May 18, 2019 Neuschwanstein GE

Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the must see landmarks in Germany.  Ton had already been twice, but since this is my first time in Germany she suggested we should see it.  We signed up for the tour from the Army.  

We have seen these giant strawberries all over Germany.  

The first stop on the tour was Weiskirche which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It contains a religious relic called the Scourged Jesus.  In the 1700’s an old wood carved Jesus statue was found in the hayloft of a barn where it had been stored for a couple of generations.  The farmers wife built a small chapel to house it, and the morning after they placed it in the chapel she noticed tears on the face. 

The scourged Jesus is in the center of the altar.

The area of the farm is on an old Roman Road which was the main pilgrimage route from Bavaria to Rome, so the pilgrims began visiting the chapel and miracles occurred.  Over time enough miracles occurred that the Scourged Jesus was declared a religious relic and  received funding for a proper church around 1745. 

The exterior of the pilgrimage church of Wieskirche.

The church was built in the Rococo style and is known as a pilgrimage church as it is out in the middle of a field not near a town.  We have spent quite a lot of time in Gothic churches and cathedrals so the Rococo style was interesting for us to observe.  It is much more light and airy than gothic.  The art work is focused more on the ceiling of the church, and they try to achieve a 3D effect by blending statues into the art.  The art work was quite beautiful, and either well preserved or recently restored.  

The ceiling of the Wieskirche leading to the door to heaven.

After the visit to the church we were encouraged to try some Bavarian Donuts.  Every culture seems to have a variation of fried sweet dough, and so far they are all delicious. We sat down with a soldier to eat our donut and he was on his way home after having spent the last 8 months working with the State Department, and US Aid assisting with Syrian Refugees.  He said it was the most complicated assignment he had faced in his 34 years in the army.  It was fascinating to here his experience trying to deal with the Turks and the Kurds both of whom are allied with the US, but hate each other pathologically.

Bavarian Donuts.

The next stop was Neuschwanstein Castle, which is the model for the Disney Castle (they reportedly pay a royalty to the Bavarian Government annually for the likeness).  The castle is quite new having built by King Ludwig II in the 1860’s.  

This was the castle Leopold grew up in, it was not good enough so he built Neuschwanstein.

Ludwig was quite an eccentric and spent a great deal of the treasury and his families money building this castle and two others.  He was spending money at such a fast rate that eventually the Bavarian Government had him declared insane, and appointed his Uncle king.  Shortly after he was deposed he was found “accidentally” drowned along with one of his Doctors in three feet of water, even though he was 6’5” tall.

The view from the castle back up the gorge it is perched on.

The castle is quite an impressive structure, and the workmanship of the rooms was superb.  The tours are conducted with Germanic precision and no pictures are allowed of the interior.  I can now cross Neuschwanstein off my bucket list.

Neuschwanstein Castle.

May 17, 2019 Garmisch GE

Yesterday when we went into the Army facility near us the guards told us we should have our identification cards registered with US Forces Europe as it would make it easier  to get on other bases.  So we started the day by walking over to the Military Police Office, the process was quick and efficient.  The lady was very nice and told us we could use the facilities.  This base is a recreation and conference center so they actually sponsor a lot of tours.  After looking at their options we opted to sign up for a couple of tours, so we will be spending several days in the area.  

The first tour we signed up for was of the Greisbrau Brewery.  It was located about 40 minutes away, and the brewery is from the 1970’s, though the building is a few hundred years old, but was previously a cattle barn.  Wolfgang our host walked us thru the brewing process.  

Wolfgang enlightening us on the fine art of making beer.

We learned about the German Beer Purity laws which limit Beer to only three ingredients, Water, Hops, and Malt.  The talk was interesting and we were all paying extra attention as we had to take a test at the end to earn our Beer Drinkers Certificate.  Ton and I passed and we are now an official Bavarian Beer Connoisseur.

Wolfgang giving out samples of the beer to our group of future Bavarian Beer Brewers.
My certificate as an official Beer Connoisseur.

We ended the tour with a nice Bavarian meal.  It was a late night out so todays post is a little short.

Ton’s meal a meat and potato lovers delight.

