Wednesday, August 08, 2007

luck be a lady tonight

Day 4: le premier août, mercredi

After our traditional French breakfast of toasted baguettes and jam with coffee and juice, Stéph and I set out to put together our shish kebabs. This is something we started doing on a visit to the States when Stéph wanted to make brochettes for a family barbecue. The beef here isn't as good as what you'd find in the States - even Stéph will attest to that - but they're still better than the ones already assembled that you find in the grocery store here. Afterwards, I jumped in the car with my SIL and BIL for a quick trip to Montreuil-sur-Mer.

Although Montreuil-sur-Mer is no longer connected to the sea, it is a popular tourist stop for two reasons. First, it's built on a huge hill, and you can still walk around the whole city and enjoy the great views of the surrounding countryside. But this walk is not for the feint of heart (or small children or dogs not on a leash). That's because there are no guard rails and no walls to keep you from tumbling down a few hundred feet.

the edge of town
Watch your step!

The second reason is that Victor Hugo once stayed here for a short visit and liked it so much, he made it an important part of his novel, Les Misérables. It was in Montreuil that Jean Valjean became Mayor, so of course I couldn't resist taking a photo of the Mairie:

chez Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean's house

Montreuil is so well known as the setting of Les Misérables that the town puts on a big show on summer evenings about the novel, incorporating lights and fireworks. We didn't get to see it but I'm hoping that next year we will.

After our short walk through and around the town, we headed back to our third barbecue in as many days. This was the biggest, with just about all the family, including an aunt and a couple of cousins and their kids. The temperature was steadily increasing but we had a wonderful time nonetheless.

As soon as lunch was over, Stéph and I packed up the car and as the rest of the family was headed back to the beach, we waved goodbye and headed out on our own. Our destination was Etretat, on the Normandy coast.

It was a four hour drive, in which we only got slightly turned around once, and it seemed the minute we arrived in the town we enjoyed an incredible streak of luck. First, we tried to find a space to park in the very tiny parking lot in front of the Mairie, and just as we entered, someone signaled that they were leaving, and then they gave us their parking meter ticket which was good until the next morning! Our first priority was to find a hotel for the night, and we got a room in the first hotel we tried, the Hôtel des Falaises, only two blocks away from the beach. We had the option of taking a room with a shower but either with or without a bathroom, but the 20€ difference made us think that maybe the bathroom in the hallway wasn't such a bad idea. And it really wasn't - it was perfectly clean and I never had to wait during our stay.

Once the hotel was settled, we walked to the beach to take a look at the reason everyone comes to Etretat - the amazing cliffs:


They really were quite stunning.


As we walked back to grab something to eat (in what turned out to be a pretty mediocre touristy restaurant - you can't win 'em all), we passed by a casino, and I suggested we could go blow 20 bucks if we couldn't find anything else to do. Although the idea of slot machines didn't turn him on, he eventually agreed.

Y'all, I have created a monster.

We had a great time at the casino, and thanks to the fact that I wasn't wearing my watch, we lost track of time and didn't leave until nearly midnight. However, we did set our limit at 20€ and walked out with 20€, and I'm sure that at some point we doubled our money but we were having so much fun that we kept playing our winnings anyway.

And then, for the rest of the trip, Stéph kept an eye out for a casino. As much as I enjoyed it, I'm sort of grateful that we didn't cross paths with another casino during our trip - I'm afraid that's all we would have done! Maybe it's a good thing that there isn't a casino within a 200 km radius of us...

Next post: Puy du Fou

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