Our First European Vacation
May/June 1989Click on thumbnail

By Jack Welsch

This is a journal of a 3 week combination vacation/business trip my wife, Linda, and I took in 1989. We've been in Europe many times since but I failed to keep a good journal on some. While the trip was years ago, my guess is that this might still be of value to some. Naturally, I've deleted some material which I feel is of interest only to me.

The trip was mostly unstructured. We had certain business obligations and we made reservations in advance for these, for our hotels in London and Paris and for the crossing from England to Belgium. Those things gave us a very elemental structure for the trip. Other than that, we had only a general idea of what we wanted to see.

Sunday, May 28th - Across the Pond

We left the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airport in Northeast PA on 11:45 AM flight for Pittsburgh, then to Charlotte and from there to London Gatwick. Beautiful flying day. All flights were right on schedule but this is definitely not the most efficient route; seven hours after leaving Avoca we passed over New York which is a 2 hour drive from our home! The trip to Europe is always long but this is ridiculous! Flew over on a Piedmont (now part of USAirways) 767. Nice plane but it was 100% full. The high price of using frequent flyer miles!

Monday, May 29th - Arrival in England

We arrived at London Gatwick at 7:00 AM - only 15 minutes late and rented a red Ford Fiesta from Swan International. Then we drove south to near Brighton then to Channel coast at Worthing where we had breakfast at "Cavendish Hotel" & then a short walk on the beach. It was a beautiful sunny day and quite warm.

Driving on the left was not as difficult as I had imagined but a major obstacle was the frequency of round-abouts. They're tough to deal with.

H.M.S. VictoryWe drove to Portsmouth to see H.M.S. Victory which sadly was under major renovation so I couldn't get any good overall pictures. The ship could only be visited via guided tour which I took while Linda, waited. Photos were not allowed on board so that was another small disappointment. Victory is, I think, somewhat smaller than the USS Constitution. In spite of all, it was still moving to stand where Nelson stood and to see where he fell and where he died. It was something of a pilgrimage for a guy who as always admired Lord Nelson!

Portsmouth was hot, crowded and noisy so, despite earlier plans, we left and headed toward Stonehenge. The village of White Parrish was delightful but the B&B we'd headed for was booked so we drive on. (we should have tried harder in White Parrish, I think!). We ended up tired and confused in Salisbury which is a fair-sized town. A major concern was my inability to judge the left side of the car; I kept hitting the curb. I kept thinking about the danger of hitting something bigger!!

Wheatsheaf InnWe eventually ended up at a B&B called "Hayburn Wyke" in Salisbury. There, we found a cute room and especially nice lady. For lunch, we walked a few blocks to the "George and Dragon" pub where we sat for a while before we figured out that you don't get table service in a pub! Lunch consisted of pasties and beer (Coke for Linda) in the "beer garden". After eating, we walked along the Avon river before returning to hotel where we crashed for 3 hours 'til 7:00 PM. On the recommendation of our hostess, we drove to "Wheatsheaf Inn" in Lower Woodford. It was really cute but very crowded since this was "Spring Bank Holiday".

Tuesday, May 30th - Stonehenge, Somerset, and Wales

In the morning, we drove through the twisted, narrow back roads of Wiltshire toward Stonehenge. Along the way, we passed many beautiful thatched cottages but failed to stop to take pictures (dumb!).

StonehengeAs you approach Stonehenge from the East, it seems to suddenly appear. What a moving experience! It's considerably smaller than I expected but still phenomenal. It was cloudy and very cold but still early in the day. Clouds were starting to break as we left Stonehenge.

As we neared the town of Glastonbury, we saw a tower on a hilltop and looked it up in the tour book. It turned out to be the "Tor" which is alleged to be the "Avalon" in the Arthurian legend. We drove as close as we could to top of the hill but decided against walking the rest of the way.

Dunster CastleFrom Glastonbury, we drove to Exmoor National Park and visited the town of Dunster and Dunster Castle. On the road there, we stopped for lunch at a pub which was on a mountainside overlooking Bristol Channel and Cardiff. For our tour of the castle, I took my camera but not my flash which was really stupid. The interior was magnificent; the ceilings were very ornate plaster with deep relief including Cupids with free-standing bows! We walked through town which, unfortunately, was very touristy. The drive to and from Exmoor was via a narrow, twisted road; a real treat!

We took M5 to Bristol, then M4 into Wales. It's hard to express emotions on entering Wales, the land of my mother's and Linda's forefathers. Wow! Once in Wales, we drove along the Wye River to Tintern looking for a B&B called Parva Farmhouse which we'd found in a tour book. Tintern AbbeyUnfortunately, it was full so we booked at the Beauford Hotel which is directly across street from Tintern Abbey. There was a great view of this magnificent ruin from our room

We returned to Parva Farmhouse for a great rack of lamb for dinner. For dessert, "Bannoffee Pie" - Bananas and Toffee. Fantastic! This place was really great and we regretted we couldn't have stayed here. The proprietress said this was the only night this week she was booked up. What luck!

Wednesday, May 31st - Tracing our Roots

In the morning, we took some tiny lanes from Tintern to the "Head of the Valleys" road. The lanes were barely wider than the car and lined with hedges - quite a kick! There were beautiful vistas wherever we looked. The roads were amazingly well marked even in the boondocks.

