Vive la France, Quatre: Auntie #1

From Grenoble, we headed to Orgnac Sur Vezere before going on to Pleuville (literally “Raintown,” which proved apt).

You won’t find them on the map, but I’ve circled the general area in the southwest to give you a general idea. Getting there would require a car, which I had sorted while still at home. Or so I thought.

Imagine our surprise when we finally managed to find the car rental office tucked away in a corner beneath the train station and found a hand-written sign saying they were closed. (It turned out to be a legal holiday of some sort – kind of like the American ones where some things are closed and some are open.)

Our plans for a leisurely day’s drive went kaplooey. But we were in luck! There was another rental agency open next door.

The worker managed to bridge the language barrier enough to say they were out of cars and to tell us our agency sometimes worked with the Novotel and left keys there.

Dragging our suitcases behind us, we trekked back across under the station and up the stairs to find the hotel.

The desk workers spoke excellent English. They were also very kind. Despite knowing we weren’t staying at the hotel, they called the rental agency at the Lyon airport (which was open) to find out about our car.

And they were the ones to point out that our reservation was for two days prior.

I’m not sure if it was our travel agent’s error or mine – a bit of both I suspect, but it was certainly my mistake to not catch it.

The Novotel employees told us there were several other car agencies on the street opposite the train station and recommended we try there.

Knowing how difficult it would be to book a car by phone in French, I asked if we could come back for more help if the other agencies weren’t open, and our saviors agreed.

By this point I was beginning to realize we would probably have to go to Lyon.

But first, back down the steps, under the station, and up the other side we went, suitcases and all.

All three of the other agencies were closed.

Once again we took the now familiar trip through the station and back to the Novotel where the generous and gracious Charlotte not only called to confirm the Lyon agency had plenty of cars, she also booked and printed coach tickets for a one-hour ride to Lyon.

The coach was leaving almost immediately so with quick but effusively heartfelt thanks, we took the steps at a run to find the bus outside.

At Lyon, we eventually managed to the bus stop for the car rental and waited in the rain for the shuttle.

At least it was a warm rain.

Arriving at the rental kiosk, we asked about a car. On the name tag of the woman who helped us, it said “English, Italian” under her name. I can only assume that meant she spoke not only French and English (perfectly), but also Italian.

I find that amazing. I would love to be proven wrong, but I believe such skills are not common in the service industry in the US.

If only I could remember her name! The tweet I posted tagging the agency with thanks for the help would have been more specific. (They did get in touch with me so I think I was able to provide enough details for them to identify her. Naturally I did the same for Novotel’s Charlotte, and they also responded.)

Anyway, our tri-lingual rental agent found a car, wrote up the rental agreement, and as he signed, The Engineer remembered to ask if it has a sat-nav (GPS).

It didn’t.

No problem. She found another car with the feature and wrote up another agreement, which my husband signed.

We dragged our suitcases outside in the rain, loaded up the car, got in, and tried to figure out how to work the instrument but couldn’t get it to do anything but talk to us. In French because, well, we were in France

After about twenty minutes, I finally convinced The Engineer it’s no good, we’re going to have to impose once more and ask for help.

If you never realized it, car rental agencies operate on a one way system. You go out in one direction and come in another. So the only way to take the car back to the office was to drive the wrong way on the one-way system.

The Engineer went in to talk to the agent. She came out, sat down in the driver’s seat and tried to make the sat-nav work.

Only it didn’t.

Feeling slightly cheered that it wasn’t us being stupid, we waited in the car out of the rain because she offered to not only go write another agreement (number three!), but also to bring the new car to us so we didn’t have to get any wetter.

The next time you hear anyone talk about the aloof French, please remember these two parts of our story.

As my husband drove, I somewhat tardily managed to program the GPS (correctly, as it turns out) and we headed for Orgnac with me presiding over the map (which I had brought from home – I’m not completely stupid), and the Google directions I’d looked up and screenshotted the night before.

All agreed on the route, which was fortunate indeed because Auntie G and her husband don’t actually live in a town.

They live here: https://www.stayatlesgranges.com/.

See the lake in the distance? And the neighbor’s cows? This was truly a place to get away from it all.

Below are some photos of our accommodations.

Getting up to the bedroom was just slightly tricky.

This is the sight I woke up to.

I asked Auntie G how old the house was.

“No idea,” was the reply.

Judging by these beams, the answer is “Very old.”

Here’s the front of the house.

Just kidding. That’s the Pompadour Chateau, which was closed on the day we visited.

But this is the back of Auntie G’s house.

It’s in the process of being renovated so they can live there and rent out the part of the house they live in now.

Since we couldn’t see the chateau, we drove to Uzerche and walked around (in the rain). It is a lovely town with an interesting history. (Go here https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uzerche and read under “strategic location.”) I liked this door.

Here’s another picture of the view from the gite to give you an idea of what the weather was like during most of our stay.

The history of La Resistance is ever present in many parts of France including the area around Orgnac Sur Vezere.

It is clear from memorials like this one (just down the road from the gite) just how dangerous it was to even live in wartime France.

