Travel Thursday: Ice Cream in the Snow

From the train station it was an easy train ride to the hotel, if such a simple word could describe it. I’d never stayed at the Baur au Lac before, mostly because I couldn’t afford it, but somehow I got shoehorned in, through no fault–or payment–of mine. I sincerely hoped room service would be included as I rode the tram toward the lake that shared a name with the city, Zurich.
It did not take long to get comfortably settled in this horribly expensive room; I took more time looking at all the fancy gadgets, although “goggled” might be a more apt verb.
I think Karina had never been to this place either, for she showed up quickly and then also goggled around the room as I looked for my heavy gear. . . clothing-wise, that is, being an El Lay boy. She mentioned something about clashing with her leather pants and jacket, and added it wasn’t freezing season yet, but one could tell it was coming and I‘d rather sweat than chill.
Far too early for dinner, we first went to the snack bar, where we shared a huge ice cream sundae, as was our tradition no matter the weather. The manager of the hotel passed by at that moment and told us it would be free, since anyone who could eat that in such cold weather deserved it. Karina almost told him this was how we met, but a slight kick to the shin shut her up; if he knew we did this all the time, he might rescind our freebie.
From the table we had a magnificent view of Lake Zurich, which stretched out far into the distance, full of working ships and pleasure boats. It certainly wasn’t about to freeze, but the breeze off the lake was hella chilly. Added to the ice cream, she decided it was time to get warm.
I was already heading back to the elevator when she informed me she meant a walk. I tried to look embarrassed, but I’m sure I was grinning to hard to pull it off.
Bahnhof Strasse, despite its pedestrian name, is world famous, running from the lake straight west, parallel to the Limmat River a few blocks north, until it ran through the entire town and ended in the west section. Most of the street was made up of small but expensive shops. The first one sold furs, but Karina knew me well enough not to stop. Most of the shops were clothing-oriented, which brought happiness to her but not to me. And it wasn’t just the simple male disdain of such things; I’ve always felt it was better to be discreet and low-key, no doubt from my “spy” days, whereas most of these shops sold goods that could easily be called flashy. Even the eyewear store conformed to this. And as we passed yet another clothing store and looked in the window, I had to say that cashmere was just not my thing. . .
Finally we came to a bookstore, which I was just about to enter when Karina pointed to the name. “It’s French.” So close, so damn close. . .
We crossed Kappelergasse and came to a hat store, which she thought would be at least okay with me, so she tugged me inside. The first thing I saw on entering was a pith helmet, which made Karina wrinkle her nose.
“You’ve never dug in a desert, have you?”
“Not too many deserts in Switzerland, darling.”
I let her have that point and went deeper into the store, looking at the fedoras, wondering if I had the guts to actually wear one in public, when she came back with a Russian fur thing. “Always wanted one of these,” she informed me with a giggle.
I waited until all the salespeople were out of earshot. “Go to GUM in Moscow. These were probably made in Taiwan.”
She pouted, so I quickly looked away, to protect my eyes from the sight. Her pouts were known to be deadly to male hearts. . . and wallets.
Two seconds later I was hit in the head by a giant furball. “See? It’s made in Malaysia, not Taiwan.”
I rubbed my head, even thought the giant tribble hadn’t hurt. “Lots of snow in Malaysia.”
She wanted to pout again, but couldn’t hold it, so she dropped it before I asked her where the nearest desert was.
Finally I found the closest thing to what Bogie wore in “The Maltese Falcon” and actually purchased it. While making the transaction, the clerk asked if we would like to see the new selection of hats with solar power-driven fans attached.
“No thanks,” I deadpanned. “Already have one.”
Karina punched my shoulder. “You do not.”
I returned the punch–much gentler of course, but in a location that made the clerk blush. “Yes, I do. I bought it in Beverly Hills.”
“Now I know you’re lying. You told me you never go into Beverly Hills unless you can avoid it.”
“I got it through the mail.”
She changed tactics. “Anything is better than that beat up old thing with the UCLA on it.”
My eyes narrowed into beams that burned her as we left the store. “I’ll let that go this time because you’re a forinner, but don’t say that the next time you’re in my town. Now be quiet while I think of a good insult for the local soccer or ski team.”
