Monday, December 22, 2014

Greetings and Best Wishes for a Happy Holiday Season

And a Wonderful New Year 2015!

This year has flown by so quickly, I can hardly believe it’s December. Although I sold the RV in June, I still did a LOT of traveling throughout the year—basically a trip every other month. Almost all of the trips were to visit longtime friends and relatives, the kinds of visits that feel soul-nourishing.
with niece, Megan Gaiefsky, Florida

The first trip, in January, was to Florida to see old friends, Dinah and Cledith Oakley, in Daytona Beach. I was going to take the RV, but it wouldn't start (dead battery), so I drove down in my Saturn. Afterwards, I stopped in to see a niece, Megan Gaiefsky, who lives nearby; her dad, cousin Larry, was there at the time. 
WTHS classmates: Larry Wigner, Sue Campbell, Joyce and Dick Eldridge

During the trip, I also saw a few former high-school classmates (’54), particularly Suzie and Ray Campbell, who took me around The Villages where they live, a sort of Disney World for seniors. They invited a couple of other classmates over for dinner one evening, and we all looked at old yearbooks and reminisced. I suspect we’re happier now than we were then, although we were certainly healthier when we were younger!
Briana and Blake in front of their home, Idaho Falls

Blake by a mound at Craters of the Moon
Then in March, I flew to Idaho Falls, ID and spent a week with daughter, Briana and grandson, Blake, while he was on spring break from high school. He and I hung out, talked, played games, went to museums, and traveled around the countryside, including a day-long visit to Craters of the Moon National Park—a bleak, fascinating landscape.
with Carol and Fred Valentine, Harvard Club, NYC

In June, I took the train to New York City to attend the 50th wedding anniversary of cousins Fred and Carol Valentine at the Harvard Club. It was an elegant, congenial event. 

While in New York, I spent some time with daughter, Maria, and grandson, Gabriel. 
Grandson, Gabe, at park with his mom

On the way back to Charleston, I stopped in Washington, DC and saw a long-time friend, Art Molella and his wife, Roya. We visited an exhibit on the Smithsonian Museum of American History that Art had curated. While there, I also spent time at the exhibit on Changing America (1863 – 1963), an excellent presentation of the deeply troubled legacy of slavery, emancipation, segregation, and racism in the United States.
with Mary and Ed Gaiefsky, Linville, NC

In August, I spent a week in North Carolina, first visiting cousin Ed Gaiefsky and his wife Mary, in their lovely cabin in a forest near Linville. 

Then I drove down to Lake Lure to meet some West Ashley Unitarian women friends for a long week-end organized by Marilyn Henderson. During both visits, we talked, and ate, and saw nearby sights, and, in general, had more fun than old folks are expected to have. Food is a big fun factor these days.
Ellie, Marilyn, Toni, Sue, Linda, Susan, Blowing Rock, NC

Jacob Heyman-Kantor, the son on one of my long-time best friends, Arlene, was married in September at a lovely retreat in the Berkshire Mountains (MA). I flew up to New York and then drove a rental car to the site of the two day gala, where I met several interesting people. With one of them—a German with a French name, Jean-Baptiste Chuat, I had a long and fascinating conversation about culture and science and media. Had a very pleasant ride back to NYC with Lisa Vergaran, an art-historian friend of Arlene’s.
with Arlene Heyman-Kantor and Len Rodberg, MA

In October, I flew out west, with a first stop in Donna Texas to visit my brother, Dick. We had a pleasant, quiet couple of days together, including an afternoon in Mexico. That was my first time on the soil of our south-of-the-border neighbor-nation. 
with Sue, Ruthie, Marlene, and Dee, NM

Afterwards, I spent a week in New Mexico with a bunch of former Kalamazoo College classmates. Ruthie Williamson, our hostess, led us through sunny and scenic byways, viewing amazing landscapes and the art it has inspired (as in the Georgia O’Keefe museum). It was wonderful to see and be with old friends, and that included a long lunch with a some-time beau.
This month, December, I will be driving to Mt. Juliet, TN (near Nashville), to visit daughter Elisabeth and her wonderful family (including three grandchildren) for Christmas. 
On the way back, I plan to stop in Conyers, GA, to see Fran Cameron, the former secretary of my first “boss” in Charleston, Sam Spicer. My friend Ellie Setser and I both worked in Sam’s lab but at different times, and we agree that he was a great boss!
So that’s the recap of this year’s peregrinations. The home front has also been pretty busy, with social and community groups, church activities, book events, and meals with friends. I've gotten into a lot of social media activity—email, Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn—and that has truly become a “time-suck” as they say. Some of it was intended to help me market books, but instead, it has become something of a personal addiction. I need to find ways to cut way back on online activity so I can spend more time writing. And organizing! Organizing is always on top of my to-do list, but it only seems to happen when I’m up against a deadline or I can’t seem to find something.
As far as writing is concerned, I've been working on the third revision of a manuscript about understanding the body and communicating with health-care providers. It’s something I've been writing and revising for three years now with the help of a group of fellow writers who are no doubt sick of it, so I’m trying to find other readers for the next revision. I've also compiled a collection of short stories from pieces written over the past three decades; that collection was just submitted. Other stories/articles have been submitted throughout the year. One piece, on names, was accepted by Persimmon Tree, but it won’t be published until next year.
I miss having the children and grandchildren nearby, but local friends partially compensate and they're doubtless less emotionally distracting.
Thank you, my terrific friends and family, for enriching my life throughout the years. I feel extraordinarily lucky. Hope your holiday season is or has been joyful.

Best wishes for a wonderful New Year in 2015!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Volga River and Moscow, Day 1


We left the dock at Northern River Station yesterday afternoon around 2:00 PM and took the Volga River channel through its locks yesterday afternoon and last night to the Volga River, which we’re now sailing along. It’s a wide river, even this far north; deep green forests line the river side, dotted with small villages. It is such a peaceful feeling to sit in a comfortable chair, a cup of hot chocolate near at hand, watching the water flow smoothly by the side of the boat and the forest inch past the window.
Along the Volga

So now, I’ll try to catch up on the four days we spent in Moscow, with the ship docked at the Northern River Station on the Volga Canal, not far from where the canal joins with the Moskva (Moscow) River. Each day, buses took us to our destinations in the city and brought us back (most of us – a few took the subway back from the city). We could choose where we would go and when, within limits.

St. Basil's Cathedral, Red Square.

The first day, Saturday, nearly everyone went to Moscow to walk through Red Square and see the GUM department store (and use its bathrooms). I was able to get rubles from a cash machine in GUM. And I remembered, from my 1992 trip to Russia, how vast that public area is. Hundreds of tour groups moved about in herds of twenty to fifty people, and still there was plenty of space between the groups; the square looked almost empty. 

Clumps of tourists on Red Square

Inside GUM department store

We passed to the other side of the square, out past the equestrian statue of General Zhukov, a WWII hero (Great Patriotic War). Through a fence, we watched the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was no big deal. One of our group waited in line to view Lenin’s tomb; the rest of us dispersed, to meet again in ¾ hour at the statue. I went back into the square and wandered around GUM and other shops but bought nothing.

General Zhukov, WWII hero, Red Square

We then took the metro to the Arbat (two metro stops away), getting off at the intermediate station just to see its decorations. The metro stations in Moscow are like palaces, each with a different theme and décor. Stalin destroyed many churches and most of the homes of nobility, and he used some of those materials and artifacts in constructing metro stations.

Moscow subway map

Remnants of Stalinist decor in a subway station

The Arbat is a street lined with shops; it and the area surrounding it are considered the artistic center of Moscow. Its many shops sell crafts and fairly expensive souvenirs; outside the shops, painters and caricaturists work at easels and sell their wares along the pedestrian walk way. And, of course, there are restaurants and coffee shops filled with tourists and starving artists. I ended up having borscht at a very crowded restaurant called “Moo-Moo” (My-My in Cyrillic), later followed by a great cappuccino at McDonalds! There was a Hard Rock Café along the Arbat, where our group had lunch the following day.

