I’m back now from my trip with Sunny’s Eurythmy group. Our tour can accurately be described as “whirlwind”: after a quick couple of days in Paris, we rented a minivan (with emphasis on the MINI) and drove across France to Darmstadt, Germany. The group gave five performances in Darmstadt, Mannheim, Cologne, and Munich, then we drove to Dresden, visited Prague in the Czech Republic, and spent a couple of days in Berlin. Then a marathon 12-hour drive back to France, where we spent a day visiting Chartres, and a final dash to the Paris airport.
I did almost all the driving, especially after discovering that my fellow driver had wrecked so many cars in his youth that he couldn’t remember exactly how many accidents he’d been in. He did remember causing three separate rollovers, all of which he admitted had been completely his fault. (Telling me this was no doubt a ploy on his part to get out of driving, but I have to say it worked.)
We had a little car trouble on the first part of our trip. Meaning that one of us (not me) filled our diesel car with gasoline and destroyed the valves, causing the engine to gradually go into a decline and then give up the ghost altogether one morning. This was a little distressing, not least because it left us without a car for several days when we needed one to get to our performance.
On the good side, though, we got a new, bigger, and much more luxurious minivan for the rest of the trip. Thanks, Hertz! Our luxury van even had a spoiler on top, unlike the one in the photo. This came in handy for driving on the Autobahn, where there is no speed limit and cars regularly blew by us as I did a sedate ninety miles an hour in the center lane.
Lessons from the European Minivan Experience:
- A minivan that advertises seating for seven people doesn’t have anything close to enough room for seven people’s luggage, especially if the passengers in question are a group of teenage girls. The airline improved our overcrowding situation by losing one girl’s suitcase on the flight from Charlotte to Paris and never finding it during our whole three-week trip, but I don’t recommend this as a strategy.
- If possible, use the German rest stops and avoid the French ones. German rest stops charge about $1 to use the toilets, which are are staffed by starchy uniformed matrons who keep the place spotless. Some of the toilets even have an automatic lid cleaner that sterilizes the lid after each flush. The French rest stops deal with the cleanliness issue by simply removing the toilet seats. I discovered that I am definitely willing to pay $1 to use a toilet that has a seat.
- Bring a GPS with you to do the navigating. My husband bought us one that knew all the roads in Europe, and it was a godsend. Road names in Germany are often so long that we could drive right by the intersection before I finished sounding them out. The GPS voice knew them all, and her weird pronunciation was always good for a laugh. I was skeptical at first, but I’d never try to do a trip like this without a GPS again.