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The Holiday (France)

Author: Kellie C.
Date of Trip: August 2011

As expected, today was our last day in Paris. After a short visit to Notre Dame, we went back to the apartment where we had been staying, packed our bags, cleaned up, and headed out for a 6 p.m. train from Paris to Port Boulet in the Loire Valley. We arranged a home exchange with a French family. What we forgot to do was arrange transportation from a desolate train station in a taxi-less town to our intended destination 12 kilometers away. Two cars were at the station to meet other passengers. One car had already pulled away and the other car was about to do the same. The remaining car looked like an early 1900s vehicle. I was not paying sufficient attention to the car to remember the make, but it appeared completely rebuilt. It turned out I was wrong. Kellie is the only one of us that has even a minimal grasp of French and I rushed her over to the car before our only life line departed.

The driver and his passenger obviously noted our distress and they rolled down the car window even before Kellie was at the side of the door. Luckily, their English was substantially better than Kellie’s French. She explained our predicament and inquired about taxi service. The driver got out and helped us search the signage on the exterior of the deserted depot for a taxi phone number. We didn’t find one. Finally, our friendly Frenchman offered to drive us to the house. Unfortunately, five of us, plus baggage, were not going to fit in his car. Fortunately, we had also agreed to exchange cars with our French hosts. We decided that Kellie and Jordin would retrieve the car while Dani, Kyra, and I would wait at the train station. After a short panic, tossing bags to find Kellie’s phone (she had the phone) they departed. It was 9:38 p.m.

I estimated it would take about an hour before they returned to get us. At about 48 north latitude, it stays light fairly late, but it was starting to get dark now. Then it started to rain. We moved our bags to the plexiglas enclosure covering the automated ticket machine. The building lights on the depot went dark. Soon after, the lights in the parking lot went dark too. The television monitor displaying the train schedule still provided good light – until it also went out. At least we had the glow from the automated ticket machine and the light of a half moon.

Dani declares she needs a bathroom. I respond, “Well if it were Kellie, she would just drop her drawers and go. Dani responds, “I don’t have to pee.” The three of us start looking for a suitable TP replacement. I tell Dani to just use her underwear and throw them away, but apparently she likes them. Then I offered a pair of my previously used, but clean tighty-whities. That offer was promptly rejected. Soon Kyra found a pack of mini tissues in her luggage. Dani found a spot behind some trees. It was so dark she could have picked the parking lot and no one would have seen her.

Ninety minutes passes and still no Kellie. I was hoping I hadn’t sent her and Jordin off with a pair of ax murderers. It looked like it was going to be a long night. Kyra and I changed out of our shorts and into long pants. We opened a bottle of wine and even gave some to Kyra. Opening the wine was the key. Kellie and Jordin arrived before I finished my first glass. Then we learned the other half of the story. That rebuilt car; it broke down before they reached the house. Our friendly Frenchman, Bernard, flagged down a young couple, two friendly hippies with a dog, and placed Kellie and Jordin in their care. The couple spoke no English. Despite having GPS they still managed to pass the house and wound up at some chateau. Apparently there was a lot giggling going on because nobody understood what was being said. Eventually, they found the house.

The couple’s car was very old and beat up so Kellie tried to offer the pair some money for their trouble; but by the perplexed look on their faces it was clear that Kellie said something quite different. By the next morning Kellie realized that she had asked the couple to give her money, which would explain their puzzled look.

The driveway to the house was gated, and like the train station, it was pitch black outside. Jordin climbed over the gate, but Kellie figured out how to open it.

They entered the house and found some instructions left by our hosts. A narrow stairwell led to a creepy, below grade basement-garage combo where the car was parked; but car would not start. The girls did not know how to start a diesel PT Cruiser. The good news – the owner’s manual was in English.

Now if they could just get the garage door open. Unlike the typical U.S. garage door that slides up and down, this garage door slide sideways, provided you find and release all four latches; Kellie only found three of them. Thank goodness for crossfit; Kellie just pushed until the final latch gave way – we’ll have to pay for that one.

The garage door was on the side of the house and Kellie should have turned right to get to the street. Did mention it was dark? They turned left and drove into the backyard, but stopped well short of the unfenced, in-ground swimming pool.

Before departing the train station, Jordin dropped a pin on the GPS map so that they could easily find their way back to us. Somehow the pin moved. So, finally on the road, they proceeded in the wrong direction. They drove for maybe 15 minutes just to make sure they were really lost. We were just lucky that phones today have GPS, otherwise I would just be waking up outside the train station instead of drinking coffee while updating this blog.

We gathered some contact info because there are a few very nice French men and women that we need to thank. Kellie keeps reminding me that every step of the journey, is the journey. Last night was a journey.

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