Kicked out of Monaco + On the road to the Riviera in our electric car + 22, v'là les flics + pictures from Sospel, Menton, Nice
Sospel, France. February 2021. What with La Crise Sanitaire, it has been over a year since Jean-Marc and I traveled and courted adventure. Recently, we hit the road in our electric blue ZOE and were pleasantly surprised at how far it took us--all the way to the Italian border from La Ciotat--on one full "tank". (Jean-Marc had une borne de recharge installed at his wine shop, where he and his clients may charge their electric cars. C'est commode!).
For our 4-day escapade, we considered France's "Island of Beauty" (an overnight voyage via ferry) but were dissuaded when the Corsican getaway called for a PCR test for Covid. That is when Jean-Marc mentioned Menton, only a two-hour drive from our home. The moment my husband suggested it, visions of bright yellow citrons danced in my head. Bonne idée! I agreed and, fast as you can say Vingt deux, v'là les flics! we were on the road, heading toward a needed change of scenery just a stone's throw from the Italian border.
Any fantasies of traversing that frontière (for a meal in Badalucco or a stroll in St Rémo...) were soon nixed when, on day two at the bustling farmers market in Menton, a few locals relayed the latest government orders. "Il ne vaut mieux pas. Vous serez arrêtés et détournés," warned the octogénaire, handing me my change along with her homemade "confiture 3 agrumes," and bay leaf branches from the riviera hinterland.
Jean-Marc quickly offered a Plan B: A visit to Sainte Agnès. Allez, chiche! I agreed, sharing that my artist friend Tessa lived there many years, and it would be good to finally see the perched village and hike up to the chateau ruins above it (Jean-Marc's idea, nevermind it was freezing outside). But with cafés closed because of Covid, the next best way to warm ourselves would be a brisk hike. As we climbed the medieval stone steps I noticed the ground was covered with le verglas...it looked like somebody had dumped a giant snowcone over the hillside. Mittens and wool bonnets would have been good to bring along, but who packs those for a trip to the sunny Riviera?
The rest of our séjour was warm, cozy and colorful! (photos of Sospel, below), including a trip to see our friends who run Allez Hops! a boutique beer shop and micro-brewery in Nice. Dan, Julie, and their daughter, Gab, thoughtfully welcomed us with a cheeky--make that chalky--message on the ardoise outside their shop--and even had delicious rootbeer waiting for the abstème in our group! It was wonderful to catch up with our friends, and we were set to see one more copain the next day....
Every trip has a misadventure or two and for us that came on the last day, at the border of Monaco, after a couple of flics ordered us off the road. I rolled down the passenger's seat window and fumbled for my mask. "Vous venez d'où?" the policeman with salt-n-pepper hair asked, beginning his interrogation.
"Menton." Jean-Marc replied, from the driver's seat.
"Vous habitez en France?" The officer asked, noticing our license plate, with its two-digit area designation (13 for Marseille, where we bought our car).
As the two wrangled in French, I was about to elbow my husband to just answer the policeman, and quit with all the explanations! but that would not be very French of him, would it? Every Frenchman (mine, at least) must have their say!
"Je vous ai demandé où est-ce que vous habitez?" The policeman persisted.
"La Ciotat," I replied. "On vie à La Ciotat!"
"But we are here to have lunch with our friend--un Monégasque." Jean-Marc insisted.
"You'll need an affidavit from your friend." The police responded. Zut! Only one day ago we could have wandered aimlessly through Monaco, the rules had changed overnight! After a little more wrangling, Jean-Marc relented, or so it seemed. Taking the next exit, he phoned his friend, who arranged a clandestine rendez-vous, and so smuggled us back to his place for calamari... Everything happened so fast, it was only after I took another bite of octopus that I realized I had once again gone against my gut in order to go with the flow!
"Is it good? Do you like it?" Our smuggler Monégasque asked.
"I do, but... Have you seen My Octopus Teacher?"
If that sounded like an obscure question, dear reader, you haven't seen this documentary, but back to our ethical dilemma involving cops and calamari, because I know what some of you are thinking: Shame on you, Kristi, for sneaking back to your friend's house! How irresponsible of you! What do you have to say for yourself?! We are waiting for an answer!
All I can say is Thank you for waiting! From here on out, I will listen to my conscience, whether it tells me to skip the octopus or skip town! Or skip the comments section of this blog which has taken a slight turn since the new year, with just enough negativity to have me weigh every single word for fear of offending someone, somewhere, somehow. And that makes for a lot of stress in writing and sharing my stories.
One step forward, two back. Just like you, I am doing the best I can. And the best I can do is to get out of bed each day and go to work, avec ou sans peur. I am extremely grateful for this job as a full-time writer. Thank you for your understanding, for your trust, and for your support. It keeps me writing in an era where speaking to a friend (let alone an audience!) is akin to walking in a minefield. Watch your step! 22 v'la les flics! (Watch out!)
Room with a view in Menton
la crise santitaire = health crisis
une borne de recharge = charging station, charge port for electric car
c'est commode = it's convenient
dépayser = to experience a change of surroundings (more here)
bienvenue = welcome
une escapade = getaway (travel)
le citron = lemon
une bonne idée = good idea
Il ne vaut mieux pas = better not to
Vous serez arrêtés et détournés = you'll be stopped and turned away
Vingt deux, v'là les flics! = a slang expression for "watch out!", literally Twenty-two, here are the cops!
la frontière = border between countries
la confiture = jam
l'agrume (m) = citrus fruit
allez chiche! = you're on! let's do it!
un périple = trek, journey
le verglas = ice
une ardoise = slate, blackboard, chalkboard
l'abstème (m,f) = person who doesn't drink alcohol for one reason or another
le copain (la copine) = friend
le (la) flic = cop
le carrefour = roundabout, intersection
le séjour = stay
monégasque = resident of Monaco
zut! = darn!
avec ou sans peur = with or without fear
A Message from Kristi: For twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety