After an early breakfast, I went to mass at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Really strange not being able to participate fully in the mass due to language inadequacies. A few words are the same (Amen & Amen) but I enjoyed it all the same. We then went on our own walking tour of the city. We saw Cathedral of Notre Dame (amazing, enormous and grand), Seine River, Sainte Chapelle, Palais de Justice, Le Conciergerie and Luxembourg Gardens & Palace. The gardens were amazing, a place for Parisiennes to sit in the fresh air and enjoy the beautiful day. It was mainly locals and their families in the park (childrens playground was mayhem, tennis courts, petanque, cards, walking, jogging, soccer and reading, wifi-ing, boats in the fountain). Chairs were provided if you could find one spare, boats were for hire for the kids to play with, merry go round). It was great to see. We then headed back to the hotel to get ready for tonight. My birthday present from the kids and grandkids. The moulin Rouge dinner and show. Another education on another Metro system in another country. All went well. Rather than catch 2 trains, we walked from the end of the first train line, though the poorer section of Paris and the sex shop/trade district. This was interesting but probably lucky it was early as was very quiet in the street. The dinner was lovely and the Moulin Rouge show was spectacular. A great night. Thanks Gavin, Kristy, Frankie & Arlo, Kristen, Matt, Makayla & Andi and Benny, Amazing night.
Last night we stayed at Dijon, unfortunately only a fleeting visit as we decided to drive straight to Paris this morning to avoid arriving in peak hour. The traffic was still pretty amazing but DB is starting to handle it with ease. Found our parking station and hotel, then had a bit of a rest for the afternoon. Enjoyed a lovely 3 course dinner – Escargot in garlic & pesto, Goats cheese & salad; Duck breast fillets with sweet potato mash & dessert. We then went on a short night tour of the sights near our hotel – Cathedral of Notre Dame and Seine River. A nice easy day. Phew! We needed it.
After our stressful check-in due to lack of internet we had a lovely dinner and the hotel staff were very friendly and helpful. We chose a bushwalk close by Lucerne. It was a 4 hour walk up to 2200m above sea level. Starting height was 500m. We set off about 11.30am with the last train down at 4.25pm. We could have caught the train up to the top and then back down at a cost of 68 swiss francs each (about 83AUD). A bit much for DBs wallet so up we went on foot. This was our preferred option anyway. We went up and up and up and up. It was a very picturesque walk. We went along switchback after switchback after switchback for 1hr 40mins when we reached the halfway mark of Amsigen (elevation 1300m). Decision time. Catch the train up to the top or keep walking. As I had a headache at about 1200m and the 2nd half of that walk was quite steep and I was puffing a bit, DB was a bit concerned about walking all the way and we still weren’t sure if snow was going to stop us making the top. The train arrived at the same time as we did which gave us about 5 mins to make the decision. Not good for us. Pros and cons for the Libran 1. Catching train would get us on the road sooner. 2. Less effort. 3. Not completing the days challenge. DB left the decision up to me. So I let the train go. Onwards and upwards for another 2 hours. Hopefully a bit less. The track continued up and up, switchback after switchback. It was still beautiful scenery and as challenging as the first half. I slowed down a little with the emphasis on enjoying the rest of the walk rather than DBs preferred “Let’s beat the estimated time”. It was a great walk and we did the 2nd half in 1hr 45mins. There was only about 50m that was on a decline over the entire walk. We reached the top in just under 3.5hrs. So we walked in distance ??? kms and 1700m in elevation. A very tough walk. There was snow on the edge of the track from Amsigen to Pilatus-Kulm (the top) but it didn’t impede our walking. As we arrived at the top some hang gliders were just taking off so we watched them for a while as they took off and travelled around the corner which was really cool. We had a late, expensive lunch and then walked up to the lookout/peak. Unfortunately the mist and clouds had rolled in and photos weren’t as good but we didn’t really care as we had looked at it for the last few hours as we walked. We the caught the train down at 34 swiss francs each. Much better on the wallet for DB. Hehehehe! And hopefully worked off a bit of the spare tyre we are both carrying around our middles! Hahahahaha!
The train (the steepest train in the world, so they claim) took about 30mins and the view was nowhere near as good as the walk. Time to drive on, we headed west towards Paris and had to wait till we reached France to use the internet to book our room for tonight. Once we were in France it took about 30mins to get it working so we booked a bed (our latest time yet) at 8.15pm. As we needed a late check-in we had to change our chosen route to accommodate this. Luckily we don’t have to sleep in the car. ETA at hotel 10pm with a Service Station dinner again.
