Mom’s Tour de France 23 (FGK 114)

This is the end of mom’s letters that were published in the Cochrane paper. I”m kind of disappointed, I wasn’t ready for them to end- what happened? Did she get to stay and keep travelling? Check out the price of her little punchbuggy!!

About 6 o’clock we went searching for the Youth Hostel. It was a quaint little cabin in a groove of trees run by a darling little man who spoke no English but seemed to be accustomed to this situation. By this time we knew enough German to tell him we were cold and wanted to stay only if there was some heating. He showed us the room with a usual row of bunks and with a little coal stove in the corner. He soon had a roaring fire going and we were huddled around trying to get warm for the rest of the building was like a refrigerator. As we were finishing up our supper of bread and cheese, four other girls came to spend the night with us. They were from Manitoba and had just finished university there. The four of them were going all through Europe in their Hillman for a year. They had already been to England, Spain, Morocco, etc and had some fascinating stories to tell.

Thursday morning, Pat, Carol and Jeannie visited the old fort which overlooked the town and I went for a drive in the country. It had stopped snowing and i could see the mountains which surrounded us. There are many interesting little villages in this area. I had all sorts of fun poking around them and trying to talk to them in my inadequate German vocabulary of about five phrases. We met again for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the shops. It was tempting but since we were all in the same financial situation we helped each other resist it to mostly window shopping. Thank heaven I’m not a skier or it would have been irresistible.

We planned to spend all day Friday driving to Vienna but road conditions were so good that we arrived there in the early afternoon. Our meals of bread and cheese which we ate in the car also helped save time.

We were fortunate in the fact that the Youth Hostel was along the route which we took into town so we were able to find it comparatively quickly – ie., after asking two gas station attendants, a man in the street, and a postman. We were completely overwhelmed when we saw the building. It was built two years ago, has an elevator and heating!! We really couldn’t have asked for a better place. I have to go to lunch now so will write more about the trip later.

If you’re interested I have some of the costs of the car broken down so you’ll know where some of your steers are going. The car itself totalled $1,361.00 US dollars, the insurance $120 and about $40 for the transportation etc. From what I’ve heard I should be able to get a fairly good price for it at home. It’s really nice to have something to ride down to the restaurants in now.

We are going to London for three or four days next month for a field trip. It should be interesting, I’m very excited about it. If it’s ok with you I think I’ll stay out of Stanford Spring Quarter and travel over here with Gail for a while and go home about the first of June and then to summer school. Let me know what you think about this ‘cause I have to let Gail know soon, her mother is coming over next moth too.

Lots of love



Mom’s Tour de France 22 (FGK 113)

I had to laugh at mom’s speedy driving. I come from a family of speedy drivers – I remember white knuckling it a lot when I was a kid and Grandma was driving me somewhere. Dad always seemed to be one demerit away from losing his license (but swore he needed to drive that speed just to keep up with everyone else on the road). As a kid, I always tried to get in the back of the suburban my uncle would drive when we would do family visits to my aunt and uncle in Arrowwood, partly because it meant I could hang with my cousins and partly because it meant the long trip would take about half the time. If it took my parents an hour and a half to get there, it would take my uncle about 45 minutes and we would have stopped at allllll the feedlots along the way as well. I am speedier than my kids, but remain a family disappointment on trips as I hold up the line with my relatively slow driving). Mostly I’m cheap and don’t want to pay tickets.

We found a little restaurant near the hotel where we had one of our best meals in Germany. We ordered rindsgulasch in the hopes that it would turn out to be something good – and it was. Hence, another word was added to our growing German vocabulary. I think “rinds” means beef, at least it tasted like it.

We ended the day by doing some window shopping and going to the bahnhauf (which had finally appeared again) to have milkshakes. It tastes so good to have milk products again that we each had two helpings. It’s the first time I’ve made such a glutton of myself, usually I stopped at just one! We got lost again when we stepped out of the bahnhauf and it took us almost an hour to find our hotel which was (in the book) a ten minute walk from the station. Someday I’m going to solve the Great Mystery of this city. As we were entering our hotel we heard someone calling our names – it was Bob, Tim, Bill and Denny, some boys from the Centre who were staying in the hotel just across the street. They had just arrived as they had taken a longer route. I was able to get their advice on the roads, my car, etc as they are all quite experienced in that sort of thing.

