Friday, January 2, 2009

Europe 2008

Ok, I'll admit it, this is sort of cheating. To keep my New Year's resolution or writing every day I decided I would post my journal from our trip to France and Switzerland this past summer. I promised myself I would post it in 2008, but 2009 will have to do. It's long and I'm sure most will be bored long before the end but it's more for me than for you.

Sunset in Memphis
Sunrise over the Atlantic
Amsterdam then Paris

Sunset in Memphis
Chasing the sun to Paris
Atlantic sunrise

Sunset in Memphis
Chasing the sun to Paris
The City of Light...

A hundred or so people-
most sleeping-
it's curious how travel brings
people together for a short time
you feel - for a while-
a relationship with
people in the seats around you,
even though you may not speak with them.
A mother breast-feeding her son,
a couple sleeping together,
someone laughing out loud at a movie,
watching a sunrise,
moments of intimacy,
eating together,
shared with strangers-
maybe that's just the human condition?
All of this - at 37,00 ft.

The sun looks like fire on the horizon
12:45 am - home time
the dogs are sleeping under the stars.

Day 1 in Paris-

We made it to Paris, but our luggage did not. Much angst. After spending much time at Charles de Gaulle Airport filling out paperwork among the stacked luggage we finally left for Paris.
We rode the train into the city. The train was a mixing bowl of people from Paris - rich, poor, black, white, families, tourists (like us) office workers carrying plants home - just the everyday.
Once we got into the city - Gare du Nord - it all came back to me. I remembered why I loved Paris. The sounds and the motion never stop. People of every color speaking every language and everyone looks so good.
We took a cab ride from the train to out hotel on St. Augustin.
Oh, before I forget, our luggage is lost. Great. Our whole trip - riding at Alpe de Huez - is in question. We have no clothes. Laura was smart enough to pack some clothes in her carry on. After getting settled in we walked the streets of Paris for a few hours taking in the sights. It was cloudy - even a few sprinkles - but by the end of the evening the sunlight was bathing Paris is the sweet late light all photographers crave. We had sinner at a little cafe - I had duck and potatoes and Laura had ham and cheese - how different. It was a perfect afternoon and evening of just taking in the pulse of the city. The sun stays out forever this far north. It must have been light until 10:00! We ended up just having drinks on a street side cafe and watched people for about an hour. We want to rent the city bikes and ride soon. (I do.)

We got a little lost on our walk home tonight which wouldn't have been so bad except we both had to pee! We finally got our bearings and found the hotel and - ahhhh! Hahaha. It's funny how fast you can walk when you gotta go.
Sleep was a gift from the angels. I don't even remember dreaming...just sleep. I hadn't slept in two days.

It's raining a little this morning. I hope it clears for our bike ride. The best news is they found our luggage. Whew! That is a relief. Our whole trip - at least the first third of it - was in question.
The streets are getting bus and the ubiquitous mopeds buzz past, the sounds of heels clicking on the pavement and construction outside my window are broken by the occasional wee wee wee of the police car in the distance.
It's great to be in Paris. It feels like I should be here. I know what but it just feels right. Even with the clouds and no blue sky in Paris.


Yesterday, a good day to be in Paris.
We went on a bike ride in the morning to all the cool places - The Louvre, The Seine, the Eiffel Tower. It was nice to be on a bike in Paris, just riding and taking it all in. We ate lunch in the Tuiliaries (?) - crepes and beer. We sat with an Australian couple and watched the gardeners plant the gardens. We rode for almost four hours.

