Monday, May 27, 2019

Monday Musings

Driving in France was a bit of a nightmare.  Who am I kidding?  It was a mega-fucked-up-nightmare.

First part of the nightmare: the GPS was impossible to use.  We had a quick lesson at the car rental place; our guy set up it to be in English and set our destination for the first leg of our trip, and off we went.  We successfully arrived in Chartres, about 45 minutes from Versailles where we had been staying.  After a lovely visit to the Cathedral, we went in search of our hotel,   We tried to put in the address on the GPS.  No can do.  Complete mystery on how this thing is supposed to work.  So we used my cell phone GPS.

We pulled out and into the flow of this city of 39,000 souls. Phone GPS is not doing us much good and I was getting frustrated and anxious.  Cars are whipping by us and there were several close cars.  We get to an intersection and I'm shouting at Steve, "Where do I go? Where do I GO?!"  He says, "That way! Follow that car!" and so I did, right down into an underground garage.  Well, hells bells.  We pull our ticket since there's no place to turn around or back out.  We got through the garage in 30 seconds to the exit.  We insert our ticket and the machine says we owe 2 euro.  I press the "help" button, which is never what you should do, especially when you don't know the language.  We are attempting to explain to the attendant that we didn't park and could they please lift the gate so we could get out.  "Sorry, madame.  You must pay."  "But I didn't park here!  I literally entered thirty seconds ago!"  I think I was yelling.  "I am sorry, madame,  You must pay."  So, okay, fuck it, we'll pay.  But how?  I can't figure out the machine.  It won't take cash, and it's rejecting my credit card.

Meanwhile, cars are piling up behind us, honking their horns and shouting at us.   I'm banging on the steering wheel, sticking my hands out the window in wild gestures.  Steve is distressed, but he cannot help.  FUCK MY LIFE.  I insert my credit card one more time, and for some unknown reason, this time it works and the gate lifts blithely up.  I can hardly believe it.  I hit the gas and we burn rubber out of there.  I have just made many enemies in Chartres.  Stupid American tourist.

Looking at our Hotel from the plaza
I'm shaking, I'm crying, and Steve's telling me to pull myself together, but all I want to do is pull over and sob.  We stop and ask directions and are given some vague "oh, it's over there" kind of answer.  We go over there.  Nothing.  I force Steve out of the car to go into a little hotel to ask for directions.  He gets the same kind of answer except they point in the direction of where we just came from.  So off we go in the opposite direction.  We're driving around and by some miracle I see it!  I let Steve out so he may go in and inquire as to parking.  He comes out and points to a garage.  We drive into the garage and wind up in a completely dark, as in NO LIGHTING WHATSOEVER, underground garage that looks as if only Smart Cars can fit into.  Nevertheless, we park and struggle through the darkness to the light coming from above.  We check into the hotel and ask about the strange parking and we are told we have parked in the wrong garage.  May I say it again?  FUCK MY LIFE.  I'm tired, I'm an emotional wreck, and all I want to do is collapse on the floor and scream.  But instead, we follow the hotel staff to the garage and he says "oh, I see.  You went straight down.  We said to go straight in."  So, I back the car out (it was the only way) and up the steep drive into the light.  A grand feat, let me tell you.  Steve asks why in the hell did I back out.  I give him the death stare.  If I hadn't backed out, there was no way I could have made the sharp turn into the driveway I was supposed to be in.  So, I parked.

Chartres Cathedral across the plaza from the hotel
We make it to our room and deposit our suitcases.  Then we hightail it to the bar downstairs where I ordered, and drank, a double scotch in record time.  We then decide to wander outside to get a look around.  We stepped out the front door and looked across the plaza, and there, in all her majesty, was the cathedral we had just come from.  We could have freaking walked to the hotel from where we were.

Our notre cauchemar was over, we had been delivered somehow, and my brain to this day cannot comprehend how in the hell we drove all over that city in search of Le Bouef Couronne.  We had a grand dinner that night and got the hell out of there in the morning, on our way to Mont Saint Michel, where, unbeknownst to us at the time, a new road hell awaited.

I'll save that story for next Monday.  I'm completely done in -- again.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Monday Musings

We had a wonderful three-week trip to France, traveling all over the north, from Strasbourg in the east, to Mont Saint Michel in the west, and most points in between.  It was a challenging itinerary but I wanted to see many new places and grab hold of France while we can.

We spent time with friends outside of Strasbourg, outside the tiny village of La Petite Pierre.  Such generous and kind friends, we celebrated Easter with them and their extended family.  We traveled the area (near the German border) seeing the sites and visiting castles and other villages.  We spent a day in Strasbourg touring the old city.  It was difficult to leave such friendship and comfort, but after five nights we did.

It was a grand trip that ended up with eleven days in Paris.  One week in the apartment of a friend, and five days in a nice little hotel.  From Paris we traveled to Giverny, home of Monet.  The gardens were a marvel and so was the house.  Both completely restored after falling into ruin.  Old photographs were used to bring the property back to it's former glory.

It's only been in the last couple of days that I can feel the jet-lag disappearing.

Too many impressions and experiences to capture right here, right now.  Perhaps later.  We did what we wanted to do, and despite our poor health, we did it brilliantly.  We paced ourselves and rested when we needed to.  I have a hard time believing I climbed endless stairs on the island of Mont Saint Michel.  Those were some wicked-ass steep stairs, and we did it.  Huffing and puffing and resting at each landing, but we did it.  (A testament to motivation.) An experience of a life-time.  We stayed two glorious nights there.

photo not mine

Now we are back into the routine of this place and wondering if we were ever really gone, or was it just a dream?  I've got the photos to prove we were there.  So that settles it.

Today is my mother's 84th birthday.  She's lived for 25 years with Parkinson's and she's dependent on the family and caregivers for her every need.  But, when her mind is not foggy, she is here with us, and she likes a good laugh.  She is fading away very slowly, and it stinks.  But it's what we deal with and we're mostly doing okay.  We had dinner with her and Dad (87) and we gave her a large bouquet of yellow flowers: lilies, sunflowers and daises.   She smiled broadly.  It was a good birthday.

And so, goodnight.

You Can Go Home Again

 I took a vacation in the first week of May.  I went back to my high school and college stomping grounds, still populated by many friends of...