A Travellerspoint blog

Traveling in the Green

After spending two days in what seemed like an infirmary for sick travelers, some of us managed to make it to see the Eiffel Tower shine red, yellow and black for solidarity with Belgium after the attack on their country.
This morning I'm sure all the occupants of our apartment building heard the two weak adults, one baby crying with eyes oozing pus and two almost normally functioning adults carry out our excessive luggage. With our taxi on time as well as our flight, I could sit back and enjoy the wonderful exhilaration of take-off and the sun shining brightly over the blanket of white clouds. Au revoir, Paris!
We were on our way to Dublin for the day. Anne, Tom, Catherine and I left poor sick Bob in the hotel for a short tour of this Irish city. We took a taxi to the city center and when we mentioned to our driver that we were from Wisconsin, he said we were famous because of the movie he saw on Netflix about Avery. We had a great time laughing and listening to his take on American politics. After exiting the cab we walked down O'Connell Street and looked up at the 398 foot stainless steel spire that was erected to replace Nelson's Pillar that had been bombed in 1966 by former IRA members. We couldn't resist Starbucks or stopping in at Irish shops along the way. We didn't buy too much but with exactly less than no space in our luggage, anything is too much.
Then we walked past St. Patrick's Cathedral, founded in 1191, which is the largest cathedral in Ireland and an imposing and beautiful bishop-less cathedral. We also visited the courtyard of Dublin Castle which was ordered to be built by King John of England in 1204. It no longer looks like a castle but more like a palace since it had mostly been rebuilt.
Walking down the streets there was evidence everywhere of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising when the Irish rose up against the British in the hope of gaining their independence.
An especially calm and beautiful walk was through St. Stephen's Green. It is an absolutely lovely park where pigeons fly at you in droves and swans swim serenely in the pond. The colorful spring bulbs were all in bloom and we heard tourists speaking many different languages as they walked along the paths.
We headed to the Temple Bar area which is the area's nighttime hangout and had bangers and mash and Irish stew at the Porterhouse Temple Bar where Tom ordered one of their craft beers, an oyster stout. He didn't want to leave Dublin without having a Guinness on tap so we headed to the Temple Bar. Then we found a taxi in a queue and had another fun and wonderful conversation about American politics with our driver. The Irish people that we met were all incredibly hospitable, lively and very fun. But tomorrow will be the end of our journey.
It took us all day to refrain from saying "Bonjour, Madame" when entering stores. Soon we'll no longer have to think twice about it and our French trip will be but a memory. But even though there were lots of bumps on those cobblestoned streets, traveling and time spent together with friends and family is always worth it.

Posted by victorybw 16:15 Comments (1)

Men of Mud

Our early morning started by boarding the TGV to Meuse where we were greeted at the little station in the middle of nowhere by Frédéric and his parents Martine and Bernard. After situating ourselves at Sabrina and Frédéric's lovely 100 year old house that they are almost finished totally renovating, Christelle, Frédéric's sister joined us for a little tour of St-Mihiel.
L'Église St-Etienne was originally built around the first century. The church contains a huge sculpture of thirteens persons including Christ, Marie-Madeleine and Véronique which was sculpted in the mid fifteen hundreds by Ligier Richier and donated to the church since the sculptor was from St-Mihiel. It was overwhelmingly large for this medieval church. The houses along the narrow cobblestones streets seemed like the surviving soldiers of the destruction that had pounded this area during the First World War.
We all sat down to dinner, how could I forget French family dinners. There are always apéritifs and wine. We had Bernard's rabbits stewed with a mushroom sauce and salads of shredded carrots, celery root and beet. And, of course, more wine and cheese.
Then we went back out into the cold damp weather to continue our tour.
General Pershing of the United States wanted to break through the German lines at St-Mihiel in order to try to capture the fortified city of Metz and was successful mainly because the Germans had already starting retreating. The French were very impressed however. Pershing did not succeed in taking Metz because the muddy roads were practically impossible to walk through.
At the site of the Salient of St-Mihiel the kids ran through the deep fortified German trenches overgrown with moss and some ivy. One door led to a German hospital which when entered was a passageway of unsuspecting rooms. Only walk on the designated paths though since the still buried toxic shells and mines still kill after one hundred years. Only a handful of plants have adapted to survive in the toxic soil that will never ever be able to be reclaimed. Miles of this terrain were the physical remembrance of the destruction of war.
We climbed the stairs up to the circular colonnade of the United States War Memorial at Montsec. This monument commemorates the American soldiers who fought here in 1917 and 1918 and afforded us a beautiful view of the Meuse valley and Lac Modine.
We next had what they consider a small meal of aperitifs, wine, quiche Lorraine, Flammkuchen, apple tartine and wonderful conversation before kissing everyone a bonsoir.
Sunday morning we headed towards Verdun, the city that in 1916 saw three hundred days and three hundred nights of combat without a break. First we stopped at Le Centre Mondial de la Paix which contains an exhibition to reflect on and promote peace. It is housed in a former episcopal palace constructed in the eighteenth century as a residence for bishops. As we exited the bells from the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame were tolling. People were walking through the streets carrying evergreen branches since this was the Sunday before Pâques.
Our dinner included apéritifs, wine, pizza with fois gras and more at the Restaurant Bonséjour for all fifteen of us. Just when total fatigue set in, it was time to continue on our way.
Next we went to the Mémorial Verdun which was an overwhelmingly awesome museum containing so many artifacts and stories but the wine had numbed my brain into incomprehensibility. The stop at the city of Fleury helped wake me up. It is actually what was the city of Fleury. It is one of about nine cities that was bombed into total oblivion during the war. There is a chapel erected to the city and plaques with the names of the businesses or houses that had once been there. This was very moving seeing more effects of war on the landscape of a country.
Last stop was the Ossuary of Douaumont where the bodies of 130,000 First World War French and German soldiers will rest together for all eternity.
It was time to leave with our arms and suitcases full of all the food and presents that were showered upon us. We arrived at the TGV station, boarded the train and then sat there. Suicide is painless. It brings on delays and changes. Who would believe it would hit two TGV's on our one trip. What should have been an hour trip to Paris took five. Luckily there were enough taxis in the queue.

