happiness

Mom’s Tour de France 22 (FGK 113)

I had to laugh at mom’s speedy driving. I come from a family of speedy drivers – I remember white knuckling it a lot when I was a kid and Grandma was driving me somewhere. Dad always seemed to be one demerit away from losing his license (but swore he needed to drive that speed just to keep up with everyone else on the road). As a kid, I always tried to get in the back of the suburban my uncle would drive when we would do family visits to my aunt and uncle in Arrowwood, partly because it meant I could hang with my cousins and partly because it meant the long trip would take about half the time. If it took my parents an hour and a half to get there, it would take my uncle about 45 minutes and we would have stopped at allllll the feedlots along the way as well. I am speedier than my kids, but remain a family disappointment on trips as I hold up the line with my relatively slow driving). Mostly I’m cheap and don’t want to pay tickets.

We found a little restaurant near the hotel where we had one of our best meals in Germany. We ordered rindsgulasch in the hopes that it would turn out to be something good – and it was. Hence, another word was added to our growing German vocabulary. I think “rinds” means beef, at least it tasted like it.

We ended the day by doing some window shopping and going to the bahnhauf (which had finally appeared again) to have milkshakes. It tastes so good to have milk products again that we each had two helpings. It’s the first time I’ve made such a glutton of myself, usually I stopped at just one! We got lost again when we stepped out of the bahnhauf and it took us almost an hour to find our hotel which was (in the book) a ten minute walk from the station. Someday I’m going to solve the Great Mystery of this city. As we were entering our hotel we heard someone calling our names – it was Bob, Tim, Bill and Denny, some boys from the Centre who were staying in the hotel just across the street. They had just arrived as they had taken a longer route. I was able to get their advice on the roads, my car, etc as they are all quite experienced in that sort of thing.

We left the next morning for Salzburg. As there is an Autobahn all the way it was no time at all until we were in Austria. As usual we were completely lost as soon as we entered the town. I, who happened to be driving at the time, chalked up some sort of record for the trip by being stopped by three different policemen within fifteen minutes. Since we had such an obvious problem of communication, they never bothered giving us a ticket.

Salzburg is a fascinating town and is one of the places for which I would enjoy returning in the summer. It is noted for its beautiful scenery which we could not see because of the snow, its music, history, and of course Wienerschnitzel. From the moment I discovered a taste, this meant I ordered it for almost every meal in Austria. As you can see I’m really turning into a gourmet.

The streets in Salzburg are of the small narrow and twisty variety. It’s very easy to find parking places in Austria which was fortunate because everyone walks in the middle of the street, a situation somewhat frustrating for a driver.

It was a snowy afternoon – perfect for museums, so we went to the place where Mozart worked and some of the churches. One of them was particularly interesting as it had something from almost everyone period. Romanesque to late Baroque in it. We also tried some of the Salzburg coffee made with mounds of whipped cream. I think it’s the best I’ve found in Europe. I like it even better than the Italian.

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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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Mom’s Tour de France 20 (FGK 111)

December 1960

Hi:

We are now in a youth hostel in Salzburg. There are also four other Canadian girls who are driving through Europe for the winter and staying here. The is place seems like sheer luxury because the one we were in at Neuchatel didn’t have any heat. This one has a lovely little stove right by my bed.

It has been snowing here all day so we haven’t had much of an opportunity to see the scenery which is supposed to be lovely. We are trying to economize because we stayed at a hotel in Munich and they charged us far more than we thought they would – not a very nice surprise.

We have been having all sorts of adventures. We are constantly lost in the cities and usually end up going the wrong way on a one way street. The policemen have been very patient and nice (mainly because we couldn’t understand them). People have helped us out on the street and in the stores. Every time we hit a new town we head like homing pigeons to the nearest Shell Station, which has maps of the city. We now know the German terms for left, right, etc.

The weather hasn’t been nice enough to take any pictures. I was foolish enough to put slides in my camera instead of black and white. I was so enthusiastic over the results of the ones I took in Rome that I got carried away.

