Monthly Archives: May 2010

Out of the Loop

Okay, let the storm of grief begin (yes, I’m talking to both of you!) I promised I would post each day about the trip and here it is, um, Sunday??? and you haven’t had an update since Friday.  I had to go out of town for work-yes, I’m well aware it is a holiday weekend, yes, I’m well aware that it sucks (believe me it S.U.C.K.S!)- and the hotel was $24.95 a day for wi-fi.  Yep.

I love you.  I love talking about our recent travels.  I just CANNOT do it though.  So I’m sitting at a place with free WIFI trying to check email and apologize to y’all.

I know, I could go ahead and sit here for the next hour and type, type, type about Mt. St. Michel and Normandy and AHHHH, Paris.  But I’m tired.  I’m cranky.  And frankly, I just don’t want to.  That never makes for a good triptic.  (Does triptic have a “k” on the end?)  I beg your forgiveness and offer sincere apology.  I promise a good payoff for your patience sometime later in the week.  I actual mean that and I’m not sarcastically referring to a brief rant about this work trip…

Okay, I need to find nourishment before the next barage of information is thrust toward my noggin…

I hope you are having a luverly Sunday afternoon (please don’t spoil who won the Indy 500 for me…did you know this is the first in *32* years that I haven’t watched it either live, listened to it on the radio, or watched it on TV?  I am so heartbroken.  Don’t ever say I’m not a slave to my job!) and a good Memorial Day weekend!

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Friday, Chambord, and Ack! Holiday Weekend!

Friday morning we awoke and had another traditional French breakfast.  Immediately after which I said to Mr. T, “I have to have some protein today!”  It was market day so we went into the town square and picked up yogurt, cheese, and bread for a picnic lunch.  The market was a lively melange of sites, sounds, and smells.  We purchased some brie and some goat cheese covered in garlic.  The goat cheese smelled so strongly of garlic that after a day the entire cooler and contents smelled of garlic…then the car began to reek.  But it was tasty until it was trashed.  We also purchased on of my “favorite” sandwiches- baguette with mayo, chicken, eggs, cheese, lettuce, and tomato.  Alas, even though I asked twice if there was cheese, lettuce, and tomato on the sandwich (because it didn’t look like it!) the sandwich was only chicken and eggs.  So I ate those immediately and got the protein I wanted.  It was a sad waste of a sandwich!

We left Sens and headed for the Loire/Cher Valley and the Chateau of Chambord.  Chambord was originally created as a hunting lodge and grounds.  The grounds are immense and so is the Chateau.  We arrive, park, and our vacation begins to take a drastic turn.  We decide to picnic in front of the chateau and everything was delicious.

While Mr. T. returned the picnic wares to the car, I went t to get in the massive ticket line.  I purchased tickets and tried to buy audio guides but was instructed to get those inside the chateau.  Mr. T finds me and we head up to the front door.  Where there is a throng of people.  We wrestle and wait for our turn to ask for an audio guide.  We have to leave an ID (most people are handing over their passports!) so I give the woman Joe’s old Belmont College ID.  We are instructed to find the little placard with the number, enter it into the cell phone cum audio guide, and listen.  Sounds easy right?

Well, with 50-100 people in each room it became nigh impossible to find the stupid placards and the chateau is so huge that there is no rhyme or reason to the tour so one cannot guess with accuracy that the next audioguide number is the next room.  It was also too crowded to get good pictures.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I should have had a nap before lunch and forgot after lunch.  I was essentially beside myself with fatigue, the massive crowd, the inability to use the audioguide.  I’m afraid it was a low point on our trip.  I apologized to Mr. T several times but just couldn’t get it together.  We finally left and headed toward Blois to find a room for the night.
Blois.  Yeah.  We found the signs for the TI, we found the description of where the TI was in the Rick Steve’s book, but we didn’t find the actual office.  In fact, we found signs that were actually pointing at each other.  TI–>   <–TI  But no actual building.
So we parked illegally, Mr. T. stayed in the car, and I set off on foot.  And through the cathedral, and across the street, and down the street, and up the hill, and across from the tip top of the street…there it was…with a big long line.  Did I mention that traffic was awful in Blois too?  So I wait patiently in line and on my turn I begin to say in my very best french that I’d like a room for the night at a bed and breakfast.
 
I don’t get past the first word before the woman begins talking loudly to her coworker.  So, I shut my mouth and wait until she is done and waiting on my again.  She stops, looks at me, and I begin again.  Once again, one or two words out and she picks up the conversation with the coworker.  So, I stand silently, smiling, waiting.  Finally, she is ready to hear my whole sentence to which she replies, “No!  None left!”  I say, “In the countryside perhaps?”  She says, “No, everything sold except this hotel here,” and points at a town about 40km away.  I say, “Okay, will you phone and make a reservation?”  She says no, that I can go to the TI in that town.  I ask, in French, if that TI will still be open by the time we can drive there.  “No.”  So….just to recap there is one hotel room in the entire area, she won’t call and book it (even though that is her job!), and instead want us to rely on the closed TI in that town.  OKAY.  What in the world?
 