After a walk past the Eiffel tower we tool the Metro back to our hotel which is near the Opera House. When is Paris, you start to live by landmarks. I like riding the Metro, too. I like watching the people and imagining their see young, old, rich and poor all come together for a few moments on the Metro. Everyone is together but still very much in their own world - with a book or an iPod or something. Then there are always a small group of friends together laughing.
There was a guitar player on our train ride out to ride. He just steps on the train and says hello and starts playing Revolution - seemed appropriate for Paris. He had a great voice but he didn't know all the words - at least not in English.
After our ride and a walk through the Eiffel Tower park and a Metro ride home, (the hotel) we couldn't help but fall asleep. Our luggage had finally arrives and it was a great relief!! We were afraid we would have to cancel half of our trip. We needed our biking gear. Sleep was wonderful - truly. I couldn't stay awake another minute. I hated the sleep - we were in Paris, after all. But I just couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. Laura and I just slept for a couple of hours with the sounds of Paris coming through the windows. We woke about two hours later.
We decided to go out to eat. We took the Metro again to Ecole de Milatare and walked to the Eiffel Tower. The lines were just too long to go up to the top. We people watched for a while. We walked along the Seine - there was a stairway leading to the water. The late afternoon sun was casting sweet light on the Seine and the Eiffel Tower. We made a few photos, kissed and walked back to the gardens.
This light shower came along and we ran for cover under some trees and we watched the sunset as it broke through the clouds just before the Eiffel Tower was illuminated. Beautiful.
After the rain and the sunset.we went to a street side cafe. After a good dinner - watching people rent bikes and pass by we went back to the hotel. Well, we tried to. We got lost again, for about the tenth time. I think we must have been lost 3 4 times in Paris. Actually, if you have to get lost, Paris is not a bad place to get lost.
Finally, we made it back to the hotel and collapsed in the bed together. We had to get ready for our journey to Bourg de Osains.

Tuesday 6/3

Today we left Paris - in spite of our cab driver. He took us to Gare de Nord even though we told him Gare de Lyon. The cab ride was a bit of a death race, but we made it in time for our train.
Right now we are riding the TGV to Grenoble. It was overcast when we left Paris but right now it is a beautiful day. The country side just spreads out in front of us like a painting, farmland and rolling hills. Everything is so green. The farmlands just rolls as far as you can see. It seems to be enhanced by the speed of the train making everything blur - just a little. When you're moving at 150 mph - the scene is almost like a movie. It's beautiful. Tonight, we'll sleep in the Alps.

Wednesday 6/4

Yesterday we arrived in Bourg d'Oisan. It is beautiful here. The smell reminds me a little of western New York. I don't know why. The mountains soar into the sky! It is like a cycling Mecca. There are riders everywhere - serious riders. Our hotel - The Hotel Oberland, it's a quaint hotel with only about 30 rooms. The owner was mowing the lawn when we got here. All over the walls are newspaper clippings from past Tour de France stories -
Eddy Merckx and Lance Armstrong - all the famous ones I forget. Great photos from back in the day when cycling was cycling - no helmets, no gears, no nothing. They even smoked and drank while racing - hard-core riders. The village, Bourg d' Oisan is tiny. You can walk or ride anywhere in a few minutes. But after 10 p.m. the place closes down. All anyone does here is ride. They get up at the crack of dawn, ride all day, drink beer and eat when they return and then go to bed. Repeat. We rented our bikes from Au Cadre Rouge. The owner took great care of us and we were riding within minutes of walking in the little shop.
The day was beautiful - some clouds were covering the top of Alpe de Huez, but it was the first sunny day in ten days! It had rained every day before that! How lucky are we?! We rode a few hours around the valley and along the valley. It is breathtaking to be around the Alps. After a while, Laura decided to head back to the hotel but I couldn't resist riding longer. It is like riding in some sort of world in Lord of the Rings. As I ride the weather started to turn, but it was fascinating to see how the weather changes so quickly and dramatically at such an altitude.
While I was out, I decided to try to ride the first of the 21 turns of Alpe de Huez. OH MY GOD! I made it to the sign at the first turn and I was on fire! I thought my legs were going to burst into flames. It began to dawn on em what a challenge the climb up Alpe de Huez was going to be.
We talked to a Dutch rider at the base of Alpe de Huez who was riding in a cancer fundraiser the next day. He gave us some tips and advice. We headed back to the hotel for dinner. I had a big plate of home-made spaghetti - the perfect pre-ride meal. Gotta load up in the carbs, right? It was a wonderful dinner - made by the host of our hotel. The dinner had a wonderful family feel - sort of like when Hemingway described spending the winters with friends in Austria.
After dinner, we took a little drive through Bourg de Oisan and tothe next village. And a sleepy village it is. It took all of three minutes to pass through and the only living things we saw were a dog and three cats, nothing else.
This morning we got up about nine and walking into town for croissants and pastries for breakfast - so good. The French do food well!
Just after noon we began our assault on Alpe de Huez. Over the day I'll bet we saw 300 or more riders. We did it turn by turn - 21 of them. I would ride to the turn, stop and wait for Laura. it was really hard to climb. She split her time between riding and walking and between the two, she made it all the way to the top. I managed to ride it all but I had my doubts through the last few turns. It was so steep and it go so cold and windy at the top. But we did it! I can say I ride to the top of Alpe de Huez! I felt like a god! My legs were on fire and my lungs were begging for oxygen, but I did it. We celebrated at the O Bar with a beer and garlic bread - the traditional Alpe de Huez victory meal. especially, when garlic bread is all they're serving. It was a bit anti-climactic. There was no one to cheer us on - just a few folks working on the ski chalets. We did take our places on the victory stand set up for the Dutch ride the next day. We both stood on the first place platform! We were winners in out minds.
Then, the descent.
Oh my God. It was fast. Laura was terrified and I got out of my "safe zone" a few times. Some riders passed me and they must have been going 60 mph! I figure I got to 50 once. Probably not, it just felt like that. Laura took it easy. But we made it all the way down alive! We can say we rode Alpe de Huez!
The view was other-worldly. The clouds covered the tops of some of the mountains around us and Bourg d' Osains looks like a satellite view. It was just other-worldly. Beautiful, breathtaking, stunning, awesome - all words fall short of what it looked like. It looked like you could fall off the side of the world (and if you weren't careful, you could!).

