...turned out the horizon wasn't that far away. The plan had been, originally, to go down into France, but we'd forgotten how bad the Belgians are at putting up road signs and pointing you in the right direction, so we ended up in Germany instead. We actually did something of a U-turn and found ourselves just on the other side of the Dutch border to where we had previously been. Just as well really, as we only had 2 more days to our vacation, and we weren't about to spend them racing down the Route du Soleil at the exclusion of all else (notably, the chance to shop).
Aix-la-Chapelle is a beautiful little town and as the crow flies, only 9 kms from Maastricht. It features heavily in the chansons de geste I grew up with, the stories of the great Frankish king and Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne who is buried there. Some of the town's buildings still date back to that period (the early 800s).
Anyway, there we were - not a hundred miles from where we started, but we didn't mind. We found a parking space for the Spider and a room for ourselves in a friendly family-run hotel in the middle of town that we had selected for its intriguing name: the Hotel Marx. Why name a hotel after the father of communism? Would we have to share our room with 3 other families, separating their space from ours with blankets hung over clotheslines stretched across the room? Would the hotel restaurant serve us nothing but black bread, 'kartoshki', and cabbage soup?
Nah. Nothing as thrilling as that. It didn't have a bath, but the shower was in perfect working condition, and the room itself was quite tidy and neat. The pillows were pitiful though; they might as well not have bothered.
The family wasn't even called Marx. We haven't been able to crack the mystery yet.
Peronne had been browsing through her Guide Michelin again, and suggested we have our dinner in another of its recommendations. Still full from last night's extravagance, I didn't fancy it much, and suggested pasta instead. Peronne insisted...she wanted to show off her new hat. And we were only on holiday once?
And so we started out for the restaurant which on the map hadn't seemed too far away from where we were staying, both of us wearing our new hats. 20 Minutes later we were still walking. And then it started to rain. Heavily. We barely managed to conceal our hats under our coats, and flee into a greasy spoon. When it let up, Pee set out for the restaurant again, and soon it started raining again. Meanwhile, my previous good mood evaporated. I was cold, I was wet, I was hungry and I was worried that my hat might not survive this weather, and I was damned if I was going to eat at 'La Bécasse'! I didn't want any amuse-gueules or grands désserts, I just wanted good old-fashioned honest food, like pasta! And so, arriving on the restaurant's doorstep, I rebelled. I refused to go in, and started to trudge back to the hotel, telling Pee I was going to get out of this rain and out of these wet clothes first, check on my hat and then if I was still hungry take a cab into town and find myself a good Italian place. Pee followed. I relented. Halfway back to the hotel, I told her we could always go back to 'La Bécasse' for lunch tomorrow...
An hour later, we were the first guests in a place called Da Salvatore, right opposite the Bahnhof.