France, Eclipse 1999

August, 1999

We decided Metz would be a good place to view the total eclipse of the sun in 1999. We rented a car in Paris and drove to Metz stopping on our way to see the cathedral in Reims with its stained glass windows designed by Chagall.  Once in Metz, we scoped out the area and early the next morning, we headed out with the telescope, video camera and other cameras.  We set up our camp in the middle of the Esplanade, a nice park right by the river.  The town had organized a big festival around the eclipse and there were parades, music, etc. going on all day long. 

It was cloudy.  I decided I should have an umbrella just in case, so I ran to a nearby department store and managed to fight my way through the crowd. I wasn’t the only one with the idea. During the first half of the eclipse we were able to see it off and on.  But about 20 minutes before total eclipse it started to rain.  We could tell when the total was, though, because it was completely dark. All the flowers closed up and all the lights came on and it was really night and everybody was quiet and it was kind of eerie.  Then during the second half it cleared up a bit and we were able to see more.  My son kept looking at the “moon” through his glasses.  When we got back to Paris our friends who had gone 25 minutes north of Paris on the train said they had seen the whole thing perfectly. 

From Metz we drove into Lorraine and the Vosges area.  We stopped at the Haut Konningburg castle which is a huge restored castle with a moat and drawbridge and inner yard. It sits on top of a mountain in the middle of the forest.  It would be very hard to penetrate.  The path up to it was steep and muddy. I commented on how “mucky” it was and my son responded, “monkeys?  Where are the Monkeys??”  He would not let it go and kept asking for the rest of the day.

From there we wound our way around down to La Bresse in the heart of a big ski area amid mountains and forest.  Really beautiful.  Our hotel was very nice with a good restaurant.  We drove throughout the area and went hiking around a glacial pool where my son spent the better part of an hour throwing rocks into it and hunting for dragonflies.

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