It’s two weeks now since my man and I got back from France, where the number of pictures I took as compared to the amount of food and drink I consumed stands in a ration of 1 to 1000 – and now here I am with little more to remind me of the experience but my new fat tummy.
Lucky for us , we took this Viking Longboat cruise with two close friends who took tons of pictures. Even better, ‘she’ has written the whole trip up on her travel blog, a site which in my greedy way, I have boarded as a pirate boards some poor sitting duck of a vessel, and helped myself to the photo booty. ‘He’ was my first friend when I moved at age 9 to our new house and found myself caught up in endless rounds of kickball and the chase-hide-and wallop game we called “the Commies vs. the Americans. Good times.
We two couples had also gone, via this same Viking cruise company, from Budapest to Nuremberg back in 2014, when the world felt to be in far less trouble than it feels to be today. That was a dream of a trip on which I got to hang out for a while with actual Mozart, or anyway an official Mozart impersonator. He spoke about the hard life of a professional musician which he actually is. He’s a serious guy.
This time though it was not Vienna but Paris, a city which appears to do a lot of looking back. We passed the place to which poor Marie Antoinette was brought to meet Madame La Guillotine, she paraded for mockery’s sake in a crude wooden cart, her hair shorn and her wrists bound behind her back. We saw the monuments Napoleon brought back from Egypt where he went to further foil the British by messing up their trade routes. And, in our fancy tour bus as wide and serene as a clipper ship full-bellied with the breeze, we billowed along down the very route the Allies took after the brutal 100-day Battle of Normandy to at last reach and liberate this famous City of Lights.
On other days we went to Giverny, the estate and gardens established by the Impressionist god Claude Monet who smoked 60 cigarettes a day, slept with his best friend’s wife, and quarrelled sfrequently with his one surviving son that the son wanted nothing to do with the place after the old man died at 86.
We saw castles and clambered over their ruined stones. We marched up and down streets with ancient stone and timber houses and even a few thatched roofs. And finally we went to Napoleon’s country house, where we saw with our own eyes how small of stature the man really was. This is his bed, which, in the flesh looks like the the popsicle stick nest you might build for your pet hamster. Poor Josephine lived there as well until he divorced her for failing to give him a son.
We walked in the gardens of this estate, known as Malmaison, but the tour guide apparently ran out of steam because with an hour to go before we could board the bus and go back to our cozy longboat, she told us to enjoy the gardens and disappeared .
It was 55 degrees, the hospitality center/gift shop was closed and a layer of low grey clouds hovered above us like an omen of old.
Our two pals duly circled the large garden, admiring the roses and chatting up the other members of our expedition.
The two of us did not. We went and sat on a stone bench – until another Viking cruiser, from the American South to judge by her accent, came by, declared us ‘cute’, and snapped this picture.
Then she made us get up and walk to a spot 100 feet away where she snapped another.
The lesson of that moment? Stick around long enough and you too can become a monument. 😛