France Day 1 - Arrival!
Trip Start Jun 25, 2008
77Trip End Sep 01, 2008
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Our 1st Class sleeper car includes a breakfast in the restaurant car, so jam down to the car to beat the rush and have time to pack up before we arrive in Paris. I'm nervous about our France experience. Virtually everybody I've spoken to has warned me that the French folks don't care too much for us Americanos. The conductor is nice, but maybe he is Spanish. I don't know. One thing is for sure, I am glad to be gone from Barcelona. I did not care for the city much at all. I wouldn't go back. Well, maybe some day when the kids are older and we can revisit La Sagrada Familia when its complete. But that would be the only thing that would cause me to want to return. I tried to explain to Janice why I didn't like the city
The train comes to a stop in Paris and we scurry out, anxious to catch a cab to get to a connecting train station in Paris. Once we exit the train, we start to clue in on exactly how little French we know. Like ... ZERO. (well, Janice took one year in high school...) Thankfully, there are pictures of taxis with arrows. That works for us, and before long we have a smiling taxi driver (who looks very similar to Sheila Carr for those of you who know her...). We show her the tickets to where we need to go and struggle to say ... ANYTHING. It dawns on me, I don't know how to say please without stuttering, and I have no clue on anything other than hello and goodbye
We check the monitor for our train, Voie 20. We go, and wait. We are alone, but not too unlike what it was like in the Barcelona station. There, we waited alone until ten minutes before departure at which point people appeared out of the woodwork. Ten minutes till I decide to go double check... this is too quiet. .... And ... Crap, turns out my computer clock is wrong, about 8 minutes wrong. And double crap, it turns out that the train is now at Voie 4. Bah. I run back and yell for Janice and the kids and we take off running through the station madly. We arrive. The train is there. A bell is ringing. We sprint. ... The man shakes his head no, waves his finger. Janice says, "Si vu ple, si vu ple" as we run past him. The doors are closed, we start pressing buttons. The train moves. ... and picks up speed. We are too late. DOH! 15 Euros later and a reduction from 1st class to 2nd class, with the help of a nice English speaking train ticketier (enough to understand we missed our train anyhow) we end up on a train to Le Mans, THEN Angers. One hour and a half late. Oh well. Thankfully, our wonderful French hosts have arranged for their good friend Guenola (gway-no-la) is patiently waiting with a sign right as we exit the train. So kind! Thank you Guenola!
Guenola speaks English very well
We arrive to the home and find it to be BEAUTIFUL! It was built in the early 1900's. Three stories high. 1st floor is the garage, the living room, kitchen and dining room and a bathroom. 2nd Floor is two bedrooms, washroom, and office with a large balcony. 3rd floor has two children's bedroom with a bathroom shared in between the two rooms. The house is even better than what we had seen in the photos online. http://www.homeforexchange.com/ID=20046
Also, the style of the interior just can't be properly captured ... at least not by my camera and photography skills. Franc and Sandrine have an artsy home with purposely unfinished sections of the wall and small things like window shades that have been converted to CD racks. Its very ... artsy and homey and nice!
Just as nice as the inside of the house ... the backyard and the view are beautiful. We have a trampoline and swing set, we can see several gardens in neighbors yards along with geese and chickens and such, and we have a great view of the steeple of the nearby church
And the kids are PSYCHED. There are toys everywhere here! The family we exchanged with have three young daughters ... which means this house is set up for children. There is a large toy room, a Nintendo Wii, and lots of kids DVD's. Its a perfect change of pace from our experience in Spain. The house in Pie de Concha was wonderful, but it was a second home for the family ... and they do not have any young children, so the only toys the kids had was what we brought along.
The weather here is definitely different than our experience in Northern Spain. Here, its good and humid. Not horrible like Florida, but the heat is much different than Sacramento. Normally, a good escape from humidity is A/C, but the house here doesn't have it. So, I will have to get adjusted. It doesn't really affect Janice and the kids much at all, but I'm a wuss with this kind of stuff. ... After a nice shower, I feel good for at least thirty minutes. We open up all the windows to let a nice breeze come through as the evening comes. Much like Sacramento, this is a river city, and so the evenings get considerably cooler than the days.
Guenola is very nice and shows us all the particulars around the house
The rest of the day is spent unpacking, techno-troubleshooting (I've discovered that their computer DOES have wireless capability, they just didn't know! ... YAY!), and adjusting to our new town. The kids are sooooooo happy just playing with the toys by themselves. Several times, we hear them laughing and giggling and telling stories and inventing games. Its amazing how grateful they are with this new kid-friendly home. In the late afternoon we take a walk down to the nearby church area and find a boulangerrie still open
So much to take in, its overwhelming. We have now been on the road for TWICE AS LONG as any previous vacation (longest prior to this was two weeks). And we've never traveled for more than one week with the kids. ... Now, literally overnight, we are in a completely new country, ... in rural Franch ... where we find nobody who speaks English. None of the people we've seen (other than Guenola of course) have been English speaking. Its crazy.
Just as evening comes, I take the bike out for a ride. Chateau-Gontier is a nice town. Small, with several historic buildings and churches, about six bakeries that I've seen so far. We've got three pizza joints within five blocks, and a Chinese place too! I think we are going to LOVE our time here. Just as I turn to head back home from my twenty minute ride, I hear some yelling. Its French, so ... of course ...I can't understand a word, ... but the people don't sound happy. Far in the distance I see a woman stomping around, obviously angry. It has all the sounds of a domestic fight. I peddle closer and find a man in a red t-shirt being yelled at and chased (well, 'walked down' anyways) by presumably his wife, a teenaged boy, and an older man
Back at home, we rest and marvel at what a wonderful thing this home exchange is for our family. We are quite sure that we want to do this in future years. And FOR SURE, we will invite friends and family to join us as we did this year. As the kids get older, we believe this worldwide exposure will bring them a deep richness of life.
The French family has a blog up ... feel free to take a look and comment if you care to (no registration required!) ... http://boutyfamily.travelblog.fr/
Also, Jaoine and Inigo have a blog ready for their trip to SF. Check it if you like: