Be sure to read all the latest in the 2017 SUMMER BLOG
From Our Drive North to Alaska to 2017 SUMMER BLOG – Bob’s Birthday, and a Wrap to the Season
Our Drive North to Alaska
We decided this year to bring the 5th Wheel back up from Kansas to the Park. The harsh summer sunshine in Kansas was not doing the camper any good (we had to replace the rubber roof) and we weren’t using it much. So we decided to use it as a rental in the Park.
We left Lawrence on April 12th headed north to Seattle with a stop in Scottsbluff, Neb. at Debbie and Paul’s. Then after a couple of minor break downs (2004 GMC truck!), we made it to Christine and Mark’s in Kirkland, WA. On the 18th, we crossed over into Canada and started up the Frasier River Valley to meet the ALCAN highway just north of Fort St. John, BC (British Columbia). I still think it is the prettiest and quickest way from Seattle to the ALCAN. The weather was cool and sometimes rainy, but no snow and such a beautiful drive.
By the 20th we arrived in Fort Nelson, BC and stayed at our normal campground north of town.
The next morning we woke up to 5 inches of wet snow.
The roads were clear and the forecast was good although we had to climb over the crest of the northern Rockies that day. It turned out that the sun came out, the snow melted and we had a beautiful trip over the mountains.
It is always a joy to see all the wildlife on our trip north. We soon came upon a herd of Mountain Sheep grazing along the Highway. We slowed down and crept up along the side of the two out in the highway. They were so busy licking the salt off the road (used to melt the snow), they didn’t even move out of the way. So we stopped and took their picture.
North from there before you get to Watson Lake, Yukon, we began to see Buffalo grazing along the side of the road. At first there was quite a bit of snow on the sides of the road; however, as we drove further to the west the snow had melted and soon the sun came out. That night we stayed in Watson Lake, Yukon.
The Alcan Highway from Watson Lake runs west along the southern border of the Yukon toward Whitehorse. We saw a black bear at the edge of the woods, but it went back in the woods before we could get a photo. It is a pretty drive especially along Teslin Lake and the Tlingit village of Teslin. There is an interesting Museum in the town about the Tlingit Heritage.
That evening we stayed in the town of Haynes Junction where the Alcan heads north along the St. Elias Mountains seen off in the distance. This range of mountains extends along the coast of the Gulf of Alaska all the way from Glacier Bay to the border of Alaska and the Wrangle Mountains. Mt. Logan at it’s northern end is only 619 feet lower than Denali, the tallest in North America.
The next day, April 23rd we travel north past Kluane Lake and cross the border into Alaska, just above Beaver Creek, Yukon. The roads between Beaver Creek and Tok were really bad with lots of broken surfaces and frost heaves. We stayed the night in Tok, AK, then onto Anchorage the next day. With a stop at Costco to buy our supplies for the summer, we drove on down to Kasilof RV Park the next day.
It was 4224 miles in 13 days with partial day stops in Scottsbluff, Kirkland and Anchorage.
I have to say, our trip from Avignon to Paris was interesting. We arrived at the Avignon Train Station early to catch our HIGH SPEED, 1st CLASS BULLET TRAIN to Paris. It was rather confusing as there were two trains listed going to Paris at the same time on the same platform. Our train was listed first (yes I did check the # of the train). Of course, the announcement for the train when it arrived was in French (I mean who in the world of the brilliant and sophisticated can’t speak French). We boarded the train and found our seats and the train left the station. As we were traveling along, the steward came with another couple and asked to see our tickets. Yah, you got it right, we were on the other train. So as our HIGH SPEED, 1st CLASS BULLET TRAIN to Paris went whizzing past us we took pull down seats in the area between the cars and spent our time getting to DISNEYLAND PARIS. It was only about 50 miles from where we wanted to go and there was a taxi willing to take us to the Hotel!$$$$!!! Yea, you got that right too! The only bright spot in the whole trip was that we didn’t have to lug our backpacks and extra suitcase on the underground to our Hotel.
Scenes of Paris –
I know you have seen it all before so how do I make it more interesting, more exciting, more wonderful, more beautiful (more boring!- – – -), well we took all our scenic photos from the top of a two-decker tour bus (us old grey hairs don’t like to walk so much)!
Hey, another photo of the Arc de Triomphe! Well, no this is a photo of the front window of the tour bus and the damn arch got in the way!
So I thought that I would try again, but the Church Ste. Marie Madeleine got in the way. When I looked at the photo on the camera, I asked Jan “when did we get to Athens, Greece?” It does resemble the Parthenon, doesn’t it?
So I asked her why all these old buildings kept getting in the way of my photos. She said, “Try taking them out the side of the bus”, so I did, but I didn’t get a photo of the window. I got a photo of the River Seine.
Oh well, the window wasn’t that pretty anyway and beside I got really interested in all the gold in Paris.
As we entered the Esplanade des Invalides (I think that means, ‘Way to the Castle’) there were four pillars with gold horses (with wings?) and some gal blowing a long horn. I don’t have a clue what that was supposed represent, but it sure was impressive.
Not much further on was another gold dome on the top of the Church of St. Louis (Eglise Du Dome St. Louis) and downtown was another roof covered with copper and gold statues. Boy, the French sure do like their gold! But that wouldn’t even hold a candle to what we saw the next day.
But hey, we are still on the two-decker bus and there was another scene that caught my eye out the side of the bus.
The bus driver said this place was called the Place du Trocadero (which is the Palace called ‘Palais du Chaillot’) with a view of the Eiffel Tower across the River Seine. I thought it was a pretty neat picture especially from the top deck of a tour bus!
