Mom’s Tour de France 15 (FGK 106)

I am constantly amazed by mom’s strength. Not just the emotional strength that it took her to move on from the trauma of polio and the years in the hospital, but her physical strength. Even though I remember as a kid mom walking everywhere – through the mall, the grocery store, and anywhere else she needed to go – it still blows my mind that mom did most of this trip on her crutches.

Margi’s second letter from Rome part 2

After leaving the shop we went up past the Fountain of Trevi again to see the camera shop where I had left my first film to be developed, 35 of the pictures turned out – I’m going to send you some of the most interesting ones. I just love the camera, you have no idea how dark it was when I took some of these pictures and yet they all turned out!!

We each bought one of the great big doughnuts they sell here and sat down by the fountain to look at the pictures. Trevi is use splendid at night too, because it is all lit up. From here we wandered up some little side streets to look t the many and varied little shops and outdoor stands. They have everything from freshly killed wild boars to every type of spaghetti imaginable. We really confused one little man because we anted to get some Italian wine bottles as souvenirs but he just couldn’t comprehend that we wanted them empty!! Finally by all sorts of gestures, we got our ideas across, leaving the poor man convinced that we were completely crazy.

We later found ourselves in the more expensive part of town where we had all sorts of fun window shopping. We went into a textile store with the firm intention of just looking and ended up being unable to resist the wonderful bargain. They were just closing, but they kept the store open for us and we had all the clerks climbing around the shelves for us. We really were made to feel important. They spoke to us in a weird mixture of English, French, and Italian, just to add to the confusion.

By this time it was 8:30 and we were hungry. We found a restaurant that looked excellent and was recommended in our guidebook. Since we were all broke, we decided to keep everything below 1000 lire (about $1.50) only to get inside and discover this wasn’t the type of restaurant where this could be done. We told the head waiter our problem but he assured us he would do his part to get us some of their good dishes for this price. We ordered one serving of ravioli and told him we would spit that up among the three of us. This was wheeled over to us on a little table. The Maître d’ and 2 waiters bustled around serving us each a great big plate of it, I’m sure it was more than one serving. There we sat in our skirts and sweaters with our two courses surrounded by grand dames in their minks and disdainful stares. The waiters loved us, however, and we got twice as much service as anyone else in the place. When we walked out they were all lined up to say goodnight.

We got lost coming home and at one point ended up at the Parthenon. This is rather spooky at night but I could pretend I was an ancient Roman.

Sunday morning we roamed around our district and went to mass in a little tiny church squeezed in between the buildings. The French Embassy took us on a tour of some of the buildings around their place. A group of us decided to visit the Catacombs in the afternoon. We hopped a bus out of the colosseum where we stopped for a while to watch them making a movie. It was about 19th century so the costumes were very colourful.

From here we bounced along the Appian Way to the catacombs of St. Sebastian. Dr. Knolls was with us and happened to be going to to see the Moses by Michel Angelo so Pat, Gail, and I went with him. This is in the church that has the chains which bound St. Peter. There are 50 million steps leading up to it but the statue was well worth it. On the way back we passed the colosseum and forum all lit up. They are even more beautiful at night. This morning we were taken on a tour of the Vatican museum. The buildings would take years to go through, I’m sure. We saw everything from Ancient Greek works to Renaissance and Baroque.

I had no idea it was so large. Fortunately we had the wheelchair along and I was given many a hair raising ride down the corridors of the Vatican by the boys in our group. My neck is still a little stiff from the Sistine Chapel. I don’t know how Michel Angelo ever did it.

I’ve spent most of the afternoon writing this letter and I’m getting writers cramp. You’ll have to wait until I get home for me to tell the rest of my adventures.

