Chateaus and waffles

Trip Start Feb 18, 2004
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Trip End Dec 05, 2005


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Monday, October 25, 2004

My first stop after Paris was the Normandy coast and the town of Bayeux. I wandered all over trying to find a place to stay, but places were either full or no one was there. The cheap buses to the D-Day sites only had limited service on the weekend (i.e., there weren't any since 10am) so I got on a tour last minute. They took us to a museum at Arromanches which was interesting 'cuz it explains how the Allies setup temporary docks in the harbors to unload all their supplies. We went and saw some of the German bunkers then to the American cemetery. The cemetery has over 9,000 graves and is a reminder of just how many Americans died during those first few months after D-Day. On to Omaha Beach, which is kind of a nice place when you're not being shot at, and Pointe du Hoc. The latter was kept in the same state as right after war so there are bomb craters all over and bunkers intact and broken. After the tour dropped us back off in town, I went back to the hostel and found the owner there this time. She drove me a ways out to their annex. It was just me and some family there.

American Cemetary

Originally I thought I might be able to do the D-Day tour and Mont St Michel in one day. The lack of train service changed that idea. The next day I got to wait around in the Bayeux train station until 2:30pm for a train to Pontorson. From there I caught a bus out to Mont St Michel. By the time I got there, it was close to sunset...pictures still look alright though. It's really cool looking, but is smaller than I expected. There's one main cobblestoned street up through town to the abbey. It's all lit up at night too.

Mont St Michel

I had hoped to go biking around the Loire Valley to some of the chateaus, but the weather wasn't cooperating and many of the bike rental places were closed for the season. I stayed in Tours and took the train out to Chenonceau. No free entry to garden area...damn. I wandered around the gardens there and in the chateau. The trees look purty with all their changing leaves. Tours has a neat old town area. I wandered all around there and found some dinner and pub.

chateau Chenonceau

I stopped in Amboise on my way to Blois. All the lockers in French railway stations are out of order so there's no where to store your luggage...meaning I got to carry my bag all around. I crossed the river and went out by their chateau. Not really anything else to see in town, but the chateau on the river is pretty. I got to Blois and went to the tourist station to find out I just missed the last bus to Chambord (that being at noon!?!). Geesh. I think I hate French public transportation (expensive and infrequent service). Blois does have an alright old town area, but not enough to keep me occupied all afternoon. Having wandered by a university classroom with windows looking right onto the street, I did what anyone would do - went back to my hotel, put on my mime outfit and went back in front of that window and mimed the rest of the afternoon.

Since I missed it while in Paris, I decided to stop by Giverny before moving on to Belgium. The gardens and lily pond are really pretty and it's easy to see why Monet would be inspired to paint these. It'd be better to visit in spring when everything is blooming. I arrived in Brussels in the evening so no time for sightseeing. Just got some dinner and hung out at the hostel bar. There was a cool thunderstorm that night though - thunder, lightning and lots of rain. The next day I went around town to do the tourist stuff. It's rather sad when your city's highlight attaction is a statue of a boy peeing. The central square by the town hall is cool area. I also went to the travel clinic there and got my yellow fever shot (for Africa).

Manneken Pis

I did a sidetrip to Antwerp on my way to Brugge (Bruges). Antwerp had a few neat looking buildings (castle, big cathedral, central square). The photography museum was just ok though (and the price was A LOT higher than what was listed in Lonely Planet). Didn't do any diamond shopping. I did sample the local cuisine though....waffles and french fries (supposedly french fries were first made in Belgium).
Brugge reminded me a lot of Amsterdam with all its canals and arched bridges. It's a cool city for just wandering around in and there were quite a few things to see...even some windmills! The only sculpture by Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime is in a church here. My second night there I went out to a couple bars with a young Canadian guy sharing the room with me. At one point he mentioned being out in another city with other travellers that were old...like 30. Ya, now you know why I lie about my age to some of the people I meet.

Brugge

Coming up is The Netherlands, Luxembourg and some more of Germany. I fly out of Amsterdam Nov 4 for Cairo. I'm still working on my round-the-world tickets...it's a bit hard when you can't sit down with someone and look over a map. I stopped by a couple travel agents who didn't have a clue and the British Airways ticket office at the airport which told me to call their sales line.
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