We boarded one of those ferry boats that passed Doug on his English Channel swim and together with our crew, as well as my two brothers and their wives, who had flown in, we set out to find the spot in France where Doug landed on that cold, dark night. The pilot of our support boat had given us a map where X marked the spot. It was so dark that night that not one picture exists, so we were going to need to use our memories, and everyone had a different one of those.
It was bright and sunny out and Doug and I decided to sit on the top deck where you could just about see the whole channel from the bird’s eye view. The white cliffs of Dover were spectacular against the multiple layers and colors of clouds that seem only unto England. The water was still that special shade of blue that I’ve never seen in person before. And the whole picture was plain and simple BIG.
After taking it all in we narrowed in on the particulars and we spotted five English Channel support boats, one being ours. They were not close together but rather spread out and each definable as every one had little tiny arms swimming by their sides. It looked like the kind of day that if someone could actually swim that far they could make it.
I was quietly jealous that we didn’t have any of that weather.
The whole time Doug was either extremely quiet or extremely talkative. Some of the things we had already discussed and some of them were new to me. He’s interesting. He’s kind of different now.
On the other side we rented three French cars, each complete with a GPS that did not have that special X, and headed toward the fishing town of Wissant Bay. (Don’t let the French hear you say “Wiss Ant.” They call it “Vissaaaaaant” and they will correct you post haste.
Wissant Bay is a fishing town just south of Calais; Calais being where most English Channel swimmers usually land. The scenery was dotted with cows and haystacks and little houses that looked ancient. We saw a tiny church with a tiny graveyard where old, old, old parisioners were burried above ground.
We stopped at a charming roadhouse for a sandwich, where we were welcomed by people who spoke only French and told us that they couldn’t remember the last time they saw Americans. They loved us right away and they especially loved Mack, who speaks fluent French and is easy to be with, as well as Kathryn, who immediately ordered a round of champagne.
When the French woman, who was the chef, saw that we were 12 strong she quickly told us that she would make us 12 identical sandiwches for all kinds of reasons. I could tell that one of her reasons was so that she could spend more time talking with us rather than waiting on us.
We told them why we were there and up went the champagne glasses. They were impressed but more so enchanted to have Americans in their midst. The next hour whipped by as they talked and talked and laughed and laughed and scolded Obama and Szarkosy but said that ultimately they really didn’t care. They lived in the French countryside, after all, and had everything they needed.
Stay tuned for Finding “Vissaaaaaant” Bay (Part II)