started our long trip on August 18th at 9 a.m in one minibus which
could accommodate 8 persons including me; another small car brought my
two sons, 2 grandsons and daughter in-law. Maurice led the way and in
the small car the driver Hoang followed him.
Calgary, July 1991
The first point that we came to visit was the " Mont Saint Michel"
castle (convent) in the Normandie region. By areal view, it is the
castle which was built a thousand years ago in the straits of the
"Manche" shore (Gulf of St. Malo). The entrance in front of the "Mont
Saint Michel" castle is a long, wide road; beside it there are two
spacious parking areas which can accommodate a thousand travelers' cars.
Under the blue sky in the afternoon the "Mont Saint Michel" castle
easily held a thousand people crowded into it. Maurice' s wife bought
11 tickets so I didn't know how much "one" cost. Then we produced our
tickets at the entrance.
We followed each other along the narrow upward slope. At both sides on
there were restaurants, and small shops selling, several souvenir gift,
postcards etc... The end of the reaching point was the castle's top. I
was completely exhausted by the curiosity which walked me off my legs.
Along the wall board side, I stopped and stood there for a long time to
get my second wind. The breeze hit me in the face with the open sea. I
observed every direction, thinking.
Before my very eyes, the "Mont Saint Michel" castle, a long way apart
from every thing, was surrounded by the quiet sea. I imagined, when the
moonlight came out and under unsteady light, several vampires even
returned from death to enjoy capering about all over the place sucking
blood from humans who walked alone the deserted coastal zone, and what
a horrifying fictitious thought!
The water subsided. Under the burning-sun, some travelers walked on the
sand-bank; the children enjoyed dabbling their hands in the sand and
splashing about in the water. The sea-wind drew me into sleep. I
proposed to my family to go down.
Midway going down, suddenly the crowd was convulsed with terror,
agog by the piercing alarm signal of the emergency car coming up; then
I found out on the ground along the road a man was frothing at the
mouth, rolling his eyes awaiting first-aid treatment. He was carried
away on the stretcher. The emergency car proceeded at a high speed. My
familv and I rushed out of the castle.
At night we took a rest in the city of Combourg, the hotel "Chateau et
Voyagers" place, Chateaubriand. We were not in the least tired with 288
km from the point of departure Cherbourg to Combourg.
The second cool morning, five minutes after leaving this town from 200
km to LeLude my son Hoang and his family in the small car lost their
way at the cross-road Chateaubriand. This was due to an overturned car
blocking the road, although his car followed after Maurice's. Maurice's
car got through the hindrance then increased speed. Maurice didn't know
Hoang's car was not behind, neither did we until he had to stop at 2 km
to the point of departure to check the itinerary on the map; we then
all found out that my son's car had disappeared!
I felt worried about my son's inexperience in this foreign land. He was
also unskilled at speaking French and inexperienced at getting himself
out of a fix and disentangling the difficulty!
Maurice stopped his car for a long time and proposed that everybody,
got out of his car and went in many directions to search for them.
Amyot and I went back to the point of departure, but they were no
Half an hour later, abruptly Amyot and I hit upon them at the corner in
the public square at Chateaubriand place. Hoang told us that he didn't
know what way he could follow to pursue us so he had to stop.
We visited in turn 4 towns: Vitre, Laval, Sable, and La Fleche. This
far gone night, we took a rest at "Hotel du Maine" after visiting
Chateau "Son et Lumiere'.
Early next morning, we followed the national road to reach "Blois
Citadelle" in the city of Tours. The bulwark has a thick, durable wall
of about 5 meters. The throne could be long and steadily protected
At 9 a.m on the fourth lucky day, we departed the hotel "Saint Hubert"
at Cour Cheverny to continue about 140 km to Bourges where a big
venerated Catholic church was built a thousand years ago. When we were
inside it, with our affection and frank respect, we stood for a long
time with a small group of devoted travelers who had been eagerly
listening to the young informant. He explained clearly about the
church's history. Over there, at a counter of the selling a lot of
postcards and Bibles, several people were busy, searching for
interesting souvenirs of their visit. Then, we got some tickets for
about 10 Franc each to go down to the basement where the graveyard of
many Martyr Saints who devoted their whole life to the truth was
located. Several Christians, with their confidence, down on their knees
in front of the Jesus Christ's altar, bowed their heads in prayers to
supplicate. I was quiet and so affected, standing near the statue of
Saint AnLoine where his faithful pig tightly squeezed his feet.
