Friday, June 18, 1999, Paris

Bob met Sue at Charles DeGaulle Airport. Since Sue was tired, we went to the Tulleries and relaxed. We bought two baguettes, Camembert cheese and water for dinner, which we ate at a park near the hostel. We sent an email to Jenny and Robby to let them know that Sue arrived safely.

Saturday, 19 June 1999 Paris: Tours

We slept late this morning and ate breakfast at the hostel. We sent an email to G.G. and Ree to let them know we were O.K. We asked Jenny or Robby to find Tiffany's address and send it to us. We rode Metro to the Gare Montepanarsse train station and made reservations for the train to Tours. When we got on the train, we met a family from Vietnam (now L. A.). They shared their lunch with us. We had a baguette, cheese, salami and orange juice. The Communists had put the woman's father into jail for ten years. Her mother sent her out of Vietnam when the Communists took over. When we arrived in Tours, we took the bus given on the directions, but it was the wrong bus. We finally made it to the youth hostel and checked in. We rode the bus back to town and decided to get a week's bus pass. The man who sold us the tickets was friendly and helpful. He told us we needed photographs and walked us to office of the bus company. The lady was unfriendly and impatient. She told us where to go, but we did not understand (French, you know) . Someone else, a woman we met walking on the street, showed us where to have pictures taken. It was at an indoor shopping mall, with picture booths. Bob had one taken, but it was too large. (French instructions). We walked to the Old Town and had dinner. Sue saw a woman in really tight pants and said she wanted to see HER in ten years. Bob told Sue that he wanted to see her in ten MINUTES. She didn't think it was funny. (Bob did) At the outdoor cafe, the waitress spoke some English and tried to explain what was on the menu. There was one entree that she couldn't explain. "It isn't meat, but it's not vegetables", she said. Bob ordered it - Bob likes surprises. Guess what it was! It was goose livers in brown gravy and rice. Fois Gras is considered a delicacy in Europe. The menu item translated to "Dish of the Market", we found out later. So much for surprises! After dinner we walked back to the bus stop. While waiting for the bus, we saw a boy who remembered seeing us in the train station in Paris. We also met some girls in high school from Urbana, Illinois who were staying at the youth hostel. We rode back with them. They giggled a lot.

Sunday, June 20, 1999 Tours: Bordeaux

We slept late again. After showering, we had breakfast and started on our day at Versailles. We decided it would be better to go to Versailles on another day when we had more time to visit. Instead, we decided to go to Bordeaux on the train. Bob looked out the window and Sue slept. When we arrived at Bordeaux, we walked a block around the train station. We ate lunch at the train station and waited two hours to ride back to Tours. Bob looked out the window and Sue slept some more. We had to sit in the smoking car (cough, cough) most of the way back. We had pizza and calzon for dinner. When we rode the bus back to the youth hostel, we did not think that the bus was going to the right place, but we make in back without a problem.

Monday, June 21, Tours

Monday: Go on a bus tour of Chenonceau.
Tuesday: Go to Versailles
Wednesday: Go on a bus tour
Thursday: Go to Chartres
Friday: Rest day
Saturday: All day bus tour
Sunday: All day bus tour

We made bus tour reservations and train seating reservations. Then we went to the tourist center and checked email at a computer store, twenty minutes for 10 francs. Sue had a call from Barbara Ward from Dekalb County Schools. We bought a French telephone calling card, but had to wait until after the bus tour to call because of the six-hour time difference. The bus tour started at 1:15 p.m. We went to Chenonceau first. Earlier we met Gretchen from Chicago and she was on our bus. On the bus, we met a brother and sister from North Dakota. She was twenty-eight and a French teacher. He was twenty-five. We sat next to them on the bus. After Chenonceau, we drove past another chateaux and finally reached Chambord. When we returned to Tours, we ate at McDonald's next to the train station. Bob had a beer with my meal. Before the bus tour, we took our extra passport photos to the wicked witch of Tours, who was much friendlier to us than on Friday. We are proud owners of a one-week bus pass and honorary citizens of Tours. After dinner, We called Barbara Ward. She wanted to give me the names of schools Sue could call for interviews. Sue told her that it was not possible for me to interview before August 12, 1999.

Tuesday, 22 June 1999 Tours: Versailles

Bob woke early. For breakfast, we had the usual menu: small glass of orange juice, cereal with milk, sliced baguette with butter and jelly and a hot drink. We rode the bus to town and walked to the train station (gare). We made reservations for our trip to Paris and Versailles. When we got to the train station at Versailles, we asked how to get to the chateau. The attendant gave us directions for a fifteen-minute walk. When we arrived at Versailles, we went to the information booth where a girl suggested we go to a park near the chateau to eat our lunch. We could not bring food into the area. We ate baguette, cheese and water. When we returned to Versailles, we had to wait in line for an hour. We finally got in, checked our backpacks and toured the chateau. We walked back to the train station and rode to Paris and then back to Tours. We went to check email when we arrived in Tours. We sent an email to Cecile asking her to schedule Rehoboth for an August 19 meeting for the reading association leadership. We had dinner in Old Town. Sue ate mussel shells. We rode the bus back to the youth hostel. Sue finished reading the book, "The Reader" today. Bob played with his European translator.

