Group flight to Paris / Depart John F. Kennedy Airport, New York
City, Air France No. 022 at 10 p.m. / Times subject to change.
Steve Gosnell drove us to the airport in our car; Matthew stayed at
home. And so we were on our way. And on and on. We
arrived at LaGuardia and despite the jam of holiday weekend traffic,
got our luggage and piled out on the sidewalk to catch the transfer
bus to Kennedy. Having received three different pieces of
advice on getting complimentary transfer we ended up having to pay
since our tickets did not show transfer. As the man said,
the two dollars (but in this case it was $3.50 each).
It was hot (90°) in N.Y.
and we crept across Long Island. At JFK we hit every terminal.
By the time TWA hove into view, I was properly subdued. In the
terminal the crowds checking in were enormous and multilingual.
After much patient waiting, we did manage to reach the desk and
completed our check-in. Now [we are] sitting in the departure
lounge for gate three, waiting for the boarding call (about ten
minutes). I guess we are about on our way.
It turned out that Mila and I were together in adjacent
seats, but not next to each other; I was in the row behind her.
I shared a three-seat unit with two girls from California on their
first trip over to Europe—and they were EXCITED! Mila shared
with two lads on their way to Cairo to play at the Cairo Hilton.
One had never flown and they too were to be in Europe, etc. for the
first time. The companions were nice and one can't complain.
We arrived about three quarters of an hour late at
Charles de Gaulle Airport and stoically worked our way—in a mob
scene—through passport controls. Got our luggage, put it on a
cart, and just walked past customs, since we have nothing to
declare. We then made the round (for the main terminal is
circular in plan, and
Brutalist in appearance) to Air France to see
Barry was there. And she was.
We parked by Rosann and waited on the group flight
which eventually arrived. This larger group then transferred
to a bus (with no shock absorbers in the rear) and thence into the
city. Though this was technically Saturday, it seemed the
end of Friday rather than a new day. That began
with our first excursion out.
@ 10:00 AM with Steve attempting to operate unfamiliar car: cool &
overcast. Arrive & check in with no trouble—uneventful flight
to LaGuardia except for a "chatty Kathy" type who starts in aisle &
talks to couple on front of us. Had pretty good lunch—quiche,
vegs (zucchini, carrots, etc.), carrot cake with filling, cookie,
roll & butter, coffee, salad.
Arrive at LaGuardia—very hot (90°), horrible
mess trying to get to bus to Kennedy airport (one hour or more) in
closed bus—no air conditioning—had to drag all
luggage on bus with us—had to hold part of it in lap—bump, drag,
crash, etc. Equal long wait to get luggage put through & get
boarding passes, of course! It is Memorial Day weekend & all
of NYC is leaving town & all of Europe & USA are leaving USA!
Had orange juice (70¢)—tiny can. Called home for
home—Liz answered. Called work for Jane—no answer.
Called Pat Snyder. Gone. Bob answered & said she'd gone
out of town to Long Island. Am now sitting in waiting
Plane late in taking off—I sit at end of row of three,
the other two seats occupied by Tony and Andy—teenage musicians (in
Naval ROTC), drums & bass—who are en route to Egypt to play jazz at
the Casino Hilton. It's like traveling with Wally & Beaver
(Andy's never flown before!). Geo sits with two American girls
on their first trip to Europe—all very jolly. I have a gin &
tonic, chicken fromage with white wine. We see Kramer vs.
Kramer. No sleep. See the dawn come up.
Passport control takes half hour—walk through enormous transparent
bubble (pipes) in walking escalator to Air France over where we run
into Rosann & two others of SAH tour. We sit for hours waiting
for contingent from Air France flight. Soon we will board bus
to Hotel (Le Grand). One of my bags has tar on it, the other
is ripped (umbrella stuck through its old age).
is deaf. (Glorioski!) He will give us a talk tonight.
By almost 12:00 about 25 people had assembled—great
delight to see old friends—and all of our luggage was
assembled into an enormous bus with apparently no shock absorbers
because we jounced & jolted all the way into the Opera district.
(I gather we get another bus tomorrow.)
SATURDAY, MAY 24, 1980
Group flight arrives 11 a.m. at Roissy (Charles de
Gaulle) Airport, Paris / (Persons on group flight will be provided
transportation from airport to hotel upon arrival in Paris) / FREE
DAY / 5:30 p.m.: Introductory Lecture / Overnight: Le Grand Hotel,
Professor and Mrs. G. Ehrlich were assigned to room 5207 Le Grand
Hotel. This looks over the great court and thus the sound of
the streets is much dampened. The room is no cheapie, though
small by U.S. standards. We have a double bed, two armchairs,
a straight chair with arms. The toilet is a true WC,
separate from the shower, bidet and washstand, and these open off a
small hall as does the bedroom. All have doors, hence one can
close off laving sounds, etc. We freshened up, changed clothes—it
is much cooler in Paris than N.Y.—and sallied forth. Our
primary aim was to find some food and to reconnoiter.
We were out during the long afternoon "break" from
commerce. Most shops were closed. But we did find a
patisserie that sold sandwiches. We had two
with paté that were modest in price,
good to taste (on real French bread) and something to eat while
walking. And we walked and walked. We did part of Rue de l'Opera, Rue Danielle
Casanova, Rue [des] Petits Champs, the latter to the Place
des Victoires. From there, north past [Place de] La Bourse to Les Grand
Boulevards: Montmartre, des Italiens, des Capucines and back to the
hotel for some rest.
The quality of the nineteenth century architecture is
superb. A lot of it is now cleaned, and I saw one unidentified
17th or 18th Century structure (it had to be late 17th) that was
truly grand. We saw the south facade of the Bibliothèque Nationale.
On Rue Réaumur just east of Rue Notre
Dame des Victoires we saw an
extraordinary riveted iron strapwork commercial(?) Art
Nouveau facade. It has to be early 20th Century because of the
Well, it is all stimulating and a bit much when one is
too much sleep aboard l'avion.
Now it is approaching the time to rendezvous for the
first official get-together for the group.
We have met, though not at length. We are
oriented (so to speak) and discover that we will be buying most of
our dinners as well as our lunches. Ah me! So we had a
supper in a so-so but convenient cafeteria with
Jack Parker and
Tom Ridington. They and Mila headed out to walk afterwards.
I feel fatigued and am listening to the news on TV.
As I sit in an armchair writing this, I am very
tired and thus little more will be said. A note, however, that
this room is rated at 530 francs per day, that is $132.50.
That includes continental breakfast of 28 f and service, but
whether it is 28 extra for another I don't know. When I
changed money at the airport,
it was 25¢ per franc. It would seem to me that would have to
be for two, but after checking again it says per person—$7!!
[continuing without a
break from previous entry, lacking a date heading]
room assignments. Ours is charming—apparently part of old
servants quarters under the mansard roof: two rooms, one whole
bathroom, plus extra room for the "toilette" tiled with light mauve
& white figured tile in circular pattern: tub, bidet, stool—windows
look out over courtyard; central hall, even the doors are papered in
floral wallpaper (gets confusing at night!). Bedroom has
double bed with brown/gold stripes, bolster & pillows—all feels soft
& goosedownish. Two side tables with lamps (mine has no bulb),
two armchairs with table. Dressing table & big mirror with TV
set. Bath has tub, big dressing table with bowl bidet.
We walk around area & buy two sandwiches stuffed with paté and
Have session with
Earl Layman showing slides with all
sorts of people smoking.
Lyle sits next to me & complains
about smoke (a sinus infection). We all doze off in the
darkness—everyone apparently. (Earl Layman's remarks & Rosann's remarks about behaving sensibly & not making political
remarks loudly.) Mercifully it ends & I who have had only one
donut (coffee, juice) & one sandwich all day am famished.
Tom, Jack, Geo & I go across street to cafeteria for
some rather awful fast-food stuff: "roast" chicken, pommes frites,
one section leaf lettuce & tomato, one lemonade, one tart for about
$8—is that really right? Geo goes back to hotel & boys & I
walk some more. Then struggle back at 8:30. I take bath
& try to sort things out but alas, it's too confusing. Go to
bed & sleep immediately. Geo is restless at 2:30 and we check
time. Finally to sleep.
SUNDAY, MAY 25, 1980
Continental breakfast: Le Grand Hotel / 8:30 a.m.—12
Noon: Bus tour to St. Denis [scored
followed by walking tour of le Marais, Place de
Vosges, Rue St. Antoine]
[handwritten arrow to what was
originally scheduled for 1:30—4:30 p.m.:] Bus from Le Grand to
Ile de la Cité, followed by walking tour of Notre Dame, Ste.
Chapelle, Conciergerie, Ile St. Louis / Lunch on own / [handwritten:
Afternoon free] / 8 p.m.: Grand Banquet: Le Cercle Militaire,
Place St. Augustin (participants to arrange own transportation) /
Overnight: Le Grand Hotel
It is late in the afternoon as I write this and this does not mean
the end of the day. There is still the Grand Banquet for the
evening to go to. Before entering the highlights of the day,
it might be appropriate to comment on the Grand Banquet. It
will be, apparently, haute cuisine in a period room. We've
already had to ante up another 10 francs per, though the major part
is included in the overall tariff for the tour. We learned of
that last evening at our initial assembly. We also learned, to
our dismay, that in addition to about a dozen we-pay-as-we-go
lunches, there will be that many (or more) dinners. Granted,
we are in a land of great cooking, but given the size of the tour
cost, I assumed that as with Greece, most evening meals were
included. WRONG! That has a double implication.
First, we need to find suitable places. Second, there is the
cost. Prices (for U.S. citizens) are high. It costs a
great deal to eat. It would be very easy to spend $10 to 15
per person for the evening meal, and a lot more. We could go
broke very quickly. And I'm not sure I want to—or
even can anymore—eat food that is too rich. So we begin to
improvise. More on that below.
To begin then. Sleep came quickly to us both, but
then, in the deepest of dark, I awoke being hot and uncomfortable.
After fussing as quietly as I could, I opened the window a bit
(happily we have a courtside room) and went as quietly as I could to
relieve myself. Nothing helped. Mila awoke—I then
checked the time—2:30 a.m. Well, back to sleep, or to try.
Finally a noise occurred: the wakeup call at 7:00 a.m.
Obviously we had gotten to sleep.
We leave a card for breakfast. Apparently I was
not clear in my notation and nothing was arriving as I had hoped and
requested. I braved the telephone and presto, we soon had our
continental breakfast. Orange juice, cafe au lait, and plenty
of rolls/croissants and butter and jam. We scarfed that down,
but saved two hard rolls plus some jam. That I packed in some
zip-loc bags to carry with us. Lunch perhaps or a supplement.
We assembled at the bus at 8:30 and soon thereafter
were off to St. Denis to see the abbey church. In the best of
manner there was the usual scaffold here and there and an unexpected
adjustment. An extra long high mass was being said for the
first communion for a group of girls. While it was quite
entertaining to see and hear the church in use (and it was quite
crowded with a working class group, with babes in arms) it/this
prevented us from being able to see le
musée of tombs and thus the
chevet area and crypt. We would
not benefit from a delay since another mass would soon begin.
So we did something completely different.
A half block away was the Sunday market in full
swing. Everything was going for sale, from clothing to
live critters such as rabbits and chickens. A number of us
purchased various goodies. Mila and I restricted our purchases
to four Golden Delicious apples. Others got other fruit, nuts,
and what else I know not. Thus fortified, we turned toward the
bus and then headed for
L'Ile de la Cité.
La Cité, as it is known, was also the honey that lured
other visitors that morning, and in great quantity. Patric,
our driver, managed to lose his way in and alongside Notre Dame's
flank (near flank) and we debarked. We walked around the apse (we were on the north side)
and along the south flank to the place in front. There
is a great construction underway, all in wood, ranging across the
front of the facade. Only a narrow lane separated the porch
from it. Red carpeting was being laid on the many stairs, etc.
It turns out that the Pope is coming! It will be the U.S. tour
all over again, with much hoopla if the temporary structure is any
indication. The size of the timbers was quite impressive.
We went first to
Ste. Chapelle. We arrived so we
could use our pass, only to find [the chapel] open (as apparently it is at
that time as a matter of course) and a line of people waiting to
enter. Our pass was rejected because it said musée, not
monument. A typical rhubarb based on lower functionaries not
understanding what higher functionaries mean. Presumably this
pass expressly allowed us entrance into both musées and monuments.
Tom Ridington came to our rescue. He inquired in French if
professors could not enter free? The answer was yes. So
out came IDs from those of us so equipped. The ticket taker
was not too swift and tried to comprehend what she was shown.
If it was official it was OK. Mila used my business card, one
used his senior citizen pass (with photo); I think anything
printed was acceptable because we all got in. (Later I learned
some had to pay.)
The windows in the upper chapel, which Michelin says
are the oldest in Paris (etc.), are carefully restored so as to
maintain character. From Sainte Chapelle we went to the top
(west/tail) of La Cité. From there one gets a good view of the
Louvre. It was there that Mila and I ate apples (one apiece).
We then proceeded toward Notre Dame. Oh, I forgot to note we
Place Dauphine on our way to Square du Vert Galant (the
This is somewhat still 17th Century in appearance.
Well, back to Notre Dame by Le Tour de L'Herbage.
We went through the Sunday bird market and the
Place du Parvis.
Since this now covers a garage recently built, considerable
archaeology had been possible in conjunction with its construction.
Old sites (medieval) are now outlined on the pavement indicating the
rue d'eglise. An interesting concept.
