Success Through Understanding
Summer Holiday 2006
This is the only official blog of David and Eleri's Summer holiday 2006. We took our Z3 on a European Tour of Ghent, Dusseldorf, the Black Forest, Weggis (on Lake Lucern), Lauterbrunen (above Interlaken), Corbeyrier (near Lake Geneva), Dijon, Reims, Calais and back home.
Click on the links below to see photos (reduced to around 640 x 480 for quicker download) and also links to places we stayed.
Early start and 9am Chunnel crossing with cautious drive to Ghent got us there by midday. Stayed in delightful B&B -- Onderland in Rabotstreet -- quiet haven near the city centre. Parking opposite on street 2.5 euros for 24 hrs -- press the yellow button.
Got to castle Gravensteen early. One-way system that ensures you see everything but constrains meandering. Entry is a fair 6 euros each (standard adult). Good views over town from the top tower. Take morning coffee at Roman t'Kanon by the bridge in Meerseniers, just near the big morning market.
St. Nicholas' church is a reversed Tardis, bigger on the outside. Despite being relatively small inside, it is delightfully light and airy and a haven of calm. St. Bavo's Cathedral nearby has a more traditional Catholic styling, but is also reasonably restrained and with nice windows. Main shopping drag is nearby, for retail enthusiasts.
Wonderful flower-flavoured ice-cream at Paperver florist in Jan Breydel Straat -- delicious, delicate fragrances. In the same street is the House of Elliott restaurant. it looked nice, with open-air platform out on the water, but was closed (rats). We ate at the Monopol. Ok but not outstanding.
Morning wandering around Ghent again, noticing weird figures on building next to St. Baff's (in which also is the tourist information office).
Long drive to Dusseldorf via Netherlands, with heavy traffic. Mostly wind-in-hair with the roof down, but with a quick panic in a sudden downpour (eek!).
Stayed with old school friend and family. Much drinking and reminiscing. Irvine was the school philosopher and provocateur and still enjoys a good argument. We merrily argued over wonderful German beer about Popperian knowledge, German economics and American politics.
Irvine and Ulle took us on an official 2.5 hr city tour that progressed on bus, boat and up the high tower to the observatory -- brilliant bird's-eye views. Spot the wonky buildings on the quayside. Surprisingly good value at 17.5 Euros.
Non-stop Alt beer at massive outdoor pub. Beef and saurkraut at backstreet restaurant. Much evening merriment in the streets but all seems quite good-natured. A big and sophisticated city.
Next day 100+ mph roof-down blast down the autobahn (wheee!) to Black Forest, diverting between Boppard and Bingen for pretty run alongside the Rhine, stopping in St. Goar for Italian ice-cream and coffee. Mmmm. Lots to see along the way, with many castles perched on hilltops and quaint villages nestled below.
Excellent and friendly B&B -- Haus Roseneck between Titisee and Neustadt in Black Forest. Situated at start of very quiet alpine valley, with lovely stroll up the road.
Evening meal in Titisee by lake. Found nice restaurant right at end of street by lake -- quieter, good choice (inc. veggie Rosti) and half-price happy hour from 17:30. Nice walk around lake away from tourist areas.
Train from Titisee to Frieburg. Free parking at station and free train pass from B&B. Bargain!
Freiburg is lovely little town, though a bit popular with the tourists, with curious mini-canals in the streets and crocodile in stream. Munster cathedral ok but not special. Nice market around it. Found t-shirt with weird text, but didn't buy it.
After 1/2 day there concluded we'd 'done it', and decided to stay on the train past Titisee to Neustadt.
Unfortunately, it didn't go to Neustadt but turned up a mountain pass. We eventually got out at Schluchsee, which was cute but small. Big lake there and just as we started out around it, the heavens opened. Legging back to the station we took the next train back to Titisee and got stuck there too. Went for walk when the rain eased then had more wheat beer and rosti.
