PAUL HANCOCK

Joined June 2018Living in: Saint Petersburg, United States
  • Day10

    Headed Home

    June 22, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 81 °F

    We woke up at 5:15 AM for a 9:20 flight back to Charlotte. Abbie caught a Lufthansa flight to Madrid about ten minutes after that. There wasn't enough time for me to hug her even if we had gotten up at midnight. She will be spending the next month in Madrid teaching theater at a school and she is staying with another teacher who she went to school with at Wesleyan. She will go to a beach one weekend, to Rome another, and who knows what other things she will get to see. What a great opportunity for her and I will miss her alot. It amazes me to think how much my kids have been able to do and will do.
    Bob and Linda's flight was about two hours later and was non stop to DFW.
    We landed back in Tampa about an hour late. Our connection from Charlotte was delayed about an hour and somehow they were not able to get all of our luggage on the next flight with that extra time. While we were waiting in baggage claim, we both received a text stating that two of our bags would be delayed. After a couple of phone calls, the bags will be delivered Saturday morning. Our travel time this day was 18 hours and our total mileage for the last 10 days was around 11K miles.
    Hopefully, I will be able to stay awake till sundown and thankfully my yard was mowed while I was gone. That is the last thing I will be looking to do. The first thing will be to find some sweet tea and salsa, after a good night's sleep of course.
    To summarize this trip, this is what we discovered.
    1. Europe is much older than the US, thus their history has much more to discover.
    2. European architecture is much more interesting to look at.
    3. Everything there is smaller. Cars, roads, houses, bathrooms, and showers.
    4. They have an aversion to A/C, Ice, and wash rags.
    5. There is no need for seats on the toilets.
    6. Motorcycle and bicycle riders are the bravest souls on earth.
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  • Day9

    Frankfurt

    June 21, 2018 in Germany ⋅ 🌙 57 °F

    This was not the happiest day for us. We began our drive out of Paris back towards Germany to drop Adam off. It was about a 7 hour drive back to his base, which included some ridiculous traffic leaving Paris. The quickest route was the most direct, which was east down the Champs-Elysees and continuing down the Seine until we were in the countryside. We pulled over for gas and adblue. The van we rented was a diesel and required an additive called adblue. Apparently, newer diesels use adblue to improve emissions. The problem here is that we did not know that originally. We were not too far out of Frankfurt on our first day, when a notification kept popping up on the dash, saying that adblue needed to be added within so many miles or the van would stop running. So imagine us, in a small german town, trying to ask people who don't speak English about adblue. Bob did recall that a neighbor of his spoke about it with thier diesel and we finally figured it out.
    Thier was a KFC attached to thre gas station so that is what we ate. From there it was a nice drive. We cut through Luxembourg, making it the 4th country we visited. In order: Germany, Belgium, France, and Luxembourg.
    I enjoyed the drive through Germany the most as it has more hills and trees to wind through. This is compared to northern France where the terrain is more flat farm land. This part of Germany has plenty of vineyards. I can't believe I didn't get a picture of the rows of grapes that are planted in neat rows up and down the steep hillsides.
    We arrived back at at Adam's base at 5PM. We took a couple of last minute pictures and then hugs all around. Adam does not like long goodbyes. Partly because Michelle can't do it without crying and partly because I might to. Abbie won't admit it but...
    It was great getting to spend time as a family in a new setting. Hopefully we will get to see him in October. He has ideas on coming home then.
    We arrived at the Meninger hotel in Frankfurt about 7. It was right near the airport entrance. They had a limited number of items on a menu but we decided to eat there anyway. We ordered a bacon and onion, super thin crust pizza. Michelle didn't like it at all, but I didn't think it was too bad and ate nearly all of it. The best part was that I had a drink with four ice cubes in it. Actually, it had three, but I switched with Abbie when she wasn't looking. Not having ice wasn't all that bad. It's just that you never take a drink that's really cold. It may be cool, just not that deep cold that I like. I'm not a fan of hot drinks like coffee or tea, but I will drink hot cocoa if it's cold outside.
    Our hotel room was small with 3 twin beds and no carpet. It reminded me of camp or a dorm room. It had a shower just like the other german hotel we spent the night in. It was square and about 3 ft wide on each side. It had two sliding doors that meet in one corner. When opened, it was just wide enough to get in and out of. It had a great shower head though and hot water.
    The french showers appear to prefer a different style. Only one of the three hotels had a full tub, but all three had a glass door that went about a third of the way down, causing water to spill out onto the floor if you were careful and absolutely flooding it if you werent.
    The bed weren't comfortable but I rested fairly well anyway.
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  • Day8

