Normandy

DSCN1528We picked up our new car in Paris and headed to Normandy to visit Roger and Sharon, our neighbors from Bloomington. They retired, put their Bloomington house up for sale and moved to France.  The live near Vimoutiers.  It is directly south of Le Havre, and about 35 km from the English Channel.  Sharon gave us a walking tour of the town.Vimoutiers was leveled from Allied bombing during WWII.  The only structure left standing was a church.

Church & Mill on River Vie
Church & Mill on River Vie

We saw two statues of Marie Harel, who is credited with the invention of Camembert cheese. Her statue was beheaded during the 1944 bombing. In 1948, William Foster, CEO of Borden Foods wrote to the mayor of Vimoutiers and said 400 employees of Borden Foods wanted to replace the statue.  Below you can see the headless statue and its replacement.

 

Sharon made us a typical French meal; chicken, salad, baguette, and dessert from the bakery.  It was a nice treat to catch up with Roger and Sharon. They are living an adventure.  Before we left they asked if we had seen the Tiger Tank on the way into Vimoutiers.  They said it was one of only two that still exist.  To avoid us getting lost on a shortcut to get pictures of the tank, we followed them in our car.  The steel body of the tank was two inches thick.  DSCN1535

Girls’ favorite museum

IMG_0979“Dad, this is so much better than Musée d’Orsay”, said Rachel. Ella and Sarah with devilish smiles instantly agreed. After writing this sentence, I asked who said it was the best? In unison, each one said, “I did.”

It was a rainy afternoon and we were clearly where the action was.   One of the big surprises was the horde of people loaded down with candy emerging from the boutique . Each family had enough candy to easily fill up a paper grocery sack. The parents and kids coming out of the boutique seemed happy with their haul.

I could not believe that we paid an entry fee for both adults and kids to go to the Haribo’s Musée du Bonbon.   Unlike some of the world-class museums we had visited, the kids took time to read the panels, read the English subtitles on the videos, and take their time passing through the various displays. They emoted a lot of positive affect.

Earlier in the day we went to Lascaux II. Marcia and I thought the girls would be intrigued with the cave paintings. The contrast with the Musée du Bonbon was stark. The cave tour was something I had looked forward to for almost a year. I viewed the videos at http://www.lascaux.culture.fr/?lng=en#/fr/00.xml , several times prior to leaving for Paris. Given that location is off the beaten path in a mountainous area about two hours north of the Mediterranean coast, I was surprised to see a large parking lot that was full of cars with many groups of four or five people heading to the entrance. There were many  parking spaces for tour buses, but we arrived at 9:30 and beat the tour buses that were scheduled to arrive at 10:00.

Lascaux II had the feel of going to Disneyland. It was my understanding that we would be in a cave near the original in which artists had recreated the scenes. My expectation was that it would be in a real cave environment. Upon entering Lascaux II, I had my doubts as the authenticity of the cave. Some of it looked real but the stalagmites did not drip and pools of water reflected like plastic. The audio guide was good as it introduced the primitive hand art first. At times I saw each kid listening to the audio. The raised path snaked around the cave. We were in a group of 25-30. When we first entered the cave there were two other groups of comparable size that we could see at stations ahead. The live guides were presenting in French. Our audio was in English. At a given station, the live guide would be using a laser point to draw attention of a feature while the English audio would be describing the features in a different order. The best part of the cavern was the reproductions of the cave art. The quality of the Palaeolithic cave painting reproductions was impressive. That people who populated the area 20,000 years ago produced scenes with such accuracy is awe inspiring.

The Bradford Foundation includes the following text about the original Lascaux cave.

The cave contains nearly 2,000 figures, which can be grouped into three main categories – animals, human figures and abstract signs. Most of the major images have been painted onto the walls using mineral pigments although some designs have also been incised into the stone. Of the animals, equines predominate [364]. There are 90 paintings of stags. Also represented are cattle, bison, felines, a bird, a bear, a rhinoceros, and a human. Among the most famous images are four huge, black bulls or aurochs in the Hall of the Bulls. One of the bulls is 17 feet (5.2 m) long – the largest animal discovered so far in cave art.

New Jawad

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We had a great meal at New Jawad, an Indo-Pakistani restaurant, at 30 Rue de Longchamp, about a block from our apartment . It was 10 pm as we walked into the restaurant. I was a little worried we were arriving as they were getting ready to close. It was such a welcoming experience that contradicted the notion that French waiters are cold, aloof and slow. We had Chicken Vind Allou, Chicken Tikka Massala, Shrimp Jawad, Punjabi Chicken, Basmati Rice and Garlic Nan. I was proud of Sarah who ventured into new territory with the Punjabi Chicken. At the conclusion of the meal our plates were super clean and there were smiles all around.

