France, June 2018

By Henry Doenlen

Liz and I did a flying safari in South Africa and Namibia during May, 2016, and a mountain flying adventure in New Zealand during March, 2017.  We were eager to look for something different involving flying a small airplane in a different country. We found what we were looking for in Air Safaris International's France Circumnavigator tour. In addition to seeing France, we would be close to Alsace, the ancestral home of the Doenlen family.

This web page is a combination blog and photo album. Almost all of the photos are clickable and hyperlink to a larger image. Clicking on the videos takes you to YouTube. Click here for the blog with flying info only.

We contacted Clare McEwan at Air Safari International during April, 2017, and by October, we committed to the trip. Clare let us know that I would be flying Piper Archer, G-BOOF, out of an airport near London.  A pilot needs to get their license "validated" before being permitted to fly a UK registered aircraft. The validation process involved emailing copies of my American pilot's license, medical, radio permit, recent logbook pages and passport photos to Clare. Clare and his lead pilot, Ian _ took care of all of the details. I flew all of the proposed flight plans using the X-Wing simulator. The real-time weather often simulated low clouds over France, which was a worry before the trip.  Liz and I rented Piper Warriors to prepare by reviewing airplane checklists and our flight crew procedures.

 

6/5/18: Arrival


Liz and I left for France on 6/1/18, and spent the first 3 days in Alsace. On Thursday, 6/5, we flew to London.
We made our way to the Heart and Garter Hotel were found Claire and the other travelers in the bar. After drinks and a little chat, Liz and I had a late dinner at the nearby All Bar One bar.

 

6/1/18: Over the pond…

 

Leaving Atlanta on our Delta flight was delayed by 2 hours due to afternoon thunderstorms over and around the airport. Otherwise crossing the Atlantic Ocean "pond" was pleasant due to the nice selection of in-flight movies to watch.

6/2/18 … and arriving in Strasbourg Basel?

We arrived at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam 2 hours behind schedule. An agent told us to go to the Transfer 2 desk, who then told us to go to the Transfer 6 desk, were we could not find ourselves in the kiosk.  A text showed our flight to Strasbourg was departing in 30 minutes, but we found that there was a 30 minute line to get through passport control on the way to the gate. The customs agent directed us to another Transfer 2 desk, were we found out that we were booked on another flight to Strasbourg 2 days later on 6/4.  The Delta KLM agent was able to get us to Basel, and was were told that we could get a train for the 70 miles trip to Strasburg.  We found we lost our rental car, and only manual transmission cars were available. We messaged Raymond, and he said that the trains were on strike, but he would come and get us in Basel. After arriving in Basel,  I recognized Raymond instantly and we hugged in French fashion. We had wonderful conversation of family and plans on the road, and he dropped us off at our hotel, the Best Western Plus Monopole Metropole. That evening, Liz and I went to Restaurant Le Kuhn up the street from the hotel and ate delicious flammekueche (Alsatian pizza).

 

6/3/18: Strasbourg

 

It was Sunday morning, and we walked 20 minutes to the large Cathedral in Strasburg for 9:30 am Catholic mass. The church itself was magnificent, and the inside was beautiful. Unfortunately, we could not take any photographs of the inside of the church. Mass, of course, was in French.  The choir was made up of several men, and they're singing sounded like Gregorian chant. After mass, we saw that there were children ready for their first communion. A long line of prisoners was there for the 11 mass. After a walk back to the hotel, we were met by Raymond who took us to his house for lunch. We met his wife, Laurence, and his son, Jean.  We spent 3 hours eating, talking, and drinking wine. We went back to Strasburg, taking the tram. We then went on an hour long boat ride through the canal in Strasburg, learning about the history of the city. We learned that Strasburg is one of the capital cities of the European Union. Raymond arranged for us to have a wonderful dinner at Brasserie Les Haras, follwing which we walked around, looking at the lights of the city.

