Wednesday, May 26, 2010

And They're Off!

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 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!



  1. Oh I'm sorry you've been feeling a bit low. I think the build up to having visitors can be very stressful and then, as soon as one has got into it, it is time for them to leave and it all seems quiet and flat.

    As for parking - the French really do get away with parking, the like of which we had never seen until we came here - especially on market day where absolutely anything goes.

    Looking forward to the next Italian leg of your tale

  2. It sounded fun, exciting and quite an adventure. I was laughing as I read all about the drive and parking, and the stairs.

  3. Hi's been so long. I'm not low...just need to write and pump a little iron. Otherwise, all is great. I think one of these days I'll do a photo diary of the best car parking in France. Keith over at Taste of Garlic had a good one the other day. The guy that doesn't even bother with parking spots!

    JoAnna- how are you? Yes, we spent a good deal of our time together...just laughing. Felt great!

  4. I'm doing good. Glad you are back, until your next guest arrives. Then I want to hear more about your adventures.

  5. You made me laugh so much with this true when guiding a non french visitor who is drivinf...especially the Gallic gestures!

  6. Oh, I'm happy you're back Delana; I've missed your posts. Glad to hear you've been having fun and I can't wait for your photos!

  7. Great blog Delana! I am glad you are having such a great time! I will "see" you on the radio next week!

  8. Mlle. ChaussetteMay 26, 2010 at 8:39 PM

    soooo very glad to have you back, my luv!

  9. When we were in France a couple years ago my son drove most of the time. We didn't know the "rules" and just made them up as we went along....seemed to work. No tickets and never lost the rental car!!

  10. Loved your description of the drive back to Aix! It sounded very familiar.

    Creative parking is definitely a French art form. Well done you for daring to join in, I'm too scared to leave my car in anything but a proper parking spot. Having said that, Hubby did some creative parking yesterday and came home with a parking ticket! 11 Euros!

    I hope your friend enjoyed her stay.

  11. Fly: I'm glad this made you laugh. I'm not always laughing while driving...and it's far worse in Italy!

    Tanya and Chaussette: I feels so wonderful to be back! I missed writing so much.

    Carrie: I'll have to start practicing my radio voice!

    Traveling: You don't need to know the rules. The French know them and don't follow them anyway. If you actually followed the rules, you'd stick out like a sore thumb!

    Piglet: Okay, I'll have to pay attention. Maybe they do give tickets. However, all the parking tickets I've ever gotten have been on rental cars. I just throw them away!

  12. LOL That's some parking job. We'd never get away with that here, in Montreal. But then again, giving tickets is a favourite past-time for cops here!

  13. Oh Delana: The parking story: fabulous!!! and oh... so true. We were hesitant at first to "create" a space, but you just HAVE to. And seeing those streets for the first time, yes indeed, you think they are just a sidewalk.
    Wonderfully evocative scenes and oh how I wish I was there...
    I have a major question to ask you that will require a real maybe in a few weeks when you are free?

  14. Having just been there, I'd be able to picture it perfectly even if you weren't such a good writer. But you are! Reading your accounts is almost as delightful as being there was. Take breaks when needed, but keep writing!


Talk to me!