Wednesday, 23 June 1999 Tours: Amboise

We went on the bus tour to Amboise. It was such a pretty village that we decided to return tomorrow. We stopped at Vouvray to see the wine cellars and bought a very small bottle of wine. The female guide explained how the white wine was made. 1) Grape juice is fermented in wood barrels for six months. The barrels are old and do not add any flavor to the wine. 2) The fermented juice for still wine is bottled and corked. The racks for still wine are large cubes that are set so that the corked end is down. The cubes are then turned frequently. We think they are aged that way for two years. 3) Sparkling wine has additional yeast and sugar added and is capped. The sparkling wine has separate stationary racks, with the capped end down. They are hand rotated (each bottle) twice a day for two months. There is a sticker on the bottles to show when it was last rotated. Because extra yeast and sugar was added, there is sediment from the fermentation process that needs to be removed. The still wine's yeast and sugar is fermented to alcohol with no residual sediment. To remove the sediment in the sparkling wine, about one inch of the bottle neck is frozen, which makes an "ice cube". When the cap is removed, the pressure inside the bottle explodes and removes the ice and sediment. Then "old" wine is added, with different amounts When we returned from the bus tour, we decided to take a horse and buggy tour of Tours. Since it was her Dad's birthday, Sue decided to call her Mom. Her mom was very pleased to hear from her. She said that she was planning to go to Rob and Julie's wedding. We bought a sandwich and ate it in the park (shared it). Later, we had dinner at McDonald's, sat in the park for a while and returned to the youth hostel.

Thursday, 24 June 1999 Tours: Amboise

We returned to Amboise today. We walked through the village and stopped at a pastry shop. Sue had an eclair and Bob had a croissant and coffee (great coffee!). We talked to an older couple from Britain at the pastry shop. We looked for Clos de Luce, the house where Leonardo de Vinci lived for the last four years of his life. The tour was quite impressive. It showed some of his inventions, which were constructed by IBM. Bob bought two corkscrews and Sue bought two small tapestries of Chenonceau and Amboise that she will have framed. We both had omelets for lunch at an outdoor cafe opposite the chateau. We bought chocolate candy and marzipan and ate it while sitting by the Loire River (Cher?) We walked to the train station and rode back to Tours. We returned to the youth hostel and Sue napped for half an hour. After resting, we returned to Tours and ate at McDonald's. They have a different type of potato that in the states, and we really enjoy them. After eating, we returned to the youth hostel for the night and made reservations for the youth hostel in Nimes.

Friday, 25 June 1999 Tours: Angers

Today, we went to Angers on the train. We saw a walled fortress and chateau. This place is famous for its 100-meter tapestry of the Apocalypse. When we were taking pictures, the camera made beeping noises. We replaced the battery and it worked O.K. Bob said the same thing happened on his trip two years ago on his trip to Europe. (he didn't replace the battery because he wasn't sure that was the problem and he didn't want to lose the photographs inside the camera) It was easy to find the chateau and the train station. We rode the train back to Tours. We tried to get a new bus pass and found out that our pass was still good. It had "25" stamped on the pass. We thought June 25 was the last day to use the pass. We learned that "25" meant the 25th week of the year. The wicked witch of Tours helped us. We went back to the hostel to change rooms and learned that they moved our things to the new room, even though we weren't packed. In the evening, there was a group of students who wore berets with many pins on their caps. We asked a girl with the group about the berets. She was from Tours and organized the meeting of pharmaceutical students. She told us they exchanged the pins, which were symbolic of their area or country. This reunion consisted of parties, seminars and professional meetings. They are held in different countries at different times of the year.

Saturday, 26 June 1999 Tours: Angers, Blois, Chambord, Chiverny

Today we went to Blois, Chambord and Chiverny on our bus tour. At Blois, the guide left us on our own, but did not give us any tickets. Several times we were asked for tickets, which we did not have. Finally, they let us go into part of the castle that was restricted without tickets. We walked around the village, went into a cathedral, and went back to the bus. While waiting for the bus, it started to rain lightly. Blois had a single spiral staircase similar to the one at Chambord. The guide told us the chateau was famous because of two murders that happened there. One room had hidden compartments thought to have held queen's poison or treasures (Catherine de Medici). At Chambord, we did not go into the chateau. Instead we ate lunch. We had seen it earlier in the week. At Chiverny, the guide took us on a guided tour of the chateau. This chateau was more modern, since it was built more recently, and it was privately owned. It was in excellent condition. The chateau had a bedroom built just for the King of France, but he never visited here. No one has slept there. We ate dinner at McDonald's again. (great potatoes). When we tried to check email, the store was closed (8:00 P.M.). When we returned to the youth hostel, the pharmacists had another dinner, only this time it was catered in the parking lot. They were singing and had a real food fight.

Sunday, 27 June 1999 Tours: Angers, Langeais, Usse, Chinon, Azay

We arrived at the bus station in Tours just in time for our bus tour. We visited Langeais, Usse, Chinon, Azay Le Rideau and the gardens of Villandry. By now, we have seen so many chateaus that it is hard to keep them straight in our memory. Bob liked the chateau at Langeais and Usse the most. At Villandry, there were three types of gardens: vegetable, flowers and formal with hedges. In the back, there was an Italian water garden. Our guide and driver were different today. Geremaine and Sonya took us on the tour Saturday. The woman today spoke better English. She gave Sue and Bob a French history lesson - starting with Foulques Nerra, the Black Falcon, the Dukes of Anjou, including the Hundred Year War. She also asked us if we knew why there could never be potatoes in a XVI century garden. No one on the bus knew. The reason is that in the XV century, people did not trust potatoes to be safe. They thought the potatoes were poisonous. Finally, the roi (king) had a field planted. The royal guard had to protect the field. The population would have destroyed them. The king wore a potato flower in his lapel and the queen wore them in her hair to reassure the people. Therefore, she said, no authentic reproduction of a XVI century garden could contain potatoes. Does anyone care?

