Our little group of French-speaking travel writers from Quebec landed in Paris one sunny morning to participate in a press trip to Normandy.
I was the only Montrealer who spoke French but was anxious to hear international French to see if my ear was still accustomed to it.
Two cars had been arranged for us and one jovial male journalist was asked to drive a group that included me and two other men. The other car was driven by the media rep from the French Tourist Office. There were three travel writers with her.
We set off, heading north with Rouen as the first night’s destination. Rouen, a seaport on the Seine River, is 113 km. north of Paris. It has been an archepiscopal see since the fifth century and is famous as the site of the trial of Joan of Arc. It is also known for its beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame with its unique butter tower.
What we didn’t know was that everywhere we stopped there was a mayor, a tourist office rep or a museum curator waiting to toast us with a glass of Champagne.
Great, I thought, as French Champagne is the real thing and I love it.
We were all pretty tired but gamely raised our glasses and toasted along with the local dignitaries.
As we wound our way through northern France, stopping at some great museums and various cathedrals, we were offered Champagne at every stop. It was considered the polite way to welcome us.
One morning we were told to get up early as we were heading for Mont-Saint-Michel, the world-famous Benedictine Abbey on a rocky isle 1.6 km. off the coast of France. The abbey sits like a dream in the Gulf of Saint-Malo, an arm of the English Channel.
By this time, all my group wanted to do was to stop at a cafe to relax over “un petit calva” or small glass of Calvados. What I wanted was an espresso and some time to ponder and absorb the ambiance. In fact, we were getting fed up with all those Champagne receptions.
I had a brilliant idea. It was so simple. I suggested that all women have to visit the washroom on car trip and that they could blame an unscheduled bathroom stop non me. They were delighted and greed wholeheartedly.
So that’s what we did, totally missing the mayor’s Champagne reception for us at Mont-Saint-Michel.
To me it was well worth the slight embarrassment I felt as my fellow travel writers blithely blamed me for our lateness.