We decided to storm the beaches in Normandy while les infants were back in school. From the looks of them, some of our fellow vacationers may have actually stormed the beaches in Normandy. I’m not complaining, we love rubbing shoulders with senior travelers. They’re polite, easy to beat in a foot race, and very rarely yell “Wahooo!” at 3:00 in the morning.

All of our travel was by train except a couple of short trips by bus. We like trains, the seats are comfy and we get to see the countryside and villages passing by. Here is a typical conversation after about 10 hours of this:

Diane taps Neal on the arm, “Wow! Look at that castle!”
Without looking up from his iPad Neal replies, “Mmm hmm, is it anything like the last hundred castles we passed?”

We did have our first glitch after traveling beaucoup miles by train. Sitting in a small station in Châteauroux we saw the arrival time for our train come and go with no train pulling in to the station. Usually you will see a platform assigned to your train 15 minutes or so before it arrives. An “A” or “C” will appear next to your train on the display board. We waited and waited but no “A” or “C” or anything else appeared.

When a train pulled in we hauled our bags down the stairs, across the underpass and back up to the platform and breathlessly asked, Est-ce que ce train aller à Tours? The answer was non, this train does not go to Tours. We were quite puzzled by now but still not ready to approach an SNCF employee and start a conversation that we would only understand 25% of.

We sat and pondered the board again. After much pondering I began to wonder why there was a little picture of the front of a train next to our train number, but not next to any of the others. I pointed that out and Diane wondered why our train looked like it had wheels…

Yep, turns out our train was a bus and we missed it. It was a regular route and we only had to wait another hour for the next one. I got two beers at the snack bar and we arrived in Tours a little late, not so tragic after all.

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FIRST STOP – TOURS

Tours is a beautiful city of elegant white limestone buildings and formal gardens. They have a modern transport system and a hustle and bustle that’s more Paris than it is Toulouse. They also have their share of sagging medieval structures that lean over the streets, looking as if they could collapse at any moment. The weather was a bit iffy but it cleared up for us just in time for our visit to Chenonceau, an amazing Loire Valley chateau with an interesting history. Chenonceau was shaped more by the women behind the throne, wives and mistresses included.

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Tours

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SECOND STOP – CAEN

Caen was a lovely little town with a bit more rain. We were still not bothered as it gave us the excuse for more than one nap during our stay. The town had a large student population but our earplugs were effective against the inevitable 3:00 AM Wahooos! 70% of this town was destroyed during World War II and that history is pretty close to the surface. On an evening walk about Diane got this great shot of a ruined church that has been left as a monument.

Caen

Caen

THIRD STOP – DINAN

Dinan is what Disney Imagineers would come up with given the task of building the “Quintessentially quaint northern France village.” It was exactly that but made from thousand year old limestone, not polyurethane. We stayed in the heart of the medieval town in a unique ground level apartment (the decoration theme was 70’s rock-n-roll and we had a very cool poster of Jackie Brown in our bathroom. We also had a visitor.

Our room was accessed off an alley (cobble stones and vines not garbage and urine) and when we arrived a boy was trying to coax a kitten out of a bush. Apparently the kitten was abandoned and the boy was hoping his mother (owner of the art studio across the alley) would adopt it. Diane forgot all her fears about speaking French and swooped into action. I didn’t have my backpack off before she had the thing in her arms.

When we returned to our apartment that night there was no sign of the boy or the cat. We went to bed and forgot about it. Until the cat started screeching outside our door. One thing led to another and I had a kitten laying on my pillow and purrr purrr purring in my ear. It was hard to sleep with the little precious attacking my feet and I heard someone in the alley softly calling out, like they were looking for something. I sprang to my feet and threw open the sash!

“Are you looking for a lost cat?”

“Yes! Have you seen him?”

“Earlier today we saw a boy trying to catch a white kitten hiding in the bushes.”

“My kitten is white, do you know if the boy caught him?”

“Wait one second, I have a surprise for you.”

I took the kitten from our bed and handed him through the open window to the young man, they both look delighted.

“He looks happy,” I say.

“Thank you sir, you’ve made me so happy!”

“Good night!”

“Bless you sir!”

At least that’s how it went in my head. My language skills being what they are, it could have also gone something like this:

“Did you see the cat leash?”

“What? Do you mean you lost your cat?”

“Today we saw an attractive waiter give a cat drinks.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, I really should go…”

“Hear this bucket, stand still.”

I took the kitten from our bed and handed him through the open window to the young man, they both look delighted.

“He smells ugly,” I say.

“Wait, what am I supposed to do with this?”

“Good night!”

“This is not my cat!”

From Dinan we also visited Mont Saint-Michel. The second most visited landmark in France. I would hate to see this place in the high season. It was packed and we didn’t linger for long. It is very unique and certainly worth a visit but we probably won’t be going back. We did solve one mystery. We were wondering where all the asian tourists were. Found them! The narrow alleys were packed with Japanese girls in high heels and short skirts taking their 400th selfie of the day. After a near brawl during lunch between a harried french waitress and an italian family we decided to call it a day.

Dinan

Mont Saint-Michel

FOURTH STOP – SAINT-MARTIN-DE-RÉ

Ahhhh… the Ile de ré an island in the Atlantic where we met back up with the geriatric voyagers. A little more rain and a lot more relaxing. We took a lovely bike ride through the vineyards and salt marshes, and befriended a few more neighborhood kitties. It was a lovely trip and the island made for a nice cool-down before returning home.

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FIFTH STOP – BACK HOME IN TOULOUSE

We keep the small suitcases inside the big suitcases on a closet shelf. It’s my job after we return home to nest the bags together and put them into storage until the next trip. I was doing that when Diane said, “You might as well leave those out, we go to Bordeaux on Thursday.”

Oh… right.

See you soon Cassie!

 

 

 

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