Monday, 28 June 1999 Tours: Nimes

We traveled all day on the train today. Our train from the Tours train station left ten minutes late. We thought that we might miss our connecting train at Lyon. When we arrived at Lyon, our connecting train to Nimes was waiting on the next track. It was already crowded when we boarded. We sat down across from a father and his five (?) year old son. The boy kept kicking Bob during the trip, which irritated him. When we arrived in Nimes, we found the bus stop. A woman helped us find our bus stop. When we got off the bus, we saw a sign that said the youth hostel was five hundred meters UP the hill. We walked a short distance and saw another sign that said five hundred meters. All was O.K. when the next sign said three hundred meters. Eventually, when we checked in, we sat outside at a table and had some cold drinks. We met Hugh from Cork, Ireland. Later, Ken a pharmacist from Vancouver (who missed the party in Tours) joined us. We all moved to another table to eat dinner. After eating, Bridgett a female actor (her words) and her husband Greg, an artist from Richmond, Virginia joined us. They had eaten in town and had returned to the youth hostel. Greg sketched us while we talked. He later showed us the sketch. Bob was in the sketch, but only my arms were visible. Later, he will paint the scene on canvas from the sketch. Before Greg left on his trip, he sold post card scenes that he would paint on his trip to his patrons. Bridgett wrote notes on the back, and then mailed them to the patrons. He sai d that the post cards were paying for their food on the trip. Bridgett is from Ireland and they were going to stop there on their trip. Their sons were in Switzerland and Bridgett and Greg were going to meet up with them later. Their names are Kerrigan and Austin. Greg was also going to Switzerland to meet a childhood friend. She is the daughter of his former art teacher.

Tuesday, 29 June 1999 Nimes

In English, Nimes sounds just like it is spelled. In northern France, it is pronounced without the "s". In Nimes and Provonce, it is pronounced "Nima, with a long E and an "augh" at the end. At breakfast, we met Greg and Bridgett again. We rode the bus into town with them to the train station. At the station, we went to the Office of Tourism. There, we looked for information and bought some stamps. Then we started walking. We stopped at the Coliseum. We sat, we saw, we talked. Then, we went to find the Cosmic Cafe to check email. The time was 1:30 P.M. and they didn't open until 2:00. We walked in and the person at the desk blew us off because we spoke English. Another fellow working at the counter did speak English and told us they weren't open, but it was O.K. to come in. He looked like the boss. When we went to a PC, they couldn't make an Internet connection. We told them we had not had lunch, so we would go to eat and come back at 2:00. We lied! We didn't think they would be on line that day. He was reloading software. We ate and found another place to check email. We were on line for an hour and he charged us 55F but We unintentionally only gave him 50F. We thought we gave him 60F. He too k the 50F, but that's half of what we pay at home for a month! We went back to the youth hostel and ordered dinner from Andy, the presiding manager. The owner and manager was on vacation. At dinner, we met Mr. Brian Prissy from England, about mid twenties. He had just taken his test to become a lawyer and was on a week holiday. If he passed, he could study for another year and take another test. After we ate dinner, we went to bed. Before we went to bed, we tentatively planned the rest of our trip and Sue decided that we would go to Great Britain.

Wednesday, 30 June 1999 Nimes: Pont Du Gard

Today we met Jennifer, an artist from Florida and many other places. She has two children, a boy and a girl. She has been divorced for twenty-eight years. Her son is getting married this weekend in Paris. The manager of the youth hostel, Andy, Jennifer and Sue and Bob rode in Jennifer's car to Nimes. She needed to do laundry, we needed to go to the train station and Andy needed to go into town. He gave directions, showed Jennifer where and how to park, where the laundry was located, and took us to the market for lunch items. We bought Merlot wine (which Andy picked out), Swiss cheese, two croissants and cookies for our lunch at the Pont du Gard. We caught a bus at 11:00 to Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct built by Agrippa in the last century B.C. The cost was 117F for two round trip tickets. When we got off the bus, there was an elderly woman that got off behind me. Bob reached out his hand to help her and she pulled away and gave him a dirty look, like "Don't you touch me!" We walked about three kilometers from the bus stop, walked to the Pont du Gard, and had lunch. We ate on the aqueduct over looking the Gordon River. There were swimmers and canoes on both sides of the river. It was a great sight and spectacular view. We missed the earlier bus and had to wait for a later bus. We bought a Coke and sat at an outdoor cafe while we rested. Sue wrote post cards while Bob read. When we returned to Nimes, we ate dinner at the youth hostel. Brian was still there. We met Miriam, a young girl from Sweden who looked like Nicole Kiddman. She was traveling alone and trying to decide what to do with her life. She slept in a tent and was on a tight budget. Miriam had just spent a week at an Abby near Lyon. After that, she was going to work in a kitchen in the Alps near Mont Blanc in France. She was going to work and take classes in French, but hadn't made up her mind if she wanted to stay. She hitchhiked a lot. In France, she had a bad experience, but didn't want to talk about the details. One night, she traveled with a Danish couple. Since they could not find a place to stay, they stayed up all night drinking coffee and talking. We also ate dinner with a French archaeologist. He was digging at a Roman ruins in town. It was difficult to communicate with him, since he only spoke a little English. He bought a bottle of wine for dinner and shared it with all of us. A group of Dutch bikers were still at the youth hostel and were ready to party. They played the music very loudly. A real partying youth hostel. We had a great time there. It was one of our favorite youth hostels.

Thursday, 01 July 1999 Nimes: Arles

We made reservations for our trip to Arles after breakfast with Brian and Miriam. We were able to make youth hostel reservations for Arles and Carcasonne, but not London or Stradford-Upon-Avon. We packed and went to the train station. The train was ten minutes late. When we arrived in Arles, we walked through town and saw some old Roman ruins. We stopped at the visitors' center and were told the youth hostel would not open until 5:00 P.M. It was 96 degrees F. We drank a lot of Cokes at McDonald's trying to cool down. At 5:00 we checked into the youth hostel and were put into dorm rooms of eight people. This youth hostel is extremely clean, but not as friendly as Nimes. They were very strict about the living arrangements and not too flexible. We went for a walk through town. At the ancient Roman amphitheater, a group of singers were rehearsing for a production of Carmen. We walked to the train station to make reservations and get train schedules, but they were not working. We walked back along the Rhone River and stopped for dinner at an outdoor cafe where Bob had pasta with cream sauce and an egg. Sue had an omelet and French-Fries. Because it was so hot today, we decided to ride an air- conditioned TGV train and sit in comfortable first class seats to Nice and see the French Riveria tomorrow. We were in for a big supprise.

