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Trip Report Trip Report - Lauterbrunnen, Salzburg, Paris

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Many, many thanks to all of you who patiently answered my many questions leading up to this 3 week trip to Switzerland, Austria and France. I've traveled quite a bit before, but having all of you to lean prior to my departure added so much to the trip! I would thank each one of you personally, but I don't want to leave anyone out and I think you know who you are. I know I'm a true blue Fodorite now as I spent time reminding myself to share specific things with all of you once I got back. Doing this report so quickly is allowing me to relive all our activities and not get back to reality. So glad everyone likes these reports!

So, on to my trip report...with apologies for not being as eloquent as others who have reported before me.

I traveled first to Switzerland with my 12S and 12D. DH and my 17S met up with us in Salzburg 4 days later and spent 2 weeks with us before returning home from Paris. It was back to the original 3 for the duration of the vacation in Paris. Let me say - I love traveling with my kids. They were open to new experiences (they both tried escargots) and eager to see as much as possible (to a point). They were also very patient with the unexpected, and even with the 6 hour layover in WDC as we waited for our flight to Zurich. Their favorite part of that day? Having their own TV screens on the plane. It doesn't take much to make them happy!!! We had an uneventful trip overseas from Harrisburg, PA to Washington, and WDC to Zurich, unless of course you count the toddler who kicked my seat most of the way over the ocean. :o

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    July 26 - Have you ever taken an airport luggage cart on an escalator? That was our first challenge once we got to the Zurich train station, which is connected to the airport. The first thing we saw was a couple guiding their cart loaded with suitcases onto the escalator. Watching them pulling back on the handle with all their might to prevent that cart form tumbling down into oblivion was enough to scare my kids into searching for an elevator, but thinking that we might as well start with our new experiences, I told them that we would brave the stairway as well. We nervously slid the cart onto the top step and held on for dear life. The cart held! We let go! We've never seen anything like it. Those Swiss are ingenious and the kids spent the next 1/2 hour going up and down with the cart as if they had been doing it all their lives and until it was time to catch our train.

    We had secured our Swiss Card and Family Pass in the US before our departure and this entitled all of us to travel free to Lauterbrunnen. We did go to the window to have the passes validated - the clerk wrote the date and my passport number on the card, but best of all, she printed out an itinerary for us with times and platforms for train changes all the way to our destination. I don't know if we needed to validate the pass this way, but it sure was nice to have that travel info in hand when we boarded. I tried to ask the conductor if he could have validated the pass for me, but we were having a bit of a communication problem on that point so I never did get an answer from him.

    True to Swiss reputation, the train arrived and departed exactly on time to the second. We had opted for First Class without seat reservations and it was wonderful. There were comfortable, roomy seats, 2 on one side of the wide aisle, one on the other, tables, and couches in the double-decker car. (As an aside: you can't specify a forward facing seat if you reserve a seat since trains often enter a station going one direction, and leave on the same track going the opposite direction.) I had been told by train personnel that it wasn't necessary to reserve 1st Class since it rarely got crowded and that was good advice.

    The train from Zurich to Interlaken took 2 hours 40 min passing ever more rolling, then hilly scenery and beautiful lakes, then from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen for 20 more minutes. It was very cloudy so we didn't get to see many distant mountains, but what we did see was spectacular anyway and I knew that we would (hopefully) see much more in the next days.

    Upon our arrival in Lauterbrunnen, we spotted our hotel - Hotel Silberhorn - at the top of a long set of steps and a gravel path. Humming 'Climb Every Mountain' we set off up the path, arriving a bit out of breath. Sure wish we had noticed the preferable way up by the road off to the left! Oh well, we needed to strengthen ourselves for the walking in days ahead. Even though we were early, we were lead to our room, up another hill to the separate chalet. Up one flight of steps (no elevator in this building, although I think the main building had one) to a huge, pretty room (#60) with a long balcony wrapping around 2 sides of the room, and facing the hillside across the valley. We had 2 singles with the big 'poofs' on the bed, and a fold-out double couch which my son quickly claimed. There were also a table with 4 chairs and a desk. Very odd that the bathroom, which was a good size and all new, would have a slightly see-through frosted door. My son was aghast and spent some time rigging up a door cover using a towel, chair and shoes. Hey, it kept him occupied while I settled in!

    Hungry as usual, we walked through the town and settled ourselves on the terrasse ot the Hotel Oberlander which was to quickly become our restaurant of choice in this town. The Gemischt Salat was beautiful with its 4 brightly colored sections of different vegetable salads, each in a different dressing, for 8.50 SwFr. It rained on and off while we sat and watched a helicopter carrying something on a rope up the valley and tour busses passing by. We passed on our first planned hike in the mountains due to the weather, but it was a good way to relax and recover from the travel of the day. We learned that you must ask for the check otherwise you can sit all day at your table.

    Back in the room, we could hear the construction on the funicular - it's being dismantled after over 100 years due to slippage, but it didn't last long and was rather muffled and in the distance. (It also made finding our hotel easy from across the valley - we were the one next to the crane!!!) The construction also didn't stop us from taking naps for an hour just to get over our extreme sleepiness.

    After the nap, we made dinner reservations at our hotel and decided to walk through the town to the Staubbach Falls. (This valley is known as the valley of 72 waterfalls, and we did see a lot that week.) We passed a beautiful white church on the far end of the town and a cemetery with beautiful flowers on each and every grave. We reached the falls and noticed a path which zig-zagged up the hillside, so we walked up until we were behind the falls. It was a fun way to pass the hour until dinner.

    Back at our hotel, we ordered a double order of fondue for the 3 of us (21 SwFr per order) which was plenty. I of course had to have white wine with it, and thus started 3 weeks of delicious wine with lunches and/or dinners! The fondue was delicious, and to answer one of my questions posed a while back, every restaurant offers fondue on the menu. We returned to the room to sit on our balcony and play a game as we watched the twinkling lights come on across the valley and the tiny trains zig-zag up the side of the mountain. The construction was done and we were surrounded by the sounds of crickets and rushing water from a nearby stream from the waterfall. Such calm and tranquility to end our first day. I was in heaven.

    July 27 - What a way to wake sky, not a cloud in sight. And mountains!!! We were in awe...all the way to the lobby where the non-stop video cam of the mountain top showed us the perfect conditions for going up the Jungfraujoch! We hurried to breakfast and what a breakfast it was...breads, cheeses, meats, Nutella, honey, yogurts, croissants, rolls, fruits, drinks.

    At the station I paid the Swiss Card half-price of 77 SwFr to go to the Jungfrau, the kids were free with the Family Card. Already a bargain to have those cards! We rode to Kleine Scheidigg, passing Wengen, a mountainside town with no cars, and quite a few cows with tinkling cowbells, and where we changed trains to the cog railway for the last hour of the journey up. The whole experience has changed since my last time at this mountain. Now there is a very modern video showing the path the train takes through the tunnel and mountains, the history of the construction of the tunnel (300 people worked to build it in the late 1800's), and how they moved the 'old hut' to a new site by helicopter in 2001. We started layering more clothes as the train climbed, and enjoyed the two stops in the tunnel where we could look out large windows at our first glimpse of the glaciers.

    Last stop, "Top of Europe" at 11,333 feet, the highest train station in Europe. We went up to the Sphynx Observation Tower and the view down the glacier, and then down to walk in the snow of the glacier. The snow was too soft to go on a husky sled ride, but we opted for the Foxfire zip-line, a bit of a splurge at 20 SwFr each. We each climbed up the snowy hill with our harness on, were connected to a rope and slid high above the ground way across to the ending point. Lots of fun! We walked through the Ice Palace, slipping on the ice floor, and enjoyed the sculptures and narrow passageways, and then went out for one last look down the glacier. For those who are interested, there were sled rides, skiing lesson and organized chaperoned hikes offered on the glacier as well. The clouds were massing quickly on the horizon and coming our way, but we were ready to go down after spending 3 hours.

    I have to mention the cool automatic handwashing machines in the bathrooms! Put your hands in, and out squirts hot water, then soap, then cool water, then hot air, all without doing a thing. Swiss efficiency in full swing.

    Disembarking at Kleine Scheidigg, we stopped for some of the best ice cream ever at a stand - chocolate with tiny shaved slivers of chocolate. To die for! We walked through the pasture of cows, enjoying the cowbell orchestra, and watched the goats try to steal food from the outdoor tables, and listened to the resident Alpenhorn player complete with traditional Swiss dress before heading back to Lauterbrunnen.

    Got back to the Oberlander Hotel for dinner just in time for the downpour. Whew! We had the traditional specialty of Rosti - hash browns with various ingredients mixed in. The Oberlander Rosti was particulary good with onion, bacon, Swiss cheese and a fried egg. (18.50 SwFr) If you want tap water, it's free if you order another drink, but 2.50 if ordering only the water to drink.

    July 28 - Another cloudy day, and the video cam showed lots of clouds at the Schilthorn so we had a decision to make - Schilthorn in the clouds or hike before the forecast rain arrived. The Schilthorn won out, so we caught the bus to Stechelberg and bought tickets up to the top. As the cable car got higher, the clouds thinned out and afforded us spectacular views. We walked out on the two narrow ridges extending out from either side of the Piz Gloria, the mountain top building. Way out on this ridge was a tiny sign with a high-heel shoe crossed out. Were they expecting the Parisians in their fancy shoes that day??!! :) What a riot to see such a sign way out there.

    Turning around on the second path, we were surprised to see a huge bank of clouds rolling in and obliterating everything in its path. We carefully scurried (is that possible?) back before we too were engulfed and settled ourselves in the rotating restaurant as the entire mountaintop was enshrouded in cloud. We could see nothing at all, except the cable car wires eerily approaching out of nowhere. We finished our sundaes, watched a short film of clips from the James Bond movie filmed there and started our descent in the pouring rain. An interesting ride down in the rain and wind, but at least the thunder had stopped!

