This Valley Oak, shot in California (circa 1979), is one of the few pictures I developed while taking a photography course. Please don’t ask me what type of camera was used, or what F-stop I set on the camera . These memories are as lost as the camera, made in Germany and stolen in a Paris restaurant while I happily ate my breakfast chatting to fellow tourists; we were on a two day bus excursion from Ramstien Air Base, Germany to Paris, France for the weekend.
I found this photo while looking for another photo, and that seems to be the way my life works. Whenever control is rendered, something else makes itself known.
We left Ramstien A B around 5:00 am on a tour bus. How exciting! Going to Paris for the weekend. The trip cost fifty-seven dollars in total. Seven dollars of the fare was for a private bedroom in a Paris hotel. I imagine that this trip would cost considerably more today. The bus traveled through Germany in the early hours, past village after village, farm after farm. After a while, everything started to look homogenized until we entered the Black Forest in Bavaria.
Here I took many pictures of old growth trees and winding roads, while the tour director sat at the front of the bus talking about interesting facts and points of interests. We drove through the village of Oberammergau, Bavaria ; here, Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales were painted across the fronts and sides of all the buildings. Charming! We stopped at a small gasthaus and were treated to a continental lunch that included homemade head cheese. Soon we were full, back on the bus, and heading towards the “City Of Lights.”
The bus drove on while I slept until entering the border between Germany and France. Here we had to show our “papers” to a patrolman who walked up and down the isle suspiciously inspecting these American tourists from Germany. We all passed. Heading up and up the narrow winding road toward Montmartre, I was uncomfortable and anxious to get out and stretch. We finally reached the old city and what a beautiful site!
Looking down over Paris I could see the sun rising in the east, casting long brilliant shadows over the French landscape and Paris landmarks. The Arc de Triomphe loomed squat in the distance, the Eiffel Tower appeared tall and proud. Oh what great photos I would take here! We walked around the Boulevard Montmartre where once Gauguin, Van Gogh and Bernard walked, drank and painted. Humbling.
I took many shots of Paris life through my window from inside the bus and carried it with me into the little restaurant where we would dine and relax before checking into the planned hotel. I remember walking into the restaurant and slinging the camera case strap over the back of my chair, removing my jacket and placing it over the back of the chair, and then walking up to the buffet counter, marveling at the tasty entrees behind the clear glass, and chatting with my weary fellow passengers. This was the last time I saw that camera. When it was time to leave and I removed the tan blazer from the back of my chair, the camera was gone and so were the images that might have been. C'est live