(The next night)

I did some shopping today and spent my spare money. Austria is as bad as Italy, it is a terrible temptation to pass a store.

I wandered around some of the mountain villages this morning. They still use horses on many of the farms. It looks very Christmassy to see them pulling sleds full of firewood.

If people have sent me letters etc but haven’t heard from me, tell them not to worry, because we left on December 17th and won’t pick up our mail until the 9th of January. It will be nice to have that pile waiting for me!

I also haven’t mailed all my Xmas cards yet – so some of them will be New Years! I usually cannot get very much writing done while we are travelling. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas. I’ll be thinking about you then – in Venice I think. From what we hear, it is going to be a white Christmas which is something new for the kids from California.

I’ll try to write again soon

Love

Margi

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Mom’s Tour de France 19 (FGK 110)

I continue to be impressed with the kindness shown by the people mom encountered on her travels. Was it a safer, kinder time? Was she just incredibly lucky (her guardian angels always worked overtime)? Whatever the case, she encountered some pretty remarkable people.

Part two

Pat and I remembered a marvellous restaurant there which served excellent meals for about 60 cents. We spent 3/4 of an hour searching for the youth hostel where we could stay for 50 cents (I’m sure we burned up more gas looking for it) and finally discovered it beyond the railroad track which we had been crossing all the time. It was a charming and picturesque little building, lacking only one thing – a stove. There was only one other person staying there and the lady was quite shocked to see so many people descending on her this time of the year. I don’t think any of us took very many clothes off that night and we were very speedy in getting out to the nice warm car the next morning. The drive through Switzerland was very pleasant in the morning when we could see the sun shining on the snowy mountains and the little villages which looked like Christmas cards but it clouded over in the afternoon so we were unable to see much of the Alps. We got lost at one point so we decided to stop and have a bowl of soup for lunch at a charming little hotel which was along the road while we found out where we were. It was a warm friendly little dining room with several people in there gossiping over cups of tea and glasses of wine. We were somewhat of an oddity and got several curious stares while eating. As we were leaving a man and his wife asked if they could buy us a cup of coffee. They were so very nice we couldn’t refuse and sat down again. No one spoke either French or English so we stammered out our few phrases of German and hoped that our smiles and nods conveyed some of our appreciation for this gesture. They were very concerned about us and stood waving at the door until we were out of sight.

We climbed through may mountains that afternoon getting into more and more snow. We could see the skiers returning to their lodges and I envied Gail who was spending her vacation with some French students learning how to ski. We stopped for the night at a little village near the boarder. Pat and I had a lovely room with a balcony. There was a lighted Christmas tree on it and we could see the snow falling on it all night. It really gave one the feeling of Christmas.

The next morning, after the usual continental breakfast of rolls and cafe au lait, we set out to find Liechtenstein. Since this country has a treaty with Switzerland, there is no regular border between the two and before we knew it we found ourselves in the tiny capital city with the Prince’s castle overlooking it. Liechtenstein’s main industry is postage stamps and we aided the economy by each sending off two or three post cards. Since the country is so small it was only a few minutes to the Austrian border. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we would be travelling on a big wide “autobahn” ie. a freeway. Needless to say it took no time at all to zip over to the German border. We did no shopping as we knew we would be returning in a few days. Germany is loved by us all as the land of the ‘Milk bars” and we stopped at the first one we found in a little town not too far from the border. There was a great big jolly German sitting in there who watched us with an amused and kindly expression on his face as we tried to ask the waitress if we could get a lunch there. Imagine our joy when we found out he spoke French and was able to translate for us. He ran out and bought the cheese for our sandwiches and made sure that we all got what we wanted. This was just one of the many times our limited French was a big help to us. We decided that Jeannie would drive for a while in the afternoon. Since she is very short it was necessary to push the seat of the VW up. It is rather sticky and we all got behind to shove it forward. To our consternation we pushed so hard it came completely out of the car and we were left in the middle of the street with a loose seat in our hands! We tried valiantly for several minutes to put it back but were unable to repeat our past performance of strength. Finally the waitress saw our trouble and sent out three big boys who soon had us all put together and ready to race off towards Munich again.

