Travelling around France has been absolutely wonderful. A home away from home one might say. Even though none of us have been to France before, somehow it feels so familiar. Maybe it’s that we have seen the sites of France in history books or hollywood films, but I attribute it more to the climate, local flora and the “Western” lifestyle. Every dog we see is with their family, loads of lovely walkingbiking trails, beautiful neighborhoods, carefully manicured lawns and all vehicles following the rules of the road…amazing! It is so nice not to have to weave through oncoming traffic where Paul adopted his brother-in-law’s saying and yelled “every man for himself!” when we had to cross the street. A true celebration when one arrives safely on the other side. Don’t get me wrong, I loved travelling around Indochina, but after several months of everything different from what one is accustomed, it just feels so good to fall into the same old thing…with the added bonus of everything being new. And sure, they speak French here, but coming from Canada that is not all that foreign. Having said that, my grade 5 French and memorizing grocery labels is not holding up that well. Not once has Frere Jacques come up in conversation.
Our first stop in France was Paris for 4 nights. Our little cottage on the canal ( https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1487419 ) was outside the city centre, but all the sites of Paris were easily accessible by train. We loved having the canal in our backyard where we could go for strolls or ride the complimentary bikes provided by the owner of the cottage. When we were not at the canal, we were out exploring some of the highlights of Paris.
Me and my boy
For me, the Palace of Versailles was truly magnificent with all the fabulous architectural details and furniture styles that have continued to influence the world of design tremendously. So much history at this Palace, it is remarkable to me. We saw the very door where Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI, made her escape when the angry mob reached the Palace during the French Revolution. Alas, even though she escaped that night, the outcome was the same as Marie’s head said farewell to her body by means of Guillotine on October 16, 1793 in front of a very pleased crowd that much like the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, yelled “off with her Head!”…only I imagine they were speaking French of course.
After Paris, we hopped in our rented car and headed west for the countryside and a little stone cottage (http://www.vrbo.com/1036718a) in the heart of Normandy where we would call home for 1 week. Driving around France has gone relatively painless with the help of Gartha Periwinkle Sampson (also known as an in-car navigation system or GPS). Seriously, with all the roundabouts and narrow country roads I think Paul and I would have killed each other by now if it wasn’t for the GPS. So thank-you Gartha.
Visiting the towns around the cottage. Saint Sever was the closest town and where we bought all our necessities, but bigger centres like Avranges and Villedieu Des Poeles complete with castles and medieval courtyards were close by.
One of the reasons for staying in the Normandy area was to visit Juno Beach and the Canadian run Museum. Upon arriving at the museum, we were greeted by a young man from Vancouver. Paul jokingly asked if there was a Whitespot close by which lead us fellow British Columbians into a lengthy conversation about how we were all hitting the Spot for a burger as soon as we hit Canadian soil. The young Canadians hired to run the museum and tours are fabulous. We did a tour of the site and while we visited, the tide was out, much like it was the morning of June 6, 1944 and it was clear just what a challenge the soldiers faced trying to find cover from enemy fire.
Much like Marie Antoinette much of the abbey did not survive the French Revolution. Most of what is seen today has been restored to its original form with the exception of the Cathedral Hall itself which still stands as a ruin and a beautiful example of Norman Gothic Architecture.
As the French legend goes, the Normans attacked the castle and in order to escape, Lord Pirou and his family used a wizards book to change themselves into Geese. While they were successful in escaping their Scandinavian foes, they were not successful in changing back to human form and spent the rest of their days as geese.
La Roche Aux Fees or The Rock of Ferries are huge rocks set in place during the Stone Ages to form a Dolman or portal grave. At this particular megalith site the stones are so large and heavy that it is said they had to be put in place by ferries.
After a week in Normandy we have moved South. We are now staying at a beautiful house on the Canal de Garonne (https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/1266466). About an hour South East of Bordeaux so you know what that means…Wine Country. Any weight I may have lost in the heat of Asia has now found me again. The baguette, cheese and wine diet is killer on the waistline, but oh so pleasing to the palate.
Next on the agenda is a week living onboard a boat while we float down the Canal Du Midi.