Friday, April 19th, 2002
Last night I slept on the couch in the family room. The three girls slept in the spare bedroom. All three of them shared the double bed at the back of the room. Jamie and Lindsi had their heads at one end and Kacie was in between the both of them with her head at the other end. I woke up again to the noise of construction workers. I went out to check on my car and sure enough it was in their way again. The foreman seemed a little impatient with me after having had the same problem with our car the previous morning. His Spanish was not so friendly this time. I quickly moved my car again and returned to the apartment.
Once back in the apartment, Diana and I started working on changing her flight plans to Portland. She was scheduled to fly out tomorrow. We wanted to change the flight to Monday. She had decided she did not want to miss out on these last two days with us here in Switzerland. All three girls were extremely excited she was making this change. They could not imagine Switzerland without Diana and Madison. We first called the airlines and then the travel agency. The airlines said we could make the change for 200 Swiss francs or roughly 120 dollars. The change, however, required that we go through the travel agency where the ticket was originally purchased. All this sounded very fair. The travel agency, however, gave us a little bit different information. Erica, the lady on the phone, said we could do it for 350 Swiss francs. That would be a little over 200 dollars. When we asked questions about the discrepancy from what the airlines had quoted, Erica was seemingly quite vague. We were disappointed but still willing to make the change. The travel agency was less than two miles from Diana's house. We needed to go there to make the ticket change. Since the distance was short and the weather was nice, we decided to turn our trip into a morning run. We were in somewhat of a hurry. We needed to get back in time to meet Jason at Citibank for lunch at noon.
Diana and I left on our run just shy of ten thirty. We ran on nearby city streets for the first two or three minutes. I then followed Diana down a concrete stairwell that took us down to the edge of the Sihl River. It was a small to medium sized river with a set of train tracks and a paved trail at its side. It was perfect running terrain considering minutes previous we were surrounded by city traffic. We ran at a fairly brisk pace because of our afternoon schedule. Diana asked lots of questions as we ran. She wanted to know about my early days with the family. She wanted to know if dad made my lunch everyday like he did for her. We rediscovered the fact that we were raised in two different households. She says her first memory of me was when I was twenty one and returning from my mission. Diana would have been five years old at the time. I tried to answer her questions as best I could. Since I have breathing problems it is difficult for me to run and talk at the same time. Diana must be in better shape than me as well since she was barely sweating and still talking up a storm.
Moments later we were walking through the doors of the travel agency. We introduced ourselves to Erica. She quickly excused herself and went next door to print the new tickets. We waited for at least fifteen minutes. Finally, she returns from around the corner with the tickets as well as a small surprise. She tells us the ticket change will now cost us even more. There is a new infant tax for Madison that she failed to tell us about previously. The new tax was an additional 80 francs. We are now at the edge of canceling the whole ticket change. The price has more than doubled since our first quote from the airlines. Erica seems more than a little suspicious. We fire questions at her about what the airlines had told us this morning and what she is telling us now. We ask why there was no infant tax a few weeks ago when she purchased the original tickets and not 30 minutes ago when we spoke over the phone. Erica, who is a thick middle aged Swiss woman, with a strong German accent now becomes a little flustered. She starts talking out both sides of her mouth with regard to this new tax. Finally in frustration she says her agency will just eat the tax. We say thank you and let her finish her business. We were appreciative her sudden support but really doubted the validity of the extra charges. Our suspicions were amplified when the new tickets we received listed a 200 Swiss franc “change of ticket” charge just like the airline had quoted. Anyway, we were happy to be out of there and now pressed for time to meet our lunch appointment. We ran back the same way we came only a little faster. It was not a long run but by the time we were done it had my heart pumping.
Once home, we showered quickly and made ready to meet Jason at Citibank. We were all hungry and ready for lunch. One by one we started heading out the door when we realized there was no Jamie. She had surprisingly locked herself in the family room. We were already a little late so it was not a laughing matter. Diana was speaking through the door giving Jamie directions on how to release the lock. Jamie now frustrated was not having any success. Diana started peeking through the keyhole telling Jamie exactly how to maneuver the lock. The efforts by both were intense but the door remained locked. As the female emotions started to escalate, Lindsi ran around back and climbed up through the window. A little calmer and more relaxed, Lindsi was able to open the door. Finally, we were all off to lunch.
Madison was a big hit at lunch. Jason took her back to see some of his female coworkers. Madison did not return for twenty or thirty minutes. We ate lunch in a
nice cafeteria like setting. The most intriguing part of lunch was a long line of people waiting for food behind a head high sign labeled “Tageshit”. The girls all thought that was a little odd. Jason informed us that it meant “Today’s special”.
After lunch, we loaded back up in the minivan and headed off to France for the afternoon. It was about one hour to the border and another hour to some interesting southern French cities. We had no specific agenda. We decided we would just drive until we found something that looked exciting. As we drove we all enjoyed telling stories and talking to each other. Kacie posed the most interesting question of the day. She wanted to know how much money I earned in a day. I think this was on her mind because she was realizing that traveling was expensive. In an evasive manner, I tossed the question back her way. Kacie with an inquisitive look says she thinks about eight dollars a day. Both Diana and I humorously appreciated the perspective of a nine year old. As we traveled the weather also took a turn for the worse. It was now raining quite ferociously. By now we had also decided to visit the city of Colmar. Diana had been here once before with Jason and his mother Bobette. We were about forty five minutes away. The rain was going to make it interesting.
We arrived in Colmar mid afternoon. The rain had ceased and the sun was breaking through the clouds just as we entered the main city streets. The city looked very intriguing and full of personality. All the streets and buildings were characteristic of the 14th and 15th centuries. There were lots of narrow alleys, cobblestone streets, and very antique looking buildings. We drove around for a few minutes and finally found a place to park on “Rue Roesselman”. All the streets here are called Rue this and Rue that. Rue must mean street. We couldn’t figure out the French parking meter system so we were probably illegally parked. Nevertheless, we were off to enjoy the city. Our first stop was at the information office downtown to turn some dollars into euros. At this point all of our currency exchange had been in Swiss francs. France like most other European countries converted to the euro a few years back. The euro is equally to a little less than a dollar at this time. The information office also gave us a local map with a suggested walk through the city. It highlighted many interesting points of interest. The walk was called “Discovery Trail”. It lasted about an hour and ended in a part of the city called “Little Venice”. We had been in the car for the last two hours and the walk sounded relaxing and entertaining.
It was fun walking the crowded streets of small and quaint city. It was Friday and so people were getting ready for the weekend. We asked a few questions here and there. It quickly became obvious that English was much less a common language here than it is in Switzerland. We were not able to communicate with many people. Eventually, we reached the “Little Venice”of Colmar. This part of the city is built around an old canal. I have never been to Venice but apparently it must be built around a larger river. We went on a guided tour in a canoe on this little canal. Our tour guide was a French woman who spoke very little English. It was just the six of us in the canoe with her oaring at the back and giving us commentary in broken English. She had organized us carefully in the canoe with Diana and me sitting together at the back near here. I believe she thought we were married. I think Diana must have felt like I would have felt if I was with mom and they thought we were married. How humiliating! Anyway, we were able to decipher very little of what she said. She went on and on about a vegetable man who traveled the canal many years ago. Diana and I soon figured that vegetable man must be two of the few words she knew. Fortunately, we were able to determine that one of the houses we passed was the birthplace of the designer of the statue of liberty.
As soon as we finished our little French tour the rain began to return. We were without umbrellas and were forced to find rescue. It was now close to dinner time. We were hoping to find somewhere to eat while the rain had its way. All we could find was restaurants full of escargot, caviar, kidneys, and ox tail. None of this sounded appetizing. The rain was now in full force and so we just stood huddled together under some eves. It was at this point that Madison showed her true colors. It was pouring rain a quite chilly and yet the smile never left her face. She was absolutely amazing. I had her tucked inside my coat and she was just fine. We must have stood there for fifteen or twenty minutes before the rain finally let up. As the rain stopped, we saw one of the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen. Actually, it has been quite some time since I have seen a rainbow. You rarely see them in the Northwest. However, I remember seeing them often as a young boy growing up in sunny California.
Moments later Diana and Jamie had found Le Creperie. It was a little quaint restaurant on the Grand Rue. It was suspiciously empty at the time. Crepes sounded better than escargot so we were here to stay. It appeared as if one man were running the show. He spoke little to no English. It was interesting trying to order our food with only him and a French menu. The menu listed a variety of crepes. The difficult part was trying to distinguish their contents. French has some similarities to Spanish and Diana and I were able to decipher most of the items. We eventually ordered three crepes and two pizzas. The food came quickly and it was excellent. We had potato and cheese crepes along with chicken and cheese crepes. The crepes were dark brown as opposed to the lighter color we had in Lusanne two days previous. I think most of us agreed that these were the better of the two crepes. The absolute favorite was a desert crepe with caramel topping that we all shared. As we were enjoying our last bites we noticed that the restaurant had really begun to fill with people. As we were leaving at seven o’clock the place was full. The restaurant was small but still there must have been 30-40 people in there and it was obvious this one man must have had some serious help hidden out back. We decided this place was a definite for the recommend list when mom and dad visit here next month.
After dinner we walked back through the city and eventually to our car. It was still there on Rue Roesselman. There was no ticket on the windshield so perhaps we hadn’t broken any French parking laws. It was now getting close to eight in the evening and time for us to return back to Switzerland. Getting out of the city was more difficult than we had anticipated. Lindsi and Kacie had to go to the bathroom desperately. Gas stations were few and far between and the ones we found were either closed or without restrooms. Kacie was growing impatient and warning of impending disaster when finally we spotted the golden arches. The McDonalds in Colmar was a very welcome site this evening. It was not the Fish Fillet or the Big Mac this time but it was their always clean and always present restroom facilities.
The ride home was around two hours. The ride went quickly as we all told stories again. The girls loved hearing Diana tell about her high school days. She told them her two most embarrassing moments. The first was when she found herself socializing with friends when one of her teammates in the 400 meter relay went to hand her the baton. Diana was no where to be found and her team had to forfeit the race. The other moment occurred in class and is more personal in nature so I will let Diana relate that one in person. After our stories, we listened to Kacie sing the rest of the way at the top of her lungs. She had her head phones on and was bursting with “I can be your hero, baby”. Diana and I enjoyed the music and also found humor in Kacie’s energy. As we neared home, Diana accidentally takes us back through the wrong end of Zurich. Soon she lets out a small shriek as she realizes we are going through the red light district. Kacie soon asks what we mean by red light district. After thinking for a short moment, I think I prefer the earlier question about how much I earn in a day. Life in Europe has been educational for all of us.