We decide not to eat at the Metz Mercure and leave to go To Reims. We stop at a roadside place and have croissants and a hot drink. It is pretty good for highway food.The countryside is rolling and treeless. I imagine it was once forested but all has been sacrificed for agriculture.
We arrive at Reims and visit the cathedral. There are beautiful windows but the cathedral is wider and less soaring than the one in Metz. There are beautiful rose windows—2 on the front facade. The outside stonework is eaten away by acid rain. It is amazing how much devastation has been wreaked. There are 3 Chagall windows behind the altar and other modern ones mixed with the older ones.
We have lunch at McDonald’s. It is very crowded with people and dogs, too. Then we are off to Brussels. I, of course, miss the turn we want and we take the highway the whole way. It is probably for the best as it is now raining off and on.
We have a hard time finding the Hotel Metropole. It is a grand old hostel in a Times Square-like location. Anita’s choice is not too bad although far from John’s work. The room is very large. We eat at a nearby Pizza Hut. John seems a little better but now is coughing. He keeps saying he is fine.
John wakes up with severe laryngitis. He says it was from talking too much at work yesterday. I hope he is not getting sick. We have breakfast at the hotel with some excellent breads. Sarah and I have a pretzel. We looked at them yesterday and regretted not having bought one. We get on the road around 10:30 AM. The drive through the Black Forest takes longer than expected due to many slow trucks. The landscape is scenic and all the villages are charming.
We arrive at Strasbourg around 1 PM. We have a much easier time finding our way into the city than last time. France seems more crowded and a lot dirtier than Germany. We visi the Strasbourg Cathedral. The stone work is amazing. Sarah likes the rose window. We have wine and a hot chocolate at an outdoor cafe near the river. We watch a girl juggle and the waiter is joking with us about who gets the wine. Sarah buys a shot glass. All in all it is a very pleasant hour and a half.
Onto Metz, France. We go on the toll road. It cost 60ff or about $12 to go 150 km, pretty pricey but quick. Metz is a rabbit warren of narrow streets. We drive around and around finally finding the tourist agency. We get directions to the Metz Mercury which is hard to find. Anita, of course, has screwed up the reservations by booking two rooms again. This is not a charming hotel. We are staying in the ugliest room ever—narrow with three beds in a row, plastic furniture, and a pink decor.
We take a walk to the St. Etienne Cathedral. It is very impressive with a very high vault with buttresses and three rows of stained glass windows, some by Chagall.
We have dinner at the hotel and it is not a success. We trade food around trying to please everyone (Sarah.) I should not have insisted on French food. In the future we will stick to more McDonald’s and Italian food.
Everyone is exhausted and John is sicker with no voice and a bad sore throat. I hope that the erythromycin I brought along will help.
I sleep pretty well but Sarah is still having trouble. John leaves for HP around 7:45 AM. Sarah and I get up around 9 AM. We go to the airport (Flughafen) and get information to get to Stuttgart. Information man says his English is not good but it is way better than our non-existent German. There is no place we want to stop for breakfast so we take the train to Hauptbahnhof, the main station in Stuttgart.
Our first stop is at the information place and want to buy a map. I buy a tour book by mistake for 7.50 DM. At least it is a nice book. We find a McDonald’s. We order chicken McNuggets (Mad cow disease) and I try to order by number in German. The say, oh, you want chicken McNuggets but seem pleased that I tried. Sarah hears Americans talking. This perks her up. We are happy to eat something familiar.
Next we walk to the Staatsgalerie. We are charged 5 DM each even though we think it says it is free. We are not sure about this. Sarah and I have a great time looking at pictures and trying to figure out what they are called. Many Picasso pieces but also Monet, Gauguin, Rembrandt and a lot of modern stuff.
Next we take the train to Ludwigsburg. Then we have to take a bus to the palace there. We ask for information and buy two cokes at the Burger King. We get on the correct bus (yay!) but the question is where do we get off. When you are on a bus you are supposed to recognize where you are going to. Plus there are so many people on the bus that it is hard to see out the windows and of course it is impossible to ask anyone. Sarah says that she sees a bunch of pennants so we take a chance and get off. It is the correct stop!
The gardens here are beautiful although it is still pretty early in the Spring. There are crocus, primula, hyacinth, pansies, and daffodils. Also beautiful birds. We walk and walk. We are too tired to do the additional palace tour. We decide to save it for another time.
We catch the bus and trains back to the Flughafen and arrive about 5:30 PM. We both take a small nap after having chips and soda that we buy at a gas station across the street. Later Sarah and I have dinner at the hotel. We order fettuccine and salmon again. It is safe. John returns from his long work day at 10:45 PM.
I sleep well but Sarah only sleeps a little. We have a plan to do a driving and stopping tour. We stop at a roadside resthof for breakfast. We each have 2 pieces of baguette and a breakfast drink. Ordering food is stressful. But we do have fun trying to figure out what the food is.
