Trip to France
August 19 to September 2, 2006

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The photos were shot with an 8MP digital SLR so file sizes are 2-3MB.

Friday, August 18
flight to Paris
Kids snoozing on flight to Paris
A flight to Europe is long. Even for veteran travelers. However, being able to sleep through it does mitigate the difficulty. We had a 10:10 PM departure. I sat next to the kids periodically nodding off but never really sleeping. Dinner was served maybe 11:30 or so, which we all skipped. Nora was asleep soon but Eric remained transfixed on the video screen which provided various interactive computer games. He played chess and Invasion until about 2:00 AM. Finally he tired out and they both flew in crunched-up positions in a deep sleep. The kids slept through breakfast but we stuffed it all into a bag for later.

Saturday, August 19
eating ice cream
Lucy and Nora enjoy Häagen-Dazs ice cream

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport about a half-hour ahead of schedule, 11:00 AM. After the usual baggage chase, Nora was complaining of not feeling well, so instead of following our ambitious plan to take the RER train, transfer to the Metro, and then walk a couple of blocks, we loaded the luggage into a taxi. The taxi was more affordable than we expected, about 40€ (prevailing exchange rates make that $50.80). The hotel room was ready and welcoming, as were the staff. We stayed at the Citadines Louvre, which is a chain with efficiency apartment-style rooms. The hotel had air conditiong, which we later found was hardly the standard in France. However, they had a sign in the lobby that the heat had been turned off for the season, and if it got cold they would be happy to provide extra blankets. It was located near the Louvre Metro stop, and steps away from a square and a public garden.

A couple of hours later I got a call from Mark that they were in Paris but their room wasn't ready. They were relaxing at a café. Rabab and the kids were sacked out so I trotted over a couple of blocks trying to figure out where they were when I saw Mark waving his arms. We sat long enough to have a beer, and then headed back to the hotel where their room was finally ready.

After everyone settled in, we eventually went in search of a restuarant for dinner, and settled on a place within walking distance of the hotel after we discovered that our first choice was closed for August vacation. (During the rest of our trip we would find a lot of businesses that closed for a couple of weeks or even the whole month of August.) We had a seat under the sidewalk awning and ordered from the English version of the blackboard menu placed next to our table by the waiter. Our waiter spoke American English with only a trace of a French accent, so I asked him where he was from. He said he was French but studied a lot of English in school. Just as Rabab was about to use this as an instructive lesson for studying hard in school, he added somewhat sheepishly that he also has had some American girlfriends. The kids all ordered pizzas.

We passed up having dessert in the restaurant to go to the Häagen-Dazs shop, also near the hotel just off the square.

Sunday, August 20
The Batobus
Riding the Batobus
La Tour Eiffel
Eiffel Tower as seen from nearly underneath
La Tour Eiffel
View up into the infrastructure of the Tower
Paris along the Seine as seen from the Tower
A rainy Paris as seen from the Tower
Nora at the highest level
Nora as seen from the Tower
Descending staircase
Rabab and Eric descending the caged staircase
Roller bladers
We found ourselves surprised by a roller blading event along the Seine

Next morning by the time we up and around and ready for breakfast it was about 10. We opted for the hotel self-service continental breakfast, which was OK but a bit pricey at 9€50 per person with no discount for children.

Our first assignment was the Eiffel Tower. We went to the Seine and bought tickets for the Batobus, a boat that runs a route up and down the Seine with stops and key sightseeing points along the way. It's not the fastest way to get around Paris but it's certainly scenic and economical. Upon reaching the Eiffel Tower, we found two ticket offices, so we tried to figure out which long line was shorter. After a 45-minute wait we had our tickets, and got into another line for the first elevator. There were two elevators; one went to the first two levels, and you had to take another to go to the top of the tower. A sign warned that there was a 30-minute wait for the second elevator. As we explored the deuxieme étage (we skipped the first level and went directly to the second), a pair of Asian women pulled Lucy aside to have her picture taken with them. We all thought this was rather odd, but were all so flummoxed that nobody said "no". AFter recovering and shaking our heads, we got in line for the next elevator and were pelleted by rain. I fought off my acrophobia in the elevator, which of course had to have glass walls, but the top platform was constructed in such a way as to minimize my reaction. At the top, a couple of Asian girls did a repeat performance and asked me to be in a picture with them. It was weird but innocent enough, but Rabab was not happy. After we got back to the second level, I took the elevator down while everyone else took the stairs back to the ground.

