We drove to SSF to our parking space at Dome Construction and Uber’ed to SFO. \240Check in for our BA flight to LHR was easy but TSA was a mess. \240Even with TSA PreCheck, the line was 1/2 hour. \240For those unfortunate poor souls without precheck, the wait must have been greater than 1 hour. \240 Our flight to LHR was delayed by ATC at the gate for 1 hour due to ground congestion. \240 The polar flight was uneventful except that the BPPV, which has been an intermittent issue for me for the past week, reared it’s ugly head when I awoke the following morning. \240 Yesterday had been good so I assumed (incorrectly) I was done with it. \240
After a short flight from LHR, we arrived at Paris CDG around 5:00. \240Due to bad (typical) Paris traffic it took over 1 hour to get to our Hotel Sevrés Saint Germain on thé Rive Gauche. \240It’s a small boutique hotel in the Saint Germain district. \240Our “large” room is large only by Parisian standards but it’s still very comfortable. \240 After a shower and a short rest we walked about 15’ to Cuisine Philippe, a small and very French restaurant which specializes in soufflés. \240We had cheese, Grand Marnier, and chocolate/coffee soufflées which lived up to billing. \240 Now back at the hotel and ready to try to get some sleep.
Eric Kayser boulangerie
We were awakened at 0200 with a thunderstorm which lasted almost 2 hours. \240 Then, around 6 we had steady rain again for another hour. \240 By 8:30 the rain had almost ended. \240We walked to Gérard Mulot, a boulangerie and épicerie recommended by Gaby for croissants, OJ, and hot chocolate. \240 We then continued on to a meeting spot on Blvd Saint Germain where we met our guide for our “Paris by Mouth” food tour. \240 We were joined on the tip by a family of 5 from the Bay Area. \240The Mom, Judy Wiesenfarth, was celebrating her 70th birthday and was accompanied by her sons David from San Francisco, one of the principals and founders of NextDoor.com and Eric, a high tech VC from Marin and their wives. This is where the Jewish Geography got going. \240Her other son, Jeff, now an actor in LA, went to MA with Morgan. \240 Though not in touch now, they were apparently quite friendly at the time. \240Judy knew Nancy from MA, JCC, and other Marin activities. \240She is a music and dance teacher. \240Although she doesn’t know Sam, they have 5 mutual Facebook friends from dance.
Our food guide was Stephen from Dublin, IR. \240He is a part time chef and full time foodie. \240 We visited Eric Kayser boulangerie, Charcuterie Saint Germain, Fromager Laurent Dubois, and Patrick Roger chocolatier, and un Dimanche á Paris for sweets where we learned about the history and production of the various food types. \240 Very fascinating. \240Along the way we collected a haul of various foods which we took to la Cave du Sénat wine shop for tasting and consuming. \240By the end, we were totally stuffed, and then some. \240 It was a wonderful learning experience and we now know much more about the various foods we experienced.
The trip ended by 2 and we walked back to the hotel for a much needed 2 hour nap. \240 We were fortunate that the rain held off all day until we were back at the hotel for our rest. \240After showers we Uber’ed to les Trublions, about 2 miles away. \240Like last night, a very small restaurant with about 8 tables. \240The food, especially my appetizer of lightly cooked zucchini over an incredible herbed goat cheese and garnished with a fruity balsamic, pesto, and pumpkin seeds was fantastic. \240Thus ended a high calorie Paris day.
