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8 Countries In 9 Days
June 26, 2009

It really wasn't as hectic as it sounds. We spent the majority of our time in France & Germany, but we did fly in via England (London), and Ireland (Dublin). We also drove through Switzerland, took a gondola over to Italy, and I spent one night in Amsterdam (Netherlands). Which country am I missing? Oh right, we flew out of Belgium (Brussels) to get back to Ireland.

June 25th

Flew to London, UK via Air Canada. My seat back entertainment quit working halfway through. The flight attendant noticed, and was kind enough to offer some sort of generic claim ticket. When I got home, I entered in the claim #, but it said it could not be found. Oh well.

June 26th

- Flew to Dublin, stopping over for 4 hours. Chris wouldn't drink a Guiness with me. Every customs officer asked why we were flying from London to Dublin, and then back south to get to Paris. Why weren't we just going via London? Well, it's because we snagged a really good deal on a flight to Dublin, far cheaper than flying to London. Of course, it would be nice if we could just get off in London, but airlines don't like that kind of thing.

- Flew to Paris, and arrived nearly exactly 24 hours after leaving home. Took a 15 euro taxi to Hotel Brittany, arriving around 1AM. Chris took a nasty fall out of bed.

Juin 27th

- Woke up and met Heather and Sean for breakfast. Walked around the expensive stores of Paris. Saw a $100,000 Hermes jacket made of crocodile.

- Walked to the Arc de Trimophe. Walked up the Arc (184 steps), and took in the view of Paris.

- Found a huge outdoor market, full of produce, cheese, etc. Bought some bread, cheese, and fruit, and headed to Champs de Mars, home of the Eiffel tower.

- Had a picnic in front of the Eiffel tower. We were harassed by the gypsies quite a bit. "Do you speak English?" is their big opener.

- Took the train to the Catacombs of Paris. It was a 45 minute wait, but we were treated to a small Iranian protest and a 'Love Jesus' parade. I wouldn't have been satisified with a trip to Paris without seeing a protest of some sort. Inside the catacombs we saw some idiotic American tourist picking up the bones and playing with them, posing for pictures, etc.

- Headed towards Jardin du Luxembourg, and on the way we ran into a gay pride parade. I can still hear the whistles.

- After checking out the park we made our way to Isle de la Cite. On the way we passed by Notre Dame (huge lineup), and the Latin Quarter. Our goal was the ice cream at Berthillon, which we had heard was supposed to be the best in Paris. There was a long lineup (not as long as Notre Dame), but it was worth the wait. Chris had tiramisu/cherry, Sean had chocolate/tiramisu, Heather had rhubarb/bitter chocolate, and I had chocolate/wild strawberry. The only problem with having ice cream this good, is that all other ice cream now tastes inferior.

- Took the train back to the hotel, freshened up. Great shower (good temperature and an even spray!)

- Tried to go for dinner at Autour d'un Verre, but unfortunately it was closed. So we travelled all the way over to the N.E. section of Paris, into what seemed to be a bit of a ghetto. We passed by some questionable characters who seemed really surprised to see us walking around in their neighborhood.

- Walked up the Belleville Hill, great views! Unfortunately, the restaurant we were looking for, Le Vieux Belleville, was full. We gave up on trying to have dinner in Paris, and headed to the Eiffel Tower (again), this time to ride up it. By the time we got there, it was already lit up. We bought some chocolate/banana crepes to tide us over and got in line for the tower.

- We decided to go for the top floor, and after some long waits, finally made it and took in the views. Instead of taking the elevator, we decided to walk down.

- After the Eiffel tower, we looked for a restaurant that might still be open and serving food after midnight in Paris. Not as easy as you might think.

- Found one still serving food, but they didn't seem to interested in waiting on us, and probably just as well, since the Cokes were 5 euros ($8) per glass. No thanks.

- Sean finally broke down and bought some food at McDonalds. 23 euros, $40, for a combo meal and a hamburger. Ouch!

Juin 28th

- Woke up and went to Sacre Coeur. It reeked of urine, but otherwise beautiful. Saw the famous steps of Montmartre on the way down.

- Went and picked up our rental car (underground) and headed for Chamonix.

- Stopped and had lunch at a gas station, really good food!

- Heather may, or may not, have got a speeding ticket, we'll watch the mail to see.

- Paid our toll at the France border, 40 euros, are you freaking kidding me ?

- Pulled into Chamonix, drove around looking for our B&B, the GPS was not helping any longer.

