happiness

Mom’s Tour de France 21 (FGK 112)

This is the last letter of mom’s that was published in the paper. I am really hoping that we discover the rest of them and I can read about the remainder of her year abroad. Thank goodness Grandma kept everything. This letter is a long one, so part one is today and there will be at least one, perhaps two more instalments before I go digging through boxes again (there are still a few more letters sent to mom while she was in the hospital).

It’s weird for me to think of how drastically mom’s life was changing. 10 years ago she was still a healthy and rambunctious kid, getting into everything, riding her horse, and playing with her siblings and cousins. 5 years ago she was working her way out of a long hospital stay and then moving to Florida for school. Not too far in her future she would graduate from Stanford, move to Toronto, go to law school and meet my dad. 10 years in her future she was just about to give birth to me (taadaa!!)

I remember mom making this cake and wanting so badly to become the Queen. I have no idea whether or not I ever did though.

Tours, France, January 15, 1961

Dear Folks

I’ve just returned from Suzanne’s having done nothing but EAT all day. She invited Gail and I over for lunch today but asked us to come early if we wanted to help prepare the meal.

I made a cake!! It is my failure kind so Suzanne taught me how to make it – you won’t believe how domestic I’m getting! We also helped with the other things. It’s so much fun in the family now because we feel free to play with her little sisters, tease her brothers, and gossip with her mother. They are extremely patient with our French so we don’t mind making lots of mistakes. Since we are still celebrating the feast of the Three Kings, we had a galette (a type of cake) for dessert. The prize was in my piece so I was the Queen. The suspense while everyone bites into their piece is terrible. After lunch we drove out to Suzanne’s aunt’s in the country. They are having a special celebration there to taste the wines in the caves which line the hillside. Everyone in the village was there with venders at every turn calling crepes, roasted chestnuts, etc. I was amazed once we entered the caves to find it exactly like an exhibition at home. Lining the walls of dirt were washing machines, television sets, and I even saw in one cavern a car!! I was driving so I didn’t taste the wines like I was supposed to, but it was fun watching all the others. After we went back to the aunt’s house where we had another galette – this time Gail was the Queen.

I think I left off in my last letter just as we were entering Munich. We got there after dark so were able to see the brilliant Christmas decorations. The main streets were lined with huge lights in the form of stars etc. It is possible to sense the quick tempo of this city the moment one enters it. It is alive and growing in the sense that all of Western Germany seems to be moving forward and looking to the future instead of the past. This is especially noticeable if you see it compared to some other European countries. We managed to find our way to the famed Rathskeller in the basement of the town hall where we had a dinner composed of a variety of German sausages. I ate so many I never felt quite the same towards them again and started ordering other dishes from then on. The Rathskeller itself was a fascinating place with its huge German style of architecture and costumed waitresses. You could practically feel yourself back in the Middle Ages. We had the name of a good but cheap hotel which we found in our “Bible” ie “Europe on $5.00 a Day” but in spite of the directions which were given in the book we found it impossible to pick the right route. We were told to start at the Bahnhauf (railroad station). This was a formidable task in itself for it always failed to show up when we expected it but on the other hand, we kept running into it at the oddest places. It continued like this during our entire stay in Munich and we always found our way home more or less by chance. This lead us to the conclusion that the Munich bahnhauf has the astonishing ability to disappear underground for hours at a time only to appear later at the other end of town. That is The only explanation I can give. The first evening we gave up in despair and finally stopped at a gas station to ask directions. We were so baffled by the German answer that was given us, two travellers who had their car there offered to lead us to the hotel. We turned so many corners and got so throughly confused that we decided we were being led on a wile goose chase. Just as we were going to turn and go in another direction their cart stopped right in front of the hotel! We felt rather guilty of being so suspicious of people who were simply being kind.

The next day we prepared to see the Glockenspiel when it went off at 11 am. We spent so long over breakfast that we barely had time to get down in front of the city hall to watch the big clock. Pat was driving when the car with four confused jeunnes filles made their left turn in its main intersection on the wrong light. Imagine our horror when we saw the policeman blow his whistle and flag us down to the curb. He stomped over to the car to find four frightened faces peering up at him and babbling away as fast as they could in French. When he found out we spoke no German, he went around to the front, saw our French license plate, got a resigned look on his face shrugging his shoulders, and said helplessly “La va!” We thanked him profusely in French and made our escape quickly before he discovered what terrible accents we had. By this time it was almost eleven so we decided that Carol and Jeannie should go watch the clock while Pat and I tried to find a parking place. We soon discovered that we had set ourselves an impossible task. We were all the more nervous because we were stopped by another policeman – that made two intersections we had to avoid henceforth at all costs! We finally found Carol and Jeannie a half hour later. We were told that for the first time in years the Glockenspiel hadn’t gone off. After the big airplane crash, which you probably heard about, there was no singing or dancing in Munich for a week. The whole city went into mourning for the dead. We spent much of the afternoon riding around in the car and looking at various buildings. We visited Maximillian Palace which was so huge we couldn’t get through it all. It is still furnished in late baroque and rococo style. The grand ballrooms with enormous chandeliers, lavish furniture, and magnificent carriages make one wonder how the princes lasted so long without a revolution. Their wealth must have been incredible. We couldn’t appreciate the beauty of the gardens as they were covered with snow, but they surrounded the huge central building for acres. One needs a lot of stamina to live in a palace like that as the rooms are so far apart.

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