"Oh I Have Slipped
The Surly Bonds of Earth...
Put Out My Hand
And Touched the Face of God"

That's what it felt like.

We are proud of ourselves. I'm sure that will wear off - but it is one of the best experiences of my life. I will watch the Tour de Frace this summer (a few weeks away) and say - I did that! Maybe not as fast, but I did it anyhow.
And nothing tastes better than a Kronnenberg with Laura at the top of Alp de Huez!
So tonight we sleep in our quaint cyclist hotel and dream What can we dream of tonight? I'll offer a prayer of thanks to God for blessing me with this journey and keeping us safe. Tomorrow, it's off to Zurich to celebrate Mom and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary.

Thursday 6/5

We slept in a bit today - a good rest after Alpe de Huez. We walked to the downtown (as it were) of Bourg de Osain and had croissants and wrote post cards to our friends. Sitting in a cafe looking at the Alps is a pretty good way to start the day. We puttered around a bit and bought a few things and then walked back to the hotel. It smells like grandma's there. It must be the trees or something but it smelled like Niagara Falls to me. Just an odd coincidence.
We drove back to Grenoble. I even managed to buy gas for the car at a French gas station! We had the hardest time finding the train station in Grenoble. We could see it - we just couldn't get there. When we finally got there we had to wait a couple of hours for our train so we sat and read papers and snacked.
We got to Geneva and found we missed out train to Zurich. We managed to catch a later train. It was beautiful riding through Switzerland! We went by so many big lakes which looked like mirrors of the skies. The sun stays up until almost 10 pm here. We rode on the top level of a double-decker train to Zurich. Watching the sunset while gliding through the Alps is a pretty cool way to watch a sunset. It was late when we finally got to the Zurich Bahnhof. We were glad to finally be there.
Oh, I almost forgot.
We spent the morning back at Alpe de Huez. We drove up the mountain to watch all the Dutch riders climb and descend the mountain. They were riding as part of a cancer fund raiser. There were all sorts of people cheering them on all over the mountain. People were dressed in costumes, playing music, playing noisemakers, screaming in Dutch - it was great to see. I can't believe some of the guys were riding it multiple times!! I rode it once and it almost did me in! We had a great time, though and it was like seeing a mini Tour de France, but with only Dutch riders. Everything was blue and orange. In a way we really didn't want to leave. Even Laura said maybe we should come for the Tour de France. Maybe.
Back to Zurich - we got to the St. Joseph Hotel and after dragging our luggage up 50 stairs we met did and Floyd. We dropped our luggage off and went to eat some kabobs near the train station. Nothing like traveling to Switzerland to eat kabobs. It is good to see Floyd. He seemed happy!
Tomorrow, we start moving as a family. I'm glad I stashed some whiskey! haha.

