AAAIM > Europe
Travel Journal of Gary Mendes and Darrell Weber
Switzerland and Paris, October 1 through 19, 1998
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October 1-2, LAX, fair weather, air travel
We arrived at Auto Airport Parking and were quickly boarded and off to LAX. Then the driver informed us that Tom Bradley Terminal was closed due to a bomb scare; but he'd try anyway. We envisioned missing our connecting flight at London's Heathrow - oh no!
Just as we arrived, the terminal was re-opened. All the lines were very long but we were soon checked in and on our way.
The most notable geography visible during flight was the Great Salt Lake in Utah.
October 2, London, foggy
The flight was extremely full and quite uncomfortable for Gary. After about 7 hours with mostly turbulence, we were allowed to leave our seats. That helped a lot. Gary had soda and crackers due to nerves caused by the cramped conditions.
Thankfully, the video entertainment was continuous and began to show comedies. This also helped to improve things.
London's Heathrow was HUGE; tons of 747s. Diesel exhaust permeated everything. Crowd queues were mob-like, but cool heads prevailed. We'll not use Heathrow or 11 hour flights in the future.
October 3, Switzerland, overcast and raining
Linnell, Darrell's sister, picked us up from Geneva Airport. Switzerland is clean and efficient. It has been drizzly and overcast but we're enjoying it.
After meeting Michella and Caroline, friends of Linnell, we had dinner then retired. Melatonin helped us to make the time-shift and gave a good night's sleep. No jet lag for us.
This is the view
from our bedroom window at the McRee's home.
This is the view of the McRee home. We were very fortunate to enjoy such nice accomodations.
The next morning (10/3) we drove a few blocks to downtown Neuchâtel; it was market day. We strolled through the carts and stands of vegetables and flowers. We purchased some pastries and were served cafe au lait outside in the market square. The outdoor market was like anyone would imagine a quintessential European market square plus a Swiss flavor (add chocolate).
Neuchâtel is known for it's local quarries' yellow stones. Most of the older structures are notable for their yellow stone. There are many ancient statues. Fountains are everywhere; we learned to wash our pastry stickied fingers in them.
Linnell purchased some chocolates where we bumped into Caroline and family. Gary used
the 3 kiss Swiss greeting, (which Linnell taught us the day before), for the first time.
Later that day we drove through Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen. On the way, we stopped at the Trümmelbach Falls. We shot some interesting videos of the falls inside the mountain.
We rode the train up to Wengen, (which is on the way to Jungfrau; the tallest peak in Europe that has buildings on the summit; Mt. Blanc is taller but has no amenities). Wengen, and the other towns on the way are only accessible via train, or walking; no roads, no cars.
We lunched in Wengen. This part of Switzerland leans German so we had veal sausage & potatoes.
Wengen is very picturesque! We shot some video of the colorful chalets with brilliant
colored flower boxes and gardens. Also the cows making music with their bells. It was
raining most of the time.
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(cow bells, 659kb, 12 seconds)
The drive home found all but the driver dozing off after the long day and large lunch. We may return if the weather clears up. We haven't seen the Alps yet; hiding behind the clouds.
October 4, Switzerland, La Chaux-de-Fonds & Grandson, overcast and raining
After a delicious crepe breakfast with Lingenberry jam, which Linnell prepared, Gary, Darrell, and Brian were off to La Chaux de Fonds.
La Chaux de Fonds is between Neuchâtel and the French border. Apparently, in times past, the inhabitants were snowed in many months of the year, and out of this isolation, they developed the skills of watch-making (horology).
On the way there, one encounters VERY LONG tunnels and various micro-climates.
On arriving in La Chaux de Fonds we visited the Swiss International Museum of Timekeeping. On display was everything related to the history of time keeping; from room sized gear & stone devices to the latest wrist watches, to atomic clocks.
It was a nice presentation and we would have shot some video or bought some postcards;
but they kicked us out at 11:55 AM. The Swiss are very strict about having lunch with
family - especially on Sundays!
We returned to Neuchâtel, collected Linnell, Kyle and Ryan, (our nephews), and headed back to downtown Neuchâtel to visit the local museum's collection and see a demonstration of the Automatons of Neuchâtel. These amazing machines function much like the animatronics pioneered by Disney, however, these machines are not electronic, they are mechanical! They are quite old but still function.
