Rounding Out 2017

The good news is we made it (nearly) through another year. The bad news is we didn’t get to see all our great friends during 2017. People have gone to the many winds, and we haven’t been keeping up. Hopefully that will change in 2018. Here’s what happened.

Come last January, and we were done with the cold weather. We took a few days and went to Florida. We stayed a few days in Miami Beach, which we had never visited before. Big mistake was staying right on the ocean front. Learned too late that place is for the party crowd, which we are not. But we did take the bus out to Key West to stay a few days.

Sister Betty turned 80 in April, and John traveled up to Ohio to participate in a surprise party. Got to meet more descendants of John Freeman Blanton than we have seen in decades. She’s doing well.

By then it was time to do some home repairs. The house now has a new coat of paint, and also a new lintel over the garage door. Barbara has been critical about the original wood work since a year after we moved in.

Still in April it was the 70th anniversary of the horrendous Texas City disaster, and John had a hankering to take some photos. We spent a few days in Galveston after getting the photos. And that was about it for the year.

Until September.

John previously worked for a French company, and we went over to Paris a few times. We decided it was time to see something besides Paris, so Barbara worked out a plan to stay a few days in Paris and more days in some distant towns. We got to know the France train system quite well.

Back home in October, and we found neighbors on both sides had their houses up for sale. Both homes sold this autumn, and the first week in December families moved in on both sides of us.

Came early December, and San Antonio got some overnight snow. That was cool. Not so cool for the 20 vehicles involved in a pileup on I-410. The snow needs to come on a weekly basis or else stay away completely.

The grandson (the only one) is growing huge. He’s going to vote in the next presidential election.

We look forward to seeing everybody next year. Happy holidays!

Read the full story on the blog site.

Posted in Home, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Southern Exposure

John Grisham conceived his first novel after watching the testimony of a 12-year-old girl who had been raped. A Time to Kill was a long time finding a publisher and was not initially successful. Other of his works found greater acceptance, some being made into hit motion pictures before this became a movie of the same name.

A survey of Grisham’s popular works discloses a master builder of plots laced with intense drama, intrigue, and also humanity. His initial work, however, is structured as the narrative of a criminal case. There is the initial crime. There is the crime that answers that crime. There is the defense of the second crime. There is the drama and the tragedy that dogs participants, and there is an ending in vindication, also also a final miscarriage of justice.

The key to the plot is the rape of a 10-year-old girl in rural Mississippi. Beyond that there may be no connection between this plot and the testimony Grisham witnessed in  1984. In this story the rape and attempted murder are inflicted by two pieces of white trash upon a black child. That sets in motion the chain of events that consumes the remainder of the book. When the perpetrators are arrested and brought before court in a small town, the girl’s father ambushes and murders them both. He is subsequently arrested, and the result is a trial, defended by a local lawyer and against impossible odds. Racial tensions in the rural South are the fabric that hangs the pieces of the remainder of the story together.

Presumably the setting is post civil rights South, could be the 1980s. Even so, it is obvious this is not the South of the 1950s. Fictional Ford County is predominantly white, but it has a black sheriff, and a popular one at that. People observe that he ensures justice is served evenly. But the red is strong in the neck in  Ford County, and it will be most difficult to obtain a favorable verdict for the avenging father, especially when there is never any question of guilt. Lawyer Jake Brigance must obtain a verdict based on diminished capacity. The deck is stacked against him.

His client cannot pay the $50,000 required for such a defense. His client cannot pay the $1000 Jake hopes for. Jake casts his lot with the defendant, a long-time friend, his only hope being ultimate redemption and the financial prospects that come with winning a high-profile case. Salvation comes in the form of a legal mentor with deep pockets and a zeal for the cause. It’s the civil rights campaign of the 1960s replayed in stereotype. All the elements are there, and they are played out under a magnifying glass.