Friday, 02 July 1999 Arles: Nice

While eating breakfast at the youth hostel, we were surprised to see Miriam walk into the dining room. She had ridden a bike to a national park next to the Mediterranean Sea in southern France. She told us that she jumped into the water with all her clothes on as soon as she arrived. She slept out under the stars and the next day (yesterday) she rode her bike to Arles. She was headed back to Nimes today to return the bike and get the rest of her belongings. Then she was going to the French Alps to start her new job. Bob asked Miriam if he could give her a three-cheek kiss. Sue told Miriam that Bob had been doing research on the "kisses on cheeks" by kissing all the girls he could. In Tours, everyone did a four-cheek kiss, but in Arles they did a three-cheeker. We exchanged kisses and email addresses before we left. Mariam - if you ever read this, please email us! We cannot find where we put your email address. We hurried to the train station, but stopped to get chocolate croissants. When we tried to make reservations, they said it was full. Since we were using EruoRail passes, which were first class, we thought they meant first class was sold out. They meant the whole train! Every seat was taken! Young people were sitting between cars on the floor. We walked from one end of the train to the other looking for two seats. We decided to order drinks in the bar car. Eventually we were able to get two stools on which to sit. After three hours, the stools became uncomfortable. We had to hunch over to see out the windows. We expected them to ask us to leave if we did not have drinks, so Bob ordered two beers and Sue had a Pepsi and water. We drank our way to Nice. In Nice, across from the train station, we bought sandwiches and water. We sat on a bench on a street running in front of the train station. While sitting and eating, a dirty young man with a scraggly beard took a water bottle to the curb and filled it with water running down the gutter. Then he took a long drink from the bottle. He had a bottle of wine in the other hand. On the way back to Marseilles, the train was practically empty. We got to sit in air-conditioned, first class seats at last. The other TGV train to Marseilles, similar to the one we took to Nice, was full. The train we were on was a local train, and not as popular or fast. But it was comfortable and cool.

Saturday, 03 July 1999 Arles: Carcasonne

We slept late and relaxed a bit this morning. We met Brian again this morning. We talked with him a while before breakfast and after breakfast. We also met a young couple from Australia traveling in a leased automobile. On our way to the train station, we bought table cloths. We purchased one for Robby and Julie, Sis and GG, and ourselves. We caught the train to Nimes and then another train to Carcasonne. At first, we sat in a smoking car, but moved to a non smoking car with the help of the conductor. While in the non smoking car, Bob met an elderly Frenchman and asked him how to pronounce the name of the pocketknife "Laguiole." It is made in a small town in southern France. The man told Bob, but Bob could not come close to saying the name correctly in French. The Frenchman was amused and a little frustrated. The best Bob could say was "Lay-yo". We don't think it is pronounceable with English sounds. When we arrived in Carcasonne, we went to the bus stop. While trying to figure out the schedule, a French lady tried to help us, but we could not understand her. Then two girls from Seattle who were staying at the youth hostel offered to help us. Anna and Allie were not sure of the way, since they arrived the day before when it was dark and went a different way. Anna and Allie had been friends since kindergarten. Anna had been studying English Lit in England. Allie could speak some French. We tried to find the right bus stop, but ended up walking all the way to the youth hostel. That always seemed the best way to get to a youth hostel on our trip. The hostel is in the middle of the Old City. The Old City is actually a double walled fortress begun by the Romans. When we checked in, we met our roommates Carmen and Andre, a Spanish couple. We met one of the two girls' roommates, Chantal. Chantal was born and raised in Belgium, but has lived in France for over twenty years. Her husband is French and she moved to France when she married. Her husband works in the oil industry and has been stationed in Ecuador for over a ye ar. He is coming home in a few weeks. Chantal's fifteen-year-old son was visiting friends in Sete, not far from here. She had always wanted to see Carcasonne, so she rode the train with her son, and stayed here in the youth hostel. Chantal is fluent in English and enjoys speaking to others in English. She aspires to become an English teacher to French students. We also met two brothers and a sister. The oldest brother heard us discussing teaching with Chantal. He came over to our table to join in the discussion. He teaches in a private residential school in Virginia. The subjects he taught were history and physical education. His classes consisted of six students. Discipline or incomplete work was not a problem in his school. The students that did not cooperate had to have their homework signed by their houseparent. The boy's sister was a student who studied social work and religion. She was hoping her Dad would pay for her to study in Europe for a year. We walked with her to take pictures of Carcasonne at night from outside the castle. The teacher from Virginia and the two girls are planning to go to Pamplona to see the running of the bulls.

Sunday, 04 July 1999 Carcasonne

After breakfast, we washed our clothes by hand and hung them in the room. We could not use the washer until noon and could not use the dryer at all. Then we walked around the outside of the old city of Carcasonne. After that, we walked around the other way between the inner and outer walls. There was a nice breeze. We ate lunch in the courtyard of the youth hostel. Bob had a sandwich and Sue had quiche. We ate with Chantal. After lunch, we walked through the village and looked in the shops. We bought a black Basque Beret for Jenny. We arrived back at the hostel about 4:30 P.M. Sue was tired so she took a short nap. Bob went to an organ concert in the ancient church in the village at 5:00. Sue met him there after the concert began. We came back to the hostel and had dinner with Chantal, Anna, and Allie. Since we shared our wine with Chantal the day before, she offered to buy us drinks. Chantal wanted Bob to try her favorite homeland beer, Belgian Mort Subite "Kriek". He didn't know it was sparkling and when he uncorked the bottle, it exploded and foamed like champagne. The cork went flying and everyone in the courtyard laughed. Before going to bed, we walked around the old city with Chantal. This is an incredible experience, a place that captures our imagination and takes us back to another time.

