Week 2 July 2009:
Our overseas saga continues. The first day of the week saw us on the coach at about 8.30 am. We travelled through Switzerland to Lugarno marvelling at the magnificent lake and mountain scenery. On the way we passed through the St Gotthard Tunnel. This tunnel, bored through the mountains, is 17 kilometres long.
Part of the tour was a ride, via funicular railway and cable car, to the top of Stanershorn Mountain. The 360 degree view from the 1898 metre summit was breathtaking. A short walk took us to an alpine meadow crowded with flowering plants none of which we could identify.
That night was spent in a hotel in the Lake Lucerne area.
Day two we left, in the coach, at 7.30 am for a 680 kilometre drive to Paris. On the way we saw a native French bee on a daisy at one of our comfort stops. There were also plenty of lavender plants in flower. These were attended by large Bumble Bees.
We arrived at our hotel after 5pm after a rather long day.
The next day was spent sightseeing around Paris. We had a good view of the Eiffel Tower and Napoleonís Tomb plus what appears to be the traffic chaos around the Arc de Triomphe. This was also the peak tourist time in Paris with plenty of people around.
We had a guided tour through Notre Dame Cathedral. This was another great memory from our tour. We also visited Cleopatraís Needle in the Place de Concorde. This is one of three ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected during the 19th century. The other two are in London and New York City. We hope to visit Londonís Needle during our time in London towards the end of our journey.
That night we paid a final visit to a European supermarket for some sustenance.
The final day, of our European odyssey was spent travelling to Calais in order to catch the ferry back to Dover.
At Calais we went through passport control. We did the same coming across at Dover. These were the only times we went through any customs or passport control on the entire trip. It is indeed a European Union. Every country, except Switzerland, has a common currency, the euro. Switzerland still keeps Swiss francs but shops will accept euros. The UK, although part of the Union, has kept the pound.
At Calais we farewelled Katy, our tour director. This young English girl did a great job and made the tour run very smoothly and efficiently.
We crossed the Channel and at Dover we boarded a coach for London. We were dropped off near Euston station and caught the train to Gloucester Road Station and walked down the road to our hotel.
We only carried two haversacks on our trip. These were small enough to take on aircraft with us. This meant there was no risk of loosing our luggage and we were not held up at airports waiting for our baggage.
On the tour, the director and driver thanked us for our small volume of baggage as they had to pack the luggage, in the coach, on most days. Some people had what appeared to be wardrobes on wheels.
We returned to London, from our European trip on the 4th day of this week.
On the 5th and 6th days we spent looking around London. We used the Underground, or Tube, railway system. This is a very efficient and cheap way to travel around London.
Firstly we went to the famous Portobello Markets. We were short of reading matter and managed to pick up enough second hand books to last us until returning to Australia. Without books we suffer from literary deprivation.
From there we went to the Natural History Museum where we spent time looking at a dazzling array of exhibits. This was our second visit.
On the 6th day of the week we travelled on the tube again and realised one our ambitions when in London.
Firstly we visited St Paulís Cathedral. We had a guided tour through this London landmark. A very impressive church that attracts thousands of tourists. While there we asked directions to the Gherkin. This superb piece of architecture is about ten minutes walk from St Paulís. The building is shaped like a silver bullet and stands out on the London skyline. We first saw the Gherkin on a number of TV programs. It always shows up when a view of the London skyline is shown. Our ambitions, when visiting London was to walk to the Gherkin, touch the building and take photos. On this day our ambitions were all realised. The building is just as stunning close-up as it is from a distance (see image).
On the last day of the week we travelled, by train, to Pershore and then by car to the village of Eckington near the Cotswolds and the city of Worcester. In four days time our son is being married in the village church. We are staying in a B&B about 500 metres from the brideís parentís home.