Friday, August 22, 2008

The end is nigh; almost home

A few more American States: Washington and Hawaii

We took a side trip to Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier and Seattle during the week in Portland. The travel up in the Mustang was smooth and the drive through the National Monument parks was lovely, with timber of pine and spruce, river beds carved by massive spring floods carrying loads of white stones and pretty waterfalls.

Waterfall and bridge, Mt Rainier National Monument

In places the spring floods obviously carve away bits of the road which then has to be rebuilt. Many of the roads are closed for more than six months a year.


Mt Rainier

Clear weather led to a really good view of Mt Rainier which turned out to be quite a worrying volcano, liable to have its layers slide over each other at any moment, giving rise to mud slides that rush down creek valleys at about 50mph with little or no warning. The only hope of survival is to get to higher ground and it is possible such slides would reach as far as Tahoma. The B&B had evacuation information in the bed rooms which was cheery!

Alexander's B&B Mt Rainier

Mt St Helens, photographed on the western side shows the result of silt flows after the disastrous explosion and slides 28 years ago, when timber was blasted flat and the valley was drowned in mud.

Mt St Helens and silted river

You can see it still, with the old road disappearing under it and really very little natural regrowth of vegetation in that time.

Old road covered by silt and new river

It was a most instructive drive up to the point where you could see across the valley to the new dome forming in the crater of the old one. Initially I wondered why the road was so good, then realised the old one had been wiped out.

Mt St Helens, still little vegetation

New dome forming in crater

However, wildflowers are beginning to regrow and some wild life just hangs around posing, hoping for a feed. They have to put up signs saying the wildlife will die in winter if people feed them. This very cute chipmunk followed us back to the car.

Our one evening in Seattle was fun. We went down the Pike Place markets and saw the fish market where they made the motivational video “Fish”. Unfortunately it was late in the day and there was no fish buying or throwing going on, just hordes of tourists waiting for it to happen.

Pike Place Fish Market

We caught the monorail to the Space Needle and photographed it and the Experience Music Project, a Frank Gehry design of twisted reflecting metal plates. There was lovely late afternoon light and beautiful reflections so I got a bit carried away photographing the Gehry place.

Space Needle

Space needle reflection

Fun fair reflection

Shades of blue and gold

Then we sought a place for dinner. Not finding anything mentioned in the tourist guide to be open, we retraced our steps to a place where we had seen lots of people disappearing into a pink door with a sign saying “Come in, we are out on the deck”. Turned out to be the Pink Door restaurant, a lively place with a band playing and a deck looking out on Puget Sound where we dined very well on lovely, authentic Italian food. Well worth a visit if you can find it.

Deck of the Pink Door

The B&B too, was lovely, a mansion on millionaires’ row called the Shafer Baillie mansion, beautifully restored by the current owners in 2004, full of gorgeous wood panelling, grand staircases and leadlight windows and a sumptuous bed room with dressing room and separate bathroom, still with many of the original features.

Shafer Baillie Mansion

Back in Portland we packed for the penultimate leg of the journey to Hawaii and said our farewells to Cam and Christine. It will be ages till we see them again. This flight at least had the reclining seats and a general video screen should you want to sleep or watch anything. I began reading “We have to talk about Kevin” by Lionel Shriver which was both riveting and horrible. The pilot gave a very good commentary as we came in to land at Honolulu which I always like but which you don’t get very often. Then a quick taxi ride to the Ala Moana hotel at Waikiki where we were upgraded to a suite at no extra cost. A lovely meal at their rooftop restaurant before crashing with exhaustion.

Blue Hawaii from the catamaran

We took a catamaran ride out onto the Pacific, getting soaking wet but loving every minute. As it was called the Mai Ta'i, we drank a MaiTai while sailing out past Diamond Head and into the waves.

Our catamaran

We spent a day at the Polynesian village seeing cultural exhibits and dancers from six Polynesian areas including New Zealand. While it was a bit touristy “Now all say Aloha” it was also interesting. A lot of money has been spent by the Mormons to build these villages and students from Polynesia can come to study at Brigham Young University next door, working at the village as a way to earn money to pay for their studies. A “dry” campus too! It offers students a chance for qualifications they would not otherwise have and then they take their knowledge back to their home country.

Dancer on canoe

Coconut tree climbing

The luau food was less exciting than I would have expected, but the show in the specially built ampitheatre was stunning, with great costumes, traditional dancing and singing and finishing with a fire twirling and throwing act that looked perilous next to grass skirts. It was highly professional and great entertainment.
Most of the dancers were students at the university.

