Account of travels across the world. This blog provides descriptions of travels in different parts of the world. Pictures related to many of the blogs can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/7330879@N05/ and for more information I can be e-mailed at ananda@wfu.edu

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Just posted some pictures of Europe travel at http://www.wfu.edu/~ananda under the family link.

posted by Ananda  # 11:41 AM

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The entries in June and July deal with the travels in Switzerland, Italy, France and UK.  They are not in any particular order but the dates will be markers of the progress through Europe.  The highlights provide an overview but if you are interested in detail go to the individual postings.  For questions you can e-mail me at ananda@wfu.edu

posted by Ananda  # 8:32 AM

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Trip highlights - Europe 2004

• Antoine giving us a ride to the airport
• The delayed flight from Greensboro to Washington
• Incredible flight delay on Alitalia
• The switched conference bags in Lugano
• The view from the restaurant on top of the hill in Lugano
Drive from Lugano to Meiringen through the St. Gothard Pass and the Stuten Pass and my falling on the glacier
• Meiringen hotel
• Trip up to the highest point in Europe – Jungfraujoch
• The Bajaj people
• Lake Trip by boat in Interlaken
• The bridge in Lucerne
• The day in Klein Scheidigg
• Falling incredibly sick
• The little Internet café in Meiringen
• The restaurant that Bebo liked in Meiringen
• Playing street chess
• Ice cave at Jungfrau
• Bebo falling in the river in Lucerne
• The mysterious disappearance of Bebo’s shoes and his statement that we have left a trail of things in this trip including his shoes
• Drive from Meiringen to Verbier through the Grimsel Pass
• Not finding a hotel in Verbier
• Staying at the hotel by the station
• Meeting with Terry in Martigny
• Drive from Martigny to Chamonix
• Going up to the Glacier in Chamonix and the walk through the ice cave
• Drive from Chamonix to Geneva and stopping in the little French town for groceries
• The hotel location in Geneva
• Doing laundry in Geneva
• Bebo wanting to go under the water jet in Geneva
• The water taxis in Lake Leman in Geneva
• The day train from Geneva to Venice
• Venice and the gondolas
• Seeing the glass factory in Murano
• Pigeon feeding at Saint Marcos at Venice
• Expensive restaurant in Venice
• Meeting the NTPC person in Chamonix
• Milan and the Last Supper
• Visiting the Wake Forest house in Venice
• Academia art museum in Venice
• Brera art museum in Milan
• Night train from Milan to Paris
• General change of plans to go to Paris
• Visiting Paris in general
• Bumper car ride for Bebo in Paris
• Buying underwear for Bebo in Milan and for me in Paris
• Meeting Mr. Khan from Kolkata in Milan
• Drive from Paris to Calais
• Hovercraft from Calais to Dover
• Mix up with car rental in Dover and change of plans at the last minute
• Train from Dover to Charring Cross
• Watched Europe 2004

Bebo visited – UK, Italy, Switzerland, and France and saw the Last Supper original as well as the original works of Bellini

