We got lost on our way to the rental car place, so the 45 minutes that we had planned on our ride/walk taking ended up being closer to 75 minutes. Jay kept saying we were close, and to his credit we were, but we weren’t having any luck finding the place. He complains that the only time I walk slowly is when I don’t trust that he knows where he is going (normally he complains I walk way too fast). He’s right. I walk slowly when we are lost so that I can a) look for some type of sign or landmark and b) keep my eyes open for any friendly faces willing to help us find our way. Of course I’m careful not to ask if I’m worried it will hurt his “I’m a man and therefore a human compass” ego (Love YOU, J). But really, I feel like he can’t be that upset with me for not trusting him when we are in a foreign country without any type of map, smartphone (seriously, what did we do before smartphones?), or translator. I finally convinced him to ask someone — thankfully, we found a waiter that spoke enough English to point us in the right (and opposite of the way we were going) direction.
After that great, and not at all stressful start to our day, it took another half hour at the rental car place because they lost our ticket (our reward for that 30 minutes: we did not have to pay for the rental car. Hey-o!). Luckily, Jay was the one dealing with them and not me. I might not have been as pleasant. When we finally got the keys and found our way to the car, we couldn’t help but smile. They had given us “big car”, which apparently means minivan in France. Yes, we rocked the minivan. Thinking we could finally get on our way, Jay got in the driver’s seat and tried to turn on the car…
Then he tried again.
Once we got the car started, we had to figure out how to put it in drive. Two intelligent people should be able to put a car in drive…
I hate to admit that it took us a few tries before we figured out the car wasn’t moving because the parking brake was still on.
It was another 7 minutes of looking for the parking brake before someone finally took pity on us. It took the attendant a few minutes to figure things out as well (which made us feel a little bit better about ourselves), but eventually he got the car to move forward. Plus, he changed the GPS from French to English. Thank you, Mr. Garage Attendant (even though you were probably laughing at us as soon as you walked away).
It was a four hour drive to Le Mont St. Michel, but it was completely worth it. We got out of our minivan to take some pictures on the side of a small country road.
Jay was really happy to be (almost) done driving for the day.
We checked into the hotel and then grabbed something to eat at the place across the street (I was starting to get grumpy again from my low blood sugar). The area reminded me a little bit of the Wisconsin Dells, minus Noah’s Ark and the Duck tours… and it was considerably smaller… and none of the hotels had indoor waterparks… So, I guess it really wasn’t much like the Dells at all, except it just had that feeling of a town that survives solely on tourism.
We made the short walk to the island. We had thought from the pictures that it was surrounded by water (hence, an “island”), but really, it just looked like a few big puddles here and there (remember this later). Although you could see buses full of people walking towards the island, it still looked a bit desolate and eerie, as if they would disappear as soon as they stepped off the bridge. But no worries, this isn’t a creepy ghost story, they all made it back off the island… at least, I think they did. 😉
After doing a little exploring, we made our way to the main attraction, the Mont Saint Michel Abbey. I could tell you the history of this historical landmark, but to make it easier on myself, click the link and Wikipedia can do it for you. It’s Sunday and I’m feeling lazy. After going through are usual restaurant selection process, we picked a restaurant on the island that was just as deserted as all the rest. It was 7 o’clock and we couldn’t figure out where all the dinner patrons could be… was there something we didn’t know about? A rule that says it’s uncool to eat at this time of night? We never did figure it out, but we did get the best seat in the house — a little table for two overlooking the water (well, the puddles). While it was the “best seat in the house”, it was a bit unsettling to see so many bugs on the window and the dead bee on the bench between us. Let’s just I didn’t get cozy with Jay, or the bee.
Dinner wasn’t anything special, in fact, I was disappointed by most of the food we ate on the trip. But they did get a few bonus points with their chocolate ice cream. It was seriously the darkest chocolate ice cream I have ever eaten. I think it was 90% dark chocolate and 10% cream. It was SO GOOD. Jay of course chose fruit sorbet, he is such a chocolate hater. BOO.
Remember when I mentioned the big puddles a few paragraphs ago? Yeah… about those puddles… As we sat through dinner Jay got to watch the tide come in. The water rose quickly and he joked a few times about swimming back to our hotel. While I am more than willing to admit I can be quite naive, I was sure he was joking and didn’t pay much attention to him, until we got down to the bridge.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
This is soooo not funny.
