Saturday, April 30, 2011

Notre Dame

Easter morning found us with Aunt Lorraine recovering and Karen still feeling pretty ill, at least that's what the two of them told me when it was time to get ready for the planned walking tour guided by a native Parisian. I went on the tour myself but when I got back to the hotel somewhere around 1:30 in the afternoon all that remained was a short note indicating that they had tried to call and that they were heading to Notre Dame. They hadn’t been gone too long so I decided to venture out and see if I could hook up with them. A half-hour and a couple of metro rides later I was standing in the courtyard of the mighty cathedral gazing up at the familiar towers that are distinct to Notre Dame. As might be expected, there was a long line of visitors and I hesitated for a few minutes before deciding to get in line. Surprisingly, the line moved along quite rapidly and before long I was sitting in the rear of the sanctuary letting my eyes get accustomed to the darkness and taking in the splendor of the stained-glass windows.

I have mixed feelings going into Catholic cathedrals like this. I am not Catholic. In fact, in recent years, as I’ve learned more about Catholicism and observed its effect on people, I’ve grown more anti-catholic in my own beliefs.  This won’t, of course, make some of my immediate and extended family happy, but to pretend otherwise dilutes my own Protestant faith. When I enter a Catholic church, my mind and soul wrestle with mixed emotions about doctrines and practices and I find it difficult to truly worship there. It almost feels like blasphemy to be there and yet I know that in other respects this is just another building and I can worship God there if I so choose. This day being Easter Sunday, I wanted to spend some time worshiping the risen Savior and offer my thanks to Him who rose from the grave to conquer death and bring mankind salvation. So I sat in the back of the sanctuary and meditated on the Easter story for a bit and came away refreshed in my soul.  Unlike the scene depicted on the altar of the Cathedral of Notre Dame which shows a dead Jesus held in the arms of his mother Mary, my Jesus is raised from the grave, living and dwelling at the right hand of God, having conquered death once and for all. “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:54b, 55). He is risen!

Oh, I never did hook up with the ladies until we all got back to the hotel. Unfortunately, their cursed sickness was beginning its effects on me and I found myself being the one wanting to stay in bed for the next couple of days. It was unfortunate that we all had to get sick. It sure takes the spunk out of you for a while.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wending Our Way Back Home

Not sure if I will be able to put to many thoughts to words before we land in Phoenix but we'll give it a shot and see what happens. So far our flight out of Paris has gone pretty well. Getting to the airport was something of an interesting ride. We found out about a van service that picks up about eight folks at a time and shuttles them to the airport for a little better fare than standard taxi rates. However, where you are on the pickup list may determine how many Madd Hatter rides you get to take through the streets of Paris. Fortunately for one who is easily prone to motion sickness we only had to pick up one other person. I honestly didn't know that you could fit an 8 passenger van in between a city bus and the curb on a street built for two horses!

Leaving in the middle of rush hour traffic didn't do too much for average travel times to the airport either. We dropped off some of our merry band at the first terminal. Of course, our terminal was somewhere else so off we went. We saw the sign for terminal 2 whiz by when all of a sudden we came to a screeching halt. Kind of figured we were going to be a while when the driver turned off the van. I overheard him ask another driver what was going on and learned that some truck driver had underestimated the height of his load and clipped the top of an underpass we needed to pass under. Fortunately, they were able to back the truck out of its untimely difficulties in short order and we were soon on our way. I believe that was the only time I ever saw any Frenchman back up! Needless to say, we made it to the airport in sufficient time to endure the screening process and make our flight!