Saturday 6/7

We left Rigi this morning. The entire time we were there it was cold, cloudy, and rainy. It was a bit of a disappointment. The most important thing, however, was the whole family was together for Mom and Dad's 50th anniversary. They seemed happy - as exuberant as they ever do! Not jumping up and down, but very happy. I think they were happy to have everyone together. When we got up to Rigi on Friday it was all clouded over and a cold rain was falling. Nothing changed while we were there. I have it for everyone else. We were lucky, we had been in the Alps in Bourg de Osains and it was beautiful. We had a taste of the good stuff. But, it's weather and what are you gonna do?
It's been nice hanging out with Floyd. Laura and I took a long walk with him today in Vitznau. We walked along the lake and just chatted like family does. It's something we don't get to do often.We went into an old church which was just beautiful. I want to go in the morning and see what the service is like. That is, if I get up. We'll see what happens.
Sam has been a handful. I think it's too much time with adults and no time with other kids. It didn't help we were cooped up on the mountain for days.
We had a wonderful dinner tonight. I must admit, I am growing a bit weary of the European dinners. They take up so much time! (And with Sam all you hear is no, no, no.)
I met an interesting character tonight. Michael, the chef from our hotel was in the bar where I was waiting for Floyd. Floyd never showed. I found out later he fell asleep. Sigh. So, I just sat there and listened to Michael's stories about wanting to become a world-class chef and travel between the U.S. and Brazil. He wants to see the U.S., but he wants to meet girls in Brazil. Who knew? Ah, to be 21 and free again!
It was a good way to spend an hour - except for the smoke. They haven't exactly embraced the non-smoking ideas here in Europe.
Tomorrow, it's on to Lucerne. I'm tired of moving every day. I'm ready to be in one place for a while. I'm ready to be back in Paris - but that's a few days away. I'll get to see Danielle again. I have not seen her in years. I'm not sure what to expect. I'm sure she will still have that laugh. she has a great laugh. I'm interested to see what her kids are like. I wonder how much of her personality they carry with them. It has just been so long but I'm sure there will be some connection there. I will be glad she gets to meet Laura and I am interested in getting to know Christian and seeing his artwork.
Hopefully, the weather will be clear and we'll be able to see the mountains again...
The important thing is we are all together for mom and dad's 50th anniversary. I can't imagine 50 years together. I'll be...very old. We've been telling stories and sharing laughs and that's what's important, I know.

We slept in a bit today - a good rest after Alpe de Huez. We walked to the downtown of Bourg d' Osain and had croissants and wrote post cards to our friends. Sitting in a cafe looking at the Alps is a pretty good way to start the day. We puttered around and bought a few things and made our way back to the hotel. They were planting gardens int he town center. It reminded me of the gardens in North Tonawanda where grandma lives. The smells and the flowers were the same.

We drove back to Grenoble and had the hardest time finding the train station. Well, not so much finding it as getting to it. We could see it but couldn't figure out how to get there. We had to wait a couple of hours for a train so we sat a read newspapers and snacked.

We got to Geneva and found we had missed our train to Zurich. Our train was late. We managed to catch a later train. It was beautiful riding through Switzerland. We went by so many lakes. The sun stays out until almost 10 pm here. We rode on the top level of a double-decker train to Zurich. When we finally got to the Zurich Bahnhof, it was a relief. We were afraid would miss the last train.

Oh, I almost forgot. we spent the morning on Alpe de Huez! We drove up the mountain to watch all the Dutch riders climb and descend the mountain. They were all participating in a cancer research fund raiser - they raised money for each time the climbed the mountain. I can't imagine doing it more than once! There were all sorts of people cheering them on all over the mountain. People were dressed in costumes, playing music, shaking noisemakers, and screaming in Dutch - it was great to see. I still can't believe people were climbing it multiple times! I rode it once and it almost did me in! We had a great time, though. It was great seeing a mini-Tour de France, with only Dutch riders - everything was blue and orange. In a way, we really didn't want to leave. Even Laura said we should try to come back and watch the Tour de France. Maybe?

Back to Zurich. We got to the St. Joseph Hotel and after dragging our luggage up 50 stairs we met dad and Floyd. We dropped our luggage off and were off for a late-night dinner. We found some kabobs near the train station. It's good to see Floyd! He seemed happy we were here. Tomorrow we start moving as a family. I'm glad I stashed some whiskey.


We left Rigi this morning. The entire wime we were there is was cold, cloudy, and rainy. It was a bit of a disappointment. The most important but the most important thing was the whole family was together for mom and dad's 50th anniversary. They seemed really happy. Not jumping up and down, but we Schultz aren't the jumping up and down type, are we?