Despite the supposed victories of 50 years ago, a dichotomy simmers beneath the surface. White southerners harbor a deep distrust of their black neighbors. The word “nigger” passes without effort from their lips, only now seldom in mixed company. The Klan makes a deadly resurgence, crosses are burned, jurors are intimidated, people are murdered. The National Guard is brought in to enforce order as tensions boil over. There is a sniper attack on Jake that ends with a soldier paralyzed. Parading klansmen are attacked, one burned to death. Jake’s house is torched. Multiple Klan attacks are thwarted by a Klan mole. The informer is ultimately tied to a cross and burned to death. A cultured, glamorous, and brilliant law student gives inestimable aid in preparing Jake’s case before she is kidnapped and brutalized by the Klan. Black civil rights leaders are exposed as caring more for the movement than for Jake’s client. They are prepared to martyr him for the cause.

I watched the movie before reading the book and am satisfied the movie is a close rendition. The movie shows an unholy lack of situational awareness on the part of Jake’s legal team. When the threats come, and the physical assaults begin, their recourse seems to be an enormous reliance on recreational alcohol. At a time when people should be keeping their wits about them they are seen dulling  their judgment with drink and invoking mindless exposure to the danger that lurks close by in the shadows. By all accounts this has the appearance of a team that deserves to lose.

The central theme is of a man so taken by the injustice about to be inflicted on his family by the uneven treatment his daughter’s attackers will obtain, that he must seek retribution up close and personal. Lacking the racial core of the initial crime, there should have been a straight forward conviction, likely followed by execution of the father. In the end, vindication is achieved, but at the cost of enormous injury to the principle of law.

Numerous anomalies are manifest throughout. Multiple crimes, including homicide, are perpetrated, and the story follows neither their investigation nor any resolution. We witness a massive resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, but no federal response that would ordinarily follow. The Klan is shown as murderously vengeful over what they see as white privilege being trampled, and the commit unspeakable sins in their campaign of intimidation. However, after killing the informant and with none of their number in jeopardy, they slink out of town and melt back into human society. A real-life story would see Klan determination and resolve rebounding after Jake’s client is set free and returned to his family. Nothing in the book adequately explains the Klan’s collapse at the end.

The story has timely significance with the rise of white nationalism following last year’s election. The tragedy of Charlottesville earlier this year highlights the existence of a society that has simmered beneath the surface through human history. In America this social layer is starting to once again feel empowered, and we will possible see events from this book replayed on the evening news.

Posted in Books | 1 Comment

5 Rue Ranfer de Bretenière

We stayed four weeks in France, booking three different vacation rentals through VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner). The last was 5 Rue Ranfer de Bretenière in Dijon. Being new to the whole business, we found the process to involve some adventure. This one was typical.

Unlike a hotel stay or even a timeshare, renting a stay at a privately-owned apartment means you don’t walk up to a desk in a lobby somewhere and pick up your room key. The process usually involves meeting the owner’s agent at the property on a prearranged schedule. This can be an issue.

In our case we made the booking two months in advance, and we went through several pieces of correspondence to make sure we were in agreement regarding the meeting time. Coming by train from Tours, we had to coordinate with the available train schedule and arrive at a 2 p.m. meeting. The owner assured his father would meet us there. Our train arrived about noon, giving us ample time to  have some lunch and to wander over to  the apartment with our baggage. That’s covered in a separate story.

We got there and waited. And waited. Nobody arrived at 2 p.m. Maybe we had discussed 2:30. We decided to hang on until then. Came 2:30, and we were still waiting. Barbara worked a solution. Not having any comprehension of the French phone system, she attempted using the WhatsApp on her phone, which we were assured was a solid way to communicate with the owner. Not having used it before, Barbara was having no luck. She figured to give text messaging a try, and the owner responded within seconds. A misunderstanding. The owner’s father would be there shortly.

And he did arrive shortly, and a very helpful, English-speaking, gentleman he was. He gave us a set of keys, of which we only needed one to get into the apartment, itself. There was fob that activated the front door to the building, and our host took us up and showed us all the facilities. Here is Barbara working the front door fob.