Hope I have some mail when we get back, none for two weeks now

Love to all,



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 13 (FGK 104)

In 2009 a bunch of us were fortunate enough to go to Rome to see my cousin get married. Large as the city is, it seemed as though every time we turned a corner we bumped into a Copithorne, which made our sightseeing days pretty damn enjoyable as we always had someone to share them with. I loved that trip, and I’m so grateful that mom and dad were in good enough health to fully enjoy the trip too. The wedding was amazing, the food was outstanding, and the place was unbelievably spectacular. I hope to get back again someday soon.

Rome, November 25th 1960.

Dear Everyone:

Well – I made it at last! You know how I’ve always wanted to see Rome. We left Tours at 2am Thursday morning and arrived here at 5:30 this morning. I had sleepers for both nights so didn’t get too tired. There was some snow in the Alps – it reminded me of home, only there are fortresses along the passes instead of the wild kind of nature that’s in the Rockies. There were two busses to meet us at the train. They took us past all sorts of fascinating monuments to our hostel which is run by some monks and is a block away from the Tiber. A great big breakfast was served and then we were let loose on the town. Gail, Pat, Ruth and I walked along the Tiber for a way and then turned off up a street which led past some sunken ruins of Republican temples. There were all sorts of cats prowling around the broken columns and statues. I tried to take some pictures but don’t think the film was set right. We then wandered to the central church for the Jesuit Order. It is a magnificent example of baroque art. The marble had designs in it made of different colours of rock, and the paintings on the ceiling were well worth a stiff neck. The streets of Rome have no rhyme or reason. They just twist back and forth or else end abruptly at a fountain or a church. Every time you turn a corner you don’t know whether you are going to run into some old Roman theatre or a church. It makes one feel so very ignorant because it seems as though the whole wealth of western civilization is displayed here like a historical pageant. I never realized there was so much history I didn’t know about – and I never thought I’d see the day when I thought a building dating from the 8th century was relatively recent! After we came out of the Jesuit church Gail and Ruth lingered in a little shop while Pat and I strolled a little farther on, planning to meet them later. I wanted to see the fountain of Trevi first thing (remember the movie?) so we went to find the right street. When we went back to get Gail and Ruth they were gone so we decided to go on. We asked an Italian policeman for directions and boldly set off – not sure whether or not we had really understood the Italian. After we turned innumerable corners and gone up some little side streets we decided it was time we got our bearings again. We saw a priest standing on the steps of a church so I said, “Oh, let’s ask him, priests are very well educated so he’s bound to know French or English!” He had already seen us so we went up and hardly got our mouths open when he said: “You speak English?” We were immediately relieved and started to speak in very slow careful English – imagine our embarrassment when he answered us fluently. Then Pat asked him if he was Italian. He gave a start and said “Aye n’ if I had any Italian blood in me I’d give it back to them! I guess I haven’t been puttin’ on me brogue enough!” His face just overflowed with mischief. If I’d given it a second thought I’d have guessed he was Irish – and after we heard him talk a bit we knew!! When we asked him where the fountain was he insisted on taking us there because he had a few minutes of spare time and it wasn’t far away. As we were walking along we found out that he is a student at a school here for fellows who are going through to be priests. Classes let out while we were there and we met ones from the US, Canada, and Germany. They are there from all over. When we got to the fountain, Jon (that’s his name) offered to take our picture in front of it. That got me to explaining how I have this gorgeous camera and don’t really know how to use it. I had two pictures left on the film so Jon took those of us and offered to take us to a camera shop where I could get the film changed. We didn’t have any Italian liras so he said he’d take us to a place where we could get our money changed. We said “Oh no,” we didn’t want to take up more of his time since he’d already spent about half an hour with us. Then he told us he was already late for class by 15 minutes, that he might as well cut the whole thing and that while his Superior might not understand he was sure God would! So we proceeded to have a guided tour. Jon told us the best Italian foods to buy and the cheapest places to get it. I got a slide film put in my camera and had my travellers cheque changed into Italian money because you get 20% off here for cashing travellers cheques in stores.

