France lll

Ce matin, il pleut! Mon 9/5/2016

Awoke to pouring rain and a loss of power in the night. This gave me an opportunity to do a little housekeeping. Firstly, if that is a word, thank you all for your encouragement. All of my adult life I have kept a journal. Although sometimes days and weeks pass with nothing but empty pages; but when I started to collect my thought for this adventure it occurred me that my Journal could also be a communication to all those who have the patience to bear with me.
Secondly: Scott- Quite impressive, these many years out from academia! You should really come over and try to confuse the French at least as much as I am having the pleasure of doing. It has been fun since this is an area where not everyone is fluent in English. And yes, Bob’s guidance would be much appreciated at the most tenuous moments of any foreign, or other, experience.
Jeb- Thank you for the info. We do plan to get to Chamonix and Mont Blanc by journeys end and will search out the Swiss “reds”. We have read about the ferry from Evian to Lucerne and were told that the fare was more like extortion – but we’re accepting that as part of the local travel experience! As far as restaurants go – you, Mel & Jane, Jennifer and Betsy won’t get this – I do enjoy good food but am not driven by it so would probably end up in a really nice restaurant while traveling only if I ran into it by accident, my car broke down in front of it, or I had to go through it to get to somewhere else. Susan says this is why I’ve never weighed more than what I do. She either said that or something derogatory about my pecuniary interests. Again, c’est la vie!
Mel- I am embarrassed to report that while focusing on a narrow rural road while driving in the country today I suddenly burst out loud in laughter when the meaning of your Chapter 11 comment came to light. I’m blaming the demyelination for slowing the conduction between neurons!

On to today. Rainy with few plans (as usual) other than getting our GPS up and running. Turns out that there was a Peugeot service station fairly close by. So we were soon on the move and this time with the voice of a pleasant young English woman. She didn’t try to pronounce any French words and kindly pointed out every time that I exceeded the speed limit. We were going to just go to Evian for the day but it was an overcast day so with our new found confidence we decided to go to Annecy. I haven’t traveled widely enough in my 64 short years but found Annecy to be the nicest city I’ve ever been to. It is beautiful and had all the best aspects of Paris, canals cleaner than Venice and the romantic, mysterious, hidden alley-ways of Sienna. It is at the northern end of Lake Annecy and the brick and cobblestone, pedestrian only streets of the large “Old Annecy” district are lined with Cafes, shops and restaurants. People seem to linger for hours at a cafe over a single cup of coffee or glass of wine, seemingly at ease with the world. We stopped trying to take pictures because they can’t capture the essence of the place. Very romantic city.

I had the opportunity to do a lot of driving today. The roads here are very narrow, very curvy, have no shoulders and everyone drives fast. Every time I looked in the rearview mirror there was a different Frenchman driving a BMW close enough to be in my hatchback. All were shaking their heads and sending me hand signals that in my home country are neither a sign of fondness nor respect. I felt a bit like a UN diplomat. There was an irate Frenchman behind me encouraging me to go faster, Margaret Thatcher telling me to go slower and a very nervous American passenger with white knuckles not so calmly asking me if I realized I was rapidly gaining on a colorfully clad bicyclist in my lane, while also casually observing that there was an oncoming bus who was also sharing part of my lane. And so it goes!
I have spent many winters skiing with Rich, Rob and their evil friends. Because of their influence I will admit that I ski at the far limits of my capabilities. Usually too fast and definitely out of control through mogul fields and forests. It is exciting! On that edge of catastrophe the adrenaline really flows, and after doing that, groomed slopes have little allure. The usual consequence of a miss -step is what they kindly refer tp as a “yardsale” ,while they scour the hill and pick up various pieces of my ski equipment. There is humiliation and laughter involved but it usually occurs in soft deep powder and no harm is done other than the biennial cracked ribs. I guess my point is, I had many of those thrills while driving today and was always hopeful that I would not catch a tip. My plan going forward is to go slowly and anger as many Frenchmen as possible.
On the way home we decided to stop and get gas. Other than getting the GPS fixed this was really going to be our only other travel project for the day. We pulled into the station behind a sleek, black, Porsche turbo and waited for it to fill up. We’re driving an eco-diesel-hybrid mini-SUV Peugeot. These cars apparently have feeling and attitude. It seemed to sense my lust for that “other” car and as the Porsche pulled away, ours refused to move, other than roll back slowly if I released the brake. This went on long enough for us to not find the humor in it and we both simultaneously assumed that we’d somehow killed another battery. Then, on its own, it started? I pulled forward, opened the gas cap door -which until about 24 hours earlier had also been a mystery – and removed the gas cap. We’re getting to the point where surprises just aren’t so surprising anymore. The Master card was rejected. No problem. OK slight problem – the Visa card was also rejected. I am a cautious man so we were far from out of gas. If you are out of gas in France they will come to your rescue for about $100. So we continued on our way, but the car was now making some thumping noise. We’re getting conditioned to wait for bad news to come to us so didn’t worry. I did suggest that there might be a dead body in the trunk because we hadn’t ever opened it. On we drove. Twenty or thirty kilometers down the road we were stopped at a light and this guy approached the drivers window. I’m used to this from driving regularly down Meadow St in Ithaca and have the addicts beg for money. I didn’t want to deal with someone begging or even offering to sell me grapes or French toast or whatever else they sell here. But he kept smiling and gesturing to the other side of our car. He then walked over, replaced our gas cap and closed the little door! Another tip for the guide book. “When driving a rental car in France and you fail to get gas you actually have to manually put the gas cap back in place.”

Another great day in France. I’m gaining an appreciation for how James Joyce stretched one day into an entire book!

C’est trop tarde,

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