chateau using a jet pack! Below is the photo from the movie, then the actual balcony itself.

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Versailles is a quaint village – not very large, but very old. We wondered around the streets and stopped for lunch in a small park, and coffee in a small cafe. The only thing that wasn’t small was the Palace of Versailles which had massive gardens and is the main reason that people visit this town.

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We headed back to the apartment in Paris and had ourselves a little nap – we had planned to go out later that night to see the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe at night.

Our host Julien had recommended we enjoy dinner at a restaurant – Un Zebre A Montmarte. It turned out that the restaurant was up the hill from the Moulin Rouge so we managed to tick that off the list as well.

The restaurant was a great recommendation because the food, wine and service were all outstanding. Due to the required walk up a hill, the restaurant managed to not be overcrowded with tourists or suffer from tourist prices. We enjoyed an amazing meal, drank wine from the Medoc region of Bordeaux and fell hopelessly in love with Paris all over again!!

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By the time we had left the restaurant it had become quite dark and it was great to see the Moulin Rouge lit up.IMG_2863

It was well worth the numerous train rides to see these two famous landmarks, they looked so different at night, it was spectacular.IMG_2871 IMG_2874

2014 European Adventure France

Wednesday, 17th September – Paris

Last night we put a rough itinerary together for the next few days and investigated the public transport available. The Paris Metro was fairly easy to navigate and it seemed to cover all the destinations we required, so we decided to buy a 3 day pass for 24 Euro or about $36 AUD each – not bad value at $12 AUD a day.

We strolled the 5 minute walk from the apartment to the Metro, stopping to buy some breakfast treats at the local boulangerie before buying our tickets and making our way to our first stop of the day – The Louvre.

Over the last few weeks we had struggled to get a clear idea of the best way to purchase our tickets to the Louvre. There was conflicting information regarding whether it was best to buy them online or at the Museum itself. We had two concerns, the first that even if we bought them online we couldn’t print them off, you have to pick them up from the shop – like a Ticketek situation. The second concern was that we didn’t have a lot of time to waste trying to find the store and then get back to the Museum.

So we made the decision to get to the Louvre early and try our luck. The Louvre opens at 9am and we were there at about 8am so had plenty of time to get in line and see the spectacular surrounds. The best thing is that as the sun rises, it bathes the centuries-old buildings in pure gold. The sight is amazing and worth standing in line, even just to see that.

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Now, if you want the hot tip on how to see the Louvre, we highly recommend getting there early and lining up. Even if you have a ticket, you still want to be one of the first people through the gates.

The most famous work of art at the Louvre would have to be the Mona Lisa. Bec quickly cottoned on to what the couple in front of us were planning, they discussed what they were each doing as soon as the gates opened, they seemed to have a great plan and so we followed the American couple as they went straight to the ticket office, bought our tickets and then followed closely on their heels as they walked swiftly to the Mona Lisa. We got a front row view of this amazing piece of art and with hardly any one about. This has to be the best way to see her as we walked past later and saw the room packed shoulder to shoulder where the best view you can get is obscured by selfie sticks.

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So maybe the Mona Lisa is the most famous, but the sheer volume of outstanding works of art in the Louvre is bordering on insane. There is too much to see and you could spend a week wandering around the halls and still not see everything. Below are some photos of some examples – The Winged Victory, The Mona Lisa, Diana the Huntress, detail of the ceilings as you walk through and lastly the Venus de Milo.

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We stopped for a coffee at the cafe in the Louvre, looking out over the Napoleon Courtyard is a work of art in itself.

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With our heads spinning and smiles on our faces, it was time to set out see more of Paris. The next stop on our itinerary was La Madeleine, which we decided to walk to. We stopped for lunch and saw amazing things on the way, including Our Lady of the Assumption Church.

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La Madeleine is a Roman Catholic Church, originally designed as a temple in the glory of Napoleon’s Army. It was absolutely spectacular inside, the ceiling art, sculptures and use of lighting in this huge building was breathtaking.

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From La Madeleine we walked down to the place d la Concorde. The first photo below is the view from the front steps of La Madeleine to the Obelisk. It was a very busy road and we saw some of the crazy Parisian driving we had been told about!

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The Place de la Concorde is the largest square in Paris, the sheer size of it, the number of sculptures and history was spectacular. Below are pictures of the Fountain of River Commerce and Navigation and the Obelisk of Luxor.

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One of the most amazing elements of the Place de la Concorde is the view – we could see the beginning of the Champs de Elysees with Arc de Triomphe in the distance, the Louvre behind us and even more amazing buildings across the Seine. The Champs de Elysees is possibly the most famous street in Paris, if not in the world so we made our way down this iconic stretch.

Along the way,  we came across the Grand and Petit Palais and decided to detour briefly to have a better look at these unbelievable buildings. While exploring, we were surprised to see a statue of Winston Churchill and a magnificent bridge.

