Saturday, February 5, 2011


The Juno Beach Centre wasn’t built at the same time as the Great Britain and United States memorials. On the 60th anniversary of D-Day the Veterans came back to remember their brave comrades. The Canadian Vets were disappointed by the lack of acknowledgement of Canadian support in the war. One of them took a sum of their own money, and started fundraising to build a Canadian War Memorial. So the building is newer than the other memorials.

Inside the Juno Beach Centre, they started out with a 300° movie from the perspective of one of the soldiers. The room it was in was shaped like one of the boats. The movie was what they might've seen or heard, and was also what they might've been thinking; pictures of home, the war, and much more. It was well presented, but I don't think I would be convinced that I was a soldier in the war even if I was one. The feelings it did give me, were more of sympathy for what they've been through. When we exited the vessel, we came into a room with information on Canada at the time of the war. There were around ~ 5000 people in the Canadian military at the time. By the end of the war, there were 1 million! At the time, there were only 11 million people in Canada; with 2 million fit to fight, that's half of all the eligible people! Did I mention that it was voluntary?

Anyway, the prime minister at the time was Mackenzie King. Mackenzie King strongly believed that Canada should be its own country and be run by its own rules. Working towards Canada's independence, he didn’t ask for approval from the UK when signing a Salmon treaty on fishing rights between the US and Canada. Then when Great Britain declared war on Germany, he delayed a week before also declaring war on Germany, even though Canadian citizens were eager to help there relatives; just to prove his point to the world.

Attacking Dieppe was a test, to see what the world was up against. The war smart people sent some Canadian soldiers to fight the Germans at Dieppe, because they were eager to jump into the war. With no prep, no planning, no backup, and little knowledge of our enemy, when the soldiers reach Dieppe, Canadian soldiers were slaughtered. Very very few men survived the attack at Dieppe. Even though the 'surprise' attack was a complete disaster, it was represented as a lesson: of what not to do.

The people who attacked the beach weren’t alone. There were the Battleships with their long range guns attacking up to 12 miles away, attacking the land equal which also shoots long distance, there were the bombers bombing the Germans to ease up the deadliness, and there were paratroopers who were greatly risking their lives trying to come from the direction the guns weren't pointing at; the Germans had flooded some fields in order to try to drown some of the paratroopers, which some of them did drown. (Try swimming with heavy boots, a metal hat, a lot of gear, a parachute, and a big heavy gun in the middle of the night. Actually don’t; you'd drown.)

On D-Day, code-named Operation Overlord or just Overlord, Thousands of boats of soldiers gathered at the meeting point nicknamed Piccadilly Circus, and prepared for the attack. Imagine; you're a German soldier, you've been assured that you shouldn't have much work; you're in a highly defended area. You're in the middle of a card game, when someone comes in the room, sheet white, and says you should have a look outside. You go up and look out towards the water. You look at the horizon. You look at the horizon and see hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, of black dots. You, are scared silly. You can hear the crack of battleship's heavy guns as they shoot something they cant see, you hear the buzz of bombing planes, you hear the subtle low hum… of an entire army.

Now imagine that you're on a \__/ shaped boat, with countless numbers of others around you, your hearing all the war noises I just described, you don't know what's going on, or what you have to do. You know you have to be near land, because the battleships are shooting. You, are very nervous; not to mention, scared silly.

Being on Juno Beach was moving. Everything you saw seemed to be a relic, a memory, or some sort of way to freedom. I tried to hold back tears as dad ran up the beach. It took very long; too long to be missed by 1200 bullets. Hughh, can you feel the emotion stirring in your upper chest? Man, Juno Beach was an emotional place. Almost every decision I made, I changed my mind 2 or 3 times, sometimes not even succeeding in changing it.

Past 6 months

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

We’ve flown to London: Seemed like it never ended.

We’ve seen Big Ben.

We’ve been to Trafalgar square.

