Bear with me today and I’ll stop haranguing you with the cruise on the Rhine River in Europe.
The one Good Wife Norma and I indulged in the name of our coming 50th anniversary.
I thought we’d wrap up our three-part series with a few personal experiences from this most wonderful and memorable York Fun Club adventure.
The first of many cultural revelations came early when our ship, the Amadeus Brilliant, delivered us to Strasbourg, France, for a walking historical tour and Christmas Market visit. It was here I stood in line briefly to use a small, very open restroom on the edge of the outdoor market. When my turn came, I went up couple wooden steps into this primitive comfort station … there to find waiting not one but two female attendants.
These ladies didn’t slip in and out unobtrusively. Oh, no. They were ensconced amid a cluster of open urinals and minimally private WCs (toilets here - water closets there). It was their job to tend to us fellas as we relieved ourselves, which, of necessity, I did with one of them at my shoulder busying herself with whatever female attendants do in a men’s room. Even had a bowl for tips.
I read before we left home how Europeans are nowhere close to as cinched-up about nudity and such as we Americans. I will forever hold this personal, but not at all private potty experience in Strasbourg as proof.
Two other significant interactions with locals remain with me, beginning with a goofy little guy in Lucerne who enthusiastically insisted on showing us where our chosen restaurant was located. He spoke little or no English, so we relied on his scurrying and hand signals for direction and also entertainment. The man was a hoot.
Our guide soon proved, as we wandered all over and back again, that he was only vaguely aware where the place was. When he finally exclaimed in joy and pointed to the restaurant, he waved goodbye with a huge smile and turned to go. I called him back and handed him a 5-franc tip for which he was genuinely surprised and grateful.
After our meal – I went with the pork cheeks – and a tumble on some steps at the end of which I landed in a heap on the floor – we went outside to find our way back to the hotel. That’s when we discovered the restaurant was right around the corner from where our search began. Had been there the whole time, apparently.
The only thing broken in the fall was my watchband, which left me literally timeless. A couple days later I stuck it in my pocket when we went ashore, telling GWN to keep her eyes peeled for a jewelry store. She found one and I went inside, there to be greeted by a man of perhaps my own age.
It was immediately obvious his English was nil, but he quickly grasped my problem. I pointed and asked, “Can you fix it?” to which he nodded a yes. It was nothing skeletal, thank goodness, just a lost pin.
He fixed it in short order and handed it back with a smile. I dug for my stash of euros and he quickly waved off any payment, saying, “Gift. Gift.” I kept digging, thinking it would be cute to hand him a 5 and proclaim, “Gift, Gift.” right back. He was having none of it.
I began to tell him, mostly with hand gestures, about falling down in Lucerne, but he signaled me to stop, went into the back and returned with a younger man who translated my touristy tale of woe.
It was a warm little side experience that I very much enjoyed.
There were others of course, but I promised not to go on ad nauseum, didn’t I? So I probably won’t.