It is my humble opinion that the US Airways terminal has the worst security setup of any "modern" country in the world. But then, what do I know. I've only been to one other international airport in recent years and it was built by the same masterminds. Aunt Lorraine had asked for some mobile assistance which actually provides her and those accompanying her expedited processing through the ordeal. In this case there was one Disneyland style queue for the normal Joes and a "special" queue for the crew and the wheelchair jockeys. Bear in mind that these lines are very narrow and getting the wheelchair to fit just by itself was a pretty good accomplishment but there must have been two dozen crew members all demanding to squeeze past us and jump the line. The bottleneck was a real mess and an opportune time to practice the deep breathing discipline I recently learned at work. Come to think of it, I did a lot of that on this trip. It helps. Sometimes. The chair jockey, who spoke reasonable English for a Frenchman, finally slugged our way through the line and we were ultimately able to escape the angry mob that by now were preparing to throw their 3.5-ounce clear plastic containers at us. Funniest part of this is that the chair jockey tripped the metal detector going through it and had quite a time getting himself through security.

With the clock ticking this whole time, there was little opportunity to recover before they announced they were going to pre-board certain travelling types. I sensed something was amiss when the chair jockey was summoned by someone in a uniform and hushed conversation and furtive glances were cast our way. At last the chair jockey came over and told Aunt Lorraine that she had been randomly selected for additional screening. Ye gads! The old lady had been found out! After going through her things and doing a body search etc. etc. etc. we finally boarded and had a very quiet and uneventful flight to Philadelphia. Managed to watch almost three movies on the way over. In English too!

We're getting ready to land in Phoenix so I have to quit. Not much more to tell except for the disagreeable wheelchair joker we got this time. He had such a thick Indian style accent I couldn't really understand a word he said (hello? did we take a detour? is this France?) and kept wagging his finger at me and telling me to go here, do this, do that, all the time wagging that nasty finger and snarling at me and just generally being unlikeable. I was about ready to break that finger off and shove it up his nose. But, we made the flight and are about to make it to our final leg back home. Really looking forward to seeing the families again. Catch ya later.

P.S. Aunt Lorraine is safely on her way to San Diego and we're waiting for our flight to leave later this evening.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Au Revoir Paris, Welcome Home

Last night in Paris. The alarm is set for an earlier-than-normal rising to begin the long journey home. Not that I'm truly complaining all that much really, based on the way my ancestors made this long journey. Still, at least they could get up and stretch their legs now and then. Watching full length movies until my eyes bleed should dull the pain somewhat.

We finished our frenzied gluttony of world masterpieces by taking a whirlwind tour of Versailles. We took a tour bus ride out to the estate and then joined the rest of the mass of humanity as we went room to room listening to the digital recorder telling us what room we were in and what activities occurred therein. Despite the marauding hoards shoving us along we did manage to be astonished by the luxury and splendor of the place. We only saw what are called "the apartments". There was more to see but our time was short and we wanted to see the extraordinary gardens which did not disappoint. Wish we could have seen the fountains in full display but alas they were not on during our visit.

I should probably state that we means Karen and I. Aunt Lorraine wanted to go visit a different museum and wasn't interested in Versailles this time around.

We tried to find a place for lunch that would satisfy everyone but the pressures of compressed living and close proximity for sustained periods of time finally strained familial ties to the point of breaking so yours truly spent the afternoon viewing some of the French war memorabilia while Karen and Aunt Lorraine went shopping, visited another museum, and I don't what else. Now tonight we are packed and ready for some shut eye and our last goodbyes to Paris. It's been an amazing journey but frankly I'm looking forward to home sweet home. Good night and goodbye for a while.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Round Three

Sorry I haven't written in a few days. Seems it's been my turn to rule the porcelain throne and contemplate the meaning of life while staring at the ceiling of this fine establishment from this not so fine bed. I'm hoping to do better today but time will tell. One of the ladies that works the front desk here at the hotel suggested one of her cures for flu. It turns out to be an alcoholic beverage made from anise oil. I took some last night and feel better this morning so maybe it does work!

It's hard to believe that we only have a couple more days of our trip left when it feels like we still have much to see and do. If you ever get the opportunity to visit this fair city prepare to walk your feet off and don’t bring any of your aches and pains with you. I seem to have managed a pinched nerve in my right leg that is giving me much grief. Wish that would go away. I'm not quite sure what today’s agenda is yet. It changes moment by moment. Last I heard we were headed for the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and the Arch de Triomphe. Aunt Lorraine has her heart set on an evening boat trip before we go. There is plenty to see still!