We visited the "Big Pit" mining museum at Blaenafon and went down into the mine fully equipped with helmet, light and "self-rescuer" breathing gear. This tour was not "sugar coated" as it would be in the US. It appears they stopped mining one day and started giving tours the next. Safety is apparently not a big deal here! Mining conditions were apparently considerably worse here than in US, too. The surrounding area is definitely reminiscent of the the neighborhood where I grew up in north Scranton, PA - both Linda's father and my maternal grandfather came from Wales to work in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, we decided to eat at the cafeteria at the mine and were treated to the worst hamburger ever made! I think it was mostly sawdust! Of course, we could wash it down with warm Coke taken directly from a shelf behind the counter and served without ice.

Heading further East, we drove through the town of Bryn Mawr which is definitely unlike the one in PA! People were all lined up on the street for the "Milk Race" which we later found is the UK answer to the "Tour de France" and gets its name because it's sponsored by the "Milk Marketing Board". We didn't realize at the time what a big event this is so we couldn't share the excitement.

Next, we headed for Aberaman in the Rhondda Valley to visit Linda's Aunt Margaret. It was interesting timing since this September marks the 60th anniversary of Linda's dad's departure from Aberaman. Her Aunt knew we'd inquired about her address but thought we'd write first to tell her when we were coming. She almost died when she answered the door and Linda said "Hi, I'm Dick Parry's daughter". Conversation was pretty tough, though, since there's been no contact between the Welsh and American members of the family in decades. There's been no animosity, just neglect. We had some tea and obtained some family history

We'd arrived at 2:00 and found that cousin Jean wouldn't get home from work until after 5:00. We were fortunate in that Jean was sent to the bank and decided to stop by on her way. Had very nice talk with Jean for 1/2 hour or so. We than took some pictures and left.

Across WalesI'd figured it'd be a long drive to Lampeter, where I have some family, but Jean said it was no more than 1-1/2 hours and directed me back north and then further east. We drove through the Brecon Beacons National Park which was a great experience. These mountains are very wild and covered with sheep. I had to stop every few miles to take pictures! Tried several times to call my distant cousin, Ed Thomas, but didn't make contact until we reached Lampeter.

We spent the night with Ed & Jenny Thomas in Lampeter. When we arrived, Jenny and sons Kevin and Gareth had still not returned from the National Eisteddfod, an artistic competition. Gareth had competed in a poetry recital competition for age 8 and placed third in the nation. We shared in their excitement! Together, we had dinner at a pub and a very nice evening. The kids delighted in trying to teach me to speak Welsh and laughing at my attempts! It's amazing how strong the Welsh language is here - even the Smurfs Cartoon on TV was dubbed in Welsh! If you've never heard this language, you haven't lived. It's best spoken with a mouth full of marbles!

We called home and spoke to my son, Steve, then we received a call from my mom!

Thursday, June 1st - Wales in the rain

University of Wales at LampeterIt rained hard during the night and I woke at 5:00 with a very upset stomach but both conditions cleared by morning. Ed showed us his boyhood home and the University of Wales at Lampeter where Jenny works. This is the third oldest university in the UK behind Cambridge and Oxford.

As we drove to Cardiff, it started to absolutely pour rain; hard enough to make it difficult to drive. We visited the Welsh Folk Museum at St Fagin's but it's primarily a village so it was tough to see in the rain. For lunch, we had shepherd's pie at the museum cafeteria and thereby were exposed to the worst food ever created by man! Wales is a beautiful country and the people are wonderful but the food is barely edible in most places. We ate a welsh cookie which had little similarity to what we call a welsh cookie at home!

Cardiff CastleThe weather cleared somewhat by the time we reached Cardiff Castle so we toured that without getting wet but it was still cold. The castle is an example of unbelievable wealth and is absolutely bizarre! It started to rain again by the time we reached the car.

We spent the night in a cute inn called the Malthouse in Caerleon. Dinner at the "Priory" hotel in town. This town is famous as the site of Roman baths but we skipped them.

Friday, June 2 - Chepstow Castle, then across the South of England

Chepstow CastleWe awoke to a beautiful sunny day! I had seen an intriguing photo of Chepstow Castle in a tour book and it was only 12 miles away so we drove over first thing in the morning. This was one of the better stops! This is the oldest stone castle in Britain. The original keep was begun in 1067 and finished by 1071. Considering the conquest was in 1066, those Normans didn't waste any time! The castle was expanded at various times through the 13th century. It's now a ruin but the grounds are beautifully maintained. Visitors have almost total freedom to roam. Again, there's not the overwhelming concern for safety we're used to. I shot over a roll of film here. This is what a castle is supposed to be like!!! It sure wiped out yesterday's gloom!

CharingIt was a hard drive across to Kent in the southeast corner of England. The London Beltway is a real treat, especially from the "wrong" side of the road! Once on Kent, we stopped for lunch at a pub and said we needed a bank. We were directed into Charing which turned out to be serendipity. Charing is a charming little town where the bank didn't even ask for ID! This being near the northern end of the cross-channel tunnel, there were posters everywhere protesting the High-Speed rail link between London and Paris - it seems this little town may soon change. Too bad.

