August 26th, 2009
Yes, annoying that these updates are so few and far between, and that they are completely outdated by the time they are posted online.
Paris was awesome, and after you left Edouard’s house, you embarked on a new type of adventure. How to live on the road, in a tent, for 9 days in a row, with no laundry, no showers, no toilets, no modern-day comforts? In fact, in all you road-side camping experience, you never had to do so more than two nights.
No fear! You and Alexis handled it well. Too well, as you went for a tour in the Loire Valley in order to see the chateaus, but later losing interest and finding more excitement in the local Touraine valley wine.
You made your way south to the Chateau Chambord. More stunning than the second time you saw it, since you got to see it at sunset. You and Alexis shuffled a few hundred meters away from the chateau, jumped off the footpath into the neithboring trees, and pitched your tent. Camping so near the chateau and foot traffic was unnerving, to say the least, and as you tried to calm yourselves by reading a few pages out load of Anna Karinena, you were stopped several times by unidentifiable noises–snapping twigs, wildlife, dropping acorns… no, none of it could be attributed to approaching people, but your imaginations frequently get the best of you. It wasn’t until loads of noise overwhelmed your senses that you frantically put out the light and remained inmobile, in terrified silence. You stared wide-eyed at each other, through the darkness, when you suddenly heard low, ascending tones from the distance. Tones rising in pitch and voulme. “We’re going to be abducted by aliens!” Alexis rasped, trying to surpress nervous and confused laughter. Your curiosity won over. You squirmed back into your trousers, unzipped the tent, and went out for a look. As the music became so loud, more meoldic, and somewhat deafening, Alexis was compelled to join you.
No, no aliens. In fact, the chateau has a light show it plays on the weekend against the face of the edifice—a symphony of sorts—and you happened to choose to camp within perfect private (and FREE (saved 18 euro)) distance of it. It was by far the best light show you have ever seen, demolishing all the productions you have seen in Disneyland. Plus, you were viewing outdoors, under a clear, dark sky—so perfect you could see the edges of the Milky Way.
The next day, you paid the 9.50 euro to enter the Chateau. It was another, “Excuse me, is this castle worth paying for?” moment. And it certainly was. You won’t bother to describe this work of art, the construction of which spanned over 200 years. The project was started by a man who said, “If you are too concerned with the idea of completing something, you’ll never start anything.”
After the Chateau, you hiked 24km to the next-nearest chateau town, Cheverny. With your backpacks, it took nearly 5 hours, and you learned that Alexis’ fierce endurance and long legs could make you feel like a little girl trying to keep up with Daddy on a day he takes you downtown. Yes, you were practically jogging next to her, the last two hours, trying to match her stride. 5 hours on the highway, baking in the sun, dehydrated and delerious with fatigue, you decided to reward yourselves with a bottle of wine. Thus began your love affair with wine.
Chateaus are beautiful, but Chambord was the cream of the crop. You couldn’t justify paying 9 euros for another chateau, when you could by several bottles of wine for the same price. You busied yourselves for the next week laying around in fields, sampling wine, eating baguettes and cheese, recovering from the hikes, swimming in the River Cher 2-3 times a day, sneaking into campsites for showers… night time skinny dipping, sleeping in a corn field, working out in your underwear in a field (Alexis would like to make it clear that SHE was appropriately dressed). You saw St. Aignon, Montrichard, Cheverny (you hiked to all of them, one by one, eating wild cherries, peaches, apples, blackberries, and plums the whole way). It was awesome and relaxing. The weather was stunning and you have tanned darker than you have ever been in your life.
At last, it was time to hitch hike up north to Normandy, in order to meet up with your friend Manon, with whom you worked in Ireland. On the 23rd of August, you had the WORST day of hitch hiking of your life. What was the deal? Everyone in France was coming back from vacation. You were stuck in Tours, walked down the motorway over the Loire River, people honking angrily at you for marching along the narrow shoulder, over a gorge, in the wind, pleading with your pathetically small sign, feeling underfed and dehydrated because non of the shops were open on Sunday. A man saw you, jerked his car over immediately, and told you to “Get in! What you are doing is SO dangerous!” He drove you 80km out of his way to Le Mans. There, you were abandoned at a toll booth, where you stood nearly an hour and not a single person would give you a lift. So back onto the motorway you went… walking 3-4 km without a single person pulling over. The sun beat down on your heads, you staggered with sore blistered feet and thought to yourself that you had been through worse, but could not really come up with an example (spring training trip to Florida with the crew team?).
