Fenton & White Discover Big Things Can Be Achieved By Thinking Small

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SOMETIMES THINGS SEEM TOO BIG TO HANDLE

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Have you ever looked at something coming up and felt completely overwhelmed?  A lot of the work that Pete and I have been doing over the summer has left us feeling like the tasks ahead were insurmountable.  We had several larger-than-life tasks and deadlines to achieve, and it just seemed like the challenges that lay ahead were as over-sized as the world’s largest rubber duckie which was moored in Toronto for Canada Day.

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THE KEY TO OVERCOMING BIG TASKS IS TO DO IT IN SMALL BITES

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So what do you do when you want to achieve big things?  The key is to think small! Break that big task into a whole bunch of smaller bites, but that isn’t the only thing that is going to get the task done.

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SCHEDULING AND ADVANCE PLANNING IS REALLY HELPFUL

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The biggest projects are often achieved by ensuring that at least one step per day is taken to move the project forward.  Setting short term goals, putting them into a schedule and sticking to them helped us to make BIG progress.  As each week passed, we were able to look back at all we had achieved, and the task in front of us seemed slightly smaller.

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PETE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MIGRATION OF THE DATA BASE FOR HIS COLLECTIONS TO A NEW SYSTEM

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Pete has spent the last two months trying to transition all of the records of invertebrate fossils in his collection area (which amounts to tens of thousands of records) into a cohesive new system that will integrate with a new data base.  The sheer volume of specimens makes the work seem overwhelming, but day by day he has been making huge progress, and as the work has gone along, it has gotten a little less daunting.

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SCOTT HAD A GIANT TASK AHEAD … FULL ORCHESTRATIONS FOR THE GIANT’S GARDEN

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While Pete was working on data systems, Scott was upgrading the present score for The Giant’s Garden to a score for 5 instruments for an upcoming production.   Eventually it meant creating a broad score of 380 pages of music, and then splitting that score into individual part books for the instruments that ranged from 50 to 110 pages.  All told, over 750 pages of music were created for the upcoming production.   For information on this production, click here. 

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The good news is that in both cases, with careful scheduling, daily perseverance and hard work … both of these tasks have hit their present targets and are on schedule.  But the work isn’t done yet!

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BIG BANDS KEEP THE CROWDS DANCING AT SUNDAY SERENADES

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Around scoring work, a little bit of Standardized Patient work and some filming for Ryerson, Scott has been able to schedule some time for his other projects, including hosting the Sunday Serenades series each Sunday night.  These free concerts draw hundreds of people out and give them a chance to dance to 15 piece big bands.  It’s a blast!  The concerts run in Toronto until mid August.  For more information click here

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WRITING AN ORIGINAL SONG PER WEEK FOR THEATRE DIRECT ALSO KEEPS SCOTT BUSY

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Scott also manages to sneak in one session a week as a guest artist with Theatre Direct, writing an original song inspired by the creative work the children in the weekly camps are devising.  3 songs down, and 2 more to go over the upcoming weeks!  See … I’m already 60% of the way there!

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THE TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL IS COMING UP QUICKLY

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Once Sunday Serenades and the Theatre Direct work are past, Scott will dive back into work with the Toronto International Film Festival.  This will fill up the end of August and the first few weeks of September.

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A LITTLE AWAY TIME DOWN THE PATH IS A GREAT MOTIVATOR

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So as busy as the summer has been, and as busy as the upcoming weeks are going to be, we are also balancing it off with some plans for some downtime.  We are planning a cottage get-away with friends in the latter part of August just before Film Fest hits and during the last half of September we will be making a get-away for a vacation to a yet undisclosed location … but we think we know where we are headed.  So if life seems busy and overwhelming … break it down into small manageable pieces, schedule at least one step a day to move you forward, and give yourself a reward to look forward to when you make progress.  If you think small, you’d be amazed how much you can accomplish.

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We hope you are having a terrific summer whatever you may be doing.  Until next time …

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Warmest Regards,

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FENTON & WHITE

 

Fenton & White Head East – Part 4

After a brief hiatus, the final installment of the train trip east is now ready.  As many of you know, the blogs are written after we return from our trips. Rehearsals in Calgary on  Newfoundland Mary have been filling the time day and night.  Read on to find out more about our adventures.  When we last left off, Pete and I had just finished dinner, and were heading back to the observation car before going to sleep.

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A SNOW STORM CLOSED IN AROUND THE TRAIN AND THE SIGNAL LIGHTS IN THE NIGHT BECAME FIERY BEACONS AS WE WHIZZED PAST AT HIGH SPEED

The further east we headed the stormier it got and there wasn’t a lot to see out of the windows at night so we made our way to our cabin to see what it looked like with the beds down.

