Christmas Vacation - National Lampoon has nothing on Gerhardt and Sheila. Of course, we had to have a comic relief moment when I almost got stuck in a bathroom at one of our many destinations which we dubbed Tourist Trap Outpost. Picture little Sheila unable to get the door to unlock, pounding on it, crying, "Help!" while on the other side some of my cruise companions tried to figure out how to release me. I did finally manage to release myself before the tour bus left without me. Hmmm. I got lost coming back from the bathroom to the tour bus in Athens. Maybe potty issues are becoming a trend with me. That's probably why, when I wanted to leave the crowd at the airport in France to go look for the ladies room, my other half begged me to stay put.
But I digress. We had a great time on our holiday Rhine River cruise with my sister and brother in-law, who are great traveling companions. Viking Cruises are the best. In addition to taking us to some wonderful Christmas Markets in Germany (the pictures don't do justice to these - they are magical!) they also made sure we stayed safe during the scary time when the terrorist was loose in Strasbourg. The city, which was one of our destinations, was shut down as police searched for him. Such a sad time. On a happier note, we were taken to some places that were equally beautiful (in fact, the Christmas market at Baden Baden was the best of all!) We also made wonderful new friends on the boat and, after the cruise, got a chance to see Paris. (Every writer should see Paris, right?) We were properly stunned seeing the Eiffel Tower up close and personal and enjoyed a visit with the Mona Lisa. One thing that surprised me was the impact these accomplishments have on you when you see them in person.
Another thing that left an impression was the memorials that are now being erected around Germany in honor of those who suffered during the Holocaust. What's been done can't be undone and that will forever be a dark time in the county's history. But it was good to see that horror being acknowledged.
There we encountered a team of pickpockets. Three men who'd seen the dumb tourists getting out their money to buy tickets to the train to the airport. When we got on, dragging our carry-on luggage behind us, rat number one, the distractor spoke to my husband in rapid-fire French, man-handling his carry-on, while rat number two hemmed him in. In the midst of the chaos, rat number three was reaching his hand into my hubby's murse (man purse). Fortunately, my husband is no dummy and figured out what was going on. He whacked the intruder's hand away. The head of the gang saw the jig was up, asked, "Are we good?" (No hard feelings, dude?) Then he and his pals bolted off the train just as the doors were closing.
Another man had seen the distractor in action and after they'd bolted said, "You know what they were doing? They were drying to rob you."
No kidding. Really?
He was disgusted and assured us that, "This is not France."
We already knew that. Everyone we met had been kind and friendly. And we were happy to survive the adventure in one piece.
Our trip was wonderful, a true vacation and the first time in years I haven't hauled along some kind of work to do. Of course, I did come back inspired so I suspect I'll get a book out of this.
Now we're home and getting ready to enjoy a merry Christmas with our loved ones. I hope you're getting ready to do the same. Happy holidays!