Donna in Montmartre
Basilica of \240Montmartre
Eiffel Tower and French replica of Statue of Liberty
“I love you” wall in Montmartre
Le Moulin Rouge
Moulin de la Galette restaurant
After yesterday’s gray and rainy weather, today was lovely. \240It was sunny and warm all day without a hint of rain. \240 After breakfast we rode the Metro to Place Pigalle on the edge of Montmartre. \240The main street through the district is now made up mostly of sex shops and strip clubs. \240 At 11 we met our group for a walking our of Montmartre. \240This took us up the hill towards the top of Montmartre. We passed through neighborhoods with apartments, artists’ studios, shops and restaurants, \240all the while learning about the history of this district. \240 At the top was Restaurant Moulin de la Galette, famous for French resistance to a Russian invasion. \240 After topping the hill we walked down the north side through a neighborhood of impressive single family homes, finally arriving at the Basilica of Montmartre. Our trip back to the Metro took us through an area of tourist shops and charicature artists to a small crêperie for lunch. \240 Then back to our hotel to gather our baggage. \240
The Uber trip to the port was an adventure as neither the driver nor his GPS knew how to find the ship. \240After several wrong turns in heavy Parisian traffic we found our way to the port and boarded Scenic Gem. \240 The ship is very modern, about 4 years old. \240Our stateroom has a balcony (first time for us). \240Dinner was with two interesting British couples following which we went on deck for our departure from Paris. \240We cruised almost up to the Eiffel Tower and a replica of our Statue of Liberty before turning around and starting downstream toward the Atlantic coast. \240
Town square. \240Lyons la Forêt
Château Fleury la Fôret
Scenic Gem tied up at Les Andelys
Chateau Gaillard. \240Castle of Richard the Lionhearted. \240Les Andelys
We awoke to a foggy morning with visibility limited to about 1/2 mile. \240 I’m also foggy, with my BPPV having developed a pattern of occurring each time I lie down and relieved, for the most part, by Epley maneuver. \240Plus I’m still struggling to sleep past 5 a.m. \240 Fortunately I can nap in the afternoon. \240 After breakfast we docked at Les Andelys, our first stop on the trip down river. It’s a sleepy, small town. \240Pretty, but not much else going for it other than the 1/2 timber homes.
After lunch on board we boarded buses for a regional tour. \240We first stopped at Chateau Fleury la Forêt. \240It was built in 1595 but occupied by the Germans during WWII when it was used as a youth camp. \240 It returned to private hands 40 years ago the the owner’s family has gradually been restoring it to it’s 18th century heritage. \240 We toured several restored rooms where we saw furniture, dolls and equipment, the kitchen with its array of copper cookware and the dining room with Limoges china.
Our next stop was the village of Lyons-la Fôret, another small but picturesque village. \240We had a guided tour around the village and then spent time just relaxing in the town square prior to returning on the ship.
We arrived in Rouen late last night. \240 The city is most famous as the site of the trial and execution (by burning at the stake) of Joan d’Arc in 1431. \240 \240Following breakfast we did a city tour. \240 The city is remarkable for the large number of 1/2 timbered houses, many of which survived intensive allied bombing of the city by the Allies prior to D-Day. \240We walked through the old part of the city with our local guide. \240 Our tour was highlighted by the Cathedral of Our Lady which was constructed during the 12th century and extensively moderated since then. It’s Tour St, Romain, which dates to the 12th century rises to 490’, making it the tallest spire in France. \240We also saw Church of Saint Maclou, the Gross Horloge clock and The Palais de Justice, and the Church of Saint Joan.
Following lunch back on the ship we did an experimental ride of the E-bikes along the banks of the Seine. \240Back to the ship for a rest before a lecture in the lounge by a local school teacher about WWI, preparing us for our visit to the Somme battlefield tomorrow.
Tapestry Fleury la Floret
Remains of the heart of Richard the Lionhearted
Cathedral of Our Lady
Church of St. Maclou (15t century)
We were up early for an 0800 departure for the WWI battlefields around Somme. \240The day was interesting an sobering. \240We learned about the trench warfare which resulted in 100,000’s of deaths on both sides but with little, if any, change in front lines of both sides over the many months of stalemater on the Western Front of WWI. \240The village of Villers-Brettonrux was liberated from the Germans by the Australians in 1918, thus forging a long-standing tie between this tiny French village and its Australian counterpart. \240There is a very moving cemetery nearby where 2000 of the many thousands of allied troops killed in this prolonged conflict are buried.
