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October 31st 2010
Published: October 31st 2010
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Well, we are currently experiencing gales, rain, thunder and lightning down at the Med so have decided to take the opportunity to catch up on some of the 2 months of blogging I have hitherto neglected! Time to cast my mind back to the end of August....
After our stormy night at Samois we moved a little further down the Seine to Avon, a small town right next door to Fontainebleau - I would finally get to see the Château! We tied up at a barge stop for the night, grabbed camera, laptop in its backpack, phone and money and headed off on our bikes in the direction of Fontainebleau. Mike appeared to have lost the ability to walk, and slipped getting off the boat, and again as we got on the bikes. “Are you alright?!” I asked. It was early and he hadn't had a drop to drink. “Yeah, I just think I've caught your clumsiness” he grinned.
Unlike our previous attempt to reach Fontainebleau, we had dry skies and sun and were lucky enough to spot a Maccy D's really close to the boat so went in to get coffees and juices and use the internet to catch up with people and get weather forecasts. After waiting an age for the clearly hungover or retarded waitress to work out how to operate the orange juice machine (it took the manager to come over and show her that, yes it was working, she was just pressing the button for water, not juice) we found a table and settled down. Mike was having difficulties getting the wi-fi to work, so I had a look and discovered that the server was down in this particular Maccy D's despite the banner on the roof proclaiming “wi-fi gratuit et illimité”. We debated seeking help from the staff, but the manager was now on a break and the only visible worker was the painfully slow waitress who hadn't been able to operate a juice machine and she was now busy arguing with a customer whose order she'd gotten wrong. I figured that if she couldn't work a drinks machine, internet server mending was definitely going to be a huge issue, so we finished our drinks and hit the road, resolving to keep the laptop with us and find a bar or café in Fontainebleau with internet access.
It took about half an hour to reach the centre of Fontainebleau, and a lot of it was uphill which was a bit of a problem for me as I am rubbish at using my gears. After selecting the wrong one several times, falling off, and completing the hill standing up on the pedals to make it easier I caught up to Mike who was smiling knowingly. “You really do have an aversion to using gears, don't you” he chuckled. “No,” I said “I just want to get a better workout, so I don't change gear so that I have to use more leg power” I insisted. “OK” Mike sarcastically intoned. I don't think he bought the story.
It was also time to top up our mobile and I wanted to make sure we had credit as Jade's baby was now overdue, so I purchased a rechargement from a tabac. It turns out we chose the phone company with the most difficult name to pronounce (how would you say Bouygues?!) and after 3 goes asking for “Boy-Gez” “Bo-yegs” and “Boogie” and receiving only a confused look in return I finally lighted upon the correct “Bweeg” pronunciation and the nice lady gave me my slip of paper with the top up code. The problem now was topping it up. Previously we had gotten Thomas, the friendly German multi-linguist in Vernon, to do it for us as the automated lady on the top up line speaks at a thousand miles an hour. However, I was confident that my French had gotten better and had a go myself. I got as far as entering the code, at which I was pretty pleased as to get to this stage I had had to listen to 2 lists of options and press a button choosing the one I wanted, but for some reason the money was not being added. I had 3 more goes but could not understand what the automated lady said after I'd entered the code so we found a tourist office where a helpful young lady did it for us, declaring “This takes so long, there are so many options!” and rolling her eyes in exasperation every time the automated voice came back. When she'd done it she explained that once you have chosen the formula you want and entered the code you have to confirm it twice before it's added. Happy to have gotten both help and an explanation, I replied to the texts we'd received, tucked the phone into my camera case then set off to find Mike outside and wander around the château. “Done?” he asked. “Yep”, I said, “and I think I can do it myself next time, I saw her press 1 and 2 after the code” I said proudly, feeling like some kind of super sleuth for deducing this. “And did you find out where we can get on-line ?”. The super sleuth feeling disappeared. “No, I forgot,” I said “and I don't want to go back and bother her now , she just spent ages doing our phone top up and she's really busy, a queue built up while she was helping me the first time, we'll just try to find a place ourselves, it might even be like Rueils where it was free in the whole town.” Mike chuckled at me and put his arm around my shoulders. “Come on then, you nutter, let's go look at this château.” as we walked off, he tripped up for the third time. “Yeah, I'm the nutter...” I mumbled, “I'm not tripping up and slipping over every 5 minutes.”
