Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Our departure for Bern was scheduled for 5:00 AM. Everyone was warned to pack their bags, shower and get ready the night before. Thankfully, everyone listened!! We had a 4:15 wake-up call but there was a communication problem and the calls were never made. I was relying on my alarm clock so didn't take notice of the missing call. At 4:30 Jeff knocked on our door and told me that no one had received a wake-up call. Quickly we went from room to room, knocking on doors and telling everyone to hurry. In record time all the group was downstairs and ready to load the bus. The train ride was an experience for all. Some of us were fortunate to be seated in 1st class and were served breakfast. We arrived in Paris at noon. A bus was waiting to take us to our hotel. There was heavy traffic due to the Paris Marathon taking place, but it gave us our first glimpse of Paris. Our hotel was located in the business district therefore there wasn't much to see on a Sunday afternoon...the streets and sidewalks were deserted. Not all the rooms were ready so we stored our luggage in rooms that were available and then headed to the nearby Metro station. We stepped out of the underground Metro station in front of the Paris Opera. We took time for a group photo and then Tom led us to a nearby Fragonard Perfume Museum. Our tour guide explained the history and the process for making perfume and then we went to a show room and enjoyed the scents of various perfumes. Our first dinner in Paris was at a Flammkuchen Restaurant. Flammkuchen is similar to pizza and a traditional dish from Alsace Lorraine district. The crust is rolled very thin and then covered with cheese, cream and toppings such as onions, mushrooms, and meat. The dessert was on the same crust but covered with apples, cinnamon and chocolate. After dinner we walked from Place de Concorde, along the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. Some stopped at crepe stands along the way, others checked out the shopping. Tom took the rest of our tour group back to the hotel and the Eatonia Marengo group took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower. It was dark when we arrived so our first view of the magnificent tower was when it was fully lit!! We weren't able to get tickets to go to the top of the tower because the elevators are undergoing renovations. We jumped back onto the Metro to head home and as we looked back at the tower the 20,000 flash bulbs gave the tower a sparkly appearance.
After a typical European breakfast of meat, cheese, bread and yogurt we hopped on the bus and headed to Lucerne. Our first stop was the Lion of Lucerne. The sculpture is to commemorate the Swiss Guards who lost their lives in the French Revolution. What a beautiful monument!!
Our trip to Lucerne involved traveling through four countries: Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. It was a long day on the bus so everyone had a chance to visit, catch a few winks as well as enjoy the scenery. Our first stop was at Neuschwanstein Castle. It was too bad that it was drizzling and foggy. We all took the long hike up to the castle, even though the view was not as beautiful as it would have been on a clear day.
Our first stop in Munich was a huge bier haus near the grounds of the famous Oktoberfest. We were served a traditional German meal of mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and bratwurst sausage. The servers were dressed in traditional clothing, including dirndl dresses and lederhosen. After dinner Marco took us to our hotel for check-in. We said our last farewells to Stephanie, our tour director, who had announced to the group that she was leaving us due to health reasons.