Notre Dame's interior,
as before, is less impressive
than the outside. Partly it is the darkness. Anyway,
from there we went to the Square d'Ile de France and saw but was
unable to visit the
Memorial de la Deportation. We sat in the
Square and ate one of our rolls.
We then decided to walk toward
Centre Georges Pompidou,
better known as the Beaubourg, since the Centre (the famous/infamous
modern structure) is on
Plateau Beaubourg. By this time Mila
and I were on our own, by choice, since others went to the Ile St.
Louis for walk and lunch. Pompidou Centre is, in fact, really
something. I'm not sure yet of my reaction, but it wasn't
really negative. More ambiguous. It works, Lord knows.
To add to the situation, Sundays are free days. But that is
only part of it. The plaza in front is the site of "street
entertainers" doing their thing for tossed coins. This last
was something both aural and visual. Given the topography of
the area. which slopes down to the Centre Pompidou in its inner
area, surrounded by a street level walkway on the other boundaries,
one has a natural "arena" for both ground level and elevated
viewing. The latter includes people on the exterior walkways
of the building.
The building is a boy's Erector Set dream come true.
Indeed, it is exaggerated but consistent. The west facade,
facing the Plateau Beaubourg, is the one always photographed, with
the exterior escalator. The elevators, also on the exterior,
do not have glass doors or walls, however; only the staircases and
escalator automatique. The east side is in line with other
facades, and that is, indeed, unbelievable. It has all these
pipes and vents, etc., in multiple colors, and being in line with
and at the same height as the conventional Parisian six-seven-story
facade, you have a startling image indeed.
Inside, where the industrial exhibits are, is a
science-technology construct. An indoor people-space.
The bibliotheque was in use but closed to us. The third and
fourth floors were open and in Modern Art (begins with Cubists and
Fauvres). The collection is good! A lot of American for
later stuff. The fifth floor is temporary exhibitions.
This still required admission on free days. We did not enter,
more a matter of time than money.
Oh yes, the cafeteria (expensive) is up there too.
A 7-Up type drink they called lemonade was 3 f (75¢)
per 8 oz?
From there we walked past the
Les Halles site which is
now called Porte Rambuteau. Still under construction, it is
apparently a combination transportation center and shopping center,
largely underground. If time permits we'll return.
We finally headed back into the hotel, it was nearly
five, or at least after four p.m. We had started at 8:30 a.m.
We rested and then at 7:30 we walked with others (all dressed up we
were) to this military club,
where we had a gala
and fancy dinner. The food was OK but messy to eat.
Elaborate service by young boys (late teens/early twenties).
Perhaps my taste buds are withering. I found it all OK but I
wasn't tempted to overeat. I tasted the wine, but I've lost
the taste for that. In fact I refused refills (I deliberately
requested a small portion first) so consistently I was nearly passed
over on a refill on my water glass.
Well, the grand affair was concluded and the
retreat back to the hotel began. It was 11:30 p.m. when
finally we were in our room. Our first full day was very full
rings at 7:00 for wake-up. Meal finally brought after we call
at 7:45. On bus 8:30, leave at 8:45 for Ste. Chapelle (also go
to open market & Ile St. Louis, Notre Dame). Have saved
breakfast rolls, buy apples. See concierge for arts, etc.
We shiver because it's quite cool, overcast & damp. See mass &
first communion at Ste. Chapelle—it's a working-class district, not
pretty, but interesting.
We eat apples & roll & set off alone at 2:00 for Centre
Georges Pompidou—"Beaubourg"—wild avant-garde building with pipes &
ducts outside—escalators are all in see-thru plastic tubes in arts
See modern art housed on one floor. Have lemonade on top
floor. Rather impressive, really, though the initial shock is
a bit staggering. Public seems to love it. Back to hotel
at 4:30 to rest, wash & prepare for the Grand Banquet at Les
Cercle Militaire, Place St. Augustin. (Big formal deal—perhaps
we can steal some food for the next day?) Prices are out of
sight & we have to not eat at all or use breakfast rolls & my "bird
food" (health stuff with raisins, etc.) to keep us going.
Two interesting experiences:
1) After Earl presented official documents to the
Guard (a black woman) in charge of Ste. Chapelle, she said no, we
could not be admitted free, since document admitted people to
"museums," not "monuments." (Here we go again.) Tom
interceded (charmingly), saying wouldn't our cards showing us to be
professors, artistes, etc. get us in? "Oh bon, bon," so we all
tried to drag out official-looking cards (I had none so I became
Professor of Art Ehrlich). Other people used voter
registration cards, senior citizen cards, architect cards, etc.
2) "Entertainment" of a street variety: sword
swallowers, muscle-man in chains, mimes. Huge crowds,
of course, surround them. Africans pounding on drums,
dancers & do-your-own-thingers—looked like scene from Hunchback
of Notre Dame.
British & Italian architects won competition for the
Centre, I suppose thus creating a big flap for not only design but
non-Frenchmen winning. All part of an overall redevelopment
project incorporating Les Halles district—including much underground
area: pedestrian concourse, antique center, private flats,
boutiques, etc.; twelve acres in all.
Musical Acoustic Centre (closed to public).
National Museum of Modern Art (we were in) all guards were young
girls, well-dressed, some attractive & reading paperback books &
not once looking up. You could have stolen a Picasso for all
Jack Parker is mistily reliving his student days here
in 1952—saw where his hotel was (Ile de Cité) where
Living Theatre fame) lived across street (before Jack lived
there, of course), where Simone Signoret lived/lives, where Chagall
has his studio (two whole floors). The Pope is to arrive next
week: great excitement—building steps (with red carpeting yet) &
viewing stand, pictures of the Pope in store windows—a whole
contingent of church people, including a cardinal getting photos (&
TV) taken in Notre Dame.
Walked over to Cercle National. Had "cocktails"
(ugh) cranberry juice & Dubonnet—terribly sweet. Mushroom,
olives, "spine" pie with crust. Roast duck with potato chips!
Lettuce. Choice of cheese (I had camembert). Glacé
(coffee & vanilla) frozen. Petits fours & café. Mineral
water, white wine, red wine.
The company: Jack, Tom, George,
Gerry (& assorted dull
women) was terrific. The food was ostentatious and not so
good. Duck good but potato chips! Glacé good.
To bed at midnight.
MONDAY, MAY 26, 1980
Continental breakfast: Le Grand Hotel / [in
handwritten brackets: 9 a.m.—12 Noon: Walking tour, including
Louvre, Tuileries, and Left Bank] [handwritten:
in afternoon /
morning free] / Lunch on own /
1:30-4:30 p.m.: [scored through:
Metro to Montmartre
for walking tour] / 5:30 pm: Lecture on Mediaeval
[sic] architecture / Overnight: Le Grand Hotel
It has been a long day, a day filled with much walking and some
Metro-riding. As a consequence, seated now at past nine in the
evening, I was at a loss to recall where I had put this journal.
I was about ready to tell the hotel management that they should be
on the outlook for a small red book in which I was writing, when I
tried the bags again and found it. The Sunstream bag has a lot
of compartments indeed. Well, now I can begin to relate the
day's adventures, a day which also includes our twenty-fourth
The day began later than will be the norm, since we
were to have a free day in the morning. Mila and I toured
round the Opera. It is, on the exterior, an extraordinary and
extravagant building. The details are remarkable in their
complexity and variety. It is, as I said to some of our
fellows, "a statement."
As we completed the exterior tour, noting there was no
interior tours or anything going on, we ran into
Marian Davis, Blake
Katie Woodbridge and
Mary Carolyn George
(Gene George is ill). We decided to join forces and headed
toward St. Sulpice on the Left Bank. So into the Metro.
We made a detour so Mary Carolyn could see the house
where an artist she is working on lived. The artist is a
Texas-connected woman I must admit I know not, and the house is
clearly gone, a modern structure stands at the number.
From there to St. Sulpice. It is quite an
impressive structure, outside as well as in. I knew it from
pictures and they don't give the scale or the sense of volumes,
inside and out. The Delacroix murals in a chapel are OK but
not worth the trip in and of themselves, except as one might be on a
From St. Sulpice we headed toward the
Val de Grace via
the Luxembourg and its gardens. The latter were handsome as I
remembered them from
sixteen years ago, and this being a holiday
(Pentecost) it was filled with people. The Val de Grace is
much smaller than the severely classical St. Sulpice, and it is a
rich Jesuit-like, very Italianate structure with elaborate carvings
inside and out. I took a number of pictures, more aide de
memoire than for instructional purposes. Atmospheric photos
with people as well as buildings and views.
Well, we Metroed back to the hotel and ate the remainder
of our breakfast and our other apple for lunch then marshaled
ourselves for the afternoon tour of the Louvre exterior and the Left
Bank walking tour.
I'm sorry to say Earl Layman is not a good tour
guide; Marian Davis (our leader in the morning) is. I won't go
through the painful details except to say we walked and walked and
got strung out, etc. By the time we reached L'Ecole des Beaux
Arts, Mila and I decided to split and tour on our own. We
ambled toward her old haunts of 25 years earlier and found
From there she suggested we head toward the Rodin
Museum, and as we started off we ran into our companions of the
morning less Katie Woodbridge. So once again we joined forces.
We were instructed by Marian and saw numerous old facades, etc.
The 7th arrondisement is heavily 18th Century and some
earlier. There is, of course, a lot of 19th (and even 20th)
Century buildings. But the street patterns are still medieval,
and there are numerous courts within, to which facades face (as we
can see here and there).
One interesting thing is that there is a lot of Art
Nouveau of a form I was not up on. It isn't continental/Horta
stuff, nor Guimard, nor is it Mac[k]intosh. Rather, it is a bit
heavy, with some plastic treatment of the facade, a bit like a heavy
Rococo. There is floral work and swelling brackets etc.
I really must learn more about it. Some buildings are
original, early 20th Century before World War I. I don't
recognize the architects.
Well, we did end at the Rodin Museum and saw the
collection and the
Hotel Biron, the house which is late 18th
Century. The collection was interesting but familiar.
The gardens were interesting since they also served as a public park
with mommies and children sunning and playing.
We split with our companions after after being shoved
out at closing. We two walked (oh my poor feet) back to a
student-type restaurant across from L'Ecole des Beaux Arts. We
had a fixe-prix dinner, sharing long tables with others, and there
with our half-liter of wine we had potage, plat de poisson avec
mayonnaise, plus une pomme et fromage. And a lot of bread,
pain but not pain. Our anniversary meal. It was
notable. It is in the tourist guides, but no quarter is given
them. And there were "students" much in evidence.
From there is was to Blvd. St. Germain to take the
Metro back "home." And now it is near bed time, an hour after
Near the Metro stop, by the church of
St. Germain des
Pres, more street entertainers. One was playing the flute to
the accompaniment of a stereo-cassette player providing a full
Today is Pentecost which really means it's a major holiday & almost
everything is closed—including cafes, WCs, drugstores, not
to mention some museums. This wasn't too bad because it was a
lovely sunny day—not to mention our anniversary—but when one is
desperate to eat, it's not so amusing.
Started out with a later breakfast that usual (we can't
seem to get that going somehow) & left hotel about 9:00.
Walked around Opera (closed, of course). Coming down steps ran
into Mitch, Marian, Katie, Blake & Mary Carolyn (Gene George is
under the weather) who were venturing out, so we joined them.
Got into Metro & went to San
Sulpice, Val de Grace & Luxembourg Gardens with all of the children,
mommies, dogs, etc. running around. Perfectly lovely time with
few if any people in churches & nice, knowledgeable companions—had to
rush back by Metro for 1:30 tour. Pepsi in Metro, apples and
two rolls in room. Downstairs we found out we were to walk
to Louvre—it was very disorganized & noninformative. The group
kept splitting up, couldn't hear Earl, so Geo & I left the tour on
Left Bank & went on our own up & down St. Germain. Saw my old
"fleabag," the Fleurys Hotel on Rue du Bac, & Geo took photo of it.
On way to Rodin Museum ran into Marian, Blake, Mitch &
Mary Carolyn. Had a citron ice-bar & looked around at monuments
& embassies—very nice time. Went to Rodin Museum which was
interesting & gardens even better with little children & ducklings &
ponds & roses. Stayed until 5:45 when guards ran us out.
Walked some distance to restaurant at 6:15 which was closed (the
help was eating). Went & sat down at Seine bankside & watched
boats, barges & dogs. Back to restaurant—the Beaux Arts on Rue
Sebastopol—price fixe for 25 f had potage, fish with boiled
potato, fromage & bottle of white wine. Went home just before
9:00, washed hair & tried to restore feet to some semblance of
order—retired romantically about 11:00.
TUESDAY, MAY 27, 1980
[Starting today, no
further handwritten corrections were made to the "Tentative Tour
Schedule" except for one on June 10th]
Continental breakfast: Le Grand Hotel /
8:30 a.m.: All-day bus tour to Chartres /
Participants to take (or buy in Chartres) food for own picnic lunch / Overnight: Le Grand Hotel
Breakfast, this time, was on time, and our routine is becoming
established. Fortunately the hotel room/area is quiet (but
over-warm to my taste), and I managed a decent rest. We were
on [the] bus at 8:30 en route pour Chartres. As noted earlier,
Earl Layman is not a tour guide. He says nothing. While
a "chatty cathy" would be a bore, there are some obvious things to
tell people. He is, perhaps, intimidated by some of the
knowledgeable ones, but I doubt that is the case.
