Our itinerary for this trip is essentially Britain, France, and Germany, with a week in each location. Between France and Germany we spend a week driving through Switzerland, Turin, Florence, Verona, and finally Munich by way of Innsbruck.
We leave Munich for America on the 26th. Today is the 13th, so marks halfway through the vacation.
It’s been fast, I can tell you that. But it’s also been long, in the sense that we do so much it’s hard to even remember what we did two or three days ago.
Anyway, today we departed Paris for Lyon, catching the 10:00 TGV, so it was wake up, check the beds, out the door (how travelling was meant to be).
The TGV is fast. Much like with the Chunnel train, it moved smoothly, as if it were floating on air. We got four seats around a table, so we played cards as the terrain blurred past. The houses rapidly changed from urban to suburban housing to the French hamlets we had seen on the way in.
We stopped in Lyon to rent a car. We’ll be keeping the car until Munich, using it to drive around Montreux and through Italy. Arriving at the train station, the Avis was difficult to find – we left the terminal, then walked around the block lugging our bags before we found the Avis hidden behind a construction site inside the terminal.
The car was exactly big enough for us. It seated seven, with room enough in the back for a rolling suitcase and several backpacks. We put down one of the seats in the back, and were able to stack four more suitcases on it, leaving exactly enough space for Ryan to squeeze onto the back seat amid the towering luggage.
While it was physically compact and tetris-like, we still had ample legroom. Luxury cars for the win.
Trying to drive out of Lyon was a difficult reminder of why European cars are smaller. As a rule, the streets are half as wide as an equivalent American road (for a given size on a map). For example, in America a medium-thickness white line would be a comfortable 3- or 4-lane road, with full-sized lanes. In Europe it’s a road with two lanes, one in each direction, crammed with parked cars along either side.
Europeans don’t drive Hummers not because of the environmental issues (though maybe that too), but because they won’t physically fit on the roads.
Fortunately the highways weren’t so bad.
As we drove toward Montreux, the terrain became less and less flat and the house roofs became steeper and steeper. The highway darted in and out of tunnels bored through the mountains that were rising above us.
We stopped for a fine French cuisine lunch. By “fine French cuisine” I mean McDonalds. But it’s in France, so that counts.
With as much fanfare as driving from Texas into New Mexico, we drove from France into Switzerland. There was a sign that said “Welcome to Switzerland!” (not in English, of course), and then we were in Switzerland.
There is a lake on the French-Swiss border, Lake Geneva. Geneva is on the side of the lake closer to France, and Montreux is on the side away from France, so we drove along the length of the lake.
It was beautiful, and so was Montreux. Wooded mountains descended into the water without stopping. Houses spotted the side of the mountain down to the water’s edge.
Our AirBnB was just across the street from the water. We can see the lake through the gate to our driveway. We were all pretty tired, so we walked down to a nearby dock for a look around and then went back to the flat to relax.
Jason very much wanted to go swimming off the rocks. We didn’t end up doing so, but he did test the water.
Did I mention it was beautiful?
As a side note, I’ve never stayed in an AirBnB before this trip, and it has always struck me as being kind of weird. Staying in someone else’s house? No thank you. The experience is actually (so far) much closer to that of a hotel, except nobody breaks into your room during the day, and you don’t feel super lame when you just lay about all day (because seriously, when you spend all day in a hotel room, that’s just no fun at all). So all in all, AirBnB seems quite nice.
In London, the public transit was an “underground,” which seemed to spend half the time above ground, especially in the suburbs near where we stayed. They also have the iconic double-decker buses. In Paris, there was mostly just the underground that actually stayed underground, as well as a few unremarkable buses.
In Montreux, all public transit is buses powered by electricity from wires suspended above the road.
Montreux is located on the East end of Lake Geneva (Geneva is on the West end), so the sun sets over the lake.
For dinner we went to meet a friend of Kayla’s who took us out for fondue. They even played a trumpet and gave us conductor hats when they delivered us fondue – I don’t know if this is a normal thing. It was a new experience for all of us, I think it was generally liked. I liked it, though the blank fondue was a little strong for me, so I stuck to the kind mixed with tomatoes. Jason liked it also. Ellen wasn’t such a big fan, and I don’t think Ryan tried it.
Two out of four isn’t bad.
Unlike Paris, where night is when the people come out of the woodwork, Montreux becomes a ghost town after sunset. The only people in the streets were the seven of us (the six of us, plus Kayla’s friend).
We went down to the lake to look at a giant fork. For reasons unknown to me, there is a 5-meter (roughly) fork stuck into Lake Geneva.
Near the fork we saw some swans floating on the lake. In the darkness of midnight, they looked as if they were floating – the lake was pitch black, reflecting only the darkness of the mountains beyond, while the swans were a bright white from the streetlights behind us.