A Travellerspoint blog

Au revoir

A mocha Frappuccino. Such bliss!

Said goodbye to Rolinka and Yvonne this morning. Big hugs all around, and I very nearly cried. I managed to keep it together, though, and then went out to wait for my Parishuttle. It was five minutes late, which isn't bad actually. There were two people already in the van, and we picked up one more. The girl in front of me had doused herself in some godawful perfume, so I was glad the window was open even though it was chilly this morning. Those shuttle drivers go like demons on the motorway, but it meant we got to Charles de Gaulle in record time.

CDG was a hive of chaos, with tons of signs everywhere ... very few of them of any actual use. I did manage to get into the right line for passport/security, which I was rather chuffed about. I forgot to remove my laptop from my bag, and the screener asked me (in French) if I had a computer in my bag. I apologized and started to unzip my bag, and he was just all, “Nah, that's okay. Never mind.” In French, obviously. Happily, the French don't make you take your shoes off.

Discovered wi-fi for a fee (cheap; well, cheapish: 2.90 euro for 30 minutes) at CDG, so I posted all the recent blogs I wasn't able to post the past few nights. Also checked my e-mail. Got one from Citty at work asking for Mark's login for KCSC, and I'm wondering what that's all about because I don't remember anything on his calendar that would involve a filing. Guess I'll find out on Monday. Sigh ...

My flight boarded fairly quickly. My seat, 9D, was right behind the flight attendant's jump seat, so I had a lot of leg room. Fortunately, there was no one in the seat between me and the window, so I was able to put my purse under that seat. My suitcase had to go into an overhead bin several rows behind me because the bins in my row were already packed. A flight attendant noticed this and let me move my bag to an empty bin in Club World. So when the flight landed, I was able to scoot forward right away and grab my bag on the way out. I thanked the attendant at least three times.

And now I am at Heathrow, thus the Frappuccino of Bliss. Will go up to the bookstore in minute to buy some reading material. I must be careful, however; I'm traveling carry-on only, so I've already reached my cabin baggage limit. I can't buy too many books or I'll end up with another bag. Oo, and I need cocoa-dusted almonds from Harrods. I'd better crack on!

LATER: Found my cocoa-dusted almonds and bought three books at W. H. Smith, including the last in the trilogy by Stieg Larsson.

Last night when I chose my seats for the LHR-SEA flight, I chose an aisle seat for a row that also still had a free window and middle seat. I was one of the first people to board and sat in my aisle seat. Then a British lady came along who had the window seat. We both agreed that it would be nice if no one sat in the middle. Things were looking promising, but then a large man with a shaggy beard (who bore a striking resemblance to the Muppet Sweetums) came along to sit in the middle. He turned out to be quite a nice man, somewhere in his 60s I'd say. His wife is Welsh, and they currently live in Abergavenny, Wales. He, however, is a native Seattleite and a medical researcher at UW (specialty: the carotid artery and whether insertion of a stent to prevent stroke is good for the patient or just good for the manufacturer), so he telecommutes but has to come back to Seattle about four times a year for meetings. In fact, he has a meeting at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. Ugh! At one point he mentioned something about Hay-on-Wye, which is near where he lives, and I said, “Oh, the book festival, right?” And his response was, “You are knowledgeable!” He's never met any Americans who know about Hay. Rather worringly, he felt compelled to inform the flight attendant that he had no life jacket under his seat. We just chatted before takeoff, as he had brought along his noise-cancelling headphones and was able to zone out for most of the flight.

I mostly read one of my new books, but also watched a little bit of TV and “Roman Holiday.” The plane must have been a different 777 model because it had the old “stuff is starting at this particular time” entertainment instead of the on-demand entertainment.

The food on BA has really gone downhill over the years, but there was a piece of chocolate cake with a mandarin sauce that was just as good as anything I'd eaten in France.

Well, it was a lovely, lovely trip and I had a fabulous time, but I was so glad to see John and my kitties and to sleep in my own bed with my own pillow! And I'm reallyreallyreallyreally looking forward to a decent shower in the morning.

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

Souvenir

The hotel we've been in the last two nights does not have top sheets on the beds. There's a bedspread and then a fluffy duvet. The duvet is nice and cozy, but I wonder if that's what has given me such bizarre dreams the last couple of nights.

We left Bayeux at 8:15 this morning for the drive to Giverny. Claude Monet first rented and then purchased the house and gardens at Giverny for his second wife and eight children in 1883, and he lived there until his death in 1926. The house, while not terribly interesting, is painted in soft colors and is full of light. The gardens, even at this time of year, are lovely and have been planted to look as they would have to Monet, who took great interest in the planting of his gardens and even gave his gardeners detailed daily instructions on what he wanted them to look like. I saw a snail clinging to a plant stem, the biggest bee in the universe, and a field mouse. I tried to photograph the mouse, but he was too quick and sneaky. The gift shop is housed in the studio Monet used to paint his famous water lilies. It's enormous for an artist's studio and filled with light.

Yvonne and I walked down the road to a hotel with a crêperie to have lunch. I had a basic ham and cheese galette with a cassis Vittel (very refreshing), and then we decided we definitely had room for dessert. Yvonne had a sugar lemon crêpe, and I had dark chocolate mousse. I was in heaven, but I did manage to restrain myself from licking the bowl, even when Yvonne offered me a euro if I did! She's a bad influence.

Back on the coach for the drive to Paris. Saw a sign for Lisieux along the way, but not Lisieux itself. The autoroutes have lovely huge signs for each city with a line drawing depicting what the city is known for. I think Kerry has managed to photograph a few, but we are usually whizzing by too quickly for my camera.

As we neared Paris, Rolinka and René decided to avoid the ring road and go straight through the city to our hotel on the other side. René drove us around the Arc de Triomphe a couple of times before shooting off down Avenue Kléber so we could drive slowly by Trocadéro. There's some scaffolding around the first level of the Eiffel Tower. Then we drove along the Seine and around the Place de la Concorde, along the Seine again so we could see the bouquinistes, and then toward Place de la Bastille.

Got back to the hotel (room 305 this time, directly above the room I was in last week) and discovered that the wi-fi isn't working properly. It's midnight now, and I still can't get on. I didn't realize how much that would annoy me! Decided to get in a little last-minute shopping, so I wandered up to the Monoprix. I ran into Christina, Larry and Jean there, and then hooked up with Christina in the grocery department, where we were both buying chocolate. Christina and I walked back toward the hotel and ran into Yvonne, so we all went for a meander, which included a short walk on the Promenade Plantée.

We all gathered in the lobby at 6:30 for the Métro ride to our restaurant, which turned out to be Nebuchodonosor, where John and I had dinner on our last night of the Paris tour last year. And Guy (whose name I thought was Philippe) was our waiter again. He's just as funny as he was last year. I had cheese ravioli for starters, the pork medallions for entree (which I had last year; I jut couldn't resist them again), and chocolate mousse for dessert. Guy was impressed by how well I scraped the sides of the dish and even mimed that I should have perhaps licked it! I can't believe I'm going to admit this, but I think I may have had too much mousse today. I'm beginning to feel a bit fluffy.

Everything was delicious, and we all had a good time. Afterwards, we walked over to the Eiffel Tower to see the sparkles. The weather has definitely changed since last week, and it was very windy and chilly. Rolinka gave everyone an envelope that contained a short personal note from her, some group photos, our buddy picture (I was right: my eyes are closed and I look like an idiot in mine; I'll have to e-mail Larry to apologize), a list of e-mail addresses, and another list of tour-member-suggested books and movies. The tower sparkled, and I think we were all very sad to finally leave. We took the Métro back to the hotel from good old École Militaire; it was 15 stops to get back!

When we were at the Tower, Rolinka reminded us that a souvenir is not just something you buy. “Souvenir” means “to remember.” And she encouraged us all to visit our souvenir, whether it's in our minds or our hearts, as often as possible. Anyone who knows me knows that I do that pretty frequently, and that's why I travel as often as I do (though probably not as often as I want to), and I thought it was a lovely sentiment.

Well, I had better get to bed. It's about 12:15 a.m. now, and the shuttle is supposed to pick me up at 9:15.

