Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Amsterdam-France - day 9

25 September 2014

It was time for us to say goodbye to Paris. I was very sad because I'd really come to like the city. It had shattered a lot of my misconceptions. For one, I did not find Parisians snooty at all. In fact, most were very friendly. And not all refused to speak in English. I realised that if you take a step towards French (Bonjour goes a long way), they will take a step towards English.

Contrary to the ideas movies and TV shows had put in my head, not everyone on the street was sporting super fashionable clothes. The food was not bland, and French onion soup remains one of my favourite dishes. Of course, there were far too many smokers out and about than I would have thought possible.

Paris is definitely a walking city. In fact, we must have walked a total of 50 km in Amsterdam and Paris in total. Fortunately for Viv, Xena's super light weight made it possible for us to walk so much with a kid and without a stroller.

All packed and ready to leave

I'm not sure what exactly she's doing here, but I believe it's some kind of a dance.  

Our hostess Chantal came by to pick up the keys and we had a 15-minute conversation! I was surprised at how long we could speak to each other, given my broken French and her broken English. It might not have been the truth, but I was super thrilled when she told me that my French was quite good.

We took a cab to the car rental place, and were almost all set to go when the young lady announced that she had to go to the toilet. To my surprise, there was no toilet in the building and I had to walk out and take her to the train station. Even then, it was not easy to find and I had to stop several people and say what was the most repeated question of the trip -- ou sont le toilettes? The walk to the toilet and back was almost half an hour! Longest toilet trip ever!

The car we got was relatively small and our two suitcases didn't fit in the boot. So we had to put one in the back seat next to Xena, which was great for me because I never get to sit in the front. My role in road trips since Xena was born was basically confined to entertainment, compared to the pre-baby days of navigation. 

Xena very excited about her car seat, and willingly agreed to sit behind all by herself. She also gave the suitcase next to her a nickname. Suitcasey. How creative. She said she would be at the back taking care of Suitcasey. She pretty much entertained herself by talking to Wazzle, Fangdango and Suitcasey, and singing funny songs that had us laughing too. Sample this -- 'Amsterdam is far away, far away, far away' sung to the tune of 'London Bridge'. When she did get a little bored, I brought out the secret weapon -- aloo bhujia to the rescue! 

We stopped for lunch along the way in a tiny village at a place called Bonnières-sur-Seine Pizzeria. 

Xena waiting for her pizza

There was a very friendly old man, who made us two awesome vegetarian pizzas. He spoke English fairly well, and asked us many things about Singapore. He also shared his thoughts about Singapore, about how he felt that no one eats steak and people cut up all their meats before eating them. It was hilarious. 

Our pizzas are here!

It was one of the best pizzas we'd ever had!

Even Xena ate much more than we expected her to!

After lunch, we set off towards Omaha beach, while Xena napped in her car seat. 

I captured this selfie just as Xena woke up and immediately put on her sunglasses.

It was a beautiful day to be out on a road trip. 

Xena said this looked like an owl. I had to agree with her. 

We passed some villages with amusing names -- Miseries and Brains. Finally, we reached the serene Omaha beach on the coast of Normandy. We were quite hungry and went into a cafe to get a snack. And we finally encountered our first rude French person. Viv asked her if she spoke English, and she waved her hand dismissively with a vain 'No English!' Whoa. Scary.

Xena wanted to be 'as tall as Mama'!

At the Les Braves war memorial, which commemorates American soldiers of World War II who landed at Omaha Beach in June 1944 to liberate France

The columns, made of stainless steel, represent three elements -- the wings of hope, the rise of freedom and the wings of fraternity. 

Xena and me take a tour of the surprisingly deserted beach. 

I love the rippled effect on the sand!

Viv was quite tired from the day of driving, and so we were happy to call it a day and check into Hotel Brit, which was brilliant. The room was very nice and the surroundings were divine. You couldn't see any city lights at all!

We went for dinner to the restaurant at the hotel itself. Xena poses with the menu. 

Viv had ordered some speciality beer that came in a pitcher. 

Father and daughter pondering over the strange beer. 

Finally, it was time to hit the bed. It looked very comfortable and inviting, and in no time at all, we were all in zzzzland.

Click here for Amsterdam-France - day 10. 



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