“It’s not August Alex, why am I getting this post? If I wanted spring reading I’d go by a book, or read a magazine.”
“I know already!”
“But, March is cold in France whereas August is warm and besides Paris is packed in March. You are causing climate change!”
“Well, suppose your daughter went off to college, scored up a 3.7 and asks you to take her to Paris for spring break? By the way, you promised her in August 2005, when you left for Paris, to take her when she graduated from high school. ‘I will when you graduate from high school. Yes of course I promise, sweetheart!’
“Okay daddy, I’m calling in your marker March 10, 2012.”
Sunday Morning, March 10 – So — here I am in Paris with Claire. However there is a bit more as you may well have guessed from the post title. No, no one is in “Dutch”. Most assuredly I scored pretty high on the daddy scale when I confirmed her ticket to Paris. Claire met a boy from Holland last semester. Rotterdam or a small town close by. Seems Angelo State University, where Claire is studying nursing, has a strong foreign outreach program. Who knew? I’d be interested to know what these San Angelo, TX bound foreign students’ perspective is on the United States. It ain’t New York dahlin. In her spare time at college, Claire decided to take up salsa dancing and it seems that is where the foreign students go for fun. He’s a beautiful and wonderfully nice young man. I really rang up the big daddy points when I told Claire I would include a train trip to Rotterdam for three days four hours after we touched down. She just got on the train. Pretty well got my old age care covered.
Tuesday Morning, March 13 – Off to Gare du Nord (North Station) to retrieve Claire. Just as I was leaving I spilled coffee onto my laptop keyboard which I felt necessary not to allow it to dry on its own. This place is small! The dining table is just large enough to hold my laptop and two cups of coffee. Consequently, I arrived about fifteen minutes late. Could not find Claire at the place we agreed to meet. Big train station. I searched for nearly an hour and finally located her at the originally agreed spot. Blue, teary-eyed, tired, terrified. Seems her iPhone died from lack of electricity. Since I was late she went off in search of me which is why I didn’t see her. Trains in the night. Long term care on one leaving the station.
Some hugs and kisses later we exited the train station to one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever seen in Paris. We decided to walk down to central Paris. Along the way we saw a sawed in half pig hanging from the back of a beat up delivery truck. I started to take a photograph when suddenly an angry Arab appeared shouting, “Pas des photos!” He made a menacing gesture stepping towards my Leica. Mantra: “Life before Leica. Preferably his.” In English, I responded as calmly and quietly as possible, “No problem. We go.” I didn’t want to chance him thinking I was from anywhere near this neighborhood as if he couldn’t tell from my horrible French. We took the first Metro south to central Paris. We grabbed some lunch at the Angelique Café et Salon de Thé very famous overlooking the Tuileries Gardens next door a five star 1,500-dollars-a-night hotel. Not the sawed pig place. Claire seemed exhausted so I suggested we go have a rest at the apartment. She went to sleep immediately and slept until it was time to meet Michelle, my Parisian friend, for diner.
Wednesday morning, March 14: Back to Gare du Nord to pick up our rental car. We are going East to find the ancestral land of Labry. Yes there is a village in Lorraine Province named Labry. It’s up near Luxembourg and Germany. (Side note: Contact me before you rent a car in Paris. This is a case of don’t do as I did. Do as I say to do.) We started off by not getting the car I paid for, not getting the amenities I paid for, not getting the insurance coverage I expected, and were required to pay an extra 33 euros to pick up the car at this incredibly inconvenient place, Gare du Nord. Bait and switch par excellent! No choice take it or go, paid in advance. Off we go to the East. Four hundred and fifty km later we arrived in the home town of Joan of Arc, Domremy. We stayed close by in the small town of Neufchateau at a hotel next to the river Muse. A lovely country meal which included a delicious vegetable I’d never heard of and some local wine which I likely will not drink again.
Thursday morning, March 15: Off to Labry, France. Well I don’t know if this is the exact village where we are from but it’s likely close. A father and son Joseph Mignault or something like that, left here sometime around 1640-1660 for New France. (Canada) All I know is the original family name was not Labry but upon arriving in Quebec became known as “dit Labry” Seems the Québécois French had a way of calling people by the region or area they originated from in the old country, thus we became Labry. Not Labrie, not ever La Bry, and not La Brie but Labry. The Labry spelling is old French, Brie is new spelling. That’s all I know. Quit Quebec in 1763 for Louisiana. Rest is history. By the way Labry France is about 900 or so years old.
Lunch time in Labry doesn’t offer much in the way of fancy French cuisine. However, we found the local artesian bakery and ordered sandwiches. I struck up conversation with the baker’s wife who worked the counter. Well okay conversation really isn’t the proper terminology for what communication occurred between us. This is a case of her English was worse than my French. Never-the-less I did communicate to her our family name and her eyes opened very wide. No Labry’s in Labry. C’est la vie. She called her husband, daughter, and son to meet us. Fifteen minutes of fame filled smiles later she gave Claire a box of hand-made bon bons as a gift. Schnapps filled chocolate balls. We ate our sandwiches in the garden of the 12th century church.
That afternoon we drove to Verdun battlefield. If you don’t know of or never heard of Verdun you should know this is the place where WWW I was fought. Well, okay, not entirely but for 10 months of 1916 the Germans and French blasted and bayoneted over 698,000 of themselves to death. Historians claim a French victory. On the way back to Paris we stopped in Reims to visit the cathedral. I made a silent prayer for “peace in our time”.
We drove back to Paris, parked the car and went to diner at the most wonderful Vietnamese restaurant I’ve ever been to. Two doors down from our apartment is this little place that looks like a combination fire works vendor and video game parlor. Three table place. Four if you include where the owner sat counting the days receipts. We arrived just before closing. The man’s son was the waiter and a cook somewhere below to where the dumb-waiter transported our order and from which our food was delivered.
Friday March 16: We returned to garage to retrieve the car paid 64 euros ($84.50) to fill up the car and 32 euros parking. ($42.25). Fortunately the tank wasn’t empty nor did we stay the for 24 hours. Next time you think about high gas prices, say a silent prayer. Another spectacular day of sunshine and cool weather so we walked, talked and shopped.
Saturday Morning, March 17: The sun which we enjoyed turned to rain and cold for Claire’s departure. Entering the metro, we found the ticket clerk was on a break of some undetermined length. The sign read, “I’ll return after some minutes.” Since, we had no time to spare and there was no other window to buy a train ticket, we did what any law-abiding French citizen would do, we jumped the turnstiles. Claire was a bit taken back by her dad urging her on but she took it all in stride and shrugged her shoulders when it was over. We laughed over our croissants at the airport.