Tuesday, May 29, 2018

France – Day 14 – 4/11/2018

France – Day 14 – 4/11/2018

We packed and got ready to leave Bayeux, but we wanted to return to the Poppies Shop before we left. We decided to get a gift for Julie from AAA, who helped plan the trip. Everything in the shop was different and beautiful.

So, after breakfast, we walked back to the shop. It wasn’t open yet. To the side of the shop was a waterwheel, so Larry and Bob photographed it.

We had given up on waiting for the shop to open, when the young lady who worked there (probably the owner’s daughter) arrived and unlocked the door. Hooray. We bought Julie a nice hand-painted scarf and considered the day a success—and it was still before ten o’clock in the morning.

On the way back to the hotel, we photographed the oldest building in Bayeux.

Built in the 14th century, this place held tradesmen. Their showrooms and sales spaces occupied the first floor. The upper stories held housing and workshops. For an eight-hundred-year-old building, it looked pretty good.

We checked out of the hotel and took our luggage to the parking area. Once again, I was less than helpful.

As we got into the car, Bob, who was riding shotgun, took the rental paperwork out of the glove box. He opened to the page showing the condition of the car when we picked it up. The diagram showed three large Xs on the rear quarter panel where Larry thought he had scraped the building. Even though we had paid for insurance, Larry felt so much better to know he hadn’t caused any damage at all.

About halfway back to Paris, we stopped for fuel and decided to eat lunch at the restaurant at the plaza, Courtepaille. The food was good, and we saved an extra stop on the way.

Once again, we followed the GPS to our final Paris hotel, the Millesime in Saint-Germain-des-Pres. Once again, Julie picked a winner. This was my favorite hotel of the trip.


The GPS lead us right to the hotel location, and Bob found a parking place, actually in a loading zone, near the entrance. We checked in and settled the bags into our rooms. Then we left Bernie and Lorna to rest while Bob and I returned the car to Hertz.

The faithful GPS got us to the street address listed on the Hertz form, but we saw no sign of a rental car return. Since the street was adjacent to the main Paris train station, the area was extremely crowded. After several laps around the block, dodging taxis, motorcycles, and pedestrians, I suggested we park and I would search on foot,

We did another lap or two searching for an open parking space. Finally, Bob spotted a likely place on the opposite side of the street. Throwing caution to the wind, he made a midblock U-turn into the loading zone for a hotel. The hotel was being renovated, so scaffolding covered most of the building. Bob stayed in the car while I scouted. I spotted the original Hertz office—the one with the “We’ve moved” sign on the door.

I was able to retrace my steps from before using the instructions I had photographed on my phone. Up the street, into the shopping center, down the elevator two levels, and through the exit doors to the underground parking garage, where the new Hertz office was located.

I found a fellow in a Hertz shirt. “Can you show me where we return the car?”

The pleasant attendant apologized. He was alone at the counter and couldn’t leave, but he explained the entrance to the underground parking was adjacent to the hotel under construction. He said to follow the signs and to ignore the arrows on the ground. The parking structure was also being renovated, and what used to be the exit was now the entrance.

When I reached the street, Bob saw me and started the car to pick me up. I yelled and held out my hands to get him to stop because the below-ground parking entrance was actually behind the vehicle.

Half-hidden by scaffolding, I spotted a grouping of signs, each about eleven-inches by seventeen-inches, advertising stores in the shopping center. Amid these, one said Hertz.

I watched for traffic while Bob backed the car up the street. (Bob refused to go around the block again.)

Then I joined him. We drove down the ramp, past the crossed-out exit sign, and followed the arrows pointing the wrong direction.

Finally, the rental car was home.

Bob hailed a taxi, and we rested on our way back to the hotel.

Once they returned, the others said they were hungry. I wasn’t since I was still full from lunch, so the other three left for dinner.

The concierge recommended Au 35, right down the street. Bernie had been hungry for soup, other than French onion, throughout the trip. This restaurant had a specialty soup: chickpea with celery and tomato. She loved it. They all enjoyed the food and the ambiance.

We were tired after the drive, so we made it an early evening.

Next: Our last day in Paris

Friday, May 25, 2018

France – Day 13 – 4/10/2018 Normandy

Although I was still in some pain, I slept a bit better during the night. In the morning, I showered, and the hot water helped ease the aches.