    We caught a bus back, stopping at the famous Trummelbach Falls, formed from the melting ice of the glaciers of the Monch, Eiger and Jungfrau, at the rate of 20,000 liters/second. The water had cut through the mountain to rush via 10 sets of falls inside the rocks. It is accessed by elevator and mountainside paths and was a formidable sight.

    We had dinner at the crepe stand next to the Oberlander Hotel - ham and cheese, then chocolate crepes, then joined the townspeople for the local Folklore Festival. How cool (and LOUD!) were the guys in lederhosen leading the procession swinging gigantic cowbells as they walked! They were followed by folkdances, traditional Swiss singing, an Alpenhorn player, a crazy percussion band wearing construction hats and using toy "popping" mallets to play on each other's heads, and ending once again with the cowbell ringers. We left as the rain started up once again. I'm starting to see a pattern here!

    Back at the hotel we fell into bed – exhausted and happy.

    (Sorry this is so long – I’ll try to cut it down form here on in!)

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    Thanks! We'll be spending two weeks spread out over Grindelwald (4 nights), Locarno (3 nights), Clarmont-Morges (3 nights) and Vevey (4 nights).

    You've already helped me w/the terrific descriptions of the Jungraujoch and Schilthorn. I have vertigo so I think my husband will be doing those alone!

    Looking forward to more (and then there's Paris as a bonus at the end!)...

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    Today was the day for our hike! Checked out the video cam in the lobby and Mannlichen showed...what else? Clouds! Well, we can hike on a cloudy day, so off we went on the train to Wengen (half price with the Swiss card), and the cable car (1/2 price) to Mannlichen at the top of the cliff. We wandered around to look at the cows - well, one wanted to look at me too so he came running over! He just wanted some petting so I was happy to oblige. The cowbells were ringing everywhere!

    Mannlichen is the starting point for a few different hikes, but we wanted the level trail - the Panorama Weg, marked on a signpost. If you look at a map, it does appear that this trail crosses some mountains, but in fact the path just follows the contours of the mountains, curving around where the mountain curves. Upon starting, my 12S turned around and saw those blasted thick clouds rolling in, obscuring everything in their way. We decided to make the best of it and tried to stay ahead of them. Shortly, we came to the tiny red cable cars which go to Grindlewald and wanted to ride them, but the round trip took an hour and we were afraid of the damage those clouds could do in the meantime, so we passed on that. (The round trip cost 50 SwFr if anyone is interested)

    We set out, with frequent calls from my son: "The clouds are coming!", but we thoroughly enjoyed the views of the lakes, the mountains, the flowers. We did stay ahead of the clouds until the path curved back and we had a few raindrops, but then the path resumed its original direction and we avoided rain the rest of the day.

    We reached our destination, Kleine Scheidigg, in 1 hour and 10 minutes. We heard it before we caught a glimpse of it - those lovely cowbells again. The kids got popsicles, I got ice cream, and we watched the goats begging for food again. Once again the Alpenhorn player was there - apparently a permanent fixture, but this time we saw a tourist try it. Well, anything for a laugh, I persuaded my son to give it a try. 12S got up and gave 3 different beautiful long tones. The Alpenhorn player was impressed and everyone around applauded. Another lady got up, obviously figuring that if a l kid could do it, then she could too. Well, all she accomplished was to blow air through the instrument, and boy did she look sheepish. The trick is either be a trumpet player, as is my son, or to tighten your lips into a tight smile (if that makes sense) and blow through a very small opening. I tried next as mom of a trumpet player and succeeded as well, having tried out the trumpet from time to time (not that I can play it, but do know how to get a sound out of it). It was fun and we put some change into the bell of the horn for the man.

    Time to take the train to Wengen, where we walked around buying souvenirs at the 'Swiss-Made Shop'. We wandered around and came across the St. Bernard English Church with a pretty stained glass window of an eagle (I think), and then bought some chocolate and drinks which we ate in a little park, and caught the next train to Lauterbrunnen where we tried some Goulaschen Suppe and pizza for dinner. Back at the hotel I organized everything for our train trip to Austria the next day, while my kids played James Bond by leaping from the balcony through the window and pouncing on the poofs on the beds. All in all a great and relaxing time in the Bernese Oberlander area and I'd love to go back again to try some more hikes.


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    Just a thought after completing Part 1...

    Wish I had had that duct tape mentioned in so many posts!!! I thought of finding some and wrapping it around an old credit card, but... well. laziness enters into it I suppose. Here we were our first day in Switzerland with my son upset over the see-through bathroom door. It would have been so easy to tape up that towel instead of risking the falling shoes every time we tried to gingerly creep into the bathroom without creating an avalanche. :)

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    Thanks for this great report. Our family (with 2 sons, 12 and 15) stayed in Wengen for 3 nights in June and just loved the area! Your report is bringing back wonderful memories. We had a fabulous time hiking, visiting Trummelbache Falls, eating delicious food and more.

    Looking forward to the rest of your trip.

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    Kwren -

    Thanks so much for the trip report. I leave for Switzerland on August 29th - staying at the Silberhorn in Lauterbrunnen for 5 nights late into my 2 week trip. So it's great to hear some detail, like knowing there is a video cam to show mountain conditions. I'm also anxious to experience the Jungfrau. Thanks for reporting on the zipline - that sounds like great fun.
    Keep the great trip report coming.

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    Thanks for much for the trip report, we too are off to the BO next year, so all your info is being eagerly soaked up.

    In fact Mvor, our trip sounds very similar to yours!


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    Thanks for the kind responses! It's a pleasure to write my trip report as it is bringing back wonderful memories to me too...even though I was only in Switzerland a short while ago!

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    Hi kwren -

    I've enjoyed reading your report about my favorite place in Switzerland. Glad you found some fondue!

    Regarding those high heel signs - I've seen Japanese tourists walking around the top of Swiss mountains in high heels, so yes, it does happen!

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    July 29 The lonnnnnng train trip to Salzburg...

    We got up in the morning ready for the exciting I-) day of the Lauterbrunnen to Salzburg train trip: 10:20 – 19:29! Once in Zurich to change trains, we saw a panoramic car and it said…First Class! The windows are huge and curve most of the way up to the top of the car. I had been told that seats in these cars cost more than regular First Class but since no one was looking…well, we settled in quite nicely and no one asked us to move. However, it has been noted before, and I will concur – it can get hot in those cars with the sun beating down into those huge windows creating the greenhouse effect. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the great unobstructed views of the lakes, mountains, castles, tiny and large churches with their curved domes on the steeples as we moved into the Austrian Alps.

    The Swiss Card got us as far as Sargans, the last stop in Switzerland, for free, and I bought tickets from there to Salzburg for 120€ for me and the kids for 60€ each. (Kids get half price tickets automatically in Austria)

    What to do to keep 2 12 year olds happy for 9 ½ hours???

    Well, there is always chocolate! Toblerone to the rescue!!
    When changing trains, it’s always a thrill to watch the arrival and departure boards’ city names flip around to the new one.
    Watch the grafitti go by – it seems to have risen to the level of art – some of it was quite colorful and beautiful.
    OK – if I think graffiti is beautiful, it must be time for more chocolate.
    Write in our journals – Ok that one lasted about 5 minutes for my kids, so time to eat our snacks.
    And so on through the day.

    The trains arrived and departed according to schedule in the best of Swiss efficiency, but once we were in Austria, despite it being the same train, we ended up being 20 minutes late into Salzburg. Go figure. We decided to walk from the station to the hotel, the Gablerbrau at Linzergasse 9, a 15 minute walk. Once we got there, we noticed my husband and my 17S at Frauenberger Restaurant across the street enjoying dinner. DH helped us to our room and we all went back to the restaurant for dinner. We got wiener schnitzel and not only was it delicious, but it was HUGE, served with cranberry sauce and a salad. My 12D got curry-shrimp soup, also quite good.

    So the Gablerbrau…an older hotel in the pedestrian area just across the river from the old town, really the perfect location for those who don’t want to step out into the mobs of tourists pushing through the Old Town. We had a Family Suite on the second floor. Walk in through the door into a good sized foyer with a huge closet. To the right facing the street was a triple room, made up of a double fold out couch, and a single fold out chair. The 3 kids were in there. To the left was a decent sized room (notice I didn’t say large, but large enough) with a double bed (actually 2 singles pushed together) facing the side street. Between the 2 rooms was a very large bathroom with enough shelving for everyone’s paraphernalia. The only other negative was that one of our showers had so-so water pressure although the pressure of the water coming out of the faucet for the bath was very very strong. We had no A/C, but small oscillating fans were provided. We didn’t really need them as it was not hot, but they provided just the right amount of white noise to drown out the noise from the pedestrians to help us sleep. 4 out of 5 of us have no trouble sleeping through any noise, but my 17S said the garbage trucks woke him up early in the morning. Closing the window the next night helped. All in all, we were quite comfortable with plenty of room for our 5 suitcases and more room yet in which to walk around. We would stay there again – good suggestions from Fodors! Location, location

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    Hi Kwren - I was looking out for your trip report, because I knew you were a few days ahead of me and going to similar places. I thought of you on our trip and hoped you had better weather than we did.

    Looking forward to the rest...

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    You're entirely welcome and thanks for the encouragement, Swandav! As long as people are enjoying this, it's what keeps me going!

    bd - no, I think we didn't have better weather - we had some nice days though mixed with some more terrible ones...stay tuned! did you do your trip report yet? I don't want to miss it!

    I'll be getting to work on my next installment soon. :)

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    These breakfasts get better and better… yogurt and fruit, cereals and granola, coffee cakes, eggs and bacon, cheeses and meats, croissants breads and rolls, Nutella and jams, spreads and pates awaited us at the Gablerbrau. The kids agreed that the hot chocolate was better here than that at the Silberhorn - they had had to mix it up themselves there, whereas it was delivered to them creamy and steaming in a pitcher here, as much as desired. ~o) Yum! One puzzle – there was a large heated tureen of what appeared to be warm sugar or salt. I asked the waitress, but she had trouble with English – I gather it is used to roll soft-boiled eggs in for decoration. If anyone knows more about what it might have been, I would love to know!

