Before I was married, a friend of mine commented that you can tell a lot about what kind of marriage you have by the way you and your spouse travel together. For the most part, during this trip and others, Len and I travel pretty well together. We mostly like to do the same things – we love to go to every museum the city offers, we like to eat good food and to be with convivial company – we like to walk and to talk, about everything.
One thing that has been a bit trying was getting used to actually driving together on the open road, and in cities we’ve visited.
The other day, in Aux-au-Provence, for example, Len had to get out of the car and alternately coax, assure, and prod me to inch the four-foot-wide car into a four-foot-three-inch-wide parking space as I swore I could not do it and begged him to take me home (I meant to Texas).
Yesterday, on the way to St. Remy de Provence, I watched my mild-mannered professorial husband, who hasn’t lived full time in New York city for about 40 years now – morph into a “New Yawkuh” before my eyes – “Yeah, go fer it, buddy!” he cried as the little French cars alternately tailgated us, then whizzed by us. “Whassa ma? Where’s da fire?” “Yeah, and kiss my , pal; up yers!”
Today was yet another memorable driving experience as we came from Provence into Monaco.
As we drove up on the winding mountain highway, the sea glittering far below to our right, I frantically tried to convince our GPS system, dubbed “The Australian” because of the accent my husband and stepson chose for the voice – that we had indeed left the United States and Texas, and were now travelling through France and we really, really needed to find out how to get to our apartment in Monaco.
No luck. The Australian kept insisting that we execute a U-turn as soon as possible and head back to the route she planned for us to get back to Houston.
“I’ll give you 10 euros if you turn that off,” Len said.
I unplugged the GPS. He handed me a 10.
On we went, following the signs into the town of Beausoleil, the French side of Monaco (on the side nearer the sea was the Monégasque town of Monte Carlo).
When the signs indicated we should turn down from the mountain climb toward the sea and into the “centre ville” (city center), we both took a deep breath, and we turned the little car down. The road wound downward in hairpin turns at a 45-degree slant. Either side was lined with tiny, European cars and motorcycles, and there was always an obnoxious Frenchman riding our rear bumper, honking impatiently. Once, when I looked away from the road for a second, Len swerved and said “Oops!” and I felt the blood from my head rush to my feet.
Sidenote: The dreaded “Oops” word is usually uttered as the supreme understatement indicating that impact – is – imminent – the car had somehow crossed the median line and another car is barrelling headlong toward us, the right side of the car had hit the curb at 35 mph, etc. After one particularly memorable “Oops,” I thought I saw the light around us flicker, and I had a vision of my long-deceased grandparents standing at a gate, beckoning to me.
But I digress.
At last, we saw a sign for a public parking lot, and drove in, and down, down, down until we found a place tp park our fine little, warrior car. At last, we were able to contact the leasing agent for the apartment – we’d previously only gotten perfunctory text messages from her – and Len explained the situation. She agreed to drive her car down to the intersection above ground where we’d stationed ourselves, and we waited until she arrived. “Aloo,” she called from inside her car as we ran up to her window. We now had to go down, retrieve the car, come up the parking lot exit near that square, and follow her to the apartment.
That’s when the real fun started.
Let’s just say that several hours later – maybe some of the longest hours of our trip so far – we were sitting in the great, open-air cafe in front of the Casino Monte Carlo, the Cafe de Paris, enjoying coffee and dessert, and watching the waiters and managers and patrons talk and eat and laugh. I will take a little time tomorrow morning to describe in more detail what Monaco is like.
Len maneuvered and plowed ahead and persevered like the really bold and intrepid traveller that he is, and I salute him.
For now – tonight – we are tired and glad to be off the road. The A/C is not working in this brand-new apartment (and the property manager neglected to try it before we came). So, we’ve pulled the sofa bed immediately in front of the big, sliding glass door that opens onto a generous balcony facing the sea. The breeze is cool, and in another hour or so, it might just be bearable enough to sleep. Tomorrow, we’ll have coffee from a French press I found, some toast and butter I discreetly purloined from the Cafe tonight, and we’ll call the property manager again. Another good day to have been on the road with the guy I am lucky enough to go to sleep beside every night.
Alors … until tomorrow in Monaco –