European Trip - 2001
( brief is here)

Overview

In the fall of 2001, five travelers made a wonderful journey through Switzerland and France. The purpose of this trip report is to share our travel experiences with friends and relatives. All the picture links are best viewed with a 1024 x 768 screen or higher.

The travel team consisted of five members, Susan and Kenneth Liu, Vincent and Mei-Ching Tzeng, and Mrs. Hu. Susan is Vincent's sister. Mrs. Hu is Mei's godmother.  We embarked on a 3-week trip to Switzerland, Southern France, and Paris.

An animated map highlights our stops during the trip

We spent

Transportation

Restaurants and Hotels

In Chur, three restaurants were particularly outstanding:

In Provence our home base was Arles. We stayed at the lovely and popular Hotel Calendal for 4 nights.
We spent the first day in Arles, saw the Roman arena (Amphitheater), took a city tour by trolley, and walked in the footsteps of Van Gogh. We all felt closer to Arles after learning, during a trolley tour, that a familiar melody by Bizet, "L'Arlsienne Farandole" (阿萊城的姑娘, The Girl From Arles), refers to the very city of Arles in which we were visiting. You can click on the link in the Daily Itinerary to hear the beginning of Bizet's famous piece.
The next day we took a bus to Aix-en-Provence to visited Paul Cezanne's studio and tour the city of Aix. 
On the third day we took a day-trip to Pont du Gard to see the awesome Roman aqueduct. (Train to Nimes, then bus from Nimes to Pont du Gard.) 

On the French Riviera our home base was Nice. We stayed at the Hotel Massena for 4 nights. We spent one and half days touring Nice, one day in Monaco and Monte-Carlo, and another in Cannes.  Rick Steves' guidebook recommended Nice as a practical home base. However, Monaco is very clean and beautiful; it would be a good candidate for home base consideration.


Daily Itinerary - with hyperlinks to many picture pages

  1. 9/5 Wednesday - Susan and Ken joined the travel group at Logan airport. We took an evening flight on American Airlines from Boston to Paris, then connected to SwissAir to arrive Zurich the next morning.

    Getting started

  2. 9/6 Thursday - arrived at Zurich, Switzerland. Took a train from Zurich airport to Zurich main train station (HB). Stored luggage at Zurich HB, took a stroll down Bahnhofstrasse to the Lake Zurich before taking the 18:10 train to Chur. Arrived at Posthotel in Chur around 20:00.
    • Had a late dinner at Hotel Freieck's restaurant, which made us worry that all our meals in Switzerland might be as bad as that. (Fortunately, it did not turn out that way. We had delicious meals at Stern, Kornplatz, and Calandra.)

    Photo in Zurich

  3. 9/7 Friday - Took Arosa Express to Arosa. Travel time was 58 minutes.
    • Arosa is one of the highest of the Alpine resorts, the most popular resort in Grisons after Davos and St. Moritz.
    • We rode the free town buses to travel around Arosa, saw the world's highest (altitude-wise) golf course. had a wonderful lunch at the elegant Hotel Kulm.
    • We also made all train reservations for the rest of the trip (only for trains that require mandatory reservations) at the Chur rail station. Some trains require compulsory reservations. Glacier Express, Heidi Express, Bernina Express, and all French TGV are such trains.

    Photo in Arosa and Chur

  4. 9/8 Saturday - Took a day trip to Luzern by train. Travel time: 2 hrs each way. Trains leave hourly.
    • Luzern is one of the most popular sites for American tourists. The picturesque old-town center offers 15th-century buildings with painted facades, towers, a 17th-century Renaissance town hall and a couple of postcard-perfect covered bridges. We also took a boat ride on the lake. All Boat rides are covered by Eurail pass.
    • Comment by Mei: In my opinion, Luzern is overrated. It is too commercialized, crowded with tourists, and the lake is not as pretty as Lake Como in northern Italy.

    Photo in Luzern

  5. 9/9 Sunday - Took the Heidi Express which climbed over the Bernina Pass (2253 meters above sea level) to Poschiavo.
    • We were unable to reserve 5 seats on the Bernina Express, so the Chur rail station employee suggested that we book Heidi Express instead.  The Bernina Express originated from Chur, Heidi Express originated from Landquart, but after Filisur, both covered identical routes - through Samedan, Pontresina, Ospizio Bernina, Alp Grum, Poschiavo, then to Tirano in Italy.
    • We got off at Poschiavo, had lunch, coffee and Italian gelato. Then we walked around the picturesque old town of Poschiavo before taking the Heidi Express in the reverse direction back to Landquart.
    • The first-class panorama train car was very roomy and luxurious, with three large black leather chairs per row, two on one side and one across the isle.
    • We met a German couple on the train who told us that they had gone skiing in Arosa every Christmas for the past 30 years, but this was the first time that they took the scenic train over the Bernina pass.
    • See Rhatische Bahn website for details about Heidi Express, Bernina Express, Glacier Express, and Arosa Express.

