Home > European Vacation > Hard facts and warm feelings, if you’ll indulge me

Hard facts and warm feelings, if you’ll indulge me

July 24th, 2009

We washed and cleaned out the inside of the Mobi this morning and returned it to the dealership that sells and rents them, about an hour away from Antwerp. It poured rain, a hard, drenching rain, most of the way back. This is typical of Belgium, said Daughter’s Fiancé.

The young man who checked us out on the Mobi back on July 6 also was assigned to make sure the Mobi was intact when we returned it. It was. His boss was a bit upset that we didn’t return it until 1:30 p.m. because we had promised to return it by 10 a.m., and Mobi was going to head out later in the day with another party. I should talk to them about the propane tank’s sticky valve, and the hot-water problem. The broken door lock got the mechanics’ immediate attention.

Remember how I complained that the water-intake cap was frozen shut? It was a locking cap, the young man showed me, and if I had unlocked it, a quarter-turn would have released it.  Oh. I hadn’t noticed the key slot in the cap. That was embarrassing. I am why Americans have a bad reputation in Europe.

The young man also said that the waste-water draining problem was a common complaint, that the valves stuck open or closed, so I shouldn’t feel bad about that. And he and two mechanics discussed how it was possible that someone was able to cleanly break into the Mobi and steal Fiancé’s laptop computer when we had it parked at Bratislava, Slovakia. The crooks might have been nearby (and there was a motor home right next to where we parked), using a device that would have recorded the frequency code of our locking fob, and used it to gain entry through the front door with no problem. Hmm.  Or maybe I failed to lock one of the doors. This will forever haunt me.

Back at the front counter, the young man went through the paperwork and gave me a copy of our invoice. Some security deposit refunds were due us, and would come later in a bank transfer. He said we drove 4,800 kilometers.  I did the math: 2,982 miles.  Over 17 days, it averaged to 175 miles a day. And just one traffic ticket, thanks to those young German police officers who accepted payment with American Express (which, by the way, is not very widely accepted in Europe).

Back at Daughter’s and Fiancé’s apartment, I hit the “properties” tab on “My Photos.” Between the four of us, we took 8,766 photos.  Thank God digits are free and storage space is dirt cheap. Eight-thousand, seven hundred and sixty-six photographs, all crammed inside my little Acer netbook (and backed up every other day onto a separate hard drive).

All those miles, all those photographs, and one wonders: what was our favorite place? We loved each of them for different reasons. The frolicking beer gardens of Munich, the overwhelming history of Prague, the public spaces and monuments of Vienna, the grace of Lucerne, the dramatic setting of Luxembourg, the majestic Alps.

I decided today that my favorite place is Antwerp. We leave tomorrow at noon, and it will be so very hard because we are leaving our Daughter and her Fiancé, and won’t see them again until Christmas. Conversations on Skype are nice but you can’t hug on Skype.

We had so much fun over these three weeks but without a doubt, the most fun, the most treasured moments, the highlights of our time in Europe, are those spent with them. There was laughter, of course, and silliness (we’ve been humming the chicken dance song ever since the proposal occurred in Vienna), and there has been tears, How I wish that they, and our Son and his wonderful wife back in Las Vegas, and Jeanne and I could all live near one another. It’s every parent’s dream, I suppose, but parents also want their children to pursue their own dreams and sometimes they come true on the other side of an ocean.

I took a few photos today of Antwerp as we walked around this afternoon — a bit of window-shopping by Daughter and Fiancé for an engagement ring. (No, they did not order the one from Tiffany’s in Vienna.) The photos aren’t necessarily of the most attractive or oldest or most historically important parts of Antwerp. We’ve visited those neighborhoods on previous visits. But these photos represent the neighborhood where Daughter and Fiancé live — near the train station, not far from the diamond district and not a far walk, down from where the Moroccans claim their neighborhood, to a wonderful Chinese buffet. (We have concluded, by the way, that there are four truly international foods: Hungarian goulash, pizza, kebobs and anything served at an Irish pub.)

So it’s over, this crazy vacation of ours. Nearly three thousand miles down narrow, old-city streets, meandering country lanes and along steep mountain sides shared with bicyclists. But the hardest miles are yet to come, the drive on Saturday to the airport for our flight home.

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