Hi, this is the start of the blog for 2017. It will be published weekly on Sunday. Hope you enjoy our little adventure.
Sunday July 16 – Holland, Michigan, USA
Today we will drive from Holland, Michigan to O’Hare airport in Chicago, Illinois. From O’Hare we will take an American Airlines flight directly to Charles de Gaule airport in Paris France. We will walk to the train station in the airport to take the train to Saint-Malo. From the train station in Saint-Malo we will take a bus to the entrance to the Intra-Muros part of Saint-Malo where our apartment is located. We will walk the last few hundred feet to the apartment.
So to get to our secondary home in France we will have 1) driven in a car, 2) flown on an airplane, 3) ridden on a train, 4) traveled on a bus and finally 5) walked to the apartment. Just a few different modes of transportation. This trip did not include a cruise. 🙂
So that was the plan. Here is how it turned out.
First we drove a rental car from Holland to O’Hare. This did not turn out as planned. The trip is usually a 3 hour drive. Today it took us 4 hours. Good thing Chicago is in Central Time zone and Holland is in Eastern Time zone. The problem was construction on the highway throughout the 30 or 40 miles we travel in Indiana. It was construction from the Michigan-Indiana border all the way to the Indiana-Illinois border. Stop and go all the way. It was no fun at all.
We had checked in online for our flight the night before. We quickly checked one small luggage each and breezed through TSA precheck.
The flight on American Airlines (at 18.30) was interesting. Sandy had used the majority of our frequent flyer miles to get both of us free tickets. We only had to pay the taxes which was $80 each. The problem was the tickets were in economy class, in the middle of the plane, in an aisle row and a middle seat. They were next to each other. The plane itself was wonderful, a brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The economy class amenities were pretty good, but the seats are incredibly cramped. At six-foot three-inches and 250 pounds I was really molded into the seat. I was unable to move and actually could not get my legs under the seat in front of me because the seat came down so low. But Sandy had told me to keep repeating the phrase “the ticket was free” over and over again. This did not help much. Sandy, as a fairly normal sized person at five feet five inches and 125 pounds was able to move around a bit, but was not comfortable at all. She had trouble sleeping and kept getting cramps in her legs. So while the flight was very uneventful, it was not much fun.
Monday July 17 – Paris, France
We left the USA on Sunday and we arrived in France on Monday. Our scheduled 8 hour flight was completed in 7 hours and 30 minutes. We had a good tailwind.
Upon arrival at CDG in Paris at 8:30 our plane was parked in the extra-parking area away from the terminal without a jet-way. We had to take buses to the terminal. This is not a big inconvenience and we had a lot of time until our train. We got through French customs very quickly and also got our luggage very quickly.
We then walked to the SCNF train station in the airport. We had second class tickets on the TGV which left at 12:40. A few interesting things happened while we were waiting for the train.
A man setting next to us was reading the Anthony Doerr novel “All the Light We Cannot See” which is largely set in Saint-Malo. I thought that was an odd coincidence. He did not travel to Saint-Malo as he got on a different train.
While we were waiting we saw the usual heavily armed military personnel walking through the train station. An announcement was made asking whoever left a blue luggage by the RER (regional train) north platform to please retrieve their luggage. This announcement was repeated three or four times over the next hour. Then we heard a couple of loud whistle blasts, several SNCF police and military personnel appeared, and we were asked to orderly move to the south platform of the train station. That was where we were already, so we did not have to move far. The police and military kept us from leaving the area. About twenty minutes later we were allowed to return to the waiting area and the police and military left the area. We were not given an explanation. We can speculate that the authorities ended up moving the blue luggage and moved us to the south platform while this was being done. Not a real fun experience, but not a surprise given the world today.
Overall, sitting in the train waiting room at CDG is people watching at its ultimate level.
Our train ride was great. The second class train seats had lots of leg room, the seats were very wide, and by this time we were really tired (neither of us slept on the airplane). We had a quick connection from the TGV in Rennes to the TER train to Saint-Malo. We were a bit concerned because there was only 10 minutes to catch the TER and our train was running 3 minutes late. It turned out that our TGV train came in on the opposite side of the same platform as the TER train. So we had to walk 10 meters and were there in plenty of time.
At the train station in Saint-Malo we were able to immediately get on a bus to Intra-Muros. We even got seats. This ride is short, 5 or 7 minutes, depending on whether the bus has to stop at the one stop light on the route.
Our walk from the Intra-Muros gate to our apartment gave us a surprise. We were already talking about making reservations at our favorite restaurant, DIVERS’ CITE, and hoped to see the owners on our walk to the apartment. The surprise is that the restaurant is GONE! Apparently they sold it and are looking to do something different for a while. At least that is the story I got from the owner of the tabac next door. It was a real surprise, but we wish them well.
While I was in the tabac Sandy waited for me outside of the door. Someone drove by in a car and yelled “Sandy.” It was our friend Marie Dominique from the Hotel Quic-n-Groigne. What a surprise in France to have someone recognize you.
The apartment was in good shape. Better shape than us. We were really tired. It was exactly 24 hours since we left Holland, Michigan. It was a busy and tiring 24 hours, but it was worth it.
We went out to eat at “Chez Marcel,” the kebab and fries place two minutes from our apartment. It was very good as usual.
After that we were basically useless and after putting clean sheets on the bed, we climbed in around 9PM.
