Burton Dane Travels

We're traveling through Europe and parts nearby for a year. We'll be posting our pix and adventures here.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Parisian Mysteries

Here are three mysterious pictures. What are these men doing? What is that big wooden ball behind Jules and Ben. Why is there a tower of bunnies?

These men are running a scam in the flea market. One is playing a version of three card monty while the other three appear to be winning and losing money. They each have a character to play. There’s a rube, a friendly guy, a serious guy. They are “betting” 20 to 50 euros while they congratulate and console each other. Eventually, they attract tourists who see how easy it is to pick the right card. If the tourist is reluctant, they’ll offer them money to bet with.

Of course the pay off is when the tourist reaches for their wallet. I saw one young girl quickly lose 20 euros. I wanted to warn her but figured I couldn’t handle the repercussions.

If you look closely you can see one of the guy spotting me taking the picture. He quickly came over and told me “no pictures”. We left....

The ball is a cleaning ball they use in the sewers. Over time, the sewers fill with a “hybrid mixture” and “sand”. They insert balls that are slightly smaller than the sewers. The water flows around the ball in a high pressure flow sort of like putting your thumb on a running hose. This squirts the solids forward into a clean out bin.
We learned all about this and the dredging boats they use to keep it all moving under the streets of Paris.

The bunnies were for sale and probably just cold. We think they are sold as pets, not for food or coat trimmings.

Judean Kings

Before the French Revolution, Notre Dame was ringed with statues of ancient Judean Kings. While ridding themselves of symbols of their royalty, the revolutionaries mistakenly cast these statues off of the walls.

Someone gathered the heads and buried them in the yard of a house under construction. They were recently discovered and put on display in the Musee du Moyen Age...... (where they sing their tale)

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I love Paris in the Springtime, I love Paris in the Fall, I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles...have yet to be here in Summer though.
It is our good fortune to be in town for an exhibition of Herge, creator of Tin Tin stories! The Pompidieu Center provided this show for free, guess there really is no question you won’t be buying a Tin Tin or two before you depart. We also enjoyed the contemporary art collection in the upper floor that was recently remodeled in chronological order of art movements. An excellent way to spend a homeschool day (poor Ben)!
Am I the last to realize that looking towards the Arc de Triomphe (de l’Etoile) from the Louvre Museum, you can see a straight line (called the Triumphal Way) of big-deal Paris sites? Makes sense in the light that this museum was once the royal residence, before the French Revolution. Now, a modern-looking glass pyramid designed by IM Pei, sits in the courtyard and looking West, framed by another arch with pink columns built by Napoleon Bonaparte, you see the Tuileries gardens; a 3300 year-old egyptian obelisk; and Place De La Concorde, where the king and queen of France met “La Guillotine”.
There is a museum fashioned from famous scientist Pasteur’s lab that turned out rather more interesting than we had thought it would. Original glassware and collections of medals (there is not much Pasteur missed) in addition to his body--entombed in the basement along with extensive mosaics and marble work. This is a shot of the mad dogs he faced researching the rabies vaccine.
For those out there feeling poor Ben is constantly beseiged not only by parents and museums, here is another data point for you: He was driven out of a french playground by a pack of ravenous toddlers bent on destruction of his sand creations but it didn’t kill his appetite for delightful escargots!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Paris Images

Some free standing "treehouses", the Pompidou reflection, La Defenseur du Temps and nice blue bowler.

Pere Lachaise

We were greeted by rain, wind and a menacing raven in Pere Lachaise, Paris’s hillside cemetery. Many outstanding family burial houses in a city-like setting.

We passed a large group of rockers no doubt heading for Jim Morrison’s grave. It had a guard nearby.

Found out that it’s a ritual to kiss Oscar Wilde’s monument. And that rubbing the seemingly well-endowed Victor Noir gives fertility power.

La Tour Eiffel

Lots of steps up then you have to take a glass elevator. Packed like bloaters (sardines). Watching the grid work around you come closer and closer till it seems like the tower is too narrow to hold more than an antenna.

We expected the door to open onto a narrow catwalk much too high above Paris. Luckily, you step out into an enclosed walkway before climbing up one level to get blasted by the wind.

They say it only sways a few inches at the top. That may be but, but you sure can feel it move.

Friday, February 09, 2007


We enjoyed a couple of cold, clear days in Reims, the largest city in the Champagne region. The Notre Dame church had some of the best stained glass windows we’ve seen. The pictures show two that are different from the others.

