In 1983, George Towner arranged a pensione on a lake in Milstadt, Austria for Mensans who wanted to visit. The capacity was forty people and each day’s dinner and cleanup was assigned to two couples.
Ray Childs and I flew into Orly Airport in Paris, rented a car and headed south to Reims. The Taittinger Champagnery is located there and we toured the centuries old caves. Special champagnes were offered that celebrated hundreds of years of indescribably beautiful wines. At the tasting, we sampled several wines and chose two bottles wrapped in gold, knowing that the wine inside would be just as golden.
We went on to the pensione where we found our friends Sue Ann (Gilmore) and Morgan Buchanan. We teamed up with them for the week and had fun shopping for dinner. None of us spoke German but Morgan could figure out some of it. He wanted to make banana pudding for dessert and found ladyfingers and a box of vanilla pudding. The directions were incomprehensible to us and the store clerk interpreted them. It had to be boiled and we weren’t sure if it would be successful. It turned out well and even if it didn’t, it could be disguised with plenty of schlag.
The moon was full and it was hard to sleep. I spent most of two nights at the window looking at the moonlight on the water.
The four of us took a side trip to Yugoslavia, (it was still intact) planning to visit caves and go over the mountains to the Adriatic Sea. Our navigator reversed the trip so our sightseeing during daylight was pretty slim. We never did see the caves.
We lunched at the Grand Hotel on Lake Bled, starched napery, formal service and wonderful views of the lake and the castle that guards it.
We continued on to the sea where we sunbathed and napped. Sue Ann and I went off to the crystal shops where I purchased six lovely flutes, worthy of the Taittinger Champagne. We had dinner just before sunset and I captured a picture of the sun in the middle of a tire swing.
Ready to return, we followed the navigator’s instructions and we went home over the mountain!! The full moon, the huge pines and a tiny light in the distance kept us interested albeit a little apprehensive. I mean, California has mountains but these were the Alps! The tiny light turned out to be a church and throughout the entire trip, we saw not one human being or even animals. Fifty-two switchbacks later we came down the last of the mountain with little gas and every moment filled with the fear that we’d run out of gas before we came to civilization.
Finally, there was a fuel station. Morgan got out to buy tickets for fuel and didn’t come back. Sue Ann rushed into the station screaming, “What have you done with my husband?” Finally reunited, fueled up, exhausted, we at last made it to a comfy bed.
On our last night there, the moon was full, the temperatures were balmy and the Taittinger champagne was cold. We used my lovely flutes and toasted the entire world. Years later, Sue Ann told me it was the most romantic evening of her life.
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