Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Geoff and Beryl

Whereas the other hotels on our trip served breakfast from 7:00 to 11:00, breakfast here at the Hotel d'Argouges went only until 10:00. And the night before we had decided against a day trip to Caen (which would require an early departure on the train) and against a bus tour to the Normandy beaches (since the buses all left early, too). Instead we slept in. We were only now beginning to catch our breath from the jet lag and the hard-travelling days, so sleeping in sounded mighty fine.

We took our time in the morning. Although the sun came up early and the birds in the garden outside our window started to sing loudly before any light was creeping thru the curtains, we did sleep in late.

And when we finally wandered down to breakfast, we were the only ones in the dining room except for Geoff and Beryl. They had brought their car over the Channel on the ferry from England. She was a retired midwife, he a retired engineer. And when I mentioned it looked like we were cutting it close for breakfast, she didn't think so. The time felt luxurious to her.

We chatted for a while in that room that everyone else had long since left. We talked about travelling -- by car and by train. (They seemed fascinated that we were looping thru the northwest by train.)

We talked about the cost of going to school. (They lamented that things are now so bad that British students must take out loans instead of getting outright grants.)

We talked about painting. That is how she spends her time, now that she is retired. (Ben tried to tell them that I am an artist, too.)

And we talked about places to go. (They were going to St. Malo soon. We highly recommended Rouen, images of which were still warm in our memory.)

And then we all stood up to go, as the hotel staff came in to wordlessly remind us that the hour was passed. We said goodbye and that perhaps we would see each other later that day.

We didn't.

Trip to France - Day 6

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A Little Adventure

We went on a little adventure on the way home from the restaurant tonite. At least those were the instructions to Ben. Take us on an adventure. You choose where to go. So he took us on a longer walk back to our hotel overlooking the garden.

And with the town now quiet after the hubbub of the day, and with the 10:30pm sun setting the clouds on fire against a pastel blue sky, we walked thru a quiet, sleepy neighborhood sitting at the top of the hill.

Bayeux is an old city, a medieval city. But this was not a neighborhood of narrow streets and old stone buildings. It was a slice of modern day France: new houses and duplexes with small, immaculately tended suburban gardens and even two dogs in a fenced-in yard.

Just beyond the top of the hill, we turned the corner at the Lycée and walked by a shop named L'Amour de Chien where we took a picture of a happy Trudy. And we turned another corner on the main street that we had climbed earlier in the day with our luggage toted behind us. And we headed back down to the hotel, where Trudy crashed first and then Ben (after his compulsory page in his journal -- no more of this two or three sentences stuff).

And now I am at the end of my story. The electric pink and blue sky has turned to black. The garden is barely visible outside the window. And the adventure is done.

Trip to France - Day 5

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It was after 7:00pm: dinner time. It had taken us a while to find this place, an effort that seemed to decorate every evening with frustration for me. But when we wandered up to the door of this place and looked over their menu posted at the door, we all three decided that this was the place.

We sat in a booth near the window. There was another family in the booth next to us: a father, a mother, and two high-school age boys. But the place was dark and the sounds were slightly muffled, so we hadn't really noticed them.

Excuse me! shouted one of the boys. The sound was not muffled.

The waiter turned around. Though as for that, he didn't look so much like a waiter but rather had an innkeeper look about him. And this was a very tavern-y looking place.

Water! the boy shouted again.

The waiter seemed confused, not understanding the English perhaps or more likely in stunned reaction to the shouted commands.

The boy's father spoke quietly, in the manner of a teacher instructing a pupil. He spoke with a very American accent.

D'eau, he said. Un verre d'eau.

Doh! the boy shouted.

Ah... une carafe d'eau, the waiter said.

Yes, doh! the boy shouted.

I wanted to shrink into my seat. I wanted to speak French with as non-American an accent as I could muster. I wanted to become invisible.

I am sure there were many times during the trip when the three of us fit the most stereotypical of American stereotypes. I wore jeans most of the way. Ben wore his running shoes and usually had a T-shirt on. We struggled with the basics of living in France (finding food, making change). So I would do well to hold my tongue, which I shall.

But this much I know. We did at least know not to shout. And we did try hard to stick to French. And we did know how to say S'il vous plait and Merci. So I was horrified at the impression this family was leaving with the waiter (and everyone else in the place).

So when we asked for the bill later in the evening, I made sure to say Merci, monsieur in my best possible accent. And I do believe that he and I made a brief connection -- that all Americans don't behave like that -- when I mouthed another Merci from the door just before we left.

Trip to France - Day 5

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