    We started out at the Tourist Bureau in the Mozartplatz to buy our Salzburg cards, another gem of info from the Forum. Definitely worth it! 12 year olds have a discounted price, our 17S got 10% off. These cards provide free entry to an entire list of sights and free access to the city busses. We got our money’s worth as you will read.

    We continued to the Old Town’s pedestrian area and stopped at the shops as we went. One shop was dedicated entirely to beautiful handpainted eggs. There must be a machine to blow them out as there had to be thousands (millions?) of them piled on tables and shelves. Believe me - I told my kids to watch those backpacks! Before we knew it we were in front of the Mozart Geburtshaus (birth house). It was MOBBED with tourists, so we decided to go back later and continued down the pedestrian Getreidegasse (meaning “trade street”). The beautiful part were the wrought iron signs for each store – more interesting than the shops themselves for the most part.

    The entire street was crammed with people and…cars in a traffic jam! Funny for a pedestrian street! Meanwhile we watched some repair work on the front of a house for a few minutes – the workers were at the stage of removing old straw insulation. We couldn’t help but wonder how long that had been there! We couldn’t get to the end of the street too soon however, where we walked to a less crowded area and found the Pferdeschewemme – a Baroque horse trough where horses were taken to drink. And what a monument to horses it was! Huge paintings of horses and a statue. Those horses were treated right! We continued on to the Dom where we saw the “secret crowning of Mary”, another tidbit picked up from Fodor’s. For those who do not know about it – approach the statue of Mary from the arches and a gold crown held by 2 angels on the front of the church appears to descend down to Mary’s head. I would have never noticed it if I hadn’t been looking for it.

    We found ourselves at the funicular up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress so decided to put our Salzburg Cards to the test. Up we went and into the fort for free. It was interesting with different exhibits inside such as a weapons exhibit, torture instruments (the boys liked that part), a Marionette Museum (my daughter preferred that), furniture, models of the castle…a bit of everything. We were transported back to medieval times, especially walking through the castle streets, feeling like we were in an olden time city.

    Back down and through the Dom Platz we saw a guy dressed in a funny skeleton costume with a huge laughing skull head. Much more entertaining than those human statues who move when you put money in their cup. He pulled my daughter to him and pretended to put her head in his enormous mouth. Everyone waited for their few seconds with him and he made a lot of money doing this. 8-X

    to be continued...

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    We had bought tickets back at home to the Salzburg Marionetten Theater to see “The Best of Mozart” so it was time to go on over. The theater was small but gorgeous – paintings and carvings of cherubs covering the ceiling. The show presented highlights from 3 of Mozart’s operas complete with English subtitles on a side wall, which was a bit distracting as opposed to the front of the theater. It was easy to miss a translation here and there if too engrossed in the show. The marionettes were exquisite and after a few minutes we forgot we were watching puppets despite seeing the strings. The movements were very intricate and it was amazing. It lasted about an hour and 10 minutes. Seeing the puppeteers at the end made us realize how small these marionettes actually were – we had the impression that they were much larger against the backdrops. In retrospect I don’t think we needed to buy the tickets in advance as the theater wasn’t quite full, but you never know and we wanted to be sure to get in. It would have been fun to see an entire opera…maybe next time.

    We went back to Mozart’s Birthhouse afterwards and it wasn’t as crowded as during the tour group rush. We enjoyed seeing the tiny piano Mozart used to give a concert when he was 8 ((8)), clothes from that era, his portrait, a ticket to one of his concerts, 3 locks of his hair and descriptions of what his life was like traveling and performing. We felt we would stick to the subject and finished up with the Mozart Residenz. This second house from later in his life was bigger and more ornate and everyone toured with an audio system.

    It was a long day of touring so we went to a recommended restaurant down the street from our hotel – Zum Fidelen Affen (“The Faithful Ape”), although we preferred our waiter’s translation…The Funky Monkey! :(|) The food warranted the recommendation!!! It was excellent. I wish I had written down the name of my meal – it had about 6 syllables! It was listed under the vegetarian section (although I’m not vegetarian – it just sounded sooooo good!!) and was described as something like garlic crepes with a vegetable stew in a cream sauce baked with cheese. It wasn’t too rich or garlicky, but I’ll never forget how delicious it was. It was pretty too – garnished with a saffron-colored cauliflower flowerette, a carrot and a leek. My daughter had a wonderful creamy vegetable cream soup, and my son the adventurous had wiener schnitzel again (is this the same child who would later try escargots?!) My other son ordered dark bread with ricotta, tomatoes and olives as he wasn’t too hungry and my husband had a smoked salmon and rosti salad and a Neger (1/2 beer and 1/2 Coke) ((B)) Everything was great and the waiters were super friendly. All in all, a great way to wind down at the end of the day.

    We were considering going out and finding a concert that night when a huge drenching storm complete with thunder and lightening blew in, so instead we watched all the people scurry in from the outdoor tables at the restaurants across the street and just enjoyed Austrian life from our window, as did several other people in nearby buildings.

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    Fun, fun reading!
    Re: Panoramic cars - they are often in first class only but when on regular trains they don't have a surcharge i believe but Swiss rail officials have often told me that you should reserve one to be guaranteed a seat in these potential 'ovens' as you describe them in the beating sun.
    Thus i think if you have a first class pass you can sit in them if they are not already reserved or occupied without any fee.
    Panoramic cars on Glacier Express, Bernina Express, etc. may have different policies.

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    thanks PalQ! I'm glad you're enjoying my trip report :)

    Your explanation makes a lot of sense, thanks for that too. I had been told to reserve if I wanted that car, but at a very inflated rate (from a US company). The extra cost didn't seem worth it for a regular train line so I didn't and figured I'd take my chances. I wasn't even looking for a panoramoic car - it just happened to be the first car on the train so I happily went inside. The car was empty and we had our choice of seats anyway. If the conductor had made a stink, we would have moved, no problem, but it was better that he just looked at our passes. By the way, those cars are really beautiful and have magazines hanging by the windows. We were impressed.

    I do think that I would reserve if I ever wanted to be in a panoramic car on the Glacier Express or some other line in which I would was taking the ride for the view - I imagine those cars could fill up quickly on such lines.

    By the way, they have shades you can pull down when it gets too hot, but that sort of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?! ;)

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    When my husband and brother/sister in law arrived in Lauterbrunnen to stay at the Silberhorn, I proudly led them up the steep hill with stairs to the hotel only to discover the nice paved road on the left. Thought I was the only person that would ever do that. Now I am feeling better that others have done this too.

    I am just loving your report. Brings back memories of my trip last September.

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    Loving your report. Sorry you lucked out with the weather so often, but I'm glad you mention it. We met someone in Muerren who was actually debating whether to go up to the Schilthorn that day (which was clear) or "leave it till tomorrow." NOOOO! We said, you grab the weather when you've got it!

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    That was definitely one thing I learned this trip - NEVER NEVER put off something you can do outside if the weather is matter how tired you may be!!! (Stay tuned for my Eiffel Tower report :-[ )

    Hey Eurogals - the gravel path up above was even better than the stairs wasn't it?! We were tired AND dirty by the time we reached the Silberhorn. In retrospect, wouldn't it be nice if they would put up some sort of sign directing us to the road?

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    TexasAggie - Still 3 days to go in Salzburg so stay tuned (and a great way to put off folding 3 weeks of laundry and cleaning the house!) Glad you like the details - I was wondering if I was going to put people to sleep |-) thus the increasing use of smileys to wake them up @-)

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    August 1 More Salzburg
    Today was the day we reserved seats on a boat ride up the Salzach River to the Hellbrun Castle (all free with Card). (We made the reservation through the tourist bureau when we bought our Salzburg Card. They recommended taking the boat there, but coming back by bus which would be a much shorter ride.) The boat was small and outfitted with special motors to help it get upstream against the very strong current, they explained during the ½ hour ride. A bus was waiting for us at the end to take us to the castle, a beautiful yellow building.

    Of course the draw here is the trick fountains planned by Marcus Sitticus many years ago. He had the castle built for his enjoyment (ie. fun at his guests’ expense) and the tour started at the “Prince’s Table”. This table had a specially built well in the center which he filled with water to keep their wine cool. His friends would sit around the table on the stone stools and if they started to fall sleep from too much to drink, the water would come on and spray up through the seats and around the table to wake them up. We had a good demonstration of this with a family of volunteers – it was a riot! (Of course Marcus’ seat was not rigged up to the water)

    There were various rooms and grottos with the hidden sprays, statues – oh, I should stop here not to spoil all the fun, but believe me – it WAS fun! You never knew when you would get wet!
    There were also tiny vignettes which moved by water power by water wheels behind the walls and others which played music from movement of water and air.

    After the tour, we walked through the grounds with the tiny hedges cut in scrolling designs. The kids were getting bored, so we gave them the ever-ready ponchos “just in case”, their Salzburg Cards, and instructions on how to find the bus back to Salzburg, and walked them to the entrance of the zoo, which was connected to the grounds. (Remember our 17S was with us so we didn’t feel we were taking a big risk allowing them to do this alone) We followed the Fodor’s advice to climb the hill to see the Folk Museum and it was great (but don’t they do anything at ground level in Europe?)…it had old Austrian furniture, traditional clothing, various styles of artwork, old musical instruments and music of the Toby Reiser Band (hey – didn’t they come in second to the Von Trapp Family Singers in the Sound of Music concert at the end of the movie?), and of course a great view of the Hellbrun grounds and the Salzburg Fort.

    We had no problem taking the bus back to Salzburg – it was just down the street to the left from the entrance and around the corner and easy to find. We were excited to be on our own (don’t tell my kids!) We stopped at St. Peter’s Cemetery (how romantic!) – the Sound of Music cemetery scene was modeled after this one with the vaults and wrought iron railings along the sides. Each grave had a delicate wrought iron marker on it and all had flowers or ferns decorating them. Nannerl, Mozart’s sister, was buried in a communal grave there. There was a little Catacombs there too so we went. I have to admit it was not interesting at all to us, but at least the card had given us free access.

