Eric's Germany Journal, Genève, Lyon, Surdon, and Paris

Friday, July 11, 2003

My train trip to Genève went well.

On one train, I gave the conductor my ticket, and he said something about Gleis zwo. I looked up, and he restated in English that I had to change to the train at platform two in Karlsruhe. I hadn't said a word, and I didn't think I looked that confused when I looked up, so I am not sure why he spoke in English. Maybe I just looked like a tourist or foreigner, and then English is the default language to try.

I also changed trains in Basel, Switzerland. Basel adjoins Germany and France. After getting off the train and going to the front of the train station, there are some German signs around you, out the front doors are Switzerland, and off to the left are doors marked FRANCE. I saw doors like that in Genève too, like they keep France in a separate area or something.

One way to tell you are in a different country is that the pretzels have a different shape.

From Basel, I took a Swiss train to Genève. The train passed lots of cute villages, countryside, mountains, lakes, streams, fields, and sunflowers.

Genève

The train station in Genève is pretty minimal. I did not see any map of the surrounding area or a sign for a tourist office. I paid no attention to currency and tried to put euros in a Swiss luggage locker, but Switzerland is still using their own francs, not euros. So I had to change currencies, which brings me up to four currencies used on this trip ($ dollars, € euros, £ pounds, and ₣ francs). (I do not know if the ₣ symbol is supposed to be used for francs. The official abbreviation is CHF.) The ₣½ coin is smaller than a penny, while the ₣5 coin is quite large.

I asked Western Union if they would buy back my francs at the same rate, and the clerk said yes. It turned out later she meant no. Some places will re-exchange currency you bought there at the same rate. That is convenient because you do not have to plan how much you will spend—you can just change a lot, spend what you want, and change the rest back with no loss. That means the currency changer makes no profit on the excess, but the policy can make them more profit because the convenience can attract more customers, and the net amount changed may be higher because people may spend more when they have more of the local currency in their pockets.

Armed with Swiss francs, I stored my luggage, bought a city map, and went out to see Genève for four hours. My first planned stop was the tourist office on rue du Mont-Blanc, but there was no sign of it at the published address.

Jet of water rising about 140 meters into the air above Lake Geneva
Genève's Jet d'Eau.
Jet of water rising meters into the air above Mittlerer Aussee
Ulm's Strahl des Wassers.
This put me at the harbor, where I took my first picture of the Jet d'Eau, shown to the left. Jet d'Eau is French for Jet of Water. Ulm also has a Jet of Water. German for Jet of Water is Strahl des Wassers. It is shown to the right.

Chocolaterie Auer storefront
Chocolaterie Auer.
I went on to my second stop, Chocolaterie Auer. One of my web page readers sent me email 16 months previously asking about Chocolaterie Auer, so I put it on my list to visit if I was ever in town. It was okay, but I would not recommend going out of your way for it. There are lots of chocolate stores around the city. I tried a couple besides Auer but was not impressed.

Utility cabinet painted with flowers
Utility cabinet.
After Auer, my time in Genève was unscheduled. The original plan was to get information from the tourist office and then decide what to do. I had planned to see the Jet d'Eau and the flower clock, so I headed back to the harbor. As I walked back toward the waterfront, I noticed this utility cabinet somebody had painted.

Spray of water in the sun
Jet d'Eau in the sun.
At the waterfront, I could feel spray from the Jet quite far away, even beyond the visible mist falling into the lake.

At the jetty leading to the Jet, there is some information:

The sign also says the Jet d'Eau has been operational since 1891 and was renovated in 1951. It does not reveal the height was originally only 30 meters.
Foreground: Water rising in jet. Background: Water falling in lake. Solid stream of water Jetty in Lake Geneva
Base of Jet d'Eau. The nozzle. The jetty continues from the Jet.

Back toward the city from the Jet is the Jardin Anglais. Here are some scenes from the garden.

Flowers Pavement, railing, lake Fountain
Flowers. Waterfront. Fountain.