Searching for a place to stay, we ended up in Canterbury around 4:00 but once again our B&B book let us down. Apparently everyone uses the same book since we've yet to find a listed place that wasn't booked. We took back roads to Dover via Folkstone, also without finding a B&B. We saw the entrance to the "Chunnel" which was then still under construction. Route A20 from Folkstone to Dover goes along top of the cliffs. The weather was clear as a bell so we had an absolutely magnificent view of the Channel and France. There were zillions of boats of all types and sizes and absolutely no place to pull of the road to take a picture! The sky was filled with cirrus so I knew it was unlikely to have conditions like this tomorrow. We'll just have to remember! We hit Dover in time for 5:00 rush hour and it was a zoo. Linda hit the phone with our B&B book with predictable results, then tried our little "Passport" book. Bingo! Found a place in ... Canterbury, where the search had started hours ago.

We slogged back to Canterbury and found ourselves at a place we'd passed earlier. We'd even commented on the place and had decided it looked terribly expensive! We spent a wonderful night at "Howfield Manor" which was built in 1181 as a priory of St. Gregory. This place is absolutely fantastic and was the third great treat of the day. Dinner (Lamb for Linda, Duck for me) was delightful. All in all, it was a great evening except that Linda slipped on the wet marble floor stepping out of the very high tub and damned near killed herself!

Saturday, June 3rd - Pilgrimage to Canterbury

We awoke at 5:00 to a beautiful red sunrise which, combined with yesterday's cirrus nicely overrode the sunny forecast. The weather was cloudy and rainy all day; So much for science!

Once again, we drove back to Dover to check out the Jetfoil docks, car return, etc. and find a nearby hotel or B&B. Dover is a real pit and the Jetfoil dock area probably the worst. I stopped at the car rental place to talk about drop off tomorrow since they'd be closed at the time we have to catch the Jetfoil. The girl there recommended the "Byways Hotel" and called to reserve a room. On the surface, the hotel looked passable so we dropped our bags and headed for Canterbury (again!)

Canterbury CathedralCanterbury was a zoo again today. We walked through a cute pedestrian shopping area on way to the Cathedral. As Episcopalians, Canterbury Cathedral is the closest thing we have to St.Peter's in Rome. Our tour of cathedral was conducted by a frail 87 year old priest who had a thing about stained glass so we heard a lot about the windows. Walked to a pizzeria in the rain for lunch, then shopped for a sweater for Linda since we could see your breaths! After lunch, we returned to the Cathedral for Choral Evensong which was held in the "quire". The music and setting magnificent but I wouldn't trade it for our own St. Mark's. This isn't worship, it's a performance! The sermon was by Rev. T. E. Evans, Dean of St. Paul's, London.

It cost me 8 pounds to get my car out of the garage! We drove south once again to Sandwich and then more or less along the coast back through Dover to a pub on the cliff for dinner. In all this driving, found a place I could have taken pictures yesterday!

Sunday, June 4th - Crossing the Channel

On closer inspection, I don't think the Byways Hotel will make it into a directory of luxury hotels; it's downright depressing! Anyway, we woke early, had breakfast and headed for the docks. I dropped Linda and the bags at the docks, drove to the car drop-off, then walked to a nearby hotel to get a taxi to docks. At least it wasn't raining!

White cliffs of DoverThe Jetfoil leaves from the train station and was 10 or 15 minutes late in leaving. The vessel was built by Boeing and is laid out and run rather like a plane. Seat layout was 2-5-2 and it was necessary to fasten seat belts for "takeoff". We got a seat in the first row, main deck so we had a windshield seat. The ride was great but service was poor and surly. The white cliffs are much more extensive and impressive than I'd imagined. We're talking white!

The wind was quite strong and most sailboats had one reef in their sails and were still rail down. Waves were 5-6 feet and there was a little rain. We passed what looked like a big sailboat race. We crossed to near Calais and then ran along 1-2 miles from shore to Oostend, Belgium. Dunkirk was awful; mostly a refinery and steel mill. A lot of the balance was hi-rise hotels, etc.

We breezed through customs at Oostend and walked onto the train platform where we found a train ready to leave for Brussels. Even though this was an hour before the train we'd planned on taking, we were able to board. We had a first class compartment to ourselves but after so many movies, we'd have been happier sharing it with a spy in a trench coat! The ride was as smooth as silk - welded track! Nice new car - wonderful!

Train stationThings were somewhat confusing in Brussels but we found the train to Antwerp - also an hour early. This one wasn't so new and the track was riveted. Lugging the bags was a real pain. Our arrival in Antwerp was 1 hour ahead of schedule so naturally there was no one to meet us. In Antwerp, we had a bit of a hassle. We'd decided to exchange $100US into each of the currencies we'd need before we left home in case we crossed a border at a place or time when we couldn't exchange money. On Antwerp, I tried to get change for the phone and found that the Northeastern Bank in Scranton had given us obsolete bills! They had been withdrawn from circulation and were now the Belgian equivalent of Confederate money! Cute! There was such a fuss, I was wondering whether we'd end up talking to the police. I finally called my friend and business associate, Willy's, house and his son Steven said he was at the office. I couldn't locate him at the office so we waited for him, looking like refugees sitting on our bags. After all this, we sure were glad to see Willy!!

AntwerpWilly gave us a great tour of Antwerp, then took us to his billiards club where we were joined by his wife and son, Irene and Steve. At the club, we had a waffle, good Belgian beer and an amazing demonstration of European billiards by Willy's friend who was a national billiards champ.

Willy's home is absolutely stunning and the hospitality was great. It's nice to be among friends again! For dinner, we had steaks barbecued in the rain. This is where we learned of the massacre in Beijing and of Khomeini's death. I had a bit too much to drink so slept poorly but it was still a great evening!

