A Roll in the Hay, the French Riviera

After abandoning Elizabet and Soboric to their fate, we stopped in Cannes which is a noisier, more crowded city than Nice.  The beaches weren’t nearly as nice and the people decidedly rude.  NiceBlanesAt Carolyn’s insistence, we rented a room for the night at a rundown hotel which we could barely afford. She simply had to have a bath after spending the previous night in a car and the morning sleeping on a beach that smelt of fish.   I can still remember guarding the lockless door to the communal bathroom while she showered.  Ah, the annoyed stares and perturbed grunts I got from other guests who had to take a dump but were forced to wait for the spoiled, puritanical American to wash her already clean body!  Then we slipped into a twin-sized bed with no sheets for a very restless night’s sleep.  In the morning, we left Cannes firmly believing we would be sleeping on the beaches of the Costa Brava that night.  We did not realize that August is the month eighty percent of all Northern Europeans take vacation, generally to affordable places to the south.  Like Spain.  Thus we were about to find ourselves in a two day traffic jam with no food, no water, no detour.

We spent eight hours sitting in stop and go traffic, looking toward the famous French Riviera and seeing nothing but hot, dry beach towns, until the traffic finally came to a dead stop. It stayed that way for about an hour as the sun set.  Gradually families began abandoning their cars and setting up camp in fields that had gone dormant.  We had no idea what was going on until two young Germans in the Mercedes next of us came to our rescue.


Klaus, Hans and Carolyn after a night spent sleeping in a field.

This happened every year, they explained in German (they spoke little English), the reason being that the Spanish border guards would only allow a certain number of cars into Spain before the borders were closed.  We would have to spend the night in our car or sleeping on dried hay in the fields. As they had expected this to happen, they were supplied with bread, sausages, and most importantly – wine – which they were more than happy to share.

We woke the next morning hung over and thirsty as hell with hay in our hair.  Luckily Klaus and Hans had orange juice and apples which we ate in the morning light, chatting until people started returning to their cars.  They asked where we were staying and I replied that we had no plans.  Why not stay at the campingplatz with us, they suggested.  There were hot showers, toilets and beautiful beaches at the campingplatz and, being that it was full of Germans, it was safe.  After I translated the word “shower,”  Carolyn said, “Well, let’s try it for a night. They seem like gentlemen.”  Famous last words, everyone, famous last words!

Coming soon – Never joke with a border guard (no matter how cute he is.)

6 thoughts on “A Roll in the Hay, the French Riviera

  1. August seems to be the month of doom everywhere for vacation madness. That’s crazy you had to sit in traffic that long. The first time my husband and I went to Myrtle Beach, we had to creep along, but not nearly that long, maybe just 45 minutes.

  2. It was 1970 and the Spanish were deeply suspicious of anyone entering their country – plus at 5 or 6 o’clock they simply closed the borders and went home! I think it had something to do with the political situation at the time.

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