After a wonderful meal, we departed the restaurant. Marcia, Ella and Rachel headed back to the apartment. Marla, Ian, Sarah and I headed to the Eiffel Tower. We walked under the tower and marveled at the lighting of the structure. Living so close to the Eiffel Tower, it was a sight I had seen before. Regardless, it was moving. Then we walked up the steps at the Trocadero and waited for midnight when the tower would twinkle. Standing on the upper level of the Trocadero, a well dressed young man said that he had been living in Paris for three years and seeing the Eiffel Tower still feels like it did the first time. While we were talking to him, he asked where we were from and told us he was from a small town in Poland. To me it sounded like Krakow, but he said it was 1,000 kms south. With all the warnings about pickpockets on the Metro and in museums, I couldn’t help but be wary that I needed to be aware of my phone and credit cards. After departing I realized my cautiousness colored the interaction. I guess that is the way it has to be in a big city, whether it is Paris, Rome, or New York.

A moveable feast

The week following the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, the bestselling book was Hemingway’s A moveable feast. Marcia bought the book for me in December.  I was at the midpoint of the book when we arrived in Paris.  Even after I finished it, I was not sure why Hemingway’s posthumous memoir,  A moveable feast, resonated so well with Parisians.  Eventually, I learned that the French title of the book is “Paris is a Feast,” which could be translated as “Paris is a Celebration.”

The book captures Hemingway’s interactions with  the post-WWI lost generation of F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Picasso, as well as lesser known authors, Ezra Pound and Evan Shipman.  There is much discussion about the process of writing and the merits of various authors’ works.  The interactions take place in cafes and streets of Paris and their respective apartments.

The English title of the book implies the feast moves with an individual.  My interpretation is that memories of  good times in Paris will travel with you regardless of where you happen to be. Everyone hopefully has memories of their metaphoric Paris, whether it is a beach on Lake Michigan, a puebla in Mexico, or a place near home.  It is a pleasant thought that memories of Paris and other places during our trip will stay with us.

 

 

Easter in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower

DSCN1470While on a walk along the Seine, we happened on an Easter Egg hunt.  (When Rachel read the first sentence she introjected, “Dad we were not walking along the Seine, we were complaining about walking along the Seine”.) We saw kids at booths and kids running about looking for eggs.  It took a little while to figure out how it worked.  The kids at the booths were not trading tickets for the opportunity to knock over a stack of cans.  The kids were getting prizes and lots of praise from the volunteers staffing the booths. The volunteers were also signing a sheet that looked like a glossy newspaper insert.  Sarah and Rachel were excited about the prospect of getting Kinder eggs.  Ella wanted to go back to the apartment, (in Rachel’s words, she was a pain …)  Eventually we figured out how it worked.  The glossy sheets were 5 Euros.  Finding 3 different colored eggs allowed you to get a bag with Kinder eggs.  Visiting the various booths allowed you to get small prizes and lots of verbal reinforcers from the volunteers.

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Parc Zoologique de Paris

Sarah opted to make our destination the Zoo.  It was a weekday and few people were visiting the park.  Relative to museums in Paris, there were no lines.  It was a nice change of pace. The first section we came to was Patagonia.  As one Trip Advisor reviewer mentioned, “you don’t see many zoos with a Patagonia exhibit.”


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It was feeding time for the giraffes.

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Rachel is not our only child.  Ella has been following Sarah’s lead of choosing not to be pictures.  Sarah made an exception to her policy, when she took the below self-portrait.
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Sarah’s self-portrait

It was a good day at the zoo.  At lunch the girls expanded their food options by having a four fromage pizza that include brie cheese, mozzarella, and two other unknown cheeses.

Château de Versailles

DSCN0999 (1)The grandeur of Versailles is hard to imagine.  King Louis XIV devoted half the GNP of France to the construction of the buildings and gardens.  At age 4 in 1643, he became king.  His father, Louis XIII’s will,  appointed a regency council to rule during Louis XIV youth.  His early years were difficult because he was stripped of power and treated according by the regency council.  With his mother, he eventually had his father’s will annulled.  Louis XIV transformed his father’s relatively modest hunting lodge to palaces with gardens and fountains. He built the most significant monarchy in Europe.  Versailles was his escape from Paris. He would entertain as many as 5,000 nobles at a time.

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Below are Rachel and Ella in the Hall of Mirrors.  To the right is Pandora holding the famous box in her left hand. Below is Artimus, the goddess of chastity, the hunt, and nature.

In a rowboat with the five of us on the one mile Grand Canal  We shared the canal with several single person sculls.  We tried to stay out of their way.  They came pretty close a couple of times.