We got of the tour bus just at the corner just below the Eiffel Tower very close to a French Restaurant where we had lunch. Rather, I should say Jan had lunch and I had a BEER! I thought I was in Germany again!
So we started our walking tour of Paris and the first stop was at the Eiffel Tower from the ground. I have to admit it was pretty impressive!
From the Eiffel Tower to the Island of Notre Dame was a good long walk, so we decided to take the Paris Underground. Now THAT WAS REALLY IMPRESSIVE and even more confusing, but us old grey hairs finally figured it out. So we toured island with probably one of the most beautiful churches in the world.
We had really wanted to take the tour through Notre Dame, but again the lines were very long. After Rome, plus our 25th day on the road, we were not in the mood for another line. They were working on the front of the church redoing the parking and plaza in front so it definitely was not picturesque.
From Notre Dame we crossed the River Seine to the Latin Quarter and walked to the Gardens of Luxembourg. It was a refreshing spot to relax after a busy day of touring.
The castle was huge with a huge basin of water in front. The front of the castle surrounded by several acres of grounds with trees, fountains and gardens which were very lush and cool in the afternoon sun. People were everywhere lounging and relaxing in the warmth and the beauty.
We joined them!
On our way back to the Hotel, we stopped at the Oldest Continually Operated Café in Paris (1660) and had a Tanqueray and Tonic (they were very hard to find in Paris and $).
Our last day in Paris – started early with a train ride to Versailles. We had our tickets to get into the Palace already so we would miss the crowds standing in line. OH, YES! THAT REALLY WORKED! I think that line was made up by the Paris Ticket Company that sold the advance tickets!
Now you talk about the Parisians loving their gold – visit Versailles! All this gold, no wonder the French revolted!
After entering the Versailles grounds and through the first gate, there is a very large parade grounds in front of the main palace. It is probably 150 feet x 150 feet of stone paved area. In the photo above, all you can see is people in front of the gate to the castle. That is because there is a line that is snaking around in the parade grounds to pass through the security to the castle. When I described as snaking, that is what it does. From the parade ground entrance, it starts toward the golden gate and then turns before it gets to the gate and goes back to the entrance of the parade ground (150 feet each direction). The line is six times up to the gate and back before you get to the security entrance.
We arrived at the entrance gate at about 9 am and there were that many people in the line ahead of us just to get through security before we could use our prepaid tickets to get into the castle. Jan and I stood in the first line for an hour and still hadn’t made it to the next line. WE LEFT!
Back in Paris, we wanted to finish our visit of the Latin Quarter and the beautiful garden that we saw on our way to the Luxembourg Palace.
At Place du Cluny there are gardens surrounding the ancient Hotel de Cluny and the Thermes De Cluny. Would you believe in the heart of Paris are the remains of a 3rd century Roman Baths? The structure above is the Hotel De Cluny built by the Abbotts of Cluny in 1334 from the remains of the Roman baths next door.
Where but in Paris would you expect to find a scene like this?
This is Hotel de Cluny from the back and the entrance to the Museum de Cluny. In 1834, Jacques d’Amboise converted the old hotel into a museum to hold the Sommerard collection of Medieval Art. There were old tapestries, icons, wooden carvings and enamels from the 1300 to 1500 time period.
They were quite remarkable because they had been so well preserved, especially the old tapestries (photos not allowed).
As we left the old hotel/museum part of the structure, we went down a stairs to the hidden entrance to the Roman baths.
The first exhibit was some of the interesting remains from the destruction caused during the revolutionary war. All the decapitated stone bodies and the desecrated heads were from the previous Kings of France. The originals were in Notre Dame. During the revolution, the people decapitated the statues and took out their frustration on the heads. I guess the French finally got tired of all the gold on the building and none in their pockets. It was quite an interesting display!
The gallery also had the statue of Adam from the interior of Notre Dame plus some of the decoration of the original Roman baths. The only visible remains of the baths were on the far end of the building.
The final visit on our last afternoon in Paris was to the Louve. Jan really wanted to see Mona Lisa so we took our prepaid tickets and headed to castle.
Triumph Arch is at the entrance to the Louvre Palace grounds containing the famous Louvre Museum. The Louvre was originally built as a fortress in the 12th century by the then French King Phillip. In 1682, Louis XIV expanded the fortress into the present Louvre Palace. After the French Revolution, the Louvre was made into a museum to house all the history of the world.
I visited the Louvre in 1973 and was very disappointed in the condition of the artifacts in the museum. At that time the Louvre had fallen into disrepair and many of the windows and skylights were broken. Pigeons and their droppings were inside the building and on many of the displays. I left totally disgusted.
The new Louvre is now worthy of all the treasures that it holds, over 35,000 objects of history. The glass pyramids in the courtyard provides a modern feel to the entrance of the museum and the underground access to the various parts of the museum handle the Enormous Crowds about as well as can be expected. Although it still can be very confusing. We spent hours wandering around the halls of the museum trying to find the Mona Lisa without too much success. We walked through the huge stone statues of the bulls of Mesopotamia, the bowls and urns of the Chinese Ming Dynasty, the mummies of the Egyptian Pharaohs and every doorway we went through had a little with card that said Mona Lisa with an arrow pointing.
Finally we walked into a hallway loaded with people and knew we must be getting close. Sure enough at the end of the hallway was a room off to the side filled with people. The walls of the room were bare except for the far wall and in the center of it was the Mona Lisa. Jan burrowed into the crowd of about 100 people to get close enough to take a photo of the painting. I stayed toward the back, but I could see the painting. The man next to me said, “What’s the big deal. That don’t look so great!” I said, “I don’t know, but I think she is pretty!”