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Saturday, 25 May 2013

Strasbourg Tour - the Final Leg!

I am now back at home and have been a bit lazy about writing up the final two days of this tour. But here it is!

So we left Strasbourg early in the morning making our way to Reims. The weather was the best we had seen all week, the sun was shining and the wind had dropped, it was a shame to be leaving it behind. We stopped for snack lunch on route to Reims, where we had an afternoon appointment at the Mumm champagne house, for a guided tour and champagne tasting. I love champagne and I wasn't happy to be missing out on yet another tasting session! I tried the old trick of I'm the driver, do I  get a freebie? To which the answer was, not surprisingly, no! And so I just told as many people as possible that my preference is Demi-Sec, just to drop a few hints!

From there we made a quick stop at Reims Cathedral just for photo opportunities before going to check into our hotel for the night.

The following morning we left Reims and made our way north stopping off in the lovely little town of Arras for lunch. It rained again! From there we had an easy run up to Calais and managed to make an early ferry for Dover. Unfortunately for the passengers there were 30,000 Germans also on the ferries making their way to Wembley for the weekend, but I was okay in my little driver's room!

We had the most horrendous journey from Dover to home due to such heavy traffic on the M25. But anyway, six hours later we arrived in Henley where I was presented with my bottle of Demi-Sec champagne! Everyone was tired but said how much they had enjoyed the whole trip and I was left once again with an enormously large head Because I am such a wonderful driver! ;-)

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Strasbourg tour -Day 4

This morning we visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg. I wasn't allowed in. So I walked around the outside taking photos. 

That took all of half an hour! So then I had a kip on the back seat! There was no lunch included with the visit so I took them to the park and ride to catch the tram into Strasbourg centre. I also took the tram in. It was the first time I have been in to the centre of Strasbourg although I have done this trip before.

 I forgot to take my tourist map with me so wandered around aimlessly in circles looking for the cathedral. I couldn't even see the spire above the buildings.

 After walking for about 45 mins I finally found the cathedral just around the corner from the tram stop! Already feeling slightly weary I stopped for a coffee in the square next to the cathedral, before taking on the mammoth task of climbing the 300 steps up the spire to the platform. I hadn't got half way up before I decided that this was maybe not a good idea because I don't like heights, I don't like spiral staircases, and there were far too many windows for me to see how high I was! I was starting to hold the rail tighter as I climbed and my knees were turning to jelly! Occasionally the camera was pointed out of a window but I was not looking through the viewfinder! Relief came when I got to the top and somewhere to sit with no one around to see what a state I had gotten myself into! Once I had regained my composure I took a look at the views which were very good. Could make out the Vosges Mountains in one direction, just about see the Black Forest, but unfortunately couldn't make out the Swiss Alpes today.

 Got some good photos before the next challenge of getting back to ground level! It wasn't so bad because there weren't as many windows so I had no idea how high I was, but nevertheless, I still had jelly knees when I hit the pavement! 

I did a bit more walking around the city. Found the Palais Rohan. But after yesterday's visit to the prettiest little town of Obernai, I was slightly disappointed with Strasbourg. Around the immediate area of the cathedral I thought was the nicest, but not as nice as yesterday.

 And as for the rest of the city, it could really have been any city. The usual high street stores, the beggars, the drivers who don't stop when you're on the zebra crossing! Having said that, however, there were some very nice looking patisseries and biscuiteries whose window displays were just mouth-wateringly scrummy!

So then I caught the tram back to the coach in time for a kip on the back seat after my exhausting afternoon, before returning to our hotel. I really can't be bothered tonight to go out to find food so I think a pizza delivery is called for, with a side order of wine! Happy days!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Strasbourg tour - Day 3

So today was the day I was not looking forward to. We left the hotel this morning and went to Strasbourg to pick up our guide for the day, Jacqueline, who was to take us around the northern part of the Alsace wine route. The last time I worked with Jacqueline she ran late all day, jeopardising an important evening function we had to make, frequently got lost, and had no knowledge of any of the towns we visited. We had words, is an understatement. However, I arrived to pick her up this morning with an open mind. Another day, another job, she had the benefit of the doubt. So we headed off for Rosheim. We hadn't moved 200m before she said, 'sorry I wanted you to turn right there, I should have said!' So, now going in the right direction, we have to listen to her wittering on for the next 20 mins about her being born and raised in Strasbourg and her mothers pet name for her as a child. I'm told to take the next exit off the motorway which, guess what?, was the wrong way! So after doing a 'U'y I'm back on track and we're heading into the medieval town of Rosheim. At the bottom end of the Main Street is a medieval arch which she has asked me to drive through into the Main Street. With the dimensions of my coach being 8ft wide and 11'9" high and the arch being marked 7ft wide and 10'3" high, I've told her I won't fit. Didn't go down well! 'I always take coaches through this arch, it must just be your coach'!...... I don't think so! So the next 3 towns we were meant to visit after that were all by-passed because of low bridges, while she tells the group that wine is made from grapes.

