October 08, 2003 GMT
The last days in France

Hello all !!

We've missed a few weeks of updates so I'm going to give you the quick and dirty version of the last weeks in France.

Once we crossed over to Eastern France the people there seemed quite different from the "west". ( not that there was anything wrong with the west). In the East (so east of Paris both North and South), we had people going out of their way all the time for us. If a hotel was full, instead of the yeah we're full, get out, we would get let me call another hotel for you and give you directions.

Or we would be standing on the street looking at some pile of rocks that we think are Roman and we have a very nice lady come over and to tell us what we are looking at. ( It turns out it is one of the last remaining Roman Gates in Europe that hasn't been touched...cool). We also had someone come and help us with directions when we took out the map. Love eastern France.

So Patrick had left you guys off in a little place called St. Lo where he had his beloved bike all dolled up and ready for another 10,000 km's. We moved on from there to a town called Arras in order to get close to Vimy Ridge.
Neither Patrick or I can say enough about Vimy Ridge. I think that every Canadian should go there it is that powerful. The memorial is an amazing piece of architecture and the National Park of Vimy has not been changed since the war. So what that really means is you see what our soldiers were going through as they headed into battle. The Government of Canada has students there to give tours of the underground railway system which is how troops and supplies were moved up to the front. You also get to see the front itself which I know must sound unbelievable. The German and Canadian front lines were only 30 yards apart - I know - unreal unless you see it. We spent at least 3 hours there and could have probably spent the whole day. I guess what really strikes you as you walk through Vimy Ridge is the feeling that you get, it's an emotional one that I can't quite put into words.

We move on to two big cities, Reims and Besancon.

Reims is pretty cool with great shopping (window shopping for me) and lots of old buildings to look at PLUS it´s the home of Champagne. I would like to tell you all that you can never, ever, get enough Champagne. A funny story about our hotel though. As you all know we are way over budget so Patrick picks our hotel in Reims for us. It is a great deal at €30 per night. However the bathroom is so small that you have to take your clothes off (sorry to get graphic here) in the other room as the toilet is under the sink and the shower is a limbo dance around the sink.......3 nights we stayed in this room...and you know it starts off funny having to do the limbo to go to the bathroom but by the 3rd day it really was annoying.

Besancon was also a great town. It's a university town so lots of young people around, good shopping and thank god a great self service laundry. Again, the luxury of having clean clothes knows no bounds.

We also stopped in Vichy France for 3 nights. For you history buffs that is where the Vichy government holed up during the war and for you Spa buffs that is where there are hot natural springs. Small town of about 25,000 and I think a little piece of French paradise. The guide books really don't talk this up as they should. We stayed in a great family run hotel for €45 per night. The hotel was called the Averna Hotel and we highly recommend it to anyone who goes to Vichy. Due to finances I was not allowed to partake in the Spa activities but had to content myself with putting my hand in the hot spring in the centre of town.....

We have to move on as we are in the mountains (Vichy is in the Massif region) and we start to the west and then to the south ( to avoid a little mountain range called the Pyrenees). No real good stories here as we were a) frozen due to very wet weather and cold temperatures and b) moved along every day so didn´t stay in one place long enough to do more than have dinner.

So overall in France some general stuff for future travellers....
1) the wine is only cheap in the grocery stores but you can get a good bottle of red for under €5 easy
2) wine is very expensive in the restaurants and bars and cafes
3) beer in France is only okay and it is always from some other country
4) all other drinks such as soda pop and water are also very expensive. in some parts of the country a can of coke (or glass of coke) could be €2.20. the cheapest I got if for was €1.75 in a cafe.
5)everything closes down for a 2 hour lunch....this is bad when you arrive in town and head to the tourist bureau and it doesn´t open for another hour....
6) gas is expensive at around €1.05 - €1.12 per litre. you can find it cheaper by about .09 cents at the big supermarches but you have to go there when they are open as our cards (visa) didn´t work in their 24 hour system.
7) the french do like you to try and speak french
8) France is expensive. We even bought a kettle for our coffee and tea and bought cereal bars for breakfast and that barely helped.
9) France´s version of McDonald's is a place called Quick and it was quite tasty as the hamburgers tasted like real hamburgers...shocking
10) the roads are good and easy to ride on, sometimes the signs don´t always match the map but hey getting lost is part of the game
and finally
11) there is really a whole lot of dog poo everywhere

Posted by Danette Harkness at October 08, 2003 01:49 PM GMT

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