Maurice wanted to go up to the top of the church. One after the other,
we followed him and stepped on the circular staircase.
Without talking, we had to climb on the very worn, narrow and slippery,
stairs. Every, twenty stairs, I stopped; then sat down to relax. No
attention was paid to each other until we were at the top.
It was blowing hard on the flat roof. I was puffing as I was the last
one to climb up. Everybody looked so exhausted. I leaned against the
wall to contemplate the scenery.
As far as the eyes could see the beauty of the countryside covered the
color of the sunshine in the afternoon, and affected the surrounding
wood, village or hamlet. The strong wind hit me upon the body like it
would roll me down. To escape the chill, I had to sit down at the wall.
Looking at the immense and infinite space, I thought over the
supernatural creator who, with his miraculous green thumb, well created
the immeasurable and endless universe. Who could know what's up there?
I felt sorrowful; and short lines in a poem quickly flitted across my
Return to Dust,
Dust to dust,
Earth to earth,
Such is life.
That is life.
Being born, growing old,
disease and death.
Four real seasons proved,
Not to be wrong.
Human life is not so long.
We sing a song, "Love everyone'
And don't make war to anyone.
Then I asked myself, "why do people always live in sin?" then
responded, " because of Ambition, Anger and Passion".
I remembered suddenly, a homicide my two sons told me off. When they
were settled in Bassano, county-town (Alberta) in 1980 from the island,
Bidong, (Malaysia) by their sponsors, Mr. and Mrs. Reg Tomlinson,
missionaries came from England. Their good foster father and mother
gave them every thing: Food, Study, and Love. They also guided them how
to be soon accustomed with their new way of life in Canada. Mr. and
Mrs. Reg Tomlinson dedicated their whole life to Christ. They
sacrificed to humane service and always protected the helpless. They
both departed this life in one dismal and unforeseen afternoon by the
foolish act of the crazy man. The murderer was discontent about his
wife and children who frequented to church to listen to the Bible. He
got mad. After killing his wife, 2 children and his dog, he rushed into
Mr. and Mrs. Reg Tomlinson's home; he shot at them and killed himself
at that place.
The moment I was reasoning the meaning of life and religion, my family
left me alone, and climbed down while the rainfall started in the
distance. I had to interrupt my thoughts. I hurried to follow them;
then we went out.
Leaving the church with regret, I always kept in my thoughts the people
the charitable Jesus Christ with reverence.
In the windy evening on August 22nd, it was softly raining; we reached
near the base of Mont Blanc where we hurried coming into the "Beau
Site" a 2 stars restaurant-hotel which was built many years ago.
It took us eleven hours to travel the 600 kilometers but we had a good
route along the side of Alps.
We felt very hungry, so after washing and tiding up every thing in the
room, we hurriedly went down to the hotel restaurant. Sitting face to
face around the table which had been already set out for us, we were
talking idly to each other during dinner time.
One hour after ...
My eldest sister yawned and wanted to go into her bedroom because she
felt sleepy. She stood up; then I followed her. We both said-. "Good
night" to everybody.
Whenever I was in a strange bed, I couldn't sleep easily. I was drowsy
after many times of tossing; I thought about the last stage after
leaving "Du Pont Neuf' Hotel at Le Veurdre from the Bourges about 220
The ecstatic impression always remained in my mind about the courteous
and hearty welcome of the good looking mistress of "Du Pont Neuf'
hotel. She spoke French fluently. Her bilinguals and her comprehension
drew us into the long interesting talk. Through our conversation, I
discovered that her husband and she came from Hawaii.. Their 2 stars
luxurious hotel will attract so many foreign-guests if they always keep
At noon, we had lunch under the shade of the big tree at the edge of
the wood; we sat down on our heels around the meal, enjoying small talk
and eating some loaves of hot bread with several delicious pieces of
ham and a lot of fresh fruit that we had just bought at the grocery
store at Saint Pierre Moutier citadel. I look up. Suddenly, I leapt
forward; I was frightened by a thousand working bees in the big beehive
on the tree branch; they flew around and over our heads. Then, I gave
the alarm to everybody, who ran away. Some of us quickly got everything
on the ground and we all rushed into the car. Only Maurice had an
afternoon nap on his seat before continuing the trip.
