Thursday, July 1, 2010

Stubbornness prevails.

Such a nice night last night! Nice, quiet, cool and so relaxing. We headed out into the one of the Tod-towns on the mountain/hill our pension was on for dinner at a swanky restaurant/hotel (there was trout on the menu and a fish-tank of trout out front: neither of us were brave enough to order fish then do a head-count as we walked back to the car). I slept through almost 10 hours, but Dad was woken by local traffic – and by that, I mean the cow-bells and heard of horses whinnying in the paddock across the street from the pension. I got to sit out on the porch watching them for a few minutes this morning and found it really relaxing. After a HUGE country breakfast, we headed out of town for bigger and more exciting places.

First of all, we re-trod some roads looking for views we didn’t get the first time because of crappy weather. Worth it, but I was surprised at the quality of road that I drove in the first few days here – it was a real trial by fire kind of situation. After the alpenstrass, we headed for Strasbourg in France. What a hodge-podge of experiences.

Getting in to town was a little scary. Turns out, Quebec drivers learnt how to drive from the drivers of the mother-land. The road authorities don’t bother maintaining markings on the streets, but that’s okay, since none of the drivers use them or pay any attention to lane markers anyway. In the industrial-suburbs we were stopped at a light when three young women started wandering through the stopped traffic plying a squeegee-trade. We shook our heads no at on of the women, but she still splashed a bit of water on our windshield before I could turn on the wipers to make a real statement, then stood at my window demanding cash. I was appalled since one of the young women was REALLY pregnant and it was at least 30 degrees out – it was a waste of time since we were stuck at that light for 2 or 3 minutes and they made no cash.

Anyway, back to trying to drive through the down-town, trying not to be squished on the guard rails, while trying to spot signs for the city centre – again, the city authorities need to prune some trees since most of the signs were hidden in leaves. We finally found a parking garage a few blocks from the pedestrian zone so parked and hoofed it the rest of the way. A really hot day, but the walk was worth it across the river and through the little winding streets stuffed with tourist shops and restaurants. I was walking along, came to one corner, then – BAMB – there was the cathedral. Less impressive than the one in Koln, but still a site to see, especially when you weren’t expecting it. (In fact, Dad had held back and let me take that corner without saying anything just to see my reaction and he had a good little giggle over it.)

We wandered around the cathedral and into some of the side streets, then, around 11.45, Dad decided he wanted to climb to the balcony level of the church, like he did 30 years ago, to hear the bells at noon. I told him to go for it. Instead of going with him, I walked into the church (a nice change, given the temperature). To get in, you had to buy a ticket from a kiosk that wasn’t marked, with an opening a foot square that led to a guy in a little office. Here’s how the convo went (in French, of course):

Me: If I just wanted to walk around the church, is there a charge for that?
French Dude: It’s free until 11.30.
Me: Oh, okay. So I can just go in through the side door?
FD: Well, it’s passed 11.30.
Me: Oh, right. Okay, so how much then?
FD: 2 Euros.
Me: Okay. Do you have a student price?
FD: Yes.
Me: And how much is that?
FD: 1.50 Euros.
Me: Well, here’s my student card.
FD: Oh, I don’t need that. Here’s your student ticket.
Me: Right….. [as I walked away].

(All very odd, considering a Parisian lady in Luzern commended my French and was surprised when I told her English was my first language.)

Anyway, it turns out they charge because there is something of a show at 12.30 in the cathedral. Strasbourg has a glockenspiel-like astrological clock, which does its thing at 12.30. We were forced to watch an information film about it (25min long, and in French, German and English – and the info varied between the Fr and Eng narration, so I wonder what the hell the Ger was all about). All very impressive – it involved angels clinging bells and turning an hour glass, an old man strolling past death (who then clanged bells), Jesus blessing the apostles, and a mechanical rooster crowing. All told, it lasted less than 3 minutes, but it was quite the sight. Video to follow on Facebook.

After I picked up some tourist nick-knacks, Dad and I had lunch, then got back into the car to head to Baden Baden. One of our tour books mentions a hotel that sounded nice, so we used the GPS to get us there. Turns out the BB is a spa-town (not just a gambling mecca) and the hotel in the book was for a swank spa-hotel. No thanks, we wanted something closer to the zentrum. So, though we got a little lost, we finally found a place near the pedestrian walking zone in town. Getting out of the car, Dad and I agreed on a price and decided that if it was more we would find another pension out of the city, much like the one we stayed at last night. We did this because everything in BB looks really expensive. When the desk clerk told us that the rooms were just a little more than half what we were willing to pay, we jumped at it. We’ve got place to park the car, nice rooms, and are close to the things we want to see. (Though Dad is a little put out since his room is on the 4th floor and there is no AC and, in the valley here, the temperature is pretty high.)

We’ll be doing the tourist thing tomorrow before it gets to hot, then the casino thing in the morning. Then – home! I think we’re both looking forward to getting back to Canada! (Oh, and Happy Canada Day!)

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