Sunday, July 28, 2013

Recollection: A Birthday Party

While looking at old pictures for some past posts, I found a couple that reminded me of a birthday party from long ago, when I was 11 years old.  My parents and I had been living in an apartment near the Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre but I had problems with my lungs.  I went regularly to the doctor for ultraviolet treatments (was never told why) but kept on coughing and our doctor advised that we move away from Paris - somewhere with fresh air.  My parents found a house in a suburb not far away near a large forest, but I was sad to leave Paris and my friends.  I knew I would also miss playing in the gardens of the Sacre-Coeur as shown in the postcard below.

My parents kept the apartment in Paris for years but our main home was now in Saint Leu la Foret, in the Val d'Oise.  It was close to the large Montmorency Forest with its 2200 hectares or 5,382 acres of land.  I could walk up to the forest and did, with my dog, every week or more.  Below is a map showing where St Leu is located - it is about 15 miles from the center of Paris, or 24 kms.  The letter A below is at Kilometer Zero, which is located near Notre Dame de Paris, and B, near the forest between St Leu and the next town called Taverny.

I have a few vintage postcards of St Leu la Foret and not many photos.  It is an old town, like most towns in France.  It was called St Leu-Taverny until 1915 then it became St Leu la Foret.  It was close to Paris but when we took the train from St Leu to Paris it took about 45 minutes or more, in a steam train.  The station had an Alsatian look and it still retains the same architecture now.  Below are postcards of the station - the left and top right pictures are modern, the middle one is from 1910 or earlier and the bottom one is from around 1914 or later, I think.  (Click on collage twice to embiggen.)

I did go back to St Leu la Foret about ten years ago but I did not have a digital camera and took film pictures.  I took my husband to the forest which had changed somewhat.  Now it has better paths and there are more houses closer to it.  When I lived there I would just go up the street and soon there were paths into the forest.  I would walk high up in the forest and there was a point where I could see all the way to Paris.  The forest was beautiful in all seasons - with wild hyacinths in spring, lovely green foliage in summer, mushrooms in the fall and chestnuts in winter.

My house was at about 9 o'clock in the aerial view of the forest above and about 20 minutes from the forest itself.  I also would ride my bicycle to the small lake.  Last time with my husband we walked to the "Pont du Diable" (Devil's Bridge) which looked innocent but was a bit scary when I was 10 to 13 years old and walked there alone with my dog.  Here are are some vintage postcards of the forest.

When we moved to St Leu la Foret I was about 10 years old and had to be admitted in primary school during the school year.  I knew no one and felt quite alone.  The school was not far from our house - there were no school buses and no subdivisions, everyone had to walk to school even if they lived a distance away.  Below is a postcard of the post office on the left then the elementary schools, the boy school and the girl school.  The bottom photo shows the girl school as it looks now.

After a while I did make a friend.  Rachel was an orphan who lived in an orphanage in Taverny.  In the school picture of that year, 1950, I am the 5th from the right on the top row (the tallest ones were placed on top) and Rachel is the 4th one from the right in the middle row.

I did not realize at the time why Rachel was there.  I knew she lived in the Chateau de la Tuyolle in nearby Taverny, that she was Jewish and that her parents had been killed during the war in a camp.  Below are vintage postcards of Taverny from the forest and the castle Chateau de la Tuyolle.

So I knew that Rachel's parents had died in the war in some camp but was not sure where or why.  At 10 years old I was not that current with world affairs.  I found the history of the castle on the French web.  The castle named Chateau de la Tuyolle was built by a rich family in 1853, the Guntzberger.  In 1869 it was purchased by Lady Ashburton, Duchess of Grafton, then after the First World War it was used by French Forces.  Later, with the help of two American women - Mrs Royall-Tyler and Wharton, it was made into a sanatorium treating women with tuberculosis and lung ailments.  In 1920 it was purchased by the state and kept as a hospital/sanatorium and called The Hospital of the Park (L'Hopital du Parc.)  From 1940 to 1944 it was one of the headquarters of the German Army and was used by them to train the "Milice" from the French Government in Vichy.  The Milice were additional corps to the German Gestapo.  They looked for agents of the Resistance to fight them.  After the Liberation in 1945 the castle became one of the four children centers of the OSE association (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants.)  This can be translated as "Organization to Save the Children," a French Jewish humanitarian organization saving and helping Jewish refugee children.  You can read about it here in Wikipedia.  Picture below of children coming back from the Buchenwald Concentration Camp is from Wikipedia.

