Strasbourg, France …Happened

A tale of I wish we had two bathrooms

Our European tour started with a bang,  shortly followed up by a gurgle and a burp.  This would set the tone for all of our future excursions through Europe.  Something easy, inexpensive and highly enjoyable. Just a quick weekend getaway…

My wife’s birthday was right around the corner.  After the stress of relocating our entire family, including two cats to Germany, what could be better than a quick stop over to the self-proclaimed “most romantic country in the world”…right?  

I set out to plan the whole trip; sightseeing, outdoor cafes, wine, cheese and bread for days!  A week before we head out, our youngest caught a bug. No sweat, plenty of time for it to work its way through his system…I will not be deterred.

I found a nice enough hotel room, one bedroom for us, two single beds in the main area for the boys and even a small kitchenette.  All within walking distance of the city center. Sure enough, the entire day before the trip everyone was back in good health or so I thought, the mission is a go.

We head out early enough, but not too early so that we will be able to check into the hotel when we arrive.  Our crossing over the border of Germany into France becomes apparent instantly. From the language on the signage to the design of the speed limit and off ramp signs, the style isn’t drastically different but unmistakable.  We had purchased a cell phone for my wife, and it instantly chimes to tell her that we have now left Germany, if she would like to continue to receive calls she must turn on roaming. No big deal, something I love to do during vacation is unplug, in fact I recommend everyone unplug every chance that they can.  Our car comes equipped with a GPS anyway.

A handful of miles into France and something strange happened on our GPS however, it looks as if we have left the road and are driving through some random road-less field.  I can assure you that we are in fact still road-bound, despite my logical argument the GPS seems to continue to disagree. We fiddle with the controls for a few minutes then are left with no choice but to bite the bullet and turn on the roaming feature of my wife’s phone in order to Google map the rest of our way to the hotel.  Again, I will not be deterred, once we arrive we will have the WiFi from the hotel and no need to drive again so we will be able to turn it off again.

Only 20 minutes until we reach our destination, my oldest son starts to complain about not feeling well.

“We are only 20 minutes away, surely you will be able to make it to the hotel right?”

He must just be a little car sick, my wife and I justify his not feeling well.

“I will tr…BLAAARGHHH” comes his response

His corner of the car is suddenly covered in this morning’s breakfast.

“Oh no!” I say as I look for the first available spot to pull over.  My wife is already rolling down the window.

“BLAAARGHHH”, last nights dinner.  “BLAAARGHHH” yesterdays….lunch?

After spending the next 10 minutes on the side of the road, we have the mess somewhat handled.  We debate turning back and scraping the weekend but decide that at this point 15 minutes to our hotel beats an hour plus driving back home in a vomit encased car interior.  Our oldest looks like he will need to get to a toilet as soon as possible anyway.

We arrive at our hotel and I run inside to check-in while my wife hangs outside with the boys so we don’t have an incident in the lobby.  We get everything in order and get to the room, with a sigh of relief we show our oldest just where the bathroom is. As they settle in, I have to go back down to the car to move it around to the parking garage at the rear of the building.

Strasbourg is mid-sized city, but like most cities it is composed of mainly one-way streets.  Moving the car to the back of the building suddenly became a little more complicated. I am unable to turn right to get to the back of the building, so I look for the next road that I can turn down only it doesn’t come right away and the road curves away from my intended destination.  After a few more twists and turns in my pungent car, I deem myself lost. One more attempt to reach the road I am trying to get to and I find myself back on the highway that i came in on, and in the wrong direction. I try to re-locate myself with the “you’re driving in the middle of a field” car GPS, unsuccessfully.  I start patting down all of my pockets for my wifes cell phone, which happens to still be with my wife. A moment of panic rises in my chest, I am lost in a foreign country, on a highway going the wrong direction, with a sick child in a hotel room that I can’t find.

A couple deep breaths and I gather my thoughts, I exit the highway and loop around to the other side of the highway and re-enter.  I am going the right direction now, I must be able to remember the exit we got off of. I look for the spot where we pulled over to let my son puke while we cleaned up the back seat.  I don’t see it, and this has to be too far. I try again, exiting and entering the highway back and forth one more time. Panic is starting to rise again. This time I take what I think is an exit at least near where I want to be.  After circling through the city of Strasbourg in stop and go city traffic I know I have to be close. I pull over and jump out of the car in search of someone that knows English preferably and possibly the road that I am looking for.

I run into a couple guys who look to be in their 20’s.  Their English is spotty, but they are willing to open up Google maps and let me put in my destination.  Turns out I am about 3 roads away from where I want to be. I can hardly stifle the relief that I feel, I extend my thanks and get back to my car, two minutes later I am sitting in front of the hotel in the exact spot that I started from.  I will not be deterred. I circle around the hotel a drive up what I now recognize as a road next to the street trolley tracks to the parking garage. Victory! A piddly two hours and countless kilometers have passed since I last said I will be right back, I have to go park the car.

I finally walk back into the hotel room.  My youngest is watching Netflix on the laptop, my oldest is looking as pale as a ghost trying to rest on one of the single beds.  

“Where’s mommy?” I ask.

They point to the bathroom…”BLAAARGHHH”

“Oh no.”  I wipe my hands down either side of my face.

I describe my car parking adventure while my wife and son exercise the bathroom door hinges and toilet handle.  We gathered up as many receptacles as we could find in the bathroom to accomidate the double occupancy at times.

“I wish we had two bathrooms.” My wife says repeatedly as she is forced to share the bathroom with my son who is using both the toilet and a bucket at the same time.

I left the room once more that afternoon, for a food and water run.

That night, we quarantined my wife and son to the bedroom while myself and my youngest each took a single bed in the living room.  They were equipped with tissues, towels and buckets. I checked on them regularly while hoping beyond hope that myself and my youngest weren’t next on the list of victims.

After some restless sleep everyone seemed to be feeling a little bit better the next morning.  Myself and my youngest were anxious to get some breakfast and my older son felt like he might be able to keep some food down as well, so we all went down for some free hotel breakfast.

During breakfast we decided that it wasn’t even worth it to try and explore the city, everyone just wanted to go home.  The last thing we wanted was for another bout of vomiting to strike in the middle of a walking tour of the city. Our choice would prove to be the correct one.

We packed our bags, cleaned up the bathroom as well as we could and just before heading out, my oldest decided that he did NOT in fact want to bring the free breakfast home with him and tried to find room for it in the already overfull trash can.

Our return drive to Germany was on pins and needles, as every cough, burp, sniffle and hiccup resulted in my looking around for some part of a lunch from three weeks ago to appear in some form on the car seats and floor. Our sole souvenir gripped between my son’s hands for the entire drive, the hotels plastic bathroom garbage can liner.

By the time that we arrived back at a house with two bathrooms, no one needed either one anymore.  So I guess you can say that we have visited France, but I’m not ready to mark that country off our bucket list quite yet.

Please excuse the lack of pictures…but I’m sure you understand.

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