The first of many posts covering my family trip to France. I asked my sister, LK Clement, an author, to write the posts, while I provide the photographs. Since we both have a very similar sense of humor, I knew her words would be epic!
Some would say it’s a sign of dementia to believe that ten family members, whose last time together was at a funeral, could spend two weeks in the French countryside in one house. That the house had eight bedrooms, eight bathrooms, and numerous nooks one could hide in certainly helped, as did the fact that most of the ten people are currently taking psychotropic drugs. The first gathering was in the Columbia SC airport, where in a single picture, the experienced traveler can be easily identified, as her suitcase’s height was less than that of a rolled up dead body.
The original idea was to rent a small apartment in France, for four people, but while searching for apartments on homeaway.com, a pop-up ad, on the right side of the screen, caught our attention with its headline: Rent a castle in France! Before you could say bon voyage, the chateau was rented, the attendees were finalized, and off we went.
The Air France flight, from Atlanta to Paris was nine hours, and we settled into our assigned seats without incident, other than our matriarch’s attempt to dismantle the arm of the seat. Three of the people in these seats require glasses and one requires a hearing aid, so when some critical item was lost under the seat, the three women all dived down to find it, failing to communicate that it would be most efficient if only one blocked the aisle rather than all three.
The sole man in the picture below had to be questioning whether he wanted to find another place to sit. It is a certainty that at one point, the idea of a crying baby who needed attention, was more attractive to him than his mother, aunt and grandmother constantly asking for bags to be brought down from the overhead storage.
Flights to France typically leave at dinner time in the United States, and arrive at fresh croissant time in France. Fortunately, we had found a South Carolina native, living in Bayeux, who had married a Frenchman and ran a transport service, called Albion. Air France had the requested wheelchair for mother, and a wonderful assistant, Samir, who our mother insisted on calling “Sammy” took us to the Albion van.
The trip to Bayeux where the chateau was located began with typical big city Monday morning traffic at the Paris airport. By the time we woke up enough to be hungry, our driver was stopping at a highway rest stop. What we expected were clean bathrooms, and perhaps a vending machine, like most US rest stops. What we found was Paul’s. The place had bistro tables, huge and clean bathrooms, and a bakery counter to rival any I’ve seen in the States. Almost three weeks later, as we were leaving, we all agreed that Paul’s had the best croissants in all of France.
It was a three hour drive to our chateau, and once we left the suburbs of Paris, the countryside became rolling green hills, dotted with stone farmhouses, grain silos, and slate roofed towns where every house had flower boxes filled with greenery and blooms. We saw no litter, no billboards, and, contrary to most back roads in the South, no one had upholstered furniture on their front porch.
Our driver took us to the Hertz in Caen, where we picked up what the French call a seven person vehicle. It would hold seven people only if three of the people were shorter than four feet tall. But, our luggage was still in the van, so it was manageable.
Stay tuned for more.