Friday, June 13, 2014

Week 22 - Finally in France

Monday was a blur. I had had things in order for Tuesday before I went to bed except for getting the passport pic and going to work to fill out the passport app and print new tickets and such. I did do that late morning but the rest is a blank. I probably ate cheerios and knitted but don’t really remember. Go figure.

Lorri picked me up at 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday and we drove the deserted streets to the airport. I checked in and flew to Minneapolis with no drama at all. How refreshing. Unfortunately I couldn’t check my bags at the airport because all the lockers were on the other side of security, which I couldn’t get to without my passport. So I schlepped my bags onto the tram and through downtown Minneapolis to the federal building. I got there at 9:10 and had an 11:00 appointment but they took me right away. I had done everything by 10:00 and walked across the street to a fancy hotel for a $20 breakfast while I waited. I was surprisingly calm but then everything was working out. After my nice breakfast, I picked up my passport and was back at the airport just after noon for an afternoon of hanging around waiting for my flight. Everything was smooth and easy from that point on. The flight was on time and I settled in for a long night, hoping for some sleep.

I didn’t get any sleep at all. Bummer but I was still operating on adrenaline so was OK for the train leg. I struggled at the kiosk trying to print out my ticket but found a train employee who helped me then I got some euros from the ATM. I found a British couple who knew the ins and outs of the TGV, which included waiting on the platform at a specific place based on your seat assignment. I boarded the train and was at a table with a mom and her 2 girls, who placed Clue (called Cluedo in France) and were very nice with my lame French. I got to Bordeaux where I paid to pee, found a cafĂ© for a pot of tea and used the wifi until my next train came. When I got off at Bergerac, a taxi was waiting for me and 100 euros later, I arrived at the chateau. Jean was just beginning her presentation but I popped in to say hello and got an amazing welcome and outpouring of love. I skipped Jean’s talk in favor of a shower. I was exhausted but happy to be there and after dinner (no clue what I ate – I was that tired) I fell into bed. I had made it there and was ready to start enjoying my trip.

Wednesday morning was Jean’s class on knitting a toran, which started with a walk through the gardens for color inspiration. While the toran was not on my knitting list, I embraced the class and started one for the little window in my front door. It was pretty mindless knitting, which was all I could handle at that point. After lunch on the patio, I spent the afternoon sitting and knitting socks. That night was Show and Share (I brought socks, of course) and then dinner. It was a fun first day and I was loving hanging with Sue, Cindy and her friend Erica, who I hadn’t met before and was thoroughly enjoying. This trip was gonna be great. Damn good thing. : )

Friday was a day out in Roque Gageac, which was having market day. We had fun shopping (I bought my first gifts), had a nice lunch (roast pork and salad with ice cream for dessert) and then took a boat ride along the Dordogne river. Then it was on to Chateau des Milandes, which was where Josephine Baker lived.  I had just seen a documentary about her on PBS so it was especially interesting. They also had a falconry show that was surprisingly fun and even included a stuffed bunny on wheels for the falcon to “kill.” What a hoot! We ate dinner at a cute little restaurant where I had magret de canard – fattened duck breast, which is a byproduct of the local fois gras industry. It was a yummy dinner and we laughed a lot. But I was pretty much over the duck and it was only day 2. Pas de canard (no duck) became our mantra for the rest of the trip. It was challenge for sure since duck was on every menu in every restaurant. Sheesh!

Saturday was another day out – this time to Sarlat on their market day – with an early start of 8:00 on the bus. We were all tired and I wasn’t in the mood to shop. Bummer. The town was cute and we had a yummy pizza lunch. I should have made an effort to find gifts and stocking stuffers but didn’t. The afternoon was a boring pre-history museum (nice views though) followed by our first cave tour, which was odd in every way. We pulled into an unmarked parking lot by the side of the road then walked half a mile through the woods to find a wizened old French man by a door into a hillside. Very Narnia-esque. The only light in the cave was a battery operated car headlight that the old man pointed at what he wanted us to see. Sometimes it was on a wall when you needed it on the floor. There was one cave beyond the first one that you had to walk down a 40 degree wet slope to get to. The entire time he was yelling at us in unintelligible French (even our French guide couldn’t understand him) and hitting us with a stick if we didn’t move fast enough, got too close to a wall or just weren’t where he wanted us. It was an interesting experience to say the least. We ate at a restaurant on the way back to the chateau where I enjoyed a steak. Yum. Meat. Not normal for me but the meals we’d had so far at the chateaux were very light on the protein and with no full English/Irish for breakfast, I was often hungry.

Sunday was a day of rest starting with Jean’s class on Croissant Knitting (crescent shapes.) It was an excellent class and I left inspired to knit a garter stitch (one of my least favorite stitches) shawl with color fade yarn when I got home. That afternoon I had my first ever massage. 30 minutes from the waist up. It was perfectly pleasant. She used a ton of oil though so I was pretty greasy for the rest of the day. I would have taken a shower immediately but someone suggested I let the oil sink in for my skin’s sake so I was a greasy mess until bedtime.

It was hard to believe the first week of the trip was over but I was happy and having fun so at least the week ended better than it started. It pretty much had to but still. I had five more days to look forward to so all was good.

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