We stopped for lunch at a café called Le Buci. We had sandwiches on baguettes which looked way too big on delivery but nobody left a bite. We did some shopping, and stopped for a treat at a gelateria on the way back. We got caught in the rain a couple of times.

We had dinner at a nice brasserie to celebrate the Farrells' wedding anniversary, and recounted our trip to England for their wedding in the days Before Children. It was a little nicer and not as accommodating to children as some of the other places but we ordered them up a couple of club sandwiches and managed fine.

Monday, August 21
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The whole gange at the Louvre Pyramid. Adults back row: Rabab, Jeff, Mark, Jane. Kids front row: Nora, Grace, Lucy, Eric.
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Composite view of the Arc de Triomphe
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Three classics at the Louvre
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The kids reviewing the menu at Häagen-Dazs

This morning we shifted gears and crossed the square for breakfast, having a cool terrace breakfast of coffee, hot chocolate, buttered baguettes, and croissants. Then we tackled the Louvre. We had no intention of trying to beat the six-minute Louvre as described by Art Buchwald, although we knew that with four children we were sightseeing on borrowed time. Eric had a thousand questions about Saint Sebastian after seeing two or three paintings depicting the martyr shot through with arrows.

We walked from the Louvre in search of lunch, going through the Jardin des Tuileries to the Champs Elysees. We stopped to have lunch on the sidewalk at a fast food place, although it was raining so we headed for the area under a canopy. This is what I love about France: Even the fast food is good ingredients made fresh. We had sandwiches served on fresh baguettes. I ordered a "grillade," which turned out to be a hamburger on a baguette. Then we caved in to hand-dipped Ben & Jerry ice cream for dessert at the same place.

We continued our relentless stroll when there was suddenly a wave of children in need of a bathroom so after a couple of false leads we ended up in The Gap, who seemed sympathetic since it was children and ushered them to the bathroom. We reached the Arc de Triomphe. After seeing the long line for a ride to the top, we decided we had had enough for one day and just walked around it.

We took the Metro back to the hotel. The Paris Metro link here differs from the Washington Metro link here in that you can actually go from one place to another on it. Somehow the brief subway ride infused the wives with a new wave of energy, which after brief discussion they decided would be best put to use shopping. After reaching our stop, they headed one direction, Mark went off in another in search of sustenance to get us through their absence, and I led two American and two English children back to a hotel in the heart of Paris.

Mark arrived shortly with a six-pack of Kronenbourg 1664, the leading beer in France (alhtough now owned by a British company) and perfectly drinkable. This six-pack, however, was of 25 cl. bottles, slightly under 8½ ounces, normally too small to get through a football game but just about right for waiting for shopping wives. Hopefully. We relaxed on the balcony watching the drizzle come down while the kids played.

The kids were great and the wives returned, and we then went in search of dinner. Because of the relentless rain, we decided to walk to someplace close, and discovered Il Cardinale, a small Italian restaurant, which worked well with four kids who all love pizza and pasta. Our impression of the place slid as the evening wore on. They had a delightful antipasto buffet with wide variety and homemade quality, paired with a selection of pasta dishes for that day's menu. However, as I was at the buffet I noticed our hostess slicing bread. She dropped a piece on the floor, which went right back into the basket. I wasn't sure if it was for our table. The pasta arrived, at least one plate of it. Then another. A full 20 minutes later we had all been served. Nora's pasta was short of even al dente, being downright crunchy. Mine was overcooked almost to mushiness. Eric's bolognese sauce was a thin tomato sauce with only a suggestion of beef. All this amounted to 25€ per person for a simple two-course pasta dinner, about $127 for a family of four, with no discount for children, plus drinks, a shock when l'addition arrived. Although it was the low point of Paris dining experience, worse things have happened.

