France

Ten things we learned this time in France…

Even though we’ve now been to France so many times that I’ve lost count, we really learned a lot during our Christmas trip to Beaune and Nimes, France. This trip did not include stops at museums or sumptuous meals in restaurants. Instead, it was a road trip, complete with true crime. So instead of seeing a tourist’s eye view of France yet again, we got more of a local view. Here’s a list of ten things we learned in France this time!

10. In France, straws are made of paper. Because we were on the road so much, we had occasion to stop at many fast food places. Although I’m sure I read about France banning plastic straws, I was still surprised to drink Pepsi through a paper straw! I say good on them for tackling pollution. They’ve also done away with plastic cups and plates and plastic bags!

It’s true, the straw does kind of disintegrate a little… but at least it will decompose in a timely manner.

9. If you need a new tire in France, you’ll probably have to buy two. This is the same rule in Germany, too, according to our landlord. When our car’s tire got popped by criminals at a rest stop, we went on a search for tires for our Volvo. They proved very hard to find, although it was probably because the shops didn’t have the specific brand we required– Pirelli. If we’d told them we would accept a different brand and wouldn’t mind paying for two, we might have gotten home sooner.

Because of this hole, we had to buy Bridgestone tires for our rear axle.

8. Tire scammers are on the loose! I don’t need to go into the story about what happened to us, since I’ve covered it extensively. However, I will admit that before a few days ago, I didn’t know about organized criminals who pop people’s tires in an attempt to rob them. Be careful out there! By the way, this happens in countries around the world. Based on my research, it looks like India has a big problem with this, as do Spain and Italy.

7. France is magical at Christmas time! Bill and I had such a nice time visiting our friends, Audra and Cyril. I’m not sure if their Christmas celebration is typical, but I really enjoyed hanging out with their family, eating delicious food, and being exposed to humans again instead of the Internet!

6. Raw oysters are a popular Christmas treat in France. I had no idea that the French enjoy oysters so much, especially at Christmas time. We saw piles of them for sale at a Christmas market in Beaune and Audra and Cyril had them for their family gathering. Served with bread and fresh lemons, they make for a delightful treat for those who like them. Coming from the Tidewater region of Virginia, I was fine with enjoying the oysters both raw and cooked. Bill surprised himself by liking them, too!

This cat was enjoying the parked cars.

5. Parking in Nimes is scary! Nimes is full of tight, narrow streets and people who can parallel park. It pays to drive a small, old car there, because parking is at a premium. The above picture is not really a representative of the wall to wall vehicles we saw there. I just liked the street cat.

4. Tile is chilly! In both of the gites I had booked before the tire fiasco, the floors were tile. That makes for easy cleaning, but it also makes the house a bit chilly. I was really glad I brought thick wool socks with me and there were plenty of blankets. Even though the weather was pretty mild, it was cold inside! We didn’t have that problem at La Maison de Maurice, which despite having tile floors, was well insulated and heated. If you’re planning to rent a house in France during the winter, you may want to bring warm clothes to ward off the chill.

Well, I won’t need any KFC for awhile… which is a boon for my expanding behind.

3. KFC in France is not like KFC in America… Okay, so this one is a little lame, as it’s not the same in Germany as it is in America, either, and even American KFC kind of pales compared to what it was thirty or forty years ago. Besides, why eat fast food? I’m just including it because we stopped at a rest area yesterday that happened to have a KFC. Since we were tired of mediocre burgers, we opted to try France’s version of “The Colonel”. And well… I was left pretty underwhelmed by it. Here, you don’t get biscuits or mashed potatoes; you get fries. And the chicken was kind of bland, too… no choice between original or extra crispy. Yeah, I know. We should have gone into town and found a decent restaurant with real food.

2. If you don’t speak French and need to report a crime, Google Translate has you covered. Bill gave his statement in a phone with Google Translate to two sympathetic French ladies who worked for the Gendarmerie. He was amazed by how easy it was. But then, when you’re in Europe, where there are many people speaking many different languages, Google Translate is a total God send! I don’t know how I ever did without it.

And finally, number 1 (because when I try to write a 1, the blog turns it into a list). Germany is feeling more and more like home. It’s not home, of course. I am American and will always be American, and I do have plans to return there at some point. But it was sure nice to cross back into Deutschland yesterday after our French adventure. I don’t regret a single minute of our trip, though, even the criminal part. We learned a lot, made new memories, and I got some great stories and experiences to pass along. I also feel warmth, affection, and kinship for France, because even though we had the unfortunate experience of having our tire popped by crooks, we were shown a lot of hospitality and kindness during this trip. They showed all of us– including Arran– love, and Bill and I love them right back! Vive la France! I already miss the croissants!

