Whirlwind Through Paris

On our flight to Cairo, we somehow ended up with an eleven-hour layover in Paris. Bummer! What will we do with ourselves? Well, we hire a driver and guide for a whirlwind tour of Paris, of course!

I contacted and gave them our desired itinerary. They took care of the rest and did a bang-up job. The driver wasn’t fluent in English but super nice. Then once we were connected with our guide, we were able to communicate perfectly and she knew her stuff.

Paris has a few icons that every tourist must see. We chose to avoid the most tourist-trappy, i.e., the Eifel Tower. We did do a drive-by long enough to get a couple of pics from the car. Honestly, it was bigger than I expected. Very impressive for the period in which it was designed.

The four places on my list I really wanted to hit were:

1.  Sainte-Chapelle – because of the stained-glass windows.

2.  Notre Dame – because of the history and the fire.

3.  The Catacombs – because I love that sort of macabre setting.

4.  The Louvre – for everything NOT the Mona Lisa.

We met our guide at a café, because of course!

Food is always an important part of our adventures; we like to go on Food Safaris and try everything. Of course, the croissants in France are the best. But coffee is also important, and we like to sample the local brews. I like an espresso once in a while, but will normally order a ‘long’, so it’s more like American coffee. And I never put anything in my coffee: coffee should taste like coffee. The coffee at the little café was divine, almost chocolaty in creaminess.

St Chapelle was magnificent. I have a thing for churches simply because of the architecture and the beautiful art. I am not religious in the slightest, but I really love a good cathedral. This gothic style chapel is almost 800 years old and was consecrated on my birthday in 1248. I found it amazing that most of the windows have survived through wars, revolutions, storms, and vandalism. The space inside is not large, but the colors are breath-taking.

Notre Dame was closed, but we made a visit just to see it. I can be honest and admit that I cried when it burned. I watched the coverage of the fire for hours and cried over the lost history and beautiful art. It was a cultural tragedy for the entire world, not just France. Someday I will go back and see the completed rebuild.

We skipped the catacombs on the recommendation of our guide, because guides are not allowed to work inside the catacombs. She also warned us that once you get past the first chambers it’s just dirty smelly tunnels. I was a bit disappointed but found other ways to entertain ourselves.

The Louvre was amazing, of course. Our guide company had special passes for us, so we skipped right past the line. I was not interested in the Mona Lisa. It’s nice picture, but not that special. The Louvre is massive and many much more interesting items. One of my favorites was the ‘Winged Victory’. It is placed at the top of a wide sweeping staircase and is simply awe-inspiring.

I took a ton of pictures in the Louvre.

One of my very favorite paintings is located here. When I was a child of five or six, I remember my parents having a book with this painting in it. It is one of the first images I remember emotionally affecting me. I would seek out that page and stare at it. The tragedy and hope and pain and loss embodied in the piece hit me then and still resonate with me now. It is one of the great moments of my life to be able to stand directly in front of this magnificent painting and feel those same emotions.  

Paris deserved a longer stay, but I am glad we did the whirlwind tour. It was worth it and I highly recommend if you have the time.

Travel Uncategorized

Egypt – Finally

In our travels, my wife and I avoid tourist traps. We like foreigners and travel to meet them on their home turf, not to hang with other tourists. We seek to experience foreign parts with the locals. However, our vacation to Paris and Egypt was absolutely focused on tourist traps: the Eifel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, Luxor temples, Valley of the Kings, Giza Pyramids, and the Egyptian Museum. There was no avoiding tourists.

Yet, we were helped by the fact that our visit was at the end of summer before the busy season, so most sites were at less than medium capacity allowing us to enjoy them in relative peace. We also had a private tour guide for most of the trip. We shared a guide with another couple for our cruise down the Nile, which included the Luxor temples, Edfu (my favorite), the Valley of the Kings, and the Temple of Isis at Aswan.

Ready for Adventure

Our days began at 7 or 8am to avoid the heat and crowds, allowing us to really experience the temples intimately without the crowds.

As the day progressed we had to contend with larger and larger groups of tourists. Busloads of people would be following a single guide around the temples. It turned into a cacophony of different languages. I can’t imagine they received much information from their guide. It didn’t look like a good time. We were usually done and back on the boat by early afternoon.

Our guides from Memphis Tours ( did a knock-up job, they were more than knowledgeable; actual Egyptologists. Not some random guy with a notebook.

The heat of Egypt was brutal and this Minnesota boy did some serious melting. My best suggestion to survive Egypt is to purchase a good quality Egyptian cotton scarf (not the $10 scarves sold by random vendors) and learn to make a turban. Once I was properly equipped, the trip was much more enjoyable. I sport a bald head and my dome was thoroughly baked after the first day. The turban was a life-saver.

We found the Egyptian people to be super friendly and helpful – for a tip. Tourism is really the only economy in Egypt and much of the local market is driven by tips. Don’t be stingy, but don’t be taken too easily. There is a fine line between being generous and being a sucker. I was caught as a sucker a few times, I know.

This trip was in the planning stages for almost four years; meant to be  Sheri’s fiftieth birthday trip. She wanted to scuba dive in the Red Sea. I learned to swim and then got my scuba certification for this adventure. We were set to go in the fall of 2020, but then disaster, pandemic, and general idiocy ensued ruining our plans.

As the date of our trip approached – again – I kept expecting something to happen; another outbreak of stupid, or an asteroid, or pilot strike… something. But nothing happened and we finally found ourselves on a plane to Paris and then Cairo! Crazy!

Three years of anticipation were finally coming to fruition and man was it worth it. I have 3000 pictures to sort through and memories to last a lifetime. Which is exactly why we travel.

The world is a really big place and we can never truly understand that if we never explore it. I love home and my boring middle-class American life, but I can never truly appreciate it until I experience other places. Only then can I recognize how fortunate I am to live where I do and how completely spoiled we are here. Never take where or how you live for granted, we are all only a stroke of luck away from living in a hovel or sleeping on the ground.

Enjoy life and see the world!!

More to come…