Monday, June 5 - Across the North of Germany

Once again, it was sunny in the AM but the sky looked bad. We rode to the RR station and watched Willy spend 20 minutes trying to get a product through customs. Apparently all governments are about the same! Willy drove us to Amsterdam to get our rental car which turned out to be a white Peugeot 205. We then followed Willy through Netherlands and Germany on the Autobahn for almost 7 hours, mostly at 80-90 MPH (slow for Willy). The weather was mostly rain so we saw little of countryside. We graphically learned the meaning of the German word "stau" - traffic jam - by sitting for over an hour in one We finally got to Hannover and then drove all over town looking for the Hotel am Stadtpark. The hotel was quite nice; the first "real" hotel of the trip. Linda and I had pleasant dinner at hotel with Willy.

I had a message from office so called in to hear about problems with some new products. (new products is what I do for a living) What a downer!
Tuesday, June 6th - Working a German Trade Show

We awoke to a beautiful day and only cumulous clouds so the future looks good. We had a great buffet früstuck (breakfast) at the hotel and Willy and I took a taxi to the InterHospital Messe (show) at the Hannover exposition center for the European debut of several of our new products. They received a very good reaction but not phenomenal as at last month's US introduction. It's very frustrating to be unable to talk to customers but my German's not nearly good enough! I spent a good deal of time talking to my friend Evert Verslius, our Dutch distributor.

Our German distributor, Hammerlit's booth was huge and run very differently from the way we do it in US. There were lots of tables and chairs and the served wurst, beer, sekt (the German equivalent to champagne), etc. Much more civilized!

The Hannover Exposition center is absolutely huge - on a scale with Epcot Center! This show used only 8 of the buildings buildings. Many of the buildings are owned by companies as permanent booths ala a world's fair!

While we were working, Linda set out to explore Hannover. At the time, she didn't speak more than a word or two of German but got some advice from the concierge. I'd suggested she take with her a matchbook with the hotel's name so she could show it to a taxi driver in order to get back. She went shopping and ate lunch in a "normal" German restaurant. She said she was powerfully tempted to eat at a McDonald's she saw but new I'd be disappointed in her! All in all, she did very well.

Linda, Willy, Bernd Strecker from Hammerlit and I had a delightful dinner at an Italian restaurant. I think this was the finest Italian food I've ever eaten. What a funny place to find it! After dinner, we walked back to hotel; the end of a very pleasant evening.

Wednesday, June 7th - Storybook Germany and the Eastern Border

GoslarNow that we're back on vacation, the weather's lousy again! We had showers off and on all day, sometimes so heavy it was hard to drive (where have I heard that before)! Willy gave us a route to follow in order to avoid congestion near Düsseldorf but that meant not visiting my friend, Karl Kreuzig. Oh well, maybe we can visit him next time. On Willy's recommendation, we visited the town of Goslar south of Hannover. This town is right out of a storybook! All this gingerbread is for real!

East German border Guard towerAfter Goslar, we drove to Witzenhausen which, according to our AAA map, is right on the DDR (East German) border in order to see the border but, unfortunately, we couldn't see the fence. (Remember, this was in June of 1989, about 6 months before the "wall" came down!) Because we were low on gas, I couldn't afford to just search around so we stopped at the town of Unterriden for directions. We saw a middle-aged lady walking a dog and asked her for help and found she spoke neither English nor French so we were stuck with my "survival German". With considerable effort on both sides, we were able to communicate but I couldn't fully understand the complex directions. As a result, she got in her car and we followed her for about 6km to a tiny road from which suddenly we could see it. What a chilling sight!!! The road ended at the remains of a bridge over the river Werra. A watchtower stands on what had been the Eastern approach until the bridge was removed. The town of Lindewerra was immediately on the opposite side of the river and two fences. I took lots of great pictures including two of our new friend, Lilli Kuhne. Some of these pictures hang in my office. The place was strangely fascinating and I could have stayed a while longer.

We had a nice lunch at a small tavern south of Unterriden where no English was spoken. We walked in, I said "Sprechen sie englisch?" He said "Nein" and it went downhill from there! Actually, we made out OK and had a nice lunch but whoever said English is spoken by virtually all Germans was very wrong!

Burghotel auf SchönbergWe drove back across West Germany to the Rhine at Koblenz. Driving south along the Rhine, we saw castles everywhere. I took pictures for a while and then tired of it! We stayed on a mountain overlooking Oberwesel at Burghotel auf Schönberg, an old castle. Our room was on the fourth floor of the main building and could be reached only by four flights of stairs after a long walk up through the castle. We had a cute little loft room with a very modern bathroom! Burghotel auf SchönbergLinda and I ate dinner in the castle at a tiny booth and had an absolutely phenomenal wine called Engenholler Bernstein by the Walter Persch winery in Oberwesel. His vineyard was visible from our room. During dinner, we met a couple from Newport Beach, California on their last night of a three week trip. Their table was next to ours so we had a nice conversation. Except for two world war II vets we met in Salisbury, these were the first Americans we've seen. They've been traveling like we are but with no language other than English. It's hard to imagine!

Tomorrow's our anniversary but it seems appropriate to celebrate it tonight. Wonderful dinner, wonderful evening...

Thursday, June 8th - The Rhine and Mosel valleys

Rhine at OberweselToday is our 21st anniversary!

We met another American couple to whom we had spoken briefly at dinner last night. They live in Vienna, VA but it turns out they grew up in West Pittston, PA, 20 miles from our home!!

