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September 19, 2006 > Across the Pond

Across the Pond

Greetings fellow Newarkers. A question. How can one person put on so much weight in such a short time? Yes the trip to Paris with son Joe and his wife Cat was brilliant.....and so was the food! From the moment we got off the Eurostar train that had taken us through the Channel Tunnel under the sea from England to France, my birthday gift was a real treat.

What an amazing train service. I caught the 10 a.m. London train from Newark, and by tea time was climbing the Eiffel Tower! How impressive is that? Practically door to door, as the station is right in the centre of Paris. We'd also checked into our hotel and enjoyed crepes (French pancakes) before deciding an hour and a half queuing was too much so we'd join the much shorter queue to climb it on foot....just to the first level I hasten to add.  Marathon runner Joe could no doubt have gone right to the top and was certain I would manage it easily as, "There's someone even older than you." in the queue. After climbing what appeared to be flight after flight of stairs and beginning to ponder how dreadful it would be if I collapsed with a heart attack during my birthday treat, we were there. The view over Paris was breathtaking (of what little I had left). A truly spectacular sunset made the view nothing short of magical.

The following day we decided on the Palace of Versailles, such a contrast of beauty and horror; the awe inspiring beauty of the Palace and the horror of the French Revolution. It seemed particularly real as we saw the secret doorway through which Marie Antoinette had desperately tried to escape from frenzied revolutionaries. An appropriate end of our day was back in Paris at the Place de la Concorde where the guillotine did its final grisly job, and I'm ashamed to say we enjoyed a jolly good meal!

Sunday morning we attended a service at the legendary Notre Dame Cathedral packed with all nationalities. It was calm. It enveloped you in tranquillity and spirituality. And....Mrs "Technophobe" here is still surprised and a little shocked at the random use of phone cameras that now allow flashes everywhere and anywhere; although I suppose many visitors wanted to take a special bit of Notre Dame back home with them.

Later that day, I marvelled again that I could be enjoying breakfast on the banks of the Seine in the heart of Paris, listening to "The bells! The bells!" (anyone remember Charles Laughton?), and home in Newark for my evening meal. Felt that I'd just hopped on a train; which of course I had. The weather hadn't been the expected "I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles." but rather, "I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles." In fact, as we sat in the Paris cafˇ on our final morning enjoying our pain au chocolat, the windy weather was just like our own dear coastal resort of Skegness or "Skeggie." At Skeggie, a wind break is essential and teeth-chattering shivering children inevitable although recently global warming has made it really rather pleasant, and not as "bracing" as in the past.

Some days later while visiting my 85 year old mother in Nottingham, I remembered our tour around the Palace of Versailles. Someone had referred to her as a "Raconteur of inexhaustible stamina." That's my mother! Startled by a police car's siren and flashing light, she had tripped in the road and fallen, gashing her head. The police rang me from the hospital informing me of the incident and reassuring me that mother seemed o.k., injuries appeared superficial and she was "talking well." Her verbal barrage continued throughout that evening at home and the following morning, until and while the police involved in the incident came to see how she was. I was impressed by their care, and patience as mother started getting out the family photos, and in the best grandmotherly tradition, matchmaking extremely handsome young policeman with granddaughter Lucy. Lucy would have been so embarrassed... I can't wait to tell her when she comes home with brother Joe this weekend.

Joe is running in the Nottingham marathon while the rest of us will be cheering him on. We will be working up a good appetite for the family gathering and delicious food that  now traditionally follows this event, which in the past has had as many as five of us taking part (not me!). The Payne family will be exchanging holiday stories; Paris , Mexico, Las Vegas and the English coastal resort of Bournemouth, as we prepare ourselves for the "back to work" run up to Christmas as the children go back to school.

My very best wishes to you and your "back to work" situations if that is appropriate. If not....lucky you!

P.S. Has aged mother been deterred from venturing out on her own following her tumble? Not this descendant of the famous missionary David Livingstone. "I've got exploring in my genes." She explained.

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