Plan A was to host an old and very dear friend in Berlin over the weekend before moving on to Bonn for the official part of her trip. She was my very first friend in India, and we have remained steadfast and loyal to each other over the many bumps in life. AD was also my Hindi teacher in the beginning, and from the moment we met, we both knew the chemistry was perfect. She taught me all about the intricacies of life in India and the nuances of Hinduism that you don´t always find in a book. India came alive for me through her eyes.
Always have a Plan B, because you will always need it, one way or another. Things got complicated for AD with travel arrangements, so we flipped things around and decided that I would travel to Bonn instead and we would meet at the hotel. So I made sure to book a pet-friendly hotel so Champagne could tag along for another adventure. She was very much in need of quality time along with me.
For all eventualities, any good planner always has a Plan C in the bag, which also came in handy. The hotel booking for Plan B stipulated that we could only check in at 15:00, but I was arriving much earlier, and AD landed later than we had originally foreseen. So that left me with a bit of time in my hands and opted to take a stroll around part of the old city of Cologne, a city I really enjoy for so many reasons.
There is a certain romantic charm about returning to a city that you know, even though it has been several years since my last visit, and all the photos I took then I erased by mistake. First of all, the luggage lockers in at the Cologne Central Train Station are as high-tech as they can get. There are blocks of drop-off stations where you check your luggage it and the machine swallows it into an unseen netherworld in exchange for a ticket. When you are ready to retrieve your luggage, you can do so from any of the other luggage ATMs, and don´t have to stand in line at the exact place where you dropped your luggage off. I was flummoxed, as were the other travelers around me, as we jointly figured the system, all agreeing that our age was beginning to show.
In any case, Champagne and I were blessed with a gorgeous blue autumn sky, sunshine, and jacket-worthy temperatures that were not unpleasant. As always, when I travel with my cat diva, she attracts a lot of attention, and before I knew it, I had people peering into the backpack or waving at her through the bubble window. One woman even left her tour group to take a closer look at Champagne and ask me about her. We found a quiet area away from the cathedral and all the tourists where Champagne was able to explore around the museum grounds and lounge a bit in the sun. She decidedly put her paw down at the river later on, as there were far too many dogs around.
It was almost surreal and so peaceful to walk around with just the cat and the camera, blessed with clean, crisp air and ideal conditions for photographing a bridge or doing some much neglected street photography. I may not have had my day of silence this past weekend, but the exclusivity of the moment more than made up for it.
Sitting down for apple cake and coffee at an outdoor cafe next to the cathedral was an unbelievably bohemian experience, and I felt very much like a writer again, as I soaked in all the details. It is that beloved interim phase where I sit and carry on conversations with my inner frog and try to figure out life and self. And I absolutely adore doing this with Champagne, who is always generous with her snorts of support.
The coup de grace was a visit to a perfume shop. Champagne, very much the diva, sneezed at Lancome, Hugo Boss, Laura Biagiotti and Joe Malone. She approved Bulgari and Hermes. Geez.