Travel: England, France Belgium (1984)

Warning: LONG self-serving blog to remind myself (when I become senile-r) of the amazing adventure in 1984 where I visited England France and Belgium.

I have had a wonderful time the past two days sorting through these old papers and pictures.  Ma pack-ratted the paperwork from my trip to Europe in 1984 and I found it in a random manila envelope at Dad’s when he passed away.  Thirty-four (plus) years ago, my Oak Hill High French teacher, Kay Jeffries, announced in class that there was going to be a class trip to Europe and passed around handouts to those of us who were interested.  I was fortunate enough that Ma said yes.  As I remember it, I had enough money to pay the student fee of $250 in my savings account. I asked for birthday money instead of gifts that year and I worked little odd jobs to save up my spending money.  Looking at the invoice, $1,090 is so amazingly cheap (by today’s rate of money).  I know it was a chunk of change in those days and I am still thankful to my parents for allowing that experience.  Thirty four years ago TODAY I was in Paris, France.  What an adventure!

 

Speaking of cheap, can we talk about the round trip airfare of $179.63 per person??

I cannot remember the in flight movie on the way home but on the way there I specifically remember All The Right Moves with Tom Cruise.

Please read rule number three, the alcohol clause.  I cannot remember Ma saying “sure, go ahead and have a beer, it’s ok”.  I do know I had several libations along the way.  In no particular order:

  • Kronenbrau beer was in a machine (think soda machine) in my hotel in Paris.  The cost: seven francs.  The lobby attendant was very helpful in getting me a number of francs as change.
  • I had champagne in the champagne valley of France.  We went on a taste testing (We were in HIGH SCHOOL!  Who does this kind of things with young kids?  My hero, that’s who!).  None of the other “kids” liked it.  They saw that I did.  They handed them to me.  What was I supposed to do with them?  I may have had five or six samples because my mama taught me not to waste! (ha)  I bought a bottle of Dom Perignon for $25.  I was excited about that.  How classy!  I intended on saving  it for a special occasion in my life.  Note: Later in life, I moved out of a particularly bad relationship and decided it warranted cracking the bottle.  It had been moved around in boxes for so many years. Maybe if I put it in the freezer for like 15-20 minutes it would be cold enough to… Well, you can see where this is going.  I had moved all day, I was an emotional wreck from events occurring around me… Did you know a champagne bottle can explode in a freezer?  I was so disappointed.
  • I also had a room temp ale with my French teacher.  It was the most grown up I have ever felt, to this day.  (Understand that I have done grown up things, I have had children, worked jobs, etc – but those things were a progression of life.  At the moment I am discussing, I was a teenager, sitting on a bar stool, having an ale with a “contemporary”.  ha)  We were walking by ourselves on a street in London, everyone else was bustling about, doing their own things in the shops and had a certain time to report back to the hotel.  I liked Ms. Jeffries and I appreciated that she did not mind hanging out with a kid.  She asked if we could step inside a pub.  I am not sure if it was because of the warm day or maybe her stomach was upset, but when she returned to the front from the bathroom she caught me sitting at the bar with an ale.  Instead of chastising me she pulled up a stool and ordered one for herself.  As we sat there, she asked if she could tell me something.  Sure…?  She told me she was pregnant.  Holy crap (should you be drinking that?) let’s toast!  I would meet that child some twenty years later as she auditioned for me for a play at the Historic Fayette Theater.  She was a sharp cookie, that ale affected her in no way!
  • The last alcohol story would be my learning duty-free things are tax free items, not that you can get back into the country without being caught.  As we came home through customs my bags clinked considerably.  I had bought maybe 12 itty bitty Jack Daniels bottles in the duty-free shop, I had the Dom Perignon (along with a bottle of Monet), a couple bottles of the Kroenbraur beer…all stuffed into my carry on bag.  As my bag made its way down the conveyor to the xray machine I became panicked.  I started talking, a lot, to the man behind the machine.  I asked him a ton of questions about the strangest things he had ever seen, did he like his job, etc.  I am sure he saw the mini bar that was the contents of my carry on but he said nothing, just smiled and told me to have safe travels home.

So, as a teenager I did a European pub crawl.  Yay me!

 

The days before auto correct, amirite?

Ladbroke is now a Ramada and Messidor is now a Quality Inn (but has the name still attached to the awning out front).  Hotel Printania is still there, in its glory, along the coast and the Forum (I think I found the right one – was bought by a company called Catalonia but still bears the banners.  I will post pictures below as I find them.

We flew into Heathrow Airport in London.  There was this crazy crowd as we walked along we realized that Simon le Bon from Duran Duran had arrived to the airport at the same time.  What a great moment!  In Europe only minutes and our first (and only) celebrity sighting!!

