Wednesday, August 5, 2009

European Tour 2009 - Day 6

Mont St. Michel

We had another early start today. We had to book it to the train station where we caught the Eurostar at around 6:00a.m. More than one of us was nervous about traveling through the chunnel, but it ended up being okay. As a plus, I ate the best yogurt I've ever had in my life on the train that morning. Thank you Eric for picking it out for me. I wish I had paid more attention to what it was. It was in a baby food type jar. And, we also had the first of many bottles of Orangina. Yum.

Eurostar trains

Can you tell how excited Tina is for the chunnel?

Our first item of business after getting off the train in Paris was to get our rental car. I was a little nervous about our first transaction, especially since we were now beginning the portion of the trip that Eric and I mostly planned. It actally went just fine, although we couldn't--at first--locate the car's GPS. And let me tell you, that was certainly worth the 30 extra Euros. We seriously would still be in France to this day wandering around without it.

It was kind of odd to get on the highway in Paris and to pass right through it on our way to Normandy. It seemed almost as if we should have stopped for a minute to soak up the fact that we were really in Paris. I mentioned the life saving GPS, but it initially mislead us. Sort of. For some reason it was automatically set to avoid all toll roads, which we didn't realize at first. It just started veering us off into little small towns. It was in one of these small towns where we got stuck in some serious traffic that we decided to give the GPS new instructions. It was more expensive to get back on the bigger roads, but a lot less time consuming. Our first stop was for lunch in the town of Bayeux. By the time we arrived, rain had begun pouring down. Really hard. We ate in a cute little crepe shop where we had to try out our communication skills. I think we were all happy with our lunch except Tina. (What was it again that you ordered?)

A street in Bayeux--the little village we stopped at for lunch before heading to the American Cemetery

A cute little shop front in Bayeux

Another Bayeux street

We continued on to the American Cemetery in Normandy. It was very sobering, to say the least. My feelings consisted of sadness and gratitude and an overwhelming appreciation for the freedoms I take for granted every day. Just to look at all those was an incredible experience.

I was unprepared for how touching it was to be here

Some French servicemen we saw

Beautiful view of the ocean

The graves seemed to go on forever--quite a humbling sight

A close-up of one of the graves

After leaving the American Cemetery, we headed for Mont St. Michel. What a sight! It is really beautiful and amazing. It looks almost unreal. The rain followed us and we continued to get soaked as we walked through the spiraling streets towards the Abbey. We were about five minutes late for the tour of the Abbey, but that was okay. There was still a lot to see. It's amazing how the Abbey is built right into the rock of the island.

The causeway to the island

How amazing is this?

The drawbridge that leads into the little town.

The main street

There are cute little shops and restaurants that line the street.

Another Mont St. Michel street view

Seriously? More stairs?

I don't know who that dude is, but we are winning

A courtyard near the Abbey

Abbey walls

View of the Abbey

Another view of the Abbey

A statue of St. Michel

View from the island

A neat stone bench

Another view of the Abbey

There were a lot of cool doors

An interesting door on the Abbey grounds

A gate leading to who knows where

A moss covered side of the Abbey

View from the top

This is a cool picture because you can see where the rock itself meets the actual stone of the abbey

A view of the rooftops

This is some sort of mechanism that was used to move items to the top

Mont St. Michel from a distance as were drove away

We were on a tight schedule on this day (my fault) and so here is where we began our little comedy of errors. By the time we drove away from Mont St. Michel, we were starving. We were going to get something to eat there, but everything was really pricey! In retrospect we should have just eaten when we had ten places to choose from right in front of us. Next we stopped at two different places in the town near Mont St. Michel. The menu for the first place was posted out front and we decided, once again, that it was quite expensive for stuff that didn't sound very good. At the second place we tried, we just decided to go in and sit down. It had been raining so hard that, despite our rain gear, we were seriously soaked. So it was slightly embarrassing to walk into such a nice place. We actually sat down and began looking at the menu. I couldn't find anything on the menu that I wanted to pay a fortune to put in my mouth. And I am not very picky. We were all a little uncomfortable because none of us wanted to eat there, yet--there we were. We were trying to come up with an excuse to leave and I told Eric to tell the waiter that we were too wet an uncomfortable (all true), but he wanted to tell the waiter that I wasn't feeling well (not true). We went with my idea. Unfortnately, my excuse didn't translate very well--even for my French speaking husband. We basically ended up slinking out of there feeling like idiots.

We set the GPS for the bed and breakfast Chateau that we would be staying in that night. It was still hours away and I began feeling a little panicky. Mainly because I told the owners that we would be there by 10:00p.m. and it was starting to look like we wouldn't. We tried to call them several times but couldn't get our calls to go through. It had to do with the fact that we were using a cell phone from England and trying to place a call to a French number. (For the record, we finally figured it out--too late.) Aside from the anxiousness related to our accomodations for the night, we were still hungry bordering on starving. We were out on the French countryside surrounded by nothing but the occasional small town or village. What we did see signs for, however, were McDonalds. The first time it came up I made it clear that there was no way I would eat my first night in France at McDonalds. And hour or so later it was clear that we had no other choice.

