Thursday, February 28, 2013

Conquering the Cathedrals

Today, Eugene, Claudia, Donna and I accomplished a great trifecta. Because of the cold February weather there were no lines, so we went to Chartres, then Notre Dame, then Sacre Couer.  Then back home for a great candlelight dinner. Now to sleep!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Catching up...

Donna's blog is so good - such great reading - I have been remiss in keeping mine up to date but I am on a train from the airport for a half hour... so, here goes

Eugene and Claudia's Sunday morning arrival was delayed to Monday morning because a storm in Canada closed the Toronto airport where they were to make a connection.  Then, on Monday, their plane arrived late and Claudia's bag did not arrive at all!  From Monday morning through Tuesday afternoon we regularly checked in - finally to find out that Air Canada had left her bag in Toronto, found it an hour after the Tuesday arrival flight had left and - rather than sending it on the next available flight - held it for Wednesday's 9:45a arrival flight.  Here's where it really got screwy - as explained by AC's India customer service desk.  Once the bag arrived, the delivery service would be notified "as soon as possible, and within 24 hours".  Then the delivery company would call us at our apartment "as soon as possible, and within 24 hours" to arrange delivery which would be (yep, you got it) "within 24 hours".  We could be stuck in our apartment  for 3 days as a result of AC's incompetence! So, I put on my best lawyer outfit (so as not to be stopped by gatekeepers as one young security guard tried to do), told Donna I would be back in 2 hours or in jail, and headed out to get the bag. Of course my train broke down, but the truly excellent French train service had a replacement on site in 5 minutes. I am now returning home - with the bag!

In the meantime I am having a wonderful time with my dear friends. Yesterday we took the train to Pere Lachaisse cemetery, walked around with a great guide, then caught a bus that meandered through the narrowest streets of Paris, missing parked cars by literally an inch or two. We ended up at the Tour d'Eiffel then had another awesome lunch at 4:30p on the left bank at Odeon. We returned in time for a superb roast lamb dinner prepared by the Seifers. It's impossible to get out of sorts with the baggage mess: I'm in Paris with my wife and my friends. It does not get better than this!  The Seifers and Millers are off to Versailles while Donna and I have our weekly day off. 

E & C

For 5+ years, my friend Eugene Miller and I have been talking about doing this trip to an apartment in Paris. During that time I started dating Donna, we got engaged and married and she joined in the discussions and became an equal partner with me in the planning. So today, after all that time and a day delay because of a blizzard-closed airport in Toronto, Eugene and his wife Claudia arrive in Paris!  Amazingly, Alan and Melissa have not yet met Eugene and Claudia. What a great time I'm going to have tonight! 

As I write this on Monday morning Feb 25, I am on the train to CDG airport to - as my late friend Ian would say - "collect them". It snowed last night in Paris - the temp is 32 and rising so it won't last long, but it should make for a beautiful entrance for E & C.  Bien venue mes ami! 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Rodin and the Tour d'Eiffel

The four of us went yesterday morning to a very cold outdoor flea market - supposedly the world's largest but I think I have seen larger - but this one is a huge number of individual small stores. Then we went to the Rodin museum. Today we went to Rue Cler food shopping (beautiful produce at 2x the already high French prices we spent E60 - about US$85 - on the items in the photo) the to the Eiffel Tower, lunch on the Left Bank, then home.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Old friends...(not yet) sitting on park benches like bookends

Yesterday, Alan and Melissa Seifer arrived from Miami. Next week will be 30 years we have been great friends. Tomorrow, Eugene and Claudia Miller arrive from Dalton, Georgia. For nearly 22 years we have been great friends.  To be able to start off this great adventure with my awesome wife and my four great friends - in Paris, my favorite city among all I have visited in 80 countries and 50 states - well, someone pinch me because I must be dreaming.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


I am, as I write this, seated in the immense cathedral at Laon France. This cathedral was built by the townspeople of Laon in 1230.  Almost all of the vestiges of catholicism have been mercifully stripped out and what is left is an unimaginably beautiful, gravity defying, oldest surviving - intact - Gothic cathedral in the world. Donna and I and perhaps three or four other people inhabit this seemingly living stone praise to my Lord and Savior. Somewhere, exquisite music plays in the distance, lightly using the perfect acoustics.  It is a cold, sunny day and the light dances with and lifts me up.  What a truly, truly deeply soothing place this is!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rotary Extraordinaire

So today, being our relax day, I decided to go to a Rotary meeting. The club meeting today was the Rotary Club of Paris!  So I went.  It was across town so I allowed an hour, forgetting how this city of 11,000,000 people is so livable. Door to door was 25 minutes.  I was surprised to find myself at a palacial club, with a huge formal dining room.  "Patrice" was my English speaking lunch companion. He is an interior architect and loves food and museums. In other words: my kind of guy.