The Chateau de la Tuyolle was an orphanage for children and teen refugees from the Buchenwald Nazi Concentration Camp in Germany.  One of the teens who stayed there was a Romanian/Hungarian Jewish boy who later immigrated to America named Eliezer Wiesel (born in 1928.)  At the age of 15 he had been moved from Auschwitz to Buchenwald and at 17 was admitted to the chateau.  In the US he became a professor at Boston University and wrote 57 books, fiction and non-fiction.  In 1986 Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for speaking out against racism, repression and violence.  But he withdrew from the chair of the International Conference on the Holocaust and Genocide when the conference refused to include the Armenian Genocide.  In 2008 he re-visited the Chateau de la Tuyolle and the castle was renamed "Maison d'Enfants Elie Wiesel" (Children House Elie Wiesel) in his honor.  (Photo of Elie Wiesel in Taverny in 2008 below courtesy Primo-info.)

When I was 10 years old I did not know all this history or where Rachel came from.  She was shy, friendly and nice.  I think the reason we became friends was because the other girls did not like us - her because she was a Jewish orphan and me because I had this weird and impossible to pronounce foreign last name.  But by the end of my first year there I had made several other friends.  So now I have to come to my 11th years old birthday party on Monday, March 26, 1951.  My mother told me I could chose a birthday cake from our local Patisserie - bakery. At the time I was very fond of a chocolate cake called "Patate au Chocolat" or chocolate potato cake.  On the outside it looked like a potato covered with cacao powder but inside was a creamy chocolate filling made of madeleines (not potato,) almond, butter cream and flavored with rum.  My mother ordered a cake for 8 servings.  Here is a small patate chocolate cake below, courtesy Marmiton.

I could not invite Rachel to my party because she had to get back to the Taverny castle with a group of other orphans right after school.  I had asked 5 girls to come after school and my mother had given me written invitations for their mothers earlier that week.  They all told me they would come.  My mother had sewed for me a special white dress in organza for the occasion so I quickly left school that day to go and get dressed before my guests arrived.  They never did.  By 8:00 pm my parents told me the girls would not come and we better eat dinner then we could eat the cake.  I was so dejected - why didn't they come?  Why didn't they call?  Mother, to make me feel better, told me that I looked so nice in my dress that she would take me to the photograph shop the next Saturday and have my portrait taken with my dog, a boxer named Woo-hoo.  He was a pedigreed dog and was born the year of the letter W.  I did find this old portrait last week in a box.  My mother always placed ribbon in my hair - I wish she had not...

When I went back to school I asked my friends why they had not shown up at my birthday party.  They all told me they wanted to come but their mothers refused because ... "we don't know these people, they must be foreigners, and who knows what they are going to feed you - you can only attend parties given by French families."  I told them I was French like them and that my father, even though he was an Armenian, had fought in the war and become a French citizen.  That did not help.  So, this is a bittersweet memory - a pretty dress and a birthday no-party.  That's when I understood that most people don't care for foreigners (they don't in the US usually, too - I know.)  I don't remember my 10th or 12th birthday but I remember this one.  I guess out of a lack of understanding of diversity comes fear of the unknown, of people unlike ourselves.  This happens in all countries and it is sad that children have to suffer adults' prejudices and bigotry.  I did not invite girls to my home after that.  In a way it gave me strength - the strength to be by myself and not count on others - that maybe the reason why I could leave France at 21 and travel to the USA, alone.

"There are victories of the soul and spirit.  Sometimes even if you lose, you win."

- Elie Wiesel (American activist and writer born in 1928.)

(Joyeux Anniversaire means Happy Birthday in French.)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Nice and the Tour de France

As mentioned in earlier posts, when I was a small child and staying at my grand-parents for week-ends or holidays, my grandfather, to keep me busy and amused, would give me a small suitcase filled with vintage postcards.  I spent many hours looking at these old postcards.  A couple in particular kept my interest; they were postcards from Nice, the city on the Riviera and I still have them now (and they look well used!)  One was a postcard of the "Promenade des Anglais" (The English Walk) that had been sent by my great-aunt to my grandparents in 1935 and the other was a woman from Nice wearing the traditional Nice costume - must have been from the same period.  Since then I have collected more vintage postcards of Nice, but I'll include them in future posts.  Here are the postcards from my grandpa -

The first time I went to Nice I must have been 12 or 13.  I had been staying the summer at some of my grandparents' friends in Vaison-La-Romaine, a small town in Provence.  Mother came to get me and we traveled around the region all the way to Nice.  I was so excited to see the town I had dreamed of for so long.  We took excursions buses to small towns close by such as Vence, Vallauris and Grasse (the perfume capital.)  But I did not take pictures then.  In May 1968 when my husband and I went back to France we drove around and went to Nice with my mother.  I have some old slides from that trip in the South of France in our rental car.  Below is the Promenade des Anglais in 1968.

Below are some more pictures taken around the Nice area during that trip.  The picture on the right shows my mother and me washing some fruits in a fountain.  The top in the center must be of Vallauris potteries in Provence and the bottom is a panorama of Nice. (Click on collage twice to embiggen.)

Since then I have been to Nice several times and last year, in mid October 2012, my husband and I stopped on our way back from Venice, Italy.  We rented a small studio and stayed there a week.  The panorama of Nice has changed a bit, but not too much.  Below is the Promenade des Anglais and "La Baie des Anges" (Angels Bay) in October 2012.

The name Promenade des Anglais came from the Provence dialect.  English tourists started to winter in Nice around 1822.  They walked on a gravel path along the bay which became known, in the Provencal language as "lou Camin dei Ingles."  Below is a painting by Angelo Garino, Italian 1860-1945, of the Promenade des Anglais in 1922.

After Paris, Nice is the next city that brings the most tourists to France.  It has 350,000 inhabitants and with its suburbs more than one million.  It borders the Mediterranean Sea and its area is 80% mountainous.  It is an old town, called Nikaia by the Greeks in the third century BC.  In closer history Nice became French in the mid 19th century.  Napoleon III helped the Italians militarily and financially to fight their Second Italian War of Independence against Austria.  Nice and Savoy were given to France as a territorial reward from Italy.  Nice is a dynamic city with many festivals such as the Carnival of Nice, Nice Jazz Festival, etc.  There are 19 art museums such as the Matisse Museum and the Chagall Museum.  Nice is located very close to Italy as shown on the map below.  It is also a fast train ride to Monte Carlo, Monaco.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France.  The Tour started in the French Island of Corsica then the cyclists took a ferry to Nice to compete there.  Below is the route of the Tour and photos of the Tour in Corsica.

I certainly was glued to the TV to watch as the Tour biked on the Promenade des Anglais and around Nice.  Simon Gerrans of Australia won the Yellow Jersey in Nice (i.e. the fastest time for that stage of the Tour.)

We did walk up and down the Promenade des Anglais last October, then went up to the gardens which are on a hill with a great view of the Promenade - these pictures will be included in some future posts.  For now I'll end with this painting entitled "Les Palmiers sur la Promenade des Anglais" (Palm trees on the Promenade des Anglais) circa 1938, by French artist Pierre-Eugene Montezin (1874-1946.)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Recollection: Piscine Molitor, a swimming pool in Paris ... and July 14, 2013

The Piscine Molitor (piscine is the French word for swimming-pool) was built in Paris in 1929, Avenue de la Porte Molitor (Gabriel Jean Joseph Molitor was a Marshal of France (1770-1849.)  The swimming pool was designed to look like an ocean liner with 3 levels of cabins.  It also had many Art Deco decorations, including stained glass, as the stained glass shown on top of this post, made by master glassmaker Louis Barillet (1880-1948.)  If anyone has read the fantasy novel by Yann Martel entitled "The Life of Pi" or seen the movie (in French it is called "L'Odyssee de Pi") you may remember that the main character was named "Pi Patel."  This was short for "Piscine Molitor," a name that was given to him by his Francophile parent in honor of this Paris swimming pool.  Below are the cover of the book in English and a poster of the French movie.

This Parisian swimming pool was officially opened in the summer of 1929.  American athlete and film star Johnny Weissmuller (1904-1984) was the celebrity featured at the grand opening.  Weissmuller was famous in France as he had been performing in many water shows in Paris.  Johnny was born an ethnic German (Banat Swabian) who immigrated to the United States with his family as an infant.  He grew up to win many medals and five Olympic gold medals for swimming (including some in the 1924 Paris Olympic Games) and had unmatched world records during his lifetime.  He played "Tarzan" in the 1930s and 1940s and had a distinctive Tarzan yell.  Below are vintage postcards and photos of Johnny Weissmuller at the Parisian pool.  (Click on collage twice to enlarge.)

Piscine Molitor was famous for fashion, theatrical performances, movie backdrops and figure skating training.  As an aside - the unveiling of the first modern bikini was held at Piscine Molitor at a fashion show in July 1946.  Louis Reard (1897-1984) was a French automobile engineer but his mother had a shoe shop for the nude cabaret Les Folies Bergeres.  Louis invented this tiny swimsuit and had to use a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris as a number of regular models refused to wear and show it.  The swimming pool had two pools, one indoor and the other outdoor with sand on the sides.  Below are vintage postcards of the pool.

When I was a teenager I went to this swimming pool often in summer with my friends.  It was not so popular anymore but it still was very nice.  Below are postcards of that era.

But I preferred to go there in winter when they turned the pool into an ice-skating rink (patinoire in French) where French ice-skating athletes used to train.  My friends and I would take the Metro to the station Michel-Ange Molitor then walk to the rink.  Once there we could turn around and around the rink on the ice to some lively music tempo.  When the music stopped boys could come to ask girls to turn around the rink with them during the next music piece, just like in a dance hall.  Ice-skates could be rented there but my parents gave me a pair of white ice-skates for Christmas and I almost wore them out.  We went to other ice-skating rinks in the area and I found some old photos showing the two boys who went with me most often.  They were brothers, Pierre and Billy.  Their father had been the French Consul in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and their mother was born there.  Below on top left is Billy, then next are Pierre and me (I was fifteen then.)

The open-air pool that was turned into ice and used as a skating rink in winters closed in the 1970s.  The summer pool fell into disrepair and was closed in 1989, boarded up and scheduled to become a housing project and a parking lot.  There were many protests and a group of concerned citizens formed "SOS Molitor."  They stopped the demolition of the pool and had it placed on the list of France's historic national monuments.  Below is the last photo of the pool taken on August 18,1989 before it was closed (photo courtesy City of Paris.)

However it sat for over 20 years and graffiti artists made it their private realm.  (Photos courtesy City of Paris / Mairie de Paris.)

I read in a French newspaper that renovations have begun.  The main structure (cannot be safely salvaged) will be razed but the historic frontage wall facing the stadium will remain.  The Art Deco green balustrades, some doors and windows will be kept, if possible, or reproduced to the original patterns.  It will be the rebirth of the mythical Piscine Molitor.  Below are photos showing the beginning of the renovation (courtesy City of Paris.)

The plans are for two pools, one covered and one open, a health spa, a luxury hotel, a restaurant and shopping with an opening date scheduled for 2014.  Below are photos showing the project of the future complex (courtesy City of Paris.)

If I were in Paris in July though I think I would go to "Paris Plages" (Paris Beaches.)  The Paris mayor started these beaches a dozen years ago during the months of July and August (July 20 through August 18 this year) for the Parisians who cannot go away on vacation.  Some streets are closed along the river Seine, sand and palm trees are brought in.  There are activities for children and adults from 9 am to midnight each day.  Some people can play "petanque" (bowling) others can go canoeing on the Seine, or simply lay in a lounge chair with an ice cream and a book.  This year mini-golf and Tai-Chi are also offered.

Since I am talking about Paris and today is July 13th, I'll mention that tomorrow is "Le Quatorze Juillet" - July 14, the French National Holiday.  Anglophones call this "Bastille Day" but no one in France would.  The storming of the prison on July 14, 1789, was a symbol to fight he "oppressors" of the people, which at the time numbered two: the aristocracy and the clergy.  Actually, some historians claim that the revolution was more against the Church than the nobility.  At the time there were only seven prisoners in the prison of the Bastille: 4 forgers, 2 legally insane and one libertine (or prostitute) - that's all.  (Drawing below by Louison, City of Paris.)

The 14 July 1789 ended absolute monarchy and the monopoly of the Church - all the churches and their wealth became property of the nation.  The First Republic was created soon after with the "tricolore" flag - blue, white and red which are symbols of the Republic - Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for all French people.  Although it was also the start of many killings of the aristocracy and priests and the system of "de-Christianization"  (4000 parishes were abolished with churches becoming hospitals, jails or being demolished, and priests deported to far away islands.)  This may not be well known, but it should be noted to understand why France is the most secular country in Europe where religion is tolerated but must stay a private matter with little influence on social life and none in governmental affairs.  The French Revolution also brought forth the fundamental "Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen" (the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen) which inspired democracy all over the world and was adopted by the United Nations in 1948 as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Below is Le Drapeau Tricolore (tricolor flag)by Francois Georgin, engraver - mid 19th century.

The people of France celebrate equality, solidarity and social gains obtained from the start and since the Revolution and the symbolic taking of the Bastille.  The 14th of July is a traditional national holiday with fireworks and dancing in the streets.  There is a military parade down the Champs-Elysees in Paris and this year the country of Mali, Africa, is invited to join the parade (as 12 other African nations) - 60 Malian soldiers next to French soldiers who fought in their country.  There will be 4800 men and women in the parade, about 265 vehicles, 58 aircraft and 35 helicopters going down the avenue tomorrow, Sunday 14 July 2013.  Painting below is Rue Montorgueil, Paris 1878 by Claude Monet, French (1840-1926.)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Recollection: Being in San Francisco in the 1960s - part 3

Part 3 was delayed because I have been sick - a cold - strep throat, and eye infections (the left then the right eye) and I waited to get better - and I am better.  Also, the Tour de France started on 29 June and will end on 21 July, 2013 - this year is the 100th Tour de France and since I am a fan I watch it live every morning on TV for 3 hours (then barely watch TV the rest of the year...) I re-read all the comments my blogging friends so graciously left on my last post.  Several commented that I should write a book about my experiences and memoirs, but that would not be an exciting read - this blog is my book, virtually, where I can recount my recollections.  Thank you also for your emails - someone suggested that I should dictate my memoirs as an "oral history."  Just a few people would listen to that and it could be boring without the pictures.  I prefer to write these past events on my blog where I can include some of my vintage postcards, like those below.  I did not take pictures of Chinatown then but I remember having dinner in many small Chinese restaurants - and it usually cost about $1.00.  I would hop on a cable car on California Street; it was fast and cheap... then.  (Click on collages twice to enlarge.)

I worked close to Union Square and could walk to Pam Pam restaurant, or even Blum's Coffee Shop for lunch.  Below is a postcard of Union Square at the time - Blum's is across Union Square in the center.

On the left of the postcard above was the department store "The City of Paris" with the Eiffel Tower on the roof.  I rarely shopped there as it specialized in clothing for an older and affluent crowd, but I was offered a job there because I was French - I already had a job so I refused.  This store was founded in 1850 by Felix Verdier from France and the same family owned it until it closed in the mid 1970s.  Below are closer pictures of the City of Paris (authors unknown.)

The tall building on the right above was the department store called I. Magnin.  This was a high-end luxury store.  I preferred to shop at Joseph Magnin which was more youthful and trendy.  I bought a pink dress there once that I really liked and wore all the time (see below.)  I also shopped at Roos Atkins - you can barely see the store at the end of the street close to Market Street on the left on the bottom picture above (I bought a white hat there once.)  Close by on O'Farrell and Powell streets was George Mardikian's Armenian restaurant called "Omar Khayyam."  I went there to eat some shish-kebab once and George Mardikian came to break bread with me.  He also offered me a job in the restaurant because I was Armenian (jobs were easy to obtain then.)  But I already had a job so he gave me a copy of his cook-book and autographed it for me.

 For entertainment I would go to North Beach and listen to jazz, or watch some comedy shows at the "hungry i," or look and purchase books at City Lights bookstore.  Below are some pictures of San Francisco in the 1960s (some of my slides did not weather the years well.)

In the spring of 1966 I decided to go back home to Paris, with a stop in the UK.  Jim, a friend from work I had started dating earlier that year, came with me.  First we stayed a few days in London as Jim had never been to England.  It was cool and windy in London so I bought a coat and a brown scarf in Carnaby Street in Soho, which at the time, was famous for hot fashion.  Then we toured the sights.

For several days we drove through the Cotswold's then on to north Wales.  The scenery was delightful and I took many slides - they show their age though.  I'd love to go back and take proper digital photos.

Then after staying several days in Wales and going up to Chester we went back to London and then took the ferry across the Channel to France, where I gave Jim a good tour of Paris - going all the way to the top of Notre Dame de Paris.

Back in San Francisco I changed job as I did not wish to work at the same place as Jim since we were dating.  I quickly found a job at Watson & Meehan, on Folsom Street - a Cummins diesel engine distributor.  There I made a good friend from Taiwan - I-Mei.  She was a Nichiren Buddhist and explained the religion in detail.  Jim and I went to Nichiren Buddhist meetings with her several times and then we joined.  Later though, after we moved from San Francisco, we no longer went to the Nichiren Buddhist meetings.  I still enjoy the philosophy but follow another branch of Buddhism (just as in Christianity there are several branches of Buddhism with a variety of practices and traditions.)  Here is I-Mei below with her little son.

In the 1960s the Greyhound Bus Company used to offer a special Holiday Package from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe in Nevada for New Year - I don't remember how much it cost then but it was very inexpensive.  It included 3 nights and $5 in casino chips.  We went two winters in a row I think 1966 and 1967, or maybe 67 and 68 I am not sure.  We did not gamble but used the time to enjoy the beautiful scenery there.

The year 1967 in San Francisco was when up to 100,000 people from all over the US and abroad came to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.  There was music, sexual freedom, psychedelic drugs, pot, and liberal politics.  A blogger commented last week that "it was shameful about the way that our soldiers were treated upon their return" from the Vietnam War.  This applies to other towns surely, because in San Francisco they were welcome.  Jim was in the military reserve and told me that many veterans came directly to San Francisco - I saw many there.  They were treated at the Free Clinic and found comfort amongst the citizens of the counter-culture communities, even from the bikers - the peace activists there never treated the veterans with contempt as reported by the media.  Jim introduced me to "folk" music - we spent hours listening to Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, and we saw her in concerts in the Bay Area several times.  Later on we also went to see the first performance of the rock-musical "Hair" and I bought the LP album - the refrain "Let the sunshine in" stayed in my ears for a long time...

