Our Impromptu

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Family & Friends: From Croatia to France - after Guenter and Waltraut's 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration

July 3

We arrived in Paris around 1030 with a slight delay. As we walked towards the immigration booths, there were automatic doors that shut too quickly and one hit Juergen on the nose. It bled a little bit, thank God not too much. He claims it only shocked him initially but it does not hurt. Thank God it did not swell. Some welcome!

We got our car in slow motion (only one person at the National Car Rental counter and a group of people waiting to be completing the administrative task of renting a car). Then, we were overwhelmed by the enormous volume of traffic and the slow motion with which we progressed. An hour later, we had barely made any headway - somewhat annoying and highly unusual for our New York experience almost unthinkable. But it was the first day of school vacation... and it had poured shortly before but had stopped by the time we started to drive. Eventually, with the help of our GPS, we finally made it onto a highway that afforded us much speedier travels, and by 1600, we arrived at our hotel, just in time for the Argentina:Germany soccer game. Of course, we watched it, then took a walk through Chavignol, famous for its cheeses. I am sure you cheese lovers have all bought Chavignol cheeses in the US. I do all the time, and love them. So it was a natural for us to stay there for the first two nights and to drive around - which we will do today and tomorrow, before heading to the next destination.

The day before, still in Croatia, after our wonderful ride up to Biokovo Mountain, we met the entire family at the icecream salon, spent another hour or so together before we finally said our good-byes shortly after 1600. By 1800, we had arrived at our hotel which was located directly opposite the old town of Trogir - great for us as we could stroll in the tiny alleys which we had not seen during our first visit to Trogir. Then we sat down for dinner, right by the harbor.

Our hotel was housed in an old building from the 17th century. The entrance, however, looked absolutely aweful. I was shocked and regretted having made reservations there. But then, to our surprise, the actual hotel floors were gorgeous, equipped with beautiful old furniture, our room small but with modern amenities, a gorgeous bathroom, relatively speaking more spacious than our bedroom - very beautiful. Too bad we could not enjoy the English breakfast that was included in our room rate. Our flight left at 0615, forcing us to leave the hotel before 0430.

Click on images to enlarge!


July 4 - Independence Day!

After our first dinner in Chavignol we had a good night's sleep and are getting ready to see the sights, to taste the wine, to ... more later. Well, we drove to Pouilly sur Loire. It was a little disappointing. No more sight of vineyards. Juergen did not want to taste any wine (it was too early for him). So we drove around the area, saw lots of vineyards but no real activity. After all, it was Sunday. The police stopped us (as they did lots of people) for a regular traffic check. Once they realized that we were not French, he became very defensive, asked for my driver license and returned it to me within a minute or so without really checking anything. I then wanted to drive to St. Laurent vineyard. We have drunk lots of wine from that particular vineyard. Juergen was against it and wanted to go elsewhere. He did not want to taste any wine, did not want to see any castles. So we drove (I drove, it was my turn today) from Chavignol to Pouilly sur Loire to a road that would take us to Bourges. There, we drove around a lot, parked wherever possible, saw beautiful churches and other sights, photographed and videographed lots before heading to the next "Carrefour" only to find out that it was closed on Sundays. So much for a baguette, wine and cheese lunch somewhere. We finally found the road to Orleans, after having done a lot of walking in Bourges. The roughly 100 km trip took us through beautiful country side though we mostly saw our immediate surroundings, not really the countryside around us. Still, it was a beautiful trip, all on country roads.

We parked, went to the unbelievable cathedral, went inside, listened to gorgeous organ music - lots of people sitting in the church to listen, took some photos (lots of modernization / upkeep work are underway) and decided to check out the city center before heading back towards Chavignol. We finally were back on our way "home". It was another 99 km trip - in total, I drove around 350 to 400 km - mostly on country roads - beautiful and unspoiled. On our way back, our GPS took us on country roads we had not seen before but loved. The trip did not take very long though I did stop here and there because of beautiful churches or other sights I just could not pass up to photograph.