Posted by victorybw 05:05 Comments (0)

A Leisurely Day

So nice not to rush in the morning. We let Anne and Tom take care of Catherine while Bob and I went out in the afternoon to do some errands. Walking into our Pigalle Métro station made me feel a little melancholy. The band of musicians playing there always make me smile. I will miss them and I will miss the independence of not having to rely on a car to go anywhere as another train is usually on the quai every two minutes. Just be careful so as not to get run over by a bicycle on the street.
After shopping a little along the Champs-Elysées, we stopped at Pedone's for some pistache and bufala gelato. Sorry, Italy, but Paris has the best gelato and it's in the Galeries Lafayette.
We took the métro to the Marais for some of Sasha Finkelsztayn's borek, Polish cheesecake and poppyseed roll. The Rue des Rosiers is lined with soldiers in combat gear with automatic rifles to protect this predominantly Jewish neighborhood. They were very intimidating indeed.
On the métro ride home I thought about how I'll miss the courteousness of the French people as they say, Pardon, whenever they barely bump into you and, Bonjour Monsieur Madame, as you enter their store. I actually saw a woman sneeze on the métro and a man immediately handed her a tissue. They may not always smile at everyone for no reason like Americans, but when those special moments arise and you're on the receiving end of a truly meaningful smile, it just makes it so much more special.
Meanwhile Anne and Tom stayed around our Abbesses neighborhood and as Catherine was riding the carrousel, a movie was being filmed as they were in the background. So watch for a little French movie star on the rise.

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Posted by victorybw 13:15 Comments (0)

It's a Small World

St. Patrick's Day was celebrated at Disneyland Paris with a special Mickey and Minnie parade, Irish dancers, plenty of blue skies and sun. Catherine was still not feeling well but she perked up when she saw Dumbo the Flying Elephant Ride. Up, up, and away and she laughed and squealed with glee. The infectious tune of It's a Small World made Catherine sing and clap along. We spent most of our time in Fantasyland but my one request was to see the dragon in his lair under Sleeping Beauty's Castle. The roaring menacing dragon in his dark swampy lair reared up and spewed smoke in what was a wonderful display of Disney animatronics. But it was Alice's Curious Labyrinth that frightened me. I actually felt like I would never make it out, but then finally we saw the Queen of Hearts pop up and we climbed up into the tree for a wonderful view of this beautiful park. After lining up and watching the parade of princes and princesses, Catherine succumbed to her gastrointestinal illness and we boarded the RER A for our short train ride home.

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Posted by victorybw 00:25 Comments (0)

Enjoying Gelato in Paris

I woke up feverish and with such a terrible sore throat that I wasn't sure I'd be able to get going, but those fizzy 1000 mg of aspirin tablets work wonders. The band of musicians in the métro station always make walking through it enjoyable. We just took a leisurely walk through the Jardin du Palais Royal with its dark green steel benches surrounding the fountain and the yellow daffodils and magnolia trees in bloom. We walked down Rue Vivienne and into its passageway where we browsed through the toy store, Si Tu Veux, known for its wooden European toys. Unfortunately Catherine must also have been feeling sick because she threw up all over Anne, herself and the floor of the store. Anne thought she'd probably be well enough to shop a little more so we headed over to Du Printemps and Galeries Lafayette. Galeries Lafayette is actually a cluster of stores. The main store has an incredibly beautiful stained glass dome at its center. We walked past Prada, Louis Vuitton, Sonia Rykiel, Hermès smelling like vomit. Of course we had to stop to get macarons from Pierre Hermé and éclairs from L'Éclair de Génie and Sadaharu Aoki all conveniently located in the department store along with counters of take away fish, hamburgers, pizza, Japanese foods and anything else you could imagine. After simply buying some sandwiches from this overwhelming assortment, we stopped at Pedone, the gelato counter, where they had bufala gelato. This was my hands down best gelato experience ever. Catherine loved it too and luckily she made it back into the apartment before throwing all of it up.

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Posted by victorybw 14:15 Comments (0)

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