Well, we arrive at Chartres having left in rain and
finding grey skies there. La Cathédrale loomed up as it
is supposed to, and this time was more impressive
than I remembered
it to be. We hauled in at an hour that would give us about
five hours to explore the cathedral and the old town at our
First inside. It is everything and more than one
remembers it to be. Indeed, with no concerns about touring en
group we have a sense of adventure and discovery. In this
aspect I like the low-key Layman approach. As our eyes became
accustomed to the light, and it takes about half an hour, one
received the full impact of the proportions of the church. It
is proportionally quite wide and that has an important effect.
Blake Alexander feels it is the
arch arrises that carry all the way
down the piers that give one a sense of relating to the upper
spaces. Perhaps it is the light, modulated by the windows.
The windows themselves are, of course, very impressive. They
are also hard to read—even
impossible. Perhaps they are the heavenly host hovering.
You know they are there, but that is all one can say.
We exited to buy some picnic
and several of us ate by the cathédrale. We then
were going to set out to see some of the city. I turned back
to a bookstore I'd seen on our way to the
cathédrale to get a good guide to France, only to arrive as
it closed for lunch. I then decided to walk around the
exterior of the cathédrale, and lo
and behold another bookstore across from the south porch, open.
I got the Guide Bleu France, 1980 (Hachette) and now feel I can cope
with further travels. I used the plan de ville Chartres to
guide us into curious medieval byways, including the pedestrian
streets with steps to manage the grade differentials. We
visited St. Aignan, a curious wood vaulted pastiche with interior
polychromy, and St. Pierre, where we were the only visitors.
Numerous striking views and the like to impress one. In the
process it began to rain, but we took shelter, finally, under the
south porch of the cathédrale.
Mila and I have rain gear, but others didn't.
At 2 p.m. a number of us climbed the tower and did the
walk by the roof gutter. Being up at that level has its
problems, as did climbing the spiral staircase. But at least I
did it and gained some new insights concerning architecture, gothic
churches, and me.
Afterward, back in Paris, the Greek crowd, eleven of
the fourteen on this tour, journeyed to the Left Bank in search of a
restaurant. We ended, instead, on St. Germain Blvd. at La Belle
Époque. It was medium-priced for each by the time we got
through (80 f each). We then walked back, through the
Louvre, having crossed Pont Carousel.
We are slowly getting to know some of our traveling
companions. So far our boon associates are the old Greek tour
folk, Marian Davis, Blake Alexander, Mitch, Tom, Mary Carolyn and
Gene (who are now married),
Gary, Katie and Jack.
Abruptly awakened by phone at 6:20—stumbled around making
toilettes—breakfast promptly at 7:00, out to bus in rain at 8:15
with dire predictions of a truck slowdown that came true on the way
back. Nice ride to Chartres alternating looking at countryside
and reading Jack Parker's
written reminiscences of China visit in December. Got to spend
five hours in not only touring the Cathedral, but in prowling the
little town. Cathedral dark, Gothic, with extraordinarily
beautiful stained glass windows which we looked at through the opera
glasses. There were tons of tourists, especially notably
British teenage school children (very cheeky &
& hordes of well organized Germans. Went out at 11:30-12:00
with Gary [&] Mitch to buy cheese, fruit, etc. each in individual
little shops—quite charming. Bought Granny Smith apples, Emmenthal cheese (we had rolls from breakfast). Mitch bought a
half a chicken! Gorgeous slice of paté (I got some) & a whole
bottle of mineral water. Lovely sweets but we didn't succumb.
Ate on benches with Lyle—other couple shared their Brie—watching
tourists & giggling. Went on wonderful tour of backwoods
Chartres—little corrals (saw dead bat on one bridge), two ancient
churches with NO one in them, public latrines for the
"necessaries." It got darker & darker & finally let loose with
steady rain up to 2:00 when we ran up to church enclosure.
Paid 3 f to climb many steps inside spiral staircase up to roof
level to walk around—Jack almost had a heart attack & Mitch kept
moaning all of the way up—everyone up there were SAH'rs—it had
stopped raining & [there] was quite a nice, dewy look about the
Went back down into cathedral & looked at window(s).
bus, buying coffee glacé bars. Drive back, most people slept
except during colossal traffic jam due to truck slowdown.
Decided to meet at 7:00 (about an hour late) for dinner
(a reunion of the Greek Gang). Eleven (11!) showed up: Marian
& Blake, Mitch, Gene & Mary Carolyn, Geo & me, Jack, Gary, Tom, Katie.
The trip in the Metro to the Left Bank was exciting with the door
closing on Gene, me throwing myself into the closure. Started
to rain hard. Ran. The restaurant, the
(142 Blvd. St. Germaine) or Le Grand Epoque was gorgeous, turn of
century, Art Nouveau, almost empty when we arrived (eventually to be
filled in by horde of Danes?).
Beautiful mirrors, service, tilework. Had fish wrapped in foil
(Jack called it a "silverfish") with small new potatoes, had
sorbet framboise (raspberry sherbet) for dessert (Mitch had to filet my
fish). Walked back to hotel.
Picture Postcard of
Chartres Cathedral addressed to Matthew in KCMO, written by
Yes, we made the crossing OK and were immediately into
perambulating activities that have added numerous kilometers to my
pedometer. I'm glad I don't really have one, I'd be depressed
by the knowledge of how much of Paris (and today Chartres) I've
covered with your Mother being enthusiastic about almost everything—including
the foot-dragging husband. On that note, my feet are holding
up—gout is at bay—and my spirits are high seeing so much. And
it has only begun, since this was only the third full day. Our
anniversary dinner was in a student restaurant on the left bank,
elbow to elbow with others at "family tables." Ah me!
Today was especially a good day at Chartres, and if you look at the
other side, at the line where the green roof begins, Mom and I were
up there walking along the parapet on the other side. Hang in
there, we're hanging in here and hard at it. While we're
writing to others, you might call in case cards are delayed. /
Love, Dad and Mom
WEDNESDAY, MAY 28, 1980
Continental breakfast: Le Grand Hotel / 7 a.m.:
Luggage in halls / 8 a.m.: Bus departs for Poitiers / Own picnic
lunch en route / Afternoon walking tour of Poitiers with
historians from the University of Poitiers / 7 p.m.: Dinner: Hotel
de France, Poitiers / Overnight: Hotel de France, Poitiers
En route pour Poitiers. We took off early enough,
though we were delayed by a missing
Ben Schneider, and
from Seattle who had some sort of nervous/chemical affliction that
had equivalent symptoms of food poisoning. He rode in the onboard
WC for nearly an hour. We passed through incredibly
manicured rural-agricultural lands with little villages of farmers
to the side, and occasionally a city near the freeway. As we
reached the Loire Valley, one could see the current prosperity of
this largely agricultural land and visualize its attractiveness in
medieval times. It had to be [attractive], come to think of it, given the
rise of Romanesque architecture there. We saw large silhouette
signs of the various famous chateaux, giving advance warning of later
signs indicating turnoffs to them. We, alas, had no time to
Speaking of signs, we see none, or virtually none,
advertising (other than for gas stations on the freeway). Off
freeway a very occasional small one. Also, virtually no
litter; really none for American experienced eyes. It goes
with the disciplined fields, gardens, etc. I wonder if this is
regional or national?
We did see some modest, later chateaux from our
speeding bus. And speaking of the bus, it is worth noting
that the no smoking sign seems to work on almost all who smoke about
all the time. And, as far as I can tell, there is very little
smoking among the group. Of the Greek Gang, only Rosann, Jack
Parker and Mitch smoke. Of the new acquaintances, very few do.
Also speaking of the bus, we have an onboard WC that
is a great advantage, except when the water pump switch for the wash
basin went berserk. It necessitated a stop at a parking (that
is the word widely used along the highway instead of stationment)
area and Patric had to do an emergency repair. The whine of
the two pumps (basin and stool) are our occasional music.
As we passed by close and above downtown Tours we saw
unusual cathédrale but little else of note. But
then we were heading for Poitiers, our principal target. We
arrived between 11:30 and 11:45 at the
[de] France. Directly
across the street is a
charcuterie, and someone spilled out of the
bus and into it to inform the proprietor that many of us would buy
our lunch there. She [the proprietor] held open past the 11:45
hour. We had been watching a very tiny lad try to sweep the
sidewalk and a lady from the charcuterie supervising.
It was this that led some to surmise she was about to close.
We were waiting to debark after Rosann had gotten room assignments
squared. I whipped in and got two different pastries[?],
one with a thin slice of ham, the other with mushrooms plus (? what)
[sic]. Our extra
breakfast rolls had vanished into our systems en route. This
repast with water we had in our room.
The room is small, in the old section, and the twin
beds plus the wardrobe, chairs, etc. make it very crowded. We
have a decent bain privée with a frosted glass door, but
separated from the room proper by a bedroom door (as in Paris).
That enables one to use the facility at night without serious
disruption for others. Price listed is 200 f with
15 f each.
Once "fed," we did a bit of sightseeing on our own and
soon returned to the hotel to be led by a visiting doctoral
candidate of the University of Oregon to the Medieval Center at the
University of Poitiers. There we met in a lecture room I later
learned was in a 15th Century building. The screens and
blackboard are where once the fireplace and chimney were located.
We sat at metal tables, with individual chairs, and for each place
there was a shielded low-intensity light. The room, very high
ceilinged, had [a] screen (double projection) above, [and a] lighted
(shielded) blackboard below. There was a lecturer's platform
and desk, map rack to the side, and a portable lighted lectern in
front, at the end of the aisle between the two rows of tables.
At the rear was a high platform with two 2x2 automatic cartridge Leitz
[slide] projectors; two manual 3x4 plus opaque projectors by a German
manufacturer. Quite a setup, since two different voltages
Professor Pon, a historian, read/gave a lecture on
medieval Poitiers. I now have a confirmed stereotypical image
of the French lecture, complete with small notepaper, out-of-focus
slides, etc. Our tired group dozed off, though he [Pon] did have a
lot to say and did it in tolerable English. The only problem
was that at times it sounded French. The reverse, no doubt, of
my reading aloud (or trying to) French. The Oregon lad was our
guide and translator as needed.
After this was done,
Madame Camus, an art historian,
guided us through Notre Dame la Grande and the Cathédrale.
She spoke in French (though she knows a fair amount of English) and
Oregon translated in a rather abbreviated manner. I know, not
only because the difference in the length of the speeches, but
because I was able to follow a good deal of it. I was really
understanding her clear, logical and expressive commentary.
She is, for me, a charmer.
Notre Dame la Grande is much smaller than I expected,
and weathering on the facade sculpture is bad, especially in the
lower level. It is an interesting but problematic building.
The curious truncated crossing is a case in point. The choir
is quite interesting with its ghostly fresco. One senses the
tentativeness of the solutions to the structional problems. I
must do some reading when I get home on all of this.
Then over to the cathédrale. It is a
strange pile; all sorts of Romanesque elements, though basically
Gothic. It has a
ribbed domical octite[?]
vaulting. It also has the
oldest large-scale stained glass in
France (though only a few windows). But then came the unusual
treat. We got to go up on the vaults themselves.
Up a spiral staircase and into a side aisle by the choir; then into
the choir, then into the higher nave. A strange experience.
They are restoring the trusses of the roof and the roof itself, and
one can see the old (last restoration was 18th Century, I
understood) and the new timbers replicating the old. It is
like a wood roof supported by arcaded stone walls (over the
columns). The dust and such up there was much; but the
experience was worth the trial (and later
I should add, earlier we saw another strange two-aisle
Romanesque church, that of
St. Porchaire. It, by the way,
opens onto a medieval street that is now returned to its pedestrian
origins, but modernized to suit contemporary facades. It does
provide lessons in such. By the way, no food places
etc. Only shops, including at least three bookstores.
One had my newly acquired Guide Bleu for 98.50 f vs.
122 f, about $6 difference. The medieval street pattern
in old town remains very much in evidence, including widths.
We returned to the hotel for a quick wash up and dinner
in a group—finally.
Food so-so. Then off (by bus this time) to the lecture room
for a champagne etc. reception with faculty members of the Medieval
Center. A strange experience. Too much goodies for
us—all of us bone-tired—and we were not overly involved. I did
talk haltingly in both French and English with Madame Camus.
There was champagne, Scotch, Perrier, orange juice, Cognac and
Armagnac. Little pastry things, and cigarettes (American) in
opened packages, and small cigars (Havana). We were
paying for this, but apparently with a return on unopened bottles.
I was all too ready to totter in to my bed.
And since my toe began to ache, I began the
What else will happen?
Wake up at 6:15, breakfast at 7:00. Supposed to leave at 8:00.
Will we? What about truck slowdown? Will we get out of
town? Uneventful packing, but sure enough a late start!
Dr. Ben had disappeared (presumably sightseeing) & didn't appear
until 8:00, also Ken MacInnes had "food poisoning"?! & they couldn't
decide whether to leave him or take him along. They did the
latter but he heaved in the john until halfway to Poitiers.
Poor fellow, locked in box. Finally WC rebelled, sending out
shrieks of complaint. Had to stop bus (after some of us tried
fixing it at "rest" stop (unfinished) & a lot of us piled out to
"go" in back, which poor Patric was repairing the fuse—much
hilarity. It was cold. Got to Poitiers about
12:30-45. Outside the hotel was a little charcuterie where we
where we bought goodies—staggered upstairs to "room" with luggage.
Went out exploring in slight rain through streets filled with
students and motorbikes on the "pedestrian mall"—went in old church.
