Nice to Fondue: A Preamble to Adventure
by David J. Roman, Guest Writer
It was back: that wheedling pressure somewhere above the heart and between the temples. They call it wanderlust, being footloose, having incurable curiosity. Well, I had it. Again.
Perched pensively, slightly dazed, on the top bunk, I stared blankly out the rain-stained hostel window pane into the pleasantly numbing street noise of Route Anglaterre. There the smell of socca and petrol played pirouette with the daily bustle and musty memories of the day before… the day it all fell through.
I had planned to tour the South of France for two days on a motorcycle, but the rental agency required a security deposit of 2,000 euros first. This would have been fine had they accepted my credit card. The banks offering wire services were closed, my ATM pin was recently “reissued by mail for a security upgrade” and I certainly didn’t have thousands of euros in my back pocket.
Sitting there in Nice – the bedsheets, pillowcase, and towel still folded at the end of the hostel bunk — my mind mulled over options, trying to find a way to make it work. Suddenly, I remembered the American Express Global Assist hotline. They got me out of a jam in Mexico the summer before when my Visa card was stolen. Perhaps they could do it again.
A surge of triumphant adrenaline coursed through my veins as I hung up. A Travelex just two blocks away now waited the needed security deposit funds. A dash right there. Quickly pack and jaunt down to the “RideNow Rentals” found me beaming, bags sprawling over limbs. At the storefront.
My jubilant air evaporated somewhat when my brain registered what my eyes saw. Instead of the beefy BMWs and nimble Honda motorcycles I saw before, there were just a few scooters left on one side of the showroom. A quick glance at the time told me it was now or never, and the look on the clerk’s face confirmed it was either a scooter or hitchhiking.
Thirty minutes later there I was buzzing west on the little 125cc Yamaha, through coastal cities and countryside villages on the A8. Though not the mighty moto I had envisioned several months ago when planning this circuit through Cote d’Azure, “Max” (dubbed from the X-Max model name) was proving to be a trusty steed and was growing on me.
My open-faced helmet let in the full glory of 120-KPH highway flying and the ocean air felt pure and refreshing. Along with the scooter’s strained RPMs, my “smiles per miles” were riding high.
Before long, the Roman towns and wayside vineyards gave way to the town of Hyeres, which stood inland north of my destination that night. Looping through lushly garnished roundabouts and zipping over the speed bumpy avenues, I worked my way to the campsite at Tour la Fondue.
On the way I stopped at Le-Peupliers for a sunset meal. The restaurant owners, family and friends, were excitedly preparing for a celebration, setting speaker systems and long red-and-white-checkered table bloths, and generally chatting with carefree staccato.
After addressing the gaggle of (truly) French fries and the steak they encircled, I paused to contemplate the calm air of the garden courtyard. Against a backdrop of light laughter and chinking stoneware, it seemed as if I drifted through a waning dream. The winding motorway took man and bike through the enchanted haze of dusk, the gold-flecked lakes and meadow hills gathering the sky hues like an ethereal host of shadow gnomes.
Suddenly through the trees I glimpsed a stone tower framed in darkening waters. I had reached Tour la Fondue, and I soon stilled my motor in a hillside campground entry way. Arriving just in time to swap motorcycle tales with an amiable Frenchman charged with gate duty, I found myself less than 20 minutes later well-set in my little campsite.
A stroll to the evening ocean-side and a few sable galaxy contemplations later, I made use of my cozy one-person tent: I had to get an early start in the morning. (to be continued…)