Street, pedestrians, shops
A shopping street.
Coming out of the train station, I had thought Genève would be just another big city, but I liked it better when I got away from the train station and the busy waterfront. Away from the bustle, it is nice, there is some greenery, and there are cafés along winding European streets. Away from the congestion, Genève does not have the big city, overdone, overcrowded, everything-going-on feel to it.

The shopping street to the right is in a busy area of the city, although not as busy as near the train station.

Looking down a sloped street with foliage on left and shops on right
Looking back after starting to leave the crowd.

Tree with slender drooping branches
A relative of the weeping willow?
It may be a bit too calm in places. I noticed spiderwebs on various lamp, sign, and signal posts on main streets. And the traffic light cycles are too long.

I headed south to Promenade des Bastions, a public park, and walked through it. There I found the strange tree to the right. The hanging branches of course remind me of a weeping willow, but the rest of it is unfamiliar.

People playing chess in a park with pieces over a foot high
Chess in the park.
At the end of the park, people were playing chess. There were six chess games in play, and about twelve boards. And there were spectators. That is a rare scene in the US, although I think you might find it in New York.

Semi-distant mountains looming over multi-story buildings
Mountains.
I kept looking for a view of the mountains. They look pretty tall in the photograph on the left, but I did not have a good view at most places in the city. At some street intersections, part of the mountains were visible. It was not until I passed a skateboard park and some other fairly open space that I could get this picture.

Rhône river in Genève
The Rhône.
Heading west took me to the Rhône. The water here is very green, a deep dark green.

Clockface made of flowers, with mechanical hands
Flower clock.
During my wanderings, I had found a postcard that showed me where the flower clock was, so I went back there to photograph it. It is actually by a major intersection, but I had managed to walk around it.

Lake and mountains
Lake and mountains.
I finished my time in Genève walking along the west side of the harbor, where there are some carnival attractions and food stands. With about an hour left in the city, I found a tourist office and picked up some brochures. There are subterranean archeological sites under the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre. Those might have been interesting to see, if I had learned about them on my way into the city instead of my way out.

Then I retrieved my luggage, changed my remaining francs back to euros, and boarded the train to Lyon.

Lyon

I arrived in Lyon late, so everything in the Perrache train station was closed. I wanted a map of the city. However, that could wait until morning, as I had prepared information for finding the hotel. Actually, the hotel was less than a block from the south exit of the train station, but it took me some searching around the north exit to figure that out.

The hotel room at the Berlioz was nice and only cost €38.50. The Hotel Reservation Service is serving me well. However, there was some street noise, so, if you stay in this hotel, ask for a room in back on an upper floor.

The hotel had a brochure for La Musée la Renaissance des Automates-Éma. They seem to have created scenes with small automated figures. Some scenes animate famous paintings, and some are of historical interest. It is hard to tell if it is tacky or not without actually going, and I did not have a chance to get to that side of town.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

In the morning, I bought a map and headed for the Office de Tourisme in Place Bellecour. I thought getting information at the tourist office would be a good idea, but Lyon had other ideas. Their plan was to get lots of tourists in town for some event and close the tourist office while using the square as a staging area.

Neither the police guarding the square nor the folks at the event information desk could tell me where to get tourist information. Well, as with the hotel, I had enough information to locate my primary target in town, Chocolaterie Bernachon, and I was not pressed for time, so I hung around to see what was going on.

Bicycles on a rack on a car in a parade
Bicycles.
It turns out I had stumbled across the annual bicycle race around France, which was coming through Lyon that day. The bicyclists were coming through town about the time I had to go back to the train station. The event in Place Bellecour was a parade to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the race.

The bottom right picture reveals the French answer to Lance Armstrong.

Parade vehicle Parade vehicles Costumed people on stilts
A succession of parade vehicles portrayed the decades of Le Tour de France. Program to bioengineer better bicyclists goes awry and breeds mutants.
Also, they were selling race paraphernalia, and the t-shirt design looked nice. I was actually planning to buy a light-colored t-shirt on this trip, because, when I packed in December, I did not include many summer clothes. So now I have a Le Tour de France shirt.

