It’s another lovely day and there’s no excuse to put off fullfilling yesterday’s mission. Today I’m taking the the train to L’isle Adam. Yes, I know it’s fraught with perils, but I must go.
This time, I’m prepared. I have less coffee, more yogurt and a banana. I study a map.
At precisely 10 AM, I tuck the bottled water into my bag and hit the driveway, full stride. Until I remember that I forgot my keys. I go back inside to find them. Desdemona greets me at the door, all full of expectation so I play with her for a bit. When she seems bored with me, I go to check on Denzel, and start to leave again… until I realize I still haven’t found the keys. As a rule, I try to put them on the furnace knob by the front door everytime I get back from somewhere. ‘Try’ being the key word. I finally find them in the refrigerator on top of the yogurt I bought earlier and head out again. This time I make it as far as the gate until it occurs to me that I may have left the internet connection on. I run back to check. It’s off; maybe I’m not as senile as I think.
I return to the front door which I’d left slightly ajar. But as I close it, I unwillingly begin entertaining my newest big fear: that Desdemona has slipped out the door, darted into the street in pursuit of a bird and…I can’t even continue. I call her and get no answer. I scan the yard, no kitty. I search the house calling her, first gently, but rising in pitch as I get more hysterical. By the time I find her on top of an armoire in the closet, I’m sweaty and my voice is raw and shaky. She looks at me like I’m insane. Phew. I double check that Denzel is still under the sheets and head out again. But when I get to the gate I can’t find my keys.
I get to the train station, (probably 200 yeards from the house) at noon. A man sits behind a big glass wall. His voice booms through a speaker. “Bonjour madam.” Oh … my … God…I have to buy a ticket…in French. I prepare for the usual rush of blood to my brain. Only this time it doesn’t happen. I buy the ticket in French and even understand when he tells me the train is coming in ten minutes.
On the train, I watch the scenery closely trying to figure out exactly where I walked yesterday. Turns out it was the Valmondois, not Butry church bell that rang me into retreat. Valmondois is the first stop on a 7 minute train ride from Auvers. The next stop is another seven minutes away: Parmain/L’isle Adam. I’m tempted to go on to Champagne sur Oise because I like the name, but I also like the looks of this stop and don’t want to press my luck. So I get off. If I turn right, I’ll be in Parmain and if I turn left I’ll be in L’isle Adam.
L’isle Adam is a small island in the middle of the Oise. I’d say it’s about one narrow square mile (a rectangular mile?). It’s green with trees that are much taller and lusher than the ones in Auvers. I think the Barbizon forest starts somewhere near here.
The houses are mostly old, beautifully maintained and shaded. It’s very peaceful, quaint as hell and the people seem extraordinarily friendly.
This town is full of little stores, restaurants, parks and great outlooks (Le Plage, the beach I’d read about is the pits—a huge sandbox with a big pool).
I’m drawn to the center of town, which is always the church. Across the street from the church, I discover the answer to my prayers. A big outdoor market with all sorts of dry goods type stuff and a covered food market full of fresh produce, fish, meat, cheeses, baked goods, Asian delicacies…an array that makes Whole Foods look like Gristedes. I am so in awe (and lust) for all this food, I forget to become nervous when speaking to the people behind the counter. I get a beet salad, a half pound of gruyere (which I’ll never be able to prounounce no matter how drunk I am), two apples, two oranges, two spring rolls a loaf of bread and a really weird but tasty vietnamese dessert made of crushed peanuts and coconut wrapped in something sweet and doughy that the guy said was plus meillieux than the beignet ananas. All for under five Euro. And I bought everything in French with minimal blushing or stammering. It makes me want to dance around singing nyah, nyah nyah nyah…to whom, I’m not sure.
I wander around the island for awhile. I have some bread and cheese at a shady spot overlooking l’Oise. And wander some more. I feel oddly relaxed and peaceful. In fact, when I come upon two swans (geese?), one building a nest around where she sits, I watch a full five minutes before even THINKING about bird flu.
When I return to Auvers at about 4:00 some of the people in town smile, wave and say bonjour to me. I inhale the scented air and think to myself “Damn, this is good!” I feel like in the beginning of the Mary Tyler Moore show, I should throw my beret triumphantly into the air to the chorus “you’re gonna make it after all.”
This too, shall pass.
Filed under: best bets, fine dining, france on a budget, transportation, travel, Val d' Oise Tagged: | adventure travel, Auvers sur Oise, best bets, budget France, dining, fine dining, france on a budget, L'Isle Adam, living abroad, SCNF, shopping, trains, transillien, transportation, travel, travel humor, visiting france