That experience has/had never happened to me in France.  Yes, the French are famous for their rudeness but I have experienced almost zero issues.  Really, the French are just very formal.  I think my experiences have been aided by the fact that I attempt to speak French.  The French are very leery of becoming anglicanized.  I can understand that.  Anyway, I trek back to the car and we decide to drive south.  Then I remember that there was a brief mention in the guidebook that this was the holiday of Asscension.  Oh, maybe that is what is up with the crowds.  Okay, no big deal.
 
We drive for awhile and wind up in a town with a sign for a TI, park, and go in.  There we find Josephine and David.  Angels.  They explain that the entire weekend is a holiday.  Then the proceed to find us a Chambre D’Haute for tonight, call over towards Mont St. Michel for a room for the following night, and change dollars for Euros for us.  Wow.  I may not have experienced “the French” as rude but I certainly have not experienced them at hugely concerned with customer service.  This was like, wow!  And once again we walked in just as they were closing.  We were well taken care of despite our own ignorance once again.  Also, they explained that there were going to be huge crowds everywhere due to the holiday.  Oh, and banks would be closed.  Oh, and so would gas stations.  Well, at least we know what is going on now!
 
That night we head to a restaurant which probably wasn’t the right fit.  I hate to say that we probably would have been happier at McDonalds.  Which is saying something as we don’t eat there.  Ever.  But back to the restaurant.  It was a really, fancy place.  We wanted steak, fries, and salad.  That’s it.  We didn’t want the homemade pate amuse bouche or the 6 course prix fixe menu.  Our waiter complied but I’m pretty sure we were laughed at by the chef as we were leaving.  I cannot say I blame him but we were tired and fussy and picky.  Oh, well.  At least we were awake and got to have dinner!
 
(I’m not sure why the abrupt font change…sorry…I’ve tried to fix it but it won’t stick!)

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Thursday

 

We awoke and had a traditional french breakfast of baguette, croissant, butter, jams, and cafe au lait for Mr. T. and hot cocoa for me.  We decided to head toward Epernay–the birthplace of Champagne.  Yeah.  The real stuff.  We enjoyed a drive through the countryside down to Epernay.  

Once there we immediately made for Moet and Chandon.  Real champagne was one of the splurges for our shoestring budget wedding.  We had the M&C Nectar Imperial (which I learned is marketed specifically to US markets as it has about 30% more sugar than the regular Imperial champagne) at the event.  The tour was really interesting!  We got to go down to the caves and learned how champagne was made.  Then we got to taste some.  I believe we tasted just the regular middle of the road champagne.  Mr. T. doesn’t really drink (he had one sip) so I got 2 glasses of champagne before lunch.  Lunch was a BLAST!  😀

We actually had a really tasty lunch.  I had a croque monsieur and Mr. T had a campagne salad (bacon, soft cooked eggs, croutons, grilled onions, lettuce and dijon vinagrette).  Then I had some local brie (Meaux which tasted like asparagus!  It wasn’t so great to my palate) and poor Mr. T.  He ordered a crepe with the title “Hamburger” but it was basically ground beef in spaghetti sauce.  For me, not so tasty in a crepe but I’m picky like that.  

Leaving Epernay we headed back into the countryside.  Touring around little narrow roads and seeing what there is to see.  We found a site where German officers executed 3 young men from the French resistance in WWII.  We found the UGLIEST monument EVER.  

Don’t you agree?

 

We headed into Sens to spend the night.  We arrived at the city center and went into the TI.  They closed and locked the door.  Saved from our own ignorance once again!  They helped us book in to a 4* chambre d’haute around the corner.  To say this was a petite chateau is really actually accurate.  We had a suite or apartment of rooms–2 enfant rooms (one with two twin beds, one with a twin bed and an iron crib), a sitting room, a bathroom, and our room with a king size bed.  It was all totally unexpected.  We were gated in at night and had a view of the river.  C’est magnifique!  

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FOUR YEARS!

Wow.  I just looked and I have been posting here for the past 4 years!  May 23, 2006 the fun began and here I am still going strong!

I think some congratulations are in order!

And, how about a give away???

Let’s see…

How about a $25 Target gift card…

Yeah!  I like Target and I like having a blog so it makes sense to celebrate my blogoversary with that kind of prize!

DETAILS:  Entries accepted until midnight on 6/1.  To enter leave a comment on this post.  I’ll post the randomly generated winner in a post on 6/2.  One entry per person, multiple entries = disqualification.  Both people who read my blog have equal chances of winning!  😀

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Realization

I’ve been thinking about this for two weeks and yet I still messed it up!