- After driving in a few circles we arrived at Ski B&B where Phil, an Englishman working at the B&B for the summer, was there to greet us.

- After settling in, we drove into town for dinner in search of a restaurant where we could have a fondue (not exactly an arduous task in Chamonix).

- We sat on a patio outside on a small pedestrian street, at a restaurant called Le Chaudron and enjoyed our first fondue.

- We tried to find somewhere to buy a bottle of wine but had no luck finding wine in France. First we couldn't find a restaurant in Paris, and now no wine, surely it's us.

- Went back to the B&B for some hot tubbing, CM fell asleep.

Juin 29th

- We piled into a gondola to take us to the top of Aiguille du Midi - we thought we wouldn't be able to fit, but we squeezed ourselves in - little did we know that there was actually room for a lot more people as another group crammed in.

- We rode up to the top of the peak at 3800m (12,600 ft) and took the elevator up to the top viewing platform where we were treated to amazing views of Mont Blanc and the peaks surrounding us. Could even see the Matterhorn in the distance.

- CM spent a long time taking pics, then we made our way through other tunnels carved out of the mountain to other viewing platforms.

- Walked through a tunnel of ice where people were beginning their walk out on to the glacier, and where the ski run starts in the winter.

- Took the gondola across to Punta Hellbrunner in Italy. Over 3 miles long with no solid pylon tethering the line, amazing.

- Came back across and rode down to the midway station Plan d'Aiguille where we attempted a hike. I say attempted, because 1 hour later after speaking with a Japanese mountaineer with a map, we realized we had been walking in completely the wrong direction from what we had intended.

- Walked back to the gondola in the rain, and back to the B&B for some more hot tubbing.

- Went out for dinner in Chamonix at Restaurant Omeletterie La Poele. Had fondue again.

Juin 30th

- Woke up, treated to another Phil-breakfest, including cereal, eggs, porridge, and toast. Good way to start our day.

- Just as we were ready to leave, Sean realized his gondola pass was missing. After a lot of searching, we gave up looking.

- Headed to the La Flegere gondola. Just as Sean was about to resign himself to buying another pass he found his lift pass being used as a bookmark in his passport.

- Went up the lift, treated to more amazing views. Started our hike to Lac Blanc. After Lac Blanc we hiked back and took the Le Brevent Gondola. At the halfway point we saw some kid fall and smash his mouth. Went to the top, and saw the second most impressive views of our trip, next to Aigulle du Midi.

- Took the gondola back down, had lunch in the gondola and in the parking lot. Went back to the Aiguille du Midi lift and took it halfway up. Did the hike we were *supposed* to day the day before. It was a 2 hour hike to Mer de Glace. It rained for the second half of the hike.

- In Mer de Glace we caught the train back to Aiguille du Midi and took the lift back down.

- Went out for dinner at restaurant Crémerie du glacier d'argentière. We had to hike through the forest to find this restaurant at end of Argentiere Glacier but it was well worth it! It turned out to be the best meal of our trip. Best fondue yet, great potatos and ice cream sundaes too (mint chocolate).

- Walked back through the slug infested forest to the car. Got a little lost, but eventually made it.

- Tired after a long day of hiking, we hit the hay early.

Juillet 1st

- Had our final breakfast with Phil, a great host.

- Headed for Marbach, Germany. On the way we stopped at a place with terrible schnitzel and jam pizza.

- Noticing lots of signs for Ausfahrt, must be a popular place, wherever it is.

- Went to the Grosse Lauter River to rent canoes for a paddle down the small river.

- Took a bus to our departure point where we were given a safety & canoe paddling lesson in German, which wasn't much help.

- Got off to a rough start as we hit the bank and floated down the river backwards (also went sideways for a bit)

- Got better as we went but still encountered a few difficulties occasionally, like when CM almost tipped the boat over b/c he was leaning to avoid branches. Luckily we went crashing into Heather + Sean's boat and I think that prevented us from going for a swim in the river.

- Saw neat/cool purple-blue dragon flies, chickens, families of ducks, and the occasional castle ruin.

- Also encountered a very low hanging bridge. So low that we had to lie down in the canoe to get under. We believe we might have been warned out about this Germany - as, looking back, a ducking demonstration seemed to be part of our lesson.

- Checked into a guesthouse beside the famous Marbach stables. Chris and Heather toured the Marbach stables, searching for Sir Sandro, no luck.

- Went and looked at the Lichtenstein Castle. Continued on to Tubingen, a wonderful university town, and had some schnitzel and beer by the river. Got some ice cream after dinner and walked around the town, checking out the store windows.

