Amboise

Hello everyone,

I’m in Amboise at the moment, taking a much-needed rest. The “half day” ride I thought I was having turned into quite a long, “full day” – about 160m at around 24km/hour, as I was trying to beat the setting sun. Such speeds aren’t what I’m trying to go for, and I’m def. feeling it today. This was the fourth day of such distances, which is again – fairly unheard of and I haven’t taken a break since Mount St. Michel – 700? or so? miles away? Yikes.

I didn’t mean to do that. But, um, I guess I’m pretty good at plowing through distances, when I want to. I do have little fantasies of doing something like the RAAM, but they seem to stay little fantasies. Time commitments and all.

Anyways, yesterday, I got up fairly early to fix the spoke, which turned out easy, since I broke it 4km from the most bike-friendly town in all of France. Bike drawings, made out of grass on the side of the sidewalks, bike paths everywhere, bike sculptures hung up in the tree and a bike shop, wherever I tried to go. Typed a bit, and got lunch and headed out, getting lost about an hour in. Not that big of a problem, but in getting lost, found a bike path all the way to Tours – about 60km away, so I took that.

Although it got me away from cars, the path itself was bumpy and twisty. Some of it was pleasant, since it was designed to be scenic, but I sort of just wanted to get to my destination in Amboise and take a shower and collapse. But, onward! I rode, through vineyards and immense plots of sunflowers, entering towns from alleyways between hotels, going between towns, using 5 meter wide farming paths. Twisting and turning.

But, when the sun started to sink and I was out of food and water and,

and then I hit cobblestones? Cobblestones of DEATH?!

Yeah, I had enough, and entered onto the rode, toward Tours. For some reason, I didn’t want to go through, so I tried going around, getting lost.

It was really getting late – I was indeed racing the sun, which seems to set peculiarly late out here – is it me? Is it just, France, or is it that the mountains where I live make night come earlier (that sounds a little naive)

The exact time the sun sets here – the limelight, I guess it’s called, is absolutely stunning. It’s just beautiful, it doesn’t cease to be light, the light just gets… dimmer – without becoming dark with stars. At 9:45 I was still racing – seriously racing myself at that 25km/hour to get to Amboise and off the road.

The French, ever to tell you courtously that you’re doing something wrong will, “beep beep” their horn if they see me without a light, which is my cue to turn mine on. Hard to explain how they always do this. It’s a country of systems and engineers I guess. I have found my iPod, loaded with Daft Punk’s “Homework” perfect for such situations, as careening down a busy street to an ancient down, at night, incredibly dirty, with 1,000kms of road all over you and finally finding the center of town.

I very nearly collapsed while finding the Loire again – people had to help me with various items that were falling off of me. I met two guys from Italy, who were touring between towns and we chatted a bit and they directed my collapsed body to the campsite. Hi, guys!

(Oh! I’m at an, “Internet Cafe”, hooked up to an, “Ethernet” connection (sooo 1999) and I fellow eee pc user sat down and we had an eee PC moment of, “hey – you too huh? Thing rules, doesn’t it? Then I helped them get online, since it takes a few steps to get it to listen to the ethernet port)

The campsite is situated on an island on the Loire – how cool is that? It also looked completely full and, of course, I was too late for the receptionist. As I’ve done for the other 2 real campsites, I just made camp, got up early, stumbled through what I did – which is hard. I don’t quite have a handle for, “I did arrive yesterday”, “I need to pay”, “I’d like to stay one more night” – but I’m close. Learning a new language does make you incredibly aware of how absolutely conceptual language itself is. Being fluent in your everyday language, you tend to forget. It’s only when you want to say something – and you *can’t* that you really begin to feel what language, as a tool, is all about.

Got that all straightened away with no problem, so I’m here for the day. Legs are now officially sore – more for racing to Amboise than anything. I went over that limit of speed and just blew out my legs. Aww well.

