Travel Diary 7 – trip to Paris

Entry 7. 21 June 2009. 1:45 pm local time

 

Beautiful day in Nuremburg, spelled also Nurnberg … I guess depends what nationality you are how you spell it? “Sunday Delights in Nuremberg, the Starbucks bear joins the journey!”

 

The sky is a bit cloudy with very sunny intervals, the air is warm and it is truly lovely here on a Sunday. I slept in, some 12 or more hours this time, even after that nap yesterday. I finally got out of bed to the noon sounds on the street …. had a lovely shower and dressed and headed off for Starbucks. I decided to try one I did not try yesterday, and maybe see if I could find another German Starbucks bear. The store I headed for is closed on Sundays! The streets are nearly empty compared to yesterday, folks out taking pictures and walking leisurely through the old city. I did the same. I kept walking and went to Starbucks number 3 and picked up a decaf non fat latte, a Starbucks bear and went for a walk. I took a seat next to a very cool fountain in front of a very large brick tower. I sat. I rested, I watched pigeons and people. I took a few pictures with the camera and even more with my mind.

 

The clock tower bell tolled every 15 minutes or so and then at the strike of 1 o’clock another louder bell rang. I am delighted by the bells and towers in this city. I decided it was time to start heading back, Elwyn will arrive at the airport at 1:30 ish and so I want to be at the hotel in plenty of time to greet her. I begin my walk back to the hotel in what I thought was a familiar direction.

 

What is it about me and directions? When I shop, I don’t get lost. I shopped and walked for hours yesterday and had no trouble … today I headed off in what I thought was the right way only to come to the edge of the city surrounded by large stone walls around it. I walked a ways on the outside of the walls but nothing at all was familiar. I was likely walking in exactly the opposite direction from my intended destination and who knows how large the outskirts of the city are??? On one side of the road is a huge stone wall, the other a main street, busy with lights, like a freeway and bordering on the other side of it, hotels and office buildings like any other busy busy city. The signage is in German though, so I know that I am in a foreign country!

 

I took a chance and went back inside the safety and familiarity of the old part of the city and walked until I recognized some stores from yesterday. Keep in mind that there were thousands of people everywhere yesterday and a scattered few hundred today. People walking their dogs, riding bikes, police cars (they are green and white here “polizei”), couples pushing baby carriages, holding hands, honeymooners and elderly couples. Some may have been coming from the large churches in the area? The only shops open are cafe’s and only a few of them are …. even McDonalds is closed!!! I found a 4th Starbucks (light bulb on) and was once again delighted. I am certain they are all accounted for now, only 2 open on Sundays. Folks sitting outside cafe’s having lunch, coffee, talking.

 

I found my way home following the familiar shops and retracing steps I took yesterday. I was able to find the small grocery from yesterday and was about to enter to purchase water …. closed! The bottle I purchased yesterday is bubbly and although it is OK, it is not my favorite. So I am now drinking tap water and bubbly water – still trying to stay hydrated. My cough is getting better, my sinuses are still crackling from the very intense flight experience and ears being plugged for a few days.

 

The day today will likely consist of walking around the outskirts of the city …. find the river, sit for coffee from time to time, more likely tea will be the drink of the day, or Coca Cola light, as it is referred to here. The bottles are smaller and the name is slightly different, although the taste is the same. I plan to check out the train station and walk again the lovely cobblestone downtown area.

 

 

I wish I would have bought a comb yesterday in the Body Shop, or one of the many many salons I passed. In fact the salons had women outside with foil in their hair, waiting for the color to set … funny, not even chairs …. just standing around the shop door waiting …. some smoking.

 

Pigeons making their coo-ing sound today could be heard. Yesterday the bustle of people and shopping bags, screaming and crying children, people laughing, calling to one another …. the pigeons were seen and not heard. Today their sweet small and contented sounds as they picked through yesterdays litter on the cobblestone sidewalks. Some of the main shopping areas do not have places for cars to drive .. walking streets only. Very beautiful and always surrounded by lovely stone walls, huge old brick and stone buildings, church steeples and towers in the background.

 

I found a hat shop when I was standing in a shop on the 3rd floor (bathroom experience – oops Light bulb on again <grin>) called Globus. I had to go down the stairs and out side and then go all the way around the building I was in to find it…. it seemed to be easy to see out the window! On a less populated street corner, with a huge window display – maybe 6 full size store windows, around a corner – all hats! Expensive ladies hats, hats for gentlemen, dress up hats, fun and casual hats. Black with feathers, grey cotton, straw fedoras, Stetsons. Hats of every kind imaginable. I had to go in! It was almost closed and one hat attracted me – it came in many sizes, Stetson makes it, straw and tan colored – very nice (man’s hat actually). I tried it on – it was great and looked fabulous. I looked around the rest of the store, they also sold umbrellas. I had decided I would find an umbrella in Paris if I need one …. but don’t need one yet from Nuremburg! I left the store without the hat. It was enough to try it on. I took some pictures of the hat store.