We ended the evening with another visit to Häagen-Dazs. It was far too convenient.

Tuesday, August 22
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Stained glass rosette at Notre Dame
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Exterior of Notre Dame
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Fountain we passed on our way to dinner in the Latin Quarter
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Sunset in the Latin Quarter

For the convenience, and based on the votes of the kids, we had breakfast in hotel. We decided to walk to Notre Dame. Along the way, we heard a screech and turned to see a motor scooter locking up its wheels to avoid rear-ending a truck, and it went down. He didn't hit anything but Mark and I ran out to see if he was OK, and help pull him and his bike up. He was pretty shaken up but not hurt. Eric was very impressed by the entire episode and peppered me with questions and comments about scooters, motorcycles, and accidents the rest of the morning.

We made the rounds at Notre Dame, although the Farrells had a train home that afternoon and decided a wait in line to go up the tower would be to risky for time. We stopped at a café across the street for a drink and a bathroom break.

Our next destination was Ile St. Louis to Berthillon for ice cream. The bad news was that Berthillon had closed for August vacation, but the good news was that there were plenty of brasseries in the area that served it, so we had some on the corner. We stopped at a carry-out shop for sandwiches, and had lunch back in our hotel. It was then that we had to send our dear friends back off to England, in hopes that we would see them again sometime soon.

Rabab determined that more shopping was in order, then when she got back it was my turn to out to take some pictures. After some downtime watching a French version of Candid Camera on TV, we boarded the Metro for the Latin Quarter to have dinner at Le Navigator. Mark and Jane had recommended it to us years ago and we went during our visit in 1994. We had hoped to go there with them on this trip but the restaurant was closed Sunday and Monday and we just couldn't work out the timing.

In the Metro at a transfer point, we passed a string ensemble playing. Although they were collecting contributions, this was not schlocky street music, this was pretty good classical music. I bought one of the CDs they were hawking, Classique Metropolitain.

By then Nora was sporting a pretty bad cough, so we stopped at a pharmacy. They recommended a cough medicine, and something else that turned out to be simply a vitamin C supplement. We got to the restaurant before they opened so we killed some time looking around the area. When we were seated we had the challenge of finding something on the menu that the kids would like. They settled on omelettes, and our other dishes were all quite good as well. However, Nora's health continued to deteriorate, and her temperature had reached 100.9°F by bedtime.

Wednesday, August 23
Avenue de L'Opera
View to the opera house up Avenue de L'Opera
Ceremonial Headdress
Nevinbumbaau Ceremonial Headdress
Vanuatu (New Hebrides, South Malekula)
Tree ferns and pandanus coated in painted clay
Eric at Picasso Museum
Eric at the Picasso Museum
Picasso Museum Courtyard
Sculpture in the courtyard of the Picasso Museum
Eric as Metro train arrives
Eric in Metro station as train arrives
Pillars in a square near the hotel
A square around the corner from our hotel featured this forest of striped pillars

We had breakfast at a nearby café, and then Rabab went to a pharmacy to get a recommendation for Nora's condition. They gave us the name and address of a doctor on Avenue de L'Opera. We all walked over, and finding the address was a little game of Adventure.

Lesson: Paris street addresses are not straightforward, Part I.

Unlike the U.S., not every single door on the street has its own address. Up in the brickwork is often embedded a tile with a number, which apparently covers a span of the businesses beneath. In this case, we had to enter a small alcove, and figure out which one was the "B" entrance. Someone helped us, and we did find the office. The receptionist said the doctor would not even be in the office until afternoon, and the first available appointment was 5:45. So poor Nora soldiered on.

