29 Jun 2015


Today we walked everywhere. More than we ever did in Paris but less strenuous since there are very few stairs or hills.

Lots of very small cars, lots of red light district women in the windows (I shuddered at many of them, especially during the day), and a few museums. Even took in the diamond factory. Too expensive for me.

Eeyore got a new shirt.

Here I am trying a pizza dog.

Only 28.8 km walking today!

Juno, Belgium, and Amsterdam

Our main focus today was the Vimy memorial. Incredibly powerful spot and well worth the visit. 

We took in the tunnels and the trenches and were very surprised by how pockmarked the landscape was after 98 years or so.  Huge craters everywhere.

There are several Canadian cemeteries in the area as well.

We took the car back but spent close to an hour driving around downtown Lille looking for the rental company. No signs anywhere! We finally found it then arrived to find them closed for a 2 hour lunch...  typical. Luckily they opened 10 minutes before we had to board our train. No problems, no stress.

The trains were fantastic - getting us to Brussels in about 20 min for a brief layover. We had enough time for a geocache and a quick picture of this (very) public urinal.

We arrived in Amsterdam, checked into the fantastic hotel we had booked the went for a typical Dutch dinner.

Took a stroll through the red light district then went to bed - only 22,120 steps on the fitbit.

Juno Beach and the D-Day landing areas

Here is another shot from the Mont as we prepared to leave in the morning 

After seeing signs and reading that overnight parking would be 14 euro,  we were shocked to find that it cost just over 4 euro. Again, typical of the French... signs thst don't quite match reality.

We drove north directly to the Juno beach (avoiding tolls and seeing many small villages).  After seeing so many cars the day before, I was surprised again by an unusual car. This smart car is a type I had never seen before

Here I am on Juno Beach. We were both somewhat disappointed with the Canadian Juno Beach Centre, as it focused on what Canada was like through the war and up the current times. We wanted to see things about what the Canadians did - we didn't come to France to learn about the geography and social structure of Canada!

We drove around to many different memorials in the area, including some German defensive bunkers.

We found many moving memorials and cemeteries and stopped every few minutes to explore.

We later drove east towards Vimy and found a few WW1 sites before arriving at Amiens to check into the hotel.

We were late again for dinner and had few choices - we ended up going to McDonald's! In France they seem to use a different colour scheme than everywhere else. Their key colour is green rather than red. Below is a machine where we ordered our food - including a beer! - and they delivered it right to our table.  I can't believe McDonald's at home would ever do table service. Much of the menu was quite unfamiliar and interesting, including mayonnaise on the fries.

Right near our hotel was one of the ubiquitous traffic circles with, of all things, a pizza making vending machine!

Interesting list evening in France.

28 Jun 2015

Chartres, Le Mans, and Mont Saint-Michel

Sorry, couldn't post due to lack of wi-fi in the evening.

Today we headed to Montparnasse station and picked up our rental car. We had booked a small car with standard transmission but opted for a more comfortable one with automatic. With the wild traffic in Paris and our sore feet, it was a good choice.

Glad to get out of the city, we pointed the white BMW towards Chartres and off we went. It seems that France has many toll roads but the highway system andeven the small country roads are fantastic! It helped that the national speed limit was 130 km/hr. A little disconcerting was the posted speed limit on winding roads through small villages - sometimes 90 km/hr in places where we would expect 40 km/hr!

We arrived at the stained glass museum to find it closed for lunch (typical) so we wandered around the cathedral and had lunch in a small cafe. Once open, into the museum we went. Great place to see a variety of styles, especially some unique modern pieces. Here are some shots from our time in Chartres.

This is the car we rented. Very comfortable!

Off to Le Mans to visit the race museum. The big 24 hour race was about a week ago, so there were no crowds to deal with. This place had the best collection of cars I have ever seen. Well worth the visit.

One of my favourites - a Deux Chevaux - with 2 horses as a hood ornament.

Our final destination for the day was on the coast (Britanny/Normandy) at the island of Mont Saint-Michel. The 8th century monastery is one of the most visited sites in France. The summer they opened a pedestrian bridge and are in the process of removing a causeway that had been in place since the late 1800's, making Mont Saint-Michel an island again. This place is a beautiful site to behold.

We checked in at a 19th century hotel within the city walls (La Mere Poulard),  and after a huge number of stairs... a defining characteristic of France... we arrived at our room.  Below is the view from our room.

We searched out and found a geocache on the island and wandered around the whole place while the sun set. Little did we know that all the restaurants except a few were closing.  It took us a long while to find a place to eat supper (late, as usual) and to top it off, we came upon the famed French attitude with the wait staff. They didn't seem happy that we were there and it was clear that they didn't want to really serve us.  The French people at a nearby table, however, were fawned over... even after thy broke a wineglass all over the stone floor. Not a great meal, but we were starving.

Here is a sunset view looking out over the English Channel.

This is a long exposure shot from the base of the wall (inside the wall).

All in all, we were very impressed by all the sites we had seen today.

24 Jun 2015

Last day in Paris

Another conference day to end our time in Paris. Presented my poster and took a jaunt across the street to the Pasteur museum. They didn't allow pictures, so not much to show. Pasteur was buried in the crypt in the basement and much of his home and lab materials were on display (he lived at the institute for the last seven years of his life. 

Murray did more sightseeing and finally got to the marine museum and into Notre Dame. He lit this candle for Ron while he was there.
We headed to Montmartre for a seafood dinner (fantastic - I had strawberry gazpacho for dessert), walked through Pigalle then back to the hotel for much needed rest. We drive west tomorrow to Le Mans and Mont Saint-Michel. 

23 Jun 2015

Much slower day

Today was a conference day for me and a miscellaneous day for Murray. 

After the conference, Murray and I went down to the Cafe near the hotel and did happy hour while we watched the Paris rush hour go by. Went to dinner right next to Notre Dame then wandered and took pictures before heading back to the hotel just around midnight.

I can tell it was a slow day today, as my fitbit says I did only 10,500 steps (9.2 km). Compared to the last few days, that is practically standing still!