Monday, 05 July 1999 Carcasonne

After breakfast, we walked across the bridge to the town. We found a place to check email. Then we sat outside McDonald's and decided, for sure, to go to London next, after Carcasonne. We made reservations at the train station. Since we had Eurrail passes, we made first class reservations from Carcasonne to Lille and purchased Eurostar (Chunnel) tickets to London. Because of the Eurail passes, we were able to travel first class and received a fifty per cent discount on the tickets. We looked at several bookstores to get information about London, but could not find any we wanted. We had lunch at an outdoor cafe in a plaza. After lunch, we walked back to the old city and relaxed. We tried to get reservations at the youth hostel in London, but it was not possible. We rested again. While waiting for dinner, Chantal returned to the youth hostel. She had left to take a bus to another city, but she missed the bus. We were going to eat at a restaurant in the old city, but changed our mind when Chantal returned. A storm came through before dinner, so instead of eating outside on the patio, we ate inside the youth hostel bar with Chantal. Chantal invited us to visit her at her home near Nantes, France, but before the thirteenth of July. Her husband was coming home from a year in Ecuador on the fourteenth of July. We had already made reservations for London, so we couldn't accept her offer. Our roommates were two young men from England, one from London and one from Oxford. They had a book, "London A to Z", and they helped us try to decide where to stay while we were in London.

Tuesday, 06 July 1999 Carcasonne: Lille

After breakfast with Chantal, we said goodbye and walked to the train station. On the way, we stopped at the grocery store and got cheese, bread, water and cookies. At the train station, we met two girls from the hostel that were from Quebec. We rode to Montpelier and changed trains. Then we ate our lunch that we bought in Carcasonne. Our train arrived late in Lille and we missed our train to London. We decided to change our reservations on the Eurostar to the next morning. It took about an hour waiting in line to change them. We still didn't have accommodations in London. We walked to the youth hostel in Lille. They had room for us, and we were able to stay there without reservations. Outside, they had two huge busses from Oxford, England. While waiting to register, a group of teen-age students came in and went upstairs. Just then we heard a loud banging noise in the street. It scared everyone. One of the students had thrown a firecracker out of the window. The manager of the hostel was very angry. She told the teacher that she would not allow this kind of behavior. If anything happened again, she would tell them to get back on the busses and leave. The teacher agreed with her. He told the students to go outside and that their behavior would not be tolerated. He and another teacher decided to collect all fireworks and search the students' rooms. We went upstairs to our room. After we unpacked, Bob went to the bathroom. While Sue was sitting on a cushioned bench outside our room in a foyer waiting for Bob, a student came up to the room Sue was sitting in and looked under a cushion on the bench she was sitting. He pulled out a firecracker and left. After he left, Sue (being the teacher that she is) decided to see if there were any more firecrackers under the cushion. She found a fourth of a bottle of vodka. Sue gave the rest to the boy's teacher. About 9:30 P.M. we went to look for a restaurant in the neighborhood. We found a Lebanese restaurant around the corner operated by a young Lebanese couple. When we returned to the hostel, it was very quiet.

Wednesday, 07 July 1999 Lille: London

After eating breakfast at the hostel, we walked to the train station to wait for the Eurostar. We met an older woman living in Belgium and visiting her son in England. A young mother and her son also waited for the train. The woman was English, but lived in France with her husband and son. She was returning after a long time to visit her family. She and Bob looked at a map of London hanging on the wall. While we were waiting, a policeman with a dog approached us and the dog sniffed our luggage and Bob (the luggage for drugs and Bob because of curiosity). The Eurostar was very comfortable. Each car in first class had a hostess. The hostess came to us after the train started and explained that they did not have a breakfast prepared for us, since we changed our reservations at the last minute. They offered drinks and beverages to us when they served the meal. Later, another hostess came by and offered us a normal breakfast. She explained that others had refused breakfast so there was enough for us (they looked at Bob and didn't want to eat. Maybe they felt sorry for him). We had a choice of a hot or cold meal. A hot meal consisted of broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms, yogurt, croissants, butter and a drink. A cold breakfast included three types of cheese, yogurt, butter, and a drink. We both had the hot meal. After they retrieved our trays, another hostess came by with hot towels for us. (She gave two to Bob). When we arrived at Waterloo Train Station, we had to go through customs. Our English roommates in Carcasonne recommended that we buy the book that they used, "London from A to Z". We found the book in a store called W. H. Smith at the train station. Then we had to find an ATM to get some English money. Then we bought the book. We browsed the Visitors' Information Center and found information about the youth hostels in London. We called the St. Pancras Youth Hostel for rooms. They had two single rooms available. We told them we would take them and we would be there as soon as possible. Next, we had to figure out the Underground (tube). There was a Tube station at Waterloo Train Station and while looking at a map of the Underground, an employee of the Tube noticed us and explained what to do, how to purchase tickets and what station we needed to go to for the youth hostel. We bought an all day pass. While riding the Tube, a recorded voice would announce the next stop. The announcement always started with the words "Mind the gap". We figured out that the gap was the vertical distance from the floor of the train to the floor of the platform. There was about an eight inch step down from the train to the platform. So, mind the gap. When we arrived at the hostel and got to our room, Sue was very surprised to see a toilet (with a toilet seat), lavatory and shower in the room that she told Bob that she must have died and gone to heaven. (she really said that) Our rooms were not in the main building. We had to exit the lobby, walk around the block to a separate entrance. When Bob came downstairs, he met a man that seemed to work there. Bob told him that he had never seen a youth hostel as nice as this one. The man replied that it was not a hostel, but a university dorm. The university leases out part of the building to a company that operates the hostel. The rooms we were staying in were actually students' rooms that were unoccupied during the summer. The university makes them available to the hostel when school is not in session. We checked email at the youth hostel. Then we went to a nearby park close to the Tube station and ate our cheese and bread lunch. After we unpacked in our rooms and rested we went to an Irish pub on the corner. Bob had a pint and a half of Guinness and Sue had a coke. During that time, we decided to have dinner there. Bob had Irish Stew and Sue had a chicken and leek pot pie. After dinner, we decided to go the Leicester Square to get two half-price tickets to a play or musical. We purchased tickets for Andrew Lloyd Weber's latest musical, "Whistle Down the Wind". We heard some of the songs in a PBS special on ALW and enjoyed them a lot. We walked to the theater and figured out how to get back to the hostel after the play. It would be late and we didn't know our way around. When we arrived at the theater, we were told that we had to go outside, walk around the corner, and reenter the theater, and walk up a flight of stairs to get to our seats. They were up pretty high and did not have much legroom. The play was good and the music was great!