Yes, I panicked a little, and I’m sure you are all thinking that there would have had to have been signs posted on the island if you really couldn’t get off after a certain point. But my common sense didn’t kick in right away… and we were in France… we could have easily missed a sign… My brain flashed quickly to us sleeping on the floor of the Abbey next to the crypt. Ugh.
The panic was short-lived. Jay found a waitress that laughed a little at our expense but then told him about the other exit. Thank God. I really would have hated to get my running shoes wet.
We typed in Omaha Beach on the GPS and crossed our fingers. After 2 hours and some maneuvering through a handful of small towns (villages?) we found the water. I’m not sure what I expected, but for some reason the beach seemed a little disappointing… like it wasn’t enough for what happened that day. We read the monuments, spent some time walking barefoot on the beach, and laughed at the old people crazy enough to actually get in the water. I was cold in my pants and longsleeve shirt…
After an hour we climbed into the minivan hoping to find something else to explore. Luckily, we saw the signs for the American cemetery. We parked and realized there was far more to explore above the beach — the monuments, the German bunkers, the cemetery, the view. It was all a bit surreal. This was how I expected Normandy to feel. Vast. Unattainable. Somber. Heavy with the bodies, the sorrow and the sacrifices it held. I have never known war; I pray that I will never have to.
The cemetery was immaculate and it made me proud to be an American.
On our way back to Paris we had to stop at the gas station because I have a bladder the size of a pea. I peed in a lot of interesting (gross) bathrooms during our four days in France… I covered some in toilet paper, took my chances with others, and squatted when I was desperate (boys just don’t understand). During our trip I realized that it’s not the squatting that scares me. I can take the burn (anyone who has Jed-ercised can); the problem is that I am terrified of peeing all over myself. You see, I was traumatized as a child. Every winter my Grandpa Jim made a mandatory request that the Keller clan meet in the timber to cut firewood. The men would make a big bonfire, we would roast mallows and hotdogs, and freeze our asses off. It sounds like a nice family tradition, right? Well, as much as I like to ruin stereotypes, I preferred an apron to an axe (I wasn’t strong enough to use one anyway). I usually begged to stay with Grandma, praying that she needed help with the jello salad. She always stood up for me, but it rarely worked. I inevitably found myself chucking wood into the back of my Grandpa’s 1960 something olive green and rust truck (he covered the hole by the gas pedal with a floor mat, otherwise we would get an extra draft in the truck). Another downside to the cold and the wood slinging was that the timber didn’t come up with plumbing. Normally, I strategically planned my bathroom breaks to avoid being stranded in the woods with a full bladder, but on the day of the accident, I knew I was in trouble. I pleaded for someone to take me back to the house so I could do my business on a warm seat with toilet paper. No one took sympathy on me. They told me I had two choices: hold it or squat in the woods like everyone else. Needless to say, I emerged with pee all over myself. I never had to go outside because I was a “city” girl, and on top of that, it just didn’t seem very lady-like.
My cousins laughed at me. I cried out of embarassment.
I put 50% of the blame on the snowpants, they make everyone a little more clumsy.
But I finally got that ride back to Grandma’s house. I just wasn’t wearing any pants.
Our last day in Paris we visited Notre dame. The whole time I was thinking about the Disney movie and trying to remember gypsy’s name. I couldn’t remember the ending either, but I figured that was a good excuse to watch it again. I put on my mental to-do list.
But in all seriousness, the church was beautiful.
Our last stop: Galeries Lafayette. We thought it was just a large department store (like Harrods), but it was so much more… I would have loved to drool over the Prada bags and the new Gucci line, but my heavy rucksack, sweaty back, and overall gross appearance really killed my buzz.
This isn’t my pictures, but it gives you the idea:
The area around whatever you call this glorious monstrosity (a mall?) was very Paris-like — a lot of cafes and trendy dressed Europeans with a smattering of homeless gypsys. We did stumble upon the opera house, which looked really neat. We thought about taking a picture, but we were tired. Sorry for our lack of motivation, that seems to be a trend in this post.
Hope you enjoy, and once again, I apologize for any typos. I’m tired of staring at my computer on my day off… and the thought of proofreading this entire post makes me want to bang my head against the wall. I’ll fix ’em later. xo!