Kept running into people we knew (ate café bars). Ran back to
hotel to meet group, only to find we were going back to same place
we'd been & beyond! Excruciatingly boring & tedious lecture by
M. Pon, lecturer at U of Poitiers. He was introduced by Mr.
Deal, a young PhD exchange student from U of Oregon. M. Pon
said "My English is out of tune." We saw slides reversed—a
lighted pointer that didn't work—funny pronunciation "rue"
(reminiscent of Peter Sellers) history of architecture. We all
nodded & restrained our naturally ribald giggles. Went on with
woman lecturer, a Mme Camus (blonde with chic grey suit with
wine-colored high heels) to churches—very thorough
description of everything in French interpreted by Mr. Deal (who was
young, mustached). Some people thought it was tedious; we
found it interesting, especially germane outside of ancient
Romanesque church with all of the figures explained laboriously.
Went on at 5:45 (!) to Cathedral for same thing, including an
incredible climb to the vaults?! Stairs filled with pigeon
guano & skeletal remains of dead pigeons & bats crunching underfoot.
It was dusty & filled with feathers—interesting though.
Ran back to hotel at 7:15 to dress (complete
from top to bottom) for dinner and reception afterward. To
me the meal was good:
salade nicoise, roast pork & mashed potatoes, not very good ice cream. Went on
to reception at very cold university. Formal address by
some official representing the President, expressing in French his
sentiments. We drank much champagne, sweet cookies, and
finally brandy (SAH members took rest of bottles home). Rather
hysterical leavetaking & arrival at hotel. Wild dreams
THURSDAY, MAY 29, 1980
Continental breakfast: Hotel de France / 8 a.m.:
Bus departs for Angoulême and
Périgueux / Own picnic lunch en route /
description of afternoon activity]
/ 7 p.m.: Dinner: Hotel de France / Overnight: Hotel
Today was early rise and shine to take the bus to
attempt] Périgueux (there!). It was raining when we
awoke, and it did on and off thereafter, including a real gully
washer at Périgueux, and another earlier at
The latter was our first port of call, and it is, in
fact, an acropolis insofar as the old city is concerned. We
exited, finally, by the cathédrale, St. Pierre.
After studying the inside, which is impressive, and the exterior,
which is so crisp after the restoration of the 19th Century it
doesn't look old, we began an exterior tour of the upper city by
walking the ramparts. But first we headed for Les Halles,
which I saw on the way to the church. The market hall looked
19th Century, iron and glass, and was in full swing. We bought
bread, apples and cheese. From there we walked the ramparts.
The views are striking and one can sense how this spot, so
defensible, was selected as a city. St. Pierre is right by the
ramparts. We also saw the Hotel de Ville with its two old
towers, 13th and 15th Centuries, and the theatre (exterior).
The latter was rather nice but we had no date on it. It might
have been later 18th Century.
From there we hurried on to
Périgueux. St. Front
is heavily restored, and totally disoriented inside. St. Pierre
with its domes is still a church with an axial presentation.
St. Front, with a Greek cross, and entered from a transept, is
confusing. An altar (modern) is at the crossing, and chairs
face it from all four sides. There are other altars, and these
have chairs facing them. The west front is not an entrance.
Restoration still goes on as it does for large portions
of the old city around it. That is nice to see. All "old
towns" are not necessarily that much to look at, but with a bit of
care and maintenance, with some restoration, a great deal can be
done. One annoying thing was extensive noise pollution in the
old area, loudspeakers substituting for "barkers" urging that
attention be paid. That was totally annoying to me.
Then soon it was time to return, and the long drive
began. All told, we were gone eleven hours from the hotel.
We were in truffle and foie gras country, and there is much
marketing of local products. Paté are everywhere, and featured
in charcuteries. Our
dinner (yes, another one) in the hotel
had soup, paté, chicken and a slice of a large tart. Lord, I
wish we had more fruit and vegetables!
In retrospect, the domed churches are a curious
manifestation of the search for structural solutions to large
churches. They are interesting, but clearly they don't give an
adequate spacial treatment, through
too bad. The 19th Century restorations are hard to discuss as to
when they start and end. It is often new materials substituted
for old and stuccoing over the old, etc. A problem.
I won't be sorry to leave the Hotel France in Poitiers,
though I'd like to explore Poitiers more, as I would other of the
old cities. It isn't just the matter of the plans or the
oldest buildings, but the way various generations and styles of
buildings coexist. Rarely does a modern structure fit in.
The better 19th [Century] and even Art Nouveau (French heavy style)
does. There are lessons in that. Also, there are lessons
in how space is used, and how courtyards open up otherwise tight,
Oh yes, we stopped at
Brantome briefly on the way back;
Wake up at 6:15, breakfast at 7:00, out at 8:10 in rain!
Angoulême—more "rugged country" (note: one of the strangest
sights yesterday was Dr. Ben in his impeccable business suit,
scrambling over guano-crusted scaffolding). Off reasonably on
time after running across street to get mushroom quiche.
Raining in Angoulême—see cathedral, walk in rain to
City Market—an incredible experience—beautiful displays of fruits,
vegs, flowers, bread, meat (whole lamb's heads), each place
had a bouquet of flowers on counter. Bought bread, cheese,
apples (later ate in bus). See
beautiful theatre there.
rain, squall, hail, twisty road at breakneck pace, driver seems to
be outdoing himself—get to feeling nauseated—take Dramamine, which
makes whole town experience seem dreamlike.
Stop several times by river to take shots of almost
19th Century Romantic views—really slows us up. We don't get
back until 7:10! (Dinner at 7:30.) Rush up & change.
Dinner: veg soup, paté, roast chicken with new potatoes, sweet
tart with Jack Parker. Have brandy in lobby with "Greek"
FRIDAY, MAY 30, 1980
Continental breakfast: Hotel de France / 7 a.m.:
Luggage in halls / 8 a.m.:
Bus departs for Toulouse, via
Limoges and Cahors / Own picnic lunch en route /
description of afternoon activity or dinner]
/ Overnight: Hotel
Frantel Wilson, Toulouse
Once again, up and at 'em early. We have luggage in the halls
by 7:00 and we are ready to depart at 8:00. It is a long ride
to Toulouse, and through rugged country.
We begin by going to
St. Savin, a very early Romanesque
church with a simple barrel vault and remnants of the original
frescoes (other paintings of a decorative nature restored). A
striking building. Pseudo Corinthian columns in the choir.
Rather thick coarse plaster (stucco) on walls. etc. I wonder
if that replicates original interior finishes?
After St. Savin, it is a rugged drive. We go up
and up, and then down into valleys. Many curves. It is
like being on a ship on a stormy sea instead of a bus. We are
in sheep and cattle country, mostly sheep. In St. Savin I
bought a baguette (bread) before boarding the bus. That plus
apples and cheese left from yesterday will be lunch.
It is interesting to see changes in rural and village
architecture. Towers (dovecotes?)
appear; roof slopes change.
We stop in Brive, at a park, to picnic. Nearby is
a Chalet de Necessité, 1
f. They even give
receipts. At least a colleague shows
We reach Cahors. A curious city. We are in
the old town, a sort of peninsula flanked on three sides by an oxbow
bend of a river. We see the Cathédrale, a
peculiar church with domes and what all. It really doesn't
illuminate except perhaps Muslim influences. A portion of the
church was screened off with a plastic curtain; restorations going
We wandered by the river and the old medieval streets,
than back to the bus. Men were playing a form of
We are nearing the Mediterranean and this must be some influence.
Then on to Toulouse, a large city. We are in the
heart of the older town. The hotel is tres moderne
inside, but curious in its appointments. Mila and I strike out
to seek food. We had seen a cafeteria near the hotel as the
bus came in for a landing. Lo and behold, it was open and we
had choices (so to speak). We had fish, I with spinach, she
with rice (which we shared), and a nice bottle of house rosé
and she a yogurt. There was water, etc. The whole thing
was (for France) modest, a bit over 23 f. One could even hot
things with a microwave oven! We need to keep that in mind for
later. It is very near the hotel.
Then from there to
St. Sernin. While it was
closed (inside) when we got there, and restoration was in evidence,
the exterior radiated in the late sunlight. It was really
impressive. It has a lot of brick which is red, and in
combination with the stone it is "colorful" somehow. It is big
and proud. I was impressed.
From there to the
Capitolium, to arrive as a military
band was assembling in the plaza. Then costumed people, in
dress. Needless to say, Mila and I stayed to watch. We
thought it was for some sort of festival for which we saw a posted
sign (and earlier people with kids heading for). But no, it
was some sort of awards ceremony in the old court of the Hotel de
Ville. What it was I know not, but there was a broaching of a
cask of wine (by the mayor!) and a cake, and a spray of flowers for
the winner(?) ,
a young girl. Was it some sort of competition of folk dancers
and such, and one group had won the prize? Before the goodies,
one group danced. The military band played on for
But soon we really had to get back, unpack, do laundry,
bring the journal up to date, and sleep. Tomorrow is
Early call. On to Toulouse via (Limoges) Cahors. A long,
long drive. In bus with some short stops for ten hours.
We all got punchy & the WC's sink started acting up—shrieking again
toward the end of the trip. The bus is alternatingly cold
(with air conditioning blowing in our ears or on legs) or hot with
sun streaming in. The bus has blinds, though, & Patric obliges
us. He's even beginning to joke a bit—playing his tapes, etc.
We have some leftover cheese, bread Geo bought in an
outdoor market, apples, a few shreds of Mitch's half-chicken &
Rosann's leftover cookies out in a beautiful park somewhere in SW
France. Sat on bench with Mitch, Jack, Gary, Lyle. Saw a
beautiful cathedral that Marian recommended seeing—all with interior
painted domes & pillars called _________
[sic] It's exquisite—all
faded earth colors, pinkish marbleish—with vases of pink carnations
& white lilies. Glad we stopped.
I could have lived without Cahors though it was great
to get off the bus so late, but people tend to disappear, not only
to photograph but to buy ice cream, beer & whatnot. The
from New Orleans opposite us have enough food to feed an army: beer,
two flutes of bread, three huge chunks of cheese, meat,
cherries—they are both "plump" and no wonder!
Driving into Toulouse is a real thrill during 6 o'clock
rush hour, traffic jams, etc. but the check in to the hotel was
easy & the wait was worth it, after the last two nights in a rather
Hotel Frantel-Wilson, Toulouse.
What a surprise! Sort of Art Deco: entry hall—walls covered
with cocoa-colored fuzzy fabric. One tasteful print "Musée des
Augustins"—Toulouse cubists exhibition poster. Luggage
rack—desk—two bedside tables, white moderne. Small white
direction lights on either side of bed. Grey headboard with
separate radio panels, white and blue fuzzy Irish bedspread,
cocoa-colored wall-to-wall carpeting, central air, white translucent
drapes with red/white/black almost a
modern lamp with square white shade—color TV. Bathroom
unbelievable—grey bidet, toilet (with white wood ashtray by it),
sink, tub. It has perfume for man & lady, and toothpaste.
It's probably more schlocky & pseudo-modern & non-sound-absorbent &
on the street, but it's clean & fun for three nights!
Unpacked almost everything. Should be interesting
repacking. Went out for a wonderfully cheap meal (23 f for
two!) at a beautiful cafeteria,
Flunch: chicken, rice,
spinach, lemon yogurt, & a little bottle of wine.
Walked around—looked at church from outside, and ran
into wonderful folk festival complete with band of army reserves?
Hundreds of people in folk costumes, the mayor?
[sic] & his wife
& observers witnessing some kind of ceremony awarding prizes?!
of people laughing—one group danced—band played loudly,
including drum & bugle corps. Back to hotel 9:30, washed
undies & caught up on journal.
SATURDAY, MAY 31, 1980
Continental breakfast: Hotel Frantel Wilson / 8:30 a.m.:
Bus departs for Carcassonne
via Cordes / Lunch on own in Carcassonne /
description of afternoon activity or dinner]
/ Overnight: Hotel
Frantel Wilson, Toulouse
A number of us descend to the breakfast room only to discover we
should have ordered breakfast served in the room. It isn't
worth sorting out the confusion, and I was trying my best to explain
we were not the groupe touristes who were gathering
and getting ready to leave at eight, we were part of a groupe
touristes of La Societé
Some were having petit déjeuner
continental dans ses chambres, etc. Tomorrow in the room,
despite having only one chair.
It was raining a bit today, but we were nearly all hot
to trot/ride. Two or three stayed back (why I don't know), but
that is their business. And off we went. We approached
the medieval city called
La Cité shrouded in mist and clouds. Carcassonne may be elaborately restored, much more so than than is
Monemvasia in Greece, but it had much the same flavor. Many
souvenir shops (mostly junk as far as I could see) and restaurants.
There was a bit of confusion, and Earl decided to
lecture us as we stood outside (instead of during the nearly
two-hour drive there). Earl is, as I've said, not really a
guide. I have no quarrel with what he is showing us, but he
could do more with the interior details of the trip. I'll
write a separate commentary on that.
Carcassonne in the rain, and then under scudding
clouds, then under sun and clouds, and then repeat. The wind
was blowing up a
fierce gale that damn near sent us off the
ramparts. It did my chronic
catarrh no good at
all. (I note my spelling is disintegrating under the bilingual
assault.) But it was picturesque. The outer works,
rather than the inner buildings, are the truly picturesque views.
It is something of a challenge to try to decide what is "original"
and what is restoration. Since there are, in fact, levels of
"original" stuff, one is indeed challenged. I will need to
read on Viollet le Duc when I get home. Perhaps I shall find a
book in Paris before we leave.
