|Honeymooners, Bill & Lori Turnbach|
It completed an eleven day tour conducted by Insight Tours of Paris, Provence and the Riviera which 24 of us participated in and it has proven to be an invaluable way for us, as virgin overseas travelers, to be broken into routines of hotels, coaches and of course basic things like ordering food. Sure we saw lots of interesting things - some of them quite stunning - ate good food at every turn but there was a more important outcome. With a combination of backgrounds and experiences to share, the members of the group started as strangers but became companions in a short time, to the point of genuine pangs felt last night as our last dinner exhausted its dessert course.
A comment made on the first night by Lori, an accountant from the north east of the USA and wearing the just married tag with her new husband Bill, warned me in a dinner conversation that "we are not CNN". It was important we understood that real Americans weren't like the stereotypes portrayed globally. She wanted us to realise that real Americans, real people who live in neighbourhoods are not like those portrayed on TV or in other media. So it proved to be.
Sue and I changed some of the stereotypes we have held on to for a long time. Its wrong to single individuals out but I was particularly pleased to get to know the playful Janine (an Aussie), my great big Kiwi mate Brian whom I didn't stir until the end as a mark of respect and the gentle and gracious Yank, Bill. He listened patiently, spoke generously when I needed it and never failed to extend me the courtesy to call me "mate" in that awkward but affectionate way his countrymen do.
|View from breakfast|
It was a few minutes into this excursion that Sue discovered she had left he back support on the shuttle. A call to Gigi, our tour director, gave us the driver's number but I made little headway with him beyond establishing he had found it. The language gap was too broad to close without standing face to face, so I was forced to return to Gigi for additional help, despite the tour being over. Within half an hour a text returned explaining she had organised for the back support to be returned to our hotel in Nice.
Relief! Sue's back has been in great shape so far but its one of the worries that hangs over us.
We spent the rest of the morning and some of the afternoon just wandering. It was bloody hot but the saving grace were the narrow lanes and tall buildings, creating plenty of shade and breezes with flowed down the hill we kept climbing. The language on the streets was predominantly Italian, with its rapid delivery and seemingly exaggerated passion and raised volume. So used now to the fast but gentle lit of French accents, it took a while for us to feel comfortable.
After lunch we booked in to our hotel. There was disappointment that the self-contained apartment we thought we had booked was in fact a room. No complaint, as its a beautiful room and well appointed but it makes overdue washing a little more difficult.
After a rest, we went out in search of food and supplies we needed to make repairs to shoes and other wear and tear. In the process, we discovered yet another big piazza, this one with a large statue of Neptune, complete with a large staff. Light rail runs through town and the main street is made for pedestrians. We had one mishap at the supermarket, not realising we had to have our fruit and vegetables weighed before getting to the checkout but if you stay cool and patient, most of these small things work themselves out.
On the way back to our digs, we were amused by a ferret, on a lead, swimming in Neptune's fountain, watched by a fascinated crowd. The beach crowd were moving from the beach as a tide against which we were now swimming and beautiful girls in bikinis kept passing me, being overly friendly with their big smiles. I squeezed Sue's hand and tried to be brave.