Following a mediocre lunch we traveled further on to the village of Beaumont-Hammel where the Newfoundland regiment served under British command. \240 Here we saw the trenches in which the soldiers on both sides of the line spent many months during the military stalement. Eventually, the allied forces were able to repel German forces out of France starting in force the eventual defeat of Germany and its partners. \240As bad as conditions were for all soldiers during the war, the expeditionary forces were faced with even harsher conditions manning the trenches which formed the lines between the Allies and the German-Austria-Hungarian partnership. \240The last stop was the site of the Lochnagar Crater where the allies dug tunnels and planted a massive explosive charge, creating a huge crater in an unsuccessful attempt to disrupt the German defenses. \240 Then it was a 2-hour bus ride back to Rouen and the ship. \240
Caribou. \240 Newfoundland Canadian Memorial. \240Beaumont-Hammel
Lochnagar Crater. \240Newfoundland Canadian
Trenches at Newfoundland Park. \240Beaumont-Hammel
Grave of Jewish soldier. \240Military Cemetary. \240Franco-Australian National Memorial. \240Villers-Bretonneux
Military Cemetary. \240Franco-Australian National Memorial. \240Villers-Bretonneux
Australian National Museum Memorial. \240Villers-Bretonneux
Australian uniforms. \240Franco-Australian Museum. \240Villers-Brerttoneux
We left Rouen around 0100 last night and arrived outside Honfleur by 0800. \240The capitan did a fine job of backing Scenic Gem around the harbor and through a very narrow lock, into it’s berth in the inner harbor. \240Following breakfast we toured the town which is charming and scenic. \240It dates back to the viking invasions of the 11th century and is now a major fishing port. \240There are remains of ancient shops and more recent modernization of the port. \240The area around the port is rich with restaurants and tourist shops. \240 We were back to the ship for lunch. \240 There were no plans for after lunch so I did 1 hour on the treadmill. \240Prior to diner we made a short trip to a nearby cider and Calvados distillery for a tasting. \240 Then back to the ship where we had dinner at the Rive table in the restaurant. \240It was an 8 course tasting menu and I’m now quite full.
Pont de Normandie
Saint Catherine mariners’ church
Saint Catherine’s bell tower
Caen Gate of ancient city wall
Honfleur harbor front
We had a full day touring the Normandy D-Day sites. \240 After driving 1.25 hours from Honfleur, we arrived at Aurromanches les bains, site of a “Mullberry B” harbor. \240Unconvinced that they could capture any of the German’s well-defended harbors with a frontal assault from the sea, and needing a harbor from which to bring additional troops and supplies to support the invasion, the Allies decided to build a pre-fabricated harbor in Britain and float it to France immediately after the invasion. \240 Despite severe damage from an unexpected June gale, the harbor was successfully constructed in Arromanches-les-Bains, from where it was very successful in supporting the invasion forces. \240A small and very crowded museum in Arromanches had very useful displays about construction and use of the harbor.
We then had a short drive to a local restaurant/hotel for lunch. \240After lunch we continued on to the American military Cemetary on the bluff above Omaha Beach, one of the landing sites for the American forces during D-Day, \240With over 9000 graves arranged in orderly neat rows, it’s a tremendous tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend the US. \240 Our last stop, prior to driving back to the ship in Honfleur, was at the actual site of Omaha Beach. \240
Pont de Normandie
Chapel ceiling. \240American Cemetery. \240Coleville sur Mer
Chapel. \240American cemetery
WWII artillery piece. \240Arromanches-les-Bains
Pontoon section of Mulberry B harbor
Memorial sculpture. \240Omaha Beach
American cemetery. \240 Colleville-sur-Mer
American cemetery. \240 Colleville-sur-Mer
We arrived early this morning in Caudebec-en Caux, en route back up to Paris. \240 Following breakfast we boarded a bus for a trip to Fécamp, on the Atlantic coast. \240Surprisingly, as we approached the coast, the morning overcast gradually cleared so that it was sunny by the time we reached Fécamp. \240Our first stop was along the beach boardwalk overlooking the sea. \240Then back on board to the Palais Bénedéctine. \240This is a mid-19th century building done in a mélange of gothic, Renaissance, and other styles. \240It was built by Alexander LeGrand, the creator of Bénedéctine liquour, a cognac-like beverage that has proved to be an enormous commercial success. \240The Palais is devoted to the artwork collected by LeGrand and the Bénedéctine distillery. \240The receipt, which includes 37 different spices, was recreated from what the Bénedéctine monks had created, and then lost, in the abbey several hundred years previously. \240Tasting at the end left me with the impression of Cognac. \240We bussed back to Scenic Gem and left immediately upon our return to continue the voyage back to Paris. \240Since we are now going upstream, it’s not surprising that our progress appears to be significantly slower than downstream. \240
We awoke this morning in Nantes La Jolie with sunny skies and cool temps. \240Our morning excursion was to Giverney, the former home and gardens of Claude Monet. \240 The gardens are magnificent, filled with flowers that are continuously gardened all throughout the tourist season. \240 Probably because of its beauty and proximity to Paris, the place was Disneyland mobbed with tourists and classes of French school children. \240 We spent several hours exploring the grounds and Monet’s house. \240 We were back on board for lunch and a nap. \240Then, after an early dinner, we were back out to Chateau de la Roche Guyon where we were treated to an evening concert, done specially for our group. \240 It was an unusual quartet consisting of a harp, double bass, clarinet, and vibraphone. \240
Chateau de la Roche Guyon
The weather finally turned nice today; mostly sunny and warm. \240After docking at the town of Poissy (site of a major Peugeot assembly plant), we had a 1 hour bus ride through the countryside to the site of Château Chantilly. \240It consists of 2 parts. \240The Petit Château was completed in the 16th century. \240The Grand Château was destroyed during the French Revolution and rebuilt between 1875-1881 by Henri d’Orleans. \240Is is now operated by a foundation. \240Our tour began with a walkthrough of the Grand Chateau. It is furnished in the style of the 19th and earlier centuries and \240displays , furniture, shops, etc. \240 We were back on the ship by 12:30 and immediately sailed for Paris, arriving around 6:00.
