Monday, June 18, 2007

La Chapelle to Paris

Thursday – June 18, 1959 – Day 5

Continuing southward, we stopped at Reims and toured our first cathedral. :)

We also saw the statue of Joan of Arc in Reims. I believe the car on the far left is Grandma’s car, judging from the pack on top of the car (tent and other camping essentials).

Then we headed for PARIS! TA-DA!

We arrived in Paris mid-day, and probably drove every street of the city. We finally parked and took the tour of You-Know-What.

Looking down from the Eiffel Tower . . .

A view of Paris from the Eiffel Tower.

Another view of Paris from the Eiffel Towel . . .

We stayed two nights in Paris. I do not remember much about the sleeping arrangements, but do remember many of the sights. I would have sworn my Grandmother would never agree to stay in the city, due to the expense, but my mother affirmed that, yes, we stayed in Paris. We stayed at -- not the hotel of the same name, but the city park. WE CAMPED AT THE CITY PARK! All I can vision in my mind’s eye is bums on park benches, but Mom assures me it was all very dignified and proper. Why can’t I remember this? Why is there no picture??? Oh, how I wish . . .

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Blumendahl to La Chapelle

Wednesday – June 17, 1959 – Day 4

From Blumendahl, Holland we headed south for Belgium. In Brussels, we toured the grounds of the 1958 World’s Fair and saw the Atomium – a building which represents the structure of the atom. The Atomium was constructed just as “the atomic age” was waning, but the structure is still a famous landmark, and was reopened in February 2006 after renovations.

After our tour of Brussels, we kept heading south, across the Belgium-French border to the tiny village of La Chapelle. There we found a modest hotel / Bed and Breakfast for the night.

Doesn't this scene just shout "EUROPE"?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Amsterdam, Holland

Tuesday - June 16, 1959 – Day 3

Up at the crack of dawn, ready for a day of adventure, we set off to drive north to the Isle of Marken. I remember Marken as a very strange place. Everyone was dressed in traditional costume, and there was some custom about all children being dressed as girls (to keep the gypsies from snatching the boys?). I don’t remember, if I ever knew. It was all very vague and mysterious to the 9-year-old mind. I have not been able to locate the pictures of Marken.

After a boat ride back to the mainland, and lunch at the boat dock, we headed west to the Atlantic side of the country. We made it to Blumendahl Beach by early afternoon, and selected a choice camping spot on the sand dunes. The note on the back of this photo says, “too cold to swim.”

Fellow campers at an adjacent campsite - Helmgart Campground at Blumendahl, Holland.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Prestwick, Scotland

Monday - June 15, 1959 – Day 2

We were served breakfast in Scotland – the first of many new dining adventures. The only thing I remember about it is that smoked tongue was on the menu. I was completely unimpressed with the “smoked” part, but do remember wondering, “tongue from what?”, and pondering world hunger as I thought, "You people must be a lot hungrier than I am."

After a short flight from Prestwick, we finally arrived in Amsterdam. My mother and I were met at the airport by my grandmother, who lived in Germany and taught school on an American military base. She had arranged for one of her teaching friends, a Germany lady named Brigette (pronounced Bri-gee-ta) and her mother Mrs. Schillat to join us on our driving tour of Europe. The plan was to drive around Europe for 2 weeks, camping when possible, and end up at Grandma’s place in Hohenfels, Germany for a few days of rest before flying back home to Little Rock. Total trip - 3 weeks. Four women and one annoying 9-year-old – including all their luggage and camping gear – in one small car. HOW??? HOW??? HOW???

I’ll just say, my grandmother was never one to shrink from a challenge. The very fact she was teaching school in Germany at the age of 53 might be a tip-off. She and my grandfather got divorced when my grandmother was about 42, and she decided she was still young enough to see the world and have some fun. Sitting home feeling sorry for herself was not an option!

This is the 53-year-old grandmother and the car she drove all over Europe. An Opel Olympia.

Grandma went to Europe to teach school the year after I was born, and retired the year I graduated from high school. But there were many visits during those years. The routine was a trip home every other year during the summer break. On alternate years, she just toured Europe with her new European friends. Grandma was due home for her biennial visit to the U.S. in 1959, but for some reason decided to have my mother and me come to visit her instead.

Here I am viewing windmills in Amsterdam. I recall about 500 bicycles crossing this bridge just seconds after the photo was taken (wish I had a picture of that!). Must have been time for everyone to go home from work.

We spent the day touring the canals, and stayed the first night in a hotel in Amsterdam. Tomorrow the adventures really begin.

Once upon a time . . .

. . .a little girl took a trip to Europe with her mother. That “once upon a time” was 48 years ago. Over the next few days the little girl and her mother are going to try to remember some of the highlights of that trip.

Sunday - June 14, 1959 – Flag Day
Grandma and Grandpa Marvin (yes, Kate and Fritz) came to the airport to see us off. Looks like it’s a little after 8:30 a.m. Sorry the photos are black and white, but as one of my wise children would say, this was in the days before color photography.

Back in those days, you walked out of the airport waiting room right across the tarmack and up the steps of the plane. I don't know any of the strange people in this photo . . .

View of Washington D.C. from our airplane. Notice it was a prop plane.

If you laughed when you saw the picture of the Little Rock airport, keep in mind this is what the Washington airport looked like in 1959 . . .

and the New York airport . . .

I remember some of the anxiety my mother had about packing ONE suitcase for TWO people for THREE weeks. Didn’t seem a big deal to me (one of the advantages of being 9 years old and un-obsessed with fashion). But you may have noticed in the first photo, people “dressed” more then than now. Can you imagine putting a 9-year-old on a plane for – um – almost 24 hours dressed like that now?

P.S. - Whitney - have fun and tell Mindy "hello" for me!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Arkansas strawberries

Yea, it’s been a while. I don’t even know where to begin to recap the last 2 months (almost), so I will just jump in . . .

France has its cheeses; Cuba has its cigars; Florida has orange juice; Arkansas has strawberries. It doesn’t matter if the world doesn’t recognize Arkansas as the source of the world’s most incredibly wonderful strawberries. That leaves more for the fortunate few. :)

Since I’ve been giving “kitchen” tips this year, I’ll give a brief review of what to do with strawberries, if you are at a loss. There are, of course, the standards: chocolate-dipped and shortcake. My personal favorites are:
(1) sliced with a little sugar and a splash of Calvados – then spoon the juice over homemade vanilla ice cream
(2) take any amount of sour cream and mix in some powdered sugar (you just have to be willing to experiment – there is no wrong way to do this) THEN – stand at your kitchen sink with a flat of Arkansas strawberries fresh from the field. Take ONE juicy red delight and wash it, dip it in the sweetened sour cream, and eat. Repeat until you are either (a) out of strawberries, (b) out of sweetened sour cream, or (c) sick. :)

I definitely agree with my father’s comment years ago: “I wish I could eat enough of this to make myself sick.”

Usually, the Arkansas peaches are pretty fabulous, too; but a late freeze and 2 hail storms wiped out the peach crop this year. We all cried.