When we first got married, my husband, Bill, used to make a lot of jokes about France. Since he’s a soldier, he used to talk a lot about how the French were wimps during wartime. I don’t know about that. I was awfully impressed a few years ago, when a couple of French snipers killed a couple of Somali pirates who were holding several people hostage. But anyway, like a lot of guys in the military, my husband used to join in the good natured ribbing about the French running from battle…
And then we went there…
My husband promptly fell in love with France. It started with our first venture into France while we were on a trip to Italy in 2008. We were staying at Bella Baita, a B&B about 30 miles from Torino and not far from the French border. The B&B was high in the Alps and on a clear day, you can see the French border. I was sick of Italian food because we’d been in Italy all week. So I proposed we go to France for a little while.
Bill was hesitant. At the time, I think he wasn’t used to being able to pass over borders with ease. But we headed west, driving through majestic mountain passes and around multiple switchbacks. We finally crossed over the border and watched as the signs went from Italian to French. We stopped in the first city of any significance, Briancon. There was a handy parking lot there. We had lunch outdoors at a charming little cafe, where I had a delicious salad and mustard marinaded chicken and wine. And then we walked around the charming downtown area for awhile… until I needed to pee.
As it turned out, the public pay toilet was broken, so we went back to the cafe, where we had spent about 80 euros. The bartender was kind of an asshole and told me I had to buy a drink before I could go pee. Fortunately, the waitress who had served Bill and me overheard and gave him a ration of shit.
The parking lot where we parked for our day trip to France.
The gate to the old town
A view of the scenery from the parking lot
Waterfall coming out of the Alps
The inside of the neighborhood cathedral
After the impromptu trip to Briancon, we had a chance to go back into France on the way home. We took a shortcut through eastern France and had lunch in Strasbourg, where I proceeded to drink too much red wine…
View from downtown Strasbourg…
In May 2009, we enjoyed a magical weekend in Paris. We stayed at Hotel Le Six, and just wandered the streets, eating good food, looking at the crowds. At one point, we spotted two hapless Mormon missionaries who looked harried as they passed us enjoying a wonderful lunch at a little bistro.
A month later, we stayed in Luxembourg for a long weekend to celebrate my birthday and took a day trip to Nancy, France; a beautiful city in Northeastern France, not far from Belgium. We ate lunch at a South American restaurant and scored points because our terrible Spanish was better than our non-existant French!
And a month after that, we dipped back into France to take my mother-in-law out to lunch on our way home from an epic tour of five countries in one day… and if I haven’t blogged about that yet, I definitely will. We stopped in Marckolsheim, France and had yet another nice lunch, again with people who barely spoke English. It was refreshing.
In Europe, a lot of people speak English. That’s convenient, of course, but it’s also sad. Because it makes the place seem less European and more American. And it makes it harder to learn a new language. There are pockets of Europe, though, where a person can go and feel like they are truly away from home.
Bill loves France now. At some point, we are going to have to go there on vacation so he can enjoy the wonders of France for longer than a day trip or a long weekend. I’m thinking about one day booking a trip with French Country Waterways, a barge cruising outfit. We’ll have to save for it because it’s expensive… But wow, what a week we’d have, huh?
We also want to visit the Champagne region for obvious reasons. Actually, I could live on champagne, given the opportunity…
Taittinger… probably my favorite champagne. I like it even better than Dom Perignon…
I think we need to move back to Europe.