Arch de Triomphe

Last Sunday morning was our appointed time for a guided walk with a local Pariessiene through the neighborhood they live in. Karen and Aunt Lorraine we're down for the count so I went alone. I met Catherine and a gentleman by the name of Jean Claude and we spent the next couple of hours walking through I believe the 13th and 23rd Arrondisment. Paris is divided up by these different sections. I'll have to try and describe the tour layer when I can upload my pictures as it will be more interesting then.

Also on Sunday, we managed to visit Notres Dame and some of the area around there. Lots of people around that day.

Going to knock off for now. Thanks for your prayers and thoughts for healing. I hope most of this is behind us.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Christ Is Risen

This will be a brief update mostly on the status of the sicko's who are still not doing all that well. We managed to take the trip out to Houilles yesterday (more on that another time) but that seems to have caused a setback for both Karen and Lorraine. We were supposed to go on our guided tour of the Ecole Militaire today but now its just me. The other two both had bad nights and are staying in bed. This morning was my first experience with el trots so pray that I'm not coming down with this thing either.

Hoping and praying everyone gets healthy again real soon. And celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior today. He is risen!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Touring the Eiffel Tower - Or Not

This week is the beginning of the Easter weekend holiday and the number of people on the streets of Paris has grown substantially. Karen Is still feeling ill so this morning I went to try to visit the Eiffel Tower by myself. I decided to try to take the subway. My first mistake was not properly identifying where I actually entered the underworld. It took me a few minutes to get on the correct train. It only took me two stops to realize that I should be going the other way! I got off at the next stop, crossed over to the other side of the tracks and got going in the proper direction. After getting off at the correct stop, I found it to be very confusing to determine which subway to take next. I wandered around like a mole underground until I finally found the sign pointing to the proper destination. As I was waiting for the train to leave another tourist asked me if this was the train to Versailles. Do I look like a tour guide? I asked the lady I was sitting across from and she assured me that this was indeed the train to Versailles and to the tower. She was even kind enough to point out my own destination upon our arrival.

Climbing out into the sunshine, I was temporarily blinded by the brilliance of the day. Carried along by the throng of people that exited the metro with me, we soon came to the Eiffel Tower. Boy, that thing is tall! I knew that the line for tickets would be long but I was not expecting it to be as long as it was. I believe that if you stretched the line out in a straight line, it would probably stretch for a mile or more. Not being one to endure crowds of people I decided it was not worth the amount of time it would take to buy a ticket to the top. I found a nice hard bench to sit on and watched the crowd for a while. It was amusing to watch the street vendors trying to take advantage of the tourist. I believe that most of them are illegal immigrants from North Africa and they all seem to buy their junk from the same wholesaler. Whenever a policeman would pass, they would all scatter in every direction and for a few moments people were not pestered. If someone was foolish enough to stop and look at their wares there would be 4 or 5 other peddlers surrounding them in an instant. There were 3 young, naive, attractive looking American girls who ended up buying more souvenirs then they will ever be able to give away. They even ended up having their pictures taken with him. He nearly ended up getting punched by Ye Olde Man for the inappropriate placement of his hand. But they seemed to be enjoying themselves so who am I to spoil their fun?

I decided to walk back to the hotel along the Left Bank of the Seine. It turned out to be a rather long walk, but it was a beautiful day with lots of beautiful things to see. I must look like a Frenchman now with my newly acquired old duffers felt hat because several people stopped to ask me for directions to this place or that. After an hour and a half I entered The House of the Invalid's (our hotel room) and checked on how Karen and Aunt Lorraine we're doing. Karen is still feeling pretty sick but Aunt Lorraine is doing better.