Monet's Garden

Monet's Garden


Monet's Garden

Monet's Garden


A visitor to Monet's Garden

A visitor to Monet's Garden


Monet's Garden

Monet's Garden


Monet's Garden

Monet's Garden


Monet's House

Monet's House


Monet's Garden

Monet's Garden


Approaching the Arc du Triomphe

Approaching the Arc du Triomphe


The Bastille Opera

The Bastille Opera


Rolinka at our last goodbye

Rolinka at our last goodbye


The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

Another invasion

Got to sleep in a bit this morning as we weren't leaving the hotel till 9:00. The doors on the shower stall worked, but the stall itself is one of those where if you turn around, you knock against the faucet lever and end up completely changing the water temperature.

I tried to make a phone call to Paris this morning to confirm my shuttle reservation (I was given explicit instructions to call two days prior to pick-up), but all I got on the phone was a “boop-boop-boop” noise. When I told the lady at reception (using my best French, which she understood ... yay, me!), it turned out that she had to turn on my phone line. So I made my call, and when the man asked for my room number in Paris, I had to tell him that I didn't know because I'm not in Paris. He was very casual about it and said I should call sometime tomorrow when I know my room number. So I had gotten all anxious about the call for nothing (and wound up paying the hotel 1.50 euros for such).

Today was D-Day. Our guide was Ellwood, a Brit living in St.-Mère-Église, the first town to be liberated by the Allies. He looked to be probably in his late 50s, was rather compact, and wore fatigues, a U.S. Army cap and a U.S.Army Airborne Division jacket. Both the jacket and the hat were from the 40s and were in incredibly good condition. “Still going strong,” he said. “You Americans really knew how to make things back then.” He was very entertaining and energetic, and clearly passionate about his subject.

The house he lives in turns out to have an interesting history, which he wasn't aware of before he bought it. The Meuniere family lived there during the war, and there was a German officer quartered with them. This officer took a fatherly interest in the beautiful 17-year-old daughter of the family, Yvette, though she could have done without the attention. The Allies had no intention of bombing the town of St.-Mère-Église, but the bombers frequently flew right over the town so the townspeople constantly thought they were about to die. The Meunieres dug a trench in their back yard, into which they dove whenever a raid flew overhead. Ellwood told us this story as we were standing where the trench used to be. In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, Allied paratroopers were dropped over St.-Mère-Église. One paratrooper in particular, Cliff Maugham, dropped right on top of the Meunieres as they were huddling in their trench. This, of course, created quite a bit of noise and commotion, and the German officer looked out of the window. He saw Cliff trying to climb out of the trench and cut himself out of his parachute. The German grabbed his rifle and rushed out to the garden and aimed the gun at Cliff, whose back was turned. Monsieur Meuniere then dashed out of the trench and threw himself between Cliff and the German and told the officer not to kill the paratrooper. The officer raised his rifle and whacked Monsieur on the head; he fell unconscious to the ground. The German raised his rile again – Cliff was now facing in the right direction and prepared to surrender – but Yvette rushed over to him, grabbed him by the lapels and begged him not to kill Cliff. The German was astounded. He agreed not to shoot Cliff, but he asked him, “Tell me the truth: Is this the invasion?” Cliff answered that it was, indeed, the invasion. At which point the German said that he believed the German army had no chance against an Allied invasion force if the Americans were involved, and he wanted to be on the winning side. He therefore handed over his rifle to Cliff and surrendered. Paratroopers are not trained to take prisoners, but he accepted the surrender and left with the German. A couple of days later, Cliff was to be sent somewhere else, so he stopped by the Meunieres' house to thank them -- particularly Yvette -- for saving his life. As he was leaving, he said to Yvette, “I want you to always remember that I did not kill that German.” And the Meunieres never heard from Cliff again.

