Swapping Homes Anybody?


Friday, July 29, 2011

Take the "in" out of Intrepid, please

Did I mention we have a second home swap planned in France near Paris? After 2 days on the road with pit stops to see two famous cathedrals, I’m beat. First we visited the big Dom in Aix La Chapelle (Aachen)  where Charlemagne was crowned in 800 A.D. and then the huge Gothic cathedrals at Reims. built a thousand years ago and where all French kings were crowned. This included a little detour from the direct route to our destination, but both were worth it. The weather Gods seem to be thinking it’s autumn already. Mostly cloudy with rain showers and 17 degrees Centigrade max. Both times we got out of the car to do our sightseeing, the sky cleared up temporarily so that we could walk to the cathedrals on dry foot and even have a bite to eat sitting outside, wrapped in a blanket, however. Restaurants in Germany provide those when the weather just wouldn't comply. We drove through the beautiful countryside of the Ardennes in Belgium, very hilly and deeply forested.Lots of battles took place here in both World Wars, Even the 120km from Reims to Paris showed us lovely, green French countryside, surprisingly devoid of populated areas.
The car’s navigation system took us right into evening rush hour Paris, a place you do not want to experience. Everything was choc-a-block and Miss Navi constantly rerouted us, sent us on U turns to avoid the “traffic problem”, as she called it only realizing when it was too late that there were more of the same in the other direction. We had an unscheduled free two-hour-long sightseeing tour of Paris, the Internal Peripherique as well as the External. Trying to get over a bridge to cross the Seine was the target to take us out of this bedlam. There may have been traffic rules in the olden days. Now everybody seems to fend for himself, the survival of the fittest. Motor bikers weaseling their way between cars in a dangerous fashion domineering the roads.Well, if some don't make it, it only proves Darwin is right; let's not forget that kidney donors are badly needed and derive form this pool of humanity. I drove while hubby tried to reconcile Miss Navi and his own GPS (mentioned before!) as well as juggling a map.
People cut in in front of me from all sides; I wasn’t the typical alpha male Parisian forging through and our foreign number plate didn’t earn us any sympathy. I had done trips from Ireland to Germany that took me through the French capital before. I wonder how I ever navigated the Paris road system on my own, without a GPS or navigation system or a hubby in the passenger seat. 
We made it to the house just before dark, found the keys and were able to disarm the alarm. We also brought in all our six Big Berthas without the skies opening again on us. We were at the “Final Destination. But sometimes it's happier to travel than to arrive…
In the meantime a little storm had been brewing back home. The change over from one family to another in one day required some careful planning on my part, i.e. to have the taxi in place at the appointed time for pick up and drop off. And the more important thing for me was to guarantee a clean house for the newcomers. For that purpose I had hired a cleaner to tidy up after the Germans and change the sheets and wash the towels. It's no fun to arrive to an unmade or dirty house after a transatlantic flight and travel time of almost 24 hours.
The cleaner sent me an email “You won’t like this, but…the Germans locked the door from the kitchen to the garage which has a deadbolt.” The cleaners couldn’t get past the garage for which they had the lock number. So the house remained uncleaned, the next, the French family couldn’t get in the way they had expected. They had to find the hidden key in the dark in the slashing rain only to face unmade beds at midnight. Why the Germans locked the door thru which they had entered themselves initially and why the cleaner didn’t call me, remains a mystery. I would have told them how to get in.
Why the French, however, weren’t fussed over the state of the house and its cleanliness is pretty clear to me now. People have different standards and concepts of what is clean.

But more tomorrow.

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