A couple of pictures represent many of our remembrances of this first trip to the Paris area.
We were certainly in "discovery mode" as illustrated in this picture of the little girl discovering,
from the Eiffel Tower. There's some evidence here of Baron Haussman's "building code" for
rebuilding Paris under Napoleon III.
Once we began the International Loran Association meeting in St. Germain en Laye,
northwest of Paris proper, we had this amazing panorama outside the meeting room.
Click here for a larger panorama. (The Eiffel Tower is just to the left of the slight peak
in the distant terrain.
Now, please scroll down to enjoy our journal and the large collection of snapshots taken during this journey.
Click here to see the pictures now!
Now, we are told this "most romantic of cities" has changed a little (or a lot, depending on who we contacted) since that phrase was first coined, and not always for the better. However, as you will read, we found much to recommend this place, and we had far too little time to become much immersed in its more detailed finery. We took lots of pictures to remind us of the things we experienced in our tourist-level introduction to Paris. Bob took the trouble to obtain an International Driver License before leaving the States, but never used it. The city traffic was intimidating enough for us as pedestrians, without the experience of driving!
October 5, a Friday to be devoted to some 11 hours aboard airplanes, dawned entirely too soon for complete comfort, after the tragedy of the September 11 World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks and the Pennsylvania crash. We had spent the previous days preparing for the International Loran Association (ILA) meeting and Bob for two days of additional meetings of the Global Augmentation of Satellite Systems Standardization Committee (GAUSS) in St Germain En Laye, a suburb to the northwest of Paris proper. Keeping one eye on the aftermath of the attacks and the airline schedules' slow recovery from them kept us uncertain for a while. The mood gradually brightened a little, and after deleting some east-coast visits on the return flight from France, we settled on a round-trip from Santa Barbara through Los Angeles direct to and from Paris.
The nervousness crept into the shadows of process as we cleared necessary checks and extra security at Santa Barbara and LAX, finally settling into Air France's big old 747 for the long haul. Good food, Champagne and service made up (a bit) for the general lack of footroom. A couple of meals and a couple of movies later, (Bridget Jones' Diary and Dr. Doolittle II were two we had not seen...) we encountered the sun to the East after too little sleep, and landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport -- uneventful trips are the best.
October 6, Saturday
Well, Friday sort of disappeared plus a nine hour time change, but Saturday afternoon was a brand new experience, even when viewed sleepily. After a long cab ride from CDG airport to St Germain En Laye and a check-in at the quaint Ermitage des Loges hotel, we felt emboldened by a few short "conversations" with actual French persons in a combination of their partial English and our positively paraplegic single-word French attempts.
Checked in to our small but comfortable room, unpacked, grabbed a camera and headed for the convention hotel, partly to learn the way. We were a part of the convention officialdom, but the story of why we were not lodged in the Pavillon Henry IV is a long tale involving hotel ownership changes, language misunderstandings by convention committee members and a host of sorry events. By the time of the meeting, new management was in place, and the hotel had a competent front-desk staff who were very helpful. Enough said; all's well that ends well, and the convention did not suffer significantly. Every time it rained during walks to and fro, we felt a little put-upon though! Frequent but generally brief showers happened over the weekend and Monday, but later weather was perfect, given the possibilities this time of year.
In the center of St Germain En Laye is a huge park and forest, associated with "The Chateau," now a museum. A remarkable building indeed, but one about which we were not able to learn much more, because after the second day we were in town, the lovely park was closed (we think for the relocation of a grave on the park grounds, with due sensitivity for family members). This was delayed, first possibly by weather, and then by unknowns, and the park never reopened during our stay in town.
Met John Beukers, ILA President and convention chairman, and others at the Henry IV and immediately arranged for a lobby meeting with appropriate wine and reacquaintances. As we talked other convention-goers arrived and much cheerful greeting ensued. We added a little to the Air France Champagne, within hours of arrival.
