We were up at oh dark hundred on Thursday morning to drive to Nice to pick up Kathy and Ron. We were so excited to see them and to have our first guests in Bandol. We have truly found that having company and sharing someplace with them dramatically amplifies our pleasure and enjoyment of that place.

The drive to Nice would be about 1½ or 2 hours, depending on which source you believed. We left at 7:30 to meet a 10:00 flight, so had plenty of extra time built in. Good thing, too! First we got on the motorway going the wrong direction, then we got off and re-entered – going the wrong direction again! Then we got off again, and CARERULLY re-entered headed for…Nice! Whew! Then we had to pay an extra toll for our trouble!

Driving on the motorways in France can be expensive. They are all toll roads (you certainly can take the non-toll roads, but it’s usually about double the time – not a problem in most cases, but meeting an airplane in the morning wouldn’t be the time to experiment…), and the tolls are significant! It’s about $20.00 one way to Nice, for example! Anyway, it is what it is…

We encountered one major slow-down on the way – in a spot where you have to get off and drive through downtown Toulon and then you join up with the next motorway! Unbelievable! Well, actually, a little like Georgia 400 where it doesn’t join with 85 North, as a matter of fact. What are all these crack engineers thinking?!

Anyway, then we had a discrepancy between Jeeves and the signs for the airport – Jeeves was telling us to go one way, and the signs on the road showed the airport in another direction! And I’d left the maps on the living room table!!! Well, I figured, how wrong can you go following the signs? So that’s what we did. And got to the airport.

The next adventure was finding the right parking lot. We’d sussed it out online (the airport has a really informative, helpful website!), but locating and following the signs required some patience (in somewhat short supply at this point…) – there are two terminals, and a total of nine parking lots! We finally did find the one we wanted, and pulled in, AND were able to find a spot pretty quickly!

We hurried into the terminal (after noting where we’d left the car) and started scanning, and there was Kathy! It was SO great to see her!!! She’d only been waiting for about 5 minutes, so all was well. We took her suitcase to the car, then took the free shuttle to Terminal 2, where Ron would be arriving in a couple of hours.

Ron and Kathy are wonderful, interesting people. He is Canadian and she is American, and they met in Frankfurt where they lived for many years. They’re both musicians, among other things, and that is how they met. They have recently closed a chapter of their life in which they lived on a 36′ double-ender wooden sailboat for 10 years, starting in Washington State and ending in New Zealand! I found their adventures fascinating to read about (www.vilisar.blogspot.com and www.vilisartimes.blogspot.com if you’re interested), as they were living in a truly adventuresome way – on a boat without refrigeration, toilet facilities (bucket and chuck it!), or any other real “conveniences”. For 10 years! Across the Pacific!! It’s quite a tale.

Anyway, I digress. They’ve recently moved to Berlin, where they are both finding lots of musical activities in which to engage, and are starting to find paying gigs as well! At the moment, however, Kathy is working with some friends back in Frankfurt, which is why she and Ron were on different flights.

We found a place to sit and have some lunch and catch up with each other while waiting for Ron’s flight, then walked over and met him coming off the plane. It was so good to see them both!!!

We took the shuttle back to Terminal 1, walked to the car, and drove to the exit of the parking. We had money ready, as any electronic pay-stations (tolls, gas pumps, etc…) in Europe can no longer read an American credit card, as Europe has gone to a different credit card technology (called “chip and pin”) and their machines can’t read our magnetic stripe. So we put in our ticket, got out the money, and, and, and, …there was no place to put money! Only a slot for a credit card! We tried our card, but of course it didn’t work, so Ron and Kathy let us try theirs – but those didn’t work either! Perhaps we’d broken or terminally confused the machine! Now what? There was no person at the exit to whom we could appeal. I was having visions of ramming the barrier…

No, cooler minds prevailed. Roy backed up (fortunately, there was not a line of cars behind us!!), and drove back into the lot, parked, and Kath, Ron, and I went to the terminal and found someone who could help. They have a machine there where you can insert your ticket and pay with cash. Which I did, and we hustled back to the car.

It was still pretty early, just a little after 2:00, so we decided to go to the Matisse Museum in Nice while we were there. We set Jeeves on the appropriate trajectory, and we were off! We found the museum pretty handily, but parking was another issue! After a bit of “zone patrol” we finally parked in a grocery store parking lot, vowing to do some grocery shopping when we came back for the car. I’m sure this was totally illegal, but what were we to do?

It was SUCH a beautiful day, by far the nicest we’ve had, and the walk from the car to the museum was a delight. We all spent as long as we wanted in the museum, (I found out that I don’t love Matisse) and then walked back to the grocery store. We did some shopping, and set Jeeves for our garage at home. Except for the traffic, which was terrible, getting home was uneventful. Just the way we like it!

We had a delicious dinner of goodies we’d bought at the store, and plenty of wine, and stayed up carousing and laughing and having fun until we couldn’t take it any more. Tomorrow would be another day!!