BTW, I think the featured photo of Bill is now one of my favorites of him…

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Christmas, France

Our first French Christmas, part nine…

Yesterday morning, Bill got a phone call from ADAC. The person who called him wasn’t a very good English speaker and made it seem like we might have to wait another day for tires. The owners of our gite told us they had a booking for Tuesday night and I knew that if tires had to be ordered, we would possibly be stuck in Beaune for a couple more days. Then, just after ADAC called, the owners of the gite told us that they’d gotten a last minute booking and needed us to check out. In retrospect, I probably should have just booked the two nights myself through Booking.com, but I hadn’t expected them to give us a free night. I thought we’d just book directly.

Since we didn’t know if we’d be able to get our tires in time, I hastily decided to book a night at La Maison de Maurice, another dog friendly property in downtown Beaune. It was a non-refundable booking, so we were committed. Then ADAC called and said they had tires for us. Bill took the car to a tiny French garage and we were set to go by 11:30am. Figures.

We could have just eaten the cost of the hotel room and gone home yesterday, but Bill and I were a bit exasperated and in no mood to travel. Another night in Beaune would give me the chance to see and review another lodging, and we could just relax and unwind.

La Maison de Maurice turned out to be a really nice place. It’s an “apart-hotel”. I think they have a couple of apartments and a suite/loft. They also sell wine and offer tastings. For 120 euros a night, it wasn’t quite as economical as the other gite, which was pretty much a whole house with a couple of bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. But it was in a great location and the owners were very friendly. The female half of the brother and sister team greeted us and spoke very limited English, but managed to get us set up.

We stayed in a loft, which was very comfortable and kind of cool, except for the very tight spiral staircase. I wondered how in the world they got furniture in that room! It was really tight and steep. Anyway, here are a few photos from yesterday… which proved to me that we missed a lot of Beaune. There’s a whole ‘nother section to the town that we didn’t get to during our tire fiasco or the weekend prior.

As you can see, La Maison de Maurice is right in the thick of town, while Au Miracle du Pain Dore is more on the outskirts. Both are good places to stay for different reasons. La Maison de Maurice is perfect if you want to stay right in town and be near shopping and restaurants. Au Miracle du Pain Dore is great if you need more room and don’t mind walking a few hundred meters to town.

Bill went around the corner to a burger place called Gaspard. It gets dreadful reviews on TripAdvisor, but we were actually very pleased with the burgers. They were served hot and promptly, were fresh and juicy, and tasted good. I’d go back for sure. I’m going to have to write them a positive review to counteract all of the one star ratings they have. I’d love to have a Gaspard in my town, although next month, we’ll be blessed with a Five Guys in Wiesbaden (Stuttgart is getting one too).

Bill took the dog out for a walk last night and was pleasantly surprised by a light show. The tall metal columns that I thought might be toilets were projectors scattered around the city. And they were shining beautiful, colorful holograms on certain buildings. Here’s a link to one woman’s pictures, which are a lot brighter and prettier than the one Bill shared with me– the featured photo. Now I wish I’d gotten up and gone walking with them. I bet I could have gotten some shots with my real camera, which rarely gets used thanks to how easy the iPhone and iPad are to use and carry.

I ended up watching ER, Grey’s Anatomy, and a weird French series that involved a French woman going to St. Petersburg, Russia and working for a circus at Christmas time. I don’t speak French at all, and all three of these shows were in French. I had seen the ER episodes, but never watched Grey’s Anatomy, and was mostly guessing with the French series, which was oddly entertaining.

This morning, we got up and enjoyed a very fresh French breakfast of croissants, bread, yogurt (for Bill), fresh fruit, coffee, butter, jam and juice. The proprietor seemed very taken with Arran, who was a perfect gentleman. I was so proud of him. We went to check out and he didn’t ask for my credit card, which was surprising to me. Booking.com had not given me the chance to pre-pay for the room; I could only reserve it. But it said if we didn’t show up, we’d still have to pay. I was under the impression that they had my card info, since he seemed to be saying goodbye to us, but the guy came running after us after we left. So Bill went back and paid the hotel, then we got on our way.

It was about a six hour drive, completely uneventful… we made a stop in Moselle, where we found a KFC and had no problems with tire punchers. KFC in Europe isn’t as good as it is in the States, not that it’s all that good there, either. But at least it wasn’t a burger… I meant to take a picture of the Bob’s Big Boy statue a restaurant on the outskirts of Beaune had out front. It was very campy! Those of us who remember Bob’s Big Boy in America will get a kick out of it. Maybe next time!

By the way, straws in France are now made of paper. But they don’t seem as gung ho about recycling their bottles as Germans are.

Anyway… that about does it for my French Christmas series. I will follow up tomorrow with my usual top ten things I learned post… and this time, although we didn’t go to a lot of restaurants or visit a lot of sights, I sure as HELL learned a lot. I might have to make it a top fifteen things I learned post. Stay tuned!

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Christmas, France

Our first French Christmas, part eight…

Our hosts at Au Miracle du Pain Doré were out in the vineyards when we arrived at their gite the second time, so they left the front gate unlocked and the keys by the front door. Checking in was simple, especially since we’d been there the week prior. Bill was pretty rattled about the car and even worried the people who punctured our tire might have even put something on the car to track it. Fortunately, they were complete amateurs. We found nothing on the car and it was totally safe outside of the gite, under a streetlamp.

Bill went to the supermarket, which was within walking distance of the gite, and picked up essentials for Friday night’s dinner and Saturday’s breakfast. The next morning, he got to work on reporting the crime. First, he called USAA to tell them about the tires, which apparently weren’t covered on our policy. Even if they had been, we have a $500 deductible, and today is New Year’s Eve. USAA took down our info and Bill later got a call from the German USAA liaison working out of Frankfurt, who was sympathetic.

Next, he called ADAC (German auto club) to ask about where to locate tires. He went to two places on Saturday. One couldn’t help at all. The other “fixed” the tire by patching the sidewall and advising us not to go further than 100 kilometers. Germany is, of course, much further than 100 kilometers from Beaune. Still, he made it so we could at least drive around the city if we needed to. The hole in the tire was near the tread, but still in the sidewall. We learned that driving on a patched sidewall, especially at high speeds, is a recipe for disaster. Bill is usually super safety conscious, but I think he was worried about getting home for work. Fortunately, good sense prevailed and he axed the idea of trying to drive on the patched tire.

Our poor tire.

ADAC was very communicative and helpful. They called us a few times to coordinate where to find tires. Yes, that’s right. We had to buy two of them, because French law dictates that unless you find the exact same brand of tire, you must buy two tires that match per axle. We couldn’t find a single Pirelli brand tire that was damaged on the Volvo, so we had to buy a pair of Bridgestone tires. That was 470 euros yesterday, when we finally found a place that had them in stock.

Bill then went to the local police station in Beaune, where he was told by the one English speaker working there that he’d have to go to the Gendarmerie, since the crime hadn’t happened in Beaune proper. So Bill drove the Volvo to the Gendarmerie office and spoke to two sympathetic but non English speaking ladies who used Google Translate to take his statement. They seemed shocked and relieved that we weren’t robbed and told Bill that there are gangs of people doing this… not just in France, but in places all around Europe. Hell, I think it happens in the States sometimes, too. It’s a well-known crime that probably doesn’t get reported as often as it happens.

Since it was clear we weren’t going to be able to leave Beaune on Sunday, as we’d planned, we asked the owners of the gite if we could extend our reservation. Much to our surprise, they let us stay Sunday night free of charge! That was really nice of them and completely unexpected.

Unfortunately, due to all the time spent running around Beaune trying to get the tire mess sorted out, our plans to shop were thwarted. But France doesn’t totally close down on Sundays the way Germany does, so we were able to get a few bottles on the “Lord’s day”. We walked into downtown Beaune and Bill bought a few nice bottles from one of many wine shops in Beaune. Then we stopped at a cafe and had a glass as the sun went down. Yes, it was cold, but they had outdoor heaters going… and Arran was mostly good until he met a female bulldog in a pink jacket who apparently said something he didn’t like. He raised a little ruckus, but everybody just laughed at him and kept drinking their wine or coffee. It was kind of nice not to be scowled at. Here are some pictures from the weekend.

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Christmas, France

Our first French Christmas, part seven…

December 26th was our last full day in Nimes. Audra was pretty much free all day after the morning. We could have gone to see the sites, but really, I just wanted to hang out and chat. I live a pretty isolated lifestyle these days, and it was so nice to talk to someone who has known me since way before electronics. Besides that, having the dog kind of cramped our style a bit.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Arran made a lot of friends on our trip, and I am so grateful that we brought him with us. For instance, I think Arran may have played a part in us not being robbed the other day. But although he is a good traveler, I do worry about him being a good guest and not bothering people. Even though he’s about ten years old, he’s not above howling a lot or the occasional accident.

So Audra, Bill, Cyril, and I did more walking and talking… until Cyril started looking a little under the weather and bowed out. We still had good food, though. For lunch, we had fougasse, which is a delightful pastry filled with bacon and cheese. Reading up on fougasse, I see that it’s a specialty of Provence, although it’s also featured in other regions. Audra says some versions are sweet and some are savory.

For dinner, we had roasted pork loin and more root vegetables– carrots and parsnips– and lots of wine. The cheese lovers had their course, too. Cheese is another food I wish I loved more, although my ass sure doesn’t need the help. It was really a great day, with yet another walk around the neighborhood and more reminiscing about the old days… and more wine.

We decided not to visit on Friday, the 27th, because we had made arrangements to be in Beaune between 3:00 and 4:00. In retrospect, maybe it would have been better if we had taken more time heading north. Maybe if we’d said goodbye to Audra and Cyril on Friday morning instead of Thursday night, we might have missed the bastards who fucked up our tire. But at least checking out of Chez Pepito was relatively easy, aside from the lack of parking in the area. We just put the keys back in the lockbox and got on our way. I did get some cool photos on the way up, too. Too bad I didn’t get any of the jackasses who spiked our tire.

Our drive to Beaune was mostly uneventful until we got to the rest stop just south of the city. It was well-connected, with several fast food restaurants, a bathroom, a gas station, and even a shower. You’d never think scumbags looking to do harm would hang out at such a well-traveled place with so many visitors. But unfortunately, there they were, and they had us squarely in their sites.

We stopped at the rest stop only so we could tell our hosts we had arrived and so I could pee. In retrospect, I really wish we had just kept going and called from just outside the front door, like we did when we came in. Our stop at the rest area has so far cost us over 1400 euros. We had to buy two new tires; Bill has missed two days of work; and although the first gite owners gave us a free night, we’re paying another 120 euros for tonight at La Maison de Maurice.

For those who don’t want to read my other vents on this subject, here’s a quick and dirty recount. After I got back into the car post pit stop, a swarthy looking guy stepped out in front of Bill as he was driving out of the lot, forcing him to stop. We think this is when his accomplice punctured our tire and ruined a perfectly good pair of wheels. I say “pair” of wheels, because in France, one must purchase tires in sets of two if there isn’t a tire identical to the one being replaced. So both of our rear tires, just six months old, had to be replaced. It cost almost 500 euros. Such a waste!

Ultimately, the fuckwads who did this didn’t get anything for their efforts. They weren’t able to rob us. I suspect they saw Arran and me and changed their minds about shaking Bill down for money or relieving us of our luggage. Also, Bill immediately got on the phone instead of going for the jack. I think the guys who were doing this must be amateurs.

ADAC told us to call 112, which is equivalent to our 911. A highway assistance guy came and put the spare on… the little donut tire that comes with most new cars these days. We weren’t allowed to drive it on the French highway, but we were headed to Beaune anyway. We went to our gite and decided what to do next. More on that in the next post.

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Christmas, France

Our first French Christmas, part three…

Sunday morning, we awoke to rainy skies and wind that made the shutters clatter against the gite. I am not a fan of walking around in rain, but when the skies finally cleared, Bill and I decided to head into town. Arran protested loudly when we tried to leave him alone, so we took him too. Au Miracle du Pain Doré is a very short walk from town, so we enjoyed a good stroll to Beaune’s center. A small Christmas market was going on, and we got to try salami and Bill tried cheese. I was tempted to get some of the salami, but Bill worried about how it would fare during our trip to Nimes. I think if the market is still going tomorrow, maybe we’ll pick some up.

Arran met a couple of dogs who appeared to be truffle hunters. The market actually had a small booth dedicated to truffles and they had pictures of the dogs they use to find them. I don’t get the appeal of truffles at all. I wish I did, since people who love them make them sound so good and worth the money. Unfortunately, most things fungal make me want to run away screaming.

