When we lived in Moscow we had to renew our visas every year. This always meant leaving the country. It was a very good excuse for a vacation. I renewed my visa in Finland, Italy, and France. In 1999 there was a total eclipse of the sun so we decided to combine our visa renewal with a visit with old friends and watching the eclipse.
Our son, Noah’s best friend in Moscow moved to Paris with his parents. They were living in a house in the suburbs. The house was about a ten minute walk from the train in a quaint little village with a pretty chateau. The first day was spent getting our new visas organized and trying to do some shopping. Our friends had a Russian nanny so we could leave Noah at their house and wander around on our own. Nicholas and I explored the left bank and then the four adults went out to dinner at a nouveau French restaurant. It was my birthday so we had champagne and wine and great food. The following day was the boat ride on the Seine with the boys and then a walk through the Tulliers garden where there just happened to be some rides and of course Noah had to go on them.
We had decided that Metz would be a good place to view the eclipse. We rented a car and drove to Metz stopping on our way to see the cathedral in Reims with its stained glass windows designed by Chagall (a Russian – can’t get away from them). Once in Metz, we scoped out the area and early the next morning we headed out with the telescope, video camera and other cameras. We set up our camp in the middle of the Esplanade which was a nice park right by the river. The town had organized a big festival around the eclipse and so there were parades, music, etc. going on all day long.
It was cloudy. During the first half of the eclipse we were able to see it off and on. But about 20 minutes before total eclipse it started to rain. We could tell when the total was, though, because it was completely dark. All the flowers closed up and all the lights came on and it was really night and kind of eerie. Then during the second half it cleared up a bit and we were able to see more. Noah kept looking at the “moon” through his glasses. Nicholas got some good shots through his telescope. And I got a new umbrella. When we got back to Paris our friends who had gone 25 minutes north of Paris on the train said they had seen the whole thing perfectly.
From Metz we drove into Lorraine and the Vosges area. We stopped at the Haut Konningburg castle which is a huge restored castle on top of a mountain in the middle of the forest. You can see forever from it. It has a moat and drawbridge and inner yard. It would be very hard to penetrate. It was a hike up to it and since it had been raining the path was muddy. I commented on how “mucky” it was and Noah responded, “monkeys? Where are the Monkeys??” He would not let it go and kept asking for the rest of the day.
From there we wound our way around down to La Bresse which is in the heart of a big ski area amid mountains and forest. Really beautiful. Our hotel was very nice with a good restaurant. We drove all around the area and went hiking around a glacial pool where Noah spent the better part of an hour throwing rocks into it and hunting for dragonflies.
On Sunday (the day before Noah’s birthday) we took the boys to the Bois de Bologne to the big amusement park there and I think they went on about 20 rides. They had a lot of fun. Afterwards we went home and our friend, Carol had made a chocolate birthday cake and so we had cake and opened presents. Our last day in Paris we had lunch up at Montmartre with all the tourists in town.
After we returned to Moscow, Noah was in bed going to sleep and he asked me if we had been to America. I said no. He said, “oh, no, no we were in Caris”. No, I said, you mean France. He said, “no, not France, Caris”. I said “you mean Paris?”. He said, “yes, Paris. That’s were Josic lives. I want to go to Josic’s house!”