From the Cherbourg to Combourg we had gone through the large flat
areas. Along both side of the fields, there were a corn plants, the
sunflower plants for producing oil, the fruit trees such as apples
etc... and several sparse bales of straw. I observed the contented
carves which were lying on the grass. I had pity on the oxen which were
standing, eating the hay; and which fateful day will they be deigned to
I thought about the windmill "Moulin of Alphonse Daudet" which was
written over hundred years ago. It was built on Fontvieille at
Provence. I knew this celebrated writer from his illustrated book
"Lettre de mon moulin".
My thoughts turned to Dijoin, Dompierre, Paray Le Monial, Charolles,
Bourges en Bress and fine quite deserted sights of Gorges de l'Aim were
very interesting to us.
I stopped thinking and dozed off...
On Thursday August 23rd, we continued to draw up our itinerary for our
visiting Maurice'a youngest son who was taking his vacation on top of
Val Thorens to participate carrying off the prize from the checker
Val Thorens' altitude is about 2000 meters. The road, which I began to
worry about was full of abrupt turns and was very dangerous for us. At
noon, we were already on the top of the Val Thorens. It seemed we were
close to the top of Mont Blanc. Its top always has a covering of snow
like the Rocky Mountains in Canada. My son continued filming the beauty
of nature under the sunshine in the afternoon.
After having lunch in a small restaurant, we hurried down as soon as
possible because Maurice's wife could not bear the atmospheric
pressure. She felt she was suffocating.
On the way going back to Albertville, although it was so early, we had
to turn another way to reach Roseland Dam in which Maurice had spent
most of his time collaborating the construction of the Dam when he was
so young. It is the most important "water power" in the Easthern
Maurice felt very happy; he smiled and pointed to the dam beyond, then
said, "Can you believe that I was one of the workers together on this
barrage thirty years ago? With his grim face, he continued, "I think, I
have already contributed so much to my country".
Then, we came back to Albertville and took a rest at "La Berjann hotel.
On Wednesday August 24th, leaving the Albertville (Savoie) region we
followed along the valley road from 350 kilorneters to Briancon,
Embrun, Gap (Hautes Alpes), Sisteron, Digne, and Barreme (Alpes de
haute Provence). At Savines le Lac de Serre Poncon, we stayed a couple
hours, enjoying the lovely scenery and had lunch in the open air. My
son continued filming the current of blue and calm water of the "Lac de
When the twilight came out, we hurried to reach Castellane and took a
rest at "Nouvel. hotel de Commerce."
On August 25th, we visited the "Gorge du Verdon". Driving along the
edge of the canyon, we saw people enjoying their canoes paddling in all
directions over the lake's blue water; we imagined that we were in
paradise's hot spring!
The scenery was so romantic from Aiguines to Moutiers St. Marie. Many
travelers enjoyed taking pictures and filming; so did my son.
Then, we went to Riez and Valensole. At Valensole hamlet, we stopped
for half an hour to appreciate the regional products and bought
something as souvenirs.
At night, about 210 km from Castellane to Cavaillon, we took a rest at
"Toppin" hotel, 70 cours Gambetta.
On August 26th we visited St. Remy de Provence, Les Baux de Provence,
Maussane les Alpilles, Arles; then we reached "Le Pond du Gard", the
colossal work of the Romans who took possession of France many
centuries ago. We climbed on it; we stood there with several curious
travelers who enjoyed looking around and smelling the freshness. I
thought about the domination, when people could be under the heel of
the invader and became slaves having to do everything they wanted.
We ate pizza in one small restaurant and left that area unwillingly.
We followed the road in the valley which stretched Southward, then took
the way "Auto Route' to go to Montpellier city. At noon, we were
exactly in front of Maurice's eldest daughter's house. She had to
return to her office after fifteen days of vacation.
