Tuesday, February 9, 2010

40 / I See The President (Of France)

Nicolas Sarkozy is the President of France. I did not expect to meet up with him on my first full day in France, but as it turns out, there was an opportunity to do that, so I did.

Marilyn and I are visiting my sister Nancy and her husband Rick, who run an incredible bed and breakfast establishment in Montmirail (Sarthe). This is not Montmirail (Marne), or the other Montmirail located in France. There are actually three different villages called Montmirail in France, and I have now heard some very amusing stories about bed and breakfast guests who have managed to get the three confused. If you do that, you can actually mess yourself up pretty badly. At any rate, the Montmirail we are visiting is in the general vicinity of Le Mans, and from that Montmirail it's a nice hour or so drive to Amboise, in the Valley of the Loire, and the site of a pretty spectacular Chateau and the house where Leonardo de Vinci died.

There is now a new toll road/freeway that could cut time from the journey, but we chose a route from Montmirail to Amboise that took us on what would be called "back roads," or "country roads," in the United States. These roads are incredibly picturesque, and take you through small village after small village. You see lots of hay in various stages of production, old stone buildings, and animals.

Usually (at least I assume this is true) you do not see the President of France.

Today, however, as we drove into Mondouble, one of those picturesque little villages, a somewhat sizable crowd (say 200-300 people) stood along the road, and in a convenient parking lot next to the French version of a 7-11 store (called 8 a huit). A fairly large cadre of national and local police were also on the scene, which was made attractive by the light snowfall which gave everything a very brisk and shining look.

Upon inquiry, we learned that the President of France was expected momentarily, and that this was the occasion for the gathering. Parking our car about 200 feet from the crowd, Rick suggested we meet President Sarkozy.

We did. That's him behind the umbrella!

Kidding aside, we were actually able to see the President, and Marilyn took a few good photos. President Sarkozy acted like politicians everywhere, shaking hands and proceeding immediately into the first available warm building.

It was a great way to start our visit. We really felt honored that the President would turn out personally!

We liked the Chateau, too!

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