Flash forward to one of the major anniversaries of D-Day (and unfortunately I can't remember if it was the 40th or the 60th). The town is alive with returning veterans, media, observers and so on. In the days leading up to the actual anniversary, documentaries were shown on television. Yvette, who now lived in a town about 100 miles from St.-Mère-Église, was watching one of these, when the microphone was put in front of a man who said he had been a paratrooper saved by a beautiful French girl in the back garden of her house. Yvette realized this was Cliff Maugham, who she had thought of frequently through the years. Somehow, the documentary crew found out about Yvette, brought her up to St.-Mère-Église, and reunited her with Cliff. The German soldier who had spared Cliff's life and then surrendered had never been found, but Cliff said to Yvette once more, “Remember: I did not kill that German.”

Ellwood then walked us over to the church where a couple of paratroopers were left hanging by their parachutes. There is a rather tacky dummy complete with parachute hanging from the steeple, but it's on the wrong side of the church. Ellwood told us the whole story of John Steele and John Ray and Rudy Ischer, the German in the belltower of the church. The church has a lovely stained glass window depicting a paratrooper. We also visited the Airborne Museum, which is pretty small but full of uniforms, weapons and equipment used by the Airborne Division. There is even a C-47 plane that was flown on D-Day.

We left St.-Mère-Église and drove to Utah Beach. Ellwood explained where the Germans were, where the American troops were, etc. It was very interesting, especially as we were standing right where it all happened, but I'll be buggered if I can remember all of it. While we were listening to him down on the sand, some sulky drivers raced by. There are a few memorials nearby, one of which is dedicated to the Navy, so I took some photos to show Dutch.

Had our lunch (sandwiches and chips) back near the coach. It turned out that Ellwood's wife had baked the baguettes for the sandwiches that morning, and they were delicious! The only problem was finding somewhere to sit down. There were several large, flat stones fit for sitting on, but they were all covered in bunny poo. We didn't see any bunnies, but we definitely saw the “little messages” they left behind!

From Utah Beach we went to Pointe du Hoc, where the Rangers scaled the cliffs in order to get at the Germans. Because of the high waves on June 6, many of the landing craft were pushed off course. The Rangers' craft were tossed about in the sea, and they didn't even really land at Pointe du Hoc, but a little father down the beach. This worked out rather well, however, because their ultimate landing spot proved to be better from a strategic standpoint. Many of the surviving Rangers were nominated for (and some received) medals or citations.

Omaha Beach was next, where the most casualties were suffered by the Allies. It was quite peaceful today, only a few people out on the beach and a beautiful sunny day. It's hard to imagine what it must have been like that day. We were told – in fact, encouraged – we could take some sand if we wished. I didn't have anything to put sand in, but I did find a little seashell that I took with me. Meanwhile, Rolinka took photos of the buddy pairs. I was smiling at the camera and then Larry said, “I suppose I shouldn't be smiling here,” which made me laugh, so I'm sure I've got some stupid face in the photo.

Last but certainly not least was the American cemetery. It is beautifully maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission. There are over 1000 names on the wall at the entrance. These names are of the men whose remains were never found. There are, however, nine names beside which there is a small knob. This means that some remains were definitively proved to be those of that particular person. In the cemetery itself, in the rows and rows of white crosses and Stars of David, many of the inscriptions read something like, “Known only to God.” Oddly, it's not a sad or depressing place. I mean, it's not exactly a happy place; it does make one thoughtful and contemplative. But it's not a “downer.” I found the graves of two of the Niland brothers, whose story “Saving Private Ryan” was partially based on. Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. is also buried in the cemetery, but I didn't look for his headstone. There is a database in the information center with the location of each of the interred. Apparently, if you're looking for, say, a family member's grave, you can call the cemetery ahead of time and ask them to find it. Then someone from the ABMC will mix up a little bit of glue with some sand from Omaha Beach and rub it into the name engraved on the headstone. Ellwood said that not only does the sand make the grave cross/Star of David easier to spot and photograph, it also shines like gold.

And it was back to Bayeux after that. We spent almost nine hours on D-Day! I thought – and I think all of us thought – that Ellwood was absolutely fabulous, and I think his tour was a real highlight of the trip. www.ddaybattletours.com

I went out with Yvonne to search for some dinner. We ended up meeting Lynn and Anne in the street, so we all went to a brasserie down the street. I had tagliatelle (yeah, I know: that's Italian), a Kir Normand, and profiteroles for dessert. It all came to about 15 euros and was actually quite tasty and not as filling as some of the meals we've had.

