Yeah, so eons ago (as I appear to be posting everything on a 6-week delay, like I’m in serious denial that I’ve been back at work so long oh wait I am), my folks were here!
PART ONE – LONDRES (said in exaggerated French accent):
So we figured as we were going to be all going to France together for a week and flying early Friday morning from Heathrow, that the easiest plan would be to stay at a Heathrow airport hotel the night before and that D and I would fly into Heathrow Thursday morning before my folks arrived to meet them there.
It was très exciting. Yes, this post is going to be littered with silly Frenchness. Deal.
SO we flew in and waited at a coffee shop and I tried not to be too annoying to Dave who was being very patient while I was being very jittery. And then suddenly, they were here! and there was weeping and hugging and silliness.
We grabbed a cab and headed over to the Marriott where we were all going to stay, and took some time to refresh ourselves. The plan was to either leave Ma and Pa at the hotel to sleep while D and I did some Londony things, or if they had slept, go with them and do some Londony things. Ma really wanted to see something at the West End, but it needed to be something that Dad and D would enjoy as well. I didn’t really think they’d last that long.
Well, keen to explore (and well-rested compared to most due to Business Class), we got a free bus to the tube, then headed for Piccadilly. We were hungry and I knew where the Yo! Sushi was by the station, and thought they’d enjoy the touristy bit, as they hadn’t visited London in 7 years. Mmm sushi. And who can resist food that comes by on a moving platform?
We wandered a bit of Covent Garden and a few stores. Ma ended up shopping in M&S, and Dad looked around shoe stores, as is his wont. Dad likes shoes.
We decided late in the afternoon that we could all cope with a show, and even though Dad was super sleepy, he agreed and we bought tickets to Spamalot. Dad’s a huge Monty Python fan, and though I’d seen it on Broadway, I’d been right up in the gods and could barely hear the lyrics.
Before the show kicked off, we ended up in a boating store (oh Dad and boating hats) and then had dinner at a wee restaurant above a pub not far from the theatre.
Dad fell asleep in the theatre at the show. A few times. Poor thing. But we enjoyed it, and the journey back to the hotel was easier as we took the express to the airport rather than the looooong tube ride we’d taken earlier. Only major downside was that when we got into a cab from the airport, the cabbie told us someone had been killed on the road where our hotel was, and that it was inaccessible. We asked him to take us as far as he could, and he um, well, dropped us quite a long while away. And drove off. Fibber. The road wasn’t closed, as we walked the rest of the way with cabs and cars passing us. It was cold, and tiring, and my poor arthritic mother was very pissed off. Bad cabbie. Bad experience.
PART TWO: PARIS TO DECIZE TO CHARITÉ
The dramas continued the next day when we arrived in Paris. We’d landed early, flown through customs, got our bags, and got to the car rental desk 5 minutes after we’d said we were collecting the car. We then waited there in a queue. For over an hour. WTF, Charles de Gaulle Europcar. Regardless of whether it’s a popular car service, and that a few planes had just landed, you get your shit together, please. They were telling people their booked-and-paid-for cars weren’t even available, and everything. It was an unnecessarily stressful, stupid, nightmare of a time. Once we finally had our wheels, we were out of there as quickly as we could. We notifed the boat company that we’d be late (and arriving after pick-up time closed), and rescheduled our taxi from the car rental end point, and set off. We were very thankful for my international 3G, which was costing a bit, but hey, it was getting us there.
Except we drove the wrong way.
For 50 miles.
(It wasn’t my fault).
Anyhoo. Despite an expensive toll and such unnecessary detour, we were soon on the correct path. Above is a shot of our travellers at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere, enjoying the intense sunshine.
We arrived at the Decize car rental about 5:15pm, and met Andre, our taxi driver, who soon became one of my favourite characters from our whole trip. We chatted away in French, with the occasional translation for everyone else, and I was so pleased to discover how much I could understand and speak. SKILLZ.
Once at the boat depot, we found our boat waiting all open for us to spend the night on. And relaxed. It was wee, but it was going to do fine. One cabin was designated as the bags cabin, one for Ma/Pa, one for us. And there were fans and stuff, y’all. Everything was powered by those wee car charger ports, except for possibly the appliances. Our wee fridge was well stocked with cheese and wine – you know, all the priorities.
The next day after our boat briefing (where Dad paid for ALL the extras, like a BBQ and an umbrella, and wifi, and bikes that we never used), we then headed to the supermarket across the road. I translated, but still couldn’t remember the words to order the steaks we wanted from the butcher. Ma got frustrated trying to find things and wanted brandy and couldn’t find ginger ale… I found everything. I also ordered some quiches without knowing what was in them, but remembered halfway back to boat that they were leek.
No one really spoke English. Our entire trip. It was awesome.
After an engineering/driving briefing, we were on our way in the sunshine, down the canal. It was peaceful, sunny, glorious. I planned out the route for each day and was mostly trusted to not only navigating, but speaking to everyone. I doubt my parents or D spoke to anyone the whole week without pointing to me and making me do all the talking. It was great to be forced to use a language I studied for 5 years, and love, but it was at times a challenge. We only had one situation where I didn’t understand, though, and pissed off a lock-keeper.
The first night was in Nevers, where we stayed in the port and 4 things happened:
1) The woman in the Capitanerie point-blank refused to believe I was over 18
2) We had dinner outside a wee cafe where I did a lot of googling to figure out some of the stranger regional dishes
3) It started to rain so the staff simply gave our table an umbrella. Then it got worse and the wind blew our table umbrella up over the roof of the restaurant before we were finally moved inside by the staff. I was in tears from laughing so hard.
4) It was raining so hard after dinner that the restaurant owner drove us to the other side of the canal to our boat in his jeep. It was amazing.
The next day we called our trusty taxi friend Andre and he drove us to Apremont-sur-Allier, this beautiful village/gardens site you can wander, and then picked us up later. It was gorgeous. I’ll share more of my photos soon, but you can also check out the site to get an idea.
The above is a good example of what some of the wee offices at the locks looked like. So sweet. And all the lock-keepers were nice and helpful, apart from one guy who yelled at me at the double lock at Guetin because I didn’t realise he wanted me to throw him a certain part of the rope (I’d offered him everything at my feet I could think of that he might be pointing at). We got there eventually.
Some of the larger/more complicated locks were quite a tourist drawcard, and we found ourselves just being stared at while we tied on and off, etc. It was odd, like being in a fish bowl that was filling and emptying.
You may have noticed that all of these images so far have been Instagram ones. Because I am idiot who didn’t charge her camera or bring her charger on the trip. I do have some camera photos, though, and I’ll link to a set in a later post.
One of the villages I really liked is above – La-Charité-sur-Loire, which you approached over a bridge. It was gorgeous.
I loved exploring all the wee towns. We were always just sitting somewhere and having coffee and pastries and despite France always being closed (damn long lunch break and then the days shops were closed seemed to change each town we went to), it was just so, so pretty and lovely to be there.
To avoid this getting too long, I’ll leave it there for now. More in the next post over the weekend.