I set my alarm for 7am so we could get a lot more in today than we did yesterday. We managed to get out of bed closer to 8am. We spent the morning preparing for our day: googling maps to our destinations, checking out restaurants and drinking coffee. All things that we could have done during the 5 months leading up to this trip. Anyway, once we got everything sorted we headed out to the grocery store to grab food for the apartment. We grabbed stuff from Carrefour and the boulangerie next door. Croissants for breakfast? YESS. Except that’s not all we had, we also had baguette sangwidges with the meat and cheese we bought from the g-store.
We probably left around 11:30am. First destination was a rando Antique market in nowhere Saint Pierre land. It was about an hour away and our first stop before heading to a medieval town called Honfleur. I was driving again and getting frustrated here and there when the GPS would get the roundabout exit wrong. In France there are barely any stop lights, they use roundabouts, which I think are better for reducing traffic jams, but are a bit intimidating when you’re new to the land. Imagine approaching a yield sign, with a grass island in the middle and all these Irratic French drivers whipping by in a loop. You need to wait for a safe moment to merge then you need to be alert of your exits. The roundabout is a tight donut so the exits come up quickly, so if you’re not local and need to read the signs for direction, it’s very scary. Sometimes you end up staying in the donut and going in circles til you know where to get off. Kind of funny but still. You need to act fast and get out of the loop safely. I realized that one of the features on the car we rented is probably meant for roundabouts and quick merges/exits: You just need to tap the ticker lever and it makes your signals blink for a short period of time instead of pressing the lever all the way down to indicate direction and then consciously turning it off. Ver convenient when making swift moves in a roundabout.
We made it to the town where “Marché a la Brocante” the antique market was, in St. Pierre sur Dives. We pulled up to this old building, it could have been a barn. There was an old swing set outside and other random bits of… well not exactly garbage but just “things” in the yard. It was definitely a bit creepy because there were only 2 other cars there and we were in this little quiet town. We totally could have gotten murdered and no one would know where we were. The door was open, actually I don’t even think there was a door at all, and we walked it. There was a man standing in there, smoking a cigarette and looking at his stuff. He reminded me of the French clown on Parlez-Moi but without makeup. Not that he looked like a hobo, he just had a similar face and voice.
This was a typical antique market in terms of tons of books, artwork, "bric a brac", the odd eerie wedding dress… but there we lots of thick cobwebs everywhere and I saw a giant pointy spider. It felt like I was in a huge version of my parents’ cellar, with big thick webs in the corners, so I had to walk around with my arms tight to my chest, my shoulders up, trying not to look at the webs in case there was something terrifying in them. There were dry old leaves in some of the webs and on the floor, lots of dust too. It also reminded me of Frightenstein. It was pretty cool, but not too much I wanted to take home.
See the big spider? It was big. But who wants to touch those books?
There was definitely some cool artwork, but nothing we loved enough to want to buy and ship home (because how do you travel with a big painting?). There was an area in the back that had plates and old metal wash basins (full of gross stagnant water) and the odd bowl full of cigarette butts. Every time I saw a wedding dress – there were like 3 - I kept thinking of a scary story I read as a kid, from the book Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark which had illustrations like this:
We loved that nude painting in the upper right. She had a great face. I also kept picturing Barbara filling those dresses and coming to life as a crusty corpse (Beetlejuice reference in case you didn't know):
This. In my head. BARBARAAA?! ADAM!
This man didn’t speak any English, but Jamie did a good job communicating in French and the man was even impressed with how good he spoke it. We told him we were on vacation. I looked at a set of Russian nesting dolls and a cute little wooden box – pefect for jewelry. It reminded me of one my nanny had (great grandmother), and it was marked 15 Euros. The dolls 6. Jamie had his eye on a rusty old lantern too. Man told us the wooden box was from “Bretagne”, and it took a while (actually it took him grabbing a map and pointing out to what the eff he was talking about) for us to get it. He kept saying “Bretagne! Bretagne!” rolling the “r”s in the back of his throat. It was funny and we are dumb. The box was from Bretagne, a region to the west of Normandy. It has lots of Celtic and Irish influence since it is just below Ireland. We ended up getting those items (because we didn’t drive all the way there for nothing) and Man threw in a giant wooden rosary as a cadeau for me. He mimed out (put his hands together like in prayer, and walked forward and went “aawwwww!!” like he was singing at church) that it was used by priests in BRETAGNE as well. We paid 30 Euros for the lot (box, nesting dolls and lantern). Sweet of him to throw in that giant rosary, I know lots of vavos and nonnas will be quite jealous of it. It was cool being in there, all the old books and things, dust and spider webs…we were the only people in the building, looking around at all this old stuff, we got to meet a friendly French man and he even gave me a little gift. Cute experience.