After we left the American Express we went to the Spanish Steps. By this time it was almost noon and Joe had to leave us, after giving us careful directions for our way back. We got hopelessly lost and finally had to take a taxi in order to get back to the villa in time for lunch. After the meal the whole group went off in busses for a general tour of Rome. We saw so much it’s just impossible to name it all. We went through an old quarter where they say the people who live there are now the same (type) as those who were there during the time of Caesar. This road led to the top of one of the seven hills of Rome. Here we had a magnificent view of the entire city spread out before us. St. Peter’s was the next stop – we just saw the outside as this trip was just to get a general idea of the city. We went past all sorts of Pope’s palaces and Emperor’s tombs and ended up at the stadium where they had the olympics last summer. It is by these buildings that Mussolini was going to make into a second forum. There is still a big monument there with his name on it. We stopped in the Park Borghese overlooking the Plaza do Puopolo. This gave another view of the city. Several countries have their Academics in the park there and there are all sorts of ponds etc scattered through the trees. It was here that I saw my first Punch and Judy show – only it was in Italian. when we were going by the monument Emmanuel 11 on our way to the Colosseum we met some kids from Stanford in Italy so they came along on the tour with us. We went out a little on the Oppian way and followed the old wall of Rome until we came to a freeway which went right under the gates. We also passed the place where they used to have their chariot races. By the time we started home it was evening and we could see the sunset over the city. Tomorrow we are going to the Vatican and will have a chance to see the Pope. Pat and Ruth came with us as we wandered down some back streets tonight to a little pizza place which had been recommended to us. I burnt my tongue on a pizza, but it was just delicious. We also had some Italian pastries which were also yummy. I wish I could send some of those dishes home to you, they are so much fun to try.

It’s now 9pm – and I’ve spent an hour writing this letter. There is just so much to say I can’t get it all down on paper I think I’ll go to bed instead.

I’m going back to the fountain of Trevi before I leave, so I’ll throw a coin in for you all.




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.




Mom’s Tour de France 10 (FGK 101)

I remember studying Candide in an English class at University and it was enough to tackle translated into English – I can’t imagine reading Voltaire en français. My French is so rusty though, there was a time in my life when it probably would have been easier to read the French version.

A letter of Margi’s written to Marshall on November 4th, 1960 from Stanford University, Tours, France

I just finished writing an essay on existentialist philosophy in French – an effort which has exhausted my little mind completely, French is quite a language to tangle with.

I am crushed. The week before last I was sitting calmly in the railway station eating an orange while waiting for my train out of Paris while there was all sorts of excitement going on which I missed. Some Algerians got mad at the police and they had a big gun fight outside the station. I didn’t even know about it until I was safe at home the next day. There was also a big demonstration in Tours which I didn’t find out about until it was over.

Gail and I had dinner yesterday with a French family. The people here are unbelievably friendly. They hardly even knew us and they gave us a chicken dinner and took us for a car ride. We didn’t get home until 6:30pm and we had been speaking French every solid minute! My poor little brain was ruined for the rest of the day. Have you ever tried to explain the American election system, the farm surplus problem, or why Dad doesn’t put all his cattle in the barn for the winter, in French? They are so curious about America and just fire question after question all the time.

I still have about 50 million pages of Voltaire to tackle so I suppose I should get started. Wish they’d stop giving us assignments.

Au revoir



Mom’s Tour de France 9 (FGK 100)

I can’t believe I’ve hit 100 posts From Grandma’s Kitchen!! I am so grateful I’ve got these letters to share.

This is the second half of the letter describing mom’s trip to Germany. I noticed again that she mentions stealing apples off of trees to snack on. I had always figured it was dad who taught us to steal fruit – but now I wonder if maybe mom also had a hand in that. As children, when we would vacation on Vancouver Island, dad was famous for pulling over on the side of the road and sending my sister and I into the ditch with buckets. We had to stand amongst the prickly thorns and pick as many blackberries as we could, as quickly as possible. The drive back to Calgary after our vacations was always a very pungent one as flats of berries sat on top of our luggage.

