on returning home from france & germany in 2006

Two weeks traveling through Paris, the north of France, and southwest Germany with our two boys, ages 13 and 15. Standing in interminable lines for the Eiffel Tower and watching our youngest son take “artistic photos” of that Paris icon as well as the glass pyramid in front of the Louvre. Being accosted by African guys trying to make us braided bracelets, climbing a thousand steps to Sacre Coeur at Montmartre, and admiring the mosaic of Jesus with his gold heart. Finding serenity in the Cimitiere de Montmartre.  Photographing our boys posing in front of Moulin Rouge’s windmill and sex shops.  Enjoying the view from the Arc de Triomphe. Running through the Luxembourg Gardens.

Two weeks listening to my older son say, “What a way to ruin my day,” as we watched a decrepit old woman at an outside café trying to light a cigar with four bunched-together matches, finally giving up on the cigar, then pulling off her pants to reveal a saggy bare bottom, pulling off her hospital gown, and putting on a t-shirt, and then getting ushered out of the café by the proprietress.

Two weeks watching Parisians take to the streets to celebrate their victory over Spain in the World Cup, yelling “Allez! Allez! Allez! Allez!” Listening to people honking, dancing and singing, wild in the streets.

Two weeks driving a blue Renault Laguna from Paris to Normandy. Exploring the artificial port remnants in Arromanches from the WWII Normandy campaign.  Enjoying 1664 beers at an outdoor cafe in Arromanches. Staying in a pigieonnier at Manior de Herouville. Watching Cool Runnings on a mattress pulled down from the loft of the pigieonnier because the boys saw a spider and refused to sleep up there. Meeting the aging, deaf and blind animals on the grounds: Ozzie the rooster, Purdy the white lab, Gimble the blind-in-one-eye English Spaniel, Twinkle the white cat, and a black Cocker Spaniel who was both blind and deaf.

Two weeks weeping over the film about the Normandy invasion at the World War II Museum in Caen and the 360º film at Arromanches where actual violent war footage was overlaid on tranquil scenes of the countryside and villages. Two weeks of the boys running in and out of bomb craters and into old German bunkers at Pointe du Hoc. Two weeks encountering Middle Age re-enactors at a Medieval Festival in Bayeux.

Two weeks to visit over 9,000 American dead at the American Military Cemetery while our boys stayed behind to watch videos. Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of young men who gave their lives to fight the Nazis and fascism. Basking on the beach at St. Laurent in much needed solitude. Exploring Mont St. Michel and enjoying the Bayeaux Tapestry while the boys walked around Bayeaux on their own.

Two weeks in Colmar eating disgusting German food while listening to a Russian bum play a boom box accompanied by a saxophone, after which he demanded money from the restaurant patrons. Listening to Alex complain about how bad and stupid the music was. Exploring the Route du Vin (the Wine Road), beginning at the Haut-Koenigsburg Castle, where the boys enjoyed the swords, knives and other weaponry.  Driving south down the Route du Vin through charming towns, with clusters of red roofs nestled into hillsides surrounded by vineyards.  Sampling wines in Kayserberg when we gave up trying to find the castle tower because of the heat, exploring Heidelburg and its castle, taking a Rhine riverboat cruise, and visiting Trier and Mosul. Admiring the wind turbines in the German landscape as well as the well-behaved off-leash dogs throughout Germany and France.

Two weeks eating omelettes, rarebit, pizzas, eclairs, and dessert crepes topped with ice cream, chocolate and chantilly. Devouring croissants and walnut caramel glacés and pain de raisins.  Enjoying picnics of raspberries, strawberries, pears, apples, baguettes, pain du campagne, brie and gouda at Place des Invalides.  Eating brochettes of beef, profiteroles, mackeral and salmon spread on bread, and “Noix de lotte au chou vert et au lard fumé (monkfish with green cabbage and smoked bacon).” Savoring asparagus tarte flambés at an outdoor cafe with a big screen TV where people watched Italy and Germany in the World Cup; watching honking cars flying Italian flags drive in circles around our hotel when Italy won. Two weeks drinking wine and cold beers.

Two weeks reading Bee Season by Myla Goldberg and keeping a sporadic journal.

Two weeks mangling the French language with “Je ne comprende pas” and “Òu sont les toilettes?”  Two weeks attempting pathetic German phrases such as “Bitte.” “Danke.” “Entschuldigung!” “Guten Morgen!”

Two weeks wearing turquoise and denim and khaki bermudas and white frayed shirts and tank tops.

Two weeks trying to possess beauty by buying postcards, scarves, stamps, phone cards, watercolors of Sacre Coeur and the Eiffel Tower, and a turquoise flowered wrap shirt.



Alsace-Lorraine & Germany

While traveling, I captured only the French part of our journey in a handwritten journal, which I kept in some detail. However, I totally slacked off once we arrived in Alsace-Lorraine and Germany. I fell abysmally short in my descriptions and observations.

I  wasn’t much of a photographer at that time, although at least on this trip, we were able to take digital pictures.  I never did much with the photos until much later, when I added them to my European blog: in search of a thousand cafés: france. I still failed to use all my senses in descriptions, especially as, without a good journal, I couldn’t remember details.

I have a difficult time finding time to keep a journal when I’m traveling with other people.  On this trip, as both of our sons were along, I simply didn’t take the time to write.  It’s sad, but my record of this trip is very sketchy.

*June 26 – July 11, 2006*


“ON RETURNING HOME” INVITATION: I invite you to write a post on your own blog about returning home from one particular destination or, alternately, from a long journey encompassing many stops.  How do you linger over your wanderings and create something from them?  How have you changed? Did the place live up to its hype, or was it disappointing? Feel free to address any aspect of your journey and how it influences you upon your return. If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to write in the comments.

For some ideas on this, you can check out the original post about this subject: on returning home.

Include the link in the comments below by Sunday, March 31 at 1:00 p.m. EST.  When I write my post in response to this challenge on Monday, April 1, I’ll include your links in that post.

This will be an ongoing invitation on the first Monday of each month. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂

I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!