When we got up to Rigi on Friday it was all clouded over and a cold rain was falling. Nothing changed while we were there.I hate it for everyone else there. We had been in the mountains in Bourg d'Osain and it was beautiful, so we had a taste of the good stuff. But it's weather, what can you do?

It's been nice hanging out with Floyd. Laura, Floyd and I took along walk together along an Alpine lake in Vitznau. We just walked along the lake and chatted like family does. A little different for us... We went into a beautiful old church. I want to go in the morning and see hwat the service is like. We'll see if I get up...

We had another wonderful dinner tonight. I am growing weary of thsese nice dinners - they take up so much time. With Sam all you hear is no, no, no!

I did meet an interesting character tonight - Michael - the chef from our hotel was in the bar waiting for Floyd. Floyd fell asleep and never showed. I sat there and listened to Michael's stories about wanting to go to the U.S. and Brazil to meet girls. Oh, to be 21 and free again... I was a good way to spend an hour, except for the smoke.

Tomorrow, it is on to Lucerne. I'm tired of moving every day. I'm ready to be in one place for a while. I'm ready to be back in Paris, but that's a few days away. I'll get to see Danielle again. I haven't seen her in years. I am so excited to see her again. I don't really know what to expect. Kurt is really looking forward to seeing her and the family. Hopefully, the weather will clear and we'll be able to see the mountains again.

The best thing is to be together as a family for mom and dad's anniversary. I can't imagine 50 years together! We've been telling stories and sharing laughs and that's what's important, I know.

Monday 6.9.08
As I write, the fog is settling over the river in Lucerne and the swans are calling to each ohter under the bridge. This is a beautiful place.

Today the family took a cruise from Vitznau to Lucerne. It was a great ride. The clouds covered the tops of the mountains but by the time we got to Lucerne the sun was breaking through.

We got checked into the hotel and Laura and I had lunch at the Hotel des Alpes cafe right on the river. I could get used to cafe dining. Just watching everyone pass by - and the dogs - there are so many well-behaved dogs here. But we had a wonderful lunch.

After lunch we walked around with Floyd and dad looking at some shops. We bought some chocolate and looked at $23,000 watches. Yeah, too rich for my blood. It fun to look, though.

We stumbled into a catholic church mass at Jesuit Kirche Lucerne, the Jesuit Church of Lucerne. It is such a beautiful church. Laura and dad wanted to stay and listen to the music. There was a Bach concerto before the service. (The bells of the church are ringing as I write this at 2:00 a.m.) It was a peaceful service - I couldn't understand much of it - it's in German here, you know. But it was a beautiful service. There was this boy who walked around wanting to shake everyone's hand during the passing of the peace. He was only about five years old, but he was so intent on shaking everyone's hand. He shook one man's hand and you could just tell he made the old man's day. He shook this beautiful Asian woman's hand and you could tell he was just mesmerized by her beauty. It was just a moment of innocence and peace which translated into any language. We snuck out just before mass.

We then caught up with Danielle and Christian and their kids Philippe and Simone. It was great to see them after all these years! Danielle is still beautiful with her blonde hair and breathtaking smile. Simone is jsut about the prettiest girl I have ever seen. We had a pizza with them and then went to their house to visit - their house was fantastic. It makes me want to remake our house. It was a great evening of memories and laughter.
I hope to see Danielle tomorrow.

The family sort of breaks up tomorrow - Floyd goes to Texas and Laura and I go to Strasbourg, Kurt, Cheryl and Sam stay here and I'm not sure where mom and dad are going. I would love to spend another day in Lucerne. I'm sure Strasbourg will be nice, too. I'm really ready to not be moving every day. I'm looking forward to being back in Paris.

But tonight I'll watch the water pass by under the bridge, watch the swans in the early morning fog, listen to the church bells, and say a prayer of thanks for all my blessings and family and friends.

Strasbourg, France.

Finally, a morning to sleep in! Mom or dad didn't call to wake us, sweet! We left Lucerne yesterday - we left the family. Floyd left on a ship in the morning bound for Vitznau and then back to Rigi. I think he really wanted to see the view. I wish we could have all spent more time together, but it was great to have the time together. I think Floyd really enjoyed the adventure.

