Taking Normandy by storm...and our worst traveling thus far
I have had some serious realizations on this trip, one of which is how well I was taken care of by my father and by my husband when I travelled with them. I have managed to get around both Germany and England just fine. I think the ability to speak the language (or at least fake it) was a huge help. If nothing else, they don't know what words I don't know. I even received a compliment on my driving by a relative, who was an Audi prototype driver for a profession. (I will take that!) I also skirted the English countryside lanes and alleys with no collisions. Truth be told, I was partly relieved to give up the right-hand drive and let someone else take the helm in the form of public transport. Yet, another part was scared shitless to travel by public means. There is not a person who could say I am not a well-travelled individual; however, public people movers are not my forté.
I wake up in Portsmouth, early for the ferry and skip the shower...there was no point, I wouldn't get clean, it also became quite obvious that I had received love bites from the local bedbugs overnight. All I wanted was to leave, get moving to the promise of a Chateau in Bayeux, France. No issues revealed themselves with boarding the ferry. In fact, it was a nicely outfitted boat, with, as I imagine cruise ships have, cafes, restaurants, shops, cinemas, etc. 5 hours later we dock and exit. At this point, a little panic wells up, I was not exactly sure how to get to the hotel. I had emailed the local taxi company and they quoted €80. After my horrible night's sleep, I decided to go for it. We had the port-of-call info booth call a cab, (not from the company I had messaged) he told me €120, "extra on Sunday's!" Yeah, fuck you very much. I went back into the information desk as many travelogues said it was easy to grab a bus and train, she agreed. Yes, easy to grab a bus, but due to the strike, no trains. The info desk at the train/bus station said take the bus. So, I dutifully purchase my tickets.
Funny thing about bus tickets in France during a strike, they can sell them to you, but your seat is not guaranteed. As it happened, despite waiting 2 hours for the bus, we were not allowed on. Apparently, they were also honoring train tickets. I could have probably been an ass and demanded my money back, but I really wanted to get out of the gum-infested, smoke bud, piss-bum zone and get a shower! I gave up the €20 bus ticket fight and grabbed a cab, (from the company I had called). I kept telling myself, it is good for the kids to see this side of life, why hard work and education is important, really important.
The next day is June 6th, the 72nd anniversary of D-Day. This is by design as Ethan's birthday is on the same day. For a boy who has an unusual amount of exuberance, that more often than not challenges his teachers' patience, this day is for him. For all the adults who have misunderstood him, this day will forever be in his memory as a childhood highlight. That life is okay and, god willing, you will live past your 19th birthday.
Not only did we see the memorials but being the anniversary, more uniformed military than usual were present visiting the sites, even a few 90 year old veterans were around. Also, many people visit at this time with WWII era military vehicles, tanks and motorcycles dressed in period clothing, living in tent barracks and cranking crooning music from the 40s. Ethan exclaimed more than once "this is the best birthday ever!" I did pre-arrange a private tour and I am very glad I did. She got us in and out of everything quickly, giving a deep history of the events and really explained details that ordinary travelers would miss. On top of all that, she drove me to the car rental place and lead us to the Bayeux Tapestry.
We dipped into the Tapestry museum. Another link to William the Conquerer as told through a 1000yo Unesco embroidery. This was a turn-of-the-century military propaganda piece for the uneducated masses. It was hung at church to tell the Saxons that Willy was the true heir to the throne by both entitlement and enforcement. Hoping to not spend a whole lot more today, we stopped in a local cafe for dinner. It was a good thing because the manor hotel did not tell me they were not serving dinner on this particular evening.
Of late, I feel like I have opened my veins and am pouring out liquid gold. Our original plan was to take the train to Paris Orly and then travel from Orly to De Guille airport for our flight to Rome. However, after our train problems in Caen, I decided to cancel our tickets for a small fee and rent a car for about the same price. We get up early and head on for the 3 hour drive. This is where my life fell apart. First, before leaving I tried to pay off my credit card, knowing it was getting full (ATMs have been a little allusive since arriving in France), but the wifi was poor and the totals were not coming through. I didn't have a balance to pay according to the current state of affairs. Then we hit 5 road tolls and only 2 took cash, thankfully it did take my debit card because by the 3rd toll my card was refused. I still needed to pay the car rental, fill the gas tank and whatever other ugly things might happen. Thankfully, I did have enough euros to pay for gas.
As I am driving in to return the car, I am on an international cell call trying in increase my limit. Done. Pull into De Guille Hertz, return the car, done. 2 hours before take off. Arrive to check in and the EasyJet rep stops me and tells me I am at the wrong airport!
What happend? As far as I can discern, when I cancelled the train, I proceeded to reverse the order of where I needed to go in my head. Thinking the train went into Orly and I had to get to De Guille. I cannot begin to tell you how badly my brain started swimming, call it a small panic attack. I had just made my life horrible, committed the most errgreious traveling error ever. I sunk down, into my heart, and died just a little. Over and over I told myself to be strong and brave, your daughters are watching. Don't lose it, DO NOT LOSE IT! A walk over to the EasyJet customer service and he tells me, "it's an hour away, you can take the train"..."but the strike?"..."the bus" fuck. So, we catch the bus.
Oh how I would like to say that a miracle happened and just like the movies, we dash through the airport, pushing over old ladies and hurdling various baggage and catch the flight. No.way.in.hell could that have happened and I lose it. I cry and pity myself and cry and my girls hug me and tell me it's okay, everyone makes mistakes, they tell me all the things I know they have heard from me. I know I raised them well and I tell myself to forgive myself and that I will never actually live this down...
I think about why people have told me they admire what I am doing, alone, without a husband. To be honest, the tour guide from Normandy, a 30-something woman with perfect English, of late was my only confidant and I had unburdened myself just a bit. A companion that I really didn't know but I found myself having an adult conversation. There have been many things I have been taxed with but I have tried to remain silent, to appear strong for my girls. I wanted them to see that whatever comes up can be handled. I think many women don't take this on because of just this type of scenario. A completely humiliating mistake that sends you spiraling down a rabbit hole.
Or perhaps not. No, this was not going to go any further. The only way I can explain my error was that I had just so many things I was double/triple checking and I was exhausted, mentally and physically. This misdirection, while completely my fault, was missed due to the sheer size of what I am doing. As my Aynsleigh said to me when I was shedding my tears: "we are all okay, no one is hurt and we will just take it one step at a time and we will get there." And then I thought about those 18 year old men, 72 years ago, some virgins no doubt, possibly never to have carnal pleasure, or love, or a wife, perhaps the joy of children, the beauty of watching them learn and grow. They went into a war and fought for those who could not fight for themselves, against a vicious ideology. They fought, watched their brothers and friends die or died themselves. The fear in their hearts as they faced an uncertain day was so much greater than my pathetic mishap now on June 7th, 2016. I handled it, I got on airport wifi, paid off my card with slight of hand. And despite costing me a butt load, we got over to Orly and there was a 5pm flight. Done. Viva Roma, Viva Italia.