We had a travel day today. Headed in the direction of Switzerland via Lichtenstein. Two border crossings and another toll sticker (Austria 8.50 euro for 10 days, Switzerland 40 euro set price for a year even though we will only be here for 2 days, France and Italy both had tolls per toll way). We went through the border crossing to Lichtenstein and the dude in the office beside the road nodded his head. I told DB that so he just drove straight through then I said “Maybe we should have stopped”. A bit late now, so we just kept going. There wasn’t even a crossing into Switzerland. The mountain scenery was amazing. We passed by sheer cliffs, high snow-capped mountains and lakes. It was a lovely drive. We went through a 10km mountain tunnel that cost 9 euro. Arrived in Lucerne to WiFi issues, no connection, unable to book hotel or find out about internet. What will we do. DB is inside museum trying to fix it presently, otherwise it will be a very cold night in the car. We managed to book hotel using Museum wifi, on investigation once we arrived at our guesthouse, Switzerland doesn’t belong to EU so data bundle we bought doesn’t work so it burnt our phone credit at the rate of 4 euro per MB.
I have started writing DB classic quotes (DBCQ) as he makes me laugh with at least one each day.
DBCQ1: I think I need snow tyres. This was said after we left a service station that had frozen ice puddles and turned off the motorway to streets lined with snow heading up the mountain.
DBCQ2: What does that say? Or What does that mean? (about nearly every street sign written in German since we arrived in Austria). Like I can read it!
Today we are joining a tour group called “The Sound of Music Tour”. We meet the tour group at Mirabellplatz and do a bus tour around the city seeing where scenes of the movie were filmed. The Abbey, the bridge, the lake at the house. We then drove to the Palace where the gazebo has been moved to and the scene for the pathway to the house and house gates.The lake and the back of the house were at 2 different locations which made filming the scenes quite tricky. Then we drive to Mondsee to the church where the wedding was held. Apparently they couldn’t get permission to use any churches in Salzburg. On the way to Mondsee we stopped at Wolfgang Lake which was also very beautiful with the mountains in the background. The tour finished at Mirabelle Gardens which was also very beautiful. DB was a bit like a caged lion on the tour and it is probably good that we freelanced our holiday rather than an organised tour as I think he may have gone nuts. After the tour we headed for a brief visit to Germany to The Eagles Nest was built and given to hitler for his 50th birthday, to serve as a retreat, and a place for him to entertain visiting dignitaries. Unfortunately a lot of tourist destinations and activities all close on 26 Oct so we were unable to go up there. We went through the museum and bunker which was very interesting and very detailed about Hitlers regime. We then headed back to Innsbruck Austria a 2 hr drive. DB is amazing as I slept most of the way (exhausted) I don’t know how he is drivin with how tired and exhausted we both are, it was a shame it was dark as it looks like mountain views all the way. When we arrived the restaurant in the hotel was closed. We had a lovely dinner with a Japanese student who was stranded at the bus stop in the freezing cold trying to get in to town for dinner so we gave him a lift and he was very very grateful. Minimal English but we managed a little conversation. We had a choice of going to Mutters or Natters for dinner. Only 1 restaurant open in Mutters with a bit of a grumpy waitress but lovely vegetables so I was very happy.
National Austria Day and it was the change of daylight savings time, a double whammy. I wish we had known as an extra hour sleep would have been lovely. The plan was to set out early today as we were meant to leave yesterday. The weather started out dreary much to DBs disappointment but by the time we reached our destination the sun was out and the mist had cleared. This was the first time we had seen the sun for quite a few days. We drove to Hallstatt which was a little ski village in the Salzkammergut a region. It is located near the Hallstätter lake and is known for its production of salt. It was not on our way to Salzburg, as always it was a little detour for our next adventure. It took about 2 hours to drive there and was unfortunate for planning purposes the Information Centre was closed. It took about an hour for DB to source maps and download programs so we would be safe on our walk. I find this really frustrating (especially if maps were available at tourist info it takes about 10mins) but am always grateful when we are walking for his diligence. By then it was lunchtime. We headed off on our walk at about 1.30pm, still a little unplanned but with a starting plan to the walk. It was a very beautiful place. As always the walk headed up and up and up and up. We climbed from 500m above sea level to 1100m and back down again over a 13km distance in a 4 hour walk from the lake through bush, along cliffs, up sheer stairways with ropes to assist, through snow, salt mines and Hallstatt village. It was a great walk and a lovely day. We only passed about 6 people and 2 cars the entire day. We then drove to Salzburg.
