Mother in Luxembourg

European Journal 2 : The Revenge

This has been a busy year with my finally deciding to volunteer with the VSO organisation (see here for more information) for two years in the Gambia. This has meant that I had to forgo my normal trip back to Canada to visit family at Christmas in the situation where VSO might have needed to send me to training during this period.

My mother thought that it would not be a good idea to leave me alone over Christmas so decided late in the summer that she would come to England to keep me company. I felt quite guilty about her coming over and leaving the rest of my family over the holidays so I thought that I would make the period even more special by returning to Europe, seeing Paris and other sights as well as even getting in some of mother and my favourite sport: Skiing.

Of course, this trip was not an easy one to plan and meant a lot of organization least of which was the arrangement of the travel across the Channel on the EuroTunnel and the hotels in the two different countries we would be staying in.

Since this was really very much a holiday, this journal is not as detailed as I have done in the past and is based largely upon rough notes.

Sunday, December 23rd, 2001 - Woking to Paris

We were hoping to do a bit of sight-seeing or at least a bit of a diversion before heading to the channel tunnel (EuroTunnel) for our departure at 12:05 but we felt, after sleeping a bit later than we would have liked, that it was best just to head to the tunnel. This proved to be a good decision since there was quite a wait when we got there. As soon as we left the motorway near Folkstone for the tunnel we got into a “queue” and took a few hours before we were able to get to a “tollbooth” to check in (I had pre-booked our ticket). It turns out that a train had been stuck in the tunnel due to “frozen points” (ice build up on one of the track switches).

By the time we had checked in and used the…facilities…of the terminal building (waiting area) – which is not too bad, a few places to eat, buy things…We were able to go directly for departure though that also had to wait because though the earlier train had been cleared of the tunnel, another had become stuck. Fortunately, it was not too long before we followed the queue of cars onto the train.

I picked the train since I knew that mother had never been on the channel tunnel before and it is a bit interesting (and costs just about the same as a ferry ticket). It was generally uneventful as we waited to get to the other side though we took the opportunity to get the car ready for driving in Europe (you have to have a “GB” sticker and redirect the headlights so that you do not blind other drivers as you drive on the right side of the road). The headlight re-directors that I had purchased did not work (or did not have instructions) for my car.

In France we were surprised to see snow on the ground all around Calais as there was none in England. We made our way south to Paris and I was not too upset about the headlights not being redirected since it seemed that only high-beams would cause the other drivers any sort of distress (blind them). We headed to Paris where we were able to find the “Peripherique” and followed that around the north-west side down south and eventually left the road and got lost trying to find the hotel. We wandered around for a few minutes since the signs on the streets were not always actually present (making life more difficult).

Eventually we found the hotel (a chain hotel, Ibis) which had no parking facilities or rather, we learned, a car park that had been flooded due to some rather drastic street works (more about that later). Even if we could use it the car park entrance was a small thing right off the street and VERY narrow. We parked the car just a small distance down the street, attempting to find a spot to leave it where it did not look illegal (no signs, no obvious road markings).

We lugged our luggage (!) to the hotel and it is really quite pleasant – a nice lobby and very helpful staff. We took the rather small elevator to our floor and found our room which is very large with two double (queen) beds with not a fantastic view out the window but it is not bad. The room is shaped a bit odd with the window cutting off one corner of the space.

It was a long day so we were both quite hungry so we asked the guy at the front desk about where to go to eat and he recommended a place that we eventually found on a side street that served French but mostly Moroccan-style cuisine (I had a “tagine” and mother had essentially a salad). The waiter was not exactly attentive but the meal was fine and VERY filling (we could not finish it).

Monday, December 24th, 2001 - Paris

The day started well as we headed down to the second (first) floor of the hotel for breakfast. It is a room that faces the street (much like our room) with a few tables and a small round table with fresh bread, cheese, croissants, cereals (muesli, etc), jams, fruit, etc. It is very nice and provides not too bad a view out of the window. We were the only guests we saw there.

We have found out about what exactly happened to the car park at the hotel. As we finished breakfast we headed out for the day and went directly south of the hotel and found that the street was barricaded. At the end of this street there was a massive hole in the ground – it seems this is also why our phones also do not work at the hotel (except to call other rooms in the hotel or the reception). There have been various utility vans coming and going all the time we have been here (so far).

