Will Paris Ever Be The Same?
We drove to Paris Elsa and me, and I did a U-turn on the Champs Elysees.
There was no traffic coming the other way, but Place de la Concorde looked busy. And they were all heading toward us!
After the whole trip, Elsa told everyone that I “made a U-turn on the Champs-Elysees” It happened, and we did not die.
I loved that Elsa told everyone about that!
Elsa spoke Afrikaans, English, and Northern Sotho; fluently. So What happened with Elsa?
This dear lady never even tried to read French before, and she was navigating. She looked at the map – the paper kind – and compared it with the road signs in the downtown core of Paris and got us to our hotel!
Elsa could travel the earth, equipped with an iron frying pan and a compass.
Dinner may start out with a meal, but this is Paris! Who knows where you’ll end up? They have everything, but remember, it’s all French!
There are live shows with dancing at the Moulin Rouge. The streets are active all the time. Be outrageous; stay up all night ….maybe have another dinner. Take in a fashion show! How do these people stay so thin?
Elsa HAD To See Versailles!
We drove to Versailles, 15 miles outside Paris. At 679,784 sq ft, it is one of the grandest palaces in the world. (The largest is in Brunei at 2,152,782 sq. ft.!) If you like gold leaf, the inside of the palace is mesmerizing. We could not take it all in.
The foyer could house 300 people. Take a walk down that echoey corridor and go – where? It is just-so–big, with 2,300 rooms! What we saw was opulent, with hanging tapestries and velvet drapes on the huge windows. NO central heating; must have been chilly. The walls were about 3 feet thick. The kitchen was two floors down! Oy!
The gardens outside are gorgeous! Acres of flowers, shrubs, gazebos, and manicured lawns.
There are summer rooms and huts for the groundskeepers.
Versailles is worth around $50.8 billion today.
This is a pot-of-gold property! But I think it is priceless.
From Calais, we boarded the hovercraft for a one-hour crossing to Dover. The English Channel is very choppy but the hovercraft skipped over the waves. Why didn’t we see this Hover-thing before?
Skip To My Lou My Darling
Since I was driving on the left, Elsa, to my right, navigated and told me when I could pass the car in front. She was my co-pilot-for-England! I needed her!
We were like Keystone Cops, darting in and out. We only took a few chances for the greater good. We didn’t think of hazards; we were in England and planned to see and do as much as possible.
The highways in UK are narrow, winding, and fast! And, about two hours ago we were on the right side of the road. “You drove on both sides of the road, in-the-same–day”, Elsa said. But, it could be scary.
I, automatically, at times, went to the right side of the road. After a shrill screech, with Elsa behind that sound, I went back to the left side of the road. Just an adjustment, that’s all. Not a train crash.
Do We Understand, Yet?
We found a hotel and went to dinner there.
The waitress told us about the specials and ‘what had gotten into them’.
She explained about the “keen prices” and the “rarity” of the best ingredients. She asked if “we were comfortable”. (I think).
She told us to “put petrol in our car from the nearest accessible repository”…..We did.
Our lovely waitress had a Scottish accent, which the locals understood, but we had to work on every word.
It was too fast for us.
We pointed at each other and said: “no, ok, let’s do that, we can share; same thing”, or words to that effect.
We drank warm beer while waiting for dinner. Later, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding were served. WITH crispy roast potatoes, watercress, and horseradish.
There was freshly baked bread with brown gravy, grilled sweet potato, and chives on the side.
Bite your tongue for even thinking about fast food.
Dinner could not be rushed. We spent two hours considering every bite.
We drove into London. As big cities go, London is impressive. It ranks right up there with Madrid, Paris, and….well, London! At least we could speak the language. We thought.
The next day, we traveled Oxford St. and remember, they know we are tourists.
Please don’t give money to strangers who promise to give you psychic readings on the internet, sometime in the future.
You know better than that.
Later we hailed a taxi and he asked: “wheryagoingirls?” We answered: (very loud) I-beg-your-pardon?
“Sowhotsup? Stepinoutaryas?” We said, authoritatively “yes we’ll get out here and talk-with-the-people”.
He raised his eyebrows and smiled. How gallant. I thought I could do English.
Back at our hotel, this time. we bravely ordered dinner. We looked at the menu, and we pointed at a picture. They tried to talk us out of it; we were getting impatient.
It was haggis and they refused to make it. Elsa would not have minded, but I wanted to eat “fun food”.
Haggis is not fun-food.
We agreed to let the haggis go 🙂 and settled on a french onion soup followed by veal chops and scallop potatoes.
Yes, with red wine, freshly baked bread, green beans, blue cheese, and a decadent dessert.
Dinner was included with our room! I know, hey?
Winding our way back to the English Channel we took the ferry to Holland.
Let me compare this ferry ride to the hovercraft from Calais. There is NO comparison.
A Four Hour Crossing
The ferry takes four hours to cross the channel. The seas are rough!
We were recklessly tossed around like little buoys. (Our egos were very bruised).
Butterflies in our stomach? No; they left a long time ago.
In The Netherlands…..back on the right side of the road; it was comical. I spent the first twenty minutes making u-turns, forgetting which lane I needed to be in.
When all else fails, listen for the screech!
This land is a wonderful experience. There was a new language challenge, but Elsa spoke Afrikaans.
That’s Dutch! AND….nine out of ten people speak English.
Wow, I was lucky this time!
First and most important, we went for the locally made french fries.
In Holland, fries are served with mayonnaise. I resisted the mayonnaise thing up till then. When that intoxicating smell overcame us, we ordered from the ‘pomme frit’ stand. I usually asked for ketchup.
Their body language said it all! They knew we were foreigners. I couldn’t risk the rejection so I gave in. This time, I took the mayonnaise. I was changed forever! Never going back!
My family still doesn’t understand the mayo thing. Does that make me odd? You bet it does!
Besides dikes and windmills, The Netherlands is flat. A perfect place for cycling.
Bicycles make up 36% as a form of transportation. Bicycle paths lie between the road lanes and the parked cars. This is a tight squeeze.
When a car parks, the driver doesn’t look to see the cyclist coming up on his left.
The driver opens his door and the cyclist gets wasted by the motorist.
Seems to be a daily occurrence because they get up, dust themselves off, exchange pleasantries, and move on. That went well.
Sometimes it is not so simple and there are fists flying and words……Lawsuits.
The tulip festival in Keukenhof is open from mid-March to mid-May and you don’t want to miss it.
The colors and sheer magnitude of the displays are staggering. How long had they been doing this, I wondered?
In 1635 a merchant paid around 5,000 guilders for a single tulip bulb. This was more than 2 1/2 times what Rembrandt charged for The Night Watch painting. It is equivalent to in excess of $500,000 US today and could pay 18 years’ wages for an unskilled worker.
These are not tulip bulbs; they are gold nuggets!
We wound our way back to Breda, Holland, and into Breda, Belgium.
The town was split into two countries.
Hey ma, can’t touch me now…..I’m in Holland!
We rested for two days.
After a rest, we enjoyed a gastronomic weekend in the Ardennes mountains. It was raining, and the lights went out in the whole town.
In our hotel, we changed for dinner and did our hair and makeup by candlelight.
The kitchens and heat were gas-fed so we were warm and there would be food!
In the dining room, there were candles all around and a huge roaring fireplace. The perfect ambiance for a foggy and rainy night in the mountains.
Nice and romantic.
Later in the evening when the power came on, everyone groaned.
Don’t break the mood!
They put the lights off and ramped up the candles. That’s better.
Saying goodbye to Elsa was heart-breaking. Memories are what we have left and we plan to make more.
Always work at making new memories while you can.