(automaton, 245kb, 4 seconds)
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This is our first European castle and it was interesting. They also had a car museum inside. After missing the train zip by outside a few times, we finally saw it go by!
Next, we went to "Robinson's" restaurant for a VERY Swiss dinner of Fondue and Rösti. Rösti is similar to hash browns, topped with grilled onions and various other toppings of meats etc. We enjoyed the sweet local white wine. We celebrated as today was Linnell's birthday!
October 5, Switzerland, Luzern, overcastBrian, Linnell's husband, returns to work today.
a boat on Lake Luzern and cruised to Verkehrshaus
der Schweiz, the Swiss Museum of Transportation.
Featured collections included Communications,Trains, Autos, Boats, Aerial Skyways, Airplanes and Space. Also, the Hans-Erni-Museum. We returned by boat to Luzern Station.
Continuing on foot, through downtown Luzern to the famous medieval style Hof Church. The apse burned down in 1633 leaving behind the towers. In 1645, the apse was re-constructed in classic style.
Continuing our walk we proceeded to "the Mournful Lion," a carving on a vertical faced cliff. This is a popular spot and a Globus/Brendan tour bus, (our Paris tour operator), was there. The monument represents the death of Swiss forces defending Louis XIV forces. The Swiss Confederacy, as it is today, formed within the last few hundred years.
Continuing our walk through pricey downtown shops and old buildings to the Roman wooden bridge across the river/lake with painting depicting the Swiss "Dance of Death." (Similar in presentation to Pasadena's Huntington Hotel's picture bridge.)
This bridge is the most photographed tourist destination in Switzerland.
We dined in Luzern on chicken curry & chicken mushroom with Rösti. We got a good preview of the slow restaurant service to expect in Paris.
This is the Luzern station at night. It was quite stunning. We got a little turned around (lost) trying to figure out which way to the car, but, found it in not too long a time.
A long sleepy drive home. Thanks for staying awake, Linnell; world's best tour guide!
October 6, near Neuchâtel, overcast
After a cereal breakfast, Darrell accompanied Linnell to MIGROS market for groceries. Gary caught up on email and phone messages.
Next, all climbed into the car for a trip to Murten/Mertat,
a Roman walled city that is the best preserved. It lies between Neuchâtel & Bern,
(the capital of Switzerland), and was not too long a drive.
Murten's arched galleys are filled with shops. We bought our first souvenir, a pyramid shaped candle. We had coffee and pastry at a tea room. We strolled the locale.
When driving through the countryside, we passed farm after farm. Corn stands are found everywhere. Linnell informed us, though, that corn is for the cows only; corn on the cob is not sold at market.
In Neuchâtel there are also many vineyards.
We also crossed railroad tracks all the time which is something we are not
used to. With the many levels of train service in Europe, one is always espying
interesting looking rail systems.
(train, 225kb, 5 seconds)
After Murten, we returned towards Neuchâtel and
stopped at the local mall in Marin.
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Darrell found some sweat pants and Gary some Legos. We were fascinated by the combination people/shopping cart escalators - how Swiss! We also saw some Phillips HDTVs on sale at the electronics pod; looks great - can't wait to see them at home!
On returning home, Darrell read and Gary brushed up on French using the McRee's computer and CD-ROM programs.
Early to bed to early rise, 6:30am.
October 7, Gruyères (like the cheese) and Broc, overcast
The following 11 pictures are from Gruyères castle.
Gary & Darrell woke first then woke up the house.
We attained our earliest excursion start, on the road and well on the way by 9:30.
First stop, Gruyères, a complete castle in the region famous in America for it's "laughing cow" cheese.
Though other castles have used their extra space with various uses, this is the first we've visited to display fine art.
What a treat! This whet our appetite for Paris.
Next to the castle is the HR Giger Museum.
The rooms displayed various settings, Knight's Room, Hunter's Room, the Beloved's Room, etc.
The hallways & stairways from room to room displayed artworks.
There were many tourists about in spite of the rain. We lunched on Raclette and Rösti at a Gruyères restaurant.