We’ve been on a double decker in London.

We’ve stayed in an ‘Oubliette’... I know what an Oubliette is.

We’ve had a medieval buffet.

We haven’t seen the Nessie, but had the chance too.

We’ve been in a store that was robbed, while it was robbed and didn’t even know it.

We’ve punted the Cam.

We’ve been to the Acropolis.

I met a cat and named it Bootsy.

We’ve been to church’s balancing on top of tall rocks.

We’ve been to the place were the Olympics started.

We went to see the oracle of Delphi, she wasn’t home.

We’ve been to Santorini.

We swam in the Mediterranean Ocean.

Ask me any question about Greek mythology and I’ll answer it.

We’ve been to a beach with purely red sand.

I’ve been mini golfing in Greece (also go carting, and riding a mechanical bull)

We’ve hiked the Samaria gorge.

We’ve memorized the rabbit warrens.

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

I went river rafting. In Turkey.

I lay in a hammock and Skyped people.

We didn’t buy a carpet.

We’ve got a Turkish hamam.

We went to a Bazaar

We’ve been to Istanbul.

I slept on a train over night.

I’ve been hungry in Hungry.

We lived in Pest and drove over to Buda.

I ate at a restaurant called ‘Fatal’

We went to a grocery store in the middle of the street.

We went across a bridge packed with statues

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We stayed in a place with a hidden fridge.

We’ve ridden a boat under ground.

We’ve taken a ‘sound of music’ tour.

We’ve cross country skied in the Alps.

We've seen a play in 'Vienna Opera House'

We’ve been in a salt mine.

I’ve played Ping-pong in a basement.

I spent hours snowball fighting with Rhys. (No, we didn’t actually have snow gear.)

We’ve slept in a medieval town.

We’ve been to a German Christmas market.

We went to London… twice.

I’ve been in da Nile (denial).

I’ve worn a tee shit with no jacket, outside in December.

We’ve walked an ancient road.

I’ve seen a mummy

I’ve seen Cleopatra

We’ve been in king Tut’s tomb.

I had the most delicious club sand witch ever.

I saw my family for the first time in 5 months.

I’ve fed a duck out of my hand.

We’ve seen the Eiffel Tower

We’ve been to Notre Dame

We went to more museums that is normally possible. (same with churches)

We’ve been to D-day beachs

We’ve seen a half French half Italian medieval town.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, and sail away from the safe harbor.”- Mark Twain

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Steps to Make a Bank Transfer

This second how-to blog takes a fairly simple transaction and makes it into a monumental task. It is also complicated by our poor French. To make a transfer at home, we went to our bank and transferred the money. Notice there are more steps for this one than to buy a car.

Steps to Make a Bank Transfer:

1. Have party requesting transfer send all relevant details via email.
2. Save transfer information from internet onto memory stick.
3. Find store in town to print from memory stick.
a. Discover information has not been saved.
4. Return home to save information. Return to store. Print information needed.
5. Find bank to make transfer.
a. Discover bank will not transfer money because your account is in another country but you may be able to do this online.
6. Go home to internet.
7. Log in to website for internet banking.
8. Fill out lengthy form using information printed.
a. Note you need bank address which is not on form so surf to find out address.
b. Discover you may not transfer this much money but if you call this number you can increase your limit.
9. Look for telephone.
10. Dial number on screen.
a. Listen to very garbled French.
11. Search for French speaking native to listen.
a. Discover the number does not exist.
12. Ask how to dial a number to Canada from France.
a. Discover you are dialing without the correct prefix.
13. Dial number with correct prefix.
14. Talk to bank representative for twenty minutes at your own expense to get details needed.
a. Miss one step and lose entire form previously filled out.
15. Reload page to get new form and fill out again while bank representative waits.
a. Lose connection on phone
16. Redial number.
a. Listen to very garbled French.
17. Search for French speaking native to listen.
a. Discover phone has no more credit.
18. Look for second telephone.
a. Discover second telephone needs to be recharged.
19. Look for phone recharge cord. Plug second phone in.
a. Discover one cannot use a phone while it is recharging.
20. Search online for page to top up credit on first telephone.
a. Discover page is in French.
21. Use French/English dictionary to navigate way through website to find top-up area.
22. Create account for online top-up.
23. Choose credit amount desired and fill in details of credit card for payment.
a. Credit card declined as online password may not be correct.
24. Choose different credit card and fill in details.
a. Credit card declined as one must use Mastercard only.
25. Choose third credit card and fill in details.
a. Credit card declined as Mastercard is not French.
26. Seek out phone card in hostel.
a. Discover hostel does not sell phone cards
27. Ask where nearest Tabac is located and what time it closes
a. Vague direction and not sure of closing
28. Go out to find Tabac
a. After five minute walk, admit defeat as it is now 9pm
29. Return to room and attempt to use second telephone which is recharging
a. Discover telephone will now make call
30. Get online while calling bank with second telephone to explain the situation to different bank representative.
a. Discover password is rejected on personal bank website and access is denied.
b. Get put on hold to wait for rep to put through transfer.
31. Wait for bank representative to return until phone goes dead.
a. Discover second telephone has no more credit.
32. In morning, drive out to Tabac taking longer to drive than walk as an accident has shut down roadway.
a. Buy large money credit for phone
33. Attempt to put money on phone
a. Listen to very garbled French
34. Seek help at Tabac and have clerk put money onto phone
35. Return to computer and internet
36. Call bank representative to explain transfer and new problem of personal bank site inaccessibility.
a. Resolve inaccessibility issue
b. Confirm transfer limit has been raised and transfer is possible.
37. Make transfer with bank representative instructions.
38. Email party to whom transfer is to be sent to let them know it is coming
39. Receive email in two days stating accounts are frozen due to security check but if you call the number given, they’ll continue your transaction.
a. Note that email must be checked at café now as no internet is available in residence at this time.
40. Return home to get telephone and account information.
41. Call bank to confirm security details and continue with transaction.
42. Wait two days and check email in café to see if transfer has gone through
a. Discover online banking is unavailable because they are upgrading the website.
b. Repeat step 42
i. Discover wire transfer was successful

Steps to Buy a Car

The next two blogs are written as how-to’s. It boggle my mind how complicated some things are when you travel. Buying a car is a big event whether you are at home so it follows that it will be a bit more complicated when traveling. Here’s how we did it.

