home page

about us
       about us

see The Beast
       see the beast

our photo album
       our photo album

explore tucson
       explore tucson

other links

email us
       email us

sign our guest book
       sign our guest book

home page



Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 5
Europe 2003
Paris, London, Provence


David and Carol 2003 
09.14.03 - 09.15.03
Sunday / Monday
Days 1 and 2
The Journey Begins
In Memory of Dotti Lehrman
May 30, 1927 - November 2, 2003

Our Magnificent Journey continues...

For those of you who wonder why we always return to the same places: we invite you to read on...


We can't believe we are off once again to the magic of the great cities of Paris and London. On this trip we are adding Provence to the itinerary. We rose early and took Cody for a walk in the cool, brisk end-of-summer Tucson morning. Fed carrots and apples to our horse friends Lisa and Bandit. Having spent a frantic Saturday evening with last-minute packing and various logistics, it is nice to relax for a bit with Cody. We will miss her, but she will have lots of fun with her friend Mary, who once again will house-sit.

We were picked up by an amicable All-State taxi driver and had a pleasant ride through sleepy Tucson. Arrived at Tucson International Airport and passed through an uneventful security check, grabbed a muffin, and talked about adventures to come . . .
It gives me great joy to be involved in one of my favorite pastimes - inscribing another chapter of Our Magnificent Journey...
The Journal
As I sit and write these first words of this chapter of Our Magnificent Journey, I daydream in anticipation of the wonders that await us in the Old World.
After a short wait at TIA we board Continental Flight 3498, a EMB145-XR model to Houston. The smallest commercial jet airline we've ever been on - not much larger than a Lear Jet, I think.
Observation: You know you're getting older when you are attracted to the features of the Sharper Image's nose-hair trimmer in Sky Mall.
Smooth flight into Houston's Intercontinental Airport. Tram and hike to the International Terminal for a 3 hour wait/rest for our 6:30 pm flight to Paris. Carol makes her first of many visits to the ladies room.
It has finally just hit me that I do NOT have my cellphone chained to my body and stuck like glue to my ear. No one really knows where I am (I did bring a cellphone but only ICOE (in case of emergencies) and only a few people know the number.) What a glorious feeling. I intend to bathe in it for a while. To say that we have been going hard at it at work for the past two years would be like saying that Pepe Romero knows a little bit about playing the guitar. It has been non-stop, and I am not complaining, but I intend to fully enjoy the experience of some downtime alone with my bride of eight years. The business could not be in more capable hands with Chris and Dan at the helm, so barring any extreme crises, I am going to be "A Free Man in Paris, unfettered and alive, nobody calling me up for favors, yada yada" (apologies to Joni Mitchell.)
Sunset somewhere over Kentucky
The time passed quickly in Houston and soon we boarded the familiar, massive Continental 777. The personal monitor in the back of each seat welcomed us aboard in several different languages as the plane filled (actually half-filled) with travelers. We snuggled in, made our little corner of the plane as comfortable as possible, and watched as American soil receded thousands of feet below.
Continental welcomes you in several differenct languages.
We notice that most of the passengers are speaking French, as is the crew, so I must depend on Carol for translation. She and I have made an agreement - she will translate while we are in France, and I will translate while we are in London. It's the least I can do... After all, she has (as usual) made all of the preparation and arrangements in her impeccable manner. We are insanely super-organized.
Slightly more than halfway across the Atlantic.
I have a journeyman's understanding of and the utmost respect for modern physics, but it still never ceases to amaze me how they manage to get these megaton behemoths into the air and keep them there. Au revoir, mes amies...
Carol and I are most certainly avid advocates of Continental Airlines. Each trip to Europe on Continental has been on time, comfortable and fun. The crews have all been friendly and accommodating, and the food has been excellent, as has been the selection of entertainment via the personal entertainment center. If you have to spend 9 hours in a steel bus with wings, you might as well be able to relax and enjoy the ride. I always enjoy the accurate GPS location notices and I find myself fascinated as we inch our way across the screen, across the great expanse of America, across the wide Atlantic and into European airspace. The first landfall across the Pond is almost always Land's End in England. It has always been the last landfall on our way home as well.
Carol gets comfy.
I cannot sleep on planes on long flights like this. At 10:00 am Paris time the pilot banked the plane inland at Brest, the first sight of land for many hours. We skirted the English channel for a while. It is now 1:00 am Tucson time but we are so excited that sleep is impossible. I watched Finding Nemo in the dim cabin, most of the other passengers asleep as we rushed headlong through several time zones. At this point my body has no idea what time it should be and has surrendered to some rather strong Continental coffee. In addition to the movie, I have been reading an interesting book on the history of London, called "London, the Biography" by Peter Ackroyd.
Touchdown at Charles de Gaulle airport was about 20 minutes early. God bless Continental. We cannot praise their service and efficiency enough.
Charles de Gaulle airport is a funky, old, post-WWII facility, bustling and smoky (no non-smoking areas here, to be sure.) The day is bright and sunny with clear blue skies. Paris awaits. We phoned for the hotel shuttle and took in the multi-flavored aural smorgasbord.
We shared the hotel shuttle with an older Spanish gentleman and his quite obvious mistress (maybe his daughter? Nahhh... this is Paris after all...)
Happy to be in Paris once again...
