Avez-vous Any Ice?
Bonnie and I just blew out our travel budget with two weeks in France and Switzerland following our week at the Paris Gay Games. Next summer we get to travel to Millsboro.
Instead of my writing about the magnificent sights, here are some insights we gleaned.
In big cities, like Paris and Geneva, hundreds of grown men in business suits commute on teeny tiny stand-up scooters like we rode in our toddlerhoods. It’s a bit oxymoronic.
Europeans don’t understand ice. For the most part they make awful cocktails and serve them and soft drinks lukewarm with one or two small cubes at most. Water is served only slightly chilled. Since it was over 95 degrees for most of the trip, we resorted to guzzling ice cold beer every single day—once, at a late breakfast. Beer saved our hydration levels and our vacation. We’re now doing caloric penance.
In the Alps, even without a fear of heights, you’ll reconsider by the time you get up to the Mont Blanc viewing platform via two cable cars, an elevator, and a set of daunting metal steps. Then you step out onto the glass floor of a two-person glass cube, suspended in mid-air over snowy pointy peaks. Gorgeously unnerving.
We’d have spent more time up top but started suffering hypoxia, described on a warning sign as trouble breathing and, from lack of oxygen, decreased brain activity. These days I can’t afford a decrease.
By the way, immediately after descending from our scary sunrise adventure, we had that breakfast beer. Between the deep freeze up top at 12,600 feet and global warming on the ground, I’d never been so cold and so hot on the same day.
A Mont Blanc pen purchase was out as it cost almost as much as the vacation.
In Geneva, Switzerland it’s all time pieces all the time with literally thousands of shops with windows full of absurdly expensive wrist watches. Neon signs shine atop skyscrapers, reading Rolex, Patek Phillipe, TAG Heuer, Tissot, and even Swatch. Nobody has to ask anybody for the time.
Also in Geneva, the owner of a charming little restaurant asked “What state are you from?” We said “Delaware,” expecting a blank look, but he said “Ahhh, tax shelters!” Our reputation precedes us.
Arriving in Zermatt in late afternoon with plans to leave early the next morning, we rushed to a cable car for our only chance to see the Matterhorn. But billowing clouds completely shrouded the famed peak. An hour later, after checking into our boutique hotel room (a synonym for boutique is miniscule) we stepped out onto the tiny balcony and there it was, a cloudless, stunning Matterhorn. We hit the mini-bar, then sat and savored the view.
In all the small towns, and some larger cities, you could easily make a film spanning several centuries without having to cover up any signs of contemporary life. I’m sure inside the houses there were computers, 55-inch TVs and Roombas, but other than moving a few late model Audis, BMWs, and satellite dishes, all the exteriors remain historically intact. No vinyl siding anywhere.
Did you know there are more than 60 miles of champagne cellars (Mumm, Veuve Cliquot, Tattinger, Pommery, and lots more) weaving their way under the city of Reims? Excavated in the 1700s for building material for the city, the resulting caves have been producing champagne for three centuries. The caves also served as hospitals, schools, and housing during the relentless bombing by the Germans in both world wars.
We toured, tasted, and learned that the Veuve in Cliquot means ‘widow’ and the veuve Cliquot, in 1805, at age 27, was the first woman to take over operation of a major champagne house. I’ll drink to that.
We took comfortable trains through the Alps, laughing, holding onto our sliding wine glasses in the dining car as we headed steeply up or down mountains. We drove from the Alps back to flatter terrain in Dijon (“Have you any Grey Poupon?”) with Bonnie handling the ridiculously twisting, switchback roads like a NASCAR driver.
And then there were the dogs, absolutely everywhere, including dining with us inside most restaurants. We ate Gruyere cheese fondue in the town of Gruyere; photographed the Paris house where Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas lived; ate chocolate croissants, baguettes, and crepes to die for. Also snails. And a ton of cheese. I could go on….
But we were happy to come home to our much-missed dog, a mountain of ice in our Cokes, well-mixed drinks, and our boutique-like manufactured home with its vinyl siding. Oh, and the best Sundance weekend EVER.
But I kinda miss the excuse for having a guilt-free cold brewski. ▼
Fay Jacobs is an author of five published memoirs. Her newest is Fried & Convicted: Rehoboth Beach Uncorked. As a humorist, she’s touring with her show Aging Gracelessly: 50 Shades of Fay. More Fay Jacobs.