Tuesday, November 16 – Paris
Paris lay under gray skies in more ways than the obvious, but I was glad to be there, to finally see Paris as I’ve wanted to for a long time. The cruise wasn’t until Saturday so had five days to explore Paris. After getting settled at The Pullman, right next to the Eiffel Tower, my friends and I took a walk in the not entirely unpleasant evening cold to the Eiffel. I was impressed! The Eiffel Tower is enormous. Photographs do not do it justice. It’s quite a sight. We bought sandwiches and drinks at a boulangerie and strolled back to sit near the tower and have a late meal.
The next day after a buffet breakfast at the hotel, a delicious spread of eggs, a variety of sausages, ham, bacon, cheeses, fresh juices, fruits fresh and dried, nuts, breads and muffins, omelettes made to order, waffles, hot and cold cereals–you could eat yourself into a coma at breakfast–we took a taxi to Gobelins Manufactory, established in the fifteenth century by the Gobelins family who made dyes at first and later tapestries, which became their hallmark and brought them great wealth, prestige, and status. We toured the museum, viewing furnishings and military objects from Napoleon’s campaigns in addition to the Gobelins tapestries.
Thursday, November 19 – Paris
Strolling about Montmartre, discovered the Musee de Montmartre and its exhibition dedicated to the painter Suzanne Valadon in honor of her 150th birthday. She lived and painted in Montmartre when the windmills were still there and Sacre Couer was under construction. She’d been an artist’s model and was the first woman admitted to the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts.
Suzanne Valadon’s atelier
Saturday, November 21
Coming out of Paris, the highway travels through woodland and sparse suburban areas, large corporate buildings spread here and there–Toyota, SMC, gas stations, small villages and long stretches of pastoral woodland. Today, Saturday, November 21, 2015, the weather is cold and rainy. Typical November. Gray skies, thick gray clouds on the horizon, patched by sunlight.
On the eastbound highway through Champvoisy, traveling toward Rheims in Champagne province. Rheims was where the kings of France were crowned (in the town’s own Notre Dame Cathedral), except Napoleon, who crowned himself emperor in Paris. Pastoral countryside, sparsely wooded hills and dales bleached yellow by winter.
At 10:25 a.m., stopped at a highway rest stop. The wind is bitterly cold and dipped with rain. Got an espresso–it came with Rocher chocolates, figuring out the machine was a comedy of errors. The espresso maker wouldn’t accept the coin. The cashier helped. She forcefully tossed the coin into the slot and that did it. On the way to Luxembourg now.
Crossed into Luxembourg about 1:25 p.m. Evening is falling now, but during the afternoon we stopped in Luxembourg city. It was cold, so cold, and I was without my mittens, but I had my shawl and of course my coat. The bus dropped us off at the Christmas Market where we grabbed lunch at a busy cafe. I enjoyed a warming soup of rice-shaped pasta, the savory broth dappled with zucchini and carrots. After lunch, back out into the cold afternoon to do a brisk city walk.
Luxembourg City set my imagination to spinning–its steepled nineteenth century buildings, the winter-bare trees, the lower town clustered against ancient fortress walls–the place has a fairytale quality.
After the city walk we took the bus to the American Cemetery. The day was bitterly cold and the rain turned to snow while we were there.
I was deeply touched by the spreading rows of white crosses and Morgen Davids. I’ve never visited a military cemetery like the American Cemetery honoring soldiers of WW2. All those crosses, all those young men who gave their lives. I took a photo of the Dedication Monument but not the graves.
Old city wall, Luxembourg, separating the upper town from the lower
Now it’s 5:05 pm, 3 degrees C and we’re a couple minutes away from Trier and the Viking Idun.