Claire Becomes a SexagenerianAugust 26, 2017 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C
Our day began with a group breakfast at the ALEX cafe in the centre of town. The rat pack has now grown to 14 people so we are becoming quite a force in this city. During breakfast Greg announced that he and Andrea had discovered a beautiful ruin of a church and they would love to show it to the rest of us. I could have added that, if I really wanted to see any ruins, all I had to do was look around the table, but somehow Greg convinced the group that it really was worth seeing.
After finishing the breakfast we formed a walking peloton with Bob Andrews and Douglas Lee staggering along in the rear. After a few hours sleep Bob insisted that he was no longer "in a lather", but I had to admit that young Douglas looked like he was still sleep walking.
Greg took up the lead position, while the group followed behind. I could only hope that no one would see us, since everyone knows how much I deride such tourist groups. All Greg was lacking was a red umbrella - and a sense of direction. We wandered aimlessly back and forth through the streets. "It's this way", followed by "I think it's up there", finally "I don't know where it is". Talk about stating the bleeding obvious. I looked around and tried to pretend I had nothing to do with the rest of the group.
Eventually Maggie saw a sign pointing to St Christophe's ruin (or something like this). With renewed vigour Greg set off again and, about 20 minutes later, we finally found the place. It was about 50 metres away from where we had breakfast.
The women seemed excited and went off exploring the ruin. The men went off to explore the nearby bike shop. Douglas went to sleep standing up. About 30 minutes later we decided it was time to split up. People dispersed in different directions. Douglas staggered along, trying hard to remain vertical. I was starting to worry about the staying power of these young people.
About 20 minutes later Douglas woke up enough to make a frightening discovery. No, it wasn't that he had had his fly undone the whole morning. It was far worse than that. He had lost his mobile phone. That finally woke him up. With his legs flying he set off back to the ruined church and, to his relief, found that it was still there. It would have been a terrible way to start the trip.
Maggie and I then spent the rest of the day looking for the wine festival that David and Carol had told us was so amazing. Due to David's directions we never had any real chance of finding it, but did manage to see most of Mainz and much of the surrounding towns in the search. We finally just gave up and decided to sit by the river instead. It was a lovely place to watch the continuous parade of boats going up and down the river.
The evening was going to be one of the early highlights of the trip, after all it is not every day that someone turns 60. In our group it is much more common for someone to be turning 70 or 80. Claire had previously announced that tonight would be her birthday party and that everyone was invited to come along and bring a present. She had even chosen the venue. It was called the Holy Ghost (Heiliggeist) Restaurant and it was in the middle of a huge converted church. The name certainly seemed appropriate for a group of Ghostriders and, when I found that it was right next door to our hotel, I readily agreed that it was a great idea.
At 6.45 we were ready. I even put on my good pair of pants and was pleased that we had been able to remove some of the blue ink from the front of my groin. (see the infamous plane incident previously reported). The fine weather had broken and a heavy rain started pouring. We were glad that we only had about 20 metres to walk, while the others would have to walk across the town.
I had tried to make the booking via the Internet from Australia, but my single word German vocabulary (Nein), did not make the process simple. Fortunately the Maitre D was expecting us and escorted us to our table. With the arrival of Lionel Rex, our group had swollen to 15. It would have been even more if Mary Kinch's flight had not been delayed in Melbourne. The delay had caused her to miss the connecting flight and, the last I heard from her she was stuck in Dubai airport. I felt sorry for her and glad that we had allowed several days to cover such contingencies.
We took our places at the large table they had prepared for us and soon we were sweating profusely in the stifling humidity. We all made makeshift fans out of anything that was not nailed down (and a few things that had been nailed down as well). After much pleading we succeeded in getting the waiter to open the huge side door. That helped a lot, but I think that they might have been worried that we were about to do a runner.
The food was very well prepared and the huge servings meant that much was left on the plates. We presented Claire with her presents and she seemed pleased with the sterling silver bicycle necklace we presented her with. A couple of rounds of "Happy Birthday" and some cheers completed the occasion. "But where is my cake ?" she asked. I looked around having to admit that I had not seen that one coming. "It was too large to bring on the plane", was all I could think of. It could have been true.
While this was happening Bob Andrews had obviously got his second wind (but that is not why we wanted the door opened). He started off on one of his animated political discussions. With arms waving and chest pumping he proceeded to explain to Douglas why our politicians are all rubbish. Douglas responded by closing his eyes completely and wishing he was sitting at the other end of the table.
An hour later we had finished our dinners, Douglas was still fast asleep under the table and we decided that it was time to retreat to someplace quieter. Douglas staggered off to bed with Bob continuing his political lecture right behind him. The rest of us wandered into town to find a suitable place for coffee. The rain had stopped, leaving the wet cobblestones glistening in the lamplight. This is the real essence of European cities.
The evening concluded with coffees and another round of Happy Birthday for Claire. It had been a memorable night. Tomorrow we will bid farewell to the city that has been our home for four nights and board our boat for the first leg of our ride.Read more