Bavaria

Bavaria is probably the most well known region in the US.  Everyone knows about Munich and Octoberfest.  It also has several famous castles including Neuschwanstein.  The Alps are quite beautiful in the southern part of the state.  Of the regions we visited this was Ton’s favorite and my second favorite region in Germany.  Beer is king in Bavaria and we did enjoy a lot of good beers as well as a lot of fair beers.

May 20, 2019 Munich GE

Well unfortunately the weather forecast was correct, it is really raining out.  We lay around the room quite a while in the morning trying to

Read More »

May 19, 2019 Munich GE

Last night we discussed our next step. The weather once again is intervening in our plans.  The weather over the next three days is forecasted

Read More »

May 17, 2019 Garmisch GE

Yesterday when we went into the Army facility near us the guards told us we should have our identification cards registered with US Forces Europe

Read More »

May 16, 2019 Garmisch- Partenkirchen

The day began with indecision.  Thomas’ offer to attend his brewery event on Saturday was very tempting, so we began the day by looking at options to do around Reichnau until Saturday.  The other issue is the weather.  Today and tomorrow are the only two good days forecast in the next 12 days.  After today and tomorrow the Weather Channel App shows 10 consecutive days of miserable weather for Southern Germany, actually for most of Germany.  Ton even researched weather in other parts of Europe to escape the cold and rain.  Right now Oslo has the best weather, but it is a bit far away.  The interesting thing is that the temperatures are going to be warmer in the North of Germany than in the South, also the forecast showed slightly less rain in the North.

St. George Church, our last stop on Reichenau Island.

We still really wanted to take Thomas up on his offer so we talked about options including Switzerland (really expensive), just settling in Reichenau but we needed supplies mostly LP gas.  With the cold weather every night we are using a tank of LP every 4 or 5 days ( for comparison we used two tanks in 6 weeks on our trip to Spain).  After looking at options around the region we finally decided we needed to get going North towards the less lousy weather, so today we are in the Alps near the Austrian border.

Mountain valleys with many small farms, and villages.  The population is much denser in Germany than in Spain or France.

When we punched Garmisch into Greta Garmin she told us it was about 3 hours to drive the 250km’s, we add 30 minutes to all of her estimates as we are usually under the speed limit.  It still sounded like a pretty reasonable day.  The first problem is around Freidrichshaven we ran into really heavy traffic, so the first 100 kilometers of the trip took 2 hours, after we broke out of Freidrichshaven traffic thinned out, and then we found ourselves on the autobahn so all looked good.  With about 80km’s to go I noticed a sign that said we had just entered Austria, did not know that was going to happen, after a few minutes I remembered that Austria requires a vignette to drive on their roads.  A vignette is a sticker you buy in place of paying tolls, many countries require these ( one of the reasons we did not go to Switzerland is that they require an annual one that costs 40 Swiss francs).  So now we were outlaws as not expecting to enter Austria I did not research how to get a vignette or how much it would cost.  I decided to press on as our final destination is in Germany so I figured we must just be cutting thru a corner of Austria.

The dandelions were out in force as we drove thru Austria.

All was looking good as we had spent the last hour in Austria driving thru magnificent mountains and gorgeous valleys carpeted with flowers.  We passed back into Germany without getting fined, when we were 8km’s from the campsite for the night we came to a barrier across the road.  This was in a narrow mountain pass, so there was no local by pass.  Much cursing because when we turned down this road about 30 minutes earlier there was no indication that it was closed.

Typical of the roads in Austria, the mountains were spectacular.

So I told Greta to find us another route to Garmisch, her alternative was 80 km’s!  Lots of cursing now, as we are literally 10 minutes from our destination, and the detour is going to take nearly 2 hours.  So back up the road illegally into Austria again.  The next detour routed us thru a national park with narrow steep roads with views of  glaciers and glacier fed lakes, not a fast route but really gorgeous and nearly worth the trouble. 

The large glacier fed lake in Brentanwag National Park on the road we took on our detour caused by construction.
Another view from our unexpected detour.  

After 6 hours of hard mountain driving we arrived in Garmisch, and just before the turn into our campground we saw signs for a US Military compound.  After settling in we took a walk down there to see what they had.  It turns out it is a recreation center complete with hotel, 3 restaurants, and big American washing machines.  We had a beer and nachos while watching American sports. We are planning to return tomorrow with a load of washing.   A nice end to a hectic day.