Before we got back to Chavignol, we tried to find a nice restaurant for dinner and had initially planned on getting back there after stopping at our hotel. But it was past 1930, and we decided to just stay, have dinner, and then get back to our hotel. That is exactly what we did. We have still not found the wonderful and delicious food we remember from years gone by, but we found a little bistro situated in a small alley, with seating outside, nice and friendly service, and a good recommendation for a delicious Sancerre wine. We loved its bouquet, its taste and finished it way before we thought we would. We both had foie gras as our appetizer - it was made right there - not perfect but ok. Then, we had different main courses - Juergen had a tartar, I had a green mixed salad. It tasted quite good but was way too much.

Now, at around 2200, we are in our room. Juergen is asleep. I am on the computer, writing this page, uploading the images I had taken today, and trying to get everything ready so that, whenever I can actually upload, it all works at the same time.

Tomorrow, we will buy Chavignol cheese at the "fromagerie" and keep some for our remaining trip and possibly, our return flight. It will be difficult for us to deal with all the delays etc. But we will manage.

We did toast to the Fourth of July festivities and our "last supper" in honor of July 4th.....

Click on images to enlarge!

The landscape kept changing as we drove out of the Sancerre region towards Bourges, later to Orleans and then back into the Sancerre region
Churches everywhere - I kept being fascinated by the varying architecture, particularly when considering that most of these churches dated back to the 14th/15th century, some even from earlier times
Sights in Bourges
The majestic cathedral of Orleans - its size and massive beauty captivated me, as did the organ concert that was being performed as we entered this building
Up on the hill to the right lies the town / village of Sancerre

July 5

We packed everything before 0800, went to the Fromagerie where I purchased a set of six different cheeses, a small plate, a knife - I would have loved to buy more, but we have no way of keeping anything cool. So, I restrained myself. I asked the "proprietaire" whether I could take a picture of his wonderful store - and him. He laughed and graceously said "bien sure" (of course). Juergen loved the store too, but we had to get underway for our breakfast up in Sancerre, this time, with coffee etc., etc.

We learned that we could get coffee in a number of places but had to buy our croissants etc. at the bakery ourselves. Nobody would mind that we would "byof" (as opposed to byob). So we did and sat comfortably in the early morning sun at the town square of Sancerre, enjoying our food, coffee, and the scenery.

Then we headed towards Chambord in a very round-about way, passing towns we had never heard of, amazed at the beauty of some, the small size and little attractiveness of others. Unfortunately, our map is not the greatest, and many towns are not even mentioned because they are so small. The castle of Chambord blew us away due to its typical "Louis XIV style ornateness" and its massive size. Of course, we had to stop, not only for some pictures, but we took a tour through all the rooms and some terrasses - what history, what amazing accomplishment to build something like this in those days. Its construction was begun in the 15th century but the major work only took place in the 18th century.

From Chambord, we headed to Blois, again, a town we had not ever heard of. It had a number of amazing churches, a castle, all situated right on the Loire River like many of the places we visited today; and today, for the first time, we were able to take pictures of a number of castles while driving. There is so little time to do all the things we would like to do, to experience all the beauty this country has to offer, combined with all its history, but also all its culinary delights - which, so far, we really have not been able to find and enjoy. It was already 1600 when we left Blois. Initially, we wanted to go to Tours and from there to Chinon and only then to our destination for the night, Saumur. We quickly realized that this was impossible. We already spent so many hours driving, and Juergen was tired. He not only had been driving the entire day but we also toured Chambord and stopped at other places and walked around. It was time to get to our hotel. So we did drive through Tours but did not stop - a very beautiful and obviously well to do town (wine business must be lucrative) and continued straight to Saumur, driving along the Loire River rather than on highways. It took longer, was more strenuous - tomorrow, itwill be my turn, but the next day, we will finally share in the driving -still, it was very beautiful. There were a number of "chateaux" we saw from the road, some impossible to photograph. Still, we were happy to see them and will try to keep them in our memories.

