Wallace European Vacation






Austin to Switzerland

We left Austin on Wednesday afternoon, flying on American Airlines to Chicago. After we had boarded the plane for Paris, they found a problem with the landing gear door and we had to get back off and wait about 2 hours for another plane to be made ready. We then left Chicago for Paris at 7PM and arrived in Paris about 10:30 AM on Thursday.  We rented a car and drove to Melun, just south of Paris, where we visited the Vaux Le Vicomte castle and stayed the night in a nearby hotel. Phil got a chance to practice his manual transmission skills and killed the engine a few times as we neared Melun. After that, Sherrie helped remind him to shift into first gear upon entering a round-about. And we came across those crazy round-abouts (traffic circles as major intersections) just about everywhere.
On Friday we drove through eastern France (Beaune, Besancon, Mulhouse, Basel) and into Switzerland. This was a long but pleasant drive. The French countryside was generally rolling pastureland. We did not see many vineyards. The toll roads were expensive, maybe $20 a day, but very fast at 130 km/hr (80mi/hr). The car used diesel fuel (gasoil) that cost about 5.50FF to 5.85FF per liter, and usually required about 20-30 liters per busy day. We found the money exchange rate to be about 7.2FF per dollar. As we entered Switzerland, we encountered several tunnels that we had to drive through, and actually seemed to drive under most of Luzern.
Exchange Rate – About 6.9FF to 7.4FF per dollar
Car – Hertz (May 31-June 8)
Hotel Ibis Melun – Melun, France (May 31)

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We stayed in the small village of Alpnachstad just south of Lucerne. The hotel was just 3 minutes walking from the station for the cog train that goes to the top of Mount Pilatus.
 On Saturday morning we took this train to the top of the mountain, and came down on the other side of the mountain using the gondola and cable cars, and a bus, to
 get into Luzern. It was very cold at the top of the mountain. After walking around downtown Luzerne, looking at shops and viewing Thorwaldsen’s Lion, it began to rain. We went inside a mall to get some lunch, shopped a bit more, and then took the 16:10 local train back out to our hotel in Alpnachstad.
We ate a nice supper at the hotel.
Exchange Rate – About 1.7SF per dollar
Hotel Roessli – Alpnachstad, Switzerland (June 1-2)
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Drive from Switzerland to Normandy

On Sunday we left Luzerne and drove through Interlaken, Bern, Neuchatel, and back across the Alps at la Chaux-de-Fonds and LeLocle, into France at Morteau. There were many tunnels on this drive, with an especially 3-mile long one near Interlaken. We drove through Beaune and Auxerre again, and followed N60 to Montargis where we thought we would stop for the night. However, due to a music festival going on, no rooms were available, so we drove on to Orleans in central France where we found a hotel to stay overnight.
On Monday we drove on to Mont Saint Michel, and ended up in Saint Lo for the night. There were traffic jams that made this trip much longer than expected, and Phil got a chance to practice his uphill starts and stops with the clutch/brake/accelerator. We decided to eat at the nearby McDonald’s as a quick way to find some food we recognized and the boys would really like.
Hotel Ibis Orleans Nord Saran – Saran, France – (June 3)
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At St. Lo on Tuesday we had a big breakfast, especially enjoyable by Joe, and set out to visit various Normandy and D-Day sites. 
Because Tuesday was June 5, the day before D-Day celebrations, we found much preparation underway for the Wednesday programs. They had erected large tents and prepared many chairs for an invited crowd of guests on Wednesday at 3:30 PM. It rained Tuesday evening after we returned to the hotel in St. Lo for a second night. We could not find much of anything good to eat in the hotel restaurant.
On Wednesday we left St. Lo and headed out to see some more of the Normandy coast. Our first stop along the Gold Beach at Arromaches was so crowded with veterans on this June 6 celebration of D-Day that we decided to keep moving on east. We followed Route 514 along the coast until we reached the museum at St. Laurent sur Mer and finally the Grand Bunker at Ouistreham. We purchased some bread and meat for lunch at the Intermarche and washed all our dirty clothes at the Laundromat at Benouville before heading on towards Caen. After driving around for hours along the north and east part of Caen looking for our hotel, we finally located it not far from where we had been looking. It was quite frustrating taking so long to find the hotel. After getting our rooms arranged, we drove into the center of Caen and walked around the old castle located there. We were glad to be able to find our hotel again. 

Hotel Ibis La Chevalerie – St. Lo, France (June 4-5)
Hotel Etap Caen Mondeville – Caen, France (June 6)
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Drive from Normandy to Paris

We left Caen on Thursday morning and headed straight to Paris so that we could navigate the traffic around Paris during midday rather than at rush hour. The 3 hour trip went well and we collected most everything (I forgot my computer locking cable key) from the car and hopped on the train from the CDG airport into Paris to the Gare du Nord station. There we switched to a Metro line and made our way to the Grand Boulevards station where we finally surfaced and walked about three blocks to our hotel. Of course, things were not as they were supposed to be at the hotel, but managed to make adjustments and settled into our rooms. 

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We quickly headed out to the Metro for a visit to the top of the Eiffel tower and tour the museum there.It began to rain quite hard as we left the Eiffel tower and we hurried back to the hotel. As the storm calmed down, we again headed out to find somewhere to eat, and chose a small pizza place just up the street. We stayed at the same hotel for four nights.
On Friday we first visited the Musee du Louvre. A full visit would take days, but we hit the high spots before growing tired of seeing paintings and sculptures. They have a CD you can buy.

Later we visited Notre Dame, walked past some places we had visited on earlier trips, and finally walked up to the Pompidou center, where we were unable to ride the hamster tubes without paying full admission price. We decided it was not worth the cost. We looked around and headed back to the hotel. A pickpocket tried to grab Phil’s wallet at the Rambuteau Metro turnstile, but luckily was unsuccessful. We were even more careful after that. After resting a bit, we did some shopping and ate supper at a little restaurant nearby where the waiter was funny and made us choose lemonade rather than the Cokes we had been promised. The steak and lasagna were fine.

On Saturday we headed straight to Versailles to visit the chateau and grounds there. After walking through the public areas and hall of mirrors, we ate lunch at McDonalds and reentered the Versailles grounds for a guided tour of the private chambers. When through we headed back to the hotel. We did a little shopping and ate at the same pizza place as Thursday evening.


On Sunday we took the Metro to the Roosevelt stop and walked up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe where we paid to climb the steps all the way to the top. After coming back down, we continued to shop along the Champs Elysees, especially in the famous Sephora perfume shop where Joe and Tim complained that their coats would be ruined with the smell. We ate a late lunch and dropped the boys off at the hotel before Sherrie and Phil looked at a few more shops near the hotel. Most of the stores were closed on Sunday, however. We later purchased a few sweets and shared those back at the hotel. Then we began packing and getting everything in order to leave
                                  early Monday morning.

Hotel Mecure Paris Monty – Paris, France (June 7-8-9-10)
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Return from Paris to Austin

We got up at 6:30AM on Monday and headed for the airport. After a couple of short Metro rides and a 35-minute train ride, we were on our way home.