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Europe 2009

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Europe 2009 - Page Text Content

S: European Adventure - June 2009

BC: 7 countries, 10 days, one amazing journey of magnificent sights

FC: European Adventure June 2009

1: On June 18th, Janet McGann and I headed to Europe. We got to fly on a 747-my first time!

2: June 19, 2009 After flying overnight from Miami to Heathrow on a 747-400, Janet and I spent a jam packed day in London. It was very difficult to get comfortable on the airplane so we were quite tired, but did not want to miss a moment in London. We went to our hotel, got directions and ventured out to the Euston subway station. We bought a Day Travelcard (which turned out to be a great purchase) and got on the Northline tube to Waterloo. When we got to Waterloo, we had to transfer to a train to Hampton Court. We missed the train by a couple of minutes. While waiting for the next train, we met a nice mother and her daughter from New Jersey. They gave us a buy one get one free coupon to get into Hampton Court. We then rode the train to Hampton Court, walked across the bridge and I was at my first real castle ever. The castle was magnificent-huge and stately. We were there the day before the 500th anniversary celebration of the coronation of King Henry VIII. We looked around the castle for a couple of hours. They were very laid back about letting you wander wherever you pleased and there was much to see. It was huge and very easy to get lost-even with a map. I'm not sure how people ever managed to live there. We stopped at the gift store on the way out and I got Ellen a

3: Paddington book that takes place at Hampton Court. We also got a couple of postcards and mailed them. Taking these few moments caused us to miss our train again. So, we went to a little cafe and had a snack. I had cheesecake and hot chocolate. We got on the next train and made our way back to London. We checked in at our hotel-the Novotel St. Pancras. The first room they gave us 514, gave us quite a shock! We opened the door and there were already people in there (and they were naked!) We immediately went back to the front desk to get a different room-this time 518 and no naked people. We freshened up and headed to Kings Cross station (right next to our hotel) to take the subway to the tower bridge. We then went on a boat down the Thames and saw Parliament and Big Ben. Then it was time to eat. We headed back to our hotel to eat at a pub across the street. We arrived at 10:03 and they told us they stopped serving food at 10:00. So, we had to eat next door at Pizza Express. It was pretty good though. Then finally off to bed. I tried to call home first without success so emailed instead. I was ready to drop by the time I got in bed.

4: Our first stop was London. Of course we had to see and do the "typical" London things-phone booth, London Eye, taxis, and double decker buses.

5: After we arrived in London, we took the subway from Euston subway station to Waterloo train station and then to Hampton Court.

6: Hampton Court--King Henry VIII's palace. They were celebrating the 500th year of King Henry VIII's coronation when we were there.

8: When we returned to London from Hampton Court, we took a cruise down the River Thames.

9: Of course our main reason for the river cruise was to see Parliament and Big Ben.

10: June 20, 2009 Up at 6, ready by 7 to get suitcases out for tour. We had a continental breakfast at the hotel, which was quite good. I had cereal, yogurt, fruit, ham, cheese, and a croissant (what a pig!) At 8:30 we boarded our bus for Dover. We drove to the port where we waited a while and boarded our ferry to Calais. We got to see the white cliffs of Dover. The ferry ride was 1 1/2 hours. After the ferry, we got on our actual tour bus and drove 3 hours to Brussels, Belgium. The scenery was quite nice, many farms and some quaint little villages. We went on an excursion in the evening because it was really the only way to get to the downtown area. We drove around on the bus to take some pictures of some important sites like the Cinquantenaire Triumphal Arch and King Albert II's working palace. A local tour guide joined us. His name was Taz, but

11: we fondly called him Gepetto. We made our way to the old part of town. It was magnificent. We saw the famous Manneken Pis (peeing boy statue) and heard all of the local legends about him. The buildings were amazing. They were originally guilds and each craft tried to outdo the others. Janet and I did a little shopping-we bought some chocolates, of course. We then ate dinner at a restaurant located in a building where Karl Marx once lived. The food was amazing! I had baked prawns in tarragon and garlic. I tried to have a small dinner so I would have room for dessert-a Belgian waffle. I got one with whipped cream and chocolate-mmm...mmm...good! We then went back to our hotel to sleep in our skinny little beds.

