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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lafayette, Why Am I Here?

Summertime is often time for memorable vacations.  The following may not have been one of  my best vacations…but it was memorable, nonetheless.

I should have known, when the airport limousine we were promised turned out to be a pick-up truck, that this trip to visit my boyfriend’s family in France would be no vacation.  But the “limo” driver was jovial enough, assured us that the real limo was just in need of emergency repairs, and that we’d return from our trip in the style to which we were accustomed.  So we tossed our luggage into the back of the truck, scrunched in beside the driver, and began what was to be a vacation I would never forget.

Right up front, I must say that my relationship with my companion was less Jack and Jackie and more Ricky and Lucy, which often relegated me to second string.  And I must admit, as I operated my own business as my “day job,” that I often acquiesced to this position.  So, when I noticed that the representative at the airport check-in counter may have taken the tickets for our connecting flight to Montpelier as well as for our flight to Paris, I gently nudged my companion and whispered, “Honey…”


I tried again. “But, honey…”


So I took the hint and fished through my carry-on for a magazine.

When we got to Orly and went to check in for our flight to Montpelier, it was no surprise to me, then, that we had no tickets.  Luckily, we did have the receipts.  My companion’s irate call to American Express managed to get us on the flight.  We arrived, safe and sound, to the warm greetings of his daughter and three grandchildren.

I wish I could say the same for our luggage.  Apparently, our bags were detained in Paris, the result of a baggage-handlers’ strike.  This we discovered through my darling’s daughter, the only one of us who spoke French, interpreting for an excruciatingly gracious and very apologetic customer service representative.  Hats off, too, to this same daughter, who commandeered her apoplectic father to the car rental counter without international incident.

So there we were in Montpelier, France, on a late Saturday afternoon, with nothing more than the toiletries in our carry-ons.  Again, kudos to the capable daughter who, with an incendiary father, three restless children, and a veritable stranger, created a mini convoy with her minivan and our rented sedan.  She led us to a French version of our big box discount store and the only store open, as the French have a quaint custom of closing shops for the weekend.

Of course, this presented itself as yet another affront to Papa.  Having learned from our ticket incident not to get into his path, I turned him over to his daughter.  As I scavenged the aisles, I could hear said daughter’s petulant pleading:  “Dad, don’t you think you should try those on?”

The French sizes were a little confusing. I was dismayed to learn that my pants size was a 42, but somewhat amused that my less-than-buxom figure required a Size-99 bra!  With my companion assuaged by the knowledge that, if our luggage did not arrive in 24 hours, our purchases were compliments of American Express, we bundled up our packages and drove off to the hotel.

What a lovely place:  a converted manor with sloping gardens, a delightful pond, and a glass-walled dining room in a town called Cassoulet!  Our room was cozy, our bathroom quaint, and our accommodations required formal attire to dine.  No problem:  I had bought a dress and my companion, some slacks and a blazer.  One glitch:  only I had tried on mine.

So, when my companion emerged from the bathroom in the hastily-selected white slacks he had not tried on, I could only comment, with barely-restrained amusement, “Honey, you can’t wear those to dinner. You look like Elvis.”

Glare. Glare. Glare. Glare.

But dine we did.  To my relief, no one requested a rendition of “Viva, Las Vegas.”

And then there was the trip to Lourdes, which, I was supposed to be pleased to know, was “for Mary.”  While I am a practicing Catholic (and I was practicing very hard on this trip), the trip to Lourdes was news to me.

Now, my vision of a pilgrimage never included a minivan, three grumpy children, and a pre-dawn expedition along hairpin turns.  Nor did it include, just as we arrived in the venerable city, an explosive “I’m s-i-i-c-c-k…I mean it!” from the ten-year-old seated directly behind me.  Thank goodness for my quick reflexes, a gas station with  an automatic car wash, and my companion’s resourceful daughter (again).  To this day, however, whenever I hear the name “Lourdes,” I recall the distinct odor of Pine Sol.

So forgive me if I don’t tell you that, by the time we got to Lourdes, all the restaurants were no longer serving lunch, so we could only order pommes frites, salad, and wine.  Very much wine.  Or that the children, adorable heathens that they were, nearly bathed in the miraculous waters ( I still expect to hear that they have all entered the religious life).  Or that I only spent fifteen minutes at the actual shrine.  Nor will I go into detail about how all of that wine consumption at lunch somehow convinced my companions (I, sadly, did not drink, although, in hindsight, I should have) to cross the Pyrenees into Spain.  Along even more hairpin turns.  With fog. And RVs. And cows.

Forget about the gorgeous, brand-new hotel in Montpelier which had just opened the day we checked in and was so new, in fact, that my companion was inspired to instruct the management on how to operate the water heaters.  I won’t even mention the glare of all glares which graced me when I exclaimed that a seaside resort, La Grande Motte, was ‘the Wildwood of France” (which I still believe is a compliment).

I can only say that, when our airport “limo” failed to morph back into its true identity for our return trip from the airport, I knew this “vacation” and the relationship were beyond redemption.


  1. If there's a prize for worse vacation you are a contender

  2. UGH! My heart goes out to you. As I am fond of saying with any bad least now you have an opinion!

  3. Interesting how the bad experiences in life are so much more fun to write (and read). I wonder if your anticipation for this trip was hopeful or guarded given that the guy sounds like he was probably on his way out for you anyway. Was he a Chevy Chase character? Give me a movie guy to relate too. Very fun post, Mary

    1. Mary FrancesJuly 26, 2013

      Yes,humor is definitely an asset in a tough spot. As for that movie reference, think Jack Nicholson in "As Good As It Gets" and "Sometbing's Gotta Give"!