We reached Saumur around 1900, checked into the hotel quickly and were very happy to realize that we had a view over the Loire River, the old town AND the chateau (see below). Juergen relaxed for a while. I unpacked whatever needed to be unpacked and then immediately went to work with my pictures and our website. We had dinner in the old town at "L'Auberge de St. Pierre", a restaurant recommended to us by the receptionist. It was quaint, more bistro style than we had hoped for. They did recommend a very nice Chinon wine, and the food was good (just not great). By the time we walked back to the hotel - really just crossing the beautiful old bridge -, it had gotten a little chilly (the days were hot in the high 80 degree Fahrenheit level). For the first time on this vacation, I wished I had taken my jacket along. Juergen went to watch TV, I am still on the computer but ready to call it quits for the night. By now, it is past 0100 on July 6th. Amazing, how time flies when one is busy. I am having internet trouble. So, whether or not I can truly upload anything I have done so far, is not clear. I will try now. More tomorrow, I hope.

Click on images to enlarge!

The Fromagerie I talked about - and its "President Directeur General, Gilles Dubois, of Dubois-Boulay
Juergen at breakfast in Sancerre
Chavignol from above
"our first castle" (to photograph) near Neuvy-s-Barangeon
and shortly thereafter another one - this one seemed entirely private and inhabited
... and then we saw the castle of Chambord...
There were some interesting art displays both in- and outside the castle
... and some strange angles to photograph...
Blois - our first impression of an incredibly beautiful town
Our picnic, not in the style we wished for, but we made due with what we had been able to purchase
More sights of Blois - lots of grand churches, beautiful gardens, and the castle
A last glance as we began our way towards Tours
Images of Tours as we drove through only (for lack of time).
Saumur - view from our hotel room

July 6

Today, we took it easy. We both had some issues during the night which caused us both to sleep just a few hours. Juergen stayed in bed till almost 0830. I had gotten up at 0500 for different reasons. I took the time to finish all the work for the website so that, once I have internet access that permits uploading my website, it can all be uploaded quickly.

We walked into the old town, bought our two croissants and for Juergen a "pain au chocolat". We went to a bistro where we ordered our two coffees, sat in the sun and enjoyed our breakfast. We walked up the hill to the local "chateau". It looked more impressive from afar than from close by. There is a lot of renovation work necessary for it to be at par with many of the other castles we have seen so far. We strolled through town just to get a better feel for it, then walked back to the hotel to get our things and the car keys and started driving towards Chinon. We found the town picturesque, with a rather decrepid castle. This is under reconstruction right now and will look wonderful in a few years from now. We drove around as the "cave" which we had wanted to visit to taste some wine (finally!!!) was closed for lunch time. We took our own picnic across the river with a wonderful view onto the castle and the town. Then we made our way back to the "cave". It was fairly large, very dark and quite cool. Juergen thinks it had about 58 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, there was only a sales person but no one to explain the reason for the different barrels, the different barrel sizes, the types of wines in those barrels, in the bottles which were behind wire-meshed lock and key. We tried to take some pictures - see for yourself what you think. We tasted a white, a rose and a red wine but really were not thrilled by any of the three. We left to go to the next cave but then decided to drive back to Tours to have a better look at the town which had impressed us yesterday. We found beautiful areas in the town center with lots of activity in terms of cafes with outside seating and, in general, a highly pulsating town. The highlight was the cathedral whose architecture reminded me very much of Notre Dame in Paris, except it might be still more ornate and the actual size is significantly smaller though very high.

Our drive home was interesting as we crossed the Loire a few times and tried to take the tiniest roads. We found yet more castles - not always very attractive and not always possible to photograph. Still, we were thrilled at the abundance of castles in this particular region. We were back at the hotel around 1700. It is time to rest, to upload my (very few) photos and to ready everything for the next uploading opportunity.