We ate breakfast at the hotel. Although in many, the price of breakfast was included in the cost of the room, this one charged for it separately. The selection was the usual array of juice, breads, eggs, yogurt, etc. Oh, and more great coffee.

At 9:00 a.m., Francis Paz of Normandy Guided Tours arrived in his SUV to pick us up for our tour of Normandy. Bob had particularly looked forward to this day. He had read several books in preparation for the trip.

In 2014, Stuart Robertson of Normandy Battle Tours was our tour guide. The day we were with him, he had just received the first copies of his book, D-Day June 6 1944: Following in the Footsteps of Heroes. We bought a signed copy for Bob since he was unable to take the trip with us. Stuart was raised in England. He has two degrees in history, but D-Day and WWII especially fascinated him. So, he moved to Normandy and began guiding tourists through the events of that historic day. He also started his own B&B (booked during the time we were there).

When we began to plan this trip, I contacted Stuart. Because he does the Rick Steves tours, he was completely scheduled for the time we were going to be in France, but he recommended several other tour guides. Francis was the first to respond.

On our first tour in 2014, we were on a large bus, so we could only go where the bus would fit. This time, we were with a guide from the local area, and we saw quite a bit we never would have been able to see on a bus. We also got a different perspective on the events.

Just as the last time, our first stop was at Sainte Mère Église. The story of John Steele was told in the movie The Longest Day. Red Buttons portrayed Steele in the film.

On the night before D-Day (June 5, 1944), American soldiers parachuted into the area of Sainte Mère Église in waves. The town had been attacked from the air, and a stray bomb set fire to a house near the town square. The church bell was rung, and many townspeople formed a bucket brigade, supervised by the Germans. By one a.m., the square was well lit and filled with German soldiers and villagers. Two planeloads of paratroopers were dropped in error directly over the village. They were easy targets, and most were killed. Steele’s parachute caught on the church tower. He was wounded and hung there pretending to be dead for two hours before the Germans took him prisoner. Today, a manikin hangs on the church steeple to represent John Steele.

We followed the chronology of the day from Utah Beach to Omaha Beach. Once again, we relived the events of that fatal day. In the museum, we watched videos describing the day and profiling some of those who took part.

As we walked on the beach, we saw sulkies running on the beach. Bernie loved it.

A special experience for the day was a visit to the village of Angoville-au-Plain. We could not have seen this place four years earlier because the roads were much too narrow for a bus to navigate. There, we heard the story of American medics Robert Wright and Kenneth Moore, who treated the injured from both sides in the small church for over 36 hours as the battle raged on outside. The story was documented in the film Eagles of Mercy.

Inside the church, blood stains remain on the pews as tangible evidence of what happened there. Very moving. A special window in the church honors the events of the day.

Francis had made reservations for lunch at a restaurant owned by his friends, La Sapiniere. The food was good, and the location was charming. Bob had a big bowl of mussels and enjoyed them. Unfortunately, although it had been drizzling and windy all day, by this time, light rain had begun. We could tell this place would be lovely in the summer with sunshine.

Our final stop was the American Cemetery. The rain came down in earnest as we arrived, and the air was cold. We spent a few minutes at the entrance overlooking the graves. Francis told us about the history of the location and the statistics. However, because the grass was wet, and the rain continued, we did not go to see the markers themselves or the chapel at the far end of the graveyard.

Instead, we spent some time in the Visitor’s Center. Like everywhere else, we had to stand in line for an airport-like security check at the entrance.

By the end of the day, we had immersed ourselves in the reality of what happened there nearly seventy-four years ago. It will probably take a long time to fully process everything.

We returned to the hotel at around four in the afternoon to rest and warm up. Then we headed out for dinner at Le Resto du Marche since we had liked it the day before. By this time, it was raining for real.

We enjoyed our meal and then returned to the hotel for the evening.

Next: Return to Paris

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

France – Day 12 – 4/9/2018

As expected, I slept little during the night. I hoped a hot shower would ease the pain, but just getting out of bed had me in tears.

Larry had to help me in and out of the shower. (Another deep tub created a challenge.) I needed help pulling on my pants and socks. Every time I tried to lift or pull with my right arm, I was left breathless or in tears.