posted by Ananda  # 9:26 AM
July 5, 2004

We had an early start today as we got up early, got ready and had the breakfast and then carted all our bags to the station to catch the 9:05 train from Geneva to Venice. The train was one of Europe’s direct fast trains. The seats were comfortable and the route took us through Lausanne, Montheux, Brig, across the tunnel in the mountains (there was some serious checking of passports as we entered Italy), Milan, Verona and finally Venice. It was a 7 hour train ride and it went well. We all enjoyed the ride, snacked often and generally took in the scenery and told Bebo about our child hood train rides and travels. We eventually reached Mestre, the station before the train crosses the causeway across the canal into Venice. Eventually we reached Venice Santa Lucia station. This is a bizarre experience – after getting on the platform and walking to the end of the platform and into the main train station one is faced with the grand canal of Venice. There are no cars in this city. The only way to go anywhere in this city is by foot along really narrow lanes reminiscent of Kolkata’s north side, or by water taxi that ply along the canal, or by water bus that run from stop to stop along the canal or by gondola. Since we were new to the city we decided to take a water taxi to the hotel. It cost Euro 50 and it essentially deposited us on the side of the canal at the mouth of a really narrow lane and the driver said that the hotel was right in front. We walked with our bags for five minutes to find the hotel. The hotel was excellent. It was in an old (500 years old) building. Each room was differently decorated and ours was a tiny room and the window opened on to the narrow alley by the hotel. It is called San Giorgio (http://www.sangiorgiovenice.com/) and is run by Vallerio and his wife. Vallerio is a great guy and extremely helpful. I had found the hotel through the Minotel (www.minotel.com) chain and the only drawback was that it did not have elevators and we had to pull the suitcases all the way up the narrow staircase. On the positive side, the hotel offers a wireless Internet service through the Italian TIN (www.hotspot.bergilio.com) and the best access was in the dining room. The hotel also has a resident black and white tabby cat! Venice was hot and humid and the air-conditioning was poor. Venice is not like any other place we have been to before, except perhaps Kolkata. Narrow lanes, canals, and the general stench of the rotting waters in the back canals. There is a significant population of rats in the canals too! We generally unpacked, and then decided to venture out. We walked out of the hotel and crossed a few bridges (Venice has 401 bridges) and were quite overwhelmed by the strangeness of the city. We eventually found a restaurant and decided to eat dinner. Venice is EXPENSIVE. Very, very expensive if one were to eat in these sit down places. We dropped about Euro 85 for a very average meal and vowed not to eat for the rest of the trip! We then walked back to the hotel. Did not venture into the water yet. On return to the hotel I sat in the window alcove and listened to the sounds of the night bereft of any sound of motorized land vehicles. One could hear the pigeons and the occasional sound of the gondoliers singing.

July 6, 2004

I got up early and worked in the dining area. After Mikku and Bebo were up we had the breakfast and ventured out in Venice. The thing was that the Vaporeto (the water bus of Venice) was on strike that day and so we had to do things by foot. We first walked from the hotel to Saint Marcos square. I do not think I have seen more pigeons at any European square ever before. It is a huge square and Bebo had an absolutely lovely time feeding the pigeons. After some time there we walked to the Academia Bridge, crossed it and had lunch at a self-service café. Bebo and I had the ubiquitous ham and cheese toast. We then visited the Academia art museum. There were works of the Venetian artists – the Bellini brothers – as well as several really classical originals. Bebo had a lot of questions about Christ and Christianity since most of the paintings dealt with the life of Christ. We then walked back from the Academia to Saint Marcos again stopping for some souvenir shopping. We hung around the square for some time and then walked back to the hotel. It was a lot of walking in one day but then with the strike this was the only option. After resting in the hotel for some time we went out and took the gondola ride. The ride cost a lot but it was a great experience as the gondola went through the Grand Canal and the side canals of Venice. The Grand Canal is the “main road” of Venice and all the other canals are the side streets. The gondola ride lasted about 40 minutes and we eventually got back to the hotel after a dinner at a café.

July 7, 2004

Thankfully the busses were working today. We bought the all day bus ticket (Euro 10.5 for adults) and took the bus from Saint Angelo stop to the Rialto stop. This is the famous Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal. There were numerous shops there and we crossed the bridge and walked through the fruit and vegetable market eventually to the fish market of Venice. This place was stinky but was a great market to look at. We then took the 40 cent crossing of the Grand Canal by gondola and took the bus to Zaccaria and from there changed to the bus for Murano island. The trip out to Murano takes about 40 minutes and this takes us further into the Bay of Venice (number 42 or 41). The island of Murano is famous for its glass factories. Legend has it that the first spectacles were made in Murano. We watched craftsmen making glass objects, had lunch, and then walked around in the quaint glass shops. Eventually we took the boat (number N) back to the Salute stop the location of the Cathedral. We spent some time in the Cathedral and then walked over to the Wake Forest house. The house was fabulous and we got a tour of the house. A Communication student was there and she showed us around. After the house trip, we again crossed the canal on a gondola (this is quite reminiscent of crossing the canal from AC block to VIP road in Kolkata) and we walked over to Saint Marcos, spent some time there and returned to the hotel by bus. After resting in the hotel for a bit we took the bus to the railway station to get our tickets for Milan. We visited the old ghetto area near the station and ate at a really nice Chinese restaurant there. By this time it was dark and riding the bus back along the canal at night was beautiful. It was also a little cooler after the really hot and humid days. We eventually called it a day. It is also when we decided to make some changes to our travel plans. Everyone were saying that Milan does not have much to offer and so instead of staying in Milan for 3 days, we decided to cut it back to 1 day and take the night train from Venice to Paris, spend a day in Paris and then take a car drive to Calais, cross the channel and then rent a car from Dover and drive to Slough.