We purchased our 2nd through 4th souvenirs, Christmas plush decorations.
Linnell purchased some "double cream" a famous commodity unique to the region. (Later, it was found to be unsweetened which Linnell was surprised by, not what she wanted.)
Next, the Nestle factory. We've toured the Hershey factory near Modesto California; an excellent tour, so this Nestle "tour" was a bit of a let down.
It consisted of a multimedia display, a token chocolate mixer on display and a few video displays of little impact. Of note was the multimedia headphones which read some signal tied to the video feed and presented a unique language audio program for English, German, Italian, etc.
Here's the big difference. Hershey gives you a coupon for a free candy bar from their store at the end of the tour and the prices are as you'd expect at any market.
At Nestle, the 2nd to the last stop is a room with 2 large serving areas filled with candy samples. You could literally take as many as you wanted to eat; even to the point of making you sick. The children were in absolute awe of such a thing!
The next stop, the factory store. The prices were VERY attractive so we loaded up. It looked as if they'd need to completely restock the store after each tour group.
We'd arrived without reservations and were surprised they let us join the tour bus group already there - until we saw the setup.
Free candy, try everything - now buy some at low prices! With all the buses we saw there, it seems they must have another factory somewhere to supply the stores etc. It looks like the tours they have going through would buy up everything.
We went to Migros (supermarket) to find berries to go with our double cream. Gary found some marzipan to buy.
After a pasta dinner by Linnell, we enjoyed some Britcoms on the TV Gary helped to set up and fine tune. Next we watched "Dangerous Minds," and American film. Linnell and Brian were surprised at the amount of quality and quantity of English language programs; a rarity usually - I guess we were good luck charms.
October 8, Switzerland, still overcast
We're starting to wrap things up, slow down, pack, etc.
We'll be leaving for Paris tomorrow on the TGV (Train Grande Vite) at 9:00 am. The McRees (Linnell and family) will be leaving at the same time for their Italian vacation (Rome and Tuscany).
This morning we went to town, did some shopping - for Lindt candy bars as souvenirs, tried to get some French Francs - the ATM did not cooperate etc.
We grabbed some pastry and coffee on the market street & Darrell fed the sparrows.
We drove to Cortaillod to meet Brian at SGI (Silicon Graphics Inc). We walked into Cortaillod town center for lunch. I had roast pork (pork chop) with champignon sauce (button mushrooms). It was delicious.
We walked back to SGI and were treated to a demonstration of the RealityCenter. WOW!!!
With a 160° wide angle projection, pans in field of view "felt" like "movement." We saw 3 renderings which were manipulated interactively in real time. An art gallery, a château and Zermatt. It compares to VRML (Virtual Reality Markup Language): 50,000 polygons to millions & millions.
After returning home we began our packing. For some reason unknown, all our luggage locks have disappeared!
In the late afternoon, Darrell, Kyle, & Gary took a stroll in Peuseux (the village name where we stayed in Neuchâtel). The McRees house in Peseux is quite high, but the quick descent down public stairs got us to the main street in no time. Kyle was our tour guide along the way.
October 9, Switzerland, overcast; Paris, partly cloudy
Early up and to the train station.
Unfortunately, our seats were one in front of the other and Darrell was flustered because the aisle was blocked and the train started before he could stow ourBIG suitcase.
Nevertheless, we soon settled in and the ride was pleasant to Gare de Lyon. I noted the change of country not by landscape or customs agent but by the use of clear glass electrical insulators used in France unlike ceramics used in Switzerland. It took 2 hours, (mostly waiting in line to buy our museum cards) to figure out how to purchase metro tickets and find the hotel. Gare de Lyon was crazy busy with everyone rushed and the streets near our hotel were as confusing as they get in Paris. We walked around for the next 4 hours. We bought some pastry for a snack. Earlier we had dinner at a crepe restaurant, St. Honore Creperie, across the street from the hotel.
No one seems to speak English as we were told they would.
October 10, Paris, partly cloudy
We got a late morning start and took walks 2 and 3 (sort of) from our "Paris Walks" book. Both were on Rive Gauche (left bank). Rue de la Huchette was a success. We bought a sandwich from a hole in the wall and ate it as we proceeded. It was quite good.