    Photo along Heidi Express and Bernina Pass

  6. 9/10 Monday - Took the Glacier Express climbing over Oberalp pass (2033m) to Andermatt.
    • We didn't take the entire 6-hr trip from Chur to Zermatt because it required spending a night at Zermatt, and we didn't want to have to change hotels or travel with luggage. Many passengers boarded the Glacier Express with their luggage so that they could stay at Zermatt, and then move on to other places from there.
    • From Chur to Andermatt we saw the most amazing scenery - the gorges and the 2033-meter Oberalp pass.
    • At the Oberalp pass, the mountains were covered with snow. Looking out the panorama window, we saw endless blinding white. Near the Oberalp pass is Oberalp Lake, which is the source of the Rhine river.
    • I consider this train ride to be one of the most memorable.
    • Again, the first-class panorama cars were very comfortable, they were either 3 per row (two on one side of the isle, and one across) or 4 per row (two on each side of the isle), with very roomy seats.
    • On the way from Andermatt back to Chur we got off at Disentis, visited the Abbey, and strolled around the old town.
    • Between Disentis and Chur we saw a rainbow outside the train window. Vincent captured it in a digital picture.

    Glacier Express, Oberalp pass, Disentis, and rainbow

  7. 9/11 Tuesday - Took train to St. Moritz for a day. Travel time: 2 hours each way. Trains leave hourly.
    • St. Moritz is very upscale and very beautiful.
    • We rode a tram and a gondola to Piz Nair (peak). Had lunch at the cafeteria on the way to the peak.
    • After we came back to Chur at 5 pm, the hotel manager told us about the news of terrorist attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon. We were shocked, numbed, and saddened ....  From then on wherever we were, we tuned in to CNN and read all the English newspapers we could find for updates on the tragedy.

    St. Moritz and Piz Nair

  8. 9/12 Wednesday - Moving day. Took train from Chur to Arles in Provence, France. Arrived Arles at 18:00. Total travel time was 10 hours.
    • Although the journey was long and required three train changes, we were not tired at all. The comfort of the  first-class train car as well as the changing scenery from outside the window made the extended journey very enjoyable.

    from Chur to Arles

  9. 9/13 Thursday - Spent the entire day in the city of Arles.
    • Woke up late since there was no train to catch. Toured the Roman Arena, Roman Forum, and followed the Van Gogh walking tour. 
    • Van Gogh lived in Arles for 15 months (2/1888 ~ 5/1889) which coincided with the most productive period of his artistic life. He was entranced by the countryside of Arles. He painted more than 200 canvases in the sun-drenched Southern France.
    • We walked to the canal where Van Gogh painted the Langlois drawbridge. The bridge itself is no longer at that spot, it was moved to the south of the city.  Van Gogh left Arles for the asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence in May, 1889.

    Arles and Van Gogh (many colorful pictures, an MP3 song, and a few MPEG movies)

  10. 9/14 Friday - Took a bus to Aix-en-Provence, the traditional capital of Provence. Spent the day in Aix. Visited Paul Cezanne's studio (Atlelier Cezanne).

      photo - Aix and Paul Cezanne

    • 9/15 Saturday - Took a train to Nimes (pronounced as 'Ni-ma' in French), then a bus to Pond du Gard to admire the Roman aqueduct, which was built in 19 BC.
      • We met a few American tourists in Pond du Gard while waiting for the bus to go back to Nimes. We shared some thoughts on the 9/11 tragedy, related stories and felt compatriotism.

      photo - Pont du Gard

    • 9/16 Sunday - Moving day. Train from Arles to Nice (via Marseille), arrived at Nice in the early afternoon.
      • Strolled Promenade des Anglais, tried French crepe, visited Nice's landmark hotel - Hotel Negresco which has a magnificent chandelier in the grand Royal Salon.

      Along Nice promenade, and Hotel Negresco

    • 9/17 Monday - Spent the day in Nice.
      • Visited Matisse Museum.
      • Visited the Russian Cathedral, one of the finest Russian Orthodox church outside of Russia.
      • Climbed the Castle Hill in the old town. (No digital pictures at Castle Hill, because Vincent stayed at the hotel to catch up with email.)