    So, what to do now – I know! How about eat!!! We headed to the Hotel Elephant, a Fodor’s favorite, and ordered a Salzburg Nokkerl, a local specialty. It took ½ hour to prepare. So, what to do in the meantime??? I know! How about some wine!!! Anyway, the Nokkerl was light, fluffy and delicious and huge! It’s true that it should be shared between 2 (or even 3 or 4!). It’s a type of soufflé/meringue made with egg white, sugar and flour and is served with a small pitcher of fruit sauce. If I can ever figure how to attach pictures to trip reports, I’ll show you my picture. Yum!

    We took our time and eventually realized it was absolutely pouring out! Oops! What about the kids! Oh well, it didn’t seem so bad after the wine (bad mom!) At least they had ponchos! We finally left in the rain to do a bit of souvenir shopping and continued to the “Viva Mozart” exhibit at the Salzburger Museum Carolino Augusteum in the Mozartplatz. Audio guides were included and it was in interesting exhibit about his life, friends, compositions and tributes to his life.

    The rain was starting to let up by now so we walked back to the hotel where we found the kids. They had had a great time at the zoo, and then the Natural History Museum and were relaxing. We joined them until it was time for dinner and our next adventure.....the Augustiner Bier Stube.

    We took a bus to the Mulln Monastery, descended a huge staircase (we were the only people doing this so we were a bit nervous that we shouldn’t be there, but we forged on anyway) and were met with a long hall of I suppose you could call it an Austrian food court. A long row of eateries with deli-type items, sausages, Knoedeln, cheeses, pastries and so on. We each selected something to eat…pizza, Knoedeln (like a huge dumpling in sauce), wiener schnitzel sandwich, salads, bratwurst, pastries, all for under 25€. None of us likes beer except my husband so he got the smaller size mug of beer (2.50€), after rinsing out the mug at the mug washing station, imitating someone who seemed to be in the know. Supposedly a monk filled the mug from a wooden keg but he didn’t look like the monk I had seen on a bridge in the long brown robe - he was just dressed in normal clothes. There were enormous rooms filled with people in various stages of drunkenness. We avoided the smoking room which looked like the Schilthorn once the clouds rolled in, and actually found – tah dah – a non-smoking room at the far end of the hall where we watched people drink multiple super-sized beer mugs. ((b)) ((b)) ((b))

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    It’s amazing the tables could hold all that crockery! It wasn’t the best food of the vacation, but it was good and an entertaining evening. My husband was even hoping to go back another time, but I nixed it in favor of better food the next night. We walked back along the river for a bit, and took the bus back the rest of the way, stopping at Hotel Stein to have ice cream on the rooftop overlooking the city. Unfortunately, everything out there was drenched from rain (what a surprise) so we stopped at an ice cream stand for double scoops.

    That was it for the day – we dropped into bed once again, although half of what we did today was relax on boats, busses or at tables around the city.

    next - Hallstatt, the salt mine tour and the lake country

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    I'm on a roll tonight!

    August 2 – Hallstatt and the lake country

    We got an early start today to pick up our Opal Zaphira from Avis and traveled through the countryside southeast for an hour and a half to Hallstatt. It was a pretty little town perched on the edge of a large lake. We went straight to the funicular which afforded a great view of the area, and walked up further to the building where 2 piece suits are provided for the Salt Mine Tour, this supposedly being the oldest salt mine in the world. We were also surprised to see one of those penny machines – the ones where you put a penny (.05€ in this case) turn the handle and a picture is printed onto the stretched-out coin. 2 of my kids have collections of these coins so of course we had to get each a Hallstatt ‘penny’. It cost a euro to do this.

    We all walked 350 meters into the mine, 80 meters below the surface and slid down 2 slides used by miners for years to reach the depths of the mine. (2nd slide is supposedly the longest salt mine slide in the world) Everyone’s speed was clocked and posted to the amusement of the growing crowd. I saw speeds of 13 km/hour up to 24 km/hr (we won’t discuss the characteristics of the slowest people), but the tour guide impressed us all at 38 km/hr. Show off! The process of salt mining was described using many different formats so I think it held the attention of everyone. Interesting stuff. (Don’t worry – I won’t go into that much detail!) The one bit of false advertising is when they talk about the man who was found dead following a mining accident preserved in salt many years ago. It certainly sounded like he was preserved to see during the tour, but it was not to be. He was been carried out of the mine and buried and no one knows where he is now. There was a big build-up to this and it wasn’t really necessary. I suppose they have to use that draw to get people to make this longer trip. Anyway, to get out everyone squeezes on the little train the miners have used, straddling the benches.

    There are other salt mines closer to Salzburg – “City of Salt” – such as Hallein, which was not recommended to me by anyone and at Bertchesgaden which was mentioned to me as a good mine back in Salzburg numerous times. We wanted to get into the lake country so we chose Hallstatt, but I think I would try the mine at Bertchesgaden instead if I were going just for the salt mine – they have the slides, the train ride out and a boat ride on the underground lake and I think someone told me that it was the biggest salt mine. Maybe someone else can comment on that if they’ve ever been there.

    We drove through the lake country after that and it was all that I’ve heard it would be – just breathtakingly beautiful. We came upon a little town called St. Gilgen on the edge of Wolfgangsee and decided it was time for ice cream. What a cute town! We walked around and admired the colorful buildings all jumbled together any which way. There were flowers in most every window and many of the buildings had designs painted on the fronts. It was a treat to walk around. As pretty as the town was, the lake was even more beautiful and unbelievable in the colors of Carribean waters, I kid you not. I never saw a lake like this in the blues, turquoises and pale greens all alternating together. If we had had more time I would stay in a gasthaus there for at least a night and go out in an electric boat, play the miniature “golf” on tabletops using a pool cue to hit the ball, and take the mini cable car ride up the mountain for the view. Another time! There were a lot of tourists, but all seemed to be relaxed. I could handle that.

    Since we didn’t end up fitting in the Sound of Music Tour we had planned on, we continued on to Mondsee to see the church where Maria and the Baron got married. (We were doing an abbreviated “personal” SOM Tour for my daughter through the week to make up for missing it) Mondsee was also pretty with all its pastel buildings. It was only a half hour back to Salzburg from there via the autoroute, so we had plenty of time to relax before dinner.

    And dinner was special…I had gotten us tickets back home to the Mozart dinner at the St. Peters Stiftskellar Baroque Hall, recommended by who else – Fodors. The dinner courses prepared as from Mozart’s time alternated with musical selections by Mozart played by a string quintet and sung by 2 young opera singers:

    Selections from Don Giovanni
    Lemon cream soup with cinnamon
    Selections from Figaro
    Capon and vegetables with polenta and truffle cream of sage sauce
    Selections from the Magic Flute
    A light frozen cheesecake with raspberry and lemon sauces, whipped meringue cream and cocoa sprinkled on the plate in the shape of Mozart’s silhouette.
    (Drinks were extra)

    The whole event lasted 2 ½ hours and took place in a beautiful hall with painted ceilings and gilt décor. Very pretty, delicious food and wonderful music and even the kids enjoyed it. It was a splurge at 138€ for a family of 4, plus a student price of 40€. This was advertised at out hotel so I suppose again I didn’t need to reserve from home, but you never know what things sell out in advance. I also don’t know if we ended up paying more to reserve from home. Not matter. We went to bed happy once again. Thanks for that recommendation whoever made it.

    Next: ((#)) NOT!

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    Aug. 3 ((N)) to the weather, or, 99 cent ponchos are useless in torrential pouring rain

    We left in a light sprinkle to see a nearby church and to go to the market by the Mirabell Church. There’s not much to say other than at our farthest point from the hotel, the skies opened up and there was torrential rain. (I was still interested to see a stand at the market where ostrich-sized eggs were being sold next to regular chicken eggs). We got back to the hotel and hung 5 people’s worth of dripping clothes up to dry – love that large bathroom - and decided to just stay in and play some games with the kids.

    That idea lasted all of a half hour when I said to my husband time to get out - let’s do a dessert run. He thought I was nuts, but then again I AM his travel agent, so off the two of us went.

    First stop Café Tomaselli at Alter Markt. We sat on the covered terasse and the pastry lady came and put down a huge tray of pastries right in front of me. I drooled over them all for a bit, pointed at one which looked appealing, but she had the nerve to take the tray away. They weren’t all for me? My husband had a coffee concoction with Mozart liquor and whipped cream.

    Next stop Café Sacher. (Hey, how did my computer know to add the accent marks without being told???) This was a place to behold with red velvet banquettes, sparkling chandeliers, lots of gilt, ruffly white curtains. It was crowded so we sat at the end of the bar which was perfectly shined brass. The menus were on little wooden handles. We split a Sacher Tart – what else? – which came with unsweetened whipped cream. To die for.

    Still pouring as we trudged back to the Gabby when we couldn’t wait it out any longer.

    Sick of walking in the rain, we went across the street back to Zum Fidelen Affen for dinner. The one waiter’s name is Cheese – it’s embroidered on his shirt. If you go there, ask him about it! The best of the meals were the Monkey steak – grilled pork on rosti with tomato, mushrooms, bacon and cheese, the mushroom ravioli in cream sauce special, and the Rindsgulasch, my favorite of the evening, a delicious meat stew with dumplings served in its own copper pot.

    Back to the hotel to get organized to leave tomorrow.

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    I should have told you that it was actually fun sitting in a cafe watching people in the rain. What a variety of umbrellas! I can tell you that many of the tourist Mozart umbrellas were way too small or were being blown off a couple of the supporting rods. They were probably in the trash that night. There were quite a few huge plaid ones - very pretty - and seeming to hold up to the wind.

    Even in the rain, I am easily amused!

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    August 4 travel day

    After some last minute sightseeing (almost forgot to visit the Mirabell Gardens – very pretty and a hot spot for wedding photos! – and then my daughter and I went to the toy and musical instrument museum – focused mainly on dolls ((X)) and their houses complete with all the millions of tiny trinkets which I love, toy cars, trains, with an area of old cameras ((P)) and instruments – ½ hour wasn’t enough time ((O)) for us to study the details), we checked out of the hotel. We were so surprised when they gave us 2 bags of Mozart chocolates and a bottle of Mozart chocolate liquor! Such a considerate touch and really a surprise! That Gablerbrau is high on my list when I get parting chocolates!