Inside accommodations were completely satisfactory. To start, there was a modern kitchen with about all you could want, except no  microwave oven.

The kitchen table was roomy enough to accommodate my computer, leaving room for two to dine.

And dine we did. On our final night Barbara insisted we remove the computer and show a grand meal she prepared for us.

The bathroom was completely satisfactory, as well, with a modern, glass-enclosed shower and a wash basin with excellent lighting for those of us who have to shave every day. Sorry, I did not get around to taking any photos.

Neither the sleeping area (until the last morning), which featured a queen-size Murphy bed. We pulled it down the first day and never put it back up. There was plenty of room left over with the bed down. Here’s the photo as we were preparing to leave for Paris.

This apartment has a balcony, which we did not use. Lighting was excellent, compared to may places we have stayed. We brought along a number communication devices (phones, tablets) and a computer, and we never ran out of places to power-up. WiFi service was absolutely solid.  Especially nice was the building’s elevator, almost a necessity, since we were on the third floor, three flights up from the street. We also welcomed the ample closet space and storage shelves, something lacking in other places we have stayed.

Leaving was straight-forward, We locked the door to the apartment and took the elevator down, dropping our keys in the number 34 mail box in the building lobby. It was time to wind down after being on the road for four weeks.

Posted in Photos, Reviews, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A Demon In The Sky

I was on the road for a few weeks and unable to check the latest Amazon Prime Video offerings. This is the first thing that popped up when I got home Wednesday night, and it appears to be right on time. It was 70 years ago today that Air Force Pilot Charles Elwood Yeager achieved supersonic flight in an aircraft in level flight. This was at Muroc Air Force Base (since renamed Edwards Air Force Base, after a test pilot who was killed) in California.

In 1979 Tom Wolfe published The Right Stuff, about about this and other exploits of post war test pilots, leading to the inception of Project Mercury, this country’s initial foray into manned space flight. The movie of the same name came out in 1983 and is now playing on Amazon. It is a gripping tale, told in a somewhat humorous vein. A bunch of stuff in the movie does not jibe with actual events.

Opening scenes show Air Force film of an an actual flight of the X-1 rocket-powered aircraft built by Bell Aircraft company. At Muroc the aircraft was slung under the belly of a B-29 bomber and dropped un-powered. The pilot initiated powered flight by igniting one or more of several rocket motors. Shown is a chase plane, included in the test to provide close-up observation of the happenings. In the movie this flight ended in loss of control and a fatal crash.

In fact I have no recollection, and I was unable to find any record, of any X-1 pilot killed in such an accident. Jack Woolams was the pilot in this sequence, but he was killed later in 1946 in an accident testing an air racer.

A fictional character in the movie is this angel of death, played by Royal Dano, here seen coming to the front door of a pilot’s home to tell his young wife she is now a widow. The angel appears recurrently in the film to remind viewers of the high mortality rate of this business.

There is a demon in the sky, and it exists at Mach one, the speed of sound, at which an aircraft meets up with it’s own presence in the air and catches the air unaware. Not well studied at the time was that shock waves developed on control surfaces, interacting with them and sometimes reversing their sense. Pilots lost control of the aircraft and several died within the region approaching the speed of sound.

As this story begins to unfold the United States Air Force was just a few weeks old, having been formed out of the Army Air Corps, and the new service teamed with leading scientific minds within this country and friendly nations to study and defeat the phenomenon. Whoever could travel faster than sound would have the upper hand in future air combat.

Civilian pilot Slick Goodlin (William Russ) offered to kill the beast, and his asking price was $150,000 in 1947 dollars (about $1.6 million today). In the movie, as in real life, the brass turned to military pilot Chuck Jeager (Sam Shepard), who willingly offered to do the deed. His fee was his Air Force pay, in the order of $250 per month.

