We will soon re-enter French airspace en route to Normandy. It will be Charley's first tour of the D-Day beaches, but not his first trip to France.
During previous visits, we made mistakes. We didn't understand the French mentality. We didn't follow the rules. We didn't wait patiently as French men and women ignored us. We didn't ask the right questions.
On our first trip, we flew in from the States at 7 a.m. and had to connect to Corsica. Charley put our luggage cart, piled high, directly in front of the "Corsica" sign at the ticket counter. We needed boarding passes and had four hours to kill. Groggy, we took turns getting coffee and reading. Around 10 a.m. the "Corsica" sign moved. Charley grabbed our cart but wasn't fast enough. A French woman came out of nowhere, ramming the front bumper of his cart and cutting him off. He rammed her back. "Despicable Americans!" we heard, as she stepped up to the "Corsica" counter ahead of us.
On another trip, we met an American friend and her travelling companions at an outdoor cafe. We got there first and eyeballed the tiny cafe tables. "I'll grab a few more chairs and move this other table over," Charley declared, rearranging the furniture. A waiter ran over. "Monsieur! Monsieur! Non, non!" We had violated two waiters' serving assignments. Ten of us sat at two separate tables and waited thirty minutes for acknowledgement that we existed.
We drove along the Riviera from Nice. About two and a half hours beyond St. Tropez, we cut inland looking for our "Hidden Inn," right out of a guidebook. It was hidden, all right! No road signs anywhere. We stopped a farmer, who led us down a dirt road on his tractor.
We checked in and learned the pool was in back, with reciprocal privileges at a hotel right on the beach. We unpacked, put on bathing suits, and headed for the pool. All we wanted was to chill out with a cool drink! There were plenty of chaise lounges at the pool, but no towels. "Excusez-moi, les towels?" I asked a sunbather.
"At the main desk in the lobby!" he answered in English.
I went back for towels but diverted up to the room for sunblock I'd forgotten. The upstairs hall was in total darkness. I fumbled with our key at the door, shoved it around near the hole, but couldn't get the knob to turn. Back to the front desk.
"Madame, you must insert your key in the slot at the end of the hall. That will turn on the lights. Then the locks will respond."
We decided to try the beach at the other hotel, instead. We made our way to the attendant there, who explained, "Je m'excuse, no chairs at beach. OK on hill. I move you when beach chairs open."
That was fine with us, since there was shade on the hill. We spread out our stuff and walked toward the Mediterranean.
"Monsieur! Monsieur! Non, non! Non beach!"
"What? We can't go in the water?"
"Non, monsieur! The prix on hill - non beach."
Back to the lobby for towels.
Before flying out of Nice, our last stop was the Chevre d'Or Hotel in Eze. Eze is on a cliff along the Grande Corniche, hanging high up over the Blue Mediterranean. We had to leave our car about two hundred yards below; a golf cart took us the rest of the way.
We had booked a reservation for dinner in their famous restaurant, filmed in "The Bucket List" with Jack Nicholson. It was one of the two most expensive dinners we've ever paid for. Problem: we couldn't see two feet out the windows. We were completely fogged in!
The next morning the fog burned off and Charley decided to use the exercise room. The receptionist had proudly told us it opened at 10 a.m. Right at 10, he climbed the fifty stone steps from our room, hanging over the cliff, up to the exercise room. Closed! He continued up fifty more stone steps to the lobby.
"Non possible, monsieur! It's after 10 o'clock. It must be open!"
There was no point arguing. Charley figured by the time he got back down fifty steps, he might find the door unlocked.
Not so! But where there's a will, there's a way. He spotted a louvred window on the bottom row that was cracked open. Yup! He climbed in.
The exercise attendant thought he was hallucinating when he unlocked the door and saw Charley pedalling calmly on one of the bikes. "Monsieur, what are you doing here?"
Charley pointed to his watch. "It's 10:30. The exercise room is open!"
Anyone else have travel stories??
- Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
- Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.