We spent the day kicking around Lucerne - I bought a wrist watch and a way-cool pocket watch. I just wanted to get a Swiss watch - again. We went shopping with mom and dad and then went to the Picasso exhibit at the Rosenthal Museum. It was so cool to see real Picassos! Mom and dad enjoyed it, too. It was sort of special to do something like that with them. Kurt and Cheryl caught up with us and we looked at more stuff - just poking around and talking - but that's what family is about, isn't it. It was the first time they were out without Sam - kind of nice for a change. We hope to see them in Paris before we leave.

The train ride to Strasbourg was uneventful It was a nice trip - we got here in time to go enjoy dinner in a plaza and watch the light change as the sun set. It sets so late here. It's much warmer here than in Lucerne. Nice to be warm again.

Today we got up and just spent the morning together and enjoyed no breakfast phone calls. It was nice - not the best part of our trip but very relaxing and we needed that. We had lunch near the cathederal - gotta remember the name - and then visited the cathedral. It was very impressive - huge and wonderful stained glass. But I left feeling like it wasn't a holy place. There were selling all sorts of stuff inside, there were tours and warnings about pickpockets in the church and it just felt like a place. A beautiful place, just not a holy place.

After the cathedral we rented a couple of bikes and rode around the city for a few hours. It was a great way to see the city. We stopped for ice cream, then a beer. It was fun riding - just an easy way to see the Strasbourg and experience it. It was cool to ride down the ancient cobblestone streets, it is a beautiful city. After we returned the bikes we took a river tour. It was a laid back way to see the city and it's castles, ancient walls, and torture chambers. We passed through some centuries old locks and got to see the whole city because the city is surrounded by the river. It was just about sunset when the cruise ended so it was the perfect way to see the city in the falling light.

We capped the night with a real Alsacian (?) meal and an old-town restaurant. Laura had an onion tart which she loved - but it's an onion tart - she thinks she pay. I had sausages ham and sourkraut. There was blood sausage, too. I couldn't force myself to eat the blood sausage. Just couldn't do it. Everything else was great.

Maybe I would have like to stay in Lucerne another day but Strasbourg was a good day, too. Now - back to Paris.

Paris 6/11
Today we left Strasbourg. We took the TGV from Strasbourg to Paris Gar de Est. On the train, we sat across from this mother and daughter couple carrying their dog with them in a bag.

I finished reading Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast" on the train into Paris. It seemed like the perfect book to be reading on a train ride into Paris.

Once we got here and checked into our hotel near the Arc de Triomphe - we had lunch at a cafe near the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs de Elyse. I love eating in the cafes in Paris. It feels like you are part of this huge movie set. Everyone is an actor and every scene fades into another. After lunch we marched up the hundreds of steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and got a bird's eye view of Paris. What a view! It's an awesome place - a bit touristy but the view is worth it.

I didn't realize the Arc de Triomphe is the French Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It makes it even more moving when you think of the Nazi occupiers marching over it and into Paris. It's hard to believe this city of light was ever occupied. I think, because of this, Parisians and French may appreciate freedom differently than Americans. I had never thoguht of that before.

Later we went to the Ritz for a drink - Hemingway's hang out. I t was very cool. The place was so obviously too rich for our blood, but everyone was very nice to us and took our money all the same. But, Hemingway wasn't rich while he was in Paris, either. I didn't realize until later The Ritz is the same hotel Princess Diana was at just before she died. I do believe we went out the same revolving door she did right before she died. Odd to think of Diana as having anything to do with my life, but she always fascinated me. I'll never know that life, either. But it's fun to let the imagination wander. It was a wonderful hour, though. Getting to hang out in one of Hemongway's haunts. I read some of "The Sun Also Rises" while I was there. His books were stashed all around the bar. I read a little F. Scott Fitzgerald, too. It was a great moment to share with Laura. After we paid out insane bill we went to Harry's New York Bar and had a coupel of drinks, too. Just a good night out.

We finished with some great pizza and pasta. Nothing like eating Italian in Paris. I did learn that Europeans like their pizza, everywhere we went you could get pizza. We took the Metro back to our freaky purple-room hotel with a broken elevator and half a dozen college girls camped out in the lobby.

Tomorrow, a full day in Paris. What could be better?


On a plane from Paris to home. I didn't write much while we were in Paris. I guess my days were too packed.

