At the end of our short three days in Normandy, we drove to Versailles to hand off the rental car to Liz and Andrew. Were we sad to see the car go? No.
Unfortunately we picked a bad place to rendevous, car-wise. Turns out, VERSAILLES SUCKS.
See that mob? It was insane. They were pushing and shouting and demanding entrance immediately, and that was before they even managed to park. And Rosie, our little stress barometer, completely turned herself inside out with rage and fury. So as we're creeping along in impossible traffic through unmarked alleyways with no signs towards, you know, THE PALACE, we all nearly combusted. But we finally parked (what one-way, wrong-way, no parking sign??), threw all of our stuff onto the sidewalk, Matt managed to find L and A in that huge mass of people, and I vowed to NEVER EVER drive again, tried to calculate the future cost of family and individual therapy to recover from that drive. Seriously, I'm shocked we didn't all come out with white hair.
We lobbed the keys at L and A, they serenely drove away on their own adventure, and we took Rosie on an apology-carousel. I wonder how many fun kid things are motivated by parental guilt?
Notice her swollen puffy face??So then it was a simple matter of getting onto the metro, getting to the Gare De Lyon in Paris, and onto our high speed train to Lyon, with two rolling suitcases with broken handles, 2 backpacks, one hungry and stressed toddler, and a stroller.
But we made it onto our cushy train, even found the right seats in the right car, snagged a couple of pastries, baguette sandwiches and orangina for lunch, and settled in:
We got to watch the lovely country side go past and relax for two hours, and then *voila!* we were there.
By some impossibly happy luck, our hotel (Hotel Du Simplon), just happened to be right next to the station-- no other metros or transfers necessary. Just a lovely stroll through a park, down a little road past fruit stands and kabob shops, and we were there. It was a wonderfully-walking friendly place-- two exciting playgrounds and a fountain, and a wonderful pedestrial shopping ally full of ice cream shops and cafes. And it was suddenly warm!
The next morning we set out (after a lovely hotel breakfast of croissants and baguettes with jam, juice and hot chocolate for the kid), there was an open-air market happening in the square.
Tables heaped with unidentifiable cured meats and sausages,
Dr. Suess-esque towers of fresh cheese! And crackly, floury crusty bread!
And fragrant beds of flowers!
And CHEVRE. AND YES. The sign says ONE EURO.
ONE EURO! I splutter in disbelief. Why? How? Why is America's food culture so dumb, that we have snobbified excellent simple food, and are willing to stuff our faces with unexamined revoltingness?? Look at this bounty! gasp, splutter, choke. Yummmm.
*gyaaaah* These tiny chickens are spit roasted over a pan of new potatoes, which get all greasy and salty and divooooon.
All that, and African Shirts!! Along one side of the square, there were all these vendors selling shoe-polished lean African statuary and bright soccer shirts, like the ones below (which I didn't take...this is just a picture from the web. But you get the idea.)
Aaaaand, puppies. Around a corner, there was a whole isle of pets and pet food and pet beds. And this widdle guy, ooh, squigga wigga... I love their purple tongues...While we were in Lyon, Rosie discovered Croissants. Just yesterday she picked up her little toy lizard, and said, "Lizard's hungry! Wants a croissant!" It was lovely to go to a little bakery every morning, get a bagful of pastries, and plant ourselves on a park bench for our little uncivilized petite dejeuner.
I loved the little I got of French Foodways. No wonder the french are thinner than us blobbified Americans! We illustrated the difference exactly in our approach to breakfast.
A french person would go to the bakery, buy one delicious pastry, and enjoy it fastidiously for an hour with a teeeeensy cup of strong black coffee and a cigarette or two.
An American goes to the same bakery, FREAKS OUT at how much good stuff there is, takes one --heck TWO!-- of each, and then snorks it all down in one guilt 15 minute sitting.
That was basically us. Only not so much the guilt. More like-- you remember the scene in Chocolat when the count breaks into the store front window and showers himself in chocolate, then cries and eats himself to sleep? I think that was the spirit in which we lived our culinary lives for a week or two.