It is another icy cold day. The expected temperature is 2°-9°. We have decided to brave the cold on a 36km bike ride, 2hr hike and a bus ride back. The first port of call is to add a beanie to my wardrobe. I got a very nice one that even matched my scarf but not with my usual price tag. Oh well, at least I will be warm. Second port of call, rent some bikes. Finally set sail at about 11.45am riding alongside the Danube River from Melk to Krems. We went on the south side of the river as it was supposed to be more picturesque although in hindsight probably should have gone the north side so we went through the towns instead. The river was very murky as we discovered along the way the recent rain must have flooded the banks and the path was often covered with mud which slowed us down somewhat. We also realised that even though we have been walking a lot our legs were not very bike fit. We saw many towns from the opposite side of the river – Aggsbach Markt, Willendorf (known among art buffs as the town where the oldest piece of European art was found a 30,000-year-old fertility symbol, the Venus of Willendorf), Spitz, Weissenkirchen, Durnstein, Stein and Krems. None of the towns we went through had any options for lunch so at about 2.30pm when we passed through a little town we bought 2 apples from a box outside a house for 0.20 euro each. This was the first bit of food we had eaten since breakfast. DB was starving but that was the best we could manage. A decision not to cross the bridge at Stein probably added an extra hour or two on to our ride. We were to start our hike just outside Krems but by the time we got there it was about 4pm so had really run out of time for the hiking. Krems was a much bigger town than we were expecting so decided to continue back on the bikes to where we were to end our walk at Durnstein to catch the bus back. This was about another 15km or so. We refuelled at about 4.30 with a snickers each. Lucky for us there was a supermarket open at Stein. We then continued on our bikes for another hour or more. When we arrived at Durnstein the bike rack we were to leave our bikes at was full so we rode around to try and find another one. Unsuccessful so we had to jam our bikes in on the outside, this extra time meant we missed our bus. We had about 35mins to wait for the next one, so decided to walk through the town of Durnstein to the bus stop at the other side to stay warm as the temperature was on its way back down. This was a very quaint little winery town with tastings of wine and apricot jam along the way. We finally caught the bus about 6.30pm back to Melk and thought it best to stay there again tonight. We were on our bikes for over 5.5hrs today with only stops for photos and one 30 second sit down for me. It was a great day with many picturesque sights. We topped this day off with a lovely 3 course meal as we were both very very hungry.
Today the rain had stopped at least even though the temperature was still cold. We headed to Schonbrunn Palace on the outskirts of the city which is a former Imperial 1441 room summer residence for the Habsburgs monarchy. We did a tour of the 40 state rooms on the first floor of the 3 level palace. The décor, art and façade was extremely ornate. Gilded door and window frames, wood panelling, furniture and detail was incredible. The history was really interesting and it was an enjoyable tour. We then tour the grounds that were also huge. The gardens extend for 1.2 km from east to west and approximately one kilometre from north to south. Many people were using it as their running tracks for exercise as the pathways were wide and flat. The gardens were also amazing even though it was autumn. We then went to the Vienna zoo that was also on the palace grounds. After the zoo visit we drove to our next destination a small town called Melk which was home of the Melk Abbey. Another huge building that could be seen from outside the town.
Vienna. It was a very cold morning with the forecast for rain. We headed out for a Broadbent/Rick Steve’s one day city walking tour. As we walked past the Hofsburg Palace we were approached by a ticket seller for a musical performance at the Palace that night which included Orchestra, Ballet and Opera at a very reduced price of 39 euro. DB had received an email the night before advertising a show similar with dinner the night before and the pictures the guy was showing looked the same. So thinking it was something I would really like to do DB agreed to book this. As we got to the Vienna Opera House which was where our tour was to start we were approached by another ticket seller for a concert at the Opera House for the same thing. DB started to smell a rat but I was just a little disappointed as I would have loved to go to the opera house for the concert as the building looked amazing. Oh well I thought at least I am going to one concert which was more than I thought I would do. We started our tour at the Opera House which was an amazing building built in 1869 in Neo- Renaissance style. After this we headed to Café Sacher, the home of the world’s classiest chocolate cake (two layers of chocolate cake separated by apricot jam with dark chocolate icing and whipped cream). This was invented by Franz Sacher who was the dessert chef to Prince Metternich in 1832. It was made famous when sold in the hotel next door. It is now shipped around the world. We then saw the Albertina Museum and Plaza with its powerful “Monument against War & Fascism”. We then had a hotdog from the traditional “Wurstelstand” which had heaters is the roof for the customers comfort whilst eating their hotdog. There were many varieties of sausage to choose from. We then followed the tour to 3 other cafes. Rick Steve must have been hungry the day he wrote this tour. We then saw the Capuchin Church, Neuer Markt Square and arrived St Stephens Cathedral in the centre of the city. Which was another amazing Cathedral built in 1300-1450. Mozart was married in the chapel. We climbed to the top of the 450ft south tower for a good view of the city but by now the rain had set in and the view wasn’t as good as it could have been. We then went to Buffet Trzesniewski a classic sandwich shop which sold open finger sandwiches with lots of fancy toppings ie egg & salmon, egg & crab, egg & bacon. They were very meagre portions for 1.2 euro. I think Rick must be on the café’s payrolls. Then we saw the Holy Trinity Plague column which is a statue on the Graben with a gilded Trinity (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) at the top. We then went to St Peter Church and saw some fancy toilets built in 1900. WE then went to a gourmet supermarket that was established in 1862 called Julius Meinl am Graben. We then walked through Kohlmarkt which is the most elegant and unaffordable shopping street. Then we headed to Michaelplatz which is the entrance to Hofburg Palace the home of the Habsburgs who reigned for approx. 