March 9, 2011 | Author: Christine Albright
Chris, here, just to let you know how this trip is from the co-pilot’s perspective, which I have to say, is much better now that I am navigating from the right side of the car. (I mean that in both senses of the word, “right,” as in, I am now sitting in the right not left side of the car, and I am on the right not the wrong side of the car.)
I have learned a few things on this little adventure, and not all of them have to do with Medieval castles and British royalty. This is a research trip, and I have been doing my duty there. I saw some ghosts of my own, when I stood on the Shrewsbury Battlefield, where the Henry Percy led the rebel charge. And yes, I felt a little twinge in my heart, when I walked into the cathedral built just five years later on that same battlefield to honor all of the soldiers who died there. And so what if I got emotional, when I learned that after Hotspur’s death and burial, King Henry IV had the body exhumed and decapitated, the head sent to York and “impaled on the north gate, looking towards his own lands,” the body drawn and quartered and scattered to the four corners of the country, Chester, London, Bristol and Newcastle-on-Tyne? And so what if I felt a little proud when I learned that a mere three months later, when Lady Elizabeth Percy tracked down his body parts, she had them reburied in York Minster? But what this trip has really taught me, stretches beyond dramaturgical research and goes straight to the heart of life’s lessons.
1) A Road Atlas is better than Google Maps
It’s shocking that in this day and age of GPS and Google Maps, I find myself clinging to the giant, spiral-bound road atlases of Britain and France, but without a doubt these are the two best purchases we have made with our pounds and euros. This is simply because Google Maps is useless in Europe. “Why?” you ask. Because in Europe there are more roundabouts than even Google can count, In England, every road has five names, and were it not for my new giant atlas, we would still be circling the fourth roundabout in Shrewsbury, looking for the fifth exit to M54/A49/Hereford/Bell Vue/Hazledine Way. In France, roads don’t appear to have any names, just a bunch of vowels that only exist when you purse your lips and make this awful sound like you’re getting a piece of dust off your hard palate.
2) Lost is found.
Google Maps also auto-corrected me, when I tried to find directions to Harfleur. It said, “Did you mean, Honfleur?” “No,” I thought, I’m pretty sure, I’m looking for Harfleur,” but it continued to correct me, until I thought, “Well, they must be the same thing. Azincourt/Agincourt. Harfleur/Honfleur. Fine, Google, send me to Honfleur,” and I printed out my directions. Now the French don’t really like to label their roads with road names, so when Google tells you to turn on Rue de Victor Hugo, there’s no sign to tell you which road that might be. They do, however have signs pointing you in the direction of major cities, ie. “Turn Here for Paris.” So while we were driving through Le Havre looking for some sign that might resemble a road on our directions, we got terribly lost. We couldn’t find any land marks, no road numbers matched our maps, and nothing looked like Google said it would. Then, all of a sudden, there was a sign. It said, “Harfleur,” and it pointed to the right. We turned off the highway, which highway, I still don’t know, and we drove down a windy road, through a town, which initially looked like nothing. We parked the car, tried to look for one of those convenient little street maps that exist in the center of every French town, and instead we found this magnificent 15 century cathedral in which there was some graffiti. Not the spray paint kind, the oh-it’s-a-jar-with-some-paper-no-it’s-THE-DEAD-SEA-SCROLLS-kind. This graffiti was made some time around 1435 and it depicted the toppling of a tower during the the siege of Harfleur. By getting lost we had somehow ended up exactly where we needed to be, and not only that, we stumbled upon a stone hidden in a corner conveying the exact history we were convinced we’d only find in books.
3) Why I need to retire to Etretat, France.