This commemorates the murder of three French civilians in retaliation for the killing of some Nazi officers. Two of the men killed were only in their twenties.

There is a misconception some Americans have about the French in World War II, which I’d like to address here. Since we are fortunate enough to live in a country that has never been invaded (unless you count our ancestors taking over the country from Native Americans), we would do well to avoid judging others who have, and to remember that governments don’t always represent the will of the people.

In traveling around France, I came to appreciate how many civilians died under Nazi rule and how many risked their lives to try to get their country back.

End of sermon.

We had a delightful stay with The Engineer’s aunt and uncle, with the added bonus of getting to see both his cousins (and two of his young second cousins) plus his other Aunt and Uncle who had come over for a holiday, and I am so grateful to Auntie G and Uncle R for feeding us, putting us up, and sharing (copious amounts of) wine with us.

And here, because I forgot to put it in the Grenoble photos is something I saw on the streets there (not in Uzerche, Orgnac, or at Auntie G’s).

That’s right. It’s a street side condom vending machine (with not one, not two, not even three, but four options!)

For you know, those condom emergencies. ๐Ÿ˜„

Vive la France, Trois – Grenoble and the Womenโ€™s World Cup

From Caen, we had to take a train back to Paris to catch a train to Grenoble.

This would probably be a good time to mention how good the pubic transport system is in France. In six days, we travelled from London to Paris to Caen to Paris to Grenoble using only trains, city buses, trams, a coach, and our legs.

The Engineer loved the trains, especially the Eurostar and the TGV we took from Paris to Grenoble. Below is the view we whizzed by at over 200 miles an hour. Yes, those are the Alps.

I loved Grenoble, even though it was a bit of a drama trying to use the tram to our AirBnB. This was partly because the sun was finally shining (Yay!) directly on the screen of the ticket kiosk for the tram (Boo!) and partly because the machine was being cantankerous and not accepting our credit card.

Since it only took cards and coins, and we had only bills, this was a problem. Eventually I thought to try another card, which worked fine.

Go figure.

Note to would-be travelers: If you plan to use credit cards, have a back-up one for situations like this. And if you think such an occurrence unusual, I can tell you the same thing happened at several toll plazas later in the trip. (On a side note, highway tolls were pricier than you might expect, but the roads were incredible. We didn’t see a pothole until we hit Paris.)

The tram ride took less time than the figuring out of the ticket machine, and our host had given detailed directions to the apartment where he greeted us with great — dare I say French? — charm.

Here is a panorama of our lodging, with The Engineer beginning to regret he allowed me to plan a trip involving seven different beds in fourteen nights. It does make the place look larger than it was, but it was just lovely. It was near this church, an extremely busy place with many people coming and going for some kind of festival, so I took a peek.

Our AirBnB in Caen was also very nice. We’ve used AirBnB six times and had excellent experiences every time. Yes, it can save travelers money, but more importantly, it enables us to stay in neighborhoods, rather than the hotel districts. It feels somehow more authentic to be able to dine, walk, ride buses, drink, and shop with people who live in the city we are visiting.

Grocery shopping in a country where you don’t speak the language can be an adventure in itself as we discovered in Germany when the butter I picked for breakfast turned out to be garlic butter, and the sausage The Engineer picked turned out to be be more like pepperoni or salami.

Never mind. We had a nice lunch made from them. ๐Ÿ™‚

Grenoble sets at the foot of the French Alps, and the surrounding mountains add to its beauty. If you want, you can (and my dear husband did) ride a cable car for a more far-reaching vista. Not a fan of heights, I kept my feet firmly on the ground and took pictures from there.

We had come to Grenoble to see a football game. This kind of โšฝ๏ธ , not this ๐Ÿˆ. You know, the sport actually played with your feet?

The Women’s World Cup had come to town, and we were going to be part of it. In case anyone forgot what was happening, there were markings on sidewalks to remind us. (And in this picture you get the added bonus of seeing my super-cute and extra-comfortable shoes!)

The game was amazing, much better than expected, with Jamaica Reggae Girlz making their debut against Brazil. Although they lost 3-0, I felt they could be proud of their showing this year, especially give the fact that they got there without the support of their country’s football federation. Though Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella has become a major benefactor, these girls have fought for the right to be here. Their coach is a volunteer. One of their star players lost three brothers to gang violence and another to a car accident within a short time. The team was unrated as late as 2017. (More info on their journey here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/05/31/reggae-girlz-jamaica-backed-by-cedella-marley-make-world-cup/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.22d92066f5c1.)

Yet, here they were, in the Women’s World Cup.

It had rained all day, right up until the game started (and rained again afterwards), but the clouds parted, and we saw the blue sky for the game.

It was wonderful.

Brazil warms up.

The opening ceremonies were, well, ceremonial!

The Alps reappeared partway through the game, which had an attendance of about 17,000.

After attending the game, I have a new goal. I’d like to volunteer at the 2026 Men’s World Cup, when it’s shared by the US, Canada, and Mexico. Wouldn’t that be a cool thing to be a part of?