Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe...join me!

Friday, December 14, 2012

napoleon's gift

In Germany you need a license for pretty much everything; even though you can openly drink and be naked everywhere without any problem.  In order to fish you need a license for each river; to drive a boat on a river you need a license; to drive a boat in an ocean you need a different license; to rent a boat from a harbour you need yet another license; and, to use the water radio system you need a funk license…that’s my favourite one, a license to funk.

So a few weeks ago, great guy and I spent the weekend at a country estate in the neighbouring province of Saarland, close to the French and Luxembourg border.  He was taking part in a two day theory course for his ocean boating license, at a nearby sailing school…and I was just relaxing. 

The land gasthof where we stayed, once belonged to Napoleon.  Well, I guess lots of things once belonged to him.  Anyways, this particular estate he gifted to one of his top officers; his calvary colonel Louis Charles Narcisse Lapointe, for exceptional service.  Louis built up the estate beyond the existing buildings, to include massive stables, employee wings, a beautiful stone chapel up on the hillside; overlooking the main buildings, the pond and the surrounding forest.


He took each stone from his existing Parisian estate and erected the master house, stone for stone, on this property.  The feeling here was one of enchantment, possibly due to the mist hanging low each morning.  The air felt mysterious; like any moment Napoleon himself might come riding over the hill.



So, while great guy was learning ocean navigation, I was whiling my days away; wonderfully exploring the surrounding areas, including the oldest monastery in Germany, Abtei Tholley; hiking to the mouth of the Nahe river (the same river flowing past our house into the Rhein) where water bubbled out of the ground onto a stone marker; taking photos of misty moor-like landscapes; catching up on some reading; and even doing a little jogging.  I mean, how often will I get the chance to go running in Napoleon’s footsteps...and since they’re just tiny footsteps it wasn’t as exhausting.

On Saturday evening, after we had a sauna-goodtime, we took a walk out into the dark, foresty night.  We had heard of an old mill on the other side of the forest; now a great, little restaurant.  The lights of our estate waved us goodbye, as the wavering lights of the mill trickled through the trees coming ever closer as we walked.  Inside of the mill, the atmosphere was bustling and full of locals; it was quaint and smelling of hearty good food.  Unfortunately, there was absolutely no room at the inn.  All of the long, wooden tables were full and the apologetic owner (in Germany, the owner is almost always present and very often also the host) had to turn us away.  So we foraged for food elsewhere.

In the morning, while loading up on the complimentary breakfast (great guy always needs to make the most of the hotel fee), he discovered a new fruit – it looked like a mixture between a plum and a fig (I know now that it’s a maracuja), but inside it looked like a green pomegranate.  He said “this tastes just like New Zealand.” I’m like, “how do you know what New Zealand tastes like”.  He said, “because it tastes just like this.” I guess you had to be there, but I found it so funny.  Sometimes, I love it when this beautiful man, acts just like a little boy.

In one hour I’m off to Dusseldorf, another great city sitting right on the Rhein.  Ms. Potter invited me to hang out with her and her sisters for a couple of days of rock-concerting, Christmas-marketing, and even a bit of crazy dancing.  Great guy will be nestled up in our house, hitting the books, preparing for his ocean boat test on Sunday.  Wish him luck, then we can hit the seas!  I would love to float in the footsteps of yet another conqueror…a certain Spaniard who had a wonderful way with boat names.  Ahoy.

P.S. In honour of three very important people (to me) who are celebrating birthdays right now:

“I wish you Christmas, a merry Christmas,
A merry Christmas to remember all the year.
Old friends smiling, thinking of times gone by;
Young friends laughing:
Christmas is here,
Spirits are bright, and hopes are high.
I wish you loved ones around your fire;
May Christmas bring you all your heart’s desire.”
                                                     -John Rutter
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