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!)