It has been just over two weeks since I have written…anything. I haven’t written my newspaper column, I haven’t written for this blog…I’ve barely even written a list (and believe me, I’m a champion list writer)! I’ve been out of touch with fellow bloggers and friends…and none of this is good.
When I don’t get to the gym for a long period of time I start to feel all hinky, particularly if there’s a lot of stress in my life. But during these past two weeks I’ve discovered that when I don’t write (and don’t go to the gym), I get all hinky times 10! Today I’m going to try to do both. And get back on track. But recently, I just haven't had the time to do either.
Because Visitor Season is in full swing. I’ve had company since the 11th and apart from a few stressful moments, most of which involved getting lost, it has been so much fun.
My friend Sonya arrived 2 weeks ago and we picked up her rental car at the airport in Marseille. It’s cheaper to rent a car from the U.S. than it is for me to do so but the idea was to add me as a driver since I’m more accustomed to driving here. However, when I showed the Hertz people my temporary French driver’s license they wouldn’t accept it because “it doesn’t have any numbers on it”.
“The man at the Office of Driver’s Licenses told me this would be good for 2 months until my official license comes. And he’s got my U.S. license as well!”
“Yes, we understand”. But we still can’t accept it”.
Okay back to this sort of bureaucratic BS again! This means Sonya’s driving back to my house in Aix. Okie Dokie. It went something like this….
“You need to go faster…. stay out of the left lane unless you’re prepared to go fast…NO…never slow down or stop in a roundabout…. speed up…keep going around and around the roundabout until you figure out where you’re going to turn…. they’re just honking...you need to ignore them…. don’t worry, that’s just a typical French driving gesture which means you're going too slow in the left lane.... don’t look at the other drivers…. go faster….”
She did a splendid job and as we finally drove through the narrow, winding streets of Aix she started to giggle. Then to outright laugh. I was sure it was a case of nerves but she assured me that although her knuckles looked as if she was in the throes of frostbite, she was laughing because she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Like I said before, it’s pure joy to see my world through the new eyes of a visitor.
“Turn left here…this is my street”.
“I can’t turn here. That’s not a street…it’s a sidewalk”.
"Nope, I can assure you, this is a street. Wait until you see where we’re going to park!”
More giggles but I’m sure these were from nerves. And then I taught her the most important thing to know when driving in France. How to make a parking spot. This is an important skill because there are so few REAL parking spots.
People will park anywhere so all the towns have bittes (or posts…be careful with this one. It also means cock or prick), set in cement along the edge of all the sidewalks. But if you can find an opening…anywhere…the sidewalk is fair game. There are no parking fees when you make your own spot and nobody seems to ticket. One of these cherished spaces sits directly in front of my building and the man who discovered it works during the day. This was our chance to steal his spot!
So I talked her through driving in front of it, backing up through the tiny opening somebody forgot to block, up over the curb, just far enough away from the door so that whoever lives there can partially open it and most importantly, ignoring the honking from all the cars we’re blocking during the process. In the end, she lost her nerve so I had to do it but, I repeat, this is an extremely important lesson.
Then came the stairs. I live on the 3rd floor. The stairs are narrow and circular which makes for tough going with several big bags accompanied by two big women of Scandinavian extraction. And actually, just the door to my apartment is on the 3rd floor. Once you open it, there’s another set of stairs. Slippery metal stairs, half the depth of the size 10 feet of 2 big women of Scandinavian extraction. And when you finally arrive in my apartment, breathless, there is another set of narrow wooden stairs that lead to the bedroom.
At this point, it was time for a shot of the Patron tequila that Sonya bought in duty-free!
And fortified with tequila, we were out the door within 20 minutes, Sonya (a photographer) with camera in hand. I lead her and through the streets of Aix as she stuffed her camera with endless photos of all the wonders of her new surroundings. She was like a kid in a candy store and just when I was sure her pockets must be full, I would lose her again to a beautiful door, a narrow street, or a colorful....candy store!
Tomorrow, I’ll share some of her photos because we took off for Italy the next day. And (screw the French driver’s license nonsense) I drove!