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Monday, December 24th, 2007

France - December 2007

Obligatory Eiffel Tower Shot 3

We’ve just returned from our pre-Christmas vacation in very chilly France! It was so cold we had to invest in a toque for Tony, which says a lot as he very rarely feels he needs one in Canada or Scotland! And the poor ducks were standing on their frozen-over lakes/ponds looking down at their little webbed feet… poor things! Despite the cold we had a great time and we really can’t complain cause we had beautiful sunny days almost every day, with not a drop of rain. We spent our days wandering the streets with a baguette in one hand and some cheese in the other and stopping off for a variety of crepes from street vendors… we ate well and cheaply… until half way through the trip, the night before Tony’s birthday where we thought we would spend a little bit more and eat in a nice restaurant to sample some different French cuisine. I guess we didn’t really fit in as they put us in the back corner away from the other people eating there :P , which was ok with us as we realized we were not posh enough when we were guessing at what fork we were supposed to use for what dish and what the knife-like shovelling device they had given us with our main dish was for! Ended up being a bad idea eating there as poor Tony came down with food poisoning which put a real dent in our plans. But nonetheless we persevered and got to do most of what we had planned.

 

Started off in Paris for a few days. Our favourite had to be the Notre Dame Cathedral, was one of the prettiest cathedral’s we’ve seen in Europe, the architecture was impressive. It was also nice seeing the view over Paris that the gargoyles enjoy from the towers. Every gargoyle up there is different and there are so many. We also enjoyed the Louvre and although very touristy, we did make it to the Eiffel Tower… how could we not when we were in Paris.

 

We then spent a day at Vimy Ridge, which was very memorable. There was one other person there visiting the monument – A soldier, French military by the uniform – who was just leaving as we arrived.  A sombre atmosphere:  Nobody around; it was silent so the most obvious noise was the sound of our footsteps – thick frost covered everything.  The monument dedicated to Canada was impressive, so many names of Canadian soldiers are written on it and that is only a small percentage of those that died. The land is pocketed with craters from the bombs, the size of some are unbelievable. Due to some undetonated shells still there these areas are off-limits and protected with an electric fence, meaning they have not been disturbed in quite some time. Because the ground was all frosty it reminded me of a skiing hill (but horizontal) covered in big moguls. Amazing to see what the war did to the land. Also got a chance to wander around some of the trenches the soldiers had used. Walked around one of the graveyards and left hours later.

 

Stayed in Rouen that night where we enjoyed the Christmas markets, had some mulled wine, and listened to carollers on the streets. Also stumbled upon the courtyard where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in the 1400’s.

 

Spent a morning at St Malo, on Brittany’s north coast, wandering along the beach. Saw a small walkway leading out to an island just off shore so decided to cross that to explore the island before the tide came in and covered the walkway. We figured we’d have at least a couple minutes before we would have to turn back and it was just a small island. About 30 seconds on the little island we looked back and realized that the tide was coming in a lot quicker than we had expected and was already covering much of the walkway. At that point we had just reached a sign that informed us that if the water came within 10 meters of the walkway it was forbidden to be on the island for your own safety and if you do come over at this point, to stay on the island and wait out the tides as the currents were really strong. Still needing to drive all the way down to Tours, already hungry for lunch, and feeling cold we decided to run back to the walkway to try to make it across before we were stranded on an empty island – the “tourist trap” as we came to call it! :P  By the time we got our shoes off and wadded across we were ankle deep and the pull of the current even at that minimal depth was strong! The current could be felt plainly pushing our feet this way and that. Some people ran over from the beach, we thought to help or tell us to come back or something – nope: they took out their cameras to take photos of the stupid tourists hahahah…We managed to make it across safely, feet white from the cold, and relieved that we wouldn’t have to sit on the island for hours while we waited for the tide to go down again. Minutes later the walkway was covered completely and you couldn’t see it at all as the water level was so deep. You think we would have thought about the tides having been at Mont St Michel the day before, an Abbey/Town built on small island off the coast of Normandy using the strong tides in the bay as a natural defense!

 

On our last day we explored some of the small villages north of Tours, our favourite being the area around Lavardin and Troo where we saw Troglodyte dwellings, which are essentially caves carved into the limestone cliffs or underground. As we were driving past one area we saw a “troglodyte” come out of his cave carrying a stick and tend to his fire. He had the appearance of an ogre which made us feel we had experienced the “real troglodytes” hahaha

 

Finished off our trip by stocking up on cheeses and wine and heading back to Glasgow where we had a very quiet and relaxing Christmas with lots to eat, Christmas movies, and a nice walk along the Kelvingrove river – our favourite spot in Glasgow.

 

Hope everyone had a nice Christmas and all the best in 2008!

 

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