After getting things squared away, I got some breakfast and started my day of Eating A Lot. I don’t mean to be a pig, but I have a caloric deficit to deal with. The servings here are fine, but I still need more than… one of those servings. For breakfast, I had a chicken and egg sandwhich in a bagguette, a pain au chocolate and some sort of almond crisp thingy. Yum! I then went to the store for some more junky food and then to the chateau in town and scoped it out. Interesting, but what’s REALLY interesting is what’s not there, what got destroyed during the French Revolution. Did that and I think I have my chateau fill for the tour – unless one just jumps out of me. I then went to the da Vinci house and it was much like the chateau – what’s really strange is that there wasn’t one da Vinci original. Which is sad, just a lot of, “here’s where he ate/slept/painted/entertained”, which I like, but it would have been nice to have a, “here’s some original drawings!” room, but that’s what I’m more interested in, granted.

What they did have is a models of his inventions, from the drawings – and multiples of them! So, they had little ones and you go, “hmm, yes, interesting”, and then the next room, they have a little bit bigger ones and you go, “ah, yes, here they are again” – and then you go outside and there’s a whole damn park of them! Full scale! And you can play on them/with them/on top of them. Yeah! Tanks! Flying Machines! Helicopters!

My favorite was the Archimedean Screw, which is just a simple way of funneling water upwards. All things should be so simple.

After that it was… lunch time – and I find a pizza place and had my first hot meal in a very long time. They totally caught me at the end, when they said, creme glace?

oh, oui!

So that’s that. This town, to my surprise has a… movie theatre! So, I’m going to treat myself to sit down for two hours and see some cheesy film, dubbed in French (badly) and eat popcorn. I think. On the popcorn.

Tomorrow, I think I’m away again, due South to Sarlat and the cave paintings my multiple Art History 1 classes have told me I should see. It’s around 450km, so 3-5 days of riding, which I think I can hang with. Dunno if there’s anything in between here and there, but I may just appreciate being no where in general, work on my French, take it a *little* easier on the bike and appreciate the countryside.

After that, I’m tentatively thinking of going into either Bordeaux – west of Sarlat to do…??? Or just keep going South into the Pyrenees and do some of the more historical mountain stages of the tour de france.

As for time, I’m making insane time, but I’m almost going too fast. I’m going to burn out.

And that’s about it. Oh! Somehow, I lost my cheap, cheesy, point and shoot, so that’s why there’s no pictures recently. I still have my dSLR, so I have some pics, but they may not be compatible with Flickr. I’ll find out tomorrow, I guess.

Till then,


Here’s an update on the beard. Lookin’ GOOD! I think I’ve officially crossed the line from, “Guy with beard on bike to, “Spooky guy with beard on bike.
That will murder my children.”


se marche

Well, good news, I couldn’t have picked a better place in France to break down. Slept about a block away from where I’m typing this, although there’s (I find now) a million campsites in town. I slept in a wheat field – terribly hard to get the stakes in the ground – the ground itself is just.. gravely. No weird sounds in the night, although it’s the most in town I’ve ever camped. One car zoomed by the tent and parked, but it looks like they were, you know, *doin it* and not caring about me, so that’s fine.

Woke up early and walked the bike to the tourist office – which wasn’t open for a little while, so I took breakfast and did some French busy work and watched the world go by. Visited it again and they gave me 3 places to check out. The first place, a Peugeot dealer of bicycles and scooters fixed it in 45 minutes. Parfait!

I also bought a replacement thingy for my handlebar bag, so that thing works well, for the first time and visited the Decathlon and finally finding shifter cable housing, so I’ll have 18 gears again, instead of 9 – yeah! Picked up a fleece top, so I also won’t be terribly terribly cold in the morning.

So, I good day of re-setting myself.

I know my last post was a little ranty, but when you’re tried, you can’t help but to point fingers and get, well, a little mad. I don’t know how it’s done by The Normals, but I grew up in a family that had a sailing ship and when something went wrong, or someone screwed up, we said, “OK, what happened, why did it happen and what can we do to not make that happen again?” Like, when my Father was showing my Mother how to start the engine and when pulling back on the started cable, socked my Mother in the nose with his elbow. BANG! We all took a break on that one and I think ended the day early, with Dad taking us all out to eat.

My bike is a lot like a sailing ship – it’s a simple machine that has a purpose, it takes me places – it has to run well to work well and you need discipline and respect of The Machine, or it’ll, well, not be very nice to you. For me to think it’s entirely automatic is foolish.

