We find ourselves now in this little sleepy town of Bad Godesberg, situated just south of Bonn, in time for the start of the World Cup.
Our grand farewell to England with our British hosts included both a beer festival and a fair in Chalfont. Funny coincidence at the beer fest -- the Brits found us a souvenir plate from none other than Victoria, British Columbia, Canada! The only thing we could think of doing with it was to get them all to autograph it and now we will bring it home and put it on display as a memento of our trip. It was sad to say goodbye, but as we have managed to do all year it was time to look forward to our next destination, back to the European continent.
We flew to Paris from London via EasyJet, one of the low-cost English airlines...so low-cost that they announced a shortage of anything to eat or drink on the flight, leaving the passengers to use their flight attendant buzzers to battle for the remnants...Bing!....bing! bing!.......bing! bing! bing! bing! bing!
Luckily in Paris, we were able to crash for the night at the sister of
Nigel, Nick, Simon and Chris
Nothing like a beer fest, eh chaps?
one of our British hosts...oh yeah, we're using ALL the connections now. Wonderfully welcoming though they hardly knew us, they gave us a bed and breakfast and then sent us on our way into the city the next morning. We tried to put our bags into storage for the day at the Gare St. Lazare (as we had successfully done in London), but they don't do that sort of thing and so we lugged our stuff around the city for 5 hours or so. With such a limited time, we naturally found ourselves drawn to the Louvre (there must be a large people-magnet in there somewhere) just to admire the architecture and inner courtyard. Nick wanted to really annoy the people by pretending we were Da Vinci Code tourists ("hey, remember in the Da Vinci Code when...?"), but Sarah had none of it. Apparently there are Da Vinci Code tours shuttling busloads of people to all of the European sites in the novel (and movie). No comment.
Anyhow, we took the train back up to Lisieux for a few days back in Normandy with Bruce and Mary Vonne...wonderful to see them again, and despite us only being there for
Chris and Sarah with Autographed Plate
Just like the English to provide us with a souvenir from OUR OWN COUNTRY. Brilliant.
a few days they lent us their car - again - to go see the Mont St. Michel on the northern coast. We thought we had seen amazing things....this was magnificent! Mont St. Michel is an old castle - first mentioned in the 7th century - on a rocky mount, situated just off the French coast. When we say "just off the coast", we're not kidding...when the tide comes in, the mount is literally surrounded by water (except for the road and causeway - in fact, some parking lots are dependent on the tide), and when the tide is out, the castle is connected by a sandspit and is surrounded by quicksand. Though the building is relatively small, you can reach great heights up to the church and wonderful cloister, both of which provide magnificent views. The way in from the east is a great quiet and windy road that allows you to see the Mont approaching for miles, and makes it appear as though the castle is rising up out of the sea. Despite the hordes of tourists clogging the tiny alleyways inside, this is definitely worth a trip....just make sure you go during the week and NOT on
a weekend. We also noticed that there were hotels inside the Mont --- one day it would be wonderful to come back and stay. We can only imagine how magical the place is at dusk or (perhaps) lit up at night.
Saying goodbye once again to Bruce and MV, we took the train back to Paris and an eight hour bus from Paris to Cologne to meet Sarah's friend Cydney, her husband Peter, and Peter's parents all in Bad Godesberg. Everyone we tell immediately says "What? You took the what? There's a BUS?". Typical European reaction...it's more efficient and easy to take the train here, and they don't realise how lucky they are to have such a train infrastructure! If only we had such a thing in Canada... However, in this case the train was twice the price of the bus (if only half the time), and so we decided to save some Euros.
We've been spending the last five days in an apartment here in "the BG", visiting Bonn and Cologne, taking the odd walk down the Rhine, and even yesterday went hiking with the gang to the Ahr valley - the local red wine producing area.
Germany is more well known for its whites than its reds, but they DO have some good red stuff here. You can walk along the Ahr valley for kilometres, hopping from town to town. The trail runs along the sides of the hills and so provides constant viewpoints down into the towns and vineyards...happily, it's not too steep either, so it is very relaxing. We were lucky to have a beautiful sunny day yesterday, as it has lately been rather cool and overcast (basically since we've been here). Looking forward to a shorts and t-shirt day.
Two nights ago we met up with Wiebke, our dear German friend who happened to be visiting from South Africa, and her friend Nina who lives in Cologne for an evening. There is a complete language to drinking Kolsch, the local pilsener beer, in the pubs. For instance, did you know that in order to indicate that you are finished drinking you must put your coaster on top of your glass? Nina and Wiebke were patient teachers in this regard...little did they suspect that Nick was intentionally making mistakes to prolong the lesson.
Today we took the train into Cologne to admire
Nina, Nick, Wiebke and Sarah
A night out with these two spells TROUBLE.
the Kolner Dom (gothic cathedral with double spires that dominates the city) and go for a leisurely walk around. Sarah had been eyeing one city attraction for days, and so we finally went to the "Schokoladenmuseum", yes, the chocolate museum. Every town should have one. Sarah's little piece of heaven in Cologne.
One other thing... the other day, Nick made a shopping run to the local dollar store for some World Cup paraphernalia. We couldn't look out of place now, could we? Sarah and Cydney graciously modelled some of the new styles for "WM '06". They seem to be setting up large screens in each city all over Germany so we're crossing our fingers that we'll get to sit down Friday with some other wacky fans and enjoy a cold Kolsch and a good game.
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