 

6/4/18: Alsace Family

Raymond came to pick us up early Monday morning, and drove us to Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg, a restored medevial castle that was on a mountain ridge. After touring the castle, we drove to Raymond's brothers home in Hartmannswiller. Michel, Raymond's brother, treated us like long lost family. We met Raymond's mother, Antoinette, who was a Doenlen, prior to her marriage. We also met Michel's wife, Monique, and his two adult children, Vincent and Marie. Vincent's boys, Arthur (the eldest) and Augustin (the youngest) at lunch with us. We later met Marie's daughter, Milia. After lunch, Vincent led us on a bicycle ride through Issemhein, which is one of the ancestral homes of the Doenlen family. We bicycled up a hill to a small church. Liz and I were glad that they rented ebicycles to help pedel up the hills. Our 8 mile path took us through many vineyards. That area of outside is known for its many local wineries. at the end of the bicycle ride, we stopped at the town hall of Issenheim to look for the death records our common great-great grandfather, Theodore Doenlen. Unfortunately, we were not able to find what we were looking for. Raymond drove us back to Strasbourg, and we had dinner at Le Schnockeloch restaurant.

 

The next day, on Tuesday, Raymond insisted on picking us up to take us to the airport. This time the flights went very much as expected. The main annoyance was that we stood in line for over an hour before we could get past London Heathrow's passport control. We found Claire and the other travelers in the bar at the Heart and Garter Hotel. After drinks and a little chat, Liz and I had a late dinner at the All Bar One bar. 

6/6/18: White Waltham

 

At 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, we rode cabs to the White Waltham Airport. there, Claire gave us a description of the tour, and Ian briefed us on flying in Europe. We also completed our briefing for the first days flight. After returning to the hotel, we had dinner at The George restaurant.

 

6/7/18: Windsor

 

We left early Thursday to White Waltham Airport to start the process of flight checks. Claire drove us to Blackbush Airport where we picked up our airplanes. My airplane, G-BOOF, was a Piper Archer. As Ian and I taxied to do the engine run up before flying, and I noticed that my right foot pedal was not working. A rod had come loose and the pedal actually flipped over inverted. Ian was able to find a mechanic who quickly determined that a pinhead had split. The mechanic had a replacement pin and was able to quickly fix it. I was also having problems with the number 2 radio not working clearly, but this would not significantly affects our flights.  We then took off for my orientation and flight check (blue line on the chart). Ian showed me the entry points for a landing approach into White Waltham Airport. We then did a simulated an engine failure emergency. I had some difficulty getting used to radio communications in the European Union fashion. After the flight check,  After calling up ATC with the full airplane registration, further calls were to be made with the first character, which is the country code, followed by the last two characters. My airplane would then be called Gulf Oscar Foxtrot.  I flew the Archer back to the white Waltham Airport (green line on the chart) and filled it with fuel. Everything was all set to go. That evening, we had dinner at the Heart and Garter restaurant.

 

6/8/18: Honfleur

 

After breakfast on Friday, we left for White Waltham Airport at 8:45 am, and arrived at the airport shortly after 9:00 am. We planned for take off at 9:30 am, but we quickly determined that we would have to delay our departure until 10:30 am due to fog on the Normandy coast. Then at 10:30 am, we saw that the Normandy coast fog was not lifting. We finally saw that the weather was good enough at the Deauville Normandie Airport  at 1:00 pm, and we took off. The flight through southern England at 2000 ft went as expected. We flew west along the English southern coast to take a look at the Needles lighthouse. Then, we made a turn to the southeast and south over the English Channel and climbed to 4500 feet.  Once we saw the Normandy coast, we descended back to 2000 feet.  Unfortunately, we soon found ourselves above a low cloud layer. We headed east so as to not get too far into the foggy area. Deauville Approach gave us airport weather that was 1800 scattered and 3000 overcast. We then flew at 1500 looking for clouds above us. We found them north of Deauville Airport and approached the airport by circling around a prohibited area associated with a refinery, then following the river until we saw the airport for landing. I was concerned that the Deauville approach controller could not see my transponder signal. After clearing customs into the European Union and a taxi to Honfleur to the Absinthe Hôtel,  we had dinner at Brasserie L'Ostrea. Being on the coast, I found myself eating fish soup and Sole. Liz had escargot and a mixed seafood in sauerkraut dish. We had some time to walk around and take photos as the sun set over Honfleur at 10:00 pm.