July 8, 2004

We took a late start and then got help from Vallerio to carry the suitcases down to the water taxi stand and he helped us load the bags on the taxi. The taxi cost Euro 60 and took us to the station. It was a really hot and humid day. We stood in line and got all the tickets worked out and then went to the self-service café for lunch. The train was at 2 in the afternoon and the ride to Milan took about 3 hours and we reached Milan Central. The station was really large (it is the largest railway station in Europe). We took a cab to the Hotel Gulles (Best Western) which was next to the Plaza Lima Metro station and in a bustling business area. The hotel was nice and after depositing stuff there, I went to the Plaza Duomo to check out the deal about seeing the Last Supper painting. Everything was closed (it was after 6 pm then) and so I just got back and we eventually ate dinner in the room (got stuff from Burger King which is pretty big in Italy) and called it a day.

July 9, 2004

We got an early start and after a pretty mediocre breakfast at the hotel we checked out and deposited the bags with the hotel and bought the three all day tickets for Milan buses and Metro. Took the underground to Plaza Duomo. While the Duomo is impressively large, the front of the Cathedral was covered for renovation which was a bit of a disappointment. Anyway, as Bebo chased pigeons I got the tickets for the APT tour of Milan and Last Supper (on weekends, including Fridays they have two tours, one in the morning and one in the afternoon at 3:00 pm, tickets are available from the Office of Tourism at the Plaza Duomo and the cost is Euro 45 for the 3 hour tour). Since we had some time to kill, we decided to take the elevator to the top of the Duomo. The elevator tickets are Euro 5 each and the view from the top is glorious. It was a clear day following last night’s storm and we walked around the various levels of the top of the Duomo and got some excellent views of the distant Alps which we had recently visited. It was quite nice to take this trip to the top of the Duomo. We then got back down and after a coffee at one of the over-priced cafes went inside the Cathedral. Built in the tradition of the Catholic Cathedrals it had some really excellent stained glass windows. After that we walked around the gallery shopping area and eventually took the underground to the castle area. Here we found a store to get some undergarments for Bebo since we were quickly running out of clean clothes and there were no laundermats that I could find in Milan. We had lunch in that area too and were accosted by pigeons which are quite a nuisance in these cities. Eventually we strolled over to the castle. Not much except the “wedding cake” fountain which Bebo enjoyed. We then took the underground back to the Duomo to wait for the bus tour. It is interesting to see how well Bebo can now negotiate the big cities, the buses, the trains, and the underground and in general is comfortable in these places. We use the walkie talkie a lot and Bebo has that with him at all times and it is really useful. For Italy I did not use a separate phone (as we did in Switzerland, had bought the $90 phone SIM card before leaving the US and that lasted, with one Euro 30 top up, for the entire time in Switzerland) system but stuck to Cingular’s Italian service. We waited for the bus and I had a Euro 4 beer and decided that can not drink any more either, since this was really expensive. Mikku browsed the stores. The bus trip started at 3:00. First the guide took us for a tour of the Cathedral again. It was good to learn of the history of the Duomo from the tour guide. We then walked over to the square where there was a statute of Da Vinci and eventually back to the bus. The tour then took us to the Brera art gallery. Here we spent about an hour seeing some famous paintings. On this tour we met Mr. Khan a Bengali gentleman from Jadavpur University of Kolkata who was traveling in Italy on a conference. He was a Physics professor. The art gallery was excellent and we then drove by the castle and finally to the church where the original Last Supper painting was. The painting is actually a wall mural painted nearly 500 years ago and it survived the years including Allied bombing during the War. It has been restored but to see the massive work was indeed quite a moving experience and surely one of the high points of the trip. The tour was over after that and we went back to the Cathedral square. Had some cold drinks there and took the underground back to the hotel. BTW, the Milan underground is not air conditioned and can get quite muggy in summer. We got our bags from the hotel and took a taxi to the station. Milan station does not have elevators but the luggage carts are designed to go up and down escalators. We had dinner at the self-service cafeteria and waited for the train. After the train pulled in we loaded into the 3-tier coupe. It was frighteningly hot and we were exhausted after getting the bags into the compartment. The coupe was private for us with a little wash basin and 3 beds. We kept the window open since the temperature must have been about a 100 F and the humidity about 99%. Anyway, after the train started moving at 9:40 pm things cooled down some. We looked outside for some time and eventually were lulled into sleep in the only way that trains can lull one to sleep. Incidentally, on cross-country trips like this, it is customary for the ticket collector to take away the passport and hold on to it until you reach the destination, which for us was Paris.