    Champs Elysees

    June 20, 2018 in France ⋅ ☀️ 77 °F

    By the time we finished at the Louvre it was late. We were tired, still hot because air conditioning just isn't a thing here, and hungry. No one wanted to look for a restaurant, so we settled for the food court that was in this cavernous place.
    The metro line that we took to get back to the hotel was one that were hadn't taken before. The trains, stations, and safety conditions were obviously better than the others we experienced. The line that we were on the most required the passengers to unlock the doors themselves by a little flip of a handle, and when they did, they flew open. However, the doors did close by themselves, and rather aggressively at that. They don't seem to be concerned about safety features across the board.
    This stop was the #1 line and we got off at the George V station instead of the more complicated Charles de Gaulle stop and it was about 10 steps closer to our hotel. Plus we came out on the Champs-Elysees as the sun was going down. As everyone else went on back to the hotel, I walked down the Champs-Elysees checking out all the shops and restaurants. It is one of the most famous streets in the world and the widest thoroughfare in Paris.
    When Paris surrendered in WWII, Hitler paraded his army right down the Champs-Elysees through the Arc de Triomphe. After the Allied forces drove Germany out, they did the same thing, which you know got under Hitler's skin.
    This is when I went to the edge of the traffic circle and took video of the insanity.
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  • Day8

    Louvre

    June 20, 2018 in France ⋅ ☀️ 81 °F

    Our final stop for the day was at the Louvre. We are going to spend 3 hours in a place where you could spend days. I overheard a tour guide say that there was 14 Km of floor to walk. The exhibits went on and on and on. The inside looks so modern. I didn't know what to expect but I was surprised since the outside had the gorgeous older architecture.
    I'm not an artsy kind of guy so I don't understand why the Mona Lisa is such a masterpiece. They have it set far away from people and behind two panes of glass, so it was not as clear as I thought it would be. The reflections of people in the glass was obvious.
    The other two pieces that I wanted to see were Winged Victory and the Venus Demilo.
    Venus was created sometime around 130 BC and was found in ruins on the island of Milos in 1820.
    Winged Victory is said to be created about a century before the Venus and was discovered in 1863.
    I found it interesting that both of these pieces were removed from the Louvre in 1939 prior to the stay of WWII and hidden to avoid looting and destruction.
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  • Day8

    Eiffel Tower & Notre Dame Cathedral

    June 20, 2018 in France ⋅ ☀️ 79 °F

    Today is the one full day of Paris that we get. We stopped at a restaurant on the way to the metro and had a typical French breakfast.
    The days have been long so far, but this one will be the longest. Partly because it was warm.
    The previous couple of days had so much walking and stairs, it took it's toll on Linda. She went back to the hotel while the rest of us headed back to the tower to stand in line for an hour and a half. She would meet us at Notre Dame when we were ready.
    For the tower, there are options to go all the way to the top or just to the second level. You can pay a little less and walk the 700 steps to the 2nd level and then take the elevator the rest of the way up. If we came this far, we might as well go all the way via the elevator. The kids saved me a little money for once. If you are under 25 you pay kids prices
    There are signs everywhere to warn you of pick pockets. Adam thinks he spotted one at the metro station the night before and I think he's right. I've kinda done this thing for the last 29 years...