The restauranteurs on Rive Gauche are very outgoing. Even though they plainly saw we already had something to eat, they'd out-going-ly and politely wish us good tidings. Many of the restaurants here are Greek, Asian, or Indian; mostly Greek.
There was a new gyro spit almost every 3rd door. The Parisians were filling up the places as it was lunch time.
We finished our walk La Huchette and tried to find our way to the start of the next walk, St. Germain de Pres. Unfortunately, in Paris, the street names change every few blocks. Though we tired before finding it, the area was very interesting. It contained lots of "tiny" stores specializing in books, home furnishings, galleries, and bookstores. All of the display windows were very interesting.
We stopped at a grocery store as a can of soda or juice on the street would cost 10-25 francs ($2-5 dollars). So we bought a few 6 packs and some snacks for our hotel room for considerably less.
We are to meet our tour director and the other tourists in about an hour; the maid kicked us out of our room to clean.
The tour meeting went well. The others in the tour group are all from the US. A couple from Houston were very easy to talk to - everyone hated the flight over.
Later we searched for free email access at the Pompidou Center, but like many Paris institutions, it is undergoing a face lift and access and hours have been limited. We'll probably pay for email service in the hotel : (
We continued by searching for a restaurant for dinner. Our gay Paris guide listed one that sounded perfect, alas, it has changed ownership and everything else.
We were almost ready to give up when we stumbled upon a place with a "Price Fix Formula" menu and English descriptions. My cream of zucchini soup alone was well worth the visit. We'll try to find another listing in our guides for Sunday dinner. The restaurant was named "Au Tiborg" on Rue Tibourg (and was full when we returned for dinner the following Saturday; next time, reservations).
October 11, Paris, rainy; evening cleared
Our 3rd day in Paris, our 2nd full day. The included breakfast buffet started today and it was very good - just a bit too salty. Today was our guided tour day. The first half around Paris, the later half a tour to Versailles we purchased.
(Eiffel tower ride, 465kb, 7 seconds)
In Paris we got
out at Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and at tours end at The Tuilleries.
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(The following 6 images are from Versailles)
(inside Versailles art shot, 465kb, 9 seconds)
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We had a nice stroll through them nonetheless.
We've made a chart of potential restaurants from our guide books.
We visited them all and rated the menus for contents and presentation.
Unfortunately, we didn't hit upon one to dine at as we left our translation book behind, DOH! Restaurants here generally only post French menus outside.
We reluctantly returned to Cafe Rude which we judged earlier as too American. Upon arriving they discovered we spoke English and presented us an English menu : )
We decided on various French dishes. To our shock, everyone else in the place ordered variations on American fare like a hamburger with a fried egg on top with fries. (Very popular in Paris - AND Hawaii!! : )
It took forever (even in French dining terms) to get our food. Our waiter apologized for computer errors and brought us a free bottle of wine as an apology.
The food was good but it was so late. We arrived around 9 but did not leave until around midnight. Luckily we found our way home without incidence; we didn't get lost.
October 12, Paris, breezy
Most museums are closed Monday except for Pompidou (construction) and Musee Histoire Naturelle & Jardin de Plantes.
We accidentally tried to enter at the Mineral Museum, which would have been lovely, but
through various faults in communication, we went to the History Museum. It is a very nice
museum having been recently updated. But Gary was inexplicably tired, too much coffee with
As we continued riding the metro to our various destinations we encountered the most unusual and COOL metro station. It had a Jules Verne / Submarine feel. The walls were shiny metal and the portholes had three dimensional displays, so as you put your nose to the glass, the experience expanded.
The following 3 pictures show the station.
We headed back to Pompidou Teepee (Info Center) to learn about Internet Cafes. They had
the info, Hurray! Our tour manager indicated there probably weren't any, but to visit
Pompidou - so his tip worked out unexpectedly well.
The "Web Bar" was bit of a walk in the 3rd Arrondissement. We passed through the large "cafe" section to the much smaller "computer" floor upstairs. Next, we didn't know what to do.