We left the next morning for Salzburg. As there is an Autobahn all the way it was no time at all until we were in Austria. As usual we were completely lost as soon as we entered the town. I, who happened to be driving at the time, chalked up some sort of record for the trip by being stopped by three different policemen within fifteen minutes. Since we had such an obvious problem of communication, they never bothered giving us a ticket.

Salzburg is a fascinating town and is one of the places for which I would enjoy returning in the summer. It is noted for its beautiful scenery which we could not see because of the snow, its music, history, and of course Wienerschnitzel. From the moment I discovered a taste, this meant I ordered it for almost every meal in Austria. As you can see I’m really turning into a gourmet.

The streets in Salzburg are of the small narrow and twisty variety. It’s very easy to find parking places in Austria which was fortunate because everyone walks in the middle of the street, a situation somewhat frustrating for a driver.

It was a snowy afternoon – perfect for museums, so we went to the place where Mozart worked and some of the churches. One of them was particularly interesting as it had something from almost everyone period. Romanesque to late Baroque in it. We also tried some of the Salzburg coffee made with mounds of whipped cream. I think it’s the best I’ve found in Europe. I like it even better than the Italian.


Mom’s Tour de France 21 (FGK 112)

This is the last letter of mom’s that was published in the paper. I am really hoping that we discover the rest of them and I can read about the remainder of her year abroad. Thank goodness Grandma kept everything. This letter is a long one, so part one is today and there will be at least one, perhaps two more instalments before I go digging through boxes again (there are still a few more letters sent to mom while she was in the hospital).

It’s weird for me to think of how drastically mom’s life was changing. 10 years ago she was still a healthy and rambunctious kid, getting into everything, riding her horse, and playing with her siblings and cousins. 5 years ago she was working her way out of a long hospital stay and then moving to Florida for school. Not too far in her future she would graduate from Stanford, move to Toronto, go to law school and meet my dad. 10 years in her future she was just about to give birth to me (taadaa!!)

I remember mom making this cake and wanting so badly to become the Queen. I have no idea whether or not I ever did though.

Tours, France, January 15, 1961

Dear Folks

I’ve just returned from Suzanne’s having done nothing but EAT all day. She invited Gail and I over for lunch today but asked us to come early if we wanted to help prepare the meal.

I made a cake!! It is my failure kind so Suzanne taught me how to make it – you won’t believe how domestic I’m getting! We also helped with the other things. It’s so much fun in the family now because we feel free to play with her little sisters, tease her brothers, and gossip with her mother. They are extremely patient with our French so we don’t mind making lots of mistakes. Since we are still celebrating the feast of the Three Kings, we had a galette (a type of cake) for dessert. The prize was in my piece so I was the Queen. The suspense while everyone bites into their piece is terrible. After lunch we drove out to Suzanne’s aunt’s in the country. They are having a special celebration there to taste the wines in the caves which line the hillside. Everyone in the village was there with venders at every turn calling crepes, roasted chestnuts, etc. I was amazed once we entered the caves to find it exactly like an exhibition at home. Lining the walls of dirt were washing machines, television sets, and I even saw in one cavern a car!! I was driving so I didn’t taste the wines like I was supposed to, but it was fun watching all the others. After we went back to the aunt’s house where we had another galette – this time Gail was the Queen.

I think I left off in my last letter just as we were entering Munich. We got there after dark so were able to see the brilliant Christmas decorations. The main streets were lined with huge lights in the form of stars etc. It is possible to sense the quick tempo of this city the moment one enters it. It is alive and growing in the sense that all of Western Germany seems to be moving forward and looking to the future instead of the past. This is especially noticeable if you see it compared to some other European countries. We managed to find our way to the famed Rathskeller in the basement of the town hall where we had a dinner composed of a variety of German sausages. I ate so many I never felt quite the same towards them again and started ordering other dishes from then on. The Rathskeller itself was a fascinating place with its huge German style of architecture and costumed waitresses. You could practically feel yourself back in the Middle Ages. We had the name of a good but cheap hotel which we found in our “Bible” ie “Europe on $5.00 a Day” but in spite of the directions which were given in the book we found it impossible to pick the right route. We were told to start at the Bahnhauf (railroad station). This was a formidable task in itself for it always failed to show up when we expected it but on the other hand, we kept running into it at the oddest places. It continued like this during our entire stay in Munich and we always found our way home more or less by chance. This lead us to the conclusion that the Munich bahnhauf has the astonishing ability to disappear underground for hours at a time only to appear later at the other end of town. That is The only explanation I can give. The first evening we gave up in despair and finally stopped at a gas station to ask directions. We were so baffled by the German answer that was given us, two travellers who had their car there offered to lead us to the hotel. We turned so many corners and got so throughly confused that we decided we were being led on a wile goose chase. Just as we were going to turn and go in another direction their cart stopped right in front of the hotel! We felt rather guilty of being so suspicious of people who were simply being kind.