Hard Rock Cafe, The Arbat, Moscow

In front of McDonald's, The Arbat, Moscow

(Later) We are now plying the waters of the Reservoir, such a huge body of water that I cannot see the shore on the left side of the ship, and land is only a thin ribbon of hazy green on the right. The sun is playing peek-a-boo behind the clouds, the water is calm except where churned along the side of the ship. An altogether pleasant setting.

Sunset over the Reservoir

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Northern River Port, Moskva River

Northern River Port, Moscow River

On a lounge chair on the ship docked at the Northern River Port on the Moskva River, near Moscow, looking toward the elaborate terminal building in the Stalinist, wedding-cake style, arches and pillars along the piazza/promenade of the two upper stories, the long, broad staircase leading to the main entrance surrounded with slate-covered stone arches into which are set large ceramic, plate-like discs depicting glories of Soviet achievement (e.g., a dam, a pillared hall, a locomotive, an enormous statue). A four-tiered tower of concrete rises above the main central section, topped by a bright, metallic (tin?) spire, the uppermost point of which is a radiant, five-pointed star, upon which a hammer and sickle, suspended before it, casts a shadow. Clouds, grey and white, frame a swath of blue sky behind the tower, as if in a Stalinist propaganda poster. And the thin tail of a jet trail crosses the blue and disappears quickly.

Later. A very peaceful scene on the river as the sun goes down. Most of the others have gone to see Moscow at night, but I have chosen to stay on the boat/ship this evening in deference to my lungs (which have been giving me trouble since London, and my legs, which have been giving me trouble since the last day in Kiev. My left leg developed a charley horse in the calf muscles with all the walking I did that day, and is now stiff and swollen. I may have developed a deep vein thrombus in that calf, which is, I believe, the same one I had trouble with a couple of years ago, the day before my previous trip to Berlin.

We will spend our four Moscow nights here on the ship. Busses transport us from the ship to the city for tours. No doubt it’s difficult to run herd on a bunch of American tourists in the big city of Moscow and to make sure they’re safe and don’t get into trouble with authorities. Natasha mentioned that there had been some difficulty with a couple of tourists during a similar tour in a Moscow hotel the previous year.
The port building, erected around the time of my birth, inspired this commentary in quasi-verse.
A Ruin in the Making
1933 – VOLGA = MOSKVA – 1937

Columns and porticos
Balconies and balustrades
The not yet ruined marvel
Of an empire not long gone,
Gone a tyrant's imperial dreams
Grandiose, ephemeral,
As this decaying monument.
Some distant archeologist
Might unearth, awestruck, stone,
Plaster, a lichenous surface
Long buried, eroded,
Scoured to the bones.
Stalin would be furious to see
Crumbling cement atop the rotunda.
Jesus would be furious to see a
Gold and marble cathedral.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Kiev, Part 2

Church and monastery buildings of the Pechersk Lavra

The second day in Kiev, we visited the Cave Monastery (Pechersk Lavra), a site where about a dozen early Christian monks settled in the 11th century with the intention of spreading Christianity throughout Kievan Rus. After viewing several of the monastery buildings, we descended through a long, narrow tunnel carrying candles. We passed by several caskets, presumably containing the mummified bodies of those thousand-year-old monks. The caskets had glass lids, and the bodies were wrapped in robes in such a way so that no part of the actual body was visible, so the “natural mummification” that occurred in the caves had to be taken on faith. We emerged (were disgorged) from the cave/tunnel into a shopping area where I purchased an egg painted with an icon (virgin & child).
Guide describing the Chernobyl atomic plant melt-down

