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How Did I Get Lost?

The quaint and picturesque French town of Beaune provided necessary peace after the intensity of Paris. I briefly scanned a map of the town and tossed it aside assuming if there was any place I would need a map, it wouldn't be this little town. On the morning of our departure, I visited the local hospice museum and on my return to the hotel chose an alternate route. Somehow the narrow winding roads didn't lead where I expected them to. I knew the bus would arrive soon, and I vividly remembered the humorless warning about being left behind if late, so I doubled my pace. Unfortunately, that just took me further from where I wanted to be, and faster. In desperation I asked for directions from the next person I saw who happened to be a slightly elderly street cleaner. He indirectly informed me that he didn't speak English by simply talking in French. I explained in French that I did not understand French. Maybe I pronounced those few words too well because he continued to provide me with detailed directions in French. When he appeared to be finished speaking, I took off running in the direction he seemed to have been pointing toward.

Soon I was lost again so I entered a cafe. One middle aged woman sat at the counter and another woman of a similar vintage stood behind the counter. They both seemed surprised to see me enter the store with a sweat glossed face at 8:30 in the morning. Unfortunately, I spoke more French than they spoke English. They looked at me, looked at each other, then waved their hands and shook their heads exclaiming what I assume meant "idiot!" Unfortunately, they hadn't heard of the hotel so they got out the phone book. A few minutes later we found the listing. Instantly their countenance changed and they were smiling and giving me directions, in French of course. With a general direction in mind, I left the cafe saying "merci, merci, merci!" Soon I came up on my old street cleaner friend and we exchanged waves as I ran past. Sooner still I realized I had no idea where I was going, but at least I had the address written down. I ran back to the street cleaner who stopped his machine and walked me a few blocks where he pointed out my hotel. The bus ended up being even later than I was and I didn't have to walk to Switzerland!

Pastoral Tidiness

It is wonderful. There are no unsightly stone walls and never a fence of any kind. There is no dirt, no decay, no rubbish anywhere—nothing that even hints at untidiness—nothing that ever suggests neglect. All is orderly and beautiful—everything is charming to the eye.

Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, 1869

French in General

But the French, Monsieur le Count, added I (wishing to soften what I had said), have so many excellences, they can the better spare this; - they are a loyal, a gallant, a generous, an ingenious, and good temper’d people as is under heaven; - if they have a fault - they are too serious.

Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, 1768

Peace in War

Still at this lovely chateau-farm, and Life seems to have gone into a trance. I wake up and look out into the courtyard and the sunlight, on geese, Muscovy ducks, pigs, and pigeons, and it all feels like a half-forgotten story. There are traces of the Huns, but all that seems unreal. You hear the boom! boom! boom! of the guns all day, and more so at night ; but nothing can disturb the extraordinary remote peace of this chateau. The very stones in the courtyard look more friendly and more countrified than ordinary stones, as if some ancient fairy lived here. There's no doubt at all that the men feel it. Several of them have said how they like the place. They think it's a little bit like shire. I think I know what they mean.

Henderson, Keith, Impressions of an Artist on the Western Front, 1917