Sunday, January 31, 2016


 Our last morning in Paris was cold and rainy.  The day before, the girls and I had visited a perfume store near our hotel.  They had decided that there was a men's cologne that "turned them on".  It was Paco Rabanne pour Homme.  I went back to that store the next day and bought a bottle.  A year later, my brother got married and honeymooned in Paris.  I asked him to pick up another bottle of that cologne at the same shop as before.  He did.  I still have both bottles some 40+ years later.  I don't suppose it would smell quite the same.  I dare not try.
 We flew to Barcelona, which was the last real stop on our 21-day tour.  Barcelona was sunny and hot.  When we would land at an airport, the officials would breeze us through, because we were in a tour group.  I thought Barcelona would be the same, so I got my luggage and headed to the front door to catch our bus.  I heard a man yell behind me, "Alto!  Alto!".  I just kept walking and thinking that I was more of a baritone.  Then, a Spanish soldier stuck a machine gun in my face and yelled "Alto!".  I learned that he was telling me to stop.  I also learned that it is important to know a little of the language.  He ushered me back to Customs.  I tried to tell him that I was not bringing in anything, but he pushed me with his gun to stand in a line that I really didn't need to be in. 
 Spain was still controlled by Franco in 1973.  His picture was everywhere, and we found Barcelona to be rather boring, compared to some of the other cities we had been to like Paris, London, Berlin, Lucerne, and others.  After we got to our hotel and checked in, the girls and I went walking.   They found a dress shop that I had to go with them, as I was their protector.  Boring.  We found an open-air market, where people sold fruits and vegetables.  Boring.  We then found a nine-store department store.  That was more interesting.  I used to say that when a store said that they sold everything, my question would always be--"Do they sell trees?"  If the answer was no, then they didn't sell everything.  This store sold everything.  One regret was that I didn't buy the Spanish Beatles albums, but I wasn't into collecting records at that time.  As I was looking through the records, I noticed that the girls were gone.  I couldn't have Mr. Vivian yelling at me again for losing them, so I went running through the store (all nine floors).  They were nowhere to be found.  After much searching, I went downstairs to the first floor and waited for them.  They showed up, and it turned out that they were looking for me, as I was looking for them.  We were going around in circles.
 The next day, we toured Barcelona.  We went to a big cathedral; the Picasso museum; a Columbus statue; and a glass-blowing place.  One of our tour members bought a sword-shaped letter opener.  She tried to take it on the plane, but they wouldn't let her have it.  They never asked me about the knife I carried with me for protection.  Go figure.
 One of the people on our tour was a Spanish teacher.  It turned out that she couldn't read the menu, because her Spanish was different.  When we flew into the airport the day before, we saw a beach.  The girls and I wanted to go to the beach, but the hotel guy said that it was 40 miles away.  So, we didn't go.  The girls wanted to call home, because we were flying out the next day back to the States.  The hotel desk clerk said that the telephone lines were down due to a recent forest fire.  We found out later that he just didn't want to be bothered.  He directed us to the local post office, and they had phones that worked.  So, those were the phones we used.  I hear that Barcelona is better now, since they hosted the Olympics.  I hope so.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


 We toured Paris on a Sunday.  I was so looking forward to using my 5 years of French.  While waiting for our bus, a French man approached me.  He started speaking very fast in French.  I couldn't understand a word he said.  I knew he was asking for directions, but that was about it.  I had to tell him that I didn't know, because I was an American.  My ego was deflated.  I found out later that they teach French spoken on the Riviera in American schools.  Parisian French is different.  Oh well.
 Our first stop was the Louvre.  Beautiful artwork.  We also went to the Modern Art museum.  The group thought that I could interpret the paintings, especially of Picasso.  I just made up meanings, and everybody said they could see the meanings I was saying.  Weird.
 While we were at the modern art museum, there was a guy on roller skates and an umbrella doing his art.  People were giving him money for opening and closing the umbrella.  I guess art is in the eye of the beholder. 
 We didn't get to go to the Eiffel Tower, but we did see it from an overlook.  The girls had their pictures taken on the ledge.  It was the same spot that Hitler had viewed the tower some 30 years before.  We did go to the Arc de Triumphe.  The cars were whizzing by and there were no traffic lights.  I almost got killed twice to get the pictures I wanted.  But, I got them. 
 That night, the girls went to bed, so I walked over to the park that I had been to the night before.  It was cold and misty.  As I was sitting by the fountain, I saw a man approach me.  I got up and started to walk away.  He continued to follow me.  I figured that he was probably out to rob me, so I proceeded to walk a little faster.  He did too.  By this time, I was getting toward a street.  There were a few cars going by, so I ran in between two cars to try and shake him.  He followed me through the traffic.  I found a street more heavily traveled.  I ran between more cars, and he stopped chasing me.  I doubled back to the hotel to make sure I had lost him.  Maybe he was friends with Sam, Omar and Sam from Jerusalem.  I don't know.  But, I thought that folks only got mugged in New York, not Paris.  I am glad I didn't become a statistic.  I am also glad I didn't have to explain it to a policeman, as he wouldn't be able to understand my French, and I wouldn't be able to understand him.
 After I got back to the hotel, the girls wanted to go for ice cream at a restaurant nearby.  The waitress was rude to us.  After all, we were Americans. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Train

 We left Lucerne the next morning on the train bound for Paris.  The girls and I got a private compartment.  Mr. Vivian didn't want us to close the blinds to the corridor.  I guess he didn't want any hanky panky going on in there.  We used the seats as two beds and took turns lying down using a leg of someone else as a pillow.
 The train took us through the Alps on the way to Paris.  It was an all-day trip.  Somewhere along the way, the train picked up a group of Portuguese soldiers.  They were supposed to be in second class, but they spilled out onto the corridor outside our compartment.  They went a little crazy, when they saw the girls.  I tried to keep them from opening the door to our first class place.  They were banging on the glass.  The conductor showed up and cleared the aisle.  He made them go back to second class, but they soon came back.  I was wearing the wedding ring from the play to help in protection of the girls.  One of the soldiers was drooling over seeing Sandra, so I pointed at my ring and pointed at her.  He pointed at his finger with no ring and pointed at her.  He laughed.  We didn't.  What was it about us and run-ins with soldiers?  The conductor came back and this time he barred them from our area. 
 We went to the dining car to get something to eat, and Sandra broke a tooth.  When we got to Paris, she couldn't eat.  I checked with the concierge about a dentist.  It was Saturday night.  I phoned a dentist, who spoke little English, but he worked at the American Hospital.  (Go figure)  I told him in French that it was an emergency.  Sandra was in pain.  The dentist didn't want to leave his house, so he told me that it wasn't an emergency, and for her to take some aspirin and find some candle wax to put on the spot.  She could wait until getting back home in 4 days.  It was not the news we wanted to hear, but we got some wax from the concierge, and Sandra went to bed.  The other girls wanted to relax, so I went out walking in the neighborhood that night.  I found a nice park with a fountain.  I sat for an hour and reflected on the trip so far.  I had wanted to go out to Maxim's for dinner, but that didn't work out.  At least, my five years of French helped a bit.