600 years. The Palace like all others is grand, enormous and occupies vast areas of land. We walked through her to the Museumplatz where there were 3 museums. We went through the Natural History Museum something DB has great interest in. Rocks, fossils, dinosaurs etc. Throughout the day we were approached every corner of our tour by another ticket seller for the same and different concerts as the one we were going to tonight, all dressed in costume and all sporting the same type of folders to explain the concerts. By the end of the day we were pretty sure it was a scam and we had been HAD, especially as we put it all together 1. No dress code, 2. You could take pictures and videos of the performance 3. Everywhere we went there was someone selling the tickets. We felt very silly to have been scammed but decided to reserve our judgement till after the concert. As we approached the venue that we thought was to be a part of the Hofburg Palace we found a small museum to be the venue. We were forced to remove our jackets at the cloakroom (I thought DB was going to walk out and he would have if I didn’t make him stay) and then were made to pay 1.5 euro for the privilege as it was house rules. It was as if we were going into a grand ballroom which was really weird as we were told no dress code. They made at last 200 euro from that scam. Then we were showed into the concert room which was a little bigger than a school classroom and the stage was two steps up to a small red carpeted platform. On taking our seats DB checked Tripadvisor reviews on the concert and found that others posted that it was a scam. Oh well, lets leave our judgement until after the performance. As thought it was a very average performance by a very small cast – 4 violinists, a cello player, a pianist, an opera singer, one male and female ballet dancer. The pictures showed about a cast of 15 and DB thought they were just the dancers. We stayed to see if it improved but probably should have left at interval. Oh well. Lesson learned. A shame because even though the weather had been very average all day we liked Vienna but this left a sour taste in our mouths.
Boy was it a cold start to the day. Temperature is 1° with the forecast to reach 9°. Are we in for a cold one. I started out with my warm clothes and within 1 hour was putting on the thermals and within a couple of hours we had stopped to buy beanies and gloves. I also managed a pair of boots to wear out to dinner as I only had pretty thongs, good summer shoes or hiking boots. None of which were suitable for the cold or looked very good with leggings. Seeing as it snowed on the mountain last night we decided on a detour to Weissensee Lake, Gerlitzen-Kanzelbahn which was about 20mins west (the wrong direction) to go for a gondola ride up the mountain to see the snow. Unfortunately as it was the first snow for the season, the workmen were just there fixing the gondola so it wasn’t ready for tourists yet. Oh well. We then went to a ruined 14th century castle nearby called Landskron Castle and took some photos of the area. We then headed on with our planned itinerary to Hochosterwitz Castle which was pretty amazing. The castle is considered to be one of Austria’s most impressive medieval castles. It is situated on a 160m Dolomite rock and can be seen from about 30 km away on a clear day. Hochosterwitz Castle is situated at a height of 664m. It housed a museum of mediaeval armour, tools, weapons, clothing and art. All very interesting. The view from the top was absolutely amazing. Our next location was a gorge on the way to Vienna but this was abandoned due to time frame. As always, the Broadbent tours were packed to the maximum with unplanned added extras in the mix as well. We headed off for Vienna at about 4pm and thanks to the GPS ended 1650m up the mountains with the snow capped pine trees. A little worrying as we did not have snow tyres on the car. (Snow tyres are mandatory on all vehicles from November in Austria, so lucky we plan to be back in France by then). This also added 1 hour to our already 3 hour drive. The scenery on the way was incredible until it got dark and started raining. DB’s first comment about driving in Austria yesterday was that the Austrians were on sedatives. They drove to the speed limit and weren’t in any hurry. I don’t know how he feels about that now after driving on the windy mountain road followed by 2 hours of freeway driving in the rain. They were still passing us like we were going backwards. On arrival in Vienna at about 8.30pm we finally found our hotel and then went out for another traditional Austrian meal at a traditional restaurant. The food was amazing, the service great and a nice time was had. We both tried a grape juice with mineral water which was really refreshing. I had chicken stuffed with spinach and sheep cheese with a herb white wine cream sauce and DB had Perch with garlic and Rocket. Another successful dinner with DB saying it was equal to his best yet. Still no vegetables but we are getting used to that now. Another German lesson from the waitress so I can at least say a few basics which is good. Auf Wiedersehen.