All posts by harrywelty

Dix-huit – Day Eighteen

From Facebook:

This was a happy day and I took lots of pics. Saturday not only saw calliopes and organ grinders but market day under a vast canvas and a huge flea market. We woke to see huge crowds outside our hotel window. We retraced our steps to a great open square and discovered that the city had organized a one mile race for waiters and waitresses carrying trays of beverages in the afternoon.

Before the race we toured yet a other cathedral and Dijon’s museum of Beaux Arts (early renaissance art). More pics. We stopped for a glass of wine to prepare for watching the great tray carrying marathon.

Then it was off to the races. We saw the start of the spectacle and took a shortcut to the end where we saw the intrepid wait professionals race to the finish line with background accompaniment by organ grinders. As a last pic you will see a statue of a polar bear near where Claudia and I will be picked up to start a full day tour of Beauene tomorrow. I don’t know what the bear stands for but the brass owls we found embedded in the streets are a symbol of Dijon. Following their trail takes you to everything of interest.

A few of the Pics: Continue reading

Dix-sept – day seventeen

We have left 3 days of CNN in English back at Bourges. We haven’t checked to see if we can get it at this stop, Dijon. If not our cell phones keep us up to date with the various embarrassments and tragedy’s back home so its not exactly a matter of “out of sight out of mind.”

Here’s my spare Facebook post for yesterday:

It was gray for a few days in Normandy then it turned warm and sunny. Until today, when I insisted on driving backroads through forests and farmland. A wet cold front covered us. Our destination was Dijon in France’s Burgundy region. I drove the first half then got itchy to take pics from the car. That’s when the rain picked up meaning that I had to wait till wndshield wipers shot passed to shoot the landscape from our windows. 4 in 5 shots were ruined. I’ll show you the best I could do.

Rain let up in Dijon after we umbrellaed our way to the hotel. We took a long stroll for picture taking. Once again travel guru Rick Steves had nothing to say about our destination. There was a convention of calliopes in town. I got brave and ate snails. Butter works miracles. See for yourself.

And a couple of the pics I shared: Continue reading

Seize – Day 16

From my Facebook Page:

Today’s first attraction was half a block away. It was the almost palatial castle of France’s first mega-rich businessman Jacques Coeur. After building a trade empire rivaling the richest Italians and once rescuing France from financial ruin jealousy did him in. His struggling rivals talked the king into putting him in jail and giving his wealth away to others especially the King. I took pics.

We also went to Bourges Cathedral’s more modest predecessor, the Eglise of Etienne, where I took more pics including the honor role of parishioners killed year by year in the Great War. Also you will see the donkey on bended knee popularly given credit for founding the spot to build this Church.

Finally, I will share the after dinner photos of the walk we took past the Cathefral at night following a blue light trail around Bourges. It took us past Jacques’ house again and a gentle bear that guided his good friend, the brother of the French King.

And a couple of pics: Continue reading

Quinze – Day 15

From Facebook:

Thirty days gives us the luxury of not rushing. We have spent the last 3 hours in our hotel room watching French game shows on television. I am not sure whether they are a better cultural or linguistic lesson.

Our day began with English language news for the first time in two weeks. (Today was our vacation’s halfway point.) Then we took our first white sight-seeing train around Bourges. We have found them in most of the fun cities we’ve visited so far. We followed that with a lovely lunch outside the Cathedral where I finally attempted a little French. We found our first waiter who couldn’t speak English. It was great to his equal.

Then we took the French speaking tour of the Cathedral’s crypt. After that we climbed the 396 steps to the cathedral tower. Unlike Notre Dame there was no line and no crowd. Next up pictures of our day.
Continue reading

Quatorze – Day 14

From Facebook:

We have 2 three-day stays ahead of us. We hopped back on the train from Bordeaux to Tours and drove our rental car to the ancient royal city of France at Bourges. Our hotel is a venerable Best Western that I think takes its name from a 1912 stay by the Duke of Windser. Hôtel d’Angleterre = Hotel England. He is best remembered for abdictating his throne for the women he loved.

We will do most of our touring tomorrow but we walked over to the cathedral so I could get some pics. Once again I found St. Denis this time in a window. If I had chopped off his head only to have him stoop down and pick it up to stroll off on his merry way I’d have become a good Christian too.
Continue reading

Treize – Day thirteen

From Facebook but first a correction:

The first picture I referred to was a traffic sign that I’m not certain is really official. It shows an artist painting the bar across a do not enter traffic sign. The message is no artists allowed to paint here. This morning I woke up and realized I had referred to it on Facebook at a no musicians can play here traffic sign. Oops.