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THE BEDS ARE COMFORTABLE AND EVEN WHEN THEY ARE DOWN THERE IS A FEW FEET OF WIDTH BESIDE THEM TO GET UP AND DOWN IN THE NIGHT

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A LADDER ALLOWS THE PERSON ON THE TOP BUNK EASY ACCESS UP AND DOWN

In general, the sleeping arrangements were quite comfortable.  One of the only challenges is that the light in the bathroom can not be shut off and so if someone gets up in the night and opens the door to the bathroom … the cabin is flooded with light.  The doors to the bathrooms also have stiff fasteners on them and to get them open you have to use quite a bit of force (they have a kick-plate on the bottom) so it is hard to open them quietly.  We traveled on through the night and as we slept the storm swept past us.  By morning, the skies were clear. We had an early breakfast and then decided to try our next adventure … showering in a moving train.

Montreal And Halifax March 2017 069  SHOWERING IN A MOVING TRAIN IS MADE EASIER BY THE FACT THAT THE BATHROOM IS SMALL, MAKING IT HARDER TO FALL OVER AS THE TRAIN ROCKS BACK AND FORTH.

In the above picture you can see the hose for the shower and the white dial that controls temperature.   When the door is closed (and it has a lip) the bathroom is well sealed and as you stand in the corner, the water drains out of the drain in the floor.  To shower you set your water temperature and press the button beside the white dial and it gives you 20 seconds of water and then shuts off.  The shower head is a small wand at the end of the hose that has a reasonable amount of water pressure, but the holes on the wand are small, so the volume of water isn’t huge.  So you shower in stages.  First you get wet (20 seconds).  Then you shampoo and soap up (as long as you like).  Then you rinse (20 seconds)  Then you press the button again to get more of the soap off (20 seconds).  Then you press the button a third time to continue rinsing (20 seconds).  Repeat appropriately depending on how much soap you used in the first place and how much patience you have.   Then you get out your towel and dry off.  Or I suppose you could use the provided hair dryer.  The shower actually worked out quite well. The water was hot and it provided an ample shower after a long day on the train.  I suppose for people who like long hot showers this would not be the best, but you can press the button as many times as you like and get your water in 20 second spurts.

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NEW BRUNSWICK WAS COVERED IN SNOW, BUT THE ICE WAS BEGINNING TO MELT

After our showers, we dressed and went back to the dome car.  It was a snowy sight.  We made our way through New Brunswick and spent some of our time in the observation car, some of our time in our cabin and of course our meal times (breakfast and lunch) were in the dining car.  The nice thing about train travel is that unlike a plane, there are different places you can spend time and you can get up and stretch your legs.

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WHILE WE MADE OUR WAY EAST, THE TRACKS STAYED BEHIND TO CARRY OTHER PASSENGERS ON FUTURE TRIPS

The scenery along the way was mostly tree and rock.  The train follows a direct path, sometimes along the highway, sometimes wandering in isolation, but generally encountering towns every 15 or 20 minutes.  We arrived in Halifax about 45 minutes later than scheduled on a sunny evening.  Arthur Smith was our host, and he picked up up and then we went for a delicious dinner and night time tour of Halifax.   The following day we toured other areas near the harbour of Halifax and then headed out to see Arthur’s River House and enjoy some quiet time away from the city.  We didn’t take a lot of pictures, but here is a sense of our time there.

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PETE PREPARES TO ENTER THE RIVER HOUSE, A BEAUTIFUL HOME ON THE TIDNISH RIVER THAT OUR FRIEND HAD BUILT

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PETE WARMS HIS HANDS AT THE FIRE. THE TEMPERATURES WERE COOL

We spent Saturday exploring the roads in the area and enjoying the countryside.  Our travels allowed us to explore more of the coastal areas on our return trip to the city.

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THE ATLANTIC OCEAN ON A CLEAR SUNNY DAY

On Sunday we visited with friends at brunch.  All too soon it was time to return to Toronto by plane.  We had a week to prepare for our next adventure … rehearsals on our show in Calgary

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CALGARY WAS CALLING … AS WERE THOSE ROCKY MOUNTAINS

But that is a story for another day.  In the meantime, we hope you have enjoyed our four part blog on train travels between Toronto and Halifax.  Until our next blog, we wish you joy and the opportunity to do what you love most.

Warmest Regards

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FENTON & WHITE

Fenton & White Head East On The Train … Part 3

The Ocean is the name of the Via route that runs from Montreal To Halifax three times per week. Here’s a few quick tidbits on the journey.  As with the previous blogs, blue text can be clicked on for links to further details.

Distance:  1346 kilometres

Duration of Trip:  23 hours (ish).  Leaving at 7 PM and arriving at 6:00 PM the next day.