So our first stop for the day has now become our wine tasting at Robert Black's in Obernai. By this time I have steam coming out of my ears because we haven't visited the places on the itinerary, and now she seems to be trying to cut our day short by wanting to arrive back in Strasbourg for 1430 when we are not due to leave Obernai until 1500. At this point I rang our office, to let off steam more than anything else! So feeling better for having a good rant, I caught up with the group for the tour of the cellars, but had to miss the tasting :-( From here we moved on to the centre of Obernai where they had a short walking tour and free time for lunch. 

Then when timings were mentioned, it all became interesting. When Jacqueline said we would leave at 1400, the group organiser told her that wasn't long enough. She dug her heels in and was trying to insist. At this point, I cut her microphone, told the group to be back by 1500, and told Jacqueline that if she wanted a lift back to Strasbourg, that is when we are leaving. Very satisfying!

So although where we went today was all very nice, everyone felt a bit disappointed that they'd missed out on these little towns, myself included. So Jacqueline did come back to Strasbourg with us and was dropped off just before 1600, where another group were there waiting for her, and it all became clear that she was rushing to get back for them. Well you picked the wrong person to mess with, Lady!

But that wasn't the end of the day's adventure. We had just crossed the German border to find the German police doing some sort of random vehicle check. We were just about to pass them, and I thought we were getting through, when at the last minute they noticed 'there's a woman driving that English coach' and pulled me in. I opened the window and was asked where we're going, to which I replied, 'Hotel Garni, room 309! (Cheeky wink!) And would you believe he just let me go! I had to make sure I was out all evening then tho in case I had a knock at the door!!

Anyway, I'm starting to feel more comfortable with this group now and the the group organisers took me out and treated me to dinner this evening. We had a pleasant evening, good food, good company, good wine. So after today, it can surely only be downhill from here?

Monday, 20 May 2013

Strasbourg tour

Well! Where to start! I don't feel I've come off so well this time. Although I am in one of my favourite regions of France, the Alsace, I'm not so keen to be here this time. We travelled across the channel and down to Reims yesterday where we stopped overnight. The weather gradually deteriorated as the day went on. An early start this morning to get to Strasbourg in time for lunch and the rain just kept coming. I've not gelled with this group like I normally do and I'm finding them quite hard work. I've not really been off the coach all day because this rain just won't give up. Hopefully it'll be dry tomorrow and the rest of the week. 

We're staying in Kehl, just across the Rhine into Germany. I've had to go out to find dinner this evening and, not having found my bearings around town yet or sussed out the supposed abundance of restaurants, ended up walking aimlessly in the rain around the town centre finding a lot of kebab houses and fast food and plenty of what were signed up as 'bistro' but were not my idea of the same thing. Grotty looking bars, full of gambling machines, with plenty of people in drinking but no one eating. Never a good sign! Finally, I found restaurant Alexandro. I had a very nice meal, lamb filet, my favourite! I've remembered the quick way to get back there tomorrow night! 

With trying to speak French during the day and German at night my brain is going to mush and I'm getting very confused! I'm not good at either language at the best of times! So I've decided I only need to know 1 phrase in each language. 'sprechen Sie Englisch?' And 'Vous parlez anglais !' Both meaning, 'do you speak English?'! I only have a problem then if the answer is no!

Tomorrow we are picking up a guide to take us round the wine route. Could be an interesting day because the last time I worked with this particular guide, we had a bust up! Hey ho! Come what may! I can be be professional and tomorrow I will find out if she can be! If she shows up!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

London photos

The Golden Hinde

HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge

The Tower of London

Tower Bridge

Millennium Bridge and St. Paul's Cathedral

Paris tour photos

Hotel des Invalides

The Eiffel Tower 

Parc Champ de Mars

Ecole Militaire

Trocadero and the river seine

Hotel des Invalides




Monday, 13 May 2013

Back to normality!