I tried the Internet connection again this evening and it worked for about five minutes before it died completely. I was able to get an e-mail through to John telling him that I had been without any access for the past two nights. He responded that he figured I had been arrested for art forgery!

And it's only 10:40 p.m. now. My earliest night yet!

Ellwood's garden

Ellwood's garden


Stained glass

Stained glass


Ellwood

Ellwood


Utah Beach

Utah Beach


Navy Memorial at Utah Beach

Navy Memorial at Utah Beach


The American Cemetery

The American Cemetery


The American Cemetery

The American Cemetery

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

I might electrocute myself

Well, my little prefab shower room didn't work so well. The room must have been tilted just enough because the water from the showerhead would land on the rim of the tub and then cascade over the side, even though I kept turning it toward the wall. When I was done with my shower, the bath mat was a sodden mess, and the floor was completely covered in water. After I finished using the bath towel I put it down on the floor, and it took about four seconds for it to be completely soaked. I was too scared to use the hair dryer after that, so I was finally glad that I've been hauling around my travel dryer all this time.

I walked downhill to the main hotel building for breakfast. There was a pretty big spread, including bacon and scrambled eggs. I had a crêpe with Nutella, a piece of salami, a piece of cheese and some juice. And then I hauled myself back up the hill to brush my teeth, get my luggage and go back down to the main building. We all then trooped down the hill to the coach so we could store our luggage. At the bottom, we were met by our guide Margarit, and we started the long trek back up to the top of the mount. This time, though, we got to go the back way. There were beautiful views over the bay, and we could see brave – or foolish – people out walking on the sand. The tide can come roaring in very, very fast, and people have been known to get trapped and require rescue.

Margarit explained a lot about the building of the Abbey, etc., but her accent was very strong and I had a hard time following her. I didn't worry too much about it because I had a wonderful time just looking at everything. We walked through the Abbey, which is a warren of passageways and stairways, and I'm glad I wasn't a monk in the 10th century. The Benedictine monks were not allowed to speak during meals (except for one who stood at a lectern and read from the Bible for 40 minutes), so they developed a sort of sign language to communicate. Margarit showed us some of the signs, and we were able to make sense of most of them. The monks were also forbidden to have any heat source in their dining room, which is on the north side of the Abbey. I can't imagine how cold they were in wintertime, especially as they only wore sandals on their feet. The tour was very interesting, and the only unfortunate thing was that we were sandwiched between two Japanese tour groups. I'm amazed at how they will stand in front of a crucifix, arms outstretched, and smiling or flashing peace signs at the camera.

We were back on the coach by 11:30 for the drive to Bayeux. Since it was so close to lunch when we left, we stopped at a Shell station (!) and had lunch at the cafeteria. It was a full-service cafeteria, and there was an espresso stand as well. The cafeteria had a plat du jour, and several different plate lunch options. I had “saucisses et frites,” and I must remember in future that saucisse doesn't mean sausage so much as it does hot dog. Anyway, it was pretty decent food, and they also had beautiful little tarts for dessert. I didn't get one, but Yvonne had a lemon tart and she said it was one of the best she's ever had. Before we got back on the coach, I bought a Ritter bar and a KinderSurprise egg.

Our hotel in Bayeux is once again spread over three buildings and is known as the Hôtel d'Argouges. I'm in the Maison du Jardin, and I have a view of the service courtyard. The room is large, with a high beamed ceiling, a double bed, and a shower stall with two doors on it! There is supposed to be wi-fi, but it's broken or something. I was given a plug that goes into the wall and into my laptop and is supposed to allow Internet access, but I still can't get online.

Bayeux is a cute little town whose main street reminds me of Britain. Rolinka took us to see the Bayeux tapestry, which I've wanted to see since Mrs. Meslans used to go into raptures about it in high school. It's a pretty amazing piece of work and surprisingly realistic for something that was embroidered in the 11th century. Yes, embroidered; it's not a true tapestry. It's 70 feet long, and it tells the story of how William, Duke of Normandy, fought Edward the Confessor's brother-in-law Harold in order to take the English throne. It's basically Norman propaganda. There's an audioguide that goes with it so you can walk along the length of the tapestry and understand what's going on. (Hint: The Duke of Normandy is more commonly known as William the Conqueror.) Anyway, I was really pleased to see it.

