Tuesday to Friday 19 October 2021
Sylvia dropped me off at the Nimes Pont du Gard railway station where I caught the fast train to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, which is close to the Expo centre which was hosting the MOLPOL exhibition for the rest of the week. I checked into the close-by Hilton Hotel, which I can highly not recommend, then caught the local metro to the show about 20 minutes down the line form the airport. There I caught up with Erik and the team from Aimpoint.
The show only occupied one of the stadiums at the exhibition centre so it wasn’t huge. Aimed at both the military and the police there was quite a variety of products on display. What is really interesting is the rapid advancement in technology, particularly in the area of drones. In the past few years many new companies have come on the scene to counter drones around airports, nuclear and other important compounds. Many have drone detecting radar and then net type guns to shoot them down, others claim their systems will identify the location of the operator, jam the communications and take control of the drone and land it in a safe place while capturing the operator. It’s a bit like when man invented the bow and arrow and along came shields to stop the arrows.
Slim fitting body armour for men and woman woman made to oder in Colombia apparently has been well tested in that part of the world.
Another interesting bit of equipment was a 20mm rifle made in Croatia with a large cylinder on top to help manage the recoil.
Bullet proof vehicles were also on display with shot up parts to demonstrate how effective they are.
A device that hooks onto the back of a rifle scope so the commander can see the same image as the sniper before he takes the shot.
I also met some new people, in particular Karl and his team from B&T Gun Manufacturers in Switzerland, who I joined, along with the Aimpoint team, for dinner on a few occasions.
By Friday the show had quietened down so I left early and went for a stroll to check out a Concord I could see from my hotel room on the edge of the airfield. These were a supersonic passenger plane (2179 km/h) that were in service across the Atlantic – London New York in under 3 hours. It operated from 1976 until 2003. In 2000 one crashed in Paris after hitting some debris on the runway that had fallen off a previous aircraft when it took off. All the crew and passengers died. Interestingly the Russians produced the supersonic TU-144 which went into service in December 1968, but only was used as a passenger aircraft for 3 years after a couple of crashes. It was used for cargo until 1983.
Saturday 20 October 2021
Sylvia arrived by train from Nimes in the very early hours of the morning. After a bit of a sleep in, we headed into Paris to the La Maison Champs Elysees Hotel, not far off the Avenue Champs Elysees. Here we met up with our friends Micheal and Eric who are visiting France from the USA for a few days. After checking in Sylvia and I went on a stroll checking out the sights. Crossing the Seine we walked along the south bank looking at the truly outstanding architecture of the city. After passing the Grand Palais, which is closed for renovations we crossed over again to look at the Obélisque De Louxor, originally from Luxor in Egypt and moved here in 1830, and Place de la Concorde. With its gold top and hieroglyphics on all sides it is quite impressive. There were originally two of these and the other still remains in Luxor. We continued up river to the Louvre, which I had walked past a number of times but never got around to visiting. There was quite a queue but we were able to book online and jump into the lineup and half an hour or so later we were heading down the stairs under the glass pyramid structure that sits in the middle of the grounds. Along some corridors and up some stairs and we soon entered the first of many stunning galleries. The architecture in this building is quite amazing. I’m not sure about some of the artwork though, probably just best described in the photos attached. We did take a look at the Mona Lisa where hundreds of people queueing up to see it and get a close look. I used the zoom on the camera to get a closer look.
As we wandered through the building and the various halls and up-and-down many stairways it was quite overwhelming with a massive collection of artefacts, statues and other items dating back more than 5000 years. I’m sure we didn’t see it all. One could probably spend several days here to see everything.
As we left the building and strolled back, amongst the thousands of people, towards the obelisk we came across a circular pond surrounded by chairs with people sitting facing the water as if waiting for something to happen, but in reality just passing the time or needing a rest. We strolled back to our hotel and enjoyed a glass of wine with Micheal and Eric. Paris is a bit like Las Vegas everything is a lot further away than it looks and it’s quite easy to clock up quite a few kilometres just on an afternoon stroll. It’s interesting how they have blended the new buildings in with the old and most of the buildings are no more than five or six stories high.
Sunday 21 October 2021
After a good breakfast at the hotel we took a stroll down the Avenue Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. (Arch of Triumph). This 50m high Arch was first commissioned in 1806; it took two years to complete the foundations. It was built to honour those that fought in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. It was not completed until around 1836. Bodies of unknown soldiers from WWI are buried underneath it. It has a spiral staircase that runs up each side and is a really interesting place to visit for the memorial type area inside of the top and then you can go onto the roof and have a good look around Paris and see the 12 avenues joining at the location. We were lucky we got there relatively early but as we were leaving the crowds were starting to build. We are also lucky that it was a stunning day and we could see across most of Paris apart from a bit of haze.
After winding our way down the many stairs, or steps should I say, to the bottom we headed back down the street to the river and then up the river and jumped on a boat just near the Louvre. Sylvia had booked us a lunch cruise on the La Grand Pavois. Casting off at 1230pm we headed up river, taking in the magnificent architecture of the many outstanding structures alongside the river and passing the island with the Notre Dame cathedral on it, which is currently closed after the big fire that happened there a couple years ago, until we reached Pont de Bercy where we turned around and headed downstream, this time passing on the other side of Notre Dame. We continued on down river past the Eiffel tower where the boat did a one and a half turn around so that we could take in the views in all directions. Looking back up the river was a miniature of the Statue of Liberty.
It is interesting to see the variety of boats tied up alongside the river and in places the road platform is cantilevered out over the river. Another thing that’s really interesting is the variety of bridges; in some places the bridges have been built beside each other and then a viaduct across the top carries the local Metro. The engineering and effort that has gone into building the city is quite amazing. The food and the wine was great. A photographer walked around the boat and took photos of everybody and then came back with an iPad and tried to sell them to us but no such luck in our case. The boat pulled back alongside the river bank about 230 and we strolled our way back to the hotel as Sylvia had to catch the train back to Nimes in the early evening.
She is having a few problems with the French bureaucracy at the moment and getting her residency permit sorted out. She was actually supposed to fly to South Africa today but has had to go back to Nimes and meet with the bureaucracy as she can’t leave the country and come back in until they’ve done something special with her visa so on Tuesday she has a meeting with the authorities and hopefully will get permission to fly to South Africa on Tuesday night and she’ll come back and join me in Dunkirk on our return from South Africa next Saturday. That’s if she gets to go otherwise she’ll come by train and join me anyway.
Mathilde and Morgan a nice young couple sitting next to us looked like they were also enjoying the cruise and the excellent food.