July 10, 2004

We were woken up because the compartment had gotten cold and I had to shut the window. The outside was now the typical French countryside. Mikku and I have traveled in France in train before and it looked pretty. It was also much colder. The attendant brought coffee and croissants and we generally packed our stuff and eventually pulled into Paris Bracey station at 8:40 am right on time. We took a cab to the hotel (Best Western Hotel Paris-Est which was located right in the Gare de L’est – another station in Paris). It took us a little while to get into the room and after we had freshened up in the room we headed out to see Paris. As usual, we got the all day train and bus ticket and took bus number 30 from the station to the Trocadero which is the point across the Seine from the Tour Eiffel. The route took us through the basic shopping street of Paris and by the Moulin Rouge. Those who know Paris will know what I mean. The bus also goes by Place Etiole with the Arc de Triomphe. We got off at the Trocadero and walked over to get a glorious view of the Eiffel Tower. Among other things Bebo was happy to see in real some of the places he has been using in his SIM city computer game! It was a really cold day in Paris and we then walked across the Seine (BTW, the direct path from the Trocadero through the gardens is closed for security reasons, so one has to walk around the area and reach Seine and then cross). There were huge crowds to go up the tower and so we decided against that. Instead we stood at the base of the tower for some time (curiously there was a set of Gujrati illegals who were selling souvenirs and were getting chased away by the police). We then strolled towards the Etiole Military which is on the other side of the tower. Took a lot of pictures and eventually went to an Indian restaurant for lunch. This was a disappointment, the food was OK but the service was really bad. We then strolled along to the bus stop. A bad storm was brewing and so we took the bus to Notre Dame Cathedral. This was an interesting return for Mikku and I because on our last trip to Paris, nearly a decade ago, Mikku’s papers (passport, visa, credit cards, etc.) were all pick pocketed at this Cathedral. We were extra careful this time. We sat in the Cathedral until the storm had passed and then walked around the area. It was typical Northern Europe weather – cold and wet. Eventually we walked over to the Place of Justice, which houses the infamous French prison called the Concierge. This was a prison where people such as Maximillian Robespierre were held as well as where Marie Antoinette was housed before their executions. It was an interesting land mark to see. We spent part of the afternoon there and then took the underground to the Franklin D. Roosevelt stop on Champs Elysee. We walked down the most important street in Paris all the way to the Arch de Troimphe and walked to the Arch as well. It was still rainy. After some time at the Arch we took number 30 back to the shopping district. There was a bumper car ride there and Srijoy enjoyed that as we waited in the cold. I got my underwear! We then took the bus back to the hotel and Mikku and Srijoy got some food and I went out again to scope the area. The place was over run with Bangladeshis and Bengali was a main language being used. In fact there was a store with a Bengali name written in Bengali. I hung around the area for some time and then got back to the room and called it a day. In the meantime spoke to Jill, Beth’s daughter, who was also in Paris.

