Set off from Dublin Aeroport and flew with Air-France to the Charles de Gaulle aeroport on the outskirts of Paris. And what an aeroport it was. It is immense, and the quickest glance at its departures over a two hour period will best give you an idea of how busy it actually is.
After clearing customs and passport control, I made my way down to the SNCF railway station, a good 20 minutes walk, and collected my Air France / SNCF ticket for the high speed train to Toulon. This left shortly after I arrived in the platform and took four and three quarter hours to hurtle from Paris to Toulon. For those of you who do not know, Toulon is located on the south coast, between Marseilles and Nice. It is a major naval port for the French Navy, and is a fascinating old medieval city.
I must confess that the high speed train gave me a better idea of the actual size of the country that we know as France. It is huge and has some absolutely beautiful mountain, valleys and river scenery. Near Paris we find few hedgerows, big fields and industrialised farming. This however does not last long and the large majority of the rural ground is fenced into small – virtually medieval – parcels of land, where a wide range of vines and other vegetables are grown quite prolifically and successfully.
On arrival in Toulon around 7.00pm continental time, I was met by Madam
Trebuchet, the good lady wife of my host, one of the main organisers of the event. She rushed me off by car to the headquarters of the Grande loge de France, at the Club Ecossars Toulonnais No 174, where our hosts had arranged a welcome party for all the Speakers and all the other officials involved in the running of the event over the next two days.
And of course, we should not forget the efforts of our bar steward for the evening, the lovely Simona, who against all odds, kept everyone in refreshment, as the evening progressed.
By now, we were well past 12.00 midnight, and our hosts had welcomed us, fed us, watered us and made a point of coming round to speak to most of us individually, so they certainly did their best to make us feel at home. And for the financially prudent amongst you, the Grande Loge De France, covered the entire cost of the evening, as part of their welcome package for their guests. A 50 seater bus arrived and quickly filled with Speakers and others, and we set off to our conference hotel – The Grand Hotel Dauphine, a very comfortable, clean and modern hotel located on the Rue Berthelot, in the old town area of central Toulin. And, so, after a long, tiring and enjoyable day, I set my alarm and retired to bed.