I was thinking about the wheel. I think it’s a bizarre choice for a touring bike, but I trust the shop that sold it to me. The spoke did break and in a short time, but it was fixable. I’m out a few lovely hours in a very picturesque town. Things could be worse.

Looking back, I think the spoke broke when I took a very bike curb very slowly. The weight of >200lbs of Stuff onto the wheel at around… 7?” is what probably did it. I’ll take the blame and say that, although it *should* have survived such a thing, I probably shouldn’t do such things as a precautionary measure. Now I know.

As for the handlebar bag attachment thingy, I probably installed it incorrectly. I used an old inner tube around the handlebar, as a way to better hold the attacher..ment…thingy to the handlebar.

What I assumed was a good thing to do, probably wasn’t a good thing to do – and, as I’ve bitched, the thing just slips. This time, I didn’t use the rubber. It’s holding well. At the Peugot shop, they had many different types of baskets using the same attachment, some baskets that would hold much more than what I’m holding. The attachment thingy is probably well designed.

As for my shifter cables kind of… exploding – dunno! It may be a installation issue – maybe not. But, for 4 euros, I have replacements and I shall try again. If it doesn’t work again (and… explodes) I’ll show the guy, go, “ne marche pas!” and have them figure it out.

And, that’s about it. Onto the Supermarche to get lunch and then to Amboise, to find a campsite and tomorrow (tomorrow!) take an honest day off and do some big huge house… looking at.


ne marche pas

Ne marche pas. Ne marche pas. Ne marche pas.

That is the theme for today.

I’m heading Southeast towards Angers, but I have no interest in *going* to Angers, so I pick a route that goes around. No problem. Just turn off that one road. Road never comes and bang – I’m in the middle of a stressful situation, with a large city and a million suburbs, just trying to get out. Ne marche pas.

I got out of that, but not after one of my panniers continuing to fall off every 20km or so. Go down too big of a curb, falls off. Brush up against something, falls off. Swerve, falls off. Ne marche pas. They’re not the panniers I wanted to use, but it’s what the store had, but they should last more than 1500km.

My handlebar bag just slips down, so the map on the top is unreadable. Ne marche pas.

*I’m* on about my third day of around 100mile rides – that’s a lot and I’m started to not work.

And the kicker – I find, The LOIRE! The mythical river, that separates Northern from Southern France. After the pannier incidents, which is really trying for me, since, while lost, and hot and tired, this thing falls off, I have to take everything off the rack to put it back on. Ne marche pas.

It’s beginning to become a little less bright – and oh! A bike-only path, right by the Loire, to the town I’m going to camp at – perfect! Turn onto the path, down a hill and,

CRACK!

Thud thud, thud thud, thud thud,

from the back there. Now, it could be anything, from the brake, to the derailler,

to the wheel.

And, it’s the wheel. Ne marche pas!

I broke a spoke, first time ever I’ve really done this but again – only 1500km into its use.

It’s on the drive side and I don’t have the tool thingy to take off the cassette cluster, so I just go, “Hmmm” and fiddle with the 23 remaining spokes with little avail and go, “um…” and wrap the broke spoke around one of the working spokes and say to my shadow, “Well, I guess I’ll limp to the next town, pray they have a bike shop that’ll look at this dirty, bearded American and when I say, le rue ne marche pas! and point to the hole the spoke should be at, they’ll light up and go, Pas de problème! and I’ll get that fixed up and maybe get a nylon spoke for next time and that tool thingy for the driveside spoke – not that I know what to do with that nylon emergency spoke or the tool thingy. “

Shadows are as patient as you are, so it’ll wait and listen to all this.

So, with not the best judgement, I unhook the back brake to allow the wheel to spin and limp to the next town, which I find is a scant 4 km away. Good. The first round about has a sign for the Office du Tourisme, has a, Decathlon – a sports store that, if they don’t have a bike mechanic, will be able to point me to one, and a McDonalds (where this free intartube access is coming to).

Which goes to show you, I’m not in the middle of nowhere, I’m in the heart of France, about 2 hour drive (on a bad day) from Paris, and I’ll be fine – at least for the back wheel. Best case scenario: a few euros for a new spoke put in and a truing. Worst case, new wheel. The worst case does allow me one incentive though, I get to go to, le poste and give the man at the counter my rue, and go, ne marche pas – `a Denver! and send the wheel back to the shop who said the thing was bulletproof, with a note saying, (in french, of course) that, “You didn’t believe me when I said I murder bikes, this wheel,

ne marche pas!