Click on images to enlarge!

Vieux Pont in Saumur. We already walked across it four times   Access to the Saumur castle
Images of the Saumur Castle as we walked towards it this morning
Chinon Castle from two different vantage points Our only visit to a "cave" - in Chinon - today
    Cathedral of Tours
Old bridge over the Loire River - shot while I was driving A rather pretentious castle shortly before we got back to Saumur - in desperate need of repair Saumur's City Hall

July 7

We packed up and checked out of the hotel, then immediately stopped at the next open bakery to get our typical and by now daily breakfast pastries before heading to a cafe-bar for our coffee. Before 0845 we were on our way first to Angers and then to Dinard, via Rennes. But first we took our time walking through Angers, a very beautiful little town with a great old town center.

Juergen drove most of the day today. We stopped for lunch at a Creperie, located on a plaza in front of the Rennes' beautiful train station. Everybody was sitting outside and enjoyed the atmosphere. Most people just were on their lunch break. For us it was very pleasant just to watch people and to enjoy the delicious!!! crepes. Juergen had his favorite: chocolate crepe, flambee with Grand Marnie. I prefer something less sweet and ordered a "gallette fermiere", really a crepe filled with a soft white cheese and accompanied by a nice portion of green salad with a delicious dressing. We both shared 1/2 litre of wine, had some coffee to round the meal. All this for Euro 25 including tax, tip (a very generous one) - amazing. Rennes did not impress us very much. It has two town centers (North and South). We drove through both. There is lots of shopping and restaurants and great activity, but no real old town center as we have gotten accustomed to on this trip. Angers was the opposite. It impressed us greatly.

Now it was my turn driving, but the distance to Dinard (across from St. Malo) was only about 75 km. It was a very easy drive, and we were already checked into the hotel shortly after 1500. The hotel had been recommended by our friend Wolfgang who lives in Paris with his wife Pascale. (We will visit with them on Saturday evening to Sunday). What a recommendation it was. It is situated right on the water with a view over small rocky islands, lots of tiny sailboats. It immediately reminded us of our sailing adventure in the Bretagne about four years ago. Yes, we already wrote to Jean-Pierre, our Swiss friend who had helped us adapt to the incredible currents and tidal differences when first arriving in France by Impromptu. We are so much reminded of our time with he and his then girlfriend Veronique.

While I am uploading all the website pages and images I had not been able to upload in the past few days, Juergen is desperately trying to find the TV transmission of the World cup soccer game Spain:Germany. So far, he has not found it yet. It is a very important game for Germany, and Philipp and Julian (and lots of other Germans / people) are feavering towards the game in the hope of a German victory and the team's admission to the finale. We will see. Tomorrow, we will drive around the area, possible even meet up with Steffi and Tim and their little daughter Friederike. They happen to be just about 50 km (?) away from us here in Dinard in a tiny place called Eerquy. Tim is taking part in a World cup sailing event here in the Bretagne right now.

Click on images to enlarge!

Can you see the sandy islets within the Loire River? Images of Angers - a very beautiful old town  
    Angers Castle
Like Saumur, Angers had lots of beautiful bridges over the river Maine
Our lunch in Rennes
View from our hotel room in Dinard - not bad, huh?

July 8 - Steffi's and Arvid's birthdays

Happy birthday, Steffi, Happy Birthday, Arvid. We hope you both had a wonderful day. Well, we know how Steffi spent most of her birthday because we actually went to see her. She and Tim, and, of course, little Friederike, spent their summer vacation in the Bretagne. Tim was actually taking part in a World cup regatta for catamarans (F18). Arvid, we hope you had a wonderful time, and knowing your beloved wife, we are almost certain that it was magnificent.

