Thursday, September 20, 2007

Benji the drunken Frenchman

Annecy, France, 20-9 to 22-9.
Though we love Chamonix and Rickey dearly we decided to explore more of the French countryside. After an amazing brunch of leftover curry combined with eggs (between Peter, myself, Rickey, Simon and Kathy we ate a grand total of 35 eggs, one was broken when we bought it so we did not complete the 36 as planned) and a day filled with relaxing, window shopping, running and writing we boarded a train to Annecy, France. I thought that I would be clever and look up where the hostel in Annecy was BEFORE we went to avoid the aimless wandering a la Brussels. We arrived late in Annecy, but fear not I have directions to the hostel!
Up the hill we walked, sweaty sweaty sweaty we became. On the way up up up we came across large groups of young people going into town. Good sign, I thought, the hostel must be up ahead. I soon found out that that it was a BAD sign because the large groups going to town were nothing to compared to the enormous group of high school aged children running all around the hostel. The two tour buses parked in the lot were also bad omens. The was no room at the inn and as luck would have it, this was the only hostel in town. The man at the desk gave us a map and some circled areas where we might find some inexpensive beds.
Down the hill we went. I must admit that at this point I was a bit frustrated and tears did happen. Peter, on advice of some of my Beaver friends, decided the best solution was to break out a beer called Adelscott. It is the BRILLIANT combination of beer and whisky. On a side note I have no idea why this is not happening in the US.
So we ask at many a hotel and they are all far beyond our budget. We see ahead of us some French youth who have indulged too much in the vin pulling large sheets of cardboard out of the trash and beating each other with it. I am none too keen on walking by them, but it can't be avoided. As we approach all but one enter an apartment building. The one left behind comes over and asks us a question in French. We kindly explain to him that we don't speak French. This seems to anger him.
"Oh I don't speak French!!!! Well all I asked for was a light!!!"
We then told him that we don't smoke. Again this seemed to cause him to get upset.
"Oh!!!! I don't smoke"
At first he seemed very in our faces. I, who have never been in a fight, wondered if this is what happens before a French man starts to hit you with huge sections of cardboard. He was spouting that maybe we think we are better than him? Maybe we think that we don't need to learn other languages? etc.
Over the whole course of our interaction with Benji we convince him that while we are in fact Americans, we don't hate French people or the French language. We just were never taught how to speak French and there is nothing wrong with the language. He was trying very hard to not just come out and say that he hates Americans because I think we confused the stereotype a bit buy not being rude to him. In the end he was just drunk and wanted to debate and not beat us with boxes.
Finally we come across the Alexandria. They offer us the price of 50 euro. We must not have looked too happy at this because they quickly told us that this price includes a shower and a tv in the room. Peter explains to them that we don't watch tv and can we get a room with out one for less? They must have found this amusing because they gave us the room for 45 euro.

The morning was much brighter. Annecy is often called to Venice of the north and it very much lived up to this name. We ran in the morning along the lake and Peter reminisced being there with his father a few years ago. We both agreed that a long the lake it looked very much like Lake Tahoe. We were just in Tahoe visiting my brother Eamon so we do have a right to make that comparison.
We enjoyed a very French morning of picnicking along the canals. Enjoying fresh croissants and treats still warm from the Le Delilce Royal (not to be confused with a royal with cheese). We were sitting near a large group of parked motorcycles. About 5 min before the noon church bells began to sing out we noticed that all the drivers of these bikes began to appear and start them up. We then noticed they were all the same bike. In talking to one of the drivers we learned they were all English bike shop owners who had been flown down to Italy to pick up the new model and then drive it back to England. Not a bad deal if you ask me.
We knew that we had to get to Milan tomorrow to get our flight to Slovakia, and went to the train station to do some investigating. We knew that there was a bus from Chamonix to Milan that left the next morning @ 9:30 and this would get us to Milan with plenty of time to get the flight. It was also much less money than the train. So we looked up when the trains left that night to Chamonix. Great there is one that leaves at 7:57!!! We can go back to the skiers refuge in Chamonix to spend the night and then catch the bus in the morning. (now I will award 50 bonus points to the first person who can see the FATAL error we are making here)
Off to enjoy a nice day on the banks of Lake Annecy, eating some more stinky cheese, sipping some vin, enjoying the sun and the company. The sun goes down.
Time to catch the 7:57 train to Chamonix. Go to get tickets. FATAL ERROR REALIZED HERE. Europe uses military time...(who gets the 50 points?), so there is no 7:57 pm. only am. We are stuck in Annecy and the early train in the morning gets in too late to catch the bus. We deduce that our only option is to take the train to Milan and hope that we can make our flight.
up the hill to the hostel. There is plenty of room for us tonight as the tour buses had pulled out. We meet John West, in the lobby and he treats us to some beer. John is a painter from Australia who is over in France trying to get inspired. He told us that frankly the only thing he really saw here that made him want to paint were some red roofs. I guess France just did not do it for him. But he was a very lively jovial man who enjoyed sharing travel stories from his youth along the hash road. While he was not taken with France you could not help to be taken with his love of life and things beautiful. The unfortunate travel mistakes still did not make Annecy any less beautiful to me. Peter told me that I would love this city and I did, in fact at one point during our breakfast I turned to him and said that I could sit on that one bench all day and be happy.

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