A Travellerspoint blog

May 2009

Celebrating Africa in Germany

30 May 2009

sunny 70 °F

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The largest African festival in Europe is held in Wurzburg Germany this weekend and of course we have to get there. The place is crazy crowded full of all kinds of people. There were food stands, stalls with all sorts of goodies for sale, and lots of bands. We got a cool light and some falafels before we called it a day.

Posted by ErinDriver 11:26 Archived in Germany Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Paris!

25 May 2009

sunny 70 °F

The last day of our trip is spent on the bus with a couple stops to increase our circulation. The first stop was the Pegasus Bridge which is also seen in the movie The Longest Day.
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It was a crucial bridge to both sides during the war and we ended up with it.
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The new bridge is being used by vehicles to cross the river. The actual bridge from 65 years ago is part of a museum and monument.
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We didn’t go to the museum but we could take pictures from outside the fencing.
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After a few more hours we hit Paris. The bus tour gave us an “orientation tour” which means we looked at things out the bus window. We did get to see The Louvre, arc de Triomphe, Napoleons Tomb and drove down the Champs-Elysees.
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We had a ten minute stop at the Eiffel tower to get photos and try some trick photography:)
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A three course meal was served at Escarmouche which had an atmosphere like the beer kellers here in Germany. We had wine, shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon and a dessert like flan. The shrimp cocktail was more like a cold shrimp salad than what we think of as shrimp dipped in cocktail sauce.
After lunch we headed home watching Saving Private Ryan on the way. We finally returned home at 0200 in the morning. Quite a long day!

Posted by ErinDriver 12:52 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Mont St. Michel

24 May 2009

sunny 75 °F

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Today I am the most excited about seeing Mont St. Michel.
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This has been an abbey for over 1,000 years and has been one of the top four pilgrimage sites in Christendom through the ages.
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The island is connected to the mainland with a two-mile causeway surrounded by a vast mudflat.
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The walk up to the abbey is through a very touristy and busy medieval street full of shops and restaurants.
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The abbey tour consisted of a audio tour that we could do at our own pace. The building is huge but very plain made from granite stones with no decorations.
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We were lucky enough to see some monks worshipping in the church section. The monks were to pray 8 hours each day. The church was built on top of this rock so the monks could be as close to heaven as possible.
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The cloister are is a peaceful zone where monks could meditate, read the Bible or tend their gardens. The windows were of no interest to them because the more isolated they could make themselves the closer they were to God.
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The abbey had a huge dining hall where the monks would eat in silence. The only talking was from one that would read passages from the Bible.
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They did have a Guests Hall which held decorations for the VIP visitors.
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A portion of the crypts collapsed in 1421 and was replaced with immense columns measuring 15 feet around.
The Abbey was once used as an alcatrez type prison where inmates used a huge wheel to pull a cart with supplies up the building.
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A walk thru the garden takes you out of the Abbey and back to the Grande Rue or tourist strip. We had a quick lunch before heading back to the bus and on to our next stop.
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The town of Bayeux and its famous tapestry was the next destination. The tapestry is 70 yards of wool embroidered on to linen cloth and tells the story of William the Conquerors rise from Duke of Normandy to King of England. Another audio guide leads you down the tapestry explaining the pictures.
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The town also has a beautiful cathedral but being Sunday not much else in the town was going on.
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Back on the bus again we set off for the German Batteries.
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You could walk up to the guns and obviosly Curt had fun with it.
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Some guns were in better shape than others. The rumor about this one is that it got hit with mortar fire.
There were four batteries set in a row and one at he cliffs by the water.
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This one near the cliffs is the one used in the Longest Day movie.
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Stairs were required to climb into this bunker.
Before reaching the hotel one more stop was made at the Mulberries in Arromanches.
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Mulberries were made by sinking 17 ships bow to stern. Then 115 football field size cement blocks (mulberries) were also sunk creating a four mile long breakwater.
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All over Normandy were fields of these little yellow flowers that are used to make canola oil.
Dinner was nothing fancy (McDonalds) because we were tired and could walk there.