Our first stop is at Kirchheim to see the half-timbered town hall. We think we see it but are not sure maybe it is some other half-timbered building. Our second stop is the Hauff Museum for dinosaurs- although we see a sign for it, we miss it completely. Third stop is the Reussenstein Castle. We see the ruins from the road but when we stop and park we proceed to walk one half mile in the wrong direction. We return to the car and leave. We are batting .000 at this point.
Here are the sightseeing spots we missed (from the internet)
And here is a picture that I took of Reussenstein Castle. It is a long way away.
John is annoyed with my navigating skills but the maps are very hard to follow. (Before GPS) We try a fourth stop, the Uracher Vasserfall. We actually see this in a 3 mile hike. It is a high waterfall. Many Germans are there as it is a holiday here, Easter Monday.
We give up on the rest of the drive due to rain and our inability to find the sights we are looking for. We head back to the hotel and take a nap.
Dinner tonight is at Waldemar and Maryam Hartmann’s. We see the children and the Hartmann’s friends, Elvira and Alois. We sit down around 8:30 PM and stay there until we say we have to leave some time after midnight. What about retiring to comfy chairs?!!! We have watercress soup, smoked trout, lasagna with turkey or ham with spinach, ice cream with hot berries, and monks head cheese served with this neat circular cutter from Switzerland that shaves the cheese off in flowerets. It is a good time although Sarah is somewhat bored. We get back to the hotel around 1 AM, stiff and exhausted.
Another reconstruction from notes and pictures. Sarah, who has just turned 16, accompanies us on this trip.
April 6 and 7, 1996
We leave for the airport very early, 5 AM! John’s dad is with us. At least we know that he has a place to wait until his plane leaves around noon. Our first flight is from SFO to JFK. It is uneventful although John is angry about being seated on the bulkhead. Luckily Sarah has a new seat much closer to us. (This is in the days before she traveled business class with us. We stowed her away in coach.) After the layover at JFK we are delayed on the ground due to someone checking baggage but not on the plane. The flight is long but smooth. There is a good crab cake dinner. I watch the movie, American President, which is not bad.
April 7, 1996
We arrive in Frankfurt around 9 AM. We get the rental car which John upgrades because Anita has gotten the wrong car. (This is one of many booking problems by Anita) The upgraded car is a BMW500 series. John has visions of driving very fast. He does at least 150km on the Autobahn. We arrive in Stuttgart and are very tired. It is Easter Sunday and families are arriving at the Hotel Movenpick for a fancy dinner. We are crashed in the lobby looking worse for the wear while we try to straighten out the booking problem at the hotel.
Anita has booked us 2 rooms in error. (This in the days when we were trying to save money by all staying in the same room.) We get that straightened out. We are happy with the room. We take a long nap and then have dinner in the hotel. Sarah and I order fettuccini with salmon. John has sauteed sole with French fries. The meal is fine. We are avoiding eating beef due to mad cow disease.
Today we fly to Paris. It is my first time going there. We fly Air France business class. Business class within Europe is much worse than flying transcontinentally. And Air France’s business class is worse than Lufthansa’s. The flight is short and uneventful with a bad breakfast.
We catch a taxi to the hotel in Nanterre which is close to John’s work site. We get to Nanterre in about 210 francs and then spend another 50 because the driver can find the hotel. We are annoyed.
The Hotel Adagio is kind of basic though expensive. It has a terrible shower and only gets Sky News from Great Britain, not CNN. We watch TV and find out all about the sleaze debate in Parliament and cricket.
We take the Metro to Auber to look for tours. The information person does not want to be helpful since we do not speak French but we manage to book 2 tours, one for Paris and one for Versailles.
We walk down the Rue d’Opera to the Louvre and go in the I.M.Pei pyramid. The pyramid looks a little incongruous next to the architecture of the rest of the Louvre. We find out that they have audio tours. You can kind of figure out what the paintings are named by the French tags but if is always nice to have interpretations.
Then we stop for lunch because my feet are killing me! I have salad and a pizza (with pig!) and wine. Lunch is very nice and not too expensive. We walk across the Seine to Ile de Cite and see the Norte Dame Cathedral. I light a candle for my Dad who is in bad health and walk around the interior of the cathedral. The stained glass is from the 13th century and the rose windows are incredible! We go into the Treasury and see altar pieces in gold and reliquaries. It bothers me that with people so poor that the church spends all this money on these gold items and jewels. Certainly the best way to honor God is through charity and good works.
Here are some other pictures from our day.
We return to the hotel and have dinner there. It…Here is where my commentary abruptly stops. I know we have at least one more day in Paris because I take the tours or at least the one around Paris by myself. I end up getting on a train that does not stop in Nanterre on the way back to the hotel and then get on a second one going back that also does not stop in Nanterre. I spend a lot of time on the Metro that day. After that we probably head home. We have a babysitter for the kids and I cannot imagine spending more than a week away. I have found the pictures from this trip and there are no more after Paris.
John has another day of work here in Stuttgart and I need to find something to do. I decide to go to the Wilhelmina Zoo on the eastern outskirts of Stuttgart. I carefully prepare a card in German asking for a day pass for the U-bahn/S-bahn, a tageskarte. I need to cover both lines in case I get messed up transferring. I hand my German printed request to the ticket seller and he says, “Oh, I see you want a day pass” in English. I nod. There is nothing else I can say other than hello, goodbye, please, and thank you.
I make it to the zoo which looks kind of old-fashioned from the entry. I am afraid it will be animals cooped up in small cages.
But it turns out to be modern. I see some very active outdoor penguins, an insectarium with an interesting ant farm, and excellent aquarium with outstanding coral, active tigers, great elephants in different stages of eating trees, and sea lions who are playing king of the hill.
I spend several hours at the zoo. I buy a shot glass. I take the train back to the Flughafen stop and treat myself to a late lunch in the hotel restaurant. I have spring rolls, a salad, and a glass of Chardonnay.
Later John and I go out to dinner at Wolfie’s in Sindelfingen. I order the best “pig” I have had so far. It is grilled with mushrooms and cranberries in a brown sauce. It comes with spaetzle. (This is before I started taking pictures of everything I eat) We have a very nice time.
Finally a night when we sleep like normal people! After breakfast John leaves for Oracle, Munich. Our plan is for me to take the S-bahn out of downtown Munich and meet him at the Moosach stop at 4 PM. Since I do not know how long this will take, I am nervous about making the rendezvous on time.
I stay at the hotel and finish a book I am reading and leave around noon. I walk down Leopoldstrasse and look in the shop windows until the Giselastrasse U-bahn stop. I take the train into Marienplatz. I decide to be brave and have lunch. But not too brave since I only manage to go to McDonald’s where I have a hamburger royal, pomme frites, and a coke. Then I saunter down to the Hauptbahnhof and look in the shops there. I buy a magnet. I sit in the waiting room and finally take the S1 to Moosach, the end of the line.
I am way too early. I walk around Moosach hoping to find a cafe but it is Monday and nothing is open. I people watch for a while. There is an obnoxious drunk. Finally John picks me up just before 4PM.
We drive through the beautiful countryside on our way back to Stuttgart. We had missed much of the scenery on the way to Munich due to the fog. We check back into the Hotel Movenpick and eat dinner at the hotel. After watching CNN for a while we fall asleep.
Last night we fall asleep at 7 PM and wake up at 11:30 PM with only maybe 1/2 hour of sleep after that. It is a rainy day. We have a tour of the city at 10AM. Breakfast is the usual, cold cuts and such. We pass up the head cheese (as usual.)
We catch the U-bahn and take the tour. It is raining quite hard while we watch the glockenspiel at the Rathaus. The tour is interesting from the point of view that although Munich was 90% destroyed in WW2, the guide dates the reconstructed buildings from their original dates as if nothing has happened. “This church was built in the 13th century” when really mostly everything was built in the last 50 years. Their famous landmarks are rebuilt to look like the original old buildings but lots of buildings are ugly post-war 1950-60s architecture. I like Stuttgart better.
John falls asleep on the bus. We catch a cab back to the hotel. The cab driver is nice enough to come running after me with the umbrella I left.
We share a sandwich at the lobby lounge and a beer. I am totally exhausted but afraid if I go to sleep I will end up awake in the middle of the night again.
We call John’s father but there is no answer. Next we call the kids who sound OK. Sarah is angry because I do not want her to go out on Halloween with her friends. I think she is too old and the possibility of being involved in some mischief is too great.
We go to sleep around 10PM. Tomorrow we should be starting to recover from the jetlag.
Morning comes too soon today. I guess we did not get to sleep until well after 2AM and the alarm goes off at 6:45AM. After breakfast we leave for Munich around 10:20. Some of the countryside along the A8 is beautiful—hills and valleys with multi-colored leaves. It is kind of New England-like.We run into some dense fog which slows us down but arrive without getting lost around 12:45PM.
Our room at the new hotel is quite small and very noisy from all the traffic on Leopoldstrasse. We walk to the U-bahn and take it to Marienplatz.
We see the Rathaus with the Glockenspiel clock and the church with the two onion tops (Frauenkirche) and St. Peter’s. We buy a shot glass for Sarah. Munich is not as clean and tidy as Stuttgart. There are many more people.
We go to Weiss Brauhaus for an early dinner and order wurst, kraut, kartoffel, and bier. It is good.
On the way back we decide to try a different stop on the U-bahn and end up walking a long way. Exhaustion hits and we fall asleep around 7 PM.