Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why France is different from the US...part 1

The telephone at our house went out on Sunday night and the internet went out on Monday.  I also was unable to get my phone with the French sim card to work to make any calls (I had loaded it with $30 euros on Saturday and hadn’t used it I thought maybe the guy at the store didn’t activate it properly.  Whenever I try to make a call, I get a recording (in French) and can’t tell exactly what she’s saying...I thought she was saying to call back during evening hours, when rates are better...turns out she was saying I was out of credits, so much for my French).  As a last straw, we were also not able to get the sim card we got for James’ phone for data access to work (this is after spending over an hour in the phone store with two clerks helping us get everything set up).  So, we were without any electronic assistance...and I wasn’t able to post to my blog!  Argh!
James and I got up Tuesday morning and headed into Alliant to the flower shop to talk to the one person in town we knew spoke English (Johanna, the shop keeper is a friend of our host).  Her daughter, Juliet (whom we had met on Saturday) was working at the shop.  After exchanging greetings, I told her we were having some troubles with the phone and internet at the house.  She told us that her phone was also out...some network problem, but her internet was working.  She said she would talk to her dad to see if he could help us after work.  We thanked her for her help and went on our way.  We stopped at the Boulangerie for bread and croissants (a daily event now...baguettes are only good on the day you buy they don’t last long!) and then headed home to pick up the crew and head out to Auxerre.
We were returning to Auxerre, with the explicit plan of visiting two chocolatiers and the Abbey of St. Germaine.  The guidebook said there were no tours on Tuesdays, but that the Abbey was open year round.  I figured that meant we could wander around ourselves.  So, we loaded ourselves into the car and off we went for the 20 minute drive to Auxerre, through beautiful wheat fields, farm lands and picturesque villages.  It’s a lovely drive.  As we parked near the Palais du Justice (the courthouse to you and me), I reached into my bag to get the Auxerre pages I had torn from my tour books, with the names and addresses of the chocolatiers.  I discovered that I had walked out the door without the pages.  I heard a collective groan from the they were very much looking forward to visiting the chocolate stores.  C’est la vie!  Off we went, hoping we would stumble upon one of them.  (I was quite put out with myself, for having set the pages down for a moment and then walking out the door without them!)
We were soon caught up in the sights and the magic of walking down streets that are hundreds of years old.  As we rounded our first corner, there was a chocolate we approached, I saw that it was one of the ones on our list (Chocolatier-Patissier Claude et Michele).  Yippee!  All was not lost.  We spent 20 minutes in the shop selecting about 40 pieces of chocolate.  We were all in heaven anticipating what these morsels were going to taste like.  The shop keeper (pastry chef Michele), was quite patient with us!

We then meandered down Rue De Paris, looking at menus to see where we might like to eat lunch after we visited the Abbey.  We found several interesting places, and convinced that we would find a good lunch, we headed off to the Abbey for exploration and to build up our appetites.  The Abbey is located behind the Cathedral that we had visited on Saturday and further up the hill.  As we drew near to the Abbey (officially Ancienne Abbaye St-Germain), we saw that the front gates were closed...oh no I thought, another blunder on my part.  We found an open side gate and went in, hoping that the building was open.  Alas, it was not meant to be today.  The guidebook was a little inaccurate and should have said “closed on Tuesdays!”  Oh well, we took lots of pictures of the outside of the Abbey and will return when we can go inside.

We then walked down to the river and had lunch at Le Quai.  Some of us had pizzas, some had steak hache & frites (think hamburger patty) and I had the local favorite of Jamon de Chablise...which is ham with an interesting tomato & wine sauce, served with mashed potatoes which had some different (and good) seasonings.  I also ordered a Monaco beer and got this, it had a fruity, almost cough medicine flavor (but not unpleasant), but didn’t taste like any beer I’d ever had:

The kids had ice cream for dessert.  We continue to be amazed by how good the local ice creams are.  They definitely use a cream with a substantially higher fat content than we do at home!
Then, it was off to the phone store, to see if they could fix our problems.    Turns out, the land lines are down all over the country...and it could be days before the network is back up.  Is that really possible????  I guess so.  And we wouldn’t be so put out if our cell phones were working.  Alas, they told us that my phone had somehow connected to the internet (even though I could have sworn the data setting was turned off) and burned through my credit of 30 euros, without making a single call.  They were not able to help us with James’ issue and told us to come back tomorrow when the correct person was working who might be able to help us.  I remained relatively pleasant...although I did make a few snide comments under my breathe.  All the research before the trip was turning out to not be very helpful and I was quite frustrated!  
We will return tomorrow, and if we can’t get our iphones to work properly, we’ll buy a french cheapie phone, so that we at least have some phone service until the telephone company decides to restore the network.  (Can you imagine, if all land lines in the US were down (or even in one state) and the company said, oh, it will be a few days...hopefully, but we’re not really sure when it will be fixed.  I’m pretty sure that would just not be acceptable (absent a large natural disaster...but even after the San Francisco earthquake of 1987, we had phone and power back in three days).  I think I’m suppose to be learning a lesson from this...but I still run in and check the internet connection and phone every 20 minutes,  just in case!

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