Stereotypically, the French are short-tempered, rude and stink like cheese. As silly as it may sound, Paris was the place I was the least excited to go to on our tour. It is also the place our tour ends in. In a few days I will be going back to London, but for now, I have to withstand its French counter-part; Paris.
Those were my thoughts as we made the 9-hour drive from Lucerne to Paris. As I watch the hour-hand on my watch go to 12 AM, however, I wonder to myself how I could be so ignorant of the true City of Lights; the City of Love; Viva la Paris!
Not only is Paris the home to architectural phenomenon such as the Notre Dame and the Opera Theatre, but it also has beautiful bridges, churches, universities, art galleries, everything anybody would want to see. There was actually so much to see in Paris that I had to put a few things on my "Next Trip to Paris" list -- such as visiting the Catacombs.
Upon entering Paris, I was greeted by massive stone fences on either side of the road. The fences were covered in ivy, but I could still see the graffiti underneath -- which were all names of famous artists! Even the vandals in Paris love art!
The first actual important thing we saw, however, was a stone wall with hundreds of little holes in it. Flip got Muffin to slow the bus as we passed it. She told us that the holes were caused by bullets from the Germans as the rounded up French Jews and shot them. Every hole in that wall is, to me, an innocent person that lost their live to pure hatred and ignorance. That wall was an epic monument of the suffering caused by the people of Paris and France as a whole -- something that I found to be more powerful than the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
We then got an hour-long tour of the city. We stopped at the Eiffel Tower for about twenty of those sixty minutes, just to see it. Flip told us that the tower was to be taken down in 1898 after the L'Exposition was over, but the people loved it so much that they kept it (and because its replacement was a massive guillotine used during the Reign of Terror). Also, we learned that when Queen Elizabeth II came to visit, the French first tried putting lights on the tower to impress her. It was such a success that they kept doing it to this day.
We then drove to the Arc de Triomphe. I have always wanted to see the Arc and once I finally had, I knew I was going tomorrow and take about four dozen pictures of it. It was remarkable!
We then went up the street to Place de la Concorde and saw the obelisk. I learned that my earlier entry about the obelisk in London was incorrect. I'm sorry. I said there were only two sister obelisks -- one in Paris and one in London. However, there are actually three with the third sister being in Washington, D.C.
From there, we saw the beautiful symmetry of the Paris. To the north and south are two identical buildings, the Église de la Madeleine and the Hôtel de Crillon (the link takes awhile to load). These two buildings have columns in the front of them, and although they are across the Place, a river and a bridge from each other, the columns are completely in line. To the east of the Place is La Pyramid of the Lourve, and to the west is Arc de Triomph with the Grand Arc visible from inside it -- over 3-and-half kilometers way! I'll have to double-check this tomorrow, but that's what we have been told.
When we drove past the Lourve, Flip told us that there are 11 kilometers of hallways and rooms in the building and that if you spent one minute looking at each piece of art, you would be inside the museum for 9 months!
Then we went to our hotel and prepared for the Sein cruise. After supper -- which was a scrumptious cucumber salad, chicken and noodles and a brown in milk for desert, we headed for the cruise.
We had the night to ourselves and decided to take the Metro. I am not, and have never been, a fan of the Metro. While we were waiting for the train, the intercom was constantly squawking and our train never arrived. Finally, after over an hour of waiting for a train, one of the members of our group went and asked the security guard what was going on. He said that there was an accident down the track and that there were severe train delays. Once the train finally did arrive, however, it was so packed full of people that we just decided to take the train going the other way (and all the way around the city) instead of the quick route, which we should have done to begin with.
We got off the Metro and walked out onto the street, under the glow of the Eiffel Tower. It was beautiful! I know I say everything in Europe was beautiful, but the Eiffel Tower was by far the most modernized beautiful thing we had seen on our trip!
It was also here that we caught got on for our cruise on the Seine. We passed by buildings that were destroyed and rebuilt after wars, and even under a bridge that was built from the stone from the Storming of the Bastille!
