January 8, 1961
I realize you must be almost ready to disown me, it’s been so long since I’ve written. There is so much to say, I didn’t know where to begin. If i don’t get it all in one letter I’ll try to send it in instalments.
My car didn’t arrive from Paris until the last day of finals. Of course I rushed right down to see it, hoping to drive away in it that very afternoon and get a start on our trip – the next day. Pat came down with me and was just was excited as I to see the bright shiny blue Volkswagen complete with a sunroof which slides back in sunny weather. It took a day and a half to clear it with insurance, customs officials etc. I was issued a temporary license plate which actually consists of a piece of black tape with some numbers chalked on it. They assured me that when I return my permanent plate would be ready, which didn’t help much then. While in the midst of doing all this, there were countless things going on at the centre. We gave a Christmas party for some of the people of Tours who had put so much effort into the centre. Between the end of the last final at noon and that evening, decorations were put up all over the building and last touches were made on a dinner which was a traditional American dish in that there was turkey but it was served in the French style and with Loire wines. We had entertainment for them – this was also a mixture of both cultured – and then sang carols in French and English.
Friday I was invited to a dinner at noon with a French Family. They served the French version of lemon pie! We also had roast pheasant and some sort of sauce made out of chestnuts which was just delicious. It was the first I’ve I had visited their home so we spent much of the afternoon comparing cultures and telling out our homes. By this time I had to leave to pick up my car, I didn’t get back to the centre until late and consequently had to stay up until one am packing.
The four of us agreed to get an early start, leaving Tours at 7am. We had just gotten about 10 kilometres out of town when the engine started making weird noises and finally stopped completely. We were let sitting in the dark on a country road with no idea how to get to the next town. We all looked at each other a little foolishly, because in the rush to leave, no one had thought to get the gas tank filled! A couple of trucks passed by but wouldn’t stop. Finally Pat, who is no one to stand on ceremony, got out of the car, took off her bright red scarf and flagged down the next truck. The poor man didn’t have much choice as he saw this weird apparition coming at him out of the dark. He was very nice, however, and gave Pat and Carol a ride to the nearest gas station while Jeannie and I waited in the car. We questioned why the Germans, who are so efficient in everything else, neglected to put gas gages on Volkswagens! The rest of the day passed without any serious incident. We were all learning how to shift gears on VWs so did not make very good time. It was the same route we took to Switzerland in November but since it is what I consider to be one of the most beautiful sections of France, we didn’t mind the repetition. There was a light fall of snow on the Jura’s which excited everyone in the car but me. By the end of the trip Californians were beginning to come around to my point of view. At the Swiss border we hoped to buy the green card which signifies that we had international insurance as this is the first thing they ask for at almost every frontier. Imagine our dismay when we discovered the office was closed and we would have to pay extra for every country we entered because we didn’t have it! We decided to make Neuchatel the destination for our first day.