Thursday, July 31, 2014



Sunday mornings in Paris are usually taken up trying to miss the Noon mass, but catching the marvelous organ concert for half an hour is a real treat. St. Sulpice is an old church but somehow missed out  on all the Gothic architecture (too bad). The facade is embellished with scores of huge Greek columns combined with a lot of poor Romanesque details. However, this is the 2nd largest cathedral in Paris (After Notre Dame). But the organ! Installed in about 1750 by one of the masters, this thing will clear out the interstices of all your atoms when cranked up for some Bach or Buxtahude score. This must have been an awesome experience for the poor, unread masses  (Is that where the word mass comes from?). After each concert, a small lady emerges from the innards of the monster to bow at a small applause from us awed few.

TGV (Train Grand Vitesse or  train real fast)

But wait! Don't trade your car for a trian just yet. If they have a strong union you are screwed. Every time we go to France (We've been to Paris about 20 times) we get in the middle of a  massive Greve (Strike!). They do not tell ahead of time that they shut down all rail traffic for a week at noon. We found out about it when ewe arrived at the Geneva, Switzerland about noon and noticed something weird about the notification train board of Departures. A note (In French or Swiss or Italian noted that there were problems. No shit, Seymour! There were no trains going to France. Our original layover of one half hour became several as we got in a couple of lines for information, someone told us that the French trains ran from platforms 7 & 8 and maybe one would leave at about 1400. We had a nice Thai lunch with a bottle of wine, then got in a packed hallway to wait for about an hour . It was stifling hot, no place to sit, but in these cases one has to be flexible. Was this the First Class TGV section? Eventually, the door opened and we all ran up to the quai to await the ;Fast Train'. We interpretered the conflicting directions of where the train would stop as we had two bags each someone and wanted to be in our 1st class car. When the train finally arrived, it was a regular type but we surged thru the crowd to get on and find a seat on the upper level. (Most trains, even TGV are two level now). This was a really big surprise, as there ere only four other vagrants in our car. We pulled out of Geneva for Lyon, France but made long stops at several towns along the way. At one point, we were traveling so fast, I became concerned the this type of inter-urban train would de-rail. Maybe we were on a high speed rail line and didn't have many curves to negotiate. Anyway, we arrived in
Lyon eventually, calling our really apartment owner that we were hours late. Now, at the Gare, we followed directions to the taxi stand, got there and waited in vain until an off duty cabbie told us the strike was killing the taxis as there were no crowds. He told us to go to the other side of the gare to find taxis , which we did, and duly were dropped at our riverside apartment to meet Oriele. This was not exactly what we booked as there was no
OUR APARTMENT Two windows4th floor
Orange Cube offices
elevator (After all, this was built in 1875). She said it was on the third floor but Europeans call the 2nd floor the first. Here we were, an 84 your old with a heart condition and Medina with a sprained ankle. We insisted and the Owner humped all the bags up all four flights.

Landed in Milan, they are adding to the terminal so we walked forever, took a taxi into town

as 5 of us with bags is formidable. An hours trip but cost 10 euros each, not bad for a start. Lots of big new skyscrapers under construction, we duly took in the covered street ; the Galleria', the Gingerbread Cathedral , Pomodoros sculpture, decompress from jet lag, then catch a train to Pisa. You'd think we wanted to see the leaning tower, but I've already done that a couple of times; the rest our group will return for a look-see. Train to Pisa not an easy thing to do, then getting to airport to pick up cars at Hertz. Our strategy was to intercept the Mille Migli on our way to Volterra, where they were stopped for lunch. We got more than we bargained for. After watching the old racers zoom around a roundabout, we forged on and ended on the same road, but on opposing lane as the race.
Our Locando in chianti
It got a bit hairy when some exuberant driver needed to pass and didn't like waiting for us get clear . There were a few Lambourgini's and Ferrari's there as they probably owned some of the old cars. Upon arrival at Volterra (known for their alabaster work) it was still clogged with the residue and motorcycles so we had to abort and seek our lunch elsewhere. We found a place in Poggibonsi for that and also to load up our grocery cart and wine for our new apartment. After a few short, windey miles, we found our split level, two story stone locando perfect for a few days here in Chianti.

Idiots Delight
Love is a strange emotion, it can be a great destroyer. Just observe the poor bridge in Paris, (Artists Bridge), a beautiful pedestrian bridge that has become infected with padlocks, Already, the guardrails are collapsing, can the bridge itself support the added tons our love-locks purportedly installed there by couples who claim forever love for each other. There are so many of these 'Love Locks' the the bridge may fail and fall apart. It was not designed for such heavy loads  frivolous poor mis-guided lovers have added? Hopefully, when it does collapse, a horde of lovers will be destroyed in the process, saving us further problems.

 The French are sometimes far ahead of the time, and their establishing the first Meridian, or

A Medallion
line of latitude in 1850's is a prime example. The astronomer, Arago, established a line from the North Pole to the South, actually surveying it to North Africa, even though two years of the work was spent in a Spanish prison (At war with France). This allowed any mariner, who owned a chronometer on the globe fairly accurately. Up to that point, only the Longitudes were of any help. A while latter, the Damned British moved it to Greenwich, where it is currently. Never-the less, this great accomplishment was honored by an artist in 1980, who installed 6'' metal medallions throughout Paris to mark the actual original meridian. Don't ever go to Paris without trying to find one of these as they are mostly still intact.

Traveling in Europe these days we rent apartments for a week at a time. This is cheaper than our hotel on the left bank and also we get to interact with the locals when doing our shopping, etc. However, it;s amazing some of these don't have the basic tools in order to survive, like a corkscrew. therefore, we currently have a 'kitchen bag' that we carry on our sojourns. This has all the things you will not find in these apartments; Serrate knife for bread & tomatoes, egg cup, corkscrew, Swiss Army knife (Big one!), sponge, soap, etc. The downside to a system like this is, when your wife (who wants to pack all bags) forgets her brain and puts that bag in Lamont's carry-on. When I arrived at the security at DeGaule Airport, in Paris, the agent knew she had struck gold. Imagine! All the sharp stuff in one small bag. Fortunately we didn't have our plastic wine glasses lost. We use them when we have lunches on trains with our cheese & bread. That sure made her day and her job easy that time. It also strained our filial relationship to the utmost. Some of these things I had found in France on previous trips and are now lost. Fortunately, at my age, I know you can't take it with you so we eventually became friends again.

Derived from the word, fanatic', you only have to see a few minutes of 'The Tour de France', the World Soccer games, or any professional sports game to observe Idiots in Action:. I would rank the behavior of the bicycle race fans as the worst. Although you have to understand that these poor souls have to camp out, set up, and wait for a COUPLE OF DAYS  in order to have a good place to view the race. Whether 100 degrees or a huge rainstorm, they just persevere. But when the actual competitors zoom by at 30 miles an hour for about THREE MINUTES for all 190 guys to ride by, these fans usually go berserk and start acting like chimpanzees. They all crouch down, holler and scream, clap their hands, or, wave a flag of some nation in the face of the riders. This is one of the few sports where the fans (Fanatics) have full access to the competitors, allowing them to pat them on the back or butt, run alongside of them if they're slow enough, get out in the street until here is virtually no path for these poor bastards on bikes to get through. It would seem that they were all trying to encourage the riders, but it really gets weird sometimes, as about half of the fans are wearing some goofy outfit, going completely naked ocoasionally.