12: Our second day, we rode a ferry to Calais, France, where we met our tour bus to drive us to Belgium.

13: Our ferry left from Dover, England so we got to see the famous White Cliffs of Dover.

14: Royal Palace of Brussels | Cinquantenaire Triumphal Arch | Brussels, Belgium

15: Guildhalls on the Grand Place

16: Manneken Pis | (a famous Brussels landmark) | Janet and I had an amazing dinner at the goose building-where Karl Marx once lived. I had baked prawns in tarragon and garlic. I made sure to save room for a Belgian waffle for dessert though (with chocolate and whipped cream.)

17: June 21, 2009 We woke up, had breakfast and got on the bus for a very long ride (344 miles). We made our way from Belgium into Germany, where we proceeded to the Rhine River. We stopped in the adorable town of Boppard. We went to a cafe for lunch where I had broccoli soup, half a ham and cheese open face sandwich and an almond and chocolate sort of cookie. Everything was very good. We bought a few postcards and headed to catch our boat (in the pouring rain!) Fortunately the boat had covered areas. We started our cruise down the Rhine River past adorable little villages. As we cruised, the weather began to clear and we were able to see 6 castles. Wow, that was amazing. Some were small and some were in better shape than others, but they really brought history to life. We docked in Oberwesel and got back on our bus to continue our long day of driving. Eventually we made it to Wurzburg where we had dinner at our hotel, the Novotel. We had turkey, spatzel, potato soup, vegetables and a mixed fruit jell-o for dessert that was very tart and not to my liking. After dinner we wanted to walk around Wurzburg because our hotel was right in town, but it was pouring rain again. So, we realized they had free internet in the hotel so a bunch of us gathered around to use it. While we were each waiting our turn, we all sat around and had a great discussion about serial killers! After talking for a couple of hours, we all went off to bed so we could get up the next day on time.

18: On day 3, we drove 344 miles from Belgium to Germany. We stopped in Boppard and took a cruise down the Rhine River. We saw so many cute little villages. Unfortunately it rained most of the time though. | Rhine River Cruise

19: The castles and churches we saw along the Rhine River.

20: June 22, 2009 Woke up, ate breakfast (kind of slim on the selection today) and I quickly sent off an email. Bob teased me that I was addicted to the internet (as he was finishing his emailing!) Then off for another long drive (250 miles.) We headed first to Rothenburg. Rick Steeves said this place was great and he was right! It was like a very large Leavenworth. Unfortunately, quite a few of the shops were not open because we got there at 9AM, but since we only had an hour, I guess it was good because there weren't as many shops to try to go through in that little bit of time. I bought Ellen an ornament (a spooky, scary) and some postcards. I also bought myself a nutcracker (a genuine German one) and the best thing EVER-a fleece jacket! It kept me warm all day. When we left Rothenburg, we had to walk a long way to the bus because a carnival was being set up and Giuseppe didn't call the driver to pick us up. Once we finally got back on the bus, we headed to Neuschwanstein castle. Another long drive (3 1/2 hours). We

21: first ate lunch in Hohenschwangau. It was a great German lunch. I had frankfurters and potato salad. For dessert, I had the best apple strudel! After lunch we bought some more postcards and went across the street to the post office to mail them. I tried to call home, but again had phone issues (I can't read or understand German was the biggest issue!) We then waited for our ride to take us up to the castle. It was pouring rain AGAIN! We walked first to Mary's Bridge to take some pictures. The bridge was scary because the boards kept flexing and the pictures weren't good because there was construction on that side of the castle. Next, we went to the castle. The rain finally stopped and we started our tour. Unfortunately, we couldn't take any pictures in the castle. It was incredible! What excess! Our little tour guide, Benjamin, looked terrified. (Daniel could "do" Benjamin perfectly!) I wanted to buy a book that had pictures of the inside of the castle, but they were expensive at the castle so I was

