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Vermont or Bust!


Stick Season – more leaves on the ground, and not as many in the trees

About a month ago I decided that Jim and I needed to get away and scope out what Vermont has to offer.  I went through Vermont as a teenager on the way from Boston to Montreal, and have fond memories of the drive.  Plus, my friend Gary Dulabaum hails from Vermont, and he’s pretty cool, even if he decided to move to a warmer climate. 🙂


Global warming allowed us to see quite a bit a foliage normally on the ground

Before leaving, I pulled up some fantastic tourism guides – Vermont is a state that really knows how to market itself!  I also read several bloggers and discovered some things that we would just have to watch for.

We flew into Manchester, NH and drove to White River Junction, just on the state line, across from Dartmouth.  White River Junction seemed about 2 hours to everywhere in the state from what I could tell, and it turns out, that it pretty much is.  We stayed at the Fairfield and the night manager was great in helping us with restaurant options. img_6150

We ended up at Tip Top Cafe, which happens to be in a building housing (mostly) creative professionals.  The food was incredible, and after, Jim and I wandered the halls looking at the art and offerings before heading back to the hotel.

We set our alarms and called it a night.  Up next: Woodstock, Brattleboro and Bennington!




Days 8 & 9: London

An early morning trip on the metro led us to the Paris Nord train station to board the Eurostar to London.  We arrived with plenty of time, but the workers, while not on strike, weren’t there to open up.  The lines and anxiety grew, and they finally arrived about 50 minutes before train departure.  We went through immigration, got our tickets and boarded the train.  A mere 2 1/4 hours later we were in London!


We were quickly introduced to the subway system, aka the “Tube”, which was far easier to figure out than the Metro, and massively easier than the subway in Washington D.C.  We took the Metro, had a walking tour and then broke for lunch.  Erin and a couple of friends opted for a Fish & Chips lunch – we hit the Sherlock Holmes.  Then back to meeting up with the group.

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The next day we had a fantastic bus tour with a guide, Keith, who was funny and incredibly interactive.  Too bad he was only with us for 2 hours.  We had the BEST spot to watch the changing of the guards!

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Later we went to Oxford Circus for dinner (do not ever eat at a place called The Best British Food, it was British, but definitely not the best), and Picadilly Circus.



Day 7: Versailles

We left Normandy and headed back toward Paris.  A couple of hours on the road and we arrived in Versailles.  IMG_4695First we broke for lunch and then met back up at the Palace.  The gate around the Palace was recently restored and glistened, even against the sun-less sky.

IMG_4703The Palace was full of people from all nations and at times almost impossible to move.  We did have a Tour Guide, which was nice, as she pointed out things we might not have noticed.  That weekend there was a modern art opening, we had a sneak preview of some of the exhibits as the artists were installing that day.IMG_4697

Day 6: Normandy, Omaha Beach and WWII Museum

Day 6 was full of history and much more somber.  It’s really amazing how much the French respect the allies and Americans for all our vets did during WWII.

The museum is quite amazing.  I didn’t read all that was displayed, but they do a very nice job of telling the stories of all people involved.

I didn’t take many pictures because it was such an intense day.


Since D-Day was soon approaching, we saw a lot of soldiers and Veterans.  Many were wearing historical uniforms.IMG_4676 IMG_4680pointeduhoccalaisarromanches2 IMG_4685

Day 5: Mont Saint-Michel & St Malo

We drove through several small villages in the Northern part of France.  It’s amazing how little space there is between the very narrow roads and the buildings – often too close to take photos of the architecture.  Our bus driver was quite adept at navigating those narrow roads and cornering, although sometimes requiring some tricky back n fort moves to make it through.  Not once did he scrape the bus on anything!


We finally arrived at Mont Saint-Michel and spend about 3 hours there, including a tour provided by our tour director. The original top rock is safely protected in the Abbey.


Soon the road to Mont Saint-Michel will be taken out to allow the Channel currents to flow properly again.  Groups can walk on the sand “beach”, but only with a guide – we saw these kiddos out there enjoying barefooting.  Later we found them singing at the exit while waiting for the rest of their school to arrive – so cute!


We hopped back on the bus and headed to St Malo, where the tour director let us explore freely. Several went shopping, some explored the beach and water, and a couple of us decided to go and get a decent dinner since we knew we’d be eating at the hotel.

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Little did we know that this hotel tucked away in the countryside would be very hospitable and cook a very nice dinner.  We had to apologize to them for not eating well because of our previous experiences.  Once we told her what we were served, she understood. 🙂


Day Three – Surrounded by Water

We started the day off at 8 am and hit the road for Cathedral de Chartre. The drive was wonderful. Passing through many villages almost too old and small for a tour bus to navigate, we arrived at Chartre and walked to the Castle and touristy downtown. Found a yummy shop with chocolates and baguette sandwiches. 