After a short nap we went to see a fashion show at the Lafayette Galleria. Karen was not feeling good but went with us anyway. It was the first fashion show that I can ever remember viewing. Let's just say that the fashion industry is not something I would be good at. I guess that's just one less thing that I have to choose as a career. The walk back just about did in both the girls so we have spent this evening resting and recuperating. I hope I don't get sick and I hope that they get well fast.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Contrasting Styles

Another day is winding down and we are all pretty bushed. Aunt Lorraine still tires easily and it's beginning to look like Karen might be getting the flu too. Started feeling punky after lunch and got worse as the day went on. After we returned to the hotel this evening she lay down and hasn't moved much since. She feels rotten and seems to have a fever going. I hope and pray that she recovers quickly.

We started our day by walking from the hotel through the courtyard of the Louvre, across the River Seine, and up to the Dorset Museum. A long line had already formed to buy tickets but thanks to our previous purchase of the six day museum pass, we were able to join a much smaller line and we're soon soaking up the artwork of Manet, Monet, and many other early contemporary Impressionists that I can't pronounce. Once again we found it amazing to be viewing the actual artwork itself and not a picture in a book.

The museum is actually a converted railroad station that was saved from demolition in the seventies. It's an amazing building and worth saving. For lunch we were treated to a special lunch in a most magnificent room with an exuberant waiter who catered to our every need. It was a very nice gift from Aunt Lorraine for our fifth wedding anniversary. Got some pictures but will have to post them later.

Aunt Lorraine decided to return to the hotel for the afternoon and rest so Karen and I spent some more time in the museum before walking up to the museum that houses some of the military paraphernalia related to various French wars. I found the different armaments fascinating as well as the variations in uniforms. Unfortunately Karen was feeling worse as the afternoon wore on so we finally found the taxi stand and caught a ride back to the hotel.

I wish I could post some pictures which would make this so much more interesting. I also wish I had a normal keyboard to type on as that would make typing so much easier and stories more interesting. A tablet is great for being compact but lacks in capabilities for trying to accomplish anything of importance. Anyway, at least you know we're alive and not so well.

Blessings on each and all.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Flu: No respecter of persons or countries

Greetings from inside the American Hospital waiting room. Not among your normal tourists destination, we decided to check out the emergency services for Aunt Lorraine. She slipped off the bottom step of the hotel lobby evening (Monday) and bruised her wrists and knees pretty badly. Then this morning she started tossing her cookies so we've decided to have her checked out and make sure everything is okay. Wish I could say that service here was faster. After waiting nearly eight hours for a ten minute exam and eight x-rays, the doctor declared that she had no broken bones, no blood clots, no internal injuries and had most likely contacted some type of virus that was making her ill at, shall we say, both the north and south ends of her body. She was to get bed rest and drink plenty of fluids.

UPDATE: I didn't get this posted last night due to a poor connection. This morning she reported that she is still having a hard time keeping things down/in but is determined to carry on. My feeling is that she should rest more but you don't tell this Aunt what to do. We shall see what the day holds.

Yesterday we managed to open the little eatery across from the hotel that has become our local termination point in the evenings. The proprietor and his main counter man are extremely friendly and fun to talk to. They speak enough English to fill in the gaps in my French and I speak enough French to fill in the gaps in their English. We didn't realize that they we're open yet. We just waltzed right in like family. We ordered some quiche and then tried to figure out how to order scrambled eggs. Not knowing the French word for scrambled we tried to mime the process. Funny, but not really effective. The closest we finally got was an omelet with some very salty ham thrown in. Turned out okay but was covered with a LOT of oil!

Speaking of eating the neighborhood we're in has a lot of Japanese, Korean, and various other Oriental restaurants. The other night we I had the best sushi I believe I've ever eaten! It was served along with chicken pieces of various flavors skewered on a stick. I think one of the pieces was chicken gizzard which I haven't eaten in ages. However it was fixed it was very good.

Palais Garnier
After breakfast we booked it for the location of the gorgeous Palais Garnier, also known as the Opéra de Paris or Opéra Garnier, but more commonly as the Paris Opéra. From 1875 until 1989, it was the primary home of the Paris Opera.  I was secretly hoping we were going to see the inside but alas, we were headed for one of the largest retail store in Paris. Some of you know it as the Galeries Lafayette. Huge place. Aunt Lorraine took us to the 9th floor where you could see all over Paris. Pretty amazing.