Bordeaux day two. We signed up for a tour of wineries this afternoon so here are pics of that excursion. We had a couple hours to kill and I did it in a corner bookstore with the no public music here street sign. Being a book store that made sense because there were a lot of open guitar cases begging for change in the City’s mostly pedestrian streets. The store turned out to be vast rabbit warren of seperate rooms for books. It easily had double the books of a Barnes and Nobel. I bought a couple…..to work on my French.

The picture of a tractor goes back to 1948 if I remember correctly. The father of this small organic vineyard bought it with the help of the Marshall Plan. Sadly, it was far too big to use in grape vineyards but its sale sure was a boon to International Harvester.

At the wine tasting after the tour I noticed a familiar Minnesota insect – box elder bugs.

At a second rather grander Chateau I snapped pics of the Dordogne and Gironde Rivers joining together 75 miles shy of the ocean. A mile wide here they keep killing frosts away. They are tidal rivers and rise and fall 15 feet with the ocean tides. The owner of this vineyard told us her land was where the Roman’s first planted Mediterranean wine grapes 2000 years earlier. Continue reading

Douze (Twelve) Days

From my Facebook entry:

Today we traveled on the french rails and I snapped several pics of the countryside as we zipped along on our way to Bordeaux. It was only this morning that I realized Rick Steve’s completely left the city out of his 500 page guide to France. I wondered if our two day jaunt would be a waste. You be the judge.

It turned out to be one of the innumerable annual French Holiday weekends where everyone, not in the service industry, takes a 3 or 4 day weekend thus the crowds scenes. This one was Patrinomy Day. As a result lots of government agencies let the public in for a peek at their work at no charge. At the Customs House I took part in a vintage demonstration of hunting down smugglers with my keen smelling hound. At another I took a picture of the natural history staff carrying a properly anesthetized exhibit up a stairwell.

Of course, we had to tour the local gothic cathedral and were so moved (by hunger) that we ate a mouth watering meal in the bistro across the way. We were tempted by the item just above the children’s section of the menu but sadly it wasn’t being served on Sunday.

A few pics referenced above: Continue reading

Onze (eleven)

My last post suggested that we are not intensely interested in the fate of the United States. Nothing could be further than the truth. The New York Times is keeping us up-to-date. We watched PBS’s Washington Week in Review not long after it aired to hear the interview of Bob Woodward. We are not alone. His bookk “Fear” about the Trump catastrophe is the number one selling book in Europe right not. Claudia bought the audio version on line but I can’t imagine it helping her get a good night’s rest.

But tomorrow we board the TGV to Bordeaux after sampling several fine samples of the wine of the Loire and Tourine. Here is what I put into Facebook about our eleventh day with a couple of the pics. We’ve started the second third of our trip now.

FROM FACEBOOK ON DAY ONZE: Continue reading

dix

I made the Duluth News Trib a couple days ago much to my amusement. Reporter Brady Slater, who has been covering the Congressional campaign in Minnesota’s Eighth District, emailed me some questions wondering what I made of Pete Stauber’s silence on his email snafu. I was quoted correctly saying that he wanted to keep it from getting too much oxygen. I wasn’t quoted having said that I thought it wasn’t that big a deal. On the other hand, I do think St. Louis County’s protecting Pete is a big deal. He broke the law and they are covering his butt.

The real scandal is that Pete, a man of the law, has sworn to kiss the shoes of the man who urinated all over the Party of Lincoln and like all the other piss soaked Republicans he is too timid to admit he is in an embarrassing league with the devil.

But as I told Brady Slater, who shamed me for not reading the Duluth paper, I am happily removed from Donald Trump’s havoc and Pete Stauber’s painful shoe licking.

AND HERE IS WHAT I WAS UP TO ON DAY TEN (“DIX” pronounced deese IN FRENCH) FROM MY fACEBOOK PAGE: Continue reading

Huitieme et neuvieme jours, Je suis desole d’etre en retard

The Title says, “Eighth and ninth days, I am sorry to be late.

Couldn’t be helped. My wifi connection petered out in St. Malo so I have two days to catch you up on. I heard a Brit use that “catch you up” phrase a couple days ago. I will continue with the easy peasy method of copying in my text from my daily Facebook posts. They tend to me more muted in their politics and very short by my blog’s standards. They do however inundate my friends with pictures which I limit here on the blog. and so……Day eight.

