3 February 2000
we wanted to have a week or two to explore britany and normandy, but we don't always get what we want. we had already made plans with a friend of ours to visit, so we had to cut it short in france. besides, despite the image i had of france being an expensive place, in general living expenses aren't that bad; however, the trains are quite expensive and going to those areas for a short time would cost more than seemed worth it. it would be better spent if we had lots of time.
so we went to bayeux for a couple of days. bayeux is the home of the world's oldest political cartoon, the bayeux tapestry, which depicts the norman invasion of england from the norman point of view. it is also a nice, old town in normandy with many shops and cool buildings.
we spent the first evening walking across town from the train station to the hostel and then grocery shopping. we walked along the main street and saw half the sights of the town that way. the hostel we stayed at was a bit strange, but the room was pretty nice and we had it to ourselves. we met our neighbor, a cool woman from edmonton, alberta. we spent the evening with her in the kitchen. we even played speed scrabble. it was a good evening.
we had two goals for the next day: to see the town of bayeux and to go to the museum of the tapestry. we spent the morning wandering up and down the main street and along some of the side streets. there is a canal (or river) that runs through town and there is an old mill wheel. we walked along the canal for a while until we got into suburbia (about 5 blocks.) there are some really old, 500 year old, buildings along the main street, as well as a cathedral that is over 900 years old off the main street. there is so much more history in this town than i can remember ever experiencing. it was very striking for me.
we did go to the tapestry museum in the afternoon too. it was a very good museum with really good explanations of the story of the tapestry, 900 years old, and the context from a norman point of view. it even gave evidence (stong evidence) that the tapestry itself was a piece of propaganda. it was well done.
our big question about the nonexistent rudeness of french people was answered at the museum. we had seen nothing to indicate the french were any more rude about people not speaking fluent french than people were about any other language in other countries until we saw a group of americans at the entrance of the museum. we had just bought our tickets to the museum without using english, but by reading signs and pamphlets and knowing what to ask for. the ticket included admission to a couple of other museums in town and there is no individual ticket. these americans came up to the window and in loud english asked for tickets for "only the tapestry." the woman behind the counter didn't do much in response. she stared at the woman kind of blankly. the american woman repeated herself over and over, pointing at inappropriate signs with prices listed for other, cheaper, things indicating that was the price she and her group should be paying for the museum. she spoke louder as she went along. the woman behind the counter continued to only indicate she did not understand the american woman, with particular disinterest. we left the room at this point, not wanting to be associated with even speaking the same language as the rude american woman.
so the answer to our question is that the french just treat rude english speakers in the appropriate manner. it is too bad more people don't. i never would have thought that just saying a few simple words (please, thank you, one, two, three, greetings, goodbye, etc.) would make so much of a difference. it doesn't mean that everyone everywhere treats us with great respect for using these couple of words, but i think they acknowledge the bit respect we are trying to convey at not just automatically speaking english in every situation. we may not do more than ask if the other person speaks english (we try to do it in the native language, especially in western europe where it is easy to learn the phrase,) but i think it makes a difference. in any case, we were glad to not get the cold shoulder we expected, as well as a little pleased to see rude americans getting that treatment. it was a bit of a lesson.
we cooked dinner in the hostel kitchen again, this time without the entertainment of our canadian friend. it was a quiet evening spent preparing for our travelling to bonn the next morning. we realized late at night that we needed to check the train schedule because it was saturday and we were unsure of the exceptions written in french in the schedule pamphlet we had. so we had more to do than we wanted in the morning but our train wasn't until eleven.
in the morning. we got up around seven and i walked across town to the train station to ask about the schedule. it didn't take very long and when i returned to the hostel we felt like we had lots of time. we did have enough time but we discovered a large market. it was wonderful! there were many agricultural goods from local farmers. there was almost everything imaginable. it was great. we spent too much time there spending too much money on gourmet food for our train trip. we spent so much time we almost missed the first leg of our train trip! we had to run across town with our packs to catch the train with not a minute to spare.
we made all of our connections for the rest of the day without any problems, arriving in bonn around 8pm. we were sorry to not have more time in france, but we were looking forward to seeing our friends and being in germany again. it was like coming home.
we found out the next day there was a terrible train wreck just north of the city of bonn, where we had traveled just hours before. we were even more happy we had caught our train in bayeux since the timing came close to that train. it definitely made me feel grateful for a smooth travel day, and sorry for the people who weren't so lucky. i still feel safer in a train than any other mode of travel but it always makes you a little more thoughtful.
we recovered from our travels for a few days in bonn before heading to visit
our friend, lisi, in southeastern germany.
© Copyright Cheryln Crowl 2000