So, Honfleur and all of France was improved greatly by a night's sleep and diminished expectations. Today we were going to do our darnedest to Give France a Chance before declaring that it "just sucks" and giving the whole country a one-star rating on TripAdvisor.
We started the day with a coffee at Bar l'Ex Voto, which might as well have had a "No Tourists" sign outside: no menu, no English, no nothing except coffee and beer and croissants. And pretty good music. It really lacked only Wifi, like the rest of France.
Afterwards, back to "The Plan". This meant probably not going to Mont Saint-Michel (MSM) as planned (a Plan which would unPlan itself and then rePlan itself shortly thereafter, but I digress): instead we would "avoid touristy things" and meander our way along the Normandy coast looking for D-Day beaches upon which to contemplate and healthy vegetables upon which to eat.
"The Plan" was half-successful: I ordered a salad for lunch! I mean it was covered with ham and eggs but, you know, there was lettuce. I actually felt really good about the green parts of my plate: it's proving really really hard so far to find any vegetables in restaurants.
Annnyway. This was in Cabourg, chosen semi randomly not because it was a D-Day beach but because a Google result told us Proust spent a lot of time there and we should see the Grand Hotel where he used to stay. And we were just about to research the rest of the story...
And then our internet ran out. I have the kind of cell phone plan that a low-level coke dealer might have had in 1997: pay as you go, no frills, no nothing, and as soon as I leave the Netherlands there is absolutely no telling how quickly I will blow through my 3G data other than it will be nearly immediate and/or untimely. Agent Nelson has a normal 2016 modern person cell phone plan that works in other countries, except that she only gets 30mb of data per day. If I wasn't typing on my phone at 5:17 am in the shitty Blogger app, I would boldface that. 30mb is basically a digital sneeze these days.
And France is very unlike Holland in its attitude towards public Wifi: there is almost none here. 4 out of five times I check for a network, not only are there none I can freely access, whether I'm at a bar or cafe or wherever, there are just none at all.
This suddenly put us unexpectedly in a pretty old-school situation: no Google Translate, no TripAdvisor, and no way to find out where we were going to stay instead of Mont Saint Michel without, like, uh...driving from hotel to hotel and asking if they had rooms. I mean I know it's possible to function this way but we would've maybe I don't know, printed some stuff out maybe if we'd known.
So, after a leisurely stroll along the pretty ok promenade in Cabourg and a near-death-mope through town resulting in a lunch that was, if only "pretty good", at least 20 times better than dinner the night before: it was almost 16:00 and we really had no plan for where to sleep. And we still needed to wave hello to MSM.
So we drove for 90 minutes or something and indeed the first glimpse of MSM feels like the Wizard of Oz or the future, it just doesn't look real. People must've just shit back in the day.
After oohing and aahing for 3 minutes, we thought well maybe we could camp here. Not do the whole tourist thing by going to the island itself, but just set up camp and sleep.
But as we were having this thought, it started to rain, really hard, and while the whole setting and environs or what have you (people actually write like this) was quite Gothily atmospheric, setting up your camp in the rain is quite a buzzkill (so I hear).
So we were like Ok, Plan F, let's just get a hotel here, we're tired. But the scene behind the access-code-only gate to the Disneyland-like MSM complex was horribly grim: lines of sweaty Japanese bus tourists waiting to check into fully booked motels; an attraction called Alligator Village (!); the slickest, least authentic-seeming eateries that looked like either McDonalds or Cracker Barrel or both and you just know were aggressively sucking every last Euro out of their captive audience with shitty, careless food and lazy blank-eyed resort attitude.
So, trying desperately to have learned something from last night, we said noooo fucking way and looked at an actual paper map (!) to find the nearest "big town" that seemed like nobody would want to go there, meaning there would be hotel rooms available, and the winner of this unpopularity contest was tadaaaa Dol-de-Bretagne.
Above: The Grand Hotel in Cabourg, where Proust used to write. Below: kickin' it old school, a thoroughly cute and nearly totally useless vintage dictionary; Nelson's galette with Brie and apples, and my ehm "ham salad".
A word about cheese volume. Nelson's galette had about an entire wheel of Brie in it. Plus Gruyere I think. She loves cheese, and it was a bit much. The French couple behind her also had similarly cheesy galettes, plus with runny eggs on top, and then no kidding they had a cheese plate afterwards. Not sane.
Ok, pictures: the apple kouignette that was tragically nowhere near as good as the tragically unpictured pistachio one, which was really tragically good, like caramelly French baklava; MSM rising in the distance like whatever cliche everyone else uses to describe it: unexpectedly stony and medieval Dol-de-Bretagne; our surprisingly relaxed and intimate adult dinner at La Commedia, a pizza place decked out like a preschoolers birthday party but the food and service were wholly likable, My pizza is a tartiflette (bacon, potato, thyme, raclette, creme fraiche, good thing I had that salad for lunch). And a thankfully light and boozy tiramisu. Not pictured: a healthy stroll back to the outskirts of town, where our hotel room has 4 beds and is completely soundproof as promised. But no Wifi.
This is an often-NSFW, mostly gluten-free kitchen notebook that also occasionally threatens to turn into something else and fails, thus remaining its same old cryptic and superficial self. These posts begin to fail to explain (start at the bottom).