The Henri IV is located on a sort of bluff, with a commanding 180-degree view toward Paris to the east. Sunrises were dramatic, and encouraged an energetic early-morning tone, a good start for hard-working days at the convention and associated meetings. Henri IV was indeed born here, in the very room where we had our opening Board of Directors meeting. The rest of the building is somewhat restored, but this historic corner is in more original condition (and shows its age somewhat). There is what appears to be a bomb shelter behind the building, perhaps a WW-II leftover. Bob went as far as the top of the stairs leading underground, but weeds and cobwebs were a good deterrent. The door below appeared to be bolted anyway...
A classical hotel, with chandeliered gallery and multiple meeting/dining rooms, all with the wonderful view toward Paris with the modern city skyscrapers at La Defense west of the city and the Eiffel Tower visible in the distance. At night the view is breathtaking. Overall a comfortable hotel, and an easy place to take a glass of wine to the patio or the gallery for side-meeting, conversation or thought. We noticed that every time we were served food, the crest on the plate was precisely at twelve o'clock. The wait-staff did have some foibles (new management, remember?) but they did know everything about serving meals.
The meeting that brought us here is about Loran-C, a low-frequency radio-navigation system long used by the marine community and more recently adopted by aviators. The ILA is the association home for technical, user and provider persons, and the group's charter calls for advocacy of the system as a dissimilar backup to satellite systems in case of their disruption (a need brought into razor-sharp focus on September 11).
Dinner at La Crêpiere (self explanatory?) with long-time good friends Bill and Ellena Roland, who became regular traveling companions through the conference and in the city proper later in the week. (Ellena speaks some French, and this was a great help to us.) Bill retired as president of Megapulse, Inc., a Boston-based manufacturer of Loran-C transmitters, and La Crêpiere was recommended by Dr. Linn Roth, president of LOCUS, Inc, manufacturer of advanced Loran-C receivers -- bookends!?
Back to the hotel later than planned (always happens!)
and to fitful sleep that was to become an unfortunate pattern throughout
our stay there. Whether due to jet-lag or something else, it was contagious
and unhandy. "Interesting" television included an English-speaking CNN
channel which was helpful, a bunch of French channels of course, and a
couple of pay-TV channels specializing in all manner of rather graphic
behavior with very graphic previews running all day. "Educational" TV?!
And we were a little concerned at what HBO shows in the late nights back
October 7, Sunday
John Beukers scheduled (against our suggestions to the contrary!) a 7:30 breakfast meeting this day to go over convention preparations, and we participated, filling a cab with meeting materials (Ellen, as Executive Director, handles meeting registration and administration for the group, Bob was presenting a total of three papers, plus as Secretary of the ILA, recording Board of Directors meetings before and after the meeting.)
At our hotel, met Bob's colleague from Illgen Simulation, Dr. John Kirk, who came to the meeting to deliver a technical paper on work the Illgen navigation team had accomplished. He was in Europe anyway, on vacation in Switzerland.
Went to the Henri IV hotel for Ellen to set up convention registration and Bob to participate in the ILA Board of Directors' meeting (he is Secretary to the Board).
The Icebreaker reception at the hotel was a wonderful assortment of French pastries, cheeses, smoked salmon and wines. A good start to what promises to be a worthwhile convention and technical symposium.
October 8, Monday
The first day of the conference is generally given over to presentations by representatives of the various U.S., European and Far Eastern government agencies which deal with transportation and navigation subjects. Again this year, the group heard about plans and programs and budgets and policies -- some positive steps and some not so positive. The work continues to educate the policy-makers and to improve the system and generally support the Association's radionavigation policy. See http://www.loran.org for more information.
A nice banquet lunch, and the evening reception,
which substituted for dinner. At the reception, Bob and others prevailed
on Prof. David Last to repeat his triumphant banquet speech given in San
Diego at the 25th annual convention. This being the 30th, we thought it
good to have a reprise of this wonderful talk on Tuesday. David agreed,
but said he had no copy of the text. As "luck" would have it, Bob had a
copy in his pocket!