Coming up on another small town we saw another advertisement for McDonalds. Fine. As we maneuvered towards the "restaurant" we were trying to decide whether or not to go in or go through the drive-thru. Are you seeing the humor here? We didn't. Not yet, anyway. We decided on the drive-thru. We were, after all, in a hurry. Let's just say that Dan's "double quarter pounder with cheese" doesn't exist in French McDonalds, and they don't have value menues. I was sort of envisioning us saying "duex" or "trois" into the speaker. It didn't work that way. We ended up driving directly to the window after not being able to communicate through the speaker. The employee there even fetched the one employee who could speak English and we still could not communicate our order. I think I thought that McDonalds is a sort of universal language, but it isn't. We gave up completely and parked and went inside where we could point and grunt and I could discover that diet coke is actually coca light in France.

While we were eating, I was really hit with the hilarity of it all. Who did we think we were? We thought that we could actually go through the drive-thru in a foreign country? I can barely make myself understood through those speakers in my home-land.

Back in the car I began to worry again about our late arrival at the chateau. It is run by a family who obviously doesn't have someone sitting at the front desk all night long. In fact, they like to have you check in by 8:00p.m., but I had made special arrangements to get there by 10:00. Chateau de Jonvilliers is located near Chartres, France. It is in the tiny village of Jonvilliers and isn't easy to find--even with a GPS. They can't advertise it from the road, so we just had to look for the lane that they described in their e-mail. After circling around Jonvilliers for a while, we decided to take a chance on a little side road. That was it! We finally made it even though it was midnight. The place was completely dark as we approached save for the porch light. What a humiliating experience it was to continue banging as quitely as possible on the front door. As we were contemplating the lawn chairs as possible beds, the door opened. Our hostess was less than pleased to see us at that hour and gave us a slight tounge lashing. Luckily it was in French and only Eric knew the extent of it. She did show us to our rooms and we finally settled down for the night. It was a beautiful place and I wish we'd been able to spend more time there.

Thankfully Tina and Dan took a picture of their room in the chateau

And the bathroom

And the desk--check out the cool key

Things I learned today: going trough the chunnel isn't so bad; Europe makes some good yogurt; sometimes the opening and closing times in Rick Steve's guide book are incorrect; McDonald's menu--aside from the Big Mac and Filet-o-Fish--is unrecognizeable in France; and how NOT to make a phone call in France.

Things we ate today: the BEST yogurt ever; oringina; some really good crepes (sorry, Tina, about the pasta/ham thing); some nougat candy; Big Mac, Filet-o-Fish, and a Prince Burger or something. We sort of starved today! Sort of.

Despite all of the problems and hiccups, this was one of my favorite days!


Aivaz Family said...

So fun. Can't wait for more. Kind of makes me want to go to Europe, which I never really did before.

Jill said...

thank you for sharing your trip with me. I love all your photos and funny stories. I have read all your Europe posts and have enjoyed the journey. Now David and I need to go!

Anonymous said...

Jenn, regarding the wet clothes restaurant fiasco: I don't think the translation was the problem really. It was that the waiter offered a back room for us to change in and I didn't know how to get out of that one. Then I said we'd go to our room to change and he asked where we were staying, which of course was three hours away. Again, I didn't know how to answer. So my proposed "the wife is feeling sick" thing would have been much easier after all. Besides, I thought you must have at least a little bit of a headache after all we had been through that day!


Jenn E said...

Eric-I didn't realize that that is how the conversation progressed. But it definitely was a fiasco. And kind of funny.

Linda said...

What a fun day you had! How funny that you ended up eating at McDonalds (of all places!) but at least you got to eat. The bed & breakfast place looks so cool. And, again I love the pictures.

(Eric is funny!)

Becky said...

A. I am jealous

B. You look very svelte and quite lovely in your photos.

Eliza said...

Ummm....that was my comment, not my mom's. Although I am sure she echoes both of my sentiments.

Becky said...

That was a little weird seeing what I really didn't write. But I do agree. One thing I also found in Europe. The food you an afford is not great. We finally began finding things like sandwiches and pizza etc. at little shops or getting cheese and crackers at a store, so we wouldn't have to spend a fortune eating in a nice restaurant. I love your pictures. I tend to take lots of pictures of the places and not the people because I want to remember what I saw, not how I looked seeing it.

Hacking it up said...

WOW. I HAVE to go there some day!!!
I want to live in Mont St. Michael and I want to dress like a french girl and have people sing the opening song from Disney's Beauty and the Beast there EVERY.MORNING.

It's great when you can look back and see the humor of everything...McDonalds in France..heehee

Tina Clark said...

Wow - the memories - finally got all of our pictures organized and ready for the book!