Yvonne went on to the cathedral (which is pretty nice from the outside; good gargoyles), and I went back to the hotel to get my laundry and go across the street to a laundrette. It took me a while to figure out how to pay for the washing machine and how to get soap, but I finally figured it out. And then I didn't know where to put the soap. After a bit, a teenage boy came in to collect some clothes from a dryer, so I asked him. He didn't speak English, and I tried my best with French. He seemed to understand, and my clothes did end up getting clean. ...And then I couldn't figure out how to work the dryer. Fortunately, the boy came back again with another load, and we determined that the dryer I was trying was actually broken. I transferred everything to another dryer, and that worked. The whole process cost me about 7 euros and took just over an hour.

At 7:00 p.m., we all walked to dinner at Le Pommier. Rick's book mentions that this restaurant is big on fish, and I figured I could handle that. Our first course, however, turned out to be a gizzard salad with something that I determined from the waitress was duck (I'm not sure which part of the duck, but it looked like bacon). I took a bite before I knew they were gizzards, and it nearly made me gag. So I tried the duck stuff, which I thought had a very strange taste, so I ate the tomatoes and an awful lot of lettuce. Then the main dish came: more duck. Fortunately, it was served with a potato tart that was quite tasty. I did eat half of the piece of duck, but I really did have to choke down every bite. I was wishing I had asked Rolinka to book me a vegetarian meal: they wound up with what was basically a garden burger. Dessert was a raspberry trifle.

I sat with Christina, Yvonne and Peter, and we had a terrific time planning what should be a new offering in Rick's tour repertoire: Senior-Friendly Europe. There were lots of jokes about walkers, a guide that will dispense everyone's meds, “Rascals” on the Champs-Élysées, “Depends” in every room, and nap time every day. But we all realize that we'll be there someday.

Mont St. Michel

Mont St. Michel


An escapee from dinner

An escapee from dinner


Me on the terrace at the Abbey

Me on the terrace at the Abbey


The Abbey cloister

The Abbey cloister


The Mont from a distance

The Mont from a distance


Hotel d'Argouges in Bayeux

Hotel d'Argouges in Bayeux


La Maison du Jardin

La Maison du Jardin

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

The marvel

Out of the hotel at 8:30 this morning (said goodbye to Boobie; he was indifferent) for the drive to Brittany. We all knew that today would be a long bus day (5 hours), but it was really difficult to stay awake. Caught glimpses of grape vines and plenty of cows and sheep, as well as an outdoor dog obedience class.

Our lunch stop was in Fougères, which is very small but boasts a cathedral and a ruined castle. Yvonne, Bert and I ate at La Duchesse Anne and were served by an Irish woman! Bert and I both had galettes (egg, cheese and bacon for me), and Yvonne went straight for an apple-caramel crepe. Had cider again too, but this one was more beery than the one I had at Chambord. It was a very filling lunch and only came to 7.60 euro. Stopped in one of the shops afterward to buy some postcards and “fresh cola”-flavor Mentos. On the road again, Rolinka got on the subject of how some people have had bidets in their hotel rooms (I have not). She was curious to know what we do with them because she said she's had groups who tell her they wash their socks in the bidet or – eucchh! -- wash grapes or apples in it. Then she started to talk about what they're really for. This somehow turned to terminology and how she can use the phrase “pipi stop” for just about any nationality of tour group, and they know it means a rest stop. We told her that pee-pee is baby language in America, but she said it's not that at all in Europe, adults say it too and it's not considered odd. She thought it was funny that in America we often refer to it as “Number 1,” with the follow-up being “Number 2.” She said that “Number 2” in the Netherlands is called “the big message,” which of course cracked us all up.

