Debbie and I just returned from our third European trip of the last year. We have decided to make Paris our home base as we continue to expand our research on a wide front. It has become increasingly clear that the European monetary union has reached the critical stage. If the Euro blows up, in what kind of state will the European Union find itself? A European crisis is ramping up as the U.S. Congress begins kicking around the idea of defunding the U.N. Personally, I would depart the U.N. as well as the anachronism that is NATO. So then, the fat, as they say, is in the fire.
Here at home, Fed Chairman Bernanke assures Americans that he is 100% certain that he can keep inflation under control. Come on here. Once again, I paid $15 U.S. for what Debbie and I have come to refer to as Bernanke beers. Hard to believe that at a Paris Brasserie, a draft Kronenbourg 1664 can run you $15, is it not? When the ticket hits the table, the carnage does not look too bad until you remember that pricing is in euros. So add on another 40% to convert to US$. A Paris brasserie beer blast could get expensive faster than you could say cigarettes. Why cigarettes? Because the French apparently get a disproportionate amount of their vitamin and mineral intake from butts. Boy, do they smoke. And do they suck down Cokes. For every brasserie beer or wine glass on a table, there are three or four Cokes (not a Pepsi in sight).
There is no recession in Paris. The place is smoking (excuse the pun). And Paris is huge, about ten times the size of Boston. We walked our legs off in order to neutralize the caloric effects of foie gras and duck confit. Let me tell you, unless you have your walking game face on, it would be easy to blow up like a tic. And while on the subject of walking, check out Tod’s for shoes that don’t tear your feet to shreds walking the arrondissements. Take it from a guy who knows first hand.
We had specific multiple research goals for this trip. I will outline a broad array of findings for you as I continue my Paris series.
But for now, I want to concentrate on our personal guided tour to Normandy and the D-Day beaches. We wanted to see first hand what the U.S. military was up against in coming ashore on D-Day. Deb’s dad was part of the Utah beach attack, so we had a personal interest. Substantial research convinced us that the guy we wanted to guide us was Paul R. Woodage. Be sure to check out Paul’s site here.
It is no easy task getting on board with Paul. He is a no-BS guy and not interested in any jive (not that we were throwing any). Paul is a laser-focused expert, who quit school in England at the age of 16 and spent every spare moment and pound he had traveling to Normandy and studying the action at D-Day. Paul, who has a library of over 700 books on the subject, takes you back to the war in Normandy as if you were live on the scene. The word exhilarating comes to mind. The Germans, after creating eighth wonder of the world-type gun placement and bunker facilities, which covered 2,000 miles, screwed up logistics and management at the end of the day and allowed the Allies to roll in. Given the fortifications the Germans had in place, the outcome should have been a lot different. Paul laid it all out in spades, providing a depth of knowledge I never expected to receive from anyone on any subject. I am not impressed by the effort of many people; perhaps shame on me. Paul is at the top of my list, and Debbie and I will return to do Paul’s Band of Brothers and Omaha Beach tours. Do some homework before you go. For an overview, familiarize yourself with, for example, Band of Brothers. Saving Private Ryan, The Storm of War (Andrew Roberts), On To Berlin (James Gavin). Paul lists many others on his website. I will return soon with Part V of What I Learned in Paris.