Another view of the mountains around us tonight.

May 15, 2019 Reichenau GE

We have been enjoying Lake Constance so we decided to spend another day on the lake at a UNESCO World Heritage Site on Reichenau Island.  Yesterday we visited “Flower Island” and today we are visiting “Vegetable Island”.

The drive over was quick and uneventful except for a diversion to the ferry terminal as Greta Garmin decided that was the quickest way to Reichenau, she was probably right but we decided to skip the ferry fee, and after some resetting of Greta, we were on our way by road.

World Heritage Sites are usually pretty spectacular, so when we pulled on to Reichenau it seemed that the emphasis was on vegetables and not memorable architecture.  For our friends from Oregon think of Sauvie Island with three small churches.  After settling in to the Stellplatz we decided to walk on over to the Abby which is the largest of the three churches that make up the UNESCO site.  The walk was thru a bunch of vegetable fields where we played guess the vegetable, Ton won.

A field of different types of Lettuce on Vegetable Island.

We arrived at the Abby and it was a nice enough church but nothing spectacular. We finally figured out that the smaller church called St. George Church had the paintings that were what caused the UNESCO designation, and we had a couple of hours to wait until the next tour.

Part of the Abby which was the center of the religious order on the island in the middle ages.

The island this time of year is really very quiet and peaceful, and we spent quite a bit of time just wandering aimlessly around the streets enjoying the views of the lake and enjoying the ambiance and the greenery, it really reminded us of Oregon.   We visited the museum to try to understand the history of the Abby as the tour was in German so we needed to prep.

A reproduction of some of the art that we would see later in St. George Church.

Finally what we thought would be the highlight of the day was the tour of the interior of the church which has artwork from the 10th century that was rediscovered in the 1880’s  when the white wash that had covered them was removed.  The paintings are in the process of being preserved, access to the church is limited to help minimize the humidity in the church.

An example of the paintings from the 900’s that are being preserved at the entrance to the church.
Some of the art inside the chapel, this type of painting is very rare and this is the northern most church in Europe that this style is found.

The explanation of the on going work to preserve the paintings and the meaning of the paintings was quite extensive, but we did not understand much as it was of course in German.  But the guide was quite obviously proud of the work and very knowledgeable.

The exterior of St. George Church, sometimes modest structures hide real treasures.

We had planned on taking the bus back to François after the tour, but I was unable to figure out the bus system, and the bus guide we had did not match the one at the bus stop.  So being unsure whether the bus was going to take us home, or into Konstanz I talked Ton into walking the 2 miles back.  On the way she saw a sign for a grocery so we detoured down a side road where we saw a small brewery.

Being a little curious we crossed the street and were peering in the door when a man waved us in and welcomed us in German.  We were a little shy as we do not speak any German, but the man switched to English and asked us where we were from, when we told him Oregon he laughed and his wife smiled.  He said he got his Masters Degree from Southern Oregon University!  They have been operating the only microbrewery in the region for about 3 years.  Thomas insisted on giving us a tour of the facilities and a couple of beers to taste.  His beers are excellent.  We were also invited to a special event the brewery is having on Saturday including beer making, bands and food.  It looks like we may be staying in the far south of Germany for a few more days.

Thomas and me in his wonderful brewery. If you are anywhere nearby try Insel Beer.
We ended the day by walking down to the beach for a romantic sunset over Lake Constance.

May 14, 2019 Mainau GE

Woke to blue skies, so morale is up for the day.  We decided to spend another day here to further explore the area.  As we walked into town we decided to head over to Mainau Island to explore what is called the Flower Island.  

We had not done any research, but knew we had to take a ferry there.  The ferry was a little expensive, but the shock was the lady who sold us the tickets said there was a €20 charge to get onto the island once we landed that we should buy on the boat ride over.  At this point we were committed so on the ride we were feeling a little guilty about the cost, questioning our decision, and vowing to do more research next time.

Meersburg from the ferry as we were leaving.  The castle is in the upper left.