We ate breakfast in the hotel. This one was similar to those we had enjoyed previously. I must admit, by this time, I was crazy about the coffee machines. We saw these for the first time in Australia years ago. They allowed the choice of various kinds (latte, mocha, espresso, etc.) plus the addition of cream and/or sugar. The coffee itself was rich and strong without being bitter.

Probably not practical for home use, these machines made the best coffee ever.

Of course, we had come to expect wonderful fresh bread. In addition to the obligatory baguettes, most continental breakfast selections included croissants and various other delicious pastries. It was a good thing we were walking between three and ten+ miles every day to counter the effects.

My routine breakfast became fruit and yogurt along with the great bread—my particular weakness. Bob varied his choices but usually selected the luncheon meats along with other items. Bernie and Larry chose whatever appealed to them at the time. Larry and Bob often had eggs in addition to whatever else was available.

After breakfast, we finished packing our bags. I was pretty useless when it came to helping with the suitcases. I could pull mine with my left hand because it was on wheels. In addition to his own bag and backpack, Larry also took my carryon. Since it held my computer and Kindle Fire, it tended to be quite heavy.

We checked out and paid for parking, and then we took out bags to the van.

Our hotel, Ibis Champ de Mars, shared a lobby with another hotel, Mercure Champ de Mars Hotel. They also shared the underground parking, accessible from an elevator in the lobby of the Mercure. Larry discovered this the day before when he parked the car.

We managed to get the bags to the car and load them. Larry’d had a bit of a challenge to get the car into the parking spot, but taking it out proved to be easier.

We headed for Bayeux with a brief stop in Caen.

The GPS found the Grand Hotel du Luxembourg without problems. We found a spot to park on the street while we checked in.

When we handed our voucher to the desk clerk, she seemed confused. We had prepaid for two rooms, one of the Schwencks and one for us. She indicated she only had a reservation for the Schwencks—one room. She spoke very little English, and our lack of fluency in French proved problematic. She finally assured us she had two rooms available and she would honor the voucher.

We later learned that the hotel had recently changed hands. It might have explained the confusion. We asked about parking. The clerk gave Larry a card good for three hours of street parking and told him to leave the car on the street for the time being.

We had decided to try to see the cathedral and the Bayeux Tapestry, since this was our only free day.

When we visited the tapestry in 2014, we were unaware that Larry was descended from both William the Conqueror and King Harold. Both are depicted in the tapestry. Harold died in the battle (the Battle of Hastings), and William won the crown of England. This time, we paid closer attention to the images.

The panel above depicts the death of Harold.

We took the time to explore the museum while Larry decided to go back to the hotel and park the van in their lot since his three hours were nearly up. We said we’d meet him at the cathedral.

As we left the museum, Bernie spotted a little shop across the street, The Poppies Shop. What a find. The owner, Sandrine Queudeville, is an artist. She designed the items, and most feature poppies. We each bought some gifts, and we each got a t-shirt.

We then walked down the street to the cathedral. We entered by a side door. I expected to find Larry inside, but he wasn’t there. I tried to call him, but he didn’t answer. Bob took pictures and explored the cathedral. Finally, I got a text from Larry. He had been waiting outside on the side opposite where we had entered.

We located him and went back to the hotel to drop off our purchases.

He told me about getting into the parking area at the hotel. The entrance was narrow, and someone pulled up close behind him. Just as he made the turn, he heard what he thought was a crunch, but he didn’t feel anything. After he parked the car, he walked around to the back and saw a huge dent. Fortunately, we had paid for insurance, but he was devastated.

We asked where the nearest ATM was. The clerk seemed to understand and pointed down the street then indicated we should turn left.

As we neared the corner, we discovered a laundromat. We were running out of underwear and figured if we washed once more, we’d be able to get through the rest of the trip.

We continued around the corner and located the large square. Across the street, we spotted an ATM. Thank goodness. We had to get cash to pay the balance of our Normandy tour the following day.

We checked several restaurants in the area and decided to eat at Resto du Marche, a pizza place. The food was good, and the interior was warm. For the previous couple of days, the weather had been chilly with occasional drizzles.

When we returned to the hotel, Bernie and I rested while Bob and Larry did the laundry.

Once more, we decided not to go out again. I was still in quite a bit of pain and anticipated another sleepless night.

