An adventure unplanned

I suppose you could make a case for all travel being planned.  “You pays your money and makes your choice”.  There are definite benefits to a completely paid for, all organized for you approach to travel.   They make sure you arrive when and where you are scheduled to arrive.  Most tours specialize in this.  You see more.  The guide informs you of when this church was built (there is always a church involved), when this army defeated that one, what people do for a living in this region all that…in english.  You eat on time.  You keep normal hours and there isn’t too much exercise involved other than walking.  This sounds lovely to me at this point.

Now take the other approach.  You make all the arrangements.  In our case, you study the language so that you can communicate.  Let me digress.  We studied francais for one hour a day (on average) from the beginning of December until we left in mid-July for France.  Ray did much better.  He slurs his words anyway (better to say that than, “I’m hard of hearing”) so that he could make funny nasal sounds quicker and thereby could sound frenchier!  Anyway.  That is what we did.

This all came about because we had traded our house with a nice french couple in France.  So we knew where we had to go once we arrived at Charles de Gaulle but if you’ve been following our escapades, you know that story.  Okay, so where was I?  Ah, yes, doing France on our own.  So, once we fulfilled all our previous plans of visiting Normandy, Beaune, Dijon regions…we dropped Ryan off at the TGV train (it goes 200 miles/hour) for his return trip.  Now this introduced new challenges because, as you may have observed, he was our map reader extraordinaire.  He saved us from ourselves in that we did not get lost during his tenure, generally speaking.  But now he was gone.  What could possibly go wrong?

Well, nothing at first.  We managed to navigate our way out of Dijon, the city of major street (rue) renovations.  We are sure CalTrans has moved part of their business off-shore.  And we even found the freeway/toll highway.  I was driving and Ray was co-pilot.  We needed petrol.  So we exited and bought gas.  As I was sitting there Ray approached the car, white as a sheet.  “I don’t know if I bought the right kind of gas”, he exclaimed.  Well, let me just say this.  I’m a bit old and not as limber as I think I am.  Climbing into the back seat of a tow truck is tres dificile (very difficult/hard).  And when we arrived at the garage, a VW dealership, I wanted to ask for a ladder so that I would not break something getting down.  You know, the car dealerships are much different in France.  There were three cars in the showroom with trois (3) women, one in her own special room.  To keep ourselves busy while they PUMPED the TANK empty of unleaded gasoline, we looked at the autos for sell.  No sticker’s posted on the windows.  No sales person rushing out to sell us on a car.  None of that.  One woman behind the counter was dealing with another poor chap and he didn’t speak much francais.  She had a skirt with an uneven hemline (think Tinker Bell), and stylish boots that came to above her ankles.  Her blouse was low cut and she had a 3 or 4 inch thick belt that was positioned across her hips which were a bit generous, but not bad.  Those boots did some walking.  She kept stomping out of the showroom to the garage where our car was being DRAINED.  She seemed angry.  It took her and the garage men multiple trips to change a light bulb.  She seemed unhappy.  He was unhappy.  Ray was beating up on himself for putting unleaded into a gas tank that only used diesel.  And I was laughing.  The scene was just too funny.  That i,s until the bill came.  $320.  And that didn’t count the gas we had to buy to fill up the tank, again.  Oh, and the unleaded we bought by mistake.

Now the good news.  We were smart enough to recognize the problem before we drove away and ruined the engine.

As I mentioned earlier we had to get up at 0500 (a.m.) to get Ryan to the train station (gare).  We were tired.  Ray needed something to read (presumably to get his mind off the gas adventure) so in our infinite wisdom we decided to stop in Orleans and look for a bibliotheque(bookstore) or the tourism office.  The map was hard to read with our old eyes and we ended up in the centre ville (center of town) on a plaza that cars did not occupy…except for ours.  Don’t ask me how we did it, but we did.  After escaping this unfortunate situation without killing any pedestrians of which there were beaucoup, we hightailed it out of town and made our way back to La Ferte without a book.

None of this blog entry includes pictures.  We were too traumatized.  The rest of the day was mundane.  We did laugh a lot about it though.  And we continue to do so.

Now, that would not have happened on a guided tour.  And we would have seen more.  And we would have been able to understand more explanations.  For instance, at one point, Ray turned to me and asked,  “how do I tell him how the automatic emergency break works”.   I replied, “I don’t know, Rosetta Stone never had a lesson on this situation”.   So language does offer challenges!!  And for all I know the little town we were towed to probably had some very interesting  history (Joan of Arc may have slept there).  But…we did what we did and we made our choice!!

The picture above is the TGV approaching the station in Dijon.

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