I was not going to write about my experiences in Europe any further, but one of my daughters prevailed upon me to do it one more time, so once again into the breech.
When my friend and I arrived in Paris and reported for work the first day, we were called into the District managers office. He was a tough old Scotsman, certainly nobody to fool around with. Getting right to the point, he said that he understood that we were young and single and the temptations to live it up in Paris or wherever we were assigned were many. He said he couldn’t care less what we did on our free time, how late we might stay up, for example, but we had to make sure we showed up at the office no later than 8:AM sharp, and ready to go go to work. We both nodded in agreement fearing that if we said anything it might be construed as being contradictory.
And there was many the weekday night that I would stay up past one or two in the morning and then have to get up by six to make it in on time. ( I had to have breakfast before going to work. Even today, my wife says that if I ever skipped a meal the Earth would stop rotating on its axis. Since I certainly would not want that to happen I never skip a meal.) There were some nights when I got home so late that I knew if I went to bed I would never get up on time, so I just stayed up the entire night. I would drag myself thru the mornings but by early afternoon I started feeling much better, and by quitting time I was ready to go out on the town again. I would average about 4- 5 hours of sleep per night, maybe 6 hours on the weekend. There was always so much to do or see that I never slept late, even on weekends. I have to laugh at today’s medical recommendations that everyone get 7-8 hours sleep per night for good health. I haven’t gotten that much sleep since I was a teenager.
One of the early assignments I had was at an Army installation in Poitiers, France which was southwest of Paris. It was a town made up of narrow, winding, cobblestone streets and stone houses, and a lot of ancient history. It seems that a great battle was fought there in the 14th century between England and France in one of a multitude of wars between those 2 countries over the centuries. (It all seems so futile in retrospect.) This battle was notable because the king of France was captured by the British and more than a dozen noblemen were slaughtered on both sides. When I was there they still had parades and commemoration ceremonies honoring those that fought in that battle.
At the time anyone assigned by the Government to Europe were allowed to bring all their personal belongings with them including their cars. (I know, it seemed that the Government couldn’t do enough for you if you landed that assignment.) So some of the military would bring their big, clunker cars over with them, like Chryslers and Buicks. Did I mention how narrow most of the streets of Poitiers were. So narrow that to get one of these clunkers thru these streets they literally had to drive up on the sidewalks which were also pretty narrow. It was a sight to behold with pedestrians scurrying out of the way when a Chrysler would go rumbling down their street.
Poitiers did have several fine little restaurants where you could get outstanding food and wine at nominal prices. When you entered most of these restaurants you felt as if you were inside a cave or grotto. They were great retreats. Of course I may have made the European experience sound like all fun and games which it certainly was not. We often worked long hours, sometimes until 12-1 in the morning to met certain deadlines and then have to be back at work by 7:30-8AM. Nights when we didn’t work that late we would often play poker until 2 in the morning, usually for high stakes, especially if we had just gotten our travel expense reimbursement checks. But I did get 2 promotions out of all that work, so that in my next assignment I was Auditor-in-Charge and supervised about 6 other auditors in La Rochelle, an Army port facility about 300 miles south of Paris. It was from there that I would drive back to Paris on weekends at speeds of 80-90MPH that I described in my previous entry.
The last 9 months of my tour I actually secured an audit in Paris so I didn’t have to drive like a madman every weekend. One of my favorite restaurants there was called (English translation) the Rotisserie of the Royal Duck. It was notable because if you went in a party of 4, they would plunk down 3 magnum sized bottles of wine (white, red,and rose) and if you ever did get to the bottom of one of the bottles (which we never could) they would simply replace it with a fresh bottle. The fixed price menu also included an aperitif, an after-dinner drink and a 5 course menu, all for about $5.50 per person. You could see why it was so popular. We never failed to go reeling or staggering out of there in a drunken stupor when we were finished.
Of course I visited many other cities during my time there. I visited London several times, but if it was winter I preferred spending my time in the local pubs with natives having a “pint” rather than doing the touristy things in the cold and rain. But I felt guilty about not seeing the things I should so I made an effort to visit some sites like the Tower of London where Ann Boylyn was held and later beheaded by Henry VIII. Was disappointed however that I could find no blood in her stone cell. And so it went in other cities I visited. I spent most of my time in outdoor cafes or small night spots but did make an effort to see some of the cathedrals and other places of note. In retrospect I still enjoyed having a beer in an outdoor cafe rather than acting like a tourist.
Within a few months after my tour was up and I left France, Charles De Gaulle the French President and WWII hero booted all American military out of France. The whole kit and kaboodle had to relocate to Germany. I like to think that once De Gaulle learned that I was no longer in France he had no further use for the Americans.