Walking just a short way down the road we found the local Metro station and picked up our tickets to the Louvre (there is a flat rate to go anywhere on the Metro, essentially). The station and platform was quite small but very clean. We actually took the Metro directly to the Louvre – there is a station in the mall under the Louvre area (it is a BIG area – small mall though, VERY up-scale), the Carousel du Louvre). We wandered around a few places, picking up some stamps at the post office there and then made our way to the entrance of the Louvre right under the pyramid. There was NO queue and we noticed that there was this really interesting elevator that transported people from the level of the mall to street level in the pyramid that was completely open, essentially a large piston that raised and lowered into the ground. Very French.

Mother below the Louvre Pyramid

Mother and I have previously been to the Louvre though mother had never seen the Mona Lisa so we used that as a starting point on our travels, taking time to see things along the way – after all, my previous visit had been for all of about one hour so I had not really had any time to really appreciate the museum (they say it would take the best part of a week to really see the museum. They have put the Mona Lisa at the far end of one of the “arms” of the museum and as we approached there were even ropes set up to keep people filing past the picture in an orderly fashion (it is very popular). The room the picture is in is essentially empty on the one wall where the Mona Lisa is (with a guard rail around it at quite some distance) with only a few pictures on the other walls (which are quite good – though we wonder how many of the tourists there even noticed).

We enjoyed a number of other things as we continued wandering around including a display of Chinese artefacts, the Venus de Milo and an interesting display about the original building that was the Louvre. Evidently it was initially a fort of some description and we were able to wander around the re-constructed foundation and even into the original dungeon. Very interesting and all something new to both mother and myself.

One of the Many Sights inside the Louvre

Lunch was a bit problematic as we were a bit later in the afternoon so eventually we had to settle for some sandwiches (very good though they were) from a small café in the mall under the Louvre – the proper restaurant did not have a lot left over after the lunch period.

We left the Louvre and crossed Pont Neuf then along the south side of Ile de la Citie as I knew that mother had never been to Notre Dame. It was a pleasant walk though we had to dodge a few cars and we wandered around some of the back streets which were filled with some very nice shops (all closed on Christmas Eve, it seems). When we arrived at Notre Dame there was a large tent in front of the cathedral that was evidently showing a multi-media show about the history of the area – we were interested only in the cathedral so went inside. Obviously, being this close to Christmas it was quite busy inside but very nice and quite interesting to walk around. It is very dark and – despite the people – quite quiet.

Musee d'Orsay from Pont Neuf

When we left the cathedral we were disappointed to learn that we had missed the last entrance to climb to the top of the towers at the front of the cathedral but I have seen this before and it has been raining pretty much all day. No sunshine yet.

I had been told about the ice rink outside the Hotel de Ville (city hall) so we headed over there, stopping only briefly to pick up some roast chestnuts from a street vendor (very nice, though not entirely cooked through). In front of the quite magnificent looking hall there was a small ice rink set up that was just jammed with people madly skating around – rentals off to the side. To add to the atmosphere there were also a few carousels (Merry-Go-Rounds) there for the kids (with two levels on them!).

The Hotel du Ville was closed so we wandered along the Rue de Rivoli and it was now just starting to get dark. There were a lot of people out buying last minute gifts as we passed a few stalls set up outside of La Samarataine (a famous department store – with interesting decorations – wildly painted designs on the exterior).

After discussing it for a few minutes we headed down a small side street (we had a lot of time) and found a small café/bar that was a bit smokey to have a drink (coffee and coke). It was not the best place in the world – very small with even a bit of a pharmacy at one end of the bar. It seemed to be a local hang-out and the waiter was a bit disappointed at our small order. We sat for a few minutes and “people watched” out of the front window. It was amusing to see someone who was parked VERY close to someone else on the street as they slowly backed into the other car and then KEPT backing up until the other car had it's front pushed down and rear pushed up (since the brakes were applied) and then this guy was able to get out and off he went…Nice.

We passed along the north side of the Louvre and along the series of small shops (stopping in a small art gallery for a few things along the way – most of the shops sell either complete rubbish “Paris” souvenirs or very expensive antiques – getting more rubbish as you get further from the Louvre).