Juergen and I decided to drive to Erquy where our friends, together with a group of other catamaran world cup sailors, had been staying for the past few days. We got there around 10:30 or so. Our GPS did not recognize the exact address. Thanks to Tim's and my cell phones, we just called and the three came to the beach near which we were parked. In front of us lots of catamarans, all trying to get ready for today's regatta.

We watched for a while and then decided to go back to the house with Steffi and her little daughter to have a sip of Cassis, the typical Bretagne beverage. There we also met Astrid, wife of another sailor, and mom of a cute little boy of 18 months. We decided to drive to Paimpol where Juergen and I had had the most wonderful lunch ever in 2006, together with Jean-Pierre, our Swiss sailor friend. We invited them for lunch. Steffi and Friederike came with me in my car, Juergen accompanied Astrid and her little boy "Momme". By the time we arrived in Paimpol, we parked our cars and tried to find a restaurant for lunch. It was already close to 1400 and we were all hungry. We found a Creperie where we all found something we liked. Unfortunately, Friederike who had a little feaver in the morning, got really sick and vomited over a chair, her mom etc., etc. The restaurant manager, himself a dad of a little boy, was very understanding, cleaned whatever part of the restaurant needed it and also gave us a bowl and cloth so Steffi could clean her own clothes as best as possible.

After lunch, we all walked back to our respective cars and drove back to Erquy. Juergen walked to the beach to check out the sailing progress. I stayed with the two women and their kids to help them get cleaned up properly before we also walked to the beach. There we found Juergen fast asleep (he disputes this). We talked, checked the sailing progress again. Some of the sailors had come back - not Tim's group which was still sailing at the horizon. We walked closer to the water as we realized that Tim's group finally also approached the beach. There are some pictures - not the greatest, but with all the catamarans coming back more or less at the same time, taking great pictures was not easy, but you will see for yourself.

We talked with Tim, Juergen helped get the catamaran back to its original spot, then we decided to say good-bye and walked back to our car, accompanied by Steffi. It was a great day and it was wonderful to see Steffi and Tim again and to acquaint ourselves better with little Friederike.

We drove back to our hotel, about 50 km East of Erquy, and decided not to go for dinner any more.

Click on images to enlarge!

more images from our room
remember from 2006 when we sailed through the Bretagne, how incredibly high the tidal differences were and how many boats were "lying dry" - well, here we could see it all over, as we drove to Erquay
Happy Birthday, Steffi"
Little Friederike, a sailor already
Tim and crew sailing "in"

July 9

We left our hotel in Dinard around 0830 and drove into "town" for our usual croissant and coffee breakfast. It was easy to find a nice "boulangerie" and to take our little bag to the next outdoors cafe for our daily coffee. We had checked the map for our trip to Chartres and decided - because I was so eager to go - to take a little detour to Mont St. Michel, about 50 km almost due East from Dinard. Juergen was not thrilled but in the end agreed. Our GPS took us there in no time, and we had to enter a huge parking lot about half a mile away from the actual structure. What a sight it was! You all must have seen images of this "mountain" before but its humongous structure and the immense cathedral on top just are breathtaking in reality. According to a website "LinkParis.com", it took 500 years to build the cathedral which, today still serves as a monestary. (It looked more like Disney to us as there were buses after buses and cars and campers after cars and campers approaching Mont St. Michel). According to this site, very high tides of up to 45 ft actually surround Mont St. Michel with sea water. We saw none of this because it was low tide in the first place AND the tides were definitely not extreme. We walked towards the "island" but did not have enough time to actually climb to the cathedral. So we just shot some pictures and decided to return to the car and to continue on our 300 plus km trip.