In the morning, we drove back down mountain to Oberwesel & found the Walter Persch winery but they were closed! What a shame!!! The price list in the window indicates our great wine costs about 3 bucks US!

Heading south again, we followed route 9 south on the west bank of the Rhine to Bingen and took an "Autofahre" (ferry) to Rudesheim which is cute but very touristy. Shunning the tourist traps of the famous Drosselgaße, we had lunch and some fantastic sweets at a small "local" cafe, then re-crossed the Rhine and headed for the Mosel which we joined at Brindel.

Barge on the MoselThe Rhine may be more famous and, with its cliffs and castles, more dramatic but the Mosel is much prettier. This small, slow river winds through a gentle valley just loaded with grapes. Grapes seemed to grow on every available square foot of soil, even on mountain ledges. Some of the towns are quite touristy but many are not. My guess is that it depends on where the cruise boats stop.

Late in the afternoon, we stopped at a Gasthaus (guest house or B&B) near the river in the small town of Trittenheim. It seems that the combination of Gasthaus and Weingut (Wineseller) is a common one and this was no exception. The only person home was a girl of about 12 and her English wasn't much better than my German but we managed to book a delightful room with a balcony from which we could see the river. It cost us the equivalent of $24 US!

We walked two blocks to a restaurant for dinner. There was a recently retired couple at a nearby table from near Pasadena, CA and he'd just retired from Jet Propulsion Laboratory. We began to notice that the sound of an American voice had a strange power to draw us. On an off chance, I mentioned the one other guy I know from JPL and it turns out they are old friends. They had worked together since the 50's, live in the same town (La Cañada), etc. That's two crazy coincidences in the same day! Since they were staying in the place we had dinner, we went to their room after dinner to talk further.

After dinner, Chet followed us back to our place to get my business card and a brochure of the castle in Oberwesel. All in all, we had another very pleasant evening.

Friday, June 9th - Trier, Luxembourg, Belgium

TrierIn the morning, we visited the very old city of Trier which was beautiful (& sunny!) and really loved it.

The day went down hill when we left Germany and entered Luxembourg. Our first mistake was in going to Luxembourg City which was one massive traffic jam and we had no clear objective. We wasted a lot of time trying to get around and then just bailed out! Luxembourg is interesting in that there are no posted route numbers so you get to try and guess where you are! In our stumbling around, we came across the US Military Cemetery so we went in to see if we could get directions. Patton's graveAs it happens, George Patton is buried there so we took a picture of his grave for our friend, Fred Mauger, who served under Patton during the war. We got directions away from the city but screwed up and ended back downtown! Finally, we got loose and headed north to Echternach where we had lunch (bad cheeseburgers) at a sidewalk cafe. Unfortunately, by this time it was cloudy and cold and we were tired, over-hungry and pressed for time so it wasn't a great treat!

BastogneThe road from Echternach to Bastogne should have been pretty but it was misty so I got no good pictures. We crossed into Belgium on a side road and encountered a "Barney Fife" -type customs guy but had no real problem. I've joked ever since that the Germans got by this guy during the winter of 1944 and he's not taking any more chances! We visited the museum at Bastogne but unfortunately arrived after the last show. However, we were still impressed by the exhibits and monument. This museum was put together with input from both the German and the US commanders of the battle! I think I'll return another time for the show.

BouillonFinally, we drove through the Ardennes forest and stopped at the town of Bouillon where we found the Auberge d'Alsace. This was a cute half- timbered inn overlooking a small river and essentially beneath the castle of Godfrey de Bouillon, leader of the first crusade. We had a nice dinner there. Quaint. Only French is spoken here so mine got a good workout!

Went out after dinner to call home and spoke to our son, Don.

Saturday, June 10th - The Champagne region and the Moulin Rouge

In the morning, we crossed into France and immediately realized how fortunate we were that we'd spent the night in Belgium! The Ardennes Province of France (or at least the part we saw) was downright depressing. Admittedly, it was made worse by the continued bad weather but I think nothing could make these towns look good. This area looks distinctly like the war ended yesterday!

Dom PerignonWe passed through Reims and visited the Moët et Chandon winery in Épernay.This was fortunate timing Moët et Chandonin that we arrived 5 minutes before the last tour of the day (Moët et Chandon is open only half day on Saturday) which happened to be in English!Now there's a piece of luck! Moët et Chandon was founded by the monk Dom Perignon and makes the champagne by that name.

We had a very rainy drive to Paris; at times it was hard to see the road. We were on a toll road for most of the drive. We had another stroke of luck as we reached the Peripherique (Beltway) in that the rain stopped and I could see the road! Traffic was horrible and we only had the lousy AAA map and a tiny one of the area immediately around the hotel. We got off at the wrong exit but had an absolutely fantastic experience! I stopped to ask for help and approached a middle-aged man with my problem. He said he knew the street I was looking for but said it was far away and it was too difficult to try to tell me the way. He said to wait until he got his car and he would lead me there!!! What followed felt like a a high speed chase through the streets of Paris. When we got to the street, he blew the horn, pointed, waited for my acknowledgment and drove away. So much for the myth about rude Parisians who hate Americans!