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The bridge was called the Pont Alexandre III.

It has gold statues atop massive pillars, views of the Eiffel Tower and even an Ice Cream Man! The Ice Cream Man sold cones out of the back of his specially modified car and loved having a chat even more than he loved being a third generation Ice Cream Man.

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Keith is a huge Star Wars fan and before we left on our trip he found the t-shirt in the picture below. We were both stupid with excitement about getting this picture!  IMG_2619

The Arc De Triomphe is also a famous monument in Paris and we could see it in the distance. The only thing that separated us from the giant arch way was hundreds of designer shops on the famous Champs de Elysees. Many other people had the same idea – the street was packed, but lots of fun to check out the shops.

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The Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

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Next on our shortlist was the Eiffel Tower. It was quite a walk from where we were so we got back on the Metro. Making our way up from the (underground) Metro, the view from the Trocadero Gardens was superb! We walked around the Eiffel Tower to take more photos from different angles.

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It had already been a huge day, but we still had a couple more famous landmarks to see. After a well deserved coffee break we again got on the Metro and headed towards the Pantheon.

After looking through the Pantheon we noticed the Saint-Étienne-du-Mont across the road, Paris is full of old historic buildings such as this, the history and amazing architecture was fantastic.

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After we left the Pantheon, we headed down hill through the Sorbonne to the Ile de la Cite, an island in the middle of the Seine river. This is a very special island that holds the famous Notre Dame Cathedral.  We crossed over one of the many beautiful bridges connecting the island with the rest of Paris and were just blown away by how impressive the cathedral was. Below are some photos of the Notre Dame Cathedral and some of the bridges that lead to it, for example the Pont de l’Archevêché and Pont Notre Dame.

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Since we had such a long day – it was now getting close to 12 hours of walking around Paris – unfortunately we were unable to actually see inside Notre Dame.

We continued on across the island and found ourselves in front of the Town Hall (Hotel de Ville). It was an amazing building with a huge plaza out the front of it. We also found a Metro station that promised to take us home to rest our weary feet.

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Once back at the apartment we decided to utilise the kitchen for a home cooked meal, it would be some time before we could cook for ourselves again, as once we left Paris and went back to the UK we were staying in hotels each night.

2014 European Adventure France

Tuesday, 16th September – Lyon to Paris

We had a long drive to get to our final destination in mainland Europe – Paris! Without considering stops it was a six hour trip. With this in mind we left Lyon very early. Stopping to get some supplies for the trip, we found the best cheese aisle in the supermarket – 12 fridges just of Camembert, not different types of cheese, just Camembert!!!

It was a beautiful day and the drive through this part of France was amazing. The scenery was gorgeous and with so much to look at it really didn’t feel like we were driving for so long.

On the way, we came across the vehicle below. We couldn’t believe that one truck was towing so much. It was a camping truck that was towing a camper-van, that was towing a food stall on wheels with a motor bike attached to the back! Definitely not legal back home.

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We finally got to Maincy, specifically the Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte. The reason for this stop has a lot to do with the fact that we are big fans of James Bond movies. This particular Chateau was used as the Drax manor in Moonraker.

The Chateau itself is amazing and has spectacular gardens and surrounds. We had a good look at it from the outside and took lots of photos, but decided it wasn’t worth the $20 AUD each to look through on the inside. Of course, if we were going to spend the whole day here it would be worth it, but with still an hour before we got to Paris and daylight fading we were happy with an outside look.

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Near the car park, across from the entrance of the Chateau, we saw the forest that surrounds the estate. Keith instantly recognised the forest from the quail hunting, doberman chasing, high drama scene in Moonraker where poor Miss Dufour meets her end. On the left is the photo Keith took, on the right the scene from the movie.

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Whilst we’re comparing our photos and scenes from the movie, below is the photo we took and the second, the first glimpse of the Chateau in the movie, with Bond being flown in the helicopter. It hasn’t changed much since 1979, or 1641 for that matter.

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After leaving the Chateau we steeled ourselves for the drive into Paris itself.

We are in an Air BnB property for the next four nights – a small one bedroom apartment 15 minutes from the centre of Paris by Metro. We did have to navigate through Paris traffic to be able to get there, but once there everything was so close and convenient.

We had been warned not to drive in Paris, especially the centre, so we were lucky enough to be able to skirt the city itself and kept the car garaged for most of the four days.

After meeting up with Julien, the owner of the apartment, we got settled in and explored the local area on foot. It was a busy little area, with lots of restaurants as well as shops. We had some dinner, got some supplies for the next couple of days and made our way back to the apartment. We had a lot to see and do in the next three days, so we spent some time looking into public transport and sorting out our itinerary.

We went to bed excited about the next day, so many personal bucket list items were about to be ticked off for both of us. Bec could hardly sleep she was so excited to be in Paris!

2014 European Adventure France