Cost:  $275  for 2 people in economy (no meals and you sleep in your seat)

First Class:  $825 for 2 people including room with shower, beds and 3 meals

So the big question is … is it worth it?  Via had a sale on with the route 40% off, and I get an extra 10% off due to my Canadian Actor’s Equity membership.  So when you consider you are getting a train trip, a night of accommodation, 3 meals each and you wind up on the East Coast … well at the discount rate, it was worth doing for the cost of $425 after discounts for us both.  It was a much different experience than our Amtrak trip a few years back, which was 3 days and 2 nights from Chicago to San Francisco.  For details on that trip go to our blogs about the California Zephyr .  We liked the layout of our room better on the Via train, but the Amtrak route was less costly on a per day basis, and although the food was good on Via, the Amtrak food surprised us and was better (cooked by a chef instead of prepared like an airplane meal).

Read on to see what the Via experience on this route was like.

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PRIOR TO BOARDING,  SLEEPER PASSENGERS HAVE ACCESS TO THE VIA LOUNGE WITH FREE POP, JUICE, COFFEE, TEA AND NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES

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AT 5 PM WE CHECKED IN, GOT OUR WRIST BANDS THAT DESIGNATED US AS SLEEPER PASSENGERS, AND MADE OUR DINNER RESERVATION FOR THE LATE SEATING AT 8:30 PM.  WE ALSO CHECKED OUR LUGGAGE

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AT 6 PM IT WAS TIME TO GO TO THE PLATFORM AND BOARD THE TRAIN

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EACH SLEEPER CAR HAS 10 ROOMS ALONG ONE SIDE OF THE TRAIN WITH A NARROW HALLWAY THAT RUNS PAST THE DOORWAYS

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THE ROOM IS IN THE DAYTIME POSITION WHEN YOU ARRIVE AND THE CAR STEWARD GREETS YOU AND ASKS WHAT TIME YOU WANT YOUR BEDS MADE DOWN

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OUR COMPARTMENT HAD ITS OWN BATHROOM WITH A SHOWER. TOWELS AND TOILETRIES SUCH AS SOAP AND SHAMPOO ARE PROVIDED

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STORAGE SPACE IN EACH CABIN IS LIMITED SO IT IS WISE TO LEAVE MOST THINGS IN YOUR CHECKED LUGGAGE AND JUST BRING THE ESSENTIALS IN YOUR HAND LUGGAGE … LIKE A BOTTLE OF WINE AND SOME SNACKS FOR ALONG THE WAY.

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IT WAS TIME TO EXPLORE THE TRAIN.  EACH ROOM IS KEYED SO THAT YOU CAN LOCK YOUR DOOR WHEN YOU LEAVE YOUR COMPARTMENT

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IN THE CENTRE OF THE TRAIN IS A SNACK BAR WHERE YOU CAN PURCHASE DRINKS AND SANDWICHES

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ONE CAR AHEAD OF THAT IS THE DINING CAR

Meals are served with linens and on china plates.   Our meals were tasteful and served hot.  Each meal comes with a choice of two appetizers, a choice of three entrees and a dessert with coffee, tea, pop or water.  Meals are included in your sleeper class ticket, but wine is extra.  We paid the extra $7 per glass for the wine pairings.  The food is prepared in advance and heated, but it tasted good.  On the first night I had a lovely chowder, a fish meal with turbot, steamed vegetables (which were crisp and properly warmed through) and rice.  The dessert was a mint chocolate cake.  Breakfast and lunch are also included in your ticket.  Breakfast doesn’t take reservations and lunch … well they are supposed to take reservations, but there was a communication mix-up on our train.  We wound up eating breakfast at 7:30 in the morning and lunch at 2:30 in the afternoon.  Fortunately, we had those wine and nibbles in our cabin to keep us going.  Economy passengers can dine in the dining car if they pay (there is an a la carte menu with prices that we didn’t get a look at) as long as there is room after the sleeping car reservations are dealt with.   Otherwise, they bring their own food, or purchase from a snack bar at the front of the train.