Her description of the little parade watched reminds me of the Cochrane Labour Day parade when I was a kid. I think the only people watching the parade were parents of kids who were in it- everyone else was in the parade!

Mom bought a camera! I will have to dig around and see if there are any photos of her adventures in Europe.

About seven we got hungry but didn’t know where to find an inexpensive restaurant. While we were going through one of the towns we saw a Shell Station. We knew it would be German, but it felt so good to see a familiar sight that we stopped there to ask where to find a place to eat. Luckily the attendant knew a few words of English and with our few words of German he directed us to a lovely little wooden restaurant. We went in what we hoped was the right door and seated ourselves around one of the tables- which were similar to picnic tables. The waitress couldn’t speak French or English, but we got a menu by gesturing- then the fun started, because we were just starving but couldn’t understand the menu!! We spent about 20 minutes trying to decipher it . By this time a man and his wife had sat down at our table. Everyone in the room was very amused but we were getting hungrier and discussed in English where we should ask them if they would help us. Finally the man leaned over and said, “This is a very good meal!” He spoke a little French and English!! For less than a $1.00 we got a huge platter of meat and mushroom sauce, a platter of spaghetti, and a big salad among the four of us. We were so hungry we ate almost all of it. It was just delicious. We ended up having them all teaching us how to count in German and a few more sentences – like how much does it cost etc. We got into Ulm, which was our destination for the day, fairly late but found a hotel right away. It was new and clean. Our beds had the great big German feather mattresses on them – which made it very difficult to get out of bed the next morning!

Breakfast was served by a quaint old German lady who loaded us up with extra bread for lunch. As you probably have guessed by this time, bread and cheese is the cheapest meal you can get over here. We visited the church (I sent you a post card of it) and attended the service there which was Protestant. (Munster in Ulm an dear Donau hochster Kirchturm dear Erde (161m) Munster (cathedral) at Ulm on the Nonnau highest steeple of the earth (161m).

From Ulm to Stuttgart we were on one of the German autobahns. These are just marvellous – the same thing as a freeway. At Stuttgart our troubles started – everyplace we drove while we were in that town we got lost. We had to count an extra hour whenever we wanted to go somewhere just to get ourselves untangled. After crossing the city about three times we finally got on the right road for the campus of Stanford in Germany. This is in the country near a tiny village not far from Stuttgart. We could see the buildings in the distance because it was at the very top of a hill, looking out in all directions. The sides of the hill are covered with vineyards and apple trees. There is a tiny winding road up to the top lined with trees, from which we took some apples because we hadn’t bought any. We got a great reception from the students there, it was almost like coming home – to meet someone who spoke English!! They showed us all over the centre. We both have different advantages. They live in the country, get to know the people of the village very well and have a homey atmosphere. We have more of the advantages of living near a big town and can meet more students and our building is more modern. Since they have been established longer than we have, they have a few more things – like a record player and more books in the library. Remember this time last year when I was dying to go to Germany? I am still just fascinated by the language and would love to learn it. After taking a walk around the village, we went back to Stuttgart to see Christof, Gail’s friend. He is one of the nicest people I have met over here. We had supper with him and his sister. It was a very simple meal consisting of German bread with cheese and liverwort. Their company was so enjoyable that it was one of the best meals we had. They served some apple cider that had just started to ferment. It was delicious. I wish that it could travel so I could send some for you, but you have to drink it at a certain stage. Christof studies physics at the University of Stuttgart and he had a book on his shelf that was written by Ruth’s father who is a professor at Cal. Christof is also an amateur photographer – some of his pictures were really terrific. He gave us all one as a souvenir. This hobby comes in very handy because the next day he took us down town to buy cameras. I have a fabulous Zeus camera which I got for $50.00 off because someone had exchanged it. I am so excited with it I can hardly wait to run out and get some pictures. I’ve seen so many things since I’ve been here, it’s just killing me without a camera. We walked around the streets of Stuttgart a bit and then went to have a lunch at a milk bar. We had some German bread and pastries for next to nothing. They even sold milkshakes but we just had plain milk. That afternoon we headed for Baden-Baden and the Black Forest. This was one of the prettiest parts of the whole trip. On the tops of some of the hills we could see old ruins of castles. Down in the valleys, here and there we could see a little town. The forests are very well cared for. We could see where they had been re-forested after lumbering. At the top of one of the hills we came across a little store run by two little old men. We stopped here to buy some cookies. We went to so much trouble and get all this in German that he gave us chocolate bars to eat long our way. After leaving the Black Forest we took the Autobahn to Strasburg. The Rhine is the border between France and Germany here and we were caught in a traffic jam on the bridge, trying to get through French customs. They were looking in the trunks fo cars – and we had five cameras plus a lot of odds and ends from Switzerland. We decided to say we were tourists so went in that lane but the little man didn’t really believe us because we had French license plates. We more or less just drove off before he could figure the whole deal out. We spent the night in Strasburg in a tiny hotel in the old part of town. The street we were on was really interesting – hundreds of years old. The people there speak a mixture of French and German – I didn’t think they know what they are half the time. The next morning we visited the cathedral and threw a stone in the Rhine. Since we were quite far from Tours and this was our last day of holiday, we had to drive straight back. We hadn’t seen this part of France before though, so it was quite interesting. I saw some Herefords in a field. There was also some big stacks of baled hay – much more than around Tours.

