France, Days 5 and 6
We left Bayeux the morning of our 5th day in France and started the drive across the country to Verdun, a city famous for its WWI history. We drove on multiple French motorways and paid many tolls in our journey, but also saw some beautiful little French towns and countryside when we exited the motorways.
After a 5-hour drive, we arrived at our hotel in Verdun, called Le Coq Hardin. The hotel is very old, is very well-established, and is full of tiny hallways with stairs and ramps all throughout. The elevator could have been an antique Otis elevator, and my fear of being trapped in elevators was not at all helped by this rickety thing. Overall though, the hotel is quiet and clean, and our one night there was wonderful!
Verdun is less accustomed to tourists and fewer people speak English in Verdun than in Bayeux and certainly than in Paris. Thankfully, Brice has been working on his French for quite some time and was able to communicate well enough for us to have a petit bière at a local pub, and then some amazing pastries at a patisserie before Karen and Mike went back to the hotel to freshen up and Brice and I walked around the center of town. Verdun was decorated for Christmas, and it was gorgeous!
For dinner, we went to a tiny restaurant with an absolute angel for a hostess/server. She spoke little English (but, she spoke far more English than I speak French), so Brice’s French really came in handy, and we enjoyed sitting in a restaurant with locals and meeting a few new people during the meal. The best part of the evening came when Mike noticed a local couple watching us (I’m sure we stuck out in there!) and decided to pay for their meal — the couple had no idea what to make of the concept! Our hostess couldn’t figure out why (um, this is probably wrong, but juste pour être gentil), but Mike insisted. The couple was obviously touched, and were so appreciative and kind that they decided to return the gesture by buying us a bottle of wine to take with us. We smiled for hours after chatting with them as best we could, and I’m sure the night will stay with me for a very long time.
The next morning was Christmas Eve, and we got up early for our tour of the Argonne Forest and other WWI historic sites in the area. Our tour guide was Florence Vermusse, and she was amazing! She took us into French and German trenches, showed us actual canons used during battle, and to various cemeteries commemorating the sacrifices of troops in WWI. It was gray, wet, and cold — perfect weather for the sobering and moving tour.
We were so happy that Florence gave up part of her Christmas Eve to share her knowledge with us, and I think the experience was touching, especially for Karen and Mike, who each had a grandfather in who fought in WWI.
From the end of our tour, we drove back to Paris and arrived back to our hotel that we had stayed in for the first few nights. BUT, this time, Brice and I were fortunate enough to be in a room with a view of the Eiffel Tower!
Then, we settled our brains for a long winter’s nap and awaited Christmas Day in Paris.
More to come!