I watched the parade briefly and headed off to Bernachon. Nobody asked me for directions in Genève, but I was stopped by a couple in Lyon. But they asked me for directions in French, and I could not help them. (I remember enough French from high school to puzzle out signs but not enough to converse.)

Chocolaterie Bernachon was a disappointment. Don't worry, I made up for it later in the trip. Bernachon's chocolate was very good, but some of the chocolates they make with it were not. That is surprising, because Bernachon is famous. They make their own chocolate from raw cacao beans, people go study with them, and so on.

A Lyon street with French flags and little traffic
Cours Franklin Roosevelt.
Bernachon is on Cours Franklin Roosevelt, which looks like a main street, but traffic was light. I suppose the usual activity patterns were changed because of the race.

Grandstand behind a statute in a park
Place du Mal Lyautey.
It looked like some parade event was going to come later in the day to the grandstand you see behind the statue to the left. There was no activity when I was there.

As with Genève, there were lots of other chocolate stores around the city. However, I could not afford the calories.

Rhône river in Lyon
The Rhône again.
Stream on artificial brick streambed
Architected stream.
Lyon seems nice. I did not know what there was to do there, since the tourist office was closed, but just walking around the city was pleasant. The artificial stream in the photograph at right is more attractive in reality than it looks in the picture. In real life, it moves, it makes sound, and children run through it.

Fountain with many sprays of water, some splashing against a large plate sculpture
Fountain.
The park that has the stream also has the fountain at left.

I found Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts), and they had a brochure about museums in Lyon. I pondered whether to see the Museum of Fine Arts or Musée d'Art Contemporain, which seemed to have some interesting exhibits, and decided to try both.

Sculpture of a man holding two severed heads
Amabilis by Henri Bouchard, 1925.
Statue of Perseus fighting the Gorgon, who is screaming in pain
Persée et la Gorgon by Laurent Marquestre, 1890.
The sculpture gallery contains the cheery works to the right. The second one is a scene from the story of Persus and the gorgon. (The mirror shield does not seem to have worked—Perseus has turned to stone after all.)

L'Air
L'Air by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1611.
The paintings are more pleasnt. They have L'Air, L'Eau, La Terre, Le Feu by Jan Brueghel, and I almost liked L'Air.

After the Museum of Fine Arts, I started to go to the Museum of Contemporary Art but decided I could not make it in time. I went back to the Perrache train station. On the way, I passed through Place Bellecour and found the tourist office now open. Finding the tourist office only on the way out of town is becoming common (Napoli, Genève, and Lyon).

Basilica on a hill
Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière.
The train route from Lyon to Surdon changes trains in Paris, and it requires changing train stations too, going from the Paris Lyon station to Paris Montparnasse-Vaugirad. That is done via the Métropolitain, and that intra-city trip also involves changing trains. And, after transferring and reaching the Montparnasse subway station, I still had to get to the Montparnasse train station proper. That involved some walking and some riding on pedestrian conveyors.

Montparnasse has a new high-speed pedestrian conveyor. It accelerates you on rollers at the beginning, transports you on a belt, and then decelerates you at the end. I was looking forward to trying it, but it was closed for repairs.

When I first scheduled the trains, the Deutsche Bahn web server was going to give me just over an hour for all that. I did not know how long it would take but did not trust anything that involved crossing a large part of the city and changing subway trains, so I rescheduled the trains to give me two hours.

It did take only 42 minutes to make the journey across the city, so I had time to eat. Then I waited for the display board to show the gate for my train, upon which I got a surprise. Montparnasse-Vaugirad is almost a separate station from Montparnasse, and it is a 10-minute walk from the display board, which is not much less than the time between when the gate number is announced and when the train departs.

Surdon

Train tracks between fields and trees Train tracks between fields and trees
Views from Surdon station.
I took the train to Surdon to visit Emery. The Surdon station is in the middle of nowhere. You can see to the right there is nothing around the station. Emery picked me up there, in the middle of nowhere, and drove me to the outskirts of nowhere.

His farm does not even have a street address. Mail is addressed to it by name. The farm has a centuries-old name, Les Souffrettes, which means The Suffering. It is in a town with a millenia-old name, Le Cercueil, which means The Coffin. Emery's mailing address is The Suffering in The Coffin in France. Nearby is Montmerrei, which means Mountain of the Dead.

