Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Germany, Benelux, and Paris in a Week!

After the blissful relaxation of Santorini, Katya & I flew to Amsterdam, where we hired a car and drove to Vechta & Langforden, Germany, a collection of beautiful small traditional German towns which are about as far from anywhere as you can get in Germany.

The reason for our splendid isolationist seclusion in northern Germany was that a dear b-school friend of mine Bernd was to be married to his delightful fiancee Isabel. The marriage of two old German families of the region was a source of great excitement to this small community (as it was for the horde of our b-school friends who flew in from around the world to be part of it), and they had spared no expense for an extraordinarily beautiful wedding at Isabel's family chateau.

A Friday party was followed by a beautiful church wedding Saturday morning, then a glorious lunchtime spread in marquees set up on the beautifully manicured lawns. That evening, we returned in black tie to marquees at the other end of the garden where we ate and danced the evening away. It was a truly splendid wedding that we were honoured to be a part of.

Sunday morning we all staggered back again to partake of a vast Bavarian feast that Bernd had organised to celebrate his adopted Bavarian homeland of Munich, complete with Oktoberfest band! After consuming more wurst, pretzels, gingerbread and kraut than I had previously considered possible, Nic, Katya and I headed South, for an evening at Nic's parents' estate in southeastern Belgium.

Nic's family made us most welcome and we settled into my first home-cooked meal in many months, as the last sunset of summer slipped behind the wooded hills. After the big weekend and long drive, the silence of the estate was a welcome change and put us into a deep sleep (the 4 bottles of wine may have helped), to be ready for a long drive the following day.

Bright and early (by our standards anyhow), we arose the next morning to drive to Paris, via Luxembourg. For some strange reason, Katya & I decided that Luxembourg wouldn't be far out of our way en route to Paris, and would be a lovely place to do lunch. For the record, this may not have been my best idea. Thankfully the lax speed limits of the region and our mighty Astra delivered us to Paris for a couple of days with Nic.

Although we spent only a brief time in Paris, it was wonderful to return to this city that I have so many great memories, and it was fantastic to visit for the first time since Nic has been living there. We stayed at his super-cute (although super high-altitude) loft apartment, and hit some great restaurants and bars. We wandered the streets for a day and did the tourist stuff (and stuffed ourselves with patisserie), but had to leave far too soon.

One of the best things about Paris, however, is that it will always be there, just waiting for you to return.

Photos are here.

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