Steps to Buy a Car

1. Search internet sites for used car in England.
a. Discover no left-hand drive cars for sale nearby.
2. Decide to wait until France for more choice.
3. Search internet sites for used car in Paris.
a. Discover car outside of Paris
4. Practice French questions in head.
5. Leave apartment to make phone call on street because phones have no reception in apartment building.
6. Call Used Car salesman.
a. Discover number will not ring through.
7. Ask passerby for assistance.
a. Discover you must drop numbers in front in order to place call.
8. Dial number for Used Car salesman.
a. Discover he speaks English and determine car has been sold but another car is there
9. Use internet to locate Used Car Lot
a. Write down directions to walk from train station to Lot.
10. Take metro, transfer to train, walk.
a. Discover walking directions don’t work
11. Ask passerby for help
a. Locate map in garbage can and work out new route
12. Spend two hours discussing car and what can and cannot be done in France
a. Discover we need address in France to buy a car
i. Salesman offers to use his address
b. Discover car will be ready to test drive the next day
i. Agree to return next day
c. Discover must pay cash
i. Decide to pull out maximum allowable on both cards and Visa over a few days to cover amount
13. Return home and withdraw money.
14. Next day, withdraw money, take transit and then walk to Used Car Lot
15. Test drive car and agree to buy it.
a. Discover France requires special papers be submitted to police before purchasing but Salesman can do that.
16. Give copy of passport to Salesman.
17. Give Salesman money and agree to come back in two days after paperwork is complete and rest of money is available.
18. Withdraw money next day and travel out of Paris to Chartres.
19. Call Salesman to confirm all paperwork is in order and car is ready for pickup.
20. Take train, metro.
21. Stop in Paris to withdraw rest of money.
22. Get back on metro.
a. Discover that while one ticket is still good, the other has mysteriously expired.
23. Walk to next train station using map in head and signs along road.
24. Take train and then walk to Used Car Lot.
25. Complete paperwork transaction.
26. Drive together to buy insurance for car to avoid high premium monthly insurance at Car Lot.
a. Discover insurance will cost over 1000 Euros for year and only one year may be purchased.
27. Return to Car Lot to buy monthly insurance from Salesman who agrees to sell it to us at his rate and forego the profit he would normally get.
a. Discover only three months can be bought at a time.
i. Buy three months and then postdate the next three months
28. Discover paperwork for transfer of car will be sent to Salesman’s address but we need to keep it with the car.
a. Decide salesman will call when papers arrive and will pick them up in our name and then forward them to us in Provence in several weeks.
29. Travel north to Rouen.
30. Travel west to Cabourg.
31. Receive call from Salesman that papers have arrived after a few days.
a. Discover post office must forward them to us and he may not claim them.
32. Look for address of house. Find all but postal code and with no internet connection it will be impossible to get code. No one answers phone number we have for emergencies.
33. Call Salesman back with address and he agrees to get postal code. Must put our name on mailbox in front to help postman.
34. Look for mailbox.
a. Discover we have one but it needs a key.
35. Find keys.
a. Discover we have the key for the mailbox and there is A LOT of mail.
36. Discover postal code 25 times over.
37. Receive call from Salesman to confirm postal code.
38. Wait two days to sign for mail from a postlady to receive ownership papers.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A french dinner in Plevenon

After Cabourg we headed to Brittany, the province to the south. We stayed in an even smaller village there called, Plevenon. There are about four streets in this village and the main drag has a church, a butcher, a baker and a bar. All four are right out our back door. The first morning it was especially lovely to hear the symphony of bells that ring at 7:00am in the morning. It has been less lovely each successive morning but as the stores all open at 8:00am, I am thinking life starts at 8:00am in Brittany.

Our house here is quite lovely. It is an old farming complex. I am not sure what part we are in; possibly the barn or stables but it is hard to tell as it has been renovated so beautifully inside. The main house on the property is still occupied by the owner’s grandfather whose family has owned this land for a long time. The lady who runs the place speaks very little English but I was thrilled to be able to use my French with her and she actually understood me most of the time! The costumes helped.

We have no internet but the bar across the street has wifi access so Tom and I have been forced to spend hours at the bar. Our first night we met a very nice Irish man who lives here. His name is Tony McCarthy and he told us the Irish and Brittany have a long history together. He invited us to come to his house for dinner and told us he would leave a message with the bartender the next day if it would work with his family.

We wound up going over a couple of nights later. We first met his wife, two year old daughter and dog, all of whom were quite delightful. After a bit Tony’s wife, Manuela’s parent’s arrived and completed our grand party. They had just celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary. Both were born and raised in Brittany and didn’t speak English. This presented a bit of a challenge but through mime, bluff and guesswork we managed to communicate pretty well. I participated actively in wonderful French conversation during which I butchered their language quite thoroughly but they handled it with good grace. It was a wonderful evening filled with delicious food and great wines. We had a champagne with fois gras to start and then pork chops with veggies and a red wine to follow. It was all wonderful. I wouldn’t have thought to serve a champagne to start and wine with dinner and it seemed so French and so delicious. Manuela’s parents were such fun and had a wonderful warm sense of humour. After dinner, we had a galette which we have seen everywhere but haven’t tried. I did ask at the patisserie what it was but with my limited understanding I didn’t get the whole story.