October 9, Tuesday
While the meeting continued until about 3:00 PM, Ellen's registration duties slowed to the point where she could get away and do some shopping for a particular fabric she wanted (There were dragons on it!) Late lunch with several friends from the meeting, at "Debussy" in St. Germain En Laye.
Walking tour of part of St Germain En Laye with members of the convention, to the marketplace, etc. Ellen and Bob returned to the fabric shop to complete the purchase, with very helpful store-people.
The meeting banquet reception featured wine, of course, and the now-familiar hotel pastries and hors d'oeuvres, with much talk and socializing. This ILA group is good at keeping up acquaintances; pioneers and new students alike are welcome and are involved in every aspect of the activity. It's just great fun.
The banquet room was situated with large windows facing east, toward the Paris skyline; positively beautiful. Then, as we watched after the banquet was over and the room darkened, the tiny russet sliver of the almost-new Moon rose directly over the city. A truly beautiful and inspiring sight.
Excellent dinner by the hotel, topped off by the
traditional ILA awards ceremony, and Prof. Last's talk, which he had updated
for the five years' activity since the last presentation. It was as fresh
and funny and pertinent, and appreciated, as ever! At our table were Dr.
John Kirk, President John Beukers and former FAA Administrator Langhorne
Bond, all of whom apparently enjoyed the event.
October 10, Wednesday
The ILA meeting took the full day, at the Henri Quatre; Ellen remained at the hotel until the last meeting participant arrived, and then departed for the Louvre with Lorri Schue, Patti Doherty and Karen Rice, three spouses of conventiongoers. The ladies took in a small portion of the Louvre, being sure to see the Mona Lisa and take the appropriate pictures, then a more leisurely visit in the shops below. A book store and a baby shop held the most interest. Ellen even purchased a baby hammock/swing for grandbaby to be. All of this was followed by a wonderful salad lunch at a small café.
Dinner at a small restaurant in St Germain (excellent
escargot, salmon, and very good crème brûlée).
October 11, Thursday
Ellen went to Versailles with Schues and Dohertys - a highlight of the trip for her. Versailles is an amazing contrast to the busy cities of Paris. The castle was magnificent and the gardens were breathtaking. One could even take a horse drawn carriage ride around the grounds for a fee. We walked. The various lakes had different sculptures in the center. Of course, the most interesting garden for Ellen was the one with the dragons in the center.
Bob is secretary to the Global Augmentation of Satellite Systems Standardization Committee -- GAUSS, and spent the entire day at the headquarters of the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities in St. Germain, working on a technical information paper with that group.
Dinner at LaFeuillantine restaurant with a large fraction of the GAUSS group. Bob enjoyed the tournedos, Ellen the lamb. Bordeaux, naturally, and the best crème brûlée. A little extra nutmeg flavor, maybe? Whatever, it was exquisite.
October 12, Friday
Ellena and Ellen packed ALL the bags into a larger-than-average Paris cab, while the men were working, and attempted to get checked in to a hotel. They had been advised to check into a very lovely hotel, which turned out to be a good distance from Paris and in a neighborhood where they felt uncomfortable. Luckily, they had a very understanding and friendly cab driver who waited, then took them back into Paris to the hotel which was right in the heart of Paris.
After a 1/2 day GAUSS working session, Bill Roland and Bob took a cab to the Metro to Paris to meet Ellen and Ellena, who were already there, at the Hôtel du Colissée on the street of the same name, near the President Roosevelt Metro station. Again the small European-style room, but again comfortable, with remodeled bath and central air.
We four walked on the Champs Elysées to the Place de la Concorde (the guillotine was here during the French Revolution; now a large Ferris wheel, a huge roundabout full of crazy traffic, and many park-walkers having a good time). The city struck us on first impression as very large, full of motorcycles, very noisy and polluted and very crowded. It frankly did not seem very romantic at this point.