The flight landed on Wednesday!   So I’m already a day off.   The only way to fix it would be to now skip a day (since you’ve already read about Wednesday!) on the blog to get caught up.  But that seems horribly unfair to those of you who have been patiently waiting for pictures and updates from our vacation.  Yes, both of you!  😀  So, to keep my fans happy I will continue to post daily.  Tomorrow’s post will even have pictures!  😀

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And we’re off!

Mr. T arrived home from work and went to sleep.  I confess now, that I had lots to do, but I crawled into bed too.  The alarm went off around 9:30am so we could finish the few things we needed to pack and be ready for BFF to pick us up between 10/10:15am.  She was right on time and we left with out problem.  Thankfully she stopped to pick up a toothbrush for us!

We (I) decided that we wouldn’t check a bag.  I figured the likelihood there would be an issue with making our connection in Chicago and losing our luggage would be great.  I have seen luggage roll off the luggage truck and lay on the tarmac there before.  Our flight was to leave at 11am but upon arriving at the gate (having miraculously cleared security with our carryons) we discovered that due to air traffic control issues in Chicago we were delayed.  Mr. T sat and happily read.  I went to get a massage.  It was fabulous.  It was like our vacation started immediately instead of waiting for it to start in France!

The flight to Chicago began boarding just as my massage finished.  Perfect timing!  The flight was uneventful.  Mr. T tried to sleep a bit, poor soul!  We arrived in Chicago with still 2 hours until our flight to France.  We decided to grab a bite to eat at Macaroni Grill.  Unfortunately, it was a limited menu and didn’t have much that I was interested.  We wound up splitting a mediocre at best pepperoni pizza which I later had an incident with in the plane’s bathroom.  Unfortunate.

The flight to France was fairly excruiating.  We wound up having an extra 2 hours on the plane.  Yep.  Not delayed per se but instead we pulled back from the gate, rolled toward the tarmac and stopped.  Evidently, someone didn’t file the right paperwork for the dry ice.  Yeah.  So we sat on the tarmac a good 30 minutes and then were told we’d be rolling back to the gate.  When they said we could walk around and broke out the water toting flight host I thought it portended disaster.  Instead, after an hour or so we got back on the road amid numerous apologies and the promise that “corporate would be hearing about this!”  After another small delay (hey!  It’s O’Hare!  Does anything ever leave on time?) we were airborn.
On board and in flight we each took 1/2 an Ambien which for me wasn’t quite enough.  I maybe slept an hour or two.  Mr. T was able to sleep more.  The flight was fairly bumpy (see preceding paragraph for incident!) but eventually we landed and made our way to the long line that is immigration.  It felt good to stand after sitting so long but my feet had swollen, holy cow!, and we were ready to get on the road.  The line at the car rental took forever too.
Isn’t funny how time warps when we just have hoops to jump through?
And we were off!  And did 2 laps around the airport terminal before we figured out how to get out.  And then did laps around the airport trying to find the road we wanted.  We had an excellent map of France but no map of the airport!  But I think it is a strong testament to our relationship that we had a good time figuring it out.  No yelling.  No crying.  No steering wheel banging.  No map throwing.  Just giggles about going around the same round about multiple times and then elation when we figured it out and were on our way for real!  We agreed that no couple we knew could have done the same with the same happiness.  We also decided we could totally rock “The Amazing Race” if we didn’t have to eat strange things or climb really high.
FRANZ!
We decided to head in the opposite direction from previous musings and drove toward Verdun.  Verdun was the site of many WWI battles.  There were many villages completely and irrevocably destroyed by the fighting.  We visited the memorial museum, the osscuary, and drove from site to site.  It was amazing.  The scenery–hills, forests, fields– and the abscence of towns.  Very sobering.
We arrived in the town and selected a Rick Steve’s recommended hotel for the night.  It was nice.  We were so tired we immediately went to bed.  Without supper or care.  Until we (okay, I) awoke multiple times without any way to tell what time it was…until we remembered that there was a clock on the Nook.  Then we had to adjust for the time change and I was able to rest some until morning.  Oh, the bidet was broken so no interesting bathroom stories to report.

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We’re BAAACCCKKK

To give you the 411 on the internet situation in Europe:  They have wifi and no need for the multiple storefront internet and calling business that used to abound.  Like Starbucks on every corner there used to be internet/phone cafes one after the other.  Not so anymore.  We should have brought the laptop so y’all could update in real time!  😀  Alas, we were unprepared.  So, starting Tuesday I’ll be updating in “real” time replete with pictures (yahoo!  Aren’t you glad I learned how to do that again a few weeks ago?!  There is nothing more riveting than someone else’s vacation pictures!   In seriousness, I’ll try not to bore you! :D).  I’ll post each day about the corresponding day from our trip.  Yeah.  Cool.  :/

Stay tuned!

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