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Touring Aix-la-Chapelle

The next day dawned with a watery sunshine, so after breakfast I left Peronne in a trendy cafe to work on her sermon, while I went to discover the town for myself. Wandering on my own through its quaint medieval streets suited my mood for the day, and I took pleasure from standing outside a chapel while someone was playing the organ inside and looking for interesting shops and places. I took a few city views (my favourite kind of holiday snaps) and fled inside a museum when another shower hit the town. I was the only visitor that morning, and the museum really didn't have that much going for it. Apparently, it had been the home of one of the town's 18th century greats, who I believe may have been an apothecary or pharmacist, and its rooms housed a permanent collection of 19th and early 20th century silverware. There are only so many bread baskets one can admire, though...and even the game of trailing the museum guards after me while I went from room to room and showcase to showcase, lingering in front of every single one for much longer than any of them warranted, soon grew tiresome...and besides, by now the only thing I was really interested in were its restrooms, and so I made a beeline for the exit.

The cathedral nearby, which I vaguely remembered from a previous visit some 15 years ago, this time proved to be completely encased in scaffolding; so much so that I couldn't find the entrance. After having walked around it twice, I gave up. If you've seen Charlemagne's throne once already, then there's no need to go see it again, even if it's just around the corner.

Another squal made me take refuge in a gallery, and again, I found myself the only occupant apart from the proprietor, a friendly old gentleman who let me wander round and go through stacks of the collection without hovering annoyingly around me. I selected several colour etchings of a decidedly architectural subject matter by an artist called Stephan Becker as worthy of future consideration - but it was nearing 1 o'clock and I had agreed to meet Peronne for lunch in 'La Becasse', and one glance at the menu yesterday had taught me that eating there wouldn't be cheap.

When I walked in, Peronne's coat was clearly visible in the wardrobe, her purse occupied a chair and a half-drunk glass of champagne sat in front of it on the table, but of the lady herself there was no trace. Neither did there seem to be anyone serving, and there certainly weren't any other patrons...I folded my umbrella which I'd had to buy on the way over, and moved towards the kitchens. Sure enough, there she was, chatting away to the chef and the staff. The chef agreed to think up a surprise three-course lunch for us. The main course, I remember, was halibut.

During lunch, Peronne read me her sermon. She had had a productive morning and the sermon, on Judith, had seemed to write itself. I told her about the colour etchings I had seen and we decided that we would visit the gallery again that afternoon. Peronne was going to help me choose one, because beautiful as the series (of 4) was, I really could't afford to buy them all. (We had checked out of the hotel that morning, but as before had arranged for them to mind our luggage and the car while we spent the day going about town, so we could be completely unencumbered in our explorations).

And so, only a few hours after I had left it, I came back to the Galerie am Dom, in a more serious frame of mind this time.
It took us half an hour or so to select the work that in our opinion had the most impact and would work best on the wall of my living room, but I was still worried about the cost. There was no question that I wanted to own this particular work of art, but at the same time I didn't particularly fancy having to eat dry bread for at least a month in order to be able to square the purchase with my conscience and bank balance. Thankfully, I had Peronne with me! If anyone can strike a bargain, she can. I'm always far too embarrassed to haggle -even if it would make my life much easier- but she has no such qualms. Succumbing to the force of nature that Pee can be when out to achieve her goal, the kindly old gentleman agreed to a price that enabled me to breathe freely...and 20 minutes later, we left the shop munching on the chocolates he had offered us to seal the deal, and my beautiful colour etching of New York's Municipal Building safely under my arm.

(tbc)

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