    We drove to Innsbruck using some back roads to be able to enjoy the towns and scenery along the way, getting stuck in a traffic jam caused by construction, dropped off the car at the airport and checked in to SkyEurope to Orly. This was pre-hand-search days and the security check was the old “walk-through the metal detector” check and took about a minute. Not much to do at that small airport so we bought some pastries (when bored always turn to food) and waited. The flight was comfortable and on-time. In true no-frills style, you had to pay for any type of drink. The clouds were amazing that evening - certainly more beautiful above than from down below (I tend to be an expert on clouds now) We were thrilled to see the Eiffel Tower waaaaaaaaay in the distance as we landed. Ahhhhh Paris! Excitement was rising, except we were to first drive the opposite way.

    I bought a carte telephonique at the airport and thus began the most frustrating part of the whole trip – those phone cards! It was easy to use the international card in the little packet, but I never did get the normal phone card for France to work. Every time I inserted it into a phone, it would say ‘credit exhausted’ or ‘card not accepted by this phone’ or some such phrase. I’ve used them before with no problem and don’t remember having to validate them or do anything special before the first use. I’d love to hear from anyone who knows about this.

    Then on to the car. I already have a post about the sorry shape of this “upgrade” to a BMW! Excitement turned to dismay… All dented, scratched, stained, filthy inside and out (where is the rain when you need it most?!) , and a huge gooey melted area in the trunk carpeting. Yuk! But the car ran well which is the most important thing. We set out with our instructions to St. Loup de Naud.

    Who writes the English for anyway??? It was the worst and so hard to understand. We pulled the road at around 8:30 to call the Gites owner to tell him we were slowly on the way. Nothing was open at all for a bite to eat where we were (kids have a way to be starving at the most stressful times) so after the phone call, and I am so embarrassed to admit this, we actually – oh my God – had our very first meal in France at – it’s so hard to say – McDonald’s!!!! Talk about depressing.

    OK – so it wasn’t as bad as all that in the end, once I got over the idea of it. They actually have a really delicious Salade Ocean, like a Salade Nicoise and I survived, even happily. Of course everyone else got the requisite burgers and fries. We managed to get on the wrong autoroute after this, I write nonchalantly. Europcar was “kind” enough to give us a tiny map of all of France with the southern outskirts of Paris covering about a 1x1 inch square. Who knew we could have used a detailed map with our instructions in hand? The biggest problem is all of a sudden there is a sign with about 5 or 6 towns you have never heard of, no ‘Route 95 N’ or ‘81S’, just towns and maybe a small road number which is not on the map and you have to make a split second decision. We made the wrong one, but before long, we saw a sign to Provins so we took it. Well, we made it to St. Loud de Naud at 11:00 pm, a tiny, tiny town about 10 minutes west of Provins. We had been told to look for the Gites de France/Antiquités sign as we entered the village. What we hadn’t been told is that there are no street lights in St. Loup de Naud, and that the sign was not posted at our point of entry. We were laughing slightly hysterically at this point. How can you get lost in a 2-street village? We left and re-entered this village from every direction until, yes, there it was, a tiny sign illuminated by our lights at just the right angle. We found La Ferme de la Haute Maison just outside of the village. Jean, the proprietor was waiting for us with his 2 dogs and showed us to our building and made us tea, a good start.

    Briefly, this was a 300 year old house with a recently renovated barn. The rooms were beautiful with beams and different antiques in each room. We were the only ones there that night so we had a tour of all the rooms, but all 5 were fully booked the following night. There was a little kitchenette where Jean prepared breakfast, but which we could use, and in the sitting area a chess set which thrilled my kids. Our room had a very comfy queen bed and a loft with 3 singles. The bathroom was huge with a tub, detachable showerhead (down low) and no curtain or door. Quick lesson to the kids on how to clean up without drenching the bathroom and we were set to go (to bed).

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    Glad you're enjoying it Faina. I didn't know how much time it would take, but I'm enjoying reliving it too!

    (Also trying to shorten the entries when possible - I know it's getting long, so hang in there everyone)

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    August 5 Part 3 – French Country side and Fontainebleau Forest

    Breakfast at our Gites (Bed and Breakfast) was typically French – baguette and croissant, but the biggest croissant I have EVER seen. We ate outside and Jean delivered coffee, tea and hot chocolate. Afterwards, we took the 45 minute drive to the Forest of Fontainebleau, after stopping at the tourist bureau near the chateau for maps of the hiking trails. There are many different options, one being a flat bike trail between Fontainebleau and Barbizon, hikes to artists ateliers in Barbizon, extensive 3-4 hour hikes in the forest, rock-climbing trails. They seem to have it all at every level. It is recommended that people park at the train station to start their hikes, but we prefer to go to a parking area within the forest near the Hippodrome, especially since we did not want to hike all day. We followed the blue trail through the woods and around tremendously huge boulders. The kids loved it! They scrambled over the rocks and climbed the boulders and ignored our warnings that the rocks could be slippery from the clinging moss and blankets of pine needles on some surfaces.

    We went on happily for ½ hour when the unthinkable happened. I won’t go into great detail, but I saw my 12S slowly sliding down the side of a boulder and then drop through thin air between some rocks. That was the most sickening feeling of my life. He was a bit bruised up with a bloody nose, but basically OK. He had also bumped his leg so it was difficult to think of asking him to continue in case it got worse (it didn’t) so he and I hiked back and the others went on to the planned viewpoint. It’s a beautiful hike and I would certainly do this again (and so would 12S). These things happen, but it could have been a lot worse so anyone doing hikes OVER boulders, please take the proper precautions, especially on mossy surfaces.

    Next: the medieval town of Provins is lit up by hundreds of candles

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    (Aug 5 – continued) Provins
    After relaxing a while, we decided to go to Provins for the “Lueurs du Temps”, an evening festival in which candles are used to light up all the streets of the old town and castle, musicians play in the square, the museum is free from 8-10:30 and the restaurants stay open till midnight. The town was abuzz when we arrived. We decided on Le Petit Ecu and ordered the Traditional Menu for 20 €. I chose the ham éclair, a hot cheese-filled éclair wrapped with a slice of ham. Delicious! Then bavette steak with peppercorn sauce and mushrooms, and for dessert chocolate crème brulee. The seafood salad and lamb courses were also wonderful, as was the Tarte Tatin. My 12 year olds have the Menu Enfant for 7€ with veal Cordon Bleu, frites and chocolate mousse. A bargain! (Aren’t the French kids menus great?!)

    After 2 ½ hours of eating and people watching (and waiting and waiting for the check), we went to the museum to see typical midieval items and a cool skeleton key collection, and toured the Tour Cesar, the castle. It was like being in another time – big empty stone rooms with incredibly thick walls, vaults really, small passageways, circular stairs, small window openings, all illuminated by candlelight. I can’t imagine seeing it in the daylight, and it was fun imagining living like that without electricity, wary of attacks. There were a cello and violin being played in the main room and really set the atmosphere. The nice thing was that this evening was for tourists, but mainly French tourists.

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    Well thanks to you, kwren, I'm now a full hour behind on my lesson plans. What a shame. Thank you so much! I'm enjoying every word of your narrative and can't wait for more! Your description of the meal menus is torture! Please continue as soon as you can, and don't leave out any details sil vous plait. J. (Hi, S', are you here?)

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    Great report. It gives me lots of good ideas for our trip which also takes in Switzerland and Austria.

    Would the card be benefical if you don't ride the train. We'll have a car the entire trip but this card is sounding interesting!

    You might also consider submitting your entire report to a travel mag - it really is a goooood read.

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    Thanks for the wonderful compliment LN. (You're not an editor are you? :S- )

    Are you asking about the Salzburg Card when you ask if the card is beneficial if you don't ride the train? If so, the Salzburg Card is good for many museums and sights as well as unlimited bus rides in Salzburg. We only took the bus a couple of time - most things were easy to walk to and we only used our car to go to the lake region and to drive to the Innsbruck Airport.

    If that's not what you were asking about, please ask again. :)

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    Perhaps I was confused as I thought (??) that the card was for train use as well as museums and attractions.

    As to my being an editor - noooo - but I have a dear friend who almost always sells stories on her trips to mags. She's concise and always adds the elements to keep your interest piqued. A bit like yours.

    Your report sounds like everyone had a great time - rain and all.

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    I think so far I've used the Swiss Card for free and half-price trains in Switzerland and the Salzburg Card for Museums, sights and bus in Salzburg. Maybe you were thinking those were one and the same?

    Soon to come Carte Orange for metros and bus in Paris and the Museum Card for museums and sights in Paris. It does all get rather confusing. I don't think I've left any out.

    (There's that phone card in France too, but I'd rather not discuss that one!!! :-< )

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    August 6 A day with friends, wonderful dinner in Provins!

    Just a relaxing day driving to meet a previous exchange student, his wife and baby in Souppes-sur-Loings’ animal park, an hour away. We had attended their 2003 wedding where my then-14 yr old son had been invited to play his sax. It’s wonderful making and maintaining these connections. Going back to the hotel, we passed fields and fields of slightly wilted sunflowers. ((W)) We just missed their peak – they must have been gorgeous 2 weeks ago.

    Later, back to Provins for dinner. We happened upon tiny Creperie la Rozel on Rue Hugues le Grand in Centre Ville (center of town) and it was fabulous! We were the only Americans there, and there were 2 large groups of townspeople there for dinner. A good sign for us. The crepes were excellent, with plenty of fillings. The Salade Fraicheur wonderful with tuna, corn, asparagus and tomatoes. The best part was a beautiful dessert combo called Café Gourmand – a cup of coffee with a tiny ice cream sundae, a tiny crème caramel, and tiny cup of fresh peaches with whipped cream and a crepe. Note – in a restaurant full of townspeople, look to see if there is something which the locals are ordering. Most seemed to be ordering galettes (a savory crepe) with filling and a fried egg on top, and a huge pile of tiny round slices of fried potatoes. More ordered a side of those potatoes. If we were to go back, we would get the crepe, egg and potatoes – they looked delicious.

