Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Last day Vernueil sur Avre; Paris, day one

It was time to get up and say goodbye. I don't think I have quite explained the charm of the gatehouse at Vernueil sur Avre; I should probably do so. The house is in a walled garden so it feels locked away, but it also has a view to the St Madeleine Church so it feels right in the middle of everything too. There is a downstairs with a kitchen and lounge room and then you go upstairs via the tiniest and steepest staircase you could ever imagine, with steps that squeal like kicked cats with every step you take. Myles, Paris and I have to duck as we ascend and descend. Zelda and Niccolo can scamper at will. Once upstairs, there are three bedrooms, Zelda and Niccolo are in one (the one with the TV and video that we have all spent many a long hour in), one with Paris in a bed with lots of flowers, and the other with Myles and I and a view of the church.
We packed up and squashed all our stuff into our diminshing luggage space. We thought about sending some stuff home, but the post office was packed to pussy's bow and our French probably wasn't up to it anyway. Our French isn't up to much. Actually. After the post office issue, we went off to the boulangerie which was closed. To buy our final pain au chocolat. But it was not possible.
As we left, someone tapped on the car window. We couldn't work out what he wanted. He went away. Then we did.
It wasn't a long drive to Paris; about a hour. It was a drive through more farmland. Everything is farmland in this part of the country (apparently). Then there was a forest. Then there was a tunnel. Then there was PARIS. Suddenly. No suburbs. No warning. Myles got immediate hot flashes because he hadn't filled the petrol tank and would be up for serious money when we returned the car. So we reprogramed Samantha to get us to a petrol station. Just to reinterate ... we were in Paris. And Sam was giving Myles directions like: 'bear right then turn left. Turn left then to a U turn.' We were all a little stressed. But there was a petrol station at the end of this horror. After the petrol station, we headed to the apartment. Hmmm. Equally stressful. We seriously considered abandoning the car and running away. But we toughed it out and found ourselves at the Rue de la Clef, outside a pub called 'The Local' and looking longingly at an apartment block that was apparently sealed tight. Myles parked illegally and we pushed the door with some force. Luckily all of the patrons at 'The Local' were tired and emotional so they didn't try to stop us. Then we looked again at the instructions. And found a way in. Myles left to drop the car at the Louvre (another story coming up) and we unpacked and made our way around the local area. We couldn't stray too far because Myles had no key, we had no phone so no way to communicate, and he had no idea what apartment number we were in. There were points of failure everywhere.
We did eventually link up which was exciting and kind of improbable.
Myles then told us about his adventures that involved driving to the Louvre and coming close to losing his mind, entering the carpark and driving around in endless and increasingly dizzying circles until someone took pity on him and asked him what he was doing. He was then directed to 'park anywhere' and go upstairs to Hertz. All well and good until he got upstairs and couldn't find Hertz. So he asked a policewoman. She was a little helpful. She was also on roller skates. That is his story and if anyone can confirm it, please send me a comment. Zelda thought that perhaps there were days that police officers were on roller skates, and days that they were on unicycles. We are hoping to see this phenomenon with our own eyes. We are returning to the Louvre tomorrow to establish the veracity of this story.
After dinner, we went for a walk. Dinner was early; about five o'clock and then we left the apartment. We walked up to the top of the local hill and discovered that this was where Ernest Hemmingway lived in his early days in Paris with Hadley and Jack. So that was fun. And then we walked down to the Seine and up to Notre Dame. There was a service in progress, it involved a young woman singing most of the service and then an older bloke saying a few things. It was quite unearthly I have to say. Notre Dame is extraordinary - even the complaining children were silenced by it.
After that, we continued our walk along the Seine until we sort of decided we had had enough, and it was raining a bit. So we wandered into the the heart of the Left Bank and found Boulevard St Germain which I figured would take us back to where we needed to go. As we walked, we (OK ... I) became increasingly aware of how anti Parisian we were - puffy jackets (the least sartorially snappy statement one might make), Paris in his flannel shirt and tracksuit pants (possibly illegal in Paris; I'm not sure), Zelda in ripped jeans (an offence) and Niccolo in pants that are too short (just negligent parenting I'm afraid). Myles and I looking shabby too. Oh dear. When I mentioned this to Paris, he got all bolshie and told me that I was messing with his self esteem. Bugger that. He has to toughen up.
We were back at the apartment at eight. That was three hours of walking and few complaints even from the youngest member of the family. I sent Myles into the nearest supermarket to get a bottle opener (funny how I assume that every wine bottle is a twist top; not true here. And no bottle opener in the apartment - what is the go with that?). Red wine at home. Myles and Paris watched a youtube video on the French Revolution. The kids did various things - drawing, writing, reading, cutting. I watched a Sherlock Holmes film. Then to bed. We had big plans for the morrow.

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