It must be a hell of a note for a stoic and self-satisfied individual to marry a person who prefers to goof off continually. I don’t know why he asked me! Oh, that’s right: he didn’t. He had sense enough to keep his mouth shut in those days. It was I who planted the seed in his little head. At least about marrying me, that is. Yes, I asked him and yes he agreed, but he had an agenda hidden in his pocket. And I have fought him every step of the way for the last fourteen years I never have much of an agenda: most of the people in my crew never have one, well, if we do make the effort, we build one we knock it down in a heartbeat. Things I know after our overall wonderful trip to Europe: Birds of a feather need to flock together; and one should never EVER try to play hacky sack with a rock!
The first time I really encountered his particular play book was after a lovely romantic month of driving though France and Italy. We had planned this vacation carefully: researched maps in big map store in Berkeley, researched the areas we wanted to explore, bought huge clunky walking shoes and packed our own stainless steel wine cups.
It was a rainy day when we left Sonoma County for SFO Airport. We decided to get a couple of books at the local drugstore. I also found a few other items that proved handy, like pocket flashlights, and small packs of peanuts (I do get grumpy when my sugar level drops) and the most irresistible, adorable, and funny items I’ve ever seen: a bright blue plastic vibrating massager in the shape of a kitty’s paw! I thought it would be a wonderful thing to have because long flights sometimes make my neck and shoulders get tense. And after paying for our items, I sneaked the vibrator directly into my handbag, a little surprise I just knew Himself would split a gut over!
Our drive to the airport was routine, dark, cloudy and wet, but we planned extra time due to the weather. We parked the car in long-term parking and wheeled our carry-on bags into the international terminal, caught our plane in the right place at the right time and settled in coach for an eight or ten hour flight.
Himself fell soundly asleep after his second rum and cola, with his head kinked to his left shoulder, while I watched the movie then visited with the attendants, who invited me back to the kitchen to chat for a while. When I came back to my seat I reached to shake him awake and hand him an extra pillow and I remembered my little surprise! It seemed a timely time for him to wake up laughing! I pulled out Blue Kitty turned it on and put it on the side of his neck.
Bzzzzzzzzz! How cute is that?
He jerked awake so hard he nearly launched himself into First Class, looked around him with bloodshot eyes then spotted me: the cat was out of the bag and I was the giggling culprit.
Well, he said a lot of stuff I don’t remember. I was too shocked at his rather vicious response to what I perceived was a friendly prank. I understood that to him it was a serious offence and I was an incompetent idiot! He snatched it out of my hand and stuck it in his valise, and kicked it under the seat in front of his, berating me for not acting my age. Perhaps he forgot he was twelve years older than me: I was just a kid of forty five or so.
Kitty was put to bed, and supper was served and I watched the movie while he slept. As he shifted and moved around a bit in his sleep, his shoe kicked his valise. Wouldn’t you know, the valise started buzzing! His eyes flew open; he lurched forward, swearing at me as he reached deep into the bag searching for the damn vibrator.
Oh, but my best beloved pulled out the kitty paw, a silent kitty paw and the buzzing continued. How can it be?? He cursed his valise and everything in it; and when he discovered that he must have kicked his electric shaver, he shook his head in disgust and offered me no apology.
Either his cursing or his cursed shaver wakened some of the sleepers around us and when they snickered, it was a bit like pouring oil onto a fire. Unfortunately their snickering was my fault too. Rather than laugh with everyone else I decided to go chat with my only friends on board, the attendants. When I told my story, they laughed with me.
I was an accomplice in making out our agenda, and we agreed we must spend at a couple or three days in Paris. We’d eat some French food and go to the Eiffel Tower, hit the Louvre and be done. After all we were in the wrong season to see April in Paris: we were leaving in January because winter vacations are always a lot cheaper in northern countries.
Ultimately we discovered that in France, winter tourists are very much welcomed, often invited to sit and chat a while, and received off-the-road suggestions. I picked up French rather quickly and became the one to order food and address hotel and motel attendants regarding our needs for un chambe por duex avec douche sie vous plez although I do not know how to spell any of it.
The French people in turn assisted me by correcting my Sudden French, as the elderly lady in the little grocery corrected me when I asked for deux Poisson (2 Fish) instead of deux Boisson (2 drinks). She escorted me through her store pointing out every item, making me repeat it. Then she gave me a hug and some local suggestions we must see….in the Loire Valley.
France on our own and in soggy weather was a treasure. I highly recommend it, and hope to do it again before I die. We had no itinerary, just drove and following locals suggestions which were always stupendous. From Paris to the Loire Valley, then south to Cannes (who knew an old friend of mine was living there then.. too bad) then heading for Italy after a few days in Monaco where we got to see the winning Grand Prix cars roll in – all dusty and dirty after their long journey. I wanted to purchase a metal knight, but was talked out of it: “Consider the shipping costs!”
We did not stay in Monaco; we’d already located a charming old hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer and secured a suite complete with a private patio overlooking the sea.
So much for our plan of three days in Paris (which turned into a week) and driving through France (another week) so we could get to Italy and from there to places unknown. By the time we were to leave France, we’d spent three glorious weeks and were already making plans to come back.
Another reason to drive through Europe: we all were taught in 5th grade geography about how difficult it was to unite the country due to the “ribs of the Alps separating villages for centuries”, these “ribs were said to run all the way into the Mediterranean Sea.
Well, Teacher was right, and I thought of her as we left France, taking the coastal route. This is not at all like Highway One in California, that twisting winding scary-in-winter-time road. The highway from Ville France to Italy is mostly a series of tunnels blown through those ribs and scaffolding supporting said highway perhaps over a hundred feet in the air: it made me dizzy to look out my window. I was glad Himself needed to keep his eye on the road. I understood exactly why the Italians were hard to unify – just imagining: finding a bride that wasn’t a first cousin must have been a real chore. The would-be swain would have to literally climb every mountain until he found his love. Down in some valley of course.
Happily, we only needed one week in Italy as we found that tourists were a bit of annoyance to the local populations. I had enough Italian (from growing up in Napa County) to get along here. But we found the service over all was more lethargic than friendly. There were times nobody waited on us and we and felt like we’d somehow imposed of the locals by wanting to leave some money for them to feed their families. I’ve been on 5 of the 7 continents, and nowhere else have I ever felt insulted in trying to support local economies. The things one learns in travelling! And so, stayed in Florence, saw David, ate little, then drove through Tuscany leaving the car at the airport in Milano.
We waited in the check-inline. A nice blonde British Attendant checked everyone in, and we saw some people rummaging through their baggage. Any and all electronics had to be inspected for security purposes. So, when it came our turn, she asked if we had any electronics. We asked about some of our stuff that required batteries and she asked us to present them. She waived the razor and picked up the kitty paw. She frowned and asked what it was and I flicked the switch on as I told her it was a vibrator. At that point in time, Himself turned tomato red and interrupted us to advise her too loudly and too adamantly that this was NOT the kind (of vibrator) she was thinking of! To his dismay, she and I were laughing so hard we were in tears, the line in back of us was in hysterics, and had turned around to tell those further back in line what the joke was.