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Vimy 2017 Day 9

Day 9 Mes Amies. The engine turned over this morning but she’s running a little rough. I slept well, though I woke up at 0500 and couldn’t fall back asleep. I could certainly use more time in bed, but c’est la vie. Today is going to be a very busy day and I am going to need every ounce of energy I can scrape up. Hopefully breakfast is good; based on this hotel, I have my fingers crossed.

So today’s adventure is going to take us first to Versailles, which is southwest of Paris. A bus will take us into the city, and from there we will take the train, the RER, to Versailles. I’ve never been there before, so I am quite excited to see it. I have taught about it a lot both in Grade 10 history (Treaty or Versailles) and in Grade 12 history (Louis XIV). That visit should chew up most of our day.

We’re off on the first adventure of the day as we are on the RER train to Versailles. It was quite interesting purchasing the tickets and then trying to get on the train as it moved down the platform. I think it was very eye-opening for a lot of the kids who have never done it before. However I guess there’s a first time for everything and I’m sure it won’t be the last for a lot of them. It’s a nice little introduction to our later rides on the Metro.

Team Battistel, April 2017.

Now we’re in the queue to get into the Palace of Versailles. We’ve been waiting here for just over an hour and we’re almost at the gate. The lines here are enormous; fortunately the clouds have rolled in a bit and it’s not as hot and scorching as it was a little while ago. We should have approximately 2 1/2 hours to look through Versaillies and some of the grounds before we have to head back on the train to Les Invalides. It’s kind a neat the people that you meet while waiting in line. We had a lengthy conversation with a French couple who were curious to know why Canadians were here in France. Breaching the language barrier is always an interesting and fun part of the conversation.

Palace of Versailles, April 2017.

It’s 2130 and we’re on the bus heading back to our hotel outside of Paris. What a long but fruitful day. Myself and everyone else I’m sure is pretty tired. Versailles was amazing! I’ve seen many programs on Versailles and taught about it for many years but it’s something else to see it in person. The size of the structure and the grounds are simply amazing. The opulence of the inside is indescribable. One can understand why the masses revolted against excesses of the French royalty. The only negative from the visit was the number of people at the site. It took us more than an hour to get in and I felt like cattle being herded through the various buildings and attractions. I would definitely go back, but I’d try to go on a day with less people or maybe earlier in the morning.

Palace of Versailles, April 2017.

Royal Chapel, Versailles, April 2017.

Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, April 2017.

Palace of Versailles, April 2017.

Palace of Versailles, April 2017.

Palace of Versailles, April 2017.

After we finished at Versailles, we had to jump back on the train and meet Jason at Les Invalides Station. From there we hopped on the Metro to our dinner location. This is something that many of the chaperones as well as the students were concerned about. It can be tricky to move such a large group of people on and off the subway cars. Dinner was at Le Beouf gros sel and consisted of penne with chicken, which I demolished since I didn’t have any lunch.

After eating, it was back on the Metro, with a transfer in between, to our next destination which was the Pont Neuf Bridge. There we would be taking a cruise along the Seine River at dusk to see the sites of Paris. It was 12€ well spent, as the kids really enjoyed this tour. Even though I had done it before, I found it interesting all over again. The only thing that didn’t go right was a few St. Ignatius girls getting drenched by a wave thrown up by a passing boat. They were able to laugh it off and so did we.

Eiffel Tower, April 2017.

Pont Neuf, April 2017.

Notre Dame Cathedral, April 2017.

Today was another day of firsts; first train ride for many, first Metro ride for many and first time the chaperones took the group out without the tour director. I’d say it was a pretty successful day. Jason even commended us on how, with a very large group, we were able to navigate the Metro with a fair amount of competence. Let’s hope it continues tomorrow.

I need to run. It’s almost midnight now and we have an even earlier day tomorrow. It’s sad that tomorrow is our last day here, but will make the most of it. I’ll be back tomorrow with all the details. Until then…

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2017 in History, Travel

 

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Hijacked by the refrigerator!

Relax folks, I’m fine; however I do appreciate the concern you feel for me. I know you’d all be heartbroken if this blog went away for good. Was it scary? Were you hurt? Well, I actually just noticed I have a scabbed over scratch on my leg, but otherwise I’m in one piece. Why? Did you envision a bandana adorned, Kalashnikov toting Maytag firing wildly in the air and making angry threats in some foreign language? Makes for an interesting visual doesn’t it? Okay, so I did embellish just a little bit…it’s really a Whirlpool. Hahaha. I crack myself up sometimes…maybe I should do this for a living!

So I’m back. I’ve actually been home for a couple of weeks now, but I’m finally getting around to writing this blog post. It was a bit of a shock going from the tropics back to Thunder Bay (the first title of this post was reality sucks). The day we were in Belize it was well over 30C (40+ with the humidity) and when I got off the plane  it was -34C with the wind. Yuck! In any case, the weather has been fairly merciful, even downright balmy. Saturday was +16 and gorgeous…the snow is going away quickly and hopefully spring is just around the corner.