Other than tiring my little self out, health wise, I’m fine. knees feel great, even. Have some… well snot. I’m blowing my nose a lot. Maybe a cold? Un petit rhume. And my French *is* actually getting better. In a month, I’ll be able to, well, stumble through a conversation better than I stumble through one now.

The rest of the night, I hope to find a site to camp, hopefully near the Loire – although it’s a bit buggy even inside as I type – in the dark, though, get up and do my ne marche pas jig and then do a scant half day to, Amboise, near Tours and grab a campsite for a couple of days and hopefully, *hopefully* see da Vinci’s final place of residence, and maybe catch a cheesy movie, and lunch.

Wish me luck!


Le Mer!

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Brest was interesting – I had lunch there and dawdled around downtown for a bit, but didn’t stay long. I had lost my knife the night before and it’s a requirement to have one – so I found an army navy store and bought a nice small cheap one. A little momento from Brest I guess and a little connection to Querrelle, which is really one of two reasons I even know about Brest (and a knife plays a poetic role in the book). The other poetic part is the build of Querrelle and his Brother – both being almost exact in size and shape. I couldn’t help but to look around and notice that almost all the navy servicemen in the area had the same build: completely compact – but also WIDE. Very bulldog like. My first turn down the long hill towards the water was to the Naval base – which ended at a gate with barb-wire and a lonesome gaurd who stood attention (attend…ed?) as I approached – as if I was going to just fly through. I turned around, actually and made the long ascent back up the hill, just to go down the same hill a half a kilometer later to the actual downtown.

I zoomed around the bay and checked out the huge wall , and visited the castle there, which had a maritime museum. I opted not to go in – it was only 5 euros, but if everything is in French, it may not be too fun. I thought most of this city was destroyed by allied bombing to keep the Germans from using it as a U-boat port (crazy idea), but the castle was still there and that huge huge wall – don’t know how much has been rebuilt since then.

Played around the port and took some pictures. Was somewhat chasing the ghosts of that Genet book, but didn’t find too too many. I think traveling is a lot of chasing after long-gone ghosts – at least that what I seem to do. San Francisco for the Beats – well, a lot of places for the Beats – I even moved to the Boulder/Denver area for that connection (a few pages in On The Road, basically).

The other thing Brest is known for is a long-distance cycling event called Paris-Brest-Paris, where you do a long path from Paris to Brest and back – 1200k in all, in which you have to complete in 90 hours. My route was similar – I went from Paris to Brest, but I sort of rolly-polled it, able to capture over 1,000k in… a week? A little less than a week? More than a week? I’ll have to check my notes – but it wasn’t 90 hours. That’s a tidy time and the next time they do the event, three years from now, I may, in fact, be ready. I’ve done 300k in 20 hours, which itself is probably as fast as I need, but that’s a lot more time in the saddle.

The tour de france actually had its first stage as well, so I search for rements of it and road a few km of what must have been the course – it’s pretty easy to figure out, even without looking at the map. Which was fun.

Right now, I’m at 1321km, in Redon, France.

Yesterday was dimanche and almost nothing is open on dimanche. I thought ahead and bought enough emergency food for the day, but I have just so much space to store food and my appetite is large from mashing the gears. At around 8:00pm I was both tired and hungry and the muselei I had with… water? didn’t seem to appealing. Ran around the town I was in and nothing is opening.

Rode to the canal – and there he was.

Kabob Man
In the Kabob Van
Working the Kabob Stand
Down by the Canal

I picked up 2 of his Kabobs, which wasn’t what I’d call it… more of Gyro – anyways, the, I called it GOOD and fulfilled the needed protein I desired in the form of twice cooked multi-meat. Had dinner by the canal and road to the outskirts of town and made camp in back of a Hippodrome, complete with cornfield in the middle and white stadium seats.