We got off the cruise and decided to head back home. There were three of us then, because the rest wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower. It was Dia, Maria (a girl from Brazil who spoke about as good English as I do Spanish) and myself. We hopped on the train and immediately began getting talked to by a very drunk Frenchman. We got talking to him and our conversation went on and on because he couldn't understand how a Canadian wasn't able to speak or understand French, and ultimately missed our stop. We got off the train and ended up in some strange city forty-five minutes outside of Paris. After standing around and trying to figure out what we could do with our limited funds (should we take the train back? Was that the last train? Is there a hotel here? How much would a cab cost?) we approached a French couple and asked for help. There was one single train going back to London, but it was leaving in about five minutes. We rushed to the other side of the Metro and realized we didn't have enough money for three train tickets. We cheated and only bought two and I had had Dia walk directly behind me and get past the automated gates to re-enter the Metro. In less than an hour, we were back in our hotel -- with Maria mad at me because I told her I was "watching the stops" earlier.
I hate the Metro. I hate all the subways in every city I go to. Rome was decent, but London and Paris just want to make my life difficult! I plan to walk as much as I can tomorrow and not take the trains. The French couple we met in that strange city were very friendly and I hope that all the others French people I meet are like that too -- and they didn't stink of cheese at all!
My roommate is Dia and he's fast asleep now. I plan to follow suit as well. I want to hit Paris early tomorrow for my last day on the European mainland.
Goodnight from Paris. See you tomorrow!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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Just over a year ago I wrote an article about the glockenspiel that once stood in downtown Regina. I had fond memories of the glockenspiel as a child and was sad when they took it down to renovate the park. I was even more sad when they didn't put it back up, and I was angry when I discovered it was sitting in a junkyard (sorry, outdoor "storage facility") for the past ten years. That article got a lot of attention, from both the public, the city and the press. Today, efforts are being made to restore the bell back to its original location.
I'm telling you this because preserving heritage – may it be a 25-year-old bell, or a fourth century building – is important. Without heritage, we lose who we are. Often, the desire to move society forward steps over the heritage and causes it to get lost. As impressive as tall glass buildings might be, nothing is better than a smoky red brick structure.
Saskatchewan is beginning to realize how important this is – and thankfully it's happening now and not in a few decades after everything is gone. But, our neighbours have been on the heritage preservation band train for several years now, especially in Alberta.
For many of us in Saskatchewan, summer means it's time for an Alberta road trip. Although the endless stretches of prairie have their appeal, there is nothing quite like seeing the mountains rising over the horizon.
One challenge that comes with taking a summer road trip is the heat. Much like on this side of the border, it isn't uncommon for summer temperatures to get to the extreme. I know a few people who have had car problems in the heat, and my family is one of them. Nothing ruins a trip more than an unexpected visit to the mechanic.
Thankfully, Alberta has a myriad of places to go swimming, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding or fishing. This not only gives your vehicle time to cool off, but also gives you a chance to escape the heat as well.
I've wanted to visit the Battlefords in Saskatchewan for a few years now. As somebody who loves history, just to visit a city that once housed the capital of the North-West Territories is reason enough. I'm sure I've passed through the city when I was younger, but I've never had the chance to explore it as an adult.
My interest in both cities grew when I was doing research for my 2017 article, "6 Saskatchewan Cemeteries to Visit This October". One individual I interviewed for the article was Don Light of the North-West Historical Society. Light was tasked with the sensitive job of moving about eighty graves within The Battleford Cemetery. Relocating graves is always the last option when it comes to a cemetery, but in this case, they had no choice. The Battleford Cemetery sits on the edge the North Saskatchewan River, and the banks of the cemetery were slowly eroding. Had the graves been left undisturbed, headstones, monuments and caskets would start falling into the roaring river below.
Light and I had an excellent chat that day and he told me many fascinating stories about what they found when they were moving the graves. Some of the graves he had to move were Metis graves, all while under the supervision of police and Indigenous professionals. Many of these caskets had rotted and were open, and they found a plethora of Roman Catholic crosses and First Nation beadwork, a sign of traditional Metis culture.