 

A few shops like Body Shop, Nike, Adidas, Accessories, Zara and Starbucks are familiar – however there are other chain stores that we don’t have in Canada. There are galleries – like malls – and lots of shops for young people (hip hop shops and skateboard shops). There are ladies shops and many many shoe stores … cheap shoes and expensive Mephisto shops (like Birkenstocks – we sell the shoes in Canada -not sure if we have the shop store called that?).

 

Well, outside my hotel room, the sound of the train going by, a bell indicates it has arrived or is heading off. People coming and going ….. I will sign off for now. I will write more later …. tomorrow morning at 10:30 am I am being picked up at the hotel and off to the ship to begin the river cruise portion of this trip —- one of the many highlights! The reason for coming, the “familiarization” of river cruising. I am looking forward to a relaxing week on the cruise ship – enjoying all that it offers, including English speaking guided tours at each port city. I look forward to the wine to be served with lunch and dinner complementary! I look forward to having my clothes unpacked and enjoying the sights from my balcony window, hanging out on top deck to get a real good view of the vistas as far as I can see.

 

Yes indeed, I am looking forward to the next leg of my journey. I am very glad that I have had this time alone in Nuremburg …. to rest at my own pace. To wander and get familiar with traveling alone. Each experience is a new one, a lovely one, filled with moments of wonder and presence. Filled with trying to stay present and being here, in this moment on this day, on this very journey.

 

Thanks for joining me.

 

With much love,

Pam / Mom

 

 

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Diary entry 15 – trip to Paris

Entry 15. My last day in Europe.

 

We found the bridge where the citizens place photographs of Diana, and flowers in her memory. We took pictures. There was also a photograph that night of Diana and Michael Jackson taped to the monument at Pont d’Alma. It was touching and lovely to be there for that show of affection by this great city for people that have mattered to them. People who no doubt, loved Paris as well.

 

We took the late night subway home to the small but clean hotel. I fell asleep, planning to get up early for more. It was not possible, nor necessary. I slept fully, totally satisfied that I had seen this city I came to see. I was as full up as I could be and I slept soundly.

 

When we got up, there was breakfast included, we ate, loaded up our purse with food we might need and once again headed off to see the last items on my list. Crème Brulee on Rue Cler, ice cream at Berthillion on the little island not far from where we stayed, markets on Rue de Mouffetard …. and what else?? Somehow it no longer mattered. I had my fill. The rest was just to give us a mission and help plan out the day.

 

Elwyn was sweet to donate her day to whatever I wanted to do, to go wherever I had on my list. We did it all. Everything I wanted to do and see, I did and saw. We traveled a bit by bus, after I had walked by the river and the large green boxes, to see what the vendors were offering to the passers by. We had the best crème brulee that had been described to me in a book of “must eat”. It was amazing, tasty, creamy and took the place of lunch!!! We took the subway. We were up close at the Arche de Triomphe and we walked down the Champs Elysee and even got chased a bit by a waiter / manager of a restaurant where we used the bathroom out of desperation and did not stop to eat as we told him we would. You would not think this was a crime in Paris ….. but we did not want to stay around and get more tongue lashing from him!!! More subway, more heat from the hot sun and still air. We walked down little windy roads, we got lost a bit, and finally back to our room by 7 pm.

 

There was simply nothing more to do. Elwyn had plans for museums and such the following day. I had to pack and be ready for morning shuttle to the airport and the long flight and travel day back home.

 

I was ready to leave. A bit sorry it was over, sorry to be leaving my new friend – we have become very close and travel very well together. We both agreed that life does not always work out that way and traveling as a travel agent can sometimes not be this pleasant. We have become good friends and hope to travel more together and with our husbands in future.

 

I slept well, exhausted and complete. Longing for nothing, full of the sights and experiences that the past 2 weeks had provided.

 

Up early and on a shuttle bus, alone toward the airport. The bus traveled through town a bit and I got to say good bye to the bridges and the Seine. Not at all sad, still feeling quite satisfied with the journey and happy to be going home.

 

Out to the airport, picking up souvenirs for family and myself. Spending the last of the euro’s I had carried with me in Paris.

 

Boarding the plane in the large Paris airport, only to Amsterdam for the first flight. I was familiar with Amsterdam from my earlier days of travel and not at all intimidated by the relatively short time there, only an hour or two to spend.

 

Then the squishy middle seat aboard the very large KLM flight Amsterdam to Vancouver for 10 hours of travel. I did not sleep, could not sleep. So full of images and visions. Of sights I had witnessed, visions of Paris danced in my head!! I was full of delight and enjoying the magic of my journey.

 

No book to read, no magazine to glance through, and not ready to write diary entries. I sat. I surfed the movies and watched a few I had been interested in and yet not had the courage to see back home. Doubt and The Reader. Very powerful movies. I tried a few others that I knew, fluff movies, and even James Bond, but they could not hold my attention.

 

We arrived in Vancouver, I purchased a Pacific Coach ticket to take me home to Victoria, including ferry ride. Without an incident, I have arrived home. So happy to be home. Happy to have had my journey and full of gratitude for the opportunities that have been given to me. Happy I accepted the offer and asked for the opportunity. Content at every level.

 

As I spent the next few days recovering from jet lag, sleepiness and wakefulness. I find my mind wondering back to the streets of Paris. To the sights and sounds. To the lights, the flowers, the sensations of being there. This is all part of me now, and I part of Paris.

 

It is time at last to write of my time there. It is Sunday afternoon, I am home and rested and happy to have finished my diary entries from my great adventure to Europe, the flights, the fantastic river cruise and my few and fulfilling days in the wonderful city of Paris.

 

I am so grateful for every event and moment, seemingly insignificant and major, that lead me on this journey.

 

I am grateful to have people in my life to share my diary with. People that I love. People who fill my life with love and have supported me.

 

I have been blessed with an amazing life. With many gifts, too numerous to mention…. all significant and important to me on this day and every day.

 

Thanks and until next time, this is me signing off my diary, July 5, 2009.

 

Pamela MacDonald.

Diary entry 14 – trip to Paris

Diary entry 14, …… Paris Paris Paris. I LOVE Paris!

 

Back on the bus after Notre Dame Cathedral. We were driving by Arche de Triomphe, Champs Eleysee, Place Concorde, the Louvre, the Tuilleries, the Sorbonne and other universities and many many other buildings, sculptures and fountains. Bridges – some famous, Pont Neuf, Pont d’Alma, Queen Alexandra III, and many others.

 

We arrived at a spot to view the Eiffel Tower. We took many pictures of the group, the tower, and the sights. More tourist shopping was available. A group of young men had music blasting and were dancing to Michael Jackson songs. While on this trip the startling news of the death of Michael Jackson had stirred the world. This was a most touching sight and significant talent was displayed. I wondered to myself if their parents had ever seen them dance like this??? I had to be pulled back to the bus, I could have stayed and watched all evening. I was very moved by the display of artistry, the show of emotion and the great talent of these young people, honoring someone who had great influence in their lives. Magic.

 

Back on the bus, and a drive to the other side, close to the entrance of the Eiffel Tower, a view from another angle. It is dizzying to look up at the Eiffel tower. It is staggering to think of the vision, the work, the building of such a monument. Although not built for this purpose, the Eiffel tower has been the symbol of Paris for all the world. Here it is, here I am. Pictures do not do it justice. It is massive, it is awe-inspiring to be in the center underneath and look up, straight up into it’s center. Up to the top from the inside. Startling and amazing.

 

We got in line, had our tickets and up we went in the elevator to the first floor. Not at all disappointed, we were unable (not allowed) to go higher. Our dinner reservations only permitted our ride to the first floor. This was to be an expensive dinner (200 Euros per person, I heard). We arrived there with about ½ hour to spare …. to walk around and marvel at the view of Paris, the buildings, the sights. We did just that. Then we sat in a wee area and had a glass of white wine, smiled at one another and again marveled that we had arrived. Marveled at the view, at the momentous journey and the great friendships we had formed in just one week. Filled with emotion and gratitude, we had a toast to us.

 

We had dinner (mine was best as they substituted salmon and veggies for my meal due to gluten intolerance, ice cream for dessert …. yummm). The others had some kind of duck shepherds pie, no choice. We had wine with dinner. It was lovely and well worth whatever they paid just to say we did it.

 

After dinner, it was dark and the lights of the tower had been turned on. Paris by night. This is a sight almost indescribable. Soft lights lighting up the city every where you look. We went back down the elevator and out to the bus and were toured / driven back to our hotel, via the scenic route. Breathtaking.

 

None of us were ready to end the evening so a few went out for tea, wine, company, and to sit outdoors in a corner cafe on the streets of Paris before turning in.

 

Some went to party on, I wanted to get in that very comfy bed and think again about the day, the events and the journey I was on.

 

Many of the travelers on our Scenic Tours river cruise left the following morning back to their home countries, Canada, USA, Australia, wherever. I slept in. When I got up, I showered and dressed, took luggage to the concierge and walked to the Galleries Lafayette. HUGE mall, several blocks large and several stories high. One whole block of ladies wear, shoes, bags, jewelery, designer and regular. Sales, Sales, Sales. (in French it is spelled SOLDES). My mouth was again wide open, my eyes huge. It was an event. So overwhelmed by all the choices, I found nothing to buy!! I took pictures of the stain glass ceiling several stories above the ground floor where we stood. Way up there, floors and floors of cosmetics, perfumes, women’s items between us and the ceiling. Amazing architecture, balconies on each floor for fantastic viewing of the building. Across the street and connected is the men’s wear (men were actually shopping!!) and gourmet food section. You could eat in the limited seating area, or get food to take out. You could buy all your groceries as this was like the most extreme market. Making a decision was almost impossible but we were hungry. We got some salad and food items, planning on sitting on a bench in a park outside. HA!! There are no benches in Paris!! No park area we could see. We gave up finally and realized although it may be “rude” to eat on the streets, we sat on a window ledge and ate the treasures out of a bag. Several other tourists sat down next to us …. I guess we started a trend!! <grin>

 

It was time to go back to the Scribe Hotel, (about 2:30 pm local time) gather our belongings and change hotels to the Latin Quarter and much more affordable 3 star accommodations!! There was 3 of us going to the same hotel so we took a cab, a van …. we filled it with our luggage!!

 

Off to the small quaint hotel, Des Nations, on Rue Monge, in Ste Germain area of the Latin Quarter. To my delight we had to cross a bridge and drive across town. The traffic was still crazy, but I let the taxi driver do the worrying …. I was staring out the window and enjoying all I could see.

 

We got our room, deposited our bags, and I put my suitcases in the bathroom (which had more floor space than the bedroom area), we were off for more adventure.

 

We walked until 9:00 pm. I was in heaven, walking by the river, passing the bridges, taking pictures. We had purchased a ten Euro river cruise on the Seine and although it looked like a shorter distance on the map we had, to get to the boat embarkation spot, we kept walking and walking and walking, by the Louvre, by Place Concorde, by so many sights. Passed many bridges. We could see the other boats cruise by us on the river and at times wondered if we would ever get there!! I think I could have walked forever. Totally oblivious to any aches or pains (that I was sure to feel later), and enjoying the beautiful sky, fabulous architecture and sights of Paris.

 

The river cruise was worth way more than the price, and made up for the walking. We got on the boat that sailed at 9:20 pm. We sat up front to get a good view, on the open top deck. Breathtaking. We went under the famous bridges, people lined the river on both sides. Couples kissing, picnicking, dancing, waving. As if waiting for the Christmas parade. Solid areas of people. People on bridges. People taking pictures. People riding bikes. People standing, sitting, laying, dancing …. laughing. Magical. I am still in awe of the beauty and special way that people enjoy the river and the life in Paris. Thousands and thousands of people, everywhere we looked.

 

The sun began to set, the sky was brilliant with orange, then peach, pink, red, and then dark blue. We watched the city lights come alive. We watched the bridge lights come on. We watched as the Eiffel tower was lit up, someone must have flicked the switch!! Magic. I have seen Paris – day and night. I have seen the buildings, the streets, the magic, the churches, the monuments, the sculptures. I have seen the trees, flowers, clouds, ……….. the lights of Paris. I have watched people on their honeymoons, their day to day lives. I have seen embraces, kisses – full of love, life and passion – there on that magical evening on the river Seine. I watched several groups of people dancing to music only they could hear. I watched young people, waved at young children, students and couples who had been together for years. I experienced Paris that night. I felt as full as turkey dinner on Christmas day. I felt the tears well up in my eyes and my heart sang with delight. I shan’t forget that night, those sights and the day I “fell in love” with Paris.

Travel diary 13 – trip to Paris

PARIS!!

 

As we drove toward the city, the dream, the destination of our journey, the excitement builds. The countryside, while beautiful, is simply the background. Out the window of the air conditioned bus, I see signs, Paris 354 km, Paris 213 km, Paris “sortie”. We take an exit off the main highway.

 

We see the destination in our minds as we get closer. Those who have been before begin to point out some landmarks indicating we are getting closer.

 

I try to hold my anticipation and excitement in check. I try to sit with the breath. I stare out the window, feel the tears welling up in my eyes. Then that sensation passes. Another sensation arises. I sit calmly and while feeling my breath, listening to the words of others, seeing signage …. I allow myself to arrive.

 

Several people see a quick glimpse of the Eiffel tower – the landmark internationally of Paris. I see the river and bridges … for me this is the excitement. We have arrived.

 

Buildings huge and old fill my sight. Cold gray color with greenery intermixed. Statues and sculpture on each building as we drive with purpose toward the hotel in the Opera district of Paris. We have last minute instructions from the tour director – we will have an hour at the Scribe Hotel to get cleaned up and be ready for pick up for a tour of the city.

 

Meanwhile outside the bus, the city is before us, around us, beckoning and calling to me. It’s vastness is a surprise to me. Block after block of large old and unique buildings. Bridges and the almost insignificant river runs through the city. At one point in the distant past this river was the life bringer to this area. It was a significant part of the city and fundamental to its growth and importance. Now?? a major transportation of tourists to the area. A reason for the bridges. A carrier of time through this hub of excitement. This place of people and history, stories told and buried within its walls and streets.

 

History holds the souls of those before us but tells us only of the deeds of the very few – those who made the “news” of the day. What of the millions of others? Whose souls, just as important and significant. Whose stories never told. What of them? Are the stories on the bridges? Are they in the river? Stored in the buildings? The windows? The sculptures? In any language, the stories stay within the city and in the lives of those who come after. Perhaps they are stored the breath, in the air.

 

The air in Paris is rich with story! Every step I take moves me through the stories. I can feel the energy of folks before me – all around. I can sense history.

 

I was not a fan of learning history in school – this is different. This is richness. This is the living history of a people.

 

We arrive …. the hotel is huge and old. The Scribe Hotel. Rack rate starts at 500 Euros a night … some 800 to 1000 dollars!! The lobby, ready for our arrival. No waiting. The staff take our bags, we are given keys …. we (the “sistas” – 4 new girl friends, previously strangers) make a decision – grab keys, go to room, use facilities and prepare to leave right away to explore. We have 45 minutes until we will be picked up for our night in Paris.

 

I fall relaxed upon the most comfortable bed I have ever laid upon. The feather bed with white comforter comes up to envelop me in softness, cool comfort from the bedding. The room is similar to the Nuremberg hotel room. Marble bathroom. Old light fixtures, high ceilings, large heavy curtains pulled to the side, covering large high windows to the most amazing city in the world. A silent courtyard below, I can see into the glass ceiling in a lobby, coffee area down below – still part of the Scribe hotel from what I can tell. A courtyard of lovely windows facing in … red flowers brighten up the white and grey of the building walls and bars on windows, called “romeo and juliet balcony”. No way to stand out on the balcony, simply bars to hold people back into the large windows … in the rooms where they remain safe. Air conditioning feels great … the temptation to stay in this room – to enjoy the high living for a few more minutes.

 

Suitcases fly open, the sistas (Doreen and Heather) come and knock on the door …. “ready”? Elwyn and I anxious to see the city, drop what we are doing and run after them …. we meet at the elevator … down to the lobby. I mentioned to the front desk and concierge that I am unable to enjoy the sweets they left in the room due to allergy for foods …. they promise to replace with fresh fruit.

 

We step out onto the street – the 4 of us. Two new to Paris, 2 have been before on another journey many years prior. We are all excited. Can’t decide which way to go. The other 2 will only have this one night. This one evening to see it all and enjoy the sites. They are anxious to buy some quick souvenirs ….. doors and window displays beckon to all 4 of us. “Come see what I have that you want / need”. Come see the inside of these buildings. Come sense the stories of those people who came before you. Come ………… come ………. come……

 

We make it around the block, in and out of a few stores, eyes wide, mouths open as if to drink in the city air. As if to experience all through each of the sensations given to human beings. How much can I get into my body, my mind, my ears, my mouth, my skin …. of this city of wonder?? How much can I take in and how long can I hold it?? Will it stay with me for the rest of my days?? Will this be enough? Can the evening meet all the expectations of wonder and delight?? Remember to breathe, in and out, hold it all. Savor the thick warm and moist air. Feel the sunshine hot on the buildings, the sidewalk, the road, my skin …. the air. Listen to the sounds of this city – people talking to each other, cars, scooters, honking horns, laughing, doors, windows. Not much of a breeze … the air stays still so we can enjoy it as it is right at this moment. Savor the sweet Paris air. “La vie en rose”.

 

Oh dear, where are we again?? I am disoriented but with 3 other women who know where we are at any time and how to find our way back. It is time to rush back to the hotel, to freshen up and change, to prepare for a night in the most special city known to people. This city of mystery and wonder, of time and history … as old as people.

 

Back to the delightful white and sensuous hotel room. Large bowl of fresh fruits await me in the room. No time for shower, grab change of clothes, carefully planned outfit – hat and scarf …. there will be pictures. This will be remembered for a lifetime ….. the time for planning the outfit has passed. Now, just grab it, dress, be ready to leave. A huge meal to come … a feast called Paris awaits me.

 

We rush again – back to an air conditioned bus with local tour guide, she speaks with a strong french accent which further accentuates the experience. A moment to take it all in before I get on the bus. A split second to stop … to breathe, to take it all in. We are in Paris. I AM IN PARIS! How did it happen?? when did my life take this turn?? My thoughts race and my mind tries to sit still – I try to breathe (light bulb comes on again <smile>). I breathe in the Paris air, I breathe out the Paris air with a piece of my soul to join with the souls of many many millions of people to pass before me. I am now part of history …. for those who come after me. For those people who come to Paris and breathe in the air …. a piece of me is now in the air too!!! Paris and I are one. WOW!! Take a step, on the bus. Off we go. That moment has passed … but not without being noticed by every breath I take. Thanks!!

I have a group of women friends who had decided that we should all wear some pink color for our night in Paris. I have pinkish shoes (bought in Nuremberg for a great price …. I guess I must have known I needed something pink for the “vie en rose”). I also had purchased a lovely linen scarf with faint pink flowers. It all goes with the outfit, lu lu linen pants, a light cotton grey sweater, the subtle and pink accents. I am ready. I am ready. We are all ready. Let’s go!!

 

On the bus, front seat. Behind the driver, nice rush of air conditioned air, sweet sound of strong french accent as the woman speaks into microphone. It is about 4:30 pm local french time, we don’t eat at the Eiffel Tower until 9 pm ………….. we are off to tour this amazing city. We are going to see all that we can in a few short and very precious hours. So grateful am I for this gift.

 

We have a tour guide who knows all the highlights, tells stories of King’s and their wives, their children, Napoleon, more and more people. Stories woven like a tapestry of each building we see – it keeps growing. The tapestry has sculptures pictured in it. Lovely balconies high on buildings, red flowers, window dressings revealing the residents and how they care for their small homes. Little windy streets, cars and scooters parked on sidewalks as the narrow streets have little room for parking. In fact the bus has to squeeze in between on some roads, we all suck in as if to make the bus smaller. Skinnier, somehow.

 

Cars driving crazy, scooters and bikes weave in and out of cars on the busy busy streets. Streets that have no lines, seems like no rhyme or reason tn the flow of traffic. I am breathing in it seems repeatedly …. as if I am alerting the dangers to our driver, sending out vibes of safety to other drivers. The scenery around me takes my breath away. I loose focus on the traffic and am attracted by the high buildings and amazing history told in the walls …. the voice of the tour guide weaves in and out of my consciousness. Her stories, while interesting, can’t hold my attention from the vision before me. The sights out the window have held me captive. Lost in all my other senses – I am one with the city. (light bulb back on). I have arrived to this city that holds some magic for me.

 

We arrive at Notre Dame and she asks “do you want to go out of the bus and take a look?” Are you kidding? Yes, yes. We all answer together. YES!! We have said YES to Paris. We pull over (illegally) and just stop in the street … we jump out and follow the tour guide. She takes us to a special spot on the street – walkway just outside the main doors to Notre Dame Cathedral. What a huge building! I am lost again to the sights …. lost ….. mind wandering … and then called back by her words that this one special spot is a place where people stand to experience luck. I find my feet walking, in pink shoes, to the very spot. I stand, I take in a deep breath. I want this moment to be remembered. I breathe in and breathe out – noticing how it goes in and how it is released. For a moment, time stops and I am one with this spot … this metallic star in the cobblestone. On this very small spot on a large walk way in front of one of the most famous places in all of time. I am here. I am one with this place. Breathing this air. Feeling all that I can.

 

The moment is over, people standing close by waiting for their turn to feel the magic of this place. I must move, one foot in front of the other …….. I must keep moving. Take another breath. On to the entrance of this magical cathedral. Awestruck of its massive size, I stop and touch the tall columns of strength and stability that hold it —- for all time. She tells us of the different styles over the ages and how the building has changed, been added to, been rebuilt, the stories in the windows, the ceiling design …. the benches, the alters. Amazing.. This space is amazing. I wish I could think of another word to describe that moment. That time in this magic place. Amazing. I am amazed at the grandeur, the size, the complicated history, the lives of those who have come before me to this place, walked on this floor, touched this column. AWESOME – I realize my mouth is open and I am “gawking”. Again as if I could breathe in the air and history of this place. As if I could capture this moment for all time … I am present and overwhelmed. Amazing!!

 

Out the back door, a nice park. A WC (toilettes) and a moment to take for my personal body to prepare for yet more historical journey. The group has moved to the touristy shops and search for precious momentos to hopefully remind them in the future of this time in their lives. So when they touch or see these items, they will be transported back in time and space to this day, this moment and this Paris. I touch and gather and put back. I do not buy anything this time. I am not in a rush to purchase. I am still feeling very present and awestruck …. I let the shopping frenzy pass me by.

 

 

 

 

Travel diary 12 – trip to Paris

12th entry and almost there!!

 

Today we have just left the Rhine River … now on the Moselle. We are docked in a city named Koblenz. It is a large city and we walked around the shopping district this morning when we arrived, and then back to the ship for lunch. The skies opened up in the last 15 minutes and the rains have started. Thunder and lightning … it is wonderful!! I guess it means no more shopping here today!! <smile>

 

This morning was a touring time, up early (on deck by 7 am) with cappucino, coffee, or pot of tea, camera and passing through the castle country at the confluence of the Rhine River and where it joins the Moselle River. Castles high up on the cliffs, in the misty air this morning – very romantic and beautiful. Mysterious and intriguing. My imagination was running wild with stories of what was and what is … and the feelings attached to the spectacular views and vineyards.

