Monday, November 28, 2011

Twisted Vagabondage Tale From France

The French like to have children. They just don't like to get married. My insistence that my husband put a ring on my finger before he knocked me up was seen by our French friends and his French relatives as a cultural peculiarity that only bespoke my American naiveté. Truth be told, I like the quaint artifact that is a marriage certificate. It makes me feel safe and secure, plus diamonds are a girl's best friend anyhow, n'est pas? Nevertheless, a couple years ago, we had the honor of traveling to Metz France to attend the nuptials of a French amigo. Granted, he already had two children with his amour, but better late than never in tying the proverbial knot.

Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region – you know, where quiche comes from – which nestles up against the Germany and Luxembourg borders. It has a pretty center with cobblestone streets and a slew of pleasant restaurants. Yet, we didn't stay in the city center but somewhere in greater Metz, along the highway amidst Target-ish and Home Depot-esque generic goods stores, plus a shopping mall with a food court touting pizza and fried-dough eats.

Viva Les États-Unis, whose imperialistic fingertips have invaded the farthest crevasses of just about everywhere in the world, although not always without the world's consent. The French, like everyone else, adore plastic shit, which is pretty much how you'd describe where we stayed. A good deal of our hotel room was wrought out of molded plastic. Instead of finding tile in the bathroom, for example, stepping into the john was like stepping into a plastic cup.

The hotel boasted no concierge. You checked in by sliding your credit card through a computer that was bolted to the wall outside the hotel, which then spit out a plastic bit you used as your key. The hotel was called Premiere Classe, and they advertise themselves on their website as a “French cheap hotel chain,” which they might wanna consult an American advertising agency about, as I'm not quite sure “cheap hotel” is the phrase they wanna use. Of course, the only thing that was truly "first class" about my hotel stay was the royal backache I got from sleeping on one of their molded foam beds.

However, I digress. We were talking about Metz and French weddings. The ceremony itself took place in the cathedral in downtown Metz, although the bride and groom had long ago defiled the sacred conjugal covenant with a hell of a lot of premarital sex and two out-of-wedlock babies. Don't look at me. Those aren't my beliefs or my terminology.

After the wedding, we all scampered over to the reception, which was being held in the banquet room of a grand hotel in the countryside. We dined on Lorraine cuisine, then got drunk on vin rouge with a few other debauched Americans with whom we were seated. Gee, I wonder why. At some point, we realized it was about three in the morning. We had sobered up enough to drive. The problem was our car was on empty. As an American, I'm accustomed to convenience. Well, this was France, mon frère. Convenience is a thing of the fast-food, consumer culture I hail from. France is about long meals, much wine, and scarce gas stations, especially in the countryside.

I began to prepare myself for the reality that we'd have to spend the night in our car, wishing I still had enough booze in my system to not freeze off my kishkas. Let's face it: northeastern France in October isn't exactly balmy. Navigating the dark, back-country roads in our newly sober state, all the time watching the gas gauge drop below empty, I became seriously freaked. That was when we saw it: an open petrol station in the middle of the back-arse Lorraine countryside. We filled the tank and were back on the road, en route to Premiere Classe. Okay, so there was one good thing about our hotel room: it had a first-class heater.

Lara Sterling authors Twisted Vagabondage Tales for travelers who like it rough. She is prettier than Vagabonding author Rolf Potts (though Rolf is very pretty) and could kick his ass (though only if he'd like that). She has written for Playboy and Larry Flynt Publications but now hosts an online radio show and blogs at


  1. I could spend hours just gazing at the first photo. It is beautiful! Great story. Enjoyed it. Donna

  2. @Donna. Thanks for your comment. It was an awesome trip, and, yes, it is beautiful.


  3. I'm sure the priest at the ceremony did his best to overlook the newlywed's rug rats...

    Haven't been to France, but I intend to sometime. Obviously this hotel is one to be avoided at all costs, first class heaters regardless....