Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Quick Trip

Seems like I remember a convenience store of my childhood being named Quick Trip. In Oklahoma, I think, but then I've lived in so many places it's hard to say where it was. So, we just made a quick trip ourselves, but I don't think it could be considered convenient. It started out really inconveniently, actually. With all the preparations for leaving the kids behind, as well as those for our trip, we didn't get out of the house till way after I had wanted. Luckily, though, I had planned some leeway (how do you spell that???) so we wouldn't miss our flight - or had I? Turns out, I seemed to have misread (or misremembered) the boarding-before-departure time. I remembered 30 minutes, while it was reallly 40. So, we missed that boat - well, plane, actually.

After a few tears (I'll let you guess whether they came from me, the hormone-laden pregnant lady, or my manly-man husband) and a review of our options, we pretty much decided it wasn't worth it to pay more than our original ticket price for the option of waiting till the next day or driving several hours across the border into Spain for the closest next flight that same day. So, we headed off on a road trip. It's about an 8-9 hour drive from where we live to where the car was, so we started off right then. No point in going home and staying the night here to start out the next morning. Besides, I had already packed dinner for us, so we were pretty much set. We drove till almost midnight the first night, which left us about 2 1/2 hours from the new car in a town called Besançon. Found ourselves a nice, clean bed to sleep in and slept soundly for about 6 hours. Then, off we went to meet our new car.

We arrived at the dealership between 10 and 10:30. By 12:30 the car was ours, and we were sitting in a little restaurant, waiting to order lunch. It couldn't have worked out better. Even missing our flight turned out to be quite a happy coincidence, because as I read on a website the night before leaving, the administrative offices in the city where we bought our car close at noon. Had we caught our flight and followed our original plan, we would have arrived in town to get the car much later in the day and had to wait till the next to do the paperwork (see how handy it is to always be so disorganized? - buy hey, that's the first time I've ever missed a flight).

We were very concerned it would be complicated and possibly take a couple days to accomplish what was done in a few hours time. But with the wonderful help of the salesman, who spoke fluent French and accompanied us to the government offices, by 3 pm, we had signed every paper needed, eaten lunch and were heading on over to the Walmart (who knew?) across the street from the dealership. I just had to go see what a German Walmart would look like, and this is actually the only photo we thought to take in all of our time in Germany. Bad blogger, indeed.

So, after reprovisioning for the drive, and making a little detour to drop the old car off close to the border, we headed on up to Frankfurt to visit a yarn shop and some wine shops (hopefully to make some good contacts for my husband). We ate at a yummy little Thai restaurant (eating out in Germany is far more reasonable than doing so in France by the way). Picked up some very nice yarn for cheap from a shop called Wolle Rödel. They stock their own little brand at very reasonable prices (you can count on pictures of that later). And, although, it was hard to find a wine shop that seemed to suit our needs, we did find one with 8 locations throughout the city that seemed to be interested in our wines. Then, we headed back across the border into France to visit the parents of my husband's brother-in-law. The father and a mechanic friend were kind enough to head over the border with their expertise and fluent German to check out the car the day before we left to see it. If we were able to confidently buy the car so quickly, it was definitely thanks to them. So, a short visit was definitely necessary. Then, we headed back to pick up the other car and make our way home (dropping off the second car partway for my brother-in-law to drive farther down south later).

All in all, it was a good trip but with way too much driving. I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone in "my condition". Unsoothable leg cramps start to set in after several hours of sitting in the car, and that's just no fun. I did notice some interesting things about Germany while we were there, though. Here's a little list of those I remember at the moment:

1. Frankfurt is an extremely modern city with very few of the ancient buildings you tend to associate with Europe. It occurred to me on the drive home that they were all bombarded during the war and everything must have been started from scratch. Sad.

2. People do drive really fast on the Autobahn. Luckily, they tend to be reasonably courteous as well and change lanes in a pretty safe manner, anyway.

3. Those people driving well over 100 (120 or more?) mph were all driving Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Volvo and the occasional Porsche. I'm assuming these people have way too much confidence in the safety features of their cars.

4. Black is an extremely popular car color there. And, you don't see very many non-new vehicles on the road (they must sell them all to foreigners!).

5. Not only are restaurants cheaper there than in France, but the food quality is better (unless you're willing to pay ridiculous sums here in France) and the portions are huge. By the way, if you ever see Fleischekässe (or something like that) on the menu, just be aware that you're ordering a hotdog, only it's in patty form (the word actually means "meat cheese". A bit like Spam in appearance but tastes exactly like a hotdog. I'd have prefered the schnitzel (breaded veal), but thought I'd try something new.

6. I didn't notice a single motorcycle on the road in Germany. My husband assures me there were a few, which makes me assume that they don't drive like maniacs as they do in France, so they don't stand out so much (I'm all for that - just after crossing back into France, I was driving the Land Rover, while my husband was in the Peugeot. I was in the left lane next to the concrete wall, and a lunatic passed me at probably close to 100 mph on a motorcycle. He went between me and the wall, and with the noise and wind he created, I thought I was going to give birth right there in the car.).

7. My mother likes to joke that I'm making the rounds of Europe in husbands. Well, there are so many similarities between life and culture in Germany and the US, that I could totally live there. Does this mean I should start looking around for a new man??

We had fun hanging out together in the car, but I was definitely happy to get home to see the sweet faces of our little ones (who have given the new car their seal of approval), even if Lambchop #2 has been extremely whiney since our arrival (punishment? or is it the fact that he has been hanging out with his cousin, who throws frequent fits, a lot these past few days?).

Here are a couple of additional photos of the car and some info for those who are interested (mainly my dad and brother, most likely):

It's a 1996 Land Rover Discovery with a manual transmission, diesel engine, 5 seats (very roomy) and an additional "jump seat" in the back that should hold someone weighing up to about 35 kilos, I think (a kid, basically). It's a base model with no extras, and it has a few flaws, but all are liveable and it runs well, which is our main concern. In case you can't tell from the pictures, it's a bordeaux color with beige interior (which I promptly covered with fabric that I can through in the machine - because I know my kids). We're pretty satisfied with it. I'm actually much more excited than my husband, but then, I'm the one who's been driving the crappier cars the most the past few years (not to say that his work car he had was wonderful, but then I was raised in a family of new-car-buyers and he wasn't).