Over the mountains in light drizzle to Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen (~1000 cubic metres/second). Very spectacular, especially walking around via the railway bridge, up to the castle on the cliff and down to platforms right by the most massively turbulent waterfall. Only 1 CHF each!
Then wander around a peaceful Schaffhausen (public holiday today!) - about an hour's stroll around the riverside path. Pretty town.
Got to splendid Beau Rivage hotel in Weggis on Lake Lucerne late afternoon to find that public holiday also means gala dinner at hotel which, as guests, we were invited. Met other UK couple (John and Babs) and had pleasant evening with delicious food.
Weggis is very pleasant lakeside village where the average age of the visitors seems to be about 80 (including at the Beau Rivage.
Late evening got cloudy and stormy clouds and sun over Pilatus was spectacular.
Slow day -- got up late and read on balcony with great views across to Pilatus.
Took the boat to Lucerne (40 CHF 1st class return, but half-price with Swiss travel card, bought in UK for ~£40) and generally pottered around with little real intention. Lucerne is often billed as the 'Swiss Riviera' and does play the part well. The lakeside frontage has a classy elegance reminiscent of the world's playgrounds for the super-rich.
We strolled the famous bridge (that is mostly new now, after having burned down after lightning strike in 1993). Went and saw the famous lion memorial carved out of cliff face -- most excellent, with brilliant human expression of anguish on lion's face. Otherwise just meandered old town. Pretty and not too big. Watch for murals on walls of assorted buildings.
Ate in lovely Hofgarten veggie restaurant in Stadthofstrasse, including delicious fruit smoothies.
Then took boat back to Weggis, went for short stroll and had dinner. Tough, isn't it?
Today it rained. And then it stopped raining. And then it rained again. When I asked the hotel receptionist about the outlook, she shrugged and said 'I am not a frog'. Apparently, it's quite changeable here.
Bought all-day pass on boat (about 35 CHF for first class with travel card) and spent most of the day chugging between ports on real paddle steamer -- complete with visible engine workings and date (1901) stamped on it and piloted by Captain Birdseye.
It turned out to be quite delightful. We camped out in what was more of a salon than a restaurant, complete with wooden doric columns and comfy chairs. Got off in Brunnen and Lucerne for stroll, taking the next steamer as it came around. Bizarrely named 'hot sailor's sausages' on menu (tasted delicious).
Silly sight on return -- 'Radio Sunshine' van on prom, playing determinedly cheerful music to a completely empty but nicely arranged set of chairs.
Rainy start then dried up a bit so we decided to put the roof down and go to Lauterbrunnen over the Sustenpass. Glorious weaving through endless hairpin bends up to 2265m (= ~8000 ft) and back down again, pausing in Meiringen to eat huge meringues (hence the name), pay homage to Sherlock and visit the thunderous Reichenbach Falls.
Drove to lovely B&B in Lauterbrunnen under the Staubach Falls (high, but not wide), and with a balcony view to die for. Lauterbrunnen is a delightful village above Interlaken and a great start point for hikes and general mountain trips in the area. It's full of places for backpackers to stay, for as little as 25 CHFs per night.
Rainy day. Drove up the road to Stechelberg to investigate possibility of going up to Schilthorn, but webcam at top showed a whiteout, so we stopped off at Trummelbach Falls -- massive and thundering series of falls from clifftop through a series of internal caves and cut-in runs. A wonderful surprise.
Carried on down to Interlaken, where we stuffed ourselves with chocolate cakes and explored the backstreets. We also found what appeared to be a bear who caught short and, just opposite an upmarket hotel, a naughty shop with a bizarre sign.
Back to Lauterbrunnen for lovely Rosti meal at Oberland on main street and returning then to hotel for more wine and blogging on that brilliant balcony.
Rainy start but decided to hike around Murren for the morning. Took the cable car from Stechelberg to Murren (30 CHFs per person return with Swiss Travel Card). Rain? We laughed at it and set off uphill (steep!). Nice wander around the fairly short 'panorama' walk where the views, though wonderful, were limited by the weather. We shall return.
