"Bidets to Bullfights"
c - Arthur J. Langdon -1970
013e -- Lyon to Nice - "Thru the French Alps, an adventure in itself !! " -- 013e
From Paris to Lyon the scenic beauty and historic landmarks of early times, of the many wars fought through the centuries make for an extremely interesting day. From Lyon to Nice, the travel is through the French Alps and the majesty of the mountains with their snow capped peaks in August, the man made shading of the up-slopes from the valleys - by planting various crops which bring forth every tint or shade of green, yellow, blue, and gold - along with the polka dot effect of cattle grazing in the distance make every curve in the road a new adventure in the appreciation of God's world. The road our bus travelled was a narrow two laned assembly of countless connected capital "S's", with interspersed hairpins, and few guardrails - so you may have a good view of the bottom of each valley, way, way, down there.
It is frequented by an endless procession of maniacs in sports cars, who are thoroughly convinced that buses dont belong on "their" road. Just as you are meditating on the blending of the clear blue sky with a few white clouds - folding into the snow topped crest of the highest mountain - and then dropping your eyes thru the white, gray, black, green, yellow coloring to the rounding slope where the valley forms itself - and then seek the clouds which cause the degree of each of the colors in the landscape ....... some clown will clamp down on his accelerator and his horn simultaneously and roar his souped up something or other around the bus and into the short space ahead of the bus - from whence he can do nothing but receive the glares and verbal distresses of the driver - until he can scare hell out of the next poor unfortunate now ahead of him. The sudden switch from landscape on the right to the idiot on the left can give a guy whiplash!!
Our driver was a pleasant enough fellow who had travelled the mountain roads for years. He was a supurb wheelsman. He had to be, for on that route - you first mistake certainly was likely to be your last. In addition, he was intensely loyal to his friends as well as to his family back home. He was also a stickler for company rules and devoted to keeping the vehicle entrusted to his care free of dents and in perfect running order. I am sure he would never make any unscheduled stops, or violate other company regulations.
At one point, in the mid mountains, he became concerned about tires overheating, and pulled off into a secluded field area to check on them. It just happened, that a family group consisting of grandpa, grandma, and daughter were busy at a table tying together bundles of Lavender flowers which are grown nearby for the famous French perfume industry. Oh yes, they also had a big sheep dog - that immediately ran over to his friend, the driver, who petted him and called him by name. Then the two of them went around each wheel of the bus feeling and inspecting all of the tires, while the women passengers could not resist buying some of the Lavender flowers, and some small bottles of concentrated Lavender extract.
A few hours later, at the highest point of the road, our driver would reach the same concern for his tires again. This caused another stop at a road side field. Before getting out, to perform his necessary duty, he spoke a few words to our hostess - who then announced that we would be stopped for five or ten minutes, and that on the slope that led to the very top of the mountain - people in the know came to pick wild Thyme, which was very much needed to flavor roast meat. Of course, the driver came with us to show us what it looked like. And, picked a good sized bundle to take home to the dear wife, during the "showing" process. From the top of the mountain was gorgeous scenery which I photographed, while our dutiful driver again checked all the tires.
Approaching Nice, we passed thru Cannes with it's view of the Mediterranean streets lined with flowering trees and fabulous homes of the rich people. Many of these homes were "cliff hangers" like those in San Francisco.
Our hotel, for the first time since leaving the States, was air conditioned and modern - and when we arrived at around eight thirty P.M., a good shower to wash away the travel dust and relax overtaxed muscles - was a very welcome treat. We went after refreshing ourselves, to a coffee shop for some substance to replace the lack of nourishment missed in passing up the fried calf brains and decided that an exploratory walk through the town was in order. Both, to sort of get the lay of the land and to see if our land legs still functioned.
Index - Uncle Art & Aunt Clara's trip to Europe - 1970, "Bidets to Bullfights"
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