Next: Normandy

Friday, May 18, 2018

France – Day 11 – 4/8/2018

When we arrived in Giverny, I discovered we were missing a hotel for the night following our stay there. So, I went online and made reservations in Rouen. It was on the way to Bayeux, our next planned stop. We had a bonus day. Hooray.

Once again, we showed up for breakfast in the morning but had to wait for Eric to go to town for bread. This morning’s breakfast consisted of coffee, baguette, and croissants. While we ate, Bob got out the map and asked Eric the best way to get back to the highway. He planned to drive and wanted to feel comfortable with the route. Fortunately, our English-language GPS worked pretty well.

We paid the balance on our bill—in cash. When we arrived, we were told this place didn't take credit cards. This information was not on the website nor on the confirmation email I'd received. The ATM in town was out of order during out entire stay. We brought enough cash to pay for the balance of our Normandy tour, so we had to use it in order to pay for the hotel in Giverny.

I had to ask for a receipt.

We finished packing, dropped off the key, loaded the van, and started on our way.

We arrived in Rouen before noon and followed the GPS directions to the hotel. Once again, we drove around a couple of blocks several times without seeing it. We finally saw a sign, turned around the corner and spotted a parking lot. We pulled in just as another car pulled out. As we looked for where to pay, a lady who spoke a little English let us know they didn’t charge on Sundays.

We left Bob and Bernie in the van and walked around the corner of the building. I have no idea what I tripped over, but I went down—fast and hard. It took me a few seconds to catch my breath. Then I needed to lie there for about a minute to check myself out. I knew I’d fallen on my thigh and knee (not the one I’d had surgery on a couple of years earlier). I expected bruising.

Then I realized I had also landed on my elbow and forearm. When I finally looked, my leg seemed okay, but the arm was scraped, and a large, dark bruise eventually showed up. Larry helped me get up, and I felt my most serious injury. I either pulled or tore a muscle in my chest. It hurt just to breathe.

But we still had to check into the hotel, so we went on around to the front and entered the lobby. I had the email confirmation on my phone and showed it to the desk clerk. She let us know there are several Ibis hotels in town. We were at the wrong one. She gave us directions to the one where we had our reservations—about half a mile farther down the same street. We had gone this way a couple of times before, but we hadn’t gone far enough. (The GPS said we’d arrived before we got there. This time, we didn’t listen to it.)

We pulled into the loading area. When I went to check us in, the others unloaded the car. Ibis Rouen Champ de Mars was a nice, new, modern hotel. It appeared to be a business hotel—clean, simple, sleek, and uncluttered. Our rooms  had nice beds and bathrooms. Again, the toilet was in a room separate from the shower and sink.

I was afraid if I lay down, I wouldn’t be able to get up. Besides, we had to find somewhere for lunch. The desk clerk gave us directions to the square. It was within a couple of blocks of the cathedral.

We checked out several restaurants but decided to go to the one closest to the corner, Le Cesar. We had a nice late lunch and then went in search of the cathedral.

Bob was happy because Monet painted this cathedral many times and at different times of day. He finally got to see it. After seeing all the paintings, this place felt familiar.

We walked around the cathedral and Bob took pictures inside and outside. Then we walked back to the hotel.

I had wanted to see Rouen because my father was there for a couple of weeks during WWII. 

In this city, it wasn't hard to sense the effects of the war. Rouen was heavily bombed, and the Germans, who occupied the city, would not allow any attempts to put out the flames. Many blocks of old buildings (some dating to the 14th century) plus the cathedral were allowed to burn. Throughout the heart of the city, blackened stones remained as evidence of the decimation. Within the rebuilt cathedral, many statues were blackened. 

I had no sense of my father there, but overwhelming sadness enveloped me. I love all the old buildings and fabulous architecture in Europe. When I realized how much had been lost just in this one place, the enormity of the destruction of the war struck me.

By now, I was starting to feel the bruising, and I felt as though I were in a bit of shock from the fall. We returned to the hotel where we all rested for a while. I did some writing and catching up on email while trying to find a comfortable position.

After a while, we heard a knock on the door. Bob and Bernie were going to find somewhere for dinner. I wasn’t very hungry, and Larry wasn’t either, so we stayed in our room and ate protein bars. (We always carry them with us when we travel.) They decided to go downstairs to eat in the bar. 