A view of the stage and ampitheatre

Fire Dancer

We finished our short stay by visiting the Halekulani hotel. They have a great bar area out the back with a view out over the ocean and Diamond Head. Called the House with no Key, after a Charlie Chan book of that name which was set here, it offered pleasant rattan chairs and cocktails while a Hawaiian band played and a beautiful woman danced the traditional, storytelling hula. Afterwards we walked next door to the original house, and had dinner on the terrace of Orchids, still listening to the band, cooled by the Tradewinds and watching twilight steal over the scene. Impeccable service and lovely seafood and a beautiful way to end the holiday.

The next morning we were back on Qantas for the 12 hour flight with the comforts we have very quickly become accustomed to; express checks through security and customs, a business class lounge, adjustable seats, our own video screen, lots of room to stretch out including fully adjustable beds (though the bloke in front still tipped back into my space) and surprisingly edible food and drink. I think we are permanently spoiled for economy travel!
A great holiday but very glad to be home. The cat is ignoring us.

To Boston and Beyond

Into America, friends and family

An easy off to the airport with the Blue Shuttle though we had to pick up people from three other hotels in Paris. This was accomplished in good time and we were able to spend some time in the business lounge having breakfast, though this was a distance from our flight gate. The airplane configuration was not as spacious as Qantas or Cathay but it worked well, with a video system that was removable from a pocket in the seat in front and had lots of videos on demand. The tray system was good too, with the tray from the side arm meeting up with one from the seat, providing lots of space. I saw “The Other Boleyn Girl” and enjoyed rather good food service. The seat configuration was very adjustable too, with a footrest at the end of the bed, making the trip quite comfortable. We were not to have this level of comfort from American Airlines again.

There was a problem with the Skybridge in Boston and we had to be pushed back and then docked at a different gate, which took time. We picked up an Elantra and drove off for Rockport MA. This is a pretty little coast town, a fishing village originally, and a relaxed place to spend a night, even though it is quite touristic. At least they preserve their coast, with no high rises, though the real estate prices and beautiful and expensive houses on the coastline may help pay for this. We drove around and admired the lovely houses and the unspoiled bays and beaches.

Coast houses and lobster floats

Rockport harbour

The evening in Rockport was spent walking up Bearskin Neck and photographing the harbour, then eating on the patio of a pretty restaurant at the end of the point, My Place by the Sea. We did protest though, when they offered duck breast; too much, too often, in France! The B&B, Lantana House, was comfy and offered traditional beds and decoration and a welcome breakfast in the morning.

We drove back to Boston down the coast, looking at the towns and lovely houses and wondering at the development which was so restrained compared with Australian coast. There were gorgeous houses with gorgeous views and gorgeous boats in the yacht harbour. Maybe it is all available only to the very rich!

Into Boston to a cute B&B called the Oasis. Our room on the ground floor as requested and a lovely lounge and kitchen outside the bedroom door make it almost like our own apartment. Relatively close to the rail system, the MBTA, too. Greatly amused at the Charlie ticket which recalls the Kingston Trio song “The Man who never Returned”. Inquiries revealed it really was named after the song. Good to have a council with a sense of humour! Loved the huge organic supermarket down the end of the street, the kids playing in the fountain of the Church of Christ, Scientist and the street music by the students waiting for admission to their classes in the Berklee School of Music.

We visited the El-Greco to Velasquez exhibition at the Museum of Fine Art, which was a real treat: such glorious light in paintings and a lovely curation to show the development of their influence on later works. The Museum is to be redeveloped too and will lose its classical facade. Maybe that doesn’t matter in the drive to provide suitable exhibition space. I was impressed with their exhibits and we spent some time in the American section as we are not very familiar with that aspect of art.

Josiah McElheny’s “Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism”

We were in Boston to celebrate the first wedding anniversary of our son, Cameron and his wife, Christine. Their wedding had been fairly quick as he had been allowed into America on a fiancé visa, where he needed to marry within three months. They had not been able to involve all family, especially those on the East coast, in a West coast wedding.

Note the paper hats, Cam's being traditionally Australian

So we had a great evening at the hotel meeting lots of family, wearing paper hats to celebrate the paper anniversary and eating delicious food from a perpetual buffet. We felt really included and met lots of people from Christine’s side. A warm welcome to her family and, as expected, zany and fun.

