Sunday, January 1, 2006

Europe 2006

1st January, 2006 Amsterdam
Andrew flew Christchurch, Dubai, and then arrived into Frankfurt.  Plane delayed 30 minutes plus delayed arrival of baggage –Andrew somewhat stressed.
Relaxed drive from Frankfurt to Amsterdam. Andrew was not used to the speeds on the Autobahn.
Parked the car on the outskirts in the Arena transferium  and took the tram to our hotel in the city centre. 
Walking out for dinner
Ams 1

2nd January, 2006 Amsterdam
Andrew slept 11.5 hrs and afterwards had no perceptible jetlag.
We walked around the streets of non commercial Amsterdam seeing Chinese Fire Crackers, Police on horseback, and a typical huge bicycle park.
It was fine but cold weather, with blue skies.
Pub by Church of Nicklaas, tiny pub for a beer
 
3rd January 2006 Amsterdam
We went to the Rijksmuseum , Jordaan area, Begijnhoff, Ice Skating, Queens Palace, Nieuwe Kerk.
In the evening we wen to Envy restaurant. At 5:40pm , we were the 1st people there. A very enjoyable meal with a very nice Spanish wine.
ams 2

4th January 2006  Amsterdam
More exploring of Amsterdam covering the Red Light District,
We spent some time planning our itinerary for the next few weeks.


5th January 2006 Amsterdam to Aachen

We took the tram back out to the car parked on the city outskirts at a Park and Ride at the Transferium Arena – E22 for 3.5 days parking.  
Drove to Brussels - mainly to go to the British Embassy.  On the 1st day in Europe Paula 'lost' her passport and had declared it missing to the NZ authorities.  The passport was later found in her handbag in a concealed pocket, but by that stage the lost process had begun and couldn't be stopped.  The need to go to the British Embassy related to the work visa in the old passport and the embassy refused to issue a new visa. Andrew was very supportive and saved the day



After an excellent soup lunch at the nearby Museum we walked through the museum and were particulalry interested in the large number of tapestries displayed .  
On the way back to Aachen we stopped in the city of Leuven –with it's town hall extravagance and Catholic University Library



6th January 2006 Aachen
Walk in the woods. Saw some young deer during the process

Monschau – in mountains cold and charming
Excellent lunch – soup and Wiener Schnitzel
Washing at Laundromat
Walked to Paula’s Julicher str flat


7th Saturday Aachen to Tilburg
Walked around the Aachen Town centre, including the magnificent church
Andrew drives for the 1st time on the journey to Tilburg.  Stopped off at IKEA where had not been before. Got a little lost finding the way to Suzette & Jan Willems but then went to a very nice Portugeuse restaurant.

8th January Tilburg to Paris
Left Tilburg about 9:30 and by 3:30 we were at the Paris Toll roads.   The driving was easy – Andrew was a good driver and Paula a good map reader. Paula was concerned about Paris driving but Andrew put on an appearance of calm and dealt with whatever the Parisian drivers could throw at him. We couldn't find the original carpark we had identified near our hotel but eventually found an alternative car-park.  We stayed at the hotel Bonne Nouvelle, tiny rooms typical of a Paris hotel.
We walked around the neighbourhood through to the the town hall, Les Halles and Pompidou




9th January Monday Paris
Breakfast in café with croissants and coffee before heading to the excellent Mussee d’Cluny, particularly to see the Lady & the Unicorn; the tapestry of the five senses.
A walk through the Latin quarter before attending a service at St Etienne on the mount.  A Roman Catholic Church with both a choir and an organ.  On coming out of the church we saw the Panthéon and a surprise view of the Eiffel Tower.
Took the metro to Agnes' apartment for a great meal with Agnes and her sons and Muriel. Some very good memories for Andrew. 



10 th January Tuesday
Walked Musee’d’ Orsay – rather circular route via Louvre

Good lunch – café opposite the museum – croque monsuier
Notre Dame (plus 15 min extra walk)
Lovely Dinner at Butcher restaurant


11th January Wednesday Paris to Beaune
In preparation for our drive out of the city we had walked the exit route from the car park to the Periphique the day before.  It helped and we had no problems driving in Paris.   
Collected some great lunch stuff enjoyed at rest area alongside the motorway.
The weather was extreme contrasts with Hoar frosts and sunshine.  Arriving in Beaune it was –2 degrees.   We visited the Hospice and very much enjoyed the experience.  We found a comfortable 2* hotel and did a bit of trip planning for the next legs of the journey.
We had an excellent dinner in a very nice restaurant where there were two other couples in a small restaurant.  Andrew particularly enjoyed the Chablis & Armanac.


12th January Thursday Beaune Macon, via Geneva
Drove to Geneva – straight forward but on arriving it really felt like "Where was the city centre?"  eventually we found a car park. And there were some very "Interesting" driving maneuvers by Andrew.
Andrew completed his banking transactions in a very straight-forward and efficient Swiss manner and we were back on the road to Macon.  
Macon was an unexceptional town, useful as a stopping point for the day.  At one point driving through the center of ton we were surprised by the armed Police with shotguns intent guarding fund transfers at Banque de France.