    We've seen some big churches on this trip but Notre Dame was the biggest of them all. The line was long getting in but it moved quickly. There were military members patrolling here with automatic weapons like they were at the tower and Mont Blanc St. Michele. It didn't bother me, but it's a shame that it's a necessity. The US should feel fortunate that we are not to this point yet.
    Construction began in 1163 and a neat exhibit shows the different phases of the 800 years of construction, of how it went from a small church to fabled Cathedral that inspired movies.
    It is nice but I can only imagine how much poverty could have been relieved with the money it took to build this.
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  • Day7

    Seine River Tour

    June 19, 2018 in France ⋅ ⛅ 72 °F

    We pulled into Paris around 3 PM. My first view of the Eiffel Tower was from the highway as 14 came in from thre south. To get to our hotel, we had to take the Blvd. Peripherique and it was all normal until...

    You see, French road signs are a little different and take a little getting used to, but we had been on open highways in the country side and small village roads. However, nothing can prepare you for the rotary, or what the U.S. refers to as a roundabout. The rotary allows for an intersection without traffic lights and that is fine as long as there is three or four two lane roads emptying or exiting.
    When you roll into the rotary around the Arc de Triomphe, road signs do not matter. All that you need to enter is courage, internal fortitude, and to exit physically unharmed, basically you need luck. I say physically because you will not emerge without emotional scars of some sort.
    As you are probably aware, the first vehicle to enter the rotary has the right of way, but when their are twelve separate multiple lane roadways pouring into one large circle, the right of way disappears quickly.
    It is pure chaos. Somehow city buses push through the masses, while mopeds and motorcycles wind thier way through the ever changing maze like aunts. And the French are not afraid of using thier horns. I don't how accidents aren't regular occurrences here but I never saw a one and we passed by here many times since our entrance to the metro was right there. My last night there, I stood on a 1 ft wide median on the edge of the circle taking video.
    We were driving a large 9 person van to accommodate the 6 of us and our luggage and we dwarfed most other vehicles around us. French roads and parking lots in towns are not made for vehicles of this size, so as a result, the only parking garage where the van would fit was over a mile away from our hotel.

    The bags were unloaded and Bob took the van to park. Michelle would receive a call a little later that Bob needed my help because he could not find the garage, so I jumped in the van and we found that it was farther away than we anticipated.
    It was all a little frustrating, so instead of trying to figure out to navigate the metro to get back to the hotel, I hit up my Uber app and got us a ride. Thankfully the driver knew exactly where we were going, because we were not communicating well. Once we confirmed our destination, I exhausted my French speaking capabilities exchanging pleasantries with the driver. He must have thought I was fluent, because he started talking so fast and asking questions that neither Bob or I could pick out one word. Bob finally heard the word opera...so he says.
    We were back to the hotel safely but quickly emerged for dinner. We ate at the Sheraton because we were hungry for one and it was next to our metro stop.
    From there we went underground to catch the metro. We obviously looked like tourists trying to purchase our tickets. First, trying to figure out the kiosk, then trying to figure out which train to take, and then which of the many tunnels would take us to the desired train. By the time I had it all figured out, it was time to leave.
    The tunnels of the Charles de Gaulle station was the first place that the overwhelming smell of urine came upon us. I wish I could say that was the only time we experienced that, but alas, it was too frequent.
    We were on the 6 line soon enough and headed to the base of the Eiffel Tower.

    Actually, it was a bit of a hike to get to the base. The top was taller than I imagined. All I had to compare it to was the orange oil derrick at Six Flags.