Mila and I had omelettes for lunch with tea.
I made numerous photos, and perhaps some of the quality of the place
is captured. Before leaving, we visited the cemetery and saw
what is perhaps a regional type, but so different from the U.S.,
even the old ones. The family tombs in streets are really
rather ancient in feeling, the sense of a necropolis. We, on
the other hand, have our individual
plots—suburbia—rather than the congested family tenements. It
might be worth making an observation on this in greater length at a
On our way back to Toulouse, we stopped briefly at
Avignonet. Presumably this was to make photos. Other
than the church tower, there wasn't much. Then back into
Toulouse at the height of the traffic. It did give me a chance
to look at Toulouse along some new streets. As a largely brick
city (red, and rather Roman brick in shape) one is struck by how
different it is from the more northern cities we've seen so far.
It reminds Mila and me of
in its flavor (when the latter was compared to Athens).
Toulouse is #4 in size in
France, and it has a different flavor. Much of the older brick
is very soft, poorly fired and disintegrating. The petrol
pollution doesn't help.
We leaped from the bus on arrival, and headed for St.
Sernin. It was a jam of people to get through but it was worth
it. The exterior was solemn and majestic in its salmon-colored
brick over pierre, but the interior surprised me. Restoration
is underway, and the inside has been cleaned, I guess, and is quite
light, as if whitewashed and then washed again. I wasn't
prepared for the amount of brick inside. It is hard to
estimate, but clearly the vast majority of the fabric is brick.
The transverse ribs are brick. Most of the light in the nave
at this hour, late afternoon, came through the west window, despite
a large organ that obscured much of it. Some [light] enters gallery
windows (not accessible). It was, being cleaned, not as dark
as it seems in photos, and there is interaction with the aisles.
The glare of the light from the apse windows makes it hard to see
the apse. That is part of the problem. There are a few
minuscule windows at the crossing, peeping through the panels
between the ribs that cross in that space, but they do little.
The tower is not a lantern, and it appears that these
southern towers at crossings are not. The choir and the
ambulatory were closed. Nevertheless, one can see something of
the spaces (as at St. Denis). Some frescoes were in evidence.
Altogether a most satisfying experience.
Afterwards we had oranges, purchased in Cahors. Sitting on a
very ancient, decrepit bench on the north side of the cathedral, in
From there we went to the
Jacobin, a brick two-aisle
Gothic church built for Dominicans in the 13th and 14th Centuries.
Extensively restored inside and out, though the attached buildings
are largely gone, it is a surprising space. The two-aisle plan
(we saw a Romanesque one is Poitiers) is a strange experience.
There is a very new cloister, though not overly fancy. It was
a serene way to conclude the looking of the day.
We returned to the hotel and rested for awhile.
We then went to "our" cafeteria again: Flunch. We had
small hamburger steak (virtually uncooked) and got boiled potatoes
and mixed vegs which we shared with each other. I heated mine
1½ times in the microwave, but the
meat was still red. But it was satisfying and cheap. By
the time we added a pitcher of wine and a
Yoplait au lait avec
fraises we paid 24.10 f or about $6 for the two of us. A
lot cheaper than Carcasssonne.
I have severe catarrh, which is compounded by the
cautious liquid intake during the day and the wind today. I am
well otherwise, though I still am on (half ration now) Clinoril for a
toe that says I should keep remembering it. But I [am] ready
to go on to new adventures.
Slept hard. Difficult to wake up. Staggered to breakfast
room to find four of our party unable to make people realize what
we were there for—Geo interceded. It was frustratingly slow &
we're going to try room service tomorrow. Some members of our
group are beginning to get me down (ninth day syndrome?). Bus
chaos with Patric trying to explain that the WC had no water, due to
yesterday's breakdown. We end up opposite WC in a terrible
draft. It is (guess what?) raining & cold. We are on our
way to Carcassonne—arrive & begin to notice terrific wind.
Dreadful delays while Earl tries to get official papers cleared.
Geo & I begin to cut out for cathedral alone. Only join group
once & it is part of a huge group with guide giving lecture in
French! Do everything alone, eat lovely omelette
(cheese) with another couple with hot tea (tay). Geo's throat
is beginning to bother him due to extremely high (40 knots?) wind &
blowing dust, especially up high on the ramparts. The food is
good & there is an adorable dachshund dog in restaurant. Walk
through cemetery—quite interesting. Most sites have pictures
of the deceased, whole families together. Back on bus, some
tensions are beginning to develop. Unfortunately, Tom feels
that someone "insulted" him. We jump off bus to walk on our
own to two churches. Quite nice, though traffic & crowds of
people are impossible on this Saturday. Stagger back to hotel
& collapse about an hour. Out to Flunch for hamburger steak,
new potatoes, mixed vegs for about 2.00, plus wine & a yogurt for
me. Nice atmosphere. Back to hotel to wash hair (me),
clothes (Geo) & journals (us).
What can one say about the tour itself?
As a group and as a program? For one thing, this tour has
fewer obvious academics, that is art and architectural historians
who teach at the college and university level. There is Tom
Ridington, Mary Carolyn George, Blake Alexander, Marian Davis (now
retired), and us. If there are others, I am unaware of them
(Harry Schalck is another). There are some librarians, active
and retired, I know of: Gary Menges,
Margaret Nicholsen (retired),
Lyle Perusse (retired). At least one museum person, Jack
Parker. Ben Schneider is a doctor (or was). Architects
include Michio Yamaguchi, Gene George and
Trudy Berson (who does not
practice). There are a number of couples, seven in all
counting us. The Georges and we may be the only professionals;
the others seem rolling in dough—or is it my imagination?
Regardless, I intend to speak with them one by one and eventually
learn more about them.
As for the tour, it is going to good places, and by and
large the amounts of time are within reason. The guidance,
whether in the matter of what we are about to see or in the
mechanics of in-out, on-off, etc. are not handled well. I
don't want to be over-guided or over-protected, and I want time to
do my own thing, but some advance alerting is useful, especially in
areas where one finds much and might be looking out the wrong window
and miss a notable view, monument, whatever. We are presumed
to be armed with guidebooks and maps, but let's face it, not all of
us have been that well prepared that we could guide a
group. Also, there are differing interests, and some are
better prepared on some aspects than others. I believe this
lack of guidance is making people restless, especially when it comes
to having our leader lead. His French is not that good, and he
wears a hearing aid. It seems to me others are doing more in
asking and answering questions in French than he is.
Fortunately, we have some along who are secure in French, and at
least a dozen, perhaps more, have my level of competency. But
there are those moments when Earl should be there to care for us in
a matter of admissions, or in informing people as to who and what we
But if people seemed cranky on Saturday, May 31, Sunday
the first of June made a lot of difference. It was a splendid
day and part of it was the fact (at least so I believe) that Earl
has been asked to be in tighter control and to exercise some
Tomorrow is Sunday June 1st & we go off to Moissac, Albi & Cordes.
We note more & more Spanish & Italian names now, palm trees.
Toulouse reminds us of Thessaloniki—one thing is much emphasis on
university students (much writing on walls, including churches!),
congestion, conglomerate of people. Hotel, though principal
hotel in city, no one speaks English & they seem a bit out of it.
I do hope—as we move into June—that our little factions calm down.
Tom complains of his hurt feelings & hurt kidney. Some people
are fuming about Earl & his ineffectuality, others talk about
Observations about France: everyone smokes, men,
women, seemingly children. Lots & lots of dogs, lots of dog
crap on sidewalk. (Small dogs.) Cars very aggressive—all
small, mostly French, some Italian & a few VWs; no Japanese, no
American big cars. (We noticed Renaults for $11,000, $8,000 &
$5,500.) Everything growing beautifully—gorgeous neat farms
with neat crops—not as much litter in cities as in USA.
Romantic vistas: canals, drooping trees, lovely flower arrangements;
the French all seem to have good manners, are polite & little real
rudeness—seem to be neat, smart & semi-amused at things, clean,
organized & prompt.
JUNE 1, 1980
Continental breakfast: Hotel Frantel Wilson / 8:30 a.m.:
Bus departs for tour of Albi /
Box lunch (from hotel) en route /
description of afternoon activity or dinner]
/ Overnight: Hotel
We totter down to meet the bus. Mila and I slept very soundly
and felt we should be early on the bus, an interesting combination
of unfocused but determined. In the lobby we saw a magnificent
stack of boxes—OUR LUNCH,
already paid for—and I peeked inside as did others. A tray with
bean salad, slice of tuscany [bread?], a small pizza, cheese, a
custard with flake pastry, a roll, and a little bottle of wine.
Also a real knife and fork and serviettes. Believe me, that
improved tempers; and the weather was crisp and clear, another plus.
Off we went to
Moissac. The church is a strange
conglomerate, basically Gothic, and there is the deep narthex-type
hall before it. To the side, facing and immediately on traffic
arteries, is the famous portal. There is restoration, of
course, and horrible disintegration of stone. My!
St. Peter was there, looking a bit weatherbeaten but there.
The other things were fine, but that was my goal about 33(?)
years since first I made his acquaintance. The sad thing is
that one can see contemporary damage as well as very ancient losses.
How much longer can it last? The cloister is nice, but it is
the capitals rather than the total ensemble. And some capitals
are more exciting than others. One interesting thing is a
giant tree in the cloister. Very large and thus quite old.
While in Moissac we heard music, and lo and behold a
parade of people in costumes, including shepherds(?)
on stilts. It was market morning, and the parade (why, we
don't know) went there and did a performance. Later, they were
seen on buses heading out of town. We wandered the market a
bit and then we also departed.
When we got to Guillac, which has a handsome formal
park, we picnicked with our fancy box lunches on the benches.
A pleasant interlude.
From there it was to Albi, a place I was not prepared
for and quite delighted with. The
cathedral is in a warm,
brownish brick, and quite tall. It soars. The entrance
is on the side, in the middle, and it is a flamboyant soaring thing
that is in stone, contrasting most interestingly with the basic
fabric of the church. And the tower simply soars even higher.
The church is on a promontory to boot. It, the church, is
accessible on three sides, with the fourth side obscured in part by
the bishop's palace, now the Toulouse Lautrec museum; more on that
later. The area surrounding the cathedral (St. Cecilia) is
medieval, in brick, with some half-timbering. The whole thing
looks like an opera set, as one of our colleagues noted.
Obviously, Albi deserves more attention than we can give it.
I'd say a half-day would be the absolute minimum, especially if one
wanted to look at the museum and to explore a bit.
The cathedral inside is a surprise. Elaborately
and completely frescoed (by Italians of modest late
skills). The church is divided into halves. The "open"
half faces the town and has an altar. The choir is the other
end, and it is totally enclosed by a
jube of flamboyant
style, including polychromed sculpture. And with the stained
glass, the interior is a total contrast with the exterior. One
should add that it is a single aisle church with deep chapels
between the buttresses, which are internal.
Then over to the museum. A few "other" things,
but it is mostly Toulouse-Lautrec. From childhood things to
mature works, there are gobs of drawings as well as paintings.
One doesn't need to comment on T-L and his work, but the early
manipulation of his talent is very evident in what one can see
here. There are several examples of one subject, preliminaries
and the like to provide additional insight. I was quite taken
with that was there to see. And then it was time to reboard
the bus, for there was yet another stop to make.
We then went to
Cordes, a medieval hill town that is
surrounded, below, by the newer town. We, of course, piled out
to see the old town, and scampered(?)
up the steep winding streets, oohing and ahhing at picturesque views
and dramatic vistas. Except for the inevitable and insistent
little automobiles, the visit was indeed a pleasure.
Finally back on the bus and back to Toulouse. We
went to eat (again) at Flunch, but this time with
It was our first sit-down together and we had a pleasant
conversation over our quiches. Then back to the hotel to pack
our bags for the morrow,. I'm beginning to routinize packing
so that I know, more or less, where everything is. By the time
I master this, it will be home again and a skill of no value.
Tomorrow we go to Nîmes, where we will be four nights.
Very good day—Mére Day. Began by breakfast at 7:00 with only
three rolls, out on street at 8:00 AM (Patric did not arrive
until 8:30!). Fought for front seats on bus. We all
signed a "card" for Rosann for Mother's Day. Interesting ride
to Moissac—beautiful Gothic cathedral. They were beginning
mass, so most of us left to go to cloisters (gorgeous capitals on
pillars—Daniel in the Lions Den, etc.) when I heard bagpipes—ran out
to see a parade of young people in wild native costumes dancing &
playing instruments like bagpipes. Last in procession were
boys & men on high stilts. Imaging walking/dancing all through
town to the marketplace on stilts! We followed them to where
Sunday market had been set up & wandered through it—everything was
being sold including rugs (Gene Gorge bought a Basque beret),
baskets, live rabbits, chickens, meats, cheeses, etc. Lots of
people. Was this a festival for Mother's Day? or of growing
things or what?
Ate box lunch at Gaillac in a park (nice enough but
cold). Sat on bench with [the] Georges & ate: pizza quiche, small
bottle of red wine, huge hunk of turkey, little French roll, cheese
(wonderful), gateau, cold green beans—a real feast! After
lunch we discovered magnificent formal garden with an old
summerhouse & river in back—straight out of John Fowles's
Tower. Was so enchanted that Mary Carolyn & I &
Holden were fifteen minutes late getting back on bus.
Trip to Albi uneventful. It is an incredible
church—a huge medieval fortress—almost [the size of the?] two churches we were allowed
to go into Saturday. Quite baroque & spectacular. Went
into museum which is mostly all
interesting & almost exhausting. By now it's almost 4:00—we go
to Cordes, a medieval walled city. Have to walk a lot to get
to uphill climb, then climb, climb for spectacular views (in sun!)
over parapets—walled garden, flowers, & lots of tourist shops
& cafés. Geo buys "illumination."
Tiring ride to Toulouse—going-home mobs of traffic.
Arrive at hotel at 7:10—go out with Ken for dinner at Flunch at
7:30—quiche, green salad & fruit cocktail. Back to pack & take
Picture Postcard of
Notre-Dame-La-Grande Church in Poitiers addressed to Matthew in KCMO, written by
Dear Matthew / I hope our earlier card reached you; one
never knows. We are both well and hard at it. There is
much to see and do, and never enough time or energy. We
are in the south of France now, and going farther down tomorrow.
It is a beautiful country and very diverse. My French is
improving very slowly; the reading is best and useful, but my
rehearsed speeches are tangled under pressure. Alas!
Call others to tell them all is well. / Love, Dad and Mom
JUNE 2, 1980
Continental breakfast: Hotel Frantel Wilson / 7 a.m.:
Luggage in halls / 8:30 a.m.:
Bus departs for Nîmes, via
Beziers and Aigues-Mortes /
Box lunch (from hotel) en route / Dinner: Hotel Sofitel,
Nîmes / Overnight: Hotel
A slow day today. The only interruption to driving to Nîmes
was a brief stop on the road to photograph Carcassonne in good light
at a distance. We also could see the Pyrenees in the opposite
direction at a distance. They were snowcapped.
We then stopped at Béziers.
Some changed money, some of us went to see a rather dusty and
cathedral. We then sat in a
park-like/promenade/parking setting to have our box lunches. [scratched
out: Suddenly,] Then it was off to Nîmes by way of
a road by the Mediterranean Sea. Lovely, including a drive
through Sete, a fishing village with other improvements. The
restaurants lining the main street were filled with luncheoneers as
We arrived at the très
moderne hotel in mid-afternoon. We are not in town
but in Nîmes-Ouest. Mila and I took advantage of the
non-schedule to relax and do laundry.
Rosann called me. As a director of SAH, I'm asked
to inscribe suitably the gift book for Earl, and to get the others
to sign it. It is Paris: A Century of Change, 1878-1978
by Norma Evenson. An obviously suitable book.
For reasons not clear to me today, I feel
loggy and out
of it. I think I shall have to take it easy on the food,
perhaps it is a little too rich for me.
Strange day. Breakfast late due to maids taking bags down
early. Leave even before 8:30. Sit fairly far up front
for longish & bumpy drive. Beziers—strange Met [Meditteranean]
city [where] we walked to an exceedingly dusty church with a beggar
in doorway, lots of wash hanging out facing narrow streets. We
eat box lunch in town's central park: chicken breast in jelly
(looked more like lard with flower design), potato salad,
cauliflower in oil, bread, cheese, chocolate éclair, tomato stuffed
with rice & crabmeat?
[sic] & bottle of
wine. Depart for Nîmes via Montpellier & Met Sea. When
we arrive at Sofitel Motel
[sic] the natives
are definitely getting restless—don't like kitsch hotel way out from
nowhere, etc. etc. I gather some have set off on foot for
Nîmes. Some of us sit around pool in bright sunshine & high
wind. Up to room for a rest & wash. Large room with two
large double beds, beige carpeting, gold covers, white walls, orange
drapes & chairs, pseudo wood luggage holder & table, bright orange
bathroom with extra bowl near main door—color TV. Strange
futuristic lamp on wall & by each bed like blown-up flowers
(one doesn't go on). Dinner: two eggs, mayonnaise,
chicken provencale with onions & mushrooms, pommes fritte,
fromage (choice of four), glacé with strawberry sauce,
with Blake & Marian. Speech(?)
by Earl changing itinerary for next few
days. People keep "escaping" across highway or into town by
taxi. I & assorted "men" stay by pool & watch sunset. To
JUNE 3, 1980
Continental breakfast: Hotel Sofitel / FREE DAY /
Shuttle trips of bus from Hotel to
Nîmes and return throughout the day (optional walking tour witll be
scheduled of Roman structures in Nîmes) / Lunch on own / 3
p.m.: Bus to St. Laurent for visit to village and wine cellars /
Reception given by Mayor and citizens, followed by country buffet / Overnight: Hotel
Starting late this morning helped. The beds are comfortable
and the room is big and quiet. I for one benefitted by this.
Our bus schedule was a couple-three hours in Nîmes,
basically on our own. We began with the arena, which is now
bullfights French style. There are wooden bleachers
erected in the lower half of the arena to accommodate people, since
so much of the surface has vanished (into the fabric of Middle Ages
houses and churches no doubt). But it is surprising how much
still stands. It is one of the best-preserved according to the
Guide Bleu (or rather the local handout). It is an
impressive structure. I wasn't prepared for the scale of the
steps; the risers are rather tall and so are the seat risers.
We explored the several levels and the passageways (whose technical
name I've forgotten as I write this). It is two-tier, with
plain pilasters on the lower level, rather bold in relief, and
engaged Tuscan columns in the upper tier.
From the arena we went to the
While there is a little space around it, it sort of sits at a busy
intersection with a street going around the side and back not on the
corner. In fact, there is no sidewalk in front, making that
approach rather hazardous. The excavations have reached down
to the old level of the bottom step leading to the temple (and the
podium), but in front there are further steps down in each corner.
Was the street level even lower? I don't know. I
haven't been buying the guidebooks to cities and monuments in part
because of the cost and part the contents. But they probably
wouldn't tell me.
Anyway, the Maison Carrée
reaches up, when you are near it. The steps in front have tall
risers. The cella interior is rather small and is now a
museum. The cella is all later restoration with a skylight.
The quality of the carving outside varies insofar as condition goes,
but overall it is in good shape. One can see why
enamored of it. The proportions are graceful and there is a
statement of purpose in its appearance.
From there we headed, I thought, to the Roman baths,
but instead got turned around. Finally corrected our error
after seeing a street map posted with vous êtes ici. We
then reached, tardily, the gardens and began climbing upwards, and
upwards, and upwards to the old Roman tower. I did not then
climb the tower (as did some of our colleagues). From there, a
lovely spot, we descended to the baths, including the "Temple of
Diana." This is not a temple, but part of the Roman fountain
and baths. Interesting details, but very much a ruin.
Then I scurried back to look closely at the Maison Carrée,
then back to the bus. We probably needed more time in Nîmes,
but I saw the things I needed to see.
After a large lunch at the hotel, we went to
Laurent des Arbres, near the town of Lirac. St. Laurent has
perhaps 2,000 inhabitants and has an important cooperative
et cru, which is a cooperative winery for about 120 people with
vineyards. By the way, Remoulins is the largest near town (in
the map sense). At the cave we met
(Cynthia) Lasserre, a woman from Boston now 25 years married to a
Frenchman. She was right out of the Junior League and quite
charming. She was our hostess. Soon M. Marcel Chevalier,
a person of some importance, drove up. M. Chevalier reminded
me of Henry
Scott in his late years, perhaps a little stouter. M.
Chevalier was the head (?)
of the cooperative and, we soon learned, former
mayor of St. Laurent for 25 years. Mme. Lasserre
translated for us. She now has a summer (?)
home in St. Laurent, and she and her husband plan to retire there.
More on that later.
Chevalier explained how the winery works, their
appellation wine is called Lirac, and it apparently has some
Some [on the tour] got bored with the explanation. I found it
fascinating, simply because of Chevalier. He seemed très
amiable and very knowledgeable, and in love with his subject.
Or, perhaps I should say two subjects. The second is the
history of St. Laurent.
We then went into the village. It is quite old,
Romanesque church that was made part of a fortification
during the Gothic period—during
Babylonian captivity of the Pope. There, in the church, we
saw a young man in mufti arranging things. It turned out he
was the priest getting things ready for some children to rehearse
their first communion. The kids were outside making a great
deal of noise as we had a very brief lecture on the town from M.
Chevalier and a woman who spoke quite good English. More on
We were given the privilege of climbing the church's
tower (there are two other towers) and that had its moments. I
bumped my head only once going from the roof up the stairs/ladder
and into the tower where the bells were. Then we had an
opportunity to go with the "other woman" to visit her house.
It was once one of three mills outside of town. Her house has
a 16th Century courtyard, and this we visited, plus a vaulted
section (now used as a storage basement) and the principal
chambre. It had the souvenirs of several generations of
her family (mother's side) and visible damage done by
Directoire soldiers during the Revolution, when they were being
anticlerical. A mass was being said in the room when the
soldiers arrived. The cupboard in which the priest hid is
still in the room! All in all, it was quite a treat. The
lady is only now the "new" owner, and they plan restoration in time.
We saw, from the outside, another of the mills,
beautifully converted to a house. It was reminiscent of the
Monemvasia experience or that of places like
Arrow Rock or
Boonville. Apparently this sort of finding old houses, in
historic villages or towns or in picturesque settings, for
retirement homes is universal (or at least French as well as
American). And rehabbing them with restoration is a basic
We walked out and while walking back we saw the town's
skyline with its three towers and the remnants of its ramparts.
Quite interesting. We then assembled in the courtyard of Mme.
Lasserre's house. The former mayor was there, and the new
I'm not sure but what he is something more like a city manager, and
perhaps for several towns. It was not clear and I did not talk
with him. His English was excellent (he had been in the U.S.)
and he welcomed us. This time (after discussion of failure to
respond in Poitiers, at the reception, by Earl) I acted; I
spoke up, and on behalf of the directors of the SAH who were there,
I thanked him, M. Chevalier and Mme. Lasserre. Apparently my
tour colleagues thought highly of that gesture.
There was wine!!!
here, of course. This was an
occasion where I felt I had to break my near-total abstinence on
this trip. They are noted for their rosé, so I had that.
It was good. Dinner was a rather elaborate picnic-type repast
which I sampled sparingly, since we['d] had a rather comprehensive
four-course luncheon. The supper's dessert was Bing cherries.
This is vinyard and orchard country, and they are noted for their
cherries, which have suffered this year due to excessive rain and
cold. Even so, they were delicious.
Today was a good day. Everyone was mellow and
content on the way back to Nîmes. Unfortunately, there is a
serious problem with the WC on the bus, due to a broken pump (to
pump out water) and a bum switch
for another pump.
Parts from Germany are needed. This is not a pleasant
But at least the evening was a delight, the village
historic and picturesque, and the hospitality grand.
Walking tour of Roman ruins/amphitheatre monumental & huge,
gorgeous gardens & baths high tiered to tower (did not go up
to top), beautiful sky, trees, flowers. Home to wonderful
lunch: salad [of] lettuce, shredded carrots, cabbage, tomato,
cucumber. Ratatouille, pork, cheese, crême caramel.
Out to St. Laurent to visit village & wine cellars! A
wonderful enchanted day—St. Laurent & its inhabitants are straight
out of central casting: Spanish-looking children—all local people
stared at us amused-like, children waiting for first communion all
wanted to have their pictures taken, the young priest in mufti, the
Boston matron named Cynthia who had been married to a Frenchman for
25 years & had a "summer home" at St. Laurent they were remodeling,
the glamorous brunette widow in pale beige tissue-thin dress with
lovely perfume, the country wife with five children (ranging from
fifteen to ten months) whose family owned a Renaissance house that
originally had been a mill who led us on a quarter of a mile walking
trip down a country lane to visit the courtyard and to see one
summer room filled with curios & souvenirs of her family & the
fireplace where revolutionaries had decapitated Cupid because they
thought it was Jesus. It was all so picturesque: the
cornfields (shades of Van Gogh), the swaying grass & wildflowers,
snarling huge (usually black) dogs (Mme had two), the accompanying
blonde plump Mme in high heels with a soldier son named Yves—and
above all the mayor—Marcel Chevalier—straight out of central
casting—tall, blue-eyed, big-nosed (Henry Scott), explaining the
wine factory, welcoming the group, describing the church (with the
priest patiently waiting for communion), holding the statue of the
Virgin (with her tulle skirt & voluptuous body), singing, sharing
the wine from the keg, Jack passionately kissing him goodbye
(after having read the mayor his poetry), my spilling rosé wine on
Mitch & his genial response, the drunken ride home through the
gorgeous sunset (at 10 p.m.!). The WC has been declared
très mal & needs a part from
Germany. Patric seems to be getting increasingly well-attuned
to the group.
JUNE 4, 1980
Continental breakfast: Hotel Sofitel / 8:30 a.m.: Bus
departs for Pont du Gard, Avignon and Arles /
Box lunch (from hotel) en route / 7 p.m.: Dinner: Hotel
Sofitel / Overnight: Hotel Sofitel
If yesterday was grand, today was less so, even though we saw
interesting things: Pont du Gard, Avignon, and St. Gilles. We
had been noting the steady wind ever since arriving at Nîmes, or in
the surrounding area. Yesterday at St. Laurent, we learned
that is rwas the MISTRAL. Yes, we were experiencing the famous
mistral. With it, the sky is absolutely clear, a cold/hot
blue, and the sun is very bright. The famous son of the Midi,
the sun of Vincent van Gogh. Toward the end of this day's
travels, on our leg from St. Gilles to Nîmes, I saw how the
cypresses (and all other tress) whipped and writhed. I
actually saw waves progressing across the fields with grain
in them. I am now certain in my mind that what Vincent was
trying to show the wind and its effects when he developed that
curved short brush stroke. I will have to reexamine his work
in this context. I wonder if anyone has even written on
Well, back to the day's adventures. This was day
thirteen. Not a matter of superstition, but rather the start
of the second half of our tour. It had some weak links in the
chain of events.
