Saturday, February 7, 2009

Saturday 7 February 2009

We woke up very early, intending to drive to Verdun, almost in Germany, then to Belleau Wood (WWI battle sites). We headed north on 1/4 tank of gas.

We were trying to get to Troyes, a rather largish town north of us, but the distances to it on the signs kept changing. About the time the sun came up, we stopped at a medium-sized town and I tried to get euros out of a bank machine, then another one. We also tried using a credit card to get gas. All were refused. We were astonished.

I couldn't figure it out: I had transferred $800 from Todd's account the night before using Mme Silvestre's laptop computer (the only one in the village, I think) which was using dial-up and was v-e-r-y slow. But nothing worked.

The empty tank light was on but Todd kept going to the next tow, and the next. I just knew the farther he drove, the farther I'd have to walk when we ran out of gas. And it would be me walking, because he couldn't walk and he couldn't speak French.

Finally, we stopped about 10k from Troyes and waited outside the only bank until it opened at 9:00. While we were waiting, I tried calling our bank with my numbers, but even the toll-free-from-France number wouldn't work! Then it was my job to go in to the bank and ask for help. The lady was very kind, but could only suggest I try the Poste (post office). I duly went there and waited in a long line. I had 3 questions for the Poste person: Could I get euros from my credit card here? Could she change dollars to euros? Could she buy back the postcard stamps? She could do neither of the first 2, but she was ready to help me with the 3rd. Then I couldn't find them!! She suggested the Bureau de Tabac & Presse, but it was closed.

We drove on.

At Troyes, running on the grace of God alone, we got to a Carrefour (which translates to Crossroad, sort of a strip mall) and tried again to use a cc to buy gas. No dice. I tried at a bank inside, but was informed that if I was not a member, she would not help me. I went across the street to a (larger) Poste and the lady said she could exchange my dollars, she would just need help to do it. I could live with that.

I didn't dare hope this would work. I had Todd's $130 in 20's and a 10.

She and her supervisor went through a laborious series of steps, which resulted in them giving me, after a 5 euro fee, 91.87 euros.

We were saved!

I thanked them profusely, and we made tracks back across the street to the Carrefour and looked fora way to pay with cash. The lady in the box directed me to the last pump, which I was able to start without a credit card. We filled up. At the pay box, we noticed the lady ahead of us paying with a cc, so we tried with my Mastercard.

It worked! Seems you have to slide it through a different part of the machine if you don't have the microchip.

Now we had a full tank of gas and 91.87 euros as well.

Since it was so late, we decided we did not have time for Verdun, but might have time for Belleau Wood plus Paris. We we had our usual hard time finding the tiny town of Belleau, and then spent quite awhile there,            looking into shell holes and foxholes,      sighting along cannons, and looking for family names among the list of people who could not be found after the battle(4 Murphys and 1 Olsen, no Haddens, 2 Johnsons), that we didn't have time to see Paris either, so we wended our slow, winding, backroads-of-France way home.

I right away drove down to the pay phone in Quemigny-sur-Seine and called the bank (8pm France time, noon Utah time). The nice lady informed me that when you withdraw funds from overseas, it automatically takes it from your savings! Oh-ho! That was why I could only get 200 euros and Todd could only get 40 euros. She transferred our funds to our savings, so I hope that will be all right.

I also called Muriel (you see how well my phone numbers were working now!!) and found that she was feeling better and we could come visit her. Also, Pere and Mere Rougon (her parents: Pere Rougon was my drawing instructor when I lived in Beaune, 1979-1980) would be joining us for dessert tomorrow. Yeah!

When I drove back to our little cottage in Cosne, the news was on. It had rained on us, but it had snowed buckets on Paris, not a city used to quantities of snow!! We would have been stuck in a terrible traffic jam. So all those problems this morning were to protect us from a worser fate!

I'm having very little trouble with the language, and Teancum and Todd are picking up lots of vocabulary. Todd's pronounciation is still terrible, but what do you expect from somebody who speaks English and Spanish, and who still says "heli-cock-ter"?

Muriel & Patrick Seichon-Rougon
49, route de Savigny
Beaune, France 21200

M. & Mme. Silvestre
4, Chemin de Buisson
Quemigny-sur-Seine 21510

Pictures to be added later.

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