We took the Metro to the Picasso Museum. The kids enjoyed much of the work there; they had both studied Picasso in school at least a little. We stopped at a brasserie for lunch and ate on the sidewalk, where we finally doped out that you could actually get a jug of tap water rather than ordering a bottle of L'Eau Tres Cher.

From there we got back on Metro to go to L'Orangeries, a museum which has been newly renovated. Rabab had explained that there was an important Monet exhibit there that was a must-see. There was a long line to get in, although people with reservations (which we hadn't known about ahead of time) were going right to the front of the line. I held our place in line in the Parisien sun, while Rabab and the kids relaxed in the shade at a little table by the grass. About 30 or 45 minutes later it was our clump's turn to get in. We got two of those digital audio guides—you punch in the code posted next to a work and it tells you all about it. The kids ended up with mine. The first room was a large oval room, with four large Monet murals, painted from his garden. It houses a major body of Monet's work. He did eight large murals which are beautfully displayed in two large oval-shaped rooms, which were designed specifically to showcase this work. After viewing the four murals, we moved to the next room, an identical room with four more murals. Then we walked into the next room where I expected to see the main exhibit. Oh. That was the main exhibit. NOt that it wasn't a nice exhibit. But it was only eight paintings. Eight really big paintings, but only eight paintings. To be fair, there was another exhibit downstairs which had been donated by a collector, but by then I was just too tired to look at another painting and I think the kids were on my side.

On the way back into the Metro station, we had to almost literally step over an unfortunate man who had managed to drink a damaging quantity of some cheap intoxicant before breaking the bottle, spilling the rest of its contents all over the sidewalk. That one took some time to explain to the kids.

On getting back to the hotel, Rabab took Nora to the doctor. He said she had bronchitis and prescribed an antibiotic. It was pills but they were probably too big for her to swallow whole, so the doctor said we would have to grind them up and she could take it with food or jam.

For dinner we went to a brasserie near the hotel. They had something for everyone. Eric was excited to get a nice plate of tagliatelli perfectly cooked and dumped with a mound of hearty, meaty bolognaise sauce. We spent most of the dinner trying to get Nora to take her medicine, first in a piece of bread, then in teh middle of some strawberry jam after the bread failed. I felt it was a huge victory to have finally gotten the jam in her mouth, but it didn't stay there long enough to be swallowed. Frankly, I didn't blame here. After I crushed the pills, I had taken a tiny taste. It had the most nasty per gram of anything I have ever had.

Thursday, August 24
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Nora emulates a gnu
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Lower floor of La Galerie de Paléontologie

After our last breakfast at the hotel, we packed up and checked out, leaving our luggage in the baggage room. We once again boarded Metro to go to La Galerie de Paléontologie, part of the natural history museum at the Jardins des Plantes (I'm not sure what other kind of jardin there is). They had a large collection of skeletons from mice to whales, and other preserved biological treats in the comparative anatomy exhibit. Upstairs was the paleontology exhibit, with loads of dinos.

Our next step was to go to the car rental desk to pick up the car, pick up the bags, and head out. This simple process turned out to be thwarted by a particularly virulent strain of Murphy's Law. We boarded Metro at about 10:00, and got off at Bastille to transfer to Line 1. However, the corridor to Line 1 was blocked by either security guards or police (it wasn't clear who they were). There was some sort of disturbance but we weren't able to find out exactly what. Rabab asked how we could get back on, and they said we could exit the station, come in the other entrance, and get to a Line 1 train. So we exited, then upon re-entry told our story to the ticket agent, who let us throug the gate without buying new tickets, and we followed the signs to Line 1, where we found—exactly the same guys who blocked our way the first time. We had gone in a complete cirque. We checked the map again, and decided to just walk down one Metro stop and board again. By the time we had gone that far, I looked again and realized we were only one more stop away from where Google said the Hertz office was, and I talked us into walking the last leg. As we got to the next stop, I realized my error; there was still one more stop. We went down into the station and Rabab smooth-talked us into the station without buying more tickets, and we finally were at the Louvre-Rivoli Metro, just steps from the point on our Google map showing where Hertz was. We started looking for the address, 99 Rue de Rivoli, and were immediately confused.

