Saturday, September 20, 2014

Roadie Report 70 by Camilla McGuin - PARIS, BRUSSELS and ANTWERP

Roger in Paris
      Leaving our Knightsbridge flat was a bit of a sweet sorrow but we had two more favorite hotels to experience before our trip to the Continent.
               Two nights were spent sleeping in the boutique hotel, The Knightsbridge Inn. We found this lovely converted row house years ago and even though it has now exceeded our budget, the two nights spent there on the special weekend rate were well worth it. We ate at our favorite local Thai restaurant around the corner and the food court at Harrods. London was now a very familiar city for us.
               After the Kensington neighborhood, we cashed in our Marriott Frequent Hotel points for the lovely and convenient Renaissance at St. Pancras train station since we would be catching the Euro Star to Paris from there. It was so luxurious to be able to roll our bags out of the hotel lobby right into the train station.    

           "Paris is a woman's town with flowers in her hair." That is a line from the Henry Van Dyke poem "America For Me."  Roger and I found the poem on a cozy night in Berkeley California in a poetry book my brother had saved from our childhood. When I read it to Roger, he picked up his guitar and added the music. Our next CD project named "Favorites" will include that song.

The Flowers at Notre Dame
     Paris is indeed a city with flowers and lights. We walked the city for hours. With famous landmarks as a destination; Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Opera House. It was August and even though the locals had left town, the rest of the world was on every corner. Years ago we had been in the Eiffel Tower restaurant for lunch, prayed quietly in Notre Dame and visited the Louvre, mostly to see the "Mona Lisa." This time the lines were longer at those points of interest than the ones at  Walt Disney World in the summer! The crowds didn't bother us, we were just happy to be living and walking for a few days in this beautiful city.
     We always had a destination on our walks, but we never knew quite where it would lead us. The third day in Paris was day for meandering until we got hungry. Pat, our sister-in-law, joined us on our exploration. The lunch hours were almost over and I was insistent that we keep looking for the quintessential French restaurant. A late lunch is usually our main meal of the day. That means the meal is special to us and should have tablecloths with atmosphere.
    Roger and Pat were getting worried that I might insist we go back to the Oriental part of Paris for sushi. I declared that we would soon find the perfect restaurant and then we did! Peering into a window we saw tablecloths and a cozy ambience. We later learned that Le Grand Colbert restaurant was used in a favorite movie of ours, "Something's Got to Give" with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton.
               Paris was on our way to the Belgium and German part of the concert tour but while we were in Paris we celebrated our dear friend Lariane's sixtieth birthday. Her husband Phil, emailed me and asked if I wanted to speak at her Paris

soiree. I replied, "Have you ever known me not to want to talk?"  
      Even though I was quick to say yes, the reality of trying to honor a special person became a daunting process. I came up with all sorts of corny jokes. My prayer became, "Oh Lord...what am I going to say?"
    Then the answer came in an email from Roger. He had read some quotes of Winston Churchill and thought his "history buff" of a wife would enjoy their wisdom. As I read the quotes from Laraine's fellow countryman, I realized Mr. Churchill had described all the amazing traits of her intestinal fortitude.  Every quote fit Laraine perfectly.
     The epiphany of going back into history to describe a friend, inspired me to go further back. I went to the words of The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 in the New Testament of the Bible. It is called the "Love Chapter." Once again, the chapter described Laraine's traits.
       Since all good things come in threes, I needed one more quote,. I asked an older and wiser man... my husband Roger. Without a pause, he described Laraine as a spark. "When she walks into a room, the whole room ignites." For the eighty people who traveled from around the world for her Paris celebration, those words described her brilliantly.
      Roger's time is Paris was filled with telephone interviews to promote our five country concert tour but now it was time to stamp our Global Eurail Pass for the train to Brussels. 

We spent two in days a favorite hotel in the old section of town, the Amigo Hotel. The area is filled with restaurants, cobbled streets and old architecture. 

Roger performed for a radio show and then we found a local food  
Radio 1 Belgium
market to prepare a tapas picnic for dinner. Grocery stores can be as much fun as museums if you enjoy eating like a local.

     Two days later we were on the train to the beautiful town of Antwerp and our first concert of the tour. We stayed in the old part of the city and were captivated by the charm and the fact that it wasn't only for tourists but local people working, eating and living within its boundaries. There were real stores including a great camera shop.
     I had been missing my camera since London. All my photos of Paris were from my iPhone, but I sorely missed my 20X zoom lens. The moment I decided to quit silently lamenting my loss, we crossed the street and walked into a great store. A kind gentleman demonstrated a Nikon with 30x zoom - better than my last one. I was concerned that it would be much more expensive than it would be in the States, but it was a fair price. Now I could zoom in on all the sites of Europe.

Beautiful Antwerp taken with my new camera.
     One of my first zooms back at the hotel was a street cleaner or maybe I should  say street vacuum cleaner. I couldn't believe it ... they vacuumed the sidewalks with a portable cleaner. In my town a great big truck comes around about once a month with brushes that move stuff around, here the vacuum cleaner sucked it all up. Well I guess it is the simple things that amaze me.

     "Boot camp" didn't begin again until Germany.

We will always have Paris!