Thursday, June 30, 2011


Friday, March 13th, 1992 Normandy

Slept in until 9 am. Train did not come by all night. We heard one as we came home and one just after we woke up. We were about thirty feet from the track! The hostess was a bit worried about our International Phone call made last night on a calling card; but we assured her that she wouldn't see any charges on her telephone. Difficult to do with the language barrier. She spoke very little English and you know about our French ability!

Lovely breakfast of juice, rolls, and coffee. Lots of coffee in wide shallow cups. Jim got hot milk instead of cold and he talked to the manager about her husband who manages a soccer team. On the road again through the farmlands to St. Malo. A lovely seaside town. Double walled that was pretty well destroyed in WWII. Was great to walk through but the cold wind made walking difficult especially on the ocean side. The Musee (museum) was closed but the church was great. Medieval Normandy castle walls. Back on the road south towards Renne. Stopped along the highway to eat lunch. Water, bread, 2 bananas we bought yesterday and peanut butter from home. Such a feast! Also, a snicker bar for dessert.

Finally reached Renne about 4:30 pm and found a hotel named Victor Hugo in the center of town. Registered and then set off to explore the town by foot until 8:30 pm Saw two churches, a third one was locked. Had drinks at French Fast Foods then to Italian plaza for speggitti, wine, salad and ice cream dessert. Nice evening and we’re taking showers tonight plus we have a toilet and all for 225f. Dinner was a grand total of 143f. (the wine was 70f) Today we noticed tree roots, etc. cleared are used to make natural fences between the fields. Also many homes and barns are one building. Also found a burned out orphanage. Looked like WWII shell on way down to Renne. Took photo of cherry blossom in St. Dominic.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Thursday, March 12th, 1992 Normandy Coast

Up early. Stored three pieces of luggage with Holiday Inn and left for the airport. Got there two hours early so we did some people watching. Finally loaded us on a bus to take us out to a turbo prop plane for one-hour flight to Rennes.

There we made arrangements to fly back to Paris on Saturday at 8:30 am and also reservations to fly to Strasbourg that afternoon. We’ll go by Orly bus into Paris for the day. Then we rented a Hertz car for two days (490f/day) and were off to Le Mont St. Michel. We wound our way northeast taking different roads as we found them. At Columbine we found a beautiful old chateau. All the way there Jim was trying to teach me to pronounce French…roll the R’s from the throat. On to Pontorson where we stopped at a converted home…a 2 star B&B/hotel to rent a room with a toilet for the night at 215f.

Then seven kilometers up the road to the Abby and cathedral. Tour was somewhat confusing (cost 31f each) with a group of school children; but was well worth the trip. We stopped just before we left for a quiche, ham sandwich, coke and snickers bar! The weather was light rain off and on and a very cold, strong wind from the North. Bundled up and enjoyed it. At times the gusts nearly knocked you over!

We left about 2:30 and drove East to Avranches. Mostly to kill the afternoon; but what an adventure it turned out to be.

Avranches was a medium size town and very old. Three churches and a walled city. Very Norman in architecture and narrow streets. We really enjoyed it. As we were trying to leave (hard to find the right street out) we noticed a Century 21 office. Had to go around the block to find a parking place. We took in an invitation to our Century 21 party for the convention in San Francisco that was scheduled the week after we return home. The Broker was at a regional meeting in Cane about 40 miles North. The secretary was very excited and wanted to send us to the meeting. We explained that we had to return to Paris. It was Century 21 Le Mont St. Michel.

Back in the car for a return to Pontorson by the beach route. We could see St. Michel all the way from Avranche. Also, Avranche had a large memorial to General Patton. As we turned off to the Pontaubault road the police blew and whistled and we pulled over not knowing what we had done wrong! The Gendarme (French policeman) pulled at Jim’s belt…asked for registration and insurance and his driver’s license. Seems they have a seat belt law. Jim spent ten minutes standing in the rain and paid a fine of 150f. Another experience we decided. Then we went to a supermache…grocery store …bought bread, bananas, orange juice and water. Went back to Le Mont St. Michel to watch the night lights come on as we ate our bread and juice.

Took about another hour and half but well worth it. Jim walked back through the streets, which by now were silent. The Best Western hotel on the isle had people coming in and out but most were quiet. I was marking maps with my new pink marker when I suddenly heard bells ring. I got out the video and caught the sound…I couldn’t believe the beautiful shadows cast by the lights as darkness fell. Jim returned and as we started out a young French boy (about 20) asked for a lift for 3 km so we put him in the back seat. I wasn’t so sure about it; but it worked fine. He never said a word the whole ride but gave us a thank you when we let him out. Back to the hotel, sorted out the bags, called the office and listened to Jim read about Renne and Strasbourg. Also, we have our first bidet in the bathroom.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Wednesday, March 11th, 1992 Paris

Woke up about 7:30 am. I got up about 8:30. We dressed and went down to the lobby. Jim ordered a cab to take us to the hospital and we had juice (18f) and coffee (12f) at the bar. Nice cab driver had a small black poodle with him. He said the dog was eight months old…very well behaved…never barked or moved. Arrived at the hospital about 9:30 am. The cab fee was 125f. Got to the Caisse des Consultants Desk (cashier) to pay for today’s visit. The system works by numbers. We were #21 when we arrived and pretty soon we were helped. Got it figured out and I remembered Jim saying last Thursday that the only credit card that worked was his VISA from the credit union. Volla…it worked again and we paid the 38f for the visit.

