Monthly Archives: October 2023

Friday September 29

Hotel Sophie Germain, Paris: 48°49’51.5″N 2°19’50.4″E

Home Sweet Home: 42°56’59.5″N 81°14’55.4″W

We were underway early this morning to catch the RER train from a stop near our hotel that would take us all the way to Charles De Gaulle airport, a trip of about 50 minutes.

We thought we had things figured out until the tickets we bought the day before did not work or open the gates at the train/subway entrance. Panic stations in the station! Fortunately, a young man took pity on us and after trying the tickets for us determined that since Cath had stored the tickets in her phone wallet, their magnetic strips no longer worked. He pointed her to the information desk where a kind man gave us new tickets that opened the turnstile at the train entrance. Whew.

It was a long ride on the train through some of Paris’ gritty outlying suburbs. While on holiday, we tend to forget that the rest of the world is going about it’s daily business of taking the train to work and seeing kids on their way to school.

It took about as long to find the gate at the airport as it did to take the train there, but once we were checked in everything was well organized and we were through security quickly. It was strange to hear so much English being spoken again in the waiting area for the Toronto plane.

The trip home was uneventful, thankfully no delays and our luggage made it to London with us. A quick Uber trip and we were home again. Back to reality, piles of laundry, getting groceries and dealing with jet lag but looking back it was all worth it. We had a wonderful adventure with Bruce and Barb, and on our own, and with Emily.















Between September 4th and 28th, we covered a lot of territory, crossed many eras from Roman ruins to medieval castles, to WWII and modern day France while drinking a bit of wine and eating a lot of cheese. Oh, and the coffee! Glad to be home to reconnect with family and friends here.

Time to start saving up for the next adventure!

Thursday September 28

Hotel Sophie Germain, Paris: 48°49’51.5″N 2°19’50.4″E

Another good night’s rest and then breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast we went to visit the Museum of the Liberation of Paris which was two blocks from our hotel.

This museum was dedicated to the French soldiers and members of the resistance who fought during WW II. The museum was very well done, and also had focused stories about two Frenchmen – one who was an officer in the army and the other who was a member of the French Resistance. Their courage and bravery is humbling.

The museum is located on the Place Denfert-Rochereau one of the largest and most important squares on the left bank of the Seine River. At the center of the square is a statue of the Lion of Belfort and the square is also the location of the entrance to the Paris Catacombs.

After touring the museum we took the subway to meet Emily again at Notre Dame. We climbed the six flights of stairs to have a tour of her tiny room.

And her even tinier hallway. Emily told us that she even had to turn her suitcase sideways to get it down the hall to her room!

We went to see the Crypts underneath Notre Dame square in front of the cathedral where there was a exhibition of Roman ruins. They also have more exhibits about the reconstruction of the cathedral as well as the story of Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo.

The scale model in the exhibit showed the cathedral during medieval times surrounded by many buildings which do not exist today.

We bought some sandwiches and drinks and had a picnic lunch on the right bank of the Seine. Our lunch was accompanied by a really good jazz band who were busking on the bridge above us. After lunch we went back to our hotel feeling very smug about our ability to take the Metro on one line for about 12 stops without getting lost. Just like the locals – except for the speaking French part!


Early in the evening we got back on the subway and went out at night! Yes, it’s true! All the way back to Notre Dame where we met up with Emily again. We had a really nice dinner at a restaurant that is special to her and right beside the hotel she is staying.

Emily knows the maitre d’ so we got a really nice table.

Sadly, it was now time for us to say adieu – goodbye to Emily because we were leaving for home the next morning.

It was fun to see Emily and have her share her passion and excitement for Paris and Notre Dame Cathedral with us. Her ambition is to work in Paris for the National Monuments Authority. We’d be sad to see her move so far away from London but as long as she gets an apartment big enough for us to stay and visit with her, we’ll be okay with that. Mais oui! Oh, and that there is a bakery close by so she can get us fresh croissants and café au lait in the mornings.

By the time we got back to our hotel the full moon was rising over Paris. Very nice but we were too tired to wander the streets and enjoy the sights. One more sleep and then we head home!

Wednesday September 27

Hotel Sophie Germain, Paris: 48°49’51.5″N 2°19’50.4″E

We had a very good rest and a nice breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast we took the subway to meet Emily at where else? – Notre Dame Cathedral! We found her hotel which was across the street from the cathedral.

Emily dressed up in her Esmeralda costume to give us the VIP tour of Notre Dame and the reconstruction project.

She showed us around the construction area and told us of her adventures in the area. The scale of the reconstruction is astonishing with three major cranes operating constantly at the site.

Emily told us that the crews are working 24/7 to meet the deadline for re-opening next December.


After a few hours exploring in the beautiful fall sunshine, we had lunch at a café close to the cathedral. Then we visited an exhibit about the reconstruction project that featured some relics which were damaged in the fire and were to be replaced by replicas.

The exhibit also featured some interesting videos and virtual reality technology where you could actually take photos of yourself inside the cathedral.


