God bless our GPS
Lannion Travel Blog› entry 2 of 6 › view all entries
As we stepped off the ferry in Dieppe, I dare say that our feelings must have been similar to those of our ancestors who landed those many years ago at Ellis Island in New York.
We were weary from our travels and stepping into a new world which possessed a different culture and language from our own. At least we didn't have to remove our clothes and submit to a washdown and delousing!
I began to come out of my Dramamine fog as the cold air hit my face. Luckily my French was starting to kick in as I inquired about a taxi which would take us to the car rental office near the train station.
We deciphered a note on the door of the agency, telling us that they were currently closed............. ah yes, we had arrived during the "magic hours" of noon and 2pm, when everyone disappears for the midday meal. Since you can't "buck" centuries of tradition, we settled ourselves in a nearby cafe to drink a thimbleful of rich, black French coffee...........and waited...........
Our rental agent was as friendly a person as you could find, considering the fact that he was French and we were strangers to him. He was cloistered in an office about the size of our walk-in closet at home and looking very harried and frantic under piles of papers strategically stacked upon every available surface.
My second major attempt at French was apparently adequate since he didn't immediately switch into English as sometimes happens when I am discovered to be an "alien". I provided the necessary information needed to access our reservation and aside from a small hitch with the company credit card, which was soon (according to the French concept of time) rectified, we were on our way.
I would like to take a moment here to offer my sincere appreciation to the creators of the GPS (global positioning system). I have absolutely no allifiation whatsoever with TomTom, (the brand of our GPS) and am not getting any kickback from making this endorsement (yet) but I would urge anyone who travels to invest in one of these little gems. Be sure that you purchase the "higher end" versions that have software preloaded containing maps for the world. These can cost substantially more than the basic models but are well worth the price. Mark was able to Google our choice of destination on his laptop, download the coordinates (latitude and longitude) into the GPS and we were efficiently guided to the exact spot on the map. This works whether you are traveling by car or on foot.
Our decision to drive from Diepp to Lannion was a departure from our normal mode of air travel. We wanted to enrich our experience by seeing some of the countryside, which would have been impossible to do from 35,000 feet.
Not halfway into our drive, we decided to stop at a convenience store on the expressway in order to phone our hosts, the Stervinou's, at Le Grand Chêne, our home for the next three weeks.
Using a telephone in a foreign country is never easy and things weren't going so smoothly this time either. Our credit cards didn't work and neither did the phone card I'd just purchased. Obviously, operator error.... but I was running out of options. Time to use that special phrase recommended by the late author, Polly Platt, in her book, "French or Foe"....... "Excusez-moi de vous déranger. J'ai un problem." Excuse me for disturbing you but I have a problem. I had read that this simple phrase "opened doors" where no other words or actions could.
I spied a woman, talking to a group of workmen, in an office off the main lobby of the convenience store. I popped my head in, said "bonjour" and uttered the prescribed words. Like magic, the woman rose from her desk, the waters parted and she immediately set to work to solve our problem. She looked at the phone number and told me that I had "too many numerals". She even waited patiently as I looked up the phone numbers in my laptop, which proved to be no different than the ones scribbled on my piece of paper.
Not satisfied with my set of numbers, she returned to her office, called the French equivalent of directory assistance and then dialed the number for me on her telephone. Mr. Stervinou answered, she had a few words with him and then politely passed the phone over to me.........
We finally arrived at our chambre d'hôte in Lannion as the sun was retiring and a chill was settling into the night. We were warmly greeted by our friends, Louise and André and pleasantly surprised by a light meal of fresh salads, a steaming bowl of potage (thick, homemade vegetable soup) and crusty French bread, which really hit the spot after another long day of travel. It was good to be "home" in France again.
Earlier in the evening, my husband, Mark, had made a comment that there were a number of reasons why he liked coming to France. First of all, the people are so nice and helpful (spoken from the experience of having received help on numerous occasions in the past), the countryside is beautiful and the food is beyond compare. I would have to say that I agreed with him on all counts.