Sunday and Monday in Nantes and Lille
22.04.2012 - 25.05.2012 9 °C
If Saturday is market day .... Sunday is rest and relaxation day. Most stores are closed, residents hurry along to church services with the Church bells tolling constantly. Those not in Church are in shorts and joggers pounding along on the uneven cobblestones. At 7pm some cafes, bars and restaurants open. It's been a very quiet day for everyone but the tourists I think ..... the tourist office is not open, however and it does not open Mondays either!!
I used the remainder of my "hop on hop off" pass to tour the full circuit of the ride, plus a little bit extra to hop off at the River Erdre to walk along the canals and visit a Japanese garden I read about last night in the travel guide that you are given when buying the ticket. I actually managed to tick quite a few venues off my list today and have done most of it on foot.
Ran out of time to take a sight-seeing tour of the River as I had planned because I spent 5 hours soaking up the castle atmosphere and associated history and still could have had another good hour there. The castle now houses the Nantes Museum and each room has a different theme of Nantes through the ages, also incorporating new audio/visual and touch screen technology as well as traditional written words in three languages in huge books in each of the 30 rooms. So much thought has gone into this museum. The font type used in the huge books are indicative of each of the eras .........it took a good hour to walk around the ramparts, towers and parapets taking photos of the magnificent views of the city and inside the castle walls. It certainly takes you back to medieval times and the history is absorbing. Nantes was heavily involved in the slave trade from West Africa, continuing the trade long after it was officially abolished. There is sincere acknowledgement of this throughout the displays. At every turn and looking backwards the camera was working overtime again. It didn't really matter most of the descriptions of artifacts in the exhibitions was in French as the artifacts and displays told their own story.
It rained again on and off today ..... I'm sure from what I have read that this is common and other reviews also say the light is affected by the constant fogs and winds coming in from the Atlantic. It's indicative of Nantes that the photos will be affected by the Nantes lighting. I found the same thing with photos of Ireland eight years ago. We are spoilt in Australia having great natural sunlight.
Tomorrow I'll be heading north to Lille - four hours by train.
Random facts from today
- the joy of finding a warm singlet in the bottom off my luggage. Are four layers enough? They weren't yesterday.
- the joy of finding the last pair of Aldi hiking socks in the bottom of my luggage. They are sooooo warm and spongy when you're on your feet all day.
- the joy of finding a laundromat two streets away .... Tomorrow is Monday ...Washday. Ahhhh the joy of warm singlets and socks again.
- searching for an elusive rue in the Bouffray district of the old city, trying to orient the map and stop it from ....
a) getting wet in this strange weather, and
b) blowing away with the chilly winds from the Atlantic, and
getting it close enough to actually see the tiny street names, I was stopped by two Frenchmen who offered to help. One was young and gorgeous, the other a older gentleman. I declined their help as I thought it was safer not to engage with them in these small rues with not too many passers by. However, I did appreciate their offers. Merci beau coup on both counts!
- finally found the medieval houses I had on my list anyway. Just kept walking. Arrived back at the hotel with a French/Chinese/Thai takeaway. By pointing to the container sizes and the trays of precooked meals on display, I bought a dinner that I knew.
- Australians look Anglo-saxon but it must obvious that we are not literate in French. Sign language and drawing a picture of a Euro in the air or on the counter top conveys the question of how much do things cost if the price is difficult to work out. Chinese meals are sold by the kilo ...... 15€ per kilo ...... who knows how much the little container holds or how full the chef is going to fill it? I was given the docket to show me how much it cost, while at the same time the chef was telling me in French how much it cost!!!! Show me the docket any day.
- the French have long conversations and speak really quickly ..... unfortunately I'm lost unless they speak slowly ....one word at a time.
- single nouns in French have sufficed to date but I really think that I owe it to the French to try harder as I am taking so much enjoyment away with me I feel it is too one-sided on my behalf. Taxi Gare sve ou plait ........ Should be "please could you cal me a taxi to the station. But unfortunately taxi Gare was all I could manage.
- while sorting out packing and washing for tomorrow, I watched Legally Blonde 1 and 2 in French .....sadly I already know the stories so the language was not a barrier!!!
Tried to send my blog last night but wifi disconnection and losing the text three times put me off trying my luck further ( and Legally Blonde 2 had finished)!
Today is travel day and my boy's birthday. Happy Birthday Liam. Sorry I am not able to celebrate it with you .... But this year I truly have a better offer. You know I am thinking of you tho.
So .... Check out time is not indicated anywhere on mt account or on the literature in the room. At le petite dejeunere I asked the receptionist after looking "check out" up in the trusty (if yellowing-with-age) French/English high school dictionary. Quelle heure et chaisse? I asked politely. She shrugged her shoulders. I'm thinking, but she works here, she must know what time guests check out. So I showed her the word "check out" out in the trusty French/English high school dictionary and the writing is so tiny for both of us to read in the dimly light breakfast room that the Head Receptionist overhears this debacle and says 11 o'clock!