DAY EIGHT

No Mont St. Michael for us after all. We saw impressive tides here at St. Malo and more than enough people spread out inside and outside its impressive walls. Claudia’s loadstone for today was the novel “All the light we can not see.” It was about two compelling characters at St. Malo through its destruction by allied bombers in WW II. We found the book on offer at a bookstore here.

The citizens rebuilt the ruined town as a near replica of what it had been formerly. It’s very picturesque. At low tide Claudia and I walked out to the nearest of the island forts built to protect the town from naval reprisals for harboring daring corsairs (govt approved pirate businessmen).

We met a delightful German quadralingual tourist when she asked me to take her picture on the beach which she reciprocated for us. She teaches French and made me feel better by assuring me that it is a hard language to learn.

DAY NINE Continue reading

Sept on Sept. 11

Seven days in to my vacation and I ran out of time. Its 1AM in France and I lost a 194 day streak of daily French studies online. I lost time to blog here about my travels other than by cheating and copying my daily Facebook post. And I failed to get a Reader Column in. It’s late and I have to wake early to plug a meter. I think I’ll just take the fine.

Here’s what I put in Facebook.

Our 9-11 in America’s cemetary in

France

I am watching the BBC showing minute by minute video of cell phone video of 9-11. The anniversary wasn’t our mission when we left for St. Malo early this morning. We had two stops on our itinerary. The first was Bayeux to see its Cathedral and the football field length tapestry celebrating the invasion of England by William the Conquerer. Fascinating and gorgeous. Then we headed to the gravesite of 9,000 Americans who gave their lives to invade France and stop tyranny. To think that we have elected a President so chummy with dictators.

At the Normandy cemetary we saw the French lower our flag at afternoon’s end and replace it only to give the lowered flag to one of the fallen’s loved ones. Deadly Omaha beach, where so much blood was shed, was at a beautiful low tide under an intense sun below the graveyard. The ranks of orderly headstones above were every bit as beautiful as the sights in Bayeux.

We got in late to St. Malo. The day’s sobering moments on pause we had a giddy experience driving the tightest streets in France to get to our hotel. Our late dinner was charming with a surprise table guest. Now its back to New York and the horror of the new millennia.

And here are four photos I took along the Coast of Normandy:

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Six – that’s pronounced seece – rhymes with fleece

For several months I got used to talking with french folks online who were on their computers while I was still waking up. In the last couple days I’ve had to get used to no news when I wake up because American is still fast asleep. Its noon before America news outlets wake up.

Again I’ll let my post from Facebook speak for today’s experience on the road for the first time and add a couple of the photos I uploaded to it:

“Today we drove west to the Atlantic and the old port city of Honfleur where England’s Henry IV launched an attack to take back France. There were two of us driving, watching the road, reading unfamiliar traffic signs and getting used to the quirks of French cars. But today it was only my hands on the wheel. We got off the highway to see a long abandoned abbey and quaint villages with narrow streets that put side view mirrors at risk. Then we strolled Honfleur’s streets and visited the church built by shipwrights that has a hull for a roof. Claudia lit a candle at its memorial for the lost EorldWar I soldiers of Honfleur.

We brought pear cider, Camembert and a loaf of corn pain (bread) back to our room for an inexpensive dinner.”

I’ve only just realized that I didn’t rent room close enough to the the Normandy beaches for a long stay there tomorrow. We will have to start early for St. Malo tomorrow in order to have a couple hours at Normandy.

Some pics for you starting with proof that I really have been here in France: Continue reading

Cinq for the memories – deep background

In most of my previous big trips Claudia and I wrote a daily journal. Both of us would write in longhand in a diary about each days experiences but we would alternate who wrote first and second each day. The only place we didn’t do that was Isreal two years ago but because that was a class for Claudia she kept notes.

Its hard for me to read those old journals and I wrote half of them. Cursive writing is becoming as imposible for kids today to read as it is for me to read short hand. Its a dying art. So, treating this blog as my diary at least means that it is readable (as in legible if not addictive)

I decided early on to go on our own and not in tours. I wanted to meet French speaking people and not spend my time talking to English language tourists. I had hopes even of learning enough French to communicate with the locals. So far that has not been a great success but I haven’t given up. Claudia even suggested that we attend a french language immersion program in Quebec next year. I’ve been keeping up my hour a day online studying with the thought that perhaps in a year I could do in Quebec what I’ve not managed this year in France. That would give me two years and fits in well with a lecture I heard a polyglot (multi-lingual) give. She said it took her about two years of study at my daily intensity for her to learn the six or seven languages she’s learned by studying only one language until she masters it.