When we began the walk it became clear that the decision was a good one.  The island which is 110 acres is a giant botanical garden that is really well done.  The island is owned by a Duke and Duchess and was originally a Grand Dukes residence.  There is a strong Swedish royal connection, and the Swedish flag flies conspicuously on the residence.  

A really cute topiary that greets you when you enter the island celebrating the flower island theme.

During different times of the year they feature different flowers and for April and early May it was Tulips.  The flower gardens featured over a thousand varieties of Tulips interspersed with other flowers.  

Some of the tulips on display with other flowers mixed in, really well done.
Another beautiful flower patch with the Swedish tower in the background.

In addition they had a petting zoo full of cute animals, and a butterfly building with thousands of butterflies flying around that we got to walk thru. 

A Shetland Pony pony that Ton thought was really cute.
Ton’s favorite butterfly amongst the thousands in the butterfly building.
This lady was kind enough to pose for a couple of minutes while Ton and several other people took pictures of the butterfly in her hair.

Their Arboretum was full of very interesting trees most of which we could not identify, but interestingly they had about 15 or 20 Sequoias from California.  Beside the tulips there were other flower gardens including poppies, and rhododendrons.

A giant sequoia that had been moved from California at some point.
Ton loves poppies.

While we may not have known what we were getting into when we got on the ferry there was no doubt that it was a great decision.  Mainau is by far the best botanical garden we have visited in the world. What we thought would be a quick couple of hour visit turned into a whole day on the island.

The Alps towering over Lake Constance.

We ended the day by visiting the most famous winery in Meersburg Staatsweingut.  We tried a couple of their whites, a red and a rose that was labeled Spätburgunder we liked the rose and asked what grape it was made from.  After some asking around amongst the staff it turns out that Spätburgunder is German for Pinot Noir.  

Heart shaped vines outside the tasting room at Staatsweingut.

May 13, 2019 Meersburg GE

Another cold night last night with lows in the high 30’s.  The weather has been less than ideal this trip.  We have so far had only two sunny days, we have several days of heavy rain, and even the days when it has not rained have been cloudy and cold.  It is starting to wear on us a bit. 

There were 5 vans in the Stellplatz last night and we were the last to leave in the morning by a good bit.  We have a good excuse as we were up at about 5am celebrating the Trailblazers game 7 win in the NBA playoffs.

We wanted to swing by Lake Constance while we were in this part of Germany.  It is about 40 miles long and 7 miles wide at its widest point.  Germany, Switzerland, and Austria all have part of the lake.  Some of the tourist ads refer to it as Germany’s Riviera which is stretching it.

Lake Constance and the lower town of Meersburg from the top of the castle.

Meersburg made a favorable impression on us, though I think it would have made an even better impression if it was not gray, windy, and about 50 degrees. (OK I am done complaining about the weather.) Meersburg is a nice  town with two very distinct levels. As you look over the lake towards Switzerland you can see the Alps.   The upper level has a couple of very large estates one of which is an upscale winery, and the other a museum.  The lower level has some typical tourist stores as well as a lot of nice restaurants.

Vineyards stretching down the hill towards the ferry landing.

There is also an old castle that looked interesting so after some debate we decided to go for the tour.  It turns out that this is the oldest castle in Germany dating to the 1300’s.

The entrance to the castle.

This castle is in private hands now, after the church moved to a modern castle in the late 1700’s a family bought it in the 1800’s and still lives there today.  The first impression was just ok as we walked in just as about 60 French middle schoolers arrived.  But one of the guides came to us and told us to wait a few minutes to let the middle schoolers go, and we could join a guided tour that included a climb to the top of the tower which was not on the public tour.  The tour was in German, but she went out of her way at each stop to pull us aside and give us information in English.  

A view of the castle from the lower town. We climbed to the top of the center tower.

Like many castles it went thru several additions, and remodels so several different architectural styles are represented.  It did successfully withstand one siege of two months in the 1600’s.  They also have an extensive collection of armor and weapons from the middle ages until the late 1700’s.  

Part of the collection of medieval armor and arms in the castle.

It turned out to be a great tour.  At the end the guide spent twenty minutes with us discussing the area, different dialects of German, and other fun things.  She convinced us to stay another day and explore some more.

