Sunday, August 14, 2016

European Adventure 2012: Back Home--St. Germain, Chocolat, and German Cleanliness

After visiting Omaha Beach, we were let out of the cemetery parking lot and drove back to our hotel in Lisieux.  We came across a bit of a predicament upon arriving back...most of the restaurants in town were bars!  Eventually, we found a pizza parlor and had some pizza...yup...French pizza!  It was actually pretty good!

The next morning, we drug our feet as we checked out of our hotel and made our way back to our car parked in the town's ancient town square.  Dan thought of what this town square must have looked like in medieval times...probably a lot different, but a lot alike at the same time.  I'm sure they must have had medieval festivals here!

We began our drive back to Paris to return our car and meet up with our friend Tom one last time before boarding our train for Kaiserslautern, Germany.

When we arrived in Paris, we went to the district of St-Germain-des-Prés to meet Tom.  While we were there, we stepped into the ancient church of St-Germain-des-Prés.  This part of Paris was once located outside of the medieval city removed from the main city due to frequent flooding of the River Seine.  For this reason, the Benedictine Abbey and its buildings were built in the fields away from the city...fields/meadows in French is "prés," hence the name.  The abbey was founded in the 6th Century by Childebert I, the son of Clovis I (King "Louis" I of France).  The church was originally dedicated to the Holy Cross and St. Vincent, but, after St. Germain, a bishop of Paris was canonized as a Saint, Germain's relics were moved from the church's vestibule to its main body in a ceremony witnessed by Pepin and his seven-year-old son, Charles--one day to be known as "Charles the Great" or "Charlemagne."  The Church was then known as St-Germain-des-Prés.  The church was frequently plundered and set on fire by the Normans in the 9th Century.  Due to this, it was eventually rebuilt, and rededicated by Pope Alexander III.

For nine centuries after his death in 576, his remains were carried in procession through the streets of Paris in times of plague and crisis.  The bishop's remains are still in the church today and may still be kept retro altare ("behind the main altar") in the main church.  The Tomb of the French philosopher, Rene Decartes is also in this church.

After visiting this historic church, we looked for Tom and couldn't find him.  So, we decided to try to see if we could use someone's cell phone to call him.  And...what better place to find someone who would let us use their cell phone than in a French Chocolate shop????  :)

While Sarah and Peter shopped for some gifts for family and for some "souvenirs" for us, I asked an employee if I could use their store's phone.  He told me that they couldn't do that.  I started to get a bit were we going to get a hold of Tom?  I decided to join Sarah and Peter and look at all the amazing chocolate sculptures the shop had on display.  Then, the young employee who I had just spoken to came over to me and gave me his cell phone.  He said "Use my phone!  Just don't tell my boss, I could get in trouble!"  I thanked him profusely and was able to get in contact with Tom to make arrangements for meeting him.  Whoever said the French/Parisians are rude must have been dealing with the wrong crowd...this guy stuck his neck out for us and we'll always remember him for his kindness!

After this episode, we met up with Tom and walked around with him a bit.  We had to get going to the train station to catch our train, so Tom accompanied us to the train station.  To pass the time before our train left, we all went to a restaurant across the street from the train station to get one last taste of French food.  It was delicious as expected.  To this day, the jury is still out in our family as to what country has the best food:  France or Italy (Dan's vote is for France!).

We bid a fond farewell to Tom and thanked him for taking such good care of us and for showing us around the incredible city he called his home.  It was great to have him with us!

We traveled by train back to Kaiserslautern (the city outside of Ramstein Air Base).  We picked up a taxi and had a great conversation with our cabbie.  She was half American, half German...her father was an American GI and her mother was a German.  As she drove us through Kaiserslautern, we noticed that there were a lot of kids dressed up in costumes walking around with their parents.  We asked her what this was all about and she told us that it was Rosenmontag or "Rose Monday."  This festival is held mostly in the Rhineland region of Germany on the Monday before Ash Wednesday each year.  It is accompanied by parades and costumes.  Candy and flowers are thrown to the crowds during these parades.

Our taxi driver took us outside of Ramstein and unfortunately couldn't take us on base.  We processed through the front gate and began walking to the KMCC--the base's giant shopping center with a huge BX and many other stores and restaurants.  Luckily, a military mom with a van saw us walking with Peter and our suitcases and was kind enough to give us a lift.  We went to the KMCC and did some long-awaited shopping.  The BX alone could have fit three of Incirlik's BX's...literally.  After Dan got a new iPod, we went down to the food court to have some had been nearly a year!  

After filling ourselves on the delicious sandwiches, we got a cab to take us to our hotel off base.  Our hotel was privately owned and very nice.  It was run by a local German woman who--in typical German fashion--was very adamant on keeping a clean, impeccable establishment.  In fact, she had an entire binder of rules and regulations for visitors:  "Make sure you wipe down the shower" and "Pick up after yourself" were some of the directions from our hostess. Despite being under the microscope, it was a nice stay with a delicious traditional breakfast with homemade fruit jams.

After our stay, we caught a cab back to Ramstein, hopped on the rotator and were off for home in Turkey.  It had been a whirlwind trip (4 countries!) but one of the most holy and memorable we had been on.