The château was incredibly impressive, huge, ornate, well looked after and with acres of stunning gardens and lakes and fountains. It looked like it had come straight out of a period drama and I could of sworn I'd seen it in one. We decided to spend a few hours exploring the grounds rather than the museum section indoors, and walked all around the place. One of the best things was in the garden of Diana, goddess of the hunt, where the centre piece was a fountain of Diana surrounded by hunting dogs and stags heads. Not too unusual in the grounds of Napoleon's former residence you'd think, but the brilliant part was that the water for the fountain was coming out of the dogs nether regions, giving the impression that they were all weeing. Being the child that I am, I giggled at this a lot and took a couple of photo's. Best fountain ever.
After our walk through rose gardens, woodland, a grotto featuring stone sculptures of men hidden amongst the walls, several lakes full of massive Koi and more fountains we decided to go off to find somewhere to access the internet and Skype home to check on Jade's baby situation. I thought I had seen a place on the way in declaring internet, so we hopped on the bikes and headed through the busy streets towards where I thought it was, dodging traffic as we went. I was right about the internet café and we were there in 5 minutes. I went in to ask about wi-fi and was told, sorry, they don't have it, they just have computers set up for use, I went over but none of them had a web cam so Skype would not have been good. I asked where I could get wi-fi access and was told there was a bar on the next street. Off we went, cycling through the roadworks to avoid the main road traffic. At the end of the road, I noticed that my camera case, which still had the phone in it, was no longer around the camera dangling from my wrist. “Shit,” I said “the camera has gone and the phone's in it.” “You're joking,” came Mike's reply “when did you last have it?” “It was definitely there when we unlocked the bikes and I think it was there in the Internet café.” “Right, well we unlocked the bikes less than a kilometre back, I'll cycle back the way we came and see if I can find it.” “Make sure you go through the roadworks, that area was really bumpy so that might have been where it came off.” After 5 minutes Mike returned, shaking his head. “It can't have gone that far, it's only been 15 mins” I said “let's both look really properly along the uneven road, I'm sure it came off there.” Off we went, cycling really slowly and dismounting at every parked car to look under it. Nothing. “Maybe it came off in the internet café” Mike suggested. I went in and tried to ask “Bonjour, je cherche ma telephone.” I said. The man looked a little confused. Obviously my French was not good. “Parlez-vous anglais?” I inquired “Yes, a little.”He said “Great. I had my phone in a camera case on my wrist. It's gone. Did it fall off here?” “We have had nothing handed in, but please look” said the friendly Frenchman. I had a look but found nothing. “Merci Monsieur, au revoir” I said, and made my way to the door “You found it?” he asked. I shook my head. “I will look on the camera and find if you had it when you left. How long ago were you here?” “Not long,” I said “about 15 minutes at the most. Thank-you.” I walked over to the counter and watched as he found me on the surveillance tape. I very clearly had something on my wrist, but it could have been just the camera. He zoomed in on the image, and the case was clearly still on the camera. “There, you have it,” he said then forwarded to an image of me leaving the café, hand enclosing the camera and case with the strap around my wrist. “Merci, merci beaucoup” I smiled “N'est pas de problem,” he said “I hope you can get it back.” “Any luck?” said Mike. “It's not there, but it was definitely on my wrist when I was in there, he showed me on the surveillance tape.” “He went back through the tape for you? That's really nice.” said Mike “Who could refuse a damsel in distress baby?” I winked. He rolled his eyes. “It's got to be in the street here somewhere, let's have another look” I said. “Come on then my little retard. Hopefully we'll find it.” Our search was again fruitless. “I don't think anyone would keep a phone like that, it's the cheapest one we could get,” said Mike. “Do you know the number? Let's ring it and see if someone picks up.” “I don't know the number, but it's written on the box the phone came in and that's on the boat.” I said. “Let's go back and get it then. I can't believe you just had it in the case around your wrist”, adding a variation to a Friends quote, “you're a pain in my ass, Sorensen.”
