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Italy - France Journal
June 18 to July 4, 1998
Day Fourteen: Wednesday, July 1, 1998
The French will only be united under the threat of danger.
No one can simply bring together a country that has over 265 kinds
- Charles deGaulle
Barry worked this morning until about 11:30 a.m. while Flora slept late. The official meetings were over before lunch and the group activities after lunch included bungee jumping, paintball and sumo wrestling. Since Barry's sumo wrestling license had expired, we decided to leave the chateau for Versailles about noon. We found the route out of town on the second try and arrived in Versailles, also on the second try. Versailles is a lovely city, not too big and not too small, not far from Paris and yet not too close. We stayed at the Sofitel Chateau de Versailles, one block from the chateau and across the street from the Hotel de Ville. The Sofitel is very nice - akin to an American luxury hotel - but not very European in character.
We took the RER-C train to Paris and walked immediately to the Louvre. We turned toward Tuillerie Gardens where we rested on chairs by the fountain and watched children race boats. Then we walked to Place de l'Alma standing over the tunnel where Princess Diana was killed in a terrible car accident on August 31, 1997. A long-time symbol of the friendship between France and America, the flame has become an unofficial memorial to Diana and is today the most photographed site in Paris. Today, Diana's birthday, several bunches of fresh flowers had been placed near the flame.
When we reached the Arc de Triumphe, the ceremonial lighting of the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was underway. We have seen this ceremony on previous trips, but this time there was much greater pomp and ceremony than usual. There was a band and a whole regiment of French military officers, not to mention a host of dignitaries.
Finally, we walked by the Eiffel Tower (550 days left until the year 2000 - it counts down the days in lights) and then took the last train back to Versailles at 8:30pm. Barry made some business calls to the U.S., and then we left for dinner at Le Chien qui Fume (the dog who smokes), a restaurant recommended by the concierge at the hotel. We had salad with a goat cheese pastry, salmon and triple chocolate mousse. We enjoy dining in France more than in Italy.
Place de l'Alma, Paris
Eiffel Tower, Paris, showing 550 days until the year 2000