Séjour en France. Ch 5. Auxerre
Today we are to meet Steph’s family, relatives and friends in Besancon. It is about a four hour drive, I think. I hope their English is better than my French.
As we started out of Paris, Mike driving, we quickly realized it’d be a pretty good idea to learn the street signs and how the lights worked. The street lights are head level on a post on the sidewalks to our right. There are also lights above, each with a purpose. Just a matter of figuring out what that purpose is.
Once out of town driving was easier. Highways are highways, I guess, no matter where you are. But somehow I never imagined France as a place of such highways, though, of course, I did see them from the plane. Strong, smooth and fast. The speed limit is 80 mph. A bit too fast for my liking, and as Mike said later, “I was driving close to the speed limit and people were passing me as if I were at a crawl.” Yes, and I was in the back seat hoping high speed crashes were not part of our destiny.
On the left and right were fields running up and down hillsides, being prepared for whatever was to be planted or had been planted.
At every exit it seemed there was a sign about a chateau or cathedral at the next turnoff, and every now and then one appeared on the top of a passing hill. There were so many I’ll just bet a person could spend weeks going from place to place like that. Not a bad idea. I could do that.
As we neared Besancon, but still a couple of hours away, we decided to stop for a bite to eat at the next exit and it happened at that exit was the town of Auxerre. It looked old. Really old. The buildings soft, brown and well worn. Naturally, we just got to a tiny corner of it, but what we visited was pretty good.
Turns out Auxerre is a thousand years. Well, another first for me. The oldest town I had ever been prior was Quebec City, in Canada. It was also the most beautiful city I had ever been in till I landed in Paris.
Walking along the narrow streets, there were few people around, perhaps it was the day, that is, the temperature. It was hot. A little too hot to be wandering around with nothing particular in mind. We passed a couple of girls cooling themselves at an outside water source.
Pete stopped me and pointed to a sign carved into the side of a building.
The Street of the Beautiful Women
A street with a name like that deserves walking on. And so we did.
As we walked along we discovered paintings or depictions on the walls of some far away time. If I were spend any time in this town, I would find out what these are about. However, just to look at them, wow. This is such a different experience for me, as I imagine it is for anyone not from here.
And just your typical door knocker, I presume.
A bit further along in town. Bit of a tight squeeze.
As we walked along I happened to see a guy sitting outside his storefront with his girlfriend and complimented his town. He responded in perfect English. Great. I can talk without Pete having to interpret.
This is Stephane, The Gilder, in his shop, where he restores old France beauty. Very old.
He said he was a bit discouraged a while back and was getting ready to leave and move to Canada where he grew up, but then met his girlfriend and about the same time a lot of work came in for him. And what he works on is old, really old. Imagine working on something like that? It is like working on and bringing to life a part of a country’s culture and beauty. What a thrill that must be. That piece of wood he has his hand on is probably five times the age of the US. Consider that.
He is writing his contact information for me so we can stay in touch. An artist of the first order. It will be interesting seeing what happens along the way.
Saying goodbye. Looks like I made a friend.
A few steps away.
Everywhere you look an artist's hand has touched it. What a place. That's France for you.
Before leaving his shop, I had asked Stephane about cathedrals in
town. He said there are many. Well, we saw the tip of one.
And look, there is a piano being used as an advertising sign.
I would love to have stayed and looked around the town, even stayed in a hotel somewhere here, and spent a day or two meandering around, but there was no time for that, it was off and back on the road for us. But not before a bit of food. And we were glad for the shade. It was hot.
The place we landed at happened to be a le St. Nicolas.
This was a good place to stop, rest, eat and enjoy the environment. Lots of shade. We could have gone inside, but what is the point of that when in France and the weather is accommodating. I would be glad for the inside if this were December.
Jim said he feels a whole lot better about the St. NIcolas thing now.
We pondered that for a while while drinking extraordinary beer and enjoying good food and espresso coffee.
Time to get back on the road.
Jim, Mike and Pete waiting for guess who while he takes more pictures along the way.
There are all these interesting sights, after all.
And it is back on the road.