Ton took this picture on the way back to François.  It is one of her favorites so far on the trip.

May 12, 2019 Triburg GE

Tonight we are sitting at the bottom of a ski run in the Black Forest of Germany.  We are near a small village called Schonach and the Aire/Stellplatz is quite nice.  When we arrived there was no machine to pay so we went to the info board, and it said to pay at a hotel in town.  The hotel was 800 meters (about 1/2 mile) away, we thought this was weird, but chalked it up to different ways.  We made the trip, paid our €7 and headed back to François with a packet of paper giving us permission to park.  When we got back to the Stellplatz a German Van pulled in.  We saw them wandering around, and then there was a knock on the door, and they asked how to pay.  I did my best to explain, they looked confused, and kept asking 800 meters?  After the third time trying to explain I took them over to the board and showed them.  They shook their heads and muttered in German as they headed into town, so the set up here is not a German thing, just weird.

It was still early so we decided to head down to a town nearby called Triburg which is supposed to be the Cuckoo Clock capital of Germany.  We knew we were in the right place as everywhere else we had driven thru on this trip was closed for Sunday, this place had nearly every store open.  There are several stores selling cuckoo clocks, and a couple of nice looking restaurants.  The town also has the highest waterfall in Germany, but we had a minimum walking policy for the day that was already messed up buying our parking pass, so we passed on the hike.

Germany’s highest waterfall was up above but we did not have the motivation to climb the hill.

We did drive down to see one of the worlds largest cuckoo clocks, it is quite large but it is unclear where it stands in the world of large cuckoo clocks.  It appears to have held the record for two years before being passed by one in Steamboat Colorado.

Probably the second largest cuckoo clock in the world in Triburg Germany.

May 11, 2019 Breighau GE

Today was certainly less hectic than yesterday.  We woke up a little earlier than usual, but were in no hurry to get going for the day.  After puttering around for a while we decided to head into Freiburg.  

Freiburg is supposed to be one of the greenest cities in Germany, it is full of walking trails and bike paths. When we checked in I got a lecture about how to sort our garbage before depositing it at the campground.   

This walking trail follows the river from the campground to downtown Freiburg.

The old town walls are mostly gone but two of the old gates are still in place.  We headed to the Cathedral square and were surprised by a very large farmers market.  We spent about an hour poking around the market looking at the various vegetables.  There were three sausage grills going that were doing booming business. I was drooling, Ton was more impressed with the number of vegetables for sale.

One of the three sausage carts.  The number of sausages was impressive, and the smells were to die for.

We went in to see what the interior of the cathedral looked like.  As we went in unlike almost any other cathedral we have been in many people were sitting in the pews. It turns out there was an organ concert scheduled in a half hour so we sat down and waited.  The concert was really nice, and the cathedral was packed.  

The organist just sitting down to begin the concert.

In fact when we left the concert the city center of the town was really packed with people.  We were both startled with the number of people as this is not a big city, but it was really busy.  After one more pass thru the city we headed back to the campground.

This gargoyle is mooning the city hall.  The story is that when the cathedral was being built the town council told the stonemasons working on the cathedral that they needed to work faster, and with more detail.  This gargoyle is the response from the stonemasons guild to the request.  It was done quickly and with a great deal of detail.

As soon as we got back the wind really started howling, and then rain kicked in.  We did get our laundry done which is always a landmark event on these trips, so all in all a productive day.

May 10, 2019 Breighau GE

Today was supposed to be an easy day.  We only traveled 70km’s and the only chore for the day was to fill the LP gas.  That was where the easy day unraveled.  

We had our first experience of German Autobahns as we left Kehl we traveled for about 50km’s on the autobahns and for a 15km stretch there was no speed limit.  So we were puttering along in the right lane at about 90kph (roughly 55mph) while cars were blasting by in the left lane at least double that.  The roads are really good though and free.