Lesson: Paris street addresses are not straightforward, Part II.

Lesson: Google Maps doesn't speak French.

Looking to one side of the street we saw those ceramic tiles reading 87, 89 and on the other side reading 152, 154. . . . The first point of confusion was that we were in the 80's block and the 150's block at the same time. The French must find too much logic overbearing. After richoceting back and forth a couple of times, we asked a couple of passersby, and finally I called the office. There was a slight language barrier but I finally got that they were in the Carrousel shopping center, and we found a security guard at a store entrance that sent us in the right direction. It was a walk of a few more blocks. Fortunately the numbers on both sides of the street did both ascend in the same direction, so we confirmed we were going the right way.

Once inside Carrousel, an upscale shopping mall right in front of the Louvre on Rue de Rivoli, we found the Hertz office easily.

At the Hertz counter I was pointing out the information on the reservation confirmation email I had, and I realized that I had made the reservation for the following Monday. I got that feeling in my stomach that you get when you arrive for a final exam to find an empty room and realize you're a day late. Much to my relief this turned out to be no problem at all, and I pulled out my U.S. driver's license, international driver's license, and credit card. They also asked for my passport. Passport? Where are the passports? Packed in the luggage, back in the hotel room. I hoofed it over to the hotel and back while Rabab watched the kids eat the take-out sandwiches we had hauled along.

Lesson: Car rental in Europe is not car rental in the U.S., Part I

On my return I made the desk clerk walk me through all the charges before I would sign anything, and we started fumbling himself, and neither one of us could figure out how the charges added up. He finally figured out that a couple of the charges were per day for two extra days, and we ended up in consonance as I paid.After negotiating the parking garage to find our car, and were finally on the road. Back to our hotel. I loaded the bags, and then found a place to park while Rabab went to get replacement medicine for Nora that she might actually take. She returned after a time with a children's liquid, and we sped off to the Loire Valley.

Well, no. We had our route plotted on a map of the city, but that was from the Hertz office, not from a random parking spot around the corner from a pharmacy. So we headed in roughly the correct direction and hit a one-way street going the wrong way. So we kept going straight and before long we were zig-zagging through the maze that is the streets of Paris trying to get turned around to go through Place de la Concorde to cross the Seine, traverse the south side of the city, and get onto the motorway. I think this process took us around 45 minutes, which might have taken a seasoned Parisian 10-15. This was really not so different than trying to get from Adams Morgan through Dupont Circle to Georgetown and then over Key Bridge to Rosslyn and then out to Tysons Corner.

So we were well on our way to the Berruet's via A10 albeit three hours later than we expected.

The rest of the long drive was uneventful and we arrived about 6:00. They were very welcoming and it was a delight to have a home-cooked meal.

Friday, August 25
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Nora and Eric looking over moat
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Chambord courtyard
Chambord roofs
View of roofs from Chambord terrace
double helix staircase
The double staircase at Chambord
Cheverny dogs
Feeding time for the hunting dogs at Cheverny
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Family in front of Cheverny chateau

We had a French breakfast at the Berruets', which included, to the kids' delight, Nutella to spread on toast. This is the equivalent of chocolate cake for breakfast (link to Bill Cosby video), but it was France. M. Berruet (who now insisted that we address him as Claude) hopped in his car to lead us out of the immediate area to get us on our way to the first chateau, which was Chambord. Chambord is very interesting architcturally. It is said that Davinci influenced or designed aspects of it. A notable feature is a double-spiral staircase built such that two people can begin on opposite sides, ascend at the same rate, spotting each other through the windows but never crossing paths. From inside the courtyard, the view looks like an Escher print although all the geometry is possible; I have not found any evidence that any of Escher's drawings were inspired by this chateau, however.