Fabulous red wine and rolls was accompanied by a huge fruit and vegetable plate with boiled eggs. Great lunch!  Then Patrice asked if I had any objection to eating rabbit - since I eat and enjoy everything that has ever been eaten if the eater survived, I said yes.  Second course was grilled coney with potatoes, broccoli, and more wine. Then desert: a huge bowl of chocolate mousse, an assortment of cookies, and coffee. I exchanged banners with the club and 150 Rotarian stood and clapped. Oh. The speaker. The Russian ambassador to France!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Just another day in my favorite city

No photos today. Wandered around downtown. Went to the crypt under Notre Dame. Then to a rebuilt Roman amphitheater. Then home for some hot homemade chicken veggie soup. Veggies were a beet, a half bell pepper, one and a half carrots, one and a half onions, residual mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, one and a half tomatoes. We are now out of fresh veggies.  I sauteed the chicken in hot sauce, then let an hour in the pressure cooker leech it out into the soup.  We also had a baguette and some awesome strawberries. Yum!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sometimes I wonder...

why I blog. Donna's today is typically awesome.  But we spent the day in rooms like this.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Another wonderful day strolling around Paris

So we got up earlier today (7:30 am) and headed out at 8:45 for church.  One change of trains and one bus ride later we were at the Emanuel Evangelical Church, a friendly little church. The Pastor tried to cram too many verses into an exposition on what we, as Christians, are to do about sin.  I wanted to - but did not - hop up and display my last tattoo: "ha me shalom" said Jesus in Aramaic as His last words on the cross:  "tetelestai" as John wrote in Greek in his gospel. "It's accomplished" in English. Or, "it's been taken care of" in the vernacular. So we were nonplussed.  We went next door for a great Thai lunch, then restarted our walk from yesterday where we left off: Place de la Concorde. We walked thru the Tuileries Garden (photo), by what Uncle JH calls "that other museum" the Louvre (he prefers the French Air and Space museum), then thru the left bank stopping for expresso (me), hot chocolate (Donna) and patisseries (both) before returning to buy food for shish kabobs for tonight. We were chilly at times today, but only because we weren't prepared for the breeze. We are back now (4:30pm).  Time for a nap!

Tomorrow: Fontainebleau!

Saturday, February 16, 2013 the park..

This morning, at 9a, le Madame received breakfast in bed: cheese eggs cooked with onions and tomatoes; pork sausage links, and hot tea.  Le messeuire had the same but with coffee.  After the huge meal we slept until noon, then walked 3 miles to the Place De l' Concorde.  Stopped at a creperie and ate yummy banana and caramel crepes.  Lots of beautiful churches along the way, like this one.  The weather is great - it was about 50F when we were walking.  Now back at the apartment waiting on the soup I made yesterday to get hot. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dinner in Paris

We've heard all the moans about horrendously expensive meals on tiny tables with haughty waiters. We dined - as we usually do - at Chez John - here. I found an award-winning local Languedoc for E3.90 BOGO. Yep about $2.50 a bottle. With our $5 chicken baked then roasted, a salad of fresh greens tossed with French/Swiss cheese, fresh Moroccan tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, onion, thyme and basalmic vinegar with olive oil. Soup was onion, broccoli, carrot, tomato, and basmati rice. First dessert was French dark chocolate with round 2 of the wine. Second dessert was the most amazing chilled strawberries dipped in granular sugar.  Yum!   Dinner for two was about $15 and we didn't have to tip the waiter!!   We spent that much on the flowers!!

There's some kind of great TV here. We have NO plans of figuring out how it works.  Life IZ Gud!!

Awesome first morning!

