Bastille Day In Paris

A Short Story

An Unexpected Bastille Day Opportunity

We had been traveling through southern France for a week and intended to finish with a few days in Paris since that was where we would catch our flight home. When we planned this trip we hadn’t realized that July 14th was Bastille Day. When we learned this we weren’t sure how that day would go.

On the 14th we took a TGV high speed train from Lyon to Paris arriving at about 1:00 pm. Our new plan was to take advantage of the celebration. Figuring that the streets and Metro would be jammed and crowds at the Champ de Mars would be impenetrable, we decided to get a day pass on a Hop-On Hop-Off boat (Batoboat HERE). Later that evening we would take a boat from the Notre-Dame area right down to the Eiffel Tower stop, get off and watch the fireworks from the river. After that, since the boats stopped around 9:30, we would walk out of the area and, if lucky, catch a taxi or Metro back to our hotel.

That afternoon, as a tourist, Bastille Day seemed like any other day. We walked the streets, bought some souvenirs and had an early evening meal at a small bistro on the Left Bank. Around 8:30 we headed out for our boat ride to the Eiffel Tower. So far so good – until the boat skipped the three stops nearest the Eiffel Tower, they had been closed for the celebration. It seemed as if everyone in Paris was way ahead of us in their planning. The river was blocked to traffic anywhere near the tower, a number of bridges were blocked and many of the streets and sidewalks were impassable up to a half mile from the Champ de Mars. There was simply no way we could get close to the celebration at that time of night.

In hindsight I should have known better. I’m from Washington D.C. and going to the Mall for the the Independence Day shows on the 4th was an all day affair with the exit to home being usually a couple of hour trip. Why would I have thought Paris would be any different? Truth is I just hadn’t thought about it.

We hadn’t intended on being in Paris on Bastille day and our plan was a last minute attempt. A little discouraged we made our way back to our hotel and watched the event on television which might have been a good thing. It seemed the Sun didn’t set until way past 9:30 and the fireworks didn’t go off until around 11:00. On television the show was interesting and included two choirs, six or eight couples that seemed to be famous opera singers and the only music I recognized was a song from West Side Story(?). The finale was the national anthem sung by everybody and it seemed to go on for over a half hour. The anthem was followed by a light show on the Tower followed by the fireworks. All in all it seemed a very good evening for Parisians.


1965 And The 4 Minute Louvre

Shortly after graduating high school the summer of 1965 found me in Paris visiting a Parisian exchange student, Jean Paul that had spent some time with my family the year before. At the same time a classmate of mine was also in Paris with her parents. For a few days Jean Paul, Beth and I hung out together racing around Paris in Jean Paul’s Citron 3.

Evenings usually found us in the park that cascades down the hill in front of Sacre Coeur. It was a gathering place for young people that included British rockers all decked out in their Union Jack clothing and spiked hair, American hippies, Algerian revolutionaries and Parisian rebels. It was full of guitar music, discussions about the Algerian freedom fight, the Vietnam war, art and our future. Often conversations travelled through three or four languages to include everyone and American and British rock songs were sung with a multitude of accents. The evenings broke up when the Gendarmes swept down the hillside with batons swinging to clear the park.

After that was bar hopping through Montmartre and Pigalle often stopping at street vendors selling french fries and mustard.

We slept late every day but did fit in some sightseeing here and there. Around that time Art Buchwald, an American humorist was in Paris and wrote a column in the American Times of Paris titled Breaking The Four Minute Louvre. It was shortly after American Jim Ryun was the first high school student to break the four minute mile and in the Spring of 1965 running the mile was in the news.


Tongue in cheek, Buchwald claimed that the worlds largest art collection actually contained only four pieces really worth seeing. Of course they included Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, but also Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (often called Venus on the Half Shell), the Winged Victory (a masterpiece of Greek sculpture, called the Winged Victory of Samothrace) and the Venus di Milo (an ancient Greek statue and one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture). They were each in different galleries in the Louvre and Buchwald’s column claimed that nobody had yet entered the Louvre, looked at each piece and exited the museum in under four minutes, but the new record was near. It was a funny image offered up to American tourists visiting Paris but it had unintended consequences.

What red-blooded American youth visiting Paris could walk away from that challenge? The three of us accepted and while we were slightly hindered by being chased by museum guards we finished in a little over seven minutes. Getting lost could easily double your time and it was easy to do. I understand that the Louvre had to put up with crazy, running young people for most of that summer.

I actually met Art Buchwald in 1972 at a meeting of college newspapers in D.C. and asked him about that column. He laughed and said the French really have no sense of humor at all and he may still be persona non grata in Paris. Their loss.

