Chapter Sixty One   July 2011

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The Prisoner Exchange.  That’s what we dubbed it, but while there was indeed an exchange, there were no prisoners.  Only gleeful participants.

Our niece and nephew, Rachel and Eric Shry, are currently living in Germany where Eric serves our country in the US Army.  Their children, Ethan (12) and Audrey (9) are favorites of ours, and we have spent several Christmases with the Shry family while we were all on this side of “The Pond” together.

Eric and Ethan arrived at noon Saturday.  They were to spend the next 5 days helping John pilot Seraphim through the French canals.  Sharon, meanwhile, returned to Germany with Rachel and Audrey to assist in a sewing project or two.  And have some fun.

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Eric and Ethan were anxious to get going, so with minimal orientation to boat life and skills, off we set.  And what a time we had!  John had thought that the tunnel would be the highlight of the trip, but was quickly proven wrong as they drove the boat aground the first night.

The new crew members quickly got into the swing of things and we moved through the locks like the well-oiled machine we were.  Ethan took on the role of Navigator and Bow Manager, while Eric worked as Advance Man and Relief Captain.

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What troupers they were!  Eric scrambled up slimy ladder after slimy ladder as we drove through 30 locks in one day.  In 40° C heat.  Ethan decided Eric should ride ahead on the bicycle to prepare the lock for us. 

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Unfortunately, he was moving too fast to get a picture of the bull that chased him one day.

One of Ethan’s unofficial jobs was that of Scout du Pain.  He never came back empty handed.

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It was brutally hot.  We had another tunnel to negotiate; this one is much longer than the first at almost 3 miles underground.  We left the heat and light, entered the darkness slowly and savored the coolness.

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We were all captivated by the scenery, both flora and fauna.

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One evening we climbed up the hill to Langres, a beautiful town with stupendous views of the surrounding countryside, for dinner.  We were sweating profusely, and breathing heavily but happy we’d made the effort as we sat down to a wonderful French meal.  The town, too, was worth the trip up the hill.

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That's what was going on in France.  Meanwhile, back in Germany…

Rachel, Sharon and Audrey headed for home a mere four hours away. Fortunately, they had a beautiful countryside to enjoy on a sunny Saturday afternoon. They set out with the best of intentions of making it home in time for a favorite television series, but were soon distracted by just about everything. Sharon almost convinced Rachel to stop at the antiques shop within five km of their departure but Rachel came to her senses and steered straight. But the chateau broke her. And then it was the gates, the trees, the fields, the architecture. Audrey is the best photographer.

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The drive meandered through the French countryside followed by motorway. In Germany there are places where there is no speed limit because of a straight stretch. This took Sharon well out of her comfort zone, as she is used to traveling at 6 mph, but she coped. As luck would have it, Audrey’s magic ways struck again; her sick tummy forced a stop just when Sharon’s angst bordered on panic.  We made it home safely and in time for the show. And in time to discuss the week’s agenda.  Oh, there had been an agenda before Sharon’s arrival but it was time to get serious.

Sharon dumped the bag of fabrics and trims on the floor while Audrey went to work. She is NEVER short of ideas. Or energy. On Sunday afternoon the work began and by evening Audrey had designed FIVE new pillows for her bedroom. They were nothing short of spectacular. On Monday morning, just as the heat wave arrived, the actual sewing began in earnest.  But we kept our heads down and stayed on course.  Audrey is now a pro at the machine; she prefers fast but learned slow is better.  She hung in with us every step of the way.

On Tuesday Audrey was feeling a little machine-bound and decided to shift gears and entertain the hired hands instead.  Which she also does very well.  The girl can dance!  In fact, she never stops.

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Outfits were changed with each performance, now twice a day.  This made Sharon very happy.

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Still, the sewing went on.  And so did the dance.

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There were a few shopping interruptions along the way, and some late night chats.  But through it all:  Mission Accomplished.  And then some! 

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What a week! What a life!

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A bientot!

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