July 11, 2004

I got out early to get the rental car. It was a dreary day in Paris with rain and it was cold. I first checked with Avis at Gar de la Est to see if a car might be available there. Turns out they were sold out. Took the single stop jump (use either line 4 or 5 from Gar de la Est to Gar de la Nord) to the other station. Gar de la Nord is huge and confusing. Must have walked a good mile before I found the Avis rental place (this is tucked away at the far end of the main level of the railway station where all the platforms are, you need to take the elevator down and all the car hire places are together. The lady said that she could not rent a car without my passport. So, had to take the underground (they call it Metro in Paris) all the way back to Gar de la Est, then had to get to the room, get the passport and return to the other station to get the car. The first car she gave me was a tiny Toyota. I looked at the car and realized that the suitcases would not fit in there. So, went back and got an Opel Corsa. This was now parked in a different place and had to walk to that parking lot to find the car. It was a stick shift and it took a while to figure out how to reverse! Anyway, got the car and found my way back to the other railway station. Eventually, we were ready to leave. Loaded up the car, checked out of the hotel and had croissants and coffee at a café at the station and headed out of Paris. Being a Sunday, traffic was light and it was a straight shot from the hotel out to A1 (follow directions to the Charles de Gaulle airport) and we were soon on the highway A1 headed towards Calais. Speed limits are perfunctory on French highways (although they claim it to be 130 km/h) so was happily going about 150 to 160 km/hr. That was about all the car could handle. Next time I am getting a BMW! Anyway, we stopped on the way for some snacks and then headed out again. Near Lens, changed to A26 now headed straight to Calais. The landscape was nothing spectacular and somewhat reminiscent of North Carolina at places and Wisconsin at other times. We reached Calais right around 12:30 in the afternoon after a 2.5 hour drive covering a total of 290 kilometers. Calais was a small town somewhat like Dover. First we found our way to the railway station and figured out that the car could be returned at the hovercraft port too. So, drove over to the hover port and got the tickets for Dover (Sterling 60 for the three of us, and they let us check bags in) and then came back to the center of town, by the Cathedral, and went to a small souvenir store and then to a café for a quick bite. Eventually got back to the hover port, emptied the car, dropped off the key in the drop box, and then got on the streamer (it was not a hovercraft). The crossing was fine. The seas were choppy and so was a little sea sick at first, but it was a short crossing and reached Dover in under an hour. At Dover we reached the smaller docks (the bigger one is called the Eastern Docks). Also, realized that had messed up on car rental and had rented a car for the day before and thus there was no car to be had since all the rental companies except Europcar are closed on Sundays. There was one taxi traveling between the Dover rail station and the dock. Took the cab to the train station. First bought a ticket from Dover to Slough with a change in London which involved transferring from Victoria to Paddington in London. With the bags this was going to be a stress. As we sat at the Dover station, called the Slough Marriott and through them transferred the night booking to Marriott Maeda Vale and then changed the train ticket back to London’s Charring Cross. This saved about Sterling 30. The train to Charring Cross left at 5:18 pm and we pulled into London Charring Cross at 7:00 pm. The arrival at Charring Cross is nice because it goes on the Thames right by the Big Ben. Took a London Taxi from Charring Cross to the hotel. London was celebrating Party and Hyde Park on that day and so traffic was snarled up. Eventually got to the hotel, and called it a day.

July 12 and July 13, 2004

Relatively eventless days. Took the cab from the hotel to Heathrow. Check in was smooth and the Atlantic crossing was eventless, then there was a little mix up with the hotel shuttle at Washington (were staying at the Chantilly Fairfield Inn). Next morning back to Dulles, and flew back to Winston and then the van home. All well at home.

