Prepaid GSM
Getting around

Part 1: Strasbourg, Paris

Map of trip to France
27.7: Munich -> Strasbourg
28.7: Strasbourg -> Verdun -> Reims -> Paris
29.7: Paris
30.7: Paris
31.7: Paris
1.8: Paris -> Disneyland -> Paris
2.8: Paris
3.8: Paris -> Chambord castle -> Blois -> Tours
4.8: Tours -> Villandry castle -> Azay Le Rideau -> Tours
5.8: Tours -> Azay Le Rideau -> Chenonceau castle -> Tours
6.8: Tours -> Rigny-Usse castle -> Tours
7.8: Tours -> Les Sables D Olonne -> Bretignolles-sur-Mer
8.8: Bretignolles-sur-Mer
9.8: Bretignolles-sur-Mer -> St Gilles Croix de Vie -> Bretignolles-sur-Mer
10.8: Bretignolles-sur-Mer
11.8: Bretignolles-sur-Mer -> Lyon
12.8: Lyon
13.8: Lyon -> Geneva

27.7: Munich -> Strasbourg
Hotel Hannong, 75 Euro for a nice double room without breakfast. The room has everything including a fridge (which doesn't work), individually adjustable A/C, a dryer, TV, phone, free WLAN access in the room, some nice furniture, toilet with bathtub and shower. We requested a room with two children beds, but in the hotel they upgrade us to a higher standard room for the same price. Breakfast not included (costs 14 Euro/person). Limited WLAN Internet access: can't send emails, no Usenet, no FTP, can't even use the webmail.
Weather: mostly sunny with some clouds in Munich, still sunny with clouds when we arrive in Strasbourg, overcast later in the afternoon and some very light rain. Temperatures relatively high (28-30°C).

We manage to leave home at 10:45am. The motorway from Munich to Stuttgart is not good - full of roadworks, which slow down considerably the driving. At 12:30pm we make a lunch stop in a motorway restaurant. At 1:30pm we continue driving, reaching Strasbourg around 3:30pm. The navigation system we are using (Magellan 1215) works so far reasonably well. Only at one point in Strasbourg it seems that the maps of the navigation system are not up to date.

After checking in the hotel we take a rest and leave the hotel after 5:10pm. Until 9pm we do some sightseeing and have dinner. The restaurants here are more expensive than in Munich. The whole city, or to be more precise the central old town area, seams geared towards separating tourists from their money. The old city is nice, but relatively small. Half a day is sufficient to see everything.

28.7: Strasbourg -> Verdun -> Reims -> Paris
Hotel Etap, Paris. 48 Euro for a double room with three beds (the third bed is on top above the double bed), not too small considering that this is Paris. The room is clean and modern. It has a shower cabin and a separate toilet cabin, while the water sink is in the room. No telephone, no cupboard, but there is a TV. The room has  very weak A/C. No Internet access in the room, only in the computer in the lobby for 4 Euro for 50 minutes. The Etap hotel is supposed to be a no frills hotel. The only problem is the location. At the outskirts of Paris, it probably takes 45 minutes to get into town by public transportation including the walking distance. Parking costs an additional 8 Euro/day. Breakfast is an additional 5/Euro per person, bringing the total to 66 Euro for two people if you include parking and breakfast. Not cheap, but in France everything seems to be more expensive than elsewhere (except perhaps Rome, where we paid 110 Euro/night for a much worse room).
Weather: mostly sunny with some clouds in Strasbourg, quite warm (around 27°C in the morning). Later in the day it gets even hotter with temperatures over 30°C in Verdun and a bit cooler in Reims. It rains in the evening and at night in Paris.

We check out at 11am and head towards the European organisations area, arriving there at 11:20am. It takes some time to find a parking, because it is not clear where we are allowed to drive or not. Until 12:15pm we walk around the area which includes the European Parliament and the Council of Europe buildings.

Then we start driving towards Verdun, where a big battle took place in WW I in which one million soldiers died. At 1pm, we stop for some lunch at a motorway restaurant.

Around 4pm we arrive in Verdun. We can't manage to reach the place I wanted to see, because the main road in town is blocked and the navigation system insists that we take it. So we simply stop in a commercial area in Verdun and have a brief snack in a McDonalds restaurant.

At 4:40pm we continue driving. This time, surprise, surprise, we finally find an access to the historic centre of Verdun, but it is already too late for a visit. We continue driving towards Paris. The next stop is in Reims, which has an interesting cathedral (a UNESCO World Heritage site). We arrive in Reims shortly after 6pm. The cathedral is nice, but a bit less impressive than I had imagined. Also, it is currently undergoing restoration.

We visit the cathedral until 6:45pm, then have dinner in a nearby Chinese restaurant. At 8:10pm we continue driving and arrive at the hotel in Paris at 9:45pm. Thanks to the navigation system it is very easy and fast to find the hotel.

29.7: Paris
Hotel Etap. Could not manage to connect to the Orange WLAN network in the room. Also the Neuf WLAN network (available in the room) does not seem to work.
Weather: overcast in the early morning, the sky then opens up and becomes blue. Mix of clouds and blue sky, windy and fresh. Considerably less warm than yesterday.

We get up at 9am, then have breakfast until after 10am, and only manage to leave the hotel after 11am. To save time we drive by car into Paris (it's a 10 minutes walk to the metro station, then it takes around 30 minutes to reach the centre of Paris according to the reception). By car it is a quite long drive to the Eiffel tower. It's 11:55am when we finally have parked the car and can start the sightseeing. Basically a good part of the day is already lost - I guess the next days we'll have to speed up a bit in the morning.

Lots of tourists at the Eiffel tower, very long queues. The tickets seem not so expensive (around 5-6 Euro per person to get up if I understood it correctly). Great sunny weather, blue sky, a bit fresh.

It's almost 1pm when we leave the Eiffel tower and head towards the Quartier Latin. The idea would be to have lunch somewhere in the restaurants area of Boulevard St Michel. In practice it takes quite some time to drive across Paris and we only reach the Sorbonne university at 1:30pm. So much traffic and so many traffic lights. We'll stop using the car to get across Paris.

We have lunch in an Italian restaurant near the Sorbonne. Food is not too bad, but not that great either. We then drive back to the hotel, arriving there at 3:30pm. There Shirley takes a rest with the children. I walk to the nearby Carrefour store where I buy some drinks.

At 6:20pm Shirley wakes up. By the time everybody is ready (kids have to be dressed, receive some food, be prepared) it's about 7:10pm. We walk to the metro station and fetch the 7:20pm train, arriving at the Tuileries station at 7:45pm. It's a nice evening, sunny with a blue sky and to the delight of Alissia at the Tuileries park there is a fun fair. We are in the area until after sunset, slowly walking towards the Alexandre III bridge. At 10:45pm we take the metro back to the hotel. Again there is no elevator in the metro so we have to carry the heavy baby stroller up and down the staircases. 

By the way, I'm told by the metro staff that the weekly card for 16.80 Euro is not available in the metro stations. To apply for it apparently you have to go somewhere and you need a photo.

Copyright 2008 Alfred Molon