Image result for simon le bon

I sneaked out of the hotel in London one night, after everyone had fallen asleep (this makes me cringe – I look back at this and am thankful that none of the horrific scenarios that my Ma worried about came to play).  There were “Punk Rockers” just down the street. One had her hair shaved close to her head and had leopard spots dyed into it.  Another had his hair in points that stood maybe two feet tall (the product he must use to get that height)!  I neglected to bring my camera but I remember it so very well.  I sat on the street and took in the sights and was awestruck by the magnitude of my current adventure.

Back home, my parents were glued to their TV sets and trying to reach us via telephone (rotary! the horrors!) because they heard of a disturbance at the airport and it was not the glammed up pop stars.  There had been a bombing.  I called Ma three days in (as was planned) and she was frantic.  I can remember a raft trip that Mander once took on which a person died.  I was soon aware that she was ok but until I laid eyes on her I remained somewhat frantic.  I can only imagine what my parents went through for those couple of days.

I cannot remember the order in which we saw things.  I know we spent two nights in London.  So I have grouped the items together by category and hope that it is close.  I know we did the bus tour thing and some of these were taken through a window.  I remember visiting Parliament and the White Tower and touring around town some.

Tower Bridge, London, England:  a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and has become an iconic symbol of London. Because of this, Tower Bridge is sometimes confused with London Bridge, situated some 0.5 mi (0.80 km) upstream. Tower Bridge is one of five London bridges now owned and maintained by the Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. It is the only one of the Trust’s bridges not to connect the City of London directly to the Southwark bank, as its northern landfall is in Tower Hamlets.

Tower of London, London, England: a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the square mile of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952.

 

White Tower Museum, London, England:  I was fascinated with the armor.  I was disappointed we did not go to the tower bridge to visit the torture museum (redneck me was interested), but the crazy armor and thoughts of knights made up for it.  The thing I remember most about this part of the tour (and I am glad I have at least one photo of it) was the Lion of St Mark.  I have found the plaque info online, not sure if it was the same as in 1984, but it reads:  “Lion of St. Mark, Venetian, 17th or 18th Century.  A gilded winged lion, carved in wood and plaster – symbol of the Evangelist, St. Mark and an emblem of the Venetian City State. It was removed by British forces when they evacuated the Venetian fortress on Corfu in 1809.”

    

House of Parliament, and Big Ben, London, England:  The Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire in 1834. In 1844, it was decided the new buildings for the Houses of Parliament should include a tower and a clock.  A massive bell was required and the first attempt (made by John Warner & Sons at Stockton-on-Tees) cracked irreparably. The metal was melted down and the bell recast in Whitechapel in 1858. Big Ben first rang across Westminster on 31 May 1859. A short time later, in September 1859, Big Ben cracked. A lighter hammer was fitted and the bell rotated to present an undamaged section to the hammer. This is the bell as we hear it today.

I was so mad that Big Ben was being renovated and was partially covered.  Did they not know we were coming?  I must speak to the Queen about this…

Buckingham Palace, London, England: The Changing of the Guard.  This was an amazing display of pageantry.  The guard on duty would make eye contact but no amount of tomfoolery would make him smile.  I am sure he gets that all the time, poor guy.

St Paul’s Church, London, England:  The cathedral in London, is an Anglican cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London. It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London.  Three years before it was the site of the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Di.  They were the royals loved around the world, well – she was at least.

Prince Albert Monument, London, England was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her beloved husband, Prince Albert who died of typhoid in 1861.  I know it is terribly, however, I cannot say Prince Albert without following it with “in a can”.  As in the old prank: “You got Prince Albert in a can?”  Tobacco dealer: “Why yes, we do.”  “Better let him out before he suffocates!”

These are some of my favorite pictures from London – us out and about, doing the bus tour thing, hanging with Beefeaters (no, not the gin kind).

  

And, of course I picked up a post card in the event my pictures did not turn out well.

Good Bye London!

We traveled by ferry across the English Channel.  I remember stepping off the boat and the people speaking French sounded like aliens.  It was amazing.  Here I thought that I would “converse with the natives”, having had a great French teacher.  I learned quickly that we (American students) are taught the language at an 1/8th the speed the actual people speak it.  Our first stop was Dinard, France, a port town.

We stayed at the Hotel Printania.  A quick Google search confirms the hotel is still there.  Using Google maps, I was able to virtually traverse the road in front of the hotel, up the hill to the statue/overlook area of castelbrac, a neighboring hotel.  That evening we sat down to eat and I was determined to order my own meal.  Ms. Jeffries nodded to the waitress as the exchanged glances and I beamed with pride.  The phrase I thought I said “May I please have a glass of water” ended up being skewed into “May I please have a glass of eggs”.  And eggs she brought me.  That was the end of going solo on food orders!

