It’s about a week and a half since we left home, so I thought it was about time I jotted down some of my reflections on the adventure so far. Our time in Paris was wonderful. I had set a hectic timetable of activities to maximise the use of our three day Paris Passes and despite my developing a sore throat early in the visit, we were able to achieve all the goals I had set for us. The only thing we couldn’t do was visit the Paris sewers. That was really disappointing because Nick had suggested that to us and while I had originally thought it would be a horrible thing to do, I had come to realise that it would indeed be a tour of great interest. I remember seeing on the news recently that there had been some flooding there but I did not realise that it would impact on our visit. Sadly they would not be open until the day after our departure from Paris.
One very memorable experience was our night out at the Moulin Rouge, courtesy of Jane, Nick, and Hannah. Peter has described that in his post, but really there are few words that would be adequate to completely capture the excellence of the show. It was an amazing evening.
Apart from all the extraordinary art and architecture in that beautiful city, one of the things that gave me the greatest thrill was that each time I spoke to someone in French, they replied to me in French. On previous visits, any time I spoke in French, the reply came in English as it must have been obvious how tenuous was my hold on the language. However this time I was understood and in most cases I understood the responses. One delightful exchange happened with a woman who was waiting for a bus at a stop with us. Peter and I started checking our map to see whether the nearby Métro station might provide us with a quicker route to our destination, the Louvre. The woman asked if she could help and we had a long exchange in French, firstly gaining assurance that the bus would in fact be the better way to go, then chatting about her life in Paris. She told me that she goes to almost every exhibition in Paris and that the Christian Dior show at the Museum of Fine Arts which adjoins the Louvre was the best show she had ever seen. On that recommendation I was determined to go. Peter was not keen as he is not all that interested in fashion, but he grudgingly agreed to accompany me. I was positively enthralled by the beauty and craftsmanship of the garments, and even more amazed at the artistic way they were displayed. There were hundreds if not thousands of items on display, and one section was presented as his rainbow of colour. Garments and accessories were arranged according to colour and one shade flowed into the next. It was stunning! There were indeed some completely hideous and unwearable concoctions, and while those served to confirm for Peter that it was all nonsense, to me they were a source of fun and delight. I could write more about this exhibition, describing some of the garments totally covered in feathers which had been individually hand-sewn into place, or the miniature versions of each garment which were made as practice runs before the real things were attempted, but I will stop and leave you with my recommendation. If you are in Paris in the next few weeks or so, then go and see it for yourself. Or the sewers – they’ll be open then too.
Our Paris visit came to a beautiful conclusion, sharing Bastille Day celebrations with Thérèse and Chris Lord who were renting an apartment with the most perfect view of the Eiffel Tower that you could hope for. It was Thérèse’s birthday and it was a great pleasure and honour to be able to share that occasion with her. We ate and drank good food and wine while watching the spectacular fireworks which, of necessity, started at 11pm. The summer days here are long with the sun not setting before 10.30. I had been concerned about walking home to our nearby hotel through the dark streets after the fireworks but I need not have had any such concerns. The streets were filled with people all making their way home after the fireworks. I have never been in such a crowd. At one corner, we were completely jammed and had to wait for the crush to dissipate before we could progress. We eventually made our way home for a short sleep before we were due to commence on the next stage of the adventure.
We collected the beautiful brand new Citroen Cactus which will be our transportation for the next few weeks. It is gorgeous – not too big to fit along the narrow byways in rural France, but big enough to carry four large suitcases and four not too large passengers. An added feature is the bubble wrap-like panels down the side which should save side scrapes. Hopefully we won’t have any scrapes at all, but at least we are armed.
The first days driving in a strange car with manual gears, in a strange country, on the opposite side of the road, are disconcerting to put it mildly. I took the first day of driving to let Peter focus on dealing with the car’s technology and navigation. I enjoyed the highway driving and was feeling comfortable enough in the vehicle by the time we reached the smaller roads leading into Trébry. We had collected John and Pauline from Paris airport early in the day and I am sure they were very relieved when our long drive was over. They had been travelling for almost 2 full days.
The cottage in Trébry is everything I had hoped for. It is so beautiful and its English owner, Debbie, who lives in the adjoining farmhouse, has decorated it tastefully with delightful and functional antiques. The village itself is not really what I had expected. My vision was that I would walk down to the local shop each morning, buy our fresh bread and milk for the day and gradually get to engage with some of the locals. The only shop has recently gone out of business and while there are a number of small houses in the villages, there seem to be very few people about. The only person we met on the first day was a woman visiting from Lyon who was attending a family wedding. I did manage to chat with her.
The style of holiday I had envisaged here is quite different from the one I had planned for Paris. I had done a bit of research using the Lonely Planet guide and had a few points of interest listed, but there is no real plan and no real timetable. The only two must dos were to deliver my fairy doll and to visit Mont St Michel. The first of those was completed on our first full day. I had sent a message to Sylvie saying that we had arrived and she sent her address details and a photo of her house. Luckily we had the second, as our GPS took us to another house and when I was unable to attract anyone after several knocks on the door, I checked the photo and decided to use that as our guide. We were soon being welcomed by Sylvie and her husband Jean Yves. She was delighted with the fairy bag and very touched by my gift of the koala bag. She works from home as a child carer and these bags and dolls will be a useful addition to the enchanting playroom she has set up. She showed me some of the dolls and toys she has made and offered a charming chook doll to me as a gift. Jean Yves retired from his job with the local municipal authority about a month ago so was delighted to hear of Peter’s recent retirement. He found a bottle of rather fine wine which he offered to Peter as a retirement gift. We chatted for some time and exchanged more contact details before our little troupe of explorers went off to find the English Channel.
The plans for the rest of the day did not go to plan as we were too engrossed in seeing the sights at our first stop, but as my plan is not to have a plan, then I guess we were actually on plan. That has been the pattern of the past few days. We have done lots of walking and driven to some interesting places – as and when we like. I’m loving it. Today I plan to bake one of the local delicacies – Far Breton. I’m sure Peter will report on the success or otherwise of that endeavour.