After a delightful breakfast with Christine’s dad, we wandered the park in Boston, heading for the Boston Ducks, which are tours on water and land in old army ducks. I understand these are modelled on Sydney ducks but this might be fanciful. Unfortunately for us, they were so in demand we couldn’t get a berth. Seeing them driving round the city I can understand why they are so popular; they look at lots of sights and seem to have lots of fun and adventure. Finishing by going along the pretty Charles River is a nice way to end a tour.

Instead, as it was a hot day, we fell back on wandering the nearby shopping centre which was blissfully air-conditioned, checking out the enormous bookshop and eventually making our way back to our accommodation past the First Church of Christ Scientist which is a very large temple, library, reflection pool and water fountain built as the foundation church according to Mary Baker Eddy’s beliefs. It is not a church we hear much of here, but it is still quite large in America (and not to be confused with Scientology). That evening we went to the waterfront and ate at Legal Sea Foods, a very popular spot with delicious, fresh fish. As you can see, Cam and Christine enjoyed themselves.

To Portland the next day, first surviving a full body pat-down and luggage search at the airport. We must have been persons of interest, but I would rather they over-searched than didn’t check anyone. This flight was when we discovered that “First Class” on American airlines means a slightly wider seat and being served food and drink without having to pay extra. No film or video, no sleeper seats, no use of business class lounges. Most disappointing! We flew via Dallas-Fort Worth as that is the hub of American Airlines so we got to see the vast tracts of flat land surrounding that area and later the huge salt lake that gives Salt Lake City its name. We came into Portland past several volcanos and were to see more in the chain later in the holiday. Most interesting geology!

Our B&B, The Lion and Rose, was a beautiful Victorian/Craftsman style house built for a beer baron and his family, now beautifully kept by Steve and Sandy. Breakfast was an adventure, not only for American food but for a different and dramatic table colour scheme each day using pretty table china and linen. I still have some difficulty with the very sweet side of breakfasts, the sweet French toast or baked puddings, alongside savoury offerings but I guess it is just a cultural thing. At least I tried it!

Breakfast room, Lion and Rose

With Cam and Christine, and driving our flash, black Mustang hire car, we visited the Rose Test Gardens, just past their first flush of blooms but still very lovely and one of the reasons Portland is known as the Rose City, then on to the Pittock Mansion with views out to Mt Hood and Mt Adams, had they not been blocked by haze. Again the rose gardens were beautiful. There were several weddings being photographed and a costumed picnic by the local historical society. Quite Jane Austen apart from the cell phones and digital cameras!

Pittock Mansion

That night we caught up with two of my cousins and their families who live in Portland, meeting their daughters for the first time and having a relaxing evening in a pretty garden while feasting on wild salmon, gourmet sausages and the best and biggest blueberries I have ever seen or tasted. This side of the family is an unexpected and most pleasant new chapter in our lives since Cam moved to the USA.

We finished the night at Council Peak, the highest spot in town, in the twilight, catching the best view yet of some of the volcanos.

Mt St Helens in the twilight

Over the next days we did over Macys, visited several parks around the city with glorious redwoods and maple trees, and ate at the Widmer Gasthaus and a place called Lovely Hula Hands. I can never tell how much food will be on my plate. An appetiser was more than enough at the Gasthaus and a main course and dessert was just right at Lovely Hula Hands. Still, that can happen in Australia too, with steaks bigger than a plate or dainty morsels a la cuisine minceur.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Jules Verne Restaurant

Dinner at Jules Verne

This was to be a dinner paid for by the unexpected redundancy payment put on the table by my boss when I suggested I resign. Mind you, I was going to resign anyway, as we had already booked our holiday in France for much longer than the 5 weeks leave I had officially applied for. The redundancy was a bonus that allowed us some extravagances which would otherwise not have been possible.

To get into this restaurant you need to book about three months in advance. You apply through a fairly impersonal on-line process, but we did send an email later, asking for a table with a view as we had several things to celebrate; my 60th, retirement and the end (almost) of the French holiday.

So we set off, all dolled up, to the Eiffel Tower. We were greeted and our reservation checked at the bottom of the private leg of the tower and whisked up to just above the second stage in a lift with a view: two views actually, one on the metalwork and one out to the vistas of Paris. We were greeted by about twenty waiters all in dark suits as we were led through the restaurant to a beautiful corner table with a view out onto Trocadero and the river with its cruise boats. We sat just above the second observation deck of the tower.