Belize temps, February 2016.

Belize temps, February 2016.

Thunder Bay temps, February 2016.

Thunder Bay temps, February 2016.

Speaking of the cruise, it was a fantastic experience. My wife and I had been on one during our honeymoon, but this was the first time for our boys. To say that they loved it is a bit of an understatement! We flew to Miami on a Saturday after a long layover in Toronto. The next morning we took a shuttle to the port and boarded our ship, the Carnival Splendor. By the afternoon we had checked out our cabin, grabbed some lunch and then proceeded to spend some time at the pool.

Bye Miami, February 2016.

Bye Miami, February 2016.

Our boat, February 2016.

Our boat, February 2016.

Monday was a beautiful day at sea and the kids had a blast (I burnt my legs pretty bad since I’m not used to just loafing out in the sun). Tuesday brought us to Cozumel, Mexico where we boarded a ferry for the mainland and a trip to the cenotes of Chaak-Tun. What an amazing experience it was to swim in the underground caves and witness the breathtaking beauty of these natural wonders. After lunch we were treated to tequila tasting before heading back to the ferry and our ship.

Chaak-Tun, February 2016.

Chaak-Tun, February 2016.

Inside Chaak-Tun, February 2016.

Inside Chaak-Tun, February 2016.

The next day we arrived in Belize City and this time our excursion would take us two hours to the west, smack on the border with Guatemala. The Mayan ruins at Xunantunich are a well-known attraction and I was excited to see this piece of the area history, especially since my knowledge of Mayan history is very vague. Xunantunich means “stone lady” and refers to a ghostly apparition that is said to haunt the site. The highlight of the ruins is “El Castillo,” which rises about 130 feet above the complex. We climbed to the top, which gave an remarkable view of the surrounding area. I was a bit timid though, since the swaying one feels after being on a ship made me feel like I was going to fall over the edge. Our visit was concluded by a great lunch at Hodes Place, in nearby San Ignacio.

El Castillo, Xunantunich, February 2016.

El Castillo, Xunantunich, February 2016.

El Castillo, Xunantunich, February 2016.

El Castillo, Xunantunich, February 2016.

El Castillo panorama, Xunantunich, February 2016.

El Castillo panorama, Xunantunich, February 2016.

Xunantunich selfie, February 2016.

Xunantunich selfie, February 2016.

The weather unfortunately threw a wrench into our visit to Roatan, as the ship was unable to dock due to the wind. We spent a somewhat rainy day at sea but were comforted by the fact we would have more time at our next stop, Grand Cayman. We got off the ship there, but the weather gods were against us again, forcing the cancellation of our visit to 7 Mile beach. We spent some time in the capital, Georgetown, before we headed back to the ship. But I guess a marginal day in the Caribbean is better than a good day in the snow.

Even though I’ve been busy with travel, I have managed to get in some railway work in between being hijacked by the fridge. I guess I should explain that huh? So I’ve been trying to get myself back into shape after putting on a few pounds on the cruise (way, way too much food). The other day my plan was to get on the treadmill after I put the kids on the bus to school. In the process of making lunches I discovered water dripping into the refrigerator from the freezer; that told me that the drain pipe in the freezer was plugged with ice. So my wife and I spent the next hour and a half removing everything from the freezer, unplugging the drain, cleaning the fridge and putting all the food back. There went my treadmill time…the fridge wants me to stay fat!

Anyway, I spent the better part of  two afternoons last week at the Thunder Bay Museum looking through their digitized newspapers. Though there are gaps in the coverage of the papers, the searchable .pdf files represent a huge step forward in the tedious and time consuming process of examining these records. I’ve already accumulated a ton of new information and I will be back at it next week to see what else I can dig up. The only bad part is now I need to go through, print and then file it them, which is the least exciting part of all!

Railway timecard, October 1902.

Railway timecard, October 1902.

In the next few weeks I will need to start work on my paper/presentation on John Paulson for the Great Plains conference in September. I know it is a long way away, but I’ll get busier as the weather gets warmer and I will be less inclined to spend my days inside. My brain is already thinking ahead to when I’ll be able to get out into the field to do some “hands on” investigating.

Anyway, I’ll wrap things up for now. The family and I have spent the last few days on a mini vacation here in Duluth, Minnesota and now we are marooned here for another day due to a bad storm that has made the road home pretty treacherous; hopefully it will be okay for tomorrow. I love how Mother Nature teases us and then slaps us in the head. I’ll be back soon enough for with more updates; there’s always a lot to tell. Until then…

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2016 in History, Railway, Research, Travel

 

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