Thursday, September 6, 2007

22 June: Off on Our Grand Tour of Britain

Aack! Where did the week go? I drove Mom to Frankfurt on Monday morning; it was a rather rushed goodbye since we had just gotten back from Rome the night before. Other than a Wednesday afternoon German lesson with Stefanie, I spent the last four days running around the house like a banshee trying to get everything in order for our two-week jaunt through t Britian. All I can say is, we’re lucky to be traveling in our E-Class, which has the largest trunk I’ve ever seen (I swear you could fit several full-sized adults in there), because when I pack in a hurry I tend to over-pack. Nevertheless, I still had a huge list of things to do when our departure date finally arrived.

I drove John to work this morning because his office is going on an outing today to visit the Technik Museum in Speyer. He found out about this trip a few weeks ago, which put a wrench in our departure plans since he was originally going to come home early so we could drive to Metz this evening, giving us a jump-start on the long trek to England. We agreed that it was important for him to go on the office field trip because it’s supposed to be one of those “morale-boosting” outings, so we decided that I would drive to Speyer (about 90 minutes north of Stuttgart) and pick him up in the later afternoon, then we would continue on our way to Metz. All he would miss would be the final group dinner at the end of the day. Of course this meant that John had to be completely packed last night and it was up to me to get everything loaded in the car and get myself out of the house on time to pick him up. Knowing my track record on leaving for anything on time, all I can do is chuckle.

After taking John to work I came home, walked the dog, vacuumed, did my Kehr Woche sweeping duties, drove Cody out to the Tierhotel, drove home, got on the computer to write a few emails and send our itinerary to our parents, then took Scotty to the Katzenpension. I got there at about 12:15 (only fifteen minutes late!), just as another couple was arriving. I think they were just there to check out the place because they didn’t have a cat with them and didn’t pick one up. Frau Stäbler invited me in and we went upstairs, where I filled out a registration form (I only had to look up a couple of words – including the one for “gender”!), while a very friendly black-and-white kitty hopped up on the table and kept walking all over my paperwork and butting himself up against my arm, begging to be petted. Then Frau Stäbler ushered me into one of the smaller rooms and left me there for a couple of minutes while she showed the other people out. She came back and seemed surprised that I hadn’t let Scotty out of his carrier yet. I let him out while she extricated a cat from one of the holes in the cat tree and put him in the other room. Scotty had been growling in his carrier and continued to do so as he wandered around checking out his new territory. He jumped into one of the holes in the cat tree and sat in there and growled some more. We left him and I just had to hope for the best. Frau Stäbler gave him some of the food I had brought, assured me that Scotty would be fine, and showed me out the door.

I got back to the house at 1:00 and still had a long list of stuff to do…empty the dishwasher, empty the fridge, update our finances, write a thank you note to Micato (they recently sent me a gorgeous book about Africa in gratitude for my Elephant Express blog), pack the cooler, take the trash out, fold the laundry hanging in the basement, and of course finish packing my own suitcase! John called at 2:15 to say they had arrived at the Technik Museum. I told him that I thought I would be ready to leave in twenty minutes, but I didn’t actually start up the car until nearly an hour later.

If you had told me two years ago that I would willingly hop in a car and drive alone to a strange city in a foreign country to pick up my husband at a museum that I had never been to before, I probably would have laughed in your face. But frankly, armed with our trusty navi Susie, a printout of the directions from the museum website, and my cell phone, I felt pretty confident. Unfortunately I ran into bad traffic from the start, even though I avoided the construction on the A8 by taking the A81-to-A6 route via Heilbronn. I drove in heavy traffic all the way to Speyer, so I kept in touch with John to keep him updated on my progress. It was raining off and on the whole way, and just as I arrived at the museum it started to sprinkle. I found John (who was very happy to see me before he got soaked) at the museum entrance without any trouble. On the way out of town we drove right past the famous Speyer Dom, so at least I can say I’ve seen it from the outside.

We headed on towards Metz, making one brief detour to find a Shell station before leaving Germany (so we could charge 80 Euro of gas to Mercedes and head into France with a full tank). It took us about two hours to get to our hotel in Metz. There were some serious rain squalls en route and incredibly dramatic clouds. We accidentally followed Susie’s instructions instead of paying attention to my directions from the hotel website, so we took the “scenic” route right through the middle of Metz. Let’s just say Susie will usually get you where you want to go, but she isn’t the brightest bulb in the pack when it comes to deciding which is better: busy surface streets at rush hour or the autoroute that circles ‘round the city.

We checked in at the Hotel Ibis Metz Nord with a nice lady who made my day by complimenting me on my French. Our room was very spartan and a bit lacking in the towel department, but for 51 Euro, you can hardly expect luxury and it was exactly what we needed for a quick overnight. We had dinner in the nearly empty hotel restaurant. I had a perfectly decent entrecôte et frites (steak and fries) and a glass of Bordeaux and John had a Salade Nicoise and a glass of Chardonnay. We turned in early, planning to get off to an early start for Calais and the EuroTunnel.

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