Le grande tour de Europe

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June 20th 2006
Published: June 20th 2006
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Le Grande Tour de Europe - what you have always wanted to know about our travels.

We have covered 12000kms with about 3 days and 500kms until we return the car in Paris. It has been a great adventure and there maybe left-brain friends who really want to know what it was really like. If you take a map of Europe (maybe 2 or 3 pages in your atlas), this will help you to trace our journey.

Start in Paris and run your finger to the right through Reims to Strasbourg, cross the German border to Baden Baden and then up the page to Leer (near the Dutch border) and Hamburg. Slip to the SE to Berlin then down to Quedlinburg and across through Dresden to Prague. Head down the page to Vienna and across to Budapest on the right. Look towards the bottom of Austria for Graz (where Gerd was born) and then head down to Venice. From here we go back up the page to Lausanne near Geneva, to the left across France to near Tours and back down the page to Barcelona. The last step is to go to the left to Bilboa on the Atlantic,
Some of roads make the new bridge at Coalcliffe look goodSome of roads make the new bridge at Coalcliffe look goodSome of roads make the new bridge at Coalcliffe look good

Glad we can pull the side mirrors in on the car in tight spots
back up to Bordeaux and diagonally up to the right to Tours again and then Reims and back into Paris. This leaves out a few side trips, like Chartres for the Cathedral, but gives a bit of a feel for the “grand tour”. We liken it to driving a circle from Sydney to Cairns, Darwin, Adelaide and back to Sydney.

We arrive in Paris on Friday and on Tuesday go to Hermanville, near Caen, in Normandy for 2 weeks. We will meet up with Sara, Patrice and their children Eva (7) and Yanis (6) just before they take off for 6 months in Au/NZ. They will take over putney2 when we go to Japan mid-November and when they arrive we’ll make sure the kids meet up with Michael and Amelia.

You may wonder why Reims twice. It was really Ambonnay, near Epernay, our first stop in France. We realized that our 7 seater van (2+3+2) had little room for luggage, so we left the 7th seat and a large cargo net where we stayed at a champagne cellar to pick up 10 weeks later. The car was leased under a scheme sponsored by the French government, with no taxes (rego or GST), unlimited mileage, full insurance with no excess, emergency assistance and road service throughout Europe. You actually own the brand new car, with the rego in your name. We discovered that when we picked it up, left the depot, realised we had a flat tire, found with difficulty (at Charles De Gaulle airport) a spot to pull off the road, rang the company who said “so what, you are the owner, you fix it”. A little negotiation followed and they agreed to assist. At 2am (by our travel clock) after 2 days of travel we both had very limited patience!

Lyn and I have developed an intimate friendship with the little lady in our GPS. Particularly in France we find ourselves responding to her more than to each other. We are nice to each other but she is lacking in sympathy and harshly exclaims “turn right now!!!” and when you ignore her “if you can, DO a U TURN now”. She gets frustrated when we don’t follow her directions or do something foolish. The worst time was when we were in a long tunnel in Austria and she wanted us up on a surface road and insisted many times that we do a u-turn immediately. As both Gerd and Ross would appreciate, she at least knows the difference between her right and the other right.

Our GPS asks, when we enter a destination, whether we want the shortest route or the fastest. The fastest can add on 50k in 200k but put you on motorways and take up to an hour less. The shortest takes you on roads/tracks that the French have never discovered. Lyn did some masterful driving on 5ft roads through valleys and over mountains near Rocadamour while I have driven as the crow flies through back streets of historic towns.

Peter Frost, we needed you at dinner tonight. The menu said “Volaille Rotie et Brunoise de Legumes”. Asked whether it was chicken-no, turkey -no, and then agreed it was not duck. After mastering German, Czech, Hungarian, Italian, Swiss, French we recognize spargell, legumes, foie gras and maigret/canard and a lot more but not volaille. They went away, conferred and came back and said it was poultry. We looked puzzled at this generic term so they asked the chef and checked the dictionary and finally said it was guinea fowl. Whatever, it was very nice.

Our accommodation has been interesting and again has ranged in quality and price. When booking a hotel room we found it is necessary to say one apartment for two people in one bed. Outside Praque we stayed in a converted garage (42 euros, including breakfast) and at the moment we are staying in Amboise at a 3 star Lodgis de France hotel for 110 euros half board (bed, breakfast and dinner) p/n. Bathrooms and toilets have been a talking point wherever we have been. First you need to master the flushing systems that include pulling a lever, pushing or pulling a button or slide, pulling a chain or turning a tap on and off! Next you need to check which floor of your abode the loo resides and whether you can access it without breaking your neck in the middle of the night. Finally in northern Europe you have to remember to keep some loose change in your pocket as most public toilets are pay affairs and if all else fails we discovered that Macca’s always has clean ones.

For Citroen lovers like John, the technical details follow. It is a C8, 2.0 HDi 16V automatic, the top of their range. It has an 80l tank and to date has averaged 8.8l/100k at 56k/h. Top speed is 170 but I think Herbert may have had it a bit over on one of the German motorways. Diesel has varied between .96 and 1.46 euros. The big cost are the tolls. They range from 68cents per leg to about 48 Euro across Spain. (Makes the train sound cheap, Denise and Peter).

Memories of travelling round Berlin on public transport, driving into historic Quedlinburg, Cesky Krumlov, Prague, Puy l’Eveque, Castel d’Empuries and Chinon, and sitting on beaches on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts will stay with me. The cathedrals at Reims, Chartres, Dresden, Venice, Budapest and the Sagrada Famila in Barcelona as well as the many museums and castles were fantastic. Maybe one of the best experiences was turning yet another corner and there in front of you, on a river or a mountain or just on a crag of rock is a church or castle.

Will drop into Sydney for a few months on Thursday July 13 and will catch up with you after that.


20th June 2006

THanks for a fun, descriptive overview. I fully understood your directions - the GPS would have driven me nuts!! Looking forward to hearing about your adventures first hand.
23rd June 2006

Bravo and Brava
Hi Lyn and Col We have greatly enjoyed your travels from this distance and have learned a lot in the process. You have converted Peter to like the word'blog' for which he had an unreasonable prejudice. So pleased a flat tyre appears to be the only real problem you've encountered in such a long journey. Intrepid that's what you are! Bravo Col, Brava Lyn and travel well for the remainder, love D and P

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