Saturday, September 12, 2015

Au revoir Middle Ages, hello Pre-History

Last night, at dinner, we made the decision to leave from Carcassonne and its beautiful Medieval walled city and go even father back in history, even before Rob or I were ever born. Hard to imagine, but such a time does exist. We are en route (see what I did there? French!) to the caves of the Dordogne and prehistoric art.  

As with so much of this crazy trip, though, it's not as simple as turning on Siri, pointing the Mokka and hitting the gas.  After a lovely morning exploring Carcassone, its walls, the beautiful Basilica St. Nazaire (a stained glass window lover's paradise), and doing a little bit of trinketeria shopping, we got ready to hit the road.  Not five minutes in, Mokka sent us a scary message about the pneu.  Without a two year old's vocabulary in French but knowing that in English, pneu usually refers to something inflated we inferred that there was an issue with a tyre, a theory confirmed by the helpful dashboard graphic with one tyre looking inflamed. We pulled over just before a toll booth.  

Naturally, as always happens in these stories, much hilarity ensued. A phone call to Ernestine The Telephone Operator would have been more helpful than the one to the rental company, who wanted me to hike to the nearest phone box and get the Highway Department to help. The nearest box was no where in sight. According to the GPS the next test stop wasn't even on the screen. Just get me Jedgar Hoover, Ernestine.
What does any self-respecting, frustrated Polish guy do? Why, make an illegal u-turn, in the middle of the tollway, of course!  
We found a repair shop in short order, but they were at lunch. We waited nearly two hours, not knowing if we had a big problem, only to have the very French repairman sneer at my language skills. I did have what we needed on Google translate, he read it with appropriate French contempt, put some air in the tyre, and we were on our way.*

Our destination for the night was a tiny little town called Sarlat de Caneda.  The hotel was a quaint, and charming little place, and we had a room in the garrett (yes, enjoy that family.  A Garrett in the garrett.)  Today, Saturday, dawned grey, ominious and raining.  Not just ominous rainy, antedeluvian ominous rainy.  At one point at breakfast, it was pounding down so hard that we couldn't hear each other speak.  During the course of this meteorological event, I checked the weather advisories and the French weather folks were predicting unusual weather, with flash flooding and washouts of smaller roads.  So much for caves.  Plus, we still have to be in Normandy tomorrow, so we changed our plans, yet again, and are now safely ensconced in a Novotel in Le Mans.  For us, the only reason for Le Mans was that it's only three hours from Bayeaux, so there's not a whole lot of driving to do.  Having said that, the drive through rural France has been very interesting.  Many of the villages look like time has totally forgotten them.  It's so easy to think of France as Paris, or maybe the Riviera but the reality is that this is still a very, very agricultural nation. As with all travel, it's best to just park the expectations and revel in the experience! 

*To be absolutely honest, this guy is the only person in France, in two trips here, that has treated us like that.  Everyone else, and I do mean everyone has gone out of their way to make themselves understood, especially, if they see that you are trying to speak in French.  I have become quiet fluent with:

Je suis désolé. Mon français est très mauvais, mais je vais essayer.  (I'm sorry.  My Frenchis very bad, but 
I will try..)

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