We finally got to a point where we could occasionally see Le Mont-St. Michel looming in the distance. It's like a mirage or something out of a fairy tale and, in fact, it's referred to as “la merveille”: the marvel. It was built in the year 708 when a bishop was visited three times in a dream by the Archangel Michael and ordered to build a chapel on the island. He was reluctant to do this, but when during the third dream the Archangel touched the bishop in the middle of his forehead, the bishop decided he had better do it because he woke up with a small hole in his head. The chapel was later enlarged to house an abbey for Benedictine nuns, and it was further enlarged over the centuries. The island was historically part of Brittany (something about where it was placed in relation to the river), but since the 19th century it has been part of Normandy. It was then that the causeway was built that goes from the mainland to the island, and this essentially dammed up the sea surrounding the island and apparently destroyed a whole ecosystem in the process. There is now a project in the works to replace the causeway with a bridge, and this will allow the sea to surround the island permanently again.

René dropped us at a parking lot on the mainland side so that we could walk on the causeway to the island. The mount gets closer and closer, and it's just spectacular. The only problem was avoiding all the “big messages” left by the grazing sheep. We stopped about halfway to the mount in order to toast ourselves with cider. When we continued on, I started slipping and sliding in the mud so much that Rolinka had to grab me so I wouldn't fall. The side of my pants is kind of muddy now, and my shoes are definitely muddy.

René met us at the parking lot at the foot of the mount to give us our luggage, and then we trekked up the hill to the main part of the hotel to get our keys. A few people are staying the annex right next door to the main hotel, a few people are staying farther up the road and farther up the side of the hill in another annex, and I am staying even farther up in the building called Le Chapeau Blanc. My room is really cute, with a beamed ceiling, wooden-shuttered windows (which are right on the path; it's slightly disturbing hearing people walk by because they are right there), and separate toilet and shower rooms. The toilet room is a sort of coffin that looks like something from an airplane, and the shower room is also a prefab thing made of plastic. Also, no shower curtain, just that ridiculous single pane of glass. If there's one thing Americans know how to do well, it's bathrooms!

I dropped my stuff in my room, combed my hair (it was pretty windy on the causeway) and then went down to the other building to see if Holly and Yvonne had wandering-around plans. Their room is really cute and has a double bed, a single bed, and a Murphy bed! It's also full of light and their shower stall has a whole door on it. Since Lynn and Anne were visiting, I got to see their room too. It's all done in yellow and has a double bed in one room, and then two singles in the next room. Their bathroom is barely big enough to turn around in, so it's a good thing they are both petite. I am the only one to have a safe and a chest of drawers.

So we all wandered farther uphill, stopping to buy a few souvenirs, and made it nearly to the top where the abbey is ... figured we'd save that for tomorrow though. And anyway, it started to rain. We are all resting in our rooms now because the shops appeared to be closing at 6:00, and we can't go to dinner till 7:00. There is no wi-fi access here, and I was really hoping to be able to Skype John.

LATER: Dinner was included on the tour tonight, but we were given vouchers for our choice of two different restaurants. 24 of the 28 of us chose the same one because it has a view of the bay: La Croix Blanche. I sat with Yvonne and Holly next to a window, and the view did seem to go on forever. Dinner was a multi-course affair and also seemed to go on forever. For starters, I had jambon cru de pays, which was several slices of a marvelous prosciutto-ish sort of ham garnished with tomatoes, lettuce, olives and hard-boiled egg slices. Then there was a palate cleanser: apple sorbet in calvados. Oh la la! My main plate was gratin de morue (cod with au gratin potatoes), which was followed by three small pieces of goat cheese: camembert, Pont L'Évêque, and livarot. All very good, and progressively stinky. Dessert was soufflé Normand, a sort of custard on top of a biscuit, topped with apples and caramel, and swimming in a creamy calvados-laced sauce. All washed down with Kir. So good; such decadence!

And to cap it all, it's just before 11:00 p.m. and I'm turning off the computer and going to bed!

Fougeres

Fougeres


Me

Me


Sheepies!

Sheepies!


Mont St. Michel

Mont St. Michel


My room

My room


Dinner

Dinner


Yum!

Yum!

Posted by londonpenguin 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

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