Even *earlier* that day, I missed a turn and found myself lost in Carhaix-Plouger, France and ran smack into a… Town Festival! with thousands of people. I walked around, but didn’t know what they were celebrating or what the celebrations were. I couldn’t hear any faint feedbacked and echo’ing sounds of a large stage, so I guess, no music?! Weak Village Festival!

There were Frat kids looking dumb and people with fake rastafarian hats (and hair) as well as activists giving out fliers about living care free (to me, even), as well as the gypsy kids riding in old army transport-like trucks. One girl was hitchhiking the other direction and I was hoping to get out of town easily, but I got very lost. No worries really, but the first part of the day, je roulais en socquettes légères. and when you have a good thing going, you just want to keep going. Awww well.

A lot of people were camping and camping everywhere. I really wish I knew about the festival beforehand and planned my trip to hit it, but, aww well, next time. I got on course and made around 167km for the day. Fairly tidy. Pretty tired today, of course.

As of directions to go… I’m heading South. South East actually, to Amboise, France – outside of Tours, to tour the da Vinci pad. Then, it’s south some more to see the cave paintings and then…? Probably to the Pyrenees to hit up some of the tour routes (and over into Spain?) and then East and then I don’t know. I always have one eye on the amount of time I have and is why I’m trying to get more mileage a day (by hopefully, getting up eariler), but there’s just so many hours I can do, at a steady pace without blowing out.

As for injuries, I managed to cut my thumb on my new knife yesterday (DRRRRRRR) and my left knee has been giving me problems, I’ve been working through. I moved my saddle’s tip up a fraction of a centimeter the other day, which helped the pain for a while, and yesterday, I upp’d the saddle by less than a centimeter and I haven’t felt pain from it all day (for two days) which is, great! The arch in my right foot hurts – probably because my shoes are incredibly floppy and the back of the peddle platform is biting into my foot. Not sure what I’m going to do about that yet… I still only have 9 gears and I’ve become a firm believer in friction shifting, for no-bs touring. It’s pretty nice to just know how much to hit the little flipper to get a the right gear. I keep losing my lowest gear and I have to use the barrel adjusters about twice a day – my shifter cables are very whack.

Dunno what the rest of my day will bring – just riding – hopefully to a somewhat larger town and maybe a day off, since I don’t think I can make it to Tours without one of those.

Salut!

Justin


Brest

Hello, everyone!

I’m in Sunny, partly cloudy Brest, who has great bike lanes and a lot of other stuff I have yet to explore.

Yesterday was quite trying for me I have to admit. The weather was bleak and the headwinds finally cracked me. I started riding with my iPod on – something I never do, even at home, but a Stereolab soundtrack helped, while getting lost in all these crazy French towns.

I finally found the town I wanted to camp at, and I was tired – Je suis fatigue. I found the municipal camping site, but couldn’t figure out how to… well, use it. There was a tiny office, but of course, no one was in. It was getting late, and I visited the three or so sites, but all seemed full. There was another site across the street from the first municipal camping site, but I didn’t know the story to that one – it looked like overflow or something. It was getting late and I was very tired and defeated, so I thought, “Hell with it” – I’ll go in here, and just have a snack and if no one says anything, I’ll set up camp, sleep, leave early and that’ll be the end of it.

So I do. I start by just eating some granola and yogaurt and this large man comes from one of the setups and says, hello, hello and I say, hello and all that,

and then, he offers me some Sangria. Well, of course! And we talk in broken French (me), until he calls someone who kinda knows English and that happens for a little while. And then, he goes away. I fall down, defeated again – and someone *else* comes by and tells me to come on over and there’s a HUGE table with a bunch of drunk French people laughing and being jovial and they put a drink in my hand and give me a seat for my ass and we all talk and try to communicate. The drink they give me is very strong and we all just joke at our lack of being able to communicate. I find it’s alright to camp there for the night (Yeah!), and then they start feeding me! Cous-cous and I think a chicken stew and another dish of Curry and sausage! Which was extremely nice of you – then they brought out the red wine and it was a nice little picnic.

Fed and drunk, I said bon nuit and woke up and explored the beach a little and came back – and they served me petit dejeuner! Which, was mostly really really good coffee. I found out the story: They were camping sauvage next to the *real* campsite, but got permission to do so for the entire summer. I guess it cost them 50 euros to do so – much cheaper than the real campsite, so they let me stay on their plot for free. And they fed me. Twice. And got me drunk. I thought that was exceptional of them. I was camera shy, so no pictures, but they took a few of me and my, petit ami whom we we all joking I would marry. When I get that, I’ll post it.