Time to go back to our hotel using the Metro to have a rest. I love the Art Nouveau entrances but can do without so many people smoking! Thank goodness no one is allowed to smoke on the Metro or in the stations.

Emily came to join us for dinner at a café where Cath & I had lunch the day we arrived.

Tuesday September 26

Hotel le Bristol, Reims: 49°15’24.3″N 4°01’36.0″E

Hotel Sophie Germain, Paris: 48°49’51.5″N 2°19’50.4″E

We have a fast train at noon to Paris. It was only a short walk from our hotel so with bags in tow we set out on the next phase of our adventure! We got separated in the train station in Reims before boarding the train. We had about 45 minutes before boarding so I went out to the train platform to find a place to sit and I thought Cath was following me, but when I turned around she was not there.

Reims train station (photo copied from the internet because I was on the platform)

I wasn’t worried because I thought she stayed inside looking for information about the boarding platform. Instead she was looking for me and she went outside to the front of the station to try and find me. WhatsApp to the rescue. Where are you she texted? I’m on the platform – where are you? Cath asked “what platform?”

Reims train station platform (photo copied from the internet because I was inside looking for Cath)

She was relieved when she “found” me – thought I had been swept up by the Police who had a (highly visible and) strong presence in the train station and taken away for interrogation.

The train journey was about 90 minutes. We arrived at Gard de l’Est which was a fair distance from our hotel.


Gare de l’Est train station interior (photo copied from the internet because I was in the bathroom)

Gare de l’Est train station exterior (photo copied from the internet because we were arguing with the scammer taxi driver)

We were reluctant to take the subway because of our luggage so we got in the taxi line. We were loaded into a taxi, expecting to pay about 20-30 Euros for the trip (based on Google Maps’ taxi fee estimate). The driver asked us for cash, said his credit card machine was not working. He wanted 65 Euros because the traffic was bad. We told him we had no cash. He said he would take us to a cash machine. We made him stop the car and let us out. We found out afterwards that this is a common taxi driver scam and that all taxis must, by law, always have a working credit card machine. Were we that obvious tourists? Guess our English Canadian accents gave us away. I wish I would have taken a photo of the car license plate-I would have sent it off with a complaint to someone in authority. We ended up taking the Metro (subway) which was only 2 Euros each – significantly cheaper but a whole lot more stairs and no escalators. To our surprise and relief we got off at a stop that was only a 3 minute walk to our hotel.

Hotel Sophie Germain (photo copied from the internet because I was carrying my overpacked luggage)

We couldn’t check in right away so we left our bags with hotel security and went to have lunch at a café. Then a rest in the hotel before we went to meet up with Emily. She took the subway from her hotel to meet us for dinner.

We had a nice dinner at an East Indian restaurant just a few minutes from our hotel and had a great time catching up with her.

I actually took this picture 🙂


Monday September 25

We planned an easy day in this beautiful city. A well earned rest from our busy week of driving.

View of the beginning of the esplanade just a few steps from our hotel.

After a very good breakfast at the hotel we headed out to find the famous Reims Cathedral. It celebrated its 800th birthday in 2011 and is to France what Westminster Abbey is to England with 26 French kings being coronated here. The front of the cathedral resembles Notre Dame de Paris. It was severely damaged during WW I and was rebuilt in the 1920s. Luckily the church was spared throughout WW II.

Some of the stained glass windows destroyed in WW I were replaced through funding provided by local champagne producers.

There are also modern stained glass windows including a set designed by Marc Chagall in 1974.

We enjoyed walking around the city and had a picnic lunch in a park close to our hotel.

Reims was pretty much leveled during WW I and was rebuilt with a mixture of classic and art deco style architecture.  I really like the galleria off the esplanade.

A typical business/hotel facade on the esplanade.

After lunch we visited the Musee de la Reddition (Museum of the Surrender) – the actual building where the allied forces planned their operations and where the official documents ending WW II in Europe were signed between the Allies and Germany.

The museum artifacts and short documentary film were very moving – well worth the visit. The war operations room in the museum is unchanged from when it was in use during the war. The major part of the entire building remains in use as a public school – again the same as it was during the war.

Photo of the exterior of the building copied from the internet.

Photo of the war operations and document signing room copied from the internet.

After a full day we decided to splash out on a nice dinner on the esplanade. Cath had mussels which she shared with me.

I had a Hawaiian poke bowl which is very popular in France – but not as impressive as this pot of mussels!

After dinner we walked around the esplanade enjoying the night life and checked out the other dining options available. It was surprising to see the number of American fast food outlets mixed in with the more traditional French restaurants, cafes and bistros. The question “why” comes to mind.

Dining at the Ernest Hemingway Cafe?

Or is KFC more to your liking? Hard to believe these restaurants exist across the street from each other.

Sube fountain at Place d’Erlon – the far end of the esplanade.

Another fountain at Place d’Erlon.

Busy night life of the esplanade – but that’s enough for us today – time for bed!