In what turned out to be an excess of confidence, I assured Francoise’s friends Claude and Regine that, since they had taken us to the bus stop and shown us which bus to take, we would have no trouble finding Francoise’s blue Honda at the other end, in the town of Mougins, just north of Cannes. “You swear you can do it?” Regine asked in French, looking worried. Absolutely, I assured her. Darlene and Claude looked worried, too. But perhaps because I had finished the first draft of my latest book review this morning, I felt all-seeing, able to find a blue Honda in a French haystack.

After leaving the bus in Mougins, we spotted Les 4 Saisons patisserie across the street and decided to take some refreshment before the easy walk to Francoise’s car. The three chefs happily posed for a photo, and the one on the right corrected my French when I tried to ask what they were making. When he answered the question he had corrected, I had no idea what he was saying, but they looked good. After fresh squeezed orange juice, a tart and an éclair, we waved goodbye to the three chefs and started walking.

Well, we walked a long way. Somehow we had gotten off one stop too soon, and somehow I misunderstood the directions to Residence Les Hauts du Golfe provided by a realtor whose office I stepped into for help. We took a wrong turn at a rotary and found ourselves trying to stay alive on a nine-inch strip of sidewalk beside a busy highway, in 80-degree heat. “I can’t believe Francoise would put up with this every time she gets her car,” Darlene snapped over her shoulder. “We must be really lost.” I knew she was right when people we pestered did not even recognize the name of the place we were trying to find. Finally, two policewomen in a tiny squad car made it clear we had walked a long way in the wrong direction. Knowing how perilous the return was going to be, I asked if they could possibly give us a lift, but they said no, it was against regulations. “You could arrest us,” I offered.

We eventually found the gated community where the blue Honda was resting in space number 60. By this time, our plan to visit the Matisse Chapel in Vence was scrapped, so I simply drove the Honda out the gate, around the block, and back to space 60. Taking the bus home was a snap, and we tumbled into a café at 6:30 p.m., starved and, as usual, the only people eating supper at such an ungodly early hour.

Darlene says the adventure shows how little things can become big because of the language barrier. But it was still a great adventure, capped off by the grail-like sight of that blue Honda in space number 60.

Thursday, September 09, 2004


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