We made our way to the “Roue de Paris” which is a large Ferris wheel that was put in place during the celebrations for the millennium and is still operating. It is right between the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre at the end of Champs-Elysees. It is VERY garish and impressive (though not, I am told, as tall as the Millenium Eye in London) – very traditional style with all sorts of small stands selling junk food around the base. We made our way to the ticket booth and ended up sharing a cabin with a couple of kids. It was a very nice view but very much a ride rather than a sight-seeing opportunity. They did stop us for a few minutes at the top so we could take a look around but by and large the trip was very quick around a few times.

Roue de Paris

Roue de Paris - Close Up

We then walked up the Avenue Des Champs-Elysees and looked at the lights all in the trees (simply white) and we passed by an intersection where there were groups of evergreens on each corner in a small “garden” all decorated with lights. I was quite hungry but mother wasn't as we eventually passed all the restaurants and made it to the Arc de Triomphe…to find out that it was closed early today. A bit annoying as we had to return once again in the underpass to the Champs-Elysees and, not finding any restaurants we could both agree on we returned to the hotel by the metro.

The Champs-Elysees at Night

After not finding any restaurants in the middle of Paris our luck quickly went away when we found absolutely nothing open all around the hotel. We eventually found a local patisserie and our Christmas Eve dinner consisted of a few baked things (I had a meat-filled bun of some description and mother had a few small vegetarian buns). Actually, it was quite pleasant and the desserts we had were wonderful.

Tuesday, December 25th, 2001 - Paris

It has been a charming Christmas Day - cool with a LOT of rain and this was the day we choose to be outside for most of it.

Mother in Metro in Paris

We began the day by my giving mother a few gifts that I had hastily wrapped before leaving England. We helped ourselves to some chocolates we had as well and I put some Christmas music on on the computer but we eventually had to leave to let the cleaners in. Not quite a Christmas as I remember but nice nonetheless, just different.

We had decided that we wanted to spend a bit of time walking around since we knew that not much would be open so we headed out for the Eiffel Tower which we can see in the distance from the hotel (though we held no illusions about how far away it was). We headed down a road beside the train tracks and found a local fish market that we spent some time in looking at the fresh scallops (VERY cheap) and fish. We headed down the back streets winding our way towards the tower though not a lot was open (though most of the patisseries seemed to be).

The rain was not really coming down for most of the walk to the tower though by the time we got there it was really very wet (and I have learned that the tower does not really offer a lot of protection from the rain if you are under it – as I was waiting for mother to find and use the toilets).

After the tower we took a chance and walked along the river the fair distance to the Musee d'Orsay which we had read would be open on Christmas (though had a bit of debate about taking a taxi since it was raining quite hard at the time). We eventually winded our way along the river only to find that the museum was NOT open though by the look of things we were not the only ones to find this out the hard way.

Being a bit upset about this we consoled ourselves at a café just down the road and dried out for a few minutes over a wonderful hot chocolate (they do they really nice here – lots of whip cream and VERY rich chocolate) and coffee.

We were right opposite the Louvre and mother remembered that the tour buses leave from right close by so we headed over and decided to book ourselves on a tour for later in the evening.

At this point it was getting a bit late so we headed off to the Eiffel Tower to go up in it – we had waited until the evening since we believed the view would be better at night with all of the Christmas lights out…We used the metro and got out a ways down the river from the tower and got into a queue that very quickly got us tickets and onto the elevator to the first platform (though we stayed on the same elevator to go to the second platform). The elevators are quite interesting in that they are two stories high and offer great views as you head up the tower (not for the faint of heart, obviously). We basically headed directly to the second elevator that took us all the way to the top platform which we were lucky was open since the rain and wind by now was quite something. We were outside at the top but one of the sides of the tower we simply could not see anything out of because of the driving rain.

Mother at Top of Eiffel Tower

Most of the pictures I took outside with my new digital camera caught passing raindrops which made it a bit frustrating but I did get some interesting ones.

Eiffel Tower at Night

We had a few minutes of wandering around the top as we took some photos (from the inside since outside was a bit inclimate). We were able to get a bit to eat inside at a snack shop – vegetable soup in a polystyrene cup (very good), hot chocolate and a coffee. Very good Christmas dinner! We had to stand to eat it as well…definitely not turkey with all the trimmings.