Walked to the Seine south of Concorde and remarked at the large river-tour boats, restaurant boats and family work/house boats along both river banks. We planned to take the night-time river excursion to see the sights and lights. Artists and photographers were showing their wares along the river-walk wall.
Along the gardens bordering the Champs Elysées were hundreds of chestnut trees, and the chestnuts were being roasted and sold from stands along the way. Once even a short distance away from the actual street, the noise and rush faded considerably (as we noted in the temples in Japan -- even a small garden helps the atmosphere of relaxation).
Living in California, one becomes used to essentially a smoke-free environment -- not in Europe! We saw many young people smoking, and it seemed that it was part of the style for well-dressed women to include a cigarette as part of the outfit.
Dinner at Il Colosseo, an Italian restaurant near the hotel, recommended by the desk clerk. The menu in Italian was translated into mostly-French by the waiter, and then into English by Ellena Roland. Ordering took a while! After dinner, we were off to the water's edge, for the night boat excursion. The lights of the city are truly impressive from the boat. The tour guide explained the sites as we passed. The Eiffel Tower, seen from the boat at night, is a most spectacular sight. It has been specially lit for the millennium, and we were told it will not have all the lighting after the new year. [Actually, in June, 2003, newspaper articles told of new, permanent lighting (floodlights, plus twinkling lights for 10 minutes per hour at night). That should be impressive.]
October 13, Saturday
Now for some more concentrated sight-seeing. We used the "Batobus" (boat-bus) on the Seine for transport to the attractions distant from the hotel; this combination tour-boat and taxi offers a scenic interlude between events. The route extends from the Eiffel Tower past the Louvre to Notre Dame cathedral and a little further. Very handy, with boats about every 15 minutes. An unlimited two-day pass was about $12.00. We began to notice that prices are generally quoted both in French Francs and in Euros; of course, the Euro is not a "real" currency until the beginning of 2002, but the public is being "softened up" for the loss of "their own" currency.
Took the Boat-Bus in the morning to Notre Dame for a tour of the cathedral and some pictures of the Pieta and other scenes. Lit candles in memory of Bob's mother...
Took the Boat Bus back to the Louvre dock, and walked through the large arched museum entrance, and to that huge glass pyramid by I. M. Pei which is striking against the huge old 10th-century fortress raised by Phillipe Auguste. Began a long tour through the various galleries, resigned to not seeing everything, of course. We succumbed to the tourist mentality again, and sought out some of the big draws, but on the way to see the Winged Victory, and the Mona Lisa, were amazed by the variety and depth of even the small part of the collection that we saw. Panini's busy paintings of museum or gallery scenes were interesting, in that they were really paintings of groups of other paintings. He also painted several very 3-dimensional scenes (even reminiscent of M.C. Escher; one expected to see his "impossible stairway" somewhere in the scene!).
The most interesting comparisons were of two paintings of John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci, and then comparing those paintings with the Mona Lisa. See if you don't think the three paintings could have been posed by the same person (a man, to boot...!). By the way, the Mona Lisa is really a rather surprisingly small painting.
Bob was able to snap a couple entertaining sequences of photos of other people looking at the sculptures. Maybe we all use these statues (like we used the National Geographic Magazine?) to clear up misconceptions as to human anatomy? Anyway, the shots taken at one of Michaelangelo's "Dying Slave" from the "Les Enclaves" statues and one near the Louvre entrance are fun.
Then down to one of the lower levels to a very nice exhibit of ancient Egyptian artifacts; some of the very small objects were the most interesting. Tried some close-up photography on a steatite statue of a monkey with young, and a tableau with four cats (Egyptians liked cats a lot...). This tour took us to the original foundations of the building which was a fort before becoming a museum, with some of the stonework revealed and many pictures of the archaeological digs carried out in the courtyard and gardens. A long history here. The building is truly huge. Several times, as we walked through the galleries, we would see the interior courtyards through the windows and realize that there was another block-long segment of building ahead! Other vistas down long staircases revealed what looked like acres of presently-unused space, some under renovation.
