This morning on my way down to the train station I found myself a little bakery and bought myself an Orangina and a brownie(because Bordeaux is known for its chocolate) to hold me over until lunch begins around 1 or 2 out here in France. Luckily for me that’s when my train arrives in Tours. The plan for the day is to head to La Loire Valley to see some of the more extravagant chateaus in France before heading to cheaper lodgings in Paris, where tomorrow and probably the next day I’ll tour around.
The language barrier in France isn’t so bad as in Spain where no one spoke any English, and my Spanish was only enough to know how to order my food and what not. Its been 4 years since I last took a French course, and other than talking with some of the French Canadians I used to play with in FFXI, I haven’t really used my French in all that time, which means I’ve forgotten a lot of words, though luckily mostly nouns. We’ll I suppose its not that the words are forgotten, its that they’re buried under 4 years of math and computer science and random other topics, so when I want to find a word I haven’t used recently I can’t. However when people talk to me, I can understand maybe 75% of what they’re saying to me either because of context or the word that was buried comes up to the surface. The other big hurtle in me speaking French has been my pronunciation. I have trouble when the word is spelled like its English counterpart like “simple” which I think is pronounced sim-plAY. Other words like Tours(a city) and eau(water) with double vowels I find hard, and it takes several tries before the person I’m talking to understands what I’m after. Eau for example I believe is a short e mashed in with an uhh sound… The ‘r’ sound in French is sort of difficult, the letter itself is pronounced like “air” but with the trailing ‘r’ rolled deep in the throat. After trying to buy a ticket to Tours, I eventually gave up and pointed to the name on the map. But over all its been so much easier than in Spain even though no one seems to speak a word of English (though perhaps they do but don’t want to).
After that first train, nothing quite went my way. Well even the first train was a bit of a problem because I missed the earlier 8:45 train by 10 minutes, and had to wait until the 11 train, I wasn’t too disappointed because I could charge my laptop. However I arrived in Tours to find that the tour for the chateaus had just left and my train had been just a few minutes too late. I then decided I would go by myself, not like that wasn’t already pretty likely in my mind, so I caught the train toward Nevers intending to get off at the Chenonceaux stop. However the station came up and was very discrete, at first I didn’t think it was a station, then I thought I saw someone get off, I couldn’t see a sign, so I asked some of the riders, and they didn’t know what station it was, then as the train began moving again, I saw a sign for Chenonceaux…. Disappointed I got off at the next stop 15 minutes later only to find the next train back to tours wasn’t for 3 hours! I decided to catch a bus. The bus was 10 minutes late, and we only become more and more late. By the time we arrived at the Chanonceaux stop it was already 5 pm, and I was scared I wouldn’t be able to find a hotel room, or possibly even a train back since the last train I knew about left at 6, so I decided to stay on the bus to tours, and catch the morning tour which returns at 1:30 tomorrow morning, then head to either Mont St Michel, or Paris, to be decided tomorrow haha. I then went to the the hotel I had picked out in my tour book to find it was full, so I tried the tourist office, and they knew of a budget hotel with a room available. The room is small because the roof slants steeply, but the bed is soft, its warm, and I have my own bathroom for the first time since Coimbra, and the room didn’t cost a fortune. Trying to see the bright side of it all, I got to see a large part of the Loire Valley and a number of cute French towns.
The Loire Valley is very fertile farmland with tons of farms, mostly with corn, grain, and the occasional odd crop like sun flowers. The towns are what you think of when you think small farming village with small winding streets, and buildings just along the mail road. Very picturesque. Hopefully better luck tomorrow.