I could tell sleep might be a challenge. Every time I moved, the muscle in my chest hurt. I knew I  was going to have trouble finding a position where I wouldn’t be in pain. It was a losing battle.

Next: On to Bayeux

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

France – Day 10 – 4/7/2018

We woke after a fairly good night’s sleep in Giverny at Le Rouge Gorge. We had a real queen-size bed—finally. When we showered, we discovered one of the maintenance issues of the house. Most of the water came out of the seam where the sprayer should have screwed onto the mounting piece. It came out in all directions. Even though there was a shower curtain, because of the force of the water hitting it from all angles, the curtain could not keep it inside the shower. I stepped out into about a half inch of water on the floor. The bathmat was soaked, and I used my towel to try to sop up some of the overflow. Fortunately, the heating was accomplished with radiators, so I draped the towel and bathmat over the radiators to dry.

We had brought the coffee and sugar we had bought while at the timeshare, so we made coffee.

The day before, we scheduled breakfast for 8:30 a.m. We walked to our landlord’s place to eat. The breakfast room is shown on the right below.

The owner, Eric, wasn’t there when we arrived at 8:30, so we checked out their garden.

About 8:45, Eric showed up. He started a pot of coffee, but said he had to go into town to get bread. He asked us to come back in half an hour. So, we went back to the cottage, watched a bit of TV and had another cup of coffee.

We returned just as Eric arrived with the bread. Breakfast consisted of containers of yogurt, fruit, and slices of baguette with coffee—a continental breakfast.

We had hoped to get to the garden when it opened, but our delayed breakfast kept us from arriving when the gates opened. Fortunately, we had been able to get our tickets online before we left home.

We started out toward the house. It began to drizzle. We hadn’t brought our umbrellas with us, and the rain increased. Bernie’s jacket had a hood, and Bob wore a hat. So did Larry, but I had nothing to cover my head. We sent Bob and Bernie on ahead. I waited under cover while Larry went back to the cottage. He returned about twenty minutes later. He had about a seven-minute walk back and then had to hunt for the umbrellas.

This was the only day when we actually had rain most of the day.

When we arrived at the garden, we found Bob and Bernie and gave them their umbrella. They continued through the garden while we toured the house again. (We had seen the garden four years earlier, and very little was in bloom.)
I remembered entering the house for the first time and being surprised that most of the artwork on the walls were Japanese prints. We were somewhat familiar with most of them from living in Japan and seeing others in the museum the day before.

I still loved the delft tiles in the kitchen.

When we were there before, we were told the paintings hung in Monet’s studio were reproductions of the ones left there when he died.

As we entered the kitchen, we spotted Bob and Bernie outside. Larry went out and discovered they hadn’t gone through the tunnel to the lily pond, so he showed them where to find it.

Then we went to the gift shop. While I looked around, Larry found a sofa and watched a video of Monet painting at the pond and in the studio. I got a t-shirt, and Larry picked out one for himself. We picked up a couple of gifts, too.

While at the Monet Museum in Paris, I spotted a children’s book in a kids’ area, but when we got to the gift shop there, I could not find it. However, at the shop in Giverny, I found it and bought it for our great-grandniece, who will be seventeen months at Christmas. I had also gotten her a coloring book at San Chappelle. So I had one Christmas gift taken care of.

When we finished our shopping, we decided to find Bob and Bernie to tell them we were going to lunch. We found them nearly through with their visit. So, before we left, we took a few pictures of them on the bridge and in front of the boats on the pond. (They have rebuilt the bridge. When we were there the last time, it had been made of wood. It has been replaced with a metal one, but it still looks the same.

The rain continued as we walked back to the hotel where we had eaten the day before. We liked the food and wanted to try something else. We had just ordered when Bob and Bernie arrived. So, we enjoyed a leisurely late lunch.

We walked back to the cottage and lay down for a nap.

Bob had made reservations the evening before at the Baudy Restaurant, since it was the place where the artists had eaten when they came to visit Monet. The reservations were a bit late for us, and we weren’t very hungry.

We went out a bit ahead of them. The rain had let up, so we stopped at the local bakery for coffee and croissants.

We ate outdoors. We were nearly finished when Bob and Bernie went by on their way to the Baudy. We enjoyed our dessert and coffee, and they later reported their dinner was good.