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THE SLEEPER CARS AND THE BULLET LOUNGE AT THE BACK OF THE TRAIN ARE RESTRICTED TO THOSE WHO HAVE A WRIST BAND

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THIS IS THE MURAL LOUNGE WHICH IS A PRIVATE LOUNGE FOR SLEEPER PASSENGERS.  IT OCCUPIES THE FRONT CORNER OF THE REAR CAR OF THE TRAIN.  IT HAS ITS OWN BARTENDER WHICH IS NICE BUT YOU STILL PAY FOR ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES

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IF YOU CLIMB UP THE STAIRS, THERE IS A PRIVATE OBSERVATION CAR FOR SLEEPER PASSENGERS

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THE BULLET LOUNGE HAS 24 HOUR FREE COFFEE, TEA, JUICE AND FRUIT

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AFTER EXPLORING THE TRAIN, IT WAS TIME TO SETTLE IN FOR HAPPY HOUR IN OUR CABIN.  ON THE WALL IS AN EMERGENCY CALL BUTTON, HEATING AND COOLING CONTROLS AND LIGHT SWITCHES FOR VARIOUS MOODS.  THE BATHROOM LIGHT STAYS ON ALL NIGHT, WHICH MEANS IF SOMEONE IN YOUR CABIN USES THE RESTROOM IN THE NIGHT, IT FILLS THE CABIN WITH LIGHT

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WE BID FAREWELL TO MONTREAL

Tomorrow … how to sleep and shower on a train.   But first … dinner.

FENTON & WHITE

Fenton & White Go East Part 2

On our second day in Montreal we started with a  morning jacuzzi in that big tub in our room, then made our way down to the restaurant for our free hot breakfast.  Our train to Halifax didn’t leave until early in the evening and we didn’t want to carry our bags around all day.  Fortunately, the hotel offered a free luggage storage service so we checked out and left our bags behind.  The plan was to meet up with Kevin, wander the streets, eat good food and check out the some of the local sights.

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OLD MONTREAL IS FILLED WITH CHARM

Walking around Old Montreal brought back a lot of memories.  We went past Club Soda where I had played the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival over 20 years ago as a side man with a sketch troupe called Skippy’s Rangers.

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WALKING PAST VENUES FROM 20 YEARS PAST BROUGHT BACK GOOD MEMORIES

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ENROUTE TO THE MUSEUM, WE TRAVELED THROUGH THE UNDERGROUND TUNNELS THAT PROTECT RESIDENTS FROM THE CHILL IN THE WINTER.  THIS IS THE DESJARDINS CENTRE … A SHOPPING COMPLEX AND BUSINESS TOWER.

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KEVIN OLSON WAS OUR GUIDE TO MONTREAL FOR THE DAY … HE’S ALSO A GREAT STAGE MANAGER

We made our way to the  Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art., where we met Kevin and explored a range of truly thought provoking exhibits over the course of a few hours. It is hard to encapsulate all that we saw, but below are a few compelling images.  Some of the most powerful work was by Teresa Margolles whose work focuses on border towns in Mexico where the promise of a better life has slowly eroded due to crime and corrupt government.  During the present political tensions between the U.S. and Mexico, the installations were particularly powerful.

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THE MATERIALS FOR THIS PIECE ARE MADE UP OF THE THE HOME OF A RESIDENT IN A SMALL TOWN

The installation above is called The Promise and is made up of materials from a house that was knocked down in a town called Ciadad Juarez.  Once filled with hope and promise,  the town ultimately has become a place where there is violence and corruption.  The materials for the exhibit are transported to each museum, mixed with water and compressed into a long rectangular block.  Each day for one hour, a team of people come and slowly scrape away at the block, spreading the debris to indicate the diminishing lives of the residents and the broken promises of a solid life by the government.  By the end of the run of this exhibit, the block will be gone and the room will be strewn with pebbles and rubble.

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THE THEME OF MANY OF THE WORKS BY OTHER ARTISTS WAS SOCIETY IN TIMES OF WAR

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PETE EXPLORES THE CONTENTS OF GLOWING BARRELS FILLED WITH WATER

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THE GLOW IS CAUSED BY VIDEO IMAGES IN BLACK AND WHITE OF PEOPLE SLEEPING

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WHEN SEEN UNDERWATER … IT IS A DISTURBING JUXTAPOSITION

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SURREAL SCULPTURES MAKE UP A PORTION OF THE EXHIBITS

After looking at the art for a few hours, it was time to go and get some food.  Kevin took us on a walking tour of his favourite neighbourhoods in Montreal and we wound up at The Main, a favoured deli for smoked meat sandwiches.  Frome there we moved  onward to a fine coffee shop and then to a bakery for Portugese tarts.

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PORTUGESE TARTS ARE FILLED WITH A RICH CUSTARD.  A DELICIOUS TREAT

We had walked almost to the base of Mount Royal by this time.  It was mid-afternoon, and we started our walk back towards the hotel, but we had one final stop before picking up our luggage and bidding Kevin farewell.

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MARY QUEEN OF THE WORLD IS A SPECTACULAR CATHEDRAL IN MONTREAL

On previous trips, we had been to see Notre Dame Cathedral, but we found another Cathedral that is much quieter, a little less known, and in our opinion, equally beautiful.  Instead of the hues of blue that Notre Dame is known for, Mary Queen Of The World Cathedral is painted in a light green shade.  It is immense.  Walking around the space is a humbling reminder that in Quebec, the Catholic faith is still going strong.  We were told that on Sundays, the church is full every week.  Visiting on a weekday, it was a peaceful respite from the chilly outside where one could sit and reflect in silence.

