I’m chronicling my first “Big Group Band Trip” to Europe in 1997 and trying to draw some comparisons to the Europe travel experience of today. Continuing my journal entry…..
“June 7, 1997
The alarm woke me up from a sound sleep at 7:00! This was the first night I’ve slept in a bed in two days. Last night’s sleep on the plane just didn’t cut it. The beds were comfortable and I slept all night without waking. If that alarm didn’t go off I’d still be snoring. Last night it was hot to begin with, but It finally cooled off so that it was comfortable to sleep. There is no air conditioning.
I’m down in the breakfast room writing this entry and finishing up my ‘continential’ breakfast. It consists of a hard roll, crossaints, jelly, butter, coffee or tea, and orange juice. That should keep us going until lunch.
We left the hotel at 9:00 on a bus tour of Paris’ most important sights. Notre Dame wowed everyone as usual with its twin bell towers, flying buttresses, and huge rose stained-glass windows. This is only my second trip to Paris and I am taking it all in. It was great that Lisa took the time to point out some features of Notre Dame. We especially noticed the relief over the front door depicting God’s judgement of the dead. Seeing those goulish demons down in hell there on God’s left is enough to make anybody walk the straight and narrow path. Lisa also pointed out the carving of the headless St. Dennis near the left exit doors and his significance as being a patron saint in the Paris area.
Our bus picked us up at Notre Dame and then we drove down the river to the Latin Quarter (known so for the “education” that has occurred here). We continued on past the Lourve to the Champs Elysee, the Arch du Triomphe, the Tullieries, and finally to the Trocadero for a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower. Back on the bus we drove a few blocks to the Opera neighborhood and had some free time for shopping and lunch.
We had lunch at a typical outdoor café called ‘le Grande something.’ I enjoyed moules (Spanish mussels) cooked in wine, herbs, and garlic butter and all the bread I could eat. Charlotte and Aunt Hilda had ‘French Onion Soup’ which was better than Bern’s. Mom had some salmon spread with salad. We also had a bottle of slightly chilled red wine from the Loire region which went well with our meals”.
[WINE NOTE: Loire Valley-COULY-DUTHEIL Saumier Champigny 1996 @ 46F]
December 2007 Reflections:
I remember we did a lot of riding on the bus from one sight to the other that morning. Rules for buses and emissions have changed a lot since those days. Now in Paris, buses are not permitted to drop off and pick-up passengers at the major tourist sights in the city center. Other cities such as London, Rome, and Florence impose incredibally high fees just for tour buses to enter the “tourist zones.”
My tour groups today do quite a bit of walking and riding the Metro. Walking and using public transportation is exactly what “Exploring Europe” is all about anyway, isn’t it? Doing so, requires that you learn to live like a local, speak some of the language, and experience Paris from an insider’s perspective. I think it’s the only way to travel!