Tag Archives: france

The Nightingale

At Mrs. Poolman’s suggestion, I picked up The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah after Mrs. P had finished it. I had some initial doubts, since I suspected it was “chick book.” In fact, it probably is, but there were enough other plot elements to keep me interested.

The NightengaleThe book is the story of two French sisters living in Nazi-occupied France during World War II.  Each in her own way resists the Germans. When they were young, their mother died and their father essentially dumped into the care of a guardian. The “chick” part of the plot deals a lot with the two sisters’ ambivalent feelings towards each other and towards their remote and mostly absent father. To be honest, it was this part of the story that kept me from finishing it sooner.

On the other hand, the author places the characters and their family angst into an interesting and active time and place in history. One sister is active in the French underground. Her adventures keep the story moving along. The other sister stays at home and mostly just copes with the occupiers and tries to survive and protect her daughter. About half way through the book a crisis involving her best friend forces her to take a more active role in resisting the Germans. Things pick up at that point.

There is no equivocating about whom the author considers the good guys and the bad guys. Although one Wehrmacht officer is depicted as a decent human being, the remaining Germans are painted as purely evil.

The entire World War II story is told as a flash-back as one of the sisters is remembering it in 1995. You don’t know which sister is the modern character, and I won’t spoil it for you.

I had one major complaint with the book, and it was one I repeated to Mrs. P several times. I wish the author had taken a little more care with the history in which she has planted her story. Time after time she describes war-related events that, if not totally impossible, were at least highly improbable.

She has characters discussing how the war was going badly for the Germans in North Africa before they really were. She has one of the sisters smuggling downed American fliers out of France months before Americans actually began any kind of aerial activity. (There were American fliers in the RAF, so this isn’t totally impossible, just unlikely.) She has an American Mustang (Hannah makes a point of saying it is a Mustang.) shot down while strafing a German airfield in the middle of the night She places this a good year before Mustangs were used in any numbers. And no one was strafing airfields at night any way. It’s night, so the pilots can’t see what they are doing. They also risk flying into the ground or into trees while making low-level passes.

In summary, The Nightingale isn’t bad. I’m not sorry I took the time to read it. However, I think it will appeal more to readers who enjoy stories about women’s feelings and relationships (Mrs. Poolman, for instance), rather than those who prefer a more action-focused plot.

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Paris Day Twelve — The Last Day of the Trip

It’s Sunday afternoon, our last day here before flying home in the morning.

Mrs Poolman and I had breakfast with Brother- and Sister-in-Law before seeing them off on the next stage of their journey. They are headed off to Taize,  a monastic retreat center in southern France. They plan to spend four days living in huts, eating lentils and rice, and meditating and chanting. SIL is really into that kind of thing and doesn’t understand why everyone else isn’t also. More power to her, but it doesn’t appeal to us in the least.

Mrs P and I headed out for an easy sight-seeing expedition. We planned to take advantage of the free museum admissions on the first Sunday of every month. Apparently so did everyone else in Paris. We went to the Louvre and, gave up before we could even find the end of the line. Seriously! The line wrapped itself out of the gigantic courtyard, into the next courtyard and on and on. We never did find the end. It was at least a half mile long!

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This was just the middle part of the line. The end was in the next courtyard, maybe.

So we wandered around. We visited the gardens of the Palais Royale.

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The Palais Royale Garden.

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Myself

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Mrs P has always belonged on a pedestal.

We bought macaroons at Angelinas and ate them sitting on a bench in Tuileries Garden.

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A busy Sunday afternoon in the Tuileries Garden.

We walked along the Seine to the Pont du Arts. This is a pedestrian bridge near the western end of the Louvre. Couples place “locks of love” on railings. Mrs P and I id not add to the padilock congestion.

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Mrs P and the locks.

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Locks of love

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Myself again.