My stuff. Not sure what I'll do with that huge rosary though. We don't really have the room above our bed for it...
The lantern. Turns out it was used on the French railway.
I got nervous when I heard a big dog barking outside. I was picturing it mauling me as we left.
Large. Yuck, and full of gross water.
Oh yes I want some of those plates for my house.
What kid played with that chaulkboard?
Paintings probably worth a lot but what do we know?
Next stop: Honfleur. First let me tell you to make sure your GPS isn't set to "detour" or avoid tolls when you want to get somewhere fast in France. Somehow, the GPS took us along these what looked like one way streets, but they're not. They're just REALLY tight country roads. Luckily we only came across one or two cars going the opposite direction.. and you just need to squeeze to the side. But it's still nerve wracking and if it were at night I would definitely be crying. We found Honfleur eventually and parked in the giant parking lot full of cars. I had to drive on some tight city centre streets, but it was all good. I had no idea this town would be such a crazy tourist attraction.
Approaching the main harbour.
I bought a bag of praline almonds. Eight Euros what the eff!
Anuzzer carousel! This played scary circus music.
This building was OLLDD. It reminded me of some sort of town square. I pictured the towns folk gathering for hangings.
There was a memorial plaque and bust for mister Champlain.
Hanged for treason, theft or adultery.
Old church type building, smelled good in there. I touched the wood, we are now one.
Big church. Europeans are so lucky to have these super old, historic churches to get married in.
zees one is called "Saint Deux dans la Rose".
View from our cider drinking seats. The seagulls here sound like crazy screaming monkeys.
Lots of people. It's probably so crazy here in the summer.
These were the people in front of us on the train thing that took us through the streets. They were cracking up about the bumps and boob jiggles.
It was SO busy. It was beautiful and full of mideivel buildings and side streets, but it was just crawling with tourists. I know we are tourists but sometimes when there are that many people in such a beautiful place, it takes the magic away from it. There were lots of little boutique stores, places selling cider, and many many restaurants serving overpriced Normandy cuisine. I looked up one of the best restaurants and the internet directed me to "le tortue" (the turtle). Said it was reasonably priced and delicious. We found it around 2.30pm and went go go grab a seat since we were both hungry. The lady who worked there told us: "Service terminé". UGH. We've learned that most restaurants are open for lunch hour, then closed for the late afternoon while you're supposed to be having coffee and sweets, and then they reopen for dinner. So if we wanted to eat at the tortue, we had to wait until 6.30pm. We were willing to do this so we just wandered the streets. Went into one of the big tourist attractions - a church made of wood. It was pretty and smelled like church and we took some photos and moved on.. Eventually we ended up on a patio with a bottle of cider. We were lucky enough to sit right on the harbour, it was a really nice view. But again, just lots and lots of people. There is one of those little train things that goes around the city and we figured that would be great for killing an hour. It was fun, but all the roads are cobblestone and the ride is really really bumpy. The ladies ahead of us were just dying laughing and I'm sure it was because their boobs were bouncing around like crazy. It was funny. Those tours aren't a good idea if you have a bad back, just so you know. After that tour we said fuggit about the restaurant and headed back to Courseulles for dinner. It's better being within walking distance of where you're staying so you can drink your face off. Kidding mom! I only drank half my face off.
We had dinner at Les Alizes across the street, recommended by our host. And it was damn good. Most restaurants have these combos you can get, where you pick your appetizer / main / cheese plate / and dessert/cafe. I got a warm chevre salad with a big ass pot of curry mussels. Jamie got the same salad and a steak with camembere sauce. I don't like that type of goat cheese that was on the salad, it kind of makes me gag and tastes like barn. Jamie likes it though. There was a table next to us of four older people. They all ordered this giant seafood "appetizer" and by the time they got through it and onto their mains, we were finishing dessert. That's how big it was. If I knew what to do with all those shells I might have gotten that too. But I'd be scared something would fling in jamie's eye and we'd have to call an ambulance. speaking of which, the man who was eating his oysters and such thought he flung some in my eye because he cracked one open just as I was rubbing my eye. He looked shocked and scared but I assured him I was ok.
So good. But so offensive looking.
Cheese after dinner. See? we do it wrong at home. We graze on cheese before dinner, they eat a bit of cheese after dinner to cleanse the pallet before dessert.
That was day 4. Oh yes there was a drunk Frenchman walking around the harbour singing loudly in French, stumbling about. Just like a cartoon!