Thursday, May 8, 2008
Letter No. 4
Before we begin with our travels, we think we should tell you a bit about the GPS we got just for our Europe trip. It works with a laptop computer and Microsoft’s Auto Route 2007, which is like Microsoft’s Trips and Streets for the USA.
Of course, the first problems with it were that we’d never used it before. But we figured it out enough to use it. Then we found the hole in the armor! Apparently, no one who coded this program had ever driven in Europe. Otherwise they would not have consistently “routed” us from one highway to another through city streets since every highway has a turn off to the next route. Let us explain.
In Europe, as I explained in our book (Take Your RV to Europe), signs show the city names on their route as well as the number of the road. When we left Gent in Belgium, heading to Metz, in France, we made a note of the cities we would pass by on our way. That means that we followed the signs for Brussels until we reached that city; then we followed the signs for Namur in Belgium. By the time we got to Namur, we could follow signs to Metz in France. We never left the highway. We simply took the designated road off each highway for the highway to the next city we would pass.
Our GPS, on the other hand, showed city streets to be the connections to the next highway. It took us a while to figure out what it was doing. Now we just ignore that part. But it is a great pleasure to know where we are on the general route by looking at the arrow that tells you where you really are. It’s also nice to get an idea of how long in miles you have left to go and how long that should take you.
On Sunday our traveling companions left right after breakfast, but we had a few things to do. When we did leave Gent on Sunday, we could have driven directly to Metz, which is southeast of Gent – but Adelle was very tired and wanted to stop early and relax. So we picked a campground in a Belgian town called Arlon and drove there to stay for the night. Much easier. We were surprised to see in the literature the campground owner gave us that their clients are 98% from The Netherlands. That’s a bit odd.
We were around the campground long enough to talk to our neighbor. This Dutch man and his wife have been camping in a small motor home for a lot longer than we have. Not only that, but their motorhome is older than ours by six or seven years. We thought we held that record. But he had a 1979 Ford engine in a European- made motorhome. And he knew where we wanted to go and had recommendations to make about campgrounds.
Our neighbor also told us that the couple who owned this campground were Dutch, of course, but that they are world sailors, in a large cruising sail boat, every winter. They leave a person who lives in a caravan on the grounds to watch over things, and they take off, sailing around the world. They are younger than we are, but certainly in their sixties. We also were told that she is the lover of sailing, and he goes along because of her.
In the morning, we drove a few hours more to get to the city-owned campground in Metz. The campground is right on the Moselle River and very nice. Not that we noticed much. We were off to visit the city as soon as we parked. The warden assured us it was only a five minute walk to the old city. Since we’d already spoken to our Dutch neighbor in Arlon about this, and he said it would only take us 15 minutes or so, we knew the old city really was close.
Of course, the part of the old city that we wanted to see was a bit further on. Let me put it this way. We left our camper at 11:15 or so and returned at 5:45. Except for twenty minutes eating lunch and less than an hour using a computer in an internet café, we walked. To the Cathedral and around it, around the main streets to find a place to eat lunch, an afternoon at the museum, a visit to a downtown mall with a grocery store and then home. Think we were tired at the end? If not, why was the only song that Adelle had in her head on the way back to the campground “The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be”?
To get back to our day, the Cathedral was, of course, stunning. It was very tall and had stained glass on at least three levels. Even better, they have begun the process of cleaning the stone, so a lot of the outside looked clean and new, which really does spruce it up.
Then we walked to the Museum de la Cour d’Or. You need a heart of gold to see everything. It is situated in an old Carmelite nunnery – up and down stairs like you wouldn’t believe. But the Gallo-Roman collection of artifacts is among the best in Gaul (France) and includes the Roman baths they found when they were first constructing the museum itself. It has far more than we saw after at least two hours – but by the time we’d seen this huge Gallo-Roman collection, we’d had it. We did not stay for most of the medieval and Renaissance collection. We decided to go to the internet café so we could sit for a while! This museum is the biggest bargain in all France! It only cost 3 euros 50 to get in!
Tomorrow we’ll be off to see Nancy, not Adelle’s sister, but a city that promises to be even more interesting.
Bye for now. Adelle & Ron