Well today is day 6 of my working week and as usual I have a late finish. I have picked up a group of American students in Stratford-upon-Avon at lunch time today and brought them down to London for them to watch this evenings preview performance of King Lear at the shakespeare globe theatre before it goes on the road on tour. There are 14 students in the group with 3 lecturers. They are studying English at Hanover college. Hanover College is a private liberal arts college, located in Hanover, Indiana, near the banks of the Ohio River. The college is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. They are nearing the end of a 4 week long educational visit to England. They are staying in Stratford for 3 weeks before moving on to London for a further 5 days before flying back to the U.S.

I have had one of the easiest journeys ever into central London. I'm now parked up on southwark bridge with 6hrs to kill before setting off for home. I've brought my new camera with me again today and I have the Oyster card at the ready! Sightseeing in Paris to sightseeing in London in 3 days can't be bad going! The sun is shining, although rather windy, but I'm hoping for some good shots today :-) Photos will be uploaded in a few days.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Day 4 of Paris tour

After an early breakfast we were on the road for 9 am when we headed for our lunch stop at Arras. The group were all very pleasantly surprised when we drove onto Grand Place at what a very beautiful little town it is. We had a couple of hours there for a leisurely lunch break before running for our shuttle. When we arrived at the euro tunnel check in we were offered an earlier train so I should think I will easily make the pub tonight! At the moment I am sat in the carriage of the shuttle with 25 million kids running through. Gonna have to do something about this!! AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH! Anyhooo, we're nearly onto the final leg of our journey. Good times have been had by all. I have such a big head at the moment with everyone telling me how marvellous I am! Nearly at the end of another successful tour. :-) (Look out for the photos of Paris which will soon be uploaded)

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Day 3 of Paris tour

So far has been a very good day! This morning, Martine joined us at our hotel to take us on a guided city tour of Paris.

She was a lovely lady, although quite quirky, and she was so full of knowledge and information I don't think our 3hrs with her really did her justice. Nevertheless, she took us around some of the sights of Paris, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Élysées, Le Louvre, Tour Eiffel (shown above!), Hotel des Invalides (shown below), Ecole Militaire (bottom photo), to name but a few. The tour finished on the riverside by the Eiffel Tower for the group to get lunch before their 1hr trip on the Seine this afternoon, Bateaux Parisiens.

That is where I left the group for them to have some free time this afternoon before making their own way to their restaurant for this evenings dinner by pont Alexandre III. That has left me free until 10o'clock tonight, so I have been doing the tourist thing with my camera and now I'll go back to the hotel for a kip!!

I spotted a very nice looking Italian restaurant close to our hotel where I shall go for dinner! :-) I am looking forward to a few hours just to chill. This is me clocking off for now! Au revoir!

Friday, 10 May 2013

Day 2 of Paris tour

Well I think I can finally remember the group I have on board! They are soroptamists? Like rotary but for women! Correct me if i'm wrong, but from what i can figure out, they are 'girl power'! They are trying to sign me up, being a female working in a male environment an all!

So today we have been to Fontainebleau. Very beautiful chateaux and extensive gardens, often compared with Versailles, but not as busy :-)

There is a whole town built around the chateaux, also named Fontainebleau. I've spent so much time walking around the gardens taking photos that I've not had chance to go inside the chateaux, although my group tell me that every room just stinks of wealth at a ridiculous level and its no wonder there was a revolution!!

The chateaux itself is a very impressive looking building with extensive grounds. I will upload more photos next week when I can download the memory card. Because the site is of such an enormous scale, even when it's busy there never seem to be many people. There are lots of places to just sit and enjoy the view. The only downside today was the weather. It was cloudy and quite windy all day, I was rather cold in the end.

I would like to come back here again because after listening to what my passengers saw here today, I feel like I've missed so much of what there is to see.

This evening, 10 of the group invited me to join them for dinner at a French restaurant local to the hotel. I have had cream of mushroom soup, lamb and dauphinois, and ice cream. The food was lovely, I've enjoyed the good company and the wine was flowing in abundance :-)! I am now back in my hotel room feeling pleasantly full and rather sleepy! More to come tomorrow.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Day one of Paris tour.

Well, it seems to have been a long old day although a relatively easy one, after my initial tantrum! We won't go into that! I have a private group on board who are all relatively local to our depot where I've picked them all up from. They seem a nice crowd and were all very impressed at my driving onto the channel tunnel!

We've now arrived at our hotel in Paris. I have a really nice room with a fab wet room! It's now nearly dinner time, so that's all you're getting from me today because I am really looking forward to a glass of wine! More to come tomorrow.