We said goodbye to the Viking boat and were bussed to Luxembourg. We toured the American WWII cemetery and some locals gave us a history lesson on the battles fought in the area. We saw Patton’s cross and a monument/chapel. It’s a sobering experience. The cemetery is serene and pristine; the area is kept up by an American money. One curious thing: the German cemetery is just down the road a mile although we didn’t stop there, of course. After we’d paid our respects they bussed us to downtown Luxembourg. We got a guided tour of the city which didn’t take long. It’s not that big; it’s mostly foreign embassies but the guide pointed out the Apple headquarters of the area. I was impressed by how clean Luxembourg is. We were left at the city square which was hosting a farmers’ market. It was asparagus season so asparagus was sold at every farmers’ market we’d seen in Europe. I was surprised to see that rhubarb was a big seller, too. I got so hungry for rhubarb pie I made one last week–although I had a hell of a time finding any. Isn’t rhubarb an American plant? It was easier to find it in Europe than Los Angeles. Is a puzzlement.
It was lunch time so Gordon and I managed to buy sandwiches. We were trying to get around on the one year of French I took at SoDak State. I was rusty, of course (that was 45 years ago!), but it came back to me slowly. One difficulty; we’d taken our sandwiches to what we thought was a food court next to the gazebo where a brass band was playing. A young waitress came up to us and started, “Je suis tres desolee mais…” She didn’t look very desolee to me but the gist of her speech was the table we sat at belonged to a specific restaurant and we should eat our sandwiches where we bought ’em. We apologized and moved. We also helped some other Americans from our group who didn’t speak a word of French. I guess fractured French is better than none. We caught the bus for the long drive to Paris.
The drive was about five hours (LONG!) but I got see the French countryside. The fields had no fences and I didn’t see any little towns or farmhouses; it must have been mostly corporate farming. Some weird blobs appeared every now and again and we were told they were artistic pieces to break up monotony. Apparently, they had a problem with people falling asleep on the long straight road.
I was glad when we got to Paris. The bus was comfortable–it was a lot more comfortable than that Alitalia (Alitalia! Slowly I turned, step by step) flight–but it was still confining. On the way to our hotel our guide described what we were looking at and told us how to find our way around. We saw the Pont Neuf, we drove down the Champs Elysses…I was in Paris! And I was exhausted from sitting on my dead butt.
We got installed in our room at the Meridian hotel. We’d requested a king size bed and we got two twins pushed together which really isn’t the same thing but what the hell, it was only for two nights. We were on our own for dinner so we walked down the street and found a charming little bistro. I stumbled my way through the menu outside and took a chance that we could order something we liked. The maître d’ was charming, we sang “Bon Jour” at each other and he nattered on in French. I must have said something back which clearly indicated that I was American but he was cool. He asked in French if we wanted the menu “en Francaise ou Anglaise.” (Who was he kidding? My French is awful; but he was erring on the side of the angels). I gratefully smiled and said, “Anglaise.” We weren’t very hungry (too tired) but we split a spicy, very rich, lentil salad and each had a bowl of soup. I got a glass of Poully Fume which was delicious. It was Saturday night and the place filled up quickly but we ate and paid our bill without causing an international incident. On our way back to the hotel we noticed four handsome uniformed young men pacing slowly along–with automatic weapons. There’d been a terrorist attack on a policeman the week before and Macron was being sworn in at the Arch de Triumph three blocks from the Meridian the next day. I said, “Whoa” when I saw the weapons. One of the soldiers smiled slightly but they stayed vigilant and paced on. It was ten o’clock; time to go to bed.
We got up early for our tour next morning. We sang “Bon jour” to the hotel staff when we went to breakfast. The staff all spoke excellent English so I didn’t have to bother anybody with my fractured French. After, we were driven to Notre Dame where they freed us for an hour. I had my toilet money (coffee just goes through me) but the bathroom was locked. Hmmm. Time to see just how good my sphincter was. Notre Dame made me forget my worries. Mass was being said so Gordon wandered around and read the exhibits but I listened to the Mezzo sing. Wonderful. We got a Christmas ornament of the rose window and caught the bus again. We were driven past the Paris Opera House (got a kick out of Napoleon’s private carriage entrance), the Louvre, the Latin Quarter, and finally ended up at the Eiffel Tower. They let us off the bus at the Eiffel but we couldn’t take the time to go to the top or have lunch. There was a ten k being run, Macron was being sworn in….there was a lot going on. I didn’t envy the bus driver trying to get around it all. Basically, it was an overview tour. I’d like to go back to check things out; the tour whetted my appetite. They took us back to the Meridian where I took the opportunity to pee–I’ve never appreciated bathrooms so much in my life. And it’s big business in Europe–all those desperate tourists with their 50 cents of toilet money in their hands. But I digress…
We were driven to Versailles. Wow. We toured Versailles for about two hours. The guide gave us a history lesson on when it was built (it must have been good to be Sun King) and mentioned that, even though the Revolutionaries beheaded the king during The Terror, they didn’t tear down Versailles. Thank God; it’s an impressive place. I probably will never go again but I’m glad I saw it once. When they took us back to the hotel we weren’t hungry; we just went to the food court in the Hyatt across the street–there was a small shopping mall attached to the hotel. The clerk didn’t speak English but I managed “Je voudrais…” and got stuck. So I pointed. It worked. We each got individual quiches. Very good. Then we stopped at a mini-mart for cookies and milk. That clerk didn’t appreciate Americans but she spoke English. I forgave her; Macron had talked about the national inferiority complex France was suffering so I could afford to be the bigger person. And speaking of Macron–I was surprised at how few people showed up at the Arch de Triumph. Maybe it was because it was raining–which I thought was supposed to be romantic; you know, rainy Paris in spring?–or because of the terror threat but I thought the turnout was meagre. It was our last night in Paris so Gordon got a shot of me at the Arch de Triumph. Then we went home and packed. We had a one o’clock flight and had to leave the hotel by 9;15.
I think I’ll write some conclusions about the trip later. I’ve written enough today.