Thursday, September 5

I see the sights in Cherbourg and take the long train ride back to Paris.

One way to tell the difference between a 3 star hotel (Bayeux) and a 2 star one (Cherbourg) is the size of the breakfast buffet. About 10 times bigger in Bayeux. But the coffee is by far the most important part, and I was very relieved to discover that they do indeed have good old American coffee with milk and lots of it here in Cherbourg. So I'm caffeinated and the day has begun.

Tired of tourism at this point. Wish I was back home in Paris having my petit déjeuner at La Contrescarpe. Thinking of blowing off Caen and the memorial this afternoon and just taking the train all the way into Paris as originally planned. Enough is enough.

Cherbourg is nowhere near as pretty or interesting as Bayeux. The harbor is nice but downtown is pretty much nothing to write home about, so here I am writing home about it.

And my hair is too short.

Grumpily yours,

Jean-Louis

I take back the grumpy things I said about Cherbourg this morning. If you wander around the harbor and west of downtown it becomes une belle ville très charmante. I'm happy that I came here.

Nobody tried to speak English to me today. The looks I got were of wry amusement, half way between "I can hardly understand you, are you from Montreal or something?" and "Actually not bad for an ugly American with too-short hair." I'll take that!

La Manche (the English Channel). 130 kilometers (81 miles) in that direction to Portsmouth, England. The Normans and I should sail over and pay Harold a visit!

Merci à Dieu that I didn't have to go in here. 10,50€ for a man's haircut. I paid 22€ in Bayeux. Interesting. $20 at Vince in Chicago (including big tip for Vince). But I got a shampoo in Bayeux too. That price is 15,50€ at this shop in Cherbourg. On the other hand, the coiffeuse in this shop looked cute. Maybe it really is time for a shampoo and a little trim?

At the entrance to un collège, a junior high school. "I wish that this great world were the book of my school days". Michel de Montaigne. (Middle French, probably a horrible translation.)

Parc Emmanuel Liais in Cherbourg. From a description on the net:

Park and greenhouses created by Emmanuel Liais in 1885. Numerous tree 
species from South America, Australia, China set off magnificent ancient 
groups of azaleas (japanese and mollis) to great effect.

Parc Emmanuel Liais

Parc Emmanuel Liais

Parc Emmanuel Liais

Parc Emmanuel Liais

Parc Emmanuel Liais

Parc Emmanuel Liais

Parc Emmanuel Liais

Somebody lives here. I saw him watching TV through that living room window.

Took a break for un café here in a little square.

Lunch at McDonalds in Cherbourg. It looks almost exactly like home doesn't it? When I ordered I got my drink, then the clerk said I could sit down. So I found a table and sat. They brought the burger to me. I thought that was unusual, don't think I've ever seen it in a McD back home.

Un royal cheese et un petit Coca-Cola light. Royal cheese NOT as good and greasy as a quarter pounder with cheese. Should have tried the fries.

The burger was cooked well, but it was very lean and not at all juicy. Certainly healthier than our grease bombs, but not as tasty. Talked about this with the couple from Kansas City, who of course vigorously defended the superiority of our American corn-feed beef. At the restaurant there was beef on the menu, but they said they never order it in Europe, because "we're used to the real thing".

Wanted to go to the top of this mountain to visit Musée de la Libération Fort du Roule. See the flag way up on top? But there was no way I was going to climb that on foot, there didn't appear to be any tram or bus, and they were closed anyway.

I'll bet there's an awesome view from up there. Maybe you can see all the way to England!

See that winding road in the map? That's evidently the only way up if you're not a rock climbing enthusiast.

End of my little vacation in Normandy. On my way home.

On the train home today I shared a compartment with 6 other people, all French, all very ordinary run-of-the-mill regular people. Crowded but nice. Don't get to experience that by yourself in a car. And I almost understood most of what the announcer was saying. Triomphe!

One of my fellow travelers on the train was quite an elderly woman with a huge heavy suitcase. Another fellow and I helped her put it up in the overhead rack and then take it down again when we arrived in Paris. Many many many "oh, merci beaucoup" and "de rein" and "bonne journée" pleasantries were exchanged.

Talked about this with François. Said you aren't permitted to leave a store without saying "au revoir" and "merci bien" and "bonne journée" about six times. He agreed, and says that even he thinks it gets to be a bit much. Interesting. Very hard to get used to for Americans, all this constant formal politeness.

Tip: Always say "please" when you order something in France. I forgot once in Bayeux in a bar. Said "un café" and that's all. The bartender gave me a most unpleasant look and added "s'il vous plait" for me. Felt awful.

On faire la bise: François said it was so bad (four times in Normandy vs. two times in Paris) that when he goes to a bar to meet friends it takes 10 minutes of air kissing before he can even order a drink. And the English? (He lived there for 15 years). Nothing. Not even a wave hello. Hilarious. I've experienced it. I think it's charming, but I can see how it would get a bit much if you had to live with it your whole life.

François went to England "because of a girl". Said he found English women attractive. I told him in the states it's French and Italian women, because of the accents. He said to watch out for the Italians, because you don't just marry the girl, you marry all her relatives too. The guy was really funny.

I wish I could have seen more of the gorgeous countryside. Really only possible in a car, I think. Can't tell you how pretty it was out the train windows.

But I'm glad I didn't drive. Even the regular slower French trains are much better than ours. Trains + walking is all you need to see the towns and cities. But a car would be nice for other things, like the country and touring Provence and so on.

Must have walked 10 miles today. Almost enough to burn off all the calories I consumed in Bayeux.