Monday, June 29, 2009

It Wasn't Supposed to Hurt This Time

Around 7 p.m., a group of us walked from the hotel down to the beach, past the reviewing stands where the girls had gathered the night before to cheer on the last of the triathlon competitors, down the stairs to the rocky beach and out onto a bit of rock that jutted out into the ocean. Char pulled a baggie from her purse and we all, one by one, climbed out onto the edge of the rocks and tossed a handful of Michele's ashes into the Mediterranean.

We had dealt with the news of her death, cried through her memorial, scattered most of her ashes in Mendocino and now, a year later, we didn't really think that it would still be emotional...but it was. Michele's dream was to go to France and she never made it. Now part of her ashes will remain in this country forever. I get emotional even writing about it several hours later.

Sheri and her daughter Ashley accompanied us and we decided that by now, especially since they were with us for this "ceremony," they were definitely "family."

This is the first day since the trip began when I wasn't convinced I'd die. (OK...slight exagageration). I'm actually feeling better about walking, though the group would be hard pressed to know that! I'm still bringing up the rear, stopping to catch my breath and huffing and puffing when I go up hill, but I can tell that it's really getting better.

We went to a hilltop town of St. Paul de Vince today. Unlike Eze, you don't have to hike up a tall hill to get there. In fact, our driver, Thierry, dropped us off at the top of a hill and we walked DOWN to the town (and then up through the steep, winding streets). This is a picturesque place which obviously thrives on tourists, but it's so charming you don't mind. And mixed in with the souvenir shops are art galleries and other interesting things to see. I helped do my bit to support the local economy.

Char, Pat and I found a nice restaurant overlooking the valley and had a wonderful, relaxing lunch (Char and I each had jambon et melon, prosciutto and cantaloupe that was just the refreshing taste we were looking for, then we went back to the agreed-upon meeting spot for the group and watched people play boule,, which I recognized from my childhood near North Beach in SF as bocci ball.

We drove back to Nice and had to say goodbye to Thierry, who will be replaced by another bus driver. Many of us kissed him goodbye. He's been a real gem and such a sweetheart for the past several days.

The plan was to go to the beach and swim but I had an unexpected ... uh ... intestinal event which made me nervous about being away from a toilette so I opted out of the trip. I actually think I napped a bit while the others were swimming.

When Jeri came back, I was feeling OK again, so we went down to join the others in the Pinata party, as well as Shirley and Jenny, who have become a real part of our group. I have a wonderful photo of Pat sitting at the table under an umbrella she'd brought along because, of course, it was raining.

We had some wine and cheese and mini salamis (thinner than a hot dog) on baguettes while we tasted wine and then headed out on our mission to scatter Michele's ashes.

After the ashes had been scattered, we went to the big plaza to find an eatery for our last dinner in France. There was much hilarity and good food (I had gnocci with roquefort sauce, which is perhaps not exactly the wisest dinner to have after a bout of diarrhea, but it seems to have assimilated just fine).

Then the long walk back to the hotel and now I'm sitting here and the others -- all of them, I think, are out laughing on the patio, which is just steps from where I am sitting, so I think I'm going to end this and go join them.

Tomorrow I have to leave my French behind on the Riviera and try to pick up a bit of Italian. I also hope to swim tomorrow, since we will be at the hotel with the rooftop swimming pool...our first four-star hotel on this trip.

(oh dear...someone from the hotel staff just came past me to tell the group to be quiet, so all the fun seems to have ended... I guess we are too rowdy a group!)

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