Overall, a place for us relatively uninitiated types to view a wide range of national and regional styles and of periods, some familiar and some very new to us.
Back to the boat-bus and to the Eiffel Tower, the western end of the water-taxi route. Took the Eiffel Tower elevator to the second level for about $3.00 each. Security limitations were evident, and the upper levels closed early, limiting us to the lower levels. This pleased Ellen, since she does not favor heights, and the Eiffel Tower is high on the lower level, and would have been very high on the top levels. However, Bob was a bit disappointed.
From the second level on the tower, the city seems to spread to every point on the horizon, and one can see the effects of Baron Haussman's rebuild of the city under Napoleon III, when strict building codes controlled the number of floors, types of roof treatment and wide avenues so a cannon could be shot down them at advancing hordes, presumably. The only "skyscrapers" are off to the northwest suburbs at "La Defense", just about the reverse view we had earlier from St Germain En Laye, further to the Northwest.
We had made reservations at the Lido, the "most famous night-club in the world" for dinner and the show; the Rolands patiently waited for us to return from the Boat-Bus dock at Musée d'Orsay (the closest we could get to the hotel from the Eiffel Tower end of the route). Fortunately we are "walkers" and were able to cover the distance in time to dress for dinner and meet our reservation time at the Lido. Ten minutes on foot from Place de la Concorde to the Rue Colissée; bet we beat the traffic!
The night-club must not have changed in 40 years, as it looked just like it did in those old newsreels showing various stars in attendance there. Before dinner, some dancing to live music, and then Champagne (comes with every dinner) and a very nice meal (salmon, for example) followed by a crème brûlée, to which we gave a "very good" rating.
Then, the dinner-time lights retract into the ceiling and the separator half-walls to allow an unobstructed view, and "C'est Magique!" begins. Now, this was a truly massive undertaking, especially as far as the 600-plus costumes were concerned, but we missed the can-can numbers that we expected. A lot of "nude dancers" -- make that very thin bare-breasted walkers or strollers in a wild variety of costumes -- shepherded by a cabaret singer. Actually, a troupe of jugglers and some slow-motion acrobats which reminded us of Cirque de Soleil were thoroughly enjoyable and well-presented. Very impressive were the lighting, sound and special mechanical effects -- a Chinese dragon flies over the audience to deliver a dancer to the stage...
We were disappointed that the modern club would not work a little harder to vent some of the cigarette and cigar smoke, though. It truly was difficult to breathe by the end of the show. We are certainly spoiled, living in more-or-less smoke-free California.
Walking on the Champs Elysées back toward the hotel at about midnight, we remarked about the crowds! The wide sidewalks were teeming with all manner of walkers, apparently from all parts of the world.
October 14, Sunday
Overcast and breezy, but no rain. A quiet cafe breakfast at Le Petit Elysée near the hotel; then we four on the subway and funicular railway to Montmartre for a walking tour of the hilltop replete with sidewalk artists and onlookers. On the subway, a man we thought was crippled passed through the car on his knees, asking for handouts. At the next station, he stood up and walked rapidly to the exit, apparently perfectly healthy.
The church Sacré Coeur there was impressive,
and certainly a little different architecture than many cathedrals we have
seen. The oldest church in Paris, perhaps? The circular arch much in evidence...
Walked back down the hill through picturesque passageways between houses to the subway station and headed for the Paris Opera area for lunch. At the first train change, there was a loud announcement in French, followed by everyone departing the train they had just boarded. Ellena Roland's French came in handy again, and we found out that the train driver had been ordered to stay put. Apparently the police and an ambulance were on their way to this or a nearby station for some reason.
