Day 12 — July 12, 1996 (Friday)
12.07.1996 - 13.07.1996
Yesterday was a great day followed by a night of coughing. Every time I coughed, I remembered the bag of cough drops left on the kitchen table. Live and learn! [It took a couple trips to France before I realized I could walk into any pharmacy and buy a bag of cough drops. We also learned that French pharmacists can cure almost anything.]
We slept until seven since we couldn’t check out until 8:30 anyway. We had saved some of our round bread from yesterday and got some abricot confiture to go with it. Had a pique-nique as we waited to check out.
Actually found our road without any misturns. We decided to forego picturesque for practical and took the toll Autoroute. People zip along well in excess of the 120 km/hr speed limit. There’s not much scenery from the A roads, but it didn’t appear we were missing much!
Got off the A8 at Arles to see some Roman ruins and find a restaurant. Luck was with us. We found lots of free parking right outside the tourist section, walked up yet another stairway and found ourselves face to face with a Roman coliseum. It is immense! We took lots of pictures and then started to explore. Great tourist shops near the coliseum. We got an apron for Evelyn and some Provençal prints for the girls. I found a Provençal print round table cloth for me — my souvenir!
We had lunch at an outdoor café at the foot of the Roman coliseum — très dramatique. We actually found our way back to the Autoroute with no trouble. Noted a gradual change of scenery from flat to mountainous. As we drove through the Bouches-du-Rhone, we saw a huge granite mountain that evolved into the Ste. Victoire range. It starts to look like the Provence of story books. Zipped past Aix-en-Provence toward Cannes and exited the A8. Going around a couple traffic circles a few times, we wound our way to Grasse. I wonder if anyone ever got stuck going around a traffic circle forever? If you read French slowly, it does give you a chance to circle several times before deciding on a turn.
Somewhere along the way, Ed mentioned he would like to have the oil checked since the gauge was behaving strangely. I got us headed in what appeared to be the correct direction to Pension Ste. Thérèse; we spotted a gas station and stopped. Ed opened the hood to check the oil and, to our dismay, discovered the oil cap had blown off and disappeared. The engine was covered with oil and dripping. Try explaining that in French!!! A man looked at it and went running for a lady who spoke slightly less English than we speak French. By this time I had figured out the oil cap is a “bouchon de l’huile.” I dug out our lease papers and the lady took Ed inside to call Peugeot’s 24-hour assistance. Within thirty minutes help had arrived with a new bouchon and several quarts of oil. Hooray for Peugeot! [In years since, we've used Peugeot's Open Europe lease plan many times although we've never again needed the 24-hour assistance. We have returned the car with a cracked windshield once and a bashed in side where someone backed into our parked car another time. Neither was a problem. We have used the Renault lease program too and it has been satisfactory but we've only used Renault twice.]
By this time Bastille Day weekend rush hour was in full force in Grasse. I had headed us in the wrong direction (fortunately, because of the gas station), so we fought our way back to and through town. There were lost tourists everywhere and gendarmes out walking in the middle of the streets giving directions. We had to ask twice, but found our Pension up a very narrow side street. Thank goodness for the gendarmes.
We checked in and carried luggage up about three floors to our room, washed up, changed and headed to the chapel for Mass. One of the nuns helped us find our place in the missal. After the service, I mentioned to Ed that I didn’t think they took credit cards. We checked; they didn’t. After much bilingual conversation involving about five different people, we dug enough francs out of our pockets to pay the bill. They were very nice about the whole thing. We just couldn’t face walking all the way down the huge hill to find an ATM and we certainly weren’t going to take the car out again in the ever increasing Bastille Day traffic. [We learned on that trip to plan Bastille Day in very out-of-the-way villages to avoid crowds. They all have great celebrations so it doesn't really matter where you stay and we like peace.]
We had a totally Provençal dinner at the pension — course after delicious course — chicken soup with pureed vegetables, a tomato baked with an egg in the center, a potato salad with artichokes vinaigrette, a cheese board, homemade applesauce and coffee. It appeared to be the priest’s birthday, so the sisters brought out a large chocolate cake and lit a sparkler on it. We all sang Happy Birthday in French and again in English. Our young waitress spoke English quite well and has been a help to us. The pension is high on a hill with a large veranda overlooking Grasse and in the distance are Cannes and the Mediterranean. Our room has the same view, only another story higher.
We have a real bed and pillows too!!!
[The Pension Ste. Thérèse is no longer a pension. It has been sold and is now the Mandarina Hotel and you can still see the little church attached to one side of it. The views remain the same but we haven't returned because we usually rent small houses out in the countryside now. If you are interested, the Mandarina Hotel in Grasse can be booked on www.booking.com here on TravellersPoint.]