Archive for May, 2022

Paris, London, Troyes & Essoyes

St. Pancras International, Eurostar station

It’s been a busy month, and a joyful return to a little bit of travel for me. I was invited to join a dear old friend in a trip to London–a city I have not been to in more than 40 years!–a couple of weeks ago.

I met my friend in Paris, and before we went to London, I got to show her some of my favorite things to do there (stroll around the sculpture garden at the Musée Rodin, for example). We also visited a relatively new museum I have been meaning to get to ever since it opened: the Musée de la Libération/Musée General Leclerc/Musée Jean Moulin . I can now confirm that for anyone interested in World War II history in France, that visiting this museum is a must.

Then it was on to London on the Eurostar, an interesting experience for someone whose last trip to London was over the English Channel on a boat, not under it in a train. My main impressions from that trip: one, the fact that Normandy (or was it Picardie, and Pas-de-Calais?) is so flat and southeast England is so hilly. (They are both very beautiful.) The second, the sobering (and yet somehow comforting) sight of people waiting to meet Ukrainian refugees, holding up blue and yellow signs, as we entered the main part of the St. Pancras International train station in London.

The things I love most about London are the Indian food and theatre, and we got to enjoy both in the few days we were there. The play we saw at the Old Vic (The 47th) is fascinating (but uncomfortable-for-Americans) “future history” about Trump (and Trumpism) in the U.S., written in iambic pentameter (oh those linguistically sophisticated Brits!) “What a dreadful summary of the state of our country” was the informal capsule review I pronounced the next morning as I woke up, groaning as I remembered just how close to reflecting the real state of things this dystopian “fantasy” really is. 😦

Anyway. The next day, given my intense interest in World War II in Europe, we went on a walking tour called “Westminster at War.” The guide was really knowledgeable, very personable, and–rather touchingly–exceedingly happy to be once again leading groups of tourists around London and sharing British history with them. (The pandemic has of course been even harder on tour guides, among other professionals, than it has been on the rest of us.)

Then it was back to Essoyes in time to see Solomon Pico, an indie rock band my son Sam is a member of. They were performing in Troyes, which is our nearest big city, and the départemental capital of l’Aube. I got one great shot of (some) of the band on stage (sorry, Vincent and Flo 😦 ) but unfortunately I did not get any pictures of them in Troyes.(Since Troyes is such an interesting place to visit, and one of my favorite cities in France, I invite you to learn more about it here. Or maybe here.)

The next morning we welcomed the members of the band to brunch at our home. The weather is not always perfect in northern France but this just happened to be a day in May that could not have been more perfect. For me one of the highlights of the day was a spontaneous singing of “I’ll Fly Away” with banjo, guitar, and surprisingly (delightfully!) even a trumpet accompaniment. One of those magic moments that just happens, when you are really really lucky…

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, A Long Way from Iowa: A Literary Memoir.

May 29, 2022 at 4:58 pm Leave a comment


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