We finished our visit, made our way back to our hotel, bid Kevin goodbye and made our way to the train station.  It was time to start our journey to Halifax.

 Tomorrow … riding the rails through a snowy night.

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FENTON & WHITE

 

Fenton & White Go East Part 1

This blog has been slightly delayed because of a very busy schedule.   Over the next few days I’ll try and get out some photos from our East Coast adventure.  I’ve added links (underlined in blue) so you can find out more about the places we’ve been and the places we are going. The focus over the upcoming weeks will be putting up our show Newfoundland Mary in Calgary at Lunchbox Theatre .  Until then, here is a snapshot of our trip from Toronto to Halifax on the train.  The trip was taken in two parts.  On Tuesday March 21st we headed to Montreal to visit friends and take in a theatre festival.  It is a pleasant 5 hour trip.

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EVERY FENTON & WHITE JOURNEY BEGINS WITH A COFFEE

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THE SUN SHONE BRIGHTLY AS WE PULLED AWAY FROM UNION STATION IN TORONTO AT 9 AM

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AS WE HEADED OUT OF TORONTO, WE CROSSED THE DON RIVER AND WAVED FAREWELL TO OUR CONDO WHICH  IS VISIBLE IN THE DISTANCE

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WITHIN A SHORT TIME, GORGEOUS VIEWS OF LAKE ONTARIO OPEN UP ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE TRAIN.

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ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE TRAIN THE SCENERY IS GENTLY ROLLING FARM LAND

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WE TRAVELED ECONOMY ON THIS LEG OF THE JOURNEY AND AT THE HALF-WAY MARK, ORDERED A BOXED LUNCH WHICH WAS VERY TASTY.

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AT AROUND 2:30 IN THE AFTERNOON WE CROSSED THE ST. LAURENCE RIVER AND PULLED INTO MONTREAL

I know a lot of people use bargain sites, such as Trivago to shop and compare, but we have still found cheaper rates on Hotwire at the last minute.  In order to get the best deal, you choose an area of the city you are visiting and a star rating.  The name of the hotel is blocked until after you book, and you have to pre-pay your reservation.  Using this method, we got a four star room a 10 minute walk from the train station and a 2 minute walk from Old Montreal for $127 Canadian.  This rate included all taxes and a hot breakfast in the morning.  We wound up staying at the Embassy Suites, and it was a terrific deal.  Below are a few shots of the suite.

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THE KITCHEN WAS LARGE WITH A NICE CALIFORNIA BAR

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THE LIVING ROOM HAD A LARGE TV, A NICE DESK AND ENOUGH ROOM TO ENTERTAIN

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POCKET DOORS ON THE BEDROOM AREA ALLOWED YOU TO CLOSE OFF THE BEDROOM IF YOU HAVE COMPANY OVER

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THE BATHROOM HAD A JACUZZI TUB WITH A STAND-UP SHOWER IN THE CORNER

Our evening plans were to go for dinner, meet up with my stage manager from the Becoming Carol tour (Kevin Olson) and then go and see the play Jabber as part of the Geordie Theatre Festival.  We wound up at the Le Saint-Bock microbrewery at 1749 St. Denis Street. If you click the link above, you will see the beer menu.  We tried a fine cognac beer with a marshmallow in it.  And the food was pretty spectacular too.  I was recommended to a variation on poutine that had fries and curds, but was dressed with meats and peppers and a light gravy.  It was tasty.

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A TASTY VARIATION ON POUTINE AT LE SAINT BOCK

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THEN IT WAS ON TO SEE THE SHOW … WHICH WAS TRULY FANTASTIC

After the show, we had time to catch up with Haylee Tucker our former assistant stage manager from our show Bemused which played Theatre Northwest a few years ago.  She is studying at the National Theatre School right now.   And then it was off to bed.

Tomorrow … exploring Montreal’s museums, food and culture.

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FENTON & WHITE GIVE THEIR FIRST DAY IN MONTREAL A THUMBS UP

 

Au revoir Arras

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LOOKING OUT AT THE PLATFORMS OF GARE DU NORD

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The final day of our trip was another journey out of town. We were heading to Arras, a town approximately 180 kilometres north of Paris.  We walked to Gare du Nord train station and got ourselves some breakfast, before boarding the high speed train which would put us in Arras just over one hour later. From there, we took a cab to Vimy Ridge (as seen in our Remembrance Day blog on November 11th).