Since we do not really like highway driving on vacation like this one, we tried to take country roads wherever possible. The GPS was great for that as it accommodated (mostly) by us inputting "optimized route" as opposed to shortest or fasted. We passed through many villages and towns. We actually stopped briefly in Aloncon (again, against Juergen's wishes. So I took a very short walk through the town, snapped some pictures as I thought it was quite impressive - again, and returned to the car to continue our drive to Chartres.) We had tried to find a nice country restaurant for lunch but could not find one. So, finally, in Nogent-le-Rotrou, we stopped for a quick bite to eat. It was past lunchtime in France (about 1430 or so), and the only thing we could get (short of pizza which we did not want), we got a very nice plate of what the French call "crudite" (salad of different kinds, hard boiled egg, some bits of cheese, some couscous and cold pasta). Juergen ordered a carafe of wine. I stuck to water. In the heat of over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, I did not feel like wine at lunch time. We were quickly back on our way and arrived in Chartres around 1530-ish. Our hotel was located on a large plaza, right near the famous cathedral and the old town. We quickly checked in, put everything into our room and immediately walked into the old town and towards the cathedral.

According to various books etc., the cathedral originated from around the 600s and, since 876, house the "tunic of the Virgin Mary". There were numerous fires that destroyed part or most of the cathedral until its reconstruction to its present form began in 1194 and was more or less completed around 1220. In 1260, it was finally dedicated in the presence of Louis XIV and his family. We were fascinated by the two different church spires and the incredible height of the main structure. Of course, the glass windows are unbelievably beautiful, impossible to describe. So, you are left with viewing a few images.

The heat made us tired and thursty. So we finally sat down for a cold beverage and an icecream and started talking about where to go to dinner. The hotel restaurants did not intrigue us. There were a few bistro type restaurants in the old town, with al fresco seating. We decided to walk back to the hotel and rest for a few minutes before heading back out. It is almost impossible in France to start having dinner before 2030. Thus, we left the hotel at that time and walked towards a plaza where we had seen two rather attractive looking bistros. We got seated immediately and watched how the restaurant filled up within minutes, and each table that was vacated was immediately filled with new patrons again. Amazing. Juergen ordered a salmon carpaccio - a huge plate of delicious salmon, albeit cut a little too thick. Still, it was delicious. Then he had a rumpsteak - also delicious - while I decided on "moules frites", my favorite when the mussels are fresh. It is summer time, so the size was relatively small, but they were deliciously prepared, and the frites were wonderful. Of course, Ihad to have my dish of French mayonnaise with the frites - and I was (almost) in heaven. We had a nice bottle of wine and sat for quite a while before ordering our espresso and heading back to the hotel.

Click on images to enlarge!

Mont St. Michel as we saw it from afar and near. According to a website "LinkParis.com", extreme tides of 45 ft can actually cause Mont St. Michel to become an island. Most of the time, it is however accessible by road
White cows we had seen everywhere in France - and are still wondering why they are so popular here while we have never seen them any place else before
Aloncon's castle which Juergen refused to get out of the car for...
Sunflower fields everywhere, except they never all looked "our way". We had seen such fields in full bloom as we drove South from Paris to Chavignol - here the fields were just beginning to bloom - unfortunately. The fully blooming fields were just amazing
...where we had our "crudites" lunch
Images of Chartres, including the Cathedral and the town itself
Built in around 600s and first completed (in its then form) in 876, the Cathedral was dedicated in 1260 with Louis XIV present - incredible to think that such structures were possible this early - though, compared to Chinese history, this is all "new stuff"... I just read in "Imperial Cruise" by James Bradley
During the day, the fountain was in full swing, a "swimming pool" for kids as they cooled down under the rising and falling water spouts. The next morning, it was just a dry plaza, until it came to life again while I was taking pictures - not thinking of the water.... but nothing happened to me or my camera - thank goodness...

