1990-04-04: Switzerland, Strasbourg

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4 April 90, 2113, Melissey

On Monday, 2 April, packed for overnite & drove to Switzerland. Although no Autoroute much of way, the road was good & weather nice, though hazy still. At customs, had to buy 30 SF sticker to use motorways. Since we had no SF, had to change money at nearby store. Customs had posters of ~10 terrorists, but I didn’t examine them. Swiss speed limits are 10 less than French: 50 in town, 80 between, 110 motorway.

Got off motorway at wrong exit in Lausanne & had to cope with heavy traffic, construction & a different approach to road signs all at once. S navigated us to the lake edge, parking & tourist office OK. The Swiss road signs are less clear & less useful than the French, which have been very helpful in all cities & towns.

Had lunch (hamburger/fries) in cafe (even though we saw signs that they had McD), looked in a couple of shops, then moved car uptown toward AmEx office, to check for mail. Letters from the Groves & Florence. Bought chocolate & went to park to eat & read mail. Street sweeper on park walking path drove past twice. Big sweepers on streets have vacuum cleaners in back.

Continued driving clockwise around lake & stopped in Vevey to look for decent map of lake roads; they didn’t have Michelin maps. Stopped in Montreux & bought postcards. C played on playground at lake edge while I tried to get map from tourist office. Turns out we missed start of jazz festival by only 4 days; that would have made things more complicated, I’m sure.

Continued around lake, back into France, where customs asked if we had anything to declare, then waved us through.

Stopped in Thonon-les-bain where we found a 2-star hotel (C wanted to hold out for 3-star). Though on side, not lakefront, room had view of lake from balcony. We went into town & bought cheese (swiss) sandwiches & chips; C didn’t have any but chips, but she spent the time feeding swans. Then we went to glacier & had a banana split. S called Florence while C & I watched boules games. Somewhere along here, I apparently lost a patch of the town, not discovered til we got to hotel and all was closed.

Tue we had breakfast at hotel. TV in salon had weather. Rain all over France & thunderstorms in south. Rain was light as we drove to Geneva.

Parked near tourist office, & visited Franz Carl Weber toy store. Then moved car closer to old city. Shopped awhile, & found another FCW store: great fun. Liked the look of Meccano erector set, but put off buying since it’s made in France.

Continued drive to Lausanne where we stopped to return to a lakefront store. I got a Swiss Army Knife, like S’s but with magnifying glass, philips screwdriver, toothpick & tweezers!

Drive home was through snow & rain, but very light & road was above freezing. Stopped at market in Besancou. S bought lace curtains & necessaries.

Today drove to Strasbourg, arriving in time to buy tickets, at tourist office, for famous cathedral clock. Cathedral very impressive; climbed ~450 steps to platform at top; watched tower clock chime 1/2 hour, then climbed down while group of Italian boys & girls (high school or college age) counted steps in steady cadence. C really doesn’t like to climb stairs or heights, but was very brave. Clock was pretty neat, esp. rooster.

Found pizzeria for lunch, but C wouldn’t eat. If I get fat from this trip its because of eating her meals. Chef & waiter seemed concerned that something was wrong with it. Petite France area looked nice, canals.

Driving home, many police, apparently waiting for airport motorcade. (Also saw some go up to observation deck, which was closed p.m.)

At home, S washed clothes & cooked chicken dinner. C & I played with tennis game. C also talked/petted cows.

After dinner, gendarmes came to school. We heard car drive up, & knock on downstairs gite door (outside door was open). I went onto landing & said Bonjour (sic). They came up and looked at passports etc, tried to figure out why we were there, but gave us up as harmless & went away. C spent most of the time they were here making notes about their visit!

C has spent most of past 3 days planning her birthday party & a play she is writing. She is doing an excellent job, meticulous in detail, trying out parts on us.


4 April 90, 2113, Melissey

The haze was so thick that we couldn’t get a decent look at the Alps. The contrast between French and Swiss road signs was surprisingly great (to me). For instance, the signs in France nearly always helped us to be in the proper lane at intersections, and guided us from one town to another. In Switzerland, it seemed they assumed drivers knew where they were going. The Swiss reputation (as we got it) for cleanliness and unfriendliness appears deserved. We didn’t see much to attract us back, although the shopkeeper where I got my Swiss Army Knife (and we bought many souvenirs) was very helpful and took quite a bit of time with us.

The hotel in Thonon-les-bains had an unusual custom. They locked up after (I think) 10 pm. After that only an emergency could get you out.

In Strasbourg, we got a slight shock on descending the tower at the cathedral. There were several men carrying assault rifles, apparently preparing to ascend. Later we figured out that this must have been part of security procedures for European Council or Parliament meeting.

The visit of the gendarmes to our gite was a surprise. There were two, one senior and one junior. Susan noticed that their uniforms appeared spotlessly clean, perhaps new. We never found out why they were they were there. Maybe in that rural place, they just check out all strangers. We had a terrible time understanding them, and they couldn’t understand us. They seemed to ask what kind of work I did, or asked if I was there to work. We tried to emphasize ‘tourist’, and when asked where we had been (or where we were going), mentioned the cities we had been to from this gite. I’m not sure they believed us, it all sounded pretty disorganized. At any rate, they stayed about 15 minutes (all of us standing, except Chrissy, who sat at the dining table, taking notes).

Somewhere in this week, Chrissy started showing boredom, and her party plans and play were escapes for her. We kept trying to get her involved with the trip, and her journal, but it was hard to motivate her. On the occasions when she could play with other kids, she was too reticent, and we had to leave before she warmed up. (1991-06-18)


Next day we packed a bag for overnight and started for Switzerland. Went through customs – got a sticker to drive on autoroutes – and changed a bit of money. Ate lunch, looked in a few shops and went to see if there was any mail. Grammy & Groves sent letters, bought chocolate and went to a park to eat some toffee and read the letters. Went on driving found a great playground

[ note about Franz Carl Weber Dreamland, puzzles, balloons, & lots more, with drawing of two balloons ]

and I played there while dad went to T.O.! Went to a hotel back in F. and went to a snack bar. D & M had sandwiches gave me bread to feed swans. Swans are tame! I had P.C. and banana split. Went to hotel * * (2- star) and wrote and went to bed. We woke up – went to Switzerland. In S. we parked near a tourist office, and went to a . . . well, guess! A Franz Carl Weber toy store! Went to another town and papa bought a . . . SWISS ARMY KNIFE

[ sketch of a Swiss Army knife ]

equipped with a toothpick, magnifying glass, tweezers, etc. etc. * * *. Went home & M. bought lace curtains etc. * * *. Next day drove to Strasbourg. Strasbourg has a wonderful cathedral. It has as astronomical clock. When we first saw it, it

[ sketch of clock stuff ]

wasn’t in motion so we climbed to the top of one of the tall, tall towers. We climbed down with people behind us counting in Italian! We went to wait in line to see the clock in motion. We saw it – really neat and went outside to look for a restaurant & souvenirs. Found a restaurant, ordered, and I didn’t like what came. Bought 4 bananas for me and drove on. Home, and PD came to our gite!? Crazy!

Previous: Aix-en-Provence ~~ France 1990 ~~ Next: Germany

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