We packed and went to bed early since we would be on the road again the next day.

Next time: Rouen

Friday, May 11, 2018

France – Day 9 – 4/6/2018 – Continued


After a nice drive through the countryside, our GPS led us to Giverny.

We followed the directions to Les Rouge Gorge. While we were planning the trip, a friend of Bob’s told him he and his wife had spent a night in Giverny. He suggested we plan on a couple of days. While there, they had stayed in this place.

I had contacted them and made reservations online. One option was the “cottage.” The website said it would sleep up to five. Since I was booking for two couples, it seemed like a good choice.

As we entered town, we decided to find a restaurant. I used Google Maps to locate the local restaurants. We found one just as we entered town. It was located in a lovely hotel, Le Jardin des Plumes. We decided to stop there for lunch.

We went in and were seated. Then we looked at the menu… The three-course lunch was 52. As I looked through the selections, I couldn’t find a thing I would eat. This was “inventive” and “creative” cuisine. The others agreed that the prices were more than we wanted to spend, and the menu was bizarre. We apologized to the hostess and told her we weren’t hungry enough for a large meal. We left.

We decided to check in and then find somewhere else to eat. We had the address for our B&B programmed into the GPS. We had the street name. We followed the directions but could not find the street itself. So, we turned around and retraced our route slowly. No sign of the street name. We drove around several blocks. Still, no sign of the street. Then we returned to the edge of town where we had arrived. As we crept along this time, we spotted the street name in small letters on a wall, but we couldn’t believe it was actually a road.

The van we rented had sensors all around. Larry started down the road. All the sensors beeped. The walls were only about six inches or less away from the car. We crept from the far end until we reached the grassy area you can see on the left. At the time, a small white van sat in the street against the near left-hand wall.

We got out and looked for the address: 6 rue aux Juifs. We saw 4, but not 6. As we were discussing what to do, a lady came out. I showed her the email with our reservation. She nodded and led us through a gate. (No number was in evidence.) She clearly spoke no English and understood little. Our combined knowledge of French was woefully lacking.

We discovered the cottage was a six-hundred-year-old building with two bedrooms, a bath, kitchen, and sitting room. The photos on the website must have been of the rooms in the main house because they looked pretty nice. The cottage, however, just looked shabby.

We’re quite fond of funky, old places. This should have been one of them. However, it desperately needed maintenance. The linens were worn. The dishes in the kitchen were odds and ends. If there had been five of us, we wouldn’t have had sufficient cups or glasses.

In a town famous for its illustrious artist, the paintings here were TERRIBLE. The one in our room was enough to give you nightmares. The four-by-six-foot canvas showed a scary-looking guy peeling potatoes with a food truck in the background. It hung above the head of the bed, so it reflected in the mirror at the foot of the bed. Imagine waking to the sight of this creepy image.

We got the key and then decided to walk to the museum and eat somewhere along the way.

But first, Larry had to back the van out of the street. Bob stood behind to give him directions. Once again, the beeps surrounded us as Larry carefully crept backwards. He finally cleared the street, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

The landlady pointed up the “main” street to show us how to reach the museum. She also indicated we could park the van on the street on the way toward the church.

We locked up and walked to the Impressionist Museum, where we bought our tickets. However, before looking at the artwork, we decided to eat in Le Brasserie Des Artists The place was nice, and the choices were far more appealing than the earlier restaurant. So were the prices.

The current show was about how the Japanese had influenced the French impressionists. It was an interesting show, but we had hoped to see more Monet paintings. However, we enjoyed the collection.

We had tickets for the Monet home and gardens for the next day, so we went back to our place to rest after the long drive.

In the early evening, we set out to get something for dinner. We decided to walk all the way to the end of town (not terribly far) to check to see what restaurants were available. Just beyond the Monet compound, we spotted a lovely hotel. The sign said it had a restaurant. The specialties were crepes and salads. What a great find.

La Mustardiere’s restaurant was charming with a terrific wait staff. We decided to try to buckwheat crepes. Bernie and I had the ones with cheese and an egg. Larry had a dessert crepe, and Bob had a different savory crepe.

The buckwheat crepes were a revelation. They were crispy and lacy—and delicious.
This was a perfect finish to the day.