 

Château d'amour in Saumur Château de Chenonceau on the Cher River
Château de Chambord
6/9/18: Chateau flight

 

We woke up early Saturday morning, expecting a long day of with two flights to be made. We arrived at the Deauville Normandie airport at 9 a.m., but found that the airport was pretty well fogged in. It looked like a quarter of mile visibility with ceilings of maybe 100 or 200 at best. It was close to noon before we could go through security and get to our airplanes. Ian took a look at my transponder and declared it dead. We took off with the ceiling somewhere around 2000 feet. As we flew our route South, I found that the controller did not mention any problem seeing our transponder. We were told to contact Paris information if it was available. We did that but got no response. We later learned that the French Air Traffic Controllers were on strike that day. About 2/3 of the way we encountered thunderstorms but I turned right and flew to the east around them. As we approached the Saumur Saint Florent Airport, we were told to watch for parachute jumpers. We landed, got fuel and were briefed for the next flight.

The second flight of the day to Epernay was exciting.  It was called the Chateau tour. On the way there were about 4 to 6 Chateaus that we should have been able to see along the route of flight. We saw the
Château d'amour in Saumur (row 2 center), the Château de Chenonceau over the Cher River (row 2 right), the Château de Chambord (row 3 center), and other chateaus. When we flew into the Tours airspace. Sienne information did not appear to have a problem seeing my transponder. The weather was nice until about 3/4 of the way when we again encountered a thunderstorm in our path. I gave the thunderstorm a wide birth then flew a direct route to Epernay Plivot Airport. Buy the time we arrived it was about 6 p.m. and we took a taxi directly to the Hostellerie La Briqueterieour, our hotel.

We were having dinner that night at the hotel, and we were told that we would need to dress up for it. I wore a jacket and tie. It was an amazing dinner with Champaign and wine matched to the food we were eating. There was champagne with the appetizer of foie gras. For the main course I had roasted duck with red wine and Liz had fish with white wine. It was also amazingly tasty. We then had a cheese course and I could taste several new kinds of cheese for me. This ended with a little dessert.

 

6/10/18: Epernay

The next day we had the Sunday morning off, and we would not be needed until 3 p.m. for the Champagne maker tour. The front desk told us that there would be a 10:30 Catholic mass at the Egliese de Mosse in the next village. It was a 25 minute walk to the village church. I was a little unsure that there would actually be a service there, but as we got close we thought cars going in that direction. The mass was in French, and the Homily was lost on me. After the mass, we spoke with the Deacon who was very friendly but did not speak English. Liz with able to try her French with him. After some photos, we started the walk up to the church of Saint Martin on the hill. An elderly man who was at the church service came up to us and asked in English where we were going. He then walked with us away explaining as best he could with the English he knew about the history of the area. Liz and I then finished the 20 minute walk up the hill to the Church of Saint Martin which gave us a very nice view of the surrounding countryside. We heard some thunder in the distance, and walked 20 minutes back to the hotel arriving around 1 p.m.

Around 3 p.m., Natalie drove up in her mini bus. She took us to the family vineyards, and showed us how the vines are pruned to grow the best grapes. Then, we went on to their winery, Domi-Moreau, where she showed step-by-step how the grapes were pressed and fermented, and how champagne was made by carefully fermenting the wine again in the bottle. Their champaine is "Proprietaire-Recoltant," meaning their champagne was made exclusively from grapes on their own property. It is sold privately and the labels on the bottle don't have the usual warnings. The tour ended with tasting of their champagnes, and we bought home two bottles of Rose champagne. That evening, we went into Epernay for dinner at the
Brasserie La Banque.  We walked on the Avenue de Champagne, looking at the great champagne wineries.

 

Annecy landing video on YouTube 

6/11/18: Annecy

On Monday, we knew ahead of time that there were low clouds and visibilities, so we slept later and left at 10:00 am. We arrived at the Epernay Plivot Airport 30 minutes later and took off around 11:30 am.  For the first half-hour, we flew at 1800 feet, skirting under a cloud layer. The weather opened up and we could climb to a more comfortable 3000 feet. After Chalon-sur-Saône, the elevation began to rise as high as 3500 feet, and we climbed to 4500 to clear the mountain ridges. Northwest of Annecy, we could see that many tops of mountain ridges were obscured by clouds, and we determined that it would be safer to curve around and approach Annecy from the southwest where the terrain was lower. After a 2 hour 20 minute flight, we landed at the Annecy Meythet Airport.