The next day we prepared to see the Glockenspiel when it went off at 11 am. We spent so long over breakfast that we barely had time to get down in front of the city hall to watch the big clock. Pat was driving when the car with four confused jeunnes filles made their left turn in its main intersection on the wrong light. Imagine our horror when we saw the policeman blow his whistle and flag us down to the curb. He stomped over to the car to find four frightened faces peering up at him and babbling away as fast as they could in French. When he found out we spoke no German, he went around to the front, saw our French license plate, got a resigned look on his face shrugging his shoulders, and said helplessly “La va!” We thanked him profusely in French and made our escape quickly before he discovered what terrible accents we had. By this time it was almost eleven so we decided that Carol and Jeannie should go watch the clock while Pat and I tried to find a parking place. We soon discovered that we had set ourselves an impossible task. We were all the more nervous because we were stopped by another policeman – that made two intersections we had to avoid henceforth at all costs! We finally found Carol and Jeannie a half hour later. We were told that for the first time in years the Glockenspiel hadn’t gone off. After the big airplane crash, which you probably heard about, there was no singing or dancing in Munich for a week. The whole city went into mourning for the dead. We spent much of the afternoon riding around in the car and looking at various buildings. We visited Maximillian Palace which was so huge we couldn’t get through it all. It is still furnished in late baroque and rococo style. The grand ballrooms with enormous chandeliers, lavish furniture, and magnificent carriages make one wonder how the princes lasted so long without a revolution. Their wealth must have been incredible. We couldn’t appreciate the beauty of the gardens as they were covered with snow, but they surrounded the huge central building for acres. One needs a lot of stamina to live in a palace like that as the rooms are so far apart.


Mom’s Tour de France 20 (FGK 111)

December 1960


We are now in a youth hostel in Salzburg. There are also four other Canadian girls who are driving through Europe for the winter and staying here. The is place seems like sheer luxury because the one we were in at Neuchatel didn’t have any heat. This one has a lovely little stove right by my bed.

It has been snowing here all day so we haven’t had much of an opportunity to see the scenery which is supposed to be lovely. We are trying to economize because we stayed at a hotel in Munich and they charged us far more than we thought they would – not a very nice surprise.

We have been having all sorts of adventures. We are constantly lost in the cities and usually end up going the wrong way on a one way street. The policemen have been very patient and nice (mainly because we couldn’t understand them). People have helped us out on the street and in the stores. Every time we hit a new town we head like homing pigeons to the nearest Shell Station, which has maps of the city. We now know the German terms for left, right, etc.

The weather hasn’t been nice enough to take any pictures. I was foolish enough to put slides in my camera instead of black and white. I was so enthusiastic over the results of the ones I took in Rome that I got carried away.

(The next night)

I did some shopping today and spent my spare money. Austria is as bad as Italy, it is a terrible temptation to pass a store.

I wandered around some of the mountain villages this morning. They still use horses on many of the farms. It looks very Christmassy to see them pulling sleds full of firewood.

If people have sent me letters etc but haven’t heard from me, tell them not to worry, because we left on December 17th and won’t pick up our mail until the 9th of January. It will be nice to have that pile waiting for me!

I also haven’t mailed all my Xmas cards yet – so some of them will be New Years! I usually cannot get very much writing done while we are travelling. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas. I’ll be thinking about you then – in Venice I think. From what we hear, it is going to be a white Christmas which is something new for the kids from California.

I’ll try to write again soon




Mom’s Tour de France 19 (FGK 110)

I continue to be impressed with the kindness shown by the people mom encountered on her travels. Was it a safer, kinder time? Was she just incredibly lucky (her guardian angels always worked overtime)? Whatever the case, she encountered some pretty remarkable people.

