France Trip Update – Day 0, 1, & 2

OK folks sorry for the long delay. Be warned that my keyboard isn’t the greatest and also that words are not my primary artistic medium!

Day 0 – Saturday and the Trip to France

I fell asleep on the runway in Cleveland (to fly to New York) and woke up an hour later to find we were still on the runway in Cleveland! We had a 2.5 hour layover so this wasn’t going to mess up our flight but still! Then it took an extra hour to land because they kept circling around to find us a runway to land on in New York. The only good news is that we had no layover and he landed us right near where we took off from. Also the flight attendant had pity on me and let me store my carry on bag next to hers IN the plane instead of checking it curbside (like everyone else). This matters because it contains the cameras.

Day 1 – Paris & Compiegne

The flight to Paris was OK. I slept some and watched Jim Carrey in Yes Man which was nice but I did not way Horton Hears a Who. I drew the line. The landing was very rough. But we did arrive in Paris. Customs was easy – just grabbed the bags and headed to the phones to call for the car company to pick us up.

We waited for a bit at the wrong exit and Jenny and Tim had some money changed (yes even though we knew it would be steep it is good to have ‘some’ Euros). It was horrible Tim had less exchanged so his was $1.66 mine was a little better at $1.56 (this is overall because of the fees and such). Let’s hope we do better or this will go over my budget by 30 percent!

We called the company again and they told us where to REALLY go. The car is GREAT. I mean fabulous – I love a new car – had the new car smell (I put a vanilla air freshener in to make it look like less of a rental – Tim hates it!). Holds the bags in the trunk no prob is very high tech and very comfortable.

I paid 1.05 for petrol which is better then by estimate (yeah) and I might have gotten super by mistake! We repacked the bags (somewhat and headed to Compiegne for our first stop the Tower of Joan of Arc.

Now you have to realize I did a LOT of research before we left. I have two red binders each with an entire ream of paper. One contains turn by turn directions from place to place and the other full background info and French history so I can talk on camera. This first stop I was still a little fuzzy on. I knew that in the hundred years war that Joan of Arc was sent to Compiegne to defend it from the Burgundians and it was here that she was captured. What I never understood is why they would imprison her IN Compiegne after.

The answer is – they didn’t. During a retreat from a skirmish outside of town they closed the city gates before she could get back in. Was this on purpose by the Mayor, her enemies, or even her allies, the scholars debate. But in honor of her they renamed the 12th century tower ruin that used to guard the old bridge into the city after her. A great story that I couldn’t really tell on camera in the wind and the rain. I got some great photos! I even have some good video. But not really of me on camera – well maybe a quick intro. The whiteboard wasn’t going to work the way I planned. So I am definitely going to be doing a lot of voice-over when I get back home and maybe even intercut some footage of me with a backdrop. No real tragedy just changes the nature of the beast is all.

Now some of you know I was complaining about those little umbrellas that everyone was bringing with them. We did stop at a Monoprix before we got to the ruin and I did buy a VERY expensive 15 Euro umbrella that helped a little during the shoot (not much it was a crappy umbrella). Plus Jenny was tired and Tim wandered off. Bringing walkie-talkies so that I could find Tim was probably the smartest idea I have ever had!

I couldn’t figure out how to make the GPS on the notebook work (which could wait) but I did have the GPS data logger on my person. It won’t read the right time so it turns out I set all the clocks on my cameras to Paris time for nothing. The first day’s photos all need to be retime stamped to work properly but I did get the data for the entire day. (Though I still have work to do on that before I post the map – sorry folks!)

We next headed to the Chateau de Compiegne. It was raining a little less and I was still a little dejected from my not successful shoot at the Tower. The Chateau was better than I remembered it and they let me video tape on the inside. At this point I realized that post audio was in fact a good thing! I just pretended I was a tourist and got as much as I could. Remember my goal is only to have 3-5 minutes from each place overall and I can also use my photos if I need to in the video. The new still camera is GREAT and I am also so glad I didn’t bring the steadycam. In fact I am only using the one video camera on the metal arm thing I got two days before I left.

It was still raining at the Chateau so I didn’t get to see the gardens but I filmed a few seconds on intro there – that is the new goal – film whenever I can and then just try and get an intro. I also retook a lot of photos I had taken in 2000 from my first visit without the flaws that have been bugging me. It really is worth the visit.

The rain let up so we went back to the Joan of Arc tower and I was able to get a little more video and some more stills. It is funny how my plans for what I am doing have changed even though the itinerary is staying the same.

Tim and Jenny were both very tired and while I know Jenny is having a great time I was a little worried about Tim. He was pretty quiet.

We then headed to the first B&B. (Oh, for those of you wondering Jenny and I ate a sandwich for lunch at a corner bar and Tim stopped at the grocery and got himself bread and meat and fruit.) The B&B was gorgeous! It was a ruin of a farmhouse that an English couple has seen from the canal as they were barging (ala on a barge) around Europe. They purchased the 12 ruined houses on the lot and restored them all and sold them to English families. They seemed a little apprehensive about being on film so I didn’t push it though we did have a great time talking about castles. Dinner was fabulous Tim and I both has the Rabbit was a Plum sauce and the smoked salmon starter was SOOO yummy. They also brought out the cheese spread – oh my! So good.

We had our own rooms for the first night and I was really able to rethink the bags and such and yes I did shave so I am still smooth. The Internet however didn’t work so alas today is the first posting!

Summary of Day 1

(1) Gross Tour Du Roi (Rededicated as the Tower of Joan of Arc)
(2) Chateau du Compiegne
Day 2 – Pierrefonds and Chantilly

Today was going to be a crazy day. The castle I love most – Pierrefonds and the castle I hate most – Chantilly. As many of you recall it was at Chantilly in 2005 that I came back to find the car empty of $8000 worth of stuff (and it was my first stop of the trip). It was because of that event that I did NOT stop in Chantilly first but it Is so iconic I couldn’t skip it.

I had a discovery Monday afternoon that my little GPS data logger that I wear to tag my photos somehow shows up as a live GPS data feed to my computers. Instead of the roof mounted GPS that isn’t working the software likes the little GPS unit (and it still logs the data!). With that I tried putting the little notebook on the dash and viola: turn by turn voice directions around France. Damn you big red binder I didn’t need – come to think about it since I am not doing running history – damn you second big red binder I didn’t need. That actually isn’t true – it is nice to have some history and Tim really likes reading these articles by this Wikipedia thing (as well as other sources thank you). He was also complaining about one of the article’s bad translation and I told him it was an auto translate from Babelfish so the fact that it was readable at all was amazing – he was amazed.

Anyways we head to Pierrefonds with a new plan. Put all the technology that isn’t on me or in the backpack in the small blue suitcase and ask the castle to hold the bag (instead of leaving it in the car). Then the only risk is to the clothes. Sounds good right?

We drove to Pierrefonds where I couldn’t find the entrance. We ended up taking a service road into the castle and parked in the employee lot! We went with the blue bag and they told us they couldn’t take it because of terrorists but that she would call the director. I took out the print I had made of the castle to give them but it was a very confusing moment. They took the print with thanks and told me that if I didn’t mind having the bags searched that we could take them with us. Oy – heavy. But it was nice – they searched and we went around. It was even emptier than I remember – which is good- because the BBC is filming Merlin there on a regular basis. We got lucky because it is closed often now.

The other good news is that the lower lever was open with a special exhibition of effigies that were all laid out like in a crypt with audio and some projections making the space very haunting (but not tacky at all – really it was amazing). Tim was so excited – he told me how much fun he was having and that he never really got castles before – he was really smiling. Jenny has just been walking on a cloud and loves the whole feel of France – I am sure when I give her the computer to blog she will tell you all how she wants to move here right away!

We stopped for lunch and just grabbed quick sandwiches for the road and headed for Chantilly. Tim is very swayed by the road signs and wants to stop everywhere. I am holding fast to the schedule and explained that what I planned is better than what we will ‘stumble on’ in the time allotted.

Now I approached Chantilly with some trepidation. We have been working on the rule that you can’t go into the trunk before you leave the car so if you need something get it at the stop before. I still was scared. The parking lot is wooded with signs that say they don’t take responsibility for the contents of your car. So as planned I took the blue bag with me – rolled it to the castle and – NO – they don’t have a luggage check. However the security guard offered to hold it for me in his guardhouse! Yeah! The castle is fabulous. The stables are as big as a castle and are the ones featured in the James Bond film a View to a Kill. We didn’t have time for the stables and just went to the Castle and the art gallery inside it. Wow – I have finally seen the ‘Three Graces’ and many other great works of art. And again – they let me film the entire thing. I even took some video on the tour (though not of the guide – just the rooms).

It was getting late and starting to rain again so we didn’t get to see the gardens but it is ok because they were all under construction – I mean BIG crews with bulldozers rebuilding them!

Our next stop Amiens to another B&B. This place is lovely. We are sharing a room and Tim seems fine in his little bed. We are really just outside of Amiens so they sent us into town to get some dinner. Tim and Jenny had cold plate boards (Tim fish, Jenny meat) and I had a wonderful (but slow) Pate appetizer, steak dinner, and apple pastry dessert – yum.

During dinner we heard some banging and some booms (like fireworks or gunfire). It was very regular and it looked like a parade just across the river (which was less than a block over). Jenny thought it was school letting out and Tim said it was a demonstration. It got louder. It got rowdier. Then Jenny’s eyes started to burn as we say lots of smoke and head police sirens and fire trucks. We waited a while for things to calm down not knowing what it was.

Our car was parked RIGHT in the line of the parade demonstration and when we got to it – the streets were covered with garbage – hay – manure! The car was fine – though Jenny pointed out due to evidence right next to it that it probably had been pelted by a potato.

The next stop was tricky – getting out of town. There was hay and garbage everywhere. The manure has been set on fire and the police kept redirecting us. So however did the GPS – right into the thick of it. Tim kept joking that it was a bad scifi story with the computer trying to get us back into the action. While I am getting us lost – and Jenny will write about just how lots – wrong way on one way street – driving on a shopping plaza that wasn’t even a street – and not having my light on – Tim jumped out of the car to get shots of smoking manure!

We did make it back though it was late and our hosts thought they had given us the keys and didn’t really understand what happened to us. We explained as best we could. They don’t speak much English and because this isn’t a castle town I won’t press here either.

I posted the video clip I took from the restaurant before it got too bad on YouTube and was told it was a farmworkers demonstration. Looked like a riot to me – they trashed the place!

Mom! We are fine.

Summary of Day 2:
(3) Chateau de Pierrefonds
(4) Chateau de Chantilly

I still haven’t gotten the GPS setup good enough to POST the maps – though I do have the data. As I am short on time (sorry) I will only post Tim’s smoking manure pic and the YouTube video. I will post when I can. Today is Amiens and Giverny but NO Internet tonight so that might give me time to catch up!

That’s it for the first post! Tell your friends see ya next time.


PS OK – One castle picture…

[Re-posted from my University Blog & Edited 07/01/2011]