Chapter Fifty December, 2009
Last month we promised an
exciting Christmas/New Year’s Trip. And exciting and wonderful it was. We were
gone three weeks in all, and it was all Better Than Good. But travel is tough
on mind and body, so in the end we were glad to finally return home to Seraphim
First stop: Landstuhl,
Germany. Our niece /nephew and their family are stationed there with the US
Army, so Christmas was spent with family this year. It was great! It was
snowing when we arrived, a perfect way to begin our Christmas holiday. And not
only that, there was enough snow for lots of sledding and snowman making. Oh,
The Family Shry could not
have been more gracious hosts, and we had an absolutely fabulous time hanging
out with them during Christmas Week. John has needed a good winter jacket, and
warm clothing is not readily available in southern Turkey since it doesn’t get
very cold here. So, he reasoned, Germany would be a better place. Off we
trouped the first morning in Landstuhl on the “get-John-a-coat” assignment. And
we sure did get it right; the coat was warm and on sale. Can’t get any better
than that, can it? And the coat sure came in handy!
But that was just the
beginning. Sharon discovered the shops. And she discovered lots of stuff she
needed that she couldn’t get in Turkey. Not one, but two more trips were needed
to satiate her needs. Note: it was early enough in the trip for us not to worry
about luggage allowances on our return!
We spent days playing with
Audrey and Ethan. Sharon sewed with Audrey while John taught Ethan some new
knot-tying techniques using Ethan’s new marlin spike. Who knew you could have
so much fun with a little thread and rope? We baked together and all jumped in
the family van and went to a traditional German Christmas Festival.
There was Audrey’s dance
performance and Ethan’s attempt at Charades. The family time was just what the
doctor ordered, and we were so refreshed after our visit with Rachel, Eric and
the kids. But Mom always said “Fish and relatives start to smell after three
days.” So it was time to go. And Paris beckoned.
The train to Paris left
Landstuhl early in the morning, but fortunately the station was just about three
blocks down the hill from the house. Great trains in Europe: Landstuhl to Paris
with only one change and all in about three hours.
So what if it was raining?
It’s still Paris! Our apartment in suburban Vincennes was warm, spacious and
chic. The city center is only a short Metro-ride away, so we were mobile. And
Vincennes itself is quite lovely.
The outdoor fresh market is
held on Sunday, so we had an eyeful (and tummy full) of French goodies. Ain’t
it grand that the markets in every country are so very different? Of course
some of the fresh produce is similar, but here we not only get to sample the
greens and carrots, but also le Roquefort, les saucissons, les escargots, les
moules, les baguettes and more. Turkish markets are great, but….
There’s no such thing as
Clingancourt anywhere but in Paris! Sharon used to visit this quintessential
Antique Flea market with her first boss and his wife many years ago. It was just
like she remembered it. With the exception of prices, of course. Imagine being
surrounded by Provençal cookware, Empire-era clocks, Oriental rugs, Baroque
mirrors, sepia Riviera postcards, creepy 19th-century dolls, Art Nouveau vases
and aisles and aisles of the stuff. It brought back great memories and we loved
And then there was lunch in
a typical Parisian Cabaret Café. With an Edith Piaf impersonator, no less! It
Lanvin was celebrating their
90th anniversary, so Sharon even got to gloat over the windows! This is what
Paris is all about, non?
Days were spent strolling
the left bank. Once the sun goes down, it gets pretty cold but we did manage to
take in two musical holiday concerts in the evening. Just being in Paris was
enough for us.
One reason for going (one
needs a reason for going to Paris???) was to check out the marina facilities
there and make a reservation for winter 2011-12. Yes! There is a grand marina
in Paris and the location is superb, don’t you think? (The tall thing in the
background is July Column at Place de la Bastille.)
We stumbled upon an
English-speaking couple who were standing outside the marina office when we
arrived. They answered all our questions, introduced us to the office, helped us
fill out an application and invited us aboard their 38' sailboat to answer any
other questions! Some things are meant to be!
We attempted to enter a
Renoir Exhibition at the Grand Palais. Of course there were several exhibitions
taking place there simultaneously. We asked for two tickets, in our best French
and were surprised when we were questioned twice for clarification. Off we went!
To “La Fete des Jours”, the largest children's carnival you've ever seen. (Our
French needs work.) But we had fun anyway.
Since we were in Paris, it
seemed appropriate to do something special on New Year’s Eve. And special we
did. Mozart’s Requiem at La Madeleine, followed by a stroll down the Champs
Elysee with about a quarter of a million other very cold people. We stopped for
coffee on the Right Bank and the grand total for two coffees was $27! But what
All good things French must
come to an end (or be put on hold for a while), so depart we must. But our
adventure continued. This time in England’s New Forest with cruising friends
David and Diana. What we didn’t plan on was the ice and snow that has gripped
England for weeks. But their cottage in the village was dry and toasty-warm, so
we had all we needed: good friends, good conversation, and a warm bed (one has
to love a place where the address is “Old Ways, Pikes Hill”).
In truth, we did get out a
lot and tromped around the Forest. David and Diana were kind enough to
reintroduce us to friends we had met while buddy-sailing with them through the
Greek islands. We also had the pleasure of meeting the grandchildren. So it
was a wonderful way to bring our mini Grand Tour to a close. But closing it out
proved to be more eventful than we’d planned.
Just in the middle of our
visit England was crippled by the worst winter weather in three decades. Ice,
snow and sub-freezing temperatures brought the entire country to a standstill.
Gatwick airport shut down for most of two days, stranding thousands. Motorways
were blocked with snow and scores of abandoned cars. We decided to go to a
hotel next to the airport the night before our scheduled departure so we would
be sure to get there on time. Hotels were packed. We managed to find a hotel
with a room available that had two things going for it: 1) it was close to the
airport, and 2) it was cheap. After staying one, short night we confirmed: it
was cheap. But the flight did leave almost on time, and we were on our way
Budget airlines appear to
have one thing in common: strict luggage weight allowances. Our English
friends had asked us to carry back some rather expensive engine parts for them.
Engine parts are heavy, so we very carefully weighed our luggage to get
everything in and under the 20 kg weight allowance. We just made it! Fast
forward to Istanbul, where we changed planes and airlines. The new weight
allowance is 15 kg/person. Whoops! Luckily, we found a luggage scale at the
check-in area and managed to “create” a carry-on bag out of a Christmas present
and Voila! 15 kg, to the gram.
So ends our Christmas Trip.
We had a fabulous time. Our winter To-Do list has been dragged out and we’re
ticking off the boxes. Work, work, work. To play, play, play.