Next time: Monet’s house and garden

Monday, May 7, 2018

France – Day 9 – 4/6/2018

After breakfast, we prepared to move on to the next phase of the trip. On our way back upstairs, we asked the clerk to order us a taxi. Shortly after we returned to the lobby, the cab arrived.

Larry checked us out of the timeshare while the rest of us took our luggage outside. The clerk at the desk seemed utterly flustered and confused. She first looked at our bill and said there were no charges. However, he reminded her about the room tax and the charges for breakfast. She looked again and nodded. Larry handed her his credit card, and she ran it. After we drove away, he discovered we had been undercharged. Given all the issues we’d had, he did not feel compelled to return and insist they adjust the bill—especially since he had to remind them about the additional charges in the first place.

As  he joined us in the taxi, he'd handed the driver the voucher for the Hertz car. It showed the address of the office. The driver nodded as though he knew where he was going, but he obviously didn’t understand much English.

We drove to the other side of town. The driver parked and got out, so we followed, but we saw no hint of a sign for Hertz. We asked where the office was. He pointed across the street and indicated we go upstairs. We figured he knew where the office was. After all, he had the address.

So we dragged our bags across the street and up the escalator to the train station. On the second floor, we still saw no signs for Hertz, but we did see signs for car rentals. We followed the directions down the station platform, up another escalator, across another walkway, and up another escalator.

At the top, we looked around. We saw signs for Avis and Eurocar, but not for Hertz. We went to one of the desks and asked about Hertz. The person indicated we should wait until he got someone who spoke English. He returned with a young woman. She looked at the address and frowned. Then she indicated we should go to the far end of the station and then go downstairs and outside. (Did I mention this was quite a large station?)

So, we hiked down to the end of the station and found another set of escalators. Then we took our bags to the bottom floor. We walked outside, looked around, and still saw no sigh of Hertz.

We went back into the station to reconnoiter. As we talked about what to do, a nice young woman, whose job seemed to be to provide assistance, approached us. Through her limited English and our limited French, we finally conveyed our problem.

She studied the address. Then she walked us outside, pointed down the street, and indicated we should cross, go to the traffic light, and then go around the corner. “Five minutes.” She smiled and nodded.

We were to hear “five minutes” quite a few times during our trip. We weren’t sure whether it was just a stock answer or whether it might have been used to represent whatever the real measure of time or distance might be. Sometimes, it actually took five minutes. Most times, it took longer. This was one of those times.

So, we walked down to the light (in the opposite direction from where we were supposed to go), crossed the street, and walked the two long blocks to the corner with the signal.

We turned left, as directed. We went one block. No sign of Hertz. So, we went another block and then another. Finally, Larry pointed. “There it is.” I had to look hard to see the Hertz logo on the side of the building another block away and across another street. 

We finally reached the office—an empty office. No sign of anyone anywhere around. We walked around a couple of times before Larry spotted a sign on the door. It gave detailed directions to where the office had moved—five minutes away. He took a photo so we could follow the directions.

Then we started out again. This time, at least, we felt we knew where we were supposed to go.

We finally located the building the directions described. We entered and took the elevator down. We finally located the Hertz desk, about an hour and a half after we arrived at the first station. We were worn out, and we hadn’t even left town.

We had reserved a Peugeot SUV, but they didn’t have any. Instead, we were given a Citroën C8 Eurovan. Quite a nice vehicle, actually. 

Before we left home, Larry had started having nightmares about driving in Paris. We had seen how crazy the drivers were, and he felt intimidated before he ever got behind the wheel. He decided to add Bob as a second driver. Good decision.

So, we loaded up all our bags and headed out of the building. We followed the Exit signs and drove up one aisle and down another and then into the next building. After our convoluted route to locate the place, we felt as though we were doomed to spend the entire day wandering around. After driving around and around and around, we finally emerged onto the street.

The traffic seemed intimidating, but once we were out of the city, the trip got easier. We followed the built-in GPS (converted for English) without any issues.

At last, we arrived in Geverny, hungry and tired.

