Sunday, July 8, 2012

a Separate Reality ~ PART I

Be careful what you wish for… seems like life likes to twist your little dream into its own separate reality. We thought we were going on a wonderful holiday to Marseille and to the Charante to visit friends… but God says “ha.”

click for larger view
click for larger view
Marseille is a wonderful, colorful, ancient city filled with noise and smells and a rhythm that borders on chaos. Until you recognize there is a syncopated beat and accept that Marseille is a variety of rhythms that hit you in unexpected ways, you might feel overwhelmed. Old Marseille is a city dripping in a history you can feel holding dark stories probably better left in the shadows. Ian and I had a wonderful stay there. We were between the beautiful steps of the Gare de Marseille St. Charles and the Vieux Port. Because we only had a day and a half in Marseille we didn’t get to do a lot of exploring. Although the Vieux Port was only about a 15 minute walk from our hotel, it was very hot and the return walk would have been straight uphill. Ian was exhausted from the drive and trying to get through the maze of streets thick with the traffic of cars honking horns, scooters, shouts, sirens and confusing directions. We found a WONDERFUL café with excellent food. Although we tried to find others for variety… we always came back to the same one. The food was well priced and delicious and the street life was very entertaining as it was a direct route to the Vieux Port (the old port). The next day was “Italian Passport” day. We took no chances and took a taxi. Good thing we did as it was a long way from the hotel and not easy to find. The passport would have gone without a hitch except for two things… the computer they were using was old and didn’t have enough memory to download what he needed to print my passport, so it took more than an hour for him to figure out how to get it to access the information he needed AND the photos I had taken in France weren’t the same size the Italian Embassy needed for the passport. So while he tried to figure out the technical problems we had to trek up to a main street for proper passport photos. In the end, I walked out of there a documented Italian citizen and member of the European Union. It was a happy day.

That afternoon we were on our way out of the city and headed up north and west towards the Charante region of France.
The Charante is a department in southwestern France, in the Poitou-Charentes region, named after the Charente River, the most important river in the department, and also the river beside which the department's two largest towns, Angoulême and Cognac, are sited. (Wikipedia).
We were happily on our way to visit some dear Facebook friends (Wendy and Chris Wise). We arranged to stay for a week in a beautiful villa, bed and breakfast style. We were finally on a real holiday and couldn’t wait to enjoy it (I was REALLY looking forward to sunning by a pool – at last).

In the Cevennes
We were happy to be out of the crazy traffic in the city and into the beautiful French country-side. Rolling hills littered with cows, horses sheep and tiny stone villages (just like in the movies). The fields were bursting with the bounty of foods grown in the areas, mostly vineyards and lots of wind farms with rows of white wind turbines. We stopped at a tiny café off the country road for an espresso, a toilet break and a change of drivers (Ian’s turn). Ian walked into the small café and immediately got dizzy. That started a rapid decline. We drove a little more and found a small hotel off the main road. We planned to celebrate the Italian Passport at dinner. But Ian could barely make it to the bed. We just hoped he’d be better the next day. Luckily the hotel had an Aldi’s behind it, so I at least could get some sandwiches and things for a bed picnic. Next morning we went down for petit déjeuner (breakfast). He still wasn’t feeling well enough to drive. I had to drive through the mountains… meeeeeee… the one who hates driving, never drives, doesn’t drive in bad weather, doesn’t drive far, just doesn’t drive… meeeeee… I had to drive through the Cevennes in crazy downpours of rain… you couldn’t even see and I had to go around hairpin turns on 2 lane roads that twisted around mountain cliffs with the King of Backseat Drivers… well, at least it kept his mind off his vertigo and nausea… a little.

I was more than relieved and finally relaxed behind the wheel once we cleared the Cevennes and got on the autoroute. I would have gotten great shots had I been in the passenger seat and Ian was in no shape to snap photos. I’m sure it was beautiful but… all I could see was the road and the next curve. The huge lorries on the autoroute were pas de probleme compared to those mountain roads. Of course the rain stopped and started intermittently as we drove and there were times we needed to pull over because you couldn’t see anything on the road… but it was still better than the mountains. When we got back onto the country road Emily guided us to the Bed and Breakfast. Emily is the name of the British voice on my sat map. She can’t pronounce names of French streets very well… in fact, unrecognizably… and I HATE when I make a turn I think is the right one and I hear those dreaded words… RECALCULATING… but she managed to find the little hamlet of Gourvillette in the middle of vineyards and the criss-crossing of unmarked dirt roads.

We came around the bend in the road to see the Manoir Souhait… our bed and breakfast destination… it was a beautiful sight indeed… at last. A good sleep and Ian should be better in the morning and we could start our holiday…. You’d think… but the forces of destiny were brewing up dark clouds… and not just in the sky.


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  1. Just trying to place a comment! I've clicked on the "NO COMMENTS" link and a page has opened up letting me make one.....! Nowdepends on whether it gets published or not!

    1. Thanks Ian... it worked... now hopefully I'll get some comments! LOL


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