1967 was called "The Summer of Love"  A song written by John Phillips of the group The Mamas & the Papas was created to promote the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.  The song was "If you're going to San Francisco" and went on ... be sure to wear flowers in your hair... It was made popular by Scott McKenzie.  Actually we saw both the group the Mamas & the Papas and Scott at that festival on Sunday June 18, 1967 and they sang that tune among others like "California Dreamin" and "Monday, Monday."

Jim and  I were married on Saturday June 17, 1967 and went to the Monterey Pop Festival the following day.  I already wrote a post about our wedding last year for our 45th wedding anniversary, see "Recollection - A San Francisco wedding in 1967." On the top left photo above are Vince and Leslie on the left, me, then Jim and George on the right.  Jim and I moved to an apartment on Guerrero Street near Market Street, just one block off Dolores Street in the Mission district.  I was still modeling for Clairol and had to go to their hair shows at the Fairmont Hotel.  The Fairmont is on top of Nob Hill and is a massive, luxurious hotel opened in 1907 - it is on the National Register of Historic Places.  I never took pictures while I was there but below are vintage postcards of the hotel, the view of San Francisco from the hotel in the 1960s, and on the bottom left the current view of the front of the hotel (courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

We did not have a cat or a dog but still had our bird.  Unfortunately our parakeet, Dimitri, passed away from a cold.  We then acquired Diego, a cockatiel.  I taught him to speak and he was very friendly - he would perch on my shoulder all the time.  Dimitri is in the black and white picture and Diego in the colored picture below.

In May 1968 Jim and I went back to France to see my family but first we stopped in Holland for 10 days.  It was tulip time and the flowers were gorgeous.  I took many slides but the colors have faded.  We were in Amsterdam at a bed and breakfast (I am at the left window on the top floor below,)  then the Keukenhof Gardens, Gouda, Volendam, Marken and other places.

Once in France, we went on a tour of the Chateaux de la Loire then on to the south of France to Monaco and a stop in Italy.  We rented a car and my mother came along.  Being the month of May, the weather was perfect.  We stopped in St. Tropez where there was a festival that day and I took pictures of charming little children wearing folk costumes from the Provence.  I am standing at the entrance of my parents' house on the left below and on the right is one of the towers from the Azay-le-rideau castle.

We did not realize that by traveling in May 1968 we had chosen the month that became a watershed for French life.  That May 68, youth revolted.  There was a general strike with several millions of workers going on strike and paralyzing the country.  Students took to the streets in Paris to protest and set up barricades.  There were riots with 400 people hospitalized.  Unrest spread all over France.

We were pleased to return to peace loving San Francisco.  Jim went backpacking with our friend George - they went to the Hetch Hetchy area of Yosemite National Park.  Unfortunately they did not have a tent and encountered a blizzard...

George is on the left on the photo above.  In my last post I mentioned that since the early 1970s we had lost track of George, unfortunately.  Well - because of the Web - we found him last week.  I was reading comments on books on Amazon and saw a comment by a George Smith.  I clicked on the name - what were the chances?  and I recognized him!  From there I did track him and since my last post we have exchanged several emails.  He even sent me an old picture he took of me in a painting class at the San Francisco Art Institute where we both studied - here it is below.

It is so wonderful to find old friends.  It reminds me of the lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel's 1968 song "Old Friends" -

"Time it was and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you..."
- Simon and Garfunkel

All these old photographs are printed in my mind.  The 1960s are now gone and some of my friends have passed on.  I am grateful to have all these remembrances to write about as the past would be so empty without these long ago images.  I would not have stayed uprooted half-way across the globe from Paris if it had not been for San Francisco - the city was good to me.  I read somewhere that nothing good is ever lost, it stays within you.  It becomes part of you.  As we left San Francisco that last day of 1969, another good friend, Roland, gave us a portrait of Jim and me and our new baby daughter Celine which he had painted.  I see the painting in the hall daily (I moved it to take its picture.)

When we left that last day of December 1969 we thought we would be back to San Francisco within 3 or 4 years - but we never did .... until this last June.
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