Marc Chagal worked with a local stained glass artist to create the windows in one of the chapels. I love the abstracted colored light coming through these windows. They tell stories without being too precise.

I don’t know the artist for the other window. It used the lead lines to create motion and divide up space. I don’t know if there is imagery there or not. I just found it appealing.

We also had to stock up on some of the region’s products. Turns out the French drink 80% of the champagne they make. Only a few big companies export. We sampled the ones that don’t and they’ve been delicious.

We stood in the War Room where Eisenhower planned the last few months of WWII. The maps and battlefield status charts are all still on the walls. I found it amazing to see how they displayed the information they worked from. Wall size maps with little movable pads. Six foot charts showing troop and soldier readiness. Lots of space dedicated to food logistics. One of the most important planning rooms of the last century and it’s just markers and oversized charts!

This was also the room where the Germans negotiated and signed the surrender papers. Eisenhower wasn’t in the room because there was no German of equal rank available. The Russians insisted on repeating the signing the next day in Berlin. I guess the Cold War started in this room as well.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Dachau Concentration Camp

The entrance is through the original gatehouse with an iron gate that cynically says “work sets you free”.

Cold drizzle and quiet matched the sadness of this place. The only vivid color was of the crematorium brick, gas room tile and the triangles used to identify the class of prisoner (yellow for jews, pink for gays, etc.).

Dachau was the “pilot” camp for the rest of the camp system. They figured out processes and procedures here, trained on them, then used them elsewhere.

The museum included the overall story and individual accounts of victims and perpetrators. It’s devastating.

It was terribly sad

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


We had a great time catching up with our friends Astrid and Wolfgang at their home outside Munich. Jules and I met them 19 years ago when we all lived in California. We had a few fun years together then. 17 years later it seems like we never stopped seeing each other.

We toured downtown Munich, spent two afternoons in the Deutsches Museum, Jules got a new look and I got to snowboard in the Austrian Alps.

The pictures include some high power electrical demonstrations at the museum, we got to see them twice. It also shows Wolfie with me, “his little friend” (he really isn’t 7 feet tall).

Sunday, February 04, 2007


We detoured (as if the whole trip hasn't been a detour) into the Dolomites to see some snow. We weren't disappointed. And there was some more great Italian road building.


We left Roma and Firenze for the third city on Italy’s tourist route. We found it easy to camp on the mainland the first night, then take a vaporetto over to the island for 2 nights there.

It’s just like in the pictures!

We got chased out by horizontal snow flurries in Murano. Ben's face shows how much he liked it.


We took a two day side trip to Rome because we couldn’t convince ourselves we would do it in the summer heat and crowds. No pictures cause of the dead camera battery. We walked the Roman Forum at night, saw the Vatican museums, Sistine Chapel, Colosseum and a bunch of great statues.

We took the Eurostar train there and back. Relaxing and comfortable. Much better than driving.

We had a funny dinner in a restaurant where we (accidently) woke up an old man who cooked for and served us. We ate what he suggested and it was great. Some other non-italian diners didn’t take his suggestions and hardly got anything to eat. We learned a lesson the easy way.


Our flat in Firenze was a few steps from a main plaza, Piazzala Della Signoria. Florence is a great walking city and this put us in the middle of it. We spent two weeks enjoying the museums, streets and buildings.

Our stay here deserves so much more description then we’re going to give it. We couldn’t charge the camera battery so we didn’t take pictures for most of the time. As I write this, it’s been two weeks since we were there.

It was a great stay in a great city. There were no lines for the museums and we often had rooms to ourselves. We got to know the area and a few people. Marusca took us to a dinner theater with her husband and daughter. We saw the chef make fun of the diners and how much food they ate. The entertainment included a parody of tourists of different nationalities. The american described everything as “wonderful, wonderful wonderful”. We do that now too.

We had wifi problems throughout Italy. Marusca fought with the Italian telecom almost everyday. She finally succeeded after 4 weeks (two weeks after we left). There was a free hot spot in an Irish pub but they couldn’t get it to work. The password was “missing” in our first flat. We used the Internet Train cafe which was a brightly lit hallway with shoulder to shoulder terminals. At least it was close to our flat.
Many of our days included a morning of homeschooling, an afternoon of a museum and an evening stroll with internet time. There was plenty of gelato mixed in.

And we did see the fashion models. It was a men’s fashion show and we saw a group of models out walking one night. One looked familiar. I think I’ve seen pictures of him in his undies.