After spending some time finding a toilet (that we never did find) at the tower we eventually got back on the metro to return to the departure point for our night tour (they had a unisex toilet there). We had to wait around for some time while they sorted out which of the buses we were to be taking (there seemed to be a fair amount of confusion) but we eventually got on the appropriate bus, passing on our tickets and making our way to the upper level for a better view.

The tour was interesting as we passed by the old opera house and all along the shopping districts admiring the lights on the shops as well as on the light standards. I think the best was the Roue du Paris and the Champs-Elysees with all of the lights in the trees lining the avenue. We had a bit of a tour of the whole city though the lights are what we were there to see.

Eventually we made it to the base of the tower and parked beside the river where we caught a tour on a boat of the river as it made it's way past Notre Dame and then returned. It was very relaxing if a bit cool and wet.

This was a late night for us as we made our way to the metro for the trip home. A bit disappointing but the tours in the evening definitely made it a bit better.

Wednesday, December 26th, 2001 - Paris to Scionzier (France)

Mother Outside of Our Hotel in Paris

We started the day by leaving the hotel and heading out of the city. It was a bit tricky finding the motorway but eventually we found it and encountered traffic jam after traffic jam as we made our way south then east across to Geneva. We experienced a lot of rain and when we eventually got into the Alps outside of Geneva the weather really turned and it was already dark with a LOT of snow but the temperature not cold enough for it to NOT be slippery. We crept along for a long time at about 10 miles/hour or less just staying at a good distance from the car in front. The big debate of the day was as to whether I had all- season tires (or winter for that matter) but I think we both agreed that this was unlikely. Many people stopped beside the road to put snow chains on (they are legal in Europe and are REQUIRED on many roads in the winter – I had honestly not thought they would be required – winter in England does not exactly require them!).

We were both on edge and we had a scary moment when I had pulled out to pass someone who was not driving terribly well (they were always on their brakes and making unpredictable movements and going FAR too slow) so we passed at the blistering pace of about 10-12 miles/hour and as we passed him and a few others (slowly, mind) one of the cars we were passing made a VERY sudden move to come into our lane – cutting us off. It was very dangerous since it was only by chance that we did not hit him and he did not hit us (he realised his mistake and returned to his lane very shortly after making his move). The dangerous part was that it was so sudden and it made mother and myself very nervous and on edge.

Eventually we passed Geneva and skirted to the south of the lake and eventually found the hotel just off the road in Scionzier (a suburb, essentially, of Cluses). The hotel is right on the road but a bit tricky to find as you have to pass it and come back to it as it is on a side road. We found a place in the snow-laden car park and checked into our rather comfortable room (with electric external window shutters - a bit odd if you ask me). We had asked about where to eat but the lady running the front desk did not speak a lot of English and our French was a bit dodgy so we eventually just got her to give us a local map and made our way into Cluses to find something in the core area. We made our way through the snow in the streets and were surprised to see so many Christmas lights and we parked right outside the Hotel du Ville, walking down the main street and ate at a local restaurant that was actually very nice (and the lady running it very pleasant and forgiving of our French!).

Hotel de Ville in Cluses

We spent a few minutes walking around the town looking into various shops and admiring the lights before returning to the hotel to relax after a very long day of driving.

Thursday, December 27th, 2001 - Scionzier (France)

After the past few days in Paris it was quite different to be here in the Alps having breakfast looking out at the mountains. Cluses is at the bottom of the same “valley” that Geneva is in. All the main roads around here are through this valley and are really the easiest way to get around.

The breakfast was very good and gave us a good early start to the day as we headed out. We had discussed where we wanted to go and agreed that going back to what we knew already might be at least a good way to start – perhaps something different tomorrow. We headed down a side road (avoiding the toll motorway which we had left last night) all the way through a series of small towns and roundabouts to St. Gervais which we had visited a few years ago on a package tour from Britain. It was an area we both know pretty well though we were a bit apprehensive of a hill we knew we had to climb in the car just before the town itself which was VERY steep and that we had remembered the tour operators we used previously had driven up in a large ski coach and scared us all to death with their driving. One hair-pin turn in particular I was not looking forward to driving on because of the snow yesterday but it turns out I had nothing to fear (despite all the “Put on Snow Chains Here” signs) as the roads we already dry and the trip was only exciting for it's bends and not sliding…

We were able to make our way through the small town which had a market and small fair on today (traffic nightmare on the winding, narrow road (singular) through the village) to the bottom of one of the ski lifts where we rented skis and then waited in a rather long queue to get lift tickets. We were in the line for about 1 1/2 hours but the good news was that by the time we got to the front of the queue we were able to get a half day ticket (saving a fair amount of money in the bargain).