Part two

Pat and I remembered a marvellous restaurant there which served excellent meals for about 60 cents. We spent 3/4 of an hour searching for the youth hostel where we could stay for 50 cents (I’m sure we burned up more gas looking for it) and finally discovered it beyond the railroad track which we had been crossing all the time. It was a charming and picturesque little building, lacking only one thing – a stove. There was only one other person staying there and the lady was quite shocked to see so many people descending on her this time of the year. I don’t think any of us took very many clothes off that night and we were very speedy in getting out to the nice warm car the next morning. The drive through Switzerland was very pleasant in the morning when we could see the sun shining on the snowy mountains and the little villages which looked like Christmas cards but it clouded over in the afternoon so we were unable to see much of the Alps. We got lost at one point so we decided to stop and have a bowl of soup for lunch at a charming little hotel which was along the road while we found out where we were. It was a warm friendly little dining room with several people in there gossiping over cups of tea and glasses of wine. We were somewhat of an oddity and got several curious stares while eating. As we were leaving a man and his wife asked if they could buy us a cup of coffee. They were so very nice we couldn’t refuse and sat down again. No one spoke either French or English so we stammered out our few phrases of German and hoped that our smiles and nods conveyed some of our appreciation for this gesture. They were very concerned about us and stood waving at the door until we were out of sight.

We climbed through may mountains that afternoon getting into more and more snow. We could see the skiers returning to their lodges and I envied Gail who was spending her vacation with some French students learning how to ski. We stopped for the night at a little village near the boarder. Pat and I had a lovely room with a balcony. There was a lighted Christmas tree on it and we could see the snow falling on it all night. It really gave one the feeling of Christmas.

The next morning, after the usual continental breakfast of rolls and cafe au lait, we set out to find Liechtenstein. Since this country has a treaty with Switzerland, there is no regular border between the two and before we knew it we found ourselves in the tiny capital city with the Prince’s castle overlooking it. Liechtenstein’s main industry is postage stamps and we aided the economy by each sending off two or three post cards. Since the country is so small it was only a few minutes to the Austrian border. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we would be travelling on a big wide “autobahn” ie. a freeway. Needless to say it took no time at all to zip over to the German border. We did no shopping as we knew we would be returning in a few days. Germany is loved by us all as the land of the ‘Milk bars” and we stopped at the first one we found in a little town not too far from the border. There was a great big jolly German sitting in there who watched us with an amused and kindly expression on his face as we tried to ask the waitress if we could get a lunch there. Imagine our joy when we found out he spoke French and was able to translate for us. He ran out and bought the cheese for our sandwiches and made sure that we all got what we wanted. This was just one of the many times our limited French was a big help to us. We decided that Jeannie would drive for a while in the afternoon. Since she is very short it was necessary to push the seat of the VW up. It is rather sticky and we all got behind to shove it forward. To our consternation we pushed so hard it came completely out of the car and we were left in the middle of the street with a loose seat in our hands! We tried valiantly for several minutes to put it back but were unable to repeat our past performance of strength. Finally the waitress saw our trouble and sent out three big boys who soon had us all put together and ready to race off towards Munich again.


Have to go to classes now, will continue at a later date



Mom’s Tour de France 18 (FGK 109)

Part one

January 8, 1961


I realize you must be almost ready to disown me, it’s been so long since I’ve written. There is so much to say, I didn’t know where to begin. If i don’t get it all in one letter I’ll try to send it in instalments.

My car didn’t arrive from Paris until the last day of finals. Of course I rushed right down to see it, hoping to drive away in it that very afternoon and get a start on our trip – the next day. Pat came down with me and was just was excited as I to see the bright shiny blue Volkswagen complete with a sunroof which slides back in sunny weather. It took a day and a half to clear it with insurance, customs officials etc. I was issued a temporary license plate which actually consists of a piece of black tape with some numbers chalked on it. They assured me that when I return my permanent plate would be ready, which didn’t help much then. While in the midst of doing all this, there were countless things going on at the centre. We gave a Christmas party for some of the people of Tours who had put so much effort into the centre. Between the end of the last final at noon and that evening, decorations were put up all over the building and last touches were made on a dinner which was a traditional American dish in that there was turkey but it was served in the French style and with Loire wines. We had entertainment for them – this was also a mixture of both cultured – and then sang carols in French and English.

Friday I was invited to a dinner at noon with a French Family. They served the French version of lemon pie! We also had roast pheasant and some sort of sauce made out of chestnuts which was just delicious. It was the first I’ve I had visited their home so we spent much of the afternoon comparing cultures and telling out our homes. By this time I had to leave to pick up my car, I didn’t get back to the centre until late and consequently had to stay up until one am packing.