She laughed, not at all scared, and we walked on.
The next store down was a men’s wear shop, and she insisted that I needed something new to go with my new hat. I groaned and cursed for falling into her trap, but in the end I let myself be forced inside. There was only one sales clerk on duty, and luckily the place was pretty crowded, so we would probably not be helped for about an hour, which was far too long to wait. But just as we were about to leave, the clerk came into view.
I actually froze in my tracks. The girl was spectacular! Despite whom I was standing next to, the most famous model in her country, I had not been hit this hard by such overwhelming beauty in a very long time. Tall, blonde, curvaceous, young, with a small amount of freckles around a delicate nose. I did not realize I was just standing there staring at her.
Karina sure did. Finding the object of my attention, she grinned knowingly. “Oh, oh. I should have taken you to bed when I still had the chance. Things are not looking up for me now.”
I came back to my senses. “What are you talking about? Seeing her just makes me want you even more.”
She did not even attempt to figure that out. “We’re a long time off from that. We won’t be able to get around to that until this evening.”
“If I’d known that, we wouldn’t be walking right now.”
“We’ll just have to see how good your control is.”
Substituting one primal urge for another, we stopped at the Savoy Grill and Bar, which I knew made the best hamburgers in the country. . . at least as far as I’d seen; I hadn’t tried every single place yet, but then, there can’t be that many to choose from around here, right? I didn’t particularly care what she was having, but I was thoroughly enjoying my first piece of moo meat in a while. When I looked up, she was wiping some red stuff off her cheek.
“Why did you ask about deserts in the hat shop?”
It took me a moment to remember what she was talking about. “Those pith helmets are probably the best things to wear when digging.”
“Who digs in deserts?”
I hiccupped. “Silly people named archaeologists.”
She had a good poker face, I have to admit, but her voice betrayed her embarrassment at forgetting such an obvious answer. “Aren’t those the guys who build arches on buildings?”
“Nope. They’re doctors who specialize in foot problems.” She grinned to acknowledge she was giving up the battle, but I showed no mercy. “When you’ve hurt your foot, the best treatment is to stick it in the hot sand, but the stuff at the beach is too thick. You need fine sand, the kind that can only be found in the desert. Hence the pith helmets.”
She stared at me as I took another bite of previously-cow, my eyes no doubt twinkling in a way that she had previously described as “quiet triumph,” which she’d also described as very infuriating.
The walk continued, where I quickly entered the local airline office to snag a timetable booklet. One female clerk was available and smiled at me, but it quickly died as she saw Karina. Women!
As we continued strolling we passed a few jewelers, a bank, and a few more clothing stores, all of which I refused to enter. A few blocks onward we came to a lingerie store, and this time I agreed to go in. This wouldn’t be so bad, I figured; all I had to do was sit, watch the fashion show she would put on, and dream.
The naughty nighties fashion show did nothing to cool the flames already begun in the clothing store, but she insisted we continue our walk. On the next block was an out-of-place sporting goods store, and she insisted she needed new skis, so she did that as I amused myself looking for any signs of a UCLA souvenir. I didn’t find any, but at least I didn’t have to carry her damn skis.
After she was done we crossed the street and found a toy store, of all things. Ordinarily I would have had some fun there, but I was in no mood to continue the walk. She told me there were a number of book stores on the next few blocks, but even that didn’t break through. She realized she’d strung me as far as I could go.
So she looked at her watch and suddenly remembered she had an appointment. “I’m terribly sorry, darling. I completely forgot I have to be at the studio in ten minutes!” Turning quickly, she caught the attention of a taxi and kissed me goodbye, saying she’d see me at the hotel that night. In five seconds she was gone.
I stood there in a daze, things happening too rapidly for me to keep up. I thought I could just jump aboard a tram and go back to the hotel, then realized there was something much better to do, something to get back at her.
I turned and walked back the way I’d come. There was a clothing store I needed to visit again, with a beautiful clerk who might have dreams of becoming a model. . .

{to be continued. . .}


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