“Would you and Andrew like to take a weekend trip together without the boys?” we asked our daughter Erica. “We are thinking of coming to Paris in late May.”
Of course our offer was accepted. Then we had to decide what to do either before or after we took care of our two grandsons. Bicycling somewhere in Europe was a definite suggestion. Ray said he preferred to have someone transport our luggage from hotel to hotel rather than carry everything in panniers on our bikes as we had done in the past. He also suggested we rent bicycles to avoid the prices airlines charge to transport bicycles and to avoid disassembling our own bikes for transport and assembling them again at the other end. As well, we wouldn’t have to worry about where we would store our bicycles when we were in Paris. We found a company, Bike Tours Direct, headquartered in Tennessee that offered guided and self-guided tours all over the world.
After Ray’s accident last year, resulting in a fractured pelvis, causing him to cancel our planned bike and barge trip to Holland, he suggested a relatively easy route. The two week route along the Danube River, from Passau, Germany, to Budapest Hungary, via Vienna Austria, fit our criteria. We chose a self-guided tour, i.e. no guide hustling us along and no support vehicle trailing our group. This allowed us to schedule two extra days in Vienna, a city we had never before visited, plus an extra day in Passau and two more nights in Budapest. We booked and mentioned our plans to friends from Calgary, Marg and Jack Dunphy. They had taken a bike and boat tour in Italy before joining us in Sicily last October and were keen to join us again. They booked and our small group was ready to go.
We left for Paris on May 26, 2014 and spent the next week with our grandsons Atticus, 9, and Roman, 7. We had a grand time. Erica and Andrew took advantage of the French holiday on Thursday May 29 and booked a four day visit to Valencia, Spain. They had a great time exploring the city but decided they needed a return visit to see the places their too short visit missed.
We visited the local outdoor markets to buy food for our meals and took the boys to the various parks close to their apartment in the 15th arrondissement. The biggest hit was a large recreation park with several football (soccer) fields, tennis courts, jogging and bikes paths a short walk from. Atticus brought his football and Roman had his roller blades, complete with all the pads.
On Sunday we succumbed to Roman’s request to have lunch at “MacDo”, which is the French name for McDonalds. The McDonalds was in the huge Aqualand complex with copious pools and slides, both inside and outdoors. It looked like fun but the boys knew we weren’t going there because it would cost about €100 for the four of us. The occasion wasn’t that special. We took the tram to one of many local Parisian pools. The boys had chosen the Piscine de la Plaine because they go there for swim lessons as part of their school curriculum. There were separate lanes for those doing lengths and a larger area for families. The boys demonstrated their progress as swimmers and especially enjoyed jumping off the racing platforms and practising duck dives to try to touch the bottom in the deep end. They would stay swimming indefinitely or until they were close to hypothermia if we didn’t set limits. Swimming is always a first choice activity.
Our last day in Paris, Erica suggested we would enjoy the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit at the Georges Pompidou Center. Cartier-Bresson was a French photographer considered to be the father of photojournalism. We were on.
After breakfast we took the Metro to the center and arrived about 20 minutes before 11 AM, the official opening time, to find more than 100 people already lined up across the plaza to buy tickets for the exhibit. We briefly considered aborting and going someplace else. Luckily we stayed where we were. The doors opened promptly at 11 and the line moved briskly inside. It took us less than 15 minutes to get inside, buy tickets at one of the automated kiosks and take outside escalators to the exhibit on the 6th floor of the building. Each section of the exhibit was well explained in both French and English. Yes, there were lots of people in each room but we managed to take as much time as we wanted to see it all. The photos were arranged to illustrate Cartier-Bresson’s growth as a photographer and his experiences world-wide as a photojournalist and an early film maker. It was well worthwhile. Unfortunately, unless you are in Paris right now you will miss the exhibit as it finished on June 9. Perhaps it will tour to a city near you.
Click Danube 2014 to see photos and read about our bicycle trip from Passau to Budapest.
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