MontparnasseThe Hotel Danemark is a small hotel on a small street in Montparnasse on the left bank. They were working on the front of the hotel so it was covered with scaffolds but no workman because of the weekend. Waiting for us at the desk was a welcome note from our friends, Anne and Michel Laurent, along with the business card of the Restaurant Director of the Moulin Rouge noting our reservations at 8:00. I'd expected the reservations since Michel, our French distributor, had told me he and Anne would be in Belgium at a trade show but that he'd make arrangements and leave word at the hotel. In our room was a gorgeous, huge bouquet of flowers. Because I know Michel, I asked at the desk about the flowers and was told "the woman who brought the envelope gave us money to buy flowers." That's just the way Michel and Anne are!

Because it was Saturday and we were low on francs, we wasted 2-3 hours running around trying to change money. The hotel changed our Deutschmarks but didn't know the rate for US dollars so pointed us to the nearby gare (RR station) Montparnasse . There was no exchange booth in the gare so they sent us via Metro to the Gare du Nord which was an experience in itself. We did, however, have another pleasant encounter. I got into a line to buy tickets but wasn't sure how to do it so a lady explained it to me. A few minutes later we'd gone through the gates but were completely confused since the station was like 42nd street. The same lady came up to us to help us out! We finally got our money at a lousy exchange rate but at least we didn't have to worry about it any more.

We returned via Metro to Montparnasse and had delicious omelets at a sidewalk cafe, then walked back to the hotel in time to change our clothes for the Moulin Rouge. Traffic was terrible and the taxi driver either didn't know where he was going or tried to rip us off so I ended up in a heated argument with him. At least it was good exercise for my French! The Moulin Rouge is in "Pigalle" which is Paris' version of 42nd Street. The area was so sleazy, I checked the business card to make sure we had the right Moulin Rouge!

When we arrived at Moulin Rouge, the door was locked and people were waiting outside. I showed the card I had to the doorman and asked where I should go. He quickly glanced at it and told me to wait with the others. After I stood awhile I began thinking that Michel, as powerful and connected as he is, would definitely not "wait with the others" and that he wouldn't want me to either. I approached the doorman again and asked him to read the card carefully and tell me to whom I should present it. When he read it, his eyes opened wide and his attitude changed markedly. We were ushered through the door amidst much groveling and shown to our table. Michel lives well and knows everyone of importance! This is how I was born to be treated!

While our table was small, it was one of the few private tables in the place and was in a great location. For dinner, we had Chateaubriand which was (surprisingly) very good and a bottle of champagne. The show was unreal! Girls, costumes, sets, music, a live horse, 3 live alligators, a python, etc. Unbelievable!! Near the end, the check appeared briefly and then was quickly removed with apologies to be sent to Michel.

On the return to our hotel, we passed by the Louvre and saw the new glass pyramid. For conversation, I asked the driver what he thought of it and thereby started a long conversation on Paris, its buildings, things to do, the Moulin Rouge vs. the Lido, etc. For me, it was lots of fun and a good work-out for my French but it was not too nice for Linda, I'm afraid, since she doesn't understand it.

Sunday, June 11th - The City of Lights

Notre DameWe woke early to a beautiful day and had breakfast in the "cave" beneath the hotel. l'Arc de TriompheBooked 2 hour "Cityrama" bus tour for a quick overview and it was very effective. Commentary was via headset so we could select any one of about 8 languages and didn't have to listen to a multi-lingual commentary. We picked it up at the Louvre and exited at the Opera.

We had 2 choices, run around like crazy trying to see everything or taking it easy and enjoying the day! We decided on the latter and walked to the Place de la Concorde and then up the Champs Elysées to l'Arc de Triomphe. By now the day was magnificent and downright hot. Had Salade Nicoise at a sidewalk cafe very near the Arch. This is living!! We had a little fun when a retired American couple sitting next to us tried to use their few words of French to order two beers and the man pronounced the two (deux) as twelve (douze). The waiter insisted he couldn't possibly want twelve small beers and a spirited exchange followed!

Tour EiffelAfter a walk around the Arch, we cabbed to the Palais de Chaillot, then walked to the Tour Eiffel and took lots of pictures. After visiting the most famous Paris landmark, we took a ride on the Seine on "Bateaux Parisians" from the foot of the tower to around Notre Dame and back. We couldn't get Luxembourg Gardensa cab so walked quite a distance through Montparnasse before getting a cab. Actually, it was a very pleasant walk. Linda was tired and took a nap but I used the time to walk in the Luxembourg Gardens which were very near the hotel. I found a statue of the painter, Watteau to be fascinating.

We bought some éclairs near the hotel, then dressed and went for dinner at a nearby sidewalk cafe. After dinner, we took a cab to the famous "Bateaux Mouches" for a nighttime cruise on the Seine. At 9:30 it was still much too bright (remember, the days are very long in northern latitudes in the spring) so we stood around until 10:30 when it was almost dark. Paris at night is unbelievable!! The only small disappointment was that the Eiffel Tower was lit up when we left the dock but when we were in front of it, it was dark! They were practicing with spotlights for a show next week.

Finally, we cabbed back to Montparnasse and had dessert at a sidewalk cafe. What a day!!!