It was All Saints Day and in some areas of the little villages we passed through they were holding services and parades. Everyone in the village was in the parade so there was no one to but us to watch them. We got back in Tours about seven thirty, in time to compare our experiences with those of the other kids who had gone travelling in all directions.

Margi Copithorne


Mom’s Tour de France 8 (FGK 99)

I was emailing with my aunt the other day and we were discussing mom’s trip to Germany. I wasn’t sure if she would have included it in these letters, so I was very happy to see this trip in today’s letter. The story I got from mom was a bit more dramatic and involved the guards walking out, fully armed, and pointing their guns at the carload of girls. Chances are mom embellished the story to make it a bit more exciting, but chances are just as good that she completely downplayed the border crossing in her letter so as not to freak out poor Grandma.

I am amazed at how strong and agile mom was. I do remember as a kid how much she was able to do – but the a trip like this must have taken such courage! Even her description of sitting under the trees having their lunch – for mom sitting on the ground was not an option because she couldn’t get herself up after. She must have trusted these girls she was travelling with. Quite the different life from 5 years before when she was 4 years into her hospital stay. It really is proof that you never know what is coming ahead for you in life. What if she had listened to the doctors who said she would never even sit up again? What a great life she would have missed out on. Thank goodness for the determination of Grandma and the support of her family.

November 2nd 1960

Dear Everyone;

Here at last is that long promised letter. I have just returned from a fabulous weekend to find mounds and mounds of work waiting for me. I don’t have the nerve to face it so I’ll write a letter instead.

We had a pleasant surprise last week when we discovered that the French celebrate All Saints Day. This meant that our French teachers refused to come on November 1st. We talked to our other professors into giving up their classes on the following weekend so that we could have from Friday to Wednesday free.