I can vaguely remember being aware of the smell of the ocean, how it smelled familiar but slightly different.

 

I was able to (using the Google maps) find the statue we took a picture in front of (photo in above set).  It is located at the overlook of Castelbrac hotel, just above where we stayed.  The statue is of Eve in the Garden of Eden, being tempted by Satan in the form of a snake.  In looking at these photos online, I am wondering if the artist purposefully placed the statue so when the sun rose it would appear she is hiding from the face of God?  I plan on looking up additional information about this statue.

If ever I return to Europe (and I so hope that I do), this would be on my list of places to stop and to enjoy as an adult.  Of the places I have visited in my life, I remember this one for its utter beauty.

See the source image  See the source image See the source image

We traveled by bus across France from Dinard to Mont Saint Michel.  I cannot remember how but there was a day that I was separated from my group and hung out with kids from New Jersey, I believe it was here.  I thought they spoke funny, they felt likewise.  This guy was New Jersey Fred.  He was a blast to hang out with.  I wonder where he landed in life.

I am glad I picked up post cards along the way because although my photos have lost their luster, the post cards survived in their colorful glory.

Le Mont Saint-Michel is an island commune in Normandy, France. It is located about one kilometre off the country’s northwestern coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches and is 100 hectares in size. As of 2009, the island has a population of 44.

When the tide comes in, this monastery becomes an island. It was one time in my life I could actually “feel” religion.

Then we were on our way to the Hotel Messidor in Paris.  We will always have Paris… Ha.  We checked into the hotel and agreed to meet in the lobby at a certain time.  We did not have a lot of time to spare so it was a “drop your bags, wipe your face, head downstairs” kind of thing.  First, we had to stop and admire that the toilet in our bathroom was not in its own room, it was behind like a folded divider and there were two commodes…. wait, no… one was a bidet!!  Kinda looked like a water fountain. ((chuckle))

We went downstairs and gathered in the lobby next to the big window facing the street.  I sat there in an almost daydream-like state, looking out the window, thinking how amazing this is.  I was startled by a man in a white shirt (think Shakespeare poet shirt) who tapped on the window to get my attention.  I was puzzled and looked behind me, thinking he was calling to someone else.  When I turned back around he shook his head no and pointed right at me.  He then slid his shirt off of his shoulder and licked his shoulder. What in the living hell is this???  My entire party burst out laughing.  I turned to look at them and then back to the window and he was gone, vanishing as quickly as he appeared.  You would think: that must be the craziest thing ever, but it was not.  Later that night, when we returned to our room, we had to stack the twin beds on top of each other to make room to open the door to the balcony.  I sat out there for a long time, admiring the passersby and thinking this must be the most romantic place in the world.  And from the street a man called up to me.  He spoke French so I could not understand him.  I called back “I do not speak French very well.”  He then proceeded to pull out his wiener and shake it at me.  ‘Twas the death of romance at its finest.  I would go on to eventually meet Napoleon but that story is a little further along in this blog.

In the morning the maid unceremoniously walked into the room with us in half-dress, no cares about our privacy in the least.  I forgave her because she carried a huge platter of baguettes, croissants and hot cocoa.  That would be our first breakfast for the next couple of mornings.

One day we visited Printemps, a huge mall like store.  While there I became separated from the entire group and went into a bit of a panic.  I could find no one.  I made my way back out of the store (stopping to buy a petit fours for more money than I would have if I realized the exchange rate outside of my panic), I somewhat remembered the route back to the hotel and walked a half block in that direction and then promptly sat on a set of stairs to eat the pastry.  About an hour later my group came looking for me and found me.  We calculated the amount I paid for the pastry and it was something like $15 (US).  I will never complain about it though, it kept me calm.

In my defense, this is Printemps:

See the source image  Image result for printemps dept store paris france

Much like with my London photos, I cannot remember which days / tours are associated with each other.  So I have grouped pictures and postcards together in similar categories.

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, more often simply called Sacré-Cœur, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Paris, France. The basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city.

I had to find “a clearer image of this site online just so you can understand the scope of how immense and beautiful it is.

See the source image See the source image

One night, while eating at a quaint little street café, we ordered pizza (frommage, sausage – the easily translatable words) and it came with an egg in the middle (not my fault – I swear, I just told them frommage).  In pulling up a photo to see if I could locate the place we ate, I realize that it is more common than one might think.