13th January Friday Macon to Brive en Gaillarde
Slept well and late 9:15am
Drove country roads.  Lovely rolling country, plenty of villages, large houses, chateaux, and lots of woodland.  Lovely vistas.
Got on motorway returned to Brive de Gaille (pop 50,000) arrived 7.



14th January Brive en Gaillarde to Sarlat
Walk through Brive de Gaillarde including the Church St Martin.  It was an attractive, tasteful and positive city centre.
All the buildings in this region. (Between Macon and Sarlat) are made of stone.  And the cemeteries for last two days commonly have had a glasshouse protection feature – (N.B. found that going to other areas around here, both north and south they were not of this style)
We arrived in Sarlat at lunchtime and found that the tourist office was closed between 12 – 2 so we headed off for a lunch of omelette and snail pastries.
The tourist office found us a little apartment for the week as part of a farmhouse on the rural outskirts of the town.

We headed back into the town to stock up and ended up with the ingredients for an excellent dinner of Saussicon Toulouse with Carrots and potato.

15th January Sunday around Sarlat
We had a walk around the rural area for 30 minutes and were interested to see a very high viaduct bridge. It was a good frosty morning
It was nice to drive through small country lanes on our way to Le Jardins d’Eyringnac.  We were the only people there.  It had a magnificent layout and impressive topiaries.


We headed to the town of Souillac,  The castle was not open but had a nice walk about the town before a good omelette as a pub lunch.  
We came back to Sarlat.  Andrew now believes me that the town closes on Sundays as we ended up with a vegetarian meal based on our available provisions.

16th January
Today we ventured to the area south of Sarlat.  First we visited Domme, built with almost sheer face down to the river.  It is walled city, with entry through port.  There were excellent views of the river valley.



We then went to Beynac, with it's castle on top of the hill above the attached town.  The castle was built from about 1100.  There was a steep foot walk to castle –which was open even though it was 12:15.  There were a few candles and no artificial light so it showed the normal lighting conditions – mid day = dark


As we crossed the river Andrew had just pointed out some geese on the river when a goose flew up from the water, nearly collected the car and then flew alongside for a couple of minutes.  Otherwise it was enjoyable country driving, meandering through hamlets
Lunch was in St Cyprien – good café
Andrew had some trouble remembering which side of road he should be on after lunch. 

17th January  around Sarlat, Perigeuex
We went 65 km north to the town of Perigeuex .  There were rather delapidated outer parts leading into city, but a restored and atmospheric inner city with plenty of lovely specialist shops – butchers, chocolatiers etc
Bought some vegetables & rump steak at the market then convinced by an excellent saleswoman to buy cheese and salami.  Later bought some Foie Gras.  We visited the church, being restored  - Cathedral St Front.  
Parked out front of IBIS carpark and downloaded emails


Drove to Hautefort – closed not much to be seen, but impressive structure – huge.  Sitting above a small village
Meandered back through country roads

18th January Sarlat
We again visited Sarlat on Market day but mid-week was not as full on as Saturday version, less than 50% number of stalls.  Purchased carrots, brussel sprouts and Duck sausages (v.g. almost all meat very tasty)
We then spent a lot of time just wandering around the town.  The large church was simple and symbolic and there were grave stones from 11th/12th century. The church had extensive structural decoration, which appeared to have no architectural necessity, just decoration.


Cathedral St Sacredos. Beautiful glass, elegant and simple. The church had pews not chairs as Andrew had remarked on just the day before.  Columns were substantial. Lovely church.  Music was playing added positively to atmosphere & ambiance.

Lunch fresh bread and consumed salami and cheese purchased yesterday.  While dinner was Foie Gras and local wine –wine a little sweet.  A Chablis would be a better match.


19th January around Sarlat to St Emillion and Bergerac
Got up “early” to be away by 8:00.  It was a slow drive, with slow trucks slowing all traffic down.
We tried some Wifi in Bergerac airport then proceeded to city of Lisbourne.  Supposedly it was a bustling market town but we didn’t really see that.  

We carried on to St Emillion, a small town in centre of the wine growing area.  It was an odd town with no traditional city centre.  Lots of old buildings, but it simply had an unusual feel.  We had read that some of the stones here had come from Cornwall as part of the ballast of English trading ships.

We visited the cathedral –ca 12th century…very cold and it was warmer outside.  

After lunch we returned to Bergerac. Nearly missed the old centre, which was off to one side of the centre.  Interesting architecture – more wood and brick than has been seen anywhere else. 
Two churches – current church built 1836 to accommodate the town’s growing catholic population.  Nice rose windows.  The smaller church was the first, again started 12th century.  Smaller and much more intimate.  Had some old frescoes on the walls
Bought some veal stew for dinner from market.


20th January
An early start again – we headed for Soulliac.  It was market day, but other than that it was an unprepossessing town.

We continued down the road to Rocamadour.  Built into the rock cliffs – it was breath taking on first sight. 
We climbed the ramparts of the chateau above the town and then went back down to the town.  It was a complete ghost town, with only one shop open.  Extremely reliant on tourism, it is not humming in the off season.

Followed country roads back to Sarlat.



Walk after lunch (rabbit terrine).  Returned to town for some shopping (prep for moving on tomorrow) and Internet.  Washed car and did washing














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