Alas, I am being called to duty and must end this. Sorry I haven't been able to find time to post some more interesting stuff. So much to see, so little time.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Rodin and the Centre George Pompidou

It's about seven thirty in the evening Paris time. It has been a most gorgeous day and a most pleasant evening. On Sundays, things tend to slow down a tiny bit and the frantic pace of life pauses for a moment to catch its breath. I did that for a while this evening sitting at a street side cafe sipping on a rather nice red wine watching the world walk by in front of me. I think the whole world is in Paris tonight. The "girls" (Karen, Aunt Lorraine, and Chelsea, all went to mass and I haven't heard back from them.)

We visited the Rodin Museum late this morning. We purchased Museum passes when we first arrived at the airport and they have already made things easier. There was a long line of people waiting to buy tickets but with the pass we avoided the line and went right in. Sweet!

For those of you like me who failed art class, Rodin was the sculpture who created "The Thinker". The garden setting was beautiful against the blue sky. We took lots of pictures so hopefully I can figure out some way to post some.

After the Riding, we had our first subway experience. Chelsea taught us how to use the metro and I think I might be able to use it now. We rode the metro to the Centre G. Pompidous which is a museum dedicated to modern art. Since I successfully failed to pay any particular attention in my art appreciation class, I couldn't really appreciate the artwork. Now, I don’t mean to insult these artists but really, some of this art looks like something my kids made when they were younger. Modern Art just doesn't really speak to me.
Towards evening, we headed back to the hotel for dinner which pretty much brings me back to where I am now. Tired, full, and ready for bread. Bon nuit!

They have garbage trucks in Paris

Hallaluiah! I've found an app that let's me post to my blog! Perhaps now I can post a bit more frequently.

The time change has been hard to adjust to. We were tired after the flight Friday and slept for several hours in the afternoon and then went back to bed after ten. We woke up at our usual time for us which is 5:30ish for us. Is it our fault that it's 9 difference between Paris and home making it 12:30 here? Once we finally got going we did okay for the day but last night Karen woke up around 2:00 this morning and couldn't go back to sleep. The clanging of garbage cans and the sound of breaking glass early this morning as the trash collectors made their way up the street didn't help. There is also a nightclub right across the street and they start heading home around 3am slightly louder than when they entered. The joys of world travel.

Well just when I get going good with this somebody insist I do something different. Description of the magnificant Louvre will have to wait. Later!
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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Blogging from a tablet

Grrrrrr. I've been trying for hours to figure out how to force this dumb tablet to get in a typing mode when I'm in the proper window. It’s very quirky. But I think I'm finally making some progress. It is the second day of our time in Paris but this post will reflect some efforts to post yesterday. Perhaps tomorrow I can catch you up on recent news.

It's 4:30 in the morning and we're sitting at gate C19 waiting to board the plane in an hour. So far I've managed to leave my hat at the hotel and nearly strip searched for forgetting about the itty-bitty pocket knife in my carry-on. For only 15.00 US dollars I was able to send myself a nice welcome home present for our return. I did score on the luggage though. I wanted to check both my bags but they wanted 50.00 bucks for the privilege. As we were waiting to board they announced that the flight was full and they were looking for people to check their carry on. Score! All the way to Paris too!

Update: It's now 5:15 AM and we're sitting on the plane waiting for all the other lemmings to board. Stewardess, err flight attendant, says put this away. Later!

Room Rates
We came up to P-Town last night and had dinner with the kids. Val fixed some yummy veggie chili and corn bread. (As I type the sun is rising over clouds and it’s quite beautiful!) Their cat played in a brown paper bag while we were eating. Pretty funny! After visiting for a while we headed off to the Holiday Inn for a short nights rest. The hotel was really very nice and the staff was great! We got the room off at about half the rate listed on the bathroom door. They have a really nice facility if you're looking to host a meeting or convention. Next stop Phoenix here we hope to hook up with Aunt Lorraine.