22: going to get one at the store at the bottom. When we got back, the store was closed though. Mike rubbed in that he got a book at the castle and I didn't. Most of the people decided to wait for a bus to take them down from the castle, but John and I decided to walk. It was a very nice walk with a couple of waterfalls along the way. We met Rosemary and Daniel (affectionately known as Prince Harry) at the bottom of the trail (they had walked back down the road) and walked into town with them. We beat everybody that waited to ride the bus. We got back on the tour bus and had another two hour drive to Igl, Austria. We made it to our hotel and had dinner-salad, consomme with shredded pancake, fried pork with potatoes and apple strudel (cold and not as good as at lunch.) Again I tried to call home as I now had the AT&T codes, but the only one I didn't have was Austria. We were going to walk into town, but it is raining-again! (When we entered Austria, Giuseppe played the Sound of Music.)

23: On Day 4 we left Wurzburg, Germany and headed to the adorable town of Rothenburg where we did a little shopping. | Cute little house next to Rothenburg.

24: Neuschwanstein Castle

25: After leaving Rothenburg, we drove another 3 1/2 hours to Neuschwanstein Castle. in Bavaria, Germany. Although it was cloudy and raining, the castle was amazing. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the castle. The castle was built by King Ludwig II. It was begun in 1868 and was never completely finished. | Hohenschwangau Castle (childhood home of Ludwig II)

26: June 23, 2009 We woke up and had breakfast. Janet and I were very tired because we stayed up talking too late last night after we wrote in our journals. We had a short ride down the hill from Igl to Innsbruck. We met a tour guide, Peter, that showed us around the historic sites of Innsbruck. First we went to the Triumphpforte and then up to the Olympic ski jump. Next, we went down to a gorgeous church, Wilten Basilica. It was so ornate and much of it was covered in gold leaf. Then we went to the Hofkirche museum where the tomb of Emperor Maxmillian is. Wow! Another very ornate building with many detailed bronze statues of Emperor Maximillian's friends and family. (His body isn't actually here though.) Finally, we went to the city square where we saw the famous Golden Roof and all of the intricate buildings. Our tour ended and we were on our own to shop and get a snack. I bought some souvenirs: a cowbell and T-shirt for Ellen, a dishcloth for mom, and a potholder and beautiful Edelweiss pin for Grama. I got some Mozart chocolates too. Janet and I ate a snack at a little bar-I had an Austrian chocolate cake called a sacher-torte. We wrote and mailed some postcards and then met our group to go back to the bus. We then drove to St. Moritz in Switzerland. We stopped along the way to have lunch. I had potato soup, a great sunflower seed roll, and a Belgian waffle with ice cream and chocolate for dessert.

27: The road to St. Moritz was very windy and I drank a Coke with lunch so we had to make an emergency stop for me to go to the bathroom. (Of course everybody else needed to go too.) We got to our hotel, checked in, and I was finally able to call home. it was so good to talk to Ellen and mom. Janet and I walked to the very expensive but cute downtown area and had dinner. We were told everything would be expensive, but we were still shocked by the prices. We found a nice restaurant in a hotel that had reasonably priced spaghetti. I ate every drop-it was very good. We walked back to the hotel and met up with Ailene and Ailene on the way. Once back, I realized we could use the internet for 30 minutes for 1 Swiss Franc, so Janet and I went down to do that. While we were checking and writing email quite a few other people form our group joined us and we all hung around and talked for a couple of hours. Overall it was a very nicely paced day and I think I was much happier since I got to call home. I slept in what I called my "Heidi" bed. It pulled down from a built-in closet. It was very cute. There was a Heidi Hut on the mountain here and the cows outside have big cowbells around there necks and you can hear them from our room.

28: We spent the night in Igl, Austria, just up the hill from Innsbruck, Austria. Day 5 we spent touring Innsbruck. We went to the famous Olympic ski jump that ends right above the cemetery. Then we went to Wilten Basilica, an extremely beautiful church built in the 1750s.

29: We went on a tour of the Hofkirche church museum (built in 1553). The tomb of Emperor Maximillian is here, although his body is not. The detailed bronze statues surrounding the tomb are of Emperor Maximillian's friends and family.

30: The famous golden roof in the Innsbruck city center. It was built in | 1500 of 2657 fire-gilded copper tiles for Emperor Maximilian I.