Monday, June 12th - Across Normandy to Mont St. Michel

The days troubles started early. I got directions at the hotel to get to the Peripherique but the man was emphatic that we should follow his directions exactly. I got there without any problems but found that the entrance ramp was closed! We fumbled our way to the next exit and got on but traffic was stopped. We crawled along in 4 lanes of New York style traffic and then found that the exits were marked with names but no route numbers while the map had route numbers but no names. Naturally, we got of at the wrong place but eventually found the Autoroute (limited access highway) to Rouen. Next, we missed the exit for route 12 which heads toward Mont St. Michel, costing us a lot of miles on back roads.The drive to Mont St. Michel was grueling; much further than we'd thought and on very small roads. We thought many times of scrapping plans. When Mont St. Michel appeared, however, all was well. What a sight! Mont St. Michel

Mont St. Michel is inNormandy, Mont St. Michelon the coast just at the east side of he base of the Cherbourg peninsula. I'd first seen a picture of it at the France exhibit at Epcot center and instantly knew I had to visit one day. It looks like a castle buy was an abbey which was built on a butte at the edge of the sea where the tide makes it an island twice a day. It was fortified to keep people from attacking it for the church's wealth. In modern times, a causeway has been built but the sea virtually surrounds it when the tide comes in. The slope is so shallow, the shore is out of sight when the tide is out!

We found a modern motel near the Mont, checked in and went to visit the Mont. Mont St. MichelUnfortunately, when you get inside you're overwhelmed by tourist traps. We had an absolutely lousy lunch for $20. If you ignore the "money changers" this place is every bit as good as expected.I took lots of pictures and climbed to abbey but didn't take the tour - I was too tired! The tide was out so we walked a bit outside the walls but didn't go far because of the quicksand.

Eventually, we returned to hotel for a nap. I woke before Linda so walked to the causeway to look around some more. I can't get enough of this place! After dinner, we returned to a side road I'd found in the afternoon to take night photos and then to visit the inside once more. Great place.

Tuesday, June 13th - The Invasion Beaches and an odyssey across Normandy

We got up early and skipped breakfast in order to get to beaches early. On the way there, we stopped at Bayeux to see the famous Bayeux Tapestry. It was made by Queen Matilde, wife of William the Conqueror to tell the story of the Norman conquest of England at Hastings in 1066.

Omaha BeachOnce on the coast, we visited the museum at Arromanches but found it very poorly organized. The cemetery at Omaha Beach, on the other hand, was a terribly emotional experience. It's hard to contain emotions when you have boys of your own who are the same age as the kids buried there. Linda stayed at the overlook while I took the long walk to the beach. Some wreckage is still visible. To play with my head a little, I took off my shoes and walked out into the channel to look inward. How horrible it must have been to land here on D-day. The beach is very wide and two concrete bunkers are still visible on the hill. I sure wouldn't want to try to take this place. The walk up the hill carrying only by camera was rough and Linda said I'd been gone an hour; sure didn't seen like it.

The information center was staffed by Americans. I got directions to drive to the bunkers which were for 75mm guns trained on the beach. The guns gone but the tracks are still in floor. There was a lot of hell damage. It made things very real!

From this point, the day went downhill again. We endured what amounted to a marathon drive toward the east. We tried to stop several times but could not find a decent hotel. We got lost in Ameins and asked a pedestrian for help and once again got the "follow me" routine! It's almost worth getting lost just to see how nice people can be! We finally ended up at a dumpy hotel in Arras. From there, we walked to a cute little restaurant. It was a nice place and had a delightful proprietress but an absolutely lousy steak. It was very hot, there was no breeze and the hotel had a bad odor. Except for Omaha Beach, this has not been a not a great day/evening.

Wednesday, June 14th - Brugge

Today was a day to make up for the last two with some left over! Yesterday's marathon meant a short (less than 2 hour) drive to Brugge today. We located the Hotel Pannenhuis in the "Passport" book which also gave us the great place in Canterbury. We were all checked in by 11:00. The hotel is a converted estate and our room is in an outbuilding in the garden. Beautiful, peaceful - this is just the medicine we needed!

BruggeWe walked through one of the many city gates to the "centrum" of this great town of canals. We had lunch at one of a zillion sidewalk cafes, then stopped at a phone booth and called home - spoke to sister-in-law Jean and our third son, Eric. We took rides on a canal boat and a handsome cab and then walked around and bought some lace for gifts. We watched a lady make lace - amazingly fast! This has got to be the nicest town in the world! It's quaint, clean, there are flowers everywhere, and people are universally nice.

The hotel was reputed to have a good restaurant but it's closed on Wednesday so we walked back to town for great dinner. This day was a winner!

Thursday, June 15th - To the European Distributor's Meeting

WindmillWe slept late and had breakfast on our own terrace. Life's tough! The drive was all highway from Brugge to Amsterdam but got off twice to photograph windmills. We got very close to one built in 1792. Neat!

Having ho further need of the car, we dropped it off at the airport and took cab to the Golden Tulip Barbizon Palace Hotel which is near Amsterdam's Central Station. As we were driving up, so were our friends, Bob & Sandee Cohn. We had an afternoon meeting with our VP, International at which we split-up the guest list so all the distributors would be entertained by people from our company. We had dinner with the our President and 8 Distributor guests. Good company, nice evening.

Friday, June 16th - Distributor's Meeting and a Boat Cruise

Sailboat raceThis was a work day but still a lot of fun. We took chartered bus toour distributor's brand new offices in Nijkirk for an all-day meeting. I presented two new products which both were well received so it was a good day! The "Partners" went on a bus trip to some museums, then joined us in Nijkirk for a boat cruise back to Amsterdam. It was a perfect sailing evening so there were zillions of sailboats, many off very strange design. We passed through a sailboat race and one of the Dutchmen, Jan Maree said he was supposed to be in the race but came with us instead. He seemed to be dying. He explained that the race goes for 18 hours with the boat traveling the greatest corrected distance the winner.