Love

Have to go to classes now, will continue at a later date

Margi

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Mom’s Tour de France 9 (FGK 100)

I can’t believe I’ve hit 100 posts From Grandma’s Kitchen!! I am so grateful I’ve got these letters to share.

This is the second half of the letter describing mom’s trip to Germany. I noticed again that she mentions stealing apples off of trees to snack on. I had always figured it was dad who taught us to steal fruit – but now I wonder if maybe mom also had a hand in that. As children, when we would vacation on Vancouver Island, dad was famous for pulling over on the side of the road and sending my sister and I into the ditch with buckets. We had to stand amongst the prickly thorns and pick as many blackberries as we could, as quickly as possible. The drive back to Calgary after our vacations was always a very pungent one as flats of berries sat on top of our luggage.

Her description of the little parade watched reminds me of the Cochrane Labour Day parade when I was a kid. I think the only people watching the parade were parents of kids who were in it- everyone else was in the parade!

Mom bought a camera! I will have to dig around and see if there are any photos of her adventures in Europe.

About seven we got hungry but didn’t know where to find an inexpensive restaurant. While we were going through one of the towns we saw a Shell Station. We knew it would be German, but it felt so good to see a familiar sight that we stopped there to ask where to find a place to eat. Luckily the attendant knew a few words of English and with our few words of German he directed us to a lovely little wooden restaurant. We went in what we hoped was the right door and seated ourselves around one of the tables- which were similar to picnic tables. The waitress couldn’t speak French or English, but we got a menu by gesturing- then the fun started, because we were just starving but couldn’t understand the menu!! We spent about 20 minutes trying to decipher it . By this time a man and his wife had sat down at our table. Everyone in the room was very amused but we were getting hungrier and discussed in English where we should ask them if they would help us. Finally the man leaned over and said, “This is a very good meal!” He spoke a little French and English!! For less than a $1.00 we got a huge platter of meat and mushroom sauce, a platter of spaghetti, and a big salad among the four of us. We were so hungry we ate almost all of it. It was just delicious. We ended up having them all teaching us how to count in German and a few more sentences – like how much does it cost etc. We got into Ulm, which was our destination for the day, fairly late but found a hotel right away. It was new and clean. Our beds had the great big German feather mattresses on them – which made it very difficult to get out of bed the next morning!

Breakfast was served by a quaint old German lady who loaded us up with extra bread for lunch. As you probably have guessed by this time, bread and cheese is the cheapest meal you can get over here. We visited the church (I sent you a post card of it) and attended the service there which was Protestant. (Munster in Ulm an dear Donau hochster Kirchturm dear Erde (161m) Munster (cathedral) at Ulm on the Nonnau highest steeple of the earth (161m).

