Aug 22, 2008

my big adventure - part deux

While we were driving on a little road in the middle of the woods somewhere in France, John woke up from his nap in the back seat and asked "where are we?" "I have no idea!" I said, laughing. Then my mom and I recalled the trip from Paris to this little road in the middle of the woods. As we listed off our adventures, we laughed so hard that I considered pulling over because I couldn't see through the tears in my eyes. After we landed in Paris, we got our luggage and then headed for the car rental desk. After a while we found it only to find that it was closed. A sign on the desk said that they were open at a different location. After we'd dragged our luggage for what seemed like three kilometers, we decided that since we didn't really know where we were going, mom ought to go find the rental desk while John and I sat by the baggage. While we waited, John was fascinated by the soldiers that patrolled the airport with machine guns. Once we found the car and loaded the baggage, we tried to get out of the parking lot, but couldn't find our way out to the right highway. Mom pulled over to ask a man how to get to the highway we needed. We didn't know French, he didn't know English. He just pointed his index finger towards the sky made a couple circles in the air and then pointed towards "A4." His directions were great. We found A4 right away. Relieved, my mom told us about the time that they she and dad and some friends tried to get out of Paris. They'd decided to take the short cut to the highway and got lost. But she came prepared this time and had the highways highlighted on the map. I looked at the map, then looked out the window. It soon became apparent that we were headed toward the city instead of away from it. Mom got off at the next exit and that led to a round-about whose signs we could not read. Our map was of France, not Paris, so it was of no use to us. We headed south, then east, then north and soon saw signs for the airport that we'd left about an hour ago. This time we got on A4 headed in the right direction. We pulled off the highway to make a potty stop. I opened the stall door and suddenly there was a loud flushing noise while water splashed onto my toes. In front of me was a hole in the floor with two foot rests on either side of it, water pouring down the back of the wall. When I found out that John missed this bit of French culture because he'd used the international urinal, I made him go into the women's restroom so that he could witness what I'd just endured. In the car I told him about my first taste of culture shock when we moved to Amsterdam: the shelf toilet. Needless to say, he vowed to not go "#2" on the trip. "Oh Johnny! You will need to, and when you do I'm going to find a shelf toilet for you." We almost made it into Germany without incident. However, not knowing French, we missed the signs that said the exit we wanted to take was closed. When we exited the highway, we didn't realize it was the wrong exit though. We ended up in a town with a German sounding name. Naturally we thought that we were in Germany. Until we recognized that we didn't recognize any of the town names. So we pulled into a parking lot to study the inadequate map. It was then that we noticed that all the cars had French license plates and that the signs in the stores were all in French. Soon we got back to to the main road and found a blue highway sign for Allemagne. Fortunately I remembered that Allemagne meant Germany. However, when we got on the highway and approached the Allemagne exit, it was closed so we found ourselves driving past it and headed for Basel, Switzerland. Not wanting to visit Switzerland yet, we got off at the next exit and turned around for a third try at this elusive Allemagne exit. This time, when we got towards the exit, I noticed a big yellow sign that said "Allemagne Deviation." I recalled a little yellow sign marked 'Allemagne' that we had passed pointing to a small little road in the opposite direction of the blue sign that we had followed. It was then that we realized it wasn't just an alternative route, it was the detour. French lesson number one: 'deviation' apparently means 'detour." So, after that we followed the yellow signs. And that is how we found ourselves on the little road in the middle of the woods somewhere in France headed towards (we hoped) Allemagne, laughing until our sides hurt. And we didn't stop laughing. Once we crossed over into Germany, we recognized all of the names of all of the towns pointing in all of the directions. "Mom, where's a German map?" I asked. "We don't need one," she said, "this is our neighborhood." That's like saying 'all of southeast Minnesota is my neighborhood.' It didn't console me. Not only that, but she had said that same thing when we were in the German-sounding French town thinking we were in Germany. Relying on eighteen year old memories, I chose the wrong familiar town to go towards. We only realized it when the road eventually became a narrow farmer's road headed straight up a hill. This was not at all familiar. The cows grazing in the pasture looked up at us as we made a three point turn to head back. Earlier, when we were in France mom had pointed out some cows to John and told him that those were French cows. "How do you know that?" John and I asked in unison. "Because they are laying down," she explained, "have you ever seen any other cows laying down. Only French cows lay down. That's why their cheese is so dainty." Now as we turned around, I commented "look at those hardworking hearty German cows; they're standing up." Oh yes, we were slap happy, running on little sleep, a lot of caffeine-fueled adrenaline and a questionable sense of humor. This time we found a road that led to Kandern, just not the most direct way. In fact, we may have come in from the east. We finally arrived at Bethany's at 8:00 pm local time. We'd been travelling for twenty-two hours. As we climbed out of the car I said, "John, you wanted to see the French and German countryside and you saw just about everything there is to see on this trip: a big city, little villages, French cows, German cows, Roman ruins, the woods, the hills and even a French public toilet." "I have to go number #2," he said. "Guess what John," mom practically yelled, "Bethany has a shelf toilet!"

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