Yeager is depicted in the movie as a cool dude and very focused, which is what he has been in real life. This scene shows Yeager on horse back, inspecting the X-1 as it idles on the desert with its rocket engines shooting out weak flames.

The critical flight is tomorrow, but Yeager takes a wild ride among the Joshua trees and is clothes-lined off his horse, breaking some ribs. He conceals the injury, but he will be unable to work the handle to seal the X-1’s one door. His long-time cohort, Jack Ridley (Levon Helm), comes up with a solution. As in real life, Ridley saws off part of a broom handle and gives it to Yeager to allow him to work the door handle with his opposite hand.

Key to the story and to real life was the relationship between the pilots and their wives. Yeager’s wife, Glennis, was by all accounts a looker, and as far as I can tell she was always on his team. He named the plane “Glamorous Glennis.” Here she sees him off on the mission that could kill him.

And the rest is history. In a shallow climb the X-1 shattered the sound barrier, sending a resounding boom across the desert, initially spooking a fearful ground crew. The celebration was immediate and unbridled. The movie shows Slick feeling mighty regretful he skipped on the opportunity of a lifetime.

And the race is on. Years go by, and a new breed of pilots converges on Edwards. Here Air Force pilot Gordon Cooper (Dennis Quaid) heads across the desert with Trudy (Pamela Reed) and the two kids. She is not happy about the prospect. For the officer corps, it is all about getting ahead. There exists no greater objective, and the wives tie themselves to what they hope will be a rising star. This was before women’s lib, back when a woman’s worth was her husband’s success. But for Cooper it is more than a chance for advancement. He wants to ride the wild wind.

Reality at Edwards is grim and grimmer. Housing and facilities are God awful, and the periodic columns of smoke marking yet another crashed airplane wear. She leaves with the kids and goes back to San Diego.

In the meantime the Cold War race is on, and the government is looking for astronaut candidates, with an eye to staying ahead of the Soviets. Harry Shearer and Jeff Goldblum are two NASA recruiters, come to Edwards to find people with the Right Stuff.

And candidates come from all over. Scott Glenn is Navy fighter pilot Alan Shepard, making carrier landings and cracking wise in imitation of comedian Bill Dana, in those days making a hit on TV with his character of a reluctant astronaut with a put-on Mexican accent.

The laughs die a cruel death as the candidates are subjected to inhuman stress in a campaign designed to winnow out the second best. Here Shepard nurses his left hand, which has been run through with a needle and electrocuted.

And seven are accepted for Project Mercury.

And preparations begin for the first space flight. Immediately the fliers are appalled by NASA scientists’ view that they are not pilots but test subjects. There is more. The pilots are out at Cape Canaveral and separated from their wives, and they are still military fliers, in every tradition. Marine pilot John Glenn, (Ed Harris) is more pure than the rest, and he objects to all the hanky and all the panky going on. Gus Grissom, (Fred Ward) turns the argument in another direction, saying the real problem is the lack of input being accepted from the pilots. They solidify behind the movement, and they march on stage in unison.

Producing the iconic image of the seven Mercury astronauts in a variation of the Imperial March.

And tension builds as the first launch approaches. It is a 100% news extravaganza, and all the big names are in. World famous newsman Eric Sevareid portrays himself.

And the first American to go into space (after Ham, the chimp) is Shepard. The movie, reflecting its lighter tone, lavishes on the true account of Shepard being stranded atop a Redstone rocket as the countdown continues to be delayed. His wife observes to the other wives that he had four cups of coffee before heading off to work. A continues series of cuts show coffee being poured, a water cooler bottle burping, a lawn sprinkler. Everything you don’t want when it’s been hours since a pee break. Here he is given permission wet his drawers before launch.

And there is tragedy. Grissom is second into space and almost dies when the capsule’s hatch blows, and the capsule sinks after landing in the ocean. Shepard was celebrated and feted after after being the first, but Grissom meets the harsh reality. The second to do something is an also-ran. Additionally, the scandal of the loss of the capsule drags on official largess, and the reward for Grissom and his wife is a week off at a seaside motel.

