So much to do. So little time. My adventure is already into week four. If I think about it like the glass of water that is “half full or half empty”, the last half will be the best!
Today I arrived in Sete, France. But before I get to that, we have some catching up to do. The last couple of days I’ve been hanging out with my new friends and not spending as much time being a tourist.
I’m getting to know Nandine, Geoffrey’s girlfriend, now that we’ve visited a few times. She has an interesting background. Born in France, her mother was Italian and her father, Spanish. Her parents met in France after her father, who was from an aristocratic Spanish family, was exiled from Spain during the Franco regime. Nandine and I spent Wednesday driving to Nimes and back. She owns an apartment there with her son and she wanted me to see it. Plus, I wanted to go to Carrefour, the French “Walmart”, to buy a big suitcase. (Do you have to ask why?!)
The interesting thing about the eight hours Nandine and I spent together, riding in the car, shopping, and having lunch together like old friends is that she speaks very little English and I speak… no French. She recognizes English words if you write them down. Between sign language and scribbling words on placemats or scraps of paper, we got along famously, We certainly laughed a lot! When we stopped for lunch at a restaurant Nandeen knows, I was especially glad one of us knew French On the special menu for lunch, which I often order because it’s generally a nice meal at a good price, even Nandine was a bit surprised. Cheval is horse meat! Not for me! All I could think about was my horse-loving buddies! Later I learned it’s not cheval at all, it’s a hamburger with an egg — the egg’s on “horseback.”
The steaming pot of moules (mussels) saved the day.
Geoffrey had prepared lamb shoulder for dinner, so I followed them home to enjoy Geoffrey’s amazing culinary skills. After a few too many glasses of wine, our inane imaginations got away from us.
Friday came much too soon after a late dinner with Nandine and Geoffrey. Fortunately I’d dedicated the day to washing clothes and preparing for my departure from my three weeks stay at the apartment in Uzes. Unity and Tom had invited me to join them and some close friends for dinner at their home outside Uzes. Amazingly, I found their village and got close to their house all by myself. Tom talked me in the rest of the way over the cellphone. The evening flew by with each of us sharing stories about our lives in Scotland, England and the US.
Today I started out to Sete later than I had hoped because I couldn’t find Ales.
When I arrived back in Uzes after dinner with Unity, it was around 11 pm. The parking lot where Ales lives was closed. Fortunately, I remembered another lot nearby, so I left her there. To be honest, I was pleased with myself for finding the parking space because it was close to my apartment. I could easily get my luggage to the car the next day.
I got up early this morning to meet Geoffrey so that we could go to the market together. He wanted to introduce me to his favorite hat man so I could buy a Panama hat like Nandeen’s (the one I wore in the picture above).
Before going to Geoffrey’s house, I thought I should check on Ales and make sure she was ok. I walked the few blocks to the parking lot where I left her the night before. When I got there… no Ales!
Aaccch! I panicked! Was she stolen Hauled away? Where was she? What was I going to tell Geoffrey?
My first instinct was to go to the police station just around the corner, but then I said to myself, “they won’t understand a word I am saying.”
I’d have to go straight to Geoffrey’s and confess Ales was gone.
When I arrived at Geoffrey’s, I knocked on the door and Nandine let me in. “Geoffrey’s upstairs,” she said in French.
I walked up the narrow, winding, stone stairwell feeling like I was going to the French inquisition.
Geoffrey boomed “Ales is gone, isn’t she?”
“What?!” I said, amazed. “How did you know?”
“I told you, I’m psychic,” Geoffrey answered. ” Don’t worry,” he added very calmly. “I have her.”
He then explained, one of his friends called during the night and wanted to borrow Ales. His car had been vandalized in the village where he lives and he needed a car the next morning to get to work. Knowing that I had taken Ales that evening and that I always returned her to the garage, Geoffrey told his friend to meet him at the garage. They searched all three levels of the garage and didn’t find Ales. They searched all over town before they found her.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
That brings us to today.
I’m now spread out on the sofa in the living room of my home for the next two days. It is a beautifully appointed, grand apartment in the center of Sete, facing one of the major canals in the city. Two double French doors are open onto a balcony decorated with ornate iron rails. There’s a lovely cool breeze. One of two Siamese cats is perched on the chair opposite the sofa, staring at me.
It’s been a long day, starting with Ales’ disappearance and eventual discovery. The drive to Sete, while only a couple of hours, was grueling. It was my first venture on a “super highway.” Ales’ speedometer is broken, so I have no idea how fast I was going. Probably not fast enough. Cars were whizzing past. I dared not turn on the air conditioner. Ales was putting out as much effort as she could just trying to keep up with traffic.
Here’s an interesting tidbit about French toll roads — or at least on this particular six-lane highway. Three lanes of southbound traffic enter a toll station with 15 ticket booths. Traffic moves pretty quickly through the booths, right? That’s good. However, know what happens when those cars and trucks in the fifteen booths converge up the road back into three lanes? A massive pileup. Go figure.
Stay tuned. Tomorrow we explore Sete.