We stopped in a little town for lunch, and ate on the terrace of a bar in clear, warm weather. Eric wanted a grilled cheese sandwich so Rabab ordered him a Croque Monsieur without ham. The bartender who took the order found this to be most unusual. Nora had a French hot dog, with is with grated melted cheese on top. I picked up a sandwichj around teh corner and came back to sit in the terrace.

We went on to Cheverny, a privately owned mansion occupied by its owners until recently. The highlight of the trip was the feeding of the hunting dogs. There were something like 60 beagles, all patiently waiting for dinner. They were set loose for feeding in a fenced-in area, and once they were let in the air was pummeled by the sounds of barking and yelping.

then drove back via Blois. We got rather lost on Blois before getting straightened out and driving along the Loire on the way back to the Berruets, just in time for dinner and the review of a few photo albums.

Saturday, August 26
Chenonceau window
A view of the river through a window at Chenonceau
family at Chenonceau
Rabab, Nora, and Eric in front of Chenonceau on a rainy day

I was verging on Chateau Burnout as we set out for Chenonceaux, the town, to see Chenonceau, the chateau.

We stopped at a pizzeria for lunch, much to the kids' satisfaction. We had to go out the back door though a small courtyard to use the only working bathroom of the two out there. The pizza menus in France are much more heavily influenced by the typical Italian pizzeria than those in the U.S. As in Italy, pizzas are single serving and not sliced, and they had the usual versions, Margherita, Quattro Stagione, etc.

Next stop was Clos de Luce, the last home of Leonardo daVinci. The building includes a small museum of Leonardo's inventions which were mostly not built in his lifetime but were realized here courtesy of IBM, who built these non-working models to bring the sketches to three-dimensional life.

That evening at the Berruets, the family rolled in for the birthday celebration. All told there were 14 for dinner. Eric had lots of fun with Lino, who is 5.

Monday, August 27
Azay le Rideau from water
Azay le Rideau as seen over the water in the rear
birthday sparkler
Although this picture wasn't taken in France, it shows the birthday sparkler we bought there.

The Chateau du Jour was Azay-le-Rideau. After our tour of the chateau we walked to lunch, and stopped at a patisserie on the way to pick up birthday sparklers like the ones we saw at the Berruets. We used one at Eric's birthday party after we got back home. 13 leather bracelets Azay le Rideau 8 sparklers lunch pizzas, wrong sandwich (I ordered ham, he brought chicken), Rabab spilled wine on Eric but fortunately it was white. Villandry, gardens only, maze dinner with Berruets, kids loved the food, though M. did not like the owner

Tuesday, August 28
Our hosts
As we left our hosts, the Berruets
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After saying our good-byes to the Berruets, we embarked on a long drive to Dol de Bretagne. We figured we'd just find a place for lunch on the way, although it was about 2:00 by the time our appetites coincided with a place to stop. We stopped off at a little hotel with a restaurant, sort of a French Ho-Jo sort of place. We were greet at the door, and I said "Quatre pour déjouner" and the hostess's face dropped and she said, "Mais c'est finit!". No more lunch. I went back to the car to try to figure out where we might try next, perhaps a bigger town, and Rabab went back inside for other suggestions. She came running back out, and said that the chef came out while she was asking advice, and said he could make us sandwiches if that's all we were looking for. So we had a nice modest lunch in the corner, so as not to be noticed by other people who might make a similar request.

We got back on the toll road, I handed Rabab the ticket, and we continued to ?. Some time later, I said, "OK, I need the ticket, Babe" and estimated our toll at a couple of euros. It wasn't in the visor, the glove box, or any number of other places it was supposed to be. I pulled over before getting to the toll booth and looked all over the car. When I had given up on it, we pulled ahead and I told the attendant we lost it. She told me she would have to charge me as if we had come all the way from Paris, about 25 or almost $32. I suggested we drive back to Paris to make it worthwhile but she did not appreciate the idea. Checked in & strolled the grounds, Nora went on the zip line, had to be pushed off to start, then the kids played on the playground while we strolled until time for dinner.

