We returned on Saturday from our wonderful vacation in France. I won’t bore you with the day-by-day details, but here it is in a nutshell:
We stayed in an apartment in Paris for a week — saw the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Versailles, Luxembourg garden, and Disneyland Paris. We did a lot of walking, and the metro system is very straightforward and can get you anywhere. Vastly superior to Toronto’s public transit system. Paris is an amazing city — you can just feel the history everywhere. I have to say though, while the view from the Eiffel Tower is spectactular, it’s also kind of boring, in that the vast majority of the buildings are the same colour (gray) and the same height (five or six stories).
After a week in Paris, we took the high speed train (kind of disappointing — didn’t seem much faster than any other train) to Bordeaux where we picked up our rental van. Stayed a couple of days in Bordeaux, and took one day to drive to Perigueux, where Jackie’s family originated (Jackie is Gail’s stepmother, and she came with us on the trip). We then drove up to Amboise, near Tours. Stayed a couple of days there, mainly driving around various châteaux including the beautiful Château de Chenonceau.
Next we drove up to Saint Malo on the English Channel. Every restaurant in Saint Malo serves seafood of some kind, and the most popular dish seemed to be mussels and french fries. Don’t get me wrong, I had them and they’re very good (the boys liked them too), but fries seemed like an odd thing to serve with mussels. No vegetables or rice or anything, just a bowl of mussels and a plate of fries. We also drove to nearby Mont Saint Michel, one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen. It’s just your average monstrous church and abbey built on top of a huge rock on an island surrounded by quicksand. Must have been pretty trivial to build eight hundred years ago.
We also drove to a town (and a château) called Pirou, which is where, we think, my family name comes from. As it turns out, the Pirou family that lived here died out many hundreds of years ago, but one of them fought in the Battle of Hastings in 1066. He was subsequently given land in England, where there’s now a town called Stoke-Pero. I’m planning on doing some more digging to see if that’s where my line of the Perrow family came from. If so, the next time I’m in France, I can go back to Pirou and claim my castle.
Anyway, after three days in Saint Malo, we drove back to Paris and flew home the next day. I think splitting the trip up into two (a week in Paris and a week driving around the countryside) worked out very well — it almost seemed like two different vacations back to back.
Some North American beliefs about France:
- French people are rude — in general, yes. Of course, there are exceptions; we met a number of very friendly people, but in general, we found that people didn’t say “excusez moi” or “pardon” nearly as often as we thought they should have. While waiting in lines, we had people walk through the middle of the lines without saying a word — sometimes physically pushing their way through, and other times pushing a stroller or shopping cart, all silently. Waitresses in Canada would be fired if they treated customers the way we were treated in a couple of places. Well, maybe not fired, but we left a couple of places without leaving a tip of any kind, and I didn’t feel the slightest bit guilty.
- French people are dirty — I did not see any women with underarm hair (though quite honestly, I wasn’t looking), but we did notice more B.O. per capita than we’re used to here.
- the Mona Lisa is smaller than you’d expect — yup. I don’t know what it is about that smile, but you just find yourself staring at it…
- France is expensive — yup. 6€ (over $9) for a Coke in a restaurant, gas is almost twice what it is in Canada, and the “American style” breakfast buffet in one of our hotels was 13€ (about $20) per person. Obviously the person who called that “American style” has never been to America. In one of the other hotels, breakfast was 16€50 — we passed on that one.
- French people eat baguettes — absolutely. We couldn’t count the number of people we saw walking around Paris eating a baguette. Nothing on it, not even butter, just a big long hunk of dry bread.
- French wine is good — dunno, don’t drink wine. None of us had even a sip of wine while in France. (Wine drinkers reading this are probably all angry that a French vacation was “wasted” on people who don’t drink wine.) There was a beer called 1664 that was pretty good, though.
I have a couple of other postings in the works about our vacation, and I’ll try to get some pictures up on our web site soon too.