Saturday, 13 September 2014

Part 1 - Je ne parle pas français

I had known for months that Caroline would be in France while I was in London - it was simply a matter of coordination (and hoping that Caroline would do most of the organising for me because, frankly, I'm pretty terrible at it). The day had finally come. Two of the three meerkats were to be reunited on the other side of the globe.

The night before, I realised I hadn't worked out how to make it to the airport. Gatwick, in this instance. I quickly jumped online and bought an overpriced ticket and then proceeded to pack my one bag allowed by easyjet. At the butt crack of dawn the following day - even though I wasn't flying until approximately 10am - I got up, got ready and made my way to the airport. This was 2-fold: 1) I'd rather be super early because something is sure to go wrong and b)I always forget how long it takes when one flies. I left cold London and made my way to sunny Strasbourg, France.

Alighting the plane with instructional directions in hand, I decided I would have an adventure and get the train for €4 instead of a €30 cab fare. I followed the crowd towards the train station and went to get myself a ticket. It didn't work. It spat out my coin. Other people tried. It didn't work. No one could read the screen. Giving up, I went to the platform where another ticket machine was situated.

Here a lovely French lady noticed my distress and helped me purchase a train + tram ticket. Boarding the train with the others, there was a beautiful lady opposite me. I couldn't stop staring. She had a pretty great rack. She smiled at me. It got a little awkward and I looked out the window. Finally it was time to get off the train, and when everyone else began to move, I figured I would too. I didn't know where I was but decided I'd work that out when I got there.

Thankfully, I'd arrived in the centre of Strasbroug. Small win! I saw the tram station I wanted and began walking towards it. About halfway there, I the seed of doubt was planted so I doubled round and went back to the station. No wait, yes, I had been walking in the right direction, and so I walked back out again and into Strasbourg. It was beautiful. A lovely sunny day, a canal, high buildings and green grass. A tram tracks crisscrossing their way across the roads, connecting the whole city. I found my way to the tram stop indicated on my piece of paper and sat down. The street name ahead of me looked familiar, so I quickly jumped online (oh yes! I had data! This would prove invaluable to me) and realised that I was seriously close to where I was staying and that I could continue walking there. About 5 minutes later, I was at the hotel.

I made my way inside, got the key without an issue and proceeded to pass out on the bed for a couple of hours while I waited for Caroline.

Our room was cozy and comfortable, and the bedding situation proved no end of amusement. Yes, it was twin share. Yes, we had separate beds. But they had been pushed together inside a double bed headboard and therefore all that separated us were our tucked in sheets.

I woke up desperately hungry and braved the streets for a snack. I couldn't find a snack bar or simple take away cafe so I settled on an icecream. "Je ne parle pas français," I began to say to the girl.
"German?" she replied.
"Oh no, English," I said, surprised she had chosen German over English as her first choice.

Not too much later, Caroline and her family arrived. They were utterly lovely, but it was time for us to now meet the young ones and go out for drinks and dinner. Caroline and I prettied ourselves up and met Eve and Lina, Caroline's friends from when she lived and worked in Strasbourg in 2012. It was really lovely being welcomed by them and seeing the old haunts they used to go to. We first went to a pub, grabbed some beers and Caroline, Lina and Eve caught up about past times and current times. It was fun watching them interact like they'd never been apart and learning about their lives here in sunny Strasbourg (which, I found out, is very not sunny in the winter). We grabbed some dinner, with the other ladies ordering in French, and we sat with a perfect view of the Strasbourg Cathedral.

After dinner, we decided to walk past the cathedral - a couple of selfies and photos later, we noticed some music began playing. I turned around, and a light show was beginning, played out on the facade of the structure. We had arrived just at the right time! Over the next 10 or so minutes, the history of the cathedral, all accompanied by incredible music, were animated across the cathedral. Colours and whirls, flashing lights and beautiful images - it was breathtaking. Once it was finished, we commended our great timing and made our way to a watering hole, where we picked up another of Caroline's old friends along the way.

The cocktails here were huge, but we were all getting sleepy so Eve and Lina made their way to their respective homes, with plans in the making for the next day. Caroline and I nosied our way around the backstreets of the city, pointing out this here and that there, where she used to live - with Caroline being very patient as I stopped to take random photos.

Returning to our room quite late, we crashed in our close beds with the promise of shopping, cycling and wine on the morrow.


Two of the three meerkats reunited

Two of the three meerkats

Cathedral all alight

Giant cocktails! (The beer changes the perspective...)

Strasbourg by night