31: We spent the night in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It was chilly and expensive, but an adorable hillside town. This was my favorite hotel-especially the pull down "Heidi" bed. There was also a great gathering place by a fireplace where we could all visit.

32: June 24, 2009 Worst breakfast so far, but the best hotel last night. It was very cold this morning. We only had a short ride to the train station where we got on the Bernina Express. We rode the train for two absolutely glorious hours. The scenery was magnificent! The mountains, valleys, lakes, waterfalls, and towns were spectacular. We ended in Tirano, Italy. I finally made it to Italy! I have dreamed of this my whole life. It wasn't exactly the part of Italy I'd dreamed of, but it was Italy. We ate lunch. I had the specialty-some pasta with potatoes and cheese. Pretty good. We bought some postcards and mailed them and then had some gelatto. I had pistachio! Mmm... We walked around town a little and then all headed back to the bus for our drive to Lake Como. Oh my goodness-what a beautiful lake and surrounding villages. I no longer want a castle, I want a villa! The roads were extremely narrow and windy though. Joe, our bus driver did a great job though. After Lake Como, we headed to Lake Lugano, Switzerland. Wow! Another beautiful place. Our hotel was disgusting and the noisy funicular ran through it, but was a great location for walking around the town.

33: Janet, Amar, Tejal, and I walked through the town to the Church of Saint Mary of the Angels. It was a Renaissance church with beautiful frescoes painted by Bernardino Luini, who worked with Leonardo da Vinci. Then we continued down to the lake. We bought some postcards and souvenirs (I got the most adorable Bueller snow globe!) Then we rented a paddle boat and went out on the lake. It was amazing (especially since Amar and Tejal did all the pedaling.) After the paddle boat, we walked to the park. The flowers were so beautiful! We met up with the Muhamed and Aggarwal families We took a bunch of pictures and then headed to dinner. We found a great little place. I had shrimp risotto. After dinner, we mailed our postcards and walked some more. It was too nice a night to go indoors. We had some more gelatto and then headed back to our hotel. We walked too far and ended up at the San Lorenzo Cathedral above our hotel. We saw Wayne, Donna, Mike and Linda there. so we took some more pictures. Then we found our way back to our hotel and into bed for the night.

34: On Day 6 we rode the Bernina Express train through the Swiss Alps for 2 hours. The mountains, valleys, lakes, waterfalls, and towns were spectacular. | Onn | Fatima & Nawaz | Wayne and his boys

35: Linda & Mike | Sue Ann & Melany | Daniel & Rosemary | Janet, Amar | Tammi, Tejal | Vihbor & his dad

36: Our train ride ended in Tirano, Italy. We were only here long enough to eat lunch and look around a little. | This was the only place we had a hard time communicating with people.

37: We drove to Lake Como, Italy. The lake and villas were amazing.! No wonder George Clooney bought one here (our tour guide kept teasing us that we were going to see George Clooney).

38: We finished the day in Lake Lugano, Switzerland. Another beautiful town (thank goodness because our hotel was awful!) We spent most of our time exploring the area.

40: Frescoes by Bernardino Luini, who worked with Leonardo da Vinci | Tbe Church of Saint Mary of the Angels

41: Amar, Tejal, Janet and I went on a paddle boat ride on Lake Lugano and then walked around Ciani park It was beautiful! . | Lake Lugano

42: L A K E L U G A N O | Amar, Tejal, Wayne, Janet, Donna, Linda and Mike | San Lorenzo Cathedral on the hill above our hotel | Lugano

43: O A T N I G H T | Amar, Tejal, Tammi, Janet, Donna, Linda and Mike | The very noisy funicular that ran from San Lorenzo Cathedral through our hotel.