The four of us agreed to get an early start, leaving Tours at 7am. We had just gotten about 10 kilometres out of town when the engine started making weird noises and finally stopped completely. We were let sitting in the dark on a country road with no idea how to get to the next town. We all looked at each other a little foolishly, because in the rush to leave, no one had thought to get the gas tank filled! A couple of trucks passed by but wouldn’t stop. Finally Pat, who is no one to stand on ceremony, got out of the car, took off her bright red scarf and flagged down the next truck. The poor man didn’t have much choice as he saw this weird apparition coming at him out of the dark. He was very nice, however, and gave Pat and Carol a ride to the nearest gas station while Jeannie and I waited in the car. We questioned why the Germans, who are so efficient in everything else, neglected to put gas gages on Volkswagens! The rest of the day passed without any serious incident. We were all learning how to shift gears on VWs so did not make very good time. It was the same route we took to Switzerland in November but since it is what I consider to be one of the most beautiful sections of France, we didn’t mind the repetition. There was a light fall of snow on the Jura’s which excited everyone in the car but me. By the end of the trip Californians were beginning to come around to my point of view. At the Swiss border we hoped to buy the green card which signifies that we had international insurance as this is the first thing they ask for at almost every frontier. Imagine our dismay when we discovered the office was closed and we would have to pay extra for every country we entered because we didn’t have it! We decided to make Neuchatel the destination for our first day.


Mom’s Tour de France 17 (FGK 108)

I remember as a teenager finding an old sweater of my dad’s sitting on a shelf. I’d never seen him wear it, I thought it looked kind of cool, so I stole it. Turns out it was a sweater he’d bought at a market in Rome while they were there on their honeymoon. I loved that sweater, and once I wore it completely out it became my barn/riding sweater. One time I was at a horse show and there was another girl there wearing the exact same sweater. Dad had to go over and talk to her dad to see where she’d found it and apparently that girls parents also had honeymooned in Rome around the same time, and the dad had also bought the sweater at a market. That girl also had found the sweater while snooping and had made it her own. So, all of mom’s coins in Trevi Fountain were worth it – she went back to Italy several more times.

Part two of mom’s letter

During our tour the day before we had a world famous ice cream parlour pointed out to us. It is a place frequented by all the movie stars as well as those of us of more humble status. After dinner a large group of us, including Prof. Knolls and his wife who are as full of mischief as any of the students, took off through the little back streets for the goodies. The store is in the square of the fountains of the Four Rivers. These are lit up at night, making them even more beautiful than in the daytime. I think the poor people in the shop were a little overwhelmed by having a group of 20 singing Americans descend en masse, demanding the specialite de maison, but they are probably quite used to it because we all were served within a few minutes. Some of the kids had birthdays so we sang to them – with all the Italians joining in. I had so much to eat I could barely waddle home.

Thursday was a free day with no tours. Pat, Carol, Susie and I spent the morning finding the Yugoslavian embassy to get our visas. When we finally got these we almost drove the little man mad because he only spoke Italian and Yugoslavian. There happened to be a lady standing by who spoke French so she translated for us but I have never seen anyone so relieved as he was when we finally left. Pat and I stopped at the Fountain of Trevi on the way home and i threw in my three coins just in case I couldn’t make it back the next day. We also had a water fight there – much to the consternation of the policeman on the corner.

I spent the afternoon window shopping – I wish you could see the beautiful things they have in Italy. It just killed me not to buy anything. Fabulous sweaters only cost about $10.00 and the purses, gloves and shoes – oo la la!

While I was wandering around I came upon a splendid fountain in front of the terminal. It really was a fountain to end all fountains. I spent about 15 minutes watching the sun on the water. That is the fun of Rome. You never know when you are going to stumble on a magnificent fountain. I also explored St. John the Lateran. The church were all the funerals for the Popes are held and where they used to live. From hereI walked down to the colosseum where I hoped to catch a bus home. Italy is the only country where I would have enough nerve to ride a bus alone. The people are so warm and friendly I always have more than enough help getting on and off – when I get home remind me to tell you about some of my experiences on buses, I’ve gone some dillys. I asked the conductor if the is was the bus for Ponte Sisto? He said “si” but made all sorts of gestures which I couldn’t understand. Since the bus definitely went to my stop I decided to get on anyway. An hour later I discovered what the gestures meant. Before ending up at Ponte Sisto the bus makes a route all over the city! Well that’s one way to see Rome.

