Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Visiting Houilles, France

In my last blog post, I had originally intended to talk about the trip out to the house we lived in while living in France way back when but I got side tracked by my interest in the SS United States. On with the rest of the story!
Upon our arrival in France way back in 1963-ish, my parents found a house to rent in a quaint little commune in the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France region just north of Pairs called Houilles. I had a few vague memories of living there so it was with a bit of uncertainty that we hoped aboard the RER line A train heading for our final destination, the Houilles – Carrières-sur-Seine station. I'd guess it only took us 30-40 minutes at the most to get there. I shot this video along the way. It will give you a little glimpse of the suburbs of Paris going north.

Our house was on 15 Avenue Carnot. Having previously studied a map of our little hamlet, I knew that the house was only a few blocks away from the train station so we started walking in that direction. Houilles is a pretty little place. Curved roads, nice homes, clean streets, parks, all in all a very nice neighborhood. We walked through the Charles de Gaul garden where a monument to the soldiers of World War 1 and several other markers to other soldiers in other wars stand. Coming out of the park we passed the Town Hall and the mayor's office which sits right across the street from a very nice covered farmers market. We were lucky enough to have come on a market day so we spent a considerable amount of time just going up and down the isles. It was great fun to see the big variety of items for sale!

The back end of the marketplace happens to be right on Avenue Carnot. It took me a moment to realize that this was the street we wanted but right away I recognized the wall, gate, and home behind the wall as the one we used to live in. In my mind, it hasn't changed much at all in the last 48 years. We didn't try to go into the yard or ring the bell but I did stick my camera over the wall and try to take some pictures.

My other objective was to try to find the old public school I went to when we lived there. I didn't have an address or any good reference points to go by. All I had were some of the existing schools that showed up on Goggle maps. We walked around for a while trying to find one specific school that I thought might be it but alas, no good. Everybody was getting a little tired and hot so we stopped into the Catholic church there in town for a short reprise then wandered across the street to a watering hole and cooled off with some liquid refreshment. Apparently we interrupted the proprietor's lunch break because they weren't particularly happy to serve us. How were we supposed to know that their lunch hour was at 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon?

After getting our tanks filled again we headed back for the train station and the ride back to the hotel. It was a nice side trip and in some ways a very pleasant break from the hustle and bustle of Paris. As you view the pictures, sit back, relax, and enjoy a warm sunny afternoon with us as we stroll through the streets of Houilles.

The official web site for Houilles is
Wikipedia can inform you of a little bit more about Houilles at:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The SS United States

When I was approximately 8 years old, my parents packed up all us kids and we headed off for France where they begin 15 months of language study. I can remember getting on the train in Grand Junction, Colorado and riding it all the way to New York City. Once there, we all boarded the SS United States for a cross Atlantic trip to France. I can remember bits and pieces of the voyage, most specifically getting very ill when we passed through the edge of a hurricane. The ship was pitching in every which direction with dishes and silverware sliding around the dining room tables and making the ride generally miserable for a few hours.

On a whim, I entered USS United States into YouTube and discovered a significant number of videos related to this ship. When it was built in the early 1950's she was the fasted ship on the seas. Apparently there is now an effort to restore some of her previous glory. Please visit the SS United States Conservancy  for some history and updates on that effort. I've included a couple of YouTube videos that I found interesting for those of you who might wish to learn more about what the ship was like.

SS United States

This blog post started out to be about our trip out to Houilles, where my folks ended up renting a house for our time in France, but I got side-tracked by these videos on the ship. Guess I'll have to save Houilles for another day!