44: June 25, 2009 This was the worst breakfast yet (of course, it was the worst hotel.) We drove to Lucerne. It was a pretty quick drive. We looked around the town a bit and then went on a boat cruise on Lake Lucerne. It was a little chilly and cloudy and not the greatest cruise. Next, we went to Mount Stanserhorn. We rode a train and then a cable car to the top of the mountain. We thought it was going to be disappointing because it was so cloudy. When we got to the top, we were unexpectedly surprised. We were above the clouds and could see all of the beautiful snow capped mountains sticking out of the clouds. Tejal, Amar, Daniel and I ate together and it was quite warm out. We had a Swiss specialty of pasta, potatoes and cheese with onions on top. It was good, but so filling. When we got back to Lucerne, the weather had cleared. Tejal, Amar and I tried to walk the city wall only to find out (after we'd climbed about 3000 stairs) that it was closed because of construction. So, we walked around town a bit and when we were

45: crossing the very cool castle bridge, we accidentally met up with Janet. We all walked back to the bus so we could go to our hotel. It was a nice, very modern hotel. We had dinner at the hotel-not very good (vegetable soup, chicken, rice pilaf, vegetables and a tiny bit of ice cream.) We talked with Bob, John, Nawaz, Fatima, Sabina and Shehzad for quite a while and then decided to go out and explore more of the town. The Muhamed family, Janet and I walked all over town and had some gelatto along the way. Nawaz and I walked all the way to the casino. On the way I got to see and hear traditional Swiss music (horn blowing.) We then went back to the coffee shop at the hotel and watched the soccer game and a couple people had a drink while we planned out our time in Paris.

46: Bob and John | Lucerne, Switzerland

47: Day 7 we went on a boat cruise of Lake Lucerne. The weather wasn't very good, but there were some unique buildings to see.

48: The view of the Swiss Alps was incredible! | Of course Shehzad had to get his picture taken next to the Extrafahrten sign! | Mount Stanserhorn, Switzerland

49: We rode a funicular and then a cable car to the top of the mountain, which is only 6227 feet high. | We ate at the restaurant at the top of the mountain. It actually ended up quite warm since we were finally ABOVE the clouds!

50: When we got back to Lucerne from Mount Stanserhorn, we explored the city some more. We tried to walk the old city wall, but it was closed for construction. We were able to see some parts of it though, like the stone guard statues. The Chapel Bridge was pretty amazing. We also got to hear two musical performances, one was a string quartet and the other was traditional Swiss horns. | Lion of Lucerne | The Lion of Lucerne commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris, France

51: Chapel Bridge

52: June 26, 2009 Worst breakfast yet. We keep getting less and less. Plus, I couldn't find the place and Giuseppe wasn't any help. (I don't think he actually knew where it was.) We left Lucerne and drove through the beautiful countryside to the small town of Gruyeres. I always thought this would be so much bigger, but it was so cute. It had a castle and an adorable little town with shops and restaurants, cows, sheep, and chickens. Janet, Melany, Sue Ann, Fatima, Nawaz, Shehzad, Sabina, Tejal, Amar, and I had lunch together. I had cheese fondue. It was very good, but very rich and filling. Our lunch took so long that we didn't get to look around the town. Next, we headed to Geneva, Switzerland. We took a group picture at the flower clock. We spent a couple of hours looking around. It was a very busy city and not too exciting. We did see a 12th century church and John Calvin's chair. We tried to see some statues, but they were covered up for a festival. Everything Giuseppe suggested we see was closed or not where he

53: said it was. Tejal and I did a little shopping before we left. I bought a Henkels knife that I have been searching for for a long time. We left Geneva and went to Annemasse, France where we were staying for the night. I had heard bad reviews of this hotel and they were right. It was in an industrial location with old rooms and a bathroom like a trailer bathroom. Our ceiling was bright green. We had dinner in a restaurant next to the hotel. It was the best included dinner. We had good bread, a salad with puff pastry, beef bourguignon with rice and vegetables, and a strawberry sugar cube type cake. After dinner, Nawaz, Fatima, Shehzad, Sabina, Amar, Tejal, and I went to the lobby to get on the internet and finalize our Paris plans. Then it was off to bed earlier than usual because we have to get up earlier. --The shock of the day was when we woke up, we found out Michael Jackson had died.

54: Interlaken, Switzerland | On day 8 we stopped for a little while in Interlaken to look around, take some pictures, and do some shopping.

55: Gruyeres, Switzerland | My yummy fondue! | We stopped in the village of Gruyeres, where they make Gruyeres cheese, and had lunch. The cheese fondue was amazing, but they charged us a "tap fee" for tap water.