Posted by ErinDriver 11:55 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

D-Day Beaches

23 May 2009

rain 65 °F

Guess what we did today……rode on the bus some more!!! :(
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But honestly we hit a lot of WWII sites today. First was the German Military Cemetary.
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It holds 21,000 German soldiers with 2 soldiers per grave site.
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The cemetery has groups of five black crosses grouped together with a huge mound in the center of the site.
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This mound holds 300 soldiers remains and is decorated with a statue of a mourning mother and father.
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Next stop was Saint Mere Eglise where the church is famous. Paratroopers landed off target in the middle of town and one soldier got his parachute caught on the church spires.
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Private John Steele got stuck on the spire and dangled there playing dead to avoid being captured. Today they have a replica soldier hanging from the church.
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This town has an airborne museum that we spent some time in looking at memorabilia from various airborne units.
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Utah beach had a replica of the boats the soldiers assaulted the beaches in.
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These metal crosses were in the water to keep the boats from getting close to shore.
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The beaches were surrounded with barbed wire.
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Our guide Kyle promised us a picnic on Utah Beach but the weather was raining so we only spent enough time to take pictures of the monuments and walk on the beach.
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It is so peaceful and quite now its hard to believe what happened almost 65 years ago.
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One grocery store was closed due to a demonstration so we had to chose another but got to go in and have our guide help us pick out some wine. Normandy is also famous for its cider so we grabbed some of that too.
The picnic ended up being at Pointe Du Hoc under the overhang by the bathrooms. Never the less we had bread, camembert cheese (famous here), wine, salami, pickles and crackers.
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Since it was raining on D Day it almost seemed fitting to walk around in the rain.
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The Pointe Du Hoc is where 300 US Army Rangers assaulted the cliffs using grappling hooks and ladders. They were fighting against the most heavily fortified German position. Only about 1/3 of the Rangers survived this mission.
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The area received 10,000 tons of bombs on D-Day and it is still evident today with the pock marks in the ground.
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Curt is standing in one of the holes made by artillery.
Omaha Beach and the American Military Cemetary was the last stop.
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As opposed to the german cemetery this site is covered in white crosses and a pool that resembles that of the Washington Monument.
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These soldiers forever look out over Omaha Beach.
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The 65th Anniversary of D-Day is next week so all the stone are decorated with flags.
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We were there at 5:00 so we got to see them taking down the American flags.
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Dinner was a short drive to Juno Beach at a place called La Pecheri. The menu was set with smoked salmon, chicken and an assortment of desserts. The restaurant did a wonderful job serving all 50+of us very quickly. The arrival to the hotel was about 2200 and it was still light outside.

Posted by ErinDriver 10:44 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Monet's Home and Gardens

22 May 2009

70 °F

Today started very early and involved A LOT of riding on the bus. Our one big tourist site for today was the Monet house and gardens in Giverny, France.
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Claude Monet spent 43 years living in his pink house. The whole area is packed with tourists and nearly impossible to get a photo with no other people in it.
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The gardens in front of the house is a wild area of flowers in all sorts of colors.
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The house is overgrown with vines and very colorful inside. Every room is a brilliant color and nothing is left plain.
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Across the road is his Japanese garden with his famous lily pads.
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The walk around is quite peaceful even with all the other people.
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Some more driving followed Monets house and eventually we landed at the Mercure hotel in Caen (kahn). What I can not believe is that we ate dinner at a restaurant called the Buffalo Grill!!! We were in france and ate steak with names like the Texas special!!!!
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Posted by ErinDriver 10:22 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Polish Pottery....for serious shoppers only!

16 May 2009

rain 55 °F

Polish Pottery tours here are for serious and dedicated shoppers only! One of our friends found a tour thru the Grafenwohr MWR so at 9:30 on Friday night we left our house and drove to meet the bus. After loading pillows, blankets and snacks we fell asleep and the bus driver took us into Poland. By 5:00 am on Saturday we were at our first store.
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The selection is amazing and its hard to figure out what to buy and what not. That's why I wore this expression a lot. They have everything from cups for dipping sauce to a huge turkey roaster for thansgiving. Prices are cheap and the stores take Euro, dollar, polish money and credit cards. The stores have boxes and wrap your stuff right there. All you have to do is write your name on the box and throw in the storage area below the bus.
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Curt and I seemed to get a lot in this pattern but we didn't stick solely to this.
For lunch at 1130 we headed to a Polish restaurant. The outside had Hitler carved into the wall because it used to be one of his summer or resting places.
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It had great food. Curt and I shared some perogies and a chicken filet breaded with eggs and corn flakes.
Even though we hardly slept the night before and just ate we all headed to another shop and had one last effort to find that perfect pottery before heading back to Germany. The day was a blast and our kitchen cabinets are now filled with polish pottery.

Posted by ErinDriver 07:16 Archived in Poland Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Wattens, Austria

3 May 2009

sunny 65 °F

About 20 minutes outside of Innsbruck is the Swarovski Crystal World in Wattens, Austria. So of course we made one more stop before driving home. The crystal world is protected by the giant with crystal eyes that constantly spits water.
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Inside are 14 rooms with crystal displays and other artsy stuff.
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My favorite was a black stallion that Swarovski made crystal adornments for.
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Another neat display was the dripping clock from the Dali painting in crystal.
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One of the rooms is like standing inside a huge crystal that changes colors constantly.
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The store at the end sells lots of expensive crystal jewelry and other trinkets. Outside they have a park with a maze and a lookout point to view over the mountains.

Posted by ErinDriver 22:12 Archived in Austria Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Innsbruck, Austria

2 May 2009

rain 60 °F

Our conference in Garmisch was so close to Austria that we decided to head down their Saturday afternoon before going home. Innsbruck was about an hour away from Garmisch and unfortunately it started to rain. The city reminded me a lot of Salzburg with the river between the two sides of the city and the cute shopping streets.
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The big draw of Innsbruck is the golden roof, a balcony covered by 2,657 gilded copper tiles. The roof was built by Maximilian I so he had an impressive place to look down the main street at the medieval events.
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Most of the buildings on the main street are gothic but there is a very frilly Baroque style building, the Helblinghaus.
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The city tower with the Alps in the background made for a good photo when the clouds weren’t in the way.
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Most of the afternoon we spent shopping along the main streets of Innsbruck.
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We got some liquor in fancy bottles at one of the shops.
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We stayed in the Weisses Lamm which offered a large room with a view over the Inn River and a restaurant. Rick Steves called the restaurant smoky and slightly seedy but we did not find it to be either one. We had some great cordon bleu before taking a walk to a piano bar which just turned out to be another restaurant.

Posted by ErinDriver 22:05 Archived in Austria Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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