s a n d y f e e t . e x p o . e u r o p a . 9 8

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back on the road


Monday Morning

We had a few details to wrap up before we could get out of town - fix the spare, goodbyescheck the e-mail one last time, upload the latest contest pictures that Massimo had gotten scanned for me and then the last round of goodbyes - I hate that part.

We had bid ariva-whatever to Leo and Azzurra the night before - just before (we thought) they had driven off with all of Russell's paintings which he had accidently left in their car (dunkof!) In fact, they had given them to Rich so there was a whole night of worrying for nothing.

Another pleasant surprise: Sylvia gave us 4 tapes she had recorded just before leaving Holland so we would have something besides Irish castle music to listen to on the way back to England. Bless you, Sylvia.


Our goal upon leaving Jesolo was to head to Southern France/Monaco area where the rich folks play -- with the idea that we could find a beautiful beach there, build a beautiful castle and collect beautiful tips.

It was a great idea, but as the day heated up and we looked at the map again and saw how far it would take us in the wrong direction, we began to rethink the plan. And then, puncture #3 on a dusty, shadeless piece of autostrata put a major damper on it. We had to get off the motorway and into a small town, pointing at our spare and saying "kaput" three times before finding someone who could repair it. I waved my credit card at him and he laughed.

So we piled into his car and he drove us to a nearby bank so I could change some more dollars into Lire which turned into a bit of an adventure itself involving talking turnstyles and locked boxes for bags and so on.

By the time the tire was fixed we were feeling limp and hot as a Mexican lunchbox. The vote was unanimous - it was time to head for the cool mountain air.

We looked at the map again and saw that our path northward would take us right past Stresa, where Karen had left an open invitation for a free night and a shower in her apartment. That sounded particularly inviting.

We started with a couple of beers at a local cafe and then back to her relatively spacious digs for a shower and dinner - pasta cooked by Karen herself with a lovely pesto from basil she had picked form her garden. A big bottle of wine and good conversation on her patio was followed by a late night tour of the promenade of Stresa.

We awoke to strong coffee and treated to a morning cloudburst which quickly cleared. We spent our remaining lire on groceries for an afternoon picnic and turned the Landrover north.



Tuesday Morning

We followed Karen's advice and headed for the Simplone Pass through the Swiss Alps. The weather cleared and it did not get too hot and our spare was still good and the scenary just got better and better.

Midday we found a nice spot for a picnic complete with mountain view, bubbling spring water and facilities. We took lots of pictures and lingered for a couple of hours. It was the best meal of the trip so far.

Adventure awaited us at the French border.

Don't know if it was our scruffy appearance, the fact that we were a yank and a brit travelling together or the sculpture pictures and Russull's painting supplies that led the French border patrolman to view us with a dim eye, but for whatever reason we were asked to pull over while he pawed through our belongings.

He checked all the obvious places for drugs - camera bags, film cannisters, Russell's pockets and my fanny pack - frowned for a while into my sculpting tool bag. Peered into the mess in the back of the Landrover and immediately singled out my suitcase - the one Walter had garnished with hooktails and feetyangs just before I left. Is this yours? he indicated to me - yes. Take it in here please.

He rifled through my receipts, thumbed through my photo book, stared closely at my business card. Found some more film cannisters to sniff (I just can't bring myself to throw those useful little containers away.) Flipped through my sundresses and squeezed the pockets of my shorts.

Knowing that I had nothing illegal in my possession was small comfort and I probably looked guilty as hell. Were pastry knives in the hands of anyone other than a baker verboten in France? Did clip-on hairwraps look too much like roach clips? Did having a computer with me make me suspect of international intrigue?

At any rate, we were finally reunited with our passports and told we could proceed into France. But I am quite sure he let us go thinking we were probably getting away with something but that he had already wasted too much time on us.

rock climbing

not again

Our goal of getting close to Paris by nightfall was dashed to pieces by puncture # 4 - just out of Besancom, France. (If you have a Landrover don't even think of getting it serviced by Brooklyn in SouthHampton. Russell purchased all new tyres but the idiots used the old tubes and here we are with 2 new ones, a soft spare and wondering when the last shoe is going to fall...)

Nervous about attempting Paris in this condition, we found a room at the Hotel de Paris in the center of Besancon. It was actually quite a picturesque town - with medieval walls and all -- but I didn't see much of it as I had neglected to change my Swiss francs into French ones and the banks were already closed. (I guess I was too rattled by the search at the border to remember this important step on reaching a new country. How wonderful this part of the world will be when everyone uses one currency -- not to mention the same electrical and phone outlets.)

So, my first night in France was spent in a (relatively) cheap hotel room watching England get trounced out of the quarter finals by Argentina (again) in that World Cup Thingy. At least we had plenty of wine and a (relatively) comfortable bed. futball

next: a few hours in Paris

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