Our 2008 Grand Tour - France

September 6, 2008

We made it to St Malo! We flew out of Dublin to Rennes, hitched a ride to the Rennes train station and caught the 6:30 train to the lovely, walled city of St Malo, Bretagne, France. It wasn’t quite as simple as all that but I’ll get to that tomorrow. I’m far too tired to continue right now. Au revoir.

St Malo


Street Artist


St Malo street


September 7, 2008

We’re here in St Malo for our second day. The weather, which has been our adversary, finally became our friend. It was sunny most of the day today. But more about our arrival. After being delayed for over two hours on the plane (during which I snoozed and Tom fumed) we finally took off on the one hour flight to Rennes, the “capital” of Bretagne, which, as we all know, is France’s land of the Celts. After we touched down, we got a lift to the train station by a wonderfully kind Rennes woman, named Celine, who drove us the ten minutes across town to La Gare. I just happened to ask her, on the plane, “Is it easy to get to the train station from the airport?” She said, “Oui, oui, mais je dois aller a centre ville, allors je vous porterais.” (In english, “no problem”). Then I said, “You surely can’t be serious?” “Oui, oui, madame”, she replied. “Well then, to the train station!” I cried. Without her kindness we would have had to wrestle our heavy packs a long way past (for instance) the woman’s prison and other oddities we passed. Then we got our very inexpensive tickets for the 55 km train ride toward the coast and St Malo. There is nothing to compare with the comfort and speed and cleanliness of French trains. It was a delight to ride these rails. Tom’s Jesuit friend, Fr. Al Naucke, who is a trainophile, would love these (and probably does). The train let us out in the rain and wind and we hefted our heavy packs for a longish walk until we found ourselves outside the looming walls of this magical marvelous “ville”. We woke late and went for a run along the beach. I guess it’s because we have been hardened by our experience with the Irish weather that we did not let the howling wind and rain deter us. Then home to our unbelievably expansive (not expensive) and charming apartment above the Hotel Croiseur for showers. We then emerged into the bright sunny afternoon and explored all the shops under the looming battlements and ramparts. I must say, I love this place. Just look! Everything is so, um, well, French, n’est-ce pas?


September 10, 2008

Well, it’s been a few days since we touched in, but it has been a grueling couple of days of shopping, promenading in the moonlight on the ramparts as the sun goes down in a salmon light show over the (French) Channel, running, shopping, swimming, shopping and getting up late. Oh, did I mention, shopping? Wait, let us not forget eating and drinking. Yeah, that too. We’ve investigated travel down to the (reportedly) cute, quaint town of Dinan, and we had wanted to go by boat up the Rance River, but the boats are subject to the tides, draw-bridges, speed limits and other headaches that make an embarcation in the few days we have left quite impossible. So we are going to the gare tomorrow, to take the train to Dinan. The very agreeable Celine, who gave us the life saving ride to the train station when we first got off the plane in Rennes, told us that we must go there, so tomorrow it is. Today dawned particularly sunny and calm, so we went on a long (52 minute) run on a nearly deserted stretch of beach that reached from here to next week. After our run we did a bit of shopping. Tom wants a beret so we were on a mission to find one. I’ll preface the beret shopping experience with this - Les gens de la France are helpful and charming, except for one or two whose job it is, I’m sure, to treat the tourists in such a way that the French continue to enjoy their reputation as snobs. Now, the Beret Saga…”Tom!” I yelled! “I’ve found the hat shop you’ve been looking for!” Tom dashed down the cobbled street and stumbled into the shop. The “femme proprieteuse” uttered in a disdainful, barely audible voice, “Bon jour.” Tom replied, with enthusiasm, “Bon jour, Madame! S’il vous plait, I would like a black beret.” (not raspberry) “No, no, no, monsieur!” she cried. “There are only bleu berets and I can tell your head is too big. We have not your size. Au revoir!” And with that she walked away. We were left standing in the small, stuffy shop with no beret, fuming.”F**k her! She was trash!” Tom hissed, in his best Robert Loggia from the Jagged Edge.


September 12, 2008

It was time to move on. We had watched on several nights the gibbous moon just beginning to wax over the ramparts of this stone city on our evening strolls to the seaside that put a luster on the water t the west and it was magnifique. But we must keep traveling east, so we set out this morning for the capital of Bretagne, Rennes. We are staying here one night and will catch the 7:00 a.m. TGV (train a grand vitesse, which means really, really fast train) to Montparnasse in gay Paris. We then have to do the mad dash from there onto the metro, across town to the Gare du Nord to catch the second half of our train trip to Amsterdam. We have an hour and a half to get this task done. If all goes exactly right, I mean precisely correctly, we’ll still be three minutes late for the train. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! No, just kidding. With any luck, we’ll be fine. When next we connect we’ll be in the city of Rembrandt and Van Gogh. We just got back from dining at the Cafe Noir. I started with a glass of champagne before a bowl of soupe de poisson followed by a fruits de la mer salade with vin rouge and finally plat du fromage. (yum) Tom had pizza and water. (yawn)