Tuesday July 18 – Saint-Malo
We slept straight thru to 8 am. We planned to have breakfast at La Fournee Malouine boulangerie on Rue de Dinan. After breakfast we went back to bed. We did some house work and then back to bed. At 11:30 we went to the Carrefour City market. Stopped in to see Marie-Dominique at the Hotel Quic-n-Groigne. Had spaghetti bolognese for dinner.
Wednesday July 19 – Saint-Malo
Early in the morning we stopped by the hair place to get appointments for next week. Then we stopped at the doctor’s office to get an appointment. The appointment was for later in the day.
Our friends who live on the fourth floor are in Paris and may not be able to visit Saint-Malo this year. They have their cousin Alain check on their apartment, water the plants and collect the mail. On his way up he stopped at our apartment and was surprised that we were there. It was good to see him again. He understands a lot of English and it is very easy to talk with him. We exchanged some news and promised to stay in touch.
In the early afternoon, we stopped in to see Michel at the Hotel Quic-n-Groigne. Then we spent some time looking around and watching boats in the harbor.
The appointment with the doctor went well. I needed to get prescriptions for my medicines to get them filled at a local pharmacy. That went well and the trip to the pharmacy was easy. However, Dr. Tuloup has retired. I saw a “sub” doctor and the new physician will arrive in October.
We had pesto pasta for dinner.
Thursday July 20 – Saint-Malo
We were up early to take the bus to Intermarche supermarket in Rocabey. Here we got some canned goods and other items which are not available at the local markets. Then we walked for about 4 minutes to the Rocabey market. We went to our butcher who represents the “Ferme les Aubriais.” He and his assistant always have a meat counter in side the market. It was nice to see them again. He has gotten more and more friendly over the years. Unfortunately, today my mouth and brain were not working well and I forgot how to order a pork tenderloin. My verbal stumbles did get a smile from the butcher. We got our tenderloin, a couple of chicken breasts, and two slices of ham for sandwiches.
We reused the bus ticket to ride home and then walked to Le Charly’s bar for a coffee.
On the way back to the apartment we stopped at the local fish seller’s shop. We purchased a large chunk of cod. We had the cod for dinner.
After dinner we went to a movie at the Maison du Quebec. It was a fairly interesting French Canadian movie with English subtitles. The subtitles were a nice bonus for us and the price is always great – free!
Friday July 21 – Saint-Malo
The small goal for this morning is to walk around a bit and then go to the Intra-Muros Carrefour City market to pick up some small items. After the market we went to Le Charly’s for a coffee.
We had the pork tenderloin for dinner. Very tender pork with a wonderful taste. More about the food in France in a future blog entry.
Saturday July 22 – Saint-Malo
The forecast is for rain in the afternoon. So we got an early start on the bus number 3 to go to the E Leclerc shopping area. Our first stop was at Bricorama, the local hardware store. There we bought AA batteries and 3M Command strips to hang some pictures and our broom. Then we walked across the parking lot to E. Leclerc where we bought printer paper. After a short stop at the WC, we headed for the bus stop. We had a short wait for the number 3 which took us to Paramé which was having a big flea market with 300 stands. The stands are mainly local residents selling their goods like at a garage sale, but each stand is actually about 10 feet of street and curb on which tables and / or blankets are set out with their goods. There is always a lot of children’s clothing and toys, ladies shoes, and miscellaneous household goods. We purchased:
- two DVD for 3€
- two new bath towels for 6€
- a duck miniature for 1€
- cat metal key holder for 1€
- a wallet for 1€
- two pain-au-chocolat for 2€
At the flea market, we were lucky enough to spot our old friend Jean-Louis J. He had his wares spread out on a blanket near the round-about in the center of town. We have know Jean-Louis for 7 years now, having first come across his shop in Saint-Malo in 2010. He no longer has the shop, but he does sell at flea markets. It is always good to see him.
We took the bus back to Intra-Muros and walked to Le Charly’s bar for a cup of coffee, espresso.
Sunday July 23 – Saint-Malo
Today it is supposed to rain in the afternoon, so we have all our outdoor activities planned for the morning. We walked to the Rocabey part of Saint-Malo to see the war memorial monuments. The city of Saint-Malo, as it is now, was created 50 years ago when the cities of Saint-Servan, Paramé and Saint-Malo were combined under the Saint-Malo name. Each city had their own war memorial. The war memorials were very simple, but they do contain the names of all the deceased. In 2017 Saint-Malo decided to relocate all 3 memorials to one place in the Rocabey quarter of the city. We took a couple of pictures and read some names on the memorials. Sandy stepped inside the church which faces the memorials and gave herself a tour.
On the way back we walked to the street which runs parallel to the beach. It is a great walk with all kinds of interesting things to see. We walked around the base of the castle, through Place Chateaubriand, through route Jacques Cartier to the tabac to purchase a newspaper. Then we walked up the stairs to the Place du Marché aux Légumes. It was a busy place as usual. For today we went into Le Charly’s bar for our coffee. Good coffee and good people watching. The coffee is priced 20 centimes cheaper if you drink it inside the bar instead of outside on the terrace. The view is the same.
After coffee we went back to the apartment, sorted some socks and hung two pictures in our bedroom.
For dinner Sandy prepared chicken with risotto and eggplant.
It has been quite a week. We are really glad to back in Saint-Malo.