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Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 6
Europe 2005
London, Paris, Normandy, Prague


Carol and David  
Day 10
Paris / Normandy

The lively and abundant street noise wafted up from 5 stories below until the early hours of the cool morning, but we slept well in spite of it. Several musicians and singers competed with the raucous Saturday night throngs and café goers but it was all music to our ears.


We rose early at 7:00am in order to pack, shower, enjoy petite dejeuner in the lovely stone cellar of the Crystal Hotel and then catch the 10:30 train from Paris' Gare St. Lazare to Normandy.


Bruno was the ultimate concierge, totally service-oriented. We found out from him that this hotel is where Django Reinhard lived for 25 years – no small tidbit of information to a guitar player. Bruno also told us that the Crystal is where Woody Allen likes to stay when in Paris. We thanked Bruno for his wonderful hospitality and caught a taxi on a sunny Spring Sunday in beautiful Paris. We are on our way to Gare St. Lazare for the train to Normandy.


Carol, Bruno and Alice


The taxi driver was a friendly sort who spoke no English. Carol found out from him that today is the French national “Labor Day”. I enjoyed his amiable way and the classical music he had on his satellite radio.


Arrived at Gare St. Lazare and joined all the other train passengers in much confusion since none of the cars were marked. It was quite funny, actually. Finally we found our car (never did find our pre-assigned seats) and we were off on a north-westerly heading through the lovely, pastoral French countryside. It is a gloriously sunny Spring Sunday. Viva la France!


On the train to Normandy


The train carried us through the verdant French countryside, peppered with small towns and villages, rolling fields of yellow and green, quiet lakes and large majestic villas. Thatched roofs are commonplace. Mile upon mile of lush, fertile farmland. Absolutely gorgeous landscape.


We arrived in Caen at 12:30pm and searched for the station master, who had the key to our rental car. The station master spoke no English whatsoever, but as usual, Carol's skill with the French language saved the day.

Our rental car, a Renault Megane


The car was a black Renault Megane, which I had never heard of. It was a 6-speed manual transmission. We pulled out of the train station and headed into Caen and within 60 seconds spied a large outdoor Sunday marche (market) in progress. So we found a place to park, bought sausage, cheese, bread, pears and a local cider (for which Normandy is famous) and a knife, then proceeded to a park where we sat down to enjoy a feast in the Normandy sunshine. When I started to open the cider, the cork shot out of the top and we had a cider rain-shower. We learned two things: 1) the Normandy cider is alcoholic and 2) it is best served cold. It was delicious, as was the rest of our feast, and we had a good laugh at the explosion and rain of cider.


Carol at the market in Caen


Local paella at the Caen market


Boullabase at the Caen market


The car is interesting and fun to drive. Just like our rental car in Arles in 2003, this car's key was a plastic card the size of a credit card. It fits into a slot in the dashboard, then you press a button that says Start/Stop. The “key” also locks and unlocks the doors and the trunk.


After our feast, we jumped into the car but I could not get the car into reverse (I figured that out later – you have to pull up on a lever that is on the stick shift, then shift into reverse). So I had to put Carol in the driver's seat (she cannot drive manual transmission) and I pushed the car (in neutral) out of our parking space, slid Carol over into the passenger seat, jumped in and drove off. We laughed our butts off.


We drove around Caen until we found the “peripheral” road, then headed northwest to Balleroy, close to St. Lo, which was an important town during the Normandy Invasion.


At Balleroy we located L'Atre Fleuri, our bed-and-breakfast, a wonderful old stone house owned by Jim and Margaret Stephenson of the States. I asked Jim where he was from and we all laughed when he said Arizona (Prescott). He is a graduate of the University of Arizona and knows Tucson well. It is truly a small world.

L'Atre Fleuri

L'Atre Fleuri


L'Atre Fleuri


Our room, the Yellow Rose Suite, was incredible and impeccable. Large, spacious, very modern bath with Jacuzzi tub, queen-sized canopy bed, bookcases, dressers and large, open airy windows that looked out over lush, green gardens.


Our room - the Yellow Rose Suite


The view out our window at L'Atre Fleuri


Our bathroom at L'Atre Fleuri


We took showers to rinse off the cider rain, then set out to explore the environs. On the way we visited with Margaret and Jim, a lovely couple and gracious, hardworking hosts. Jim had had an accident with an electric drill last night and was wearing a brace.


We drove several kilometers to Bayeux and did something we have never done before on any of our trips – we used a Laundromat. While our clothes were washing and drying, we walked to the exhibit of the Bayeaux Tapestry, a centuries old, 270-foot-long continuous woven tapestry depicting the story of William the Conqueror, invader of England (1066). The handwork and woven story-telling are amazing and the accompanying descriptive audio narrative explained the various panels. Well worth 15 euros for both of us.


Scene from the Bayeaux Tapestry


Welcome to Bayeaux!


Carol at the laundromat in Bayeaux

After folding our laundry, we decided on La Petite Nourmand for dinner. Carol had salad with goat's cheese and a mild fish baked in a cream sauce, and I had soupe a la oignon and an apple sorbet with calvados (a brandy-like liquor made from local apples.) Dinner was excellent and reasonably priced at 42 euros, including wine and mineral water. As usual, the service was included.


Carol enjoying the fare at La Petite Nourmand

Welcome to Bayeaux!


Lovely Bayeaux


The restaurant sits in the shadows of the majestic Cathedral of Bayeux. The sun was setting at 9:00pm, and we took some photos of the Cathedral, then jumped in the car and drove the few kilometers back to Balleroy.


Cathedral of Bayeaux


Stopped at the Grand Museum of Hot-Air Balloons, which is a large old stone chateau that we were told is now owned by Malcolm Forbes. Took several photos of the estate, with its guard towers and church, then drove one block to Jim and Margaret's bed and breakfast, L'Atre Fleuri, opened the large windows and fell asleep to the songs of frogs and birds.


Malcolm Forbes' little shack


The view out our window at L'Atre Fleuri


The view out our window at L'Atre Fleuri


Pedometer reading for today - 4.25 miles

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