During the afternoon, we visited a museum dedicated to the Chernobyl disaster, which occurred some 30 – 60 miles north-east of Kiev, at a site near the borders of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. I hadn't realized that it was so close to what is now Russia. A person involved in the early clean-up and remediation of the area spoke to the group through our guide, Evgeny.
That afternoon, we also visited Baba Yar, a pit where 100,000 Jews were “disposed of” by the Nazis early in WWII. The fact that the victims had been Jews was covered up after the war, and the area was memorialized by the Soviets as the site of the massacre of 100,000 Russian citizens. Later, we also visited a synagogue – not on the itinerary, but a couple on the bus asked if we could stop there. It was in our Guide to Kiev.
Grass covers the earth over those massacred
at Babi Yar

The following day, I didn't go on the tour of the folk museum, but rather stayed in the room and wrote postcards and read until early afternoon. Afterwards, I went to the post office and mailed the cards (and a couple of other cards to Lis’ family) which was something of an adventure, for which I used my spotty Russian. Then I walked on my own through a part of the city we had seen on the bus tour the day before – past the Great Gate, past Saint Sophia, across the square towards St. Michael’s, looking for the Ukrainian National Museum.
I finally found it--buying a T-shirt and a Ukranian blouse for Ella Diane along the way--but there was only about an hour left to visit the rooms before it closed. It was clearly a remnant of a Soviet-era museum, with the main entrance room, up a staircase, exhibiting a red flag with hammer and sickle and shining works depicted on either side of it. There were also a couple of paintings on either side depicting awful winter mud and chaos – perhaps illustrating the great patriotic war, which is what the Russians call WWII.
Soviet-era Ukrainian National Museum near Kiev's main square

The rest of the rooms exhibited pretty straight-forward, historical museum-type displays, with artifacts of the period ranging from pre-historic to recent times: paintings of nobility and Metropolitans (Eastern Orthodox bishops), swords, chairs, crockery, an ox-cart, etc. I hadn't realized how significant early (Aegean) civilization was in the area, but there were many early (5 – 3 centuries BC) Greek vessels and plates and amphorae.
When the museum closed, I took a quick trip to a small, wooden, rather make-shift building nearby that housed numerous gold-rimmed icons in the Eastern Orthodox style. Could they have been stored in the basement of the museum and brought out for exhibit after Ukrainian independence? No one could tell me the history of that small, wooden chapel-like structure near the museum, a huge church looming behind it on the main square of Kiev.
Small building full of icons next to the museum.

I walked so much that day that I developed a charley-horse in my left leg (calf), and it has been giving me trouble ever since. And the right leg (hip and knee) have been bothering me since the beginning of the trip (back in Berlin), so walking is becoming something of a problem, quite apart from the problems I've had breathing, especially after catching the cold in London. It seems to be improving now, though.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kiev, Part 1