Apparently the names stem from a battle in 52 BCE. I guess the townfolk like the names, because two thousand years is plenty of time for somebody to raise their hand in a town meeting and suggest changing the name to something other than Mountain of the Dead.

A woman and a man holding a boy and a girl Emery's home, a former farmhouse Yard
Adele and Emery holding Paxon and Gillian. Les Souffrettes. Emery's front yard.
I arrived in the evening, but Emery and Adele keep European hours, so there was time for talking and a late dinner.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

A street in Alençon
A street in Alençon.
Sunday, we drove to Alençon, a nearby town with a couple of good chocolate stores. Emery told me Alençon sided with the aristocracy during the French Revolution, and it has been in the doghouse with the government ever since, so it had no good stuff worth bombing and survived World War II fairly well.

Scrumptious pastries
Pedro's pastries.
However, it is the chocolate that is important. Take a look at the shop window to the right. Those are the pastries of Pedro. Jacky Pedro was there and gave us a tour of the kitchen. I wish I had had room for pastry, but after Genève and Lyon and Pedro's chocolates and Le Crottin du Pin and Patés de fruits, and the ice cream Emery and Adele got for later, I had to pass.

Closed chocolate store
Chocolats Glatigny.
Emery says Glatigny may be better than Pedro, but it is closed on Sundays.

Later we took a walk through the nearby woods. Not long enough to work off the chocolate, though.

Trail in woods Farm
Walking trail. Returning.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Me in yellow t-shirt with black Le Tour de France lettering
French clothing.
Since I was going to Paris in the evening, I put on the Le Tour de France shirt so people would think I was part of French culture and not a tourist.

Part of Château de Sassy
Part of Château de Sassy.
Large formal garden with sculpted bushes
Garden at Château de Sassy.
Château d'O
Château d'O.
There was not much to do this day, since everything was closed for Bastille Day. We drove to Château de Sassy and walked around the grounds.

After that, Emery tried to find a boulanger that was open, but that was not going to happen on Bastille Day. We drove back to Les Souffrettes and stopped at the closed Château d'O just long enough to get a picture (left, below).

Getting back to Paris was awful. Emery dropped me off at the train station around 16:40, when the display showed the 16:59 train as five minutes late. Ten minutes later, it showed the train as twenty minutes late. After that time passed, the train was removed from the display, and the 19:08 train was shown as Supprime, which I thought sounded nice until I looked it up in my dictionary. It means canceled. The train station offered a choice of waiting in the hot sun or in the shade with the mosquitoes.

Hay growing in field and in rolls
Hayfield en route to Paris.
At 18:45, a train that had been rerouted to Paris showed up. Everybody got on, making it overcrowded—packed standing-room only, with no air conditioning. At L'Aigle, some of us got off, waited 15 minutes, and rode a nice air-conditioned train to Paris.

Paris

French town
Town seen during approach to Paris.
I arrived in Paris two hours later than planned, which was a nuisance, because it was Bastille Day, and I wanted to find a good place to see the fireworks. I dropped my stuff at the hotel and tried to take the Métropolitain to a stop near the Tour Eiffel, but the trains were packed solid, so there was no hope of getting on without shoving a few people out of the way. (Some of them would have deserved it.)

The Eiffel Tower sparkled (with strobe lights, I think), and fireworks burst nearby.
Tour Eiffel sparkles, with fireworks nearby.
I gave up and went to the Hard Rock Cafe to get another shot glass for Cathleen. Then I bought a cheese-and-tuna crêpe at a stand nearby. It was huge.

It was about 11:30 p.m., and I almost went back to the hotel, but I decided to try to see the fireworks. I was north of the Seine and continued on the Métropolitain line there to the Iéna stop. There were crowds there, and it was not the best spot for viewing the fireworks, but I was able to get these photographs.

Fireworks Fireworks Fireworks
Bastille Day fireworks in Paris.