Thursday, 08 July 1999 London

After a British breakfast of fried eggs (2), sausage, bacon, hash brown potatoes, croissant, (we skipped the baked beans and stewed tomatoes) we checked email and purchased tickets for the Big Bus Tour from the youth hostel. We also made reservations for the youth hostel at Stradford-Upon-Avon. When we walked, we noticed the words, "Look Left" and "Look Right" painted on the street at intersections. They probably saved our lives more than one time. We started on the Big Bus Tour at 10:00 A.M. The ticket could be used for twenty-four hours. We rode on the top of an open-air bus. We were able to exit and reenter any of the Big Bus tour busses. At noon, we ate lunch by the Tower of London. As part of the tour, we rode a boat on the Thammes River from the Tower of London to Westminster Pier, near the Abbey. We continued on the bus tour for the rest of the afternoon. From there, we returned to the youth hostel and had dinner at the hostel. We checked email at the hostel and went to bed.

Friday, 09 July 1999 London

After eating another British breakfast at the youth hostel, we continued the Big Bus Tour. We had until 10:00 until the ticket expired. We rode to Westminster Abbey and took a tour of the church for five pounds each. We got back on the Big Bus and rode to Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of the Guard. There was a group of British schoolchildren of ages six and seven in front of us. We were facing the street and plaza, not the palace. It was very, very crowded. When people started pushing us, we left. We saw about half of the ceremony. The Guard came to the plaza and marched inside the gates of the palace. We walked away from the Palace through a park and could see better there than from where we were, since it was somewhat higher. We continued walking through the park to Trafalgar Square. Then we walked to Leicester Square again. On the way, we called Rob and Julie, since we had not heard from Sue's son. When Bob spoke to Rob, he gave him some good phone numbers listed on the pictures in the phone booth. When we arrived at the square, we found another place to purchase half-price tickets. We agreed to see Les Miserables, but there were not half-price tickets available. We walked to the Palace Theater and bought two tickets for that night's performance at 7:30 P.M. We had lunch at another pub. At the pub, each person orders their drink and meal and sit down at a table. Bob ordered a Guinness with his meal. The female bartender, who was very entertaining, brought the food and drinks. In the foam of the Guinness, she had made an impression of a four-leaf shamrock. She was very talented! She moved the glass while pouring the ale so the design of a shamrock was formed. After lunch, we walked back to Trafalgar Square and went to the National Gallery of Art, which was free of charge. We saw the Impressionist paintings of Degas, Renoir, Monet, Pisarro, Cezanne and Van Gogh, as well as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. We were very tired after seeing the paintings, so we walked to a park to rest. Bob lay on the ground and went to sleep. Sue rented a lawn chair for one pound for four hours. After resting, we walked to the theater district and had pizza for dinner. Then we walked to the Palace Theater and saw Les Miserables. The theater was very hot and our seats were not together. We sat one row apart, but one seat away from each other. When the play was over, we took the Underground back to the youth hostel.

Saturday, 10 July 1999 London: Stratford-Upon-Avon

After our typical British breakfast, we did laundry again and packed. We took the Underground from St. Pancras to Paddington station. We stood in line for about twenty minutes to get our tickets to Stratford. As we were going to board the train, Bob saw a booth selling Paddington Bear souvenirs. Sue bought a Paddington Bear to take home. We rode a fairly crowded train to Stratford. When we arrived, we walked into town and found the bus stop. We rode the bus to the youth hostel and checked in. We had a family room with three beds, sink, toilet (with seat) and a shower. Another version of heaven! Our walk into Stratford was about three kilometers. We continued walking into a park which led to the Royal Shakespeare Theater. We wanted to see a play that night, but they were sold out. However, they did have a cancellation for two seats, which we could buy for about $60.00 apiece. We decided to get them, since it was a once in a lifetime experience to see Othello at the Royal Shakespeare Theater. We went to another pub for dinner. We went to the cash register, ordered and paid for our dinner, went to the bar for drinks and sat down. They served the food when it was prepared. The waitress told us they had a fire recently in the upstairs part of the building. No one was hurt and the damage was not extensive. After dinner, we went to the park and sat on a bench. From the bench, we could see a crowd standing around a performer. At the theater, Bob was able to get headphones so he could hear the play instead of napping. The theater was warm, but we had good seats. They were centered and just behind us was the projection booth. We both enjoyed the play. It was set in a pre World War I era, with clothing of the British Empire and Italian Army uniforms. When the play was over, we rode the bus back to the youth hostel. At the bus stop, we met a couple staying at the same youth hostel.

Sunday, 11 July 1999 Stratford-Upon-Avon

At breakfast, we met the couple from the bus stop. Melanie and Doug from Calgary were on a six-month tour of Europe before starting a family. They rented an apartment in Paris for a month. They had attended Wimbledon for the tennis tournament and were planning to attend the British Open golf tournament in Scotland. Doug was a partner in a software development company. He brought a laptop with them so they could get and send email and connect with their bank. Melanie worked for Nortel and quit her job so she could go on their trip. We shared a taxi with them to town. In town, we bought two books, one about Ireland and one about Switzerland. We were trying to decide whether to go to Ireland. We postponed our decision to take a walking tour of the birthplace of Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway's cottage. After visiting Shakespeare's birthplace in town, we walked along a one and a half-kilometer path from his house to Anne Hathaway's cottage. Will must have made the same walk. The path was paved and it backed up to the yards of the homes on either side of the path. Most houses had brick walls or high hedges along the path. At Anne Hathaway's cottage, the attendants showed us the courting bench that William and Anne probably used. Bob asked the guide about the bench, since Anne was three months pregnant when they married. The guide answered "They did take walks, you know". Bob said, "They must have been long walks". We walked back to town along the path. We caught the bus back to the hostel where we had dinner. After dinner, we met a couple from New Zealand. They were also on a six-month tour. As part of their trip, they were going to the United States and visit New York, Detroit and Los Angeles. Later that morning, we decided not to go to Ireland. Bob decided he would rather return another time when we could have more time.

