Our Airbus A380 at San Francisco International Airport, California.
PEG & KEITH WHEELER'S
TRIP TO EUROPE
Son Patrick driving us on back roads out of Paris towards Belgium.
INTRO: Are we too old to travel..?? We are both in our 70's - Peg at the lower end - Keith upper. We had a great 4 months in Southeast Asia 5 years ago, but Keith's accident scrambling over Cambodian temple ruins put a negative end to that adventure. The difficulty returning and the many months of recuperation convinced us to stay home - maybe for good. We did have a successful short trip down to visit friends in west-central Mexico 3 years ago, which convinced us that maybe we had at least one more international trip before we settle in to our rocking chairs for good. Our youngest son Patrick (AKA Kirk) and his wife live in Belgium and have been asking us to come visit them. We had a lovely visit with them 7 years ago when they lived in Brussels. We hadn't seen them since. Adding to the urge to make this trip was receiving a delightful message from retired educators from Brest, France, who are now involved with local history. They had found Keith's web site on his father's WWI US Naval Air Service at Brest. They were interested in then young Harry St. Clare Wheeler's photo album which Keith had scanned and uploaded to the web. They made the generous offer to be our guides "to walk in his WWI footsteps" if we would come to Brest. How could we refuse such an enticing offer..?!
As our plans developed, we decided we would try to make this trip more simple and not try to do too much. With help of our son and his wife, we would rent a small apartment in the southern Belgian town of Namur near where they currently live. We would not plan big excursions out to other countries or very distant places like we had done before (a several day trip to Brest being an exception). We would spend more time leisurely trying to get to know life in Namur and near places. Our son still would have to work most weekdays, so we would have time to stroll the narrow streets of Namur and the river walkways. We could spend time in sidewalk cafes or park benches watching local life pass by. We would make time to rest and take naps.
Peg loves to plan such travels and undertook the project of arranging travel details. Little practical problems (like little pesky health issues) kept getting in the way, but she persisted. Dates were set (15 Sep to 20 Oct) - Air France's SFO to Paris direct flight was booked, with connecting flights from little Humboldt County's Arcata/McKinleyville Airport to SFO arranged. All was looking fairly good until we learned of the planned strike by Air France's pilots. The date set for the strike start was 15 Sep, the exact date of our flight. Frantic communications enabled us to switch to an earlier flight on Air France at no extra charge. That was not the case with United's connector flight to SFO. We "bit the bullet" and paid the absurd extra fee to get that changed to an earlier date. With luck and clearing fog on the morning of Saturday, Sep 13, we flew on a small turboprop to San Francisco. After a few hours layover, we joined the huge crowd boarding Air France's gigantic Airbus A380, double-deck, wide-body, four-engine jet airliner, currently "the world's largest passenger airliner." To give some indication of the mass of people boarding this plane, if we recall correctly they started boarding (after "upper classes") rows 80 something to around 94. We had a long wait as we were seated in row 18, which sounded kind of like up front, until we realized these seats were 10 abreast, putting 170 economy passengers and numerous 1st class folks in front of our row. Actually the 10+ hour direct flight to Paris was smooth and relatively comfortable for packed sardines. The service, snacks, drinks and 2 meals were quite good considering current low standards on other (especially US) flights. The plane touched down right on schedule at 11 AM Sept. 14 (local time) at Paris' Charles De Gaulle Airport. We found another major problem with such a large plane, and that is debarking with monstrous lines for passport check, customs & baggage pickup. However , as Keith was walking with his cane, we were very lucky that a kind employee sighted us and took us to the head of the lines. Our 2 bags that we checked in Humboldt County showed up on the carrousel within a couple of minutes of our arrival. What good fortune! Within a few more minutes we were entering another massive crowd of greeters for the hundreds of our fellow Airbus passengers. Right on cue, Patrick & Karen appeared in the crowd to whisk us away to their waiting car.
We will try to add more reports as time and energy permit.
INDEX OF TRAVEL REPORTS
|. . . . . . . . .||# 1 - Sept. 14-19||
Paris > Namur > The Haage + Windmills > around Namur (30 pics)
|. . . . . . . .|
|# 2 - Sept. 20-21||Original short version (10 pics)|
|# 2 - Sept. 20-21 - expanded|
|# 3 - Sept. 22-26||
5 more days exploring the life and sites around Namur. (35 images)
|# 4 - Sept. 27-28||
Weekend: Namur Market Day, Dinant area, Freÿr Castle, Caracole beer, Maredsous Abbey, & Villers Abbey (33 pics)
|# 5 - Sep. 29-Oct. 3||
Visits to 2 Namur museums, plus train trip south to smaller river city of Dinant. (37 pics)
|# 6 - Oct. 4+Oct. 5 am||
Drive west from Namur to northwest France, including Bayeux, Mt. St. Michels + oyster country. (30 pics)
|# 7 - Oct. 5||
Continuing westward drive along the north Brittany coast with stops in Saint-Malo, ancient church of Chapel of Kermaria an Iskuit, and restored ruins of the Abbey of Beauport, before driving on towards Brest, France. (33 pics)
|#8 - Oct. 6 pm+Oct 7 am||
Exploring the City of Brest with local historians, who help us find some of the places related to Harry St.Clare Wheeler's WWI old photo album. (38 pics)
|#9 - Oct 7 pm||
Quimper + Armor-lux factory & store (27 pics)
|#10 - Oct. 8||
Drive up River Elorn: Landerneau, Moulin de Brezal mill, Le Roc'h Morvan ruins, Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours ruins, Landivisiau market, La Martyre + more -- trying to trace 1919 YMCA Auto Trip (31+ pics)
|#11 - Oct. 8 pm||City of Brest: Exposition at City Hall & Marine Museum at Castle Fortress. (23 pics)|
|#12 - Oct. 9||Drive northeast to Roscoff - boat to Island of Batz - return drive west to lighthouse on Île Vierge - then south back towards Brest. (32 pics)|
|#13 - Oct. 10||More of Brest + Tour of Brest Naval Base - WWI/2014 comparisons (27+ pics)|
|#14 - Oct. 10||Brest street art sample (13 pics)|
|#15 - Oct. 11||Drive from Brest back to Belgium - Saint-Brieuc - Normandy Bridge - Allouville-Bellefosse (30 pics)|
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