A cab ride took us to downtown Annecy. Annecy is a beautiful town on northern shore of Lake Annecy, surrounded by mountains. Due to our delayed departure, we only had 2 hours to walk around Annecy and take a peak into the shops. The cab took us to our hotel, l’Abbaye de Tailloires.  We were told that this was a monastery from the middle ages. There were no steps to our third floor room, but we had a nice view of the lake.  That evening, we went next door for dinner at that Hôtel Cottage Bise.

 

Cannes landing video on YouTube 

6/12/18:  Mountain flight

Our planned flight on Tuesday was into the French Alps, flying in between mountain peaks at 9000 feet. Our route would take use over the Courchevel Altiport, a dangerous airport with a short upslope runway and no go-around procedure due to surrounding peaks. We had hoped to get dramatic photos of the snow covered Alps.  But those plans never got off the ground, as we learned the next morning that clouds would be scattered to broken at 1500 to 2000 feet. Ian plotted a new flight plan into Sky Demon, which took us over lower terrain to the west of the Alp's peaks. It was another day of delayed departure waiting for the weather to improve and I didn't start my engine until 12:30 pm.  I initially climbed to 5500 to get a look above the cloud layer which was at 4000 MSL.  I hoped that the terrain to the east would be relatively clear of clouds where the mountains could rise well above the clouds.  Unfortunately, I saw nothing but clouds to the east and I descended back to 3000, picking my way though openings in the clouds.  From there, it was valley flying like we had learned in New Zealand, staying below the clouds, flying between 3000 and 3500, between the ridges and looking for saddle passes to fly through.  I had previously downloaded the high definition terrain into Sky Demon on my iPad, which helped plan a safe route as well as escape options.  Using the moving map, we had to fly a parallel route to the east of the route Ian had plotted.  After Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban, the weather opened with higher cloud bases, but we could see there were thunderstorms with visible lightening to the east. The mountain ridges were higher at 4000 feet, and we climbed to 5000 feet to clear them. At  Pampelonne, we could see the Mediterranean and were supposed to turn east heading towards Cannes. We saw lightening and thunderstorm rain to the east, and found he had to deviate into restricted area LFR95A to avoid the bad weather. The air traffic controller gave us the frequency to contact Le Luc approach and we got clearance though the restricted area.  We then descended over the Mediterranean making an off-shore approach to a landing at Cannes Mandelieu Airport. Flight time was 2 hours.

 

After a long taxi ride, we arrived at our hotel, Le Negresco. This was a very fabulous hotel, paintings and large decorations on every floor.  In our room, we found champagne, chocolates, and rose petals arranged in the outline of a hear on the bed. We walked a couple of blocks for dinner at Le Bistrot des Viviers.  The meal was very good. I had crepes flambé for desert, allowing me to take a dramatic photo of the flambé flaming for our waitress. Even the waitress wanted a copy of the photo to send to her mother.

 

6/13/18: Nice

After breakfast Wednesday, we walked along the Promenade to the the old city. We were met by a guide with a granny cart, to take us on Nice food tour!  First stop was the Patisserie Henry Auer Confiserie. We were told that this candy store had been in the same family for 5 generations, and was the go-to sweet shop for Queen Victoria.  We walked into the old city, past a square with a church, court building, and man making hugh bubbles.  Excited little children ran after the bubbles as the breeze blew the bubbles away.  Our guide proved to us that wine in France was less expensive than bottled water. The wine was from a tap at a winery, Caves Caprioglio.  We rode a tram on the Boulevard Jean Jaurès to where there was tram construction. We walked through the Plassa Carlou Aubert with the Fontaine du Soleil and iconic Apollo statue. We then rode a tram up the Avenue Jean Médecin, stopping to look at some vegetable stands and eat socca, which is a slightly spicy pancake made of chickpea.  We stopped La Riveria to try a drink that tasted like black licorice.  Back on the Avenue Jean Médecin, we had wine and lunch at a corner restaurant.  We also stopped at the Olio Donato shop, which features olive oil, truffles, and wonderful Creme de Noisette (hazelnut cocoa spread).

