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Italy - France Journal
June 18 to July 4, 1998

Day Twelve: Monday, June 29, 1998
Milan to Paris

Whichever way you turn, you are struck with picturesque beauty and faded splendors.
- William Hazlitt, "Notes of a Journey Through France and Italy" - 1826

At breakfast on this day, we sat next to an American couple and their two teenage children. Barry said they reminded him of the Griswolds, portrayed by Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo in National Lampoon's "European Vacation." I wonder what they said about us?

After breakfast, we boarded the TGV - train de grande vitesse ("train of great speed") for the seven-hour journey from Milan to Paris. It is called the Artesia train and is also an ETR 500 - a 21st century Eurostar train. The ride was very smooth and quiet and there was plenty of room to spread out. The two seats facing us were empty - in fact - there were very few people on the train. We skirted the French Alps on the south side after leaving Italy - going between Grenoble and Albertville - the sites of two different Winter Olympic Games. We pulled into Paris' Gare de Lyon at 4 p.m. The first thing we noticed was the difference in temperature - a much-welcomed 25 to 30 degrees cooler!

We then traded our train, bus and subway tickets for a new experience for us in Europe - a car! We rented a pretty blue Mazda 626 at Gare de Lyon. Barry had not driven a manual transmission in over 20 years, but he got back in the groove quickly. He had no choice - we were in central Paris during evening rush hour! The drive to our destination took just about an hour.

Barry was attending a GSM Sales and Marketing Forum at the Domaine du Belesbat in Boutigny-sur-Essonne. The Essonne is a beautiful, unpopulated area of the Ile-de-France just south of Paris. It is known for agriculture and cheese production. Boutigny-sur-Essonne is about 30 minutes off the A6 (big freeway). It is a small town and about as French-looking as you can get. It is quiet, quaint and right out of the 18th century. Domaine du Belesbat is a 15th century chateau (surrounded by a moat) on considerable acreage, which has been turned into a "boutique resort" - known for its fine golf course and for its catering facilities. The accommodations were the most luxurious we had had in Europe. There was even an ice machine in the hall - anyone who has traveled in Europe will appreciate the rarity of this!

Barry dropped his bags in the room and went to dinner with the other attendees while Flora enjoyed a grande assiette and fruit salad from room service. We had not had CNN since Rome, so Flora was happy to catch up on news in the luxurious surroundings. There was also World Cup coverage on at least four channels. World Cup was always the lead story on CNN, no matter what else was happening in the world.

Domaine du Belesbat, Boutigny-sur-Essonne, south of Paris