56: The entire tour group in Geneva, the clock and watch capital of the world. | Geneva

57: We walked all the way to the University of Geneva to see the Reformation Wall. It was closed for a festival though | so we were only able to sneak a picture of one of the statues. The park area was pretty amazing though with the big chess and checker boards. | Shehzad

58: St. Pierre Cathedral

59: Fatima and Janet stopped at a cafe to relax while the rest of us explored the city. | We visited St. Pierre Cathedral in Geneva where John Calvin gave his inspiring sermons in the 16th century.

60: This airplane was at our hotel in Annemasse, France. I thought the sign on the building behind the airplane was very appropriate for me!

61: June 27, 2009 Not the worst breakfast yet. It was actually pretty decent except for the breakfast Nazi. The manager of the restaurant told Rosemary to eat in the restaurant not to take it with her and then he stood there and stared at us the whole time. Off to Paris. We stopped at a rest area on the way-shocking! It was just a hole in the ground! (It did flush and had a place to put your feet.) Our next stop was at a little village called Beaune. We were thinking, "Another cute, quaint village." Much to our (and Giuseppe's) surprise, there was a farmer's market going on. The colors and aromas were stunning. Stands with fruits and vegetables, all variety of olives and nuts, meats of all kinds including roasted pigs with the heads on and fresh (but dead) chickens with the head and feathers on. I bought some homemade French soaps, a strawberry crepe, and a dishtowel for Riana. We stopped at a rest area for lunch (hot bacon, cheese & tomato sandwich and a raspberry tart) and then on to Paris! We checked into our hotel in Paris and then we were off. Janet, Amar, Tejal, Nawaz, Fatima, Sabina, Shehzad, SueAnn,

62: Melany, Cathy, John, Vihbor and his parents, and I went to the Metro station across the street to find our way to the Eiffel Tower. We managed to get there very easily and John and Cathy took off on their own. SueAnn and Melany decided the line was too long for their other plans that evening so they headed back to the hotel. The rest of us got in line for the Eiffel Tower. It was no longer than a good ride at an amusement park. Within two hours we were to the top and back down. The tower was so much bigger and more amazing than I could have imagined. The view from the top was incredible! I took a ton of pictures. When we got to the bottom, everybody wanted to eat, but we couldn't find anything good. The people that were the hungriest ate a little at a cafe by the river. Thankfully Vihbor's mom brought some Indian snacks she shared with everyone. Vihbor and I went to the Architecture museum to take better pictures of the Eiffel Tower. When we got back, everybody had decided to go on a boat cruise of the Siene. Vihbor and I had to run and then we all missed the first boat anyway. We ended up on the 10:00 boat which was

63: better. There were so many amazing buildings along the river and we got to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. At 11:00 to 11:05 the tower "sparkled". When we made it back to our hotel, some of us were starving. So Janet, Amar, Tejal, and I stopped at the cafe across the street. I had chocolate mousse and half of Amar's ham, cheese, and egg sandwich. John and Bob joined us and then Donna and Wayne showed up. By the time we got to the hotel, it was 1:30 AM.

64: On day 9 we stopped at Beaune, France where a farmer's market was going on.

65: Our first view of the Eiffel Tower.

66: At the top of the Eiffel Tower. Back row: Vihbor and his parents, Nawaz, Janet, me Front row: Shehzad, Fatima, Sabina, Tejal, Amar

67: The Eiffel Tower elevator

68: Paris: from the Eiffel Tower

70: Eiffel Tower pictures (taken from the Architecture Museum.)

71: We took a nighttime cruise down the river Seine.