posted by Ananda  # 9:25 AM

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

July 3, 2004

I got up early and went for a walk. It was absolutely gorgeous in the morning and the Mont. Blanc and the surrounding glaciers were glistening. Decided to sit by the river for a while. Was soon joined by a really pleasant person who was visiting Chamonix for a week-end getaway from Lyon where he was at a meeting with French electricity. The gentleman was from Delhi and was obviously a pretty high-placed engineer with India’s premier power generation company called National Thermal Power Corporation. We chatted for quite some time. He said he had been to Switzerland before with his family and it was good to sit and talk about engineering and stuff since he was also from the same system of engineering colleges (IIT) that I was from. Both of us decided that the early mornings are the best to enjoy the mountains be it in Chamonix or in the Himachal in India. He eventually left to awake his friends and I went to stir my family. Since Mikku was feeling sick, we decided to let her rest and Bebo and I took a stroll through the town. There was a farmer’s market going on and we also visited a tiny little church. Then strolled back to the hotel and after packing and loading the car we decided to try and visit the Mars De Glace which is basically a glacier above Chamonix. The principal attraction of the cable car ride was closed and so we settled on this option. The station for this trip is located behind the station (Gare) of Chamonix and after figuring out a parking spot we strolled over to the tiny station for this special train ride. We decided to not board the first train but took the second train up. Much like the mountain trains in Switzerland, this was also a short-gauge cog-train and it chugged up about 4000 feet and finally deposited us at the top of a glacier at about 7500 feet above sea level. Mikku was not feeling too well and the light air was no help. So we first decided to have lunch at the self-service restaurant. They had special ham sandwiches called baguettes and I got two of those. Mikku was not very excited by this and she got a different sandwich. We noted some other people of Indian origin here too. Then Bebo and I decided to visit the ice grotto. From the description it appeared that it would be easy enough, with a cable car ride down and then a stroll through the cave. However, given how Mikku was feeling, she decided to wait in the restaurant. The cable car ride was quick (about 5 mins) and pleasant. Then, I noted that the cave was still about the equivalent of a 15-storey building under us. The glacier itself was about as tall as the equivalent of a 10 storey building and the cave was carved at the bottom of this. Since we were half way there and I had myself pumped full of ibuprofen (in case you missed it, I was still nursing a fever!) Bebo and I decided to go down and see the cave. Of course, the walk down was not a problem. The cave was phenomenal, very reminiscent of the cave in Jungfrau, sans Bajaj, but this was more close to nature since it was dug right into the glacier’s base. What was interesting is that the constant landslides actually cover the ice of the top of the glacier with rocks and stones, and one does not see the ice but the ice is deep and blue and we walked right through that ice. It was really surreal to be doing this. Anyway, after that what loomed before me was a climb up to the cable car point. It was a long and strenuous climb but we made it. Eventually, we all took the train back to Chamonix. It was about 2:30 pm and after a brief stop at a souvenir store we headed out towards Geneva taking Highway A40/E25. The first several miles went right by the Mont Blanc and we stopped often to take pictures and also to fill up gas. Then we hit the toll-way (assume about E1.60 about 4 times between Chamonix and Geneva). The road was uninteresting since we were leaving the Alps behind. We often noted that the place looked very much like North Carolina. We were, however, driving through France. After about thirty minutes Mikku declared that it would be a mistake not to get some French cookies in France. So we pulled off the toll-way and drove into the town of Cluse. There we found a grocery store (Sparc) and got some French cookies and UHT milk for Bebo. We strolled around the tiny town, and then headed out towards the Geneva. We hit Geneva downtown around 5:00 in the evening. Amazingly, having internalized the street map of Geneva I was not too lost and eventually reached Gare Carvin (the main rail station) and found the Hotel Terminus on Rue De Alps. There was a slight mix up at the hotel since the person could not find my reservation. I think it is the French attitude. In general, I have realized I prefer the German and Italian parts of Switzerland. The people in the French part of Switzerland behave too much like the French. Enough said! This was pre-reserved through the Minotel chain of Switzerland. While the hotel was across from Carvin and was on Rue De Alps, the area was shady. Essentially it was not too far from the Soho of Geneva with numerous bars and stores offering pleasures of the flesh. So, I packed the two of them quickly in the room, which was cozy and nice, and then slowly unloaded the car, found a parking spot for it, located a coin-operated laundry (this is on Rue Montheux which runs parallel to Rue De Alps and is half way between Rue De Lausanne and the lake side, it costs 2 Francs for a wash and 2 francs for a 16 minute drying cycle). Given that I was completely drained out from the cold, fever and the long day we eventually called it a day. There was a Pizza Hut across the street and Bebo and I had pizza and Mikku had falafel from the Middle-Eastern store across the street. This whole district of Geneva is populated with numerous Middle-Eastern and African eating places.