We then proceeded to the Chirurgie Orthopedique et Reparatrice building. It was packed with people! Must have been at least one hundred people waiting to be seen. Broken legs, etc! Wanted to video the scene but Jim didn’t want to appear rude so we didn’t. As the time passed we waited and waited. I’ve written my journal for all day yesterday and up until now and it is now twelve noon. We were just told it would be thirteen hundred hours (1 PM) before we saw the doctor! Jim has gone for a walk and I’m still here with my journal. Not as many people still here but at least thirty or so. Even the French speaking seem to be having trouble getting helped. So much for a socialized medical system. The smoke in here is making my eyes burn. They keep wheeling a very old person…probably a woman, Jim says it’s a man; in and out of the area. He seems asleep and nearly dead. I also suspect that Jim is right and the staff has gone to lunch. I’ve just re read the entire journal and had a granola bar (should have left the dried soup at home and brought more bars) and it’s 12:45 PM. Time to write postcards.

Okay, 1:15 PM and I made a fuss. Jim calls me the “Ugly American”; but it worked. They have found a doctor who spoke English. He was on his way out for the day but took the time to see that the x-ray was ordered and we got the help we needed. He was great. Said he’d spent time in Los Angeles and San Francisco and had faired rather well but when he went to Japan he’d had a terrible language problem and so always tries to help when he can for travelers like us. He was amazed when he learned how long we’d waited to see a doctor. Will send him something from states. He very carefully explained that a fairly new procedure was used on my pins but new x-rays looked fine. Did a letter explaining procedure for USA doctors. Gave us two new bandages to redo on plane—due to the pressures. Said brace could come off at end of four weeks and pins should be out in six weeks. Total cost was somewhere about $700. USA dollars for everything. We finally left hospital about 2 PM. Walked stores in the area. Jim had purchased a water warmer at one of the stores in the area. Found a post office and bought postage for twenty more cards. I’m great at that. 3.70f per card takes 3 different stamps.

We caught a bus to another area. Found a Burger King and had FOOD! We each had a whopper for 38f each, including a coke & frites (french fries)….delicious!

We stopped in an old church across the street named St. Pierre de Montronger. They were in the middle of a funeral. The whole inside was filled with scaffolding for renovation. But, the church was still being fully used. Then we caught another bus to Notre Dame (like going home) to change more money, bought postcards and some transparencies of the church windows. Opps, almost forgot my leather skirt…bought on sale for 299f. That was an experience trying the skirts on to find the right size. Between the broken arm and a very small area with a male clerk…it was something…but Jim prevailed and we found one that fit.

Back on the bus from Notre Dame to Orly bus area which took us back to the airport for 42f. Then we found the Holiday Inn bus waiting. Splurged and bought a mini bottle of scotch. Home again. I showered and repacked. Jim walked the town of Runger and brought back a long loaf of french bread fresh from the oven. We had it with our soup that we made from water heater that Jim bought while I was in the hospital and the dry soup we brought with us from home. Watched CNN and Nixon’s speak from D.C. on being careful about Russia and election…his birthday speech. Wrote about ten postcards. Ready to leave for Renne tomorrow.

And the end to a much better day!

Monday, June 27, 2011


Tuesday, March 10th, 1992 (written in the waiting room at hospital on Wed. morning)

We both had a great night’s sleep. Out by 10 am…had coffee and juice at the bar in the hotel (30f) then by shuttle (courtesy) to airport for a days journey by train to Fontainebleau. First to Intre Air to set up some reservations for Thursday and Friday while we're at the airport.

We cannot get a return flight from Lourdes on Friday so set it up for next week. Must stay overnight. Only one flight in and one out daily for the “pilgrimage” as they call it. So we’re set for Renne on Thursday to start the trek to Mont St. Michel. Will be moving around for several days. Hotel has agreed to keep extra luggage while we’re gone.

Then we were off to purchase Orly rail tickets. Finally got second class tickets for 47f each and while waiting for bus transport conversed with a nice young man who had spent a month in Nebraska as an exchange student. We started talking with him because he was smiling at our conversation so I asked him a question in English. He had stayed with a family in Nebraska in a city. Said they were very gracious while he was there. He was surprised that we felt France was expensive. Also talked about the difference in taste and consistency of food. He said that he’d found American food “watery” but that he had really enjoyed the meat. He wanted to talk politics with Jim but Jim didn’t want to. He left us when we arrived at the station at Rungee to catch our first train for our trip to Fontainebleau.