      Nice, Matisse Museum, Russian Cathedral

    • 9/18 Tuesday - Took a bus to Monaco for the day. Monaco is beautiful and clean.
      • Toured the beautiful royal palace. Visited the cathedral where Princess Grace was married and buried. The cathedral was crowded with tourists. The guards kept ushering (by yelling) the tourists to move, everyone could only stop for a few seconds by the Princess' resting place. We managed to take a few pictures quickly.
      • Had lunch by the harbor where many yachts were anchored..
      • Spent the afternoon in Monte-Carlo ('Charles' Hill'). Like most tourists, we happily lost some money at the famous Casino. Everyone needed to show a passport and pay an entrance fee to enter the Casino. Only foreigners are permitted to gamble in the Casino.

      Monaco, the port, and Monte Carlo Casino

    • 9/19 Wednesday - Took a bus to Cannes (pronounced as 'Kan-na' in French).
      • We debated whether we should spend the day at Antibes or at St. Paul and Vence. Before we left the hotel, we decided to go to Antibes to see the sandy beach and the Musee Picasso. However, when we got on the bus, we found out the bus would continue on to Cannes, so off to Cannes we went.
      • We were glad that we spent the day in Cannes. The promenade was beautiful. The film festival building, which also housed the TI office, was right on the beach.
      • We had one of the best lunches at Hilton's beachfront restaurant. After lunch, we walked along the entire beach and went up to the top floor of Hotel Carlton.  From there we had a panorama view of the sandy beaches of Cannes.
      • Before we got on the bus to Cannes, we toured the flower and vegetable market at Cours Saleya in Nice's old town. This delightful market was open Tuesday to Saturday. On Mondays, it turned into an antique market. Vincent took many delightful pictures at Cours Saleya.

      A.)  Cours Saleya photo (flower and vegetable market in old Nice)
      B.)  Cannes beaches photo

    • 9/20 Thursday - off to Paris. Took the 7:15am TGV train.
      • Arrived at Paris' Gare de Lyon at 1 pm. After checking in at the hotel, we walked to Samaritaine department store in light rain. On the roof top of Samaritaine we could view the city, the Seine, and the Eiffel Tower. We had our late lunch at the 5th floor coffee shop.
      • Walked from Samaritaine to Tuileries Garden to Place de la Concorde, then along Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. Vincent took a very nice picture of Arc de Triomphe at night, soon after the floodlights were turned on.
      • The best money exchange rate in town was at # 76 Champs Elysees (Arcades Des Champs Elysees.) If that was closed, try next door by the MacDonald's (approximately # 82 Champs Elysees.)

      To Paris and Paris Walk

    • 9/21 Friday - Took train to visit Monetís garden in Giverny (zhee-vayr nee), a 45-minute train ride.
      • Took the Rouen-bound train from Parisí Gare St. Lazare to Vernon. From Vernon train station to Monetís garden is 4 km. We took Vernon-Giverny bus (5 per day and scheduled to meet the train), or you may take a taxi (70FF for 3) if a bus were not in sight.
      • Ken, Susan, and Vincent, all felt it worthwhile to come to Paris to see Monet's garden and house. We were all surprised to see many 17th-18th century Japanese prints collected by Monet on display in his house. However, we were equally surprised that none of Monet's original work were displayed there. All of Monet's original paintings are in museums or private collections; only copies of his work are on display at Giverny.
      • Although there were sandwich stands near the entrance to Monet's house, the American Impressionist Art Museum (100 yards from Monet's place) had a "garden cafe that is much better - peaceful and surrounded by gardens Monet would appreciate" - Rick Steves.  We also briefly visited this museum and its garden.

      Monet's garden and house

    • 9/22 Saturday - Ken, Susan, and Vincent left Paris for Boston.

      Leaving Paris for home

    • 9/22 - 9/25, Mei and Mrs. Hu visited Notre-Dame, the Louvre, the Musee de Orsay, Versailles, the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and also walked up and down Champs-Elysees several times.
      • Since Vincent had gone home to Boston, no more digital picture were taken for the remainder of the trip.

    • 9/25 Tuesday - Mei and Mrs. Hu left Paris for Boston.
    • 9/30 Saturday - The group gathered one more time in Reading, Massachusetts to celebrate our safe and memorable trip. (Picture in the last linked daily itinerary - "Leaving Paris for home".)

    Thanks for your time and you are welcome to e-mail your comments
    or questions to Mei-Ching and Vincent


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