Our Journey Through France
A Good Samaritan
We landed at Charles De Gaulle airport and took a taxi to our first stop, an Airbnb in a small village, just on the outskirts of the airport. The driver hauled our two large suitcases into his small car and off we trundled, forgetting how fast the French drive and how narrow the roads were, along with the numerous mini roundabouts. We arrived in the village, and even though the GPS had taken us to the correct address, it was a one-way street, so the driver dropped us off at one end and we unloaded the car and walked the few hundred yards to the house. Luckily our suitcases had wheels, for now! The paths were a little uneven and we had to navigate some troublesome curbs, not to mention the 14 concrete steps up to the apartment.
Our Owner/Hostess showed us around the very small apartment. Our first conversation in French! Not too shabby, but we definitely needed more practice. The place was clean, Ikea everywhere, so it was functional, with the bedroom on an upper floor, which we think was added recently. The floor was laminated over wooden beams and squeaked horrendously when we walked on it. Luckily we slept well and didn’t have to get out of bed during the night. We were seriously jet lagged and tired so had a nap before heading out for dinner.
Of course dinner was wonderful at a small restaurant a 100 yards or so from the Airbnb. Pate, cornichon sorbet, mushroom souffle – I could go on but there’s more to come on the food in our ‘food’ page.
The next day proved to be a challenging day. After waking up early to the sound of barking dogs, cockerels and the planes heading out, we decided to call Uber and collect the hire car. Once again the GPS led the driver close to our destination, but not quite where we were supposed to be. After wandering for a short while and googling the address again, we crossed a dual carriageway and arrived at the correct place. The car service was great, quick, efficient and we were out of there in less than 10 minutes. We drove back to the apartment, packed and loaded the car, which was a bit of a challenge and headed to the shopping mall, where there was a supermarket, to get supplies for our journey. It was still only 8.30am.
Stopping at a café for breakfast, we enjoyed coffee and croissants before heading into the supermarket for water and other supplies. Soon we were on our way, around the Peripherique, dodging the crazy French drivers and heading towards Versailles. I had never been to this magnificent palace so was excited to see it. It was Friday, Easter was over and I decided it wasn’t going to be busy, so we would spend a couple of hours, have lunch, then be on our way again. How wrong I was. As we entered the area of the palace we were welcomed by 100s of tour buses, carrying tourists from almost every country we could think of. Not to be discouraged, we parked the car and decided just to look at the outer buildings, as it was obvious we would be there for more than two hours if we looked at the palace, and we needed to get on the road and on to our next lodging – which we had yet to find.
Panic set in when we realized the rucksack, containing Marcel’s new camera and both our British and American passports, was still at the café, over an hour away! With a sick feeling in our stomachs, we made a thorough search of the car, just in case and jumped back in and headed off. However, exiting the parking lot was another obstacle we hadn’t anticipated. The barrier would not open and we realized we were supposed to pre-pay at a machine before exiting, but there was not a machine in sight. We backed up from the barrier, to the consternation of the driver behind, and Marcel went off to find the machine. I got out of the car and decided to find the café on-line and see if I could call them. It was a chain café and boulangerie, ‘Paul’, and we had visited one in Washington DC so I knew they had to have a website. I managed to get through to someone, and in my broken French explained that I had left my bag back at the café. She passed me to someone else who explained I had to call another number. Now, numbers in French are not my forte and she spoke no English, and with no pen and paper I was not hopeful of getting the number. In the meantime, a parking attendant began to explain that I was not allowed to park in this particular spot and I tried to explain that my husband was off searching how to pay so we could leave. With the lady on the phone trying to give me French numbers, the attendant trying to get me to move the car, no clue where Marcel was, thinking about how we would get new passports if we couldn’t find the bag, I was a little stressed to say the least. In the midst of all this, my glasses had slipped from my shirt front, where I had put them when I put on my sunglass, so now I couldn’t read a darn thing! I looked for them around the car, but they were nowhere to be found. Marcel finally came back with a new ticket and we spent a few minutes looking for my glasses, but we were so worried about the bag, we gave up on the specs, (I had another pair in the suitcase) and headed towards the exit. Once again the barrier would not open so we sounded the horn and the parking attendant came over and looked at the ticket. He advised that it was free for the first 10 minutes and we had been there 11 minutes and needed to pay. By this time we were ready to run the barrier… We explained that Marcel had just paid – which was an ordeal too; only one machine working, which wouldn’t take cards, so cash only, and no notes only coins! But he did pay the 3 euros and received an exit ticket. The parking attendant was adamant that we had overstayed by 1 minute and needed to pay – we just sat there and said we were not moving, we had paid and needed to leave. He finally hit the button and let us out!
We arrived back at the shopping mall about an hour later and went straight to the café. The server remembered us but had not seen the bag. He checked with everyone else who worked in the café but to no avail. We went back to the supermarket, no luck. It was a large shopping mall with food courts and several floors of boutiques and shops, and very modern and airy, so I knew there had to be a customer service desk somewhere. We headed off, feeling very disheartened, sick and foolish. We found the desk and again explained that we had left a bag in the café. The young lady behind the desk, who was all bright and perky, smiled, asked our names and said ‘Ah oui!’ it is here! Music to our ears, we could have cried and almost danced around the desk to give her a hug! Relief was an understatement. Before we left the mall, again, we bought her a box of chocolates and went back to the café to let them know we had found the bag – the guy was very happy. If we had not found it, we would have had to stay in Paris for the weekend and then spend time at the American consulate to have new passports issued – not in our plans!
So, we returned to the car, relieved, smiling and ready to get going again. We wondered which kind person had handed in the rucksack and hoped that good fortune would come to them soon, for their kind deed. Marcel asked if I wanted to return to Versailles to see the palace, but I figured the parking lot was too much to deal with again, along with all the tourists so, NO, Versailles would have to wait for another day. And so, off we went, again, heading south west towards the Loire Valley, looking forward to a much needed glass of wine, and giving Versailles a wide berth.
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