Paris was a mess. The trains were running late, the station was overflowing with travellers, some in lines looking disgruntled or resigned, others sitting forlornly on the floor with their luggage and pets and children.
There was a lot of French in the air, punctuated now and then by the Thalys theme, (dum duddy DAH-da,) which always put me in mind of Britney Spears' "Crazy". This was a little bit annoying as I couldn't recall any of the lyrics to that bit of pop drivel.
They weren't pommes frites in paper cones, but it did the job. I felt so damnably American, though. I kept hearing Red Buttons as Pvt. John Steele in The Longest Day: "Je suis American, je suis American".
We hunkered down with our luggage and an experienced traveller who'd brought a baguette -no McDonalds for him. With some squirming around we found a spot that was mostly out of the blast zone -the opening and closing doors let in the roar of the train- in a niche where no one would step on us and we could brace our knees to stay relatively stationary. Tuning out on headphones to non-Britney Spears music, well, we were good to go.
But it didn't matter! We were on vacation, on vacation in France, and going to the place around which we'd set the rest of our trip: Normandy. The train was taking us, moment by moment, towards Caen and Cherbourg, the landing beaches of D-Day, St-Mère-Église, places we'd long envisioned while learning about the second World War.
It was hard to believe we were really going there.I demonstrated my excitement by taking half a nap. I'm like a little kid that way.
Mike had done exhaustive research on train travel, towns, tours, and B&Bs for us. Impressive, considering he was also wrapping up his work in Dubai, closing down the house, and dealing with his wife. (Yes, he only has one. I should think that would be more than enough, wouldn't you say?) Thanks to his efforts we'd decided to stay in the small but history-rich town of Bayeux, whose name we couldn't quite pronounce. (Bay-oo? Bye-uh? Beeh-you? Criminey.)
(photo from Le Castel Nobel Guesthouse website)
We found this to be true. Which was fine, we were in France, after all. She spoke twice as much French to make up for our lack, utterly undeterred by the looks of confusion. Our responses were limited to oui, (yes) non,(no) and Je ne sais pas, which I thought translates as "I don't understand" but what actually means "I don't know."
Making absolutely sure we understood how to let ourselves in with the key, demonstrating several times (as non-French speakers we were in the category of obviously stupid but worthy of pity and compassion) our hostess finally showed us up a beautiful staircase to our room.
She never stopped talking. We were smothered in motherly French.
Upon entering our room, and escaping le déluge, I did a slow 360 and said once again, oh wow, Mike!
And to find something better to eat than McDonalds.