 

After the food tour, we took a walk up the Colline du Chateau, or Castle Hill.  Well, we actually started up, then down, and found the free elevator to the top of the hill. There, we had great views of Nice and could see the ruins of a cathedral and a castle. We walked down the east side of the hill and back through the old city.  Back at the hotel, I decided to talk a walk on the beach. There was no sand, only pebbles and smooth rocks.  Dinner was on our own that night.  Liz and I decide to take a break from French cosine and try Italian. We went to the Diavoletto restaurant for pasta, which was nothing special. After dinner, we found a book store where we purchased a book about the Alcase region for Will. Returning to our hotel, we joined our group outside enjoying a round of drinks.

  

6/14/18: Eze & Nice

On Thursday morning, we took a ride to Eze, a walled town on a coastal mountain top on the road from Nice to Monaco. After parking, we walked up, through the narrow streets of the town, to the exotic garden at the top. After paying 5 euro each, we continued up the path to an observation platform at the time of the mountain. Here, the views of the mountains meeting the Mediterranean were beautiful. We watched some fire-fighter airplanes practice skirting the Mediterranean picking up water.  We explored the garden further and went into the town looking into the shops. Time ran out, so Liz and I grabbed sandwiches and water at the mini super market next to the parking lot. Next to Eze was Parfumerie Fragonard, a perfume factory. The tour guide explained how perfumes were invented, by free-lance trained chemists known as "noses." This factory did not make perfumes exactly, but made scented products such as the duck soap and oils.

 

That afternoon, in Nice, we found a place that rented bicycles, Holiday Bikes.  We had to rent for an entire day, even though we would only have the bikes for a few hours in the afternoon. We biked the promenade's bike path all the way to the airport, back all the way to Castle Hill. There, I took a photo of Liz in front of the I Love Nice sign. That even, we all went to Wayne's Bar for a round of drinks, then on to La Favola for dinner.

 

6/15/18: Mediterranean Coast flight

After an hour cab ride to the Cannes Mandelieu Airport on Friday, it took another hour to get to the airplane, taxi around to the other side, and fuel up. We finally took off around 11:30 am, buy which time my iPad was overheating in the sun and hot cockpit. On the takeoff roll, my iPad refused to work, but we had Sky Demon working on Liz's cell phone for back up navigation.  This was a scenic flight westbound along the Mediterranean coast, flying low at 1500 to stay below controlled and restricted airspace.  We were told to descend below 800 feet for about 20 miles when we were south of Martigues, and then to stay below 1000 feet for the next 50 miles until we passed Montpellier. This was low enough to see tankers closely.  After a 2 hour 45 minute flight, we landed at Beziers Vias for fuel our airplanes and ourselves with lunch. We were told to eat a light lunch, since we would be having cassoulet for dinner.

 

We took off again at 3:00 pm, expecting a short 30 minute hop into Carcassonne. To our surprise, the tower controller at Carcassonne was not ready to allow us into their airspace.  We circled about 20 miles to the west of the airport. Of our group, I was the last to be cleared in.  Including circling 20 minutes, we landed at the Carcassonne Salvaza Airport after a 50 minute flight.

 

As we drove to Carcassone, we saw that there were yellow stripes painted on the structures. The stripes looked very out of place and our cab driver was upset by them. We came to a parking lot run by the hotel, and were told our luggage would be delivered to our rooms. This allowed us to start exploring the narrow city streets.  After checking into the Hôtel de la Cité, we went to dinner at Comte Roger. I was hungry for cassoulet which was prepared by staff next to our table. The dinner was tasty and presented in beautiful fashion.  After dinner, I walked around as dusk and found that the yellow strips were part of a series of concentric circles which could be seen at the back gate.  I looked this up and learned it was an art project to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Carcassonne’s inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

 

6/16/18: Carcassone

 

On Saturday morning, we were given a tour of Carcassone. This started in the Cathédrale Saint-Michel de Carcassonne, which was built in the 13th century.  We then toured the citadel and castle, which had been present since medieval  times. We learned that the city was restored in the 1850's.  The city itself is surrounded by an inner wall and a lower outer wall.  We walked along the inner wall's defensive structures before finishing the tour. After lunch, I walked into town to take a photo of the city from a bridge over the Aude River.  That evening, we had an amazing dinner at Restaurant La Marquière, where wine was paired with our courses.