(Kiev, continued) The first afternoon and evening in Kiev were a blur. I know I didn’t go out to eat with my roommate, so I must eaten food from the food bag (chips and nuts and an orange, probably) in the room.
The next morning, we had a bit of an orientation to the trip as a whole and to Kiev in particular, and we were asked to choose our optional tours for the whole trip.
Then we left on the bus for a city tour of Kiev. I believe we started out with the “Great Gate of Kiev,” a painting of which was inspiration for one of Mussorgsky’s tone poems in “Pictures at an Exhibition." When we got out to explore, there was some question about where the actual gate entrance was. But I found an opening, barred by two gates with heavy, medieval, iron grill-work, and with pointed spikes at the base on either side of the stone-and-cement gate tunnel. So that was probably the gate entrance, back in medieval times, when Kiev was a fortress town. Someone suggested that this wasn't, in fact, the "real" gate of Kiev; that it had been destroyed during the war and this was a reconstruction.
The Gate of Kiev
Then we drove around the town, stopping first at St. Sophia, the most ancient church in Kiev (built during the 11th century) and one of the few not destroyed during the Communist era. We were able to take photos around the grounds of the church, but not inside the church itself. The glittering contrasts of gold above green cupolas, and white towers rising into the blue and white sky is stunning. But going inside the church itself, with its feeling of height, the mosaic of Mary, the brilliant, gilded iconostasis with its recently constructed (Polish metalworkers) replica of the previous gate (melted by the Soviets or Germans during WWII), the gilded paintings in the cupola high above the main floor of the church, all lent the interior a truly otherworldly air. Mosaics on the wall are pale in comparison to the iconostasis, but they add a special softness to the otherwise overwhelming intensity of the alter area.
St Sophia
After we left the church, we saw a model of the city and also a statue of Vladimir the Great (“the Baptist” – or was it Yaraslov the Wise? Maybe both). We then wandered to an overlook from which we could view the city and the Dnieper River.  Leaving the church through the baroque-era bell tower, we came out onto the large main square from which we saw the reconstructed St. Michael’s church painted in heavenly blue.
St Michael's Church
Then the bus took us to another overlook from which we could see the city and the river, as well as the domes of the Cave Monastery, which we visited the following day.
Cave Monastery at a distance
That evening we heard a talk by a young Ukrainian man who seemed pretty savvy in the ways of modern Ukraine. The average monthly wage is quite low, but a lot of people apparently have cars and nice apartments. There seems to be a large shadow economy in the country, and he made it obvious that palm-greasing is standard operating procedure. He blames this modus operandi on the period of economic collapse of the USSR (in the ‘80s) when barter and bribery were the only ways to function, and these habits persisted after national freedom was achieved in 1991.
We had dinner at a Ukrainian restaurant with horseradish vodka in a tumbler to drink and smoked pig fat on bread as appetizers! A wonderful group of musicians played folk music that reminded me a lot of Klezmer music (with violin and accordion, etc.).

Monday, March 17, 2014

London to Kiev

The Great Gate of Kiev


I’m staying back from activities again this evening – this time the Moscow Circus, which I saw the last time I was in Moscow in 1992, and for which my strongest emotion was pity for the bears. Hopefully I’ll have better luck this time catching up with the trip journal. I’ll begin with the Kiev pre-trip to the Russian River Cruise with Grand Circle Travel.

On the flight from Heathrow to Kiev I scanned the plane, looking for likely GCT travelers but didn’t see anyone who looked promising. I was near the back of the plane, and when I deplaned, the customs lines were very long. We had to fill out an entry form, which we hadn’t been told about on the plane prior to landing. I filled out a form while waiting in line, but when I got to the immigration counter, the man told me I had to fill out the exit side of the form as well; this had essentially identical information on it. He did, however, let me back up to the counter after I had filled it out without having to wait in line again. I had visions of losing my bag in this foreign airport, with no one here to pick me up, and not knowing what hotel I was supposed to go to. I was annoyed with my stupidity at not getting that information out of the bag at Heathrow. I didn’t remember the name of the hotel we were staying at and hoped I'd copied it in folder that I kept in an outside pocket of the large suitcase.
When I finally got to the baggage pick-up section, the only carousel rotating carried luggage of a plane from Paris. Fortunately, the airport was small, and I wandered to the last, empty carousel in the back of the room--which had already stopped--and I spied my bag near the wall beside it. I was relieved and delighted, opened the bag, got out the trip folder, tore out the page where I had written the name of the hotel, and proceeded out of the baggage area. Sure enough, no one was there to pick me up. So I asked about a taxi, for which I received two estimates: 300 and 400 grivnas (the Ukrainian unit of exchange). I got 1,000 grivnas out of a money machine, paid 400 of them to a taxi kiosk, got a receipt, and gave it to a driver who appeared from somewhere. He drove me the several (I would say at least 15 – 20) miles into downtown Kiev to the Radisson Blu.
The city of Kiev, across the Dnieper 
When the taxi stopped in front of the hotel, a bell hop scurried out the door and took my bags up the steps and into the hotel lobby. I felt so relieved, all I could think was, ‘No more lugging those bags through endless corridors of train and metro stations on my own. Hallelujah!’
Inside the hotel I saw a desk with a GCT sign over it and a large, pleasant-looking woman with very blond hair sitting behind it. I went up to her and introduced myself. Her name is Natasha.
“So, you have arrived already. You obviously made it here on your own,” she said, and I nodded. I got the key to my room and, when I went in, found my assigned roommate, Joan Brown, a very good-natured and pleasant woman from Texas--though originally from Missouri, I believe.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