From Ulm to Stuttgart we were on one of the German autobahns. These are just marvellous – the same thing as a freeway. At Stuttgart our troubles started – everyplace we drove while we were in that town we got lost. We had to count an extra hour whenever we wanted to go somewhere just to get ourselves untangled. After crossing the city about three times we finally got on the right road for the campus of Stanford in Germany. This is in the country near a tiny village not far from Stuttgart. We could see the buildings in the distance because it was at the very top of a hill, looking out in all directions. The sides of the hill are covered with vineyards and apple trees. There is a tiny winding road up to the top lined with trees, from which we took some apples because we hadn’t bought any. We got a great reception from the students there, it was almost like coming home – to meet someone who spoke English!! They showed us all over the centre. We both have different advantages. They live in the country, get to know the people of the village very well and have a homey atmosphere. We have more of the advantages of living near a big town and can meet more students and our building is more modern. Since they have been established longer than we have, they have a few more things – like a record player and more books in the library. Remember this time last year when I was dying to go to Germany? I am still just fascinated by the language and would love to learn it. After taking a walk around the village, we went back to Stuttgart to see Christof, Gail’s friend. He is one of the nicest people I have met over here. We had supper with him and his sister. It was a very simple meal consisting of German bread with cheese and liverwort. Their company was so enjoyable that it was one of the best meals we had. They served some apple cider that had just started to ferment. It was delicious. I wish that it could travel so I could send some for you, but you have to drink it at a certain stage. Christof studies physics at the University of Stuttgart and he had a book on his shelf that was written by Ruth’s father who is a professor at Cal. Christof is also an amateur photographer – some of his pictures were really terrific. He gave us all one as a souvenir. This hobby comes in very handy because the next day he took us down town to buy cameras. I have a fabulous Zeus camera which I got for $50.00 off because someone had exchanged it. I am so excited with it I can hardly wait to run out and get some pictures. I’ve seen so many things since I’ve been here, it’s just killing me without a camera. We walked around the streets of Stuttgart a bit and then went to have a lunch at a milk bar. We had some German bread and pastries for next to nothing. They even sold milkshakes but we just had plain milk. That afternoon we headed for Baden-Baden and the Black Forest. This was one of the prettiest parts of the whole trip. On the tops of some of the hills we could see old ruins of castles. Down in the valleys, here and there we could see a little town. The forests are very well cared for. We could see where they had been re-forested after lumbering. At the top of one of the hills we came across a little store run by two little old men. We stopped here to buy some cookies. We went to so much trouble and get all this in German that he gave us chocolate bars to eat long our way. After leaving the Black Forest we took the Autobahn to Strasburg. The Rhine is the border between France and Germany here and we were caught in a traffic jam on the bridge, trying to get through French customs. They were looking in the trunks fo cars – and we had five cameras plus a lot of odds and ends from Switzerland. We decided to say we were tourists so went in that lane but the little man didn’t really believe us because we had French license plates. We more or less just drove off before he could figure the whole deal out. We spent the night in Strasburg in a tiny hotel in the old part of town. The street we were on was really interesting – hundreds of years old. The people there speak a mixture of French and German – I didn’t think they know what they are half the time. The next morning we visited the cathedral and threw a stone in the Rhine. Since we were quite far from Tours and this was our last day of holiday, we had to drive straight back. We hadn’t seen this part of France before though, so it was quite interesting. I saw some Herefords in a field. There was also some big stacks of baled hay – much more than around Tours.

It was All Saints Day and in some areas of the little villages we passed through they were holding services and parades. Everyone in the village was in the parade so there was no one to but us to watch them. We got back in Tours about seven thirty, in time to compare our experiences with those of the other kids who had gone travelling in all directions.

Margi Copithorne

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Mom’s Tour de France 8 (FGK 99)

I was emailing with my aunt the other day and we were discussing mom’s trip to Germany. I wasn’t sure if she would have included it in these letters, so I was very happy to see this trip in today’s letter. The story I got from mom was a bit more dramatic and involved the guards walking out, fully armed, and pointing their guns at the carload of girls. Chances are mom embellished the story to make it a bit more exciting, but chances are just as good that she completely downplayed the border crossing in her letter so as not to freak out poor Grandma.

I am amazed at how strong and agile mom was. I do remember as a kid how much she was able to do – but the a trip like this must have taken such courage! Even her description of sitting under the trees having their lunch – for mom sitting on the ground was not an option because she couldn’t get herself up after. She must have trusted these girls she was travelling with. Quite the different life from 5 years before when she was 4 years into her hospital stay. It really is proof that you never know what is coming ahead for you in life. What if she had listened to the doctors who said she would never even sit up again? What a great life she would have missed out on. Thank goodness for the determination of Grandma and the support of her family.

November 2nd 1960

Dear Everyone;

Here at last is that long promised letter. I have just returned from a fabulous weekend to find mounds and mounds of work waiting for me. I don’t have the nerve to face it so I’ll write a letter instead.

We had a pleasant surprise last week when we discovered that the French celebrate All Saints Day. This meant that our French teachers refused to come on November 1st. We talked to our other professors into giving up their classes on the following weekend so that we could have from Friday to Wednesday free.