The galette is served on the first Sunday of January or for a special occasion. It is a pie filled with an almond (frangipani) paste. Somewhere in the pie is hidden a small statue. Whoever receives the statue becomes “the king” and wears a crown. We saw some people in a park in Paris eating the pie and wearing crowns and we also saw the crowns sold with the galette so we knew there was some connection but we just didn’t have the full story. I forgot to ask where the tradition originated which is sure to have some interesting significance. At our dinner, Rhys found the statue and wore the crown quite well. We didn’t just have galette, however, but also had ice cream and a chocolate cake as well. I ate every last bite and thought I would explode!

We got talking about recipes and I asked Manuela’s mother, Helena to write down the recipe for crepes and galettes because she said they were very easy. Sadly, they are very easy when you’ve been making them all your life and add a bit of this and a pinch of that. They had no idea of exact amounts. Eventually, Jean-Pierre, Manuela’s father wrote down this recipe for me:

Crepes Jean-Pierre

5 kg farine blanche
3 litres lait
12 oeufs
Half litre rhum
Ajouter un peu de schnapps

Let me know how it turns out.

Mont Saint Michel

Just when you think you’ve seen all the coolest things in the world, you get to Mont Saint Michel. Archangel Micheal was a busy guy back in the middle ages. He convinced Joan of Arc to do battle with the English and he also spoke to the bishop of Avranches some five centuries earlier to whisper he should build an abbey on a rock. Sure enough, the King agreed this was a great idea and the building began.

The challenging thing about this whole project was that the rock was surrounded by water…but only at high tide. This made coming and going with supplies more interesting but the clever Norman/Britan/French (long story) people used a millennia old technique of floating the heavy stones out on barges as the water rose. This was first tried by the Egyptians back during the pyramid days and look how well THAT worked out. Once the stones were out there they had to haul them up the rock face to the top. The Egyptians used ramps angled up the sides of the pyramids but these people used the hamster wheel for a more direct pull. Six men would stand shoulder to shoulder with six other men in a large wheel. The wheel had cable wound around it attached to the two ton stone at the bottom of the rock. I assume the men would trudge rather than trot in the wheel as the stone was rather heavy but I could be wrong. They also used a sled thing with rollers on it to assist the stone’s movement up the side. This too was borrowed from the ancient Egyptians. They used this same technique to roll the heavy stone sarcophagi into the tombs.

To get to the top today, you run the tourist gauntlet of souvenir stores as you wind your way up through the village to the stairs leading into the imposing abbey fortress. One of the shops still sells omelettes, the way it did four hundred years ago. They have a whole tourist show going on now and many, many t-shirts, hats, bags and so on to help you remember them by but their omelettes are in the neighbourhood of $30 so only the very wealthy eat eggs at Mont Saint Michel.

The views from the abbey are understandably fabulous. We could see where the new dam has gone in. The bishop of Avranches had a good thing back in the 9th century and it just kept getting gooder over the centuries. Pilgrims from all over came to wade through the rising tidal waters to get to the abbey. By the 1800’s business was good enough that they put in a causeway to avoid ruining a perfectly good pair of shoes. This had the desired effect and today 3.5 million visitors a year flood the place. However, with the causeway there, the ocean could no longer surround the island and slowly, ever so slowly, the silt from each successive tide built up around the causeway until the abbey now sits at the end of a swampy peninsula.

Well, tourism has been good so they now have a plan to remove the silt build-up by tunneling under the causeway and creating a way for the water to wash around the island once more. The first phase was to build a dam. The dam plugs up the natural river that flows out near Mont Saint Michel. The dam is shut during high tide allowing the river to build up pressure. As the tide recedes, the dam is opened creating a flushing effect to help wash away the silt. Once most of the silt is gone they’ll be able to do the tunnel under the causeway and voila, they have an island again. Clever, eh?