The trip back to the hotel was not bad considering the crowds, but it still took 50 minutes to get back to the hotel.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

View of Paris over vine-covered wall and tree
View from Jardins de Paris.
The hotel, the Jardins de Paris is another hit from the Hotel Reservation Service. It was clean, big enough that I did not have to squeeze into the room, and only €48. The biggest shortcoming was that it had no fixed showerhead or holder for the movable one.

Tuesday was a good chocolate day. Most of the day was occupied visiting stores that Simone and I had been unable to get to, that were recommended to me since my first trip, or that I happened across.

First, I traveled across the city to store my luggage at Gare de l'Est. It is self-storage, but they X-ray the luggage before allowing you in the room. The locker cost €3.40 and would only take exact change. I wanted to get moving and would have been happy to pay €3.50, but the machine rejected overpayment. Here is a business that requires exact change and is continually asked for change by its customers, so they put up a sign saying they do not provide change instead of finding a way to do it.

Why isn't there a change machine there? Or let the attendant make small amounts of change. It would make their job a little less boring, as long as they remember to watch the X-ray machine first. Unfortunately, I had to carry my luggage out, find a shop that kindly provided change, and go back.

I had no problems navigating the Métropolitain during this Paris visit. First, I pretended the RER did not exist. It is a large part of the complications I complained about in the previous trip—extra gates to go through, trains with uninformative names, and so on. Second, I gave up hope of understanding where I was in a station or where I was going—I just followed signs.

Adele also told me that you should not transfer at stations that are bad for transferring. The way you usually find out which stations are bad for transferring is by transferring at them.

The Métropolitain pedestrian tunnels have ads repeated side-by-side multiple times and in multiple places. It is not just a few ads—that is the general style for the entire subway system. It looks stupid and is more insulting than normal advertising, since it suggests the viewer is too dumb to ignore the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth copies of the ad in a row. (Most ads everywhere are repeated, but in different places or at different times, not while you can still see the first one.)

Lenôtre storefront
Lenôtre.
I went to the Villiers station for my first chocolate stop, Lenôtre. It was a good start for the day (ignoring the business-that-requires-change-that-won't-make-change) because their chocolate was pretty nice. On my previous trip, I had been a bit disappointed by stores that were too fancy. However, there was better yet to come.

Dog image with arrow painted on sidewalk
Dog sign.
I walked for a bit to see the neighborhood. This sign on the sidewalk reminded me of the dog signs in Bruxelles. It seems to be pointing out a specific tree for dogs to use.

Column wall, pond, plants
Pond in Parc Monceau.
A little farther down the street is Parc Monceau. I kept walking to Arc de Triomphe and then took the Métropolitain to visit Côte de France. Simone and I missed Côte on my first trip because it was closed on Sunday, the only day we were able to get to it. I am glad I got back, because I liked Côte a lot. The shop is nice, the clerk was helpful, the chocolates were good, and the assortment is quite diverse. The chocolates were very different from each other, in texture and composition and flavors.

Puyricard storefront
Puyricard.
From Côte, I walked east on rue de Passy, passed Regis Chocolatier (which I had visited on the first trip), crossed the Seine, walked under the Tour Eiffel, and located Puyricard. The clerk there was sorry she was out of stock on so many items, as their supply for the week was not yet in. However, there was enough to gather a sample. A few of their pieces were quite good and a few were not.

It was after lunchtime, so I crossed town on the Métropolitain to find a Gaudeamus, a restaurant that was supposed to be good for vegetarians. When I got there, I was disappointed to find few vegetarian meals on the menu. But it was too late to go to my second choice, so I ate there anyway, which was fortunate. I settled for a dish with fish: tagliattelle with cream and salmon. It was excellent. The pasta had a perfect texture. It was served on thin slices of salmon with cream in a dollop rather than spread out, so you could taste the pasta with the salmon or the cream or both. Also, the meal started with a salad that was simple like most European salads but very good. (Now, my appetite could have been affected by walking for hours in the hot sun, but I still think the food was very good.) I did not care so much for the crème caramel dessert, but it had no chocolate, so what do you expect?

The meal was a fixed price €11.90, not including drinks. Gaudeamus is at 47 rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève.