His wife is scornful. All the sacrifice she has made for her husband’s career has brought them to this.

The first two flights were sub-orbital, and John Glenn is slated for the first orbital flight. Again the official hoopla and the press coverage take front stage. Politicians weigh in, especially Vice President Lyndon Johnson. Launch day is drawing nigh, and Johnson wants some of the lime light. He insists on a meeting with Glenn’s wife Annie (Mary Jo Deschanel).Even as I noted at the time, she was a rare prize. Good looking, too and an object of Glenn’s affection since childhood. But with severe speech impediments, she was painfully shy. As Johnson insisted, Annie resisted, resulting in a confrontation between the VP and the astronaut. Glenn held his course, forcing the most powerful man in Texas to back down.

And he was off. I watched it live on TV, and never was there before a more dramatic moment.

There was almost tragedy, as an indicator light showed trouble, and the flight was trimmed to three orbits. Then comes the moment I celebrate, as the film features my first ship. CVS Randolph was the recovery ship. I briefly, but only briefly, considered that I should have stayed on the Randolf and re-upped my enlistment. It would have been a distant brush with glory.

This must be file footage, because by the time this movie came out the Randolph was ten years scrapped.

And the drama (for the film at least) draws down. Johnson throws a huge barbecue (presumably at the Astrodome, now extinct) to toast the seven Mercury astronauts. Texas is reaping the wind, as well, as manned space flight control is being transferred to Texas. The show featured Sally Rand (played by Peggy Davis), years past her prime.

The fact is that manned space flight was not the practical side of NASA’s mission, and that part was still being carried on by Yeager and others at Edwards. The film dramatizes Yeager’s record-breaking flight in a special version of the F-104.

The Soviets has just set a new altitude record for an airplane, and Yeager beat that before his engine flamed out. We see him ejecting and suffering burns to his face before gathering up his parachute and walking to meet the ambulance out on the desert come to search for him. There is no doubt this is the meaning of The Right Stuff.

The movie ends with Cooper’s last Project Mercury flight. He flew faster and higher than any person ever had.

The show was not over, however. The narrator (Ridley) tells what happened afterward. In 1967 Grissom and two newer astronauts died in an Apollo spacecraft fire at Cape Kennedy, (now Cape Canaveral again). I will follow up with my own recollections.

Deke Slayton was washed out of the Mercury program due to a heart condition. He later got it somewhat under control and flew as docking module pilot in an Apollo flight.

In the movie Alan Shepard boasts he will go to the moon, and he did on the Apollo program, becoming the fifth man to walk on the moon.

Yeager tells the story in his autobiography—Jack Ridley was killed in 1957 when the plane he was in hit a mountain ridge in Japan. A number of famous test pilots are featured in the film, one being is test pilot Iven Ienceloe. As a youngster I followed his exploits until he was killed in 1958. Joseph Walker was killed when his F-104 chase plane collided with a North American XB-70 Valkyrie while staging a publicity photo shoot.

By all accounts, Yeager was an extraordinary flier. He entered the Army as a private during World War Two, and wound up with a warrant commission flying P-51s. Again from his biography, once over Germany he found himself alone and was advised over the radio of enemy aircraft in his area. He asked if they were the ones off to the (north?), and somebody remarked these were 50 miles away. He and Ridley hunted elk in P-38s, and he is noted for being able to follow the path if his bullets to the target. On 12 October 1944 he downed five enemy aircraft in a single mission.

He was shot down over occupied France and hidden out by the Resistance. I recall one of the Resistance fighters asked if he thought the Allies would win the war, and Yeager replied they surely would. The Frenchie thought that was cheeky, coming from a man on the run for his life in enemy territory. I recall reading this and thinking it would be affirmative even coming from somebody who had been shot down and killed.