Good friends, cocktails, dinner, music, and magician on board. What else is there?

After returning, we changed and went with Bob & Sandee to the red light district. Yeech! I'm anything but a prude but this was gross. To make matters much worse, the girls in the windows were ugly! It made 42nd Street seem like 5th Avenue! I couldn't wait to get out.

Saturday, June 17th - Work and fun in Amsterdam

Our half day meeting at hotel had part devoted to literature, etc. and part to a presentation by Belgian lawyer on Europe '92. The afternoon was free time so Linda & I walked to a flower market where we bought bulbs for the church and wooden shoes for our son, Eric. We returned via Anne Frank house but couldn't find the courage to go in. Amsterdam is really a pit! Even on this sunny day it looked grim and is covered with graffiti. I call it "Newark with canals!" We returned early to the hotel with sandwiches we bought on the way.

Evening, however, was another great experience! The hotel has a small door in the back which leads to a private landing on a canal. We used this to board a chartered canal boat for a one hour tour of the canals during which time cocktails were served.

We disembarked at the private landing for the restaurant, D'Vijff Vlieghen (The Five Flies), where we were seated with Anne and Michel Laurent from Paris and Guenther Peroni from Italy and his wife. Dinner conversation was a ball since, among six people, there was no common language! The Peronis live in a region in the north of Italy where the prevalent language is German, not Italian. The most common language was French (Linda the only one left out), followed by English (Michel left out and Guenther understands but doesn't speak), Italian (most efficient between the Peronis and Anne, who was born in Italy) and German (between Guenther and me when French failed). It was lots of fun but exhausting!

It is a custom in this restaurant for famous people to be honored by having their name engraved on a brass plate which is attached to a chair so they have their "own" chair when they return. During dinner, the (then) owner of the company, Dick Maslow was so honored.

After dinner we re-boarded the boat for coffee, post-cafe (after dinner cordials) and a return to the hotel by night. We passed briefly through a part of the red light district but found it not nearly as "colorful" as the part we saw last night. Finally, we returned to the hotel after midnight and sadly said good-bye to our friends. I always hate that part!!!

Sunday, June 18th - London - Back on vacation!

LondonIn the morning, we took cab to airport for an on-time flight on British Midlands to London's Heathrow airport. We shared a cab with Bill & Cindy Drake as far as their hotel in Kensington and then continued to ours, the Chelsea in Knightsbridge. Because we got a good deal, I was concerned with the Chelsea but needn't have been; it's a very nice facility in a good location on Sloane Street. After a short break, we took a cab to Buckingham Palace,then strolled through St. James Park. This was another beautiful day! Last Sunday Paris, this Sunday London; not bad! We walked through the Royal Horseguards where apparently some festivity has just finished - the place was overrun by old guys with zillions of military medals. We passed Downing Street then boarded an open- top bus for a 1-1/2 hour tour of London. Amazingly, we saw Bill and Cindy as we passed Green Park!

The bus dropped us off at Westminster Abbey so we saw that before walking to hotel. Then we took a 2 hour nap, woke and walked down the block for a pizza. I think we're running out of steam!

Monday, June 19th - London

Changing of the guardWe woke early and went to Harrods as they opened at 9:00, then cabbed to Buckingham for changing of the guard. We got there slightly after 10:00 for a good spot by the fence. The weather was again excellent so I got more great pictures. The ceremony is nice but a bit long so we left early, walked through Green Park and took the Underground to near Covent Garden. Ye Olde Cheshire CheeseWe walked through it and on to "Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese" an old pub which was a hangout for such people as Sam Johnson and Charles Dickens. It's in a narrow alley just off Fleet Street.

Lunch at the Cheshire Cheese is a special experience and this time was extra special - Linda got Sam Johnson's seat and I got Charles Dickens'! For lunch, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and a pint, of course. Bread pudding for desert.

Tower BridgeAfter lunch, we took a cab to the Yeoman WarderTower and took a "look at the crown jewels". By that time we were hot and exhausted again so we quit and returned to hotel; the rest of London has to wait 'til next time!

For dinner, we walked past Harrods to Beauchamp Place and walked around looking at restaurants before selecting one (Italian). After dinner, we finished our tour of London with a walk past numerous Victorian houses.

Tuesday, June 20th - Home again

Too bad the last day had to be a disaster! We took cab to Victoria Station, then a train to Gatwick where the trouble started. Security is one thing but these folks are nuts! What with tickets, security, the tram, etc., we stood in no fewer than eight lines, some of them quite long. It was really aggravating! After everything else, we were stopped again on the Jetway and had to open our carry-ons one more time! I was close to becoming violent. The plane was on-time but, of course there's nothing to be done about a long ride made worse by flying through Charlotte.

Charlotte Immigration and Customs is a joke! They're no more equipped to handle a 767 than our little airport in Avoca is and it took us an hour to clear. There was no real problem, however since our connection was scheduled at 3 hours and was late anyway. The result of the very late departure from Charlotte was a breakneck dash through BWI and boarding of the commuter at the last second. Naturally, the bags weren't as lucky but no big deal.

We were met at the airport by Steve, Eric and my brother Tom and at home by the rest plus Mom & Dad. We stayed up 'til about midnight (5:00 AM London time) de-briefing and fell into bed. It's nice to be home!!!!