Brittany Stories and Tips

C'est si bon!!! Part 1

FRANCE

Saturday, March 21, 1998
Arrive in Paris, but we don’t believe it. Our entire time in Paris is spent underground on the subway and train system. We get a TGV (very fast speed) train to Rennes, transfer to another train to Dol de Bretagne. We spend a lovely 3 hours in Dol, a village the size of Salisbury, NB. There is a local cycling race that speeds by us several times as we sit in the Horse Race Betting Bar sipping our beer waiting for our final train to take us to Dinan. We arrived in Dinan at 6pm, local time – about 24 hours after leaving Halifax. We got to the house we were renting and basically collapsed.

Sunday, March 22, 1998
Spent the day tooling around Dinan. Of course, since it was Sunday, most shops were closed, but we did find some fruits & veggies & bread at a corner store. We took in some sights Dinan has to offer – a couple of churches, an English Garden, the clock tower, and all the quaint little cobblestone streets.

Monday, March 23, 1998
Again, spent the day in Dinan – found a real grocery store. Did you know that you can’t buy plain tortilla chips and salsa here? Cannibals!!! Saw a few more sights, including outside the walled city. Many NICE homes. The gardens are in bloom and the trees have leaves on them already.

Tuesday, March 24, 1998
Up to catch a 6am train to Paris!! We make this Versailles day, and eat lunch at McDonald’s (we will soon find out that McD’s is the one place we can count on in this country). We spend most of the afternoon in Versailles, take the King’s apartment tour. We misunderstand the tour guide (speaking very odd English) as explaining that there is a painting of the Holocaust on the ceiling of the chapel – really it is the Holy Ghost (Father, Son, and Holocaust)! Phew!! We head back to Paris and go Diana gawking – the Pont d’Alma. Then we truck back to the train station and head back to Dinan, where we arrive at 11pm. Yawn!!

Wednesday, March 25, 1998
Off to St. Malo to pick up the rental car. We ignore the town and head directly to Mont St. Michel. This is an absolutely incredible sight. It used to be a large rock off the coast. At high tide, it was cut off from the mainland due to the tides rushing in – as quickly as the Bay of Fundy tides. They built an abbey on this rock and the community grew around it in a corkscrew fashion. The only part of the Mont that is resting on the original rock is the abbey (where the monks and nuns hang out). The rest of the island is supported by columns. Very impressive sight. After climbing this place, you’ll never complain about St. Joseph’s Oratory’s steps again!!

Thursday, March 26, 1998
We decide to head off to Dieppe, through Normandy, today. It is very wet, to say the least. It takes turns raining cats and then raining dogs. We occasionally run into the odd raining horse!!! But, off to Dieppe we go. It’s not as amazing as I expected – just a beach with very high cliffs (like at my parents’ cottage x 2-3 times as high). There are a few war memorials mentioning Canada, and if you mention you are from Canada they treat you with great respect (throughout the country). About 5km away from Dieppe is Pourville, a beach community that Monet painted a series in. I have a print of this area, so it was quite neat seeing the location from the same perspective as my favorite painter. Then we headed back home – this time on the pay highway, which is worth it. Dieppe is a 5 hour trip from Dinan (don’t reccommend making it a 1 day return trip – definitely overnight!!). This is the day that we realize McDonald’s will be our beacon away from home. We are unable to completely understand the road signs. Often there are signs directing you to various cities and then a generic "Autres directions." It takes us a while to understand that we should go with Other Directions when we are unsure. However, it takes us a few days on the road before it sinks in. Another favorite "Toutes Directions," the road to everywhere!! McD’s serves excellent coffee for a reasonable price ($1.50+/-), has clean bathrooms, and staff that is willing to help those who attempt to speak French. This is not always the case – staff at garages (i.e. gas station) basically spit at us when Heather mispronounces "Rouen." The comment we keep to ourselves is – OK, say "HEATHER"!!!

Friday, March 27, 1998
After yesterday, we are ready for a local day. The highlight of the day would be my driving lesson. Since we rented a standard transmission car, Heather has been doing the driving to this point. Now it’s my turn to take the wheel. We start off on a back road near Dinan. I enjoy standard driving intensely – I thrive on it. I would rather have ants eat my flesh than ever purchase one of my own. Ramsay can probably comment on this, as he was the lucky one to give me my first standard lesson. By the end of the day, I do drive in town and pull into a supermarket parking lot. Heather runs in to buy her $2 wine (which would be $10-15 wine at home), while I try to collect myself from the nerve-wracking day of driving.

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