Friday morning we left bright and early for Tivoli. First we visited Hadrian’s villa. This is the size of a small city and it is just incredible to see the luxury which existed at this time. By this time we were experts at climbing over ruins. Two of the boys disappeared underground in the sewer system only to pop up in front of us while we were studying the mosaics in the sun room. The guide was a little perturbed but the boys had a wonderful time. This trip also gave us an opportunity to see some Italian countryside. As our buses climbed up the mountain to the fountains of Tivoli we had vistas which stretched out as far as Rome. The fountains themselves were glorious. There is an enormous garden which is full of every type of flower imaginable. In places there are long walks stretching out lined with fountains on either side of them with one enormous one at the end. You have probably read about the organ fountain which is also there.

Our bus took us a little farther along the road to a viewpoint where we could see two enormous waterfalls tumbling down the mountain side into a valley with vineyards on the hills and pastures in the bottom. There was a tiny little church perched on the top of the hill with a narrow little path leading up to it. We ate our lunch while perched on the wall overlooking all this. The tour continued in the afternoon to some more ancient temples and villas but I returned on an early bus with some others who were feeling the effects of the Roman hikes, to have a two hour sleep. I woke up just in time to dash out with Gail and Pat to throw another coin in the fountain and eat a doughnut in front of it before dinner. We were planning a birthday party for one of the boys so had to get back early. That was my 4th coin in the fountain – for an extra strong wish to return to Rome again. After dinner we just had time to pack and take a bus to the station. You never saw a tireder more loaded down group in your life. No one wanted to come back to Tours. Most of us spent the two nights and a day on the train trying to recuperate – without much success. Some of the kids had their guitars along so there was more singing than sleeping.

We reached Tours at 2:30am this morning (Sunday). We didn’t get to bed until 4:30 though. I was really glad to see it!! Suzanne invited Gail and I to her place for lunch. It was just wonderful. We are starting to feel that we can be at home in her home. In France, this is really something. As usual they sent us away from their place just loaded down with food. She is just a darling girl.

All my Xmas cards will be late because I ordered some and they still haven’t arrived. This really makes me sad. Please tell everyone to hold on, they’ll come one of these days. Don’t expect to hear too much from me between now and the 15th as we are having our exams. I really don’t know how I”m going to do – they could be bad news. But I think the education I’ve received outside of the classroom will make up for some bad grades (I hope). The competition here is rough as most of the kids are outstanding Stanford students. The more I talk about it the more scared I get. Guess I’d better get to work.

Wish me luck with my finals. I need it!!




Mom’s Tour de France 14 (FGK 105)

Margi’s Second Letter from Rome (part one)

Hello Everyone:

There is so much in Rome – I don’t know where to begin! We went to bed early Friday night to get a good start on Saturday. The director, M Beaucoussin, is such a dear thoughtful man. He rented a wheelchair in Tours, brought it all the way here and wheeled me down to the Vatican in it – because the only way to see Rome is on foot. It was another bright beautiful day and our route took us right along the Tiber. We crossed St. Peter’s square and entered one of the other buildings where the Pope was holding his audience. The doors are all guarded by the Swiss Guards and other ones in what seem to be medieval costumes. The inside is extremely ornate and rich. The room where he had his audience looked just like what you would expect one of the kings courts would look like with all the rich marbles, tapestries, and paintings and brilliant colour of the cardinals, bishops, guards, etc. We stood where we could see all the people entering into the room. With every important person the Swiss Guards snapped to attention and looked very smart. Between times they seemed very relaxed and I saw one got the giggles. The pope came last, surrounded by all sorts of attendants and in robes that just sparkled in the light. It really was an impressive sight but for me it was overshadowed by the magnificence and splendour of St. Peter’s which we entered afterwards. I really can’t describe it. I hope you can get a book and read up on it. We spent almost three hours there and there is just tons we haven’t seen yet. They have works of Michael Angelo and several other important artists. Each has contributed a masterpiece which, when they are all combined, just overwhelm one. Dr. Knolls, our history professor who is just like a father to the whole group, filled us in about much of the church’s past, making it even more interesting. We took an elevator up to the top where we got a wonderful view of St. Peter’s square. Ray and Gail went right up to the top of the dome while I wandered around the roof. We also visited the treasure. This is just a fantastic collection of all the gifts and offerings which have been made to the Church by various countries and monarchs etc. It was difficult to believe that there could be such enormous emeralds, amethysts, diamonds, all together in one place. It was a scene straight out of Arabian Knights. We spent so long at St. Peter’s we barely had time to rush back to one of the enormous Italian lunches they serve us here. I have never had so much pizza, spaghetti, ravioli, etc. It all tastes twice as good too – probably because we are eating it in Rome. All the Italians have a siesta in the afternoon and the town starts to come alive again between four and five. This is a delightful custom we have picked up too, so that’s how we spent Saturday afternoon until four. Gail, Pat, and I decided it was time we did some Christmas shopping so we wandered forth into the streets again. Shopping is a real art here because in Italy any tourist is fair game and each shop has a different price. In many places only by bargaining furiously with the shopkeeper one can get even a reasonable price. Pat was looking for some silk so we bartered in various textile shops along the way. It was nearing the hour with all Italians come out to walk or go home from work and the streets were thronged with all sorts of fascinating people. Rome, like Paris, is an international city and all types of people are found there. We spent about one hour in one little store where I spent $20.00 getting gifts – needless to say I walked out feeling rather ill. If anyone has some special thing they want me to get while I’m in Europe, I’ll be glad to so so if they’ll send me the money. They’ll me what they want, otherwise this souvenir buying can really rack up, especially when we have living expenses too.