Next blog: Day 9 continued: Le Rouge Gorge and the Monet Museum in Giverny

Friday, May 4, 2018

France – Day 8 – 4/5/18 - Picasso and Laundry

This was our last day in Paris until we returned at the end of our trip. We had one day left on our museum passes. The only museum left on Bob’s bucket list was the Picasso Museum. Their current special show featured his painting “Guernica.” This was Bernie’s favorite Picasso painting, so she really wanted to see it.

Larry had suffered from a mild cold for several days and said he’d really like to rest. I like some of Picasso’s work, especially his drawings, but I didn’t feel compelled to go to another museum. We were also running low on underwear and knew we’d be on the road for several days. So, we volunteered to do the laundry while Bob & Bernie went to the Picasso.

We packed all our laundry into our laundry bag and our spare ripstop nylon suitcase. Then we pooled our coins for the machines.

Bob studied the Metro map but couldn’t figure out how to get there. We had also used up our Metro passes, so they decided to take a taxi. (This ended up being the most expensive taxi ride of the trip.)

Larry went to Google Maps and found a self-service laundry about a mile away. The Metro station was about half a mile from the timeshare, and this was another half mile beyond it. Very doable.

We waved Bob and Bernie off and then set out to locate the laundry. We found it easily, and the walk was pleasant. Unlike the laundry at the timeshare, this was clean with sufficient equipment, a change machine, and laundry supplies. We had taken some Tide pods and dryer sheets, so we didn’t need to buy soap or anti-static sheets. (We learned years ago to carry these with us. They have come in handy in the past.)

When we arrived, the manager was present. She tried to help us, but she spoke no English. Thankfully, another couple was doing their laundry, and they spoke a little English. This facility appeared the same as one we had used on our previous trip in 2014. As the helpful lady explained how to use the machines, we realized it was nearly identical.

We had enough coins for the two washers, we but needed to get more for the dryer. Fortunately, the place had a change machine, so coping with the payment was easy.

Unlike the laundry at the timeshare, these machines worked well. They were efficient, and we had clean, dry clothes before lunchtime.

We dropped off the bags at the timeshare before we went back out to reconnoiter lunch. We had noticed a brassiere a couple of blocks away and decided to try it.

As we were seated, we saw a waiter deliver a burger. It looked good, so Larry ordered one. I ordered the chicken with salad and pomme frites (French fries). Unfortunately, my chicken was the worst food we encountered in the entire trip. The serving consisted of a thigh and leg. I don’t care for dark meat, but usually a thigh isn’t too dark. This one was. It appeared much smaller than the same cut we would expect in the US. (I suspected it might have been rooster, but the English translation on the menu said “chicken” not “capon.”)

I took off the skin, as I always do. Then I tried to cut a bite. Even with a steak knife, I couldn’t cut it. I finally tore off a bite, and it was inedible—too tough to chew and with no flavor. Larry tried to cut a bite to taste, and he encountered the same issues.

The salad consisted of frisée and radicchio—neither of which I care for. Fortunately, the basket of slices of baguette provided as good as ever, and so did the potatoes.

Larry’s burger proved to be a bit less tasty than it looked. The patty contained meat plus who-knew-what else. It tasted more like under-seasoned meatloaf. It was supposed to have been a “cheeseburger,” but the cheese consisted of a cheese sauce, which could have been made of melted Velveeta. It soaked into the bun and patty. Very strange. But the brioche bun was delicious.

Larry decided he needed dessert. (Of course, he did.) He asked for the menu and discovered coffee ice cream. It’s my very favorite. I ordered a scoop, and Larry ordered the sundae with chocolate sauce and a huge dollop of whipped cream.

The dessert nearly made up for the rest of the meal. I like a strongly flavored coffee ice cream, and this was delicious. It had an espresso-flavor and contained tiny bits of espresso beans. Maybe the best coffee ice cream I ever ate. Larry loved his sundae, too.

When Bob & Bernie returned, we got a full report on their adventure. After they left the museum, they showed the guard their Metro map and discovered a station a couple of blocks away. They also asked for a restaurant recommendation and ate a couple of blocks from the museum.

They decided to visit Montmartre and Sacré-Coeur cathedral since they were already out. The church sits at the top of a hill. They didn’t want to climb the hill, so they took the funicular. They said the view was spectacular. It would have been an additional climb to the cathedral, and they decided not to make the hike.

We finished up the odds and ends of food instead of eating an actual meal and went to bed fairly early.

Next: Our auto adventure