Lovely Coastal Towns of Normandy

Cabourg was unexpectedly lovely. It is a small resort town on the coast near the D-Day beaches. We set up camp here to tour the beaches but as France closes in January, the Canadian D-Day centre at Juno beach didn’t open until the following week when we would be gone. This was less funny at the time. At any rate, we had some time to wander and wound up spending quite a fabulous couple of days exploring the town of Cabourg and the town of Dives-Sur Mer just a footbridge away.

At the end of our street was a little locked door for which we had the key. It led to the “beach” so we were told. This turned out to be a tributary of ocean water with a grassy bank on the side along which one could walk for about ten minutes to reach the ocean front. Cabourg beach was quite spectacular, all the more so because we had the whole beach to ourselves. Many lovely hotels and apartment blocks lined the waterfront and all were shuttered up tight. The beach carried on for several kilometers and so did the hotels. Towards the middle there was a huge casino. It is the first one we’ve seen on our trip and while not completely foreign to us, it certainly created a different feel for the place. It was open.

The next surprise was the architecture in the town. Obviously, anyone with money came to Cabourg and built their seaside nest. The places were spectacular and we took many, many pictures of various homes. We just couldn’t get enough of the interesting roof lines. A roof isn’t simply a covering over your head here. It is an invitation to create more living space. There were windows, gables, observatories, towers, and even what looked like additional rooms built out from the slope. It made our boxy Canadian homes seem so dull and we now have a bold new plan for our attic space.

Another lovely town was Honfleur. This is where Samuel de Champlain set sail for Canada back in the 17th century. He discovered the Saint Lawrence river and founded the little village of Quebec. The people who sailed with him probably came from around the Normandy area as well. His bust is here in Honfleur and we saw a sailboat flying the Quebec flag. The town is extraordinarily picturesque with a manmade square harbour around which rise many colourful tall, skinny buildings. Many of these places would have been around when Samuel de Champlain walked the streets. It has a strong Scandanavian influence beginning with its name. It means Hon’s place or shelter after the first man who settled in the area. Many of the shops were galleries, evidence of the pull this place has had on painters over the centuries. Monet stayed here at one time and many impressionists painted the harbour which looked strangely familiar to me when we arrived.

The church at Honfleur was another enjoyable surprise. You’d think after all the churches they’d become monotonous but this one was fun. It was built of wood rather than stone. It wasn’t laid out the usual way and looked suspiciously like the hull of an upside down boat. Our boy Rick, said this was because the people who built it were really good shipbuilders but hadn’t a clue about cathedral architecture. Because it is made of wood, several trees didn't grow to the same height and as you can see in the picture they had to adjust for this. You can also see the ceiling in the back of the photo. When they finished, they realized it wasn’t big enough so built another one alongside it. Then they had to expand again and added a side section to the left and right of the main area. The result is a very different looking church but we all agreed we liked it more. It had a very warm feel inside because of all the wood and seemed somehow more community oriented and less grandiose. The bell tower had to be built next to the church as a separate building because the weight of the bell would be too heavy for the wood beams of the church to support. It made for a couple of very unusual looking structures.

Speaking of unusual structures, Rhys already regaled you with the tale of the Bayeux tapestry but I couldn’t resist including this one last picture from that day. This ship is cutting edge technology for 1066. This is the kind of boat William and his boys used to sail across the English channel to win back the crown stolen by Harold. Not only were the soldiers and all their armour and weapons in the boats but also their horses! And they WON.

We had many great days touring small towns. These cute little places made up for the hours we had to spend at McDonalds using their free Wifi to connect with the outside world.

From Rouen to Cabourg

Our drive from Rouen made me realize why having a car is so fabulous. It also made me realize how tourists can have accidents on roads that are fairly straight and obvious. The views and towns were spectacular. Everything is quaint and lovely to a foreigner like me. There were so many little Snow White cottages with thatched rooves and Tudor siding. I hadn’t thought about how close France and England would be in architectural style so it was a surprise to see what looked like little English villages dotting the countryside. It makes sense, of course, given their intertwined history.