The restaurant is in rich chocolate colours with russet trim, cantilevered russet chairs, or banquettes in chocolate leather, white table cloths and napkins in neutral linen about the size of a small bed-sheet. The table was set with unusual ceramic plates in white with irregular hexagons on the bottom, which they turned over to reveal a white show plate. The knife and fork on the table when we arrived looked suitable for keyhole surgery, but they were removed and more suitable cutlery was provided for each course. All in the name of showmanship.

The menu was not extensive but almost anyone could have eaten well, perhaps vegetarians excluded. The emphasis was on quality ingredients sourced from the best places in France. I ordered asparagus and poached egg, followed by rack of milk fed lamb. Nick ordered pea soup with spider crab and Bresse chicken with crayfish. That is bare bones description and of course the presentation was exceptional.

While ordering we were offered little cheese puffs, light and delicate. After ordering we were brought an oval glass with tiny cubes of ham, cucumber, melon, tomato and crisp croutons, each cube about the size of dice cut in four. The waiter poured a little jug of tomato gazpacho over this. It was most refreshing. Three types of bread rolls were offered. We ordered a bottle of Chablis to drink with the meal, but not the wine that cost E4000. We thought we would give that a miss this time.

My asparagus and poached egg also included several crayfish tails and avocado as well as little slices of veal sweetbreads. It was delicious but perhaps overly fussy and had a few too many flavours. Nick’s pea soup was a shallow soup plate with some tiny salad leaves topped with spider crab and peas and surrounded with a foam. The soup was poured around this. Nick finished everything, including the salad which is something for him.

The lamb was tiny and the waiter was at pains to point out that it had been roasted on a turning skewer and was therefore very juicy, which it was. There were tiny little rib cutlets and then a roll of boneless loin. It was served with a transparent rectangle about half A4 size standing upright. This turned out to be strips of potato somehow fused together to make the biggest crisp. Fun, pretty and yummy! Nick’s Bresse chicken was rolled and roasted and presented with several crayfish tails and the crustacean sauce poured around it. He was a good boy and left the skin, as did I, but everything else was eaten with relish, though he couldn’t quite finish all the sauce.

We were content by this time to sit and look at the view as the sun set

and also watch the amazing number of people who brought young children to the restaurant. A great way to see Paris and the kids were really well behaved but the cost obviously didn’t faze them. I heard one waiter saying that one family party owned a large hotel in Paris, so that may explain things.

Having been prompted to look for the dessert that appears like a rusty bolt, I ordered that and Nick the deconstructed Black Forest Cake. This came in a martini glass, a layer of choc mousse, topped with macerated cherries, whole cherries and Chantilly. On the side was a perfect looking choc macaroon which held cherry confiture and ice cream. All the ingredients, just arranged differently. Mine was in two parts as well. On the plate was not a bolt but a large industrial nut to screw onto a bolt, a play on the idea of it having come off the tower itself which is actually a brownish colour up close and personal. The “bolt” looked metallic and the centre was filled with dark chocolate sauce. Under the metallic coat was a chocolate ganache on a hazelnut praline base. Incredibly rich and yummy. On the side, a dish of hazelnut icecream and some caramelised nuts, basically to cut the richness of the choc “bolt”. I was determined that the metallic look of the covering needed to be explained. Finally I had it confirmed that gold leaf is mixed through to give the sheen of metal. Very clever!

We were also given mignadises, little cakes, macaroons, marshmallows and choc cubes. We stretched our time out nibbling occasionally as the tower lit up with a million stars flickering, then went a deep blue.

On Bastille day, our last in France, there was a parade in the street and fireworks at Trocadero, opposite the tower. What a fabulous finale to the French part of our holiday and what a great way that dinner was to celebrate several milestones in my life. It was nicely ironic that the redundancy paid for it all.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Into Paris

Troyes to Paris

From Troyes to Paris is not far, so we decided to go via Epernay and visit the Champagne region. That was a bit further than we had anticipated, though the drive was lovely; many hills covered with vines and pretty villages. The rain returned at intervals so photography was not the best. In the end, rather than go to a Champagne Cave, the thought of which we found a bit daunting, we went to a cooperative in Epernay. That was really worthwhile as we got some good information on things like grand cru, premier cru and so on. I was not aware that a maker has to have all their lands within a grand cru area to be able to call any champagne they make grand cru, and similarly with premier cru, and small landholders could be premier cru but not well known, so costs are more reasonable. There are only three grape varieties allowed as well, so it is all quite controlled. We had fun choosing two bottles, one of 100% chardonnay and the other a blend of pinot noir and pinot meunier so we could compare the tastes. Fun and not too expensive!

