We spent the first few days of my sister's European Adventure showing her around my life in Dusseldorf. We went to the Altstadt, which is the Old Town, full of German pubs and nightclubs and restaurants. The pubs had no drinking age or closing times. This was a fabulous experience for an 18 year old from Colorado. I had to keep an eye on her!
We had a Scottish friend, John Craig, round for dinner. Steph didn't say much throughout most of the meal. She was helping me clear the table and bring out dessert when she asks me "So why do you speak English to him but he answers you in a foreign language?" She hadn't understood a word my mate was speaking. Of course he was speaking English just with a very heavy Scottish accent. I nearly died laughing.
The first weekend she visited we set off for Paris. We took the overnight train and arrived at Gare de Nord at 5 am. We checked into our little hotel and set off to explore.
I've been to Paris loads and I love the city. The architecture, the history, the food, the wine: everywhere you turn there are treasures to be found. I love sitting in a cafe and just watching the people.
We raced around in the August heat. It was 100 degrees or more whilst we were there and we made sure to stop at every public fountain and drip our toes in with all the other tourists.
We saw the Eiffel Tour and the Arc de Triumphe. We got lost (more than once) in the Louvre. We marvelled at Notre Dame (my favourite cathedral in all the world).
We went out for dinner on Saturday night to a fabulous restaurant. No one could quite understand the menu. French menus can baffles even the most fluent of French speakers. My then-boyfriend, Glen, ordered salmon. when it came it was very few very thinly sliced pieces. He thought he was going to starve and we shared our meals with him. Turns out, his was all you could eat and they just kept bringing him more. At least none of us starved!
We drank loads of great wine with dinner and then proceeded to spend a great deal of time in a cafe drinking more wine. Steph just couldn't believe her luck. At about 4 am we decided we might just maybe find our way back to the hotel. But first we needed to find a taxi.
We had decided amongst ourselves that Stephanie probably spoke the best French. She had just finished 4 years of high school. Whereas I had graduated high school 10 years earlier and had clearly forgotten everything I had learnt, especially after vast quantities of vin blanc et vin rouge!
Glen hailed a cab. I told the driver where we were going and he told us how much. I thought this was a fair amount but Stephanie, buoyed my the new found confidence of spurred on by lots of vin, she starts negotiating. In French! Flawless French. I tell you, she speaks better French drunk than she does sober. Well, at least that's how it sounded to me.
We got home and the next morning over our Cafe au lait et croissant le petit dejeuner, we discovered we paid this taxi the equivalent of about $20 to take us clear across the city. Wow, that Stephanie drives a hard bargain!
On Sunday we took the late afternoon train back to Dusseldorf. We had a very odd experience as we all settled down into our seats for the return journey with our books. Steph stared out the window waiting for the train to leave the platform and her index finger pad just suddenly split open and started bleeding. I have this photograph (which of course I can't find right now) of her holding up her bleeding finger looking extremely forlorn. God only knows what that was all about. But it has stuck in my memory. And hers. After forgetting her at the airport, it is the first thing she recalls about the trip!