A Special Palm Sunday

I joined Rebecca for Palm Sunday services in Mesa. The church had palm fronds everywhere and began with a big processional. It reminded me of a very special Palm Sunday we experienced a few years ago…

For Rebecca’s graduation we planned a fun trip to Germany, France and Switzerland. Schedules worked out so that we could go during  her spring break from school. I diligently planned our route and reserved hotels for each night. I printed out town information, directions and when available, pictures of the hotels. It was a good plan but…

At the coast of Normandy we got caught up in the WWII history and spent extra time at the museum and beaches. We were reminded of all the history and mourned the loss of so many brave troops. By the time we were ready to leave it was already dusk. Bob stopped at a gas station but for some reason it wouldn’t take his VISA card.It was not a worry as we still had plenty of gas. Over the river and through the dale we went, following the map to the next town. By the time we got there it was dark so we decided to stop at the McDonald’s and see if someone could help with finding our hotel. Fortunately, a young gal working there spoke good English. She looked at the information and gave us some quick directions. “Just five minutes,” she said. “Up the hill, around the corner, center of town, etc.”  Off we went. Up the hill, around the corner, center of town… No hotel. So we tried again, thinking we’d missed a turn. No hotel. (Mind you we had already discovered that hotels in Europe aren’t nearly as obvious as those in the US.) But, there we were in the center of town, Patton Square, and there was a pay phone. (Cell phones with international chips were not yet in vogue.) Unfortunately, the pay phone did not take money and I did not have whatever it took. What to do… Since we were in the center of town there was a small restaurant across the way. I went in to ask for more directions. Between my poor French and the guy’s poor English I thought we had it figured out.  Straight down the road and around the corner. Again, we searched and again, no hotel. Around and around we went. And it got later and later. Suffice it to say it was pretty quiet in the car. Finally, enough nonsense and we went back down the hill to the McDonald’s. Even though it was now late that young girl was still working (no one else spoke English!) But more than the hotel at this point Bob was very worried about getting fuel for the car. We could keep searching if we had a full tank. Asked the girl where the closest gas station was, “Just down the road… 5 minutes,” she guaranteed us.

We got back on the highway and I confess to being near tears. The kids were silent. After leaving the McDonald’s it was pitch black. We were most definitely in the country. The miles ticked by and it seemed like an eternity but… in 5 minutes there they were, lights of a town. And, what was that on the left? It looked like the sign for a Holiday Inn. Big, neon green and oval. It looked like a hotel. And look, across the street a grocery store and gas station. We pulled in to the parking lot exhausted. There was an automated pay machine and we were able to choose a family room that would have enough beds for all. It didn’t matter, we would have slept on the floor at that point. The other hotel, now far from our minds we quickly settled in to sleep.

The next morning Bob got up and ran across the street to fill up the car. We were headed to Mont St. Michel, an island abbey, in the bay. But he was back too quickly. The darn credit card didn’t work and the gas station was closed. Bob had stopped and tried to talk to the clerk in the lobby but only found out that it was Sunday. So we both went back to the lobby. The clerk said, “I already told you. C’est dimanche! (It’s Sunday!) Quelle dommage! (Too bad). The stores aren’t open. This is France!” (The guy said some other stuff… I think he said we were stupid Americans but it didn’t matter… Sunday was Sunday.) So we talked about our options. We could stay at the hotel and twiddle our thumbs all day. (I had packed enough snacks that we would get by.) Or, we could test my French further and try to find someone who could help us.  There were a number of people eating breakfast in the dining area. For whatever reason I focused on a young man with his daughter. To our good fortune,  he spoke English but not only that he misunderstood our question and got his wallet out to give us gas money. After we explained about the credit card he understood and then explained to us, that because our card was not from France many automated machines would not take it. The card had to be okayed by the operator. He was from Ireland and had a credit card but was not sure whether it would work. Still, he offered to go with Bob back over to the gas station and left his daughter with me. My guess is Bob and I are not very scary looking people but still, what faith in humanity. In a few minutes they were back with a full tank of gas. Bob gave him cash and our everlasting thanks then we rejoined the kids to give them the good news. Our day was going to be great!

In a few minutes we were packed up headed for the abbey. It is a unique tourist spot with lots of tiny shops. One of the shops advertised galettes which are a French crepe often made with buckwheat flour instead of wheat. Sure enough their’s was naturally gluten free which, of course, thrilled Matthew. After eating we stepped outside just in time to see people lining the tiny narrow street. It was Palm Sunday and the church goers were in a processional headed up to the abbey for services. They carried palm fronds and we were handed copies of the processional hymns they were singing. What a chance for us to stop and reflect on the Lord’s Providence. Had we not gone through all the ordeal we probably would not have been there for the service. It was a great opportunity to stop and thank God, not only for watching over us but for sending His Son to save us.

We learned a few things and the rest of the trip were smarter. Kept the gas tank full and located the hotels before dark. Good thing because when I printed directions to the hotel in Lucerne, I mistakenly printed directions to the center of the city instead… Sprechen sie Deutsch???

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