Gail knew a boy in Stuttgart who was a close friend of a friend here and who had invited us there for a weekend so we decided to try our luck at German. Together with Pat and Ruth, two close friends of ours, we took a car and headed east early Friday morning towards Switzerland. We had stopped at a little grocery store the night before and were well stocked with French bread, cheese, and fruit which was to be our lunch throughout the whole trip. Neuchâtel, Switzerland was the goal fro our first day. We drove along the Loire for the first hour and then headed off into the farmlands of Eastern France. These were just gorgeous with the red, yellow, and orange leaves against the dark green of the grass. At first, the terrain was quite flat with lots of forest but few hills and then gradually there got to be more and more knolls. We stopped for lunch at a little village on top of a hill. At the very peak of the hill there was an old Abby part of which was built in the 9th century. There were still monks living in the same old building – probably rebuilt. We ate our lunch out under the trees in the church garden From here we could see for miles up and down the valley. It would have been a good place for a fort. From here on we kept going into more and more hills until we hit the Jura mountains – which really aren’t too high but which are very picturesque because the towns are all in the valleys when you drive into one you get the same view as we get of Banff from the top of Sulphur Mountain. We drove through here at the hour when all the farmers were taking their cows home to milk them and many a time we had to yield the right of way to a big bossy looking creature with a bell around her neck. These bells sound lovely in the evening when they are all going home and there is a peasant going along behind chasing them with a stick. We crossed the Swiss border just at twilight. All the guard did was look at our passports – much to our disappointment, he didn’t even mark them so now we cannot show off all the places we’ve been to. We got to Neuchatel fairly early and were able to find a nice hotel near the centre of town. It was right by a market place where we went out and bought carrots the next morning. We met some Americans who were studying there and who told us where to go for our meal. It was a charming little restaurant where we had soup and a big main course for about 75 cents. Really good food. We all bought the Swiss chocolate bars for dessert and ate them in our room. Since we wanted to get an early start we went to bed early in our little wooden beds which were loaded down with elder downs. I had some more Swiss hot chocolate for breakfast along with some homemade jam on rolls. I’m sure I gained about 10 pounds on the trip. We drove around the town in the morning to look at the lake and the buildings and then headed out for Bern.

Swiss villages pleased me more than any others I’ve ever seen – they are so quaint, clean and picturesque. They still use horses a lot but there is the odd tractor. The fields are as well kept as the houses are – and the people are so very friendly. We kept waving at all the farmers as we drove along singing in our little car. We got to Bern about 11 o’clock, not knowing exactly what we wanted to do. It took quite a while to find a parking place and then we decided to look in some of the shops. As we were walking along the street we heard someone calling our names and a girl we met on the boat came running up! She showed us over much of the city – the cathedral and the clock were the highlights. You’ve probably read about the big clock in Bern. When the hour strikes all sorts of little men and animals come out and run around it. I was just fascinated by it all. She took us into a shop which specialized in chocolates. There were every kind imaginable there – and all sorts of weird shapes. I did some Xmas shopping there – you should get the parcel early in December and be able to distribute them for me. After this we went to a toy store, I could have spent hours there – much of the toys were the same as ours but some were quite different. I bought Dixie something – it was hard for someone her age but it quite sturdy and should be hard to break. After saying goodbye to Erika and buying some more bread and cheese for our lunch, we headed for Zurich. This is in the German speaking part of Switzerland, as is Bern, but most of the people could speak French so we got along alright – language difficulties weren’t to come until Germany. We got an excellent view of the Alps going into Zurich. They remind me of our Rockies. The difference is these have tiny villages with wooden houses (chalets) around them. Every village has a church with a big clock in the tower- I could always keep my watch set! We had to stop for gas here as it is cheaper in Switzerland than in Germany. The people at the station were very kind and gave us our directions in a mixture of French, German, and English, telling us a few necessary German phrases like “where is a restaurant, hotel, etc.” It was dusk when we drove up to the German boarder. As we approached two tall guards in the German uniform stepped out to stop the car. Suddenly I guess I forgot what year it was it I usually was terrified. It was just a passing feeling and I didn’t say anything about it until a half hour later and i found out the other kids had felt that way too. I guess I’ve seen too many World War 2 movies.

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