About 20km from Freiberg we saw a sign advertising LP gas at the next exit so we whipped in for what I thought would be a quick fill.  Our LP gas system that we use for cooking, heating, and running the refrigerator when we are not plugged in is British, and a bit unusual for Europe.  Most RV’s carry cooking bottles and they exchange them when you run out.  Unfortunately the bottles and the regulators are not standardized in Europe.  To get around this problem we bought this British fixed bottle gas system, and you fill it from a pump like the US.  The pumps are pretty common at gas stations as a fair amount of the cars and vans here run on LP gas.  The only problem is the pumps are not standardized there are 4 different systems, one for France and Spain, one for Germany, and one for Britain, I am not sure where the fourth system is used.  The system came with 4 different adaptors so I could hook up to the pump depending on what country we were trying to fill up in  Now that you know way too much about LP gas in Europe here is the story.

We have filled up in France on multiple occasions so I thought no big deal as I pulled up to the pump.  When I opened the bag that I keep the adaptors in the German one was missing.  After digging around hoping it had come loose and was rolling around in the back I remembered that in Spain I was sorting thru them the first time I filled up there.  I am certain I forgot it in Spain.

We need gas so I said some bad words and got in the car, confessed my stupidity, and as I drove on to Freiburg Ton began researching propane stores.  We tried one RV dealer without success, and when we arrived at the campground I asked the receptionist if she could help.  She was kind enough to call around to ask.  After a couple of calls she told me there was a place that had it, so we were off.

When we arrived they realized we were talking about something different than they thought.  They took a look at our system and said the words I did not want to hear, we do not have these in Germany.  But the two of them had a further conversation and asked me to wait a minute.  A few minutes later one guy walked out and handed me a sticky note with the address of an Esso fuel station.  He said the owner had a box of adaptors people had forgotten in the past and I was welcome to go see if one that would work was in the box.  Well to make a long story short there was a well used one in there and it works.  Even better he would not take any money for it.  So we are not faced with calling England and arranging to have one shipped to us here in Germany!

The well used replacement adaptor.

To make penance for my stupidity I took Ton to two groceries store for some recreational shopping.  We always say we are traveling not vacationing, so today was a day for traveling not sight seeing.

Baden-Wurtemberg

The southern most part of Germany is a great mix of mountains, forests and lakes.  It was the most “natural” part of Germany we visited and we particularly enjoyed the area around Lake Constance.

Loire

The Loire Valley is another beautiful area in France.  We have just touched on it on both of our trips in 2018.  We have more to explore there.

Castle in Loire Valley

 

Posts for Loire

Normandy and Brittany

We visited Normandy and Brittany unexpectedly in the Fall of 2018 after being urged to do it by nearly everyone we met.  We are planning on returning for a more extensive visit in the future.  Besides the D-Day beaches Normandy also has Mont St Michel one of the iconic places in France.

Auvergne

We stopped for a couple of nights to try out some Beaujolais wine, and to visit a volcanic mountain, this area really appealed to us.  We love the cheese from Salers.  The capital of this area is Lyon the second biggest city in France.  We made a short visit to Lyon in our Fall 2019 trip.

The beautiful rolling countryside of Auvergne.

April 13, 2018 Orcines FR

Today we reluctantly left Burgundy.  But before leaving we wanted to take a look at some more of the Beaujolais country.  Somewhere around Julien we

Read More »

Aquitaine

We made a couple of stops in Aquitaine, primarily to visit the famous Bordeaux wine country.

I

Midi Pyrennes

We have not really explored this region, but just stopped a couple of times coming and going.  Ron really liked Albi.

The gardens at the castle in Albi.


April 15, 2018 Albi FR

The day started out with a visit to the cheese shop under the supervision of Patrick the campsite owner.  He also had a French couple

Read More »

Provence

On our first trip we spent a lot of time in Provence and it lived up to its’ reputation.

April 24, 2018 Gordes FR

Today we headed towards another one of the most beautiful villages in France.  Gordes is considered a must see stop in Provence by most of

Read More »

November 16, 2019 Tournon-Sur-Rhone FR

We woke up early with only two things in mind for the day.  Head over to the Valrhona Chocolate company, and then jump in François and do a marathon drive on the Autoroute to Sens.

Both missions were accomplished, when we went out for our walk to the chocolate company we were surprised to see two river cruise ships tied up to the docks right next to the campground.  The fog was dense and you could barely see them but they loomed in the dark.  We think all of the passengers had already taken off for their day trips as the crew of one of the ships were engaged in a vigorous snow ball fight on the top deck which is usually used for the passengers to enjoy the sun and the views.

