FRANCE MAY 1983
May 20-21 Fog delay. Plane off at 11:30. Snooze through. Not bad. First stop health spa. Glorious way to relax after flight. Hot tub and sauna to work out the kinks. Heartbreak House at 7:30 after crepes dinner. Cast: Rex Harrison, Diana Rigg, Rosemary Harris, Frank Middlemass, and Simon Ward. Loads of fun. Harrison's timing, Rigg's vibrancy and body language. Magnifique. Later Note: Should probably mention that at this point my acquaintance with Jim covered 3 dinners. Period. I had no idea how this whole thing was going to work out. Coming off the plane and being whisked off to the health club was heaven and was a good sign of care and feeding. Even when we came back from the theater, it was still unclear (at least out loud) how this was going to be. But it worked out just fine and it was all perfect for a French vacation.
May 22 Lazy. Jim for morning run, KMM walking tour of neighborhood. Pics of the Boltons, St. Mary Bolton, general vicinity. Naptime for afternoon. Dinner at Star of India, then Rossellini film -- Rise to Power of Louis XIV -- at ICA. Desserts at crepe place then home.
May 23 Late am. Errands in Knightsbridge. Walk towards Leicester Sq. for TKTS; decide city too crowded, dirty , should head for FRANCE this pm. Lunch at Polish restaurant. Drive to Southampton, dinner at steak bar, on to ferry -- P&O -- at 10pm. Last on nearly. Seats like middle section of a 747. Jim on floor under one row, me just behind. Some sleep. Up for 7am (French) landing in Le Havre.
May 24 Le Havre ghastly -- NJ turnpike refining neighborhood. Drive to Mount St. Michel. Katie dying. Fall in love with it. Lunch on terrace. Private room, terrace, ocean view secured. La Vielle Auberge, Annexe #3. Jim in sun all pm. KMM all through Abbey, cloisters, refectory, lookouts, battlements, etc. Lazy late pm. May never leave. Heading for dinner at Mere Poulard. Dinner superb. Moonlight over the Mount incredible. Parish church bells chime all night on the quarter hour. Wildness.
May 25 Woke up feeling wretched. Hangover? Mais oui. Crashed am, then around noon drove to Cap Fretel. Eerie mist and moors as approaching cliffs. Rest of Brittany scenery gray, green, and poor. Much improved health. Another fabulous dinner at Mere Poulard -- upstairs, warmer more intimate room. Omelettes what they're cracked up to be. Local French basketball on TV. Secret passages 6' wide back to the room. Medieval. Rock music next door. Moonlight -- full moon. South tomorrow.
May 26 Driving day. Rennes - Le Mans - Tours - Poitiers - Bordeaux. Changing country. No regrets for the wire. Bordeaux: running/ sports club, POLLUTION, traffic jams. Never made downtown. With lots of luck found quiet topnotch hotel, La Reserve, out in the twigs. Formal dinner. Gateau Persil et tomates. Best appetizer ever. Much wine. Crash.
May 27 Sun worshiping. Bordeaux. Toulouse. Pique-nique by the highway. Carcassonne. Omelettes and beer in the sun. Walking ramparts. Medieval is my era. Onward. Suddenly southern geography: dry , white, orange roofs. On to Nimes. OK town. Jim says a la Paris. Grubby hotel. Casual cafe dinner after walk round amphitheater. Warm. Sun. Later note: nerve-wracking evening walk on boulevard half expecting one of roving kids on foot or motorbike to snatch purse. We never spoke of possibility, but Jim very protective.
May 28 Perfect day. Morning sun sitting in amphitheater planning day. Collected sandwiches + fruit, stopped for wine on the road and headed for the Pont du Gard. I never dreamed it could be so fabulous. Hot, strong sun; bleached rocks. Found spot labeled "panorama" and settled in. A dream. First topless sunbathing ever. Ooh la la. Lazy hours. Easy drive to Aix en Provence. Treated ourselves to a 3 star hotel - Thermes Sextius. Couldn't have picked happier city. Strolled Cours Mirabeau -- plane trees, cafe lined, cruising kids/peacocks. Pulsing. Could hardly talk for soaking in the atmosphere. Dinner at cafe then more walking. What a glorious feel! Not tough/ dead like Nimes, but proper Southern street feel. Later note: How could I not mention the all-American tourist who came down a path and practically stepped on me as I sunbathed? Or the fact that we lay in the sun in FULL view of every tourist on the Pont du Gard?
May 29 Up late. Stroll through vegetable market, flower stalls (French mother's day) Breakfast (postcards) in cafe at the fountain. Music in background. Different crowd. Much more family. Some resort couples. Same idiots on mopeds/motorcycles. Why can't we live like this?
May 30 Celebrated Memorial Day with another picnic -- long drive to Verdon Canyon. Through Mousetiers, pretty town, pottery I think. Lovely afternoon in sun. Good times. Pizza for dinner. Later note: Hair-raising nature of the drive through the canyon, right on the edge of rocky precipices. not to mention picnic on the edge of the cliff. Truly spectacular scenery, with European disdain for guardrails or tourist fences.
May 31 Cafe hopping all day. Walking, sitting, drinking. Lovely. Lazy. Could stay forever.
June 1 Early start: 11am. Straight motorway drive through to Paris. Floods -- incredible -- around Lyon. Clouds and rain. Lush green country. Very different from baked rocks down south. Picnic on road. Paris around 7pm. Suddenly Notre Dame et al. Magic. Jim driving TG. Would drive me wild. Park in P. de la Concorde. Walk up Champs Elysee to tourist office. Packed. Long wait. Finally got (cheap) room by auction ("take it or leave it") Head towards car. Thunderstorm. Downpour. I hide in arcade. Jim runs for car and collects me. Off through rain to find hotel. Real fleabag firetrap. Cleaner than I expected. Is this Evora? Gales of giggles. Eat picnic remains in bed. Loving: knocked the mattress off the bed. (The one that was not under the leak in the roof.) More laughs. Uneasy sleep -- no bugs -- all mental. Later note: I even hid in the room while Jim went down to empty the car, the place was so iffy. Only opened the door to "his" knock. Hotel down the block from Communist HQ. Figures doesn't it?
June.2 Wake up early for cuddling. Hit street early. Crazy driving back to Tourist Office. Quick (tourist trap) breakfast. Maybe better luck today. Much better -- Hotel Rapp at Pont d'Alma. Walking to Tuilleries, Louvre, ile de la Cite, then metro to car. Notre Dame good. Windows awesome. Dinner -- late -- in St. Germain. Walk home. Arrive around 2:30 for games. I love Paris.
June 3 Bumped out of hotel at noon. Headed for Chartres, but got hotel on Rue de Bourgogne first. Should be great. Chartres breathtaking. Soaring black cathedral, but WINDOWS. Nothing prepared me. Jewels drowning in night sky. Flat shields -- no sense of outside. Much sitting and gazing and sunning in cafes. Cathedral of all time. Back to St. Germain for dinner. Once more very late.
June 3 Sunning in Tuilleries. Printemps for shopping. -- like Macys. Home for crash then dinner opposite Ile de la Cite. On to perfect concert in St. Chapelle. KMM exhausted, but concert lovely. Quick home and back to bed.
June 4 To Orly. Parking disaster and laughs. Messy check-in, crowded, dreary flight. Later note: Parking disaster was a classic. We got turned around and lost inside parking area, and I tore up the ticket without thinking. (Even now I can't imagine what I was thinking of.) Exit was an automatic machine that read the ticket. OOps. We pasted the damn thing back together with postage stamps and finally got out. I could have died.
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