Sunday, July 06, 2003


Well, I've finally managed to re-configure a keyboard to US-style, and not get booted off the computer afterward. If it seems like forever since I last posted, it's because it has been.

So here we are, our last day in Strasbourg. It's been interesting, to say the least. Here's a little synopsis of the last 10 days....

Day 1 - Arrival

John C. and I arrived in Strasbourg expecting a short walk to our hotel. To be sure, I attempted to ask a female employee of the train station where our hotel was. Since I heard Willis talking to her in German, I was reasonably confident she could speak the language. She could. She just had no clue where our hotel was. According to her, it should be somewhere on the outskirts of town because "zat's where Hotel Etap is always at." Wonderful. Instead of a short walk, we'd have a cab ride. But to be sure, she said, check with the tourist office downstairs. So we headed downstairs.

The tourist office was located right beside the exit doors. Lo and behold, I looked out the exit, and what did I see across the plaza? Hotel Etap. So the lady was wrong. John and I made a beeline to the hotel. We walked in, and were greeted by an attractive girl of about 18, who acted as if we were interrupting her nap (it had to be her nap, because there were no other customers). After a brief exchange, we were told that our room was up one flight, and given the room access code. We got to our room, walked in and saw - two beds. For three people. And a note telling us to be at the other hotel (where everyone else was staying) at 6:00p.m. I looked at my watch. It was 6:05 already. Taking a shower and cleaning up was out. So was wearing my newly-acquired (in Interlachen) Swiss Military watch. We headed back downstairs to find out where to go.

Front-desk girl was equally unhelpful at getting us to Ciarus. She told us it was too far to walk, that we needed to get the number 10 bus from the train station, but not where at the train station. She did go into detailed explanation of where to get off, but since we didn't know the town, it didn't help. But fortunately, John had grabbed a map which clearly showed Ciarus. We decided to walk.

Of course, because I hadn't bothered to clean up, everyone else had. I looked sloppy in my t-shirt and jeans, as we went to a very nice restaurant for dinner. My slovenly looks, combined with the hotel clerk's indifference (I found out later that Art had, upon arriving, attempted to obtain a cot, or another mattress, to no avail. He'd flatly been told "no" to every question he'd been asked, without any further explanation) and the accomodations, served to put me in one foul mood. I hated France, and I had ten long days to brood over it.

Eventually, Dean Jean came by to take the photo of everyone at our table. I was thoroughly embarrassed by my clothes, and abjectly refused to be in the picture. Dean Jean thought that I was kidding, but Mary quickly told her that I was in a bad mood. Although I was mad at Mary for spilling the beans, it all worked out - somewhat. Dean Jean had an open room in Ciarus where I could spend the night. The next night, I had a room at another hotel (although that was nearly another fiasco), and finally, two days later, a room at the Ciarus, with Blake (whom I'd shared a room with in Interlachen) and.........Willis. Somehow, I was being repaid for all the bad karma I'd spread by being saddled with the most annoying person on the trip.

Few people like Willis, except of course, Mrs. Willis, who must be a saint for marrying someone like him. He's impossible to describe, but the most succinct version is that he's kind of like Rainman - he has thousands of totally useless facts in his head, and he doesn't hesitate to share them with you, whether or not they are relevant, or if you are interested in them. According to rumor, Mrs. Willis (whom he calls Boo on his frequent calls home, but not in a lovey-dovey voice, but a very flat, emotionless one) has lots of cash. Or at least her parents do. Either way, Willis must have some endearing quality, but no one on this trip can find it. Not only does Willis talk - a lot - but he also invites himself along if he likes the trip you're taking. Even if you tell him he's not welcome. Well, maybe if you were so direct it might work, but otherwise it won't. And when he speaks another language (he knows German fairly well, but not the rules of grammar, so when we went to Interlachen via Spiez {pronounced speerz}, he kept mispronouncing the name {calling it spitez}) he speaks it so poorly that the native speaker usually says "let's just speak English." No lie. It happened in the train station at Interlachen.

For now, I'm just trying to play nice.

Council of Europe

On about day 3 or 4 (it's all becoming a blur, but I do remember it was a Friday) we went to the Council of Europe for a tour. Supposedly, we were going to see the Council Parliament debate, but, as other things on this trip have turned out, it didn't happen. Instead, the Parliament went home, and we got to look at an empty chamber. Which was a good thing, since I got some nice pictures. But to be honest, while it was all very interesting, it wasn't very memorable.

Weekend 1 - Kassel

Patty's been dying to see what I'd write about my visit to Kassel, and I've been making her wait an entire week. But the first thing I'll say is that Patty and her parents were more than kind, and went out of their way to make me feel at home. Words cannot simply say how much I appreciated all their efforts, and how much I enjoyed the visit.

I'd been trying to get a hold of Patty for a couple of weeks, and on Thursday, I'd finally managed to get through. We made plans to meet on Friday, which became Saturday when laundry and other things (including a late class) intervened. Nevertheless, on Saturday I made my way via train (of course) into Germany. Patty couldn't meet me at the station; her mom had gone shooting, and Patty doesn't drive stick, so her father picked me up. We went back to the Garden Club, and I hung around while Patty worked, waiting for our ride for the evening to Frierhagen, where there was a party Patty was supposed to help out at.

Tun (I hope I'm spelling that right) picked us up about a half hour late. He made up for it on the Autobahn, where I had the pleasure of experiencing 230kph (sorry, I don't know the conversion).

Damn. My hour's up, and the gamers are waiting......more soon, but when I can't predict, since tomorrow we leave for Brussels, and on Wednesday we head to Luxembourg. But I will post again before the week's out.....

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