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THE TOWN OF ARRAS HAS A CHARMING CENTRAL SQUARE THAT IS OFTEN FILLED WITH VENDOR STALLS

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I will skip past our trip to Vimy Ridge as it is covered already,  and pick up after we were driven back into town at a little after 1 in the afternoon.  The morning markets were just clearing away so we decided to find a place to eat.  We settled on a restaurant off the main square that offered mulled apple cider and a galette … a buckwheat crepe with a filling.  We chose one that included ham, emmental cheese and an egg on top.

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A GALETTE IS A TASTY BUCKWHEAT CREPE

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SAUNTERING AROUND THE TOWN OF ARRAS WE DISCOVERED MANY LOVELY BUILDINGS

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Arras is popular with tourists due to the wonderful architecture, the medieval caves that honeycomb the chalk foundations below the streets, and its history connected to being close to the front in World War I.

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THE TOWN HALL NOW ACTS AS THE INFORMATION CENTRE

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We made our way to the information centre and discovered that we could do a tour of the chalk caves beneath the streets, climb the bell tower, or take other tours of the war monuments and graveyards in the vicinity.  We only had a few hours, so we started by taking the elevator to the top of the bell tower and climbed the 40 stairs (on a wobbly spiral staircase that involved looking straight down to get your footing) to the outer viewing platform.

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THERE IS A NICE VIEW FROM THE TOP OF THE ARRAS BELL TOWER

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By chance, we ran into a stage manager I had worked with, and we climbed the tower together.  The picture below is Virginia and I expressing delight and surprise at our chance meeting.

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COLLEAGUES REUNITE 6000 MILES AWAY FROM TORONTO

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After climbing back down those 40 stairs, (even scarier on the way down) and then taking the elevator to the ground floor, we explored the various exhibits, including these grand puppets which are used in summer and winter festivities.  They were very, very tall!

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SCOTT CAN’T BELIEVE HOW BIG THESE PUPPETS ARE!

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We booked a tour of the Wellington Quarry, which is an area of the tunnels where the New Zealand Army Corp made a name for itself digging through the chalk at record speeds to help the British secure Arras during World War 1.  The quarry dates back many hundreds of years earlier, when it was mined for the chalk.  These caves provided the starting point for the allied forces to tunnel in under the enemy front lines during World War I, and were used for bomb shelters in World War II.  The streets beneath Arras are pocketed with caves.

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THIS MEMORIAL WALL BESIDE THE WELLINGTON QUARRIES IS INSCRIBED WITH THE NAMES OF LOCALS WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN THE WAR

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PETE LOOKS AT THE VARIOUS EXHIBITS INCLUDING SHELLS AND MORTARS.  THE CANADIAN FLAG FLIES ALONG WITH OTHER FLAGS OF NATIONS THAT FOUGHT IN WORLD WAR I IN ARRAS

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THIS EXHIBIT SHOWED WHAT A FRENCH SOLDIER WOULD BE GIVEN AT THE START OF A YEAR INCLUDING A PISTOL, THERMAL GLOVES AND A GAS MASK

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IN ORDER TO ENTER THE CAVES YOU MUST WEAR A HELMET TO AVOID BUMPING YOUR HEAD AND AVOIDING DRIPS FROM THE ROOF.  THE YELLOW DEVICE AROUND PETE’S NECK CONNECTS TO THE HEADSET FOR THE AUDIO FOR THE TOUR.

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The tour of the Wellington Quarries was fascinating.  A bilingual guide took us 60 feet underground in an elevator, and then led us from cave to cave along a dimly lit boardwalk on a 1 kilometre round-trip journey.  At various points along the route, the headset you are wearing has a GPS and connects into audio that matches video screens that have been mounted into the caves and show film clips depicting the lives of the soldiers during the war.

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THE GREEN GLOW ON THE CHESTS OF THESE VISITORS MEANS THEY ARE WITHIN RECEIVING RANGE OF THE NEXT AUDIO SECTION OF THE TOUR.  WHEN IT IS RED, YOU MUST MOVE CLOSER TO THE GUIDE UNTIL IT TURNS GREEN AND THEN YOU CAN HEAR HER (OR THE AUDIO FOR THE VIDEOS) CLEARLY

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THESE MARKINGS HELPED TO ENSURE THE SOLDIERS DIDN’T GET LOST IN THE MAZE OF CAVES AND TUNNELS

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THE CAVES EXTEND MANY MILES

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THESE DRAWINGS (DONE BY SOLDIERS TO PASS THE TIME), HAVE BEEN PROTECTED WITH MESH.  THEY ARE MODERN CAVE DRAWINGS

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AT VARIOUS POINTS IN THE TOUR, VIDEO SCREENS COME TO LIFE WITH HISTORICAL INFORMATION ON THE SOLDIERS’ LIVES AND THE WAR

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OUR GUIDE EXPLAINS HOW THE WATER SYSTEM IN THE CAVES WORKED.  THE SQUARE PANEL ABOVE IS A MIRROR THAT IS REFLECTING THE DEEP (AND VERY COLD) POOL OF WATER BENEATH IT.