Gail knew a boy in Stuttgart who was a close friend of a friend here and who had invited us there for a weekend so we decided to try our luck at German. Together with Pat and Ruth, two close friends of ours, we took a car and headed east early Friday morning towards Switzerland. We had stopped at a little grocery store the night before and were well stocked with French bread, cheese, and fruit which was to be our lunch throughout the whole trip. Neuchâtel, Switzerland was the goal fro our first day. We drove along the Loire for the first hour and then headed off into the farmlands of Eastern France. These were just gorgeous with the red, yellow, and orange leaves against the dark green of the grass. At first, the terrain was quite flat with lots of forest but few hills and then gradually there got to be more and more knolls. We stopped for lunch at a little village on top of a hill. At the very peak of the hill there was an old Abby part of which was built in the 9th century. There were still monks living in the same old building – probably rebuilt. We ate our lunch out under the trees in the church garden From here we could see for miles up and down the valley. It would have been a good place for a fort. From here on we kept going into more and more hills until we hit the Jura mountains – which really aren’t too high but which are very picturesque because the towns are all in the valleys when you drive into one you get the same view as we get of Banff from the top of Sulphur Mountain. We drove through here at the hour when all the farmers were taking their cows home to milk them and many a time we had to yield the right of way to a big bossy looking creature with a bell around her neck. These bells sound lovely in the evening when they are all going home and there is a peasant going along behind chasing them with a stick. We crossed the Swiss border just at twilight. All the guard did was look at our passports – much to our disappointment, he didn’t even mark them so now we cannot show off all the places we’ve been to. We got to Neuchatel fairly early and were able to find a nice hotel near the centre of town. It was right by a market place where we went out and bought carrots the next morning. We met some Americans who were studying there and who told us where to go for our meal. It was a charming little restaurant where we had soup and a big main course for about 75 cents. Really good food. We all bought the Swiss chocolate bars for dessert and ate them in our room. Since we wanted to get an early start we went to bed early in our little wooden beds which were loaded down with elder downs. I had some more Swiss hot chocolate for breakfast along with some homemade jam on rolls. I’m sure I gained about 10 pounds on the trip. We drove around the town in the morning to look at the lake and the buildings and then headed out for Bern.

Swiss villages pleased me more than any others I’ve ever seen – they are so quaint, clean and picturesque. They still use horses a lot but there is the odd tractor. The fields are as well kept as the houses are – and the people are so very friendly. We kept waving at all the farmers as we drove along singing in our little car. We got to Bern about 11 o’clock, not knowing exactly what we wanted to do. It took quite a while to find a parking place and then we decided to look in some of the shops. As we were walking along the street we heard someone calling our names and a girl we met on the boat came running up! She showed us over much of the city – the cathedral and the clock were the highlights. You’ve probably read about the big clock in Bern. When the hour strikes all sorts of little men and animals come out and run around it. I was just fascinated by it all. She took us into a shop which specialized in chocolates. There were every kind imaginable there – and all sorts of weird shapes. I did some Xmas shopping there – you should get the parcel early in December and be able to distribute them for me. After this we went to a toy store, I could have spent hours there – much of the toys were the same as ours but some were quite different. I bought Dixie something – it was hard for someone her age but it quite sturdy and should be hard to break. After saying goodbye to Erika and buying some more bread and cheese for our lunch, we headed for Zurich. This is in the German speaking part of Switzerland, as is Bern, but most of the people could speak French so we got along alright – language difficulties weren’t to come until Germany. We got an excellent view of the Alps going into Zurich. They remind me of our Rockies. The difference is these have tiny villages with wooden houses (chalets) around them. Every village has a church with a big clock in the tower- I could always keep my watch set! We had to stop for gas here as it is cheaper in Switzerland than in Germany. The people at the station were very kind and gave us our directions in a mixture of French, German, and English, telling us a few necessary German phrases like “where is a restaurant, hotel, etc.” It was dusk when we drove up to the German boarder. As we approached two tall guards in the German uniform stepped out to stop the car. Suddenly I guess I forgot what year it was it I usually was terrified. It was just a passing feeling and I didn’t say anything about it until a half hour later and i found out the other kids had felt that way too. I guess I’ve seen too many World War 2 movies.


Mom’s Tour de France 7 (FGK 98)

October 16, Tours, France

Hi Everyone:

It hardly seems a month since I left. So much has happened to me since then that it seems longer. Perhaps if you are still getting the New York Times you saw that we had our opening last week. Saturday afternoon there was a ceremony in the town hall. All the local dignitaries were there plus the US Ambassador, President Stirling, and representatives of the French Government. There was an academic procession and many long flowery speeches in French most of which I couldn’t understand.

