Traveling through France with the “Tall Grey Man with One Bad Foot”

This 2013 trip nearly didn’t happen. Our big plans for driving through Normandy, Brittany and the Loire Valley were jeopardized when the big guy broke his foot in May. Although our trip wasn’t till September, we just don’t heal like we used to.

However, with the Doc’s last minute permission, we headed to France equipped with an inflatable hard cast, gel pack and pain meds. What I didn’t think about was that the car we rented was a manual transmission and he couldn’t use his left foot! So, I became the designated driver although my driving skills in any car are dubious at best.  And so began our Tales from the Road!

Tales from the Road

Monet's Lily Pads, GivernyMonday. I have decided that this trip is like Homer’s  Odyssey. We are being tested and challenged by many issues: Husband’s still unhealed foot, my terrible stick shift driving skills and many personal and travel technology issues. It is like  the Greek gods are laughing at  us on high. “Oh you foolish mortals, we are going to screw with your phones, texting, gmailing and GPS.”  The gods laugh and we get lost. Again and again ( As in our three hour trip to Monet’s Garden in Giverny that should have taken only one hour!).

But this isn’t a tale of woe. It is about bravery, heroism and moments of surpassing delight.

Today we spent the day mostly in Rouen, a lovely medieval city. And like every other day on our trip so far, it rained. Hard. So we went to the Fine Arts museum that was hosting an incredible Impressionist exhibit. I pushed the husband in a wheelchair and we see so much beauty by so many masters in all the paintings inspired  by the landscapes we are actually seeing around us! We also have to schlep through the entire museum twice because their handicap access is limited to two elevators at opposite ends of each floor.

Then, after a quick omelet lunch, we try to leave Rouen to drive to Caen.  Try, as in I have to drive my little stick shift up two narrow landings in the underground parking lot where we parked. And to make it harder still, someone is trying to enter the garage from top. And someone else is trying to get to the second ramp where we are now stuck!  Neither of them will back up. I panic. I can’t drive up that ramp and I can’t drive back down. And then, miracle of miracles, my man comes through in the clutch! Literally.

He gets in driver’s seat of this manual car he hasn’t yet driven, puts his bad foot on the clutch and perfectly moves our car into a narrow corner on the landing so both cars can pass us. Then he easily drives up the steep ramp and gets us back on the street. He was my hero! I could cry with relief.

After that, our drive to Caen in the heart of Normandy was uneventful except for the sudden blinding downpour when I’m driving at 130 km (80mph) and can’t see a damn thing. I nearly lost it with terror but the rain soon slowed again. Oh those gods on Olympus were screwing with us again.

Arrived in gorgeous late daylight to Caen to a nice hotel right on the water. Amazing location. and tonight we had our best dinner yet at Le P’tit B , offering modern French cuisine with pristine local ingredients. I had amazing red mullet and shrimp brochettes. The man had oysters, fancy duck and we shared a molten cake. We walked there both ways!  Another great foot forward for us intrepid travellers and please excuse the pun.

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