Indiana University
Journalism Ernie Pyle

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March 12, 2008
cmdugdal

"You’re about to see the worst storm that London has ever seen," the concierge warned us, as we schlepped our worn suitcases into the Ibis Hotel. "I do hope you remembered your umbrellas."

The weather was, as forecasted, quite unfavorable during our stay in Great Britain – the Great in its name obviously not referencing the climate. It rained nearly the entire time. Yet, as natives of Indiana, with its infamously erratic climate, we were able to survive the storm with almost no casualties. And, as much as it poured, we refused to let the rain dampen our spirits. Our underwear, maybe, but not our spirits.

The night before we left London, I turned on BBC news in my hotel room, which showed the horribly rough conditions of the ocean waters, waters that we would be floating on the next day. After days of strong wind, the ocean looked angry. The violent waves punched against the rocky coastline with the force of an irate Jerry Springer guest.

When we pulled up to the ferry, which would be taking us to France, the weather was even wetter, and colder. Thanks to the news reports, though, we came prepared, anticipating a rocky ride on the boat. Many of us took preventative Dramamine on the bus, washing it down with the final gulps of day-old café water. The motion sickness medicine’s "non-drowsy" claim turned out to be a blatant lie – a lie that many of us actually appreciated. We slept for the two-hour ferry ride, as well as the five-hour bus ride, which took us from the Calais port to Caen.

Our hotel in Caen was posh and surprisingly modern, offering fashionably tiny bottles of shampoo that were almost too precious to use. We ate dinner in the hotel at 10 p.m. The first dish offered to us, as an appetizer, was a tri-colored meatloaf of sorts, featuring mysterious colored layers of orange, taupe and swamp green. When the plates were first set down, our faces instantly morphed into horrified expressions, reminiscent to looks seen on "To Catch a Predator" – looks of fear mixed with fierce denial. Our entrée, however, a savory meal of poulet avec les frites, was delicious.

After dinner, we crashed immediately, the first horizontal sleep we’d had all day. And as I awoke this morning to beautiful French skies, I wondered if, perhaps, the meal we’d had the night before was symbolic for the trip. While the miserable London weather was as horrific as the tri-colored meatloaf, I sensed that the soft Parisian wind would help to cleanse our palate, serving as a delicious ending to a wonderfully eye-opening trip.