- Thought we got lost on the way back, but the GPS didn't fail us.

Juillet 2nd


- Heather and I checked into Hotel Hesse then caught the giant shuttle bus to the CHIO show grounds. The temperature on the bus was almost unbearable and when we reached the showgrounds it was too hot to even walk around (and even too hot for Heather to shop!)

- We watched a youngsters class, and a speed class from our seats - which were quite good in the West Tribune, followed by the Nations Cup.

- The Nations Cup was won by France, Roger-Yves Bost managed to post a clean round despite his 'interesting' riding style.


- Sean and I set the GPS for Koln and arrived at Hotel Weber. The room was quite small, even by European standards, and we opted for foot-to-foot over head-to-head or head-to-foot.

- Went out and explored the city. Bought some German beers from my list. Checked out the giant church, and the crypt below.

- Saw a tribue to Michael Jackson on the street.

- Went to Museum Ludwig, full of strange modern art exhibits, as well as some Picassos. Also watched a German puppet show, but left after a 1/2 hour when we realized it wasn't getting any easier to understand what was going on.

- Went for dinner at a Cuban restaurant, but Sean didn't get his food. So then we tried a place at the end of the street.

Juillet 3rd


- Had breakfast at our hotel (an Asian restaurant) during which a lady overflowed the O.J. dispenser and then the hotel guy spilled it over the back of our legs.

- Caught the hot bus back to the show, took a little longer than normal because the giant bus couldn't get past the other buses in the station.

- Walked around the ground through the shopping tents, and watched the riders warming up for a class and the end of the class from the standing room section.

- Went back to our hotel to meet up w/ Chris + Sean for dinner. CM

- Woke up around 10 and had breakfast at the hotel. Went to the giant outdoor store, Globe Trotters. We tried the freeze chamber with the thermograph, checked out the ant farm, the climbing wall, the rain chamber, and the kayak pool.

- Walked around the shopping district.

- Went to an old gestapo prison, very interesting graffiti on the walls, lots of stories.

- Bought some chocolat. Headed back to Aachen to meet the girls.

back together

- Went for dinner at Macaroni, for some really good homemade pasta.

- Then went for a giant strawberry ice cream sundae for dessert.

- Came back to the hotel room where we slept all 4 of us in 1 room. CM got to sleep on a 1' by 8' piece of decorative fabric (I gave him my comforter)

Juillet 4th


- After a quick breakfast Heather and I caught the train to Cologne (along with a bunch of drunk teenagers)

- We saw the giant cathedral and walked around the shopping district, including a visit to the huge outdoor store.

- Caught the train back to Aachen.

- Went for dinner at Macaroni again, and I had the psata with cherry tomatoes, grilled egg plant, and feta, for the 2nd night in a row.

- Went to the horse show where we succssfully scalped our standing room tickets, in German.

- Made our way to our seats where we watched an intermediate class. CM

- Sean and I headed for Amsterdam, stopping in the beach town of Zandvoort along the way. Had some Middle Eastern fast food, and then drove on to Amsterdam.

- Checked into Hotel Bastion (deluxe room, 2 sinks). Hotel guy said tunnel was closed, and we would have to take the ferry. He lied. Easy access.

- Took the bus to Amsterdam, lots of bikes everywhere.

- Walked around, went to Cannabis College, checked out the plants.

- Walked along the canals, there was a singing contest. Watched a break-dance group.

- Checked out Vondel Park.

- Sean bought some really bad pizza. Really bad.

- Walked through the red light district.

- Walked, walked, and walked some more. Passed by the diamond store a few times.

Juillet 5th


- Made our way to the horse show again, after much confusion at the hotel regarding leaving our luggage there for the afternoon.

- Watched a speed class and staked out our standing room spots for the grand prix.

- Watched the first round and then met Chris & Sean and drove back to the hotel to pick up our luggage.


- Stopped in Hedel for lunch. Met the girls back in Aachen.

back together

- We all went back to watch some of the 2nd round - Chris and Sean were able to get free tickets.

- Watched about 12 riders in the second round, at that point 2 were clear.

- Walked back to the car to make our way to Brussels.

- Heather and Sean dropped us off at the airport, and we caught our flight to Dublin.

- The Days Hotel shuttle picked us up and we spent the night in the hotel .

Juillet 6th

- Went to the Dublin airport, flew to London. Bought 1.8kg of wine gums and jelly babies.