It was 330 km from Cavaillon to Rodez. At night, we took a rest at "Les
Peyrieres" hotel on the hill. The 3 star luxurious 'Les Peyrieres'
hotel was situated in the quiet area and green surrounding land. At the
distance of the town but close to the airport, is the comfortable place
for travelers to rest after their long trip.
The bright smile on the face of the hostess and the host were the first
sign of a warm welcome. The happy atmosphere in the reception-room and
the scent of a splendid meal wafted from the kitchen, this turned us on
so I felt very hungry.
In my room, lying down in the bed, I carefully observed everything
around me: the color television, the direct telephone and on the desk
with everything needed - the pen, the white paper and the envelop for
mail etc... and through the window, I could appreciate the silence of
On August 27th, we had to pass Decazeville, Figeac, Rocamadour, St.
Sousceyrac, Larequebrou, Aurillac, Vie sur Cere, Murat etc... Some
stage of the mountain's road side drive were very busy because of
repairs. It was so difficult for us to move forward.
Maurice had just escaped an accident at an abrupt turn along the
mountain slopes. It has slightly scratched his car's paint. At night,
we took a rest at St. Flour.
After leaving "St. Jacque" hotel at St. Flour from Rodez 280 km, we had
to give my youngest son a ride to the train station where he had to
return to Paris by train to catch an air plane to come back in time to
Calgary. His high school course was to started on September 9th.
On August 28th, leaving St. Flour from 360 km to Artemare, we had to
pass Langeac, Chanteuges, Le Puy, Julien Chapteuil, St. Agreve,
Lamastre, Toumon, Roman, St. Marcellin, Tullins, Voiron, Les Abrets,
Virieu Le Grand. The scenery of those regions did not interest us
sufficiently, so we kept straight on to Artemare which we reached so
early and stopped at "Hotel du Valromey".
On August 29th, we crossed the frontier to visit Switzerland. When we
were along way on the high plateau, our car ran slowly on the mountain
road side; I saw beyond and far away the longest, highest bridge
crossing the valley; I felt very frighten looking down. We had to pass
by Culoz, Seyssel, Frengy, Bellegarde, Collonges, St. Genis Pouilly,
Gex Divonne then Nyon; we submitted our passports to the frontier guard
and, Switzerland welcomed us under the soft rainfall. The persistent
drizzle carried on until we reached the "Lac Leman". The fog covered
that area entirely; we stayed in our car a long time. Later, the wind
swept away the clouds and the rain was over.
The rain had stopped. The weather turned fine in the afternoon; but it
was still dark on the horizon. The damp place at the edge of the lake
where we stood was crowded; we were enjoying this with several herons
and wild ducks. The birds rapidly snatched many pieces of dried bread
which we had thrown into the water. Then we walked along the lake and
around the city. We took many pictures in the surrounding place and
filmed everything. We entered a restaurant and ordered coffee. The
scent of delicious coffee wafted abroad and over my nose. After a few
minutes in my seat, resting and thinking about the peaceful
Switzerland. I was impressed by all the times of peace in this nation
and hope for no more war in the world; and let us have a good
inviolable life forever and ever.
My family and I left the restaurant. It seemed everybody got along from
the special taste of coffee that we had just drunk there.
It was beautiful Sunday in Switzerland. I felt very happy and followed
the others to penetrate the town. My daughter and I walked side by side
along the street, talking of everything and about the neutral nation,
Switzerland. Maurice's wife stopped a Swiss lady in the street; it
seemed she asked her something then came to the grocery store beyond.
Maurice called his wife, then said, "Get me any newspaper please. " She
nodded her head, then smiled. We all followed her into the store except
Maurice who stood outside. We bought many things such as: hot bread,
fresh fruits, ham and chocolate etc.
We passed by many stores along the road, then stop in front of the
clock shop, admiring the watches shown under glass. My daughter in-law
wanted to get a brand new Swiss wrist-watch for herself.
She yelled, "Wait a minute, please! I'd like to take a look at the
watch that I have wanted for a long time. " Her husband replied,
"sure". We also entered. She looked into the show case. She picked it
out then said to her husband, "This one, O.K.?" Her husband answered,
"It's up to you. "
At about a time we were in the clock shop, Maurice kept on going to
seek the way and to search for a good outdoor place for us to have
lunch together. At last, he ended up discovering a wonderful place. He
joined us again. We made our way through a crowd in the open air market
then cut a path through the trees.
