Posts Tagged With: Strasbourg

The way to Chamonix: Trains and costly surprises

Glaciers are revealed, but the clouds hide Mont Blanc in this view from our hotel this morning.


Naïveté, bad luck and good fortune all had parts in our eventful journey from sunny Strasbourg to rainy Chamonix in the French Alps on Monday.

Three trains were to take us on the nine-hour trip, but a bus and a very expensive taxi ride saved the day in the end.

The second train ride, meant to take us from Lyon in southern France to Saint Gervais, started well. But, when we got to the end of the line, we discovered we were in Evian! (Try that word backwards.)

Our hotel, La Chaumiere, in Chamonix. A nice breakfast buffet and a bottomless cup of coffee (our first on this trip) were a great start to the day.

We had lost half our train! It turned out that at one of the stops, the last three cars decoupled and they went to Saint Gervais, without us.

It was 9 p.m. and we were in Evian, a long way from our hotel room. We found the train engineer and he found us a bus, which took us back to Annemasse. He said to tell the folks at the train station what happened and that they would call a taxi to take us to Chamonix. A Japanese photographer in the same boat followed us.

We pulled into the Annemasse train station about 10 p.m. The bus driver spoke little English, but had been told of our plight and waited while we sought help.

However, the station was deserted. Now what? The benches looked like last-resort beds. Ouch!

Sue tried calling a taxi, but the first call went unanswered and the second got a recording in indecipherable French. The driver needed to go. We needed a taxi. A bilingual woman on the bus hopped off and called a taxi for the three of us.

It was nearly 11 p.m. when we pulled into Chamonix. The meter read 240€. As Sue and I approached the locked lobby of the La Chaumiere Hotel, tourists from London unlocked the door. An envelope on the counter welcomed the Spittles, our key inside!

It has been raining all day in Chamonix; our Tour du Mont Blanc begins tomorrow with more rain forecast. We will begin, rain or shine.

In Scotland, they might say “It never rains on the trail!”


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France: Life hums on the sidewalks

We discovered a new area of Strasbourg tonight. Just ahead, on the right, was a string of bars and cafes, some on boats.

A couple of young guys at a French bar ordered this bière on tap!

Notes from France

Does anyone drink and eat at home in France (other than us)? Tonight, after our dinner at our Strasbourg apartment, we went for a long walk. There were thousands and thousands out and about. And it did not seem crowded, although most seats were filled. That's because Strasbourg has more cafes, bars, squares and neighborhoods than people (only slightly exaggerating). Of course, it was the same in Paris. Every day and evening have been like this.

Families and couples. Young and old. College kids. Teen-agers. Walking, sitting at sidewalk cafes and bars. Kids riding carousels, yelling “cou cou!” or “yoohoo!” Some are tourists, but most are not (I have a sense about this.) Is this socializing a reason the French live so long?

There is another side to this coin and it is smoking. So many people, from teens on up, smoking, one cigarette after another. Other than inside stores and restaurants, it is okay to light up. That romantic table outside in the square can quickly be surrounded by smokers. We were able, most of the time, to avoid it when we drank or ate outside, though.

Do you think Europe is becoming more Americanized? We feel as though it is. More English language, spoken and written, especially on menus. McDonald's, Starbucks, Subway, Burger King. Baseball caps, worn by locals, not necessarily Americans. T-shirts with brand names or other words written on the front and back. Hamburgers and fries on most menus.

We don't remember it being this way when we lived in Scotland and visited France 19 years ago. Our trips the past four years have revealed a different Europe. But, we saw much of the same in China in 2007.

On the one hand, some of this makes our travel easier. But … (Anyone want to finish this? We would love to hear from you…add your thoughts in the comment section at the bottom of this post.)



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A walk to Germany and back in half a day

A view of the Rhine River from a pedestrian bridge connecting France and Germany, with a Viking cruise ship docked next to the German bank.

We head for a suspension bridge, our path to Germany.

If you are a traveler, there is a lot to like about the European Union. The euro makes managing currency so easy as you go from country to country. Then there is the seamless movement across borders.

So, today, we walked to Germany. No passport necessary. Easier than going from Oregon to California (no stopping at the border to confirm you don't have fruit).

We are staying in Strasbourg, part of the Alsace region of France tucked against the Rhine River, the border with Germany.

We took a city electric tram to the end of the line, then walked about a mile to Jardin des Deux Rives, the Garden of Two Banks, where we found a spectacular suspension bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists. It led to the other bank, in Germany.

After climbing a viewing tower for a distant look at the Black Forest, we had a relaxing riverside picnic before heading back to our home in France.

What's not to like about Europe!


Two hundred steps to views of two nations.

Look closely to the left for the Strasbourg Cathedral spire. The Rhine and the pedestrian suspension bridge are in the foreground.


Looking out for wildlife in Germany.


I have to admit, it was fun to have a picnic in Germany.


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When in France…

This enthusiastic Frenchman's spirit was contagious.

The France vs. Germany semi-final Euro Cup match was cause for celebration in Strasbourg tonight. Crowds gathered early, grabbing good seats in the few cafes with outdoor TV screens.

We were lucky enough to find a good seat, a great meal and entertaining company for an evening of good natured cheers and jeers.

A France victory made for a happy ending…at least for most of the crowd.




It was standing room only in the square around the cathedral. A busy night for the servers at this cafe. If you look closely, you can spot me in my pink tee shirt, sitting near the back.

Dinner was surprisingly good for a cafe in such a busy tourist area.

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