Way Too Complicated for Me

I’m sitting in the parking garage at the Nice airport, managing to turn renting a car into an all-day affair. By the time I can post what I am just drafting right now, I will know the end of the story.

Here is what has happened so far: Jane and I got our first car—a very nice Citroen automatic—and after about five minutes I still couldn’t figure out why, when the brake was off and the car was in drive, it failed to move. A very put-out “I’m too good for this job” young, skinny, pretty French woman huffs out, takes a couple of minutes herself to repeat without success everything I had tried, before finally declaring that she would give us another because “this one is too complicated for you.”

Channeling my inner Buddha for not the first or the last time today, I remind myself how many times in French I have probably managed to say something insulting without realizing it. And then again, maybe she really does think I am an idiot.

While I am waiting for Jane and the young woman to come back with our new car, I am trying to work out how to say in French how many equally sophisticated cars I have owned without any problems, and how I have been renting cars without difficulty longer, most likely, than she has been alive. But I won’t say it, mostly because I can’t remember enough of the vocabulary.

Update: Apparently I can still operate a car with my remaining brain cells. I drove 4+ hours to St. Remy in a nice upgraded Audi SUV, sometimes in driving rain, sometimes in scattered clouds and beautiful sun.

We ambled around the town and picked up the obligatory local wine, cheese, and baguette (and of course, local olives), to eat while we peruse the maps. Oh so true that living well is the best revenge. The evidence is in the photo.

Tomorrow Jane and I will go to the local market and the monastery/hospital where Vincent Van Gogh was hospitalized for mental illness. Then off for a half day in Les Baux. What a lucky imbecile I am!


Well, Scratch That!

The other night, my traveling companion, Jane, made a casual reference to the 90-day limit on travel without a visa in what is called the Schengen Zone (pretty much all of Europe and beyond. Oops! Hadn’t take that into consideration when I made my plans for the European portion of My Year of Living Travelly.

I have spent the last day or so counting days on the calendar and figuring out enough times out of the Schengen Zone to get me back stateside without a potential black mark on my passport. I overstayed my visa when I was living in Italy a few years back and I freaked out for nothing, but I have heard things are a lot more closely monitored now, especially in Scandinavia, where I will be running low on days in July.

If you have to have a problem, this is a pretty nice one. I considered taking a one week Nile cruise in April between cruises, or a week in Morocco, or Albania, or Croatia. Poor me! What a rich set of options!

My decision ended up being a bit on the less adventurous side, but after spinning out every possible scenario, the one that really worked was London, even though I didn’t bring any clothes that would work for the UK in the spring. Well, how do you spell Visa card? At most I need to shop for a more water resistant pair of shoes, maybe a wool sweater, and beyond that I will just wear layers of ridiculously light cruise clothes.

Actually, I am pretty excited about it! I have a little studio rented for a few days, from which I will check out the museums and other locations I haven’t seen in years, hole up a bit to finish up some lectures I need for the Baltic, and rest my voice. Then I am going down to Cornwall to visit a couple who are two of my favorite people I have met while cruising the last few years.

But what is going through my mind right now as I cancel flights, a car, and hotels in Spain to get out of the Schengen Zone, is that this kind of “who knows what’s going to happen?” Is exactly what I want. I love thinking “Either this, or that, or maybe that” and just letting life be what it is going to be. That’s what a Year of Living Travelly ought to be, and I am embracing everything, easy or difficult, predictable or a surprise. Works for me!


Do Overs

When I hear the term “do over,” I think of something that went badly the first time around and is in need of fixing. That’s not what I am thinking as we sail away from our last stop in the Canary Islands. Today I want a do over because it was so special it simply wasn’t enough. I am already burying my nose in cruise schedules, scheming about how I will get myself back to the Canaries sooner rather than later.

I heard about so many things I missed, but I wouldn’t have changed anything I did. Today I went on a three-hour hike through lava fields, into calderas, like the one in the distance here, and across landscapes that looked like frozen oceans of rock. Next time, I’d like to go into the town of Arrecife and see the Works of Cesar Manriques and get a glimpse of life on this tiny speck in the ocean. Yesterday I saw the great National Park of El Teide. Next time I’d like to poke around the colonial town of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. So, so much to do!

But before that, life is so full of experiences I have yet to enjoy. I’ll tuck these away for later, and just sail on. Next stop, Tangiers, and my guess is I will want a few of the lovely kind of “do overs” on that too!


“Sunrise, Tenerife”

Years ago, maybe in my 20s or 30s I saw a photograph entitled “Sunrise, Tenerife.” I have written before about how deep seated my wanderlust has been throughout my life, and the many years I had to rein it in while I tended to things like motherhood and career. This photograph fell into that period, but I remember thinking how beautiful the name “Tenerife” looked on the page, and how lovely it sounded when I said it aloud.

When I was given this cruise assignment, I was thrilled that a stop in Tenerife while in the Canary Islands was on the itinerary, and today was the day I photographed my own “Sunrise,Tenerife.” Sorry to report that mine is only of a cement wall where our ship is docked, but I’m here all the same.

This morning I went for an excursion to the National Park at Mt. Teide, an area of massive volcanic mountains and calderas, and I can report that the difference between it and a cement wall was extreme!

We rose from a rather tropical sea level, through dense forests of Canary pines, then up above the timberline, to the highest mountain in Spain. Magma dykes that have eroded more slowly than the lava around them have left weird forms jutting skyward, and countless lava flows and debris layers have created a dramatic landscape. And then there’s this perfect volcanic cone, patched with bits of snow, supervising the whole geologic show.

I will have to anticipate another chance to be here to witness what sunrise must look like in a landscape like this, but for now I will just say that eleven in the morning was pretty darn good too!