LES DEUX AMIS EN FRANCE
Tapestry and Tripe • Thursday, June 8
Today we are off to Bayeux, home to the famous Bayeux tapestry, a 20” by 230’ embroidered cloth which narrates the 1066 Norman invasion of England. It is a “must see,” according to my sister.
Bayeux is west of Honfleur, north of Caen, so we make our way out of Honfleur on familiar roads again. Our travels this day, and all of our days en route, dans la voiture, are accompanied by NRJ, the French/European pop station. And each day, every day, we hear our favorites: Je M’Appelle Bagdad, World Hold On, and Sin, Sin, Sin.
On this day — though it could have been another day, the second leg of this journey a mix of exhaustion and over-consumption of sites and travel — we are driving along, listening to the standard French pop-station banter, when suddenly…
[insert Beatles’ You Say It’s Your Birthday and phone ringing]
“Oui, c’est lui.”
“Oui, c’est lui.”
Je devine que vous avez dû être là (I guess you had to be there). But for DeLinda and I…this is one of the funniest moments. We laugh out loud at the birthday phone call, poor Louis, and us, driving along a highway in France, completely “in on” the joke.
I confess our day in Bayeux is a bit of a blur. The next several days will be, as the blank pages in my journal attest. Specific details and commentary gave way to shorter synopses by Notre Dame, leading to cryptic shorthand references of the days that followed. My entry for this day could as well read “shopping, tapestry, gifts from the sea, salads in Honfleur,” so I will attempt to elaborate here…
We wander Bayeux for an hour or so, seeing the magnificent Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux, enjoying a tourist-train ride through city streets, and some shopping before stopping for lunch. We have proclaimed “non” to our now-standard selection of ham and cheese (perhaps at the insistence of Aurora, our porcine puppet traveling companion, see below). Instead, we select a charming bistro for our culinary adventure.
In a lovely dining room with linen tablecloths and full-service flatwear, we look forward to our innovative selections. DeLinda’s mackerel salad appetizer is a portent of the “delectable” main courses we each select from the menu. Mine, “Gifts from the Sea” promises a spread of local seafood delights, while DeLinda’s soup, we assume, will be bouillabaisse-like in presentation.
This is a faux-pas. Une grand faux-pas.
“Gift from the Sea” consists of three items: shrimp avec squirting guts, petit, swallow-quickly snails, and large, chewy escargots that could not go down fast enough, despite the assistance of a bland and slippery mayonnaise sauce.
In disbelief, I look up with a friendly grimace at DeLinda, hoping she has fared better. She sits with a look of worry over a lovely, white ceramic tureen filled with a steaming grayish-brown stew.
“This is not what I thought,” she says quietly, shaking her head back and forth slowly.
“I should have known this,” she continues solemnly. “Tripe is not fish…it’s intestines.”
So much for culinary adventure! Somehow a sixth ham and cheese pairing doesn’t seem so bad. Quietly, we attempt to eat our meal, then push aside our half-empty plates with disappointment. Thankfully, the decadent desserts provide palate-cleansing (eviscerating) rescue.
We see the Bayeux Tapestry, then — a “must see” maybe for the embroidery enthusiasts among us. Housed in a long and dimly lit museum room, the tapestry is presented in a winding display case that curves back upon itself. It is the only way to showcase this creation that stretches the length of a football field.
Scroll right to see the entire Bayeux Tapestry, courtesy of Wikipedia.
With that checked off our list, we take in a little shopping, along cobblestone streets filled with boutiques and charming shops.
“Achoo!” sneezes DeLinda in a stationery store.
“God bless you,” I say in response.
“Giggle” comes from across the aisle.
Apparently, sneezing is another faux pas – akin to petting strangers’ dogs in elevators, we surmise. “God bless you,” is nice, but the French expect an “excuse me.” Who knew?
On the way back to Honfleur, we detour across the Pont de Normandie, a giant cabled bridge that spans the river Seine (yes, the same one that’s in Paris), outside of Honfleur proper. Similar in structure to the new bridge in Boston that crosses the Charles River, it is some 700 feet high and its total length is more than a half-mile long. When it was built in 1995, it was the longest bridge of its kind in the world. The experience of this detour, this drive up and over and back, reminds us of a thrill ride, exhilarating and frightening all at once.
In Honfleur, we wander to the quay for dinner. Salads, as I recall. Light fair and kirs. A little souvenir shopping — pottery and postcards — before bed. Tomorrow, we leave for Provins.
Please click here to see France from Aurora’s point of view.
• • •
Les Deux Amis En France, ©2011 Jen Payne. All rights reserved.
• C’est La Vie
• La Plus Longue Journée
• À Travers La Ville
• Petits Oeuvres D’art
• Escalier au Ciel
• Plus Escaliers et Alors Nous Arrêtons
• Le Voyage de la Route!
• Les Américains
• Saints et Soldats
Photos ©2011, Jen Payne, DeLinda Fox.