It all started late last fall, think it was Thanksgiving. Shannon announced that our 7th grade granddaughter, Peyton (singer-dancer extraordinaire) had been selected as a member of Michigan’s Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp International Touring Choir. Peyton would be heading to France and Germany with 4 dozen singers for 6 weeks during the summer. “Anyone interested in a little plane ride to hear her sing in Paris?”
|Staying limber by the Baltic Sea. Singer/dancer Peyton, 2017…|
Not hardly. I adore Peyton and her over-abundance of pure talent, but another trip over seas, no thanks. I was still recovering from my 12 day trip to Italy, June 2016 with Shannon, and the thought of another long flight was less than appealing. Italy was fantastic, but physically challanging because of my sore leg. Before heading back to the kitchen to finish the dishes, I mumbled, “Think I’ll pass, but the rest of you go and have a great time!”
|Venice, Italy 2016…|
Shannon, Tracey and Landon were going for sure. Josh and Erica had an invite for a Paris destination wedding of a friend so they were contemplating the trip to include both events. I can say with utmost certainty, I NEVER gave a trip to Europe another thought.
|T, Landon & Shannon on their way to Paris, 2017…|
Peyton got out of school on a Thursday in early June and headed to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp the next day for a week of intensive rehearsals before jetting across the ocean. Shannon was planning her extended stay in France and Germany, plus the week Tracey and Landon would be there, when she sent this zinger. “Ugh, I’ve been detailing our trip, concert venues, hotels, car rentals, places the guys might like to see besides everything old and artsy! You know mom, I’m gonna be alone in Paris for 5 days after they leave. All it would cost you is your flight. You interested? Think about it!” Oh boy. “Umm, just for curiosity’s sake, where might I find some good flight prices?” I asked, ever so casually. “With a date this close (about 3 weeks away), Metro’s gonna be high. Try Chicago or Toronto. Surely dad would drive you to Toronto.” Double oh boy. Really need to mention to the Hubs I’m now contemplating ANOTHER trip abroad. How exactly do I broach that one? After hem-hawing around, finally just blurted out I wanted to go to Paris. Awkward. John was not in favor. At all. No, it wasn’t the money or going without him. He loves when I do stuff with any of the kids-with or without him. He was very uncomfortable with ANYONE from our family traveling abroad this summer.
After Hubs calmed down, I started looking for an inexpensive flight. Without going into first class stuff, the prices started under a grand and up. Cheapest was flying out of Toronto. That’s about 300 miles away. But what a great excuse to stop at Niagara Falls again. It’s only 75 miles out of our way! I booked the flight on an airline I’ve never heard of. Had to board a train at the airport, walk out in a poop filled field and pick out my very own Canadian Goose responsible for zipping me to Charles de Gaulle airport. Oh honkers. Glad I wore long sleeves. It’s cool at 38,000 ft.
|Breathtaking Niagara Falls, 2017…|
While I thought the trip to Italy was a couple days too long, I felt the opposite about Paris. Much of this was due to travel time. Peyton’s last concert (my only chance to hear her) was 7 hours from Paris, thus pretty much shooting anything productive or touristy for 2 solid days, which were spent in a car. OK, it was a Mercedes Benz. And driving on the Autobahn. Just belt it out there Janis. So, while I can hardly be considered knowledgeable about one of the most famous cities in the world, I’m not without an opinion or willing to share it either. Just take the following observations with a grain of salt-s’il vous plait. (If you please)
|Yup, says I was doing 102 in Germany, 2017…|
1. They eat kind of strange. No matter what type of restaurant we were in or what they were eating, the French eat weird. They use their knife like an extra digit/extension of their hand. They’re talking (quietly) a mile-a-minute, using lots of expression, but the knife in their hand seems to have a mind of its own and a mission to accomplish. It’s (the knife) on the move constantly, moving, circling, cutting, encouraging morsels to get with the program and move towards the fork. Daintily piling it on higher, making the mound on the fork fuller, and neat. Ready for consumption. There’s no way I’ve ever got my knife to behave like that, making those slick moves.