Well fellow travelers, we are now about an hour out of Paris trying hard not to look like total zombies. My bum feels like it ought to have "inflate to fifty pounds" stamped on it! We just ate something that looked a little bit like a pastry with some mediocre warmish coffee. It helped some.

There was a beautiful sunrise this morning off our port side. Lots of orange and red hues. Very nice, but I think we have been flying too long because we've seen both sunrise and sunset way to close together. Remind me not to sign up for astronaut school.

The Philadelphia Airport has a lot of interesting artwork scattered around. In one area they had these very small pewter birds of all different kinds hanging from the ceiling on thin fishing line. They appeared to be flying in large flocks throughout the building. You could actually identify each bird species,  they were so detailed. Tucked away in another corner of the airport was a full-sized replica of the Liberty Bell done up with Lego’s which was most amazing. When I can figure out how to post pictures I'll try to show what it looks like.

Off to bed. Still trying to adjust my body clock.


This is a test to see if I can blog from my email account. For some
reason this tablet won't open the keys window.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On the Eve of Departure

We're a little over one day from departure for Paris, France.

"Really?" I ask myself.

Must be true because all of a sudden I can't stop thinking about all the preparations I wish I'd done, all the French I wish I had learned, and all the promises broken never to wait until the last minute again. Still, I think we're probably as prepared as we ever will be so let's just go with it and see what mischief we can get ourselves into!

On our trip to Senegal last year, I made some vane promise to keep everybody posted on our trip along the way. I solemnly vow the same promise this year only I'm really going to try to post to this blog rather than use email like last time. Feel free to share this with anyone who expresses interest in following along. The more the merrier! To assist in my efforts to post more frequently, we're taking along a sweet little tablet that should get me more motivated to record our activities.

The rough draft of our trip looks something like this (subject to change at any time and for any reason):
  1. Leave bright and early Thursday morning from Portland International Airport, stop-over in Phoenix, then on to Philadelphia. The flight leaves Philly around 6:20 in the evening and arrives in Paris the next morning breakfast time. 
  2. For those of you living in Oregon, there is an 8 hour time difference between Oregon and Paris, just so you can keep track.
  3. Now, Karen's aunt has proposed that we get this trip started right off the bat with a sight-seeing tour or a trip through the Louvre and a couple of stops at fine dining. Personally, I think I'll be looking for a flat place to lay down and catch 20 winks before I'm ready to kick-start the sight-seeing! An evening bus tour or stroll down the boulevard (that's French for boulevard!) and a good nights rest would set me up for a day of museum viewing I think.
  4. Days 2 through  4 include multiple museum sightings, a few particularly noteworthy dining establishments and the occasional stroll down the boulevard (did I tell you that was French for boulevard?)
  5. I'm told day 5 will be attempting the Eiffel Tower.
  6. Over the course of the next few days we will visit the likes of the Rodin Museum, Napoleon's tomb, Dome Des Invalides, Church of St Louis des Invalides, Notre Dame, and  the Opera House.
  7. Our hotel is near the Seine so I anticipate long walks along the Left Bank and the Right Bank, perhaps a river cruise at night and other romantic things like that.
  8. I'm getting tired already! Other planned stops include Forum Des Halles, Georges Pompidou Center, Luxembourg Gardens, Sorbone, Pantheon, Cluney Museum, Picasso Museum, and St Dennis Bacillica.
  9. On Easter Sunday "the girls" (Karen and Lorraine) want to attend mass somewhere. Then we've arranged a private guided tour with a local Parisienne who will take us on a two hour walk around her neighborhood. 
  10. One of those days we're planning to take a trip northeast of Paris to a suburb called Houilles where my family lived when I was young. We found a picture of the house on Google Maps and it looks just like I remember it! That should be an interesting trip. 
I'm sure that we'll be seeing plenty of sights and have lots of interesting tales to share along the way. Stay tuned!