D-Day Beaches, Part 1 – Saturday 5/5/2007

Just an amazingly character-laden wall in the port city of Coursuelles-sur-Mer, where Hydra and I may have been ruined forever for mussels served in any other way. Oh my gosh.

We went to a little restaurant and for 7 Euros each feasted on a huge bowl of the smallest, most tender mussels either of us have ever seen in our lives. In a bacon cream sauce, no less. With fabulous bread to soak up the sauce, and a big bowl of frites (French fries) on the side. Wow.

A man looking out over Gold Beach, somewhere south of Coursuelles-sur-Mer, where we stopped to look at the “temporary” landing platforms off the coast. That’s a bunker he’s standing next to. English troops landed here on June 6, 1944.


Hit the Ground Running – Friday, 5/4/2007

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport at 8:30 a.m. local time. Amazing to see the Concorde up on stilts as a display. I clipped articles about the coming of the Concorde when I was in high school and they were writing about it coming to the States. I remember being very upset about the potential environmental impact of all the sonic booms it was supposed to generate going in and out. I was against it. I think I even wrote a letter about it.

Turned out it didn’t rip a hole in the fabric of the universe. Lucky us.

Dresses on Laweeez’s daughter’s bedroom wall. What a great decoration!

I met Laweeez online, and she turned out to be just as funny and smart in person. Can you believe she invited us to stay with her? And fed us fabulous raclette, and conversation, and music, and even gave us parting gifts?

The view from Laweeez’s kitchen window. Loverly.

Ready, Set… Wednesday 5/2/2007

A thoroughly uninspired photograph of my luggage.

I think that going away for three weeks with one carry-on and a backpack (okay, and a small camera bag) is travelling light. At this stage of the game I do not understand that I will meet people in France who will be astounded that a) I am carrying so much and b) that there is not a laptop in there somewhere.

Brave friends, brace yourselves. I’m going to start updating. This may take a while, since I shot 1752 photos since I last posted. Picking the right ones to share’s going to be fun!

Bonjour, Paris – Friday 5/25/2007

We’re being ushered out of Paris with a big tom-tom-tom.

One of the two women who run what we decided was our favorite restaurant in Paris–the Bistro des Augustins–pointed at the sky as we got up to leave our sidewalk tables and said, “Tom-tom-tom.” That’s boom-boom-boom in French. Wow, was she right. (The reason we’ve eaten there three times in the past week is not only the amazing food…a gratin to die for and excellent salads…but the warm and friendly service.)

We just had time to find an ATM and were in the little alcove off of Saint Germaine when the wind picked up and people started running. A couple of very large bistro umbrellas took short flights into the tables in front of a cafe right beside us as we crossed the boulevard. We ducked into a little covered passage between the Place St. Michel and the street our hotel is on for this last night…rue de l’Hirondelle, a one-block street near this cybercafe.

We huddled there with a handful of Parisians while the rain thundered down on either side of us. I do have some photos in my camera that show the wet shining streets and cafes. A couple of bicycle police were in there with us. One of them started taking photos on his cell phone and I snapped one of him, too.

This has been our neighborhood for the past week and we loved it. Very central to the heart of the old city and the Latin Quarter. Pretty easy to get to and from on the Metro and buses. You navigate by the direction of the Seine and by church spires.

This afternoon, before the rain, Mom and I took one of the Seine sightseeing cruises we’ve seen all this time. It’s kind of amazing the amount of postive attention these things get. People wave from the bridges above, from the river banks, even from cars on the streets next to the river when they are close enough. Had fun snapping photos and taking note of the houseboat we stayed on a couple of weeks ago.

Lovely to know this city will go on and on. It’s been an amazing trip.

My 1 gig and 2 gig media cards are just about full. I think I’ve taken something like 1400 photos in the past three weeks. Yikes! Don’t worry, I’ll only post the best of them. Some are just documentary. Some are artsy as all get out.

I’m looking forward to catching up on this blog. I took a lot of notes with my camera and with a little notebook that’s just about full that Laweeez gave me on my first day in France. (Perfect.) And I wrote, especially this past week. Had an idea about a short story and worked on it just about every day, usually in the loft bed of the apartment or at the desk, or little bits in a park or church. I want it to be a short story, but it may be trying to be a novel. I am not gonna look the gift horse in the mouth, folks. It’s all good (even though I’m supposed to be working on a second draft of my NaNoWriMo novel).

Does anyone know about a program that’s good to use as sort of a digital scrapbook? I’m frustrated that most of the photography software I’ve seen doesn’t allow for much, if any, commentary. Any suggestions will be welcome.

Wish me a smooth flight from Paris to London to L.A. won’t you, dears?

I am up to my clavical in culture.

And loving it!

We spent most of yesterday at the Musee’ D’Orsay, our second visit this trip. I even sat in the main hallway with the sculpture and wrote for an hour. Heaven.

When I have a quiet moment, it drives me a little bats that I haven’t been able to blog with photos while in France. But when you have to pay 3 Euros an hour (about $5) to get online, you begin to rethink your priorities.

I might have been glad if I’d brought my laptop because most places we’ve stayed provide free Internet connection, but then it would be another thing to lug around. People here seem to be politely amazed that a) I brought an entire carry-on sized piece of luggage and a backpack for three weeks’ travel (this is considered a lot) and that b) my laptop is not in there somewhere.

We are using the Metro quite a bit. Hydra and I took it to and from the Eiffel Tower when he was here, and now Mom and I are finding it very useful. Even branched out to the buses this morning… They are a little harder to figure out, but stop more places and stay above ground where you get to say “Oh! The Louvre!” or “Our dome!” out loud, too loud.

Contrary to popular expectation, we’ve had no issues with French people being rude. There was one hotel in a not-great part of a town we passed through where the woman who checked us in was not very nice, but she just seemed like the type who has no patience and one certianly runs into those in the States.

From what I’ve read, if anything the French probably find us a bit rude. I’ve read that it’s important to say Bonjour and even use a title of address like Madamoiselle or Monsiour when entering a shop to ask for something, and to pretty much always say please when ordering food, etc.

I find that I tend to be so focused on saying carafe d’eau (bottle of tap water) in an accent that will not draw a blank stare that I may completely forget to say hello and please. I think in the States we might say hello to a server in a restaurant, but that we figure lots of smiling and nodding while ordering establishes that we are friendly and that we are asking, not demanding.

According to Culture Shock, all this smiling and nodding may establish in the French waiter’s opinion that we are a) mocking him or b) differently mentally abled.

C’est Paris! – Thursday, 17 May 2007

Wow. It’s been a long time since I posted. If I weren’t having so much fun, I’d be in some kind of blog withdrawal. I keep thinking of things I’d like to write about, and no connection. But now Mom and I are in Paris for a week in an apartment near a cybercafe with the all-important English style keyboards.

Hydra headed home on the 10th. Mom and I stayed one more night on the Bateau Johanna, and then headed for Champagne country in our cute little rental car…a Renaul Kangoo. We stumbled into a truly marvelous experience at the B&B at #1 Rue des Vaches in Reuilly-Sevigny. The proprietors couldn’t have been more wonderful. If you are thinking about a trip to France we’d highly recommend this place and the Champagne country, and I would encourage you to check out the link to the apartments on this B&B page because Meridith Sykes has an amazing way with interior design and the apartments will undoubtedly be as well appointed as the B&B rooms were. Can’t wait to show you more.