Dearest blog I fear I have neglected you in a favour of frolicking in foreign climes. I’ve spent the last week with HWSNBN and my family in France, staying in a small village an hour to the east of Paris. It was the first time HWSNBN and I have been abroad together since travelling round the world in 2004. And the first time I’ve been on holiday with all of my family since the Great Ouzo Incident of 2004*.
And it was perfect.
I ate too much food. Soft, sour goats cheese smeared on french bread followed by delicate raspberry tarts oozing cream. In fact when I asked HWSNBN what his best moment, he simply said ‘The steak tartare.’ This is one of the many reasons I love him. When we first visited the french supermarket and he realised they had three cheese aisles AND a cheese counter, I feared I might never see him again. He might live inside the supermarket like some feral gastro lover only emerging at night to raid the Brie aisle. Instead he filled the car with cheese and cider while muttering darkly about the state of British supermarkets.
We were truly blessed with the weather. It was so hot all I wanted to do was bask in the sun like a slightly portly lizard with a book-addiction. Instead I worked on my front crawl and took photos of everything: the 80’s cars, the peeling signs in vintage lettering, and the endless rolling cornfields.
Instantly on crossing the Channel I developed a throat infection that only worsened as we travelled down the appropriately named Autoroute des Anglais to San Simeon. I counted and recounted my Euros worried about whether I would have a enough change for the peage. I shouldn’t have worried for a two-hour journey it cost €20.80! Going to the pharmacy the next day did give me a chance to practise my school-girl French. I’m actually really good at reading French, which HWSNBN finds difficult because of his dyslexia. But my speaking skills are atrocious. I have enough trouble with pronunciation in the English language** let alone French. HWSNBN is brilliant he can actually conduct conversations in French as opposed to say something, wait for a reply then stare in bemusement, my favourite tactic.
We stayed in an apartment which we managed to cram full of stuff. Between six people we took 21 shoes. (Nine of those were my mums, just saying.) We played petanque, mah jong, swam and watched old movies.
On the third day we took a day trip in Paris to visit the Louvre and Notre Damme. For €14 Euro’s got a return train into Paris and all in one Metro tickets. Perfect right? What we did not know was these tickets would stop working if placed next to anything magnetic like a credit card your wallet say. The ticket barriers were also really stiff so after entering your ticket you had to shoulder-barge your way through. Four January’s and HWSNBN made it through the barriers leaving Mama January stranded. No matter how hard she pushed against the barrier, the ticket was not letting her through. We looked for a guard but there was nobody was there. In response to this crisis everybody started shouting at each other like big British weirdo’s. We’re classy like that. At that point Mama January decided to squeeze beneath the barrier.
Now I have a very low embarrassment threshold. No matter how brilliant the Office is I cannot watch it because of the cringe humour. So at this point I literally had to turn and face the wall to avoid dying of embarrassment as Mama January crawled beneath the barriers. Now Mama January is a yoga teacher and very limber she was almost through before she got stuck. Luckily a nice Dutch man took pity on us and put his ticket in the barrier allowing her to get through.
In all the excitement as we piled on the train my little sister almost got trapped in the doors and had to be physically pulled on board. HWSNBN heard one fellow commuter say to the other:
FC: ‘What’s up with them’ (in French)
SC: ‘Ah les ros beouf’ with gallic shrug.
Even without saying anything our buffoonish antics had got us identified as English!
The ticket trauma did not end there though. My parents refused to buy new tickets so then my dad got stuck (sadly I did not get a photo as I was cringing too hard to document the moment). By the end of the day we just crammed ourself into the luggage compartment like sardines and barrelled through on one ticket. After a visit to the Louvre we sat under a conker tree in the Tuileres gardens and watched people covered in swallows as they fed them bread (much prettier than the mangy pigeons we get over here). A massive conker fell from the tree whacking my big sister on the knee. She let out an almighty yelped, turned round and shouted ‘OI!’ at the people behind her. I instantly regressed back to my fifteen-year old self, too embarrassed for words.
All in all it was a great holiday. Only slightly marred by me in my number dyslexia mixing up 14.20 and 4.20 and booking our return journey two hours early. A fact we only noticed when on route to the Channel Tunnel. It was fine we could still make it, we thought. When we stopped to quickly grab some lunch, the picnic stop was further away then we thought. So HWSNBN and my dad jumped in the cars to move them. HWSNBN got confused and followed a car that looked like my dad but wasn’t onto the motorway. Cue us hastily cramming into my parents scar and speeding off after him. Suffice to say we missed our slot on the Eurotunnel and weren’t going to get back until 11pm before HWSNBN sweet-talked our way until another ticket. This is why I am marrying him.
Plans are already being made for the Januarys and HWSNBN to visit Spain next year. Will there be a repeat of the Great Ticket Incident of 2011, stay tuned.
We did visit one other place so wondrous it deserves it’s own post. Now where could I be wearing ears like this?
Come back tomorrow for all to be revealed.
*Lies. There was no Great Ouzo Incident of 2004. Unless the ouzo made me forget. It has those powers you know.
** Until six months ago I thought haughty was pronounced ‘haggarty’ instead of ‘hawty’. As in ‘Mr Darcy is so haggarty.’