We havent been doing any travels since this trip to France over the August 1st weekend. We have spent some time showing Minnie how everything works in Zurich. I started my new job on the 13th and since then, she has been in charge of JP and Syd while I am away and they are not at school. She has been doing a fantastic job and helps so much around the house that I can see myself missing her already next year when she goes back to Mexico to start at the Uny.
Monday, August 11, 2008
The next morning we were up late again (around 7am), but that was OK, because our next attraction was about half hour away and did not open until 9am. We went to Voiron, where the Chartreuse monks make Chartreuse liquor, a liquor made out of about 150 herbs, spices, and flowers. In 1792, Francois Hannibal gave a recipe for a life extending elixir to a Chartreusen monk. The monks "perfected" the recipe in the 18th century and created Elixir Vegetal. Later it became yellow Chartreuse and then green Chartreuse. After visiting the cellar which is the longest liqueur aging cellar in the world at 146m, we headed home. In order to break up the trip, we stopped by Annecy. A friend of ours recommended this cute little town just 30 mins South of Geneva. It is reminiscent of Venice or Amsterdam with all the canals. It is also packed with little squares and restaurants along the waterways. This was one of the quaintest and most scenic places we have been to in France - well worth the visit. Unfortunately, our pit stop was rather quick - just had a couple of hours to stretch the legs around the old town where we saw some squares, the Palais de l'lle (Annecey's old jail) located on an island in the middle of one of the water canals connected to the Annecy lake, the castle (easiest walk to a castle ever) and finally stopped for lunch before we headed for a 3.5 hour ride home.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
We were up relatively late (7 am) this particular morning. After breakfast, packing, and check out, we were on our way at about 8:30 for our next destination Grenoble. The views upon entering the city are absolutely breathtaking. Grenoble lies in 3 valleys, it is the flattest city in France, surrounded on all sides by mountains. It has two rivers running through it (the snake and the dragon). There is a castle overlooking the city and a very unique gondola that takes visitors up to it. Upon arrival into the city we bought a "Grenoble Pass", which allows free or discounted access into the city's main attractions and dining venues. We started with a short trolley driven tour of the city. Afterwards, we hit the Grenoble museum of modern art (the first modern art museum in France). There was a temporary exhibit that featured the work of Wolfgang Laib. He made art with little mounds of rice - very interesting stuff. We next took the Gondola up to the castle - absolutely incredible views of the city from the gondola as well as the castle. The gondolas look like giant bubbles and are made by the same company that did the "London Eye" sightseeing attraction. The gondola looks really cool from a distance - see photos below. After getting a tour of the castle, we checked into the hotel, and got the kids some dinner. Sandy and I cleaned up and went out for a quiet dinner - one of the fringe benefits of a live-in babysitter.
We were all up early (5 AM), so we got on the road early. Our next stop was Lyon, third largest city in France, rival to Paris, and about 2 hours from Geneva. To our surprise, we passed what we thought was CERN, the research facility with the world's largest particle accelerator, made popular by the Dan Brown novel "Angels and Demons". There were signs in French, but we could not quite pinpoint the location of the facility. We arrived into Lyon and got right down to sightseeing. We saw the Basilica of Notre Dame, perched way up high on a hill overlooking the city - incredible view of the city from there. Next we toured a couple of Roman amphitheaters in incredibly good shape and still used for outdoor concerts. Next stop was St. Jean (John) cathedral, which was closed, but sits in a very nice and popular square. We then went to place Bellecour, where we had a delicious lunch and at the same time let the kids run wild in the playground. After lunch, we visited one of the traboules, the city's secret passageways. There are about 40 of these passageways still in use which connect one street to another through a building. Supposedly, these passageways were used to transport goods to the marketplace to prevent them from getting wet. We took a drive through the old silk region (Lyon thrived on the silk trade in the 18 and 19 hundreds), and then we went back to the hotel for dinner and some R+R.
The last few days, we have been getting adjusted to our new life with Minnie in town. JP and Syd are doing fantastic with their Spanish and we are loving the company and extra help! So We decided to take a trip as a family of five. We started our long weekend in Geneva. It was National Day in Switzerland, which is the equivalent to the 4th of July in the US. We broke up the drive to Geneva (sort of), about 3 hours, by stopping off in Nyon, about 30 minutes outside of Geneva. After visiting a castle and having lunch in a park, we proceeded to Geneva. There was a big celebration in Geneva along the lake, complete with rides, games, concerts, and outdoor food stands. We spent most of the afternoon taking the kids on various rides. We got lucky with an outdoor seat at a restaurant that was right in front of the concert stage. We heard a few songs of the first set, and enjoyed a nice dinner before the rain came. It did not show signs of letting up, so we made a break for the car. It was a good thing we did, because we were apparently parked illegally (along with several other cars) and cars were starting to get towed. The officer that gave the ticket was still around. After Sandy pleaded with him in French (of some kind), the officer tore up the ticket (phew!). Wet and tired, we retreated to the hotel right across the border in France for some rest.