Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Letter No. 8

Bonjour, mes amis,

We’ve been in France now for a week. We’re working at understanding what people say to us in French, but it isn’t easy. In the Netherlands, and to a lesser extent in Belgium, you can speak English to nearly everyone. But the French are as insular as we are. It’s French or nothing most of the time.

We drove to Besancon – a very long way. It took about four hours to get there from Colmar. We pulled into the campground, but the reception area was closed. Remember lunch time? Found a pitch, plugged in and were all set, but we had to wait until the office opened at 3 p.m. By that time, it was so hot out that Adelle decided to stay in the campground and not try to see Besancon. There wasn’t much time, and she needed a break. So on this particular day, we weren’t tourists, just campers!

One of our favorite supermarkets was just down the road a piece, so in the morning we went to the Carrefour to buy groceries. Ron took a lot of pictures, including one showing the 36 cashier stations, not all of which were open, and several of the huge showcases of various kinds of food. He was hoping to get a picture of one of the people who put things away in the store. They rollerskate from place to place as directed by walkie talkies or something like them. But he never got a chance to do so because we were stopped by the security men. Apparently taking pictures in a Carrefour is not allowed!

After due consideration, they allowed us to keep the pictures he had already taken, and we were out of there by about 10 a.m. Then came the big problem of the day. We followed the signs for the town we thought we’d want – but we kept going north and we thought we should be going west. There was a tense period until we saw the name of a town we knew was on the correct road and shortly thereafter, the number of the correct road appeared.

We had decided to make the trip to Troyes a two-day affair so we needn’t travel so long at one time. That’s why we stopped in Langres – an ancient city that has two claims to fame. One is the ramparts all around the city, which are very old and still intact. The other is that it is the birthplace of Denis Diderot, a leading figure in the French Enlightenment.

It’s quite a small place, but it has a terrific municipal campground right next to one of the towers of the ramparts. We walked just about all the three kilometers of the ramparts and loved it. (It was just about as long a walk as Ron’s usual 2-mile walk in Florida, but the scenery was sure different.) The town itself is not spectacular, but the view from the ramparts certainly was.

France is really beautiful. The fields are huge and multi-colored. The towns when seen from a distance are all pretty red roofs clustered around lovely old churches. Driving through towns usually means buildings of indeterminate age, almost all aged grey stucco, no front yards and few people. As you get closer to Germany, you do get nice stucco buildings, and in the south, many are Mediterranean pinks and yellows. But around here, it’s just old, unpainted stucco.

Tomorrow we are off to Troyes and we expect to spend several days there. Then we’ll be on our way back to Belgium to meet friends.

Au revoir. A bien tot.

Adelle and Ron

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