Monday, 12 July 1999 Stratford-Upon-Avon: Lille

After breakfast with the New Zealand couple, we packed, checked out and donated the Lets' Go Ireland book to the youth hostel. It was too heavy to carry, and it was replaceable. We caught the bus to the train station. We rode the train to Marleybone station, took the Tube to Waterloo Station, where we bought our tickets to Lille. While eating lunch at Waterloo, we met Peggy, who lived across the street from Wimbledon and who played golf at her club there. Her cousin from Florida had just visited her and had commented on how well the French people dressed. We made the same observation. Peggy had two grandchildren whom she enjoyed spoiling. Bob asked her about her experiences during World War II. She told us that her parents sent her to the country, but had her return home because they missed her. Her younger brother had died at the age of two. One night, her mother and she had gone to the bomb shelter in their yard. They heard the German planes flying overhead and then they heard a whistle. They knew that meant a bomb was heading straight toward them and their house. Her father was still in the house. When they came out of the shelter, all they could see was smoke from the explosion. Finally, they saw her father coming out of the part of the house that was still standing. The rest of the house was destroyed. They also saw her pet ca t was injured. The cat ran away and they never saw it again. Her parents sent her back to her grandmother in the country. Schools were set up as residences for the people who lost their homes. Her father, who was an elected official, was able to pull some strings and rented a flat. Then they had Peggy return to London with them. We rode the Eurostar train to Lille and made train reservations for Strausbourg, France as soon as we arrived. Then we returned to the youth hostel and checked in for the evening. We walked to find a place to eat. We ate at a tavern/sidewalk cafe where we had salmon, lentils and wine.

Tuesday, 13 July 1999 Lille: Strausbourg

We slept late this morning, and missed the breakfast at the youth hostel. We walked to McDonald's and ate breakfast. Before we left, we tried to make reservations at the youth hostel in Strausbourg, Chamonix, Zermatt and St. Moritz. We were only able to get a booking in Strausbourg and Zermatt. We checked out and walked to Lille Flanders train station, where we got on the train to Paris Nord. When we arrived at Paris Nord train station, we had to go to Paris Est train station. Paris has five train stations. We thought we could walk, but didn't know where to go. When we asked some people, they told us to take the Metro. When we went to Metro, the lines to buy tickets were very long. Bob wanted to jump over the gate, but Sue didn't think we could do that with our luggage. Then Bob remembered another location to buy the tickets, so we went to that place. It was where we helped another couple from Las Vegas get their tickets when we were in Paris earlier. After we bought the tickets, we ran to the train. We made it just in time. On the train to Strausbourg, we sat beside two women. One had orange hair. When we arrived in Strausbourg, we went to the Visitors' Center below the train station. There we met Emily, who was also going to the youth hostel. We decided to go together. After we checked in at the youth hostel, we checked email. We used our charge card on the email PC. Bob had to push the keys on the keyboard very hard to type properly. We went for a walk to find a place to eat, but we couldn't find anyplace near the hostel. We returned to the hostel and bought dinner there.

Wednesday, 14 July 1999 Strausbourg:

Today is Bastille Day in France, a national holiday. After eating our typical youth hostel breakfast, we tried to make reservations for the hostel in a city near St. Moritz. We were told there were no vacancies. Then we tried for a room at Chamonix, the site of Mont Blanc in the French Alps. We were able to get a room for July 15 and 17, but not the 16 of July. Youth Hostel International will only reserve twenty per cent of the beds in any hostel. In addition, there are no reservations for a couple in a family room. The computer system only counts individual beds. We usually ask for a family room when we arrive at the hostel. The rest of the beds are held for walk up business. We rode the bus to the train station to make train reservations to Chamonix. There was not a direct train to Chamonix. We have to change trains three and four times. While making reservations, a man came in with two dogs on a leash. He was not holding the leash and one of the dogs spilled a cup of coffee on the floor. The man went to get a mop to clean up the mess. When he came back with the mop, the stationmaster was there and not happy. They exchanged angry words and then shoved each other. We walked to the cathedral next. The top of the cathedral was reached by climbing three hundred and forty steps, and gave a great view of Strausbourg. When we came down, we went inside the cathedral and saw a large sculpture of the crucifixion. Then we walked to Petite France. There we saw a boat go through the locks of the river. Petite France was very picturesque, with many old buildings and streets. We rode the bus back to the hostel. While Sue rested, Bob talked with a Danish boy staying in the hostel. He was fifteen years old and traveling alone. He lived in the middle island of Denmark. He said the furthest one could be from the ocean on his island was forty-five kilometers. Later we sat and talked with Emily from Sonoma California. She had worked in a French wine restaurant at home. She was traveling alone, but was going to meet her aunt in Paris tomorrow. Her aunt did not want to stay in a hostel, but in a Bed and Breakfast. When we ate dinner at the hostel, we met two boys from England. One boy was a vegetarian because his mother, a doctor, was afraid of mad cow disease. He wanted to exchange addresses with us and invited us to visit him in England. We think he wanted a place to stay in America. After dinner, we went to the bar at the hostel and bought Emily a drink. Two men were playing electronic darts. When we went to bed and were falling asleep, we could hear the fireworks in town.