 

Huge castles, high and old (now used for hotels and restaurants) – it is thrilling to be near them. The scenery is spectacular. Very steep cliffs, castles built out of and on the rock cliffs. Amazing. Long pathways along the mountain side where walls once were, leading up the high walls surrounding the castles, attached to towers. Majestic. Great views, I am sure, from the castles – up and down the river, around the bend.

 

We went around to the left and made a sharp turn, into the docking point along the city walls of Koblenz. It was not far to walk into the main shopping area of the city – the sun was out mid morning when we left, and stayed out until we came back for lunch (a bit late, but they fed us anyway!!).

 

I am now sitting in my room, towel animal (an elephant today, with sun glasses on) beside me on the desk and a small duckling in the bathroom made of a washcloth … pretty soon we won’t be able to shower as all the towels will be in use!! <smile>. Curtains open to the view of the river and some old buildings of the city.

 

Yesterday we had two stops … I can barely remember as the days are now starting to flow into each other … much like the rivers. Some great towns and it would be fun to come back one day …. to try to remember and experience a few of the towns again. Mostly there was destruction after and during the war. In some cases by the allies at the end of the war, in some cases by the towns themselves in their own strategy. Some towns still have preserved some very very old buildings.

 

In the city of Mainz on the Main (pronounced Mine) River we had a guided tour – there was a Friday market in the center square. Ninety percent of the city was bombed after the second world war – leaving a huge church …. and a few homes around the church. I took pictures. The most significant sight in Mainz in my opinion was St Stephen church, although smaller than the one that was saved during the war, and built since …. has all blue stain glass windows. The church had approached the artist Marc Chegall to do the windows, he lives in Paris and was in his 80’s when they asked him. He said no as he was Jewish and swore never to return to Germany. Eventually he agreed, and although he kept his word to never return to Germany, he did the beautiful windows for this church … completely in blue as a symbol of forgiveness!! I was so moved by the story and then sat in the church … which has a beautiful blue hazy glow inside as all the windows are the same blue … with pictures throughout in the glass.

 

We saw a museum, also yesterday, of mechanical musical instruments (in the city of Rudesheim)!! Not something I would ever enter otherwise – but it was delightful and the home it was in was several hundred years old (I think 1515 or something like that!??. The young woman who toured us around, her father repairs the instruments, her grandfather purchased and found the instruments. Several generations in the family business. It was delightful to hear the music, but especially for the family connection. The ceiling in one of the rooms had original paintings on the walls …. hundreds of years old.

 

We stopped in a weingarten (like a beer garden, but wine is the main beverage) later and I had a bottle of water .. but there was live music … and the entertainer was dressed in laderhosen … kind of fun – more pictures <smile>.

 

We stayed in the town of Rudesheim over night … (we left there at 7 am this morning). During the afternoon, we took a long tram from the centre of town up over the vineyards (breathtaking view of the valley, the vineyards and the river) and to a monument (das Niederwald-Denkmal) in the memory of the end of the German-French war of 1871. The foundation of the monument was laid in September 1877. The sandstone is from a town we had been to, also on the river Main. At the top of this huge monument is “Germania”, a female figure symbolizing the unification of all German tribes. In the middle of the monument (to give you a sense of size) are nearly 200 life size sculptures of people. You can see it all down the Rhine valley. Truly unforgettable.

 

There have been a few towns on this tour that have been enchanting .. delightful and would be wonderful to return to. Miltenberg (in Franconia region, Bavaria state, country of Germany) is one …. quaint town, with the oldest Inn in Germany. It is also on the river Main. We went inside and sat in the lobby area and marveled at the ceilings and structure. It had been very famous and a wealthy town in years between 1400 to 1600 due to the trade along the river. The town charged much for taxes from the shipping of goods (wine, sandstone etc) but also from ships taking goods up and down the river to sell in other towns and so that is how it made its wealth. It claims to have been a regular stop of Frederick I, famous Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (this area has recorded history back to 9th and early 10th centuries).

 

The other romantic road town (Rothenburg) we went to a few days ago by coach and I think I wrote about it already. Almost completely in tact from mid-evil times. Quite amazing. The cobblestone walk ways and streets, the very hold half timber building homes …. famous and familiar sights all over Germany! It was a totally enchanting town!

 

Tomorrow is our last day on ship. I can hardly believe that a week ago I was shopping in Nuremberg!! Has it really been that long?? We are busy each day, with touring or sitting up on the deck drinking tea. Of course, like every cruise – eating is another thing that takes up much time!! <grin> The evenings include a quiet lounge and a little small scale entertainer. Sometimes it is the fellow who plays instruments and sings along, one night he did a disco evening with his lap top music, one day he played the accordian as they served beer and pretzels on the top deck. One evening a glass blower came aboard and was very entertaining. Last night we were early to bed as we wanted to be up to see the sights along the river this morning from 7 am to 10:30 or so.

