Tuesday, May 1, 2012

France and England on $98 a Day - May Day/Mayday

Storybook-perfect days happen and May Day was one of them. 

David and I enjoyed the crisp air as we walked from our hundred-year-old Bretagne house to the center of town where boys stood on street corners selling tiny bouquets of flowers for a euro or two. Of course, everywhere we looked, flowers added punches of lavish color to the lush green landscape; it wasn't hard to persuade ourselves to climb the stairs leading to the ancient city walls for a better view of this medieval city and its gardens.

From the ramparts, the views were indeed spectacular. This trading city, established as a port in the 12th century, is one of the few not destroyed during the war. Its river scenes and twisting streets are the stuff of postcards, but what I particularly like about it is that Dinan is also a “real” town with people who live and work here and take pride in their place in history. This is not a town that only exists for tourists.

We visited St. Malo the other day and it was chockablock with gimcracky tourist stores. David and I prefer the honesty of a place like Dinan or one of the harbors like this one, visible all along the coast of Brittany.

Still, we would have been happy almost anywhere since the sun was shining and our mayday calls had been answered. Truly, the travel gods had sorely tested us during our first week of travel.

It started in London, after the wonderful British Airways non-stop flight (Love that airline. They cater to all your whims, give you free drinks, and do it all with a British accent.)where it rained constantly and Mother Nature kept the thermostat around 48 degrees.

The weather never improved. While David and I were thrilled to finally be in the places we'd been dreaming about for months, we would have liked it a whole lot better if we hadn't had to wear gloves and carry umbrellas. It rained every day for a week, almost all day long with only a brief respite the day we went to Giverny, Monet's home in the French countryside (More about Giverny later.), and on May Day.

Then we struggled through the little inconveniences. I didn't realize my new laptop required a three-prong plug adapter since it has a “ground,” or “earth” as they call it in London, a nearly impossible item to locate. (Why is it that different countries have different electrical plugs? Seems to me that governments which couldn't agree to have the same language or politics could at least have agreed on the same kind of plugs!) The lens on David's glasses fell out and my watch strap broke. You don't realize how important these things are til you try to see with one eye or glance at your naked wrist ten times a day. Somehow, David got the lens back in, my watchband got an industrial staple, and our wonderful hosts in Dinan found us a plug adapter.

We had already survived the long, couple hundred kilometer drive from Vernon to Dinan on Saturday, a day when every family in France was on the road trying to escape for the May Day/European Labor Day weekend with stop and go traffic that added at least two hours to our trip and rest stop areas that were so congested people parked on sidewalks and waited thirty minutes for the toilettes, but we hadn't reckoned on a flat tire.

This happened on Sunday in the rain, of course, when absolutely everything was closed. We had no cell phone and could use Skype only as long as my laptop battery held out (I didn't have the plug adapter yet.), but, then, we didn't know who to call anyway. Nothing like being in a foreign city with only sketchy language familiarity and needing an object for which we didn't even know the name!

In desperation, we called our hosts who came to our aid once more and directed us to the proper tire store. We spent an hour Monday at the Ford dealership while two new tires were installed—in France the law insists that two tires must be replaced on an axle—to the tune of 326 €.

Still, after all that had gone wrong, we were grateful the cost the travel gods extracted was only in cash and not broken bones or stolen passports. We play the Glad Game and know things could have been worse.

And, really, through it all, we were still delighted to be here. How can you not enjoy a country where even the fast food is a culinary delight, the streets mesmerize with twists and turns, and people go out of their way to offer assistance? We are loving every minute spent in this wonderful country—rain or shine.

No comments:

Post a Comment