Mom’s Tour de France 12 (FGK 103)

I remember mom talking about driving her little Beetle around France. What amazed me was that she drove a stickshift, I think the clutch was on the steering wheel.

November 22nd 1960

We are all busy getting ready to go to Rome on Wednesday. We start our finals when we get home, os things will be right tight. My French mark is going to be dreadful I think – not to mention what the others will be. There are so many things to do over here besides study! Don’t expect very much from my marks this quarter! We have 8 hours of French a week plus a course in 18 century European Thought and one in French American relations. I think though the biggest educational experience we are getting is just living over here. You really get a different slant on things. winter has started to come a little bit, at least it’s raining a little more. Our building is nice and warm but it’s almost 40 degrees outside.

We’ve just got a television set installed so now we can watch the weather report in French. We are having what is known as “petits pluies” ie little rains.

I’m writing this from the US Information Services. I’m here to talk to the man about my car, but he is out to tea. We have just tons of work back at the center too!

We hope to have an Xmas party for the people in the building such as the maids, the concierge, etc., before we leave for our holiday so we have to plan it before we go to Rome because of exams when we get back.

We had a chance of having our way paid to Algeria for 10 days by the French government for the next quarter but as you can guess, things sort of fell through. I don’t think they’re very anxious for visitors there right now. I’m rather disappointed because I think that would have been quite interesting. If it’s ok with you I think I’ll take my summer holidays during Spring quarter. Gail, Ruth, and pat and I would like to see the Scandinavian countries and England while we are over here. It will also give me some time to come home before I go to Stanford for summer school.

After summer school I will have 6 weeks at home before Fall Quarter starts. It will be good to go home and have a great big thick creamy milkshake. The French don’t drink milk and you can really notice it. All the Americans are tall and healthy looking while the the French are short.

Well I’ve finally seen the Volkswagen man and should get my car between the 10-15 of December. It will be blue and have a sun roof because that is the only kind they are shipping to Paris.

Au revoir



Mom’s Tour de France 11 (FGK 102)

I know mom was really annoyed at Grandma for sending these letters in to the paper to be published (can you imagine how annoyed she’d be with me posting these again 60 years later hahahaha) but I am so glad Grandma did – this was a Mom who I never knew and I’m so honoured that I get this little peek into her life post polio but before Melissa.

I had to chuckle when mom was describing how she wanted to learn to cook while in France. If she got French cooking lessons, we never benefited from them. But not only was cooking not really mom’s thing, it was physically difficult for her and became more so the older she got. A bonus of this – that I didn’t realize until I was older – was that it meant that my sister and I got a dad who did a lot of things for and with us that many dads in the ‘70s didn’t do. I grew up thinking it was normal to have a dad who helped around the house and who spent time playing with his kids. It wasn’t until I became a bit older that I understood what an anomaly he was – especially for the time.