July 10

It was time to get ready for our drive to Paris - which was very short. We had our usual breakfast on the plaza right near the hotel (but not at McDonalds which is located on the plaza and even has outdoors seating as well). We checked out, got our car, took our luggage, and, thank God I needed to get Pascale and Wolfgang's address from my iPhone to input into our GPS. The phone was not there - still sitting plugged in in our hotel room. I quickly got our room key back and ran upstairs to retrieve my beloved phone, and off we went towards Paris. The drive was easy and quick as there was not a lot of traffic until we got closer to this beautiful city. We had told Wolfgang that we would arrive in the early afternoon, but Wolfgang seemed to have indicated that we would be at their place much earlier than that. We took a detour towards Versailles (but did not stop to go in as that would have taken at least 4-6 hours). Instead, we took the scenic route towards Neuilly (part of Paris proper, located between l'Arc de Triomphe and La Defense" for those who know Paris a bit. We got there around 12 noon, found parking almost in front of their building. Wolfgang stood outside welcoming us. Our luggage was quickly taken upstairs. Pascale returned from some food shopping. We talked and had a glass of wine before heading to a nice Italian restaurant for a cool lunch of arugula salad and - more wine. Back at their gorgeous apartment, we talked more before heading towards downtown Paris (Le Marais), a part of Paris that is full of art galleries and boutiques. We visited with a gallery friend of theirs, admired some of the art he was selling (all modern French painters who are still alive) and, in the rain that had started to come down, we sat in a cafe for another espresso. We took the "Metro" back to "Pont de Neuilly", an about 20 minute ride and within 3 more minutes were back at their home.

Pascale and Wolfgang's younger daughter Stephanie and her family live just about 3 km further West from their apartment. Stephanie is one of my five god children. Unfortunately, we had lost contact while she was a teenager, and though we had been invited to their wedding last year, we could not attend but had sent a little gift. Wolfgang asked whether it would be ok for Stephanie and family to stop by while we were there. I had hoped for that for days, if not weeks after we had planned our trip, and I was elated that it would actually happen. It was such a warm and wonderful "reunion", and we loved her little daughter Sophie and her wonderful husband Julien on the spot. We talked and talked until it was time for us to leave for dinner. Wolfgang had made a reservation in a fancy seafood restaurant about 30 minutes away by car in Montparnasse. Dinner was very good, we had different types of sea snails as appetizers - very delicious, and then each of us ordered different pieces of fish, all prepared in a variety of styles - wonderful. It was about 2300 when we got back to the apartment.