Wednesday, August 29
Dol de Bretagne Promenade walls
The walls along the Promenade in Dol de Bretagne
Dol de Bretagne Cathedral
The cathedral of Dol de Bretagne
Eric and Nora say good knight
Eric and Nora in front a suit of armor in Dol de Bretagne
boats at the gates of St. Malo
Boats moored just outside the walls of St. Malo
entry to St. Malo
Main gate to St. Malo
window to the sea in St. Malo
Viewport through the wall to the Mediterranean
seagull contemplates tomb of Chateaubriand
Tomb of Chateaubriand in the background
Eric has his caricature drawn Nora has her caricature drawn
Eric and Nora have their caricatures sketched

We had the buffet breakfast in the hotel, which was a mixed success. There was a self-service coffee machine, just push the button and get two cups of espresso. The problem was it was supposed to be one cup. After cleaning up and getting back to the table, we enjoyed our croissants and Nutella and set out for the coast.

We drove to the area near St. Malo and decoded some signs that indicated that there was a free shuttle bus into St. Malo. The bus was free but it turned out we had to pay for parking. It was still a good idea because parking was scarce near the walls of St. Malo. We could see how during peak season the bus would be a necessity.

At the front of the tourist office we decided to avail ourselves of the public toilet, one of those self-cleaning deals. But since we all knew one another fairly well we just held the door open and let the next one go. It wasn't that we were too cheap to pay, but we didn't have enough coins.

We started out trying to follow the self-guided tour as described by the map we got from the tourist office, but quickly got lost in the knotted streets and just started wandering somewhat aimlessly and enjoying whatever we happened to find. We would be on a cobblestone sidewalk when the sound of a car coming up behind us notified us that it was a street. We stopped at Le Biniou for lunch. The kids had croques monsieur, a grilled ham and cheese with the cheese on the top. Rabab and I both had galettes, whole-grain crepes with savory fillings with the sides each folded in to make a square. After leaving the check the waitress let me sit with my credit card on the table for at least 15 minutes before mentioning that I had to pay at the bar downstairs. We topped it off with gelato across the street.

There are stupendous views of the sea from the walls. There's an island just off the shore where François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand, an 18th-19th century French writer, is buried.

Our last stop on the way out was a caricature artist, where Nora and Eric each had portraits done.

After driving back to our room for a rest, we went to Dol de Bretagne and had dinner at the restaurant at Hotel Dol. I ordered a seafood appetizer baked in a shell, and sole meuniere as a main course, of which I had only the vaguest idea of what I'd ordered. The sole took quite some time before it finally showed up. Eric had his Rescue Hero toy with him, and a little French boy wandered over and was keenly interested. Eric gave him a little demo, and eventually the boy's mother dropped in to ask where we had bought it. She was disappointed to find we brought it with us from home.

Thursday, August 30
flush button
The simplicity of French thinking

Lesson: Problem that America solved with legislation was solved by the French through common sense

In the U.S., a law was passed requiring toilets to use no more than 1.6 gal. of water per flush. As a result, most manufacturers produced toilets that didn't flush effectively. In France, many toilets have two flush buttons, one for when you just need a little splash to clean the bowl, and one for the heavy-duty jobs.

After breakfast in hotel (this time with do-it-yourself boiled eggs) we went to Mont St. Michel. We had lunch in Dol. The bar where we ate offered panchetta, which was like pizza but served on an oversized slice of toasted bread rather than pizza dough. The resident dog struggled to stay awake. The kids played foosball in teh back. Back at the hotel, the playground offered a non-touristy break for us all. Later the kids got temporary tattoos, which turned out to be even more temporary than we expected. The 10-day tattoos were all but faded within 24 hours. We gave up on French cuisine fine dining and brought pizza back to the room for dinner. Rabab's temperature started to go up, and we were all generally suffering from vacation burnout.