After about 14 hours' sleep, we are rested from our overnight flight and our bio-rhythms are about in sync to Paris time. I went out to get some Euros from an ATM and then went shopping for groceries. Came back and made a chicken salad that Donna really liked: 2 pieces of boneless chicken, chopped and grilled in oil, pepper and some French spice that smelled like cumin.  Added a chopped tomato from Morocco and 3 hardboiled eggs left over from breakfast to some medium-chopped lettuce, then mixed in some basalmic vinegar and olive oil. C'est magnific!

Next we took the M2 to Place De Clichy (famous for the Moulin Rouge) and changed to the M13 to the Basilica of St Denis, a 2nd century saint beheaded by the Romans. Legend has it he carried his head 6 miles from Montmartre (mount of the martyr) to this spot.  This is my 8th time to Paris and my 1st time here. It is the first Gothic cathedral ever built. It was built about 900 years ago by abbot Suger. Suger was a really smart guy who persuaded Louis VII to ally himself with the mercantile tradesmen rather than the aristocracy: a path that centralized power in the monarchy creating the nation of France. The cathedral is awesome!  Surely the peasants viewed this sparkling interior (we came on a sunny day) as where God lived.  The 900 year old rose window is the world's 1st.

72 French kings are buried here including Charles "the Hammer" Martel - the father of Charlemagne - who in the 600s  stopped the invading Muslim army in southern France, preserving it for Christianity.  His sarcophagus is the one on the right

Thursday, February 14, 2013

We are CLOSE to the Metro

but it is quiet here. Like so many things, the French make life so much more... livable.  From 10p to 7a there is a blanket Quiet! law in effect.  It gets busy outside at 7:01a however.  We are less than 75 feet from the entrance to the Metro! 

On the other hand, there seems to be no "common area" maintenance requirement in this 150 year old complex: the staircase up to the apartment may not have been painted or repaired in 150 years.  Inside, our apartment is great!  The bedrooms and living room are large, the bathrooms and kitchen are almost new. The high ceilings, original wood floors, modern wiring, WiFi faster than at home, and hi tech entertainment center (where are Trevor, Rollin and James to figure it out?) make the "worn" edges seem charming and cozy.  But the entry staircase outside the apartment takes some getting used to.  Donna says - correctly - it looks like a US slum. 

The weather is going to be great throughout the long-term forecast. Minimal chance of rain, mostly sunny, highs in the high 40s and low 50s, lows in the high 30s.   We are going grocery shopping again today (since we walk back carrying our loot we don't buy a lot at one time) and to see the oldest French cathedral - St Denis - which is about a mile from here. 

Our street - Boulevard de la  Chapelle - is nothing special.  The streets surrounding us on this side of the tracks are filled with small shops: bakeries, telephones, clothing...  The cross-street, however, is very different. About 75 feet from us is Marx Dermot which is almost exactly like the French Left Bank was the first two times I visited: 1965 and 1973. Now the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) is like Park Avenue NY.  We are already enjoying shopping for groceries on MD!

Time to go do it!  I miss our kids. And I miss "my" kids at Hasty and Canton.  A special "hi" to them and Ms McFarland and Ms Dixon!!

Alan, Melissa, Eugene & Claudia - we are greatly looking forward to seeing you in a week!!

Nous arrive!

OK, so my French is not yet great, but we have finally settled in to our apartment, unpacked, eaten dinner, bought groceries, and returned.  Lots to write. But I'm going to sleep first.

Monday, February 11, 2013

To read Donna's blog

go to

All our bags are packed, we're ready to go...

So now the clock.  Simply.  Does.  Not.  Move.  
48 hours to go and not much left to get done.  Last goodbyes to family are today, but we will start seeing them again in less than 3 weeks in Paris.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

In range

We land Thursday morning. It will be 33 here and there but it will be cloudy and only reach 39 midday there while it will get to 52 here. Zero chance of rain both places.  So, not dissimilar weather. And throughout the week that pattern will hold: almost identical lows; warmer highs here.  Went clothes shopping today: bought black leather jacket and black slacks. I'm packed, ready. Wondering if I will sleep Tuesday night. Taxi is coming at 9:30a.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Ten 10 X

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 Allie Allie In Free. Ready or not, here I come.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 blast off!

Ten days to go!  Amazing!