It’s time again for a further foray for foreign frippery. Jane and I will be outta here on April Fool’s Day heading first to San Francisco and then onto Paris courtesy of the egalitarian Air France. To be honest, we’re not sure that we’re happy about the Air France flight but then statistically, six out of seven dwarfs aren’t Happy.
We remember the last time we were in economy-class seats that small, it was on a Lufthansa flight from Hong Kong to Munich. We boarded the Lufty Airbus and bumbled down the aisle bouncing off the heads of passengers on either side of the aisle who had already located their seats and were now looking around and wondering where they should store their knees for the next 13 hours. We found our seats, wedged our hips between the armrests, dragged our feet into place and accepted that the future use of our lower limbs had just been compromised. A quick attempt at trying to lower the tray tables illustrated that to actually use them we would have to go to Bat and hang upside down from the overhead lockers. We shrugged and figured we would cope providing no-one was seated next to us. At that point the cabin grew dark, the air suddenly became warm and stale and the aircraft floor dipped and bounced alarmingly. We glanced up as the light was blocked by approaching monsters. We turned and saw that the humorous seating-computer-of-life had selected as travelling companions for us Mr and Mrs Corpulent and their son Colossus who proceeded to bi-fold themselves centimetre by centimetre into their seats and overflowed on to us. Where they remained for the rest of the trip.
Or these ones:
We won’t ‘underpay’; and there’s no sign we’ll take up cycling in this dismounted Essex town which a famous person described thus: “If anyone were to ask me what in my opinion was the dullest and most stupid spot on the face of the Earth, I should decidedly say Chelmsford.” Charles Dickens.
In planning our 2012 itinerary I’ve been busier than a one-toothed man in a corn-on-the cob eating contest. But brushing that aside, we’ve stitched it together and woven in a week in London to enjoy the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, where William will whoosh in wilfully from Washington one week before we wing our way to Westphalia. William will then hone in on Hong Kong to help us head home.
In researching this trip I have come across a few gems which I’d like to share with you. This is from an Australian publication offering advice on driving in Austria: “Driving with your lights on is optional during daylight hours. You will be stopped by the police and possibly fined if you do not comply with this.” Mind you this is from the same country that nurtured the woman I heard in a Picton campground accost a Danish man with: “You’ve got our Princess!” (I guess that would be Princess Sheila then).
I emailed a lot of campgrounds asking how much they charged for WiFi and received some interesting answers. One replied: “Yes, we fixed it already.” Another: “Hallo Simon. Please sorry, but just in time we not use WiFi.” The most alarming reply though was this one: “We are very sorry to announce, that our camp definitely will remain closed for this year. The reasons for this decision are so unbelievable, that it would provide the stuff for a Saturday-evening crime movie. But we don’t want to bother you with details. Only in short words – our success in the last 13 years did wake up so much envy and desires, that we can not go ahead under these circumstances… We now handed over the case to courts and will as soon, as threw is a court decision, re-open our camp. As soon as there are news, we will inform you at once. In the name of the whole staff we greet you with a warm until next time and remain with kindest regards your family Merkel.” Blimey, I only asked hypothetically how much they might charge me for WiFi – glad I didn’t ask them how business was going. But that I suppose begs the question; what if there were no hypothetical questions?
So where are we going?
Our route takes us back to eastern Europe where I will feel compelled to advise them on modern farming methods and warn them that Sheep dip isn’t nearly as tasty as it sounds.
Naturally we’ll be finishing our van travels in France where I hope to better understand their food philosophy which I think is summed up by; If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it needs longer in the oven.
There’ll be time for a re-visit to Belgium where they have things called Confreries which are brotherhoods determined to honour all manner of odd things such as the Confriere Li Crochon d’Onhaye, which venerates grilled ham and cheese on toast. (Oh to be invited to one of their meetings). They also have some pretty nifty traditions such as Ypres Kattestoet which is a cat throwing festival but the spoil-sports stopped using live cats in 1870.
We were previously thwarted by Malcolm-the-Mediocre when we tried to get visas for Russia. This time we’ll duck the visa process, dress as blinis and sneak in under cover of darkness by boat, sample the sweet sights of St. Petersburg and bob our way back to Finland in a Vodka bottle. I can’t wait. The thought of bobbing back into Helsinki makes me want a Fazer Dallaspulla right now.
Speaking of Russia, it’s another country with an interesting tradition. As you know their paranoid president (the putatively putrid Putin), always wins his elections and this one was no exception. Vladimir was recently re-elected despite having gained only 112% of the vote. Vlad was crying and breathless at his stunning victory but I think he’s asthmatic so I’m going to call him Vlad-the-Inhaler.
We’re not going to Sweden this time as their credit rating has been downgraded from AAA to ABBA but the itinerary shows all the places we intend to visit and we’re going to too many countries for me to comment flippantly about all of them right now – but I will try to rectify that as we travel. Philosophically, it’s a journey where we hope to learn how so many nations in such a small area get along so well. I expect it to be an inspirational trip because for me, if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s intolerance of other nations – oh! and the Dutch.
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