We found several sculptures on our short 2 hour walk. 

Then we hopped on the bus for our journey to the Chaumbourg Castle. Unfortunately for these tourists, this is where our journey took a major detour. The rain has been falling so long and hard in Northern France, the water has nowhere to go. 

We went along odor a bit, passing through several small villages. At one point the bus stopped in what we thought was our stop.  But he got back on the road and went back the direction we came from.  riding in the back of the bus, most of us thought the driver was lost. We didn’t realize what was happening – the road we were on had been closed. 

As we back tracked through the little villages, the bus started going slower and slower.  We looked down the aisle and through the front window we could see all the cars and trucks ahead of us. we sat in that village for probably a half hour before making it onto another larger road. 

The bus proceeded slowly down the road in stop and crawl traffic until we finally made it to the next traffic circle. We could see a McDonakds and supermarket to our left. At this point we were on the bus about 3 hours. The bus turned right and no one was in front of us. Then we made a turnaround back into the traffic circle. With nowhere to go, we took a rest stop at McDonalds and the market. 

Fortunately for us, emergency personnel were there and our driver was able to find out what roads were open. We noticed they were bringing in military vehicles, and saw others filling multiple gas tanks at the gas station. We figured this was for stranded motorists. If you’ve been following the blog, you know that we would find out the next morning they evacuated residents and put folks up in shelters.  The flooding had sealed into some homes as high as as the bottom of first floor windows.

 After everyone got back from the break, we started down the road, moving along pretty well.  And then up ahead, there were police stopping traffic. The bus pulled off and our tour director hopped off and talked to the police. The road ahead was closed but the police told him alternate paths to high ground. We were on the way again.

Another hour later our tour arrived at the hotel destination. I guess it was good we were already scheduled to eat dinner there. Dinner was interesting, a slice of ham and scoop of rice. There were bowls of ketchup on the table. No one knew why. 

We never did figure out the ketchup, but at least we were safely off the bus and had a place to sleep and shower. 

The Castles cont.

After Chambord we went to Amboise, had lunch and then went on a guided tour of Chateau Chenonceaux which is over the Loire River. The tour was fantastic and there was more to see than we had time for.

We jumped back on the bus and road back to Amboise to see Château Royal d’Amboise, which is where Leonardo DaVinci is buried. There is only a portion of the castle left, and the views from the top are amazingly!

We concluded our day with a short visit to a vineyard, which included wine tastings. Then had a delicious dinner.

Tomorrow – Mont Saint-Michel. 

Day Four – The Castles

First, let me tell you how big of a deal the rains and flooding were. They reported 50 year flooding on the Loire River, evacuated over 1,000 residents and put 600 motorists in shelters last night!  The rain stopped overnight and the river dropped 12″ by morning. 

Ok, now onto the rest of our story…

Today we took in three castles; Château de Chambord is the first we visited. The bus pulled up and the parking lot was closed to flooding. So we were dropped off and walked the forest path to the castle. 

The most in front of the castle had breached the walls but the tour director and group decided to do a group tight wire act to get to the other side. 

The castle was closed for tours, no surprise, but we were able to walk around the front and side to see more.

I found a couple of Slimeys on the way out. Cute, aren’t they?

…to be continued.

Oh Day Three – Loire Valley

I started a post for today on the bus while we were stuck due to flooded roads. But the hotel were staying at has lousy wifi and petiter that petite rooms, see for yourself – 

Two twin beds pushed together with a bathroom the size of a closet, a very small walk in closet!

Anyway, we had a wonderful time all morning traveling to Chartre to see the Cathedral – the villages have a very Swiss Chalet feel and are adorable. The first one I fell in love with is Beaver Village. Must look it up when I get free wifi –

Then a little more driving and we came across Linas. We didn’t go through, but look at this cool stone carved sculpture – 

Pictures are hard to snap through rain coated Windows. 

We went through a few more towns and arrived at Chartre. Amazing architecture, And relief work, not to mention stained glass and doors sized for hobbits-

We stayed for lunch and walked around the downtown touristy area. 

And then loaded on the bus and that’s when it all started…

Flood post probably won’t be until Thurs when we are in hopefully a better wifi zone 🙂

Day Two 

Rain rain go away!  

Today we started with a bus tour, after barely escaping the parking lot. 

We had a couple of photo spots, – l’Arc de Triumph and la Tour Eiffel. 

We did a lot of walking and went to Notre Dame. And had “lunch” at the Fete du Pain. 

In the afternoon we walked some more and took the metro to the Louvre. 
We had dinner and finished a very wet day where else? On a boat on the Seine River. 

Singing off til tomorrow.