Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Where There's Smoke...

Pages from Jan's Travel Journal: April 21, 2014

How wonderful it was to awaken in our cozy room at the Jackotel in Orléans, France. Craig and I have always enjoyed traveling together. We take pleasure in the little things, such as sipping our morning coffee while enjoying whatever view is available outside our windows. The gravel courtyard of the hotel and the fragrant lilac bushes nearby provided a lovely foreground as the ancient church opposite the street cast shadows across the square.

The ancient church of St. Aignan.

Darcy and Mathieu soon arrived, and the four of us went in search of breakfast. We had plans to meet Mathieu's parents, Muriel and Thierry, for lunch later at a restaurant in a village halfway between Bitry and Orléans. Thierry had made reservations at a picturesque place that he knew we would enjoy. It was our only chance to see our friends, since we would be leaving for Annecy the next day. 

The lovely Burgundian countryside.

The drive that morning began uneventfully. I haven't traveled much in Burgundy, but what I have seen is pleasant countryside with gently rolling hills, farms, vineyards, sunflowers, and fields of crops which reminded me of Kansas. As we rolled along, following the river, we noticed a large encampment of caravans (motorhomes) and tents in a wooded area near the Loire. Smoke from numerous campfires lazily drifted toward the sky. Further along, we noticed more smoke, but it was coming from beneath the hood of Mathieu's car! 

Well, it's not exactly what we had planned!

Mathieu pulled over onto the shoulder of the busy highway, and soon had the hood open. He and Craig extinguished the fire as Darcy and I cast a wary eye on the darkening skies above us. We were on a rather deserted stretch of a very busy highway. There was a tidy farm just across the road, from which we were being eyed warily by the occupants. Many vehicles passed us by, and yet not one paused to offer help or to inquire about our situation. This struck me as somewhat odd, even for France. Back home in the Midwest, we would have received numerous offers of assistance. A truckload of soldiers eventually stopped long enough to wish us luck, and then sped away.

Mathieu had been on his phone, contacting a tow service, and we settled down to wait. The farm family across the road had come toward us as we huddled uncomfortably on the damp verge but they looked straight past our little group, and without a word went into a field to dig potatoes. It was a relief to see the tow truck after what seemed like a lengthy wait. The driver was a chatty sort. He and Mathieu had a long conversation in which the driver informed him that there were two large encampments of gypsies in the area. Spring is the time of year for their mass weddings and baptisms, he explained. It's a gigantic family reunion. He said that the locals distrusted the Roma people, and we wondered if that was why no one had even glanced at us while we stood stranded by the road.  

After a long drive in the tow truck, AWAY from where we had come, we arrived at a garage to find a taxi waiting to return us to Orléans. I watched in horror as the meter on the taxi clicked away the kilometers. By the time we reached Orléans, it was nearly 200 euros! Mathieu told me not to worry - the cost of the cab was covered by his auto insurance. Whew!  

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