Someone's machine died and she asked me for help. Next, an employee swung round and I
learned how to arrange some time on a computer.
Everything worked as I expected, thank goodness. Everyone in France seems to smoke (except the tourists) so we had a nicotine buzz after 45 minutes. There may be another closer Internet Cafe for future use. (There wasn't; we hunted down about a dozen - all had gone belly up.)
Basically, Paris' civic leaders saw fit to locate commercial office buildings (sky scrapers) in their own neighborhood, la Défense. The buildings are gorgeous and their architectures relate to each other. I've never seen anything like it and I envy the French for being able to live among such grandeur.
The next 15 pictures from the La Défense neighborhood.
We had dinner at Krokodil, now that we understood the menu. The clientele was more varied than the well in shape young men of Cafe Rude; though we were seated out of view behind a column.
As each minute passed, Krokodil became more and more busy. In addition to filling up, they were filming a fashion show there later. The food was good though our waiter ignored us or jumped to wrong conclusions, (Gary's French here was impeccable). All in all, it was a good experience, and was much closer to our hotel than any previous restaurant (other than the crepe cafe). (The owner was quick with the bill as soon as she learned we were finished; unusual) (She probably wanted the seats for a more chic clientele! : )
October 13, Paris, rainy
A walk through the Louvre courtyard (and a preview of our coming visit) led us to the Musée d'Orsay.
What a treat! This collection picks up where the Louvre stops, at Impressionism (1880's +). Renoir, Gaugin, Cezanne, Pissaro, Van Gogh, etc.
Whole rooms of each. 3 Henri
Rousseau's! Darrell was introduced to some new artists works he'll find out more
The D'Orsay used to be a train station and it is HUGE. Our footsies were toast after 2 hours of shuffling.
We returned to the hotel for a short foot up rest.
The next half of our day was viewing neighborhoods and buildings of the 12e. Mainly, the Viaduct and the Ministry of Finance and Economy building.
It was so rainy that Gary did not want to expose the video camera. We may return if the weather clears up to take photographs.
To return from the 12e, we attempted to board the M14 but it was not yet open! Because of that, Gary's coupon Orange was refused! Hopefully it will start working again tomorrow (it did).
We are pooped so we will dine downstairs in the hotel. (It was a nice French meal and only slightly faster than typical : )
October 14, Paris, overcast/rainy
Today, The Louvre.
We disembarked the M1 at the Louvre Rivoli which was a bad joke on the tourists. The right exit if Palais Royale - Louvre.
The Louvre is impressive; the old parts and new. Though it wasn't our plan, we saw all the famous bits, the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory. It took about 3 hours.
We tried to find closer Internet Cafes but they were all defunct so we headed back to Web Bar. We stopped at the Fran Prix grocery store on the way home.
Dinner at the Hippopotamus Bastille. We conjecture this is like a French Tony Romas.
We were actually looking for other places but they looked high class (not for us) and we stumbled upon Hippo and the menu looked good. This was across from the Bastille Opera. On the way home - we saw a Hippo just across the street from our hotel! (Our waitress was anxious to speed us through; very unusual for Paris; but still much slower than American).
Next we took some night video by the Eiffel Tower. But, the weather did not
October 15, Paris, raining
Today we slept in to catch up on sleep; also Darrell may be catching a cold so the extra sleep is in order.
We visited the Orangerie - famous for Monet's Water Lilies - they looked better on TV with Sister Wendy.
Next, Palais de Tokyo - Paris Museum of Modern Art. We wanted to go to Pompidou, Paris' MOMA, but it is closed through '99 for renovations.
So, we were delighted to be surprised by Palais de Tokyo exhibiting much of the Pompidou's collection until the renovations are complete and it was free just as it would have been at the Pompidou.
We searched out for another museum closed for renovations. This was in the Champs Elyses neighborhood and we spotted among the high class botiques the Christian Lacroix store (as seen in Absolutely Fabulous).
Back to the hotel with a quick detour to pick up quiche snacks.
The news reported the Grand Opening of Paris' newest metro the Meteor. Maybe we'll be able to try it before we leave.
Dinner at L'Amazonial; another restaurant from the gay guide which was very close to the hotel now that we know our way around.