2. Don’t know about the rest of France, but Paris has an overabundance of motorcycles. Crowded city, parking is at a premium. Motorcycles park everywhere and anywhere, usually on the sidewalk. But it’s when they’re not parked that really blew my gasket. They have more rights than cars or pedestrians. I’ve watched motorcycles weave in and out of traffic my whole life, nothing new. But in Paris motorcycles drive in between the car lanes, yup pretty much right on the painted lines. You could easily maim a dozen bikers every block if you just opened either one of your car doors. And when you come to a stop light, all the motorcycles behind you pull up to the front of the line. And they have a style of bike I’ve never seen or noticed before. It has 2 front tires. Rather small and quite close together, maybe 8 inches apart. Do they even have sell that style here?
3. France does not seem to like colored cars. About 80% of the cars were black. Henry Ford would be pleased about their color choice, but not with the amount of American cars on the roads. During the week, I spotted about 5 Fords, couple of Nissans, not one Chevy or pickup and very few SUV’s. Silver and white colors made up the other 20%.
4. Guys/hip/young/older-even business men wore very skin tight jeans or dress pants. Capris too and many carried purses. That was different.
5. The French didn’t get the memo: smoking is bad for you and those around you. Wow, a lot of folks were still smoking in France.
6. The French enjoy a good meal out. They eat late and take a very long time in restaurants, often 2-3 hours. Perhaps perfecting their knifing techniques. You can watch your entire life pass before your eyes (in slo-mo) before the waiter brings your check. Side note: saw very few overweight people in France.
|This was my only German meal, rote bratwurst, speck & sour-salad…|
7. A very popular mode of transportation is walking. On uneven surfaces (poured cement was rare), but sure-footed, agile and often in high heels. As for fashion, almost anything goes. Because walking is done by the majority of the French, young parents use strollers far past the time most Americans parents do. Children, looking as old as 7 or so were quite common to see. As for why many of these kids were still using pacifiers, I cannot imagine their reasoning. On the flight home, a family of 3 sat next to me. The little boy appeared to be around 5 or 6. Drank from a baby bottle and sucked on a pacifier as he colored and drew pictures in his book. Ugh.
8. For the most part, I found the French very polite. One motorcycle dude nearly hit me with his bike. I was in the cross-walk, walking with at least a hundred people on a green walk sign, yet he clearly thought he should be able to squeeze through and motioned for me to stop, letting him go because I was in the wrong. I poo-poohed him away with my hand (no, not just the one finger) and kept walking. A couple of folks might have been a little bit frustrated with me at times when I didn’t understand what they were trying to say. When I explained my hearing loss (just showed ’em the old hearing aid) they were much more patient and pleasant.
|St. Francis of Assisi painting at The Louvre, 2017..,|
9. Not one hotel (I stayed in 3, one was in Germany) used top sheets on the bed or had washcloths. That’s just wrong. And weird.
10. There are security guards at the entrances of every store, and I had to open my purse or bags I was carrying.
11. In our last Paris hotel, the bathroom was bigger than the room. The strange looking door key slides into a slot by the light switch which activates the electricity. When you pull your key to leave, everything turns off but the air conditioner. And you turn your key into the front desk everytime you leave. I should have asked someone because I have no clue why. Hotel had 6 floors but the elevator only went up to 5. Don’t say it. Just don’t. Guess which floor we were on? Of course, number 6. It did have great views of the city. As we were checking in, the manager motioned conspiratorially for us to follow him. Down the hall, through 2 doors, he unlocks a service elevator, packs in the 3 of us (we now have Peyton with us) and all our belongings inside with this admonishment, “you are not to use this elevator unless you are checking out. Walk down one flight and use the elevator from floor 5. Same when you come back in, use the regular elevator up to the fifth floor and walk up the stairs to 6. Understand?” No, please explain that again. It’s 10 pm and we’re too tired to go back out and find something to eat, but explain again how your world will unravel if we use the service elevator.
