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French Catastrophe and the Royal Treatment

From Lucerne we headed north through the Alsace region of France, meandering back and forth between the German and French borders. The road was a combination of sweeping curves and hills through mostly farmland and small villages that were either French or German depending often on what side of the street they sat on.

We arrived at the Hotel Rohan in the heart of old-town Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace. I knew we were in France when I called the hotel and asked where we could securely park our bikes the desk worker didn't want to speak in English and a rude tone told us we would have to find our parking on the street behind the hotel.

We unloaded all our luggage off the bikes for security reasons and trekked to the lobby. As we piled up the luggage at the front desk the same guy I had spoken with on the phone took one look at us with a look of "I'm not carrying any of this luggage" and silently and abruptly turned and walked away.

After standing at the empty front desk for an uncomfortably long time a woman appeared from the back and with the exact opposite demeanor and speaking with a German accent, cheerfully checked us in. We were hungry and thirsty so she suggested that we go to the outdoor bar and have a drink, and if we didn't like the menu there were plenty of dining options in the nearby town square.

We sat down out front and tried to order a beer. Lo and behold the waiter was the same guy that was so unhelpful in the lobby. He roundly ignored us to the point that I had to raise my voice a bit and beckon him over.


He rudely sneered, "What do you want?"


Nick and I both said in unison, "A beer". He abruptly turned and walked away leaving us looking at each other in bewilderment.

He returned with two bottles of beer and a receipt. No menu, no asking if we would even like to see a menu, just here's your beers and a receipt so basically leave. So French. We left some coins on the table and walked into the town square dominated by the Notre Dame Cathedral of Strasbourg.

Nick and I decided to pay for a walking tour of the super-tall cathedral bell tower. Mike took a pass (he'd been to Europe many times and churches weren't his thing) and told us he'd meet up with us later. After a not-so-easy climb up God knows how many stairs, snaking up and around the tower, we arrived on the roof of the church. We had panoramic views of the city and the countryside beyond and the amazing flying buttresses on both sides of the cathedral. It was a great behind-the-scenes look at how a masterpiece Gothic cathedral is built. Well worth the price of admission and sweat.


The surrounding neighborhood and riverfront walk were beautiful and quaint in the most European of ways with shops, cafés, and art galleries. We met up with Mike and found a restaurant right in the city center, ate and headed back to the hotel calling it an early night.

On our way out of town in the morning, as we were winding through cobblestone streets (always a challenge on a motorcycle), Mike strayed a little too far to the left of the lane and his center stand caught the cobblestone lip of a slightly elevated, hard-to-see divider between the streetcar tracks and the road. The torque dumped him and the bike immediately down hard on his left side. He didn't even have time to take his hands off the handlebars and went down hard on his shoulder. I was right behind him, and I knew instantaneously that he must be hurt.


He popped right up and started analyzing his body as we got his bike upright with the help of some pedestrians. He said his shoulder hurt but that he could move and ride the bike. We all got back on our bikes and headed toward Luxembourg City.

As we left Strasbourg and started to take the customary byways versus the highways, Mike said that his shoulder was starting to hurt and that it might be better for the pain to take the highways with less stopping and roundabouts. We agreed and beelined it to Luxembourg City.

When we arrived at the hotel, without even checking in, Mike took off for the hospital telling us that he was fine to get there on his own and that he didn't want us to miss out on meeting up with a good friend I had in the city. We very reluctantly said okay and told him to call us as soon as he had a diagnosis. Nick and I checked into the hotel, and I contacted my friends.

We had a lovely dinner just outside the city with my friend Alexandra and her husband Philippe. Philippe's brother was a member of Parliament and we made plans for the next day to take a behind-the-scenes tour of Parliament and the Grand Ducal Palace.

Meanwhile, Mike called and told us that he had a broken collarbone. Fortunately, it didn't require surgery and there was not much that they could do with a broken collarbone but the doctor suggested that Mike should not ride for at least 6 weeks.


Mike told the doctor "Okay" and hopped on his motorcycle and took off for the hotel.

On the way back from our dinner, Nick and I had a serious conversation about whether Mike was going to be able to finish the trip. Nick brought up the salient fact that if Mike continued as injured as he was that the possibility of himself and even us getting hurt just went up exponentially. We agreed to have a very frank conversation with him when we got back to the hotel.

We got to his room, he was sitting up in bed and visibly in pain. We expressed our concerns and he said that it was painful to ride but that he was able to control the motorcycle just fine. He said we should sleep on it and see how he felt in the morning before we decide.

The next morning Nick and I met up with Alexandra and Phillipe and started our wonderful tour of Luxembourg City and its ancient walls and fortifications. Mike decided to hang back at the hotel and try to keep his shoulder as immobile as possible.

We spent the day walking all over the city and taking an amazing off-the-beaten-track tour of the Parliament building by the youngest member of Parliament and learned all about contemporary Luxembourgian politics. We then took a tour of the very private and seldom-toured palace of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. No Fodor’s travel guide could have done justice to the insider tour we were taken on and we both extended endless gratitude to Alexandra and Phillipe for taking the time off to hang with us. It was truly one of the best days of the whole trip.

The next morning, we checked in with Mike and he said that he was good to go but we should probably stick to the main highway. We packed up the bikes, helping Mike out a bit with his outfitting, and lit out for our next stop, the town of Ghent in Belgium.

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