The restaurant was fine but after the first course we became invisible, how mysterious!
Our waiter was busy outside; trying to find a date for the evening.
Au Tiborg spoiled us. They didn't let our glasses go empty and were never too far to fetch for assistance.
The "happening" gay places, though as well meaning, don't deliver.
The Marais district is fun to walk. I only wish we could of struck up a friendship with a local expert of the area.
October 16, Paris, overcast
We are sleeping in now to get healthy again but still doing a lot; thanks to Paris' super metro.
Today, cité de sciences et l'industries, City of Science and
Industry; home of Paris' famous Géode.
We visited about 1/2 the museum before pooping out; Math, Communication, and Perception. It is another fine example of fabulous architecture.
After taking lots of video outside and of the Geode we walked along Park Villette which connects City of Science with cité de la musique. No time to visit City of Music; next trip.
The park is very modern, making good use of architectural elements well placed, to deliver the theme. It also follows a canal with interesting bridges at the grade crossings.
Darrell is in the heart of his cold. Back to the hotel early for a rest then to the local Hippo for dinner.
This will be our last visit to Hippo - it seems more American than French. The waitress was somewhat rude and very condescending and would not speak any English at all.
October 17, Paris, Hip Hip Hooray, the sun DOES shine!
My goodness, we saw a TON today!
The first half underground.
The crypt of Notre Dame is an interesting history of Paris. The city rebuilds itself over the ages. What is unique here is each successor kept the original street borders until modern times. Each new layer is piled upon old. Therefore, one may remove layer by layer to uncover a very precise history to be told by successive foundations.
Next; Egouts de Paris - Paris Sewer Museum. We know this sounds dreadful; but it was VERY interesting. The designers made sure to place most exhibits over grates where beneath ran Paris' effluence. It smelled only a bit ripe; actually only fecund - like rotting leaves.
The network has a long history and large grid work. It truly is a city beneath the city.
Next, above ground, way above ground, 238 steps above ground (no elevator).
The Arc de Triomphe. Yes its big. There is a
whole museum inside near the top. It was Saturday, the sun was out, and so were the
Next, back to Bercy, La Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the French National Library. WOW! Another stellar example of fine modern architecture.
Four spaced facing identical towers, very high. Just beautiful.
We could also see 1/2 of the Ministère de l'Économie, des Finances et de l'Industrie building and were able to get it on tape this time! We saw a tour bus nearby. We don't know if it was for the library or nearby Bercy Stadium; but if it was for the Library we'll definitely look them up. Our kind of tour.
Dinner, locally, looking in windows' menus led us the Chez Max. Quintessentially French. Everyone seemed to know Max, but us. Good food. Typically slow service.
October 18, Paris, nice and sunny
Today, Basilique du Sacré Coeur. We rode the metro there, walked part of the way up the hill then the funicular the rest of the way. All of Paris seemed to be there enjoying the nice weather.
(accordion music at of Sacre Cour, 255kb, 5
Next, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain;
a modern art museum. We were most interested in the building architecture; not the
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(looking inside Cartier Foundation, 553kb, 11
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Dinner at the St. Honore Creperie where we had our first dinner in Paris. It was good.
Back to the hotel to pack!
October 19, Paris, partly cloudy
A quick breakfast downstairs; check out; hop to the local taxi stand; good advice from a local "Don't' stay here, go to Chatelet." We caught a taxi quickly and had a good restrained ride to the airport. We arrived "too" early!*@!*! Who ever heard of that! Crazy airlines!
We learned Chinese Checkers and were well matched partners for 3 games.
British Airways; as happened coming over, does not post gate assignments until 20 minutes before departure, oh well.
Paris to London via 767, 3_3 at the emergency door - no one in front; plenty of leg room; hurrah.
London - LAX (BTW London looked gorgeous from the air. Unlike the gray & cloudy before in the other direction, it was bright and clear and everything sparkled.)
We tried not to jinx ourselves during boarding and as our travel agent had hoped, no one sat between us. What a break.
Darrell's not feeling well at all so the extra space really makes a difference. I'm doing great; completely opposite the 12 hours nightmare arriving. In this direction it is only 10 hours! Yeah!
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