July 11

I had announced that, if I woke up early enough, I would take the first Metro into town to walk around, see some sights and take pictures. We found out that the first Metro on Sunday would not depart La Defense before 0530. So, at 0500 exactly, I got up and left the apartment at 0515 for the Metro station. The station manager was just in the process of opening the gate to the station as I arrived. Within minutes, other people came, and the station was anything but deserted. I bought my ticket at the machine and decided to go to "Chatelet" station. The Metro filled more and more with each stop, mostly with younger people who seemed to return from partying. They were all relatively quiet and to themselves. There also was a drunk who, beer can in hand, decided to sit next to me, almost on my lap. I quickly ascaped the smell and stench that came from him, not only his alcohol breath. The Chatelet station is not far from Notre Dame, the famous cathedral I wanted to photograph and then walk around from there. I won't bother you with all my sites and walking, but I believe that, within the about two hours of walking and the three hour absence from the apartment, I walked about 4-5 miles, criss-crossing the river Seine. I walked around the area of Notre Dame, then a little bit into Quartier Latin, from there criss crossing the Seine towards the Louvre, walked around the entire area of the Louvre, again criss crossing. Then went into Jardin des Tuileries. The gates had been opened recently, and there were people jogging, sitting and enjoying the rising sun, talking, sleeping. By then, I had seen a number of people, mostly couples, camera around their necks, who obviously had the same idea I had, namely taking pictures in Paris as the city awakened. The light was beautiful and romantic, and it felt so good walking around by myself, just focusing on what I saw, what I wanted to photograph. I heard marching music and initially was not sure whether or not it was from a loudspeaker or real. Well, as I approached La Madeleine, I realized it was a military marching band practicing for the upcoming Quatorze Juillet celebration. Also that was wonderful to watch, with Alliance Francaise and the Tour Eiffel in the background. It was getting close to 0800 and I needed to find a Metro station to get back to Pont de Neuilly. I walked and walked, not realizing, how close I really was to Les Champs Elysees. Instead, I walked too far North and finally found the Metro No. 9. I needed No. 1. One stop on the No. 9 got me to a connector from which I easily found "my Metro", and before I knew it, I was back in Pascale and Wolfgang's apartment at 0820 sharp. All three of them standing at the door as I entered, checking out when I had left, what I had seen and done. Of course, I was full of excitement and told my tale, including the few drunks that had approached me, the two young men who told me it was "indecent" to walk around alone at this hour, including the bicyclist who almost ran into me (on purpose), trying to make contact. I just walked away. After my quick shower, we had a wonderful breakfast (Juergen and Wolfgang had done some shopping already. We had fresh croissants, pains de chocolat, baguette. I even got an egg, boiled to perfection. It came from a farm owned by Pascale's uncle - delicious! Stephanie stopped by again to say good-bye one last time. I promised I would respond to the email she had sent to Juergen's address (that is why I had not received it). Pascale, Wolfgang and I then took a walk to the local market, a small plaza, filled with food (seafood, cheeses, breads, pastries, clothes, handbags, flowers, etc., etc.). Wolfgang purchased fruit and lettuce and herbs and some shrimp for a wonderful salad he later prepared for lunch. We stopped at a cafe for some coffee (I had Perrier instead), and leisurely strolled back to the apartment. I packed our luggage, uploaded by images to the computer and backed them up on my external hard drive, showed my Paris images to Pascale who loved them and told me exactly what I had seen (unfortunately, I will not remember it all to describe on our website - sorry about that). Then it was time to say good-bye, to load our car and drive to Paris-CDG, Charles de Gaulle airport for our flight home. I clearly know that I will need some time to spend in France, by myself, taking an emersion course in French so I finally get fluent again. It is such a shame to stutter around when trying to obtain information or have a conversation. I will check into this and see where I can go and when to do so. Having learned French many years ago in school and later on in a specialized foreign language school, I am embarrassed that it all (or almost all) is lost and needs revival. Our visit to France was wonderful. We saw many sites, tasted lots of different foods and wine, we met up with our dear friends Steffi and Tim and their little daughter Friederike, but our short stay in Paris made me long for more, for better communication, for better understanding of the country and its history. We will see what our future bringe. For the time being, a visit by Pascale and Wolfgang here in New York some time in December. We cannot wait to see them both again. - and this is the end of our trip to Europe in 2010.

Click on images to enlarge!

Wolfgang and Juergen at the Metro station "Pont de Neuilly"
La Conciergerie (image taken on way way to "Notre Dame" Cathedral)
Notre Dame
I saw many homeless sleeping in the streets - here right in front of "Notre Dame" and at the edge of the Quartier Latin
..as the sun rises..
... behind "Notre Dame"
..at the edge of the Quartier Latin which also houses the Sorbonne university
Pont des Arts
Quai Malaquais
Alliance Francaise and Tour Eiffel in the background, touched by early morning sunlight, with an arm of the river Seine
Walking along Rue de Rivoli towards the Louvre
Eglise St Germain-l'Auxerrois
A typically Parisian Arquade with the view onto the Plaza in front of the "Conseil d'Etat"(on the right of the picture)
The Louvre Museum
...more Louvre images
From the Jardin des Tuilleries to the Louvre Museum...
Beauty of the Jardin des Tuilleries, in nature and in art
La Madeleine with the Eiffel Tower to the right
Military band practicing for the Quatorze Juillet holiday
Assemblee Nationale with the Alliance Francaise in the background
Paroisse St. Marie Madelaine
La Defense - taken from Neuilly sur Seine - right near Pascale and Wolfgang's apartment