We got to live the Paris life for a few days - eating at cafes, walks along the Seine, hanging out around the Eiffel Tower, the Musee de Orsay, and riding The Metro everywhere. We got pretty good at taking The Metro everywhere. It's just the coolest way to get around Paris. We only got turned around a couple of times. It's just cool because you see such a cross section of Parisian life on the Metro. Everything from lovers sitting next to each other, a businessman heading home, a woman carrying flowers, a young dude puking as the train doors open, tourists getting lost...everywhere you look it's just - life. Everyone always seems so happy to help one another, too. Paris is dirty, but the good side of humanity seems to shine through.

Well, what did we see? We went to Notre Dame after camping out in a cafe to wait out a rainstorm. It really rained for about 30 minutes but then we just walked right into Notre Dame, no waiting. It is an awesome place. I still got the sense that it was a place, not so much a holy place. But more than in Strasbourg. The architecture was amazing and the scale was awe-inspiring. When we walked out there must have been 150 people in line to get in. The rain was a blessing - it drove the people away.

After Notre Dame we walked along the Seine on our way to the Musee de Orsay. On our way, we happened past Shakespeare and Company Books, a favorite bookstore and writers hangout I read about in "A Moveable Feast". I couldn't help but run in and buy Ernest Hemingway's "The First Forty-Nine Stories." Hemingway used to get his books there, too. Laura waited outside, I have never known her not to go into a bookstore but there's a first time for everything. I thought of Hemingway and Fitzgerald in there shopping for books. I wanted to get a book of poetry, but Laura was waiting outside in the cold.

We walked the ten blocks to the Musee de Orsay to look at the Impressionist paintings. I liked it alot. Just great to see all the paintings up close and not just in a book. It was nice to see all the different artists of the era grouped together. You could see how the artists were thinking alike but getting there in a different way. Monet, Manet, Degas, Pissaro, Van Gogh, all just trying to push perception. You could see how it eventually led to the abstract art. Cool stuff. I can't believe how tired we were after going through Musee de Orsay. We decided the Louvre would have to wait until our next trip to Paris.

After the museum we went out for a great dinner, I don't think we had a bad dinner. I have to say I am ready for some Mexican food - Bandito Burrito or Burrito Bros. are on my mind.

We went to Pigalle, Paris' infamous red-light district after dinner. Things were pretty racy there. They were filming a movie while we were there. It was the second movie set we were a part of in Paris. I never did find out which movie it was.


Our last day in Paris. We slept in . We walked down the Champs de Elyse, looking at all the shops. Wow, that's where all the money is! It's fun to look at for sure. There was a crazy stunt cyclist doing stunts at the Metro stop. Fun to watch, he could do some wicked things on the bike.

We walked along the Seine, again.

After a nap at the hotel we met Kurt, Cheryl and Sam. It was nice to see them again, really. Cheryl showed us around where she lived while she was in school there. She lived near the box the Eiffel tower came in.

Then we took a Seine River cruise at sunset, It was certainly a highlight of the trip. Laura said I was too interested in taking photos - but I loved on her plenty. It was a little chilly but it was really romantic and it warmed things up.

Oh, I almost forget. On our way back to the hotel earlier in the day we stopped in for an outrageously overpriced drink at a cafe near the Eiffel Tower. While we were sitting in yet another streetside cafe the President of the United States of America, George Bush passed by. he was in a motorcade heading to meet the president of France. The streets were all closed and we were just enjoying the temporary calm in the middle of Paris. George passed by and we toasted, Laura with wine and me with a margarita. No one even stopped to watch not a single person lined up to see the motorcade. No protests, no cheers, no nothing. We didn't get up either, we just kept drinking. I think everyone is looking past George now - he's not even worth protesting.

We had an early morning to get up and make our bus to the airport. Our first early morning since we parted with mom and dad. It's bittersweet to leave Paris. I could stay for a month in Paris, maybe more. I'll have to learn to speak more French! Laura picked up quite a bit while we were there. She's a quick study.

We'll be back. You can never really leave Paris, I'm convinced. Paris always stays with you. the whole trip was wonderful, especially being together for mom and dad's anniversary. But Paris was special. It works it's way into your soul. Or maybe part of your soul stays in Paris and that's what draws you back - to find part of your soul that you left there. We'll be back, sometime. Part of me will always be in Paris.

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