Some random pictures:

The roadsigns out here look like this:

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The writing underneith the French is… Gaellic? Lots of redheads and frecklefaces. It’s almost like an alternative Ireland out here.

My shifter:

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Those wires coming out that have started to poke my finger and make it bleed are actually from the red cable housing. I don’t know why this is happening. The left shifter cable is completely destroyed – I haven’t had more than 9 gears all tour. Haven’t yet found anyone to get that fixed, sadly, but 9 gears with my low front ring has been enough.

Yesterday, I had to stop around 19:00 and re-cable me rear derailer. The method to do so is usually: Find a supermarche to stop at. Buy icecream. Consume icecream. Do work you don’t want to. Go on your way. Voila.

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A good dyadic of old and new, I thought.

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Some more graf. I stopped and snapped this, not knowing if it was a Gaelic sort of symbol (the three circles) – or a new Nazi one (the gun sight type thing)

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Just a town sign. “Bertrand” caught my eye – as in, “Plastic Bertrand” – another muscian I’ve used as a soundtrack for when I’m down.

And finally, an outside shot of Mount Saint Michel:

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Which is very story-book like.


Merci.

Thanks again for all your donations to my, luggage-lost, need to eat fund. You are all beautiful and incredible people. To all the people back home that have helped and that I’m terribly missing, I hope I can make it up personally somehow and everyone else in the world, well, I think of something. Don’t think your kindness will go unnoticed.


Some random photos:

A hypermarche picture:

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I am pretty much in love with the old ladies on bicycles here – they are the primary bicycle culture that I’ve found. This one is getting out the hypermarche. She has an old lady bike and I want you to note the set of panniers and the basket on top of her rack. He cart was pretty full – notice the bagguettes and a huge thing of leeks. Here bike is about 35 years old, mixte frame and about 4 gears. It rules. If old ladies can do it here, anyone can do it in the states.

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Some graf next to the bike path, underneith a highway. Nothing really interesting to report – except the layering of writing over is incredible. If I saw one writeover in Denver, I would think that a turf war was about to erupt in that area.

It seems to be a little different, at least in this town.

There’s some wild style, some cartooning and a long message to…? Probably, another writer. Seems a pretty safe place to do all this.

Here’s one of the lower chambers in Mount Saint Michel:

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Nice vaulted ceilings. There’s a few hundred feet of similar rooms above me, which is an interesting architectural feat – which, I’ll get into in a later post. Most of my pictures here are with the big camera, and I don’t know if it Flickr takes the RAW format natively, or if my camera is writing a JPG version at the same time. Time will tell!

Oh! And Beard Watch, 2008 is on:

Beard Watch, 2008

I’m forgoing shaving, to work on the beardage. At the end of the tour, I’m going to look incredible.

OK. Time to fly to Brest and the Westerly end of France – and the end of headwinds for a while! Looking forward to that. Got some warmer clothes today, so camping should be pleasant. I may even opt for a two star camp site for the shower. I guess we’ll see. I may work on my askance of campsite from the farmers, just to sleep a little better.

Salut.


Apple Trees.

I awoke today, underneath two large apple trees, near a field of clovers, between two farms.

I also slept next to a million pricker bushes, but we paint the pictures we paint to create a certain mood and what you paint with is as varied as the life around you.

I had the oppourtunity to visit another hypermarche today. The closest American counterpart is a Russ Meyers. These are probably a little smaller, but serve the same purpose. They seem so un-French and the stores themselves seem to reflect that, as they’re built out of non-permanent materials and are located WAY outside the center of town. Outside of a mall-like area, or a very large city, these are it for your consumer goods purchasing place. And you really can get most anything, from clothes to electronics, to “camping” (french style) supplies, even food.

