Friday, May 18, 2012
The last thing that Jememy and I did before he returned to Munich, was to head to the pool. I met Jeremy at Ohio State University where he did a 6 month exchange program. He met our group of swimmers one afternoon, and swam with us multiple times per week. Jeremy is the smoothest, most efficient swimmer that most of us have seen. So we decided for ole times sake, we had to go to a public pool in Paris, take a picture and go for a swim. We got to the public pool, and went through the process of entering which I found interesting... We had to enter the men's locker room with "nude" feet, where about three women circulated about mopping floors, wiping down counters and keeping the area clean. We then entered a private changing room and then put our clothes in locker. Then we had to go through a large shower area, walk through an anesthetic foot wash, and put a swim "bonnet" on. Bonnets are mandatory and "Bermudas" are not permitted!
Before meeting his friends on Saturday night, Jeremy asked me "when do you want to meet tomorrow and what do you want to do"? I said, "don't rush to get here and I have NO AGENDA". What a great thing to sleep in a little bit, and let Paris come to me! So on Sunday around 1030am, Jeremy and I decided to look for a boulangerie for a breakfast bakery item and a coffee... wow was that difficult. Most everything was closed on Sunday around my hotel, so we decided to head off to the cemetery Pere Lachaise Cemetery hoping to find some to eat along the way.
After visiting Chaumont sur Loire, Eric and Jeremy took the TGV (fast train) back to Paris. It took just over an hour to get the Montmartre station and another 20 mins or so to take the Metro to the hotel near the Arts et Metier station in the center of Paris. The hotel was so convenient to the Metro station which made it great to get around on my last two nights in Paris.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
We picked up a car in Bayeux, and drove to Mont St. Michel, the abbey built in A.D. 708 on a tiny crag of land that is an island when the tide is in.
Beyond the history lesson, the trip was worth it just for the opportunity to ride around the French county side. Narrow lanes, fields boarded by hedgerows, old stone farmhouses, and vibrant yellow fields of canola were every bit as picturesque and charming as they sound. According to our guide, Adrian, Norman cows are very friendly and curious (in sunglasses - see pic), a trait the Americans used to their advantage in the war. If the GIs saw a field of cows clustered around an otherwise empty looking patch of field, it was a big tipoff that German soldiers were hiding there!
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
I was struck by how many events were impacted by small stokes of luck and chance. An example of good luck -the convergence of a low tide and a full moon dictated the invasion happen in June. The timing meant that the Allies attacked before the Germans had finished fortifying their newly built bunkers with cannon. Had the Allies waited until September (the next time a full moon and low tide occurred),it would have been a very different battle, because the bunkers would have had their full compliment of arms. More examples...a shell serendipitously hit a section of the cliffs at Omaha beach, causing a huge avalanche of stone. The avalanche essentially formed a stone ramp that made the cliffs at Omaha beach easier to scale-good luck. The weather was bad, so the Allied troops were held out at sea in the landing craft overnight, leaving the soldiers cold, hungry, and seasick- bad luck. A huge house fire broke ou the night before the invasion, when paratroopers were to land under the cover of darkness and set flares for the gliders that were supposed to deliver troops the next day. The fire lit up the night sky, ensuring all the German soldiers were outside trying to put out the fire and making the paratroopers easy targets- bad luck. It just goes on and on- even with all of the planning the US military put into the invasion, individual soldiers lived or died based on happenstance. I just kept thinking of all the mother and fathers, wives and children, whose lives were changed forever because of some small element of chance Stiking too, was seeing just how tiny a toehold the Allied forces began the liberation of Europe. Hitler held the territory all the way from Norway down to the south of France, and the Allies began the eventual undoing of the 3rd Reich with a swath of land that you could easily walk, end to end, in less than a day.
Friday, May 11, 2012
E and K did their own tour, and left early to meet Olivier Maloisel for lunch (more on this elsewhere), so B and D ate lunch in the restaurant of the Musee d'Orsay. The museum used to be a train station, and the restaurant was original to the building. Unlike many museum restaurants, this one wasn’t tucked away in the basement, but was upstairs in a light filled room with mirrors opposite the windows and crystal chandeliers. Felt like we were eating at Versailles!
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Decorating was another area where restraint was not exactly Louis’ watchword. Every square inch inside Versailles is painted, gilded, plastered, embroidered, or otherwise embellished. And every square foot of the massive gardens outside is clipped, trimmed, trained, or decorated with a fountain or statue. Imagine 20 or more fountains like the ones pictured in this posting all flowing, while the air was filled with classical music and opera. The walls of the chateau were hollowed out to allow passageways for the servants, so that they could be invisible most of the time but available at a moment’s notice if needed. It was through one of these passages that Marie-Antoinette tried to escape when the rabble came to “arrest” her and Louis XVI. -BHyre
We knew going into it that our visit to Versailles was going to be a crowded one. We opted to go on Tuesday, knowing that it was a national holiday, because it was also the only day during our trip that the fountains of Versailles were going to be operating. True to our expectations, the fountains and the holiday made for a double whammy, crowd-wise. Look at the numbers of people in the backgrounds of our pictures.
If I had it to do over again and didn’t want to feel so much like “county mouse goes to Paris”, here are some things I would have brushed up on before the trip: **Cheese - which ones are you supposed to eat the rinds on, and which ones are you not? **French History - hard to appreciate the finer points of many of the landmarks if you don’t know the war victory they are intended to commemorate. **Architectural Terms - again, it is hard to fully appreciate the descriptions of some of Paris’ most famous buildings if you don’t know your cupola from your flying buttress. **Conversational French - most everyone here speaks at least a little English, but I came armed with nothing but my good looks in the French language department. High school Latin and college Spanish at least gave me the chance to pronounce Italian words correctly and guess at some of their meanings. French is a different story. Thank goodness for E! Barb walked-up to purchase something and instead of saying to the shop attendant "Bonjour Monsieur" to start the conversation, she said "Merci Monsieur" both Barb and the shop attendant really did not know where to go from there... **