Home!

Back in Seattle after 10.5hr. Flight on Delta. 

Upon returning home, I often think about things that the Europeans do so well, and of course things that they don’t do so well.  Just as there are things that we do very well in the USA and things that we don’t do well.  For instance, restaurants:  French restaurants tend to be very closely seated and people speak in fairly hushed voices.  There are NO Televisions!  Noise level encourages conversation.  Often lighting is very bright.  USA restaurants tend to have televisions everywhere, even in expensive restaurants.  Noise levels, at least in San Francisco places have become so oppressive that there are many places with good food that are untenable because of the noise.  Lighting tends to be much more subdued in restaurants in the USA.  Menus tend to be very regional in europe, so, in any given town, many of the restaurants serve exactly the same menu.  We definitely have a greater variety of food in most US cities of any size. Transit:  It’s amazing to me but almost every European bus made is less noisy than every bus in the USA.  Not sure why our transit systems can’t spec out quieter mufflers, since often it is the exact same manufacturer.  I know it can be done.  In Europe the expectation is that you can reasonably get around almost anywhere with out a personal car.  Sometimes it’s more convenient than others, but for example, in Chamonix, a lift ticket entitles you to ride on the buses.  Paris has the metro, which has been running at about 4 minutes between trains.  Wonderful.  Not sure why we can’t get our transit right here, but I do know that General Motors deliberately bought up municipal transit companies and put them out of business so they could sell more cars.  Trains are generally great and you can get almost anywhere in Europe by fast train in a comfortable manner.  The advantage being that the train in addition to being more comfortable usually takes you right to the center of town.   Cafes:  It’s wonderful that you can sit on the sidewalk and enjoy a coffee or a drink anywhere in Europe.  Less wonderful is that at least in France, the coffee is terrible.  Wifi is generally available, but often not fast enough to be useable in Europe.  The good part of this is that you rarely see a cafe full of “laptop clones” as is so common in Seattle.  Accommodation:  Many buildings in Europe are really old, so in general things are smaller and funkier.  With the new LED lighting, it will be nice when hallways are lit at least at some minimal level.  Right now, most buildings have a button to press and the lights invariably go out midway up to wherever you are headed leaving you in the pitch black.  Not sure why motion sensors aren’t more common.  French condos, or coproprietes, seem to be reluctant to spend a dime on any public area or on building maintenance, so often, even thought the unit you are staying in is fantastic, the lobby and the stairs will be terribly shabby and poorly maintained.  Not sure what that’s about.  Airports:  While the US has its share of crummy airports, for the most part they are better thought out than most European airports.  For example, I changed planes at CDG this time and ended up in terminal 2, beautiful architecture, light pleasant.  However, no bathrooms anywhere near the gates, no drinking fountains, no food anywhere near the gates.  This is a huge terminal, seems amazing you wouldn’t put a bathroom near the far end.  Other European airports, such as Frankfurt, forgot to put gates and jetways, so you end up parking out in the next country and taking a bus to the terminal.  Bologna has 3 flights of stairs down to the ramp, not really compatible with most travelers roller bags.  Amsterdam is pretty good and run with Dutch efficiency, but at times it can take 30 minutes to taxi to the airport.  You can see if off in the distance out the window looming like Camelot or Brigadoon.  

Advertisements

Last day in Paris…

Here are some picture from a day spent mostly walking around.  I went to the Muse Andre Jacquemart which had a Rembrandt show going on, but in a small scale.  Lunch at a GF crepe place, Caramel Sarrasin, and then some more walking.  I stopped in at an Armangac house, Castarede, but not worth the hassle of checking a bag to bring some back.  Did feel a minor sense of victory when I managed to check in online for my Delta flight though AirFrance and then got the boarding pass printed at a copy shop.  The other minor achievement was that I negotiated the French post office and mailed back my Swiss Army knife at minimal expense and without spending the whole day doing it.  Ble noir, also called Sarrasin or Buckwheat is GF but they often add flour to the mix so you have to ask.  Apparently cider in bowls is a Normandy tradition.  This is an example of covered passage way between streets.  Covered PassagesIf I remember my history right, these Portes or gates, along the grand Boulevards are the remenants of the original city walls.  The Walls were taken down to form the Boulevards as the city expanded.This seemed to be an all edible plant type garden in a park.Musee Andre Jacquemart.

Paris:  Walking around

Forecast for rain today around noon, which proved to be accurate, but luckily a passing band of showers.  Try out the Bike sharing program with a day subscription (1.70 Euro) to Velib.  Seems to work well.  Today was a car free day in Paris, but with all of the taxis and buses still on the road, it wasn’t exactly car free.  Walked the market in Rue Mouftard, metro to Tuilleries, walked up the Champs Elyeese, Trocadero, Rue Cler and then a Marais walk.  First four pix are of the apartment that I’m renting.

Paris!

