Monday, December 22, 2014

Le Carte es Merde

So, there I was....* Retired from the Air Force almost 10 years, working in a school district now providing IT support after teaching a bit.  Owned and profitably sold two wine related retail businesses which introduced me to some fine friends, two of whom own one of the finest wineries in Texas.  In fact their 2006 Syrah was rated as one of 12 Excellent wines in the United States. We enjoy wine, so having friends in the industry has its perks.

A few years ago, we decided to vacation together.  For various reasons, November has worked for our busy schedules.  Their harvest is over and the hectic activities in the crush have slowed down.  School has started and we've gone through a couple of grading cycles so except for the occasional paper jam, most of the teacher technological panic attacks have slowed way down. So, November it is.

Destination--France.  Unlike Sarge, I've never been assigned to Europe and but thanks to a few TDYs, have been able to visit a bit.  Enough to want to go back. Paris, the City of Lights will be our base camp with day trips to various areas of interest around the country.

Vacation has arrived and we have arrived at CDG, transitioned to the train, then to the subway and have arrived at our hotel near the Ecole Militaire.  Check in was mercifully quick and we head to the elevator to go to our rooms.  The elevator was quaint.  You had a choice.  Either you, or your bags, could use the elevator, not both.  I go up.  Mrs. Juvat loads bags from below, then joins me.  "You Americans! This is not a bug, but a feature!"

Knowing that jet lag is minimized by staying awake until bed time in the new time zone, we go walking about.  

Given that this was the view from our hotel room, we decide on where we are going.

We spend the next couple of days exploring Paris with all the usual suspects.

We see some pretty ladies.

Go to Church.

Drink some wine.
For some reason, this resonates with my twisted sense of humor.

Spend a lot of time consulting maps.

Even ask for directions.  This fellow was helpful.

We did not get lost. I've never been "lost", that position where you don't know where you are, nor how to get where your going, or even how to figure out where you are.  Nope never!

A low level fly by of a ROKAF runway was simply a matter of practicing airfield attack tactics.  Their calls on Guard questioning my identity simply confirm the effectiveness of my tactics.
Gratuitous Airplane Shot
I digress.  We have successfully navigated in a very large city.  It is time to expand our horizons.  We decide to visit Reims.  As I said earlier, having wine makers as friends has it's perks.  We are going to get a private tour of Veuve Clicqout
Not usually a fan of Champagne, but this was excellent.
I wonder if they'd miss just one.
Successfully returned to our hotel, we plan the next day trip,  I'd always heard about the beaches in France, so we decide to visit one.

This beach is named for a town in Nebraska. Big Red One visited here. Quite a few decided to stay.

Returned from that trip, sobered, but emboldened of our navigational abilities, we decide we want to sample wine from the Loire Valley. We take a train to the town of Tours because that's what we want to do.( I know, "try the veal, I'll be here all week.")

Rent a car and drive to Chinon,  a French Castle astride the Vienne River near Anjou.

With drawbridges on either end, the castle has instant moat protection from an attack.  It was interesting, the gardens are beautiful, but it's time to find wine!  The castle gift shop has a map purporting to have all the local wineries on it.  I purchase it and we hop in the car and are off. The ladies are in the back seat and as good back seaters they have assumed the navigational responsibilities.  We get back on the road and they tell me to start looking for a major highway which we will cross.  We find it and do.  A defined starting point.  They tell me to drive for about 10km when we will come to a village.  We do.  "Take a right, 10 km to next village".  "Take a left".  "We should be coming into village named  xxx".  I can't find anything that says what village we're in at all.  Continue on in this manner for a while and finally come into a village on a river.  It's about lunch time, and we spy an Auberge.

We decide we'll stop and get lunch and ask directions while we're there.

We walk in the front door and are greeted, in French, by the Maitre D', the waiter, the proprietor, cook and busboy.

He speaks no English.  There are several, male patrons in the Auberge, one of whom comes up to us and says "I speak English!". Great,  I ask him if the restaurant is open and could we get lunch.  He says "I speak English! Your wife is sexy!"  Well, I think so, but....Those phrases seems to be his version of my fluency in 22 languages (the ability to order a beer and find a restroom, neither of which I particularly need at this time).

I pantomime an eating gesture and the Maitre D', the waiter, the proprietor, cook and busboy takes us to a table.  A couple of minutes later, he brings out a terrine of something and cuts off a slice, placing it on my plate.  Points at it and pantomimes eating.  Now, I've eaten balut and lived to tell about it, I'm not intimidated.  I cut a piece of what is probably the innards of some long dead animal and commence to chow down.  The bar erupts in cheers and clapping.  Having passed whatever test was presented to us, we are now old friends,  Wine is poured, food is served and lunch goes on for quite a while.  At some time, I approach my new friend, (the all in one Maitre D'...) with my map and explain our situation.  With the wine consumed at lunch, my friend's English and my French are improving rapidly, or maybe it was the pointing at the map and scrunching my shoulders while lifting my hands.  In any case, We've communicated and he starts unfolding the map from where I had opened it to our supposed location. And unfolds, and unfolds, and unfolds.  Evidently, we are about 30 miles from where we thought we were.

I point to where we think we are, and he shakes his head and points at the location on the map.  I look at him quizzically and he responds "Le Carte es Merde!" (Google translate does a reasonable job on the statement.) 

I point to one of the bottles of wine we'd consumed and then pointed at the map with my patented "Where the hell are we?" gesture, and he points out where the winery is and the route necessary to arrive there.  We pay our bill, thank him profusely and get back in the car. Crank it up and promptly turn the wrong way.

I don't get very far when I realize my error and turn around.  Drive past the Auberge and the clientele is outside, bent over in laughter!
My friend the English speaker on the right

We manage to find the winery and taste some very fine Vouvray.

I am certain that should we find our way back to that Auberge, they will still be talking about the Americans that came to visit.

*As Buck was wont to say, "Everybody knows this Juvat, get on with it!" Therefore, I will.


  1. I have learned very little French ...and that was by osmosis, having worked with a Frenchman whose English was barely passable.

    One thing did learn is that his lack of English in no way handicapped his ability to find female companionship.
    I have always wondered if the converse is true in France.

    1. Unfortunately, not as far as I could tell. Although, once we got out of Paris, the locals of both genders did seem a lot more friendly. I suppose the same could be said about the US. I'd hate for the whole country to be judged by someone who'd only visited NYC or Chicago.

  2. Superb post. Witty, erudite, cultured...

    Man, you do bring the property values up around here!

    Seriously. Great post.

    1. Thanks, I think the property values are sustained very well by the proprietor and staff.

  3. This is why I need to get back to France on a bigger boat than last time. I will bring home CASES! We lurves (Buck-ism) French Wines!

    Barco Out.

  4. Yes, well if you need assistance in consuming any of that wine, please contact 1-800-juvat. we provide wine consumption services, (free of charge)

  5. I do enjoy the travel stories! Went to the beach- Nice.

    1. As I was pulling pictures from the post, (between the 4 of us, we took almost 4000) and trying to select the picture for Normandy, I realized that my friend had taken some spectacular pictures. Nowhere else have I seen pictures that effectively present the enormous nature of the invasion. I think I've got a June 6 2015 post brewing there.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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