Head off to the laundromat and observe the locals to figure out how all this works. There are about a dozen washing machines and four big dryers. Some of the machines are 5-7 kilos others are are 8-10 and one big one for sheets, etc. Oh, didn't bring scales to weigh my washing so if it fits in the tumbler, I guess it's 5-7 kgs. You have to buy your powder first, tip it into the little drawers and select on the machine the type of wash (there are pictures of thermometers and degree levels). The words blanc and colors are listed. My load is mixed! Go the safest option and chose a low temperature. The door won't shut .... it's a front loader. Maybe my load actually is 8-10 kgs after all! Ok there is a white box on the wall with numbers 0-9 on a keypad. The fast-speaking French lady who runs the place and others in the Laundromat realize I have no idea what I am doing and come to the rescue. Handing over a 5€ note to her to feed into this machine, it is rejected five times before finally being eaten ... she presses the number of the washing machine (14) into the keypad in sequence, the machine starts spinning and I get 2€ change. Showing me 25 on the washing machine means I'll be here for 25 minutes at least. Drying ....... similar principle ...... 22 is the dryer number, preset the temperature and it knows how much to charge .... 1€. Sweet, am I getting the hang of this or what! Then, the fast-speaking French lady who is now polishing the washing machines is swinging a pair of my cottontails in the air and pointing to the door of the washing machine number 14 indicating they got caught in the door!!!! By now the population of the laundromat is ten and everyone (male and female) are aware that they are my smalls that got caught in number 14 washing machine!!!! Quickly taking them from her and thrusting them into the dryer, I am hoping no one knows how embarrassed I feel. It took another 2€ before things were dry. An interesting time also watching the locals come and go with their washing and so different to us in the suburbs of Australia. The streets are so narrow that having a laundrette across the road open from 8:30am to 11:30pm would be similar to your own laundry in a way. Well, I did want to live like a French local on this trip.
Domestic chores done, I head off for my last walking tour of an arrondisement that is renowned for yet another beautiful Gothic cathedral with gold spires on top. Found it, plus a fabric shoppe .... found one other already ..... Closed on Mondays but took a photo of it as it was so cute. The rain starts again and that chilly wind. Got to get back to the hotel to get a taxi to the station as I was sure the train left at 2:30pm. I did check it last night. On the way back I discovered two more sights from my list. Another medieval set of two houses and a little park. Through the rain I took photos... probably have rain drops on the lens ... But at this point I have no option .... Click.
The hotel receptionist books my taxi ...... It's 1:35pm. By 1:55pm she tells me it will be here in 5 minutes. The church bell across the road tolls 2:00pm. Five minutes later the taxi arrives and we are off to Gare Nantes. The machines that dispense the tickets are a bit daunting and I have managed to avoid them so far preferring to show my " confirmation voucher" to a human being and help them retain their jobs (know what it feels like to be redundant after all!). Ticket dispensed and, on checking the departure board, my train to Lille is not showing!!!! Check the time on the ticket and it left at 2:08pm without me!!!! Note to self ...... Remember the 24 hour clock and commit the minutes to memory. Plan B? Didn't have one! Why would a human being dispense a train ticket for a train that had already left? Found an English-speaking reservation clerk who tres tres kindly rebooked me on the next train to Paris leaving at 3:00pm changing at Gare Montparnasse for a metro train to Gare de Nord for another train to Lille. My expired ticket was transferred to this new reservation and I am writing this on the train to Lille ....ETA 8:18pm instead of the direct train I missed ..... ETA 6:00pm. I think daylight saving has started here because it doesn't get dark until after 8:00pm. The Lille Hotel Flandres is right next to the Lille Flandres Gare so it should still be light by the time the train arrives. Chose that hotel for its proximity to the station. Now I am relieved I did. Tomorrow I meet the other Australians on the four day battlefields tour and our knowledgeable guides. A significant reason for this trip .... To retrace Puppa's steps during WWI, which so many other Australians have been able to do; now it's my turn.
The wind is strong today that there were waves on the water in the canals that run parallel to the SNCF train line from Nantes north to Paris. I feel that these may be a reminder from past centuries before rail and road transport.
Geographic dyslexia is doing my head in. I've always had a problem with the direction of the returning train from Armidale to Sydney (going to Tamworth to visit Robyn and Dave); but the train to Paris had backed into the station and the back of the train looks like it should be the front (pointy ended like in the advertisements) and my booked seat was facing backwards. After the setback of missing the first train, I haven't tried to figure it all out yet. The SNCF trains are "very fast trains" but they don't appear any different from traveling to Tamworth except with fewer stops. It's disconcerting to be backwards in the head, not facing the direction you are going in and in a different hemisphere where the cars are on the wrong side of the road. I accidentally tried to get in the driver's side of the taxi .... that would be the passenger side in Australia. Clearly I need therapy for this condition or I wonder if Merck make a tablet for it! Oh, at the patchwork show on Friday, Merck had a seminar in another room to the patchwork show. There was their logo with an arrow pointing downstairs to the venue. Is there some irony in that or what?
My foray with the Metro has been tentative (twice so far) but looking forward to using it more next week when I stay for seven days in an apartment. It seems very efficient and it's a "doors open, doors close immediately" scenario. I guess if passengers know that the next train will be along within a few minutes, it doesn't matter if you miss out by a few seconds.
The sky is grey and cloudy again and the countryside from Paris to Lille is rural and follows a major road it seems - there are hardly any hills - the land is very flat from my observations. Patchwork fields again and tiny hamlets of farms and typical French homes and a few traditional small windmills but farms of tri-bladed white windmills. So many things here are in miniature. The stairs on the open top bus were spirally and built in less than a metre of space. Goes to show you that you can fit anything into a small space if necessary.
Now arrived safely in Lille after such a funny and eventful day. My room is at the front overlooking the railway station .... it's on the fifth floor .... There is an old fashioned lift the size of a fridge with an internal sliding panelled door and an outer door that pushes outwards in the corridor. Pushing and pulling doors to open them is also a challenge - I'm sure there is logic to the way the door should open but it escapes me. Is there a tablet for that too.
Thank you for reading this blog. Please send me news from home ..... good, bad or otherwise.