Set off to Corbeyrier around Thunersee, taking the route less travelled over the mountains rather than the motorway that the GPS recommended. Torrential rain on the way up and some sunshine on the way down after Chateau D'Oex, famed as the launch point of the Breitling Orbiter, the first balloon to circle the earth in 1999. Bizarrely, found a lost bear there, wandering the pavement -- we wondered if it was related to Paddington. Good Views were to be had along the way, such as this one over Saanen and towards Gstaad.
The B&B is set in delightful position way up the mountain side with beautiful views (hence the name, 'Belvedere'), even at night. It is in an old 'pension' building that the present owner has restored to its former glory. With a focus on peace and tranquillity, it's an ideal getaway for those seeking escape from the stress of modern life.
Woke up to a glorious morning and stunning views from our balcony and decided to potter for the day. Went down to Villeneuve for coffee and wander -- nice little town (free parking for 4 hrs by station), then took coastal walk to famous Chateau Chillion, where Byron took inspiration, wrote famous poem and carved graffitti. Stunning location on edge of Lake Geneva.
Then drove around to swanky Montreaux, meandering around old town (nothing much there except strange shop), around posh shops and along the promenade. Took many pictures of famous bronze Freddy Mercury statue (and then watched a chap write 'you are the greatest' on it-- eek!).
Then drove on to beautiful Vevey, a delightful little town with nice pedestrianised area and relaxed prom with their competition to Freddy -- a Charlie Chaplin bronze. Even more impressive was a set of three bronzes by Sandoz, of three women exuberantly riding sea-horses -- one statue in fountain and the other two in the lake. Nice man took picture of us by lake and didn't run away with the camera.
Drove back to Villeneuve for pleasant evening meal at bar and finally back up steep hill with twenty (yes, 20) hairpin bends back up to B&B.
Beautiful morning so we decided to get to the French border and then avoid autoroutes, going all the way to Burgundy by backroads. Slight disagreement with the GPS in Lausanne as we wrong-slotted and it tried to get us to do a U-turn on a dual carriageway.
Altercation at the border as we drove past the French customs people without stopping. They shouted loudly so we stood on the anchors before they shot out the tyres or something. Much grovelling and examining of hotel bills later, they concluded we were not smugglers and send us on our way.
Seven hours later (twice the autoroute timing), yet smiling from endless roof-down back-road zooming, we arrived at the brilliant destination of Les Roches, in Mont Saint Jean, just to the West of Dijon. An amazing building, built 100 years ago by a Parisian judge for his mistress, it is now a boutique B&B. Elegant and comfortable, with attentive and helpful hosts, it is now a favourite place to which we shall return! At 110 euros for a double room it's not the cheapest, but it is still very good value for the quality of accommodation.
Wonderful evening meal down the road in 'L'Essence de la Terre', an organic restaurant in Fleurey - five minute drive or fifty minute brisk walk. We chose the latter and although it seemed a long way was worth it both for brilliant and tasty organic food and delicious organic wine (2004 Bourgogne). Less than 50 euros total for two of us.
Another lovely morning. Drove to Dijon, parking in the station car park (about 1 euro/hr). Morning market in Les Halles, though not on when we went, is apparently good. Interesting church next to it, with two circular windows, one depicting .
The cathedral is big but not overly ornate - we rather liked it, particularly the ancient crypt, with its unique rotunda. Wonderfully loud organ music being played whilst we walked around. We imagined a a wild-eyed Quasimodo at the keyboard.
And of course we bought a whole pile of mustard in a million flavours -- it's cheaper downstairs in Galleries Lafayette, by the way, than in the tourist shops.
Overall, it's a modern city but with interesting old architecture, not too big and easy to walk around the centre in a morning. It also had some slightly dodgy-looking people about, making us feel a bit cautious as we did our tourist thing (not to complain -- I've been to far more threatening cities).
Drove down the wine route between Dijon and Beune. It reminded us a bit of the Napa valley in California, with wine tasting every few hundred yards. Shame I was driving and had to spit it out. Eleri swallowed regularly. Bought a case of that Burgundy from last night.
Beune is a delightful and relaxed little town and we preferred it to the hustle of Dijon. We parked near the centre on the road, next to a shop with a wonderfully-named owner. Visited the Hospice de Beune (Hotel Dieu) -- 5.60 euros each, but worth it for lovely roofs and amazing interiors.
Back at Les Roches, we walked down to that wonderful restaurant again for another delicious dinner.
Thu 10-Aug-06 -- Drive to Les Islettes
Another fine breakfast and sad farewell to Les Roches. Wandered around the outside of the Mont-Saint-Jean village castle before leaving. Amazingly, it's a private residence -- what a brilliant place to live.
Did another long back-road detour, taking five hours instead of three, but again it was worth it, swooping up little valleys and barrelling down straight roads between cornfields.
Stopped in Chatillon-sur-Seine, though the Seine here is but a trickle, despite the good townspeople celebrating it with a large and sadly under-used river bed. Nice little town.
Arrived at B&B in Les Islettes (somewhere east of Reims) at 4pm but room wasn't ready -- never mind, we wandered around and then read in the huge garden for an hour. They're doing up the old mansion so things are a bit chaotic. It'll be a lovely place when it's done. Nice corner room, though curiously the en-suite has a full-length window with no frosting or curtains. When you are sitting on the loo or towellng down, you can see people on the driveway and in the next building. Very French, perhaps. With a towel and some creativity, however, the problem was solved.
Was sent to Sainte-Menehould to Cheval Rouge, but it was expensive and meaty, so we nipped over the road to the Le Kappitel, where total cost was 20 euros for big and filling pizza, pasta and Badoit.
Had planned on going to Reims, but Rough Guide wasn't too kind so went the other way to Verdun, site of serious WW1 battles. The weather alternated between warm blue and white skies and sudden downpours, although somehow we managed to be indoors when the latter occurred.
Verdun turned out to be a lovely little town on a bend in the river with cheap and plentiful parking in and near the town centre. We parked by the Palais de Justice for about 1 euro per hour.
There's a very good Rodin statue by the river with powerful angel's face. Powerful and large soldiers (one from each army) around the corner. Wonderful massive victory memorial with steps and water feature going down to the river. We liked the cathedral too, with colourful windows, interesting crypt and peaceful cloisters. Next door was a still real display of 3D pictures in the Centre Mondial de Paix.
We later did a 'war tour' of hills to the east, driving first up to Ossuary of Douamont, a curiously bunker-shaped building containing the remains of 130,000 soldiers and bordering a cemetery of a further 15,000 graves. Sobering. Then around the corner to the Fort de Douamont, dug into the hilltop and well worth the 3 euro entrance fee. Caught nice snap of house marten feeding young in one room. Many remains of trenches can still be seen in the forests around.
Ate in nice restaurant by river in Verdun. Went back to B&B to drink wine, read and blog.
Again opted for slower drive via back roads to convenient and pleasant B&B at Ferme Wolphus, just south of Calais. Some sun along the way, but got very rainy in the north.
Endless tractors and increasing traffic meant a 7 hour drive rather than 3 hours by the autoroute, but nevertheless we made it -- from Lausanne to Calais avoiding the autoroutes. Occasional dual carriageways but mostly back roads and villages. Even in the busier north, the traffic was far lighter than further south and there was
Went to Auchan hypermarket at St Omer on recommendation of Jean-Jaques from the B&B. Bought loads of cheese, coffee, chocolate and plonk. Ate there at salad bar -- wholesome and cheap at 20 euros all-in for both of us.
At the B&B met a couple where the chap was a retired head teacher and academic theologian. Fascinating conversations into the night.
Up early to catch train 'Sous la Manche' -- and missed it, mainly due to car park clog and (mostly) customs enthusiasm (for others, not us). A wonderful
So now for coffee, emails and dreaming of a great holiday.