Friday, May 14, 2010

Uneventful nighttime flight from Madison, Wisconsin via Cincinnati to Charles de Gaulle Airport – Paris, France, arriving at about 6:30am. Jeff got sleep and I didn’t, but I can never sleep on planes anyway.

The plan was to fly into Paris and make a loop, starting with Normandy then up into West Flanders in Belgium, then over into the Ardennes and Bastogne, then back to Paris. We wanted to do things in chronological order, as best we could. Brussels would also have worked as a loop point, but Paris was cheaper at the time.

Travel by train in Europe is wonderful, as long as the train is going where you want to go, but in this case it wouldn’t have worked. It could have gotten us as far as Caen but after that we would still have had to rent a car for Normandy, and again in Belgium. So to the car rental desk at the airport we went. See our Travel Tips for more detail on getting around and some of the hidden gotchas of car rental.

Rented a Ford economy-size vehicle – declining insurance and GPS, because we assumed existing coverage would extend and we had a GPS with European maps loaded on a SD card.

A few miles outside of CDG, we couldn’t get the GPS to communicate with the satellite like it does in USA.  So we headed back to airport for the $200 rental unit.

Arrived in Benouville 2.5 hours later in the late morning to tour Pegasus Bridge, site of the first D-Day attack.

Arrived in Caen in the late afternoon, centre ville, used parking ramp (by the way Free Parking is Le Parking Gratuit – which doesn’t exist;  Parking Libre means open parking spaces).

First hotel was full because of a Catholic holiday, but they helped us to locate one just a few blocks away.  It was there that we decided to place a Skype call back home to my insurance agent who promptly informed me that we’re not covered on the vehicle.  So we called Hertz, and fortunately there was a branch office in Caen, for us to return the vehicle so we could obtain coverage. While parking right in front of the large glass window, I ding the bumper while parallel parking.  The small steel inverted u-shaped pipe protecting the tree behind me wasn’t visible from rearview mirrors nor through the back window.  If the agent saw it, she didn’t say anything (that’s why you are always nice, polite and cordial).  A few hundred dollars later, we had peace of mind that the bumper ding and any other future damage would be fully covered.

After a mellow start to the evening, we kicked it up a notch by accidentally stumbling into a district of bars stocked with local talent and quaint restaurants – we were surprisingly impressed by Caen’s nightlife, but too jet lagged to fully enjoy it.

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