He fled to neutral Spain with another flier, and the Germans caught up with then in the mountains along the border when they holed up in a mountain cabin and stupidly left their shoes outside the door. The two went out the back window when the Germans came through the door, shooting Yeager’s companion. Yeager placed the wounded man on a ice-covered road and sent him sliding toward freedom, never finding out what became of him.

Yeager made it back to his command and rejoined the fight, but only after the Germans were driven out of France. Higher ups did not want to risk having Yeager shot down again and being forced to give up those who rescued him.

John Glenn left the Project Mercury shortly after his flight and became a Democratic senator representing his home state of Ohio. Late in life, as a senator, he went to space again in the Shuttle. And now they are all dead. Glenn died last December, the last to die.

Except Yeager. He stayed in the Air Force and even flew missions in a Canberra bomber in Vietnam. Seventy years after becoming the first man to fly faster than sound, Chuck Yeager lives on. This is likely Yeager, playing a cameo role in the movie as a bartender, tacking up the photo of a newly-dead pilot in Pancho Barnes‘ Happy Bottom Riding Club, out in the desert.

Anachronisms there are. The scenes showing Jack Ridley with Yeager as he prepares for his altitude record flight. The problem is, these flights with F-104 prototypes took place in the early 1960s, years after Ridley’s death. The films depicts the term “A-OK” being bandied about. It did not enter the public lexicon until NASA PR man Shorty Powers used it during Shepard’s May 1961 flight, telling us all Shepard reported everything A-OK. Shepard never said that.

Glennis died on 1990. This will be Chuck’s last decade anniversary. Nobody has ever been the first to fly faster than sound and lived 80 years to tell about it.

Posted in Historical, Movies | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Last Train to Dijon

The plan was to stay seven nights in Tours followed by six nights in Dijon. Should have been no problem. We booked vacation rentals on-line before leaving the U.S. A few days into our stay in Tours I figured to map out our trip to Dijon by train. Some kind of problem.

I have an Android tablet app that works up train schedules, and it showed multiple trips from Tours to Dijon on the appointed day. Problem was, most were multiple stops and did not get us to Dijon in time to make our two p.m. meeting with the apartment owner. Some that did also took us back to Paris, to the Montparnasse station, from which we would need a hike across town to the Lyon station, lugging our possessions. But there was one, only one, that went direct, no changes of trains, and with a minor problem. This train leaves at 6:57 in the morning and makes 19 stops, arriving in Dijon at 11:54. That’s nearly five hours on the train. We prepared ourselves.

And we were off. A bunch of other people were making the trip, at least part of it. the train started to fill up just before departure time.

But we were settled in with our carry-on bags stashed nearby. Barbara got out her knitting and prepared to spend the morning on a train.

Getting on a train typically, not always, involves walking down the platform and getting on board. You need to have your tickets, of course, and they sometimes check to make sure you have one. That is, the right ticket for your trip. You also need to cancel your ticket before you get on the train. That keeps people from reusing a ticket. There are machines in the station or on the platform that do this canceling. We had already made multiple trips this outing, and nobody had ever checked tickets. Until now.

When the train stopped at Chenonceau in total darkness, about 25 minutes out I noticed two men in SNCF livery get aboard. I got our tickets ready. Sure enough. Shortly after the train pulled out of the Chenonceau stop they were coming through our car.

One of them looked at my two tickets and punched a hole through them both. I guess that means something to the railroad.

Eight o’clock drew near, and the sky began to brighten. Presently we could sit and watch the French countryside roll by.

And the train did make 19 stops, finishing with Beaune, about 25 minutes out of Dijon.

I sat the entire trip. With some foresight I had stopped at a shop in the Tours station and had purchased a half-liter bottle of Diet Coke. That’s 3.80€. Yeah, you need to plan ahead and buy your stuff at the local grocery market. Barbara brought along four croissants, and we kept refreshed along the way.

And we were finally at the Dijon station and joining a horde of other travelers, trundling a couple of hundred yards to the station, probably none but us having made the five-hour trip.