The drive into Paris was long and slow, through dormitory towns and suburbs. Then returning the car at the Gare du Nord was more difficult that we expected and we finally found all the rental car places six floors down in the parking station. Then a cab to pick up the apartment keys and a trip to our apartment just off the Champs Elysee.

Our apartment 4th floor, corner

Very roomy but a bit battered and we had to send an email for more linen as what was there was barely sufficient. However, a lovely view over the rooftops of Paris to the Eiffel Tower and very convenient to the Metro. The tower was blue at night to celebrate a meeting of the European Union.

View to Eiffel Tower

Because we have been in Paris a number of times before, this time we thought to see some of our favourites and some things we have not seen before.

We began by revisiting the Orangerie museum which has been extensively redesigned to display the Monet's Nympheas, two vast oval rooms each with four huge paintings of the waterlilies, now displayed under natural light.


Other impressionist paintings are now hung on rather drab cast concrete walls but they are well curated so they show the development of the individual painters and their contributions to Impressionism. We were particularly taken with the two young ladies in many of Renoir's paintings, friends of the family, who "grew up" on the walls in front of your eyes.

After visiting the Orangerie we walked the Tuilleries and sat in a cafe under the chestnut trees to eat lunch, feeling very French but probably looking like any other tourists. It was a hot day and people were relaxing by the round pond.

Relaxing by the round pond

Boats for hire

Diana and ferris wheel

The latest approach by the gypsies is to pretend to find a gold ring in front of you, pick it up, say it is your lucky day and give it to you, then ask for money for some food. We gave her the ring back and the next one who tried it we laughed at and said we had already seen that one. However, there are many fewer gypsies, beggars and touts selling fake goods than I remember from previous visits.

The forecourt of the Louvre was so filled with tourists that no nice photography was possible so we wandered through to the Palais Royal, looking at the courtyard and in the shops under the arcades. The restaurant Le Grand Vefour was there, but too many, too expensive restaurants...

Arcade in Palais Royal

Art installation, Daniel Buren

Nick had highlighted the Musee Cluny as a must see. The Lady and the Unicorn series of tapestries were absolutely lovely, as was the stained glass displayed close enough to really see it, and a number of beautiful carved pieces. We visited the vast Madeline Church, quite modern by French standards and built on Grecian temple lines. It has the advantage of having been finally built as a coherent whole rather than having bits added over 200 or so years. I found it interesting that there were these rather austere and beautiful marble statues around the church, but the one with all the candles lit in front of it was a plaster of Paris copy of our lady of Fatima found in many churches throughout the world.

The markets and market streets were really enjoyable, including the Marches des Puces at Clignacourt which were huge, mostly selling clothes and rip-off perfumes and bags. No one seemed to be buying so I don't know how people make their money. Behind the stalls were the more permanent antiques markets, some with beautiful furniture, others with silverware, including the gigot holders, we saw first in Provence and some with lovely old tools. Some were just junk. I was amused to see my Cristal D'Arques glassware marked as 19th century crystal and with a large price on it. Ouch!! It cost me about $5 a glass.The large stores were having sales so we visited them too, but ended up doing most of our buying in America. That is, apart from my beautiful Lagouiles steak knives, which I finally bought from a coutellier (there's a type of shop we don't see here) in Paris. Beautiful olive wood handles and the sharpest of blades.

Cupola at Galleries Lafayette

We took a trip out to Parc de la Villette, first revisiting La Grande Arche de la Defense because I think it is an amazing piece of architecture. It is situated at the far end of the Champs Elysees and you can look from one and see the other. Mr Haussman left quite a legacy of the sweeping vista when he redesigned Paris.

La Grande Arche

At the science museum there were a number of displays including one on cell biology that was extraordinary. What progress has been made since my teaching days and how unfit am I now to be a science teacher! Loved the homage to the Citroen deux-chevaux, sixty years old in 2008. These cars can still attract a crowd in a street, particularly if they have unusual paint jobs, They are very cute!

A Deux-Chevaux

However, the main reason for going out there was to take the boat trip back through the Canal St Martin, which goes through many locks, falling 26 metres in 4.5 kilometres to the Seine.

Opening bridge, Canal St Martin

It also goes through an underground tunnel for some distance as Haussman wanted the vista for the town houses to be uninterrupted by a canal. While we went through the canal our guide, a Pom who spoke fluent French, played the clarinet, which resounded beautifully. It was a pretty and most interesting few hours.

Tunnel, Canal St Martin

The food street markets of Rue Cler and Rue Montorgueil were a delight. There are lovely fruit and pastry shops, fish shops with prepared food like salmon mousse in artichoke hearts and boucheries with such beautifully prepared meat, tied ready for the oven with barding fat wrapped round. Meat is often cut differently too, so that it has fewer seams in the piece. This time round we were not planning to self cater for dinner, but we could have done with knowing about Rue Montorgueil last time, as it was quite close to our Marais apartment.

We walked through the food shops of Hediard and Fauchon. If you think Jones the Grocer is expensive you should see these places. But they are absolutely stunning with their food displays and prepared meals. I bought 125gm of coffee at Hediard for our breakfasts with advice from the gentleman who was roasting and selling it. He treated my purchase very seriously, all E3.00 of it. To make a purchase there you select and have it weighed and packaged. The salesman then gives you a docket which you take to a cash register. They give you change and a docket to say you have paid, then you can pick up the purchase. It was probably devised so one could make multiple purchases and then pick up all the goodies at the end of one's shopping spree. A very rich part of town. We rather got the giggles when we walked through Place Vendome and saw all the jewellery shops, Van Cleef and Arpels,Chopard,Bulgari all in together. I might have been able to stretch to a pair of Mikimoto stud ear rings but that was about all.There were lots of police there too, no doubt guarding someone important staying at the Ritz, probably for the European Union Mediterranean conference. However, about eight vans of gendarmes seemed a bit much.

Restaurants in Paris were a mixed bag. I have written a separate blog on the Jules Verne as that was a special evening. However, we had other experiences, including Les Bouquinistes on the Quai des Augustines. This restaurant has some involvement of Guy Savoy, a Michelin three star chef. (We ate at his restaurant last time in Paris and it was the best night ever for us in a restaurant.) Anyway, beautiful food and attentive service. I had jarret de veau with peach and artichokes, Nick the chicken, rolled and cut in slices with a creamy sauce and truffled mash (you could see the bits of truffle, too, not truffle oil). I had a selection of cheeses with fruit chutney and Nick, naturally, a chocolate confection consisting of a chocolate capuccino, a chocolate mousse on a cake base and chocolate ice. He deserves nightmares!

We also enjoyed dinners at several quite traditional bistros, La Victoria which was fun and had well cooked and prepared meals using proper stocks and flavourful ingredients, and a place near the apartment called La Casita, all traditional wood panels and banquettes where I had a relatively simple meal, gazpacho and salmon tartare, that was really appropriate for the weather and my mood. In 1997 we visited a restaurant called 27 Gourmet which was really quite new with a young couple just starting out in their own business. A revisit was a delight, not only for the quite tasty food but to find that the owners were still there and the restaurant still very pleasant.

27 Gourmet

A few others, however, are best forgotten, including the one on the Champs Elysees. We would have liked to visit a few more that were recommended by Jill Dupleix but distance from "home" became a problem after being out all day.

On July 14, Bastille day, the Champs Elysees was closed for the parade. We had been hearing music at 4.30 in the mornings that sounded like a church organ. Nup! It was the brass bands practising for the parade. The airforce practiced its flypast the other day too.

Preparing for the parade

Anyway, we walked down to the Champs Elysees to see and found the crowd so thick that we couldn't see anything. There were little tanks parked up the middle and police cars and vans in all the side streets and just about everyone with any pretensions to military got in the parade, including the pompiers, who are fire/rescue.

UN tanks in the parade

We went back to our apartment and watched from the window so we had this side on slice of things passing by and the sharpshooters (or possibly photographers) on the roof , as well as planes and helicopters flying past.

Missed getting the jets with the red, white and blue smoke as they were first and so fast I didn't have the camera ready.

There was a great fireworks display in the Champs de Mars in the evening. After reading accounts of the crowds we again decided to watch from the apartment. Past displays had finished with a spectacular finale on the Eiffel Tower, so I set the camera up trained on that so I could do time exposures. The result was that we got nothing at all. People in the hotel opposite our apartment could see but we had a building in the way of the main show and then they didn't use the tower after all. Alas, no fireworks for us on our last night!

Eiffel Tower after Bastille Day

The next morning a prosaic blue shuttle to the airport, though the wait in the business class lounge was much nicer than waiting in the general gate area. Next stop Boston!