Driving is stressful. Especially in a foreign country. We decided that it would be better to have a car to see the D-Day beaches and that we would like to see them. So we made an online reservation for Caen through autoeurope. For some reason, it didn’t go through though and we spent an extra two hours and ten euros on coffees so we could use WIFI in different cafes to re-reserve a car. We had to put it on my credit card though, which meant that I had to be the driver and that Sean was in charge of navigating. This was not ideal, because he doesn’t read French and I don’t take criticism well when driving. But to add him as a driver would double the rental price, so we had no choice. The car was a tiny Fiat, cute and zippy, but unfortunately plastered with europecar stickers. We had made a reservation in Honfleur at the Premiere Classe, so we zoomed off happy to have wheels.
The Premiere Classe was a strange robot hotel, and there was nothing first class about it. I think they install the same bathrooms on trains. If you have an account with them, you can use your card and check yourself in from a machine outside. So reception would close down all night and for several hours midday, leaving the hotel to run itself. The town of Honfleur was beautiful, but not a good home base from which to explore the D-Day beaches, we would learn the next day, when we drove straight back through Caen. Also road tolls add up fast.
We took off early the next morning to check out the beaches and started in Arromanches. From there we headed to the Longues Sur Mer (german gun battery) to see some giant old guns. We toured the American cemetery and went down to Omaha beach and then down to Pointe Du Hoc. It was getting late then so we called it a day and started our drive back up to Honfleur.
The next day we explored Honfleur more and spent a little time drawing in the harbor, long enough to realize that drawing tall, skinny houses is hard and takes patience. So we moved on. Back in the Premiere Classe, we struggled with painfully slow WIFI trying to plan the next leg of our trip. We wanted to go somewhere sunny, wanted to camp, but couldn’t get any information. Sick of eating cold food, Sean had the brilliant idea of buying a hot water heater so that every day wouldn’t be started in search of coffee for me and so that we could make instant soup. So we took off for Le Havre where they had a sporting goods store and some other large markets, hoping to find something we could use. Not wanting to pay ten euros in tolls we drove the long way (probably paying the same amount in gas in the end).
I had been warned ahead of time that gas stations without attendants only accepted credit cards with the chip and pin system, which I didn’t have, so I was also on the lookout for a gas station before it got late and they closed for the night. With several wrong turns and some cursing, silent treatment and accusations we ended up driving at twilight with the gas light on. I saw signs for a Carrefour and thought for sure we were saved, drove there and found the attendant gone for the night. A woman inside the Carrefour gave me terrible directions to an Auchan promising they would be open. So we drove off looking for them until I was in tears near full panic-attack and we ended up back at the Carrefour. The same woman looked at me like I was stupid and gave me the directions again, which I listened to very carefully, following with gestures, then left hoping this time I’d gotten it right. Not at all. Sean thought we should just wait at the station and ask someone to use their card for us and give them cash which I didn’t want to be responsible for because I was not in good shape to try to ask someone for help in french with scary red eyes. But we were out of options so I tried. An older gentleman pulled up behind us at the pump and I pretended to try my card again, before walking over and asking if he knew what the machine was telling me (even though I knew). He looked a little annoyed at first, then genuinely concerned when my card wouldn’t read. Then I asked if he knew of any other stations, hating to try to get this guy to use his card. “Auchan” My heart sank a little. But then he gave me directions that made some sense, he told me when they closed and he told me to go quickly. He said to follow the signs and that was my best option, then wished me luck. I hopped back in the car, and very shortly after going in the direction he had told me I began to see signs for Auchan. When we finally arrived it was like a giant mall and it was also where the sporting goods store we had originally been looking for was. When we pulled up for gas, I was so anxious to make sure we got some I headed straight for the cashier who looked at me like I was a little crazy until she realized I just didn’t understand the system. Pump first, then pay. Auchan did more than solve our gas crisis, it’s also a superstore were we found a perfect hot water heater and instant soups. We left feeling like winners.
That night we plugged in our new water heater and killed power for the hotel. Oops.