15 PICTURE ALBUM
Tuesday, July 15
Wow - today was quite an adventure! We knew that our first experience
driving in France would be interesting
we just didn't know exactly what
to expect. I knew we were in for fun when we asked the Hertz people how to
get on the A10 south of Paris from their office right by the Louvre. Their
response was "we don't know"! (at this point, we decided that we
had heard enough of "je ne sais pas"!). So, we had no choice but
to get in the car and drive. I have to admit that I also had problems with
some of the basic controls in the car, and drove through Paris with the rear
window wipers operating and not knowing how to operate the car windows. Also,
"Reverse" on the manual transmission is in the top left - totally
opposite from what I'm used to - the kids weren't happy when I went backwards
a couple of times at intersections when I thought I had put it in first gear!
It took us 45 minutes to make our way through Paris onto the A10 (way too
many one-way streets and wrong turns), but we made it. We have pieced together
our own little interactive navigation system with Europe mapping software
on our laptop along with a handheld GPS - this has been a lifesaver, and has
worked great. We're still getting used to the signs which are posted at 45
degree angles at street corners. The intent of these signs is to point you
straight ahead, but it's always tempting to turn (thinking that they're really
pointing you to the left or right, but that they've become tilted somehow).
At home, signs pointing you straight are placed directly in front of the driver
with the arrows pointing up - this seems much easier, but I'm sure we'll adjust...
After about an hour on the A10, we stopped in a place called Blois (pronounced
"Blah") for lunch and to walk around this medieval town. Blois is
the home of a large chateau (Chateau de Blois), and we enjoyed walking around
the old city which retains several steep and twisting medieval streets. The
city was seriously damaged during World War II, but much has survived. The
main cathedral (Cathedral St. Louis) was nice to sit in to escape the heat.
it was HOT today - 35 degrees Celsius which is over 95 degrees Fahrenheit).
The heat was unfortunate, because it definitely took away from our ability
to enjoy this town, especially the old city. The kids enjoyed going to a museum
dedicated to the history of magic - the Musee de la Magie.
We completed our drive to Amboise in the heart of the Loire Valley. We arrived
at 5:30, and it was still HOT! We had reserved a hotel in the middle of the
town, but unfortunately the room had no A/C, and it was small, stuffy and
very noisy. We were exhausted and knew this wouldn't do - we quickly found
another option which worked out great (Hotel Novotel), and explained to the
kids that we had all better get used to these kinds of twists and turns. We
know that we won't always end up with arrangements which work out, and will
all have to remain flexible over the next year!
Amboise seems to be a very beautiful town, but we decided not to explore
any more today. Tomorrow we will head out and spend time in the town, and
will also visit some of the castles and vineyards in the surrounding countryside.
A few final thoughts regarding Paris (and France so far
We're finding the people here to be polite and generally friendly, but they
certainly don't go out of their way to help. When we need information or assistance,
people answer our questions but that's about it. We haven't sensed any anti-American
sentiment, but my general feeling is that the French tolerate having Americans
here because they know they need our tourist dollars (so far this year, American
tourism in France is down an estimated 15-20%, but the French are hopeful
that it's on the rebound).
I have worked hard to employ my high-school French, and have felt good about
my ability to communicate and recall enough words to understand the basics
of what is said to me (in places like the post office and some smaller restaurants
where the staff doesn't speak English). However, when I try to speak French
to someone who does speak English, it feels as though I've annoyed them by
even trying to speak French (I'm sure my accent is terrible, and that this
has much to do with it
Life in Paris hasn't been too challenging, but we know that may change as
we leave the big city. We also frequently speak about what we're in for in
countries like Greece where we'll have no clue of the language, and won't
be able to even read signs. Paula and I have told the kids that we'll figure
out ways to communicate, but this is still a frequent topic of conversation
for us. At dinner tonight, we talked about each country we'll be visiting,
and what we'll be able to expect in terms of communication challenges - it
was a bit intimidating for us all! ~Steve
Distance Walked: 1.71 miles (hey, it was a driving day!)