View of Town of Megeve from St. Gervais Ski Area

The skiing was not too bad though the season is quite young and many of the hills were closed leaving the ones that were open VERY well used and not terribly good for skiing (you can't ski on dirt). We managed to find a slope that was not too bad though the number of people out was unbelievable and led to long lift lines. It was nice to be out skiing though and the views from the top of the mountains were quite impressive.

After skiing we made our way back to the car park and held our breath as my car struggled up the hill out of the car park and back through the village and then down once again to the valley floor. I had wanted to see about skiing up the valley at Chamonix itself so we headed off down the road continuing up the valley. We were a bit excited as we had to go over a few rather large “aquaducts” (in this case, these were high bridges/roads along the side of a mountain). Eventually we entered the rather large town (compared to what we were used to at St. Gervais) – making ourselves very confused as we attempted to find the tourist information office to see about information for skiing tomorrow. Eventually we found it and had to park illegally on the pavement (sidewalk) and talked to a representative for a few minutes about what we could do tomorrow. She indicated that not much was open at the resort so we basically agreed that it would be unlikely we would make the effort to get there tomorrow (it was VERY difficult to get around the snowy, crowded, winding, narrow, and steep streets). Chamonix is very big and seems like quite a good resort (if you like big resorts) and definitely a SKI town.

We eventually ate at a local restaurant that was not terribly good as it was essentially a “beef” restaurant and it served everything and anything beef (read: steaks primarily). Not so impressive to mother but we were desperate for somewhere to eat and gave up running around looking for somewhere.

Friday, December 28th, 2001 - Scionzier (France)

We had been advised yesterday to attempt to get to the ski hills early to avoid the queues of yesterday so we headed out quite early after breakfast to get there before 9. This time instead of St. Gervais we headed to Megeve which neither of us had previously visited (well, only skiing, not the village).

We took the same back road as yesterday but turned right at a road instead of going straight on and headed up into Megeve where we promptly got lost trying to find exactly where the place to park was. Eventually we found it as we made our way through the small town that, if anything, was narrower and more crowded than St. Gervais. We parked below the tourist information office as we had to make a very sharp turn into the underground parkade that was essentially a large cork-screw (which was interesting with the ice and snow and you are not too confident in the tires on your car). We clomped our way up the stairs and into the street and eventually managed to find the lift (you might have thought that it would have been sign-posted but “assumption is the mother of all…screw ups”) and we were pleased to see that there were NO queues for tickets yet.

We made our way to the lift and got into the small gondola by which time I had realised that I had forgotten my skiing goggles back at the hotel (or in the car, can't remember where). With the snow coming down our first run was just too unbearable so we made our way to a shop and I spent a long time (too long – we were both dripping with sweat by the time we left) getting a new pair as the salesman tried to get me to buy the £100 pair…I think not…though I got a pair that is very nice and worked very well (nicely ventilated).

I was not impressing mother but I made it up to her by finding some very nice skiing as we made our way up to the higher slopes up the valley (where the men's downhill was a few years ago). There were VERY few people about and the skiing was fantastic – much better than yesterday. We eventually ate at a good restaurant I had remembered from our previous visit (where a ski guide had taken us) and we had a very nice (and not TOO expensive) dinner inside (linen, the whole bit).

View from Skiing in Megeve

Making our way back to the hotel we asked for more advise on restaurants but the two that were recommended did not work out (one was closed and the other looked a bit our of the price range of what we wanted to pay) so we headed back along the road towards St. Gervais/Chamonix and ended up at a very nice small restaurant right on the road that served a very relaxing three- course dinner and at a good price.

Saturday, December 29th, 2001 - Scionzier (France) to Luxembourg City

Today was a big travel day and definitely had a wide range of weather to contend with.