A Bit Of History In Ocala, Florida

Fort King, Ocala, Florida

It’s unusual to come across an early nineteenth century stockade fort in the middle of a Florida town. Not something you expect outside of Disney World. But on a recent drive through central Florida that is what we found in Ocala.

It’s a historically accurate replica of Fort King at its original site. Designated a National Historic Landmark the site is being developed into a park that includes an interesting museum. For the state of Florida this is almost ancient history. Early settlers, Seminole Wars, Andrew Jackson.

There’s history all around us if we just take the time to look and understanding it is important for our future. Here’s a peek into Florida’s history and what happened around Fort King.

Every state in America is noted for its tribes of American Indians that include Comanches, Blackfoot, Algonquin, Shaenee, Shoshone, Sioux and almost a hundred additional tribes. In Florida we recognize the Seminoles as our major Indian tribe, but who are they historically?

It seems Seminole history in Florida starts with bands of Creek Indians from Georgia and Alabama migrating to the state in the 1700s. Wars with other tribes along with conflict with the arriving Europeans caused them to move south seeking new lands. At the time Spain controlled Florida and encouraged these Indian migrations hoping to provide a buffer between them and the British colonies to the north.

A fort exhibit

It was at this time that these Florida Indians became known as the Seminole, a name that meant “wild people” or “runaways.”

Florida has long been considered an inhospitable place filled with swamps, and scrub land, cursed with hot weather, high humidity, mosquitoes and alligators. Even so by the late eighteenth century settlers began to look for land to settle in Florida and in 1819 Spain saw the inevitable and agreed to sell Florida to the United States.

Soon these new settlers were coming in conflict with the Seminoles and the government decided the situation needed a solution. In 1823 the Treaty of Moultrie Creek was signed between the United States and leaders of the Seminole Nation. That treaty had the Seminoles relocate to a large tract of land in what is now Central Florida. The treaty also prohibited white persons from entering or settling on those Seminole lands. The Ocala area was central to the Indian towns and the army built Fort King to assure that both sides kept the treaty.

In a reversal of policy Congress passed The Indian Removal Act in 1830 at the urging of President Andrew Jackson who had fought the Seminoles in Florida and defeated the Creek Indians in 1814. This resulted in the forced negotiation of the controversial Treaty of Payne’s Landing requiring that the Seminoles be removed to new lands in what is now Oklahoma.

Engraving from Seminole Wars

A core group of Seminoles, led by the warrior Osceola fiercely opposed the treaty forcing the government to reoccupy Fort King and the associated U.S. Indian Agency. General Wiley Thompson, the U.S. Agent assigned to Fort King and Osceola engaged in a number of confrontations. This resulted in General Thompson ordering Osceola chained and thrown into the guardhouse at the.

Inside the fort

Released several days later, Osceola declared that war was the only option left. On December 28, 1835, he attacked Fort King when Wiley Thompson and Lieutenant Constantine Smith went for a walk outside the post. Thompson was shot numerous times and scalped. Six others were also killed but Fort King was too strong to take. That same day a larger force of Seminole warriors attacked troops on their way to Fort King in a fight known as Dade’s Battle, leaving over 100 soldiers dead. This would become the start of the Second Seminole War.

Fort King was abandoned in May of 1836 in favor of Fort Drane built nearer the swamps where the Seminoles were hold up. Fort King was reoccupied in April of 1837. It served as a base for raids and in 1840 Captain Gabriel Rains of the 7th U.S. Infantry led 16 soldiers on a recon but were attacked by a Seminole war party. They managed to fight their way back to Fort King, with three men killed.

After defeating the army in early battles of the Second Seminole War, Seminole leader Osceola was captured in 1837, when U.S. agents invited him under a truce to talk peace.

Ft. King Historic Marker

Five years later the Second Seminole War was declared over on August 14, 1842. Fort King was evacuated for good the following year. By 1858, when the United States declared a formal end to the Third Seminole War over 3,000 Seminoles were moved west of the Mississippi River leaving only 200 to 300 Seminoles in Florida swamps.

As a footnote, Florida is proud to call the Seminoles our tribe and the Noles are happy to be a part of Florida. back a few years ago when there was a movement to strip sports teams of their Indian names the Seminoles made it very clear that they were thrilled with their name being attached to Florida State. The Noles have done very well in Florida recently with the Hard Rock Cafe International (USA), Inc. being sold to the Seminole Tribe of Florida in 2007 with headquarters at the reservation in Davie, Florida.

