Well, we are back! What an amazing first trip to France. We road tripped, leaving Donnerstag Abend (Thursday night) and drove all the way to Orléans France and stayed in a small hostel. We realized we were starving for supper at 9pm and found ourselves selecting our very first meal in France from a gas station along the highway. Yes, you read correctly. My first meal in France was a gas station burger and chips ooh and a magnum chocolate ice cream bar. This epiphany occurred to me in the car as I raced time to eat the ice cream bar before it melted completely and I literally laughed so hard I about peed my pants (yes that’s me-keeping it classy). Mauricio thought for a moment that the old country air had loosened a screw in my head!
We arrived to Orléans very late in the night and quickly went to sleep. The next morning, fresh and rested we opted for a real meal before continuing our trip. The food was fantastik and my excitement mixed with anxiety when I stupidly realized for the first time that we knew zero French. They overheard us speaking Spanish at the table and kindly brought over a menu in Spanish! Our server was pleasant and gave us a few lessons regarding the basic phrases (ie hello, please, and thank-you).
Our next stop was Chateau de Chambord a magnificent castle just 45 minutes or so from Orléans. It was a recommended stop to us by our friend, and we opted for the audio guide for just 5 euros more per person. The audio guide was well worth the price as it provided the story behind the Chambord. In summary, the castle was built not as a military fortress, but as a showcase of wealth and extravagance. King François I had the castle built in the middle of a forest and stayed there rarely, except to hunt or host a special guest. Apparently it is unknown who the designer of the Chambord actually is, although it is speculated that it may have been Leonardo Da Vinci. The castle construction was started in 1519 and took approximately 30 years to complete. Within the center of the castle is a double helix staircase which takes you up 3 ‘floors’. The helix staircase has windows to see into the other when you cross. When exiting the staircase on the 3rd ‘floor’ you can look out for miles and miles in any direction of the castle. Understandably so, the upper rooms in the towers are locked to visitors. (For more pictures of the Chambord click on photo gallery at the top left of the page under the ‘fish banner’.)
After the Chateau de Chambord we got back in the car to meet up with the wedding party in Thénac. We stayed at the venue of the wedding reception, Domaine Des Chais De Thénac.
We arrived in time to meet other friends of the couple. Some were from France, others from Germany. It was quite an international group! We stayed in a dormitory type room that had 30 or so beds and community toilets (2) and showers (2).
Saturday the day of the wedding we went to Royan, France which was a 45 minute drive to the Atlantic coastline. The couple was married in the Church of Notre-Dame in Royan.
Royan is a port city with long sandy beaches, and during WWII it was occupied by the Nazi’s. The bride (who’s family has a vacation home in Royan) shared with us that the Nazi’s in WWII thought the Allied forces would surely attempt an attack through Royan, and so along the beaches you can still see the bunkers they used to watch and wait. Over time the weight of the bunkers and the erosion of sand have brought them closer to the water as you can see here in the picture. When the tide is high they are partially covered by the water. The city was completely destroyed by bombs in 1945 and rebuilt in the 1950’s.
After the ceremony in the Notre-Dame, we all drove back to Thénac for the reception. We were served drinks and appetizers in the open area while the bride and groom took pictures with family and friends. After we all headed into the banquet hall for a several-course dinner (wow amaaaazing food) and drinking and dancing. It was a beautiful night and we partied well into the morning!
Sunday we had a tranquillo afternoon sitting by the pool and chatting with new friends. Most of the people who came for the wedding left on that day, and at the late afternoon there was just a small group of us left. We loaded up the wedding decorations into our cars and headed back to Royan. We all stayed together at the vacation home, and on Monday we packed up to see the Atlantic shore! What a beautiful coast, so different from that of the beaches I grew to love in the Gulf. I need to mention how cold the Atlantic Ocean is right now, and I mean hot dog cold! But we swam anyway, and played paddle ball, and read magazines, and the guys took turns flying a serious kite.
Tuesday morning we left super early and drove straight through back to Frankfurt. And now, just as I was getting really comfortable with my new-found French vocabulary, I’m back in Deutschland saying Guten Tag! 🙂
French lesson for today:
Merci beaucoup=Thank you very much
S’il vous plaît=please
Jou Jou=slang for cheap wine (not sure if I spelled it properly but that is how it sounds)