During my lunch under the shady branches of the tree, in the quiet
place in the public garden, I was strongly inspired by everything
around me. There were a pleasant smell of several special kinds of
fresh flowers which I had never seen in my country. It seemed people
here were enjoying themselves enormously. The cool wind abated the hot
weather surrounding us. The breeze brought me along feeling sleepy. I
was meditating about somebody who obviously had a green thumb in this
garden. My two grand sons ran up and down on the green grass. Suddenly,
my son shouted and complained to his wife, "Keep them off the grass
please; Don't you see the words: "Keep off the grass".
All the way to Yverdon, the weather turned worse and worse while our
cars were running along side the edge of the quiet sight of "Lac de
Neuchatel". The cool wind howled outside, but all the car windows were
tightly closed. That kept us warm inside until we reached Payern. The
night started; the light burned out in Avenches town site where we took
a rest at "Hotel de la Couronne".
It was 11 a. m on August 30th, Due to the persistent weather problem,
we were overcome with sleep. We started our trip so late. We arrived in
Murten; instead of turning the right way to go to Bern, the capital
city, Maurice change his mind; he turned left to follow the road to
Kersa, Neuville, Biel, Tavannes, Moutiers, Delemont. Then we reached
Basel where we said, "Goodbye" to Switzerland and hoped we would see it
It was 3:00 p.m We left the frontier passage in the heart of the dreary
outlook, while in space the sun was hiding behind the dark clouds. We
hurried to reach Mulhouse, Colmar then Riquerir where every one of us
followed our own way, but my daughter held a grip of me. We penetrated
the town site. We kept to the narrow sloping road to go straight to the
stores along the road side. The other members of my family vanished in
My daughter realized suddenly and she asked me, "Where is my aunt Tuyet
Van going now? She certainly has lost her way."
I calmed her down, "Don't worry about that; I think she went together
Nguyen and his wife." She emphasized, "Are you sure?" I assured her,
We were standing of the toy store where we intended to get some
postcards for my close friends. In the distance Maurice came up then
asked me, "Do you know where Amyot is?" I pointed to the bakery shop
and said, "May be she is getting some hot bread for us." He turned his
back and disappeared into the crowd.
Later, everyone of my, family reappeared from all over; the town site
with a lot of things in hand. All of us who gathered in the small
restaurant had lunch before directing to the "Hot Abbaye d'Alspach"
hotel at Strasbourg.
Strasbourg's rich and full land with lush green vegetables and a large
carpet of green along both sides of the road which embellished the
North-East zone, stirred the commuters to be content with their heavy
That night we took a rest at Zum Schnogzloch's hotel at Obernai; 100 km
Strasbourg. The thunder storm started at midnight while I was asleep in
On September 1st, Maurice got the latest news from the newspaper Le
Figaro; by the influence of the typhoon-storm in Texas, the weather in
some zones in France turned from bad to worse. The torrential rain
We woke up so early and had breakfast in the hotel restaurant.
Regardless of the rain and strong wind that fell out outside, we
continued hurriedly to reach Chateau Thierry to see Vaux Le Vicomte
castle; then Fontainebleau city to visit the castle in which the sound
of Vietnam's historic days echoed in the conference of the war between
France and Vietnam. Finally, Chartre cathedral was the last point of
The bad weather frustrated our hopes so we put some halting places off
and decided to go home.
The long lasting sunless day carried me along all the way back to
Cherbourg. The road was slick with wet rain so our cars had to run very
slowly. I myself felt worn out. I sank back in my seat and let my
thoughts dwell on Canada, and my country Vietnam.
The day I just finished this writing, then received a phone call from
France, Jean Claude Maurice, our big benefactor who, I wrote, in this
books, soon departed this life an early unforeseen morning as on July
His death is a deep mourning to us.
We pray for him and think that god was receiving his soul...
"Be proud to enjoy a Millennium Heaven"
My copyright 2002
Book's Title is "A
Moment Of Sorrow"