 

Mostly we sit and talk, have a bit of wine left over from supper and drink a few pots of herbal tea. My new friend and roommate (Elwyn) is a singer and so we often burst into song (it must be very difficult for her as I hardly ever am on key <grin>). Two of the other travel agents and us hang out together and eat together, shop together etc. It is great fun. We hope to travel again together one day (one from Duncan, one from Toronto and us). We laugh a lot!! We talk to the other folks on board, many from Australia (this is an Australian cruise company). More tomorrow!!!!

Travel diary 11 – trip to Paris

The eleventh chapter … new verse.

 

Yesterday Bamberg and river cruising. Today bus ride to “romantic road” to Rothenburg (oh yes, the “burg” is about being a city named after a person — like a prince-bishop etc. A village around a castle. Honoring the emporer). Instead of having the whole city destroyed by war, Rothenburg is a city almost all mid-evil. Sine 1460 some of the buildings have stood! We learned more about the construction of houses – about prison system (more pictures) and this tall walled city. We walked and toured, took pictures and did a wee bit of shopping – only an hour was provided. We bussed back – one person missing from the bus ride … we are all worried about her and where she is. Hopefully she will be here by sailing time at 7 pm.

 

The scenery is lovely, wineries and vineyards as far as the eye can see. Big castles of the prince-bishops of old. What a site. Small towns, little roads and then a quick drive back on the autobahn.

 

In Bamberg, the people would try to make their houses look like they did before the war. Many wood frame houses and then depending on the how they made the front look, how long before they had to pay taxes. A better front, don’t have to pay taxes for 10 years instead of 5. Taxes to the government of the area.

 

Then this afternoon a walk around Wurzberg, kind of a newish town … 95 % had to rebuilt after the war. Quite commercial and although some very endearing parts including bridges and big market areas, the shopping was not good.

 

Got to get ready for dinner….

 

bye for now

Travel diary 10 – trip to Paris

Diary entry 10 – Tuesday in Germany …. en route to Paris!!

 

Hi again. I have been able to do Skype with Steve for about 20 minutes until we went under a bridge and lost the connection. Modern technology is amazing!!

 

In stark contrast to the quiet quaint countryside that I am sailing through on this river cruise boat! I am loving this balcony, closeness to the water, seeing the ducks, water birds, water movement, over the rocks, small country homes with red roofs, precious bridges. The greenery is so lush. So full of life. So full of movement – ever changing, but miles of it the same.

 

Alongside the waterway – the mighty Rhine, is the railroad. Hundreds of years of history …. laid out beside the river. Towns, families, wineries all built to sustain themselves with the help of the mighty and lovely, life giving river. A speedy passenger train . Very red, not too many cars, goes speeding by. By contrast to the quiet meandering of the river and sweet bird song.

 

Off in the distance is rich farm land, families supporting themselves and their communities with fresh grown produce, grain and grapes. Small private bridges built to make joining lands convenient. Corridors of travel – water, road, rail, even air. Connections one and all. That take the separateness of all and make us one and interconnected.

 

I can feel the breath of this land, this water. Breathtaking. Breathing out and breathing in. Huge sigh. Small rapid breaths. Yawns of vastness.

 

The water seems to giggle along. Happy in its travels and never really in a hurry to get anywhere – enjoying the pace and the journey. Taking it all in, reflections of the great sky, the minute tiny creatures and bugs, the home of wildlife and green growing things.

 

This represents a unique kind of travel. Borrowing the world of this river, being one with it for a moment in time as we journey along its path. Sharing also the air, cool breezes, tiny droplets of moisture from time to time. Sharing the sights, the sounds, the fragrance, the peaceful quite and chaotic turmoil – all within each fraction of a moment. Sit still and try to hold it all ….

 

What is coming beyond the bend?? I stretch out my neck to see … ahh but the mystery remains untold.

 

Why was this church built on this spot? What were the stories of the hands belonging to the individuals who also were part of families and communities ?? what became of them? What pride did they feel in their contribution. What did they take from the river, what did they give to it? What is the story of this steeple and its construction, what has it meant to the people who have entered its buildings?

 

People watching from shore, waving to us. We acknowledge enthusiastically … “We are from Canada, come to borrow your river for a while. We want to share your story for just a brief moment ………… Thank you. We are grateful for your generosity. ……. good bye!!”. All said in a wave of the hand.

 

A brief but significant encounter of human and nature, of time and space. The joining of many lifetimes and many families in that brief and wonderful encounter. I am blessed.

 

A woman on a bike, waves with a big smile of encouragement and giving of her special place – this river. She shares so generously with us. And we gently borrow a moment of her time. With thanks!