We stopped in a little town called Jumiege to see the ruins of an abbey. The ruins were so charming. We’ve seen a LOT of cathedrals, abbeys and churches but somehow seeing it in ruins was new and delightful. It was fun to identify where the chapels had been inside and how the transept crossed the nave. The last remains of the walls soared over our heads and without a ceiling on top made them seem even higher. They were somehow enchanting and magical in a way that all the intact cathedrals hadn’t been. There was a chess board on the ground and the kids played a game while Tom and I browsed the gift shop. We never buy anything but we all enjoy the browse. I think there is probably a documentary in there somewhere entitled, “Gift shops: a study of culture”.

From there we drove to Etretat, a small town on the Normandy coast to see the French version of the white cliffs of Dover. This place must be hopping in the summer but there was nary a soul around on our tour. We passed a slew of closed up restaurants and shops thereby reinforcing our belief that France is closed in January. It’s true. After several weeks of touring around we can attest to this. We found a place that was open and busy…probably because it was the ONLY place open but the food was good anyway. I had the Normandy special “Moules de la crème”. Although this sounds somewhat disgusting, it is actually mussels not moles and was absolutely delicious. I sent my mother the recipe so call her if you’d like to try it.

We climbed the cliffs after lunch and it was C O L D. The wind blows off the ocean and the clouds were gathering so a light rain was whipping around off and on. The wind was so strong we decided to stay well away from the edge of the trail closest to the cliffs lest one of us be smote. We saw German bunkers on the way up but they were sealed off so offered no respite. I was warm enough for once but Tom and Julia hadn’t brought a hat and both were getting headaches from the bite of the wind so we kept the walk short. The pictures are great but they still don’t do justice to the amazing sea-foam green colour of the water below.

We drove on towards Cabourg where our “home of the week” was situated. We got to cross the Pont de Normandie, the largest cable stayed bridge in Europe. The bridge was quite fantastic and reminded us of the Alex Fraser. It crosses the Seine river as it empties out into the Atlantic and it felt significant to see the end of this famous river. Our new Tom Tom, Pierre was very helpful guiding us along the way right to the door of our home away from home some time later.

The Eiffel Tower; the most visited paid attraction in the world

It was nice to see the tower for the first time from the top of Notre Dame. Since Notre Dame is quite far from the tower it wasn’t really that impressive and seemed kind of small. We were a little far away from it most of the week and it looked a little rust coloured. We went to the Eiffel Tower on our last day in Paris. This was mainly due to ticket schedules; you have to group all the Paris museums in a agroup to make the six day museum pass payoff to the maximum. So much for first impressions, that final day we actually visited. It was suddenly larger, and the colour was much improved. We had reserve tickets for 4:30 so that we could see the tower in daylight as well as lit up at night. We were able to go to the

second level but not the top as it was closed that day. We were lamenting this when we overheard a woman say that “this was her third trip to Paris and she finally was able to get to the second level”. I guess the top isn’t open that often. The views were spectacular none the less. I think we did our sightseeing in the correct order as we were able to view what we had spent the last 10 days visiting on foot. We spent a good two and a half hours on top. Once evening arrived we took a few more pictures and headed down. The real pictures are from the ground as the tower is all lit up. It really hit home that you were in Paris, France.

A few tidbits.

Eiffel financed, oversaw the construction of and produced all the steel for his tower. He even had a hand in the design.

The tower was to be removed 20 years after the Paris world fair in1889 when the permit ran out.

In the 80s negotiations took place to temporarily relocate the tower in Montreal for the Montreal Expo.

People of Paris hated the tower initially. I guess the world has always been the same. It is easy to take the negative position on anything. Just read any newspaper from any city on any day.