We began the day quite early as we packed the car and made our way along the valley avoiding the toll-way but this time in the direction of Geneva. It was very nice as we made our way through a number of small villages along the valley, a lot nicer than what little we could see the other night on the highway. Eventually we made our way into the Geneva area which is very built up. The border crossing was right in the middle of such an area and we did not even have to stop (I had been worried about the “highway tax” that Victor and I had to pay the last time we entered Switzerland from France). We made our way into the city proper and I showed mother a bit of the old town and the harbour area (the fountain was not working).

We had a bit of a strange thing happen to us in Geneva when I was stopped at a red light and someone with diplomatic licence plates actually hit my rear bumper. It was only a light tap but still…

We followed the road along the north side of the lake, passing by the United Nations as we left Geneva. Eventually we headed north and made our way once again into some large hills (don't think they could be called mountains). After we left the main roads around the lake the road was in perfect condition and wandered through some wonderful small villages. We wound our way around and seemingly ever upwards until we passed over the Switzerland/France border again, this time I stopped in between the two gates so that mother could have a…pit stop. It was a bit strange stopping in the middle like I did but no one seemed to notice.

Travel through France as we made our way north to Luxembourg was relatively uneventful (we made a few ill-advised detours but managed to sort it out in the end). The roads in France we markedly worse than those in Switzerland and there were far fewer towns to admire as we made our way north.

The rain as we travelled through France was quite heavy though as we entered Luxembourg it had turned to snow and it was getting dark. We were both very exhausted and we had trouble right from the start trying to find our way into the city with the hotel map we had been given. We turned off the highway into what we thought was the right direction but could not for the life of us find where it was though we could see it off to our right. The roads we in very bad shape (there were NO snowploughs out) at one point after I had taken a particularly bad turn off the road onto a road where I had been the first driver for many hours (read: LOTS of snow, no tracks) it was touch and go as to whether I would even make it up the hill at the end of the road to once again join the main road.

Eventually we gave up with the map (and shouting/swearing at each other) and I just went in the general direction that we had seen the hotel sign and found it (though we never did figure out how…).

The hotel is absolutely wonderful (especially after our long day on the road). After checking in (and lugging our luggage across the snow- inundated car park) we indulged ourselves in the evening buffet (though it was not REALLY fantastic). Our room is wonderful and overlooks the local industrial estate…

Sunday, December 30th, 2001 - Luxembourg City

We began the day with the (included) buffet breakfast which was VERY busy. After this we drove the car a short distance to a car park we had passed last night (how I remembered where the car park was after last night, I will never know). There is snow EVERYWHERE but luckily there do not seem to be a lot of people about so it is easy enough to slide the car around the roads without anyone seeming to mind.

We walked through a small park which was very pretty with all of the snow from last night in the trees. A number of local children were out with their sleds going down a somewhat small (I thought) slope, but they were having a good time…

We made our way down the road and into the town proper which actually reminded me a lot of a English high street with many familiar shops. We made our way to the Tourist information booth to see what they would recommend seeing in the city. They gave us a walking tour map which we decided to follow (as we had missed the guided tour – the self-guided tour was also a lot cheaper, ie, free).

Luxembourg Palace

We followed the map as it guided us around the town, by the palace and then to the fortifications where we were truly amazed as we had a tremendous view out over the valley that runs through the centre of the city.

Luxembourg (Looking over the Petrusse Valley)

Continuing on we eventually visited the oldest area of the city though the catacombs were closed today we were able to visit an old church then make our way down into the valley itself where we followed the small river all the way along. All along the river is a park which was absolutely wonderful, very peaceful. There were yet more youngsters (and oldsters) using sleds – this time on a very serious slope (leading to some disastrous consequences) – that we amused ourselves by watching.

Luxembourg (Looking down on the Rue de Treves/Hospice Area)

Eventually we climbed back out of the valley and crossed across one of the bridges towards the Gare area. We were getting a bit hungry so I did a bit of an experiment by using a local bank machine (with the Euro only a few days away I wanted to see if 1) it would give me Euros or 2) it would give me LUXEMBOURG Francs) – it gave me neither, the currency that is most widely used here is the Belgium Franc though many restaurants can provide prices in any number of currencies (and seem to accept them as well). We took out 7,000 of these “Belgium Francs” not actually knowing how much they were worth (I picked from the standard withdrawl amounts one in the middle)…Always fun…

We had lunch at a café with no one in it in Place de Paris. I had chips (french fries) and hot chocolate while mother had her typical coffee (which is VERY strong here she tells me). We left the café and continued to the station (Gare) just down the road where we were pleasantly surprised to find that there as a small market where I managed to pick up some local sausages (always a favourite of mine – though I don't know if they will let me take them back to Britain…). We went into the small station and were surprised to see a wonderful mural on the ceiling and this too had a number of stalls.

