More photos HERE.
19 May 2000: On a Week from Hell
Well, I knew things were going too well. This newsflash interrupts the flow of the travelogue thing, but it's been a bad news week for me here.
Silvia and Andrea had recommended a visit to Tellaro over the touristed Cinque Terre, so I ambled over there on Sunday and stayed at a charming old family hotel called Locanda Miranda, which, by the way, served the most amazing fresh seafood meal I've had so far. I spent an afternoon puttering the narrow alleys of this colorful little village, shooting wow after wow of views and scenes which made me smile. I'd been leery of the chaotic scene of Cinque Terre, especially given my compromised physical state, and left Tellaro sated with her delights, and vowed to return one day to the CT.
Next morning I headed northwest into France, and by day's end stopped to look up what would become my first non-reserved stopover--this one a hotel fave of good old Rick Steves in the Cote d'Azure town of Antibes. Rick's choices are often not oriented towards car drivers, and this little number ended me up in a small downtown section of Antibes filled with impossible one way streets. (I'm sure, however, it was perfectly located for train travelers!) The guy at the hotel, once I found it, was a chipper, helpful gay fellow with an Australian accent who assured me I could park for free for the night "over there".
The "over there" I first chose was a lot for the post office, and once in a parking place, I had the feeling it wasn't the right one. On the periphery of my attention I noticed a young black boy in a red and white hooded windbreaker behaving a bit strangely, but figured Oh Well. I got out of the car and walked partway back to the hotel, but then decided Mr. Hotel Guy meant a different "over there", so went back to move the car. The boy was skulking about, running to and fro with no apparent agenda, which I didn't really get until later. As I got in to move the car and leave the lot to go around the block, I noticed him following me around the block, running. I vaguely recall some kind of PC thought along the lines that I ought not assume bad things of black kids.
I stopped to park my car in what I thought to be the correct "over there", and had just pulled into a parallel place. Black kid runs past my car on the sidewalk, swooshing his windbreaker over his head and back, dashing past as if to show he wasn't following me after all. And then, before I could turn off the key to the car, he dashed back, pulled open the passenger door and grabbed my purse from the seat next to me, and ran like hell up the block--gone with the wind, as I jumped out of the car screaming "HEY, STOP THAT KID", running after him like in the TV cop shows.
A group of old men on the corner looked barely concerned and made no move to do anything. When I returned to them a few moments later to ask what direction he'd gone in, one pointed one direction, another to a different direction. Clearly, he was gone johnson, and this was no uncommon event. Another stupid American tourist, they probably thought.
In the purse were: probable equivalent of $5-600 cash of various foreign denominations; my cell phone; my newly purchased Minolta camera bought after I lost my Canon in Positano; my passport; 2 credit cards--one with a pin number-- and my ATM-Masterard; my checkbook with drivers license; my MCI calling card, and sundry other helpful items like my calculator and currency converter, and my little spiral notebook with accumulated phone numbers, notes on people, etc.
When I returned frantic to the hotel, Jean Paul, gay guy, was totally unable to deal with how upset I was, and wanted to reassure me that at least I had my life (hmmmm...irony happens, bud: you don't know the half of it!) and wasn't raped, and yes, I'll have to make some phone calls, but this is nothing to get all stressed out and emotional over.
I took a quick run around the locale looking in bushes and trash on the assumption he'd just take the money out and throw the rest away, but of course, found nothing. Then Jean Paul got his friend to take me up to the police station to file a report, which is the most important thing to do in these circumstances (they say). By now it's 7:30 p.m. and the woman at the front desk was a sweet, but recent transfer to this station who didn't know the area and it made conveying the basics to her difficult since I could make no sense of the map she showed me and she knew nothing of the hotel. Her efforts to get help from a male colleague were met with a bored look. I had to come back the next day to have my report taken. Clearly a useless endeavor.
That night was spent making a gazillion calls to the states to stop credit cards, arrange for a new one to be sent, and such. Tuesday morning, my friend Gisele in Seguret (whose B&B is pictured above), whom I'd called the night before, sent her ADORABLE 24 year old nephew who works in a bank in Antibes over to help me out. He brought me some money and spent a good 2 hours on the phone helping me determine the details of having money wired to Western Union there.
Just having this gorgeous and amazingly sweet and competent guy to help me soothed the edges of my mental frenzy. I was a basket case. So I spent the rest of that day till about 4 dealing with the police report--taken by a tough-woman kind of gal with a good sense of humor who was angry, I think, about not being spelled for lunch, and the experience of communicating with her was another amusing story.
I then went to the post office, where Western Union operates from, and went through a long procedure to collect the $1000 I'd had Wells Fargo wire me...feeling idiotic as I stood in line crying from the accumulated frustration of it all.
Finally left Antibes about 4, totally wiped out and tired, and was intending to head up to Seguret to Gisele, but it soon became clear that it was way too far. Plus, I had to go to Marseille to the Consulate to get my passport replaced.
So I looked up an obscure B&B near St. Tropez, where I was met by a squat old woman whose front entry and much of her property were done in beautifully patterned bright tiles. Not only did she have a room, she helped me immeasurably with getting into Marseille, trusting me to send payment to her when I could.
I then tackled getting into downtown Marseille to this small hotel where I had a reservation, once again amidst a maze of tiny one way streets which had me driving in circles before I could find the place, but ended up blessed again with another sweet and handsome French guy at the hotel who was most helpful. Then, yesterday morning early I did the American Consulate thing to get a passport replacement, and soon left town to head to Uzes, where I wanted to stay for a night or so before heading to the Dordogne for my two week stay there.
On the way, I was determined to return to a small hill village up behind what I'd thought was the Pont du Gard where I'd taken some of my best pictures last year--the one Sarah Lampland has, and one which Donna has in her bathroom. I later learned it was actually Aqueduc de Roquefavor. Approaching this pont, I discover that the whole scene has changed such that I couldn't get to the road which would lead me to Ventebren. On my way to give up and head to Uzes, I was crossing a bridge over the river, and proceeded, in some moment of spaced out exhaustion, to rear-end a small car stopped for a red light in front of me.
Oh my god! Just what I needed: a car accident. The fellow I hit was okay, as was I and his little car sustained hardly visible damage of any kind, whereas the whole hood of my Volvo was crunched up, headlight damaged, barely drivable.
He calmly pulled from his glove compartment the papers for European auto accidents which we both fill out to send to our respective insurance companies, and took the lead in quickly filling his out and helping me with mine. I survived the crisis with yet another new list of bureaucratic phone calls and dilemmas to solve on getting the car repaired while I'm in Domme.
Happily, I stumbled upon a charming place to stay in Uzes (Hotel D'Entraigues) with good internet access, a terrace, two rooms with a kitchenette, all for $58/nite, so I'm going to stay here till Sunday morning and rest, take care of some business and endeavor to gather what wits I still have back about me. Tried to get Wells Fargo to wire me another $1000 to last till my new ATM card arrives in Domme, but they'd only send $500.
So, more than you wanted to know, I'm sure, about my fall from grace over here, but perhaps this can help temper any envy flowing around out there amongst my dear ones. For now I gotta go and make some more calls.