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EXIT TEN WAS AN IMPORTANT ROUTE TO THE SURFACE WHERE SOLDIERS WOULD LEAVE THE TUNNELS TO FIGHT …  MANY LOSING THEIR LIVES

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The tour of the quarries took about 45 minutes in total.  It was fascinating and was very reasonably priced at 6.90 Euros.  After we surfaced, we walked back to the town and wandered the streets.  In the winter months, Arras would look lovely with the narrow streets lit up with lights above and the shop windows filled with displays.

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SHOPPING IS A GREAT WAY TO SPEND SOME TIME IN ARRAS

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We caught a late afternoon train back to Paris and made our way back to our hotel.  We would be packing tonight, and tomorrow flying back to Toronto.  It all seemed like it had been an amazing dream.

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WE ARRIVED BACK IN PARIS AROUND 7:10 PM

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We finished our trip off with a visit to a Montmartre restaurant called Autour de Midi et Minuit, where we had a french meal drenched in butter with some lovely white wine, and ended with a fine apple dessert with the slices arranged in a gorgeous flower pattern with cinnamon and … more butter.  And then we headed downstairs to hear a jam session featuring a jazz player that Pete’s cousin knew of.  His name is Olivier Lancelot … a terrific stride piano player.  The evening was a loose jam session featuring local musicians, and the location was perfect for jazz … a basement room called … the cave 

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OUR TRIP FINISHED WITH A LITTLE JAZZ IN THE CAVE AT AUTOUR DE MIDI ET MINUIT

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Then, it was time to go home and rest.  We left Toronto on the night of Monday October 3rd and flew home mid-afternoon on the 13th of October.  We had traveled over 6000 kilometres by plane and visited the iconic sites of Paris, taken trips to Arras and Vimy Ridge, Versailles and Mont-Saint-Michel, as well as sampling the fine cuisine of too many french restaurants to name.  It was truly a trip of a lifetime.  On the morning of the 13th, we checked out of our room and waited for our shuttle to take us to the airport.  It was time to bid Paris a fond farewell.

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FENTON & WHITE WAIT FOR THE SHUTTLE TO TAKE THEM TO THE AIRPORT

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We hope you have enjoyed coming along with us on our trip as an armchair traveler.  If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.  Our next travels will be connected to work in Calgary in the spring of 2017.    Wherever you are reading this blog, may it inspire you to make the most of life, to travel, and to learn about other cultures.  Until next time (which will be our monthly arts blog), we bid you a fond au revoir.

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Fenton & White

 

 

Climbing The Eiffel Tower

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CLIMBING THE EIFFEL TOWER IS FUN AND THE VIEWS ARE SPECTACULAR

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The Eiffel Tower was constructed between 1887 and 1889 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris.  It is not the tallest tower in the world, but at 324 metres it still makes an impression.  And of course, this tower is unique, made up of wrought iron lattice work that lets the breeze blow through without making the tower sway … well, not too much.   It is a wonder of engineering.

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SECURITY IS TIGHT AROUND THE EIFFEL TOWER

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When you arrive, you must go through metal detectors and a security screening to access the area beneath the tower.  Bags are searched and put through X-ray scanners.  These line-ups can take some time to navigate, although on a Tuesday afternoon in October the crowds were small and we were through security fairly quickly.

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LINE-UPS CAN STRETCH FOR A LONG WAYS IF YOU DON’T PLAN AHEAD

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During peak months in the summer, it is strongly advised that you go to the website and reserve your tickets in advance at  http://www.toureiffel.paris/en.html . This will help you get through security faster and avoid lining up for hours to get to the top.  Another way to skip the lines is to make a reservation at one of the restaurants, which have their own elevators to take you to the first and second level of the tower.  The prices for these restaurants are nearly as high as the tower itself, but if you are willing to spend more, you can get a truly unique experience.

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THE EIFFEL TOWER HAS THREE MAIN LEVELS FOR TOURISTS.   THIS IS THE VIEW LOOKING UP FROM THE SECOND LEVEL TO THE TOP

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There are three levels to the tower.  The first and second level can be accessed either by climbing the stairs (which is a cheaper option, and very interesting to do), or by an elevator that is on a rail … in essence, a very steep funicular.