After this we had a reception at the Centre at which we students were the hosts. It was my first cocktail party in French and after 3 hours of standing and talking to all sorts of people I thought I’d never be able to speak the language again. We served champagne and some of those divine pastries. It was 10 pm before all the guests left and we students were able to go and have some dinner at the restaurant next door. We had steak and beans for 60 cents which is quite good.

I wish you could have seen the Centre on Opening Day. There were French and American Flags on the balconies and two big flag poles with them cut in front. The lobby was full of flowers and we shipped all our rooms in shape for open house. Everyone was quite impressed with it, as am I. Do you realize that we have maid service – and even if I attempt to make my bed she rips it apart later and makes it again. Needless to say, I don’t argue with her. Maybe I told you this, but I can’t get over it.

Last Sunday morning we went to a little Protestant church nearby. The service was all in French – it seemed quite different when we were singing the hymns. It was raining so we spent the afternoon studying etc.

One afternoon last week when it was clear and very crisp outside I stopped on my way back from downtown at a little stand on the sidewalk. It is run by two old women who are just ancient but they are ably aided by a yellow mutt who guards them faithfully. It is just around the corner from the Centre so we all say “Bonjour” now when we go there for the candies and fruit that they sell. This day they were roasting chestnuts and I couldn’t resist the smell as I was going by. I bought some and Gail and I had them in our room that afternoon. If you ever get a chance you should try them, they are just divine.

I went and got a French haircut Friday. It was really exciting because I didn’t know how to tell them what I wanted. By the time I left I had quite a language lesson because they were very talkative and friendly and insisted on writing out all the phrases for me to remember. They even told me how to get my skirts shortened as they are all about 2 inches too long. A haircut, shampoo, styling and set costs $2.00 here. There are no bargains in clothes that I can see in France except gloves.

Yesterday Gail and I went to the flower market which is set up Wednesday and Saturday. Stalls of flowers are set up in the market place and you can walk along just to look or to buy. We finally ended up getting a small bouquet and a pansy for our balcony. It was fun to talk to the people and see all different types of flowers. In the afternoon one of the girls here who has a car took us out to see the country house of Balzac. It was so good to be out in the country because the surroundings here are just inconceivably lovey. I wish I had a camera to show you some of the views we passed. There was a quaint old bridge on a peaceful stream with an old water wheel and I’ll a little ways away with a thatched cottage beside the stream. In some places we saw the peasants farmyards. They have the wine in caves in the hills and ins one places I think they live in the caves because we saw chimneys sticking out of the hills, with doors leading into the cliff. I would love to have gone into some of these places but we don’t really know enough French to make sense to the people yet. We stole some apples off a tree by the road. I felt guilty because I know how some poor farmer feels but they tasted awfully good!

Since we were spending the whole weekend here, two French girls took us for a ride out to a chateau this afternoon. Gail and I talked in French to them all afternoon – or tried to – but at times we had trouble making each other understood. Catherine de Medici furnished all of the rooms of the chateau. It had been restored to a great extent and was very interesting. One floor was brought from Florence – we were afraid to walk on it, it was so ornate. It was on top of a hill with a moat around it. There was a date by the draw bridge which was 1551. The view was splendid because we could see miles up and down the Loire. There is so much to see here that is new and different, I just can’t assimilate it all.

Gail and I have both been feeling fine – all the kids from California have been dying in this cool weather we have been having. They don’t mind it as long as the sun is shining but they can’t feature clouds all winter. I think the weather is a lot nicer than what I’ve heard it was going to be like. The towns are cleaner than I was led to believe also. Sometimes we go down the quaint old back streets which are wide enough for one car only and even they are clean – except that the buildings are so very old.

Guess what? I’ve signed up for. Course in French cooking!! We haven’t’ started anything yet but I can hardly wait to see what it’s like.