See the source image

After the pizza, we decided to take in the Moulin Rouge area because it would be beautiful, all lit up.  My camera did not cooperate (unknown to me at the time).  Luckily, I grabbed a post card to commemorate.  While in the area, we enjoyed a street magician’s act.  I love that he is in a suit.

During one of the day tours, we visited L’Arc de Triumphe.  The Arc de Triomphe honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.  We took a break around this area and sat on the grass close to Les Champs-Elysees.  I can remember looking over my shoulder and seeing a couple, so caught up in the throes of passion that their actions might have been considered a bit “much” for public viewing.  Our rest became more brief than originally planned.  I can remember eating McDonald’s somewhere around here and thinking the catsup was so freaking sweet it could have been a desert.

There was one time we crossed like seven lanes of traffic in what (in my mind’s eye) I recall as a roundabout.  We were terrified and squeeled the whole way across.  There were a few times we took the Metro to reach our destinations.  This was one of the first times that it was suggested to me that I not make eye contact on a subway.  Didn’t listen then, never listened after.  Some of the best conversations I have had were with strangers who would be considered outside of the spectrum of “normal”.  This was the first time that I made eye contact with one of those individuals.  He gave me his most impressive smile and then said, “Je suis Napoleon.”  I looked at him and replied, “Napoleon?” with a little incredulity in my voice.  He moved to my side of the car and launched into a full-on French dialogue in which I was able to interpret MAYBE one out of every thirty words.  Ms. Jeffries, who found the whole scene amusing, started to translate back and forth.  He told us the story of being lost and how hard it was, ruling a country.  I asked, “Josephine?”  He let out a long, “nooooooo” and shook his head.  And then it was our stop and I waved goodbye to my new friend, Napoleon.  I hope he found his Josephine.

This clip, right here, makes me giggle.

 

What visit to Paris would be complete without a stop at the Louvre Museum.  The Louvre, or the Louvre Museum, is the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris, France. A central landmark of the city, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city’s 1st arrondissement.

On my to-do list was to see the Mona Lisa.  I am a little underwhelmed, if I am being honest.  It was no bigger than maybe an 11×14 picture. So I decide to take a picture.  This was when the little man in a museum uniform damn near knocked me over.  You see, a flash from a camera can diminish the color of paintings.  So flash photography is a no no around the important ones.

  

Notre Dame Cathedral.  It is as amazing and as gorgeous as you can imagine.  The stained glass windows were so vivid and beautiful.  The statues and carvings were so detailed.  You could spend an entire day in this one location and still leave without seeing “all” of it.

If you walk the whole way around Notre Dame, you will see a statue that has the subject holding his head in his hand.  That is St. Denis. Saint Denis, allegedly first bishop of Paris, a martyr and a patron saint of France.

See the source image

The one thing Paris is known for?  The Eiffel Tower!  The pic in the corner, all beautiful and orange – it is a post card.  How I wish now that there were digital cameras back then!  The Eiffel Tower is a wrought iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars in Paris, France.  It is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower.

I seriously loved Versailles.  It was interesting, walking around Petit Trianon.  This was a miniature village where Marie Antoinette would throw off the trappings of royalty and pretend to be a peasant.  In the photos below, the one in the middle on the left is from that area of Versailles.

A few extra postcards from Paris:

 

We bid a sad farewell to Paris.  Looking back, I wish I had a better camera and better wits about myself to look at things through different eyes.  One day, I promise, I will return.

Let me take a moment to recognize Hugh, our tour guide.  In Belgium I told him that I really needed a Dr Pepper and a Reese’s Cup.  He looked at me, mortified, and asked if I was feeling unwell.  I was completely confused.  Come to find out, Hugh had never heard of or tasted a Dr Pepper. WTAH??  Also, explaining that Reese’s was peanut butter wrapped in chocolate was nothing short of disgusting from his point of view.  So, I would wait until the states to get my fix

 

We annoyed this SHIT out of Hugh by singing Def Leppard’s Photograph and when the verse came around to “I wanna touch you”, we inserted Hugh (loudly).  I am sure he found us charming.  ha ha ha  (below at the 3:26 marker) ha ha ha – still chuckling

We headed on to Belgium and stayed in Brussels, where we would fly from.  The one thing that Brussels is known for?  A fountain with a little boy taking a pee!

Before we ended up in Brussels, we made a stop at the Reims Cathedral in Reims, France.  Much like with Notre Dame, you could “feel” religion here.  It was gorgeous.  Another amazing set of stained glass windows.  Just stunning

Yes, that is a dog taking a poo on the sidewalk leading into the cathedral.  No, I do not know why I took it.  Quite possibly could have been that I did not realize it when I took it.  Or maybe I thought it was funny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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