July 4, 2004

I got up at about 6:30 in the morning and after the shower and stuff drove over to the laundry. There were still some women out on the street at that time of the morning. The laundry was open and I got the cleaning started. Was illegally parked and so decided to sit it out in the car. It was a glistening clear day and the Mont Blanc was visible in the distance. It took about an hour to complete the laundry. Got back to the hotel, dropped it all off and then took the car back to Avis (it is on Rue De Lausanne on a street right across from Hotel Monotel, take a right into this street of you are coming from the direction of the station, starts with “M” can not remember the name, and the Avis garage is to the left). Walked back to the station, and bought the three day passes for two zones in Geneva for use on bus/tram/boat (8 Francs for adults), and then got back to the hotel. Mikku and Bebo were getting up and then got everyone ready and had the hotel breakfast. We then walked out of the hotel and down Rue De Alps to the Qaui. The lake and the Jet de Eau (the water fountain) were right in front of us. We then strolled on the Ponte du Mont Blanc (the bridge over the river Rhone, btw, the river in Chamonix came with us to Geneva too), and went into the Jardin Anglais (English Garden) with its fountain and the infamous flower clock. This was perhaps my greatest disappointment of the trip. I remember the flower clock from the picture postcards my father brought back in the 1970s, and I had seen the picture-perfect flower clock 14 years ago when Mikku and I were in Geneva for the first time. They have completely redone the flower clock and I actually thought it looked quite bad. But it was there and Bebo was excited to see it. We then walked along the quay to the water fountain. Bebo wanted to run under it which is absolutely dangerous given it is a 460 feet high water spout. He was disappointed we did not let him do this. We then ate a quick lunch and took the bus to Geneve-Plage to get on the boat to come back to the center of town. Here Bebo chased pigeons for some time and then we strolled around the central area and went to a park where Bebo watched street chess. We also stopped at a small restaurant for ice cream and beer since it was a really hot day. Overall the city was dead being a Sunday and Geneva is a non-distinctive city anyway. It does not have the beauty of Munich or Salzburg nor does it have the vibrancy of London or Paris. Essentially it is like a city which is there to be ostentatious. We eventually took the number 8 bus back to the hotel and started to pack for the trip to Venice. The evening was exciting because it was the night of the Europe 2004 football match and Geneva came alive with car honks and fireworks after Greece won over Portugal. We called it a day after that. I also took a stroll around our hotel. Also got a chance to chat with Samad, and old college buddy who now lives in Geneva.

posted by Ananda  # 4:31 PM

Sunday, July 04, 2004

June 30, 2004

Since we had dropped the idea of going to visit Mt. Titlis and with the weather being really gorgeous on this day, and having used up our rail pass days, it was decided that we would drive to Grindenwald a small village on the way to Jungfrau. The drive was unhurried and pleasant and we stopped by the lake once and watched an old man take a solitary bath in ice cold water. We stopped for coffee once too and eventually went through Interlaken to hit the mountain roads again and travel up towards Grindenwald. The drive went by a stream and the scenery was really nice. Stopped on the way to walk in the meadows and take pictures and eventually reached the village and drove up to a point where it was possible to take a cable car up to a restaurant. Went up there and had lunch in the mountain restaurant. Then took a small stroll and Bebo and Mikku also got to do some tobogganing. It was a relatively relaxed visit; we then took the cable car back to the village, drove to the railway station and took the cog railway back up to Klein Scheidigg. Thankfully there were no Bajaj today. Spent the afternoon watching the Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger and generally sitting in the meadows. Evenetually, took the train back to Grindelwald and drove back to Meriengen and had dinner at our favorite restaurant. It was the last night in Meiriengen and the Bernese Oberland. It was also the last night that everyone was healthy.

