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Off to France

Off to France

Sweetheart, don't knock it if you haven't tried it.

Off to France

My husband and I were stationed in Germany in the late sixties. It has some beautiful countryside where I loved to go on day trips, not only to see the beautiful little towns with their charming churches, but to enjoy the wonderful food as well.

My wives club was planning a trip to France, and I truly wanted to go.

It was going to be for five days, two days spent on a bus going and coming and the other three days in Paris and surrounding areas.

I asked my husband if he would take leave to watch our sons, ages 5 and 6. Of course his come back was, "Do you have the money to go on this trip?"

I always like answering a question with a question when I have no idea what the outcome will be, so I asked him, "If I save the money, will you make sure you're off?"

He replied, "Save every dime it will take for this trip and I will make myself accessible to take care of our children." I was thinking, "I got you!" as I already knew the trip was only going to be 75 dollars for travel, hotel and one meal a day. I was plum giddy.

The day before I was to leave on my trip, I mentioned at dinner to our boys that Daddy was going to be with them for the next few days as Mommy was off to Paris, France. My husband's head shot up and he looked me straight in the eyes. "You got the money to go?"

"Of course I got the money. I have the ticket and I'm packed. The question now is, did you arrange to be off? You don't have to answer, I can see you didn't."

"I never guessed you would actually go,” Mike, my husband, said. "Not a problem though. Thank God I'm the boss. I'll go in early those days and leave early so I'll be here when school is out."

"Good," I replied, "I will be having a ball and not worrying about you all as I know you're quite the leader and can manage two small boys for five days." The look on his face wasn't that reassuring but hey, I had a trip planned and I deserved it.

I could hardly believe it, there was the bus and I was thrilled out of my mind. I had never traveled on European transportation before: very classy, posh seats, plenty of room for this tall gal to spread out.

We traveled for many hours, until the middle of the night and they announced we were stopping for the cause. All us gals lined up at the restroom door and found out they were actually just toilets. Men and women divided by a plywood wall that was maybe five feet tall. I went in and started to pull my slacks down and suddenly I got a weird feeling, I looked up and was looking at some dude's eyes staring at me while he was shaking his johnson. I had no clue what to do. Since my need was desperate, I thought, "Hey, so you see my backside, I have to go."

After the potty experience, we all boarded the bus and settled in for several more hours traveling. Most of the ladies took a short snooze, but me being a weird bird (I can't sleep in anything moving), I read.

Our first stop was the hotel, where they had prepared a wonderful continental breakfast. It consisted of delicious French bread with plenty of butter, assorted jams and wurst. (German sausage)

Our first sightseeing led us to the Arc de Triomphe . This monument is one of the most famous in Paris and honors those who fought and died in the French Revolutionary War. Next, we were off to the Eiffel Tower, which has the most amazing view of the city from the top. I am a camera nut and took awesome pictures.

As we moved on with our tour, we came in sight of the famous Louvre Museum. Our guide was telling us about the Mona Lisa and various works of art. I put my window down and clicked off a number of pictures of this beautiful building when the guide said, "Cheryl, the Louvre is on your left.” I had been shooting to my right, and could have died from embarrassment. To this day, I have no clue what that beautiful building I photographed was.

Mid afternoon we were off for our cruise down the Seine River. It was so beautiful and peaceful, I found it so relaxing, that I just sat and meditated and took in the glorious countryside. Europeans builds their homes on upland hills and mountains beside the river and it's just a spectacular view. I was really sad to see the ride come to an end.

As we headed back to the hotel, everyone was excited about riding the Metro that night. We were going to see Moulin Rouge, a fabulous show of showgirls doing the French cancan, cabaret music, while being served champagne. Such beautiful costumes and pizazz they exuded. It was truly a sight to behold.

Truth be told the champagne service was wonderful, and we enjoyed it immensely — a little too much, I think. Of course, we really didn't care about our drinking as we weren't driving.

The French people were very accommodating. The Metro entrance was right outside of Moulin Rouge. We had our tickets that the tour company had provided and climbed aboard. We had not gone far when it came to us that we were not really sure what stop we should exit for the hotel. After much discussion we decided we would get off at the next stop. We exited the train, climbed steps and realized we had no idea where we were. Back to the Metro, we just jumped over the rail as we figured we had already paid, and entered the car. Two more stops and we exited again, to no avail. We were still lost.

At the next exit, we got to the top of the stairs. It appeared to us that all streets lead to the Metro, as five streets came together and ended in front of the entrance. On the side of each street was a dirt path that reminded us of sidewalks, and all these men were out there playing some sort of game that looked like they were throwing a large ball trying to hit a small ball. (We found out later this game was called Bocce and quite popular there. It is played with balls made of metal or various kinds of plastics.)

We actually thought that was pretty stupid. Since I'm the brazen one I commented, “Three o'clock in the morning and grown men out here throwing a big ball trying to hit little ones. Does this really make any sense?”

A young man standing there retorted, "Sweetheart, don't knock it if you haven't tried it.”

"Excuse me," I replied in total surprise, "what did you just say?"

He repeated what he had just told me, and I said, "You spoke English."

"Most likely the reason for that is, I am from Chicago," he said with a laugh.

Of course, we were all very excited and I told him, "Chicago, we are very happy to meet you. We have been looking for two days to find someone who speaks English and now would you kindly help us? We are staying at a hotel that is one block from the Arc of Triumph.”

“Well, little ladies, if you had gone one more stop, you would have been there.”

I gave a little laugh as I commented, “That is true, but if we had done that, we wouldn't have met the sexy looking guy from Chicago.”

He replied, “True and I would not be talking to some of the best looking women in France.” Some of the officers' wives at this time were thinking maybe I was getting a little out of hand and suggested that we leave. So like good little wives, goodbyes were exchanged and we headed off to our accommodations.

Unfortunately the time had ccme for us to leave Paris and go on a tour of a Champagne factory. We had the morning free to do personal shopping or whatever we felt was necessary because the bus wasn't leaving until noon. We took off walking down the street, taking in the sights, just enjoying the day, and came upon a bakery and decided to go in. We each decided that we would buy several loaves of French bread. (They are long, slender, tapered loaves, and very crusty)

Back on the street, next door was a meat market. Of course, we had to go in and purchase some thin sliced ham, so we could make ourselves sandwiches. We're walking along, ripping the bread open and stuffing in the ham...can you say delicious? As we were stuffing our faces and laughing our heads off, the question came up: "Do you think anyone knows we are tourists from America?" Overseas, they can spot an American 10 miles away. I think it is because we are so laid back and think nothing of eating, dancing, just acting a fool strolling down the street.

Sad but true, we were back on the bus headed home, with just one more big stop, a Champagne house in Troyes. It was a very interesting place, and of course they had samples of every kind of wine and champagne that you could imagine. Unfortunately, we girls who had gone to the Moulin Rouge really didn't feel up to enjoying all that French champagne.

Maybe the moral to this story is to visit the Champagne producer first...

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