We thought it best to walk through one of the correspondence tunnels to a nearby station on another subway line, and reach the Opera without reaching the surface in the meantime. No telling... We never found out what happened; it could have been as simple as a passenger falling ill on a train ahead of ours, of course.
Popped up right in front of the Paris Opera House and immediately took its picture -- we're tourists, after all, and this is a most impressive and well-known building. Lunch at the Café de la Paix on the square in front of the building had very nice salad and salmon. Signs in French and English on the tables warned of pickpockets operating on this corner. (We were also warned about this at Montmartre and at the Eiffel Tower.) We continued to try out our poor French, and had the feeling that this waiter probably spoke perfect English, but was very patient with our efforts.
Then a long walk around the Opera house, and a look at "Galerie Lafayette" another Paris department store (closed on Sunday, unfortunately, for Ellen the inveterate shopper). Absolutely unique window displays, though, using bird heads on the mannequins. Very Paris style! Then walked down Rue Capucine to Madeline and further to Rue St Honoré -- living a little less dangerously on a Sunday with all those upscale clothiers closed.
Stopped at Galerie Tatiana Tournemine on the Rue St Honore, where a painter was signing prints from his paintings of scenes in Venice. Very nice, with originals in the $3,000 range. The gallery was quite attractive, with wine-cellar-like stone walls, obviously recently refurbished. They served champagne and mimosas.
The embassies are still well-guarded, with streets closed and parking forbidden nearby. It turns out that the French President's house is located on the Champs Elysées just a couple blocks from our hotel, and not surprisingly, much security has always been in evidence there. We stopped at Dalloyau, a deli and chocolate shop, to pick out a few gifts (and an item or two to put under our belts, no doubt!). Later, looking at the brochure from this shop, we thought it might have been fun to get one of their dinner "sets." Reasonably priced, and a very French-looking spread!
Walked on to the Arch de Triomphe for a picture, and then back to the hotel, in time for a little slow time before dinner.
We knew that former Santa Barbara Newcomers member Jeanne Innes had returned to her longtime home in Paris after some time in Santa Barbara, and we had been given her telephone number by another Newcomer couple who frequent Paris. We called her and even after a 24-hour stint at her hospital profession, Jeanne came to our hotel for conversation, and equipped with some guidebooks for dinner suggestions. After catching up with news from Paris and Santa Barbara, and Jeanne's meeting the Rolands, we talked her into dinner at L'Appart, a nice French country restaurant right across the street from the hotel, decorated in country style reminiscent of early American, with a nice set of house wines, excellent beef and lamb dishes and a very good crème brûlée. (We still think the Feuillantine in St Germain En Laye had the crème de la crème brûlée of the trip. To drop some names, it might have some competition at Thornbury Castle in England, or the Beachside in Santa Barbara!)
Sent Jeanne on her way home with a couple of roses, and with a promise to remember her (and her new e-mail address) to friends in Santa Barbara. It was good to see her friendly and familiar face in this unfamiliar territory for us. The Santa Barbara Newcomers magic continues, even with relocations and the passage of time.
October 15, Monday
An early morning shuttle-bus ride for the Rolands and Lilleys from the Hôtel Colissée to the airport; plenty of time for check-in despite security personnel checking through every piece of luggage. Take-off was delayed a while, apparently so that all the checked bags could then be X-rayed. One can't argue; inconvenience is a small price to pay for safety. Still, it's unusual to see men (and women) in uniform with automatic weapons close by.
Again, good food and service, with more Champagne and mimosas -- no use to sober up sooner than really necessary! They even let us keep the little liqueur glasses with the dragons etched on! Got a set of four for the dragon collection at home!
A little doze and a movie, and -- icebergs! Don't think we were ever over Greenland or its coastal waters before in the light without clouds. None of that sort of scenery since the Alaska cruise last June; this looks a lot more desolate.
Over Saskatoon, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and finally to LAX after 10-1/2 hours. A good time, but it's also good to be home!
See the pictures by clicking here.