The camping phase of our tour of Europe was drawing to a close. We decided that a good place to sell the van would be near the Canadian military base in Lahr, Germany. We parked in front of the Canex Store for three days and at last sold the van. While we waited for the right person to come along, we read a lot, slept a lot, and went out to a delicious dinner at the Hotel Schultz; veal prime rib, homemade noodles, salad, wine, and Gran Marnier soufflé. At night we parked near a vineyard and listened to what sounded like shots all night (timed pops meant to scare away birds that would otherwise eat the grapes).
The van actually looked better than this, but I’ve tried to paint out the person sitting at the back of the van.
Without the van, we had to travel by train or bus the rest of the way back to London, but before leaving Europe, we still had to see a bit of France. It was off to Paris by train.
We learned about taking the metro in Paris. In the St. Germain de Prés area, we chose the Crystal Hotel, which is still in business today. After a bath and a snooze we had a wonderful dinner at the Phoenix Restaurant.
The next day we played tourist. We checked our bags at the main train station from which we would leave later in the day, then took the metro again to bring us to the places we wanted to see the most: the Louvre, the Tuileries, Notre Dame, Place de la Concorde, and many other sites.
I was amazed to see so many plants and bulbs for sale right there on the street. We sat in a little coffee shop and had a cider. From our table we looked out the window and I exclaimed, “There’s the Eiffel Tower!”
The Louvre was not far away, so we took some time to explore it. What an amazing place it is. Of course we had to see the Mona Lisa. I was surprised that it was such a small painting. It was cordoned off so no one could get close enough to do any damage to it. The room was very large so I tried an experiment. I had always heard that her smile follows you wherever you are, so I looked at the painting from the far left side of the room. Yes, Mona Lisa was looking at me and smiling at me. I watched her as I walked to the far right side of the room. Her eyes and her smile followed me all the way across the room. It was as if she knew I had come a long way to see her and she wasn’t letting me out of her sight during our short visit.
There were many other fabulous paintings, most of them huge, and I could have spent days in this museum, but we had to move on. Paris was too expensive for two campers to linger too long and there were more things to see before we left.
We walked through the Tuileries (the purple spot is where I was standing),
through the Arc de Triomphe,
past one of many ponds and fountains (here you can see the Arc de Triomphe and behind it the Louvre),
and one of my favourite spots, the Place de la Concorde, a square that has had many names since the days of the French Revolution. In the center of the square (which happens to be round), is a gift from Egypt, an obelisk which once guarded the entrance to the Luxor Temple. Before the obelisk was placed in the Place de la Concorde, this very spot held a guillotine. It is the place where Louis XVI lost his head. As many as 1300 others met the same fate. These included Marie Antoinette, Madame du Barry, and Maximilien Robespierre.
One tricky thing about the Place de la Concorde is that if you want to go from the obelisk back to the sidewalk on any side of it, you have to risk your life by crossing a traffic circle of eight lanes. No crosswalk or pedestrian-friendly lights. The cars careen around the traffic circle at high speed with little regard for pedestrians. An old person would have difficulty getting back alive.
I stood on the street across from the Notre Dame Cathedral and tried to photograph this amazing building, but I was too close. I’d have had to jump into the Seine to get far enough away to snap a photo, so I had to be satisfied with a photo of the river and the shore on the other side, facing in the opposite direction from Notre Dame.
In the misty distance you can see a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.
Paris was fantastic, but too much to see in a day. We spent more money in 24 hours in Paris than we had spent in several weeks of camping, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.