Venice, Ljubljana, Zagreb, and Budapest were a blur, but we made it to France with plenty of time to see what we wanted to see. Namely, Nice, Montpellier, then four weeks exploring the different wine regions before wrapping up our little adventure in Perpignan. It’s hard to believe the end is near.
A Nice Promenade
It was a little over a year ago that the promenade in Nice was packed with people celebrating Bastille Day. A terrorist with a 19 ton truck plowed through the crowd and killed 86. We walked along the promenade thinking of the senseless loss of life and what reason anyone could possibly have for committing such a heinous act. We came up empty.
On this day the promenade was filled with people enjoying the beautiful weather. Some were sunning themselves on the beach with the remarkably blue water lapping at the shore. Others sat on benches. Many strolled along the promenade just like us. I wonder if they were thinking about the attack or looking for a memorial like we were. We didn’t find a memorial if there was one, but brand new barriers stand between the road and the promenade and armed military personnel constantly patrol the area.
Our mood was dampened thinking about the families affected but we knew we needed to eat (and drink). The central market was near so we picked up some snacks to go with our bottle of wine. We had our somber VinoLunch on a long park bench overlooking the beaches and the entire 7km of the promenade. It was beautiful and calm but the terror those people must have experienced wouldn’t leave my mind. Why can’t we all just get along? Why must we kill each other?
The Best Laid Plans
We spent our first couple of days walking around Nice and enjoying the parks, the sea, and architecture. We quickly fell into a routine of cooking our own meals and enjoying apero-time on the patio. It was a good thing we got some exploring in early because I developed a nasty cough that wanted to turn into bronchitis if I wasn’t careful. Pat was sounding crappy too. Even the jaunts to the grocery store wore us out.
So, instead of exploring more of Nice, we spent much of the remainder of our week napping and planning. We went nuts with the Airbnb reservations, a couple of bus tickets, a rental car reservation, and properly booked ourselves through the end of the trip. Next on the schedule: a week in Monpellier because we heard it was a great college town, a week in Côtes du Rhône because… wine, a week in Beaujolais because… wine and Pat has a relative there, a week in Bordeaux because… wine, a night in Toulouse because our Marriott certificate was going to expire, a few nights near Pézenas because we read an International Living article saying how nice it is, one night back in Montpellier to return the car, ten nights in Perpignan because we made friends there last year and it is a beautiful area, one night in Barcelona where we catch a cruise ship back to the States. Whew! You might need a nap after reading all of that.
The Call You Never Want to Get
We took a short hike up a hill to some pretty gardens on our last full day in Nice, but it was probably a bad idea. The next morning I was full of phlegm and we were feeling wiped out for our 4hr bus ride to Montpellier. That doesn’t sound bad on the surface until you figure in schlepping our bags on, off, and between three public buses in Nice to get to the long-haul bus.
By the time we sat our butts down for the 4hr transit, we were pooped. I hooked the phone up to the bus’s wifi to watch our progress on Google Maps and immediately started dozing. About an hour into the journey, my phone rang. It was the Facebook Messenger phone app. I panicked immediately. The only person who calls with the FB app is my brother, and it was the wee hours of the morning for him.
“Hello. What’s up?” I asked as calmly as possible knowing full well this was not going to be good news. “Dad had a stroke,” my brother said. “How bad? Is he okay? Where is Mom?” They were all still at the hospital and tests were being run. Information was slowly trickling in. The good news was that they got Dad to the hospital quickly and it was categorized as a minor stroke, but his speech and mobility were definitely affected. Nothing is minor when you are nearly 90 years old.
“Do we need to come home?” I asked. It was too early to know how severe and how permanent the effects of the stroke were. We wouldn’t be able to get a flight home until the next day, so we agreed to see what transpired during the day there and then decide if we should go home.
Holding Pattern in Montpellier
Our first few days in Montpellier were filled with waiting for news from home, picking up a few groceries, and trying to get rid of the worsening cold. Pat had pretty much kicked his, but mine had moved into my chest. Walks were out of the question. Naps were frequent and pastis or wine on the balcony with sunshine on our shoulders was the highlight of the day.
Dad’s progress was good and a plan for his rehab was made. Mom was getting herself down to the dining room at the assisted living facility by herself and even made new friends. My brother had his hands full, but he seemed to think it was under control. It was really difficult being so far away and not having contact through much of our day due to the time zone difference. Maybe we should just go home.
Freedom Has Four Wheels
We were due to pick up the rental car for the four weeks of wine region touring. Should we get it or cancel? After another positive conversation with my brother, we elected to continue with the trip as planned. We wouldn’t be too far from Montpellier over the next two weeks so we could always bring the car back and find a flight home in relatively short order if he needed our help.
My cold was finally breaking up. It sounded much worse, but the goobage was getting out of my lungs. We picked up the car and brought it back to the apartment without incident and with no need for a nap. We had one more full day in Montpellier before unleashing ourselves on the French wine regions in our hot little Ford Focus. Ahhh, to be able to chuck our stuff into a car, an extra bag or two if we please, and leave and arrive without fear of missing a connection, taking whichever route suits us. Freedom!
Oh Yeah, Montpellier…
Our last full day was spent walking around the city. We hopped onto the tram since it was easier, probably less expensive, and much less harrowing than driving into the center of the city. We got off at the central park and checked it out. Cute, but not amazing. The central market was good and full of upscale fruits, veggies, meats, and fish. We found a butcher stand just outside the market with some tasty looking, thinly sliced cured meats in the case. There was a big pile of random tidbits that he sold us for €6. It was amazingly good and a great way to sample different meats. Unfortunately we didn’t know what was what. Thus the discount I suppose. The amount of meat was so great that we had snacks for the next week!
We grabbed a few more goodies and a bottle of wine then headed for another park to have our VinoLunch. We were aiming for the botanical gardens, but wound up in Park Peyrou instead. People were relaxing, picnicking, and playing games. The weather was great and the food and wine were good. There is an 18th century bi-level aqueduct there that still supplies water to the cities fountains.
After lunch I was still feeling pretty well so we walked a bit farther to the botanical gardens. It’s a good thing we had our lunch where we did, picnics were verboten in the botanical gardens. They were very well kept and the park was a fairly good size. We strolled a bit then rested a bit then strolled some more. It was nice to be among the living again and able to get out in the nice weather and see some of Montpellier.
A lot of times people, including ourselves, tend to present their travels as completely care-free and full of unlimited fun. While we have seen a lot of wonderful places and met many interesting people, life goes on. Colds happen. Family members get serious medical issues. Plans need to be made and perhaps un-made. We laugh, cry, and worry just like we do back home. The only difference is the distance and the inability to physically be with family when needed.
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