Friday, August 31
Scene from Bayeux tapestry
A scene from the Bayeux tapestry where Harold departs by boat
Plaque at entry to display hall for Bayeux tapestry
"Harold Room" where the tapestry is displayed. Harold is Jeff's father's name and Eric's middle name.

We checked out of Domaine des Ormes and returned to the Hotel de Bretagne in hopes of finding a full hot breakfast. No, but we did have an excellent continental breakfast. After ordering our coffee and hot chocolate for the kids, there was a very long wait, although they arrived back to bring a full tray of croissants, baguettes, and jam.

We took the drive to Bayeux to see the Bayeux Tapestry from the 15th century or earlier which recounts the tale of Harold and his defeat by William at the Battle of Hastings. (The piece is always referred to as a tapestry although it would be more properly be called embroidery.) The piece is artfully displayed in a case that leads down the room then turns a corner to continue.

We stopped at the local post office to get some stamps, and were able to use a machine almost exactly like those available in U.S. post offices where you weigh you letter and it prints a stamp for the exact postage.

We continued our drive to Hotel Trois Hiboux (The Three Owls), next to Parc Asterix. As we checked in, a bellman mimed cleaning windows out front, then tried to coax a fire to light in the lobby fireplace (yes, fire in August). As it happened, there were no actual bellmen so I loaded up a cart and rolled the bags down to our room.

We had dinner in the hotel. The hotel was on park grounds, and somewhat secluded. The park has its own dedicated exit from A10 so it would have been a journey to get back out and find anywhere else to have dinner. We had the buffet dinner, which included dessert with what was billed as Chantilly cream on the dessert table.

Rabab started feeling worse this evening, apparently coming down the same thing Nora has, with her temperature hitting 99.7° 2 hours after taking Ibuprofen. Will try to see doctor tomorrow.

Friday, September 1
Monet's snail
Snail in Monet's garden (this looks nice in full screen)

Family at Monet's gardens
The family in Monet's gardens

Rabab started the day with a temperature of 101.1°F at 3:00 AM.

We had breakfast in the hotel then followed the suggestion of a hotel desk clerk who said that Survillier was teh closest town. We set out in search of a doctor. The first place we saw that looked like it might be a good starting point was a grocery store. Much to my good luck it turned out to be a small shopping center with a pharmacy. The pharmacist was very helpful despite speaking only a little English but between us I got the idea across. He called the doctor for us, who said he could see Rabab. Also fortunately he was just in the next building. There was a long wait with one patient in the office and two more in the waiting room. The doctor finally called Rabab. He was a very jovial man running the office as a one-man show. He and Rabab had a grand old chat; he was impressed to meet Americans who spoke French. We took his three prescriptions to the druggist, who filled them without any apparent fuss to keep any records; no labels on the boxes, etc.

Then we went on to Giverny to see Monet's house and garden. The guard gave us excellent routing back to the hotel though Rabab headed downhill until she took Ibuprofen after dinner.

Saturday, September 2

We had our last breakfast at the hotel. Rabab was still not feeling very well and she rested in the room. We had an afternoon flight but no activities planned. We watched TV and killed time until we checked out and left for the airport. Once at the airport, we finally found the Hertz rental return after getting confused, stopping to ask directions, and straining to follow a trail of signs.

Lesson: Car rental in Europe is not car rental in the U.S., Part II

Every airport I've ever been at in the U.S. centralizes car rental returns. You drop your car and if it's on the airport grounds you're done, or if it's off-site they take you to your terminal in a shuttle. After we located the Hertz return, which was at Terminal 3, and parked the car, we discovered that our flight was in Terminal 2. There was no good way to get to the other terminal, and a Hertz employee explained that we had to go the Terminal 2 car return. There was one at every terminal. By then we had detected a pattern and had a fairly easy time of getting to the twin of this car return.