Hampton G.I. Relates of 4 Days In "The City of Lights"

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By Sgt. John M. Holman, U.S. Army, Germany

Hampton Union

Thursday, August 27, 1953

The latest letter to this paper from Sgt. John Holman of Hampton, serving with the U.S. Army in Germany, reveals that he and his wife Connie have just made the "grand tour" of Paris, the "City of Lights". What follows is Sgt. Holman's account of he and his wife's first visit to that famous old city.

PARIS, FRANCE -- "Let's go to gay Paree!" — Didja ever hear any one say that? Well, to tell the truth I never thought I would ever say it to anyone, much less my own wife. You know, Paris sounds like a place that only a "rich foreign tourist could afford. But to an American serviceman in Europe, it doesn't cost so much when a tour is planned by the American Express Company.

Upon investigation with the AMEXCO, we discovered that a tour could be arranged for four days in Paris for the small sum of $98.60, complete with hotel room, transportation, tours in Paris, taxes, gratuities and breakfasts at the hotel for two persons. Would we take it? You bet!

With my leave papers in my hand and my wife's passport in her hand, plus the usual baggage, we set out for Paris aboard the night train from Augsburg, arriving in Paris the next morning at 8:56. At the border between France and Germany our papers were checked by Customs officers and stamped with the necessary permit, and everything being in order, we passed on in without incident. Not much sleep was acquired that night, due to the cramped compartment on the I train, and excitement of knowing we would be in Paris the next morning, and all the sights which were to be seen.

We arrived on schedule, and to meet us at the train was an American Express employee in uniform, to escort us to our hotel, the Ambassador. The taxi fare was paid for us in advance and before we knew it, we were at the hotel and in our room on the fourth floor.

After we got cleaned up and the suitcases were unpacked, it was time for dinner. "Filet Mignon" being on the menu at the small restaurant around the corner, that's what we had for around 2000 francs.

After dinner, the afternoon was at our disposal. Oh, the splendor of it all! Nothing was to be left to the imagination. What a beautiful city, this Paris! Just like we read about and heard from our friends who had been here previously.

Rather than go into minute detail, I'm going to brush over the high spots of the things we saw and did which stand out in my memory.

That night we took the "Paris by Night" tour, which included a guided tour to four of the cabarets or night clubs in Paris. Among them we visited the world famous Lido night club. What a magnificent show with beautiful girls in colorful costumes, music, and the thoughts of just being there, thrilled us.

To Bed At 2 A. M.

After a gala evening we returned to the hotel at 2 o'clock in the morning, and a short sleep, as there was much to do the following morning.
Malvina in Red Cross uniform, World War II
[Photograph not in original article.
From "Yesterday Is Tomorrow (A Personal History)"
by Malvina Hoffman - 1965]

My folks have a famous sculptor friend who happened to be in Paris at this time, so I decided to look her up. Luckily for us her name was listed in the telephone directory, Miss Malvina Hoffman. She is connected with the American Battle Monuments Commission in Paris, applying her talents wherever it is needed in building these beautiful cemeteries for the American war dead. We found her at the Commission, and after finishing her business there, she took us by taxi to her home across the Seine river. Her famous statues which she had done in the past were placed about her house, creating a very interesting atmosphere, and each one had a story behind it. Over a hundred of these works of art are in the Hall of Man museum in Chicago today.

"Villa Asti,"
Malvina's Paris apartment

We were treated to cokes and some famous French pastries while she told us of her work in Paris and her travels around the world. A very delightful afternoon was passed, and it was with regret that we took our leave of our charming hostess to return to the hotel in time to take in the Follies Bergere, world-famous theatre.

The next two days were taken up visiting the Louvre, where the Mona Lisa painting is, the Winged Victory statue and the statue of Venus de Milo, all of them superb. We also saw Napoleon's tomb, the tomb of Marshal Foch, Rodin's statue, "The Thinker," Notre Dame Cathedral, the Palaise Royal, the Arc de Triumphe, and we even climbed the Eiffel Tower. What a beautiful view of all of Paris from the top. We took a boat ride on the Seine river and took many pictures of scenes along the way, where we saw the original Statue of Liberty, smaller than the one in New York harbor, but just as lovely.

The money exchange in France really overwhelmed us. The rate is 350 francs to the dollar. And the prices are very expensive no matter what you buy. Taxi fares are the only reasonable prices that we came across while in Paris. We couldn't afford to eat in a French restaurant more than once, as we couldn't get out the door without leaving 2000 francs behind us.

The day after we arrived in Paris we located the American Embassy restaurant where the employees of the U. S. government at the Embassy eat. There we ate to our hearts' content, with food prices well within our budget. At the Embassy we could eat a very good well balanced meal for around 200 francs per person.

Connie and John on the Eiffel Tower
Connie & John
on the Eiffel Tower - August 1953

The coffee one drinks in France has a peculiar, bitter taste, and is very, very strong. One could practically "cut it with a knife." As long as we stayed in Paris we couldn't get used to it, so we gave it up and drank tea.

The people are very well dressed in Paris, and there are as many automobiles there as in America, I would say.

We even saw the statue in the square around which Gene Kelley danced in the motion picture "An American in Paris."

Tipping is a "must" in Paris, as the prices (Heaven knows, they're high enough without tips) do not include tips. Taxi drivers, waiters, doormen, etc., all require a tip, and if the tourist does not give one voluntarily, they will ask for it. It is obviously the custom.

When train time rolled around and our trip was coming to a glorious end, Connie and I agreed that all in all it was money well spent, and what a wonderful exciting time we had had, for never again will we get the opportunity to travel to Paris. Au Revoir!!!

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