Thursday, 15 July 1999 Strausbourg: Chamonix

We awoke at 6:00 A.M. and showered, dressed and packed. We were ready by 6:50, so we left before breakfast. We rode the bus, but got off when we saw a sign reading "Gare", but we didn't notice it said "Parking". We had a longer walk in a drizzling rain. When we arrived at the train station, we bought croissants, and water. We were planning to take a train at 8:20. We were early, so we took the train at 7:50. We rode five different trains from Strausbourg to Chamonix. The last train was called the "Mont Blanc Express". When we got off the train in Chamonix, we tried to figure out where the youth hostel was. We couldn't find it, so we asked a girl working at the train station. She told us the hostel was not in Chamonix, but in Les Pellerins, which was two stops away on the train route. We had to wait an hour for the next train, so we decided to eat lunch at a restaurant across the street from the train station. We wanted a sandwich, but the waitress said all she could bring us was quiche. We had quiche! Sue went to a store and bought water, wine and a beer for Bob. We rode the train to Les Pellerins. When we got off, a sign pointed the way to the youth hostel., so we started walking UPHILL. When we got to the hostel, Sue was hot and tired, so Bob went and checked us in. After we got to the room, we decided to do laundry. While the clothes washed, we checked email and drank wine at a table outside the hostel. When the clothes were drying, we ate dinner at the hostel. At dinner, we met a family from Strausbourg, France. Philippe and Caroline have two sons, William, eight and Baptiste, ten. William did not speak English and Caroline had some (but not many) difficulties with the vocabulary. She spoke French, Spanish and German fluently. After dinner, Philippe invited us to go with him to Chamonix to see a wall climbing competition and fireworks. Caroline said she did not want to go because she did not enjoy the noise of the fireworks. We agreed to go. We rushed to get the laundry folded and get ready to go. Philippe drove us to town in their car. We learned a lot about w all climbing competitions. The fireworks were great. We were very, very tired since we had to stand a long time and did not get home until after midnight.

Friday, 16 July 1999 Chamonix

We slept late this morning, since we got home late. We decided to ride the cable car up the observation tower to view Mont Blanc. At breakfast, we met Philippe and Caroline, William and Baptiste. They were going swimming at the pool nearby. We walked to Chamonix and went to a pharmacy to buy sunglasses and sunscreen. We found a place to get on the cable car and waited in line to buy a ticket and board the cable car. Bob was so excited to finally see Mont Blanc. It was cloudy the day before, but today the view was great. Sometimes, in the Alps, the peaks of the mountains create clouds from the blowing snow. We had to ride two cable cars to get to Aiguille du Midi. The two cable cars made right angles and that's why we had to switch cars. We were able to stand by the window both times. Sue said she felt claustrophobic while in the cars. When we arrived at the end of the second segment, there was a large observation deck, restaurant, fast food court and a bridge to a much longer cable car ride. That cable went completely over the glacier and ended in Italy. The tunnel below and through the mountain to Italy was the tunnel that had the explosion and killed and hurt many people. It is still being repaired. Also, Chamonix had an avalanche last winter that killed many people. At the top, there also was a souvenir shop that had incredibly cheap Mont Blanc fountain pens. The salesgirl told Bob she would throw herself over the cliff if he didn't buy one. He was a real hero and saved her life. (Don't ask Sue about this, she doesn't know Bob is a hero). We also bought post cards and a souvenir knife for Jim with "Mont Blanc" written on the handle. We ate lunch and shared a cheese and tomatoes sandwich and a piece of apple pie. Then we went to the terrace and took photos. It was very sunny and mild (with ice on the floor of the terrace). We both noticed the thin air at the high altitude. We returned to the bottom of the cable car terminal and walked around the town. Very nice, touristy, but high class! Sue bought a pair of slacks to replace the pair we threw out. They had shrunk, but the lining did not, and stuck out past the bottom of the pant's legs. Actually, we threw them out when we did the laundry last night and went back this morning to get them back. Sue hated the idea of getting rid of them. Now we can get rid of them for good. We walked back to the train station. We stopped at the same grocery store as yesterday and bought coke, wine and a beer. We went to a park across the street and drank the drinks. We continued to the train station where we got information on getting to Zermatt, Switzerland and the Glacier Express. We waited for the Mont Blanc Express and rode to Les Pellerins and walked back UP the hill to the hostel. There, we tried to check email, but it wasn't working right. We sat outside at a table, drank wine, wrote post cards and wrote in our journal. Later we had wine with Philippe, Caroline, and the boys.

Saturday, 17 July 1999 Chamonix

After we ate breakfast, we checked email, tried to reserve a room at the youth hostel in St. Moritz (this time we sent a fax) and tried to call the pension in Salzburg. We changed rooms at the hostel. We now have a view of Mont Blanc out of our window, but no shower in the room. We walked to the train station in Les Pellerins and took the train to Chamonix. We shopped at the Casino (grocery) and bought cheese, bread and water. We walked to the other train station in Chamonix and bought tickets for the train and cable car to Mer de la Glace. This train goes up the mountain on a rack and pinion drive. It was a pretty ride up the mountain. A group of teens were singing on the train. When we arrived, we ate lunch of cheese, bread and water. Then we rode the cable car down to the glacier. This glacier is the largest glacier in France. We walked inside the glacier. We could see the layers of ice. We got back on the train and rode back to Chamonix. We called the persion in Salzburg again and reserved a place for four nights. Then we called Jenny, but had to leave a message on her machine. We mailed post cards and walked to the train station, where we waited for the train. While we waited, two policemen came on the platform with a young boy and girl. They talked with a group of people and left with another young boy. There was a large group of people waiting for the train. It was so crowded when everyone got on that one group of young people decided to get off and wait for the next train. It was still crowded. We had a difficult time climbing over luggage to get off. While waiting for dinner, we did another load of laundry. We had dinner and wine with Caroline and Philippe. After dinner we sat outside and talked with Caroline and Philippe until 11:00.