July 1, 2004

I got up with a head cold and decided to go for a short walk to the computer place and catch up on the e-mail, then I also had my pastry and coffee, but was feeling pretty miserable. For most of the morning just kind of hung around the station and stores. Also managed to drop my well-trusted Motorola phone that I use in Asia and Europe and destroyed the display on it. The phone, however, continued to work fine! Got a contact from Terry Dumansky our graduate students and planned to meet up later in the day. When I got back to the room Mikku too was not well and since she had a cold for some time we decided to start her off on the antibiotic. When we travel I always usually carry two doses of antibiotics, but this time I had come with one (usually use a broad-spectrum thing like Doxycyclin 100 mg, 2 on the first day and 1 for 7 more days) does so since she really needed it we decided to start her on that. I decided to wing it. We left from the hotel around noon and stopped back at the tea room for some more coffee and did a little bit of souvenir hunting at the stores. It was also a slightly rainy day and eventually left Meiriengen around noon-thirty and headed towards the South via the Grimsel Pass. This was a treacherous route and with the fog and the rain it was really interesting trying to negotiate endless hair-pin bends as we slowly made our way up to the top of the Grimsel Pass at about 7,000 feet. It was a set of glaciers we were crossing and the outside was just amazing with the snow, permanent ice, and the fog. There are four major passes in Switzerland ?St. Gotthard, Stuten, Grimsel and Furka. Between our trip in 1990 and this one we have now crossed all the passes. After crossing the pass the road winds down to the valley and this was familiar territory as we drove through Brig and Visp and the meadows of the valley. Nearly 14 years ago Mikku and I had spent a day at one of these small villages that we were passing through. Eventually we got on the highway towards Sion and Martigny. This now took us towards the French part of Switzerland and very quickly everything changed. The architecture was different, the people spoke differently when we stopped for coffee and the behavior was different. This was within a difference of about 100 miles from German-Switzerland where we were all these days after leaving Lugano which was Italian-Switzerland. Anyway, we passed through Martigny and decided to stop for the night. We checked out a small hotel by the railway station in the village of Stembercher. Mikku was not very excited by the fact we were next to the railway station. Anyway, we decide to try the hotels in Verbier. It was another treacherous drive up the mountains to the resort town on Verbier. It was about 6 pm by then. As it turns out, being a ski-resort, hotels in Verbier were closed in summer except for a couple of really expensive ones. However, someone suggested we try the old village of Verbier and see if there the old Hotel de Touriste was available. We started our drive down to the village. The little restaurant with the hotel was open but they said that even though the hotel was open the owner might have gone for a night out and could be back late. We decided to wait a little, Mikku had a soup and I had a drink and Bebo had some bread. By then we were tired and both Mikku and I were sick. Since the owner did not return in 30 minutes we decided to climb down into the valley and reached the same old hotel by the station. Looked much better now!! We got a room there and it was interesting that it was like a suite with two rooms and so Bebo had his own room. But the shower stall was built into the bed room and we had to use the public WC as is the tradition with these small European hotels. The owners were OK but spoke only French ?one language I do not know and Bebo was a little help (after some French at school) with ordering the food and water. But the price of the food was high. Anyway, we were tired and sick by then and eventually called it a day by about 10:30 at night.

July 2, 2004

We decided to sleep in a little on this day. It was a really clear and nice day. Eventually after the breakfast we left from the hotel around 11:00 in the morning. We had decided to meet up with Terry in Martigny and so drove to Martigny and I was also able to get a new phone there for only $80 which was an excellent and inexpensive replacement for the broken Motorola. Terry and we then had lunch at tat Kebab place and after lunch Terry left for the station and we started our drive towards Chamonix-Mont. Blanc. The day was nice and the drive was pleasant except both Mikku and I were not feeling too well. We crossed into France and soon reached Chamonix. This is a well known tourist town with the Mont. Blanc towering over the village of Chamonix. We got into a really nice room at the Hotel Valle Blanche with the room overlooking the L Arve River. It was early afternoon when we got there. After resting a little in the room we decided to stroll around the town some. Mostly cafes and souvenir shops but that was fine and fun to do. Finally got back to the room and I got food from McDonalds for everyone and we decided to go to bed early too since we were all tired and still nursing the cold and my fever.

posted by Ananda  # 3:32 PM


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