Exploratory trip in Eastern France
Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
17Trip End May 01, 2011
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I left Tuesday afternoon, on the 5:30 pm non-stop flight from Cincinnati to Paris. I had just returned home the previous day from a weekend trip to the West Coast o visit a much honored old friend facing health problems and who lives near Sacramento, and to make church visits to Seattle and Portland. It was a pleasure to see the church members I both those cities, though I certainly would have liked to have more time to talk with them and catch up on their news. I know some of them follow this blog, so to you in the Northwest I say "thanks for the warm welcome last weekend, and for following along as I travel!"
Unusually the flight to Paris was less than half full. That used to happen often, but now is about as rare as honest politicians. I had a whole row of three seats to myself and was able to sleep very well.
On arrival in Paris I immediately picked up a rental car and drove east toward the German border. I went to check on a possible fall-festival site in the Vosges Mountains near the beautiful French border-town of Colmar in Alsace. I was struck almost immediately by how expensive travel has become in France. I noticed along the side of the highway that unleaded gasoline was now around €1.60 per liter give or take a few centimes, which amount comes out at current exchange rates at around $9.00/gallon. And I'm complaining at $4.00 back home. The tolls are also quite high on the highways. Between Paris and Strasbourg which is around 400 km (or 250 miles) the combined tolls were right at €35 ($50)!
I wanted to make it part of the way back to Paris, since I’ll probably be tired tomorrow with jet-lag, so following the visit in Orbey I started west. I drove about 2 hours to Saint-Avold where I stopped for the night. On the way I passed Freyming-Merlebach, that used to be a major coal mining center. When I was a pastor in this area, many of my parishioners worked in the mines, which have since been closed due to safety and profitability issues. I thought of Serge as I passed. A big man with a big smile; he died saving other men after a gas explosion accident in the late-1980s. I also remembered going on a mine visit myself, arranged by a church member who worked au fond “at the bottom” as they used to say (as opposed to working au jour “in daylight” in an office above ground). We took elevators about mile deep to see the mine operations – huge drills, men setting blasting caps, the giant fans that forced air down deep so men could breathe – I don’t think I’ll ever forget that visit.
Shortly after Freyming we arrived at Saint-Avold. Again I have many memories of visiting parishioners and conducting services here. Tempus fugit. I stopped at a hotel I first used nearly 30 years ago, right near the entrance to the American Military Cemetery, one of many in France. If I wake up early enough I will drive through in the morning. It’s always sobering and thought-provoking to visit such cemeteries, especially abroad.
I should sleep well tonight.