Reims and Soissons
Today we spent the day with Dominique and Gerald Berthier. We drove through Reims (pronounced Rans)(top pix) and then to their home in Soissons (pronounced Swa-son). Dominique prepared an excellent lunch of pate and confit. We drank red wine to comply with the French Paradox.
They drove us around to see a little history. The Abbaye (2nd pix) was built in the 13th century and destroyed during the French Revolution. Then as we drove, Gerald stopped along the road to show us the spot where a French pilot crashed during WW II (3rd pix). He had shot down two German planes before crashing. The remains of his engine, portions of his wing, and his grave, are located there in an appropriate display to his honor.
We stopped at Berthier S.A. where Gerald (bottom pix- his office) showed us around. His company employs 70 people.
Gerald, Dominique, and their daughter Sophie are coming to the U.S. in August for their holiday. They showed us their itinerary (New York, Ithaca, Niagara Falls, Gettysburg, Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia) and we discussed their trip. In talking with them we realized how much more difficult it is for a person speaking French, and very little English, to get around in the U.S., than it is for someone from the U.S. to travel here. We could ALWAYS find someone who spoke English in all of the 17 countries we have been to so far. Often times it is a young person. Getting directions or help could be difficult in the U.S. if you don't speak English.
How about the money? When landing in a new country we would often tip in U.S. dollars. We could almost always pay in U.S. dollars, albeit the exchange rate may not have been too favorable. Try French francs in the 711 in the U.S. Visa and MasterCard work great, of course.
Street signs? How many of us complain about lousy street signs and direction signs in the U.S., and WE LIVE HERE AND KNOW THE LANGUAGE. In France, for example, we just drove from Soissons to Champillon (where we are staying) through some back roads just for the scenery. At EVERY intersection there was a sign pointing the way.
I think the biggest problem for them will be asking for assistance in the normal course of travel. I don't mean in an emergency of course, just the day by day things. Sharon and Judy are going to meet them at JFK when they land and help them on their way. We all will show them around Philadelphia.
Tomorrow morning we depart for Ostend, Belgium, the closest airport to Brugge, Belgium where we will spend two nights. The flying has always been the easiest part, but in this part of Europe, the ground handling has been easy as well. Dossiers (weather briefing documents) are prepared quickly and if we have filed in advance, they are available when we arrive at the airport.
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