A highway security vehical passed you in the opposite direction, honked his admonishment. You jumped over the barrier, beckoned Alexis to follow you. “A security guard just honked at us. I think we are going to get yelled at. Come sit over here in the bushes in the shade. We’ll take a break.” You sat together, feeling completely dejected, knowing you were 8 km from the nearest rest stop. No food, but at least you had enough water. You tried to keep a positive attitude.
When at least, you saw the security vehical approaching in your direction, you said, “Oh boy, here we go. He’s found us.” Alexis panicked. “What?! Oh my god, are we going to get in trouble? What do we do?” You shrugged. “I’m just going to sit here,” you said stubbornly. “If he wants to find us, well he can come find us. I’m not going anywhere.”
The security guard decked in neon yellow came strolling through the tall, burnt grass. You pushed yourself to your feet, appeared from your shady spot, and sheepishly greeted him, “Bonjour!” He proceeded to tell you that hitck hiking was prohibited on the autoroute. You played dumb, like you didn’t understand the word “interdit.” You explained that you were having bad luck that day, that you decided to walk the 8km to the rest stop, since otherwise you would be trapped at the toll booth. He said he could take you there. As you coralled Alexis, two members of the gendarmerie pulled up on motorcycles. Wonderful. You were given a lecture by a stern cop. “Hitch hiking on the motorway is prohibited.” “Yeah, this guy already explained that to me,” you said, already fed up with the man’s desire to play tough cop. You walked away from him and got into the security guard’s van. The man drove you to the rest stop, and you chatted with him like a stupid little girl the entire way, feigning your innocence, claiming that it was all a misunderstanging (not really true) and bad luck (certainly true).
After he dropped you at the service area, the two of you remained there for four hours, failing to persuade anyone to give you a lift. There was immense confusion regarding whether you were even facing the correct direction, whether you didn’t look cute enough, clean enough, positive enough… you continued in the sun, laughing harder and harder in order to stave off tears of frustration. As the sun was low in the sky, to Britsh women offered you a ride out of there, and you jumped into the car excitedly. Thrilled to get out of that nightmare of an area, thrilled to be able to speak English again.
It was unfortunate that you were still two hours away from Manon’s house when the ladies dropped you off, and you were unable to continue. You had to pitch your tent in the dark, on the outskirts of a city. Climbed over a barbed wire fence and slept in the corner of what you thought was a cattle field. Woke up repeatedly in the night, terrified by the violent noises made by the cattle in the neighboring field. When you are a in a half sleep, your imaginations get the best of you. You thought you would be trampled by angry bulls, attacked by farm dogs, chased off the land by french farmers wielding flaming baguettes. But none of that happened. You made it through the night, hithc hiked the rest of the way to Manon’s house (though you were at the end of your endurance, for the previous week of walking in worn-out hiking shoes left your toes so blistered and infected that it could scarcely bear weight. You altered your stride to accommodate the pain, which fucked up all your muscles and ligaments in your legs and now you are hobbling around like a crippled person). At least, that day, hitch hiking was seamlessly easy—the universe’s way of apologizing for the day before.
Things you have learned in the past two weeks:
1)The French do Bread Runs the same way Americans do beer runs. In fact, they are freakin’ fanatical about their baguettes. “French-french-french-bla-bla-oh-la-la-baguette-baguette.”
2)You are not housebroken.
3)There is such thing as the Perfect Moment.
4)Homeless people are very aggressive.
5)Milan Kundera is a prophet of Fleckenism.
6)McDonalds is the hot spot.
7)France is the land that keeps on giving. Rivers, sunsets, starry skies, fruit trees, cheap wine, beutiful architecture, art, philosophy, cheese, fromage, and long live the baguette!
8)Mon Canon is a heartbreaker.
9)Alexis can speak French!
10)Magnum ice cream bars are BETTER than Haagen Daaz bars.
11)Normandy butter is delicious. Calvadar is also delicious. And an Embuscade (meaning: an Ambush) is the delicous grenadine-falvored Caen version of the Long Island Ice Tea..