London Revisited

Children playing in a park near St. Pancras Station, London
Sitting in a pastry shop in St. Pancras terminal, strategizing my stay here in London (~ 2 days). I got 50 Pounds (L) out of the cash machine and intend to go to the Ruskin Hotel to see if they have a room for a night or two. I dropped off all my bags (except for the back-pack purse) at bag storage. After checking out the Ruskin hotel, I intend to come back to St. Pancras and take the underground to the airport and time that trip in order to decide whether to stay one night or two in this area or near the airport.
There are two men sitting next to me speaking something that seems like a cross between Italian, French and Spanish. Could it be Basque?
Herds of travelers pass by – East Indian, Oriental, American. Now it has thinned out to just a few. The contemporary female fashion seems to be a very short skirt dress (shirtwaist-like, although frilly and gauzy), just covering the butt-cheeks, with (and sometimes without) leg-clinging tights. A Buddhist monk, alone, just walked by in a saffron robe.

I am at Heathrow Airport – an hour earlier than the two hours early I was supposed to arrive – sitting in an Italian coffee shop sipping cappuccino. My alarm clock was set on French time, so I awoke an hour earlier than I needed to, but I didn’t realize it until nearly dressed. Getting here – to the right place at the right time – from the end of the organ tour in Toulouse, France, was not a trivial effort. In the first place, I could not make train reservations through to London on Friday, as I had hoped to, so I went to Paris on Friday and then on to London early Saturday morning. The train tickets through to London cost an additional 200.00 Euros beyond the Eurail discount, but I did catch the TGV to Paris and the Eurostar (chunnel train) to London.
In Paris, I took the Metro from Gare Parnasse to Gar du Nord and stayed at the Hotel Mercure, right across from the train station so I would be near the station because the train departed at 7:13 am. As it was, I didn’t have a lot of extra time, because I didn’t know exactly where to go to catch the train, and we had to do a double pass & security check – one to get out of France, and the other to get into England. But I made it.
Then, in London (Pancras Station), I needed to find a place to stay. I checked all my bags (including the food bag) at baggage storage, had a pastry and coffee, and then took the underground to Russell Square and walked to the Ruskin Hotel. They were all booked, but the man at the desk remembered me from before and said I could have a downstairs room (“needing renovation’) if I was only staying one night. So, I took the room, went to the British Museum again for a while and saw some things I hadn’t seen before, including the Korean room, and the large collection of exquisite Chinese ceramics, as well as a special exhibit on Chinese jade, and an “eye-opener” tour (again by Margaret Friday) on art in the Middle East. Then I had “lunch,” i.e., a large hot dog with lots of onions from a street vendor.
Afterwards, I took the Piccadilly line from Russell Square out to Heathrow to see how long that would take (about an hour). So I decided I needed to get a place to stay near the airport and, after much walking about and asking questions (the hotel accommodations people at Heathrow are singularly unhelpful), I caught a “hotel-hoppa” bus to the Holiday Inn and managed to get a room there. They had no single, non-smoking rooms, so I settled for a “smoking” room. I went back to the airport (this time by a free bus) and from there via underground to St. Pancras station, where I picked up my carry-on and the food bag, bought some food at a grocery store in the station, and took them all back to the Ruskin Hotel.
Pericles, British Museum
I spent that night sniffing, coughing and wheezing with what turned out was the beginning of a nasty cold (coughed up black specs, as well – volcanic ash, perhaps?). The next day, after a morning online at the Korean coffee shop near the museum, and another visit to the British Museum (early Greek period), I schlepped all my stuff by Metro to the Holiday Inn by the airport. From there I will fly to Kiev.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

From Toulouse to Paris

So my blogging hiatus is over now, and you've had plenty of time to check out the book, "Korea, Are You at Peace," which has been blatantly advertised on this site for the past two months. You can still order it by clicking on the image to the right of the blog.

Now, let's get back to the travel adventures of the summer of 2010. Some may remember that this was the European Odyssey where I basically saw and did everything in Europe that I still wanted to do before I die (the bucket list). It started out with three days at the British Museum,
 followed by train trips to Berlin and Milano to visit family (and pseudo-family), and then a wonderful tour of organs in southern France. Let us pick up the thread again from my journals.

On the TGV (tres grande vitesse) train from Toulouse to Paris.  The countryside truly does whiz by on this train, but the ride is quite smooth.  It seems to list and squeak a bit on the curves, but all in all it is a very satisfactory ride.
There was some seat snafu here (as on a previous train). I thought I was in Car 5, whereas I was actually in car 6.  So after having settled in, a couple came in and bumped me, and when I came to the correct car, there was a young woman sitting in my seat, and she seemed to be (claimed to be) deaf, so I took the seat across the aisle, which is perfectly O.K. unless someone comes along to bump me again.  Passing another train going in the opposite direction sounds like a couple of seconds in a wind tunnel.
I had essentially NO time on the organ tour to record events and impressions, nor to finish up on the Italy trip, so I’ll try to do as much of that as possible on this train trip and for the next couple of days.  I will fly out of Heathrow (God willing and the ash-cloud doesn’t return) on Monday morning for Kiev.  Hopefully, on that trip, I’ll have more time to write as we ply the rivers and canals of Russia.

On the TGV, we stopped at Bordeaux and are now passing over the River …  In full view is a large, gothic cathedral with a huge tower and spire.  That is a cathedral I’ve never visited.  Rivers and canals seem to criss-cross this entire countryside;  occasionally, a canal will run alongside the railroad tracks.
Later… I got into Paris (Montparnasse) about 3:00 PM and spent the next hour scouting the train station for a map of Paris and getting to the Metro, line 4, that would take me to the Gare du Nord.  After looking at a map of Paris and realizing how far Gare du Nord was from Montparnasse, I decided not to take a taxi, especially after having gotten ripped off by the taxi driver in Marseilles.  He claimed I owed him 41 euros after quoting a price of 21 euros, which was already probably twice what it should have cost from the train station to the hotel, as confirmed by someone else in the organ tour group.  

So I schlepped my two bags up and down escalators and staircases, sometimes with the help of a young, gallant Frenchman, sometimes by myself.  The strategy (especially with escalators) was to take one case down, then climb the stairs and bring the other one down.  Eventually, I developed a strategy (going up) of turning both cases sideways, holding them with my left hand, and grabbing the handrail with the right.  It was awkward, but it worked.  I even did that once going down, though it took me a little prep time, and the guy in front of me kept looking backwards, probably glad I was a good ways behind him, lest I and my bags should come tumbling down upon him.  And of course, the folks behind me were no doubt holding up access to the escalator, although no one came and offered to help.  One fellow did offer to help as I was getting ready to do the double-bag up an escalator at the Gare du Nord, though, a sturdy young black man with a perfect French accent.  There were no elevators that I could find at either train station. 
I 'm now at the Mercure Hotel, across from the Gar du Nord in Paris.  My train for London will leave from there tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM.  It’s about 8:30 PM now, and I’m going to bed soon because I have to get up at 5:30 AM.  It feels pleasant and comfortable here in Paris.  Perhaps I should have planned to spend an extra day here rather than in London.  Ah well, what is, is.  I’ll try to begin writing about the Pipedreams tour tomorrow.  Now, I need some sleep.