We stopped inside the station while Barbara pulled out her phone to plot a route to the apartment, and also some lunch. We had two hours to kill before checking in. But that’s another story.

The images are from a video I shot on the trip. I will post it to my YouTube channel when I get back to my computer room in San Antonio. Keep watching.

Posted in Photos, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

4 Rue Rabelais

I have this thing. I can never think of François Rabelais without recalling Robert Preston:

 Professor, her kind of woman doesn’t belong on any committee.
Of course, I shouldn’t tell you this but she advocates dirty books.
Harold: Dirty books!
Alma: Chaucer
Ethel: Rabelais
Eulalie: Balzac!

Two of these are French, and they  name streets after Balzac and Rabelais. So it happened that the apartment we rented for a week in Tours is on Rue Rabelais. And could not have picked a more bare patch of pavement. It’s about a car width, with a dream of sidewalks. It runs two blocks, and it’s done.

Of course, we knew all this before coming, thanks to the miracle of Google Maps, by which means we navigated about a mile from the train station. We rented through VRBO, Vacation Rentals by Owner.

A big part of getting into a vacation rental like this is connecting with the owner to move in. There’s no front desk with a helpful clerk to take your credit card and hand you the room keys. This can be a problem when starting from opposite sides of the planet.

In this case the process went smoothly. An email from the owner supplied us with the access code, and all we had to do was walk up to the entrance and punch in the code. Here’s Barbara doing the deed.

The exterior is on the grim side, apparently under construction, but once in there’s a recently remodeled living space. That cubby hole in the background has a work space for your computer in case you, like me, spend a lot of time banging on the keyboard.

This couch folds into another bed, but you might not want to do that unless you are serious about having an extra bed. If you open it up you will have to find another place to put the coffee table, which also serves for dining. That extra bed sucks up a big part of the living space.

There is a kitchen with the latest appliances. The microwave oven was most useful, but its control panel was opaque, in the sense that it gave little clue by way of operating procedure. A little experimentation enabled us to heat water for making tea.

There is a spacious and comfortable bed.

Extra shelf space is at a premium. If you have a bunch of stuff you like to spread out you have to make use of the top of the refrigerator, which also serves to hold facilities for coffee.

Disposing of trash seems to be a systemic problem with these French rentals. The locals know where to take the trash, but this was never explained up front to us. We had a succession of three rentals on our trip and had the same problem with each. An email exchange with the owner cleared up the matter at this apartment. At the bottom of the stairs is  a door that leads to a car garage, and past the car parked there were some trash bins.

Of course, checking out was also a cinch. Just walk out and close the door behind you. In our case there was a general failure of service lighting, and we were wondering how we were going to negotiate the looping stairwell with our luggage in the early morning hours to catch our train. I shot off an email to the owner, and when we prepared to leave in the morning there was a table lamp turned on and sitting on the floor at the top of the stairs.

We got to meet the owner, Phillippe, when he stopped by to show us the trash bins. I’m guessing he is a business man with a number of these rentals. It’s a small building, of which Phillippe may be the owner.

Posted in Photos, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tours Saturday

Who knew this was such a lively place? Off the train from Chenonceau we figured to find some croissants for Sunday’s breakfast. Barbara knew there was a boulangerie on the Rue de Nationale, and we turned up that way, where the rail tracks ran the length of the street. The place was jumping

Yeah, crowds were coming out, the place was filling up. There was a festive air. Trains had to poke their way through. Either this is an every Saturday thing, or else everybody else was in on something we didn’t know about.

And, yes! There was Hare Krishna.

For a moment I thought we might be back in Florence.

And fire jugglers, too!

Who would not want to be in Tours on Saturday night?

We determined to finish up some dinner at the apartment and walk back to take in the action. Never happened. Dinner finished, we remembered we were getting old, and an evening lounging around after trekking about all day was what we really wanted. Who knows if we will ever be back for this?

Posted in Photos, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment