Travel Misadventures

Today (06/19/18) we left Paris. We recently realized that it’s difficult to travel to Paris without sounding pretentious. As in: we had some great times there, but over the last couple days we grew apart and thought it would be best if we saw other places. So goodbye Paris, we are leaving for Austria.

I (Chris) got up early today, followed by Ted, then Melissa, and finally Everett and Gwen. The last two were particularly difficult to rouse. Around 10:30 I walked a few blocks to pick up the rental car, which turned into an odyssey that took nearly two hours. First I found out that they don’t actually keep the rental cars at that location – they deliver them when the customer arrives, which takes a bit of time. After I got the car I drove back to the apartment to try to find a parking space, but in retrospect I would have been more likely to find a unicorn. I drove around for about an hour. Our apartment is on a one way street that is the width of a single car plus 1 cm on each side and there is almost no place to pull over for a moment to load the car. Plus we don’t do anything quickly. I eventually found an empty curb about a half mile away and put the car there, but no one nearby (including people who worked in stores right there) knew if that was a legal parking spot or not.

It was a rough travel day. Our plan was to leave the apartment in Paris, drive to Sèvres to see the house where Melissa’s family used to live, and then drive to Strasbourg to stay the night. This should have taken about 4 or 5 hours. Instead, all three children were vomiting before we left Paris, and only one of them used a bag, so we had to stop twice to clean up the car and children as best we could. Then we drove for about an hour and during the next stop to clean up vomit Chris took a close look at the car navigation system because it was giving some very late estimates for when we would arrive in Strasbourg. It turns out that its default behavior was to take us on roads with a speed limit of 50km/hr to avoid tolls. We turned off this option and got on the highway, but in retrospect this was no better. Over the next two days we traveled roughly 1000km from Paris to Salzburg at an average speed of about 35mph. Travel times were 2 or 3 times what was estimated by the navigation system, which we eventually abandoned in favor of Google Maps. Interestingly, the navigation system was aware of many lane closures and accidents around France and Germany but reported exactly zero delays of any kind on our route, which is odd because they occurred about every 5km.

We stayed the night in a cottage at a campground in Strasbourg, which was lovely and perfect for our family. There was a playground and lots of open areas for the kids to run around. They spent about a half hour laying in the sand in the volleyball court. We washed some clothes and blankets from the car. Around 9pm we went into Petit France for dinner at La Corde à Linge and were seated around 10pm. Two of the kids ordered burgers with Münster (a.k.a. monster cheese, according to Gwen) but due to a mistake by the parents we ordered burgers with blue cheese instead, and they immediately spit out their first bite. We did our best to recover and in the end had a lovely dinner on the canal. The kids were in bed sometime after midnight. We had to sleep with the windows open because it was hot and there are no fans or air conditioning, plus there are no window screens France, so we were covered in bug bites in the morning.

06/20/18: We got on the road around 10:30am and Ted threw up before we got out of Strasbourg. So we stopped at Monoprix for trash bags and wipes, and instituted a rule that iPads are not allowed in the car unless we are on the highway on the theory that this was making them carsick. Nonetheless, Everett threw up a couple hours later. Rough.

The next day we had another long day of driving. There is a misconception among Americans that you can get places quickly on the Autobahn because there are no speed limits. This is sort of true but only in the sense that if you drive across the country there may be short stretches of a few kilometers at a time where you can drive as fast as you want to, but 99% of the time it’s not possible because of lane closures, reduced speed, traffic, etc.

We arrived at Carrie and Armin’s house around 7pm. The kids got to run around and get some wiggles out. We had a lovely dinner on the porch (salad, barbecue beef and polenta). Then the kids ran around more until it was dark. Finally showers and bed. The three of them are sleeping in Anna’s room, which she graciously gave up during our visit.

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