The French flair does seem to start at the food part. There’s a bakery, sure and it’s better than in the states. Not as good as a true boulangerie, sure, but not, *bad*. The meat selection is incredible, not that I’ve bought any, but the cut selection is unrivaled and the cuts are incredibly lean. The seafood selection, at least here, in a piece of rock 100km wide, jutting into the Atlantic is pretty impressive, with beautiful fish on display to be gobbled up. Live lobsters and crab, smaller shellfish like shrimp looking, well, appetizing to me.

Along with the excellent selection of food is some crap stuff for filling, surely.

Checking out is interesting, as there’s no bags available to you. You must bring your own bags, which I think is a great move. The US is just catching on to this and we only do it, since it’s somewhat fashionable to do so. We’re slow and vain, I guess. This does pose a problem to me, as I never have a bag. I usually just steal one from the produce department. When I get yelled at by the French, it’s in these super and hypermarche checkout lines. Either, I didn’t bag and tag my produce correctly, or I don’t have change, or I’ve exited without buying something, or a myriad of things.

My worst, “I pissed off the French” story is a simple one about getting some water. I… didn’t know how to ask – I actually, still don’t. It’s very hard to make a complex statement like, “Can you fill up my bottles with water, please?”, when you don’t know the exact grammar for, “Can you fill up” – the closest I’ve gotten to the entire statement is,

Pardon madame, pouvez-vous remplir de eau, S.V.P.?

Which I think translates to, “Excuse me, Ms. Can you fill with water, please?” If so, it’s nothing short of a miracle I’ve strung that many words together.

The French like you to do things their way – like the bag thing. I tried once just to keep the small hand cart thingy with me in line. I got yelled at. I tried entering in an exit. Got yelled at.

I tried once, to sneak into the back of the store – where the bakery was and where I knew there was a water faucet and just, you know, fill up my own water bottles.

I got yelled at. By the manager. He gave me a stern look that could wilt flowers and to make me feel more embarrassed, got one of the bakers to stop his work and fill my bottles for me. A lot of, “pardons” for that one.

And then I exited and the same cashier that yelled at me for not having my oranges marked correctly, that yelled at me for entered at her exit, now yelled at me for… I think… coming in without purchasing anything, and going a very long way around the store to do so. I think she thought I was stealing something.

So, the manager hears all this, comes over and they have a nice chat about me. She tells him my shenanigans and he does the same. A lot of head nodding. Then they both look at me and cringe.

I feel two thinks. I feel like crap, since I did something stupid, and I don’t know enough language to explain myself. And I also feel like I should kill these two for getting in my way, and that made me feel worse, since I realized I *expected* to be able to do these things and also, to get away with them, since – well, since I’m American and that’s what we can do. We do it. And then we do other things. And the hell with you, or your ways at your stupid supermarche and… and… and somehow I’m superior to you. I have pieces of paper on my walls… and… and.. I run my own business and you and your supermarche can stick it.

And what a horrible thing to feel.

So I tried to learn how to ask for water.

And the next store – the same company, in fact, I trampled over the French language and asked for water from the meat girl. She looked at me very strange, as if to say, “Yeah, OK – but gonna buy some… meat?”. I made the dumb decision to do my shopping and then come back in for the water. She thought I wanted something for nothing.

Sigh.

The next time I wanted water, I brought my bottles into a boulangerie,and they asked ME if I wanted my bottles filled. The boulangerie is very mother-like, you know.

So, slowly but surely, I’m trying to be a better visitor here. I know these are silly stories, but this is France for me. It’s not these charming little towns with their little shops – or perhaps it is – or it’s both those little town centers and these HUGE suburban-type things. I’m interested in how they related and the role each play and how they work together. It’s not like no one goes to the hyper marche. A lot of people go. And then they go to McDonalds. They must find the convenience worthwhile.

I do wonder how much of the old way of doing things is simply dazzle, with smoke and mirrors – something heavily subsidized by the French government to make France a tourist and vacation destination and not have France turn into… well, into what most of the United States is. The number of Cafes are dwindled and the amount of families with televisions is rising. I can’t find a McDonald’s in the middle of town, but I can find a video game store next to the town’s 500 year old cathedral. French people’s cars are smaller on average, but they’re getting larger and driving schools are everywhere. The people I see on bikes are older people.

I don’t truly know. Just another half-formed thesis statement. I’m not really worried about filling in the gaps. If I do, cheers to that.