    The only other excitement of the day was that my 17S’s glasses got knocked off his face and out the car window #-o on the way back to the Gites – that’s what I get for being too complacent to tell them to stop fooling around. We were lucky to find them uncrushed at the side of the road after searching in the dark! Glad it wasn’t the son who fell off the boulder! Kids add excitement, don’t they?

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    A great report. I'm jealous--we could not take the boat to Hellbrunn, they weren't running in late May due to combination of snowmelt and heavy rains (we too had cold, rainy weather on our trip). Glad you enjoyed the Folk Museum at Hellbrunn...what a shame almost nobody gets there.
    One other note, while walking the grounds at Hellbrunn, I was fascinated by the fish in the various pools. Some of the fish in the supposed trout pools looked like no other trout I'd ever seen. I took some photos and showed them to a fish expert, who said they were sturgeon.
    We loved that egg shop, too! I took lots of pictures there.
    By the way, was that "art" helicopter still parked in the square near the cathedral? And did you notice the ultra modern Red Bull headquarters in St. Gilgen?

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    Hi BTilke!

    I'm glad you're enjoying my report...only a week to go ~ Paris!

    Since it was starting to rain when we were done with the Hellbrun, we didn't take the time to check out the fish, or even look for the Sound of Music gazebo for that matter, which I realized once I returned home. (I know, no great loss!) We just wanted to get to the bus before the inevitable downpour.

    I never saw an art helicopter - there were a lot of bleachers in the area I think you are referring to, maybe for the festival? And, since we were just passing through St. Gilgen spur of the moment for ice cream (and actually a bakery for me) I hadn't done any research and didn't know Red Bull was there. I think I included my short list of things I'l like to do in St. Gilgen - I'll make a note to be on the lookout if we do go back!

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    Hi Kwren,

    Just read the Swiss portion of your report. Glad everything went well. Thanks for mentioning the escalators at the airport. Even though we've used them many times, I still hesitate before pushing my luggage cart on one and then breathe out when I see that it holds.

    Glad you had a great time! Funny that you saw Lederhosen in BO. Must have been a Bavarian group going through since the Swiss don't wear them.

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    Hi Schuler - you are really on the ball! I was looking back through my pictures and you are right - he was actually wearing long pants and an embroidered top. I did write 'traditional Swiss dress' in my journal, but my overloaded mind translated that to lederhosen. You were absolutely right to have pointed that out - thanks. (I'm sure I saw them in Austria though LOL) I really am trying to get the details right and hope I don't have too many oversights like that through my report!

    I don't know how people write their trip reports months or years later - it's a lot to remember even right after the trip! I'm always impressed by those reports.

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    PART 4 – Paris

    August 7 Driving to and in Paris! Hotel Claude Bernard, Paris Story, Bouillion Racine

    Time to leave our Gites, 144€ per night for our room for 5. I was so excited to go to Paris – definitely saved the best for last! :-X We stopped at a Hyper-U along the way to buy the food items requested by family members: Café Grandmere Tendre Matin, Orangina, Fond, Kinder Surprise, Mont Blanc. Our suitcases were destined to be much heavier than they were 2 weeks prior!

    Went straight to Hotel Claude Bernard, 43 Rue des Ecoles in the 5th. We took turns going up with the tiny elevator – one person and 1 suitcase at a time! Well, we were happy there WAS an elevator, until we realized it only went up to the 5th floor. Oh well, what’s one more flight of stairs to our 6th floor rooms.

    We were pleased with the triple – 2 windows with those cute tiny balconies and a view of the street, a pretty desk, 3 single beds, a good size bathroom with full tub and shower head at a normal height with shower curtain. The double wasn’t ready, but I peeked in. It revealed a smaller, but still good sized room with a double bed with little cubby holes on either side, no view, but very pretty in pale blue and yellow with a brand new bathroom with shower with glass shower door. Very nice! Both rooms had a refrigerator and A/C and all rooms in the hotel were non-smoking. (Summer special - Double 88€ including breakfast, Triple 118€ (148 for Friday) including breakfast and the 5th night free. What a deal!)

    We went back down to the car and I decided to give the 12 year olds a drive-by of the main sights of Paris before returning the car (this was their first trip to Paris): Notre Dame, Pont Neuf, Rue de Rivoli and the Louvre, La Grande Roue, Place de la Concorde and the Obelisk, Les Champs Elysees, and Place de l’Etoile – the Arc de Triomphe. Have you even seen the crazy drivers around the Arc? I swear some go in and never come out! But I charged in with everyone else we made it. (Rush hour would have been another story.) We continued to the Eiffel Tower and on to the Montparnasse station. It’s never easy for us to find the place to return a car in a Parisian train station, and true to form it took a while, but we did it. I’ll spare you the details.

    Quick boulangerie lunch – hot dogs on baguette with cheese, pizza, pastries, drinks, and off to the metro to purchase our 3 Cartes Oranges (16€) and carnets for the others leaving in 2 days. I was ready with our 1x1 inch photos of the 3 of us and ready for the attendant to say, “non, you are a touriste. No carte for you!” But she smiled and gave me the cards without even asking for the pictures. We had our ID cards in little folders and used the pretty orange and silver tickets each time we used the metro or bus all week. Easy and very cost-effective!

    Off to Metro Opera to arrive just in time for a torrential downpour. No ponchos, no umbrellas. Didn’t we learn anything in Salzburg??? We waited with the mobs of other people until it let up a bit and then ran to 11 Rue Scribe for Paris Story, a 1 hour movie intro to the history of Paris from its humble beginnings as Lutece to now. I enjoyed learning about the different walls which had surrounded Paris at different times through the years. This was not our kids’ favorite activity in Paris, but DH and I enjoyed it quite a bit. While waiting, there were multiple video stations of different things to do in Paris, a computer with games and a 3D map of Paris with lights indicating the position of the sights, and these had kept the kids busy and happy for the 40 minutes leading up to the start of the movie. Good recommendation.

    After the movie we took the metro back to Blvd St. Germaine, picked up some Croques Monsieurs and crepes with Nutella for the kids and headed back to the hotel. They were content to stay in their room while DH and I went out for a romantic dinner alone.

    We were so psyched to go to our first Fodor’s restaurant recommendation in Paris – Le Perraudin, just 5 blocks from our hotel. We rushed to beat the hordes of people we read about and finally arrived, and…it was closed! Ahhh, yes, those August vacations. Never mind, we had our trusty Fodor’s list and went on to the recommended Bouillion Racine, at where else … 3 Rue Racine. Here we met the first of many stereotypical gruff Frenchman. The restaurant host quickly came over and lead us to a small table. I’m sure his mantra was “do not crack a smile. Do NOT crack a smile” as he lead us over and tossed menus written in English at us. I waited until he deemed to glance at us 10 minutes later and asked for one in French (although to be honest, it did help to have both of them as I went through the menu – I just prefer to try it in French.) The waiter came next, same mantra it seems, to take our orders.

    The restaurant was in a very pretty art deco style, not as “French” as I would have liked, but the food more than made up for it. I started out with a Kir, and we split a bottle of red wine with dinner. My 27€ menu got me a cold avocado and spinach soup – wonderfully smooth and cool – lamb with mild garlic sauce with haricots verts, those tiny sweet green beans, and the most silky crème brulee I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat.

    We got back to the hotel, but had no key to check on the kids. There is only 1 key per room as it turns out, so we got the master key, and-peeked in to find all 3 soundly asleep. Bonne nuit. I-)

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    August 8 – Gargoyles, Nutella and scorpions!

    The Claude Bernard breakfast room was absolutely beautiful in peach and terra cotta colors and the man who serviced it through breakfast was as nice a guy as you could ever imagine. Excellent breakfast - typical croissants and 2 types of baguettes, but also yogurt, cereal, cheese, and eggs with a rectangular boiler apparatus you use yourself to cook the eggs to your liking. The kids got quite scientific about deciding on cooking times for their eggs each morning.

    The hotel location was excellent - an easy walk to Notre Dame, and about 2 blocks from the Pantheon or the metro. There was a boulangerie across the street. Since my DH and 17S were leaving the next day, we let them call the shots today. On my son’s agenda? Shopping for a new gargoyle for his collection, so we took a walk along the Seine past the bouquinistes and towards the shops by Notre Dame, the best place we have found to support his habit.

    The search was on! We checked every store seeing only the same old gargoyles as we have purchased for him in the past, until there it was – a gigantic hideous gargoyle <):) way up on the top shelf! 17S HAD to have it so while the clerk struggled mightily to get it down, my son negotiated with us over the price of this lovely, personal, heart-warming (disgusting) birthday gift for 88€!!! We paid for some of it and he used other birthday money for the rest and was as happy as a clam until he had to pick the thing up! I’m glad I wasn’t carrying it home! (A clerk in a store said the only size up was a real one off of Notre Dame. Très drole. I said I’d keep it in mind for the next trip.) We dragged it back to the hotel and worked on figuring out how to get it home. We finally settled on putting it in its bubble wrap into his backpack…the top half stuck out the top and the zippers only zipped halfway. We wound packing tape around the sides to secure it for the flight home. Mission accomplished – now we could enjoy Paris.

    After a leisurely lunch at a café, we went on to the Grand Palais for the Machine Exhibit we had heard about on Fodor’s. The kids loved it – giant machines to work even bigger cymbals, a water cannon, a catapult which launched a real piano (!), machine animals, a clapping machine made of dozens of white-gloved hands, and our personal favorite – the Spread-Nutella-on-a-Piece-of-Bread-and-Deliver-it-Down-a-Ramp-on-a Little-Cart-Through-Curtains-to-a-Waiting-and-Unsuspecting-Child-Who-is-Surprised-and-Gets-to-Eat-it machine. The volunteer? Our 12D. The man demonstrating it was so funny, and didn’t leave out a single sexual reference when the machine’s knife was inserted into the Nutella jar. I’m just glad my kids didn’t speak French!