We made our way back to the car through the village, returning to the hotel for a quick break before we returned once again in the evening for dinner. We parked on a side street actually in the town and found a small café near the Tourist Information booth and had a relaxing dinner (for the most part alone in the “non-smoking” section on the top floor). It was a French restaurant and I had something I might not ever have again – mussels in cream (I am not a big fan of mussels).

We are both exhausted after a long day of walking.

Monday, December 31st, 2001 - Luxembourg City to London to Woking

We began the day bright and early (as per normal) and headed out of the city. Once again we found the maps very confusing and made a wrong turn but we eventually sorted it out and were on our way. Luxembourg is a much bigger country than Liechtenstein as we travelled once again north towards Brussels. Skirting the city, we headed to the coast where we followed the road through a number of small sea-side towns very reminiscent of similar towns along the ocean in England. They were very clean and quite pleasant (though very busy).

We stopped in a small town along the way and wandered by quite a number of seafood shops selling local produce (there seemed to be a bit demand for the assorted seafood platter – most likely for celebrations that are planned for tonight). We stopped in a small café (one of the few that was even open) for a light lunch which was quite pleasant before heading off to Calais. Most of the day it had been quite sunny but as we approached Calais it got to be a lot cooler and snowy. We made our way to the Eurotunnel terminal and were surprised to find that we could go right into the queues for loading onto the trains. We had to wait only about 20 minutes before being shown onto a train. Only about half the train was actually occupied when we eventually headed out for our return trip to England.

Inside a EuroTunnel Car

One of the continued discussions during the drive had been what we were going to do for the New Year and I had suggested, and mother agreed, that London might be interesting though I made sure to caution that there would be a LOT of drunk people about (since neither of us drinks this is a bit un-nerving to say the least). Once we had left the tunnel we realised that this was very possible and that we would even be able to get something to eat before midnight.

As per my normal procedure, I parked in Wimbledon and we caught the train into Waterloo then the tube (Underground) to Oxford Circus. Unfortunately, the first choice restaurant (Wagammama) we wanted was closed but there was another restaurant I wanted mother to visit that was open right near Liecester Square (Misato's).

London: Two Hours of 2001 Remaining

It was still a bit early so we strolled about people-watching as the city got more and more busy. We headed down Whitehall to Westminster then along the south bank all the way to the Oxo Tower then back along the embankment (north bank) to Trafalgar Square to watch the new year come in along with quite a number of other people…I have done this many times before but mother has not so it was quite special for both of us.

It was not much of a holiday, really, for me this year. Normally, when I visit Canada for Christmas I am running around so it is also not much of a holiday so – no change there then! We saw a lot this year. I had wanted mother to see a bit more than what she had visited in the past (namely, Paris) and also to have a bit of fun skiing. I think that both of these goals were accomplished quite well. The pre-planned travel was VERY good though looking back I would probably have planned a bit better for winter driving (winters in England are NOTHING compared to the Alps – thinking that simply because it was early in the season did not really work).

Mother and I spent a lot of time just talking which was also one of the primary goals of this trip. I am going a long way away in the near future and I (and she) wanted this time to talk a bit before I was far more inaccessible. All in all, the goals were all achieved though I need a holiday…

While in Paris, Steve and Shirley stayed at the Ibis Paris Brancion Expo, 105, rue Brancion, phone +33 (0) 1 56 56 62 30. When in Scionzier (Cluses) they stayed at the Hotel du Faucigny, ZAE Les Bords d'Arve, phone +33 (0) 4 50 98 16 71 and when in Luxembourg they stayed at Novotel Luxembourg, 6, rue du Fort Nidergrunewald, phone +352 4298481.

Further Information

For further information, please see:

  • - This was the site I used to arrange all the hotels and transportation involved with driving in Europe. VERY useful.
  • Europe Journal - Journal I made when I visited Europe in fall 1998.