After we walked around, admiring the cheeses, homemade sausages, breads, and mulled wines, we noticed some stores were open, even though it was Sunday. Then, we ended up eating at what, according to Trip Advisor, might be one of Beaune’s worst restaurants. Fortunately, we had a good experience there. The weather wasn’t too bad, so we sat outside with Arran at La Concorde, which offers all meals at apparently most times.

This song was playing at the market. I first heard it on National Lampoon’s European Vacation circa 1985. 80s music was big last Sunday.

I was surprised to read the poor reviews of this restaurant. I had fish n’ chips and Bill had a burger with Epoisses cheese, and we shared a carafe of wine. The waiter was a bit slow to greet us, but he was charming and charmed by Arran. I think a lot of complaints seem to come from a three course deal they offer and confusion over the bill. We didn’t have a problem, although perhaps the prices were higher than they should have been. I was just glad Arran behaved and wasn’t freaking out about the other dog sitting at the table next to us. The French lady enjoying lunch, complete with escargots, was complaining about the bill.

Beaune is very cute, easy to walk, and has lots of food and retail shopping… and I think we’ll be back again, despite the asswipes at the rest stop who fucked up our tire. I noticed some wine stores I wanted to check out last week. Now that we are stranded, maybe we’ll drop in tomorrow… if they’re open this week, too.

Another discovery I made just now is that Aldi has partnered with Trader Joe’s, which I guess must be part of the Aldi group. We got cashews with the Trader Joe’s logo. If Trader Joe’s is in France, it would be worth it just to come back for that. I’m dying for some of their frozen “crack” n’ cheese, which is even better than mine is.

On Monday last week, we checked out of Beaune and made our way to Nimes… what this whole trip was about… to see my friend and “sista” Audra. But clearly, our adventures in Beaune are still going. More on that as the story evolves.

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France

Our first French Christmas, part two…

Last Saturday morning, we loaded up our Volvo and headed to our first stop, Beaune… the very same place where we are right now. I found our pet friendly gite on Booking.com back in October. I didn’t know at the time that the gite owners had just bought the house their rental apartment is in and that they just started their own winery. I was under the impression that Beaune was a big town. I’d seen it on other trips we’ve taken to France and a local friend had visited a couple of months ago and made it seem like a really hoppin’ “ville”. But, as it turns out, Beaune isn’t all that big, except when it comes to wine. There are several wineries located within steps of our gite.

Our drive to Beaune was mostly uneventful. There was a pretty terrible accident on the Autobahn outside of Mainz that required us to drive on a side road. It had traffic backed up for miles, and we even saw the ADAC helicopter there. But the rest of the ride was uneventful, if not a bit long. We arrived in Beaune at about 5:00pm. I tried texting the gite owners, as they had requested, when we were twenty minutes out, but I had the wrong phone number. Consequently, we had to call them from outside of the house. It’s partly because of this that we were even at the rest stop where our car got vandalized. I had wanted to contact them ahead of time, since they had requested it the first time. Bill had their number on his phone and it gave me the chance to pee. If only we had done what we did on the way in! Then we would have avoided the criminals who took a sharp, pointed object to our beloved Volvo’s right rear tire.

The husband half of the gite owners gave us the grand tour, and because we were tired, we decided to settle in for the night. That was also because I didn’t want Arran to howl… and also, we never had the chance to make reservations anywhere. I got some photos of the gite, Au Miracle du Pain Doré (at the miracle of golden bread– or French toast)…

So far, I’ve paid about 700 euros for both two night stays. The first two night stay was slightly cheaper, probably because it was a Saturday and Sunday night. Our current stay was intended to be just just Friday and Saturday, but it looks like we’ll need at least one more night, thanks to our encounter with criminals yesterday. Booking.com has it priced at 185 euros for Sunday night… not a bad deal for a whole apartment. One thing that struck me about this gite is that it reminds me a lot of the one we stayed in near the Champagne region last February, although that gite was somewhat larger. The layout and style, right down to the kitchen and tiled floors, is very similar. When I have more time and am near my big computer, I will have to post comparison photos.

This gite is very conveniently located. You can easily walk to the charming downtown area, wineries, or to grocery stores and bakeries. Last Sunday, there were a few shops open, as well as restaurants and a cute little Christmas market. I didn’t manage to venture out today, thanks to all the running around Bill has been doing with trying to deal with our flat tire and reporting the crime to the police. Maybe tomorrow, after we figure out the plan, we’ll get into the town and try another restaurant.

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France

Our first French Christmas, part one…

Bonjour, faithful readers. I am currently sitting in Beaune, France. We were here in this same gite (holiday home) a week ago, when we were on our way to Nimes to see my friend, Audra. Now we’re on our way back to Germany, and I have arranged to stay at the same house until tomorrow morning, provided we can get out of here due to a misfortune we encountered yesterday at a rest stop. More on that later. For now, I want to start at the beginning and explain how it was that we’ve had a “French Christmas”.

Audra is American, and we met back in 1987, when we were students at Gloucester High School in Gloucester, Virginia. We both had the same journalism and world history classes during the 1987-88 school year. When we met, I was fifteen and she was fourteen. We got to be friendly in journalism class, since it was a course that required collaboration.

It wasn’t just school that brought us together. Our dads were friends back in the day. Both were Air Force veterans who participated in singing groups in Gloucester. Audra and I are also both graduates of Longwood College, now known as Longwood University, in Farmville, Virginia. We didn’t run in the same crowd when we were at Longwood, so it’s only been within the past ten years ago, through Facebook, that we’ve become closer.

Back in May 2014, Bill and I took our third military “hop” from Baltimore, Maryland. He was on “terminal leave” from the Army, just before he retired. We landed at Ramstein and decided to travel through France by train. On that trip, which I’ve chronicled in this blog, we visited Reims, Dijon, a suburb of Lyon, Nimes, and Nice. Then we flew from Nice to Frankfurt, took a quick trip to the Rhein, and flew from Ramstein back to the States. You can find the story of that trip by searching the blog, although I haven’t yet gotten around to reformatting it since I moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress. I will fix those posts when I get home to my desktop computer. When they’re fixed, I’ll link them to this post.

We visited Audra, her then boyfriend, Cyril, and Audra’s kids during that 2014 trip. A few weeks after we got back to Texas, where we were living at the time, Bill got a job in Stuttgart, Germany. We moved back to Europe, and ever since then, Audra and I were hoping to arrange another rendezvous. A few months ago, she and Cyril, who is now her husband, invited us to spend Christmas with them. They even invited our dog, Arran.

Originally, the plan was that we’d stay at their house, since two of Audra’s children were visiting their dad. But since Audra has cats and Bill is allergic, and Arran loves to harass cats, we decided to book another gite in Nimes. Beaune, which is where I am right now, is roughly halfway between Nimes and Wiesbaden. It’s actually slightly closer to Nimes. I had originally tried to find another gite in a different city, but had difficulty finding one that offered what we wanted and was pet friendly. So here we are, once again, at Au Miracle du Pain Doré, a charming apartment within walking distance of Beaune’s lovely center.

Today’s plan was, originally, to go into town and purchase some wine to bring back to Wiesbaden with us. Unfortunately, we were victimized at the rest stop at the northbound rest stop heading into Beaune. We had stopped so I could pee and we could let our hosts know that we were almost at our destination. During what was intended to be a short stop, a lowlife criminal gouged a hole in one of our tires. So, instead of wine shopping and wrapping up what was a mostly wonderful trip to France, Bill is making a police report and trying to come up with a way to fix our car so that it will get us back to Germany. He did manage to get the tire patched, which makes me a bit nervous, since the gouge was on the sidewall. But the other option is to have the car towed home, since the local tire shop did not have the size we need and we can’t drive it with the “donut” tire spare. The closer we get to Germany, the better… I just hope we don’t have a blowout and cause an accident.

I’m pretty sure the asshole who punctured our tire was hoping to relieve us of our dirty underwear. Unfortunately, this scam is rampant in Europe. Pirates linger near high speed roads and damage motorists’ tires, then offer “help” while an accomplice steals purses, electronics, and whatever else they can find. They target tourists, especially those in rental cars. Tourists are more likely to be unfamiliar with the area, loaded with cash and valuables, and eager to accept “friendly” help. They’re also less likely to make police reports and press charges.

We were not robbed yesterday. I think the would-be crook was spooked when I stayed in the car with Arran and Bill got on the phone with ADAC, one of Germany’s auto clubs. He lingered for a moment, then vanished once Bill gave him the stink-eye. Still, he and his maggot accomplice managed to ruin a perfectly good tire that has only been on the car since July, when it was built in Sweden. And though he’s given me a new life experience and a good story for this blog, I am actually a bit concerned about our safety tomorrow. If it weren’t going to be a Sunday, I think we’d wait and try to get a new tire. If you’re the praying type and you don’t mind, please offer up a few kind words for us.

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