The pedestrian bridge across the Rhone shrouded in fog.

We arrived at the factory and Ton did some sampling and shopping while I sampled and tried to figure out why our internet was out of order.  Ton was much more successful than I was.  After much sampling and comparison we departed Valrhona with a kilo of chocolate to take home to Oregon.

François sitting on the banks of the Rhone, trust me.

We quickly packed up and headed to the autoroute.  At the entrance to the autoroute I was distracted going up to the gate where you get the ticket to enter.  In France they have a Telepass station where you put a transponder in the car and do not need to stop at the toll gates.  As I drove up to one of the two entrance gates I was not paying attention, so when I pulled up to the machine that usually dispenses the ticket you need, nothing happened, and then after a few seconds a recording began lecturing me in French about the fact that I had entered the telepass gate, after about 20 seconds of being scolded in French, and having a picture taken of our plate (there was a flash at the rear of François which I presume was a camera going off), the machine dispensed the ticket we needed, the barrier went up and we were on our way.  I fear there may be a fine in our future.

Windshield shot of a castle off of the A6.

The rest of the day consisted of us navigating the 430 km’s on the autoroute, and paying a huge toll at the end.  Before heading back to the aire in Gron which is our normal beginning and end of trip stop we also filled up a thirsty François to the tune of €120.  The days when we see the least are often the most expensive.

Fall colors as we return to Burgundy.

September 24, 2018 Chartres FR

Our plan when we arrived was to head towards Spain, so of course we drove north today to Chartres.  Along the way we decided to visit Normandy and Brittany on our way to Spain, so we had to divert north to get to Normandy.

We decided to visit Chartres primarily to see its Gothic Cathedral.  We visited Sens Cathedral the other day which is billed as the first Gothic Cathedral, and Chartres is supposed to be the best example of a Gothic Cathedral.  Chartres still has its’ original stained glass as during both wars they removed it and stored it safely.  During WWII the cathedral was in danger as the allies moved towards Paris, but an American Colonel successfully negotiated with a German General to declare Chartres an open city, so there was no  battle fought for the city.

The exterior of the Chartres Cathedral.  Note the contrast between the recenly cleaned upper part, and the uncleaned lower part.  The maintenance of these buildings is daunting.

On our way out of Chinon we decided we wanted to visit a winery, we drove thru the countryside only to find it was closed.  Disappointed again, we wrote off getting a taste of any Chinon wine, but on our way out of town Ton spotted the new tasting room for the winery we had driven out into the country to see.  Pierre and Bertrand Couly had opened a new tasting room on the highway to Chartres, Chinon Red wines are what we call Cabernet Franc in the US.  We spoke to the wife of the owner and she did a great job explaining the wines of the area.  She was aware of Oregon wines as her husband had spent some time at Sokol Blosser winery in Oregon in the 1980’s.

The very fine winery Pierre & Bertrand Couly.  As the owner said you do not have to have an old facility to make traditional wines.

The three hour drive to Chartres was uneventful as the “N” road that we used most of the way was quite good.  We parked in a free overnight spot, and walked about a mile into town to see the cathedral.  The cathedral was indeed impressive, and the interior stain glass windows were among the best we have seen in France.  The cathedral was constructed in the early 1200’s after the previous Romanesque Cathedral had burned.  The cathedral is deservedly a UNESCO world heritage site.  Besides admiring the beauty of the building we also again discussed the maintenance of these immense buildings.  Just keeping the exterior clean is a full time job. 

One of the stain glass “Roses” at Chartres, this one dates from around 1210 and is the original glass.

After touring the cathedral we decided not to wait for the light show, so we walked back to François.  Frankly we were a little peeved with one of the attendants who would not let us take the last crypt tour, and did it in a way that seemed unnecessarily officious to us while simultaneously refusing to speak English, even though we had just heard him giving an explanation of the tour in perfect English to another person.  I hope he was just having a bad day.  We had a light dinner and a relatively early night as we have a long drive to Normandy tomorrow.

Some of the art work in side the Cathedral.