 

6/17/18: Rocamadour

 

Our planned flight on Sunday was to take us into the low mountains to see a very cool bridge near Millau, but we found that that the ceilings would not allow for flight about 3000 feet and the mountain ridges were a little higher than that. So we decided to play it safe and take a more direct route over lower terrain. We again waited for visibility to improve and took off at 11:45 am.  During that flight, Rinah caught our airplane on camera.  After a 1 hour flight, we landed at Figeac Livernon airport.

 

After a one hour taxi ride with a brief stop to take photographs of Rocamadour from a distance, we arrived at the Best Western Beau Site, our hotel. After checking into our room, we went off to explore the church complex.  The shrine was built into the face of a wall of rock, and there were a series of 216 steps leading up to the several chapels. Although the steps were used by penitents, we chose to pay the fee to take the elevator. We went into the chapel where we heard singing, and found ourselves in the Notre-Dame Chapel. Above the alter, there was the Black Madonna, covered in a gold cloth and white veil, with the faces of the Blessed Mother and Jesus showing. We found that the singing was the beginning of a Catholic Mass, so we stayed because it was Sunday.  There were models of sailing ships hanging from the arches, apparently related to ship crews saved by the intercession of Our Lady. We explored further and found the Chapelle Miraculeuse containing the Tomb of St. Amadour and a very old clock.  We walked a winding path with the stations of the cross up to the top of the clift, where there was a Château. For 2 euros each, we could walk the ramparts with great views of Rocamadour and the Alzou Valley. We worked our way back down to the town,  and walked down the hill of Rue Roland le Preux, looking into the shops. We found a hat store that had the black beret of the Basque people.  We found one the right size for Chris and bought it for him. We continued to the bottom of the hill outside the city wall, where there was a wonderful cheese shop.  That evening, we had a nice dinner at the Best Western Beau Site.

 

6/18/18: Caen

 

We arrived at Figeac Livernon Aerodrome around 9:00 am Monday morning and found that there was no one to help with fueling the airplane. We also learned about a NOTAM that the grass was going to be cut by one upset grass cutter who wanted our airplanes off the grass where we parked. The clouds were low, maybe 1500 broken, which looked good enough for a quick flight to Bergerac.  We departed a little after 10:00 am and climbed to 2000 feet, about 1000 feet above the terrain.  About 15 miles out, it became apparent that the cloud bases were lower than expected, and our flight altitude was being pushed lower, at first to 1800 feet, then to 1500 feet at 30 miles out.  Using Sky Demon, I turned southwest where the terrain was lower. By 20 miles to destination, we had been pushed down to 1100 feet, but the terrain had dropped to 700 feet.  After a 38 minute flight, we landed at the Bergerac Dordogne Perigord Airport.  We pulled up for fuel, but were told that our fuel would have to wait an hour because Ryan Air was about to land and they would be fueled first. We spent the time chatting and eating an early lunch.

 

It was after 1:00 pm before we were finished fueling.  We took off at 1:30 pm and headed northbound for Saumur. Low clouds kept us at 1500 feet with terrain 700 feet below us for about 50 miles, but then the sky opened up and we could fly at a comfortable 2000 feet for the remaining 100 miles. After a 1 hour 30 minute flight, we arrived at the Saumur Saint Florent Aerodrome. On approach, we were able to photograph Château d'amour in Saumur (row 2 right),

 

Ian told us that on the next flight, we could head northeast and see Mont Saint-Michel.  With full tanks, we were "wheels up" at 3:30 pm, and flew 2000 feet for 100 miles until we could photograph Le Mont Saint-Michel (row 3 center). Then, we turned northwest for another 60 miles, landing at Caen Carpiquet Airport after a 1 hour 30 minute flight.