There were no glitches today. However after rising late (catching up on sleep) and coming home early to read it was because we realized we needn’t knock ourselves out hour after hour for 30 days straight. The four hours we spent walking around town was plenty. It was followed by some reading and then at 7 a dinner at a small restaurant our host recommended. It proved to be an excellent choice.

Here’s a capsule of our day beginning with that Cathedral we saw last night. Continue reading

Le quatrième jour

I summed up our fourth day of travels this way in my Facebook post:

“We left Paris – for now – well organized and ubered ourselves to the St. Lazare Gare and a smooth RxR ride to Rouan where for a couple of fraught hours we struggled with travel glitches due to an auto pick up and massive crowds at an unexpected Saturday side walk days sale.

But we are in full “glass half full” mode so I will leave you with images from the similarly unexpected light show we saw last night projected onto Rouen’s Cathedral. The Norman’s are proud of their ties with England and their Viking Heritage too. They also make good hard cider.”

I’ll just post 3 images of Joan of Arc’s city of execution, all of them of the Famous Rouen Cathedral.

It was the first stop for Paris bound American tourists in the early 18th Century and for the bumptious Americans the lofty ancient cathedral blew their minds. It was probably two or three times taller than any building in America at that time. It was meant to blow people’s minds like all the other Gothic cathedrals of Europe, imbuing them with the awe of God and beckoning them on pilgrimages for the local promoters, ateliers and religious functionaries.

Enthusiasts for the French tradition of impressionism will remember Claude Monet’s 30 or so paintings of the Cathedral in different light as part of his impressionistic experimentation. And thus the first image of one of his paintings that I took in Paris’s Orsay museum: Continue reading

Managing my Trois

I spare my Facebook friends long tedious explanations of what I do. I simply inundate them with pictures when I go traveling. Here’s how I summarized yesterday on Facebook:

“A day spent on the Seine between Notre Dame and the Eiffel tower and endless gigabytes of picture storage is awesome. We climbed the 400 steps past Mother Mary’s gargoyles and rode the Bateuxbus down to Eiffel’s miracle with a stop at the Orsay Palace of Art before returning to the Hunchback’s domicile. Our poor legs. Thank goodness we had a final stop for fromage, pain and vin accross from Victor Hugo’s old church.”

Some additional reactions. 1. The French we’ve met, however briefly, have been cordial from the street workers who saw we were unsure of where we were and tried to help us on our way to the wait staff at cafes. 2. Paris is indeed a “walkable city.” Everyone is out on the sidewalks. But that’s a lot of walking. For the tourist there are other ways to get around and for us yesterday the boats on the Seine River took us between the principal sights in a one hour forty minute cycle from Notre Dame to the Eifle Tower and back. The cod at the restaurant in the Orsay Museum of Art was heavenly and our server most charming. Museum walking is tough like Christmas gift shopping. We ended our day with a simple plate of cheeses and baguettes and wine watching the folks passing by on the street.

I’ll share a couple of the hundreds of photos I took and then conclude with my take on the goings on back in the good ole US of A. Continue reading

Notre deuxième jour – “our second day”

In 2016 when Claudia and I were in Jerusalem every political know-it-all was assuring Americans that Donald Trump could never get elected President. In 2017 when we were in China older folks were keeping their fingers crossed that the young people’s prediction of a Trump impeachment was overwrought and wrong. This year while in France we find ourselves no longer trying to forget the last two years but watching things back home like guilty gawkers at a house fire.

But France has attractions to distract from our national catastrophe. Last night we decided to check out the jazz scene and found this 700 year old tomb where we stayed for a jazz trio and chanteuse and then an open mike where my seat mate gave his first ever public performance. I told him when he came back that for his was a “bonne debut.” He smiled at that.

Aujourd’hui (today) we awoke from a glorious night’s sleep with jet lag behind us. Starting a little late we hiked to the tourism center in the former hotel de ville now the Paris City Hall and formerly – 70 not 60 years ago – the headquarters for the German occupation. I think my last post put the occupation in my childhood instead of 5 years prior to my arrival.

There we got a two day museum pass and headed for the Louvre where American artists toiled to learn the art of french culture 200 years ago according to David McCullough’s book . We only lasted there for a little over two hours but I took a hundred pictures many of which will make it to my Facebook Page. I did not want to too severely burden my eight loyal readers.

