Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Holy Moly Makaroly

Holy Moly Makaroly! What a day. We ended up spending about seven hours in the car –some of it moving us toward our destinations, and some of it driving in circles (literally, if you’ve ever seen a European roundabout, you do go in circles). We checked out of our hotel in Honfleur and drove two hours west to Mont St. Michel (mon san michelle). Here we are starting out - me with my journal and a baguette on my lap, then a photo of Jill, our GPS.

Mont St. Michel was beautiful! It is also a major tourist attraction so we weren’t the only ones with the idea to visit the abbey on the hill. It is one of the top four pilgrimage sites in Christianity according to Rick Steves. This monastery was started in the 6th century and has grown from a modest beginning into an amazing medieval architectural and engineering achievement. It also was used as a prison for 80 years during and after the French Revolution, but ironically the first prisoners were 300 priests that would not renounce their religion for the Revolution. Not a bad place to live if you were a priest, since it was built for them in the first place.

Some of my favorite images from Mont St. Michel.

Driving through the countryside from the Normandy region, a brief tip of the Brittany region, and into the Loire Valley. It was a three region day.

I'm happy to have Howard as a guest blog contributor. Here is his description of our afternoon.

First you need to know that I love driving and I have been complimented on my navigation skills especially in places in which I have had little history. Today was a challenge even with Jill. It wasn’t the trip to Mont St. Michel; that actually went quite nicely. It wasn’t the first part of the next leg to Chenonceaux. The point of challenge was simply Le Mans. Yes, the very heart of great driving, the 24 hour LeMans race is where I fell apart. France has these toll roads that cost an arm and a leg to drive, but they get you there quickly. Upon entering them you get a ticket that you then present to a machine at the end and pay. Simple enough. They have lines for carte (credit cards), which you simply insert and they charge your card. On days prior, we did this repeatedly and I was feeling quite confident, rather French actually. But, no, today, upon taking the exit to Le Mans, my credit card was refused. What a word refused, it makes you feel so rejected! After trying multiple times and seeing the line behind me begin to grow, I realized I was in trouble. Did I tell you there were no tellers around? My ticket was ejected and fell to the ground. Yes, I had to get out of my car, grab the ticket, motion to the driver behind me that he would have to back up and then back my car up to get out of the line. Embarrassment 101.

To make a long story short, after sounding the alert bell, looking frantically for a person to help, Dayna called to me from across three lanes of traffic to get back in the car and calmly informed me that Rick Steves mentions that our US credit card was no good on these particular toll roads. Although we had cash, we saw no way to use it. This must have happened to enough people before as they had a gap in the barrier between the lanes going in opposite directions to allow us to turn around and head back out on the highway, to where we did not know. We finally figured out which lane to pay cash in at the next exit and we headed into Le Mans. Now that is one crazy city with all kinds of traffic, multiple lanes, traffic circles and all kinds of mischief. Jill was off her rocker and at one point I nearly turned left into oncoming one way traffic. No wonder the Le Mans race is 24 hours long, no one can find the finish line.

All is well that ends well and I am alive to write about it. A few more grey hairs and lots to laugh about in about five years, but until then, I have much to learn about driving in France.

We did make it into LeMans (all to pick up a gift for a certain racer that works in Howard's office).

Okay, I was going to write about this wonderful country hotel in Chenonceaux where we stayed last night. I was going to write about what a nice respite it was after a long day of driving. I was going to write about the lovely vegetarian meal they prepared last night. But instead, I'm going to write about how they blatantly scammed us out of 30 Euros. It goes like this. We called the hotel in the afternoon to let them know that we were running late and would be arriving later than expected. The gentleman we spoke with said they had no record of our reservation, although we had a printed copy of a confirmation sent by their hotel reservation system. He told us they had space, so we could come. When we arrived, he again said they had no record of our reservation. He did say they had a nicer room (the room we reserved was for 53 Euros and the room they had available was 85 Euros). Howard asked if an adjustment would be made and the gentleman assured us it would be adjusted. When we went to check out this morning, the manager, Denis, greeted Howard and presented the bill with a full charge for our room. Howard pulled out the hotel's confirmation showing we had reserved a room for 53 Euros and Denis acknowledged it, but said "The boy from last night said that he offered the 53 Euro room, but we insisted on staying in the main house." The manager did, however, comp us a breakfast, and interestingly, the comped breakfast was already on our bill when Howard approached the desk to check out. So three lies: 1) That they did not have a record of our reservation. 2) That they did not have any 53 Euro rooms available (although Denis in the morning said they had three available), and 3) That we had insisted on the better room. It appeared that Denis was quite aware of the bait and switch tactic. Nice. Oh, so that you do not have to experience what we did, here is the hotel to avoid: Hostellerie du Chateau de L'Isle


Tory Brokenshire said...

I love the sight of the fortification and town perched on the little hillock. How that would look back in medieval times riding up to it on your pony. My favorite photo is the ivy covered building with the red awnings it would look so nice in my garden. Darn evil hotel, some people really.

vicki said...

i love your blogs! and howard's! jill, jill, jill....she better get it right and NOT run you guys into oncoming traffic!!!

will take note of hotel de liars for future reference.

continue having an awesome time!

stephanie brockway said...

St Michel is lovely, the driving not so much, pay to drive? yikes, Thank god you packed Rick Steve's , he comes in handy!
Sorry about "Le Fraud" Hotel, oh well guess it's a down economy everywhere. Glad Dayna's finding some good meals.
Bon jour

lynda Howells said...

I have been to Mont St. Michel many times and love it..oh but the slopes and the steps are a killer though! glad you enjoyed the roundabouts!!!!
See you soonxlynda

Anonymous said...

Mon Dieu, Je suis desolée que vous avez eu un experience mauvais avec votre hostellerie... My husband said that you should definitely contact Trip and write up your experience with your comments about Hostellerie du Chateau de L'Isle. It would help others to avoid a similar fate.
We were traveling thru this same region exactly a year ago for our 25th wedding anniversary. Such wonderful photos you are sharing! I can taste the patisseries!

Anonymous said...

Dayna, I just went to Trip and wrote in Hostellerie du chateau de L'Isle and all but one comment was in French. It looks like you weren't the only ones having a bad experience there. They all said how horrible the place was and that the breakfast is a joke (just yogurt) and that there was a horrible smell, etc. etc. Scott did all the research for our trip and is familiar with Trip Advisor and said that he had never seen such a low rating. I am so sorry that you got caught up in beaucoup de merde. Your pirate pal, Lorraine

cynthia said...

Reading your blog brings back so many memories of travels, especially your experience at the payage, toll road entrance! We had a similar experience there, and it is humiliating. Makes for good stories later on, though..

That was our favorite chateau, too. I loved the fresh flowers everywhere.