    Next on the list was a visit to Deyrolles, 46 Rue du Bac, a store listed on the ‘Now for Something Different in Paris’ thread. We arrived and my family thought I had gone slightly nuts when they saw it was a women’s clothing store. (I have to admit I was a bit nervous too!) Then we went upstairs and the store turned into a sort of Natural History museum. Whew! Stuffed tiger, giraffe, birds, rabbits, elephant, etc. Wow. We never expected this. My son the future zoology major went wild, especially when he arrived in the insect room. Time to shop! He bought a large scorpion (15€ in case anyone is interested :)) ) ) and talked me into buying him a Christmas present: a gigantic beetle (15 more €) with a curved horn on its nose. Customs is going to have a field day with this kid! Glad I’ll still be in Paris. I do remember the calm, normal days before Fodors!

    We were pressed for time by now as yesterday we had been invited to dinner at the edge of Paris by the mother of another of our French exchange students. We hurried back to change and rushed to the metro. I wish I could throw this last-minute dinner together (we were invited last night): salmon terrine, duck with peaches and green beans, a cheese course, and raspberry and chantilly over a meringue crust. My mouth is watering just writing about it.

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    August 9 Disneyland Paris

    An early start to help my husband, 17S and gargoyle get to the RER station to leave for CDG, then off to Disney my 12S, 12D and I went. An easy trip on RER A. Nice weather when we arrived, but rain on and off the rest of the day. We were prepared.

    I’ll say right off the bat that my kids loved Disneyland Paris. That was the purpose of the day and it made me happy to do that for them after they have cheerfully weathered 2 ½ weeks of travel. However, this park was clearly not designed for the hoards of people who were there that day. It was crowded, somewhat dirty, the lines were long and it was sorely lacking in the usual cheerful Disney employee.

    Our hotel sold us “special” tickets (pay 3€ to the hotel and the rest of the normal amount at the admissions window – no discount) designed to put us in a short line at admissions – us and every person staying at a hotel in Paris, that is. Our line moved much more slowly than the regular lines – probably because not all the windows were open in the hotel ticket section. Would I say don’t get one of those tickets? No. I just don’t know if that was a fluke or not. Just be forewarned that you don’t necessarily get a quicker admission.

    A couple tips if you do go… the Buzz Lightyear ride is apparently the new ride – I would go directly there for the FastPass. We didn’t go for a FastPass to that until 12:30 and it didn’t give us a timeslot until 6:05! We couldn’t use our pass again the rest of the day. This ride was closed in Orlando when we went last time so the kids were thrilled to get on it this time. Be sure to see the Lion King Show. It was very good, but you must get on line early to be sure to get the tickets. Some shows are in French, some in English. Be sure you are getting tickets for your preferred language.

    We left at 7, stopped at a small restaurant near the hotel – nothing special, but good, and went back to the room.

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    August 10 - Catacombs, Arc de Triomphe and Le Relais de l’Entrecote, our favorite dinner

    It was off to the Pantheon to get the Museum Pass after sleeping late. What a beautiful building with enormous murals of St. Genevieve, the saint of Paris. Didn’t realize that the crypt houses Louis Braille, Marie and Pierre Curie, Victor Hugo and others so we missed that. We stopped as the Cluny Musee des Moyens Ages as we were walking by and since it was free with the Museum Pass. A Middle Ages museum with the remains of thermal baths, and a room with the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. Just beautiful! The kids were patiently(?) waiting to get through these 2 places – they were more interested in the Catacombs, our next stop.

    The tip on how to find the Catacombs helped so it bears repeating…Find the lion statue in the Place Denfert-Rochereau. If he were looking to the left he would be looking at the door. It was very hard to find on a previous visit. (included with the Museum Pass - 7.50€.) Luckily there was no line.

    We descended the 144 spiral staircase steps into the dinly lit, dank lower passageways lined with neatly piled bones and skulls, removed from various cemeteries in 1780’s to 1800’s due to the spread of disease in Paris. Prior to that, the Catacombs were actually mines for building materials such as limestone, clay and gypsum, and had been closed down. Each section’s plaque stated the date and cemetery from which the bones had been moved. The floors were damp in places so don’t wear your new travel sandals! My son noticed the patterns formed by the skulls within the walls of bones, a painted skull (although it looked like a tourist had done that) and a skull with a number etched in it. We reemerged into the bright sunlight a ways from the entrance – turn right to get back to the circle with the lion. If you are thirsty, don’t go to the first little shop you come to – the prices are high – go instead to the Monoprix up towards Place Denfert-Rochereau (turn right again once you reach the main street and it will be on the opposite side of the street). When we got back to the entrance, the line stretched waaaaaay down the sidewalk.

    Next, on to the Picasso Museum, a bit hard to find, but worth the effort. I had had my kids read up on Picasso before leaving home, so they knew what to expect and we tried guessing the subject of the pictures before reading the titles. They were actually pretty good at this.

    We had saved the Arc de Triomphe for rush hour knowing how crazy the traffic around it is at this time. A military ceremony was just about to start – the procession cuts through the traffic across the Place de l’Etoile – to lay flowers on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I had seen one of these before and the kids weren’t interested so we took the elevator. Good timing – most of the crowds were down by the tomb so we had easy access to the railings and views. The kids loved watching the traffic. Cars going every which way, busses stuck in the middle, and mopeds even going the wrong way to avoid the congestion, which had been made worse by the procession stopping traffic for a bit. They watched for ½ hour!

    Dinner time and on to the recommended, Le Relais de l’Entrecote at 20 bis Rue St Benoir near Eglise St Germaine. We arrived around 7:30 and were seated quickly, but the restaurant was almost full at that point. The waitress, who seemed a bit stressed as she rushed around, took our drink order, asked how we like our steak, wrote it on the paper tablecloth and left. Now I knew this was a steak restaurant and that’s all that’s served, but I did expect a menu with a choice of cuts and sauces. Not to be! Everyone eats the exact same thing! First a nondescript salad, then the waitress appeared with a platter of sliced steaks and another mounded high with beautiful thinly cut frites. She put the platters on a nearby table with warmers and loaded up 3 plates with a good amount of steak, the most delicious sauce, the fries, and then served us. We sopped up every bit of sauce with the unlimited bread and were happy as clams. Then the most amazing part…she returned and started the process all over with the rest of the steak on the platter (I had briefly wondered about the steak still sitting there and figured it would go to another table), more sauce, more bread and a new platter brimming with hot fries. Did you ever go to heaven twice in a row? We were really full by then, but not too full to split 2 orders of delicious profiteroles – tiny pastry shells filled with vanilla ice cream, piled up and topped with chocolate sauce. One order would have been enough for the 3 of us after all that steak, but we did manage to eat it all. :S-

    My son asked if we could postpone the Eiffel Tower since he was tired. I said fine and we returned to the hotel. (BIG mistake to postpone anything when the weather is holding!

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    Scorpions and beatles and gargoyles...oh my :)) Yep, I have 2 boys also. :D

    Still enjoying this great report....thanks. We loved Switzerland in June and Paris looks highly likely for next summer so I am taking notes!

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    Hi fun!

    If you are taking the boys and if they like animals and bugs, you should try to squeeze in Deyrolles. I wouldn't bother without them (unless you like them too! ;) )

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    August 11 – Notre Dame, Berthillion, Grande Roue, Vesuvius pizza, first stab at the Tour Eiffel

    Got to Notre Dame before the crowds. How beautiful to go in with very few people! There was a balsa wood model of it all with complete detail (right down to the statue of St. Denis holding his head and the gargoyles). If you see it, look inside the tiny front doors to see the alter.) We got on line for the towers – Museum Pass is accepted, but you may not bypass the line, so don’t go late or you will be stuck in a long slow line. 422 steps up the spiral staircase to see the beautifully carved gargoyles and the bell tower. Great view!

    Next to the crypt. I expected tombs, but found instead the remains of the earliest Paris with roads, some stairs and building foundations. Interesting. Skipped Sainte Chappelle when we saw we couldn’t bypass the line, so walked to Isle Saint Louis to visit Berthillion. We came to a small store front which said Maison Berthillon, basically just a counter. We bought our ice cream – great selection and delicious– but the vanilla was the most intense vanilla flavor I have ever tasted. Wonderful. Around the corner though, we found what appeared to be a cafe named Glacier Berthillion. A taxi driver later told me they are one and the same “house” (true?) and the café closes July and Aug – how can an ice cream store close all summer??? Interesting that they sell ice cream to many restaurants throughout Paris though. In any case, delicious!

    We walked along the Seine through Paris Plage, stopping to watch a few games of boules/pétanque – destination Angelina’s for their renowned hot chocolate. It was not to be –it had closed for the day. :-[ We went on the Grande Roue instead, right across the street. Great view of the Louvre and Pyramide.

    Hungry again, it was off to L’Epi Dupin, another Fodors recommendation, but alas it was closed for vacation. This turned out to be a good thing though as we went to Vesuvius by the St. Germaine and Mabillion metro stops for the best pizza we have ever had! That was a great recommendation – merci!

    OK – time for the Eiffel Tower since there were only 3 nights left. Last admissions are at midnight so we were in plenty of time. My kids couldn’t believe how big it was! On line already for ½ hour, we heard a huge crescendo ohhhhhhhhhh from everyone under and around the tower and we looked up to see the 11 pm sparkling begin. It gave me chills! We watched the men trying to sell tiny Eiffel Towers and cool wind up birds. When one of the demos landed at our feet, I asked the price. I was told 20€ and when I said no way, he offered me 2 for 15€. Non merci! Another man offered one at 8€ so if anyone wants one, I would try to bargain starting at 5 or 6 and see what happens. All of a sudden at 11:30 the line started moving amazingly fast and we were thrilled… until we noticed that the top level had been closed. :'( Too late and too crowded up there I suppose, so we joined the masses who were leaving, vowing to come back earlier the next night.

