France ~ Farmers still on strike making it a BIG challenge to get around

Thursday, July 23rd ~ Normandy area of France (part 1 of our day)

Well, the farmers are still on strike which is making it all the more challenging for us to get around. It is causing a nightmare for Uniworld to figure out how to reroute us via bus so that we can avoid the many closed highways, bridges and round-a-bouts. It has added a lot of strain and stress to the bus drivers as well as our tour guides. Our busses are very large, and maneuvering them down narrow roads, and make very tight turns in medieval cities is difficult.

The farmers seem to have a legitimate need to be heard, and having a strike is the way they make themselves noticed here in France. I will try to find the article again, but what we read yesterday, I believe that around 60,000 farmers here will be forced to file bankruptcy this year alone. It is primarily those raising beef who are currently having the most problems.  Continue reading

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France ~ Normandy Beaches revisited

Wednesday, July 22 ~ Normandy Beaches, Northern France

Normandy Beaches

Normandy Beaches

We have experienced unrest a couple of times on our travels including protests in Thailand and a rally in Ireland. In case you have not seen it in the news, the farmers in France are currently very unhappy and are blocking the roads with their tractors and piles of manure, making it challenging to get around. The bridges were blocked leaving Rouen as well as all the major highways and round-a-bouts.

Sample of road blockage as shown on Tim's iPhone

Sample of road blockage as shown on Tim’s iPhone

Thankfully our bus driver was very familiar with the area and was able to get us from our ship, avoiding all the problems, through the countryside and eventually to all of our scheduled destinations. It added on a couple of hours in total, making for a long day, but we very much enjoyed seeing the countryside and smaller villages.

I’m short on time, so will simply post some pictures from our day with a couple of links.

The first one is from our visit here a year ago. The second is simply more information on the D-Day and the Normandy landingsContinue reading

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France ~ Rouen, it was love at first sight!

Tuesday, July 21st ~ Rouen, France

Gros Horloge (astronomical clock) in Rouen

Gros Horloge (astronomical clock) in Rouen

I knew nothing about Rouen, and it has never been on my radar screen or wish list. What a glorious and wonderful surprise she turned out to be!

First of all, where is Rouen? This charming city is located in the northern part of France. It is roughly an hour and a half drive North of Paris.

Map of France courtesy of media.web.britannica.com

Map of France courtesy of media.web.britannica.com

Our day started at 9:00 with a 2+ hour walking tour through the city. Our guide, Barbara, was animated and truly superb. She kept us interested and engaged with her witty dialog, and filled our heads with tidbits of history as we traveled down cobble stone streets. Our walk was level today, unlike yesterday when we hiked up the hill to visit the castle.  Continue reading

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France ~ Giverny, Monet’s Gardens and Home, Les Andelys, Chateau Gaillard, Rouen

Monday, July 20th ~ Uniworld River Cruise, Seine River, France

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The River Baroness docked in Les Andelys

What a full, scenic, enjoyable, active, gluttonous, fantastic day! I can’t begin to tell you how much we are enjoying our Uniworld River Cruise. The service has been exemplary, the food wonderful, the excursions well-managed, and the ship itself spotless. The one and only downside, and I know this is a common problem on river cruises, is that the onboard internet is sometimes not as strong as I would like to see which makes writing my blog entries more challenging. Otherwise – we are off to a great start!

I will tell you more about the ship in a later post, but for now I will try to give a few highlights since we boarded the River Baroness yesterday in Paris.  Continue reading

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Paris ~ Père Lachaise Cemetery and the Eiffel Tower

Saturday, July 18th ~ Paris, France

Entrance to Pere Lachaise Cemeter

Entrance to Père Lachaise Cemetery

First, I would like to wish a very happy birthday to my sister, Jan. Looking forward to spending more time with her later this summer when we get to celebrate at my nephews wedding in August and then doing some boating together in the San Juan Islands.

Père Lachaise Cemetery ~ I know it may seem strange to many of you for us to visit a cemetery, but it is famous and listed as the #16 out of 1162 things to do in Paris. We missed it last time we were here, so put it on the list for this trip.

There are several large cemeteries throughout Paris, but probably the most well-known is Père Lachaise. Established in 1804 due to Napoleon’s decree that “Every citizen has the right to be buried regardless of race or religion”. Because the location was a distance from the city center and not consecrated by the church, it took several years before it became accepted.  Continue reading

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Paris ~ A day in pictures

Friday, July 17th ~ Paris, France

The Louvre Museum

The Louvre Museum

We wrapped up our Gate 1 tour today with an included city tour. Several of these pictures were snapped through the bus window, so the quality is not quite up to snuff with some slight distortion or glass reflection. I hope you will still enjoy seeing our highlights.

Continue reading

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Belgium ~ A long anticipated return to Brugge

Thursday, July 16th ~ Brugge, Belgium

Along one of several canals in Brugge, Belgium ~ Morning sun and reflections in the water

Along one of several canals in Brugge, Belgium ~ Morning sun and reflections in the water

Thirty plus years ago I took one of those “Tuesday it must be Belgium”, fly through a dozen countries in as many days, kind of tours. London, plus a few days in Ireland, a stopover in Copenhagen and a very short two days in Athens had been my only previous European experiences prior to that trip, and I was anxious to crowd in as much as I could.  Continue reading

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Belgium ~ Mussels in Brussels, Atomium and the Grand Place

Wednesday, July 15th ~ Belgium

A little cafe where we ate lunch in Brussels

A little cafe where we ate lunch in Brussels

We are leaving for dinner shortly, but I wanted to show the highlights from our brief stop in Brussels. Only having 4 hours here is almost criminal, but sadly that was all our tour allowed. Since I only have a few minutes, this will be brief with a some pictures and links where you can get more information.

Our weather has been overcast with the occasional light rain.

The Atomium was constructed for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Today it is a museum. The stainless steel spheres form an iron crystal that has been magnified 165 billion times.  Continue reading

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Amsterdam Canal Boats, Making Cheese and Clogs, Volendam

Tuesday, July 14th ~ Amsterdam and Volendam

Canal boat ride

Canal boat ride

We have officially started our Gate 1 tour. The Ramada Apollo Hotel offered up a decent buffet breakfast which is included in our stay. It is always nice to start the day with a warm, full belly. Our tour leader is Derek Payne, a British fellow who has been in the travel business for many years. Already he is setting a nice pace, keeping this relatively large group of 39 travelers in check, and cheerfully imparting both stories and pertinent information to us as we get in a short bus tour of Amsterdam en route to our canal boat excursion.  Continue reading

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Amsterdam ~ Anne Frank House

Monday, July 13th ~ Amsterdam

Anne Frank House/Museum

Anne Frank House/Museum

Everyone had warned us about the LONG lines to get into the Anne Frank House. Our hotel encouraged us to go first thing in the morning or suffer the consequences which would probably translate into waiting in line for 3-4 hours.

They officially open at 9:00 every morning, so we thought that arriving by 8:30 would be OK. Our friendly concierge advised us to go earlier, so we were IN LINE by 8:00, a full hour before opening time.  Continue reading

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