Margi Copithorne


Mom’s Tour de France 6 (FGK 97)

Several things about this letter make me emotional. First of all, it’s shocking to realize how much happened to mom in those teen years – at 11 being in the hospital (well really she was still 10 but a month or so from being 11), all of those years spent wondering if she would survive the effects of polio, praying for her to sit up or be able to walk again. Then off to boarding school in Florida before attending Stanford – and then off to France. There are also little details in her letter that fascinate me. When mom says they were up at 4am to explore for the day, I wonder how she got ready. Even when I was a child and mom was stronger and more agile, getting dressed took her a couple of hours. She had to put on a back brace that had various layers and many snaps and straps, then she had her leg brace to navigate as well. Mom didn’t complain about it, but getting ready every day was almost a full day event for her as she got older. Then there’s the accessibility issue. As a child I remember going places with mom and there were no such things as automatic doors, and many places had steps to get in – all of this took mom extra work to navigate. Some of those heavy doors she couldn’t get through without someone there to hold the door for her. I had to do a short stint on crutches when I was younger and I was shocked at how frigging tiring it is to haul yourself around on them. I’m struck by her courage, and also the kindness of her friends travelling with her.

This letter was written October 6th, 1960 (Margie’s birthday)

I just got back from a marvellous birthday party which my friends have sprung as a surprise – and it really was!! They called me down to Ruth and Patti’s room and when I walked in there was the most fantastic cake I have ever seen plus a big sign on the wall saying “Bon Anniversaire.” Then they all sang “Happy Birthday” in French. The cake was an enormous French pastry with “Bon Anniversaire Margi” written on it. This involved a problem as far as cutting was concerned but it all disappeared within a few minutes. French pastry is really just out of this world. Gail gave me the most darling French poodle for my bed which was looking very bare with nothing on it. Pat and Ruth gave me a big potted plant for our balcony. Margi and Rosemary gave me some candles and Penny and Kathy gave me some more French pastry and some lipstick (the colour all the French girls have been wearing).

I left off my first letter when we decided to go to Paris last weekend. Friday morning we had lectures until noon about how to adjust to French life, get along with the people etc. At noon we were free to go and catch the first train to Paris – something I’ve waited for so many years to do that I couldn’t believe it was happening. We stayed on the left Bank which is the student section. We were too tired Friday nite to do anything but walk around a bit, see the Louvre illuminated and go to bed. We got up at 4am Saturday morning to go to Les Halles which is the great vegetable market of Paris. We walked around all the Halls while the people taught us the name of the food in French and gave us some grapes. We then went and had the most delicious onion soup I have ever stated at a little restaurant. The soups they have here are out of this world. After this we went back and slept until 10am when we went to take in such things as the Toulaires, La Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower etc etc. We sat down at a sidewalk cafe and had a cup of tea on the Champs Élysées. Gail and Ruth and I bought a piece of French bread, some cheese and an apple and sat down on the banks of the Siene in front of Le Louvre to eat our lunch. It was so much fun just sitting and watching the people and boats that we spent an hour and a half there. After this we wandered through the gardens around the Louvre and back to our rooms to go to bed early. Sunday we caught the Metro to the Ile de la Cite to attend Mass at Notre Dame. None of us were Catholic so we decided this wouldn’t be polite so we went in a little bit but spent most of the time walking around outside. We then caught a bus to the Louvre – it would take a lifetime to go through it but I saw the Mona LIsa and several other masterpieces. I would like to spend the weekend there – I hope it isn’t too long before we go again. Paris is absolutely charming. What I enjoyed most was not the tourist spots but the more out of the way places like the quasi of the Siene and the parts of the Left Bank. I miss my car needless to say, because there are so many parts of this fabulous country I want to see. Not only is Paris full of fascinating things, but just going through the countryside is an experience. I’m starting to get some friends among the French students now which is fun because they don’t talk English. I never realized how poor my French was before!! This is certainly an incentive to work on it. We have really had a lot of work piled on us for the past two days I’ve been locked in the library back in the old routine.

Margi Copithorne

Stanford in France

Place Anatole France

Tours, Indre et Louvre