2005-09-29: Billet


September 29th, Day 6

This morning we decided to buy breakfast at the hotel. It may have been expensive but at least we didn't have to repeat the fiasco of yesterday (and now we have an understanding that the French like to start work late, have a big break in the afternoon and then work later into the night - but no 24 hour places). The breakfast was good. They had cereal so I could have my fix of corn flakes in milk. Then they had rolls and deli meats and lots of other things for us to fill ourselves up on. After breakfast we repeated the process of moving luggage from one hotel to another. At the train station in Lille (Gare du Europe) there is a French couple shouting at each other. Such a beautiful language.

Today we are moving from not-all-that-remarkable Lille to going-to-be-fantastic Chinon. Chinon, a place steeped in French and English history, where King Henry II liked to hang around and where Joan of Arc met a disguised King Louis. A town nestled under the safety of a brooding castle. But that will be hours away. First we have to return to Paris and then change to another train station to continue the journey. We stop for a bite in Paris and begin a hunt for toilets for Edyta. She tries the McDonald's but the crowd in there is too much so we return to the train station and use their pricey facilities.

The train then continues on to Orleans, where it will then turn around and go to Tours. From Tours we'll take another train to Chinon and then walk to the hotel. It seems so simple. The train had an old lady that must have tried to avoid the fare. When the ticket inspector came she immediately started shouting at him as if everything was his fault. He just shrugged and scurried off. Later a more senior inspector came directly to her and she immediately started up at him, but he didn't care and calmed her down.I don't know what any of it was about though, my French is still as crap as when that waiter spoke to me in St Michels.

We were nears Tours when disaster struck. I saw a sign that read St Pierre and underneath it (Tours). I didn't know what this meant and I didn't know where the line went to. It seemed too early to be our stop but there was a sign saying Tours. So I grabbed Edyta and our luggage and got off the train. Oops, seems Tours is the next stop. Luckily we found a lady in the information kiosk who spoke English and she pointed us to the next train to Tours. This got in in time for us to rush to the train to Chinon. We couldn't see where the little ticket stamping machine was but figured it didn't matter anyway, our tickets had the trip details on them. When this train was moving we had another ticket inspection. The inspector pointed out that our tickets weren't stamped but luckily he spoke English so we could explain everything to him.

How does that stay upright?

Our first sight of Chinon wasn't impressive. Just a back water train station and some 1900's type development nearby. But then we made our way to the square named in honour of Jeanne D'Arc. Despite the fact a carnival had set up around the statue of Joan of Arc trampling a poor English soldier to death under her horse, you could feel and see the history of the place. Chinon is a small town on the side of a cliff by the edge of a river. The ruins of the castle dominate the top of the cliff. Truly historical buildings haphazardly lie in the shadow of the castle along two main medieval streets. All the buildings conform to the rule "how does that stay together" and look fantastic (like real life Warhammer Fantasy Battles terrain, or a small D&D town).

Our hotel was just as fantastic. A true Renaissance style building. Our room was on the second floor were you climbed up an old circular set of stairs to reach it. The place just felt like an 18th century mansion and Edyta loved it. She really loved the stairs. I was pretty impressed too.

We went off to explore a bit but it was late in the day (most of the day was spent in train travel). We grabbed a pizza with potatoes on it for tea and then had a far too large serving of chocolate ice cream as dessert. We retired that night to watch a Clint Eastwood movie in English with French sub-titles.