 

A taxi took us to a beautiful hotel, the Chateau d’Audrieu. That evening, we had and enjoyable dinner at Hostellerie Saint Martin.

 

6/19/18: D-day tour


We left early
Tuesday morning for our D-day tour. Being that our group was mostly American, the tour would focus on the American landing beaches on Normandy. We first visited the Airborne Museum and saw St Mere Eglise with the simulated paratrooper hanging from the church steeple. Then onto Utah beach where General Patton's army started. We saw the cliffs of Point-du-Hoc scaled by the army rangers 2 days before D-day. We visited a somber German cemetery. Then onto the dangerous Omaha beach. We finished the D-day tour with the stately American cemetery.  Our tours in France ended with with the Tapisserie de Bayeux depicting the story of William the Conqueror shown in a 230 foot long embroidered cloth. We were given a recording to listen to as we walked around viewing the panels. Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed.  Our last wonderful formal French dinner was at our hotel, the Chateau d’Audrieu.

 

6/20/18: White Cliffs of Dover

 

After breakfast and a briefing, we left for the Caen Carpiquet Airport and arrived around 10:00 am., Wednesday.  Here, we had to go though security, having our luggage x-rayed and passports checked. After fueling, we took off around 9:40 a.m.  Our clouds were at 1500, and we were able to fly below them at 1500. Our route took us northeast around the French coast about 150 miles to just short of Calais.  About 30 minutes after take off, we found the clouds were getting lower, and climbed to 3500 feet so we could get better visibility of other airplanes. Near Saint Inglevert, we turned northwest over the English Channel. We got our last frequency change and "bye-bye" from the French controller, but the British Southend controller did not want to talk to us until we were past Dover. By mid channel, the clouds below us dissipated and we could descend to 2000 feet to photograph the white cliffs of Dover. We continued our flight north of the Heathrow and London airspace. We could see the city of London though the haze as we passed. Contacting White Wilson Airport radio, we were given a "welcome back."  After landing, we saw the customs agent waiting for us and our passports were stamped back into England.  I made one more quick flight to return G-BOOF to Blackbushe Airport.

 

Altogether, we had spent 2 days briefing and 13 days on tour, flying through 2 countries to 7 destinations. We flew 12 legs totaling 2,858 nautical miles and 24.9 Hobbs hours.
 

We took a taxi cab to the Hotel Oakley Court, on the River Thames. There we enjoyed our last dinner together as a group at the hotel.  We continued to enjoy each other's company after sunset in the patio bar.

 

6/21/18: Return Home


On Thursday morning, we said our goodbyes to each other over breakfast at the Hotel Oakley Court.  Liz and I stayed the night in London and returned home by Delta Flight to Atlanta the next day.

6/21/18: London


On Thursday morning, we said our goodbyes to each other over breakfast at the Hotel Oakley Court.  Liz and I then took the train from Slough to Paddington station. On that train, I realized that we left a backpack containing my camera on the Slough station platform.  At Paddington, staff helped us verify the backpack being held at the Slough station, and gave me a round trip ticket back to Slough to recover my backpack. With all of our luggage together, we took the tube the Earl's Court station, and found our way to the Hotel Indigo in Kensington. When we checked in, we learned that the hotel's air conditioner was not working, but they would give us fans, water, and free breakfast.  We then walked to the Victoria and Albert Museum, wandered thought the 4 floors looking at the art. On the way back, we had a late lunch at the Duke of Clarence pub. That evening we took the tube to the Lyceum Theatre where we enjoyed The Lion King.

6/22/18: Return home

 

We took the hour long tube ride late Friday morning from Earl's Court station to the Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3 station. Our Delta flight left close to on time for departure, and landing in Atlanta just as a thunderstorm ran over the airport.  There were computer problems at customs to enter the United States, but with Trusted Traveler, we got though quickly. The agent wanted to know what food we were bringing back and was satisfied it was champagne and canned goods.  Our flight back to Pensacola was delayed 2 hours due to delayed flight and cabin crews, but in the end, we were thankful that we were safe and healthy during the entire trip.