Saturday, September 1, 2012

Wednesday, August 29

Dick awakes a little before 7AM, knowing that we need more of the wonderful bread and pastry found at the little patisserie in Varennes. 
Of course, the pretty wife of the baker makes it easier to do business by sign language! Also, they open at 6AM and do big business as the only other patisserie in town is closed for the August holiday and does not reopen until September 2.

Pastries and bread in hand, Dick decides to drive to Cheppy and Very, two tiny villages north east of Varennes.

These were significant spots in the early portion of the Meuse/Argonne battle and, in fact, George S. Patton was wounded in a field outside of Cheppy and did not see combat again until the invasion of North Africa in 1942. There is nothing to see other than the geography
and Dick continues to be surprised by the hilly terrain. Across the road from where Patton was wounded is a German cemetery from the 1914-1918 war. These cemeteries are all so stark compared to those of the US. Most are surrounded by a heavy, black iron fence with a very heavy gate. The gates are open and near the entrance of each is a weatherproof box containing a list of the graves and, if you can read German, a history of the war in the area and the units from which the men in the ground come.
Dick returns to the cottage about 8:30AM. Carolyn is still asleep and he needs to work on this blog and prepare some pictures for uploading.

Carolyn is not long in joining the real world and we decide to do our long day’s run over to Strasbourg, a round-trip of some 450 km. We drop down to the toll road and head East. Now, before we forget, here is some information for the casual reader and for our future reference.

French Toll Roads:

Most of the French interstate quality roads are toll. Most are an "A" way as in A4. When you approach a toll both for the first time, look for a lane with a green arrow. When you pull in, there will be a yellow-green ATM like box on the left. Since it is your first time, it will either give you a ticket or flash a light asking for a credit card; VISA or MASTERCARD only! If it gives you a ticket, take it and the gate will open. If it does not give you a ticket, it wants your credit card. Trust it! It is from the French government and is here to help you! Slide you card in and it will spit it back almost instantly and the gate will open. And, you are off.

At the next toll both, if you got a ticket at the last one, look for a lane marked credit card in French (you will figure it out) on a bar sign low over the lane. It will want your credit card. See above. Have it ready as the guy behind you will blow his horn and shoot you the bird if you take more than 30 seconds. No new ticket, USUALLY. Stick in ticket, stick in card, retrieve card and you are off. This is basically how it works all the time. When you find the exception, and I am sure you will, you are on your own!

Today we paid €1.54 for a liter of diesel. This works out to $7.28 a gallon. Fortunately, our little Chevrolet Orlando with a 6-speed standard transmission seems to be getting great mileage. Oh, by the way, most gas stations not on the "A" ways are not attended and they will not accept US issued credit cards. They require some sort of pin that is not like the ATM pin you gave your card. It has to do with an imbedded chip in the card. So, don’t depend on getting gas just anywhere if you do not have a card like the European ones. I have contacted my credit card company by email and screamed at them. They are Chase and I do not really expect it to do any good but I feel better.

The road is excellent except for some road work but it does not delay us. We pull off into an "Aire Privat," a private gas station lay-by, and pay cash for fuel. We arrive at Petite France in Strasbourg at 1:15PM. The GPS is loaded with a parking area in Petite France, but it is at the opposite end from the Cathedral. So, we spend the next hour trying to find a parking place, one closer to where Carolyn wants to be. Finally, at 2:15PM we spot a slot near a university across from the Cathedral end of the Island and pay €1 for a three hour parking ticket. In Europe, be sure and look for the little kiosks in the middle of the block, if not closer, where you buy a time-stamped ticket to lay on your dash to show you have paid and when the time runs out. At the price, this was a steal.

We walk toward our goal, promptly get turned around, and retrace our steps. We finally arrive in the center of the Island, the heart of the old city, about 2:45PM to find the first several restaurants we see closed since 2PM. We settle for two sandwiches at a Subway for €14.20. The counter man voluntarily speaks English and is quite helpful and friendly.

Fortified, we head down to the main plaza in front of the cathedral to find all sorts of eating places open and crowded! We take photos and wander around.

We do find Jack a pin! Carolyn wants to take a canal boat ride but the ride lasts an hour and ten minutes and we are a twenty minute walk from the car, at least. It is now 4PM and that is just pushing things too hard and, anyway, the boats have a glass cover and taking photos would be iffy. We pass and head on back toward the car walking along the river

where we arrive at 4:30PM. Now that Carolyn finally has seen the historic heart of Strasbourg, we head back to the Petit France area, three little finger islands at the beginning of the main part of the historic old city. This is what we saw the very first time we came to France in 1984. After a short walk over the bridges and some more photos,

we head off toward Dabo, a village we think has something interesting to see based on a highway marker we saw this morning on the motor way. Great planners that we are, it is now 5PM and yes, Virginia, France has rush hour too!

We creep west for 45 minutes until we can finally get off the main track and head for our goal. This road is narrow, well maintained and empty. It is very crooked and we climb through heavily wooded land. Finally, we spot our goal, a church built on top of a flat topped mountain/hill above the village of Dabo.
There is a hotel up there also, the Rocher, and we drive up the road that circles the mountain at least twice on the way to the top. The view is spectacular but getting to the church and the top from the parking area is more walking than we feel we can do so we enjoy the view, take photos, and head down to the village.

Here we find a cristal, not crystal, shop where we purchase some small gift items before setting our sights on home. This area is noted for its crystal crafts. We drive for 30 minutes or so before hitting the A4 toward home. As predicted by the GPS, we arrive home just before 9PM, have a light supper and call it a day.

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