First, the bus was late. Not by much, but we were
ready to board around 8:15/8:20. Patric didn't arrive until
8:35/8:40. But once aboard, all seemed OK. We went to
the Pont du Guard (very near Remoulins I discovered). It is
impressive. A narrow one-lane road has been constructed along
the lower arcade on the east side with the same construction
methodology and stone as the old. It is really well done (18th
Century) and not obtrusive since the upper two arcades are not
changed. The stone is a warm honey color. The condition
is remarkably good. I chose not to cross on foot, thought I
did go out a piece on the lower level, and I did walk a piece into
the water channel on the upper level. I then clambered up to a
vista vantage point to look at the pont and the view of the
From there it was off to Avignon. That was not
well handled, partly because Patric and Earl were not communicating
today, or something. Instead of being let out in towm,
we ended up at a bus park just inside the walls. That was so
we would know how to get to the bus for our sack lunches.
There is a lot of new construction and various building and street
repairs underway between the bus park and the Palais des Popes.
The result was total and understandable confusion getting up to the
Palais. This we did at 11:00 or later. The Palais closed
for two hours 12 to 2 (like a museum). So we moved through it
with a guide who simply kept us from getting lost. Here too
there is much reconstruction. What we saw was quite
interesting except that the great court was filled with what
appeared to be rather permanent bleachers with shaped seats (that
tilted forward to keep clean?)
That was a peculiar first sight, to say the least, of this 14th
Century structure. We were actually locked in at noon, but our
guide had a key and we exited safely. It is hard to decide
what to say about the Palais. It is as much a fort as a
palace, and we saw primarily "state chambers."
So we returned to the bus and boarded it to have lunch
by the Rhone River. We were halfway there when it was
discovered that Ken LaBudde was missing. Someone spotted him
going to the bus park as we were tooling along on the peripheral
road by the walls. There was no way to stop and out "leaders"
were quite concerned (Rosann was not with us and Genevieve was
supposed to be the shepherd). Patric pulled into a sandy
median strip that was more a car park than a park. This had
some stone slabs (benches?).
The mistral was creating a dust storm. Most of us finally
scrambled across the road and its traffic to sit on the uninspiring
bank of the Rhone. Lunch was OK but too much food. There
was a piece of a baguette, a chicken breast, an egg, two pieces of
cheese, salami, butter, a tomato, an orange and an apple. No
utensils, no seasoning, no liquids (though we brought water).
I ate sparingly and I believe wisely.
Adding to the confusion was the time for reassembly.
We had been given an hour and a half at this forsaken spot—hardly
what we required—and there was the problem of Ken still missing.
Then, half an hour before he was supposed to appear, Patric
appeared. Had I missed something? Everyone was now
confused. We tooled back into town and got off at the major
square near the Palais. Why couldn't we do this
before?? We were now told we had until 3 p.m. (75 minutes free
At first I thought I'd wait until 2 and visit the
museum. Then, instead, Mila, Gene George (Mary Carolyn was in
Nîmes recovering from a bout with flu or something) and I went up to
the garden of the Palais. What a lovely spot. There was,
however, exposure to an exaggerated mistral effect. As a
lookout point over the Rhone, I was hard pressed to stay standing
without leaning into the wind, literally leaning. But
what a view: Cezanne colors everywhere. It was from there that
I saw the waves in the grain. The three of us had a
limonade naturelle (a fizzy colorless lemonade made with real
lemon juice). That was a charming place. The public WC
was not. I can see the role for the attendant, but even then
the public facility is extremely fundamental. (While drinking
our limonade, we saw a young mother washing her child's
behind in a decorative fountain—a stream of water coming from the
beak of a goose. Ah me.)
We descended, somewhat bedraggled and begrimed by wind,
dirt, and experience to see the bus waiting. So we boarded and
there was Ken LaBudde. Exactly how the contact was made
I know not, but I suspect people will be more cautious in the future
about seat partners, etc.
We then plowed off to St. Gilles. We now
discovered that the bus air conditioning was made for Germany and
not the Midi. Frankly, the bus isn't all that good or
comfortable. A messed up WC and inadequate ventilation, both
things we have paid for to be in satisfactory condition. Rosann, of course, will be burdened by all of this since I'm sure
the complaints are coming in to her. Yet everyone seems
determined to be reasonable—even the genetically-imprinted bitchers
(we have at least one obvious case).
We go to St. Gilles through Arles (which we visit
tomorrow). It is hot and we track through Arles on a busy
narrow road which shows us nothing. But after leaving it, one
begins to see Van Gogh paintings. This was when I see the
movement in the cypresses in Van Gogh terms. At St, Gilles we
park by a WC in a place for tourists to park. Tom Ridington
and some others set off like they knew where they are going when we
are told we have half an hour for the church. And we are led
wrong! We ask directions in a curious place with people
lounging on their stoops in the narrow medieval street. We get
some gauches et droits and eventually we reach it. A
funeral is in process! But we study the facade (the nave is
Gothic). It has curious pieces of restoration, but on the
whole a coherent arrangement and truly different. It was worth
even the few moments we had. It was, after all, an add-on to
I track over to the Bureau de Tourisme up a short
street (there was a banner over it) to find it closed! But
there was a map and the Romanesque house. I figured our path
back (incorrectly the first time, correctly the second with Earl) to
the bus. I deciphered the bus location by a WC on the map!
And we descended, quickly and directly, to the area of the bus.
We clambered aboard and got back to Nîmes quickly, though Patric
missed his turn off and had to turn around.
It was necessary showers and such before we could
descend for dinner, which was outdoors. There is another group
or two in the hotel and we have to maneuver carefully. The
waiters seemed less with it tonight (too many people?).
I think if less was put on plate shuffling and all that, and more on
moving things in and out, it would be easier all around.
Granted, one is served, but I wonder how a convention meal for
several hundred would be handled?
Well enough of that, and this, for tonight.
Forgot to mention meal last night: ham, veal, paté, salami
(sausage), olives rolled in oregano or rosemary, two kinds of salad
(green & potato), bread, four kinds of cheese, three kinds of local
wine (the rosé was superb), cherries.
Today was a washout. Patric was thirty minutes
late. Not only is the [bus] john non-functioning, but so is
the air conditioning. Earl seemed to lose total control of
group & was particularly inept (does he turn his hearing aid off on
purpose?). Ken LaBudde wandered off by himself & got left
behind. I used the public WC in a beautiful park in Avignon &
it was so incredibly filthy I couldn't even stand in the footholds &
wet all over myself; the ride home was hot; Patric kept missing
signs. But Pont du Gard was cool, a magnificent Roman
bridge in a scenic setting—walked in front & looked at view; we &
Gene George (Mary Carolyn still ill) found some lovely public
gardens [in Avignon] & had limonade at a little outdoor spot
overlooking pond with ducks, swans & geese—the French do such
wonderful things with flowers—whle banks of pansies: purple, violet,
fuchsia—fountains (this one with a graceful female nude), ferns,
places to sit & face scenic views, etc. We came home hot &
surly about 5:30 to wash up & completely cleanse selves.
Saw rice fields today (Mitch got excited), all sorts of
Van Gogh-type landscapes, banks of cypresses whipping in wind, wheat
fields waving (like his curly lines) in the mistral wind. (Saw
a street called Place Frederick Mistrall with WC etc.) We're
sure part of Van Gogh's problem stemmed from the wind; we all start
to feel crazy too! That, plus the sun & it's only early
June—what must it be like in July & August? The people in
general seem really very nice, accommodating—around here they look
Basque—hooked noses, straight black hair, black eyes (Hemingway's
bullfighter). This hotel's motif is bulls—one dining room is
dominated by huge paintings of bulls, matadors, matador killing
bulls (not appetizing)—all bright colors—this hotel capitalizes on
bright colors: orange, red, gold especially. Evening
meal out by pool consisted of two kinds of ham, lettuce, pickles,
rosé wine, large whitefish with spinach & baked potatoes &
tiny croissant, green salad, & glacé with stawberry sauce.
Went across highway (!!) with Tom, Mitch & Jack to this
supermarché (French version of Venture) & bought grapefruit for
Mary Carolyn, Guide Bleu [for] Mitch, cassis for Jack—got
"caught" by Roseann majestically surveying our return from her hotel
window. Had cassis in Room 403 until 11:00. We hope for
better things tomorrow—
JUNE 5, 1980
Continental breakfast: Hotel Sofitel / 8:30 a.m.: Bus
departs for le Puy /
Box lunch (from hotel) en route / 7 p.m.: Dinner: Hotel
Sofitel / Overnight: Hotel Sofitel
We enjoyed a late start (9:00 am) this morning, and we noticed
another interesting change. The wind had died down. The
change was quite noticeable. There was a haze as well.
Today was going to be different.
Out first stop was Arles. We arrived OK, but Earl
managed to take us by a rather indirect way to the arena. The
advantage was we saw it first with the sun-struck portion of the
exterior. Then we learned that the ticket sellers were on
strike! Entrance to every monument other than the churches
themselves was interdict today. We toured the exterior of the
arena, and it did apepar to be more capacious insofar as the
transverse vaults seemed deeper. Perhaps the slant of the
seats is less steep than in Nîmes. Here too, bleachers were
created within, and there are bullfights.
We went by the theatre. We peeped through the
fence, here and there. It too is used[?],
but with a heavily reconstructed seating area. Then we went
over to St. Trophime. We could see the portal (very dirty and
in the shade at this hour), the interior of the church, but not the
cloister. Inside the entrance there is a very nice explanatory
plan with illustrations pointing out features of interest
That, I thought, was quite a good idea but not typically done,
however. What remains most fixed in my memory of St. Trophime
are three things. For whatever reason, I don't know what, it
doesn't look like the pictures (even though it does, of course).
I recognized it, but non in that sense of: Hey, there it is.
It isn't like at St. Gilles, where I was surprised by the size of
the portals; it is much bigger than St. Trophime and my imagination.
Second was a 4th Century sarcophagus; it was much like that of
Junius Bassus. Third was a display (unlighted and behind a
gull in a chapel) of reliquaries. Then plan by the door said
they were 19th Century, though the reliquaries looked older.
One could see bones in the larger ones with glass covers.
Our plans were modified at Arles due to the strike, and
we were scheduled to leave at 11:00 instead of 12:00. I took
advantage of the time to break a 500 f note in a bank. and as
we wended our way down to the bus we were held up by a
demonstration-parade with banners. The handouts informed us
that it was over a revision(?) or some changed in health coverage.
It seemed much like in England, or in the U.S. with their charity
hospitals. People can't see comprehensive care and treatment
and medicines at no cost to them or at low cost. I kept the
handout to read later on in greater detail.
So off we went to Les Saintes Maries de la Mer.
This small town is literally on the Mediterranean Sea, by the mouth
of the Little Rhone River. It is in the delta area, and there
we saw salt marshes, rice fields and ponds. It is a place they
raise a special breed of bills, and horses. The latter are
very much in evidence and are grey. In town we sat on some
quarried rocks just above the sand by the sea and ate our sack
lunches (once again I was sparing in my intake). There is
little else in town (it is a resort town now in a modest way)
other than an old fortified church. It opened at two and one
could see a very dark interior. In the crypt there was a
vending machine for small jar-type votive candles!
Oh my, I forgot an episode between Arles and Saintes
Maries. We went to the ruined abbey of Montmajour. Some
restorations have taken place. It was open (briefly before
closing) and we saw the church, cloister, crypt, and some other
structures. The early part is Romanesque. I did not
climb a tower there, nor at Stes. Maries. It was mostly a
matter of time. I'm sure the views would have been worth it.
Well, then it was on to Aigues-Mortes. This is a
rectangular walled city with a gridiron plan built in the 13th
Century! Frankly it was not overly interesting except for the
walls and the plan. We did not spend much time there and soon
headed back to Nîmes.
There was a BYOB party before dinner and a fairly
decent dinner. I've inscribed the commemorative book with a
suitably positive yet neutral statement, as follows:
"This book is presented to Earl D. Layman to
commemorate a memorable trip to France. We now understand
Earl's love for LA BELLE FRANCE. The 1980 SAH Tour of France."
I am sitting in the room writing this as people come up
from supper. The book is open, and so is the door to the room.
I've begun to snare people [in] to sign in.
And tomorrow is a brute of a day. We have to get
up [at] 5:45 and luggage has to be in the halls by 6:30. We
leave at 7:30. Phooey. But so be it!
hot ride to Arles, Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer, etc. A much better
day, thought hot in the sun—also we grabbed seats high up to the
front in the bus. Started at 9:45 in Arles to find out that
there was a municipal workers strike, ticket sellers included.
So we couldn't get in to see inside of amphitheatre or regular
theatres—finally found an area where we could peer through the bars
& take photos of "orchestra" area. Went through church & used
public WC & went on to another Romanesque church only about five
minutes away—it was interestingly rustic, had dark crypt & light
cloisters. Best part of day was spent eating picnic lunch by
the sea with all of the surfers, bikini-clad nymphets & others
cavorting about. The sea was beautiful but cold with a stiff
wind blowing—made eating a real challenge but it beat that mess in
the mistral yesterday. Rest of town looked like a set from MGM
technicolor extravaganza in a Mexican tourist town. Tom & I
spent some time hunting for a WC—he settled on a pissoir & I
eventually found a private one in a café while Geo quaffed a
limonade. Back on bus & on to Aigues-Mortes (a fortified
town that seemed to have died years ago) which featured lots of
medium-sized dogs that either fought or slept in the middle of the
Tonight is Earl's cocktail party—to which I'm not
panting to go—poor Earl, he seems to live in another world (maybe
he's been deaf too long?).