But here are a few of them: Continue reading

Paree

I may have gotten a wink of sleep on my flight over the Atlantic to France but, if so, it was quite literally a wink. Our departure from went without a hitch other than our failure to sleep. Our hotel took our bags when we arrived by cab too early for a check in so we set out to get lost in the Marais neighborhood on the Seine’s right bank.

It is remarkable that the old part of the city is as it was when the German soldiers roamed the streets during the Second World War’s occupation of France. Hitler ordered it burned to the ground but his subordinates managed to evade his demands. Sometimes underlings can thwart their bosses worst inclinations as we have once again been reminded by Bob Woodward.

We would only last about four hours before coming back to our hotel to catch up in mid day on the sleep we had missed on the flight. But before we did we found our way to the islands in the Seine where the Hunchback once lived……If we can believe Victor Hugo. And, we had a fine French dejeuner (lunch) at the Place de Vosges where Hugo (OOgo en Francais) lived. Along the way we stopped at one of many of Paris’s neighborhood parcs and watched children playing soccer while their parents and grandparents sat on benches in the shade. We saw our first rat there as we left. Probably not a Ratatouille cook. I saw another one lying in the courtyard around Notre Dame. They probably lived here long before the Cathedral was built and they have a lot of ancient infrastructure to inhabit. Of course, they hang out under Duluth’s newly renovated Congdon Elementary too. Such enterprising rodents.

I am meeting too many french people who can speak English. I’m too timid to belabor them with my deficient French. Cross my heart, I’m going to get braver.

Bon Voyage

For two years I’ve been salivating over the prospect of traveling across the battlefields that my Grandfather fought on one hundred years ago. For nine months I’ve studied French the language and read about France the nation. For five months I’ve known the route I would travel across France and then I continued doggedly to prepare for the trip despite a ten week detour to make my disgust of Donald Trump’s attempt to sabotage my Grandfather’s legacy of sacrifice clear to the people of Northern Minnesota. Tomorrow I will drive with my wife, Claudia, to board a plane bound for Paris.

After the election I slapped this skimpy calendar on my office wall to keep myself on task. I am almost ready to cross off the last full day before my departure. Continue reading

Giving the Duluth School District short shrift

I presume that one hallmark of my eight loyal readers is their interest in following my observations about the Duluth School District. That’s understandable. I’ve been an integral part of the District for 12 years as a School Board member and many more as a curious and opinionated observer watching the District as an outsider. Well the past summer I’ve almost stopped posting about anything other than details related President Trump and my challenge of his new best buddy, Pete Stauber, and his congressional campaign. Well, that will change. Now I’m into France and back to my obligation to pontificate about the Duluth Schools.

To that end I commend the latest column by Loren Martell in the Reader. Loren’s most valuable gift to Duluth is taking down the actual recorded quotes of our elected representatives during the mostly unwatched Duluth School Board meetings. Its a dreadful responsibility that he’s taken on.

I will share one telling quote from the last meeting taken down by Loren with a few sharp observations but first you should know that I expect to diverge from Loren’s take on the biggest issue facing the District this November. That is the referendum for increasing local taxes to prop up the badly hobbled, Red Plan plagued District.

I will support all three levels of increased support that the District is asking for. I know, I know! Property taxes are the most “regressive” taxes. They lean heavily on the poor both homeowners and renters and landlords giving the rich Red Plan crazed enthusiasts a pass. I know, I know! Passing the levy will allow a Superintendent I have little confidence in a victory that may saddle the District with his presence far into the future. I know, I know! The residents of Duluth have been taken for a costly ride on the Red Plan with no stop at Go to collect $200.00. I’m sorry. Our kids are worth it.

Now, about that quote from Jill Lofald. When I first heard that Jill was planning to run for the school board I was enthusiastic. I thought she might run against Annie Harala and me. Then I discovered she was running against Art Johnston. My suspicion was that she had been recruited to become another cheerleader for Supt. Gronseth. I think I was right. Also, Jill struck me as yet another district insider, like her predecessors Mike Miernicki and Bill Westholm, who would never have the courage to make anyone mad by (gasp) taking a hard necessary stand. Loren makes it clear that that fear of mine has legitimate:

Here’s Jill’s quote related to the unwillingness of the Superintendent to pass on the financial details concerning the District to the elected members of the School Board: Continue reading