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A pretty view from the bridge towards the western end of Ile de la Cite

We walked down towards St Germain and stopped at an outdoor cafe for a “Coca Cola Light” and a potty break. Mrs P was startled when a pigeon landed on the small cafe table and helped himself to a peanut from the bowl right in front of her.

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The little cafe and a pedestrian-only street

We strolled down Blvd St Germain, past several famous cafes and back to our hotel.

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One of Hemmingway's favorites

All told, it was a very pleasant last day in Paris. We’ll hit one of the local cafes for dinner tonight, then to bed early in prep for our long travel day tomorrow.

Paris –Day Eleven

It’s Saturday evenng and we’re back in Paris. There’s not much to report since today was a travel day.

We eere up early and schlepped our luggage off the island to the shuttle stop. I packed fairly light, but Mrs Poolman doubled my load. And one of the wheels on her bag broke, so I have heen carrying it while she pulls my lighter, roller equipped bag. I think the brother- and sister-in-law packed everything they own. BIL was looking “rode hard and put up wet” after dragging both their bags off the island, on and off the train and then through three train and Metro stations.

Our drive to Caen was through a drizzly rain, but pretty easy. Actually, the only problem we had was finding a gas (petrol) station in Caen to fill up the car before returning it. In the US it seems like you can fill up on every corner. In Caen, we actually had to go to the rental office and ask for directions to a station. Strange.

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Two of our merry band waiting for the train in the rain.

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BIL & SIL on the train.

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Mrs P and myself enjoying the trip back to Paris.

The train ride back was pleasant. The trip to our hotel was a little trying, again because of all the luggage. Our plan to send  one couple ahead with the luggage in a cab fell through when we walked out of the station in the rain and couldn’t find a cab. So we took the Metro. See above.

We had a pleasant surprise when we got to the Holiday Inn St Germaine du Pres. They upgraded both rooms to mini-suites. Very nice! (I am a member of their loyalty program, Priority Club, and used points to reserve and pay for both rooms.) Thank you very much Holiday Inn!

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The upgraded room. Nice.

Tonight is “Nuit Blanche” or “White Night” in Paris. This is an annual all night party with many museum, restaurants, clubs, etc open all night and free. We were thinking of revisiting the Louvre tonight, but the weather is crappy and Mrs P is tired. We may just hit a nearby cafe and then return to the hotel. Tomorrow is the first Sunday of the month so many of the museums will be open for free all day.

Mrs P wants to hit the Louvre and then Angelinas for lunch.

Paris & Normandy — Day Ten

Today, Friday, we spent on Mont St Michel. This is an abbey and tiny tourist community on a small island where Normandy and Brittany come together.

We had a nice time exploring and relaxing. A European breakfast wascincluded in our room rate — pastries, ham, cheese, hard boiled eggs, cereal and fruit. We had very nice meals for lunch and dinner. I’m a little concerned that Mrs Poolman is going to expect a three-course “menu” (entree, plat & dessert) everytime it is my turn to cook dinner at home. Sorry, hon. Here’s some potato chips to get you started. The burgers will be along shortly.

Tomorrow we drive back to Caen to catch the train to Paris. Then one last day in Paris before flying home on Monday. Hopefully our drive tomorrow will be uneventful.

Mont St Michel is a postcard photo waiting for someone to press the shutter button. Here are some samples.

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From the causeway

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The one main street on MSM

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Lunchtime

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The merry band

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Myself

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The causeway to the island

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Mrs P in the small graveyard

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You can't go anywhere without walking up or down steps.

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One attempt at framing a shot

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And another

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No one home here

Paris & Normandy — Day Nine

The saga continues.

What the first eight days may have lacked in adventure, we made up for today. We were up and moved out of our apartment by nine AM. Off to Gare St Lazare to catch our train to Caen.