Little Pieces of Paris #1

Statue of Sainte-Geneviève by Landowski

A Short Story

Located just upstream from Notre-Dame there is a bridge made notable by a tall, elegant statue at its’ southern end. Examining a map, the bridge is identified as the Pont de la Tournelle and it is just another example of the shear number of remarkable sites in this incredible city. The Pont de la Tournelle links the Ile St-Louis (the next upstream island from Notre-Dame De Paris), to the Quai de la Tournelle on the Rive Gauche. The Rue des Deux Ponts links the island’s two bridges in a straight line with the Pont Marie on the north bank.

In 1928, the City of Paris commissioned sculptor Paul Landowski to carve a statue of Sainte-Geneviève for the bridge. Paul Maximilien Landowski (1 June 1875 – 31 March 1961) was a French monument sculptor of Polish descent. He is best-known for his work Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Landoswki’s creation represents Sainte-Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris as a young woman protecting a child holding a vessel, the symbol of Paris. He sculpted the sixteen foot high statue directly from a single piece of stone. Mounted on a pedestal of equal height, the statue faces westward to symbolically protect the city from danger approaching from upstream. It needed to be tall to be seen from great distances. It is located on the spot where Saint Geneviève’s shrine stood in the year 885 before it was moved to its’ current home in Saint-Étienne-du-Mont Church.

A Note: At the time I took the photograph I had no idea what the bridge statue was about. I was simply drawn to the cormorant drying its wings high above the river. Only later did I research the statue and its sculptor –  Paris is an amazing city…

Frances Tournon Lamastre Steam Railroad

Going Back In Time

On a recent trip through France we spent time visiting the Tournon Lamastre Steam Railroad line which features open-air cars (in the warm months), beautiful old steam engines and fantastic scenery.

About 125 miles north of the city of Avignon along the Rhône River in southern France is Doux Gorges, located in Saint-Jean-de-Muzols, a commune (community) in the Ardèche department. The area features some of the most beautiful and remote wilderness in France and attracts tourists, hikers and bikers from all over.

network of railway lines was constructed around Vivarais between 1898 and 1903 to provide access to markets for farms and vineyards in remote areas of the region. When the Vivarais railway network closed in 1968, a group of enthusiasts decided to acquire it and some of its’ rolling stock. In June, 1969 a tourist operation started between Saint-Jean-de-Muzols and Lamastre. The Meyzieu Tourist Railway Company (CFTM) was created, supported by a group of volunteers who restore and maintain the railroad rolling stock. In February, 1970 access was restored to the railway station at Tournon, and the new Tournon – Lamastre line, 21 miles long, was officially opened for full service in April 1970

At the Train de l’Ardèche station

The journey begins

Pulled by restored and maintained steam engines over one hundred years old, today’s train cars carry passengers into the most beautiful and inaccessible part of the Doux Gorges offering views of an untouched and rugged landscape. At the station of Colombier le Vieux – Saint-Barthélémy le Plain, the locomotive has to be turned round on a turntable and placed at the front of the train for the return trip. Watching the two men push the turntable is a sight worth seeing.

Our train crosses the Doux

Offering full day or half day excursions, the Train of Ardèche travels through the mountainside overlooking the gorges. It is particularly popular with hikers and bicyclists (who can load their bicycles aboard) for the trip uphill to Lamastre and then the walk or ride back downhill through the gorge. The trains do not run everyday so it is important to check the schedule when planning the trip (official site link below).




Visit the official web site HERE.

The engine turntable at Colombier le Vieux

The gorge features numerous stone bridges and roadbeds

More Graffiti

With few exceptions graffiti is virtually everywhere. There are a few places that left an impression for not seeing graffiti, we saw none in Singapore, Hong Kong, Brunei, and don’t recall much in Australia or New Zealand. With over a thousand to pick from, here is another installment.













Buenos Aries

Buenos Aries





Going Wild In Florida

A Short Story

Florida is all about the water, Sun and beaches and if you visit you should take the time to get up close to some of our wildlife. From Manatees in the clear springs, birdwatching up the Indian River or the island of Captiva and alligators almost anywhere. The options are varied and there are a number of guides ready to introduce you to airboat rides, party boat fishing offshore, inter-coastal cruising, and snorkeling adventures.

Allow us to introduce you to some of the locals:

A Great White Egret

Brown Pelican

Frigate Birds are the pirates of the sky

An anhingas dries in the Sun

While the Double-crested Cormorant does often nest in colonies, we’ve never seen such a large group in one place before. The video below was taken on the Indian River in eastern, central Florida and it appeared as if a large shoal of fish had attracted the attention of a number of Cormorants along with some Brown Pelicans. What first caught our attention was a large area of frothing white water near the far bank. By the time we got near the feeding was breaking up but still an interesting sight.





Keep your eyes open – the wild side is everywhere in Florida.

Dolphins are found everywhere from the surf in Naples to up the Indian River