We went to Choisy le Roi…third stop, changed trains to then go four stops to south (sud) to Juvisy-sur-Orge. When we arrived we had to wait about twenty minutes for the next train to Corbeil. We were not sure if we could leave the station and still stay on our tickets so although we could see the town we stayed there. Split one granola bar. On the train to Corbeil Essonens we watch three kids get a ticket from the conductor. First time we’d seen someone without a ticket get caught. Everything is very automated but occasionally they check up on you. The scenes of the countryside are storybook quality. Many old homes, some so small you wonder how people live in them. Some yards were grassy but most were planted in gardens…these were their backyards that we were viewing from the train windows as we traveled south.

At Corbeil Essonnes we had another 40 minute wait and found a candy machine with three Milky Way bars for 10f. It was #14…we put our money in and pressed the button with #14 on it…we got #1 results…a bag of pink and white marshmallows. No 10f coins left so we set about trying to obtain change. Finally went to the fruit vendor outside and purchased a banana. He wasn’t too happy when we paid with a 100f note but was nice about it. Volla…we were able to purchase the three Milky Ways! But the coke machine didn’t work. Back on the train for the trip to Melun.

Again, another wait in Melun, but this time we decided to slip out around the building and walked several blocks in the town. We went into a camera shop and purchased two rolls of 135 mm of film (85f) to get more change so we could purchase a coke from the machine. The gate was half closed and when the street sweeper saw us slip back in he closed it all the way. So we split another candy bar and the coke and were on our way to Fontainebleau.

We arrived about 3:30 PM and had very little ideal where the Chateau was located. I suggested we take a taxi but Jim thought it was just a short walk. So, we started walking through the town. After a half hour I was tired, hungry and angry. Finally told Jim I’d had it and sat down on a bus bench. Finally a bus came by that said Chateau on the front and we got on. The bus trip was 7f. We were only half way there we found out. Standing and talking to the driver all the way was an old Italian man who eventually told us his whole family had gone to Brooklyn thirty years before. When we arrived we found the rooms were closed on Tuesday! But, the grounds were opened and we spent about half an hour there. Picked up a rock from the steps for a souvenir. Remember...I'm on my second day from surgery....and no pain medication except for aspirin! And by this time...STARVING!

We caught the bus back to the train station. Bought postcards and return trip tickets. 57f each. More expensive then the trip in. It didn’t leave until 5:40 PM. Needed to use the bathroom but found that it was a “unisex” one that only had a porcelain hole in the ground for a toilet. (My first experience with a "squat" toilet that is found everywhere...even in private France, China, Japan, Arabic Countries and elsewhere in the world...except for the USA! I don't think twice about using one now instead of waiting in line for the western one. Travel does teach one to be open to new things around the world!) It was filthy dirty so I didn’t even try to use it. Jim decided to stay on the same train when we arrived at Melun. After the train had already left the station I asked the woman about the destination…she said Paris. Great….we thought that we’d go to the next station and get off. Suddenly she said in excellent English, “No, it goes directly to Paris with no stops”! We were on the Express!

Plan two: I told Jim that I wanted to get a cab when we arrived in Paris; but he still wanted to do the adventure. So he started planning how to get from Paris to Orly by train. We ended up on the city bus. Missed the stop and walked in the rain for three blocks back and found the new station (oh, what I wouldn’t have given for a Big Mac. My thoughts as I saw a McDonalds across the street and then a cab) but on to the trains we went. We were very cold and wet by the time we got on the train. After two stops we realized we were going in the wrong direction. Got off and looked for a new way. A very nice person asked in English if we needed help and pointed us in the right direction. Finally back to Orly and another twenty-minute wait for the hotel bus. We decided to change and go downstairs to the hotel restaurant for dinner. It was now about 9 PM. Last meal had been the omelet in Monaco the day before. Oh yes...I still have a broken arm in a sling!

Everything seemed great to start with. But it went from bad to worst. The waiter taking the order seemed to know what he was doing but we were served by a boy who didn’t know who had ordered what. Jim had ordered beef and I had ordered white fish. They brought bread, wine and one plate of lox…raw salmon. Jim took it…I was expecting a salad. After twenty minutes I was crying…no food had arrived for me and I was literally furious…mad!!! Ready to go to my room! I finally asked the waiter why I wasn’t being served? He walked away without answering me and still no food. I asked Jim for the room key and was really going to leave or make a scene and what arrived….a repeat of Jim’s plate for me. It was terrible tasting and I only took a few bites. (Fortunately, over the years I've learned to be more open to International foods and have discovered that they are excellent and I enjoy savoring the variety of textures and flavors.)

Finally, after the evening was totally in shambles and Jim had finally admitted that I was causing him to be upset and that he was having difficulty keeping his cool…mine had been gone for an hour; he reminded me I was spoiling a $90.00 meal! The main course finally arrived and it was excellent. But then they asked if we wanted dessert. I had already been told my dinner included dessert. I had to remind him. He then looked at Jim and asked “cafĂ© Monsieur? ”; never once asked if I’d like some. Two bites of dessert and we left…me crying all the way and Jim mad at me for it. He was asleep almost immediately and I took four more aspirin on top of two I’d taken at dinner and cried myself to sleep. Not the best of days. Cost of the ruined dinner was 480f including wine.

( Not all travel days end thought I'd leave this in to let you know that we do have our ups and downs when traveling!)