Fashion Report

Bloomer-like pants seem to be in style here. The Rastafarian look is also in for, “the teenagers”. And they put them together – so especially into-this-style people look like brightly colored skateboarders from like, 1993.

The pants are what are really crazy – extremely billowy and then tight tight tight at the ankles, with elastics.

Which is interesting, OK – but they also have shorts of the same type – billowy pant legs, elastic bottom – but they stop mid-thigh. This one women had these pants stop at around mid calf, with knee-high socks, stripped red and white. Denver isn’t known for its rapidity in fashion, so if you see this look in 3 years – you heard it here first. If not, well, chalk it up to Euro Trash.

I’m really enjoying some of the fashion here. Some of the more creative teenagers here kinda take the, “ripped and put back together with safety pin” punk thing, with like, very beautiful couture stuff. It embarrasses all that is Hot Topic, which I find embarrassing to start with. It does put the idea of the, “punk look” in a bold type though. I remember myself with green hair, mohawk, etc, etc – without realizing that, there was no scene for me to be in. It was gone – like, *very much gone*. Decades gone. The scene itself was this weird echoing of the past look that had no foundation. And this is somewhat of our contemporary position – I think a lot of contemporary art is similar in this way. A look, looking for a scene. And that’s why it seems all so… empty and souless.

OK, I have about 20 minutes of daylight left.

Bon Soir,

Justin


Plerin.

I’m in the St Brieuc area (Plerin), right now, left the Mont St. Michel area around 10:00am. Pretty long haul and very trying. Lots of getting lost, but it’s not so bad. The worst has been attempting to enter St Brieuc – the larger highways really take over and I had a very hard time finding a local road.

I finally couldn’t, but following a sign to Brest (hey, where I’m going anyways) to a, “N” highway, the on ramp including, of all things, a bike sign, so I followed that,

and wouldn’t you know, there’s an on ramp exclusively for bicycles. This lead me onto a beautiful bridge with a view north of the bay, a castle on a hill, the neighborhoods surrounding me and a marina below. I’m on the outskirts of the town and although the 2 star hotel (probably around 40 euro) just across the street from this Unmentionable Place looks tempting, a quick Google Map check shows that the local road I was looking for all this time is about 400 meters away, so I’m taking that and crashing in the first lush field I find.

Mount St. Michel was pretty interesting, but deserves its own post. I will say that right before I went, I decided to treat myself to some food, as the donations allow me to… eat!

I found the dirtiest looking cafe on a forgotten side street which had a big sign for, ” Moules Frites – 8 Euro”, sat down and told the guy, I’d take that. He said some things I couldn’t understand (which is usual for me), so I , “oui!” my way out of it, and waited. The patrons of this place were awesome. People missing teeth, with horrible haircuts. Everyone’s a local except me and I stand straight out.

Ten minutes later this gigantic bowl of mussels and fries landed on my lap. I mean, big. French are foodies. They love food, but the portions are manageable. I’m an Eatie. I love to eat. 4? 5? 6? Dozen mussels in this bowl? So Many mussels and i was to eat them all. I wanted to take a picture – you would have never believed, but thought against such tom-foolery. Not here.

But I got sort of worried. Was this the 8 euro Moules Frites, or did I “Oui!” my way into a much larger bill?

I was really hungry and in the very immediate present, I didn’t quite care.

And, I managed to eat every single fry and every single mussel. I took every piece of bread on the table and sopped up the rest of the mussel juice. And I was beginning to get high. Mussels – shellfish get me high. I love everyone and everything and I just stumble around going, “I love you” and, “I’m high”. So,

so that was setting in.

I get the bill.

There’s the 8 euro figure on there. And then I completely freak out, as there’s some sort of other large number – to the tune of something like, 53.48.

No label – I can’t figure out what’s going on.

Did I eat my way into a problem? I had the cash, so I put 60 euros down and the guy looks at me like I’m a stupid tourist, gives me back the 50 euro note and takes the 10 euro note, only to come back with 2 euros.

That was, indeed the 8 euro Moules Frites.

And I was happy. In this state of elation that I didn’t do something stupid and high from shellfish, I strolled to Mount St. Michel.

What also was in my mind was memories of making mussels with my family. The recipe here really wasn’t so different.