12. Tables in restaurants are spaced less than a foot apart. Ice is a precious commodity and doled out unwillingly. Water is never given unless requested, plus then you get charged for it. Pop is more expensive than some wines. Coke lite was 5-7 dollars a bottle.
|Pop & water adding up to over 21 bucks, so out of line…|
13. Driving the Autobahn in Germany was a blast. Made Shannon take a picture as I cruised along at 102 mph, the fastest I dared to drive. No one stays in the left lane EVER like they do in America. You signal, move to the left lane, pass, signal and move back to the right. So that’s how it’s supposed to work! Clipping along at 102 in the middle lane, I was constantly passed by cars going much faster, say 130 or better. Yikes, I loved it.
14. Peyton’s concert was held in a high school in a small town in Germany, not too far from Munich. During intermission, the hallway had a lovely table set up offering beer, wine, pop or champagne. No cookies though. Bummer. Shannon and I sipped Mimosas! Can you believe it?
15. Notre Dame is magnificent! Just think, construction began about 1000 years ago. Makes you realize how young America is. 14,000,000 people visit the cathedral every year. Amazing and awesome. Did not see the Hunchback.
16. The Louvre. Inspiring. No small feat once you’ve arrived. The place has almost 800,000 square feet and 38,000 objects/art/antiques, vying for your attention. Overwhelming after you walk in. Quick crash course: The Mona Lisa is a bit over-rated. It’s rather dark and small. But by far the most popular room at the Louvre. The painting hangs behind glass, and back a few feet from a railing, keeping the crazies at bay. A least a couple of hundred jostling, pushy people, all trying to get up to the railing to take some pictures. The oddity? Most everyone turned around once they managed to get to that coveted spot. Wanting a selfie with The Mona. Ugh.
|No selfie here, just Mona Lisa at The Louvre…|
16.A. The famous ancient Greek sculpture, Venus de Milos (Aphrodite) is very impressive.
|Venus de Milo. Beautiful…|
16.B. As was Napoleon’s apartment. For a small guy, he might have overcompensated just a bit. If the painted ceilings weren’t quite enough, one of his Chandeliers is larger than our entire family room. Very showy, little man.
17. The Eiffel Tower. Just. Wow. Built as the entrance to the World’s Fair in 1889, construction started in 1887. Made of wrought iron lattice work, it spans about 1000 feet in height. Impressive. Very. Standing tall and proud on the banks of the Seine River, it is the most popular paid monument in the world with close to 7 million people a year. All of whom picked the same day as Shannon and I. We stood in line for 2 hours to buy tickets. With 2 security check points. The views are spectacular. We toured during the day, so I did not see the gorgeous night lights. Shannon, Tracey and Landon went at night before I got there.
|Eiffel Tower. Speechless…|
18. Steak Tartar. Hubs and I went to a fancy restaurant in Janesville, Wisconsin 30 years ago. The place had a humongeous pipe organ and a menu that could have been considered a novel-it was that long. On the menu was Steak Tartar. I had to ask because I had never heard of it. Raw steak. Not rare, but raw. I always assumed that meant a good sirloin or Porterhouse. But ice cold and raw? No thanks. At McDonald’s we were taught that E-coli sits just about everywhere on meat. Yucky thought. If you want your steak really, really rare, that’s ok. As long as you sear both sides on a very hot surface, any nasty organisms are toast. But with hamburger, E-coli is no longer just sitting on top because it’s ground up, thus putting it throughout the meat. So we cooked our beef to a minimum of 155 degrees, thus ensuring 99.99% of E-coli was destroyed. Sorry, that was more lengthy than I intended. Anyway in France, Steak Tartar is on every menu and very popular. But it’s not just hunks or tidbits of steak. It’s good ground beef, steak or HORSE meat that resembles a hamburger pattie. And often served with onions, capers and raw egg yolk. Just kill me now. Looking at the plate I thought, wow if you take away the capers, add half a cup of oatmeal, mix it all up and plop it in a pan at 350 degrees oven for an hour. Voila-meatloaf. Oui-oui…
|View of Paris from the Eiffel Tower…|
|Looks like a raw meatloaf on his plate…|