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    August 12 - Hotel Duquesne Eiffel, Angelina’s, Louvre, Le Bosquet, Tour Eiffel (“awesome and terrible at the same time”)

    Time to switch hotels… to Duquesne Eiffel, 26 Rue Duquesne, 7th, summer rate of 169€ (normally 199). Goal - I wanted a room to see the Eiffel Tower from my bed! We waited for the room to be ready since it was pouring and cold out. Once in our “Tour Eiffel” room, 2nd floor, we studied the beautiful “direct” view…all I had hoped for (after pushing the bed over 3 feet), especially at night!

    The hotel: Beautiful!!! Red and yellow decor with headboards, curtains, bedspreads, border in complimenting prints, cherry furniture, mini-bar and TV. Good size room – plenty of room to walk around and the bathroom like-new - shower with a glass door, tiled floor and walls and a granite counter around the sink, A/C and an elevator. Breakfast not included, but cost 11 euros. Beautiful lobby with wood beams on the ceiling, a stone wall behind the bar, the same pretty decor. Metro and brasseries 2 blocks away; 5-6 blocks from the Invalides, Napoleons Tomb, and the Rodin Museum.

    The day:
    Angelina’s, 226 Rue de Rivoli – best, best hot chocolate, rich and creamy served with a bowl of whipped cream, in a gorgeous room.
    Louvre – saw the Mona Lisa and then each child chose one thing which appealed to them so we were there about 1 1/2 hours – certainly enough with children.
    A bit of shopping. back to the hotel to rest, then dinner at Le Bosquet, another Fodor’s gem.

    The dinner: Le Bosquet was on the corner of Ave Bosquet and tiny Ave Champs de Mars, 1 block towards the Seine from Place Ecole Militaire (in case your map doesn’t label that cross street, which ours didn’t). First, escargot which the kids agreed to try. I expected :&, but got ((Y)). 12S asked why anyone would pay so much money when all it tasted of was garlic! (Talk about having a different take on things) I had a very nice dinner of veal steak, asparagus, and salad and Tarte Tatin with whipped cream and Berthillion vanilla ice cream. The kids had the 10€ menu: burgers (no roll), the best fries I’ve even tasted, coke and Berthillion ice cream. Another bargain for them!

    Tour Eiffel – It stopped raining after pouring all day and we walked the few blocks to the Champ de Mars for pictures, made even better when the sparkling began. We got on line and after ½ hour, tryed to ignore the drizzling which had started. After a while we were immersed in a sea of umbrellas as the rain picked up a bit. By the time we could get tickets, it was pouring again. :(( What to do? No one was leaving and as rain was forecast again the next day (our last) we purchased tickets and forged ahead. A short line for the elevator to the 2nd floor (it stops at the 1st, but you don’t have to get out), thena terrible loooooong line for the elevator to the third. Not only were we once again in the pouring rain, but it was freezing (this is summer???) and windy. At the top, the view of Paris at night was stunning despite the weather. My son’s comment summed up the evening: “This is awesome and terrible at the same time”. Even bigger lines to go back down to the second floor awaited us, and more to go down from there. (Tip: try the elevator at the south pillar, instead of the more obvious north pillar which everyone uses – an announcement was made just as we were finally boarding the elevator.) Got a taxi back just in time to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle at midnight.

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    Thank you for a very interesting, eloquent trip report kwren!
    The Hotel Duquesne was great wasn't it?!
    We stayed in rooms 45 & 46 with great views of Lady Eiffel.
    Had two very nice dinners at Palace Thai downstairs on the corner.
    I admire all you managed to do in 3 weeks!

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    Hi kwren---great report--I just returned from my own vacation, and didn't see it until today. I especially enjoyed reading about your time in Lauterbrunnen, a place we know well.

    One question---how easy to find is that ice cream stand at Kleine Scheidegg, where you had the "best ice cream ever" with the chocolate shavings? Is it near the train station, and is it the only ice cream place there? I know my daughter would love to sample that ice cream when we go next summer.

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    Glad you are enjoying it March...almost done :(

    tod - Oui, I loved the Duquesne Eiffel!!! Only one problem - I didn't sleep well at all the first night! Turns out I was so excited to have that view that I woke up about half a dozen times thinking 'Eiffel Tower' and quickly turning over to see if it was a dream. Whew - it wasn't! Guess I didn't want to waste a single minute of that view :) I did learn that the sparkling does not go on all night and that Lady Eiffel is only dimly lit once it closes. The things you figure out in the middle of the night! In case someone is wondering, the beds and pillows were very comfortable and in no way caused me to lose sleep, which by the way, did not happen the second night once I knew my view was secure (well, except once I admit - I had told my self I wanted to see it sparkle once the day we left and I woke up once just before it started. Merci internal alarm clock!)

    And to enzian - that delicious ice cream at Kleine Scheidigg was at a small stand-alone stand near all the tables on the side of the station facing the lower cow pastures. There were also some little eateries on that side if you want to have lunch. One's wall sign said grill-station and served bratwurst and sauerkraut from an enormous pot and rosti from a huge wok-like pan. The man's shirt said Rostizzeria. There was a bakery with appelstrudel and you could buy ice cream novelties. There were the inevitable souvenir shops up there as well.

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    kwren, good report! I've just returned from Switzerland and had similar weather problems. But when those clouds clear, wow, what a view!

    Hello enzian! - I believe kwren is referring to the Movenpick ice cream booth right there at the KS train station. Can't miss it. Yum!

    (Sorry to hijack - but enzian, could you email me at fraukopp at - I'd like to ask you something off the boards - thanks!)

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    Thanks kopp - agree about the view! Did you get to try the Alpenhorn?

    enzian - I believe I ordered chocolate, not chocolate chip or anything like that, and that's what had the shaved chocolate pieces in it.

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    kwren---thanks for the information on the ice cream stand. Movenpick sounds right---they make great ice cream. We didn't look around for ice cream the last time we were up there---we were in a blizzard! But for next summer, hopefully we will fare better with the weather. I hope to travel from Grindelwald to Mürren by going up and over Kleine Scheidegg, with a stop for a hike out to Mannlichen--and ice cream. I just bought our air tickets and I'm so excited!!!!

    kopp---will do; so you can watch for my e-mail, my last name is Smith (really!) and the e-mail host is a well--known university. I'll send it right now.

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    August 13 – Our last day. Aquarium with one child while the other stayed at the hotel, Napoleon’s Tomb and Rodin Museum in the rain, onion soup at a brasserie, packing, “Sundaes on Sunday”, one last view from my window of the Eiffel Tower sparkling at midnight.
    Au revoir Paris!

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    Hi kwren,

    Thanks again for all the great info. We have indeed decided on France for next summer with 5 nights in Paris.

    One of the hotels we are looking at is the Duquesne Eiffel -the other 3 are in the 6th/St Germain area. I am not familiar with Paris. Is the Duquesne convenient for walking places? I especially want to know if there are a lot of good restaurants in near walking distance for dinner.

    Thanks for any input you have on choosing our location for Paris. I will be traveling with my husband and our 13 year old son(16 year old will be away on program of his own).

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    Hi Fun

    Yea, Paris! (oh sorry, my excitement took over for a minute :) )

    The Duquesne Eiffel is in a quiet area in the 7th - on the corner of Ave Duquesne and Ave de Lowendal, if you have a map. There are some brasseries about a block away, the restaurant called Le Bosquet about 3 blocks away - my kids had the kids menu there - and a Thai place (which we did not try) just downstairs. I'm sure there are a lot of others but we were only at that hotel 2 nights so didn't need to find them. The metro is 1 1/2 blocks away and there are a lot of bus lines on its street or a block away. Rue Cler is close, and a small food store and boulangeries within 2 blocks.

    Within walking distance: Eiffel Tower, Napoleon's Tomb, the Rodin Museum, and now that I have pulled out my map to be sure I haven't forgotten anything...Galeries Lafayette - and I didn't even know it! (my husband won't thank you for that one for future trips ;) )

    The thing you have to decide is whether you want to stay in a beautiful hotel in a quiet residential area with good transportation and some restaurants or if you want to be in a more lively touristy area with crowds and souvenir shops, possibly more restaurants and such. (And I know you have to take your son in account too - my kids liked both areas, but that was because what I made sure we did every day.) It is very easy to get around and distances are short so that shouldn't stop you from staying there if you prefer the quieter atmosphere. If you want to be able to walk to a great restaurant every night, maybe the 6th would be better.

    What hotels are you considering and what are they near? Is this your first time in Paris? I might have more of an opinion after hearing your answers.

    If you have more questions about taking a 13 year old boy, please feel free to ask. I have lots of experience with that age in Paris - maybe 4 trips worth!

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    Hmmmm, thanks, that is useful information. I do like the idea of a quieter, more neighborhood feel. We don't mind a fairly long walk and using the metro or bus is always an option as well. When we were in London, we ate out all over the city and stayed in a more residential area, but one that was still centrally located. I want the hotel to be convenient, but that doesn't mean smack in the middle of major crowds.

    I was in Paris for 2 or 3 days in high school and my husband was there for a couple of days during a college backpacking trip. So, this is our first time in 25 years and the first time for our son. While I have some good ideas of what we might want to do and see, I would love to hear any suggestions you may have for us or for our 13 year old son.

    Thanks! :-)

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    The biggies for my 12 year old son were:
    Eiffel Tower (would prefer it when not raining)
    Arc de Triomphe - must go at rush hour to watch the traffic
    Disneyland Paris (sorry, but he is standing here giving me the list :) )
    climb the Notre Dame towers to see the gargoyles

    We mixed all this with my list of "kids must see this" as in my report (ie Louvre, etc)

    He says not to miss "the hot chocolate place" (Angelina's), "the famous ice cream" (Berthillion), the pizza place with the best pizza he says he ever had (it WAS good - Vesuvius near Eglise St. Germaine) and the walk-up crepe stands (ham and cheese, my older son loves them with Nutella). He almost forgot his favorite soda in France - Orangina! He won't recommend the escargot ;) but he did try them and actually ate a second! (I thought it would be a cool way to gross out his friends, but he hasn't mentioned it!)

    Have fun planning

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