Park
Jardin du Luxembourg.
After lunch, I did some more walking. I did walk to the next restaurant on my list just to take a look, Au Jardin des Pates at 4 rue Lacepede. It is small but claims to be well recommended, so I would try it if I were in the area but not go out of my way for it. Then I headed back west and walked through Jardin du Luxembourg.

I had drunk most of the water I brought with me that day and kept an eye out for more. Roma is good for having public water fountains, but Paris and Bruxelles are not. Even Scavi di Pompei had public water fountains, using water channels that are thousands of years old, although the actual plumbing may be newer.

I passed through the park, crossed rue d'Ulm, and found Christian Constant, where I got just a few pieces, partly because I was getting full and partly because it was getting warmer, so I was worried about getting all the chocolate home. Then I walked to Gérard Mulot. That was the last chocolate store on my list, so I was free for the rest of the day.

The Seine splitting around an island
The Seine near the Louvre.
Café between columns, under high arched ceiling
Le Café Marly.
I bought a soda along with the chocolates at Mulot but was still thirsty and looking for water. I walked toward the Louvre, and a guy was selling cold bottled water for €1 per 50 centiliters, which is an excellent price for any potable liquid in Europe, so I bought two. I found a place to sit, near this café, and then I walked along the tourist shops on rue de Rivoli. I found several t-shirt designs that were okay, so I added a few shirts to my wardrobe.

The next street north, rue Saint-Honoré, has more stores and not so many of the tourist stores. There is Jean-Paul Hévin Chocolatier. I had already tried Hévin by mail order and was full of chocolate, but I bought some jellies to try at home, figuring they would not suffer as badly in the heat as chocolate. I also discovered La Fontaine au Chocolat.

La Fontaine au Chocolat storefront
La Fontaine au Chocolat.
La Fontaine looks magnificent. That is not always a good sign. If a chocolatier has only a certain amount of energy or resources, putting it into appearance takes away from the chocolate. I went in and looked around and almost decided just to note the store for later mail order, but I gave in and tried a few pieces. That was a good choice; their chocolates are very good.
Cacao pods made of chocolate Finely painted animals made of chocolate Chocolate fountain
Chocolate cacao pods. Chocolate animals. Chocolate fountain.

In addition to being short on water fountains, Paris is short on toilets. Maybe they figure if they do not give the tourists any water to drink, they will not need toilets? I found some signs pointing to toilets, and they led me into the Palais Royal Métropolitain station. I went in and found a sign saying the toilets closed at 18:15. It was 18:59. Somebody needs to tell these folks that Paris does not shut down at 18:15, and people still need to go to the bathroom after that. (I think it might even have been closed for a break in the middle of the day.)

Well, I was close enough to the vegetarian restaurant I liked in the first trip, La Victoire Suprême du coeur. I recommend going (41 rue des Bourdonnais, +33 (0) 1 40 41 93 95), but I only had room for an appetizer and a soda. Their food is good, but the "natural" soda was both overpriced and not good, even more expensive than the profiteering stand on the Neuschwanstein path. Try a mango lassie instead.

I entered the Châtelet station and noticed one of the exits went to rue de la Lingerie. That sounds like it might have been an interesting street to walk. I went to Gare de l'Est, where I had another miserable wait for a train. It was hot. The air-conditioned waiting room was only maybe three degrees cooler. The departure display board was not visible from the waiting room. A video display showed part of the information. There was no television or other entertainment in the room, and luggage is technically not allowed in the room. Announcements made over speakers in the main room are muffled inside the waiting room. I was uncomfortable for a while. It started raining, and a wind cooled things down. (The station is partly open to the air.)

When I finally got on the train, it was nice and cool, and the trip back to Ulm was good. So far, Germany is my favorite country. Things are better organized, lots of people speak English, and getting around is convenient.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

My chocolate arrived home in one piece. Unfortunately, it started in many pieces. Well, some of it was salvageable for review purposes, and all of it was edible. (Melting does not harm the chocolate flavor, but it may affect the other ingredients.)

⇐ To journal. ⇒

© Copyright 2003 by Eric Postpischil.