It has been said that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. For Allan and me, that journey of a thousand miles started with hours and hours of sitting…on the skytrain, at the airport, on the plane, waiting for our luggage (the wait is proportionate to the length of the plane ride), and in the car. Driving itself was a little stressful for Allan. People came out of the side streets without warning, cars dodged out of each other’s way only at the last moment and none of the toll booths or parking machines took Visa.
We thought we would stop at the Palace of Versailles (“It’s on the way to the hotel”). No expense was spared at the palace (where the King Louis monarchy lived). The place was crawling with tourists. There was no way we were getting inside without a reservation. So we contented ourselves with meandering through some of the gardens. Not shabby. When I saw the extravagance of even the gardens, I could understand why the poor people were driven to revolution. What I thought looked like a kilometer long runway was a man-made lake where tourists can now rent boats. They even had large convex mirrors set up through the garden for you to take humungous selfies!
Versailles was where we first experienced the uniqueness of France. We had our first meal in France on a corner bistro on a quaint street just like you see in the movies. And whom do we sit next to? Of course another Canadian family from Vancouver!
We finally got to our hotel at 9:30 pm on Thursday (we left home 4:30 pm Wednesday). We hadn’t slept in over 24 hours and didn’t factor in the possibility that we might get lost. A GPS doesn’t work if you enter Le Mans instead of Le Chartre sur le Loir. The town of Le Chartre sur le Loir is quaint and quiet (more about this later). The Hotel de France is a gem and serendipitously is steeped in motor-racing history. The Le Mans racing legends and celebrities came to this hotel to get away from the press and the crowds. The bartender told us all about the history, the racing pictures on the wall and introduced us to the owner who owns vintage-racing cars himself. Allan will definitely be writing and shooting more about this hotel soon. But for now we were looking forward to a good night’s sleep!