From Munich to Paris via Saintes

For the next three weeks, we will share a home with Pichaï the Korat whom we have yet to see. The only evidence of his possible existence is a door found ajar this morning, which we had firmly closed before going to bed. His ghost, at least, seems well.

Very recently we concluded our fantastic home exchange in Munich where we enjoyed so much walking the streets of the city and visiting many places of interest that I shall require a little more time to sort through my assorted pictures of baroque palaces and everyday scenes observed. Bear with me, it might take the dark hours of next winter before I manage to edit such a rich photo harvest.

Our return drive from Munich took us through southern Germany, through a sliver of Austria, just missing Lichtenstein before crossing through a chunk of Switzerland. We finally enter France shortly past Geneva. I had a quick glance across the Bodensee [Lake Constance] where I spent many a teenage day sailing my little heart out. We didn’t really get to see Lac Lémon [Lake Geneva] at all, just the overall gorgeous alpine landscape, but that’s the way it goes when you have to cover almost 1400 Km in a couple of days.

We had just passed Lyon and were getting a smidgen desperate for a bed in which to sleep for a few hours when my phone told me of the one and only hotel nearby. It was located in the small town of Tarare, Rhône-Alpes, a few miles off the freeway. As we approached the hotel, slowing to swing into the parking area we immediately saw a multitude milling happily with glasses in their hands. A large party was well on its way. Hotel guests or Happy Hour revelers? Unfortunately for us, they were happy guests. But the receptionist took pity on us and called a local B&B, which had space for us. Not being in a position to negotiate, we immediately accepted the room sight unseen and received fairly simple directions to Les Jardins de l’Hacienda. We were received by a charming young woman who introduced us to the family mansion situated in a park overlooking the valley. We spent a restful night stretched out on a wide bed with an exceedingly comfortable mattress, before walking through the garden to the main house for breakfast, where I experienced a déjà vu moment. Was I in my own house?

I have used the same pewter tea service since I’ve moved out of my parent’s over 45 years ago. My mother gave it to me as a present after passing my high school exit exam. But das Tüpfelchen auf dem i, the small detail making this moment special, was the teapot’s dented lid. The tip on their teapot’s lid is just as crooked, as the tip on my sugarbowl’s lid. An auspicious omen for our second day on route home to Saintes!

The week in Saintes between our home exchanges in Munich and Paris flew by in a hurry. It seemed we had only just arrived home when the taxi pulled up to take us to the station for our train to Paris. We had made arrangements for another cab to pick us up at the other end of the comfortable and smooth train journey to the City of Light. Unfortunately, the taxi service Allocab which I had booked through SNCF [the French National RailRoad Co.] hadn’t set up the smoothest of jobs. I was told a different meeting point than the chauffeur, so we had to call and message back and forth a number of times. When he finally arrived, he was driving a different car than I was told, arousing suspicion of his legitimacy for the transfer booked. However, he had the destination address and other information, so we climbed into his comfortable car and started out into the city.

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We didn’t know that Paris’ traffic was mired in chaos while security forces were trying to cope with another highest-security event, the Gay Pride Parade in support of the victims of Orlando, held parallel to the ongoing European Football Championship. The normally about 20-minute ride from the station to our exchange home required one hour and fifteen minutes of beaucoup de la finesse from our chauffeur to navigate around blocked off streets and through the thick traffic on the remaining passageways available. We tipped him for his skill but chalked another black mark against Allocab. They should have mapped out alternative routes around this well-known-in-advance event!

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Yes, I too wanted to scream …

I’m just grateful to our wonderful temporary neighbor Olivier who patiently waited for us for an hour and a half! His gracious demeanor and cheerful attitude and our beautiful apartment in the lively and quirky Marais neighborhood soon set our spirits right.

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À la prochaine, mes amis.

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