We did the 30 minute trip back to the boat, found the number then got back on the bikes and cycled to the payphone at the train station we'd passed. I grabbed change and went in to the booth. I couldn't see a coin slot anywhere, it appeared to only operate by card. I tried our bank card. Nothing. I went back outside and said to Mike “I think it only works by phone card. We'll have to go to the shop and get one.” Off we went to the tabac across the road and I managed to buy a phone card for public telephones without a problem My French was getting better. Back to the phone box, and I called our number. No answer. I tried again. This time a man answered. “Bonjour!” I said “Parlez-vous anglais?” “Non.” came the reply. I racked my brains for enough French to communicate. “Vous avez ma telephone?” Don't know why I asked this as he clearly did, he'd just answered it. “Oui madame.” “Ah, bon!” I exclaimed “C'est possible pour rendez-vous avec tu pour la phone?” “oui, ou-est tu?” he replied “Je suis a la gare, ou est tu?” I responded. “A Fontainebleau, j'arrive a la gare en trente minutes, c'est bon?” “Oui, ah merci Monsieur, merci beaucoup!” I was overjoyed. “Any luck?” said Mike “Yes, a man picked it up and he's bringing it here to the train station. He said he'll be here in half and hour.” I replied. “Brilliant.”said Mike “I'm so relieved,” I said “and how nice of him to bring it to us, I don't think that would happen in England.” we went into the station and bought drinks, then sat out in the sun to wait for our man. “Oh crap,” I said “What?” said Mike “I don't know what he looks like, how will I know who he is? Shall I ring back and describe us? He won't know who we are” Mike's logic once again surpassed my own. “He will be the one carrying a camera case with the phone in it, and he'll know who we are when we go over to him.” “Ok,” I said “I will go and wait away from the station a bit and keep an eye out for anyone carrying a camera case and looking for someone.” “I'll wait here,” said Mike. After 20 minutes of looking intently at anyone who might be our man, and unnerving a man sat down on the wall by staring at him and looking for something in his hand, I turned back to face the station and saw Mike approaching a guy with glasses and a red shirt. He waved me over. I jogged down and spotted that the man was carrying my camera case. I raced over and introduced myself “Bonjour, je suis la femme a la phone.” I smiled “Ah, ici.” he smiled and handed the camera over. I could have hugged him, I was so pleased. Instead I shook his hand thanked him profusely and offered a ten Euro note. “C'est pour vous, Monsieur, pour retour la phone” He smiled and shook his head, refusing the offer of the tenner. “Non, madame, n'est pas de problem.” he said. “Merci, monsieur, merci” I said. “Au revoir” he smiled and went to meet a woman coming out of the station. It seemed he was already planning on going to the station, how very serendipitous that he picked up our lost phone.
Phone retrieved and panic over, we headed into town again to find an internet café. There were a few restaurants with wi-fi stickers in the window, but we weren't hungry so I went into an English theme pub and asked the barman if he knew where I could access wi-fi. “Oui, ici” came the reply. We bought a couple of beers and sat down in a corner. There was a facebook message from my mum, telling me that a Frenchman had called her and that she had eventually worked out that he had my phone and managed to explain to him that I was travelling around France on a boat. “Oh no, I bet that credit we just put on has run out if he called England. It sounds like Mum was talking to him for a while.” I replied to her message then Skyped her to explain what had happened and let her know we had it back. Once we'd done our skyping, checked e-mails and looked up the weird creature (coypu) we'd seen by the boat another couple hours had gone by so we finished up the beers and cycled back to the boat … this time with the phone securely in the backpack!


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