Beautiful warm weather in Paris.  I headed to the Marmottan museum in the morning.  This is where a lot of impressionist art lives, but it is a small museum in the 16th, so takes a bit of traveling to get to.  Great round/oval room with well lit displays of Lilly paintings.  Then headed back to Mabillion for lunch at a Huiterie that was raved about in a book on oysters in Paris that I read.  The place basically had Oysters and maybe a sea urchin and that was it.  Some wine to go with them and some bread.  Tasty, but not nearly the variety that you get in Washington state. Huiterie Regis   Terrific dinner outdoors with Christian after a stop at one of his clients for a cocktail party.  Caveau du PalaisEglise Saint Sulpice.This is 6 Pl. St. Sulpice where we lived when I was growing up.

Chamonix to Paris

I left Chamonix this morning, taking a bus to St. Gervais Les Bains followed by a pokey local train and then the TGV to Gare de Lyon.  A quick metro ride and found the apartment that I’ve rented from the Adrian Leeds group.  Here’s the link, pictures make it look bigger than it is, but very nice all the same.  Bien Illumine  I walked around for quite awhile refamiliarizing myself with the neighborhood.  I usually stay somewhere in the 3rd arrondisment, so it is familiar territory. Had a burger at Cafe Charlot and then decided to make the ritual visit to the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz for a sidecar.  If you haven’t read it, “The Hotel at the Place Vendome” is a very good read and details the history of the Ritz during WWII.  Much warmer here than in Chamonix, and of course much more hustle and bustle.  

Last day in Chamonix

Well, today is the final day in Chamonix.  Hard not to like a place where everyone dresses like I do; zip off pants, puffy jacket, hiking boots etc.  Amazing views, good food, mostly car free.  Nice place.  I rented an electrically assisted mountain bike today.  It had the Bosch system, which is not the most popular on the market.  Rode up to Argentiere, about 6 miles away.  Unfortunately the French are as good at directions as New Englanders.  I had the local bike map which was pretty worthless and eventually got to where I was going, but too much time figuring it out.  Remember that in France “A droite” means to the right and “Tous Droite” means straight ahead, go figure.  Anyway, the Bosch system has a good interface with 4 levels of assist and a good battery life, but it does go on and off rather abruptly.  You probably get used to it.  Surprisingly powerful though.  Had an excellent dinner at my favorite restaurant, Atmosphere, and now packing, cleaning up in preparation for a bus to St. Germans Les Bains followed by a couple of trains to Paris.  Note that the Bosch motor drives the crank and therefore takes advantage of the bike’s gearing.Steak with a peppercorn sauce and potatoes Au Gratin, Savoyard style. That means equal amounts cheese and potatoes.Views toward Mont Blanc with the Bosson Glacier in the foreground. Oven of some kind, not sure how it works or what kind.These are the controls to the cooktop and the oven in the apartment that I’m renting.  Wouldn’t begin to have an idea as to how to operate either of them.

So, it turns out that the reason the Irish coffee is so good is two factors:  They use espresso as the coffee, and they steam the Whiskey with the sugar in it so that it’s hot.  

Parapente in Chamonix

After a nice walk to Les Houches this morning I went for a tandem Paraglide ride.  Took the Aiguille du Midi lift up to the mid point and then put on harness etc. and ran for the edge.  That does tend to get your attention.  Anyway, the ride was enjoyable as we went over to the Bosson Glacier and then landed in the landing field.  The instructor had a go pro, so here are some pix. 

Teriyaki Duck at Munchie restaurant. A 1972 Armangac.

Chamonix

Finally it stopped raining and turned into a lovely day.  Took the bus to Bosson and then the chairlift up to the bottom of the Bosson glacier.  Herb crusted lamb and potatoes gratin with half bottle of Crozes-Hermitage.  Restaurant Telecabine.  Excellent.Great sunset picture of the Auiguille du midi..Wreckage from an India air flight that crashed in the -50s and eventually the glacier turned it out.Map showing Bosson Glacier levels.

Chamonix in the background, looking north.

Chamonix (base)  to Tre-le-Champ to La Flegere.

The apartment I’ve rented is proving comfortable, although it is obvious that no owner has lived here since the remodel.  Basic things are missing such as towel racks and toilet paper holder in the bathroom.  Nothing all that major, but you notice them when they are not present.  I got up pretty early and fixed myself a GF Peanut butter and Jelly for breakfast and then, even though it was raining, decided to do another leg of the tour.  I took the bus to Montroc and then walked 10 minutes to Tre Le Champ and joined the trail.  One of the choices involved climbing some ladders which I was looking forward to.  This is apparently one of the great sections of the trail for views, although I was in a cloud the whole time today and never saw a thing.  I saw one small ladder, but the trail continued without going up it, so I’m left to wonder if there are more above that one, or the ladder section is no longer.  Eventually after about 3 hours of walking, a lot of it uphill, wet and soggy I got to the top of the La Flegere Telepherique and took it down.  10 minutes later the bus took me back to Chamonix and I was able to change into dry clothes and head to the end of the local Farmer’s market.  Managed to find some Crepes made with Ble Noir, that’s buckwheat and they assured me they were GF.  Normally I would have just waited till next week and better weather to do this section, but all of the lifts close down for a month or so tomorrow. Here are some limited photos of the day.Would you like cheese with that?Remanants of a large Saturday market, got there in time to have a Buckwheat crepe.You can see one ladder above the bridge there, but the trail kept on going without using them.