giverny to rouen

I have a lot to write tonight, and only two fingers to write with, so I may have to post this in two parts.

Yesterday, after we dried off, we rested for the afternoon. I remembered that our host needed payment in cash, so we asked about an ATM... and learned there is none in Giverny. Sandrine, our host, very nicely (and of necessity) offered to drive us into Vernon to use a machine there. On the way there, she asked about our last name. I suspected I knew why, and when she asked, "You are Jewish, no?" I knew I was right.

She is also Jewish, the only Jewish person in the town of Giverny. She asked if I am "active with the community" - an interesting expression - and said that she is very active with the Jewish community in Paris. I have noticed that my last name, which is almost always mispronounced in the US and Canada, is always pronounced correctly by French people. In France, it's a known Jewish name.

We had a lovely time chatting with Sandrine as she drove us around. Some friends of hers moved to Montreal last year. She would like to visit them, but because she can only travel between November and March, she's afraid of the weather.

On the way back, it was almost time for our dinner reservations, so Sandrine dropped us at the restaurant, also on Rue Claude Monet: Restaurant ancien Hotel Baudy. Those of you reading who know my mother will appreciate this: even Connie didn't like the food. Dinner was pretty bad, and that made a perfect trifecta of mediocre (or worse) meals in Giverny. I did not want to tell the lovely Sandrine that the local restaurant was sub-par, but I will send her this post and also review her brilliant B&B on TripAdvisor, so she might as well know.

We walked back - no rain this time - and had a great night's sleep in our separate rooms.

In the morning we had the one and only good meal we had in Giverny: breakfast by Sandrine. The table was picture perfect, and we had the classic French breakfast of baguettes and croissants and excellent coffee, but with three different kinds of homemade jam and an assortment of cheese.

Our taxi arrived, and the same driver who picked us up from Vernon drove us back to the station. In case you didn't read my previous post, I highly recommend Les Jardins d'Helene!

Two things happened next that I must document. To understand the first, you must know that my mother has trouble walking down stairs. She is afraid every time, and swears that without me to "help" her, she could never have managed the Paris Metro. I put help in quotes because all I did was reassure and encourage her, tell her to go slow, take her time, and so on. But for reasons unknown to me, she is afraid of walking down any ordinary staircase. The other thing to know is that she never carries her suitcase. Not for one moment. She is quite fit for her age, but come on, she's 83 years old! She wheels her suitcase, and if we need to lift or briefly carry our luggage, I do that.

We arrived at the Vernon gare just as the train was pulling in. I knew we had adequate time, but we had to go downstairs, under the platform, and up the other stairs, to cross over to the other side. I asked Connie to stand with her bag, wait for me while I carried my bag down, then came back for her. Imagine my shock when, placing my suitcase at the bottom of the stairs, I turned around and saw my mother creeping down the steps, one hand white-knuckled on the railing, the other carrying her suitcase.

I lost it. I'm not proud to say this, but I flat-out yelled at her. I ran up, grabbed her suitcase, ran down, grabbed my suitcase, ran upstairs carrying both suitcases, dumped them on the platform near some train conductors, then ran back down to get my mother and get her into the train. All the while having visions of my mother losing her balance and tumbling down the stairs, or throwing her back out, or worse.

As we took our seats, I was still angry, and Connie was throwing gasoline on the fire by refusing to listen. (This takes the form of her saying, "All right all right all right," over my talking. It's her way of saying "shut up".) Finally I very calmly asked her to listen to me. I said, "Mom, I am responsible for your safety on this trip. My sister and brother and sibs-in-law are all counting on me to take care of you. What will I tell them if you fall down stairs because you couldn't wait for me to take your suitcase?"

It worked. She apologized and I apologized for yelling at her.

The next issue was our train ticket. I booked all our trains in advance, but for some reason, I booked on the first train of the morning - at 7:00! That seemed ridiculous, so we took a 9:00 train... but it was too late to exchange the ticket. We didn't know if there'd be a ticket-taker on this train (there was none from Paris to Giverny), and if there was, what would happen. We decided to say nothing. The conductor asked for our tickets, read them, punched them, and moved on. I'm assuming he figured, they have tickets from this place to that place, there are plenty of seats available, who cares. I suppose if he wanted to be a jerk, he could have made us pay a fine or a fee, but as it stood, we gave each other a thumb's up.

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