November 13th, 1960

Dear Folks,

You’ve all been neglected in my writing lately! I thought I would have lots of time this weekend because Gail went to Belgium and I stayed here, but I didn’t even get any studying done. Thursday afternoon we went to have tea with a French family in one of the suburbs of Tours. It is not one of the wealthy sections of town but it was a very clean and happy home. The tea was very simple but good and the family just sat there and fired one question after another. I’ve never been in a home here yet without having to get out the map and show them where I live. I wish I’d collected more snaps to bring. They made me feel just as home because we sat around the kitchen table to talk and drink tea.

Friday was Armistice Day (Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!!) so Tours had an Armistice celebration. There were both French and American troops with a band and flags all over the place. Some men were decorated with the Legion of Honour also. At noon that day I was invited to lunch with a doctor and his wife who are from the more wealthy class. The meal was served by a maid in uniform and there was a vast array of knives and forks from which I invariably chose the wrong utensil. I was in the awkward position of having everything passed to me first so I had to decide how to manage it. In spite of all this the afternoon was just fascinating because they were such excellent conversationalists. There was a German student there also and they were discussing the last war (he could really speak French, I just listened) among other things. I was very interested to see how they felt about those things and about the present world situation. The French have an opinion on everything and every opinion is different. I wish so much that I could speak the language better to try and understand some of their positions. I still haven’t reached the point where I can carry on a good conversation or even understand everything that is said to me. After speaking French for six solid hours as I was on Friday, I’m just exhausted. This is really an experience though, because they tell us it is very difficult to be invited into the French home – and I’ve reached the point that if I’m invited to another I’ll never be able to waddle off the boat.

Gail and I met two girls from the Lyiee, Suzanne and Danielle, who came to visit us a few times and took us to see the movie. We had them over for dinner here on Wednesday night to show them some of the building. They are really just darling girls and have been so helpful because they take time to speak slowly and to correct our mistakes. We’d forgotten that Wednesday was the night we got the election results so everyone here was quite boisterous (the democrats that is). But they understand when we told them Americans didn’t sing at the table all the time. After dinner some students from the French med. school came over in an impromptu demonstration for Kennedy. They were dressed up in red, white, and blue costumes and made all sorts of comic speeches – half French, half English for us. They also sang some students songs (which we didn’t understand but I was told it was better) so we sang some back to them. I believe med-students are the same no matter what country they’re in.

On Saturday, Suzanne came by in the afternoon and we walked over to her place and then to Danielle’s house which is on the other side of town. Here we listened to some records (I tried to translate an Elvis Presley song into French for them but even I can’t understand it). They both have penpals in New York and have saved up all sorts of post cards so of course I had to describe our one rushed day there. They are just as fascinated by the idea of seeing America as I was of seeing Europe. On the way back, Suzanne took me to a patisserie to have some more yummy cakes and some tea. She also invited me to Sunday dinner at noon. I had mentioned how I would like to learn how to cook some French dishes so she asked me if I would like to come early and watch her make the meal. Her family have a boucherie (butcher’s shop) in a narrow winding street in the old part of town. It’s near a building where the man who made Joan of Arc’s armour lived. They live in behind the store. I was just overwhelmed to see all the work that goes into these meals we have been having with a family and what an occasion it is to have even just one insignificant guest like me. I’m sure they weren’t very wealthy but they just put out the very best of everything they had. This has been the case in every place we’ve gone to. Each plate was a masterpiece and Suzanne worked lovingly over it. The frustrating thing was I couldn’t express myself well enough just to let them know how much I appreciated it. I felt so guilty having all that done for me and know how much it was probably costing them. During the meal I go the usual questions about America and the atlas was brought out again. I’m beginning to feel like a walking encyclopedia- but I hope I’m giving the right answers to all these questions!! I had to sample their best wine and tried almost every cheese they had- I couldn’t even go to supper tonight I was so full. Her mother invited me back again to do some cooking. I told her that it took all my ingenuity just to work a can-opener! They don’t know what they are letting themselves in for.

Did i tell you we are going to Rome for 10 days on November 24th? It’s one of the trips conducted by the university. We have to pay $25.00 and for one meal a day but all the rest is paid for. I’m really excited about it.

I’m not sure where I’m going for Christmas. I may go to Vienna if the roads are good and if the weather’s fine. If not I may go to Spain or inland. I would rather wait until spring to see England as i don’t think the weather is too pleasant there now.

Tell somebody to write, yours are about the only letters I get.