At last we arrive in Paris. It is very, very eerie, as if we have never left. No, it more like being in the presence of a dear friend after an absence of too many years. As I write these words it is 4:00 am Tucson-time, and here we are sitting in the shade at a café in the shadow of my most cherished man-made structure in the world - Notre Dame. People are flowing by our café table like the water below us in the Seine. It is a timeless energy. We are in a daze of disbelief. It literally is as if the 2 ½ years since we last sat in these very same seats never happened. I have already purchased my first box of Cuban Cohiba minis and I am enjoying a tasty German beer while Carol sips a glass of Beaujolais. Paris is ours once again. It is totally a timeless city. There is no one on this planet that I would rather be re-experiencing this with than the gorgeous woman sitting next to me. The weather could not be more perfect. The blue sky is cloudless, the temperature is in the low 70s and there is a delightful breeze wafting across the Seine.
Timeless Notre Dame...
The stones of Notre Dame have always had some strange attraction to me, ever since I first laid eyes on them in 1971. Since I have already reminisced about them in earlier chapters, I won't repeat myself (too much) now, but it is a blessing to be once again in the presence of such a glorious, majestic, perfect cathedral.
Our hotel, the Hotel St. Jacques on Rue des Ecoles, is a stone's throw from the wonderful hotel (the Hotel des Grandes Ecoles) we stayed at on our last trip in 2001. Our room was not yet ready, so we locked our overnight bags in a storage room and walked along St. Germaine des Pres (one of Carol's favorite boulevards) to Isle de la Cite. The Hotel St. Jacques is where Cary Grant's movie Charade was filmed.
Hotel St. Jacques
Stairwell at the Hotel St. Jacques
We spent the afternoon strolling up St. Germaine des Pres window-shopping. Stopped on the way back to the hotel for cheese sandwiches and fell into bed at 3:00 pm for some much needed sleep. At this point we had been up roughly 24 hours straight. Our hotel is wonderfully ancient. The room is small and our two large French windows open on to the busy Rue des Ecoles, and although there is much noise from the street one floor below, we have no trouble napping.
Waking at 6:00 pm we showered and reinvigorated ourselves. I called Chris and Dan and Carol's folks to let them know that we had safely arrived in the City of Light.
At 7:30 we strolled down to Notre Dame where I relaxed with a Pepsi and Carol had a vin de maison at a small brasserie a stone's throw from the south side of Notre Dame. We are near the Quai de Montebello along the left bank of the Seine. The air is cool as the sun sets to the west of the Eiffel Tower. I have just spent $6.50 US for a Pepsi, but hey, I got to enjoy it in one of the most incredible places on the planet.
dml in the square to the west of Notre Dame
Spent more than an hour wandering in and around Notre Dame. It is dark now and the square directly in front of the grand cathedral is bustling with hundreds of people of all ages and nationalities. There are break-dancers and artists among lovers and friends. The blend of faces and languages fascinates us. I am always so emotionally moved by this place. The effect it has had on me since the first time I experienced it so many years ago is inexplicable.
One of the world's great architectural masterpieces, the Cathedral of Notre Dame dominates the skyline of central Paris with its lacy façade and its two solid rectangular towers. It has fascinated artists and writers over the centuries and was the setting for Victor Hugo's famous novel Notre-Dame de Paris (the Hunchback of Notre Dame) whose hero, the bell-ringer Quasimodo, has become a figure of legend. "A vast symphony in stone" is how the novelist described it.
The east of Notre Dame
For over 800 years the history of Paris has unraveled around the cathedral. It's towers have looked down upon wars, revolutions, executions, pilgrimages and today, a virtually unceasing stream of tourists. It is one of the symbols not only of Paris but of France itself, and appropriately, set into the ground just in front of the main doorway, is a brass plaque marking the zero point from which all distances in Paris are measured.
Point Zero in front of Notre Dame
The site of Notre-Dame has been a place of worship since pagan times, when a temple to Jupiter stood there. Later came two adjacent Christian churches, one to the Virgin Mary and the other to St. Stephen. These were removed in the 12th century when the building of Notre-Dame began - a process that was to take nearly 200 years. By 1330 the cathedral stood complete in its essential form, although in the 17th and 18th centuries sweeping internal alterations were carried out. During the Revolution, most of the statues of the portals and choir chapels were destroyed, the bells were melted down, the treasures were plundered, and the cathedral became a Temple of Reason.
The south bank of Notre Dame
In the mid-19th century, a magnificent restoration was carried out by the architect and restorer of ancient buildings, Viollet-le-Duc, who replaced hundreds of destroyed carvings as well as building a new spire and creating new vaults and walls. He aspired not only to restoring the existing building but to help it to be what he felt it should have been - Gothic above all things.
Eleven million people visit Notre-Dame each year. It is a wonder that it does not feel more like a railway station.
We walked east of Notre Dame to Isle St. Louis and sat at Brasserie de Isle St. Louis and had beer and assorted cheeses (me) and salad and house red wine (Carol.) The night air is cool as we gaze at the lights of Paris reflecting off the rippling waters of the Seine.
The Seine at night
We then walked along the narrow streets of Isle St. Louis, perusing menus at many small, intimate restaurants. We came across several youngsters taking a night tour of Paris on Segways, two-wheeled, battery-operated, stand-up, people-moving vehicles invented by Dean Kamen of the USA. They looked fun and we took a brochure in case we get the nerve to try it.
A short stroll back to Notre Dame and across the Seine found us at the Hotel St. Jacques where we collapsed into bed after a long and glorious first day...

Next Day


 copyright 1998 / david and carol lehrman / all rights reserved
email david@davidandcarol.com