72: June 28, 2009 We didn't have to be ready until 9AM today and we didn't have to put our suitcases outside our door for once! Breakfast was fairly decent and then we were off for a city tour of Paris. We got a local tour guide, Brigette, who really knew her stuff. We saw the highlights from the bus and stopped on the other side of the Eiffel Tower, so I took some more pictures. We also went to Notre Dame. I remember learning about the stained glass windows of Notre Dame in World History and always wanted to see them. What an amazing building. It was Sunday so a service was going on. I would have liked to attend it, but we didn't have time. The acoustics in the cathedral were outstanding. After our tour, we had an hour break for lunch and shopping (oh at a souvenir shop across from Notre Dame, I got Ellen a great puzzle book of Paris buildings.) After lunch, we got back on the bus and went to Versailles. Wow! No wonder the French rebelled! This was definitely the most extravagant palace of all. The Louis' made Ludwig look positively amateur. It was very crowded and warm inside, but a site not to be missed. The gardens outside were absolutely incredible too.

73: Back to the bus and back to Paris. Quite a few of us wanted to go to the Louvre so the bus dropped us off pretty close. Janet, Cathy, John, Fatima, Newaz, Sabina, Shehzad, Amar, Tejal, Onn, Sue Ann, Melany, and I all walked to the museum. Once inside, we were told it was a long wait and the museum wasn't open for long. Janet, Nawaz, Sabina, Fatima, and Shehzad decided to go back to the hotel. The rest of us really wanted to see the Louvre. Within 15 minutes, we had bought our tickets, seen the statue of Venus, the Winged Statue, and the Mona Lisa. Since everyone always says the Mona Lisa is disappointing, our expectations were low and we were pleasantly impressed by the painting. We then split up and looked at an amazing array of art. Sue Ann, Melany, Onn, and I stayed together. We wanted to see mainly paintings (and there were some amazing ones) and we also saw some great Egyptian artifacts. I recognized Akhenaton from a room away! We only had an hour and a half in the museum, but it was enough. There is so much to see that you go into art and beauty overload. Plus, we had done a lot of walking

74: today and had little to eat. We all met under the pyramid and found our way to the Metro station nearby. It rained a little on the way, but nothing too bad. At the station we had a little difficulty buying tickets, but someone we were holding up in line finally helped us. We planned to meet Janet, Nawaz, Fatima, Sabina, and Shehzad at a restaurant near the Arc de Triomphe. I guessed on the train station we should get off on (George V) and when we emerged from the station, the restaurant was right in front of us. I am good! The restaurant was VERY expensive and since we arrived at 6:30 and weren't to meet them until 7, we decided to look for an alternative restaurant. We found one across the street called Mood. A little after 7 they arrived and we all gathered for our dinner. The restaurant was magnificent. There were 13 of us to have our farewell dinner (we had decided that we didn't want to do the "tour" farewell dinner because we had been having much more fun on our own). My appetizer was one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life! It was 2

75: shrimp and vegetable spring roll, all in the most amazing sauce ever. I also had salmon and some carrot puree thing and to die for chocolate cake and ice cream. Everyone was very pleased with their food, especially me and Sabina (who had a cheeseburger!) We spent 3 hours at the restaurant and had such a lovely ending to our trip. We all walked back along the Champs-Elysees, except the Muhmad family who stayed to see the Arc. We took the train back to our hotel and said our goodbyes.

76: Day 10, our final day, we took a bus tour around Paris to see the highlights.

77: The other side of the Eiffel Tower. | Arc de Triomphe

79: Notre Dame Cathedral was amazing inside and out. We were fortunate to be there on a Sunday when a service was being held.

81: The Palace of Versailles put all other castles we had seen to shame. It was absolutely stunning! It is easy to understand why the French people rebelled when seeing this excess.

83: The King's Grand Apartments at Versailles

84: State Apartments and the Hall of Mirrors

86: More apartments at Versailles | Empress Josephine

87: The magnificent gardens at Versailles.

88: The Mona Lisa, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, | and Aphrodite, known as Venus de Milo

89: Amazing paintings by Leonardo da Vinci

91: Some of the many magnificent paintings in the Louvre.

92: Just a few of the amazing Egyptian artifacts in the Louvre. There was no way I could see them all. It was pretty incredible seeing some of the things I had been teaching my students about though.

94: The Louvre pyramid is pretty amazing to see despite its controversial architectural design.

95: Farewell dinner at Mood in Paris. It was sad to say goodbye to everybody, but we had some great food and a good time. | Arc de Triomphe | Along the Champs-Elysees | The Metro

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  • Title: Europe 2009
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