    The area around the base was a disappointment. There were tall corrugated steel walls around the entire perimeter that were not aesthetic to say the least. I am not sure if this had anything to do with the construction on the road by the tower, but I don't think so.
    There were probably more than 50 vendors selling Eiffel junk from the time we got off the metro to the time we got to the tower. The vendors were all immigrants from an African country and did not appear to speak French or English very well. They set up their wares on mats on the ground one after another and they all sold the exact same junk.
    There was a security checkpoint with metal detectors that are unfortunately necessary these days. Due the hour and the long line, we opted not to go through at that time and instead walk over to the Seine river and catch a river tour.

    The tour took us by many interesting sights, some of which we would see up close the next day. By the time the tour was over, it was getting dark and the city of lights awoke.

    It was back through the sea of vendors to the metro and the hotel. We arrived back about 11 PM, tired as usual. The time really sneaks up on you because it doesn't get dark till 10.
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  • Day7

    Chambord

    June 19, 2018 in France ⋅ ☁️ 68 °F

    We stopped for breakfast on our way out of town at the Bigot patisserie. This is on the corner of where we ate dinner the previous two nights. Abbie had been eyeing this place since we arrived and told me at dinner last night that we were going to destroy this place in the morning; and we did try.
    I had this incredible ham and onion omelette... and water. The omelette was very tasty. I miss ice and sweet tea.
    Afterwards, we had some decisions to make. We had plenty of options. I was good and bought one chocolate macaroon for later. Abbie's willpower was not so great. But hey, you have to take advantage before you get back to the land of Hershey's milk chocolate. I took pictures of the chocolate and bread displays but since this app charges for me to add only 6 pics per post, you will have to take my word for it.
    Next stop, the chateau at Chambord. We followed the Loire river NW. The river was high and moving swiftly. I've never seen it before, but it looked like it was higher than normal.
    The size of Chambord dwarfs the other three Chateaus that we saw. Construction began in 1519, the year Da Vinci died. Da Vinci designed the double-helix staircase that is at the center of this place.
    Apparently, this is an engineering feat. There are two entrances opposite each other with no post down the middle. If one were to enter each side and start climbing, they would never meet. They would see each other however in the cutouts of the wall if they kept equal pace.
    It had another kitchen with a fireplace bigger than any closet I've ever had.
    And the salamander king, Francois, has his emblem and initials all over this place, including the ceiling.
    I've also noticed that each chateaux has a chapel. This one is different because it has fabric in the walls and ceiling as opposed to decorative stone.
    And of course they loved their gardens.
    I tend to like the outside of these buildings better and this one is no exception. The roof line, glass, and spires at Chambord were impressive.
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  • Day6

    Leo's House

    June 18, 2018 in France ⋅ ⛅ 70 °F

    Chateau du Clos Lucé.
    Our next and last tour of the day was Chateau du Close Lucè is just down the hill from the Chateau D'Amboise. You can see it off in the distance through the window of the bedroom of the owner.
    If you remember from earlier, Leonardo Da
    Vinci was buried there. Close Lucè is where Leonardo lived the last three years of his life. It was built in 1471 on the foundation of another 12th century building.
    King Francois I loved Leonardo's work and invited him to come live in Amboise and commissioned his work, inspiring the Renaissance movement.
    I knew that he was an artist and sculptor, but I had no idea he was an engineer, architect,
    and inventor. The whole bottom floor of this chateau was dedicated to his inventions. There were journals and papers with his notes and sketches.
    He was ahead of his time and designed the first tank, automobile, airplane, helicopter, swing bridge, and the parachute just to name a few.
    IBM had even produced some of the models using materials from that time.
    By the time we finished there, it was time for dinner, so it was back to Amboise, where we ate across the street from where we ate the night before. It was called the Anne de Bretagne.
    We had some obnoxious people around us. First, two locals who wouldn't move there chairs away from our table while they drank their wine. They didn't want to be in the sun I think. Then three American girls who cackled a lot. Adam photobombed one of their selfies. I would love to be a fly on the wall when they catch that. We would end up seeing them the next day st Chambord as well.
    It would be our last night in Amboise, so we celebrated with Gelato also.
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