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THE LOWER ELEVATOR TO THE FIRST AND SECOND LEVEL GOES UP AT AN ANGLE

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The lower elevators each ride up one of the legs of the tower at a bit of an angle.  The carriage of the elevator is angled so that the patrons inside stay level.  Both the first and second levels are included in one admission ticket.  If you look at the top picture of this blog, you will see level one is just above the first arch and level two is where the base meets the upper tower.

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WE CHOSE TO CLIMB THE STAIRS

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The climb from the ground to the first and second level of the Eiffel tower has many advantages. It is slightly cheaper.  There is hardly any line-up at all, so you can get up the tower faster.  You are not crammed into a tightly packed elevator with a lot of other people.  But most importantly, it gives you a greater sense of how the tower was built.  The section from the ground to the first level takes around 15 minutes and keeps you fairly central in the legs of the tower. The stairs are caged in for safety.

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PETE APPROACHES THE TOP OF ONE OF THE SETS OF STAIRS WHILE CLIMBING THE EIFFEL TOWER

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LOOKING DOWN AS WE CLIMB THE LOWER PART OF THE EIFFEL TOWER

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WHEN YOU REACH THE FIRST LEVEL, LOVELY VIEWS OPEN UP

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The first floor features a restaurant, and shops around the perimeter, but the first and second levels don’t have a floor that stretches all the way across.  The centre of the tower has a huge rectangular hole.

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LOOKING UP AT THE FIRST LEVEL, THE INNER PART OF THE TOWER IS AN OPEN SPACE.  IN THE WINTER, THEY COVER THIS SPACE WITH A SKATING RINK

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 The first level also has a glass floor that sneaks out in curved sections on the perimeter of the hole in the centre.  I didn’t have the nerve to stand on it, but Pete did.  He said he was fine, as long as he didn’t look down.

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PETE STANDS ON THE GLASS FLOOR ON THE FIRST LEVEL.

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We still had more stairs to climb.  The total climb from the ground to the second level is 704 stairs.

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THIS WAY TO LEVEL TWO

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THE STAIRS BETWEEN THE FIRST AND SECOND LEVEL TAKE YOU HIGHER UP AND CLOSER TO THE EDGE OF THE TOWER

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AND THE VIEWS GET EVEN BETTER

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So is it worth it to go to the very top?  Well, if you have paid to walk up the stairs of the tower, your ticket only covers the cost of going to the 2nd level.  People who choose to ride the elevator can also buy a cheaper ticket to ride only to the 2nd level.  If you want to go to the very top,  you either purchase a ticket that includes all three levels at the base … or, you wait and see how crowded the lines are and pay an extra 6 euros to go to the top when you get to the second level. The combined cost of walking up to the second level and the elevator to the top was still cheaper than the combined ticket to take the two sets of elevators from the base to the very top.  Many tourists only go to the 2nd level. We decided to get as high as we could.

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GOING UP THE ELEVATORS TO THE TOP IS AN ADRENALINE RUSH

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The upper elevators are square boxes with sliding doors on two sides for entry and exit.  They fit about 20 people each and go straight up the centre of the tower.  As you climb, there is less and less of the grid work of the tower around you, and more open space … and the elevators have glass walls.  The top of the ride only puts you 906 feet above the ground, but when you are in those elevators being lifted by a single cable above you … well,   it is  exciting.

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AS YOU RIDE THE ELEVATOR, THERE ISN’T MUCH METAL BESIDE YOU ANYMORE

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THERE’S ALWAYS CHAMPAGNE AT THE TOP TO TAKE THE EDGE OFF AFTER YOUR RIDE TO THE TOP

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For those wanting a drink at the top, small glasses of champagne can be purchased for 13 euros.

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THIS SIGN COMPARES TOWERS AROUND THE WORLD … THERE’S TORONTO’S CN TOWER OVER 6000 KILOMETRES AWAY

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THE VIEWS FROM THE TOP ARE MAGNIFICENT

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GUSTAV EIFFEL ACTUALLY HAD AN APARTMENT AT THE TOP OF THE TOWER.  THIS EXHIBIT SHOWS A MEETING WITH THOMAS EDISON THAT WAS REPORTED TO HAVE TAKEN PLACE IN 1889 IN THE STUDY.  HOW AMAZING WOULD IT BE TO LIVE AT THE TOP OF THE TOWER?

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TIME TO DESCEND BACK TO EARTH

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After spending 20 minutes at the top both on the inside and outside, we made our way back to the central elevators and rode down to level 2.  Passage on the elevators going down is free, even if you only paid the rate to climb the stairs, so we rode the funicular style elevators all the way down to the ground.  The Eiffel tower is grand to look at from afar, but it is amazing to walk up, and even more exciting to take that ride up to the top.

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Tomorrow … our final adventures in France … the town of Arras

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Fenton & White