If you want to travel in France and learn about French history, the Join Us in France podcast is a superb resource.
The podcast, which launched in 2014, was originally co-hosted by Elyse and Annie. They live in France and know it well. Annie was born in France but has lived in the United States. Although Elyse grew up in New York, she knows the language, the culture and the country’s history inside and out. Elyse, the native American, often seems more French than Annie who was born in France. Go figure. Due to time constraints, Elyse is no longer a co-host but still comes on the show as her time permits.
There are plenty of other resources to help travelers to France select hotels and restaurants. But this podcast will help you to understand France. Annie also offers self-guided audio walking tours. She’s not offering personal tours during the pandemic but I hope they will return.
I recently stumbled upon this photo I made at the Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) in 2003 warning passengers about the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic.
According to Wikipedia, over “8,000 people from 29 different countries and territories were infected, and at least 774 died worldwide. The major part of the outbreak lasted about 8 months, since the World Health Organization declared SARS contained on 5 July 2003. However, several SARS cases were reported until May 2004.”
Wikipedia adds that COVID-19 is closely related to SARS. In retrospect, the impact in 2003 was minor — although it did not feel like that at the time.
The Memorial honors Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and the 34th President of the United States.
The Memorial is across the street from the National Air and Space Museum and is surrounded by the U.S. Department of Education, the Federal Aviation Administration, Voice of America, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Southwest Washington.
Architect Frank Gehry designed the Memorial. Gehry was born in Toronto in 1929 as Frank Owen Goldberg. His father was born in Brooklyn to Russian Jewish parents, and his mother was a Polish Jewish immigrant.
Gehry’s design features three bronze statues of Eisenhower by the Russian-born sculptor Sergey Eylanbekov , one featuring General Eisenhower with troops from the 101st Airborne the day before the invasion of Normandy, another sculpture depicting President Eisenhower in the White House surrounded by civilian and military advisors, and a third portraying “Little Ike” in his boyhood.
The Memorial highlights passages from notable Eisenhower addresses. Framing the entire memorial is a stainless steel woven tapestry by artist Tomas Osinski , who was born in Poland. The tapestry depicts the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc on the Normandy coastline. Pointe du Hoc was the highest point between the American sector landings at Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east. On D-Day, the United States Army Ranger Assault Group attacked and captured Pointe du Hoc after scaling the cliffs.
In 2013, Congress passed legislation authorizing the National Museum of the American Indian to create a National Native American Veterans Memorial to give “all Americans the opportunity to learn of the proud and courageous tradition of service of Native Americans in the Armed Forces of the United States.”
The Memorial opened on November 11, 2020 on the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian. Kevin Gover, the Museum’s director, explained in The Washington Post that the “memorial brings long overdue recognition to the tens of thousands of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians who have served in peace and war for two and a half centuries.”
The Memorial was designed by Harvey Pratt, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma and a Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief. Pratt is an artist, Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, and retired forensic artist. Pratt designed the memorial in partnership with award-winning architectural firm Butzer Architects and Urbanism.
Travel with Rick Steves is a weekly one hour podcast with guest experts and callers about travel, cultures and people. This is my favorite travel podcast.
Steves is well-traveled, bright, articulate, positive and most of all curious to learn about the world and the people who inhabit it. Although Steves’s guidebooks and organized tours focus on Europe, the podcast covers the world.
Guests include authors and professional guides Steves uses for his tours and guidebooks. The information he provides is timely and accurate. Steves has interviewed great authors including Paul Theroux and David McCullough.
After listening to the interview of David McCullough, I was really charged up to get out and explore the world, in part because McCullough started his life and explorations in my hometown — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. McCullough has written extensively about the United States starting near home with the The Johnstown Flood. He’s also a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
Downie likes to walk. His book is divided into “Paris People”, “Paris Places” and “Paris Phenomena.” It is the places that interested me the most. For example, Downie describes a long walk along the Seine that I decided to replicate. It transformed my view of Paris because I learned how much of the city revolves around the river. I also learned just how small the city is geographically and how it seems that almost every centimeter of the city has been lovingly cultivated.
The walk begins at France’s gigantic national library — Bibliothèque nationale de France. This is the largest library I have ever seen; it houses more than 15 million books and journals. It is located near the Métro station Bibliothèque François Mitterrand right along the Seine. But not much else is nearby. The location feels desolate, modern and suburban, although the library remains within Paris’s Périphérique or beltway.
However, it was unclear to me from reading the book where the walk ended so I emailed the author who cheerfully responded with the details and even suggested a nice, reasonably priced restaurant for lunch right along the walk. The restaurant is La Fregate and is at the only spot on the walk where you have to go up to the sidewalk from the river.
I watched the city transform from stark, modern suburbs and eventually came upon Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower and on to its terminus at the Pont Mirabeau. I will never forget Le Pont Mirabeau after reading Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem in high school breathing life and love into the bridge. Seeing Le Pont Mirabeau at the end of this day-long walk was special.
The entire walk was about 10 km or 6.2 miles. The transformations within that short distance speak volumes about Paris.
At Downie’s suggestion, I also visited Buttes-Chaumont park which is even more impressive than Mr. Downie describes. He knows Place des Voges like the back of his hand so that chapter is exceptional.
On top of the wonderful details that make Paris come to life, Downie’s prose shows a love and mastery of the English language that I appreciate. This gem of a book will teach you so much about Paris and make you want to return again and again or just to go to Paris and remain as Downie has.