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Daydreaming about Italian ice cream

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St Jean Cap de Ferrat by Maria Joy

This is part of something written about a long weekend in the south of France..
We arrived very late at the airport and as soon as we had checked in we needed to run to the gate. Finally, a chance to feel that buzz of excitement knowing that we were going on holiday, even though only for two days.

Our plane arrived swiftly in the south of France and circled out to sea and back along the coastline, dipping its wings towards the coast. It was amazing. We stepped out into intense heat and immediately realised we were overdressed and quietly melted in an English understated kind of way.

Bags collected, now the holiday could begin. By now my son was wilting in his warm jogging trousers and woolly beanie and we still had the car to collect and worse drive out of the airport.

Trying my hardest to speak in French although with everything in the wrong tense, I finally signed the papers for hopefully a car and not selling us into slavery at the car hire desk and we found our way to a bus that would take us to the other terminal where the car was waiting. It was faintly worrying that the car rental person warned me about the driving here.

While we were waiting at the car rental lot, two English ladies asked me: “Where are you staying?”  When I said: “Frejus” they replied: “Oh what a terrible place” and sighing inwardly, I moved inconspicuously and gradually away from them.

A dark French George Clooney look alike seemed rather amused about something to do with my booking and feeling by then rather sensitive, I grabbed the keys and we disappeared swiftly in the direction of the car. It was massive, like a 4 by 4 with 5 doors and air conditioning. Not the budget car I had been expecting and it was wedged into the tiniest space imaginable with cars parked all around it. With a moment of reckless abandon and racing driver skills, I negotiated all the obstacles and we were out on the road. Well, if you ignore all the gear grinding noises and frequent jerks, when I went into reverse gear by mistake. Oh and of course, heart stopping honks that accompanied every mistake I made and plenty I didn’t.

The airport was besides the sea which was the most incredible azure blue. It was like stepping into a picture postcard.

Out on the road heading towards Nice, we followed the seafront (Boulevard d’Anglais) until coming to a stop in Italy. As we drove along I wondered why the French had named this most beautiful stretch of coastline after the English. The road took us through Monaco and Monte Carlo, one leads into the other.

I like to think we went through the tunnel in the Formula One race, but there were many tunnels here. Some, so long – chizzled through the mountains that you thought you were driving into the very heart of the Alps.

In Monaco, we followed windy roads that took us past the Palace with soldiers standing to attention outside an impossibly large square for such a small country and then on through a tiny arch past another Royal residence where a small, yellow submarine stood in a composed, dignified way just inside the gates on the manicured parade ground. And as we descended to the harbour filled with large elegant yachts we drove through exotic gardens around the Palace. A magical place, like we had woken up in a fairy tale.

In Monte Carlo we went past the loop in front of the Grande Casino where three or four red Ferraris were parked up outside and people taking photos. The traffic whirled us on through the claustrophobic streets lined by high rise intimidating apartment blocks on either side. At the Italian passport control, I was asked how long and what was the purpose of our journey and said without thinking: “To have a pizza” and instantly regretted it, wondering if saying for an Italian ice cream would have sounded a bit more sophisticated….

The rest of the story..

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