This leg of our trip has had ill omens from the beginning.  On our first evening here we went to Gare Montparnasse to purchase these and other tickets. The very patient ticket seller spent nearly a half hour, working discounts and combos. Sister-in-Law was handling the transaction as this was her job in our division of labor. I noticed the fares and timetables did not seem to be what I had seen on line, but I kept my mouth shut, until the vendor wrote the destination on one of the ticket envelopes, not CAEN, but CANNES? Oops! I pointed out the error and the vendor patiently reissued the correct tickets and demonstrated to SIL the proper way to pronounce the two very different cities.

After all that, the train ride to Caen was pleasant and uneventful. We located the National car rental agency. We picked up our Citeron car and directions to our first stop — Bayeux. Then the fun began.

I drove while SIL and BIL navigated. Just getting out of Caen was a nightmare. At one point I’m pretty sure I drove down a section of street reserved for trolleys. We took the wrong entrance ramp to a limited access highway and drove 20 km out of town in the wrong direction before we were able to get turned around. Five or six wrong turns later and we were finally on the highway to Bayeux, leaving five or six years of my life in the rearview mirror.

We had lunch in Bayeux and then made our way to the American Cemetary at Omaha Beach.

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Bayeux Cathedral

As it was at my last visit here in April 2011, it was very moving. 

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Some of our merry band in the cemetary

Our original plan was to move on to Vierville-sur-Mer to locate the stretch of beach where Mrs Poolman’s and SIL’S father landed with the 116th Infantry Regiment in the second wave in D-Day. We were also going to stop at Point du Hoc. However, others in our party lost interest and wanted to get on to Mont St Michel.

What was left of my driving patience disappeared when we were driving down a narrow Normandy lane with close hedgerows on both sides and a cement mixer roared around a blind curve with his left wheels well on our side of the road. We escaped, but the right side of our car was in the bushes. I’m glad I got the damage collision waiver when we rented the car.

The rest of the trip to MSM was uneventful. We checked into our hotel on the island and had a nice dinner. We took a walk out to catch some night photos from the causeway.

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On to bed. Tomorrow is intended for sightseeing at Mont St Michel.

Paris Day Eight — Montmartre

This is our last day in Paris before heading to Normandy tomorrow. Our good weather ended. Most of the day was cool and drizzly. Fortunately, it never really rained heavy.

We kept the activities low key. We took the Metro (What else?) to Montmartre and just wandered around. Eventually, we had a very nice lunch in a cafe. The waitress made fun of me feable efforts to order in French, but I think she appreciated the effort.

After visiting all the high-brow museums, like the Louvre, we finished out visit to Montmartre with a stop in the Museum of Erotic Art. It was a little different.

We got back rlto the apartment in the late afternoon and spent the time preparing for moving out in the morning.

Dinner was some fresh baguette sandwiches we picked up in Montmartre.

Here are some pics.

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Musicans trying to earn a Euro on the Metro

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Street scene in Montmartre

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Myself and Mrs Poolman at the Basilica of Sacre Couer

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Place Tertre

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Just a street scene with Sacre Coure in the background

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Heading back to the apt on a wet afternoon.

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One of the less offensive exhibits from the erotic art museum

Day Three — Chartres

Ever since I took a humanities course during my senior in high school, I have been a little fascinated with the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Chartres.  On Friday we took the train to visit the cathedral. If you wonder what’s the big deal, do a Google search and check it out. It is sufficient to say that it may be the pinnacle of Gothic cathedral architecture. And it was built in the 13th century.

We met up with BIL and SIL’s friends Cindy and Hal at the train station with relatively little, but some, confusion. The train trip was very pleasant.

The cathedral was impressive. All it was cracked up to be.

We met up with the famous tour guide, Malcolm Miller, for one of his tours. $13 well spent. (10 euros)

We had lunch at a cafe there in Chartres. Their specialty was crepes…like 50 different varieties. A years, and I don’t remember eating a crepe. Now it’s been crepes for lunch two days in a row. Don’t see that as a trend when we get back home. Here are some pics.

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The cathedral

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Mrs P and me

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Some detail

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zMore detail

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SIL, Mrs Poolman and BIL right after lunch

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All of us