We were back at our wharf in plenty of time for dinner. \240Since it was still relatively warm we were able to go on deck after dinner to photograph the Eiffel Tower in the dark. \240
Eiffel Tower after dark
Angela and Donna
For our last day aboard Scenic Gem we did a guided walking tour of Paris. \240 Starting at the Place de la Concorde, our guide, a former history teacher, related how Paris was affected by WW I. \240We walked through a district with multiple high-end jewelry stores to Place Vendôme, also very much a part of Paris’ high rent district. \240 The tour was OK but not great. \240At the end of the tour, instead of taking the coach back to the ship, and accompanied by Angela Brown, we did a 5-mile walk back to the ship. \240We walked past the Eiffel Tower and stopped at a nearby cafe for an alfresco lunch in the warm sunshine. \240 Back at the ship to rest and prepare for dinner and departure tomorrow to Bruges. \240
Art Deco facade (theatre)
We left Scenic Gem at 9 and transferred to Gare du Nord via Uber. \240It was an easy 15 minute drive in light Sunday morning traffic. \240 Our express train covered the distance from Paris to Brussels in a little over 1 hour at a cruising speed of 180 mph. \240In Brussels we had about 15 minutes to find and get to our connecting train to Brugge. \240The next leg took almost 1 hour at the relatively slow speed of 90-100 mph. \240 Why can’t we do this in California for less than $60-70 billion?
We checked into the Hotel VanCleef which is totally charming. \240It’s located in a converted mansion which is about 500 years old. \240 We were upgraded to a canal view room with a separate sitting room in an upstairs loft. \240 Very nice! \240 We wasted no time unpacking so we could get out to start seeing the city and have lunch. \240 The place is totally Disneyland with massive crowds of tourists in a fairytale like town that, although built mostly in the late 19th century, is designed to look like it must have during midevil times. \240The city used to be on a river connected to the North Sea but now the river has been separated from the sea and converted into a series of canals which crisscross the central city. \240 A 30’ boat ride allowed us to see much of the city. \240 \240
Swan art installation
Art installation constructed from plastic recovered from the North Pacific Gyre
Similar to yesterday, the weather was overcast and cool with occasional drizzle and significant wind chill in exposed places. \240We started at “At Tatties” a tiny restaurant which served a great Belgian waffle and fruit smoothie. \240 As we had some time to kill after breakfast we wandered about the city, finding a home design store which featured African objects. \240We returned later today to buy a sculpture made from shells which comes from somewhere in west Africa (the shop owner wasn’t sure of exactly where). \240 We then met Andy McSweeney, a native of Montreal who is married to a Bruggian woman and has lived here for 16 years, working as a professional photographer. \240 He lead us around the city to photograph sites he has picked out over his years here, all the while providing instruction on composition and technical aspects of photography. \240It was very helpful and I hope will positively affect my photography in the future.
Lunch was very good (much better than yesterday) at Le Pain Quotidien. \240 In the afternoon, we joined another couple from VanCleef for a free walking tour of the city, guided by a local. \240It was interesting but not great and we left early as Donna’s back was bothering her from all the walking. \240
Basilica of the Holy Blood in Burg Square
Belfry in Market Square
Carriages in Market Square
We were up at 7 in order to get a \240taxi to the train station. \240 We had to go early because I left the train tickets at home and there was no option to get an e-ticket. \240Sadly, they couldn’t do anything at the station either and we had to buy new tickets for $50. \240 The train was 1 1/2 hours, direct to BRU airport. \240 Transfer was easy as the station was directly below the terminal. \240 Our trip home was also easy. \24045’ to LHR, a 2 hour layover, and then 10 hours to SFO. \240