It really was rather frenetic: first with no air & tons of cigarette
smoke, then with confusion of everyone coming in with his/her
bottle, except Patric—the people who had gone on to Aix-en-Provence
even brought cut-up melons. We are with Jack & Mitch in a very
hot dining room: fish & veg soup, some meat Provençal
with onions. It was jolly but we were relieved to go out by
pool only to be attacked by mosquitoes—had hot tea (a mistake?) with
Mitch etc. Geo had asked some people to come to our room to
sign book for Earl. I finally washed hair at 10:30!
Picture Postcard of
Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer addressed to Matthew in KCMO, written by
George (with text partly obscured by postmark ):
(We were here today)
I realize that we still [...] days to go, but since th
[...] mailed until tomorrow [...] won't reach you until [..] before
we return. So this [...] postcard. The days vary in
activity and adventure. The mistral of the past three days
finally quit, creating a significant change. The mistral is a
non-storm, high-velocity, constant wind. We are both holding
up quite well and are reasonably attuned to the routine of travel.
Happily, I don't have to do the driving. I won't bore you
now with listing all we have seen. Just give folks a call
to tell them we're doing all right. Even financially!
Take care, see you soon. / Love, Dad and Mom
JUNE 6, 1980
Continental breakfast: Hotel Sofitel / 7 a.m.: Luggage
in halls. / 8 a.m.: Bus departs for Clemont-Ferrand, via
Issoire and Chaise Dieu /
Box lunch (from hotel) en route / 7 p.m.: Dinner: Hotel
Frantel, Clermont-Ferrand / Overnight: Hotel Frantel,
We start out very early, on the bus before 7:30 a.n. Even so,
all of the better seats (those toward the front) are taken. We
head into the centre de ville and see several ancient
monuments as we head for our secondary "direct" road to Le Puy.
We pan by the arena and we see a portico passing down another; it is
the Maison Carrée. The light is
just right, at that early hour, for the portico. Then we sweep
by the baths and soon are out of town.
he day is mostly mountain driving. This is
extremely fatiguing on all, especially those of us in the rear, on
the sunny side. Our target is Le Puy, which we reach at near
noon. The scenery on the way is quite impressive, with only
small communities along the way, often at considerable distances
from each other. Very different from the Loire. A lot of
rock houses, very simple, though stucco is a rather common finish
Seeing ruined fortifications on a hill, surrounded by a
small town (the uniform tile roofs with occasional slate) has become
commonplace! The Middle Ages, at least back to the 12th and
13th Centuries, are rather evident. That I hadn't expected—the
We reached Le Puy and parked by a park. We took
our sack lunches over to the park, and finally found an adequate
place on a bench with others. Scenic it wasn't. Then we
discovered there was no bread in the sacks, we had departed too
early! Furthermore, the usual was less usual. Instead of
ham or chicken or veal, we had a slice of terribly rare beef.
The salami and unrecognizable cheese I skipped. Well, to
summarize, I had a tomato and an apple, saving my orange for later.
We began the walk-climb up to the church. It was
an interesting climb since this is a pilgrimage church. We
decided to do the 102 steps in front, which really were quite easy;
and it was worth it. Not only is the approach fascinating, but
the view from above back down is worth the experience. Inside,
the church is quite interesting. It isn't simply the domes.
There is a different quality in the furnishing, paintings, etc.
This is somewhat off the foreign tourist track in contrast to some
other places we've been, though they do get tourists. While we
were there, we were really the only group. While in the
church, there was an organ recital—very nice to hear that sound in
such a place. The pilgrimage has to do with the plague and the
original miracle dates back to the early 4th Century. This was
the 1550th anniversary year! The cloister is very nice indeed.
There were two demi-Corinthian columns with flutes in a dark corner,
plus the more usual medieval ones. The multicolored stone used
in the church is more evident in the cloister area than on the grimy
facade of the church. Another influence on H.H. Richardson
perhaps. Also, the Pont du Gard's superimposed arcade?
From the church, we wended back to the bus by a
different path. There are old-style wooden shopfronts.
We stopped at a patisserie for a little sweer before reaching
The hotel is a strange one in Clermont-Ferrand.
The reason for this abrupt shift is simply that we went direct from
Le Puy to Clermont-Ferrand. We arrived shortly after 5 p.m.
The group straggled off the bus "in fragments." The rooms are
strange and non-rectangular: F.L. Wright misunderstood hexagrams.
The street noise is intense and constant. To breathe we must
open windows: a no-win situation.
But dinner is good. Afterwards, though I'm really
too tired to go walking, several decide to do so, including Mila.
So I figure I better go to. We visit the cathedral exterior at
night. It is an imposing volume with the west front by Viollet
le Duc soaring up into the dark sky. Gargoyles loom way out
over our heads, grotesques to frighten one if one weren't too tired
to be imprinted.
We return to the hotel. I fall into bed and sleep
better than Mila. We have to keep some window open and the
street noise is formidable, especially motor bikes and other such
sputtering creatures of the automative/internal combustion world.
at 5:30 AM, a no-fun trip on June 6th, though Alpine scenery
was spectacular—too much so with twisty turns & precipitous drops.
Finally took a Dramamine which helped, though made me punchy (we
were in back of bus!). Stopped after two hours in little
village to use public toilet (bah![?]) & buy sweets (not uis).
On to Le Puy for pinic lunch in park (by zoo)—same old lunch.
On for an interesting trek to Notre Dame de Puy, a very holy pilgrim
church (102 steps up to cathedral door on knees!) in Middle Ages.
We investigated most of it by ourselves—the organist was practicing
quite beautifully & it rang through the domes—the cloisters were
particularly interesting, with wonderful grinning or grimacing
capitals of animals & "men"—also went to winter chapel.
Staggered down steps to Square & some cholatal [?] raspberry sweets.
Ride to Clermomt-Ferrand a bit steep but we all seemed
to sleep. The hotel is plastic with huge windows looking out
over what is seemingly the center of town—sounds like NYC. We
had to open windows to get any air & then the noise is staggering.
This Clouseau place sports a faucet that takes a genius to run &
then it leaks over the sink. We have to keep window open
because of no air circulation. However, there are
compensations: the serving staff (one pale girl who seems to do
everything & a "head" waiter) is pleasant & the foot well prepared
(fresh ham & scalloped potatoes, wonderful salad with carrots,
cucumbers, mushrooms etc. in vinaigrette sauce, cheese & an
elaborate dessert with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce on a shell
of hard sweet).
Walked out to cathedral after dinner (at 10:00) with
Katie, Tom, Jack, Mitch & Yona. On to bed & the traffic.
JUNE 7, 1980
Continental breakfast: Hotel Frantel / 8:30 a.m.: Bus
departs for tour of Nevers-Vezelay area /
Box lunch (from hotel) en route / 7 p.m.: Dinner: Hotel
Frantel / Overnight: Hotel Frantel
We start out by taking the bus in a most circuitous route to the
cathedral. For various logistical reasons not clear to me, we
start late. That is unusual. Are we getting a little
We arrive at the cathedral and we spend time there
before going over to Notre Dame du Port. Then we return to the
cathedral to get back on the bus. As for this last, more on
The cathedral, basically a 13th Century Gothic work, is
impressive inside. We tour it slowly and after a while go to
Notre Dame, a Romanesque church. It too is impressive.
We see the basic Auvergne-type church with its multicolor stone in
patterns and complex crossing. Also the elaborate chevet and
crypt are visited. After due admiration for the apse end and
the tower and such, we return to the Gothic cathedral. It
makes an interesting contrast. The light and space are so
well as the size. As we look and study, we notice a great
crowd gathering within. There are young children, mostly
girls, in white religious-type habits. Some sort of ceremony
is to begin and the orderly French are clearly being overwhelmed by
more people than they planned for. Is it a first communion,
confirmation, or a graduation of some sort? We never learn.
They are still sorting people out when iyt is time to leave to board
The plan is to return to the hotel and drop off those
who wish to remain in town. At the hotel we learn there is a
fuel leak on the bus and repairs are needed. Off we pile,
toting our sack lunches. Mila and I adjourn to the room to eat
some of it and wait for our repaired bus. We assemble on the
appointed hour and no bus. More time drags by and finally the
bus reappears repaired. Plans must be revised. By now
our company is reduced.
We head for Issoire for the church there. It is a
fine example and much appreciated with its historical capitals,
splendid chevet exterior, etc. Then we head for Brioude.
This church is a surprise. Excavations or restoraion or
something is taking place near the choir and it is a partial
shambles. It was so strange to walk in the transept and find
all the chairs facing west with an altar set up before the locked
west doors. The floor consists of a stone mosaic pattern in
two colors (at least). This ia very "untouched"-looking church
in contrast to Issoire with its 19th Century paint job. There
are even, still, ancient doors.
Then it is off to St. Nectaire du Haut, up in the high
country. That is a small but charmingly situated church at a
picturesque location. It too is of the Auvergne type.
The use of two colors (at least) of stone is logical, since the area
abounds in rocks of multicolor. I noticed old houses with a
random use of such found stones in walls. No photographs are
allowed inside St. Nectaire, and a crisp business in cards and
prepackaged slides is quite active. Also, to see the
treasures, one must insert one-franc coins to activate the light
(eerie filtered light). Same is true for the dome. A
guard in the choir has a mike to alert people as to dos and don'ts.
How commercial, but this is the bus business besides the medieval
In contrast, at Brioude we interacted with a wedding
party heading in a little parade to the church after the tolling of
a bell. A street bazaar of the traveling kind was just
shutting down by the chevet exterior. We were simply part of
From St. Nectaire, Patric took us over a most scenic
road to Le Mont Dore and then back to Clermont. It is wild,
scenic, Alpine (kind of) country. The winter snows were in the
final stages of meltdown (I'd seen the rushing brooks elsewhere—now
I saw the cause). We moved back in time to the lilacs
and eventually to trees just budding, then above the tree line.
It was really quite dramatic here in the Central Massif. It is
ski country—we saw one very large and long lift. We also saw a
car over the side, down the mountain. It was an exhilarating
ride though a bit hair-raising at times. The scenery is
spectacular, but not in the Rockies or the Mani sense. Rather,
it was the rapid changes in character and kind.
Soon we were back in Clermont-Ferrand. This
country is about aan hour's drive from the city. We had a nice
supper. I made my little talk* and then Blake Alexander.
Then others spoke. And then I was in the room writing this.
And now, it is time for bed.
I was coordinated with Blake to discuss [the] need for support for
SAH. I am becoming the SAH rep on the tour whether I like it
or not. Blake is too shy and Earl too not with it!
Hotel Frantel, Clermont-Ferrand. 8:30 leave (pardon, 9:00)/
Went through both churches in Clermont-Ferrand (Earl, per usual,
ineffectual). Geo & I mostly on own—in the big cathedral they
are preparing for first communion of seemingly hundreds of
white-clad girls (brides of Christ?) with thousand of proud parents
with cameras & grandmamas—the priests kept trying to clear the
aisles to no avail.
Found out (after all this & after handing out box
lunches—ugh!) that something (leak in diesel fuel pump) needed
repair and Patric intensely rushed into the hotel, only to stand at
the desk going through the Yellow Pages for repair shops! So
all of us had to pile out solemnly (and rather surly) up to rooms to
eat one more box (sack) lunch in room. We are getting so sick
of them! French bread, chicken, ham, cheese, hardboiled egg,
etc. Most of us throw a lot of it away by now. More's
the pity. We had been told to assemble by 11:45 which
gradually (and even painfully) lengthened untol 1-1:30, with little
knots of disconsolate people sitting (some on floor) of lobby
looking like displaced persons. There was talk of mutiny, threats
against Patric (sure, he was OK out there somewhere eating
his hot lunch while we scattered crumbs in lowly hotel rooms, etc.).
Soon, howeverm he arrived & was avalanched by a group of some 35
people (some stayed back) eager to so somewhere.
We did. In fact it was even a good afternoon (we
didn't get back until 7 PM!) and included churches (I can't begin to
describe them, except [that] some are Romanesque & attempts to
repaint them with earth colors on the columns etc. are interesting &
that one had [an] intriguing stone-patterned floor). More
interesting to me are the sights, sounds, & smells of the local
color—and apparently Patric, in an effort to reingratiate us, took
us on a path of his own devising up into the mountains (luckily I
was up in front) into some spectacular scenery: wild mountain
flowers, glaciers, volcanic mountains, snow & mist surrounding the
top of the ski lifts (at 4,000 feet), fir trees, rustic people (a
hunchback dwarf) in village (all looking like an opening scene of an
operetta featuring an Alpine village)—the people going to the "sacred"church
& to the "waters." The only thing detracting from the view is
Elaine Loudmouth who sits next to me and talks a blue streak the
We arrive back at hotel late, mildly hysterical from
the "highs" of the trip and the further adventures of the Clouseau
security. Had nice dinner (Prosciutto with olives, chicken
with Creole rice, cheese & floating white fluff pudding).
Walked out with Jack after dinner but there is next to nothing to
see in this city. It apparently was badly bombed in the war &
all of the new buildings are schlocky. To bed to combat
traffic noise & Geo's snoring.